Category Archives: good games that are good

Good Games That Are Good: Europa Universalis

There was a time just a few years ago when the title of this post would have produced quite a few “huh?”s, but thanks to the recent mainstream success of Crusader Kings II, Paradox Interactive and their quirky grand strategy games have never been so in vogue.

Most of your time in a Europa Universalis game is spent staring at a map, which is admittedly not the most exciting sounding thing in the world, but that’s just scratching the surface – the EU games are all about digging into diplomacy, trading, colonization, and, of course, warfare.  Someone who’s never played the games before might benefit from having it compared to, say, Civilization, but the playstyle of Civ and EU really couldn’t be more different from each other.  Europa Universalis aims to be a more nuanced experience, and one that will keep you engaged for several times as long as a game of Civ will.

It also leads to situations like this.
It also leads to situations like this.

Europa Universalis, then, is a step up in complexity, designed for those who want more fine-tuned control than they’re going to get in most other empire-building games.  And if that isn’t enough for you, you can graduate to Victoria II and then eventually even more grognardy war games, but don’t rush – Europa Universalis has enough to offer you for many months to come.  So give the series a look if you haven’t already and if you’re a strategy fan.

Oh, and prepare to hate comets.

pox why

Good Games That Are Good: Civilization IV

From a technical and mechanical standpoint, I think that Civilization IV is probably the greatest thing Firaxis has ever done.  In fact, from a technical and mechanical standpoint, I think that Civilization IV is probably the greatest strategy video game of all time.  As soon as you load up the game and Baba Yetu (by the peerless Christopher Tin) kicks in, you know you’re in for an experience, and that is what Civ IV gives you.

Taking what prior Civilization games did and refining them down to one shined and polished experience, this is the 4X game that other 4X games have yet to beat.  By offering a plethora of options and victory conditions for every playstyle, perhaps what really sets Civ IV apart is the fact that it appeals equally to both oldschool  Civ players and newcomers to the series or genre.    With the expansions, especially, Civ IV is just unparalleled when it comes to options and depth of gameplay.

It’s also basically unparalleled when it comes to One More Turn syndrome.

662 hoursYou may have noted that I haven’t quite said that this is my favorite 4X game.  That’s because that title goes to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which also holds the title of Pike’s Favorite Game of All Time.  But as much as I love, love SMAC and think it’s a classic, the UI is a little rough and it lacks the polish and finesse of Civ IV.  So don’t be intimidated.  Jump on into Civ IV and experience alternate history the way it’s meant to be experienced – with the Mayans hurling nukes around, of course.

Good Games That Are Good: Pokemon X/Y

It’s no real secret that I love Pokemon.  I have loved Pokemon since the first games came out oh so long ago, despite the fact that I was probably just slightly over the targeted age for them, and of course I got into the cards and the show as well.  I also skipped high school specifically to go watch the first movie in theaters.


I know a lot of people who sort of “fell out” of the games after the first or second generation, and I’ve gotta say, if you are one of those people then now is the perfect time to get back into Pokemon.  The latest generation – consisting of X/Y as well as remakes of the third generation games – is beautiful and streamlined without losing any of the charm that makes Pokemon, well, Pokemon.

Being able to trade Pokemon online makes the entire process of filling out your Pokedex easier than ever, and the addition of features like O-Power buffs, Pokemon Amie (which I have no doubt will be removed in the next generation, so enjoy petting and playing with your Pokies while you can), TMs that can be used multiple times, and the absolutely gorgeous 3D models make this generation a solid and smooth culmination of all of the best bits of prior Pokemon games.  Best of all, the core gameplay is still there, so even if you haven’t played since the days of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle, you will have absolutely no trouble jumping right in.

charmander caution

Probably the biggest downside to X/Y (as well as Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire) is that you have to have a Nintendo 3DS or 2DS to play, and those are still fairly pricey.  However, the 3DS library is huge (and fantastic) these days and I’d recommend investing in one if you can spare the change.  Even for the Pokemon games alone, it’s worth it.  Besides, haven’t you been feeling the urge to catch ’em all lately?  …all 721 of them?

Good Games That Are Good: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

I’m one of those long time Final Fantasy players who has played essentially every numbered game in the series – and plenty of the spin-offs, too.  Asking me to pick my favorites is going to result in either weird obscure stuff (like FFII.  Yes, II.  In Japan, not America.) or really divisive stuff (like FFX.  HECK YES, FFX!)

And then there’s this little gem of a game:


Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  Which, for my money, is not only the finest of the FFT/FFTA games, but one of the finest Final Fantasy games period.  (It is also largely responsible for the fact that I paid no attention to my college classes Freshman year, but that’s beside the point.)

