Make some room for these games in your limited time on Earth
We live in the peak entertainment era. With unlimited access to movies, television shows, music, short comedy clips, music videos, video games, books, radio, trailers, poetry, art and more on a device small enough to fit into our pockets, the only time we are without some form of distraction is when our cell service or Wi-Fi decides to die for no good reason. It’s almost impossible not to be entertained in 2018, which is why we now live in what is the precursor to the nightmarish society found in Brave New World.
What’s unfortunate about living in the peak entertainment age is there is so much quality programming we will never see. I still haven’t found the time to watch Godless or Barry or The Handmaiden’s Tale or any of the several what-I’m-sure-are-high-quality Adam Sandler films on Netflix. There are also so many games – so, so many – that I’ve yet to take up and something tells me, with probably only 50 good years left in me (55 if I can actually change my diet), I’m not going to experience them all. I’ll probably never play the Breath of Fire series or D4 or Final Fantasy 14. I’ll probably never actually get around to watching True Blood or seeing the collective works of Tyler Perry.
So much art, or in the case of that last one, “art”, is going to pass me by, but I can’t say I’m sad about it. For every movie or television show I’ve missed there are probably two or three I have enjoyed thoroughly. It’s the same with video games. Sure, I’ve missed out on titles like Grand Theft Auto V, but in its place, I’ve played some absolute GOATs like Bayonetta 2 and Odin Sphere. Those are games I think all people should play and that’s the topic of our Destructoid Question of the Week. I asked our team of writers and the community the one game they think everybody should play at least once in their life. We have a lot of great answers below, but for my money, I’m going with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
I’ve always preferred handheld gaming over sticking with a console and I’ve made no effort to hide it. Ever since I first picked up a Game Boy Advance, it’s been my preferred way to play video games. The beauty of handheld devices is is allows players to experience vast worlds of wonder no matter where they are. Those light up football games of the 70s led to the LED Game & Watch Games of the 80s which paved the road to the Game Boy. Keep tracing that line and you eventually end up at the iPhone.
The Game Boy is one of the greatest gaming devices ever and Link’s Awakening is perhaps its most significant title. The device had seen big adventures prior to this game. Final Fantasy Adventure, another phenomenal title, came out in 1991, two years before Zelda would make its debut on the system. But Link’s Awakening wasn’t just about making a portable game, it was about making a game for the Game Boy that felt like something you could play on the SNES.
Where other series made concessions when moving to simpler hardware, Link’s Awakening made none. It took everything the series offered up in A Link to the Past and added a more fully fleshed out world with distinct characters. Driven by the development team’s fascination with Twin Peaks, Link’s Awakening features a cast of strange characters, odd moments, and a depth that future entries in the franchise would run with.
People will probably say that Ocarina of Time has had the biggest influence on the franchise, but I’d wager we wouldn’t have even seen the likes of that game had it not been for the ambition and devil-may-care attitude that went into the development of Link’s Awakening. If you’re a Nintendo fan or just a human being, you owe it to yourself to play this game.
When I thought of a “must-play” game other than the most obvious answers most people have already probably played like any Super Mario 3D platformer, I asked myself, “Have I ever played a game that dramatically broadened my appreciation of games?” Other than Paper Mario TTYD, which I’ve already gushed about many times in these segments, including last week.
For instance, as a stubborn child, I used to feel intense contempt for visual novels as a genre. I felt they were all bloated text boxes and jpegs with no interactivity beyond advancing text and selecting multiple choice answers, if even that, so I never cared about anything that was being said. But after playing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney under the presumption it was a puzzle game or a point and click adventure (which… it kinda is, but it’s more of a VN?), I came to acknowledge the value of VNs as a genre.
Phoenix Wright is so commendable because it eschews most of the flaws that turned me away from VNs previously. Characters are emotive and animated, dialogue rarely prattles on excessively, and testimonies challenge players to constantly pay attention to case details in order to advance. The more I realized how dialogue-heavy Wright was, the more I realized that my preconceptions of the visual novel genre were overgeneralizations. True, I had seen many VNs with those flaws, but Wright taught me they weren’t intrinsic to the genre’s design.
