Top Ten Tuesday 21

My Top Ten Most Addicting Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.

Pre-List Notes

Like any hobby people enjoy for fun, video games can be pretty addicting. Occasionally it can manifest into a serious problem, but usually it's just a particular game that really gets its hooks into us and won't let go for months at a time. Massively Multiple Online games are particularly devious about laying out the foundation for an addictive game that keeps you coming back, but ultimately it's playing and socializing with friends that keeps me plugged in to particular games of that genre. Otherwise, my primary addictions are turn-based strategy games. Just...One...More...Turn....

Note that where applicable I rolled all similar titles into a single franchise entry, but you can safely assume the screenshot that I choose is from my favorite particular title.


Top Ten Most Addicting Games


10) Plants Vs. Zombies

One of the few games that I've purchased on multiple platforms (PC in 2009 and XBLA in 2010), PvZ is a fairly simplistic tower defense game that looks like it could easily run in your browser. Underneath the cutesy graphics and catchy music lies a surprisingly enjoyable and addictive experience were you customize your load out for the level - choosing among various plant inspired towers like pea shooters, wall-nuts, and potato mines - and defend your home against waves of special undead terrors like conehead zombie, pole-vaulting zombie, and screen door zombie. It's way more fun than has any right to be with a robust campaign, challenges, and puzzles.

Also, a music video.


9) FTL: Faster Than Light

I first mentioned this amazing rogue-like space game in My Top Ten 2012 Games list. With each new game FTL generates a new galaxy to explore filled with random little text adventures/choices, tons of enemies, and agonizing debates on whether to spend your limited resources on much needed upgrades, or much needed supplies and weapons. The game is absolutely brutal on Normal difficulty, and I've still only managed to beat it on Easy, with an end boss that seems downright unfair after the trial you have to endure to get there. Did I mention if you die once it's game over? Designed to be played over and over again, FTL is a game you never really finish (even when you beat it) and keep coming back to try different ship combinations, unlock new ships, and just enjoy a new random adventure.


8) Spelunky

Much of what I just said about FTL can be applied to Spelunky - the rogue-like gameplay, the permadeath, the Top Ten 2012 list, and the amazingly catchy soundtrack. Spelunky also randomizes your adventure each game, but relies on tight platforming action and danger and death at every turn. After sinking over 40 hours in around 300 "runs," I've beaten the game exactly three times. That should be all you need to know about the game's unforgiving nature, and yet also just how addicted I became in the Summer of 2012. Filled with a crazy amount of items, enemies, multiple tilesets, and dungeon layouts that are never the same, Spelunky offers a ridiculous amount of replay value for such a low asking price.


7) World of Warcraft

Actual screenshot from my game, circa 2005.

Yes, once upon a time, I was addicted to the daddy of all MMORPGs. World of Warcraft entered the scene back in what should now be considered the golden era of online games - 2004 - which also saw the high profile releases of City of Heroes and Everquest II. Since then WoW has just about swallowed up and stifled the entire genre, and only now in the last year or so has begun its decline. That's a pretty impressive reign, however, and I can attest that WoW's gameplay is rock solid. They basically took many of the innovations and gameplay from the original EverQuest and perfected it into a more user friendly and mass appealing experience. Also helpful that they had an established intellectual property to draw from. My friends and I got WoW for Christmas of '04 and played pretty solidly for a good 8-9 months. Not only was it awesome fun, it was a great way to stay in touch while we were at different colleges.


6) Pokémon series

I've fully admitted to loving Pokémon before, and I can comfortably admit here that I find those games incredibly addicting and enjoyable, ever since the original game in 1998. I sunk over 100 hours into Generation IV (Pearl/Diamond) and currently sitting at 125 hours for Generation V (Black/White). You could say I'm a little excited for the next generation coming out this Fall. Beneath the kid-friendly game world and characters lies an impressively deep RPG and the collecting of new Pokémon, the forming of your perfect group, the customization of abilities for each creature, and the staggering amount of content and post-game content in each title makes these games a winning combination each and every generation.


5) The Elder Scrolls series

Actual screenshot from my game, circa 2011.

