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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

List: Games Every Game Designer Should Play

I was recently asked what games budding game designers should play to get inspired. It's a difficult question to answer, because there is a lot of great stuff out there, but it's also difficult to figure out what one person may or may not have played.

So, I've compiled a big list of games every game designer should play and be knowledgeable about! These titles range from super popular to hidden indie gems - and they are all important. This list is separated into categories, and below each category I will leave a short description about why that section is important. For my next post, I'll talk in more detail about each individual game, and why they are each important. Okay, let's get started.

Staples of Game Design that Everyone has Probably Played
Most likely, nearly every game has played or at least heard of these games. Knowing them, and understanding their relevance, is important as a game designer, especially when discussing design decisions. A game designer should know the difference between Zelda Z-targeting and Fallout 3's VATS.
  • Fallout 3
  • Half-Life 2
  • The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Minecraft
  • Portal
  • Super Mario World & SMB3

Big Budget, Amazing Result Games
Still pretty popular, these titles introduced new ideas into the gaming universe and, thanks in part to sizable budget, were able to deliver an experience that felt complete and polished. 

  • Alan Wake
  • Demon's Souls / Dark Souls
  • Heavy Rain
  • The Last of Us
  • Resident Evil 2 & 4


Oldschool Games that Can't be Missed
Listed below are some classic titles that are still talked about today in game design circles as being excellent titles that brought new ideas to the table.

  • American McGee's Alice
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
  • Ico
  • Okami
  • Katamari Damacy
  • The Lost Vikings
  • Rez
  • Shadow of the Colossus
  • Super Mario RPG


Lesser Known Incredible Classics
These games aren't as wildly popular, but introduced to the gaming community some brave new ideas, oftentimes layered inside some excellent storytelling (or least a few clever poop jokes).

  • Beyond Good & Evil
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day / Conker: Live and Reloaded
  • Indigo Prophecy
  • POD
  • Phantom Dust
  • Secret of Mana
  • Subspace


Important Series
From turn based battles to open world exploration, it's no secret that some of the series listed below are the best examples of certain gameplay elements.
Castlevania, Civilization, Dragon Quest, Fable, Elder Scrolls,
Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, Pikmin, Uncharted

Popular and Amazing Indie Titles
Some of the most artistic and influential games didn't come from big companies; they came from the small studios producing great pieces of art like those listed below.

  • Braid
  • Cave Story
  • Fez
  • Flower
  • Journey
  • Psychonauts
  • Thomas Was Alone


Indie Games you May Have Heard of that you Should not Ignore
From excellent multiplayer to intelligent puzzles to amazing musical scores, these titles have made waves in the gaming scene for a reason.

  • FTL: Faster Than Light
  • Papers, Please
  • Quantum Conundrum
  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
  • Spaceteam
  • The Stanley Parable
  • Super Hexagon


Games Few People have Heard of, but are Incredible Nonetheless
Lesser known, but these are some amazing hidden gems that highlight just how creative game designers can be.

  • Chibi-Robo
  • Cubivore
  • Fly'N
  • Subspace


Just Play these Games because they are Fun and Brilliant
Incredible gaming experiences that are worth your time.

  • Cool Spot
  • Hotline Miami
  • Monaco
  • Nidhogg 
  • Super Meat Boy

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