This month’s list challenge is one I should be better at–but I’m not. I’m a very basic player when it comes to video games. Video games are glorified toys for me, but that’s ok. I still play with toys!
As a family Chad, I’ve primarily left my days of hardcore gaming behind for the sake of being a grown up who pursues a lot of other immature activities like reading comics instead. For all intents and purposes, we have one active tv in the house, and that’s where all the gaming takes place. That’s also where all the tv and video streaming takes place, too. But that doesn’t mean I never get to gaming. I have my moments.
I’ve never been an RPG fan, and most story-based games tend to take too long for me for me to master and I lose interest in-between starts and stops. If I wanted to watch a movie, I’d watch a real movie, not Playstation cut-screens.
So you’re not going to be seeing any Skyrims or Breaths of the Wild here. I own copies of those along with the Last of Us and the God of War series, but I’ve never actually played them. I’m sure they’re great, but they’re not my scene just yet.
One day, when I have the time to really get into those games without a toddler stumbling into the room, I’ll have myself a day. Until then, they’ll stay tucked away hoping their respective systems still work when the time comes.
When I do play games, I tend to gravitate towards the ones I can play in quick bursts, 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, along with the occasional binge session that’s honesty waaaay too occasional. Or the other time I play games is with my 8 year old kiddo.
As far as systems go, we’ve had a PS3 that in its later years was primarily an oversized streaming stick. I don’t think my kids have ever played a PS3 game. I’ve never been an Xbox guy, even though Halos are fun, so you won’t see any Microsoft ‘sclusies on my list. This christmas, we finally upgraded to a PS4 Pro (basically because some of the streaming services were no longer supported on the PS3). PS4 gaming is minimal compared to PS4 streaming, as is tradition.
Nintendo seems to match my gaming profile more often than not.
We buy into the Nintendo systems like the WIi, Wii U, 3DS, the NES Classic, and Switch. Hopefully that explains why my list is so Nintendo heavy. My kiddo only uses the PS4 to load up shows for his mom and sister, and then he goes back to whatever Nintendo gamepad to keep himself occupied.
In Nintendo’s defense, they seem like the only game company that hasn’t abandoned kids or local multiplayer games. I’m not the strongest gamer in the first place. I rarely go online to play games with folks I don’t know. I have no interest in simultaneously being cannon fodder while being taught new swear words online from little kids in foreign countries.
If I’m going to lose a game, I prefer that to happen in the comfort of my own home amongst friends or family I can yell at.
Somewhere along the way, the target audience for video games shifted from kids to violence-addicted grown ups. As the detail has increased, so has the gritty realism of games. Even games like the PS4 Spidey have gang-style assassinations in them.
I’m not comfortable playing a lot of those games with my kids in the room. so we stick to Nintendo the majority of the time for gaming. There the violence is cartoony and the bullet-spray is usually paint. Or Fireballs. Whatever.
Onto the list!
10. Best Cell Phone Game I’m Still Playing But Should Have Stopped Long Ago:
Pokemon Go (iphone)
The only non-console game on my list–I started Go on a beach vacation with the in-laws a week after it came out. All the boys were talking about it and asked me if I downloaded it yet.
“No. I’m not a big Pokemon guy, and I know if do start, I’ll have to keep going until I catch ‘em all.”
I succumbed to peer pressure, and sure enough, I caught ‘em all–in Kanto at least. Everyone else but a handful of friends quit 2 or 3 weeks later, but it’s going on 3 years of me spinning Pokestops on my way to work. I see some pokemon; I catch some pokemon. Then I go back to spinning stops and doing raids and data management and I should be paying more attention to where I’m going. t took me over a year to get all of the first generation. Then, a few weeks later, they released the next. And the next after that. It just keeps going. I purposely drive through one of the sketchier neighborhoods on a daily basis because there are tons of spawn points and stops. I know all the Eevee-lutions now and can talk Snorlaxes and Swablus if needed. My kiddo and I used to do the raids together, but I worried that I was teaching him the wrong things. See that group of people that don’t belong hanging out on that corner? I bet they’re doing the Tyranitar raid; let’s hurry up and join ‘em! The games has continually added more and more gameplay elements the point where it’ had the opposite effect and even I’m losing interest (the kiddo dropped off long ago, only to peak his head up when I get a new shiny).