This is a tactical squad-based RPG, superficially similar to, say, X-Com, except the focus is on the “RPG” bit rather than the “tactical” bit.  The result is a cozy, relaxing game to play which revolves around messing with job classes and customizing them to your liking and playstyle.  The job system is one of the Final Fantasy series’ biggest draws (to me, anyway), and FFTA hits the glorious bullseye of having a huge number of classes to have fun with, without going overboard and having so many that you can’t fit them all in your clan.

A very small selection of the available job classes.
A very small selection of the available job classes.

Combine this with extremely addictive “one more turn” styled battles aaaaaaand yeah remember what I said earlier about not paying attention in school?  Yep.

Basically this game is just absurdly fun and well-crafted.  I know a lot of die-hard FF fans don’t like this game as much as its predecessor, usually because of the idea that FFTA offered a much more simplified story.  Me, I’m not playing this stuff for the story.  Sorry guys!  I’m here because stuff like this exists:

FFTA_Job_ListAnd because in the sequel, stuff like this exists:

FFTA2_Job_ListMmm, delicious geekery.

So yeah.  Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  If you ask me to pick a favorite Final Fantasy game, it might just be this.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it is.

Also, that delicious soundtrack.

Good Games That Are Good: Deus Ex


Deus Ex isn’t exactly  the easiest game in the world to get into.  The starter levels are kind of slow and as it’s an older game it can take a little bit to get used to it.  But persevere, and you’ll be treated to the best cyberpunk this side of Neuromancer– not to mention some of the best music, too.

Along with its immense depth of story, Deus Ex offers a lot of freedom to play the way you want to play.  You can be stealthy, you can be the “bad cop” who shoots first and asks questions later, or if you really want a challenge you can do what I did and attempt a kill-free run.  That’s right, you can beat the game without killing anyone except for a couple of characters whose deaths are vital to the story.

It’s tough to really say much else about this game except that if you like actiony RPGs and cyberpunk then this should be on your must-play list.  It’s long and somewhat unforgiving (I restarted halfway through my most recent playthrough because I didn’t like the way I’d set up my augs) but there’s a reason why it’s considered one of the all-time greats.  So go ahead and install it (or reinstall it!)

And then also play Human Revolution.  Because that one is also fantastic.

Good Games That Are Good: Morrowind

I’m not sure where to even begin talking about Morrowind.  To call it my favorite game of all time (tied with Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri) seems like a disservice.  It is, somehow, more than that.

morrowind-artRed Mountain by Lelek1980

The world of Morrowind doesn’t like you. Its creatures don’t like you, and its native inhabitants – the dunmer, or dark elves – also don’t like you. The emperor has a special feeling about you and has dumped you off here in the dreary marshes of Seyda Neen, and has let you loose there. He suggests you maybe go talk to a guy in a nearby town.

But that’s it. That’s all you’re told. There are quests, if you choose to do them. There’s even a main storyline you can beat. But that’s not the meat of the game, because the meat of the game is that the land of Vvardenfell is a living, breathing world, replete with competing religions, factions, cultures, and histories.

Also Mesopotamian engineer elves who uploaded their soul into a giant robot. Canon lore btw. Art by Lelek1980 again.

Morrowind feels alive in a way that’s difficult to describe.  I can talk all day about how the lore is really deep and meaningful and inspired by Hindu mythology and this and that but ultimately no words I can say could begin to do it justice.

And that’s fine, because the only way to experience Morrowind is to play it alongside your character.  Just like your character, you have no idea why you’re here.  Just like your character, you’d rather not be here.  Just like your character, you don’t care for anyone here because they certainly don’t care for you.

But then, slowly, as the mysteries of Morrowind unravel, the place and its people start to grow on you and your character both.  And then by the end of the game when you have the chance to save them, you feel it.

That’s what makes Morrowind so special.

(also you can break the game by way of alchemy and enchanting, but that’s a whole ‘nother article.)

Good Games That Are Good: Warcraft III

There was a time many years ago where Blizzard wasn’t That Big Game Company With That Big MMO.  Instead, they were That Weird Company Who Randomly Makes Really Good RTS Games And Thus Has a Cult Following.

Heck, one of the earlier online communities I was really a part of was a forum dedicated to Blizzard games.  This was around, oh, 2002 or so, and it consisted of a bunch of us weirdos who wouldn’t shut up about Warcraft and Starcraft.  So we had a forum where we could blather about these games to each other.   That forum seems to have given up the ghost (finally, since I think they were still around just a couple years ago) so now I’m here to blather about these games to you.

Warcraft III.


I really, really like my strategy games, and Warcraft III is one of the finest RTS games ever made.  It’s up there with Age of Empires II, Command & Conquer Red Alert 2, and, well… a bunch of other Blizzard games (Hi, Starcraft Brood War and Warcraft II)

Real time strategy is a genre that Blizzard has distilled down to both a science and an art.  Want an RTS with races and factions that play very differently to each other but still somehow manage to balance each other out?  Want an RTS that’s easy to learn but difficult to master?  Want an RTS that’s absurdly fun and addictive? Have I got some games for you!

