Gaming inspiration during coronavirus: ESPN’s picks for video games to try – ESPN
During the coronavirus pandemic, gamers around the world have pulled out old systems, games on their wish lists and titles they were on the fence about to try to break from the monotony of quarantine.
The staff at ESPN is no different. From NBA editors with setups any gamer would be jealous of to advertising folks who are playing through every single Final Fantasy, there’s a lot of variety and passion for gaming here that has shown itself more and more over the past few months.
Need some inspiration for what to try next or what might be missing from your library as quarantine continues? Two dozen people at ESPN shared the old, newish and more recent games they’re playing through to scratch that gaming itch. Check them out below.
To say I have a few options when it comes to retro gaming is to say the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors had a few good players. To wit:
And as much fun as it is to break out the NES for some Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out action (007 373 5963 is forever ingrained in my memory) or to get taken for a ride with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the Dreamcast, I find myself gravitating toward two games in particular.
The first is NBA Street Vol. 2 on the PS2, which I will forever consider to be the best basketball video game ever made. While I find myself bored with the slog that the NBA 2K series has become (and disillusioned with its endless array of microtransactions), Street V2 remains a fun gaming experience even two decades later. It took the outlandish gameplay formula that NBA Jam introduced and expanded on it, making ballhandling tricks and fancy passing just as critical as dunks and 3s. There’s no basketball gaming experience quite like crushing your opponent’s will (and swinging the score by as many as six points) with a Level 2 gamebreaker. The only real “flaw” to the game is that it came out one year too early to include the vaunted draft class of 2003.
The other game that has been filling the endless hours spent at home is actually two games, Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series.
Back in 2003, I bought the original Xbox specifically to play the first game in this series, which was my introduction to the now-familiar Bioware RPG formula. The gameplay holds up 17 years later (even if it has the familiar Star Wars game problem of lightsabers being too weak when compared to their movie counterparts), and the storytelling is among the best for a Star Wars game. I still find the first installment more engaging than the second, but in both cases I love finding different ways to play each time, whether it’s changing classes and preferred party members or just wildly swinging between the Dark Side and the Light Side with my choices.
Sadly, the series never got a true third installment (though the story was continued in the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG), but given how Bioware’s Mass Effect 3 ended, maybe that’s for the best (no I’m definitely not still bitter about the Starchild ending eight years later, why do you ask?).
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): A lot of my job at ESPN is covering new video games, so I don’t have all that much of a chance to play retro games that I love, but I usually play Tetris every day. In a weird way, it’s my way of unwinding. I will throw on an audiobook or a podcast, build stacks and drop the line piece for that beautiful dopamine drip. Sometimes there might be a neat glass of bourbon beside me, but that’s speculation. While I mostly play Tetris 99 on the Switch, I have a soft spot for the NES version of Tetris, which has an entire cottage esports scene around it. There is a yearly tournament that I’m a host and commentator for, and it’s one of my favorite assignments every year. The videos get 10s of millions of views on YouTube because they are so impressive.
Who’d have thought matching up blocks could be such a cathartic experience? Provided by Nintendo of America
Aside from that, I’ve been thinking a lot about what game I want my 4-month-old daughter to play first. I know it’s going to be something from the NES or SNES … Super Mario 3? Legend of Zelda? Mega Man 2? Tetris? Mario Kart? Big decision, and I only get one shot at this. I better pick right! No pressure or anything. But I will say this: The idea of watching her go through Super Mario levels, being challenged like I was when I was a kid, finally overcoming them and seeing her cheer with joy will warm my heart like nothing else.
Greg Wyshynski, Senior NHL writer
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): Ninja Gaiden. It was originally released for the NES in 1989 in the U.S., and I’ve rediscovered it on the Nintendo Switch’s online service. It’s possible I logged months as a child playing this game in my parents’ wood-paneled basement (cue the blogger jokes).
