In the inaugural edition of GameSpot's Pick Five feature, we asked several GameSpot editors to meet this criteria: "Pick five games you have in your collection because you think it makes you look cool." This time around we're asking them to "Pick five games that you haven't played, but you should." Since the editors were asked to interpret and answer the question in seclusion, at least one editor flips the script and recommends games that he's played but that you, the audience, probably hasn't. You should.
Even if you're the most hardcore gamer, you'll have a hard time keeping up with the torrent of video game releases each week. Unfortunately, time and money prevent most people from ever sampling the vast majority of games, let alone ever finishing them.
Most of the time it's an acceptable loss--you miss the latest Tomb Raider game or some Tom Clancy thriller, and nobody ever finds out. Occasionally, though, a classic slips through the net and causes you constant ridicule from gaming friends. We've all been there--sitting down in the pub, when everyone finds out you never played Mario 64, or Street Fighter II, or Gran Turismo. You went traveling and missed Resident Evil 4. You didn't have chance to play San Andreas because of your addiction to Halo 2. Your excuses mean you're weak.
We've all got dirty little secrets about the games we never played, and the march of technology continues to allure us with sparkly magic instead of encouraging us to visit forgotten classics. Thankfully, though, God invented the summer, and that's the time that gamers can get through the release drought and seek out the games they missed. While it's embarrassing to admit it, I've never played the games below. You, dear reader, are taking the role of the priest in my video game confessional. Be gentle with me.
The best-selling game of all time. The cash cow of the biggest video game publisher on earth. The poster child for mainstream video game acceptance. And I've never even tried it. How have I managed to avoid the gaming equivalent of the movie Titanic? With all the spin-offs and sequels, you'd think that The Sims would take up every available shelf at my local gaming emporium and that I wouldn't have any choice but to buy a copy.
Unfortunately, though, the game happened to be released in my late-teenage years. Academically, I was finishing college, desperately trying to wrangle a "pass" in Math and French. Personally, I'd managed to discover the joys of young love, partying, and drinking. 2000 also marked the first series of Big Brother, so I happened to be more interested in another house full of barely comprehensible people. Finally, my brother was hooked on the game and it was impossible to get onto the computer.
Nowadays, though, I'm an out-of-shape, single, city-dweller whose main concern is the price of turnips in Animal Crossing. Hopefully The Sims will make me feel young again.
People tell me that Metal Gear Solid 3 is the best in the series, and that the new Subsistence version is even better. Truth is, though, I'm a graphics whore of the highest order. I know Project Gotham 3 is essentially just a prettier version of its predecessor, but I was there to buy it quicker than Paris Hilton at a club opening. After the high-definition delights of Ghost Recon played through my Samsung LCD and Denon home cinema system, going back to PlayStation 2 and Xbox games makes it look like someone's been in and smeared a layer of Vaseline on the screen.
Metal Gear Solid 3 isn't the only game I'm embarrassed to have missed thanks to Microsoft's noisy powerhouse. I personally think Ico is the best game on the PS2, but I haven't even tried Shadow of the Colossus yet. I was still working my way through Resident Evil 4 when the 360 came out, but I end up playing dross like Full Auto instead of finishing it. I'm just very wrong in the head.
Fortunately the SNES has aged better than some of the other consoles of my youth.
Though it ultimately turned me into a fairly reputable member of society, I still rue my parents for never buying me a games console as a child. I always had a computer, and I even had a Game Gear, but the likes of a Mega Drive was always beyond my grasp. Well now I work for GameSpot and I get to play any game I want! Ha ha ha!
Ahem. Anyway, my list of missed classics from the 16-bit era is actually longer than I would like to admit, but my biggest regret is not playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In my neighbourhood, all the kids owned a Mega Drive (or a Genesis, as it's known internationally), which meant that all the hollow relationships I forged only got me so far as Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage. Nintendo must have forgotten to make a shipment to my dreary little seaside town, so I missed out on numerous Nintendo classics. I intend to buy the Game Boy Advance version of the game and play it on my shiny new Nintendo DS Lite at full brightness. Stick it to the man!
Unlike the other games on my list, I actually own Oblivion, and have done since the week it came out. I'm by no means an RPG fan, especially if it's based in a fantasy setting. And I know that sounds ridiculous, like the person who says he doesn't like World War II shooters, but there's something about elves and magic that instantly turns me off. However, the buzz around this game was unavoidable, and when I heard comments such as "the first true next-gen game" being bandied about, I rushed out and bought a copy for fear of missing the best game of the year.
That was nearly three months ago, and I've still not put the game in the 360's disc drive. Part of the problem was spending time with the US team, who all said the game was stealing every hour of their waking life. So I decided to finish Tomb Raider: Legend and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter first. There are no excuses left, and even though I feel like I've missed the collective experience that was enjoyed by thousands of people in May, I have to go back and dedicate a month of my life to this game. Otherwise it's just a £50 coaster.