The other thing that Blizzard does, of course, is place a big ol’ emphasis on story and characters.  Most of the time when I play an RTS game I couldn’t care less about any story that was tacked on; I just want to, you know, make my units kill other units.

But Warcraft III has got… an interesting story?  What?  I actually enjoy playing through the campaign?  In an RTS?  That can’t possibly be right!

But it is, because this is Warcraft Feckin’ Three that we’re talking about, and it’s just that good.

the sheep is done with your nonsense
the sheep is done with your nonsense

Really, I could spend all day telling you how great this game is, but that would put a dent in my current replay of it, now, wouldn’t it?  Basically, if you haven’t played it, you should.   If you’re a die-hard RTS fan then WCIII is for you because the gameplay is solid, and even if you’re not then WCIII is still for you because it’s not terribly difficult to play through the campaign.

Also, Arthas calls murlocs betrayers of the light.  Tell me that’s not awesome.

Good Games That Are Good: Archon

When I was a wee child, I cut my gaming teeth on this sucker:

C64_startup_animiertThere were a variety of fantastic games available on this thing, but today I’m going to talk about one that has been ported to Steam so you can play it even today.  I’m talking about ARCHON.

C64_ArchonI tell a lot of people about this game because it’s great, and the biggest and most common mistake people make when dismissing it is assuming that it’s chess.  I can assure you that beyond the superficial similarities they’re really nothing alike.  Pieces move differently, the goals are different, there’s magic spells involved, oh, and your pieces have to fight each other to the death in remarkably tense and fast-paced action battles.

The rules are simple: Either kill or capture all the other pieces or capture five power points on the board.  It’s a fantasy based game so if you want phoenixes fighting dragons and unicorns fighting golems then don’t worry, you’ll get a lot of it.  Oh also you can summon air elementals and stuff.

Remember when I said you can get it on Steam?  Yeah.  Get it here, play either a more modernized version or the classic mode, and enjoy one of the more overlooked games of the 80s.

Good Games That Are Good: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of the greatest platform games of all time.  Yup.

It is also a game that (fortunately) a lot of people have played.  If you haven’t played it, you probably either didn’t game a whole lot growing up or were on the Nintendo side of the playground console wars.  If the former applies to you, then you have my sympathies, and if the latter applies to you, well, I can’t blame you, but you need to do yourself a favor and play this game.


Sonic 2 is, for my money, the best of the original Genesis Sonic games.  That’s not to say that 1, 3&K and CD weren’t good, because those were all fantastic games.  Yes, even CD.  But what Sonic 2 did was take the formula from Sonic 1 and refine it without tilting dangerously close to Mario/DKC territory.  Nothing inherently wrong with that last bit, of course, but I prefer my Sonic experience to be pure and completely unlike anything else on the market.  And that’s what Sonic 2 does so very well.  It’s the perfect blend of speed and platforming, with levels designed to let you do what Sonic does best: go fast.

654If you have yet to play Sonic 2 then you are in for an absolute treat, because this game has not aged a day.  You can sit down with it and play it all through with a big smile on your face no matter how old you are.  Fortunately for us, SEGA likes money, and as such they have ported Sonic 2 to basically every modern system in existence, including mobile phones and Steam.   This means you should have no problems tracking this one down.

So find it.  Play it.  Enjoy it.  Go fast.

Good Games That Are Good: Rogue Legacy

I do not consider myself a WoW player – rather, I consider myself a video gamer who is currently playing WoW (among other games).  As such, Sundays are for posts about games that are not World of Warcraft.


And today I’m going to talk about a game called Rogue Legacy which I became addicted to for a while last summer for a very simple reason: it’s great.


Basically with Rogue Legacy you’re running around attacking furniture and monsters.  You will die.  That’s a given.  Permadeath is also (usually) a thing.

But!  Then you can play as one of your character’s heirs.  Heirs have unique traits that change the gameplay around a little, for better or for worse, and some of them are just there for flavor or to be silly.  But it’s certainly an interesting thing that I haven’t really seen before.

Probably the best way to describe Rogue Legacy is that it’s Dark Souls Lite™.  If you like that kind of thing, you should play it.  Even if you don’t like that kind of thing, you should play it anyway, because it’s fantastic and heck, I’m far from the world’s biggest fan of Dark Souls.  But Rogue Legacy is just a bucket of fun and it’s available on a variety of platforms.

You should get it!  And then promptly get addicted to it.  I’m not kidding, this game is like a can of Pringles.  Once you pop the fun don’t stop and all that.