For the uninitiated, Ninja Gaiden is the side-scrolling tale of titular ninja Ryu Hayabusa, who finds a letter from his missing father that sets off an adventure featuring mysterious ancient statues, South American crime cults, the CIA, a world-destroying demon, a fallen ninja named Bloody Malth and some very aggressive mountain eagles. It had memorably weird character designs — why were there professional boxers and scurrying hellbeasts both trying to attack you? It had a propulsive score that still rattles around in my head to this day.
The original Ninja Gaiden for the NES was relentlessly difficult but featured a compelling story and cutscenes that made the slog worth it. Provided by Team Ninja
And it was hard! Some of the most difficult gameplay ever created for an NES title. The precision jumping one needed to traverse some boards. The weapon selection and conservation one needed to defeat some enemies. Normally, this was the kind of game you rented from the video store (remember those?) and then threw the cartridge across the room out of frustration, where it laid until it was time to return it. But you didn’t do that with Ninja Gaiden, because of its story.
The reason Ninja Gaiden still slaps is the cutscenes, which at the time of its release were revolutionary. There are memorable characters introduced, shocking plot twists and a few absolutely gorgeous (for an 8-bit game) bits of cinematography. “Gaiden” translates as “side story” for a reason. In a game about archeology, excavating an early example of cinematic gaming — with incredible gameplay — makes this worth the revisit.
Regina Locicero, Software Engineer I
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy: I loved the originals when I was a kid. My mom loves gaming, which is how I got my love for it as well. When I was little, my dad would work the night shifts and my mom would stay up to make him dinner as she was a stay-at-home mom. She would let me stay up late, too, sometimes, and we would play the original Crash Bandicoot until the early hours of the morning until my dad was about to come home; that’s when mom would rush to put dinner together for him.
The Crash Bandicoot series held a lot of meaning for ESPN’s Regina Locicero, and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy gives her a chance to relive some of her childhood memories. Provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment
Playing the remake today is a great reminder of happy times when I was little. Just hearing the soundtrack immediately puts me at ease. I also really love the game, and the remake feels and plays pretty much the same as the original, just with updated graphics. My college roommates did not understand how I could play such a punishing platformer. They would watch me get squished, burned, drowned, thrown off both boars and polar bears, fall and otherwise die many, many times at some of the levels.
It’s a little out of character for me as usually I’m not that interested in platformers. I mainly play RPGs. I guess this game is just special in that I just can’t get that frustrated when Crash’s fail animations are so funny; I usually smile or giggle at them when they happen. I have it on my gaming PC and somewhat recently repurchased it for my Switch because I love it so much.
Old School Runescape: It was the game that really got me in RPGs. Started playing when some friends introduced me to it. We were terrible at typing at the time, so we had trouble with communicating in-game. We all played on family desktops, so going to someone’s house wasn’t feasible. We also had no clue about anything like teamspeak. I had dialup, so phone calls weren’t an option. We lived on the same block and were very close together, so we wound up using a mix of phones for people not on dialup and someone on a walkie talkie with me to keep me in the loop. It worked astonishingly well and gave my parents a good laugh over our complex solution to a relatively simple problem.
“Playing the remake today is a great reminder of happy times when I was little. Just hearing the soundtrack immediately puts me at ease.”
I played the most by myself, honestly; I was way more interested in the game than my friends. I enjoyed the grind of that game the most. I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, too. I still play occasionally for nostalgia and because I still enjoy it, but I don’t put in nearly the amount of hours as I used to. It was a nice escape when I was younger, and it still provides that today. Usually I play when also listening to a podcast or show as it’s so grindy. It’s also nice as it actually plays pretty nice on Linux with the unofficial Unix client.
Sachin Chandan, Reporter/Researcher
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): I’m the type of gamer that loves immersive RPGs that you spend 80-plus hours on and think about the hundreds of decisions that can have an effect on the story. Quarantine has given me a chance to explore the choices I didn’t take the first time.