I like to think of myself as a cultured, semiliterate individual. Sometimes, I even indulge in intellectually stimulating media, such as a David Lynch film or a Radiohead album. But when I'm attempting to sit back and relax after a long day of work, and you give me a video game that demands a level of thinking beyond "point gun and pull trigger," then I'm quickly lost. The greatest casualty of this MTV-generation attention span is Civilization II, which I am told is the best strategy game of all time, if not the best PC game of all time. Since I've now taken up Sudoku on Brain Age, I'm feeling particularly intelligent, and now's the time to tackle my fear of simulation games head-on.
Civilization II is so good that the people on the GameSpot UK team I've spoken to are lost for words at the news that I haven't played this game. I think I might be facing redundancy, which, compounded by the news that (whisper it) I'm not a big fan of World of Warcraft, may result in me being cast forth onto the puddle-soaked streets of London. It's been fun while it lasted.
I guess I have a long history of not picking up on certain cultural touchstones that excludes me from taking part in a lot of conversations in social situations. Movies, for instance. I could name a bunch of them, but you'd think even less of me, so here's only a couple: Jaws. Top Gun. Crazy, right? Same thing with games. For some reason, even when everybody in this office is going gaga over the game of the moment, I can often pass it over without batting a lash. To wit:
The King of All Cosmos is not amused.
1. Katamari Damacy (PS2) The super-quirky "it" game of 2004 has since spawned a sequel and a portable version. I haven't played any of them. Never have I picked up a controller and gleefully rolled that big ball of whatever hither and yon. The worst part? I bought the stupid game not long after it came out, but it's sat opened and unplayed on my shelf ever since. No excuse.
2. Burnout (PS2, Xbox) I dabbled a little with Legends on the PSP, but I've never played one of the console versions of this Racer for the Rest of Us. It ought to be right up my alley, too, since I really don't care for "hardcore" racing games. I even picked up Burnout 3 as part of the PS2 greatest-hits line for like $15 last December, and I haven't touched it yet. I think it's still in shrink-wrap.
3. Beyond Good & Evil (Xbox) Another critical darling that I bought when it was on sale and have never even put in my Xbox. Are you noticing a theme here? The worst part is, I hear it's like eight hours long. I could beat it in a weekend! What's wrong with me?!
4. Psychonauts (Xbox) At least I don't actually own this one. I was kinda waiting for the price to drop. Sorry Double Fine! Just kidding. The enthusiasm around here for this thing was so intense that I basically fed on that and didn't actually play the game for myself, until finally other games came out and grabbed my attention. I feel like someday (maybe this year) I'll relent, buy a copy, and find it as endearing as everyone else seems to. Maybe if they'd ever put it on the 360 backward-compatibility list.
5. Diablo One or two, take your pick. I love Starcraft and all things Warcraft with an abiding passion--it's not a leap to say I just love Blizzard in general--so why didn't I ever get into this? I even had friends playing the first one in high school and I just didn't bother to go out and get it myself, despite its early and intriguing foray into the wilds of cooperative Internet play.
If you think that's bad, check this out: I've never beaten Super Mario Bros. or the original Legend of Zelda. Sure, I've played them both plenty--I even beat Ganon once while playing a friend's copy--but never all the way through. How'd I get this job again?
If someone were to ask me to pick five games that I really needed to play a lot more--as opposed to five games I haven't played at all--my list would be completely different. In that case, it would include much more recognizable games that I'm downright ashamed to have not finished yet, including the likes of F.E.A.R. (...sorry!), God of War (oh, man, I'm really sorry...!), and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (look, please, just let me explain...). Having not played all the way through these games causes me to lose a little bit of sleep every night. Thankfully, though, I can safely say I've spent at least a little time playing almost all of the stuff I feel is essential. After all, the way I figure, it's better to play a game for less than an hour than not at all. So when my backlog piles up, I tend to grab the whole pile and quickly spend some time with a whole bunch of games, just to gain that raw experience of having played them a little. Even still, some games I just haven't gotten around to playing at all. They are, in relative order of importance:
Any game that includes expressions like "several bleeding lacerations found in the right lung" immediately goes onto my must-play list.
5. Trauma Center: Under the Knife (DS) Mom always wanted me to be a doctor, so one of these days I'll play through Trauma Center and tell her all about it. I'd put Phoenix Wright here instead, but technically I've played some of Phoenix Wright, just not nearly enough. Still, I love these types of quirky DS games. I just can't seem to find them anywhere.
4. Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (Xbox) I loved Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but Warrior Within put me off. I know The Two Thrones is better, but I never gathered up the wherewithal to give it a shot (and having played through the mobile phone version doesn't count). I still want to see how the Prince's story ends.
