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What your Top 5 “Desert Island” Video Games?

by Ron Duwell | November 22, 2018November 22, 2018 10:30 am EST

A question asked throughout the ages. Answers that change throughout your mood swings. Cheeky peasants who say they’d play a game that would allow the easiest contact back to civilization. (Don’t you do it!)

The whole “desert island” video games question has become something of a mainstay on my mind. My son just turned 1-year-old recently, and while I managed far more hours of gaming in the gaps over the last few months than in the early days, I still find my hobby on the outskirts of my time and interest. I say this often, but indeed, I only really want to play the game I already know I love because I have so little free time to gamble it away.

So, while I don’t see my gaming habits taking another huge hit until the arrival of another offspring, I’m still in bunkering mode, choosing the games I feel would most likely keep me busy should my selection of games be reduced to just a handful of sentimental favorites.

So, with that, we have the “desert island” question. If you were stuck on a desert island, or indeed, if you have children in the near future, which five games would keep you occupied until you perished from thirst, exhaustion, or insanity?

When approaching this topic, most gamers throw out the textbook answer of their favorite game and search for titles that truly last. Replay value, variety, a game that can genuinely last you until the end of time.

While I approve of this method, I’m going to toss it out the window here because I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t go cruising through time with Crono and his friends. We all have a favorite game, and while mine changes like the wind, Chrono Trigger is the one that most often appears on top and the one I simply have to play once a year or so. This is a game I can’t live without, one that usually sticks to my person at all times in the aging DS Lite, tucked away in the bottom of my man-bag.

A perfect JRPG through and through, Chrono Trigger is timeless, and not just because of its time-travel story. Settings, characters, plot, pacing, scenarios, the classic JRPG formula provides a full package to distract yourself from waste emptiness around you. Friends to hang out with, locations to visit, adventures to partake.

And while Crono and his friends aren’t backed by the deepest mechanics in JRPG, the game is loaded with experimentation thanks to the new game + mode. Choosing when to beat the game, which characters to beat the game with, and how you approach the final boss all play into the ending you’ll get, of which there are many.

Chrono Trigger isn’t the perfect meeting point of replay value and nostalgia, but it comes pretty darn close. And I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. In fact, I don’t.

Super Mario World is another example of nostalgia taking precedence over replayability. However, Super Mario World is a game that is infinitely replayable. Like all the best modern 2D platformers, the game is open to perfecting through speed-runs, high scores, permadeaths, and other variations personalized goals.

Plus, I rarely throw this word around except for games where I actually mean it, but Super Mario World is possibly the most “perfect” game ever created. Perfect level design, perfect controls, perfect graphics and presentation, and absolutely perfect in achieving everything its developers set out to do.

Some modern platforming games might be deeper than Super Mario World, but that flawless sheen tied to my undying nostalgia for this game makes it a better candidate.

The next game isn’t even out of beta testing, but I’m already putting it on this list. I’m assuming that I wouldn’t have access to my Magic: The Gathering collection on this desert island, meaning that I need an outlet for that as well.

Magic Arena is showing plenty of reason to believe that this could be the ultimate digital incarnation of the game with quick, easy play, infinite access to drafts, and a stream of rewards that open up a path to your favorite cards.

Unlike Magic Online, I also consider this a “game” in the modern free to play world, where Magic Online is more like an app or a program. Magic Arena has a long way to go before catching up the versatility of Magic Online, in terms of formats like Legacy, Modern, Commander, and direct play with friends, but in this insane eternity where I am forced to play the same five video games over and over again… their developers are also forced to constantly work and develop on them as well… for all time.

Yes, I am that cruel and merciless in my laundry list fantasies.

A tough battle between this game in Final Fantasy Tactics, but I ultimately know that Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen has a much longer shelf life than Square’s strategy masterpiece.

Why is that? Well, in spite of Final Fantasy Tactics’ infinite replayability, you can only create the same characters so many times before the game dries up, and despite the scaling difficulty of the random encounters, taking down bands of a dozen or more fully-powered monks does get old after a while… as hard as it is to say that about Final Fantasy Tactics.

On the other hand, Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen would take half of an eternity just to understand everything that powers it. The game is loaded with mechanics, systems, modes, measurements, and units, and it never once spells any of them out.

After wrapping your brains around all of these, the game is loaded with possible endings, some that require absolute perfection of a certain style of playthrough to achieve.

Following that, at its core, it’s still a really solid combination of RPG and strategy gameplay with loads of fun units, endless combinations for how to approach battles, and impressive musical scores and character arts.

It also still checks that nostalgia box too since I loved this game as a kid… even if I didn’t understand a millionth of it.

*trying not to cheat trying not to cheat trying no to cheat can’t do it*

The last game is always the toughest because I see so many areas of games that I love but have yet to cover. I like open ended RPGs, but I also do enjoy the advances that action games have made over the years. I love have freedom to approach a game as I please, but I also want a good story and characters that hold it all together. I want a game where I directly control the character in a 3D world but has all the options and opportunity as Baldur’s Gate or the like.

Fallout: New Vegas seems to fit the bill most, but I wouldn’t mind leaving that violence in the past. Instead, I’d stick with Mass Effect, the perfect summation of all that AAA gaming had to offer in the previous console generation. It seems the most viable option to me for all that I am looking for, but at the same time, you can’t just pick one of the games since it is a trilogy.

What’s that? BioWare released that game in a trilogy box… well then, let’s hope we can sneak that in with nobody noticing. The entire Mass Effect trilogy would make sense if seen as the great part of a whole, not different from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings…


If not, I’d still choose Mass Effect 2. The game has lots of options and the best story and characters. It lacks the open-ended feel of Mass Effect and the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3, but it’s also my favorite game to come out since the advent of HD gaming, so let it be that.