10 games you need to play to sound like you know what you’re talking about

Does this sound familiar? You are hanging out with your gamer friends when the conversation swings to the powerful ludonarrative storytelling techniques of Celeste, the deep exploration of psychological trauma in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the evolving complexities of the Hearthstone meta, or the subtle political messages in Far Cry 5, and you end up completely lost.

You, my friend, have to broaden your horizons. Luckily, we can help! You might think that you have to play all the latest games to hang with the big-shot game analysts, but in actuality there are only 10 games you really need to play to sound like you know what you are talking about. Play these 10 games and you can have deep intellectual conversations about gaming with any crowd!

A Popular Modern Franchise

The first game you need to play is an easy one. Just pick any modern franchise and give it a shot. Call of Duty is a great place to start, but Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto are also perfectly good candidates. Really, any game that might have a commercial in a late night TV slot works.

Most importantly, under no circumstances should you enjoy this game. You could enjoy earlier titles in the franchise, but never the most recent one. You are playing this game so you can talk about how newer installments are so gimmicky and have abandoned the solid mechanics and storytelling of the franchise’s accomplished history for mass-market appeal.

Pick one flaw about this game and don’t let people forget that you hate it with every fiber of your being. Microtransactions are a great target, since everyone seems to hate those. You can also complain about how the story is pandering to a group that isn’t explicitly you and your friends. If all else fails, just complain about how the franchise has been around too long, how game developers have no innovative ideas anymore, and about how the massive profits that need to be generated by the AAA gaming industry are choking the creativity out of artists.

A Retro Game That Everyone Knows About

Every gamer worth his salt knows that some of the most amazing games were made back in the early days of gaming. So you need to seek out and play one of these early masterpieces. These are games like Chrono Trigger, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Metroid, games that you can say “defined their genre.”

There are lots of ways you can play these games. You can download a lot of them on virtual consoles or Steam. You can also fall back on good old emulation if you absolutely have to. No matter how you play it, make sure that you tell everyone that you originally played this game on its original console, with its original controller, on an original CRT TV. Then make sure to talk about how these re-releases are nice but you just can’t beat the original. You just don’t get the fuzzy CRT graphics and the music is kind of screwed up and you just kind of had to experience it to know how amazing the original is.

Bonus points if you also claim that the only legitimate way to listen to music is on Vinyl. In fact, talk about music a lot, specifically how there was more feeling in old chiptune compositions when compared to modern day orchestral scores.

You want to go a little obscure here, but not obscure enough that no one knows what you are talking about. You’ll earn respect points if you talk about how amazing Earthbound was and how it’s a shame that Mother 3 will never be officially localized, however no one is going to care if you can write a thesis about Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout for the NES.

A Board Game That No One Knows About

If you want to be critical about gaming, you unfortunately need to play more than video games. There is a lot of overlap between the video gaming and board gaming communities. Board games have become increasingly popular in modern times, and you can learn a lot about game design by examining how games are made without the aid of computers.

Of course, you aren’t actually going to do that. Your goal here is to prove that you have played a game that no one knows about; because that means you have taste.

Everyone’s played Monopoly and, come on, no one enjoys it. You need to dig deeper. Settlers of Catan is a decent candidate, but has become more mainstream in recent days. Try to aim for a complex euro game that ends with an “a.” Good candidates are: Agricola, Terra Mystica, Caverna, Concodria, Clans of Caledonia and other similar games.

Make sure your game of choice has a ton of math in it. Also, make sure that it takes at minimum four hours to play, more if you are teaching new players! That way, no one will ever play with you and they can never tell if your deep game design insights that you picked up from the board gaming world are bullshit.

A Mobile Game, But Only One of the Good Ones

Mobile games! Those aren’t real games! No one respects a gamer who primarily plays on his phone!

That’s where you are wrong. You may think most mobile games are trash but there are some good mobile games out there, and you need to find them. Hearthstone is probably the easiest choice, though you will end up spending your life savings on cards that aren’t even real if you go down that route.