9. Best Fighter:
Super Smash Bros U (Wii U)
The nod almost went to Injustice, which was a really fun fighting game with an intriguing story mode featuring DC characters. Ironically, what I liked about Injustice is what drives me crazy about most other games. What puts Smash Bros over the edge is that it’s Smash Brothers. There’s something here for everyone from the most skilled fighting game players to the button mashers. I even picked up the Gamecube Controller plugger-inner so you could conceivably play with 8 people at the same time. I think I maxed out at six, but that’s pretty awesome. Plus, with the Wii U edition, you could turn your Miis into fighters, which I really really loved. Not since the old WWE Smackdown days have I had so much fun building characters and moves to beat the stuffing out of Mario and Donkey Kong and the like. I’ll give the Wii U version the nod over the Switch version, simply because the kiddo and I played it way more. He was less skilled in the Wii U days. My antics with my MIi or Kirby could keep him at bay. Now, he’s too good. It’s not fair anymore on the Switch–so that version obviously isn’t as good. Plus, the Wii U version was the first time I could pit Mario, Sonic, and Pac Man against each other, and they were all the leading mascots of the video games of my youth. That’s pretty cool, and so is Smash Brothers for Wii U.
8. Best Open World Adventure:
Red Dead Redemption GOTY Edition (PS3)
Remember all that stuff I said about not enjoying many open world games or games that are too violent? All of that is true. But before I had my first kid, those rules were not in play. Enter Red Dead Redemption. Whether it was horseback riding from town to town to play missions, stopping at the local saloons to play poker or 5 finger filet, or even trying to survive the Zombie mode, this was a really fun game. The only reason I stopped playing is because eventually I got myself lost and didn’t know where to go next. I got bored trying to figure out what the heck to do, and I popped the game out of the system. Once that happens, it’s not going back until I finish the next game and a spot opens up–but it hasn’t opened back up yet. For now, I’ve hung up my ten gallon hat and six shooters. But I definitely intend to play this game again eventually.
7. Best Platformer:
“New” Super Mario Bros. U + “New” Super Luigi U (Wii U)
I hate the “new” names for these Mario games, but I’ll be darned if they aren’t some of the best. This is one of the games that I played through on the Wii U and enjoyed so much I alllllmost bought it again for the Switch to play it again. Then I remembered the Wii U is still hooked up so there’s no need.
This game goes back even further than the Wii U as it hearkens back to the spirit of those old school side-scrolling Mario days, where the levels were challenging, but not impossible. You could also play with multiple players on screen at the same time, which was only mildly annoying. As the kids slept and the wife watched British Sherlock movies, I sat with my Wii U gamepad and had just as much fun playing Mario as I did when I was a kid..
6. Best Game That Makes Sense but Shouldn’t:
Rocket League Ultimate Edition (Switch)
It’s soccer with souped up rocket cars. Originally I played this on a friend’s PS4, and it took a moment for his explanation to sink in. But it really works. It’s all the fun of a driving/racing game, mixed with the drama of a team sports game with the comical chaos of a demolition derby. Sort of. You blow cars up but they come right back. This is a really fun game to play competitively or in couch co-op mode, as the intrinsic goals are pretty simple. It takes some time and skill to figure out how to do what you want consistently, but it’s worth it because you get to drive and play soccer at the same time.
To repeat: You drive. You play soccer. AT THE SAME TIME!!!
5. Best Real Sport Game:
NHL 10-20 (PS3-PS4)
They’re all the same. I’ve played the most of NHL 12 and 19 personally. The Penguins have good rosters on both of those, but for my purposes, the changes each year are barely noticeable. Unlike some sports games where i you skip a year or two, the controls you come back to are almost unrecognizable, EA’s NHL hockey is very intuitive. Hockey is the best video game sport as it’s fast paced, not too complicated when it comes to xs and o’s, and the scoring is frequent enough to keep things competitive. Madden takes too darned long, and soccer doesn’t have nearly enough scoring for how many players are on the field. For me, hockey is a form of meditation, as I turn my brain off and let my inner autopilot figure out the crushing hits or one-timers as needed. I don’t go in for a lot of the bells and whistles, traditionally. I get a game, I start a season, and I play it through. And then I repeat. Games usually take around 15 minutes, and I’m just as happy to play one as I am to play 5 in a row. It’s relaxing. Even once I got the new PS4 and a host of highly ranked games, I still default to hockey more often than not as my old reliable favorite sports game.
4. Best PS4 Game about Spider-man:
Spider-Man: Game of the Year Edition (PS4)
I’ve just recently started playing this game, as it was the one gotta-have it game to go with the PS4. If there was a tipping point between going PS4 vs. Xbox, this was it. The open world web spinning is lots of fun. The controls and attacks reminded me of some of those really fun movie games from the PS1 and PS2 era. I’ve only made it to the part where I’m chasing the Shocker, but I’ve really enjoyed all the easter eggs and story notes and characters from the last decade of the comic books. The missions and puzzles keep me focused, and I haven’t gotten myself lost just yet. I’m sure it will happen and I’ll have to start watching YouTube videos, but I’m not there yet. I’m still enjoying being in this world. Spidey’s pretty lucky in that he’s one superhero who has multiple really good games out there. Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time on PS3 were both wins, but Insomniac’s PS4 game does really seem to take things and level them up. The plot is intense–and the J. Jonah Jameson commentary makes this game aces in my book, even though I’m still pretty early in the process. I wish it weren’t so gun-violency so I could play it with my kids around, but I’ve still really enjoyed what I have gotten to play.