But just as importantly, Wright succeeds at what VNs are designed to do in the first place — telling a story, and a fudging great one at that. I played games for stories before, but the original Ace Attorney is the first game I played where its writing is its primary driving force, and it’s a smooth drive despite its many twists and turns. I felt a personal attachment to characters I didn’t feel from other games or media. I cracked a smile laughing. I welled up tears. That is the value of visual novels as a medium, and the things I disdained about them previously don’t necessarily bar them from achieving that (even though Wright’s tools and tricks help it a lot).
It’s a bit more niche than most other responses here, but I believe playing this game can do a bit of good for anyone’s understanding of why people support games as a purely narrative medium. Or at the very least, anyone’s heart. It’s available on everything except your toaster at this point, even your phone. Unless your toaster is your phone.
Occams Electric Toothbrush
Boy howdy, the question this week is daunting. I look at the games my compatriots are choosing. Iconic games. Templates for greatness. Foundational experiences. And there are a dozen games I thought about before deciding on Insomniac’s Spider-Man. However, as the fulfillment of the promise established by many of the games listed, I think it can’t be beaten.
I wanted to show a shining example of what games can do when they get it right on so many fronts. The web swinging feels great. Translating that sense of momentum and movement from the screen to your hands holding the controller is an achievement on its own. And what a fun way to explore New York City, which is recreated in painstaking detail. Taking a break from fighting goons to explore Central Park and swing by the iconic Guggenheim building added a sense of immersion that takes the player from involved to invested.
You could argue that Spider-Man suffers from some of the same pitfalls a lot of open-world action games do with collect-a-thons and the grocery list of tasks and I get that. But I never felt bored or burdened by them, only excited to explore New York City and see how the story plays out. That’s another thing; what’s an open-world game without a compelling narrative? This has it. Peter Parker is a sweet kid, and the challenges of being a young adult weigh on him just as much as being a superhero. I treated the main story as a treat; a dessert to be savored after the main course of a few side missions that lead to a new ability or costume unlocked.
Spider-Man shines as an example of getting it right and delivers on cinematic experience that is just fun. Pure, unadulterated fun that is at the heart of what great gaming is about. It makes you smile and makes you feel like a kid again and I can’t think of a better game to show someone to know why we all love this medium so damn much.
Thatgamecompany’s Flower is a game everyone should play. Flower probably exited the pop culture consciousness long ago. I’m not sure if it influenced anything, and there’s nothing noteworthy in terms of its game mechanics. Its “game-ness” isn’t why it’s special.
Flower is about feeling. It’s a meditative, contemplative, introspective experience in a medium that is often bombastic and lacking in subtlety. There’s no explicit conflict in the game, and only the framework of a story exists.
But this minimal approach somehow makes for a rich experience. You’re pulled into a world, and suddenly you feel things: peace, freedom, wonder, joy, and even dread at times. You fill in that barebones story by drawing from your own experiences and perspective.
Flower is a statement about what games can do for us, and how deeply they can touch us. It shows us that games can be art, and do things that aren’t possible in any other medium. I just think that’s a beautiful idea, and Flower encapsulates it best.
No second-guessing. I’m going with my gut on this one, and my gut instantly told me to choose Resident Evil 4. It was one of the best video games ever made when it released in 2005, and it still is to this day.
The game continues to make the rounds with ports, so you’ll have no trouble finding it on at least one platform you own, new and old. You don’t need to have played any other Resident Evil titles to enjoy it. Heck, I’ll do you one better: I don’t even care if you play through the whole thing. I mean, you should, but it’s much longer than your first impression will probably imply and time is short these days.
All you need is a half hour or so to make it to the Spanish village. It’s one of the finest moments of horror and tension in gaming. It’s perfect. After scouting your surroundings with binoculars and taking mental note of the few infected townsfolk you can get your eyes on, you head in with trepidation. No matter which way you go, you’ll be overrun. No route is ideal. No building is completely safe. The villagers seem endless and your ammo so distressingly finite. It’s an endurance test meant to check your reflexes and adaptability. Somehow, you manage. Then you hear a sputtering chainsaw…
Resident Evil 4‘s village sequence freaked me out the first time I played it. In the years since I’ve run through it dozens of times. It never quite plays out the same, but there are two constants: my heart always feels like it’s going to burst, and the sense of relief after surviving the gauntlet is unparalleled.
