No matter how beautiful and brilliant the game, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to be love at first play. We’ve all had those times when we’ve cracked open a fresh download or – back in the day – popped open a new game case only to feel the cold dread of buyer’s remorse. Animal Crossing, Tetris, Destiny, no game is safe from the subtle whims of the human mind. Sometimes we take the games back for a trade in, sometimes we persevere and realize we’re wrong, and fall harder than we ever had before. Find out which games left our writers cold, until time, practice, or the lure of farming life won them over.
This is the first in a series of big questions we’ll be interrogating our writers with, so share your answers and suggestions for topics with us on Twitter.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Back in Ye Olden Days, tutorials were called ‘manuals’ and MGS3 worked on the assumption that you’d read its 120-page controls, tips, and lore guide; which of course I hadn’t since I was too good at games. The first few hours of MGS3 exist to remind you that you are not good at games. Your playable character, Big Boss, is tasked with sneaking through screen after screen of largely-identical jungle using a variety of crawling movements, distraction items and camouflage outfits to avoid being spotted. My memory of this boils down to shouting “I meant crouch! Crouch! F*CKING CROUCH” as my character body-popped back and forth between standing, lying, and crouching while being pumped full of bullets by guards. I was also approaching new sections of forest knowing full well I should equip the Tiger Stripe uniform rather than the Leaf outfit for a 10% camouflage rating increase, but thinking I was too good at games to get noticed before promptly getting noticed. And lying on the floor being pumped with bullets.
My epiphany was finally mastering the CQC system, and realizing I could cancel an alert just by running around and body-slamming all nearby guards – rather than waiting in a bush for three minutes until the guards got bored. Long story short: I’d argue that Metal Gear Solid 3 is the finest video game of all time, and I’d like to apologize to it for not understanding its impeccably crafted systems and being such an impatient, over-confident baby. Dan Dawkins
This was one of those games that was super popular in the office at lunchtimes for a while, and every time I’d walk past the gaggle of people crowded around a screen, staring at sprites and environments that looked like they’d be more at home on an Amiga 500 than a PS4, I’d just think, “why?” Then I played it. Died almost instantly, and hated it even more. But FOMO dragged me back over again and again until, finally, not only was I having fun (someone explained the controls and it turns out that really helps), but I was having fun with other people! And we were all in the same room having ‘the fun’ together! The sprites still look the same, but that’s all part of the charm. And none of that really matters when you realize that these days, when almost everything is designed for one person sitting in front of the TV, there aren’t many games that we can all play together huddled around a screen. And that’s what Towerfall is all about. James Jarvis
When I was a child there was nothing more boring than a friend bringing around his Tetris Game Boy cartridge and making me watch him play hours of continuous shape stacking, all while trying to convince me it was the best game I could possibly buy. “Why should I stack shapes when I can catch a Dugtrio or slay pathetic Pidgeys,” I’d ask every time he came over. Oh boy, I now look back at that unintelligent, disrespectful Brandon and wish my friend slapped me in the face every time I pulled out his cartridge and swapped it for Pokemon Blue. Now, almost 20 years on, I regularly find myself sticking in the dusty cartridge and watching a few hours go by while I listen to the painfully majestic sounds and play with the 8-bit cubes, in awe of what I missed out on as a kid. Brandon Saltalamacchia
The first time I loaded up the beloved Nintendo classic Animal Crossing I was not impressed, reacting to it as if it was a plate of steamed vegetables, or a pile of clothes that needed ironing. I was young and dumb and the game seemed to be about everything 20-year-old me was trying to avoid. Talking to the neighbors, making a nice home, getting a mortgage? My idea of interior design was hiding my dirty laundry under the bed, and all the proceeds from my job at a fancy soap shop went on Smirnoff Ice and cigarettes. It was only a few years later, when I was trying actual adulting with a real mortgage and a sudden interest in decorative cushions that I fell for Animal Crossing and fell hard. Now I can appreciate a safe and happy world where I could build non-threatening relationships with animals, collect designer homewares and yes, even pay off my mortgage in satisfying chunks. It’s basically adulting therapy, and thank the divine and holy Beyonce that Nintendo is releasing a new Animal Crossing in 2019, because I need it more than ever. Rachel Weber