3. Metal Gear Acid 2 (PSP) I like Metal Gear and I've played every other game with Metal Gear in the title. And I like strategy games. Unforgivable.
2. Dragon Force (SAT) I've played maybe an hour of Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Saturn, which disqualifies it from this list. One day, I'll go back and play all the way through it (I'll have to find a copy first), and then I'll sit down and play all the way through Dragon Force. It's one of those games that everybody who's played it loves it, and I'm someone who's a big fan of strategy RPGs like this anyway.
1. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS) I've played just about every single other Castlevania game, with the exception of the Nintendo 64 games, which I avoided out of principle. So how come I haven't played what's arguably the best mere shadow of Symphony of the Night yet? I'm growing more and more comfortable with the idea that the series will never surpass 1997's Symphony of the Night, at least not until the Great 2D Renaissance of '09. But I still love the Castlevania formula, so I need to score me a copy of Dawn of Sorrow and stab me some axe armors.
1. Indigo Prophecy I feel like I should play Indigo Prophecy because it looks really dark and more than a little bit twisted, which are two of the best qualities for a game to have. I wrote a preview of this and watched a guy from the development team run through a demo, and it looked really interesting. More importantly, it looked different. Plus, I'm a sucker for a good story, and Indigo Prophecy seems to deliver in spades on that front. Also, the music is from composer Angelo Badalamenti, who did the music for all of the classic David Lynch films. Needless to say, any game that is even tangentially linked to David Lynch must be worth playing.
I know, I know...
2. Soul Calibur GameSpot has only given out four perfect scores in 10 years of reviewing games. You might think that it would be a requirement for GameSpot editors to have extensive experience with those four specific games...but it isn't. Sure, I've played through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time a few times, and spent countless hours doing kick-flips and ollies in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. I even played Chrono Cross, although unfortunately, not to completion. That leaves one perfect 10 game that I have never played: Soul Calibur for the Sega Dreamcast. It's not that I don't like fighting games. I'm still playing Dead or Alive 4, and before that I played everything from Tekken to Tao Feng to Virtua Fighter. I enjoy fighting games quite a bit actually, but somehow I have managed to miss what is often regarded as one of the best 3D fighting games ever made. Not owning a Dreamcast is no excuse either, because I still managed to play quite a few other Dreamcast games even though I never actually owned the system. Someday I'll play this game, though...someday.
3. Starcraft "What?!? You've never played Starcraft!?" That's usually the response I get whenever Blizzard's quintessential sci-fi RTS comes up in conversation and I shamefully admit that I've never played it. It's true, though--somehow I managed to avoid playing Starcraft despite having several friends who played it religiously. In fact, I never even played a Warcraft game until I finally tried out Warcraft III a couple of years ago. I wasn't actively resisting the charms of the Zerg, Protoss, and Terrans; I was just busy playing other games…for eight years. I like real-time strategy games, and I spent hours playing the Myth and Dune games, but by the time I reached a point where I was ready to play Starcraft, the game had become too legendary, too insular, and too intimidating for me to approach. I've officially missed the party on this game. But, hey, no worries, I'll just wait for the sequel.
Don't look at me like that. I'm only one of about 6,500,000,000 people on this planet who haven't played this game.
4. Psychonauts I don't know why I haven't played Psychonauts. I've heard nothing but rave reviews about it, and it looks and sounds like a game I would really enjoy. But for some reason, I completely missed out on this game. I think it was because at the time I was still busy playing Resident Evil 4 and God of War. Whatever it was, every time I read a story about the poor sales of Psychonauts I can't help but feel a little guilty. Sorry, Tim.
5. Metal Gear Solid I get mixed reactions when I tell people that I never played Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation. Some people tell me that I'm better off, and others tell me that I'm missing out on one of the best stories ever told in the history of video games. Feeling inadequate as a fan of video games, I ran out and purchased Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, hoping that I could pick up the series from that point. I failed to catch on, and quit playing that game after only an hour or two. A few years later I made another attempt at playing a Metal Gear game. I actually purchased Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes for the GameCube, hoping to finally gain an understanding of the origins of the Kojima fanaticism. It didn't work, though, and I quit playing the game after about five minutes. All that I have learned from my experiences with the Metal Gear Solid games is that I missed something big, and there's no going back. It seems to be one of those cases where you just had to be there, and I wasn't. I really should go back and play the original, but in all honesty, I'd rather play Metal Gear Acid 2 instead.
