Pick 5: The Only Five Games You Can Take With You

In the third edition of the Pick Five feature, five editors discuss the five games that would offer enough replayability and longevity to last them a long time, wherever they're going.

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In the inaugural edition of GameSpot's Pick Five feature, we asked several GameSpot editors to "Pick five games you have in your collection because you think it makes you look cool." The second time around, we asked them to "Pick five games that you haven't played, but you should."

It's Pick Five time again, and this time the topic is: "Pick five games--the only five you can take with you." If these editors got stuck on a desert island (or some...other location that would be difficult to leave), these are perhaps the last five games they'd ever need to play. Read on and find out what their picks were. And feel free to add a comment with five games that you'd take with you.

- posted July 22, 2006
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Matt Rorie | Game Guides Editor

If I had to pick just five games to take with me, wherever the heck I'm going, they'd all have to feature an astounding amount of replay value, fun, and they'd generally have to be boredom-proof. While I enjoy a broad range of games, if I knew that I was going to be restricted to picking just five to play for an extended period of time, I would probably shy away from anything that I would get tired of in a matter of days.

1. X-COM: UFO Defense (PC)

My first "favorite game of all time," X-Com used randomness to great effect, ensuring that you never got the same crew twice and never had to replay the exact same mission. This alien-fighting tactical turn-based strategy game had you shooting down UFOs and attempting to capture or destroy the extraterrestrials that were attempting to take over the world, all while you managed multiple military bases and tried to convince the governments of the world to actually give you enough money to take the fight to the enemy. (Why they need to be persuaded of the importance of your mission is something that's always escaped me, though.)

Anyway, thanks to the randomization engine, each game of X-Com would have you commanding troops with different strengths and weaknesses and fighting against aliens in different parts of the world. Since a single game of X-Com, played through from your first base to the final attack on Mars, could take days to play out, it'd be a good time waster if I was somehow devoid of other forms of electronic entertainment.

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Wherever you go, Silent Storm will provide plenty of gameplay, and patiently, at that.

2. Silent Storm (PC)

See above! Silent Storm is an underappreciated game, and basically an update of, or tribute to, X-Com from Russian developer Nival Interactive. While the mechanics of the game are basically identical to those of X-Com (you control a squad of soldiers in turn-based combat and have to shoot your way through all of the enemies in a level to win a mission), this version of the engine throws you back to World War II, where you can take either the German or Allied side and fight your way through plenty of randomized missions, as well as a few scripted missions with specific goals. Again, even though the game has a set beginning and end, you can play through multiple times with different classes of characters to experience something new each time.

While the gameplay isn't always as compelling as that of X-Com (especially after the introduction of the Panzerkleins, those ponderous mech suits), it does feature some very pretty graphical effects and completely destructible buildings, which brings a whole new twist to the gameplay. Don't like the Germans that are holed up on the second floor of the building in front of you? Shoot the explosive barrels on the first floor to destroy half the building, killing everything in your path. The game also does a much better job simulating sniper mechanics than X-Com did, which usually results in the ridiculous situation where all of your soldiers, whether they're medics or heavy-weapon specialists, will be lugging around sniper rifles. But hey, sniping is fun.

3. Final Fantasy X: International Edition (PS2)

I loved Final Fantasy X, and I have no problem admitting that fact. Compelling gameplay, a story moving enough to make you cry at the end, some tough side battles in the appropriately named Monster Arena (which was packed with nothing but extra-tough bosses to defeat!), and some compulsive collection quests all added up to a game that was uniquely addicting, while still featuring relatively linear gameplay.

Unfortunately for those of us in the US, we never obtained the best version of Final Fantasy X. After the game came out in North America, it was subsequently released in Europe, and it was also re-released in Japan with extra material, and renamed Final Fantasy X: International. This version of the game featured all the content from the North American release of the game but added a new sphere grid and some new ultrahard fights with Dark Aeons, superpowered versions of the Aeons that you collected throughout the normal game. In addition, there's a climactic challenge against Penance, who can be beaten only with an insane amount of preparation and customization of your characters.

I've always wanted to play through this content, but I've never actually imported the game, so if I had the opportunity to do so, I'd ideally choose to do so before I got packed off to that desert island, or wherever it is I'm going. Heck, if I got really bored, I could always try one of those No Sphere Grid/No Summoning/No Overdrive challenges you read about over on GameFAQs.