While there are exceptions to this, writing in games as of the past few generations has been looked upon as low-brow and at times only there to get the player from point A to point B during times where your adrenaline needs to come down. Most of the stories are cliche and at times filled with plot holes the size of the sun but it’s ok because most people don’t play games for their story. I remember a time when technology didn’t allow for such beautiful in-game graphics so designers had to do something more than just appeal to your visual senses, they had to appeal to your brain by telling a thought-provoking story. I miss those days, but it seems outside of CRPGs which are most assuredly not for everyone, stories take a backseat in most games. Thankfully The Talos Principle exists, and I love Croteam for what they brought into this world.
The Talos Principle, while beautiful in its own right, isn’t going to impress you with dazzling visuals and searing action scenes. But it does harken back to the time where writing was more important. It balances puzzle gameplay with a captivating story about what it means to be human in the face of humanity’s downfall. The story isn’t some B-grade action movie script galavanting as a game, it’s genuine science-fiction storytelling that grabs you by the ears and makes you think about your life and what it all means. It doesn’t try to fool or trick you, it’s too subdued for that, which is funny to think about considering it’s from the people who made Serious Sam.
While the base games content is good as an introspective look at yourself, the expansion Road to Gehenna is where writers Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes really start digging into the whole human experiment. Through the guise of different AI trapped in a prison world, you see how sentient beings cope with strife and it’s one of the most human experiences I’ve ever had.
It’s a beautiful experience of a game that is personal and almost meditative. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever played and I worry that there will never be another game like it again.
If there’s a game I want everyone to try playing regardless of who they are, without any consideration of whether or not they’ll get anything out of the experience, it would have to be Fallout. Either of the two old ones will do, but the original would be best. 1997’s best game feels like such a key piece for understanding not just where games were in that era but also seeing where they went in the decades since then. It’s awkward, fussy, and parts of it are downright regressive, but I’ll be damned if it still isn’t one of the best games of all time and worth trying no matter who you are.
Like war, that’s not gonna change.
The more years you have under your belt in the long, drawn out war known as “recommending video games to strangers who will be very angry at you if you do it wrong”, the more you know that there is simply no telling what someone will or won’t enjoy. I know people who say that Other M is their favorite Metroid game, while others say that it is utterly useless garbage. Similarly, I love Skyward Sword but was bored out of my skull for the majority of my time with Breath of the Wild, which sounds like sacrilege to a lot of Zelda fans in their 20s and 30s. Just as soon as these folks are ready to deem me problematic to the point of worthlessness, all of a sudden they’ll praise me for saying that Splatoon 2 is one of the greatest multi-player shooters going today, or that Hyper Light Drifter is a new American Classic.
Truly, there is no accounting for taste, and no way to say what games are objectively “good” or “bad” outside of focusing on technical issues like bugs, frame rates, and resolutions. So how the heck are you supposed to recommend one game, over all the others, to everyone on the planet?
Easy. Just pick Tetris.
If there is any good left in this world, then most of you have probably played Tetris before, but in this modern era of kids who would rather watch people play Minecraft than play it themselves, or have never paid for a game in there life because Candy Crush and Fortnite are free, I can’t claim to guess what’s real and what’s not anymore. That said, I am confident that Tetris has the potential to make everyone happy. Like Art Hawk once said, it works the way the human brain works as it processes memory and anticipates the future. Without playable characters to identify with and move around, its impossible to struggle to relate to its protagonists or complain about its controls being stiff. There are no fetch quests or “filler” to gripe about either. It’s just about the cleanest, direct, elegant, and rewarding game ever designed and everyone should check it out.
Persona 4 Golden is “pure” in a way that few games could ever hope to achieve. The gameplay is a mix of high school social sim and turn-based RPG, and it all feeds off each other in a way that is just insanely pleasurable. It flashes between the dark murder mystery of its main arc and the more personal, character-building side stories effortlessly. I cared about these characters. Years later, I still think about the 127 hours that I spent in Inaba constantly.
