Five games to play before you die

Being a gaming aficionado has a lot to do with playing all sorts of things that a lot of other people aren’t usually willing to bite on.  But some games are truly so great that I don’t know how they slip through the cracks sometimes.  There are simply some games out there that I’m sure many of you haven’t tried that you must before you die.

1) Katamari Damacy

Katamari exists on a single gameplay idea and pretty much pushes it to perfection.  You roll a ball around and as you roll it the ball it will pick up objects that are smaller than it, in time the ball will grow and you can pickup larger and larger objects.
That you start out picking up tiny thumbtacks and work your way up to cars, trains, houses, islands and even continents is mind-boggling.
If it were just this concept I think the game would have went dead without so much as a whimper shortly after releasing, but what makes it so endearing is fusing that gameplay with wacky artistic motifs, a soundtrack with widely-varied styles and the outrageous King of All Cosmos who says so many asinine things that its a wonder he’s the king of anything!  All these things bring together a style all its own that must be experienced: you will likely have the biggest grin you’ve ever had on your face by the time you’re done with it.
How do I play it?: The original PS2 version is preferred, but its perfectly acceptable to play the newer Xbox 360 or PS3 versions.

2) Braid

Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece arguably brought artsy indie games to the mainstream and basically cooked our noodle while doing it.  Braid is unapologetically hard to penetrate, yet easily accessible (who doesn’t know how to play a Super Mario-style platformer?).
Many people discover the game’s time manipulation ability after the first time they die, because there is no reset button, only the rewind button.   Before long it becomes apparent that this rewind feature has much more to it than simply keeping you alive, each new world brings a different time-altering idea to the table, the most brilliant of which is a world in which time goes forward when you move right, yet goes backward when you move left.  Throw in some time-reversal and things get crazy pretty fast.
The story will seem impenetrable up until the last stages, when things begin to fall into place…and then the ending hits and your mind is forever blown.
How do I play it?: Originally available for the Xbox 360 Arcade (and still is), this game is now available on PC, Steam, Mac, PS3, even Linux!

3) Rez

Oddly enough all of the games up until this point have had some of the best soundtracks.  Well Rez pretty much blows them out of the water, because it essentially is a soundtrack. Albeit an interactive one.
Everything you do in Rez is synced to the bombastic beats of various dub and electro artists.  Its heavy beats and William Gibson-inspired cyberpunk visuals will have you in a trance before you know it.  The game can be difficult when trying to grab high scores, but for the most part you can cruise through the game just to listen to the tunes.
The game has an intriguing story of a hacker trying to unlock a super-secret AI from the net, which lends itself nicely to the wire-mesh backdrop.  The game actually has a follow-up in the form of Child of Eden, released just last year, which is a sequel of sorts.
How do I play it?: Originally available for the Dreamcast, so good luck hunting that down, the game is also available on the slightly more-attainable PS2, but I would highly recommend just downloading “Rez HD” for the Xbox 360, which includes updated, high-definition visuals.

4) Riven

Myst was for about a decade the best-selling PC game of all time.  It was, of course, a different time when gaming wasn’t even close to being the billion-dollar industry it is today, but it was still a huge feat.  Riven was the highly-anticipated sequel to Myst that delivered largely the same gameplay and to a degree the same style of puzzles, but was in every aspect much larger in scope than its predecessor.
This is a game to play when you need to relax.  The mood is quiet and the environments bright and vivid.  There’s a dark and sinister plot happening in the background, which makes it all the more intriguing, but what I recommend to new-comers is enjoying the fresh atmosphere provided here.  The graphics can’t withstand the test of time forever, but the essence of this game sure can.  It screams life and pulls you right in with it.
It’s quite the challenge too, so if you’re looking for one then this is really the mother of all puzzle games with an end puzzle so difficult its likely to take you weeks to figure out without the aid of a guide.  For anyone just looking to explore the world and listen to the story, I recommend using any game guide to assist you (but please try to figure out a few on your own), the lead up to the ending is one of the best story-telling sequences in gaming history and deserves to be played.
How do I play it?:  At one point it would have been near-impossible to play this game again.  But very recently it has made its way to Steam, which guarantees compatibility with all platforms.

5) Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

Oh man, this game.  I spent so many hours playing this that its a little silly.  The Civilization games were somewhat of a staple of 90’s PC gaming, symbolizing the complexity and procedural nature they could bring.  But 1998 brought in a new take on the genre, yet outside of the Civilization cannon, basically a Civ game in space.
You control one of 9 factions vying to control the planet of Alpha Centauri, which they have crash-landed on.  Over the course of your turns you’ll have all the standard Civilization gamplay options: explore and build new cities, cultivate the ones you have, build armies and war machines, manipulate your economy, trade and negotiate with other factions and of course research new technology.  Its basically Civ with a new coat of paint at first glance.
But things get much more interesting as the game goes on.  A story exists in the background of the game, occasionally reminding you of its narrative.  The planet will begin subtly speaking to you (like, literally it talks to you) and as you research new technology you’ll find better ways to communicate with it, eventually leading you to the singularity.  Its a great lead-up to what’s otherwise known as the “science win”, but unlike any other game before it.
How do I play it?: (Good Old Games) now has this game in their vault and charges a very modest price for it.  You probably won’t get the same sense of wonder that I had with the 100+ page instruction booklet that originally came with the game, but that’s fine.
I’m sure there are also many more games out there that need to be played, but I felt like these 5 would be a good place to start.  We can always come back once you’ve finished these.

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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

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