10 Games Everyone Should Play at Least Once

10 Games Everyone Should Play at Least Once

The best part about being a gamer is sharing the hobby with others. Despite people saying that gaming has gotten worse over the last 20 years, the industry is thriving. Well, a lot of talented people are losing their jobs due to the immense layoffs that have been sweeping the industry and those adjacent to it. But that doesn’t mean that it is affecting the quality of the games making it into gamers’ hands. It’s one thing for a game to be great but games that transcend greatness are the truly special ones. Ever since the introduction of video games in the late 1950s, there have been millions of phenomenal games for gamers to sink their teeth into. But what about the best games for non-gamers? Or even the best games for those trying to break out of their usual genre of choice. Here are 10 games EVERYONE should play at least once.

10. Super Mario World

©Nintendo Co., Ltd. - Original

  • Release Date: November 21, 1990
  • Release Platforms: SNES
  • Metacritic Score: 92

I’m going to try my best to keep it to one game per franchise and honestly, you could put any Mario title here. The Super Mario franchise is so huge that even people who don’t play games are aware of it. In my humble opinion, I believe this is one of if not the best game in the franchise but that opinion means very little when you have such a phenomenal catalog to choose from. Super Mario World is a 2d side scroller that lets you play as Mario or Luigi. The gameplay is very simple, even a child can do it. I was doing it in 1999 as a 3-year-old. The game’s graphics and sound design are straight-up nostalgic. Nintendo and Koji Kondo curated so many people’s childhood with this game and you’re lucky to experience it for the first time.

9. Tetris

Tetris Ultimate key art

©Ubisoft - Original

  • Release Date: 1986
  • Release Platforms: Everything can play Tetris, it would be easier to find something that can’t.
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

Debatably, the greatest game of all time. Tetris is pretty straightforward as a game, honestly as straightforward as one can get. But don’t confuse simplicity with lack of depth, Tetris is nothing of the sort. The game requires players to move falling “tetrominoes” into certain positions on the screen to create lines. When a line is completed, it’ll disappear, and the blocks above it will fall one level. Completing lines grants points and if a player cannot make the blocks disappear quickly enough they will receive a game over once the screen fills with blocks. Now, in text, this might sound boring but I promise you it’s one of the most addicting games ever. There is a reason it has so many variations AND is one of the best-selling video games ever.

8. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 (2023) gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date: January 11, 2005
  • Release Platforms: GameCube, PlayStation 2, Microsoft Windows, Wii
  • Metacritic Score: 96

Resident Evil 4 is what video games are all about, to be honest. It’s incredibly fun, amazingly paced, and has one of the most insane cast of characters of all time. The average video game should try to emulate the perfection that is Resident Evil 4 wherever it can. This horror action game is hands down one of the best games of all time and its 2023 remake is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s just as good so new players have a choice. If they want something a bit more campy and snappy then they should play the original. If they want something a bit more grounded and scary, I’m looking at you leaping regenerators, then they should play the remake. Or just play both. Yes, both are good.

7. Any Final Fantasy Game

Final Fantasy VII Remake gameplay

©Final Fantasy VII Remake gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date: December 18, 1987
  • Release Platforms: All Modern Platforms
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

Alright, I broke the one-game per franchise rule. The problem is that there is a Final Fantasy out there for everyone. If you want something more melodramatic that tackles dark themes then play the phenomenal, Final Fantasy VII. If you want to play something more light-hearted and whimsical then play, Final Fantasy IX. For those who want a more sci-fi character-driven experience, Final Fantasy XIII will be right up your alley. If you want something completely modern with bits of fantasy sprinkled in, give Final Fantasy XV a try. Those who don’t live turn-based RPGs even have a game for them with the most recent release, Final Fantasy XVI. My point is this series does not have a bad game in it. If you’re even the tiniest bit curious then you should pick one and play it expeditiously.

6. Minecraft

Minecraft key art

©Microsoft Store Artwork - Original

  • Release Date: May 9, 2012
  • Release Platforms: Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Nintendo Switch, 3DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
  • Metacritic Score: 93

This game is generational. I remember playing this game when I was in high school and now my youngest brother fifteen years my junior is obsessed with this title. If I were to compare this game to anything else in terms of impact I would say it’s like Gen Z and Alpha’s Tetris. The game is completely open-ended and constantly updating itself with content. It’s incredibly accessible and can be played on almost anything. On top of all that, it has a thriving modding scene allowing you to turn its casual cozy gameplay into something entirely different. If you’re a person with kids into gaming, this game could be the perfect bonding opportunity. Minecraft is a must-play.