There are plenty of games that I feel like I should have played but haven't gotten around to yet, and the sad thing is that I've already bought most of them. I don't buy these games on the day that they're released to look cool or anything, it's just that I'm not even close to being finished with World of Warcraft yet, and so much of the time that I set aside for gaming each week is spent in Azeroth. I could list five of the games that are still sealed on my shelf here, but I doubt that's going to make me any friends, so instead I'm going to talk about five games that you probably haven't played, but which I have and think you should.
You can play Paradroid online for free if you're not lucky enough to own the original cassette.
1. Paradroid (C64) My parents bought this innovative Commodore 64 shooter from Andrew Braybrook for me back in 1985, and it remains one of my favorite games to this day. Paradroid tasks you with destroying a veritable army of droids that have taken over a giant spaceship. While much of your time is simply spent moving between decks and shooting them, you also have the ability to take control of enemies via a circuit-diagram-inspired minigame. To succeed in Paradroid requires both good reflexes and a certain degree of tactical thinking. I know I'll never forget the first time I managed to clear the spaceship and realized that my next task was essentially to do the exact same thing over again. If you want to play Paradroid, there are versions of the game available online, and a "C64 Direct-to-TV" version housed inside a joystick that plugs into a TV was released in 2004. I recently had a dream that an Xbox Live Arcade version is in the works. It's about time one of those things came true...Microsoft?
2. vib-ribbon (PS) Those of you living in North America have a great excuse for never having played Nana-On Sha's Vib-Ribbon, because it was never released outside of Japan and Europe. The game's unusual title comes from the fact that your only goal in the game is to guide a rabbit named Vibri along a ribbon that's littered with obstacles generated by the music that you're listening to. There's not a whole lot to the gameplay, then, but that's not to say that the game isn't challenging--it really just depends on which music CD from your collection you choose to play along to. Sony was kind enough to send me a copy of the game back in 1999, and although I rarely purchase music on CD nowadays, I still dig the game out occasionally to see what kind of levels it comes up with when confronted by my current favorite tunes. Vibri's upcoming challenges include tracks from The Streets, Gnarls Barkley, Arctic Monkeys, and Muse.
3. Front Mission 3 (PS) This turn-based strategy RPG from Square is one of my all-time-favorite PlayStation games and can be credited as the game that really turned me onto the idea that turn-based gameplay can be fun. I don't consider myself a fan of mechs, mobile suits, or giant robots, but I got sucked into Front Mission 3's world the moment I saw my Wanzer taking out an enemy in the game's first battle sequence. The strategy portion of the game isn't particularly taxing, but I don't remember it being a cakewalk either. What I do remember is that I used to spend hours customizing my Wanzers to make sure that they were as prepared for the upcoming mission as they possibly could be, and that I played through the game twice in order to check out both of its storylines. I've recommended Front Mission 3 to several friends over the years, and every one of them has enjoyed it. You could be next--provided you can find a copy for sale somewhere.
SEUCK wasn't the kind of game that you bought on the strength of its box art.
4. Shoot-Em-Up Contruction Kit (C64) Affectionately known as SEUCK, Sensible Software's easy-to-use construction kit is one of the two Commodore 64 titles (the other being the Boulder Dash Construction Kit) that is responsible for me becoming interested in how games are made. I still get a kick out of designing maps and levels for any games that afford me the uncomplicated tools to do so, but it was SEUCK that did it first. The title came with a handful of decent games that were created using the construction kit, and after playing them, I spent more hours than I care to remember attempting to make something even better. I never did. I maintain to this day that the sprites and backgrounds I created were better than those in any of the bundled games, but getting the enemies to behave in a way conducive to good gameplay was a process that I didn't enjoy nearly as much as just making stuff that looked good. I guess the best game that I ever "constructed" could be considered the Rise of the Robots of its day.
5. Starsky & Hutch (PS2) My love for this 2003 action game from Empire Interactive is well known in the GameSpot office, where it's even been brought up in meetings by colleagues looking to humorously discredit my opinions. I'll be the first to admit that Starsky & Hutch isn't a great single-player game, but when played cooperatively with a friend, it really comes into its own. One of you gets to play Chase HQ at the wheel of the TV show's trademark 1974 Ford Torino, while the other rides shotgun and plays something resembling Virtua Cop. The game's viewer-ratings mechanic encourages you to drive like a stuntman, and the unlockables and bonus content that are up for grabs in every mission add to the replay value considerably. Much of the time I spent playing Starsky & Hutch when it was first released in Europe was in the company of a friend who refused to play any other game that wasn't Animal Crossing. But I was way into this game (I recall mentioning it during our E3 2003 meeting for Game of Show) long before it became responsible for those fond gaming memories.
And now for your Pick 5...
Are there five games that you haven't played but you probably should have? Have you played five games that we might not have played but we should? Drop a comment below and give us your choices for your Pick 5, or comment on someone else's if you want, but keep your posts related to the feature please.
You can make any choice you want, but you can only Pick Five.