While there are some things to unpack in that sentence, I’ve cranked up more than a few games. I’ve jumped into farming sim Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life, but chose Muffy over Celia this time. I’ve been replaying Dragon Age, but this time as a Human Noble rogue instead of my usual Dwarf warrior and while making some critical story decisions to see how much they change the next two games. In NBA Live 2003, I’m trying to win a ring for the Seattle Supersonics while they still exist. (I will die on the hill that sports sims are secretly RPGs in disguise. You pick a party, develop your attributes, choose your look, lead them into battle, yada yada.)
There’s no right way to play the games in the Dragon Age series, which means there’s plenty of replayability for games such as Dragon Age: Origins. Provided by EA
Sometimes it’s more than in-game decisions. It can be appreciating the game in ways I didn’t before. Like how in Metroid games, I try to blast through the story quickly to get one of the bonus endings but never had the time to pay attention to the world and details around me, as I am now. When you pay attention to the details, you realize how many weird quotes the NPCs in Pokémon have. Before you think I’m just rattling off a list of games, I really do have to keep a whiteboard on my fridge to remind me of all the games I’m playing. There are plenty of games, but the commonality is in the experience. I spent so many years plowing forward that I now want to take the time to smell the digital flowers and see what could be different.
Chris McGlynn, Associate Editor, Audience Engagement
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): In the void of sports, I found myself playing a ton of Football Manager 15 on my PC in the early stages of quarantine. It was a great way to do something that made me feel like I could still be invested in sports.
After reaching the Premier League with Crewe Alexandra, I took a break and decided to break out some of the classic titles I played as a kid. I started playing a bunch of old GameCube games, including Madden ’07 (still the greatest Madden ever made), Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Party 7, Sonic Adventure Battle 2, Mario Kart Double Dash and NBA Street Vol. 2. It is amazing how timeless games such as Melee and Mario Kart are, particularly when you have someone else to play with.
Brian Hoskins, Associate Director, Digital Ad Integration
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
The original Final Fantasy VII: I’m playing FF7 due to what I would call a “gaming mid-life crisis.” I played FF7 originally back in college when it came out, and so to play it again is sort of like reliving my youth. Plus, it’s just a fun game to play, and it’s been several years since I’d last played it.
Castle Crashers: The main reason for playing this is that I can play it with my two kids, and since it’s basically a button masher type of game, my 6-year-old daughter can play it with my son and I, and we all can enjoy a gaming activity together. Nothing better than that!
I’m not playing it yet, but I’m looking forward to the FF7 Remake and wanting to finally check out No Man’s Sky in VR.
A “gaming mid-life crisis” means digging into the original Final Fantasy VII and virtual reality. Brian Hoskins for ESPN
Eddie Maisonet, Associate Editor, NBA
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): Super Bases Loaded II. It is a perfect game in my opinion, with the entire point of beating the game being to play a “perfect” game. Not in the sense of giving up a hit or a run, but by being perfect, fundamentally. No strikeouts. No errors. No walks. No getting caught stealing.
This makes for a fun challenge in 2020 just as it did nearly 30 years ago when Ryne Sandberg graced the cover of the game in 1991. Simple gameplay, intuitive controls and absurdly named fake teams such as the Boston Buzzards and the Washington Weasles made this game a classic, even when I would cheat by picking the Edit Team and souping up all my players to have perfect stats. The perfect game was always just out of reach.
Sean Coyle, Senior Statistics Analyst, ESPN Stats & Information
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
WWF No Mercy (Nintendo 64): As a pro wrestling enthusiast, so much of my childhood was spent playing all of THQ’s N64 pro wrestling games, including No Mercy. While the others (WCW vs. NWO World Tour, WCW/NWO Revenge, WrestleMania 2000) were highly enjoyable, No Mercy reigned supreme in my eyes. As a result, I recently went out of my way to buy an N64 system, and this game was one of the reasons why. The story mode with alternating plots based on wins and losses is compelling. I will always adore the strong/weak grapple system, and the customizing aspect is something that takes me back. I spent countless hours creating my own wrestlers and pay-per-view events, and, 20 years later, I’m doing it again.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a timeless game that’s seen plenty of playthroughs during quarantine for multiple ESPN staffers. Nintendo of America
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64): This game holds a special place in my heart, not just because of its captivating story and free-roam gameplay, but because it was a major connection between me and my mother.