4. World of Warcraft (PC)

Despite my previous love/hate relationship with World of Warcraft (my account is currently canceled), if you want a game to fill up the day with, then there's arguably nothing out there with quite as much content as this megapopular MMOG. Heck, even if I had to play on an empty server, the way the game allows for solo advancement would still let me experience most of the game's content, and if I was able to play with other people, then heck, I'd have enough free time to become a dedicated raider. Pretty soon I'd be sneering at "casuals" on the message boards, making macros encouraging n00bs to cry more, and religiously farming gold to pay my equipment repair bills. Ah, that'd be the life.

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Wait...did I really not include Baldur's Gate II? What's going on here?

5. Icewind Dale II (PC)

An underdog victory! While everyone who knows me is familiar with my boundless love for Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Icewind Dale II features so many mechanical improvements on the Infinity Engine that it would surely be the better choice for a lifetime spent on a desert island. Although the story isn't much to speak of, ID2 features D&D's 3rd Edition rules, a full party of up to six custom-made characters, and an optional, extra-hard Heart of Winter mode for an added challenge.

I'm not claiming that I'd be playing Icewind Dale II forever or anything, but there's still plenty of ways you can modify the game to add an extra challenge, if that's what you're looking for. You can try to play through with fewer than the maximum number of characters in your party, play through with an unbalanced party (all wizards or all fighters), or just attempt to play through with nothing but a single monk character. Sounds like it'd be fun!

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Greg Mueller | Associate Editor

1. Final Fantasy Tactics (PS)

If I knew I was going to be stranded on a desert island and could only take five games, Final Fantasy Tactics would be at the top of my list. Heck, if I could only take one game it would probably be this one. It's been years since I first played Tactics, and I'm still not over it. If nothing else, perhaps taking this game with me to a desert island would help cure me of my obsession with it.

2. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)

This is the game that inspired me to buy an Xbox 360 back in April, and I'm still playing it on a weekly basis. I've put a lot of hours in, and I've only closed two gates and barely touched the main quest. Recently, I completed the quest to find a cure for vampirism, which has renewed my interest in the game. I might get bored of it eventually, but even then I could enjoy the illusion of exploring a vast and verdant countryside to take my mind off of being stuck on a deserted island.

3. Resident Evil 4 (GC)

All the other games on my list are either strategy games or role-playing games. That's fine, but sometimes I just want some quick action. For this, I'd take Resident Evil 4. I have professed my appreciation of the game many times in the past, but I have to say that Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 4 is about the most satisfying game experience you can get in less than 10 minutes. After all, with the hustle and bustle of life on a deserted island, you need to make the most of your time.

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Culdcept will ensure your time spent isn't dull, to say the least.

4. Culdcept (PS2)

Perhaps the ultimate time waster is Culdcept, a sort of board game that plays like a cross between Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering. There are hundreds of cards to collect in this game and just as many deck-building strategies. You can also customize the artificial intelligence and the rules of the game. I've had 8,000-point Culdcept matches drag on for three hours or more, but that's nothing since you can set the point limit as high as 90,000. While a great deal of this game depends on strategy, there's also plenty of luck involved, which keeps things interesting. I'm certain I'd get sick of this game eventually, but at least the slightly-too-cheerful music would drive me to the brink of madness. And on a desert island, that could make for a good time.

5. SimCity 4 (PC)

I've never actually played this game, but I chose it for this list because I know that it would keep me entertained for many, many hours. I played a ton of the original SimCity on the PC and the SNES, although to this day I've never actually built an entire city without using the $999,999 cheat. Plus, if someone can make something as detailed and massive as a model of the San Francisco Bay Area, maybe I could even re-create my own little hometown of Spokane, Washington. Then I could go back home any time I wanted to.

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Jason Ocampo | Editor

What games would I take if I could take five and only five games with me? It would be far too easy for me to put Civilization on that list, so I'm going to avoid conventional wisdom and create a Civ-free list. My criteria are simple: These games need to be both addictive and have tons of replay value, because who wants to be stuck with a game that reveals everything after only 10 hours?

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Wherever I'm going, there's going to be Internet access.

1. Battlefield 2 (PC)

The PC version of this game has easily sucked away more hours of my life than any other game in recent memory. BF2 features thrilling gameplay with endless replay value. If you can only have one shooter with you, this is it. (Hey, nobody said we wouldn't have Internet access).

