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?"

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 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.

Published Jul. 14th 2014
  • topher339
    Nostalgia definitely makes a difference. Just hearing the music from Zelda or Mario brings back memories of the days my brother and I sat on the bed playing those games on our SNES and 64. These days I am not nearly as much of a fan of either series as I used to be but I am still inclined to pick up the new title just because of the memories. If it wasn't for my brother I would probably not buy these games but if they're around I'll definitely play them and rank them high.
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    I think it's kind of a given, but if you still have fun with something there's no harm in it. My top 5 are:

    1. Sonic Adventure 2
    2. Star Ocean 2
    3. Silent Hill 2
    4. Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
    5. Xenogears

    I can go back and have fun with all of these games (I play Sonic Adventure 2 just about daily as a casual speedrunner), except Silent Hill 2. I've played that game enough not to have to do it again, and once the magic's gone it's gone.

    This all said, quality is subjective. It is true that just because you like a game a lot, that doesn't make it great (or even good); but really that doesn't matter.

    PS. I hope you've played Tactics Ogre since you're a huge FFT fan.

    PPS. I don't agree on FFVII. From an overall quality standpoint, I find FFVI to be much better. But I should have picked a fight about that in the comment section for that article, huh?
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    FFVI? The game with the dialogue written by the programmers, the false protagonist (Terra was basically a secondary character), the one-dimensional villain, and the wildly unbalanced set of characters?

    That FFVI? ;)
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    Nothing wrong with dialogue written by the programmers if the story is cohesive and unique, which it very much was (and the characters, while numerous, were all memorable for one reason or another). ;D FFVII's dialogue wasn't great either, especially the terrible localization and spelling errors. But I think that's something most RPGs of that time were plagued with.

    Celes da bes. Opinions are da bestest.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Well, I don't see how one maniacal dude trying to rule the world is a "unique" story, but whatever. To me, as much as I loved FFVI, it's more of a kiddie RPG when compared to the epic adventure that was FFVII.
  • Tom_7294
    Actually, we see games like that all the time... on the PC.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    No, you really don't.
  • Tom_7294

    No, not EXACTLY identical to Final Fantasy Tactics or with JRPG flavour, but turn based strategy, or turn based RPGs are having a healthy come back. Heck, the number one game on Steam is Divinity:Original Sin, a very tactical turn-based RPG. If you want, I could make a list of tactical turn based RPG or strategy games... few that are eastern, sure, but that being the major element of "these games" was not made clear.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Yes, seriously. No, there are no games like FFT; the closest has been Disgaea. Divinity isn't similar at all, as far as I'm concerned.
  • Tom_7294
    If you are talking about clones, that have almost every mechanic in common, then no, because even Disgaea and the Gamboy Advance FFT games weren't clones. If you are talking about the genre of tactical turn based RPG then yes, there have been many. In fact , here.

    And this is but a tiny taste.
  • Chai Chien Liang
    I still have a soft spot for the games I played in my youth like Baldur's Gate I&2, Mechcommander 1&2, Starcraft and Counterstrike (I do find that the games I buy gravitate somewhat to those types of games)
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    I'd say that anytime you pick a favorite based on your experience of the thing and not based on it's raw features, the place, time and circumstances surrounding your experience will color your selection.

    Knowing that you can attempt to reduce the impact, but it's impossible to eliminate.

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