In video games, increasing your Field of View allows you to see more of the virtual world around you. The articles here will springboard off of these virtual worlds to encourage you to increase your F.O.V. in real life. From the biggest news in the industry, to reviews, to articles digging a little deeper to explore the messages within the world's most popular medium.
At the time of writing this, we're right in the midst of the COVID-19 kerfuffle, and there’s a ton of people who are stuck at home a lot more than usual. Some are working from home. Some can’t work and are just home. Some are kids and teens off from school. Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services are struggling to keep up with the bandwidth demands, meaning people are desperate for something to do. We here at NEEERD Media are here to help!
In this series of articles, we’re going to take a look at my (Adam’s) personal recommendations of 20 (-ish…I cheated a bit) video games well worth the time in checking out. This is not a list of all time favourites, or what I would consider the all time greatest (yes, I delineate the two). Those will each probably have their own lists somewhere down the line. I made sure to keep in mind games on a variety of platforms, and for a variety of ages.
Before we jump into the list itself, I have a couple of notable exceptions I would like to highlight:
Exception Group A: The Last of Us, Days Gone, Resident Evil 2 & 3
As was already stated, these articles are being written in the midst of COVID-19, a major viral outbreak. As such, games centred around the outbreak of a virus causing the apocalypse didn’t seem like the best way to distract yourself. That being said, the remake of Resident Evil 2 was one of the best games to be released last year, and the remake of 3 coming out soon seems like it will follow suit. Days Gone was divisive in many ways, but personally, I had a great time with the game, and heartily recommend it for anyone who is a fan of open-world action games. And the Last of Us? Possibly the greatest game ever made…so there’s that (more on that particular topic to come). Honourable mentions all, but given the subject matter, they didn’t quite make the cut.
Exception Group B: The “Next-Level” Popular Picks
The second group of exceptions are for the sorts of games that everyone and their mother is already playing. Yes, I’ll be talking about some very popular games in this list. But there are certain games whose popularity has become somewhat transcendent. Battle Royales, in particular, like Fornite, Apex Legends, and the new Call of Duty: Warzone are hot right now, and everyone is playing them. I think all three are fantastic games, to be sure, but everyone’s already playing them. Similar to this, Minecraft pretty much the is the biggest thing ever, so I didn’t really feel it needed an entry. I will comment however that, as I was writing this article, news came out that, with kids being out of school (possibly for the rest of the year in some places), Minecraft is providing free educational resources, which I think is pretty cool. Honourable mentions again, but not what I want to focus on.
So, without further ado, here’s the first set of game recommendations. I will likely be putting these out five at a time, just so no one article ends up being too long. I’m presenting these in alphabetical order, not in order of preference or priority.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
© 2020 - Nintendo
This one is hot off the presses, as it were. It’s been seven years since the last Animal Crossing, and fans have been chomping at the bit for a new one, especially since the Switch released a couple of years back. I was not one such fan. I had never played any of the previous Animal Crossing, and never really knew what they were about. My brother, on the other hand, had played a ton of New Leaf on the 3DS, and knowing my taste in games, particularly Life Sim stuff like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley and my fondness for Nintendo, he figured it would be a good fit for me. He was very right. I’ve been playing a fair bit on my and my brother’s shared island for the last few days. Chopping down trees. Hitting rocks. Catching fish and bugs. Digging up fossils. Paying off debt. It’s all things that sound very, very mundane, and maybe that’s the point. Especially in a time when we are being encouraged not to leave our houses, and are outright barred from being able to travel, who doesn’t want to get away to a deserted island paradise free from stress or worry? These are stressful times, and games don’t get a whole lot more relaxing than this. Also, with it cute characters, colourful world, and relatively simple mechanics, it’s a game to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
© 2018 - Ubisoft
I’ve always loved Greece. No, I’ve never actually been there. But I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history, culture, and in particular the mythology. I’m also a huge fan of lose-yourself gigantic open world games, as well as stealth games, action games, story-driven games, and RPGs. In many ways, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is my perfect game. It blends Greek history and culture, with a smattering of mythology (especially in the Fate of Atlantis DLC), as well as all of the genre elements I just listed. It’s open world is enormous. Almost too big, really, with an exorbitant amount of things to do. But again, you’re stuck at home, nowhere to go, so now might be the perfect time to invest the 200 or so hours it takes to work your way completely through this sprawling world. The main story is not complicated, but engaging enough. The main characters are interesting. Many of the side characters and quests range from fascinating, to disturbing, to genuinely hilarious. The world is beautiful, and a genuine treat to explore, even if many of the camps, activities, side locations, and mission can get a little repetitive. All said, it is a grand adventure befitting of the title “Odyssey.”