2. Star Wars TIE Fighter: Collector's CD-ROM (PC)

The best movie-inspired game of all time. TIE Fighter immerses you in the Star Wars universe to the point where all you want to do is fly and fight for the bad guys. The gameplay blends simulation with action to create the sense that you're really flying around huge battles in space. It's also highly replayable due to the dynamic nature of the gameplay.

3. X-COM: UFO Defense (PC)

Another oldie-but-goodie, but it's one that still hasn't been topped in more than a decade. Even though I've played it dozens of times by now, I still get chills when my elite troops encounter a Chrysalid for the first time. Then there's the excitement when my scientists finally unlock the secrets of the blaster bomb for some well-deserved payback. And each game is different, thanks to the randomly generated battlefields and the sheer depth of strategic options.

4. Master of Magic (PC)

Master of Magic is like Civilization, but with elves and vampires and fireballs. In other words, it's far cooler than Civ and possibly even more fun. MOM (as it's affectionately known) is yet another one of those classic games that has yet to be bettered, even though it's over a decade old. If you want a turn-based strategy game that will suck your life away, this is it.

5. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force (PC)

This is the ultimate combat flight simulation. Allied Force is the culmination of years and years of development to create the most realistic F-16 simulation ever. Yet what really elevates the game is the dynamic war that goes on during the campaign. Fly close-air support for ground troops, bomb a runway in North Korea, provide fighter cover for a strike package, and more. Mastering this takes months, if not years, of effort, but if do, you're about as close to being an Air Force fighter pilot as any desk jockey can be.

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Carrie Gouskos | Features Editor

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IS THAT THE AUTOSHOTTY? GRRR...CARRIE SMASH!

1. Half-Life: Counter-Strike Beta 7.1 (PC)

It would be better if my deserted island had a T3 Internet connection, but even against bots, Counter-Strike is infinitely rewarding. There's still nothing quite like taking out another human player and hearing him (or her) scream "CHEATERRRRRR!" over the chat channel. (Editor's Note: Carrie doesn't actually cheat or use hacks, at least, not as far as we can prove.) But I've always loved dissecting Counter-Strike from the inside out, discovering the key positions, finding the exact angle for the perfect shot through a box to headshot my opponent. Besides, if I had an early version of Counter-Strike on a deserted island, then there would be nobody to screw it up, nobody to nerf the jumping, and nobody to give all the power to camping newbies with their automatic shotguns. It was a real toss-up for me, to choose between this (the last version before retail) and the earlier betas, especially the ones where the M4 had a scope--man, was that gun delicious back then. But I chose 7.1 because it was the version where the AK-47 was king (or at least the one in which I finally learned how to use it properly). If you knew how to wield the AK, you could headshot entire rooms by just thinking about it. There are few things I can think of that are as constantly rewarding as that.

2. Tetris (NES)

People around here talk smack about the NES version of Tetris, saying that the Game Boy version is vastly superior. I had both, and I've got to say that those people are talking crazy. I chose the NES version of Tetris because it has color and because it's bigger. Sure, there's no two-player mode, but guess what? I'm on a deserted island! The thing about Tetris, and it's the thing I find lacking in Lumines, is that it perfected the concept of playing against your own high scores. To begin with, there was no concept of discrete board levels that would pull you out of the game, so you could practically keep playing to infinity until you hit the score cap in the NES version. Secondly, you could start at higher levels, and somehow it worked. You always seemed to match your own score totals around the same point, but you wouldn't have to play through all the easy beginning bits each time. It keeps the game fast, even as you get significantly better at it. Plus, I love Mondo Grosso and all, but Tetris has the best music that puzzle games have ever seen.

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Remember when you could lose experience points for dying? Egad!

3. Dark Age of Camelot (PC)

Don't get me wrong, I love World of Warcraft. But I've played that game too much too recently to think about playing it for the rest of my life. And the major edge that Dark Age of Camelot has over WOW, for desert island purposes, is that it takes about 40 zillion years to hit a level. Relatively speaking, anyway. It's hard to imagine going back to that kind of grind after having played WOW and seeing how easy (again, compared to the games that came before it) it is to level up, but I think if I were on a desert island, I wouldn't mind investing that kind of time. Plus, if I were somehow capable of playing realm-versus-realm (the game's version of competitive play) against other people, that would seal the deal. The endgame in DAOC is one of the most compelling I've ever encountered, not simply comprised of endless raids of high-end instances, but constant battles for territory against other people. And the best thing of all is that I'd finally be able to craft! When I played Camelot, nobody had professions because it took so bloody long. Who's got the time now, baby!

