There are so many different kinds of games out there, it can be hard to keep up with all the games that you enjoy. It's not fun to be left eating your friends' dust as they move on to the next great game while you're still stuck, not progressing, in the last one.
Whether you are new to gaming or simply looking to polish your skills, playing these games will work wonders. No matter how many times I pick these games up, I always feel like I'm improving and learning something new.
I made a point to pick games that I felt taught me completely different things, so this list is in no particular order of importance. All of these games are worth playing and learning from for their own reasons.
So without any delay, here are my top 7 games that can improve your gaming capabilities.
The Talos Principle
Platforms: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux)
The Talos Principle is a first-person puzzle game where you use an array of tools to abstractly solve puzzles and collect the Sigils of Elohim. This game heavily references human history and religion, and it's also an extremely complex puzzle game as well.
You're over-thinking things
I say complex, but the game is only really complex because you think it is. The Talos Principle is a master at manipulating you to over-think every situation. If you can't solve a puzzle, you need to look at things from a completely fresh angle before the answers will reveal themselves to you. Chances are that you're going to feel really stupid a lot while playing The Talos Principle, but that's a good thing.
The game is slowly teaching players that over-thinking situations will only get them in a bind. It not only helps with in-game situations, but the ones we face in our daily lives as well.
Over-thinking is over-rated
The best thing I learned from my physics teacher was not to over-think things, and I believe The Talos Principle does a wonderful job of fleshing out this idea and beating it into the ground. If you would like to learn more about The Talos Principle, make sure you check out my full review.
Platforms: Wii U, Wii, Gamecube
I bought the Metroid Prime Trilogy for the first time on the Wii U eShop when it released earlier this year, and I've been loving the games to death so far. This is a spot on my list that I would have normally reserved for a Zelda game, but I feel like Metroid Prime does it a lot better.
Zelda is the type of universal game that other games all over the world draw from, consciously or not. Metroid Prime is one of those games that takes elements from Zelda and incorporates it really well into its own franchise.
Strong female protagonist
Metroid Prime is a first-person shooter where you take on the role of Samus Aran—the best damn female intergalactic bounty hunter you will ever see. Upon investigating a Pirate Ship, an explosion malfunctions the majority of her equipment and she must descend to the planet below to earn them back.
A different kind of FPS
Metroid Prime can be very non-linear. The world connects together exceptionally well, and you'll find yourself backtracking after you find new abilities to see if you can't find a secret or new power-up that you may have missed the first time.
The focus is more on the lore of the planet than it is on intensive first-person combat—hence why there is a lock-on feature. A lot of enemies may require a certain trick to beat, but Metroid Prime is more about the deftness of your mind than your beam gun.
Sci-fi FPS Zelda With Lore as Far as the Eye Can See
Metroid Prime employs these Zelda tropes exceptionally well, all the while adding its own Metroid feel and really engrossing you into the world. Metroid Prime is one of the few games I would consider a must-play to anybody that owns a recent home Nintendo console.
Mark of the Ninja
Platforms: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux), Xbox Live
Mark of the Ninja is a 2D stealth game in every sense of the word. This is about as stealthy as stealth games can get, with environmental interaction and progression choices through the roof.
Make your own Mark
You can choose to play through the game however you like—you have a wide range of tools available to you as a ninja. You can assassinate every guard you come across, you could trick them and trap them, make them kill each other, or just ghost around the guards entirely.
The options seem endless and the choice is really yours. I found myself playing by ear, by whatever I felt each situation needed, but it might be best to stick with your own moral choices and act accordingly.
Mark of the Ninja is a fantastic stealth game, and a great introduction for those who've yet to get into the genre.
Platforms: Wii U
Pikmin 3 is the first Pikmin game I've ever played, and it's mostly thanks to Mario Kart 8 and their awesome digital download deal on Club Nintendo last year.
Pikmin 3 is a strategy game where you land on an entirely new planet with dangers that get out of hand quickly. You are tasked with finding fruit to feed the people of your home planet, but have very few methods of extracting these super-sized foods. It's not long before you're joined by a brigade of Pikmin who seem to rather enjoy the sound of your whistle.
You have to manage your time closely!