3. Best Game for Feeling Creative:
Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
All too often, my video game experiences fall back into repetitive motions, and I wonder if they’re helping me to expand my horizons or if they’re just killing my time. Very rarely do I get a game that I can definitely say is doing both: Super Mario Maker. First and foremost, the fun and challenge of creating your own Mario levels is exhilarating. I could barely contain my excitement when I would complete a new level as my wife sat on the other end of the couch watching British Baking Shows. Then, factor in the amiibo involvement, where I could feed my action figure collection habit and put my favorite video game characters (thanks Smash Bros.!), into classic 8 bit style Mario levels. I already mentioned having Mario, Sonic, and Pac Man all in the same game, on the same level–even if they were only skins–it was great. Even more so than Smash, this game gave me the power I always wished I had as a kid growing up to manipulate the levels. That doesn’t even factor in the other selling point: infinite Mario. The game had prebuilt levels, they would release challenge courses with new skins you could unlock to put in your games–things like Excitebike or a car–but they also gave you access to all the levels that other people have built, too. They weren’t all winners, and there were way too many “don’t move your character, just watch how clever I am” levels, but this was like getting a hundred Mario games in one. Whether it was building or playing the products of others, there are fewer games that brought me more joy and satisfaction than Super Mario Maker.
2. Best Game to Play with Anybody:
Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Wii U and Switch)
Mario Kart is just the best. It’s so good, I happily shelled out extra dough on the Wii U for the extra courses and DLC. Then, I ended up buying the same game again on the Switch (they did add a battle mode). Even more so than Smash, this is a game where you can hand a controller to anybody from the ages of 5 to 100 and they instantly get what’s going on and how to play. I can bust out Mario Kart when my friends or in-laws come over, or if my kiddo’s friends come over–it doesn’t matter, it’s going to be fun every time. It’s balanced just enough to give almost everybody a fair shot at …not losing. Maybe not winning, as skill traditionally wins out, but definitely not losing.
1. Best Most Addictive Game Ever:
Tetris 99 (Switch)
I’ve written about this one a bunch. It’s battle-royale Tetris. You on your big board against 98 other smaller Tetris boards, who can muck up your game, just as you can muck up theirs. Sure it’s online, but I don’t actually have to talk to people. It’s competitive and skill-based, but there’s still enough luck involved to ensure a variety of outcomes, so you never know what’s going to happen in a game of Tetris. Best of all, though, is I can sneak in a game of ‘99 almost any time. Waiting for water to boil, boot it up. If I do real well, that water boils a bit longer than normal before it goes to pasta-town, but that’s ok. There’s no story plot to worry about remembering. There’s no complicated strategery that’s going to get me past this boss level, it’s just Tetris. Put the blocks together and fill in the rows. Try not to take too long or you’re done. Really the only obstacle for me playing more Tetris are my kids and their infernal game-playing or needing help with homework or needing a present father in their lives. Sigh. I do what I can, I guess. But Tetris 99 has kept me from enjoying a backlog of really highly regarded Switch games because I still haven’t worked the Tetris bug out of my system. Mario: Odyssey and Mario Maker 2 sit and wait for the day they get the call over Tetris. It’ll happen one day. I don’t know how soon, however. Tetris is really simple and really fun.
So those were my top 10 games of the decade!
Seeing as my kiddo has been around for most of the decade (he’s 8) and he’s taken the reigns as the de facto gamer in the house, I asked him for his favorites in case you were curious. His top 5: Pokemon Shield, Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3, Splatoon 2, and Rocket League, all for the Switch. Eevee, Marvel: UA3, and Rocket League are all games we’ve had lots of fun with together. I wouldn’t have been shocked to see Arms, Minecraft, or Tanks! Tanks! Tanks! (Wii U) pop up, as we’ve had hours of fun playing those, too. But it looks like we both have a mix of games we like playing together and some games we like tuning out and playing alone as well. It’s nice to have different games for different occasions. Hopefully this list finds you well and might point you to the right game for one of your occasions, too.
Until next time, I’ll probably just keep bouncing between NHL and Tetris. Pucks on nets
and blocks on blocks.
I can handle those. You let me know how your 347th hour of Skyrim is going.