You are playing this game because you need to be able to talk about how most mobile games are trash. You already know that most mobile games squeeze their fanbases with unethical microtransactions, rewarding thousands of dollars spent with little more than shallow gameplay and anime art. That’s why you need to play one of the good ones, because, for some reason, this mobile game is squeezing it’s fanbase with microtransactions, but in an ethical way.

Maybe it’s one of Nintendo’s mobile games. After all, Pokémon Go did get everyone to go outside and exercise for a bit. Maybe it’s that puzzle game that bombards you with ads if you don’t spend any money. Maybe it’s one of those weird cellphone horror games that you just dropped actual money on. Maybe it’s just a tie-in for one of your console games.

Regardless, you need to play at least one mobile game because mobile games are the future. Nearly everyone owns a smartphone, which means nearly everyone can spend way too much money on match-3 microtransactions… I mean… curated mobile game experiences.

A PC Game That You Can Only Play On PC

It’s important to show that you understand that gaming extends past the boundaries of consoles, so make sure that you play something on PC. To make it completely clear that you know how to game with a keyboard and mouse, make sure that it’s a series that has only ever been published on PC. Strategy games are fantastic choices. Civilization comes to mind, but if you can’t get enough math in your life, you can try games such as Stellaris or Europa Universalis.

It’s important to frequently note how different the PC and console gaming communities are, specifically that the PC gaming community is obviously superior. It just provides experiences that consoles can’t. Games are cheaper when bought on PC digitally, graphics are obviously better and more customizable, and keyboard and mouse controls are superior for pretty much every game genre. This totally makes that $5000 you spent on a top of the line PC gaming rig worth it. Just keep telling yourself that. Actually, keep telling everyone else that.

A Cute Indie Game With A Super Serious Narrative

Indie games are the future. Developers can just do things in the indiesphere that they can’t do anywhere else. The stories they can tell, the mechanics they can use, the conventions they can subvert, make indie games an absolutely gem of the modern day. Don’t mind that 90 percent of indie games languish in obscurity before dying an unceremonious death, or that even the most successful indie games have graphics that are several generations behind. This is where the art-loving gamers gets his games.

There are plenty of good indie games, like Super Meat Boy or Castle Crashers, but you don’t want just any indie game. You want an art game. You want a game that couldn’t tell its story in any other way, a way to show that video game narratives aren’t interchangeable with the narratives of books, movies or TV shows. So make sure that your indie game of choice deals with some incredibly dark and serious subject matter.

Here are just a few candidates and subject matters they address. Pick one that means something to you.

  • Undertale – Suicide and the morality of killing for fun
  • Celeste – Anxiety, depression, panic attacks and overcoming your own obstacles
  • Braid – The terrors of nuclear war
  • Doki Doki Literature Club – Anime was a mistake and your waifu is trash

After you play your indie title of choice, go on about how it’s so much better than AAA gaming. Then beg for a sequel so that it too can be part of the never-ending treadmill of new franchise installments that you hated about AAA gaming in the first place.

A Game That Is More Difficult Than It Has Any Right to Be

If you are going to talk about games, you need to prove that you can play them. After all, if you aren’t beating every game on its most difficult setting while unlocking every achievement along the way, then your opinion is completely invalid.

Never admit that you have played a game on easy mode. It doesn’t matter how boring or broken higher difficulties are, gaming isn’t supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be painful work, a metaphorical bed of coals for you to walk over and prove that you have true gaming spirit.

Brag about a game that is known for being hard. Rage games are always a good pick. You can talk about how you got into the secret end room of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy without mentioning how you totally just watched the end on a let’s play. You can also talk about some old school games that were made before we understood what reasonable difficulty was. Did you ever manage to beat Battletoads for the NES? What about Contra without using the Contra Code?

More than any other game on this list, this game is your badge of accomplishment. You know why Cuphead is a must-play game because you enjoy it when games beat the crap out of you. You say “thank you sir may I have another” with every life lost. Your twitch reflexes are honed to perfection. Your speedrun times are super low. You are the pinnacle of gaming excellence… and for some reason that means your opinions must be true.

