2013 in Review: USgamer's Desert Island Games

2013 in Review: USgamer's Desert Island Games

The cast and crew do some soul-searching to pick the single game they'd want to bring along if ever they became stranded on a desert island (one with power outlets).

You’re stuck on an empty island with a console and one game of your choosing. Which one would you be playing, when you’re not punching a string of numbers into a mysterious computer every 108 minutes, or talking to a volleyball called Wilson? We posed that question to Team USG, and the answers we got back offer an interesting insight into obsession, gaming, and strategic long-term amusement.

Jaz Rignall Editorial Director

My immediate gut instinct is Gran Turismo 6. It’s fairly open-ended, has enormous amounts of things to tinker with, offers a near-limitless challenge, and essentially turns the player into the ultimate boss. Yep. A game based around shaving fractions of a second off a lap time would probably keep me happy for years.

Other contenders? Skyrim and GTA V sound good, but I don’t think it’d take long before I’d be as familiar with their moderately sized worlds as I was the desert island I’m stuck on. Offline versions of Minecraft and Sim City would offer a terrific canvas for creativity and self-made entertainment. As would Littlebigplanet, whose design-your-own-game aspect would provide much scope for amusement. However, none would ever deliver any surprises.

I thought about board games, especially the two brilliant German classics, Cataan and Carcassone. But while they’re great multiplayer games, I don’t think it’d take long to suss out their AI and then they’d be worthless.

Then there’s chess. A program like Deep Rybka would provide an unbeatable intellectual challenge and keep one’s mind razor sharp. It wouldn’t exactly be fun in the classic video gaming sense, but it would provide the kind of mental stimulation you’d need to stop yourself from going completely nuts. It’d also give you something to think about while doing boring things like fishing, or trying to make a fire.

That sounds like a good idea to me, and while much as I think Gran Turismo 6 would entertain me, Deep Rybka would be a gaming nemesis that would make me think and learn. Plus there’s a reason why chess has been around for over a thousand years.

Yep. Chess sounds like a good idea to me.

Jeremy Parish Senior Editor

Wow, that’s a tough one. My first thought was that maybe being stranded on a desert island would finally afford me the opportunity to finish Skyrim -- I sank more than 150 hours into that game and saw maybe a quarter of the actual plot -- but unless I brought along an Internet connection to give me access to infinite mods for the game, I would eventually get bored.

No, I think my desert island game would be something from the Yasumi Matsuno catalog. Either Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, or Tactics Ogre. I love the mechanical flexibility of FF Tactics and the expansive world of FFXII, but I think for sheer depth and time-absorption, Tactics Ogre would be the way to go. And specifically, I mean the PSP remake, 2011’s Let Us Cling Together. That game was amazingly deep, with branching plotlines and the ability to rewind both combat and story branches to explore all sorts of interesting outcomes.

I know some hardcore strategy fans complained about the rewind features, but they’re totally optional and make for a fascinating alternate approach to combat. Tactic Ogre, narratively, has always been about consequences; the TAROT feature integrates the theme into the actual mechanics and progression of the game itself. You can play Tactics Ogre the old-school way and never rewind, and I probably would do precisely that just to mix things up if it were the only game I could play on a desert island. But I’d also make use of its unique features to explore every possible outcome. It’s the kind of game I could play for years without getting bored.

Mike Williams Staff Writer

My first thought for a desert island game would be some title that I could make other games out of. That would lead my thoughts towards something like Little Big Planet 2 or Minecraft, both games allowing for a wide degree of freedom to build whatever your mind can come up with.

But assuming that I have an internet connection, my go-to game would probably be World of Warcraft. The nine-year old monster isn't a game I play every day or every week, but I have fun jumping into it from time-to-time. Over the course of its lifespan Blizzard has continued to add to the game: Raids, five-man dungeons, solo dungeons, pet battles, collecting, transmutation, crafting, dueling, and more. There’s just so much to do in World of Warcraft.

The game’s upcoming expansion, Warlords of Draenor, is adding a host of changes and player housing to the mix. The brand-new story will probably be weird and convoluted, but at least I still have many of the old dungeons I haven't finished to explore. My current problem with WoW is I don’t have enough time, but if I’m stuck on a desert island, that’s not an issue is it?

Everquest Next looks like it could be a solid contender for this slot in the future, but as it stands World of Warcraft is it.

Pete Davison News Editor

This is a tough one! While there are games I absolutely adore, the prospect of playing just one over and over for a long period brings up some additional considerations. In other words, it pushes me somewhat more in the direction of lengthy RPGs as opposed to shorter experiences.

Jeremy's picks are some good ones -- out of the ones he mentioned, I'd probably go for Final Fantasy XII, and make beating Yiazmat my eventual goal.

Being a bit more original, though… hmm. Assuming I had an Internet connection, Final Fantasy XIV would be the obvious choice, but if I didn't, I think Xenoblade Chronicles would be a more than adequate offline substitute. My first playthrough of that game took me around about a hundred hours, and I hadn't seen a goodly proportion of the content. I'd be more than happy to have the time to go back and explore it fully, trying my best to build my "area affinity" up to five stars by beating sidequests and finding NPCs. Then, despite the Wii's lack of a coherent online infrastructure, there was a huge selection of "achievements" to chase, too; by the time I got rescued, I reckon I could make a considerable dent in them.

