Does Nostalgia Dictate Our Favorite Game Selections?

When we're asked to name our favorite game of all time, are we asking ourselves: "Is my pick ALL about nostalgia?"

When we're asked to name our favorite game of all time, are we asking ourselves: "Is my pick ALL about nostalgia?"

Nostalgia. It’s a powerful thing.

When I’m asked to list my top 5 favorite games of all time, I invariably rattle off the following list:

  1. Final Fantasy Tactics
  2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  3. Super Mario Kart
  4. Final Fantasy VII
  5. Super Mario Bros. (or Super Mario All-Stars)

I also like to add that most of the Grand Theft AutoAssassin’s Creed and Uncharted games rank very high as well, but I just refuse to single out particular titles in each amazing franchise.

Then, I wonder: “If I say FFT is my ‘favorite game of all time,’ but gamers today look at it and laugh, how much of my feeling is based on actual quality…and how much is based on those fuzzy memories?”

Nostalgia isn’t qualitative…is it?

Yes, I’m aware that a game like FFT has long since been surpassed in a number of areas, and that includes the gameplay depth that I once revered above all others. I can’t really even argue that the game was balanced better than any other, as the individual job classes weren’t, in fact, perfectly balanced. The dialogue in the original production was lacking due to some iffy translation and certain party setups and strategies were simply way too powerful (or far too weak). To this day, I have no idea why Blade Grasp cost only 700JP and Meteor cost 1500, when one is infinitely more valuable than the other, especially among high-level parties.

Nostalgia blinds us to the obvious. That’s how it works. I know teenagers of today would probably laugh at FFT, and I know we’ve seen games succeed on a higher plane of development since. I’m well aware of all this. And yet, when times are slow, I will find myself starting a new game, or a new game of SotN or FFVII. Now, I do maintain that the latter title is still the best RPG ever made, but again, the industry has produced much better games in terms of refinement and technical achievement.

Okay, but so WHAT if nostalgia dictates a favorite game list?

Maybe that’s the way it should be. There’s a very big difference between a “best of all time” list and a “favorite of all time list” because personal opinion and quality are mutually exclusive. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean the quality sucks. For instance, I’ve always hated RTS, but I’m not about to say the original Command & Conquer deserved a 2 just because I didn’t like it, nor will I say it doesn’t deserve that enviable “revolutionary” label.

The point is that “favorite” implies 100 percent subjective opinion, while “best” implies no opinion. Therefore, if I want to say I love FFT more than any other video game ever released, I’m allowed to say it. Would I say it’s the best video game ever released? Of course not. That being said, as we don’t really see games like FFT much anymore, it’s feasible that the game in question remains the very best turn-based SRPG in existence. That might be true.

About the author


A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.