Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Sep 122016

Happy National Video Games Day! Here, we celebrate video games all year long (along with bizarre holidays like Mithos Day), but let’s give them special recognition today.

In particular, I’d like to talk about twenty must-play games.


They aren’t in any set order (more or less the order I thought of them), but of the games I’ve played so far, here are twenty I definitely recommend.

Ace Attorney (series)

Yes, some entries on this list are entire series. It was hard enough narrowing it down to 20 even while doing this!

Ace Attorney is probably my favorite video game series of all. It has great stories, memorable characters, and a terrific sense of humor. Now, as visual novel/adventure game hybrids, they’re heavy on reading and comparatively light on gameplay, but if that doesn’t scare you away, you must try them.

Since it can be overwhelming to begin a longstanding series, here is my guide about which Ace Attorney game to start with.

Professor Layton (series)

My caveat for the Professor Layton series is a simple one: you must like puzzles. Professor Layton is filled with puzzles… along with compelling stories and a lovable cast of characters.

Okay, a second caveat: you must have a tolerance for insane plot twists.

Sounds good? Then re-visit my guide from above to see which Professor Layton game you should start with.

The World Ends With You

My list of “must-play” games probably shouldn’t include so many warnings, but The World Ends With You requires one as well. The battle system is a little chaotic. It takes a while to get into it. But once I did, it became one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and one of the few games I strove for 100% completion in.

It’s a wild ride full of intense plot developments and exciting twists, and I love every minute of it.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Speaking of exciting plot twists, it’s hard to beat Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, a puzzle/adventure game from the creator of Ace Attorney. It’s funny, has a great story, and is a game I’d recommend to everyone.

It also teaches us a vitally important technique for when things go wrong: the panic dance!

Bayonetta (series)

Is it really a series if there are only two games so far? Regardless, I couldn’t pick between Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. I was surprised myself at how much I enjoyed them, and they’re near the top of the list for just sheer fun, along with a nice challenge. And I’ll admit it, I actually enjoy their stories, too. If you like action, you need to give Bayonetta and its sequel a chance.

…although do keep in mind you’ll be playing as a witch who uses the power of her hair (which is also her clothes) to summon demons and beat up evil angels. Still here? Good, then go play Bayonetta!

Tales of Symphonia

Ace Attorney might be my favorite series, but Tales of Symphonia is my favorite RPG… and possibly my favorite game of all. We’re talking about a game I described as “perfect” when I finished it. It has a great plot with excellent plot twists, wonderful characters I couldn’t help but love, and a villain who ripped out my heart and crushed it and consequently became my favorite character in the game.

Oh, and it has a WORLD MAP! (Boy do I miss those in modern RPGs…)


I only played Steins;Gate recently, but it deserves to be on this list. The caveat here is that you must enjoy reading. A lot of reading. Steins;Gate made me finally understand the “novel” part of “visual novel.” Fortunately, it’s a thrilling read that alternates between hilarious and gut-wrenching. You’ll laugh, you might cry, and you’ll come away from it awed by an excellent story of time travel.

El Psy Kongroo.

Knights of the Old Republic

If you enjoy RPGs along the lines of Dragon Age and you’re a Star Wars fan, you owe it to yourself to play Knights of the Old Republic. It’s a great journey (with a fantastic plot twist), and the characters are great. Really, you owe it to yourself to play it just for HK-47, if nothing else.

Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is also a good game, but doesn’t warrant a must-play recommendation because it was rushed, and this sometimes shows… particularly in the ending.

Wild Arms 3

Right up there with Tales of Symphonia for me is an RPG not a lot of people talk about, Wild Arms 3. (I still haven’t played enough Wild Arms to count the series as a whole, but Wild Arms 3 is something special.) It breaks JRPG tropes left and right, its characters and story are entertaining, and it has some of the best and most subtle foreshadowing I’ve ever seen.

Plus, if you want a break from traditional RPG worlds, Wild Arms 3 has a Wild West setting.

Final Fantasy (series)

Unlike the other series on this list, I don’t recommend every Final Fantasy game, but I’d single out Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, and Final Fantasy IX as must-plays. Many of them are great, but those three hold a special place in my heart and I consider them the best of the series. (I still haven’t played the must-praised Final Fantasy IV.)

Who knows? Later this year, will Final Fantasy XV join the list?

Kingdom Hearts (series)

Speaking of RPGs from Square Enix, my Kingdom Hearts obsession should be fairly obvious to anyone who has spoken to me recently. I’ve fallen in love with the series (even if it hasn’t quite reached Symphonia levels yet), and while I’d call out Birth By Sleep in particular, I can’t ignore the others.

Do you like action RPGs? Epic, convoluted stories? If you don’t love Disney, can you at least tolerate it? Then play Kingdom Hearts.