© 2018 – Matt Makes Games
Usually when one might describe a game as “beautiful,” they are probably referring to the graphics and/or visuals of the game in some way. In the case of Celeste, while the visuals certainly aren’t bad, with their retro pixel art aesthetic and colour palette, it’s the story and overall meaning behind the game that would put it into the category of “beautiful.” Celeste is, as the game tells you right at the start, is a game about climbing a mountain. A very simple premise, backed by tight, at times punishingly difficult platforming. You will die. A lot. And that’s okay. Mistakes, as the game again tells us, are how we learn. Sometimes it takes a hundred attempts before we learn how to do something right. Through this gameplay, and a narrative that is shockingly fleshed out for a game of this type, Celeste opens up it players to a conversation around mental health, and the struggles of those who suffer from anxiety and depression. I haven’t invested enough thought as yet in to pondering whether or not I agree with every aspect of the game’s conclusions on the subject, I will say I’m thrilled that a game has tackled these subjects, and does so with such care and nuance. I love when games to try to be anything else, but instead embrace the unique capabilities of a video game, by nature of its interactivity, are able to tell a story. Sometimes a game’s story and minute-to-minute gameplay can almost feel disjointed from one another. But that is far from being the case in Celeste. This is a game that is, on every level, beautiful. And the world could use a little more beautiful right now.
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
© 2019 – Remedy Entertainment
Control is…hard to explain. You play as a woman named Jesse who is in search of her long-lost brother. That search brings her to the headquarters of a very secretive government agency known as the Federal Bureau of Control, just as it comes under attack by a mysterious force. That’s about all I can really say without getting into spoiler territory. Oh, actually there is one other thing. Super powers. There you go. The game itself in unashamedly weird, reveling in its trippy, off-the-wall style. The atmosphere is eerie, though it never quite dips into full-in horror territory. Progression and exploration are fun, and combat is engaging. The story is quite obtuse and hard to follow right until the very end, at which point I think I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. It’s a game that you can tell was lovingly crafted by a gifted team of developers with a strong track record and history in the industry. I should also say that the cast and voice acting are pretty stellar. The game seems to have been somewhat of an underrated gem, at least in the public sphere. Critics and reviewers almost universally loved the game, with IGN even naming it their game of the year in 2019. If you hadn’t heard of it, or perhaps you had but weren’t sure about it, I highly recommend giving it a go.
© 2019 – Kojima Productions
Speaking of unashamedly weird games (see previous entry for Control), here’s what is quite probably the strangest triple-A game ever released! Hideo Kojima, finally afforded completely and total free reign over every aspect of a game, proved himself once again to be the maddest of geniuses ever to grace the video game industry. The trailers and teases presented Death Stranding was the most mysterious and enigmatic video game project of the last decade, with everyone trying to make heads or tails of just what they were in for. From weird trailers featuring film director Guillermo Del Toro trudging through black goop in a war torn city cradling a fetus in a jar, to naked Norman Reedus covered in hand prints standing on a beach, to Kojima telling people he was “creating a new genre.” Then the game was released, and people still didn’t know how to take it. Some people likened it to “Postman Pat: The Video Game,” little more than a glorified walking simulator, and complained about the arduous, and tedious, central task of the game. The vast majority of your time spent in the game is spent carrying packages, largely on foot, through difficult terrain with intentionally quirky controls, from one isolated bunker dweller to another. However, it’s my opinion that most people couldn’t see the forest for the trees. At it’s core, Death Stranding is exactly the game we need right now. Koijma created this game already feeling like our cultural climate is one of division, distance, and separation. In these days where “social distancing” is the most common phrase we use, this game stands as a clarion call to come together. It recognizes that this is no easy feat, and can at times be painful. But building bridges, strands of connection between one another, is always worth the pain and the sacrifice. From it’s main character’s journey, to the story of the world he inhabits, right down to the innovative use of indirect cooperation between anonymous players, every in Death Stranding comes together to reinforce an important message: we need each other.