4. Final Fantasy VII (PS)

Any of the Final Fantasies would have sufficed. I mean X, especially, would have been a great choice, because I've probably played it the least of any of them. Plus, it looks awesome. But I chose VII because it's one of my favorite games ever, and I'd trade the way the graphics look (block hands, anyone?) for the chance to replay through one of my favorite stories of all time over and over. RPGs, in general, are pretty safe bets for long and engaging gameplay, but FFVII has hundreds of hours of gameplay, plus great characters, a non-annoying love story, and Sephiroth! Who complains about the length of the Super Nova spell when they have all the time in the world?

5. Civilization IV (PC)

I've never played a Civilization game, ever. I know what they're about, so I can hang when people make surface-level Civilization comments. But I couldn't even tell you what it really looks like. From what I've heard, this is an addictive, long-lasting, engaging game that will make years pass like days. Considering that the other four games I'm taking with me, I've played to death, I would happily grab a game I've never touched before. And plus, could I really live out the rest of my life as an avid video game player who has never played a Civ game? I think not.

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Brian Ekberg | Loving father, husband, game player, Sports Editor

Memorial services will be held Tuesday for Brian Ekberg, who was killed Sunday afternoon after a head-on collision between his vehicle and a dump truck. According to police investigators on the scene, Ekberg's remains were so thoroughly charred in the accident that, "You could have rolled what was left into a cigarette and smoked him."

Ironically, while the front end of Ekberg's vintage 1992 Ford Probe was mangled beyond recognition, the rear end of the car was virtually untouched in the accident. Investigators reported finding a small box in the trunk with a note attached to the top. Written in what appears to be Ekberg's handwriting is the following note: "Should I die in a horrible, flaming car accident while cruising in my sweet Probe, the contents in the box should be buried with me so I can take these games with me to the glorious, glowing afterlife. Or Hell. TTYL."

According to the insurance agents who impounded the remains of Ekberg's vehicle, the contents of the box consisted of five video games from the 1990s to the early 2000s. The following is an itemized list of the games, followed by a transcription of Ekberg's handwritten commentary found in the note:

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So many cities to build, so little time.

1.SimCity 2000 (PC)

If I'm spending the rest of eternity in purgatory, I'll want this game--one of the all-time great time sinks--with me. Endless experimentation is the order of the day in SC 2000, and I spent months and months with this game, back when I wasn't a burnt-up corpse, incessantly tinkering with my various cities. Plus, it's old enough to run on the cruddy laptops they hand out in the afterlife.

2. Final Fantasy Tactics (PS)

One of the greatest things about FFT was that the plot was completely disposable. Unlike the Final Fantasy games that followed--where soap-opera plots were the norm--Tactics was a different beast altogether. No need to feel guilty when skipping those long screens of dialogue, it was the gameplay of FFT--with its complex jobs system and devilish AI--that was the real draw. Though the Final Fantasy series came to a merciful end in the year 2011--and few folks remember the series anymore--I'll always remember FFT fondly.

3. MotoGP 2 (Xbox)

If you're reading this, it means I'm dead. It also means that I never rode a street bike in my entire life. That's sort of sad. Still, I did get to play the best two-wheeled racing game ever made in MotoGP 2 for the original Xbox. Impressive graphics and customizable controls were just the start--where MotoGP 2 really shone was in its online play, which was one of the most addicting game experiences of my all-too-short life.

4. Grand Prix Legends (PC)

Without a doubt the most complex and compelling racing game I've ever played--it simply never got any better than GPL on the PC. The game, which modeled the 1967 Formula One season--back when drivers were men, cars were frightening, and safety standards were nonexistent--has kept a small but passionate clan of devotees ever since its release in 1998.

5. NCAA Football 2004 (Xbox)

College football and I go together like Audrey Hepburn and little black dresses. Though tons of NCAA Football games have been released since this version released in 2003, it was this one that finally found the mixture of compelling gameplay and rollicking collegiate passion that makes the series what it is. For sheer fun, this was the one that nailed it.

The Ekberg family asks that memorial donations--in the form of cash, check, or money order--be made out directly to them.

And now for your Pick 5...

Are there five games that you would absolutely take with you, to a deserted island, to a grave, or beyond? Write in your comments below and give us your choices, or comment on someone else's if you want, but please keep your posts related to the story itself.

Remember, you can make any choice you want, but you can only Pick Five.

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