Banjo-Kazooie (series)

Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are two of my favorite games of all time and the reason I love 3D platformers so much. They’re light on story, but their gameplay and humor make up for it. I enjoyed the other games in the series too, although I wouldn’t put them on the same level.

Meanwhile, Yooka-Laylee is channeling Banjo-Kazooie so strongly I’ll go crazy from anticipation!

Silent Hill (series)

Ah, Silent Hill, the series that made me realize I enjoy horror games after all. When it comes to this series, I recommend the original four in particular. Yes, even Silent Hill 4, which is my personal favorite. Great survival horror gameplay on top of psychological horror and twisted stories… if that’s what you like, it’s hard to go wrong with Silent Hill.

Resident Evil

In contrast, while I do recommend all the early (pre-RE4) Resident Evil games, it’s the remake of Resident Evil in particular that I consider a must-play. “REmake” is one of the best survival horror games out there, with solid gameplay and a design that improves upon the original in every way while staying true to it.

I consider the Resident Evil remake not only an excellent example of what a survival horror game should be, but also of what a remake should be.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

I’m biased toward The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker because it’s the game that got me into the Legend of Zelda series, but I really do love it. It’s one of the few games I’ve replayed (with my backlog of doom, that’s quite a feat). I enjoyed sailing, exploring islands for secrets, going through dungeons, all of it!

And from what I understand, the Wii U version is not only in HD, it’s also improved the more frustrating aspects of the game to make Wind Waker better than ever.

Portal (series)

When I played Portal, I found it to be a fun, often hilarious puzzle game I’d easily recommend to everyone, and Portal 2 was even better. Portal 2 is just as funny, if not funnier. It’s also longer and more story-driven, and I enjoyed the puzzle-solving more as well. Here’s a sample of its humor.

Hatoful Boyfriend (I’m not joking)

Caveat: you must suspend your disbelief enough to play as a human girl trying to find romance at an all-bird school.

Still here? Good! Believe it or not, I think everyone should play Hatoful Boyfriend to see for themselves that it’s a much better game than its premise. At first, it’s just silly and ridiculous, although with some surprisingly sad or heartwarming moments mixed in… and then you reach the BBL route, and everything you thought you knew about the game can no longer help you.

Trust me, it’s worth it, no matter how absurd it sounds.

The sequel, Holiday Star, is not as much of a must-play, but definitely recommended if you enjoy the first game.


Now that I’ve recommended a game about dating birds, it’s only fitting that I move on to a game about entering people’s mental landscapes to sort out their psychological issues, right? In all seriousness, Psychonauts is both fun and funny, with an assortment of wild characters to deal with. I also particularly love how each level has a different twist on the gameplay, some more dramatic than others.


Don’t let the obsessive fanbase scare you away, Undertale really is an excellent game. It’s hilarious, sometimes emotional, and plays with your expectations. Add in lovable characters, interesting twists, a morality system where you don’t have to kill your enemies, and a fantastic soundtrack, and I have to recommend Undertale as a must-play game.

And I really can’t get enough of the soundtrack.

To the Moon

Finally, let’s close out by discussing To the Moon, a story-driven adventure game that will probably make you cry, but you’ll also laugh a lot along the way. To the Moon puts you in the shoes of two doctors traveling backwards through an old man’s memories to fulfill his wish (by changing his memories) of going to the moon.

It’s a wonderful game, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, Finding Paradise, which is due out next year.

Happy National Video Games Day!

There you have it! Twenty must-play games for National Video Games Day. …Okay, since I counted series, it’s probably a lot more than 20 games. And I had to skip over so many good games I wanted to include on the list… and it reminded me of how many highly-praised games I have yet to play…

*sinks into the backlog of doom while vaguely muttering to self*

What are some of your must-play games?

If you want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, enter your email in the box below to subscribe!

  4 Responses to “Twenty Must-Play Games for National Video Games Day”

  1. …Yeah, you’re clearly more than double over twenty.

    And I’m pretty sure parenthesis are supposed to be reserved for “series”, not “I’m not joking”. No one was gonna say you’re joking! You’re so defensive!

    Good that Ace Attorney came up first. Bad that you don’t have Paper Mario or its sequel.
    Guess all of your problems with Color Splash was just concern-trolling if you can’t fit it into a top 20!

  2. […] Trick: Phantom Detective for the DS is one of my favorite games, even earning a spot on my “twenty must-play games” list back in 2016 (which I really should update someday, to add games like the Yakuza […]

  3. […] original Ghost Trick was one of the titles I included on my list of must-play games/series back in 2016. Parts of that list might be outdated by now, but Ghost Trick still deserves its […]

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>