Hypercritical


Great Games

These are some of my favorite video games. They also happen to be truly great games, though they vary widely in terms of the required time commitment and gaming experience.

Many of these games are old enough to have spawned “remastered” versions. The remasters are usually easier to find, and are often—but not always—the versions I recommend playing. See the descriptions for more details.

This list is not exhaustive. It’s mostly limited to games that it’s possible to play today without too much trouble. As the games get older (and therefore harder to find and play), the selection criteria get stricter. I don’t go much further back than the 1990s, which ends up excluding my beloved classic Macintosh games. Maybe I’ll do a separate list of those someday.

The Destiny series of games is omitted because it’s very difficult to go back and play this kind of multiplayer online game after the community has moved on. But I do love Destiny…even if it doesn’t always love me back.

I could write many thousands of words about each game, but my failure to do so has prevented me from making this list for too long. In an effort to get the ball rolling, this list does not feature much commentary. It’s mostly just a list, with some information about how and where to play each game.

The games are listed in no particular order.


Journey

Available on PS3 as a download, and on PS4 as a download and a collector’s edition disc bundled with two other games. Coming soon to PC via the EPIC Store.

This is the most accessible game on the list. It only takes two hours to play from start to finish, and it costs just $15. I recommend playing it alone, in the dark, with no interruptions, in a single sitting. A good sound system (or headphones) really enhances the experience.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before reading the article I wrote or listening to the podcast I recorded about the game.

What Remains of Edith Finch

Available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

This game is nearly as accessible as Journey, and is similarly a good choice for someone who doesn’t have much experience with modern video games. (Some familiarity with first-person 3D controls helps.) Though it is a bit longer than Journey, there are natural intermission points within the game. I recommend playing it in a few uninterrupted sittings.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Inside

Available on many platforms. I recommend playing on a system with a controller.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Available on PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, and iOS.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Firewatch

Available on Mac, PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Ico

Available on PS2, and PS3 as a download and a disc bundled with Shadow of the Colossus.

It’s worth the effort to dig out an old console (or borrow one or buy a used one) to play this game. The PS3 version is a remaster with better graphics and no downsides. Prefer it if you have a choice.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before reading my review.

Shadow of the Colossus

Available on PS2, PS3 bundled with Ico, and PS4 as a disc and a download.

Both the PS3 and PS4 versions are remasters. The PS4 version substantially changes the art style of the game. It’s not worse or better than the original art style, but it is different. I recommend either the PS3 version or the PS4 version, depending on your tolerance for dated graphics.

Though it is not a direct sequel (or prequel), it helps to have played Ico before playing this game.

The Last Guardian

Available for PS4 as a disc and download.

Though it is not a direct sequel (or prequel), it helps to have played both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus before playing this game.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before reading my review.

The Last of Us

Available for PS3 as a disc and download, and for PS4 as a disc and download.

The PS4 version is a remaster, and it comes bundled with the Left Behind expansion. This is the version I recommend, but you should be sure to play both the main game and the Left Behind expansion—in that order—whichever version you get.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Available for PS4 on disc and as a download.

Though it helps to have played the previous three installments of the Uncharted series, doing so is not necessary to both understand and enjoy this game.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Available for the Wii U on disc, and for the Switch as a cartridge or download (optionally including expansions).

This game alone is worth the purchase price of a Switch. I recommend playing on a Pro Controller with the Switch connected to a TV.

If you want to hear over two hours of my spoiler-filled thoughts on Breath of the Wild and the entire Zelda series, listen to episode 91 of the Pragmatic podcast.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Available for the GameCube, Wii, and Wii U.

The Wii U version is a remaster that includes both enhanced graphics and some streamlined quest mechanics. It is the version I recommend. I strongly recommend against the Wii version due to the clunky motion controls, which are absent (or optional) on the other two versions.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Available for the GameCube and the Wii U.

The Wii U version is a remaster that subtly changes the art style of the game. I prefer the art style in the GameCube original, but the Wii U version is certainly more palatable to modern players. The Wii U version also streamlines a few of the game’s quests.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Available for N64, GameCube, and 3DS as a cartridge and download.

The 3DS version is a remaster with much-improved graphics, but I prefer to play Zelda games on a big TV. The GameCube version is a straight port of the N64 original with no significant improvement to the graphics. It’s a tough call, but I guess I recommend going back in time to 1998 and playing the N64 original when its graphics were cutting-edge. (Doing so would also be very on-brand for the game.)

Portal

Available on Mac, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions come bundled with Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, both of which are also great games.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Portal 2

Available on Mac, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.

This is the rare sequel that matches or improves upon its fantastic predecessor in nearly every way. You should play Portal before playing this game.

To avoid spoilers, finish the game before listening to this podcast where I talk about it.

Super Mario 64

Available for N64 and DS. The DS version is a remaster, but I’m not sure the improved graphics are enough to make up for the smaller screen of the handheld platform.