Growing up, my mother and I spent time bonding over a number of different Zelda games ranging from Game Boy and Nintendo through Super Nintendo to N64, but Ocarina of Time took the experience to a whole new level. The sounds, the music and the journey; it was absorbing. So, when I recently bought another N64, this was near the top of my list of purchases, and I’m having just as much fun playing it now as I did as a kid.
Wayne Drehs, Senior Writer
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): The early days of quarantine sent me into the back of my closet to pull out the old PlayStation 2 from the early post-college days. I dabbled around with Crazy Taxi, Rocky, GameBreaker 2001 and MLB High Heat 2003. But NOTHING captured my attention and entertained me (and my family) like NASCAR 2005.
I’m not even all that big of a NASCAR fan, but in a world seemingly spiraling out of control there was something soothing about driving a race car at 200 miles per hour. I created my own driver (Wayne Drehs, obviously) started at the lowest series, played for about an hour a day for months and just finally earned a ride on the NASCAR Nextel Cup tour.
The most entertaining thing? My daughters (13, 6) LOVE to watch me race. My oldest has learned some of the tricks and tracks. My youngest is FASCINATED by my constantly fluctuating rating between being a “HERO” and a “VILLAIN.” In races, when I approach a driver who doesn’t like me (currently it’s Matt Kenseth), the little one warns me. “Watch out dad, that guy doesn’t like you at all!” Then if I accidentally nudge Kenseth into the wall and earn extra villain points she giggles uncontrollably.
Anyway, totally unexpected pandemic fun. I’ve spent more time on the PS2 since March that I had in the previous 15 years combined.
Old and New
Michael Wong, Associate Principal Counsel
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): Wii Sports Resort
I have two daughters (ages 5 and 7), and we have been looking for ways to keep them from watching whatever weird videos YouTube might recommend them to after watching “My Little Pony” and to get them some exercise. They’ve played a handful of games before, but a lot of modern games are hard for little kids, and they end up getting frustrated or argue with each other.
Then we pulled out Wii Sports Resort.
Wii Sports Resort gave Michael Wong’s family a game they could all share and have fun with. Nintendo of America
The Wii was such an intuitive system, and playing games such as archery, wakeboarding and swordplay with the kids was awesome. They even like the skydiving game. Wii Resorts also allows us to make avatars for family members, and we can see family as characters in the game. It’s been a wonderful bonding experience for our family and a good way to get the kids up and moving.
Joe DeMartino, General Editor, esports
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): Dragon Age: Inquisition
I’m not gonna sugarcoat this: Inquisition, the third game in the Dragon Age series by BioWare, has some issues.
Fetch quests more suited to an MMO, a main villain who spends the latter three quarters of the game getting repeatedly dunked on by your party, cities that pale in comparison to that of other AAA titles, and difficulty through inflated enemy HP rather than anything interesting.
0/10, would not recommend, right? Well, once you get used to the game’s problems, its virtues shine through.
I replayed Inquisition last month and found it fascinating; it takes ideas of faith and freedom seriously, its characters have legitimately complex motivations, Skyhold is one of the best home bases in any game and its actual villain (no spoilers) is extraordinarily compelling. Just mod out things such as fall damage and “this war table mission takes 48 hours to complete,” and you’re golden.
Daniel Schladweiler, Software Engineer III
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
Command and Conquer Remastered: Remasters/remakes run the world now! C&C is a classic that really helped to define the RTS genre.
World of Warcraft Classic: Basically another remaster but suited for a population that was itching to reexperience the creativity and ingenuity of the original World of Warcraft, which ended up as a game that has dominated its space ever since.
Final Fantasy VII Remake: I consider this a “classic,” even though it’s a recreation of the original and quite a few things changed. I never played the original but have always been told that it is one of the best RPGs ever made, especially its story. I can now see after playing through the Remake (and only Part 1, because they’re releasing them episodically), that it really is (and was) a masterpiece.
