So… I just wanted to do something a little different today – something that has absolutely nothing to do with books for a change. I know, I know. I just finished the big, long Disney review a couple weeks ago and I’m already skewing away from books? This is just one quick little feature, but after the Top Ten Tuesday a couple weeks ago, I got to think about things I love to do in the winter besides reading.
Winter is one of those times where it’s just really good to curl up in one spot and hibernate a bit. I’m talking fuzzy socks and fleece blankets and oversized sweatshirts and generally just sitting on your favorite spot on the couch and doing something easy and fun. For me and my husband, we end up playing a lot of video games in the winter. One one hand – yay! It’s a group activity! But like reading, gaming can be an all immersive experience that’s fun and lets you cozy up on the couch and just chill.
I am by no means a gamer girl. I casually enjoy video games, but the only games I’ve ever played through to completion are Halo (the original) and Dante’s Inferno. Everything else, I just come back to time after time and delve into it. My husband and I both play games for fun, so we have no qualms about playing them on easy, never playing online, and coming back to them three years later and trying to figure out the controls. We have a lot of games, and we’ve got a lot of systems to play them on… and today I wanted to share with you some games that I think have awesome replay value, and that I keep coming back to over and again as a super casual gamer.
As I mentioned earlier, Halo is one of the only games I’ve ever beaten. When I was a kid, I used to bike over to my best friend’s house and let my parents think we were going to the beach or whatever, then she and I used to hole up in her parent’s bedroom and play Halo until her parents came home … at which time we’d pretend we definitely weren’t playing Halo. I’m 100% sure her dad knew what was going on, and just didn’t care.
This game was so much fun. As a kid, my parents didn’t let us have consoles, so playing it was a treat. It’s this sci-fi FPS (first-person shooter) where Master Chief (you) crash lands on this alien planet controlled by the Covenant. As a Spartan, it’s your goal to destroy the Covenant that are trying wipe out the human race… and then the Covenant release the Flood, which were trapped in the Halo Rings. The Flood want to destroy all life, so that’s fantastic. The point of the game is really to get off the planet, but your AI is actually treacherous and the plot is much more intricate than I just described.
When we got our Xbox One, the first game we bought for it was the Halo: Master Chief Collection. 16 years later I got to play Halo again and the original game, still holds us. Somuchfun.
(Mario Kart / Super Smash Brothers / Mario Party)
Nintendo… all of them.
My husband and I are super guilty of continuing to upgrade our Nintendo systems so we can keep getting updated versions of the various Mario games. He really likes the various evolutions of the Mario sidescroller – Super Mario, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, and Mario Odyssey being the favorites – but I’m here for the other games in the franchise.
I firmly believe that anyone can play and love Mario Kart. When I was in college, I saved up any spare change from my paychecks and bought a used N64 with Mario Kart, Gauntlet Legends, and Goldeneye. It was my first console and even though I brought it home on Christmas break, I was forbidden to plug it in. My brother and I would wait until my parents were gone, hook it up, and play ’til they came home. There was a lot of sneaky video games in my childhood.
Anyway, the point of this story is that one time, my dad’s older sister came up to visit. My dad’s family was never close, so this was a BIG deal. We were trying to figure out ways to connect with this virtual stranger and we ended up hooking up that forbidden N64 and playing Mario Kart… and having a blast. Since then, my family’s opinions on consoles have changed and my dad has his own PS4.
Aside from Mario Kart, I love Super Smash Brothers and am LOVING the new one that just came out. We also pull out Mario Party to play with friends and family… or sometimes just the two of us.
Alice: Madness Returns
Playstation 3, 2011
American McGee’s Alice and its sequel, Alice: Madness Returns, are really more cult games, but the gameplay is so so good. The third one is in slow development now and I don’t expect we’ll see it for another five years. These are the darkest, most fantastic Alice in Wonderland retellings you’ll ever find. As a huge Alice in Wonderland fan, these were a no-brainer for me! Alice is a little orphan girl whose lost her family and her memories, and is haunted by this dark and desperate coping mechanism that is Wonderland. Through the gameplay, you travel as Alice, collecting her memories and new weapons (the hobbyhorse is my favorite) and trying to remember what really happened.
This game is beautifully animated. The art is just so so cool and the story line draws you in. Every time I think I’m nearing the end of the story and therefore the game, there’s a whole new twist and I’m transported to another part of Wonderland with more to learn. I love this one, and it’s a game I recommend to everybody.
I am so excited with the release of the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy because I can finally play these games I grew up with. The Spyro franchise actually started the toys-to-life video game movement (which was fun, by expensive, and frustrating depending on the game) and for a while it seemed like the series was just going to die there. One of my childhood friends used to play these growing up, and I’ve been chasing down the games ever since. The new trilogy release has been nostalgic and fun, and it’s a gorgeous rerendering.
There are a few things I love about this game. It’s a fun family game. In my personal experience, I think that Spyro is the only franchise that comes close to the Mario one in playability for all ages. It’s challenging enough that I am honestly peeking at IGN’s walkthroughs to remember how to get on that stupid high ledge… but you can figure it out, and there’s not a lot of blood and gore for younger children. It’s just plain fun. And it retains some of the penalties for dying… remember way back when you ran out of lives and that was the end of the game, start over? Hi Spyro! Fortunately with a little patience, it’s easy to build your lives back up if you’re low.