What makes Pikmin 3 a difficult game isn't really the premise, it's the time restrictions. Once night falls on this planet, the nocturnal beasts come out to have a lovely Pikmin feast, considering you left them a morsel or two. Each day lasts for less than fifteen minutes, and trying to be efficient within that time span can be a daunting task.
Pikmin 3 is a great game to polish up on your strategic and time-management skills.
One Finger Death Punch
Platforms: PC (Windows), Xbox Live
Wait, where are you going? Don't walk away. This is one of the highest user-rated games on Steam, after all...!
It looks like a dumb flash game
I've avoided One Finger Death Punch for awhile now because...well, it simply looked stupid. Anything that goes around with the name One Finger Death Punch and promotes stick figures punching each other brings me back to a time when PC gaming were simply Flash games in the eyes of consumers.
After looking at the user reviews and trying this incredibly cheap game out for myself, I decided I rather liked it. The game is extremely simple, but very punishing—particularly to button mashers.
Horribly Punishes Button Mashers
That's right, I said it. Button mashing. A button masher playing One Finger Death Punch will be beat to a bloody pulp in five seconds flat.
Do you button mash? Do you wish to tear apart that disgusting habit limb from limb? Buy One Finger Death Punch. You'll be tossing out fast, deliberate punches in no time.
Platforms: PC (Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
The Dark Souls games are terrifying to just about anyone their first time through. These games have an extremely harsh action system that carries weight and brutality. Most of your success in Dark Souls comes from knowing your opponent and how to avoid taking damage while murdering everything in your path at the same time.
This is no easy feat. Even the simplest of enemies have the capacity to kill you very quickly if you let your guard down. That also means that even at level one you could kill some of the most difficult enemies—if you know what you're doing that is.
Practice Makes Perfect
Dark Souls is brutal and heavily relies on swift, well-timed reactions to your enemies movements in order to succeed. The combat has weight and feels realistic. Every swing that you make feels as it should. You are nothing compared to these beasts. Fighting like that in such a hopeless situation is nothing more than a nightmare, but prevailing feels so rewarding.
If you're looking to sharpen up your reaction times and combat knowledge, Dark Souls is a game you must pick up.
Platforms: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Portal 2 is a brilliant puzzle game where you use portals to solve intricate puzzles and move on to the next floor. It's quite a bit more linear than The Talos Principle, but it holds up as an exceptional puzzle game nevertheless.
While I didn't find the Single Player Campaign offered me much of a challenge in terms of exercising my brain, Portal 2's Co-Op mode is mind-boggling.
Portal 2 Co-Op is Brilliant
In Portal 2 Co-Op, you join forces with a robot buddy to solve even more complex puzzles now that you have two sets of portals at your finger-tips. I found myself scratching my head in this mode more times than I would like to admit.
Not only does Portal 2 Co-Op stretch your mind, but it also improves general team work. While smashing your companion to bits and bobbles may be hilarious, it doesn't get you anywhere anytime soon. Without teamwork, none of these puzzles would even be possible.
These are games that I considered for this list but overall didn't make the cut either because other games did it better or simply because I like prime numbers and can only fit seven games in here. These games have pried me out of my comfort zone and forced me to play differently and learn to effectively play them.
Pictured above, Transistor is an narrative-driven action RPG brought to us by the creators of Bastion—an alleged masterpiece. This game's unique combat system that mixed real-time action and tactical maneuvers really pushed my limits when it came to planning and preparing for a battle.
Warriors games aren't generally known for diverse combat, but my first time playing Hyrule Warriors really forced me into a different mindset. This game focuses on battlefield management through real-time combat. If you can't manage the battlefield well enough, chances are you're going to lose. Overall, I decided to leave it out because the learning curve is rather insignificant. It simply challenges you to find good routes to take on the battlefield.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Monster Hunter didn't teach me much in terms of gameplay—rather, it taught me to be a bit more thorough with my eyes. If there's one thing I love about Monster Hunter, it's that it doesn't baby you. Not even a little. You really have to check your Hunter Notes in the menu if you want to even pretend to know what's going on. It proves that games that drop you into an environment and tell you to go kill for your meat still work in comparison to the spoon-feeding that seem increasingly popular as time goes on.
What games helped you?
After awhile of being a gamer, you begin to notice that your skills are far superior than what they used to be, even if you're stepping into a brand new game for the first time. What games helped you along the road of knowledge and left you on the top of the hill waving a flag? Discuss them in the comments below!