Tim Fiorvanti, Associate Editor, Combat Sports
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
The Last of Us (Remastered): A previous generation game, if not a previous generation console. After owning a PS2, I moved to Xbox 360 for the next generation and missed out on a handful of enticing Playstation-exclusive titles. I started playing The Last of Us in January and put it down during a busy stretch of work, and picking it back up in the current state of the world was a bit surreal. A satisfying game with a rich narrative is always appealing. In between a bit of Madden, NHL 20 and a lot of MLB: The Show, it was the perfect game for me in this moment and great timing to get caught up just before the release of the sequel.
Quarantine allowed some of our staffers to get to The Last of Us Remastered before Part II’s release in June. Provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment
Mario Golf, Mario Tennis and more for the Nintendo 64: During breaks in the action between The Last of Us and a full replay of The Witcher 3 (still ongoing), I’m finally enjoying a few of the items I picked up during my trip to Japan: classic N64 cartridges! Mario Golf and Mario Tennis have been the two games amidst the new additions that have gotten the most play, if only because they require the least stress in terms of navigating the menus written in Japanese. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and GoldenEye have also gotten some usage, though those have been in my collection for considerably longer.
Taryn Ayotte, Coordinator, Editorial Operations
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
Destiny 2: When I saw that Destiny 2 was free on Xbox, I jumped on it. I had heard great things about the game and was stoked that it was free. Free and being under quarantine? Seemed serendipitous to me. I am in it and loving it so much that I purchased one of the add-ons, though I am sure once I make my way through that I will certainly be purchasing the rest of them.
Call of Duty: Ghosts: A game I have had on my shelf for a long time and never got around to playing. I have just dipped my toe in and am enjoying it so far.
Halo Master Chief Collection: Another game I have had on my shelf for a bit and haven’t had time to dive into. I had heard this franchise is a must-play for FPS lovers, so I scooped it up. Looking forward to really immersing into it.
Star Wars Battlefront II (not the original for the 360): I LOVE this game. It’s gorgeous, intuitive and immensely fun. One I know I will always continue to come back to.
What I wish I was playing:
Alex Jones, Live Streaming Tech and Operations Analyst II
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
Capcom vs. SNK 2 (PlayStation 2): This game is probably in my top three favorite games of all time. The fighting system and roster are so good! Minus A-Groove, a few unbalanced characters and a few bugs (namely a bug that increases your invincibility frames) it was a perfect vs. game. It was also the catalyst for me getting into the competitive side of fighting games. Capcom vs. SNK 2 led me to seek out regional and national competitors and competitions, though I would ultimately choose Soul Calibur 2 and the Soul Calibur series to compete in.
Gran Turismo Sport (PlayStation 4): The racing game I didn’t know I wanted. I’ve always been a fan but never really “got into” a Gran Turismo game before. Long story short, I really like the way Polyphony Digital has curated the skill of the players and encouraged competition within Motorsport better than anything else on consoles (obviously iRacing, RaceRoom, RFactor have been doing this for years on PC).
Other games in the rotation: Overwatch (I’m a flex player), Streets of Rage 4
Trevor Gill, Production Assistant, Development, Original Content/Films
While we await the release of NBA 2K21, some of our staffers are still stomping (and getting stomped) in the 2020 edition. Provided by 2K
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): I’m playing NBA 2K20 with my fellow PA Derwin Graham. It’s a way for us to stay connected and in touch during the pandemic outside of the office! It’s super fun, other than the fact that he beats me nearly every time.
Tylor Dippel, Software Engineer III, Fantasy Sports
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it):
Final Fantasy VII Remake: I’m currently playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and it’s fantastic! The original is my favorite game of all time, and I was ecstatic when they announced the remake back in 2015. Sometimes I still can’t believe that it’s finally out and I’m playing it. I just crossed the 100-hours-played mark and finished my second playthrough (once on normal and once on hard). Now I’m working on getting the platinum trophy. Everything, from the world to the story, graphics, music and combat is fantastic. It changes things up and modernizes it for 2020 while still respecting the original.