A Competitive Game That You Are Good At, But Not Really

Besting a single-player game on hard is one thing, but real competitive gaming puts you up against other professional gamers. Fighting games like Street Fighter, real-time strategies like StarCraft 2, MOBAs like League of Legends, all require you to be at the absolute top of your game to succeed. As an authority on games, you can obviously compete with the best of them.

Or at least, you would, but you just don’t have the time. I mean, you are an adult now and you have a job to work and bills to pay and a girlfriend or wife to spend time with. If you had more time you would totally hone your skills to perfection but you simply can’t. You just want to relax when you get home from a long day at the office, maybe marathon some episodes of Law and Order, something a little more low impact than competitive gaming.

Oh you aren’t saying that competitive gaming is a waste of time. No, no, no. That would betray your opinion that all games are art. You are just saying that you have more important things to worry about for now. You’d like to play competitive games with your friends but it’s not fun to lose all the time and it’s not fun to learn so you’ll play a match or two and then ask to play something else. It’s just reasonable, after all.

That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your competitive game of choice. Go for it! Talk about how the current meta is horrible. Talk about how certain strategies are overpowered and need to be nerfed. Talk about how the recent nerfs to your favorite character are just pandering to the filthy casuals. Remember, the only reason you haven’t gone pro is because you haven’t had the time. You obviously understand this game at a deep competitive level, even if you don’t play it very often.

A Game With a Weird Control Scheme

Video games are so much more than pushing buttons. New control schemes are opening up entirely new ways to play. Nintendo has fooled around with touch screens, everyone released some form of motion controls, and VR is all the rage. Playing games with weird control schemes shows that you are on the bleeding edge of new video game technology.

Which game should you play? It doesn’t really matter. Bleeding edge games like these are all just tech demos with different shades of paint anyway. Choose the one you like best from:

  • The shooting gallery
  • The horror game where you sit in one place and wait to be scared
  • Games with “simulator” at the end of their name
  • Ports of more traditionally controlled games that just don’t work as well
  • That one dancing game that everyone seems to like

Be sure to talk about how this is the next evolution in gaming and unlike every other gimmick to hit the gaming industry THIS one is here to stay.

Nintendo’s Latest Thing

Finally, you can’t be a truly informed gamer if you don’t keep up with Nintendo. Nintendo was the company that started it all (even though video games were being made far before Nintendo got into the industry). They lead the industry in innovation, constantly reinventing themselves (usually with waggle controls).

Luckily, Nintendo only makes two types of games: games that play exactly like every other game in the franchise and games that totally reinvent the franchise into something new. Similarly, you can feel two ways about these games. You can feel that they completely ruin the franchise or that they save the franchise from certain death.

The best part? Every single game Nintendo makes falls into all categories. You can just randomly generate your opinion and you’ll sound credible.

Here is an example with Star Fox: Zero.

  • Star Fox Zero reminds us of what makes the series great by including gameplay reminiscent of Starfox 64.
  • Star Fox Zero tries to change the classic Star Fox control scheme and creates a completely unplayable mess.
  • Star Fox Zero proves that the franchise never grew out of repetitive rail-shooting gameplay.
  • Star Fox Zero mixes things up with brand-new vehicles and free roaming levels.

It’s like conjugating a verb but with video game opinions.

“But wait!” you may ask. “What if Nintendo makes a totally new IP?” Lucky for you, this rarely happens. However, if you find yourself needing an opinion on a new Nintendo IP, just say that its fun, but it can’t compete with other games in the genre. “Arms is fun but it won’t ever be at EVO.” Splatoon is fun but Overwatch still dominates the FPS market.” Statements like that.

And there you have it. Play these 10 games and you will be able to keep up with any gaming conversations. Just copy paste in whatever game everyone is talking about and you are good to go.

Did we miss any must play games? Let us know in the comments!