How do you define favorite? Maybe you are self aware and don’t struggle with this topic, I envy you and hate you in equal measure. But there are times when crafting a Top 5 list that I don’t know the answer. I spent thousands of hours playing videogames, watching movies and reading comics. If I transferred that energy, it would be enough to power every iPad in the world for 237 years. I’m pretty sure that’s accurate…I spent more time watching Dragon Ball Z than studying physics so it could go either way. When distilling the years of “research” I conducted regarding entertainment into a post, the criteria for selection can be its own challenge. Do I choose the intellectual property that was a technological or storytelling breakthrough, even though follows ups did it better? Should the best mechanics and graphically impressive entry be chosen? Does it just boil down to a simple statement of what is the most fun? Any response is a qualitative answer; dependent on the consumer’s state of mind as much as the product. Is there an optimal way to measure the emotional question of favorite? The First Love I enjoyed games on the NES and the ol’ quarter munchers known as arcades, but it wasn’t until A Link to the Past that I obsessed over a game. The finest game made for the Super Nintendo, and possibly ever; LttP delivered an open world experience where players completed the quest in a non-linear adventure. Every weapon was useful offensively but also as a tool to solve environmental problems. The story beats were accessible to new players but built upon the mythology of the Legend of Zelda flawlessly. It wasn’t just the mechanics but the environment created, combat options and myriad of possibilities that make this game a timeless classic (unintentional pun). Nostalgia is a powerful drug and can alter the perceptions of any fan. I haven’t played LttP in ten years. I remember it fondly, but does it hold up? Most of my praise for LttP can be said of Skyrim as well. Does that mean Skyrim should claim the spot as my favorite game? It is a more technically impressive game, larger world and the mechanics are more extensive. But it doesn’t hold the same place in my heart. LttP is an amazing game on its own merit, the successful release of A Link Between World proves that the franchise still stands tall but I can’t help but wonder that LttP appears in the running because it captured me at the right moment in my life. The Turning Point The Playstation was a JRPG juggernaut. Suikoden 2, Breath of Fire III, Xenogears, Wild Arms and a myriad of other choices make this one of the best consoles ever. I enjoyed them all, and the reason that I played any of them was because of Final Fantasy VII. This was my first foray into RPGs and the most expansive, detailed and layered game that I ever played (at the time). I was swept away by the mature storyline, active time battle system and secrets hidden within secrets. I was not alone. This was a cultural phenomenon and brought the RPG genre to the forefront of America. There is a reason that this PS One Classic continually remains in the list of top PSN games downloaded month after month. I don’t consider FFVII the best entry in the franchise, that honor goes to FFIX. But it is one of the most important releases in my development as a gamer. This is a turning point where my tastes transitioned from fighters and platformers to RPGs, which lead to tactical games which lead to RTS games. Is the importance of this game enough to justify it as one of the top games, even being my favorite? Movie critics look towards Citizen Kane or Godfather for their breakthrough camera angles, storytelling mechanics and impact to the industry as reasons why they deserve to be considered the best movie ever. Since their release, a plethora of movies used the same mechanics better. They don’t receive the same praise. Is being the reason for change more important than creating a product that builds upon that change? The Latest and Greatest I always say, “I’d rather play a new game than my favorite.” (even though I don’t know exactly what my favorite is…) Because the next game I play, could be the best game I ever play. That’s exactly what happened when I sat down and played The Last of Us. I hold this entry as the pinnacle of game design. The voice acting, character animations, tone, gameplay, story and environment all culminate in the most enjoyable game. There are games that do each of these elements better, but none bring all the pieces together into a masterpiece of this caliber. Visually, TLoU is the best game possible on last-gen consoles. It still remains graphically impressive compared to next-gen releases. I’ve played pretty games before, but this one contains depth. The story elements in the main narrative reveal a complex and flawed character. Beyond that are the sub-stories present in the collectibles which flesh out the entire world. During my first playthrough, I was continually nervous about what was around the corner and worked hard not to alert clickers. The gameplay fully absorbed me like no game before it, or any games since. I’ve Platinumed TLoU (1000/1000 for the Xbox faithful. For the Nintendo diehard this translates to…..doing everything possible in the game). Friends ask if I’ll play TLoU: Remastered for the PS4. No. I’ve already played that game and thoroughly enjoyed it, but like I said earlier, “I’d rather play a new game than my favorite…who knows, that might become my new favorite game.” The Favorite I still struggle with an appropriate response; because there are a handful of games that I love, shaped my gaming taste, changed my outlook on life or the medium as a whole. Ultimately, there is only one game that can my favorite. That distinction currently belongs to The Last of Us. What’s your favorite game? How did you measure that intangible medal against the other games that you have played and enjoyed over the years? The Last of Us holds that trophy now, but a few years ago it belonged to Mass Effect 2, before that Final Fantasy Tactics and at one point Super Mario Bros. 3. Hopefully the next game I play will become my new favorite because I don’t want to be stuck in the past but always looking forward to the next great adventure. Level Up, Friends!