Hello friends, it is nice to see you again.
This post isn’t really about my favourite video games per say, but it is about my rambling thoughts while trying to figure which video games are my favourites. While I haven’t written about video games that often, I have spent a disturbing amount of time playing them throughout my life. I have many, many opinions on games.
So where did this topic come from? Well, it stems from an innocuous little Tweet I saw, asking people to list their favourite games on consoles that they owned. I don’t even normally get involved in these kinds of Tweets most of the time, but I figured I’d do it this time if only to casually baffle people that my first console was an Atari 2600 before moving directly to SNES. (pronounced ‘Snez’, not Es-en-ee-es)
It started off easily enough. For Atari 2600, there were only really two choices for me, Crystal Castles or the 32 in 1 game I had. I briefly considered it might count as cheating since it has, well, 32 games in it. I decided that it was similar to later game compilations such as the Sega Mega Drive Collection on PS2 which I wouldn’t disqualify, and I just about remember tiny me enjoying multiple extremely basic games. Definitely cumulatively more than Crystal Castles overall, so that was victorious.
While the Super Nintendo came next for me chronologically, the next easiest platform to name a favourite game for was the original Game Boy. Much like the Atari 2600 I didn’t get one of these until it was already considered old, being gifted one so I could play Pokémon. (Thanks cousin! ❤ ) As a result, I only really played two games for Game Boy, and Pokémon Red was *easily* the favourite in every respect. Simple.
So, back to the SNES. Thinking about what my favourite game for that console could be brought back a tidal wave of memories. Glimpses of Donkey Kong Country, Mario Kart, Link to the Past, Mario All-Stars and Super Street Fight 2 Turbo flashed into my mind’s eye, and I have my initial challengers.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t own that many SNES games. Even then, I immediately start thinking cyclically between the options. I know, it’s an inconsequential little question. No one would know or care if I wrote down any old game without thinking about it even a little. It’s not a Monty Python-esque scenario where someone’s going to throw me off a bridge for accidentally saying my favourite colour is blue.
I do like to think about things though. Don’t you? For illustrative purposes, here’s essentially a summary of thought processes in my head as I struggled to accurately answer.
Link to the Past? I did think of that quickly, it was probably the most immersive and I’d love to play it for the first time all over again. But what about the Mario Kart Battles I had, did I not have more actual fun there? But I remember the tension and triumph of 105%-completion in DKC3! But SF2 Turbo was a masterpiece, and fundamentally holds up so well! I guess, objectively, overall, maybe it is Link to the-OH MY GOD Sim City, I loved that, I can still remember the music perfectly . Wait, Super Mario World, Mario games are almost a given for being high quality. Except say, Mario is Missing, but I have nostalgic memories for that too.
What makes one my favourite? Is it immediacy of memories? That might be just things I’ve seen more often since then. Is it the highest peaks of fun that make it, or spending more time overall happily playing it? I probably spent more time playing co-op Super Double Dragon than the single player Star Fox, but am I really saying I liked it more? Is it supposed to be sentimental? Eyeopening?
Does thinking ‘which would be the only game I took to a desert island?’ help at all? But then that makes multiplayer games disadvantaged. Or does having multiplayer muddle the issue, since perhaps a game is elevated by the company?
Are my honest feelings about what’s my favourite being tainted by even *trying* to objectively think like ‘well, I guess [x] is a better quality game than [y] so [y] can’t be it’ versus wanting ‘my’ favourite to stand out somehow. Are we saying all-time favourite? I guess so, but what was my favourite at the time, would young-me find more joy compared to older-me who knows more about games and have played games since that would be inconceivable at the time?
The more I thought about it, the more impossible the question becomes for someone that appreciates a broad spectrum of games. I’m not saying I’m particularly special, but sometimes it feels like I have a stronger tendency to appreciate many aspects about things, and a lesser tendency towards being someone who plays or watches the same small selection over and over.
