Everybody has a favourite song – a special tune that by way of melody or memory means more to you than any other. It might make you want to dance, or it might summon visions of happier times, but simply hearing it can lighten a mood, and turn storm clouds into singing in the rain. It’s an effect that makes us tailor playlists so that those few short notes show up again and again, heartening us into wistful nights and better days.
But these pet preferences aren’t just limited to music; we all have favourite sweaters, favourite movies and favourite foods – things we’ll come back to again and again when we’re in need of comfort and cheer. As avid gamers, the staff here at Power Up Gaming are no exception, and we all have our own selection of titles that we fire up when we need to relax, rewind, or emotionally disappear.
Georgie Catto: Skyrim is the game I have yet to finish, the game I don’t want to finish, and the game that you can’t make me finish, because I never want the experience to end. I must have started it a dozen times and while I could echo the opening sequence verbatim, it doesn’t lessen the fun I have re-living it all over again.
After three years (has it really been that long?) of meandering across Tamriel, Skyrim has become more than a game to me; it’s morphed into the digital equivalent of mac and cheese, a warming snack to cheer me up when things get rough. I might play Madden to distract myself, or dabble with Trials Fusion to lull me into sleep, but if I’ve had a really bad day, it’s Skyrim I return to. Slaying dragons, killing emperors, or simply wandering those well-loved hills is a catharsis I just can’t give up.
Amber Colyer: The game I always find myself returning to, more than any other, is Super Smash Bros. Melee. Entire summers in my high school career were spent playing the title, while I found myself in an eerie Zen mode while I cleared the 100-man challenge over and over.
Smash Bros. has always been one of my favourite series, along with numerous other Nintendo titles (I’ve already admitted to Paper Mario several times), and Melee is a game that consistently draws me back in with its nefarious, simple pleasures and insists I kick the crud out of Master Hand just one more time.
Similarly, I’ll always find myself returning to Terraria and Mass Effect 2 on occasion as well. Terraria is a game where you can spend days simply building a fort or sky castle or constructing intricate lava traps to screw with your NPCs, and I absolutely adore it. Mass Effect 2 needs no introduction or explanation. It is simply a great game in a great series that always brings me back to flirt with Garrus or Thane and hug Tali repeatedly.
Super Smash Bros. Melee will always be what I go back to for that thrill of nostalgia, however, perhaps even when I’m old enough that I can only poke at my poor Gamecube controller and whisper, “Rosebud”.
Austin Flynn: While I do have to agree with Amber that Super Smash Bros. Melee is an incredibly accessible game and one that I constantly find myself coming back to, I would have to say Shadow of the Colossus takes the cake for being that one game I can’t help but replay.
I make a point to play it at least once a year; and by play, I mean beat the game on both difficulties, beat all the boss time trials to obtain all the extra items, collect a butt load of lizards and fruit, climb to the top of the tower and then pointlessly struggle to jump and dodge roll past the windy entrance at the end of the bridge.
If the last half of that list made any sense to you, you love Shadow of the Colossus as much as me. Congrats! We probably have matching jackets and cool tattoos on our bodies in the shape of the colossi weak points! Seriously, though, I think it’s just the overwhelming calm the game surrounds the player with that has me coming back year after year. Riding Agro around a gigantic map filled with lush forests, barren deserts and daunting ravines is a therapeutic experience for me right up there with sitting beneath a waterfall (another location in the game).
Mix that relaxation with an expertly orchestrated soundtrack, larger than life boss battles and the most subtle, yet emotional, storyline a game can offer and I might as well be vacationing in Cabo. If nothing else, playing SotC helps me cope with the fact that The Last Guardian will inevitably be pushed back yet another year.
Chris Mawson: As a relative latecomer to the blocky phenomenon of Minecraft, I didn’t get chance to explore the procedurally generated sandbox until the title finally made it onto the PlayStation 3 in late 2013. I soon made up for lost time, however, sitting atop the leaderboard for most blocks mined and furthest distance travelled for a couple of months at the start of last year (one of my crowning achievements in life).
Perhaps atypical of most players, my enjoyment of the game comes not from the construction of fantastical and complex structures and buildings, but from the relaxing act of mining itself. I’ll often find myself sinking hours into deep-level underground exploration, listening to music or a podcast as I collect resources and precious metals and minerals, many of which I’ll never end up actually using.
Finding myself immersed in the pixelated world of Minecraft more times than I’d care to admit, it’s a game I find myself returning to time and time again when I simply want to chill out and unwind. That is, at least, until I stumble into a cavern and hear that fucking hissing noise…
David Tierney: Sonic 3 & Knuckles, with all of its ‘lock-on’ ingenuity, is a game that has found a special place at many points in my life. For me it was, and still is, the pinnacle of Sonic games: the amazing, broad levels, and the multiple characters and routes give it reams of replayability.
S3K brought with it the ability to save progress for the first time in a Mega Drive Sonic title, a facet we now take for granted in video games. This simple addition made the game far more accessible than its predecessors, and allowed me to not only go back and progress further, but to experience my favourite levels again and again.
Over the years, I’ve found myself booting up whatever port I get my hands on, whether it be with the clunky buttons of the Mega Drive, or the handily backlit screen of the DS. I always establish nearly the same goals in unlocking Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles, and Hyper Tails, and always return to Hydrocity and Doomsday Zone just to bask in their music. It’s something I don’t have to think about, I don’t have to get used to the controls, and I can pass all the bosses with a near-tragic amount of ease. It’s an anchor, a constant in an ever-varying world, where I can turn my head off, and rest graciously in the warm comfort of nostalgia.
Nostalgia can mean many things to many people – an old t-shirt, a home cooked meal, climbing into a tree house that isn’t meant for the over-tens – but as gamers, it’s often consoles that bring us comfort when we’re feeling low. Whether they offer us the memories of good times, or simply oblivion when we’re feeling overwhelmed, these games have meant a lot to us over the years, and will likely keep doing so until the zombies come. Feel free to hit us back in the comments with any games that mean a lot to you.