5. Undertale

Undertale gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date: September 15, 2015
  • Release Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
  • Metacritic Score: 92

Newcomers to gaming might not be able to appreciate everything Undertale does during its runtime. However, the things it has to say about humanity, love, and violence are something everyone should experience at least once. Especially with all of the tragedies affecting our world every day it’s easy to become cynical. The game teaches the gift of mercy and subverts expectations constantly throughout the game. It’s also one of the funniest games of all time. Fans of the quirky writing of 90s adventure titles and Earthbound will love this title to pieces.

4. NieR Automata

NieR: Automata's protagonist faces off against a giant robot.

©Screenshot from NieR: Automata - Original / License

  • Release Date: March 7, 2017
  • Release Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4
  • Metacritic Score: 88

Director Yoko Taro has a unique approach to game development. He’s one of the more profound developers of modern gaming and if anyone needed an example of games being art you can check out anything in his catalog. Nier Automata tells an existential story that explores the point of living. Its world is bleak, its music is beautiful, and there is just something special about how it approaches philosophy. The game also has one of the best endings in any piece of media ever and deserves every amount of praise it gets. This game is a bit heavy with its subject matter but if that doesn’t bother you then you should give it a fair shake.

3. Dark Souls

Dark Souls key art

©Dark Souls key art - Original

  • Release Date: October 4, 2011
  • Release Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Metacritic Score: 89

Sure Dark Souls isn’t the newest entry in the series. It isn’t the most polished. It isn’t the prettiest. Most people would probably replace it with Elden Ring and I wouldn’t argue with them either. But I feel as if this is one of those benchmark games. A game that completely changed the industry after its release. Everything they say about this game and the series it spawned is true. It’s very challenging and rage-inducing, however it is so much more. This game has some of the most interesting lore I have read. Its approach to game design and letting the community come together to solve its world is mindboggling. Today, the game is pretty much solved but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t worth a playthrough. Whether it’s the original prepare-to-die edition or the remaster, you cannot go wrong with Dark Souls.

2. Portal 2

Portal render

©Portal weapon model - Original

  • Release Date: April 19, 2011
  • Release Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Metacritic Score: 95

Valve is one of the most prolific game studios of all time. It was incredibly difficult to pick just one title for this list and I didn’t want to break my rule again. Portal 2 is just one of the best games ever. It has some of the best writing and it isn’t as dark in tone as some of the other titles on this list. Its puzzle gameplay respects your intelligence and even makes you feel smart for completing them. For those who are looking for a game to try as their first game Portal 2 is a great entry point. However, I must warn you, that completing it might be a bit bittersweet because not many games can compete with it.

1. The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D gameplay

©The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date: November 23, 1998
  • Release Platforms: Nintendo 64
  • Metacritic Score: 99

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the blueprint of modern video games. Video games would not be what they are today without this groundbreaking title. Its DNA is present in a shocking amount of titles that came after it so it’s only right it’s at the top of the list. This game is such a magical experience that even stands the test of time 26 years later. If you spoke with any avid gamer about the most influential groundbreaking titles that everyone should play at least once, expect them to mention Ocarina of Time.

Honorable Mentions

The following titles didn’t quite make the list but I feel like they are worth mentioning in one way or another.

  • Metroid Prime: One of Retro Studios finest moments. This game is perfect for those who want to lose themself in the atmosphere of something great.
  • Persona 4: This beautiful RPG social-sim hybrid is one of the best games I have ever played. It explores themes of accepting who you are as a person and has one of the best casts in gaming.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Prolific developer, Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus. This stealth action title is similar to Resident Evil4‘s iconic corniness but delivers a profound commentary on soldiers, war, and what it means to love one’s country.
  • Bioshock: One of the best twists in gaming. An atmospheric horror adjacent shooter that is not only well written but nails its atmosphere.
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Not my cup of tea but I cannot deny its impact and the ripples it had throughout the industry upon release. This title was rereleased eleven times, if you have something that can play it might be worth a try. Especially, if you’re into medieval settings and open worlds.
  • Fallout New Vegas: Similar to Skyrim but not quite the same. This game is the pinnacle of role-playing games and has a post-apocalyptic modern setting. If that interests you, prepare to lose hundreds of hours in its world.
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