For newcomers, it works as a perfect gateway drug into the world of visual novels and RPGs alike. The next thing you know, you’ll find yourself diving into Danganronpa and Steins;Gate, forever pushing yourself to one day find something similar. You won’t. It’ll guide you towards plenty of other amazing experiences, but Persona 4 Golden is wholly unique in its appeal.
Also, it has Chie, who is clearly the best Persona girl.
When I first heard this question, the answer hit me in the head like a bullet (Bill) and was without question. Super Mario World. There’s not a whole lot I can say about this 1990 SNES classic that hasn’t been dissected in the ensuing decades since its release. SMW encapsulates video games at their very core, in terms of imagination, control, challenge, fun, exploration, co-ordination.
Everyone can play it, you don’t have to be able to read, numerate, strategize, follow lore or practice – you just hit Start and get moving. It has timeless aesthetics, which hold their appeal across all cultural or generational gaps. It’s simplistic enough that you know how to play it within seconds, but it consistently shifts its own design and mechanics to keep things feeling fresh and challenging from level one through level 96.
Super Mario World is perfect, and it’s for everyone. It’s a masterpiece of design that should – and can – be experienced by all, whether video game fans or otherwise. Yeah, it’s an obvious answer, but these things become cliche for a reason.
Pixie The Fairy
I guess this is more of an and/or kind of answer, but the games are practically married at this point anyway so you can play either or both! My picks are Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (the PSOne version, not the crap PSP/Saturn ones with flat voice overs). With games like Guacamelee, Hollow Knight, Chasm and so many more taking inspiration from them, it would be remiss for anyone to skip the two games that started it all.
Super Metroid is nearing its 25th anniversary and people still play it to this day. Not many games can claim such a legacy, but it remains among the games that capitalize on a real sense of isolation and is also fully capable of ripping your heart out and stomping on it without conveying a single line of dialogue. On top of that, it was a game that gave you the tools from the start to break the expected flow of events if you chose to do so. Breaking the sequences of the game wasn’t a cheat or exploit, the game was intentionally designed that way.
Symphony of the Night has a bit more of a campy and melodramatic atmosphere to it while its gameplay is rooted in action RPG mechanics. Like Samus, Alucard is a rather isolated character, but he gets more social opportunities to squander as he explores a vast and twisted castle full of spooky things just like Samus explores a vast, mostly subterranean alien world. He gets a rather expansive and overwhelming kit of abilities when all is said and done, too.
You can become all the things a vampire is said to do – become a bat, a wolf, mist and have all kinds of spells at your command. And water hurts you for a good part of the game, so no splish splash for Alucard.
It’s also the first game I remember hiding 50% of the game behind obscure clues and a fake ending. That detail would become a recurring thing in subsequent (and excellent) GBA and DS entries headed up by Koji Igarashi, though with less content squirreled away from the core game.
And both games have some of the most kickass soundtracks of all time, so there is also that.
Because there are so many games that could be named for this question, I once again opened the topic up to the Destructoid Community to see what you had to say.
dephoenix – Chrono Trigger. Easily one of the best JRPGs ever created. If you have not played it yet, you are doing yourself a disservice. The gameplay, the world, the characters, the story, all of it is fantastic. The fact that it was not on the SNES Classic is a travesty.
Derewolf – Final Fantasy XII. While not for everyone, it should be tried. The in depth Gambit system is outstanding and was ahead if it’s time. And the new job system for Zodiac Age was phenomenal
Shoggoth2588 – I’m going with the obvious answer: Tetris. It’s a simple enough game that just about any person between the ages of 2 and a hundred twenty-two can pick it up and understand the goal of the game. After spending even ten minutes with the game, I imagine people can more easily notice patterns in the real world around them and possibly even apply it to their daily lives. “Oh, these things can be better organized if I arrange them like this” I imagine an avid Tetris-player saying to themselves after a short session with the game. I work in a pseudo-warehouse environment and I firmly believe that my coworkers would be much, much less useless if they played Tetris so a big part of my suggestion is absolutely bitterness but I do strongly believe that Tetris is a game that everybody should play at least once in their lives, if they haven’t already.