ActRaiser is an SNES game about an unspecified divine force who saves villages by 1) possessing a statue to battle monsters then 2) returning to the heavens to direct road construction. Also, you shoot a ton of infinitely respawning bats. It seemed like everything I didn’t want in a video game the first time I booted it up: clunky action platforming, overt yet inconsistent religious themes, and worst of all, so many menus. But I kept giving it a little more time: to see what happens when the villagers seal a monster lair all by themselves; to take a look at the layout of the next map; to level up my angelic avatar by increasing the population. All the slightly misshapen elements of ActRaiser came together and soon the credits were rolling – there is a sequel, but it dropped the city-building elements to go all-out action. That’s all we’ve seen of ActRaiser since (aside from some mobile and Wii Virtual Console re-releases), so I’m especially glad I didn’t tap out early. Connor Sheridan
League of Legends
League of Legends was, for a time, the most popular game in the world. Played by millions upon millions of people, it combined the top-down isometric view of strategy games with immediate character-focused action and an intense teamwork. A little too intense for my tastes – at least at first. I’m more of a single-player type of guy; I rarely hop online for multiplayer shenanigans, and when I do I’d rather focus on cooperation than competition. So League, which brought out the harshest and most competitive sides of its player base, was not really my thing. Plus, games were far too long! You had to dedicate at least 45 minutes of your time to a 5v5, and if you weren’t keeping pace for that entire time, everyone was sure to let you know in the loudest ways possible. Thankfully, the game received some tweaks, a new emphasis was put on combating toxic behavior, and a handful of new modes let people like me go somewhere a bit less serious. Now I play ARAM every week with my friends and I have a blast. Sam Prell
First time I played Destiny, my initial thought was “Well, this is a bit shit.” Over time, however, it somehow became a space adventure that happily vacuumed up 1000 hours of my actual life. Time I literally cannot get back. When it first launched back in 2014, the console MMO genre was very much in its infancy, and its quirks were weird: shockingly limited character creation options, constant grind and repetition, a limited number of solo-play options, and a game plot that made little sense to anyone. But the more I grew to understand Destiny’s end-game sensibilities, and the more Bungie evolved the experience over time, the more its brilliance began to show. Its ecosystems showed their depth long after launch, showcasing a game that was meant to be understood and loved over time, rather than an overly excited frag-fest desperate to please players within minutes of being loaded up. By the time Destiny 2 rolled around in 2017, the original game’s journey felt complete; its shaky beginning a long-lost memory, consigned to my extensive Grimoire that detailed a long, happy relationship with a thoroughly innovative experience. Andy Hartup
I’ve played Bloodborne, I’ve completed Bloodborne, and I’ll wear that as a badge of honor till the day I die. Though it caused many a night of comfort eating and heart palpitations, Bloodborne got under my skin and enraptured me for months, despite my conscious self not even being sure whether I really liked it or not. If I’m honest, a small part of me still hates Bloodborne, and – with the main story completed – I never intend to go back. But I came to love and appreciate FromSoftware’s craft in the same way that I can admire the life and works of Radiohead, even though you’ll never catch me listening to them with anything other than baffled curiosity. Alex Avard
I fancy myself to be a fighting game fan, so I was initially perplexed when the one-on-one fencing fighter Nidhogg simply didn’t gel with me. Here was a dueling simulator that casual and hardcore players alike were loving – yet I found the controls stiff, the visuals unsightly, and the screen-advancing mechanic frustrating. It wasn’t until I fell for Nidhogg 2 hard that I could appreciate the niceties of the original Nidhogg, with its tense standoffs, Hail Mary foil flings, gruesome humor, rough-edge aesthetic, and simple-yet-deep stance mechanics. Funnily enough, Nidhogg 2’s claymation-meets-Muppets art direction seems to turn a lot of folks off, so maybe I’m just a big ol’ contrarian. Lucas Sullivan
I was initially very anti-Stardew Valley because I’ve never liked anything that gamifies an existence you could have in real life. Games about mindless work, stuff like Animal Crossing, seem pointless to me; working a job to pay off a mortgage and save money for aspirational furniture to impress my friends is exactly the sort of thing I play games to escape. So initially Stardew seemed like the worst. Growing and tending vegetables? Hard pass. But the more people talked about it, the more I got curious and – almost as much to get involved as to actually play it – I dived in, and… loved it. Eventually. It took a little while, and the main reason is because it does more than just ‘work,’ with its dungeons, community centre and villager side missions. It’s a game where you happen to be a farmer, more than a game about farming, and in time it changed my mind. Leon Hurley
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