Pokémon Sword: Pokémon is probably the franchise that I’ve spent the most time with during my gaming career (if not Final Fantasy), going all the way back to Pokémon Yellow over 20 years ago. I’ve played at least one version of each mainline Pokemon game. It’s always exciting when a new Pokemon game comes out. Whether you just want to play through the main story, hunt for shiny variants or spend hours breeding the perfect team, there’s something for everyone.
Past renditions of the Pokémon franchise — and prep for last month’s Isle of Armor expansion for Sword and Shield — brought many players back into the fold during quarantine. Nintendo of America
I also replayed Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2 on Switch last year when there weren’t a lot of new games coming out that interested me. I haven’t played any retro games this year; there are just too many good, new games coming out. I have been thinking about replaying Mass Effect 2 & 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn, but with limited game time, that probably won’t happen any time soon.
I am excited to be able to share video games with my daughter; she recently turned 1 year old. While she most likely won’t be able to play a game for another year or two, it’s still exciting to think about what games may interest her and what I’ll introduce to her first, probably something on Switch such as Mario or Mario Kart.
Rachel Weiss, Associate Product Manager, Direct-to-Consumer and International
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch. I am yet another happy victim of the Animal Crossing phenomenon! I played the original Animal Crossing on my GameCube when I was in middle school, and although I was obsessed with it then, in the interim I haven’t always had the new Nintendo consoles or the time, and I haven’t played any of the iterations released since then — until now.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a great way to pass the time and, most importantly, a wholesome experience in a time without many of those. Provided by Nintendo of America
I am absolutely obsessed with New Horizons and play it for hours every day. When it was first released, I was hesitant because I didn’t own a Switch and didn’t want to buy one just for one game, but after three weeks of both of my brothers and my mom getting to play together, the peer pressure got me, and I bought a Switch Lite. It was absolutely the right call. Animal Crossing is really easy to pick up and play; it’s perfect for playing while half paying attention to my latest Netflix binge, and — the best thing about it during these hectic times — it’s totally wholesome.
I don’t typically play multiple games at once, but I’m also learning to play Civilization VI on the Switch. I played Civilization Revolution on the Xbox 360 constantly and wanted to recapture that on a handheld device, but Civ VI is way, way more complicated than Civ Rev, and I’m still learning it! I also occasionally hop into a few matches of Apex Legends on the Xbox One.
Justin Simon, Digital Ad Developer, Digital Ad Integration
This room is a gamer’s paradise. Justin Simon for ESPN
My setup. Yes, all those cabinets are filled with games and there’s another stack of three elsewhere in the room!
Right now my gaming is primarily split between Switch and PS4. On Switch, it’s daily Animal Crossing, which I’ve racked up a few hundred hours on. I’ve been a fan of the series since the original and really love New Horizons. I even still have my original copy of Animal Crossing I bought for GameCube. Along with that, I’m nearing the end of Celeste, an excellent and challenging platformer, and playing the Nintendo-published indie Good Job!, which is delightful and silly fun. I also recently finished Diablo III on Switch, which made for a really good portable game — one of the main reasons I picked it up for Switch even though I had the game on PC already. I also took part in the last Splatoon 2 Splatfest at the end of last month. It’s one of my favorite Switch games. Hopefully Part 3 is on the way!
On PS4, I started replaying The Last of Us Remastered (I originally beat the game on PS3) in anticipation of the sequel. I’ve also been working my way through Jedi: Fallen Order. I’ve been re-watching Clone Wars on Disney+, so it has put me in a Star Wars mood. I love a great single-player focused game, so Jedi has been a lot of fun so far. The exploration elements, specifically, are one of my favorite parts about the game. Not sure if I will 100% complete it, but I’m tempted!
Aside from that, I might start doing some more retro gaming soon. I recently acquired an Analogue Super NT and Mega SG in an effort to help future-proof my collection a bit. These new retro consoles are amazing! I can play all my old carts on an HDTV with perfect picture, and these things have tons of picture and sound settings. Hats off to Analogue for an awesome product. It’s like what was old is new again!
