Another tired/lazy/slightly drunk day, so I’m going to follow up 10 Games I Think Everyone Should Play with another list. This time, it’s 5 Games Not Everyone Should Play. Games which are totally awesome, but for reasons that not everyone will get.
1. Cave Story. I love this game to death. In my mind, it’s the perfect example of a game built with a single person’s vision–and rightly so, as everything was done by one guy over several years. That might be why the game is so beautifully minimalist–it’s a classic run-n-gun platformer with some mild Metroidvania elements, but it doesn’t do any more than it needs to (in both audio/visual aesthetic and in terms of game design and writing). However, unless you’ve grown up playing video games, and seen them evolve from a simple Mega Man to sprawling grotesque Hollywood monstrosities, you’ll be missing the point on Cave Story.
2. MechWarrior 2. As a young lad, I adored BattleTech, Star Wars, Shadowrun, and their corresponding games/Extended Universe novels/etc. By and large, all three of those yielded excellent games and very compelling worlds that spoke to an alienated teenage nerdling. (They were my Radiohead, if you will.) But MechWarrior 2 was like the baseball of mechanized combat sims. MechWarrior 2 was about loading up a new mission, dying, spending 20 minutes customizing a new mech build specifically designed to beat that spot you’re stuck on, loading up that mission, dying again, and repeating until you win. The actual mission was mostly walking around in lumbering giant robots until you find your target and unleash fury for a few brief seconds of mashing (it’s pretty hard to miss a shot when you’re aiming at 90-ton machines the size of an office building). Games test and develop the player’s problem-solving skills; a MechWarrior 2 game is nothing but an hour-long problem. Possibly the least exciting way to play with big badass robots.
3. Final Fantasy III (FF6). I spent over 200 hours of my middle school life playing Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, Final Fantasy III, and several other deliciously grindy JRPGs. Final Fantasy III often finds its way into many Best Game Ever lists for a good reason: It’s really, really good. If you played FF6 before playing FF7, you probably ended up in the “FF7 was good, but it wasn’t FF6” camp. The storytelling is brilliant! The transition between the World of Balance and the World of Ruin is jarring–particularly because the WoB is so laser-focused on the next step and the WoR is a self-guided tour through a destroyed world–but to me, that’s part of the charm. If FF6 were an opera (which it is, kind of), the second half would be a prolonged series of vignettes told by minor supporting characters. By the time you got to the climactic final showdown, you wouldn’t even care, because the stories you actually cared about were already resolved. That’s also why Not Everyone Should Play It. Never mind that the actual battle mechanics are too broken to be interesting to a veteran JRPG player and too boring to be interesting to anyone else. It’s that oh-so-brilliant World of Ruin that if you don’t like it, you will hate (“HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE”) it.
4. Metal Gear Solid 2 is an excellent example of the You Just Had To Be There phenomenon. If you played MGS1 and loved it, you waited for MGS2 with bated breath–and were immediately let down and raging hard once you found out you were playing the greatest gaming troll job of all time. (Basically, instead of playing Solid Snake, you play a girly-man who is playing a video game who is training to some day be as cool as Solid Snake.) As someone who didn’t play the game until after The Big Troll dropped (and didn’t get into the MGS series until after MGS3 was already out), I thought the game was an awesome commentary on gaming, and I absolutely loved the way it degenerates into a confusing clusterfuck. But if you took MGS1 seriously (shame on you!), it’s probably best to skip straight to MGS3 and ignore 2. (MGS4 doesn’t exist to me.)
5. Earthbound and Mother 3 are The Best Games That Not Everyone Should Play. (I lump them together even though they are very, very different games because they belong at the end of the list for the same reason.) Earthbound is a cute children’s story that turns into an alien abortion; Mother 3 is Pixar’s Up if Ellie got killed by Capitalism. They’re both awesome in word and design. However, they’re good in ways only video games can be good–specifically, video games that you are willing to devote your time and energy to, well, playing on their terms. They don’t pander. Buy the house in Onett. It’s worth it.