My first entry into the Elder Scrolls world was the third game - Morrowind. Morrowind was the first entry in the series to feature a fully open 3D fantasy world to explore and essentially do what you want, and gamers went wild. Over the next two games in the series, Oblivion and Skyrim, Bethesda has continued to prove that they are the masters of the single player massively Choose Your Own Adventure genre, and I've gotten sucked into all of them. Few games can match the sheer immersion of being dropped into a living fantasy world, and the Elder Scrolls games manage to offer such a staggering amount of content that it takes me multiple dozens-plus hours worth of characters to even explore a fraction of it.


4) Diablo series

Actual screenshot from my game, circa 2012 (Played w/ friends right before Diablo III came out).

Action-RPGs - a genre that the Diablo series perfected a spawned a vast amount of clones of - is right up there with turn based strategy and MMORPGs for sheer addictiveness and one of my favorite genres. With this entry I lob together the excellent likes of the Torchlight games, Titan Quest and Nox among others, but Diablo is the most widely known and even with the not wholly satisfying and too long awaited third entry, still rests firmly on top of the pile. The addictive element comes from the randomized loot driven nature of the game and the constant power creep the game provides you with: Get loot to kill monsters because they drop better loot to kill tougher monsters! Such a simple formula and yet it works so crazy well. Throw in cooperative multiplayer with a group of friends and I'm always coming back for more.


3) Heroes of Might and Magic series

One of my first loves in PC gaming, and something consoles simply could not reproduce, was the strategy game. Early Civilization iterations and spinoffs were my bread and butter for a bit, but I was becoming a huge fan of the fantasy genre, and the Heroes series combined an awesomely varied fantasy world with deep strategically gameplay and a crazy amount of campaigns, maps, and replay value. I started with HoMM2 (Asked for the original game for Xmas from an outdated gaming magazine, never realizing the sequel was already out) which was the most amazing strategy game I'd ever played - until the third game. To this day Heroes III remains one of my all time favorite games and I'd play until the wee hours of the morning off and on for years. Although the series is now up to number 6 (Ubisoft took over to reboot the franchise with 5 after 3DO closed its doors) it's never quite reached the height of popularity and greatness as its heyday.



2) Civilization series

The Civ series is so famous for being addicting that much of the marketing behind the release of the latest iteration - Civilization V - involved a fake support group called CivAnon, designed to help people that were hopelessly addicted to this outstanding turn based strategy system (see hilarious video at the end of this list). Civilization is essentially the greatest tactical board game ever created, and thanks to being digital can span all of human history and beyond, creating a unique gameplay experience and narrative to every game. When the average sized game of Civ can take 8-10 hours, you know you're in for an epic experience, and I've played many, many games.


1) EverQuest

It wasn't even close. I received the original EverQuest, released in 1999, for my birthday of that year after pouring over an a preview article in a gaming magazine and scouring the internet with my 56k dial-up modem. Taking all the best social elements from Dungeons and Dragons and online multi-user (and up till then mostly text based) dungeons, EverQuest introduced the world to a Massively Multiplayer Online game in a fully 3D fantasy world. It was nothing short of incredible, and one of those new experiences that can never be replicated again. Shortly after joining up I helped form a guild of like minded individuals (from an awesome HoMM newsletter/website community) and had the digital time of my life adventuring with friends, exploring this new frontier, and learning all the various online lingo that is still used to this day.

I played EQ for a solid year before I finally moved on - mainly because I turned 16 and got a driver's license! For a decade afterwards I would play a crapton of MMORPGs and try to recreate that same amazing experience and unique combination of discovery, socializing, and gameplay that I had with EQ. WoW came closest but I eventually realized that nothing would top it, and the MMORPG genre in general became increasingly stagnant and boring for me. But don't worry, I'll always have that magical '99-'00 year.


Wrap Up

Gaming in general can be very addictive - it's undoubtedly one of the most complex entertainment mediums we've created and has the capacity to fulfill a myriad of desires from social to cognitive to Shooting Zombies in the Face. As stated above, I find particular genres to warrant themselves to rather addictive gameplay mechanics - the search for randomized goodies, replaying a fantastical digital board game, and socializing with friends while exploring a new or familiar world. Many games have gotten their hooks in me for months at a time, but the best ones give me a chance to return to them years or even decades later to have fun all over again.