Analogue has helped give some old systems a fresh look and protect gaming history. Justin Simon for ESPN
Not pictured: my Genesis II and original SNES.
Because I’ve been in a Star Wars mood, after I finish Jedi I’m thinking about playing Knights of the Old Republic (on my Xbox One). I’ve been itching to use my GameBoy Micro again, too — probably to play Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones. My backlog is gigantic.
Chandler MacKenzie, Digital Video/Social Associate
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): During the long, enduring hours of this quarantine, I’ve found myself going back to two main games: Fortnite (not a dead game yet!) and Halo 5: Guardians.
There aren’t many battle royale games that can match Fortnite’s penchant for creative engagements or the scope of its battles. Provided by Epic Games
Battle royale games have always been the go-to for me — for the past few years at least — and I’ve probably tried them all at least once, but there’s just something different about Fortnite. Every battle royale game has the typical “learn-to-shoot, learn-to-loot” dynamic, but then on top of that, you have to learn to build, too? More challenge, with a better reward. Fortnite is one of those games in which you can just feel yourself as a gamer get better and better as time and experience go on; isn’t that what every gamer aims for?
Halo 5: Guardians has been on a whole other level for me. I’ve recently found myself going back through the campaign, the old storylines, just finding myself getting ready for the new edition when it’s released. Even as of a few days ago, I was getting pulled in by the characters, the graphics, even just the dialogue. Some would argue that Halo 5 isn’t even a top Halo game, to which I would agree, BUT you can’t argue that the graphics aren’t top-notch.
Nathan Jahn, Senior Digital Ad Developer
Animal Crossing: New Horizons: I really was hesitant to go down this wormhole after it was released, but the creative aspect was just too much of a draw. I have three children (7, 8 and 9 years old) and my wife who may or may not have gotten their own Switch Lites because of this game (birthdays and quarantine), and sharing/creativity is the best attribute this game teaches. I made a sports-themed island with a baseball, football and soccer stadium and have created custom favorite/throwback sports uniforms. I love sharing everything and play daily.
In a five-person household, one Nintendo Switch just isn’t enough. Nathan Jahn for ESPN
Super Mario Maker 2: One of my favorite games ever. Great to play for five minutes or five hours. Millions of fan-made 2D Mario levels available. The game recently added a world builder where users can create their own “game” of up to 40 levels and eight stages. It never gets old.
MLB The Show 20 (PlayStation 4): I can play as Mookie Betts in a Dodgers uniform. … Need I say more!
Other games in the rotation:
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PS4)
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (or the GOAT in my book) (Switch)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)
Mario Kart 8 (Switch)
Cities Skylines (PS4 or Switch)
I also just downloaded College Football Dynasty Sim for my iPhone, in the absence of NCAA football. It looks like it has some promise.
Jacob Wolf, Staff Writer, esports
What I’m playing (and why I’m playing it): Teamfight Tactics
I’ve been interested in auto-battlers since the Auto Chess mod for Dota 2 came out last spring. All my friends played it, and I gave it a go, too — but I struggled to get into it because I don’t normally play Dota and because at the time the genre just wasn’t my thing.
I gave Dota Underlords a shot later down the line, and Hearthstone Battlegrounds, too, as well as eventually trying out Teamfight Tactics some last year. It still didn’t grip me. I’m an avid League of Legends player, having spent 10s of thousands of hours and thousands of dollars on the game over the past eight years, but at times, I find myself getting burnt out of League. I’ve put hundreds of hours this quarantine into Apex Legends — a new favorite of mine, too — but I found myself back playing Teamfight Tactics recently.
I moved out of New York City in the middle of the pandemic, which meant I was inside a lot. In April, I would frequently get a game in on break, after work or on my phone before bed when the mobile version of Teamfight Tactics came out. I’ve loved it. I sucked at first, achieving Iron I placement my first time, but now I’ve hit Gold, and I tend to play at least one game per day. TFT is great.