Adzuken – Chibi-Robo. You can play hundreds of games that can’t think past “blow everything up” as a way of conflict resolution, but there aren’t that many out there where you’re tasked with just making people happy. Chibi-Robo puts you in the middle of a family that is falling apart and it’s up to you to confront everyone’s problems. It’s a stark reminder that even small, personal issues can be a whole lot bigger than you. And, yeah, I guess there are some other robots you blow up, but I’m pretty sure that was only put in there because someone higher up demanded there be something more than picking up trash and scrubbing floors.
Brad Majors – Tough one, and I imagine the answers will be filled with Marios and Zeldas (and Òkami) so how about I pass on that and go for the cleverest and funniest game ever made, Portal 2. Humor in games isn’t easy but Portal 2 just makes it seem so effortless. Pair with great puzzles and a terrific narrative I feel everyone needs to know who Cave Johnson is. He’s the guy who’s going to burn your house down! With the lemons!
Xeo – Final Fantasy Tactics. Others have said Chrono Trigger, and while that’s my favorite game, it’s pretty widely accepted a masterpiece if you’re even remotely in the know about RPGs. FFT though I feel that while it’s also regarded as a classic, doesn’t have quite the same clout, if only because of it’s actual genre, being a tactical RPG. Tactics came (mostly) before the time when Final Fantasy was all about a spiky haired emo kid’s big adventure. The game features a pretty serious story. One involving politics, religion and class and not shying away from the uglier side of each of these issues. It’s a brilliant game from start to finish, offering an easy footing into the genre if it’s your first time, but still offering plenty of depth and customization options for your as well. And it feature what in my opinion is the absolute best soundtrack out there. It’ll keep you engaged for dozens of hours. I could go on for hours myself here, so just take my word on it.
Kerrik52 – God Hand. It’s always the answer. You can Dragon Kick asses into the Milky Way in it.
Plaguemaniac1346 – DOOM 2016. Because everyone deserves to see what the perfection of a genre looks like before they shuffle off this mortal coil. Its just so beautiful in its execution, from gameplay to soundtrack to visuals. Its just a damn good game thats so tight and well made, that it probably belongs in a museum of some kind. Or all of them.
ZombieC0RPS – Megaman X! It is the perfect example of thoughtful game design. It has everything from exploration, beautiful art, an amazing soundtrack, lovable characters, Easter eggs AND Boba Fett Vile! X is still a classic that I revisit regularly. As a young Zombie my mind was blown when I defeated Chill Penguin to discover that his defeat lead to Flame Mamoth’s stage being frozen over. Those little details added so much character to the game. When Maverick Hunter X was released, my mind was blown again to learn that I could play as Boba Fett Vile! X is such a genuinely fun game that can be enjoyed by nearly anyone. I believe it is a must play for everyone.
LaTerror – Katamari Damacy is one of the most creative games I’ve ever played. It was like nothing that had come before it and I think it paved the way for all the creativity that we see from indie developers today.
Destructoids Very Own Ein – Wow. I get a chance to talk about Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Where to even begin? The game box never really caught my attention but sometime around 2005..ish…I read an article on a gaming magazine…mayhaps Game Informer, that mentioned JRPGs that everyone should play. It piqued my curiosity so I stopped by a local GameStop and picked it up. The early 1900s setting coupled with the characters and locations sold me immediately. By the time you think you’re done with the game there is a serious twist and a lot more game. Not once does it feel too long, and you constantly want to play more and unlock more skills, items, etc. I can go more in details story and mechanics-wise if needed.
Punished Nietzsche – 999: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors. Its an exceptionally well-written game, and its final twist will stay in your mind forever.
Voodoome – Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze would be my suggestion. Pure platforming excellence that you don’t have to think about too much. It has a perfect difficulty balance that frustrates, but still compels one to push forward. It doesn’t have a compelling story or anything like that, but the art and music are inviting and the game play isn’t bogged down with complicated mechanics. Anyone can pick it up and understand what it is they have to do with a few button presses, but the longer they play the more they will appreciate it’s mastery.
CelicaCrazed – Oh my god I’m going to die one day! Fuuuuuck T__T Does it matter? Does anything matter? Fuck it, let’s go with Warhawk on PS3. You have less than a month to try it because it’s also dying because everything dies.