Playstation 2, 2002
I think that Kingdom Hearts started out as more of a cult game, but in the last few years as the anticipation for KH3 has built and built (I’ve seriously had this game preordered for about 3 years… JANUARY) it’s become more renown and hyped. Do not be mistaken. These games are seriously fun and the hype is well-deserved.
While the first one will always be my favorite (seriously, I’ve restarted it on three different systems now and played through to almost the end….) I am a huge Disney geek and I love playing in these worlds. With SquareEnix and Disney together, you get Final Fantasy characters in the Disney universe, creating a strange mix that works SO WELL. Each of these games features different worlds, and I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the KH3 news so it’ll be a surprise… but honestly I know at least half of them already. :'(
All Console Systems, 2007
My husband and I have readily upgraded out Rock Band games until we hit Rock Band 4… and I think that’s where we’re going to stop? Nonetheless, these games are good group fun. He plays the guitar and I sing and I don’t think I’d do any of these things in front of people any more? But every once in a while I still pull out this out because, well, it’s fun? And we have a lot of DLC invested here.
We used to play Rock Band and it’s evolutions in college and at my internship. I think that it has mostly fallen out of popularity these days… but if you need someone to belt out AFI’s “Miss Murder”, I’m your girl!
Lego Games (but especially Lego Star Wars)
All Systems, 2005
My husband plays the Lego video games as a genre more than I do, but I still enjoy them. We invested in the Lego Dimensions franchise before the games-to-life genre died out, and it’s super fun playing in worlds of 80s classics like Back to the Future and Ghostbusters? I honestly probably have a couple hours logged into the Scooby-Doo world… these games are just all good fun. Really. I think a lot of people look at these and go, “Oh right, games for smol children because Lego” and honestly that needs to stop because these are fun and all these hardcore Overwatch and various FPS style gamers just need to chill a bit (sorry).
That said, the latest versions of Lego’s video games are HUGE. The DC Villains game and Marvel Superheroes game are ones that you can easily clock hundreds of hours in playing through the game and doing all the open-world challenges and unlocks. They’re fun and very forgiving to amateur players, and once again, these are multiplayer games.
I’ve been playing the Lego video games technically since I was a kid? My brother and I had Lego Island on PC and both loved it… but when I bought my first brand-new system (PS3) one of the three games I bought with it was Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (the other was Arkham Asylum… also a solid series, but more to my husband’s preference than mine). The Lego Star Wars video game was Lego’s first adventure into franchised territory, and they’ve really made it their own. Although I’ve played all the others from time to time, the Lego Star Wars games remain my favorite.
All Systems, 1996
I, admittedly, never played Diablo, but my brother and I played the PC version of Diablo II all through high school and into college. When I bought my first laptop off a friend, he kept talking about how AMAZING the laptop was and all I could say was “I will love it, as long as it plays Diablo III when it comes out.” It didn’t, by the way. I’ve also switched over to the console version of this game because I like the controls a bit better.
Seriously, though. Diablo is the quintessential non-MMO RPG. I used this to convert my husband from FPSes and now he plays it so often… I’ve honestly seen him through the Whimseydale portal (pictured) about sixteen times. Enough is enough! But it’s a fun game with an easy learning curve. It’s also a game that my dad, my brother, my husband and I can all play over Network. Which is fun.
That said, Diablo is also one of those games that people are super serious about, so online play can be a bit intense.
All Systems, 2000
People either love or hate The Sims. I love it and have lost a lot of time in playing it. My version of choice is still The Sims 3 because I love its expansion packs. Except The Sims 3: University? I have that one and it made things a little too complicated for me to find it fun. Also I just cheat my way through the game anyway and I have fun lording over my poor little Sims, so I’m mostly just a terrible person. I think this one plays a lot better on PC… which brings me to my current dilemma.
Probably the best thing I could have done for my own sanity and free-time was switch over to a MacBook Air, because all my Sims games are PC based. So, even though I have them on Steam and re-download and access them at any time, it’s probably for the best that I no longer have a computer that runs them all? Someday we’ll have a gaming computer again….
There’s a HUGE community out there with people who use The Sims for story building, which is super fun but not something I ever personally got into. I just like moving unsuspecting Sim families into haunted houses. Frankly, the game ends up being very immersive and relaxing. When our lives are so crazy, sometimes it’s nice to have control of something, even if it’s a town of unfortunate animated families under a wrathful goddess…..
Age of Empires / Kings / Mythology
Okay, so I know I’m not the only one who still loves these games, because author Amanda Foody plays Age of Empires all the time. These were the real games I grew up on, one of the ones that my parents let us have. My dad really liked them, and he liked the problem solving requirements. He used to let me and my brother play them over a LAN connection. We knew all the cheat codes, and used them mercilessly.
When Microsoft announced that it was going to resurrect the series a couple years ago at E3, I was thrilled. I’m not big on RTS (real-time strategy) games overall, but this one I love. It may just be the history buff in me? But it’s also nostalgic. Campaign mode is both fun and educational, and quickly games vs. AI are also fun. I do miss playing against my brother… and schooling him.