You know what I mean, those people that will watch the same film every week, or replay the same game every month. I can imagine that it’s more trivial to choose a favourite if you’ve completed Spyro the Dragon two hundred times, and that’s totally fine. In terms of other games, that’s clearly Magic: the Gathering for me. It’s obviously my favourite game and hobby, in part because it’s so varied between Drafts and Modern and Cube and Pauper and 2HG etc.
Games from different genres are so different from each other it they feel incomparable. To me it feels like asking what you like more between Star Wars and Father Ted, Everlong or Harry Potter, the colour purple or the smell of cut grass. They each operate on different axes and cause completely different kinds of enjoyment, different enough that it doesn’t feel right somehow to say that (for example) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my favourite SNES game.
Silly, right? I suppose I just like to be reasonably certain about things that I say, and I found it curious that the little part of my brain that keeps me honest kept saying ‘…but are you sure?’ whenever I considered an answer.
Anyways, I was still deliberating that when I moved up to the original Playstation and things really hit the fan there. As technology improved, the possibilities for different kinds of experiences expanded in all directions. It was this generation I discovered my first JRPG in Final Fantasy 7, which captured my imagination and made me a fan of the genre for life. So that’s my favourite then?
I feel like it would have been my default, no-thought answer for a long time. But now, I’m not sure it’s even my favourite Final Fantasy game. The more games I’ve played, the more I recognise the pros and cons of any given game and see that it’s incredibly rare for games to be strictly better than another even within the same franchise.
For example, I feel like Final Fantasy 9 is perhaps the best one on the Playstation, but I haven’t wanted to replay it properly since completing it way back when. I feel like many parts of 8 are ridiculous and completely baffling both in the narrative and in game design decisions, yet I’m certain than I spent more time playing that than the others. Plus the soundtrack is just out of this world.
But how can you compare a slow-burning, turn-based JRPG with a proper Worms Armageddon party with friends? Wait, do I even like Worms Armageddon more than Worms? I mean it’s clearly a ‘better’ game in essentially every respect, but there’s something about the memories playing the original for a first time and the charm it had. But c’mon now, am I seriously suggesting that I’d pick Worms as my favourite over Metal Gear Solid? A game that absolutely blew my mind?
But damn, you know what I have been playing recently? Tekken 2. I haven’t felt the urge to play Metal Gear Solid. Tekken 2 has a special place in my heart, but did it take me on the same emotional journey as Breath of Fire IV? But what about Vandal Hearts, I’m always telling people about that. Vigilante 8? Crash Bandicoot? My goodness, remember Future Cop: LAPD? I want to play that right now. Oh oh oh Medievil! Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater! Broken Sword, now that’s a memorable and highly quotable experience. Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus, still incredible. Or Ape Escape? THE MISADVENTURES OF TRON BONNE!?
…ahem. If just the thought of these games didn’t give you that sweet hit of nostalgia, (or you don’t play games at all) then I apologise for just saying a bunch of random words. The gist is, all of those games are very different. They provide different experiences, different feelings. They’re all video games on the Playstation console sure, but when it comes down to it, on any given day I could choose any one of these for whichever reasons feel important at the time and say it’s my favourite Playstation game of all time.
And that choice would be completely true. For that moment.
So, where am I going with this? (Don’t worry, I’m not even going to get started on any other platforms.) I guess what I’m saying is, just thinking about this helped me consolidate my appreciation of video games as a form of media and as an art form. It helped me remember so many good times, shocking twists, philosophical stances, tense moments, heartbreaking failures, elating triumphs and more.
Looking back at things also reminds me that while the games might stay the same, the context around them is always changing. Sequels or spiritual successors with better technology appear. The world has changed so some thematic elements may be more or less relevant than they used to be.
I have changed too, my tastes and my attitudes and my experiences. Some things I appreciate more now.
It might sound silly to those who don’t ‘get it’ when it comes to games, believing them to be all violent or such. Who cares, just pick something, they’re just games. That’s understandable. But I would encourage anyone when asked about their favourite game, or film, or song, or anything really, to look further than just a quick answer.
Next week, since I enjoyed thinking about and looking up all these games again, next Friday will be dedicated to video games of all kinds! Bye for now!