So yeah. Xenoblade Chronicles it is.

Cassandra Khaw Content Editor

Dota 2! Honestly, I’m a bit too easy for my own good in this regard. And I don’t mean that in a salacious way. Dota 2 is my go-to game in pretty much any situation and has been since the last, oh, decade or so.

There are reasons for this and I swear they aren’t remotely connected to fan-girlism. Growing up in the LAN centres of Malaysia was instrumental in my love for competitive games. Every one of my peers had something they obsessed with -- DotA, Call of Duty, Starcraft, etc. For me, it was Dota and, by extension, Dota 2 (Because no one really wants to play an eye-searingly ugly mod when they can tango with something prettier).

So, why Dota 2? Plenty of reasons, many of which are pertinent to the fact it’s nearly impossible to master. Before I’m allowed to even contrive being bored of the game, I’d need to first master the 105-man strong roster, something I can’t picture myself doing before I’m 70. After that, there’s the question of getting good enough to single-handedly carry an entire ranked match, diving into the seedy underbelly of its trade circles and, just maybe, indulge in whatever festive events Valve might come up.

Wait -- we get Internet on this desert island, right?

Nadia Oxford Guest Editor

Same as everyone has a dish of comfort food, everyone has their "comfort game" -- that one well-used game they play over and over, particularly when times are tough. Despite the problems plaguing it, my comfort game is Secret of Mana for the SNES.

I can't tell you how many times I've played Secret of Mana. All I know is I'm capable of playing it a thousand times more. Its graphics are soothing just to look at: They're colorful, bubbly, and void of sharp, harsh edges. They're like a gentle dream. Or a pair of safety scissors.

Combine those graphics with satisfying (if troubled) hack-and-slash gameplay, and one of the best soundtracks composed for the SNES. It's been over twenty years, and the opening theme and animation still give me the shivers.

Kat Bailey Guest Editor

One of the pitfalls of working from home is that it puts me in close proximity with FIFA 14. I don't have many real gaming vices anymore (at least not since WarCraft III and the lost summer of 2002), but FIFA is an exception. If I start playing, I can forget about any notions of productivity for the rest of the day.

I'm not alone either. FIFA has become the most popular sports game in the world in large part because it's easy to learn and a lot of fun to play, while also feeling enough like the real sport to avoid coming off as an arcade game. Its matches last about 15 minutes, putting them in that sweet spot where it's easy for players to say, "I guess I can fit in one more game." In short, it's a black hole that has subsumed most of my other gaming interests and made me feel incredibly guilty about my growing backlog.

With that, I think it's pretty obvious which game I would take with me if I were marooned on a desert island with a TV, an internet connection, and a PlayStation 4. Trying to reach Level 7 in Online Seasons could keep me busy for a very, very long time... or at least until EA shut down the online servers.

Dustin Quillen Guest Editor

I'm not great at Street Fighter. Never have been, really. But I've always admired the competitive fighting game scene's top players for their extreme skill and dedication. I can't even fathom the amount of practice it would take for me to be able to perform at that level, let alone under the pressure of a tournament setting.

Unfortunately, I'm just good enough at these games that a lot of my buddies aren't interested in playing against me anymore. I totally get it -- the fighting genre's at its best when both combatants have an equal shot at coming out on top. And, having been through the meat grinder that is online Street Fighter IV, I know firsthand that nobody enjoys getting crushed over and over again.

That's why, given unlimited free time and, ideally, a handful of close friends as sparring partners, I'd happily spend the rest of my life running a sort of dojo for mediocre Street Fighter IV players in the middle of the ocean. With nothing to occupy ourselves other than Street Fighter and survival, my fellow islanders and I would have no choice but to become really, really proficient at both. We'd brainstorm potential counters for the most devastating combos of the day while fishing on the beach, and, by campfire light, we'd attempt to parse frame data over a feast of red snapper, berries, and wild boar.

It wouldn't be a perfect society, of course. Inevitably, someone would start to fall behind in their training, making them an easy target for the rest of the group. But what are you going to do? Be the one person on the island who doesn't play Street Fighter? Also, the lack of fresh water might prove problematic.

Brittany Vincent Guest Editor

I never get sick of playing Rock Band 3 -- or any of the Rock Band iterations, honestly. I was devastated when Harmonix announced there would no longer be weekly releases for the paid song catalogue, as I had poured hundreds of dollars into growing my own personal karaoke cache of songs. I’ve abandoned the guitar and drums, and I’m content to sing my little heart out and play with my band’s appearance and fanbase. If I had all of my downloaded content, the songs from each Rock Band game, and all the spinoff games to keep me company, I’d have no trouble singing for the rest of my life on a secluded little desert island. At least no one would be around to hear me attempting to belt out my favorite tunes.

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