Games hold a very special place in our hearts here at Playable Worlds. After all, we are building one, so it makes sense that we all love playing games, too! We pull inspiration from them; analyzing gaming mechanics and systems, appreciating deep and meaningful storytelling, and admiring beautiful environments. We share stories of late night gaming conquests, discuss the latest gaming devices and tech, and pass around our fair share of gaming memes. Games represent lessons to be learned, fun experiences to be shared, and worlds yet to be discovered.
For National Video Game Day, we asked the team what their all-time favorite game is and why. Yes, a bold request to ask of passionate gamers (some who may or may not have over a thousand games in their Steam libraries…)
Keep reading to learn more about our favorite games!
WWF: No Mercy on Nintendo 64
The grapple/strike system developed by AKI is still considered the best ever for a wrestling game, and it obviates the need to memorize button combinations/sequences in order to play the game; it’s 4-player couch co-op so you can play IRL with friends and not need to buy 4 copies of the game or 4 consoles.
– Tony, HR Director
It has deep, deep social interaction; so much of what you do is very meaningful since the losses are meaningful, and the player-made storyline is amazing. The lore is engaging. The graphics are gorgeous on high settings.
– Game Dev at Playable Worlds
The game runs on the best graphics engine there is, my mind. Text based, but spent way too many hours kibitzing with others, and leveling my thief. It’s changed over the years (this was Y2K potential) but I used to love working on spreadsheets to define what level creatures I could safely attack, and how to “stance dance” by altering how much energy went to attack versus defend. Which you could change, sometimes just before the creature attacked you, depending on the round time they had versus what you had. Lots of effort in having a good connection (started playing on a 300baud modem).
Me and a friend were attacked and chased by an over our level Troll for about 15 minutes. My friend and I were running back to town as quickly as possible to escape it. After reflecting on the encounter, it was a GM playing with us, but in the moment, there was real terror.
– Bruce, Chief of Staff
Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is my favorite game, because it’s a Zelda game where I can create my own stories. I can choose to do anything I want and then make up a story as to why Link is doing something super bizarre.
My favorite moment I’ve had with Breath of the Wild was when I decided to get a special shield from Hyrule Castle as soon as I got off the tutorial plateau. I put on the Indiana Jones theme, got Link a stealth suit, and went shield surfing down the terrain wearing it till I was able to leap off and glide into a back entrance.
– Meghann, World Designer
There are a lot of things that don’t hold up, but the setting is genuinely alien while still remaining firmly in the realm of fantasy, and it is full of great systems design – the fast-travel system is still the best of any game.
– Sam, Senior Gameplay Engineer
Warlords Battlecry 3
Millions of combinations to play, each scenario is different, AI is spectacular.
I like to buzz the enemy and get them all chasing me, then high tail it back to my own base and parade them in front of my town walls and watch my towers pick them off as they’re still trying to catch me.
– Brian, Senior Server Engineer
Final Fantasy 6
Timeless, memorable music. Incredible story with extremely memorable characters. Nearly every event is seared into my memory and not some canned/stereotyped situation like most RPGs like to pad themselves out with. Timeless sprite graphics (that remakes love trying to butcher). Fundamentally the game that set me on a path of wanting to make games, write stories, make characters, and deliver emotions through this medium that lets us interact with a story and characters beyond just witnessing it (books, movies, radio, etc).
I played FF6 so much that I burned the cartridge state battery out and could never save my game again because it would reset when the system was turned off so I had to leave the SNES on 24/7 when I replayed it from start to finish.
– Brian, Senior Gameplay Engineer
Graphics of the game were okay at time of release but have not aged well. That being said, this is one of my 2 favorite RPGs ever.
Gameplay-wise you constantly find new types of skills and mini-games, which keeps things fresh & surprising throughout. There are random encounters / monster spawning but compared to many JRPGs you can almost always dodge these.
Where the game really shines is in the variety of character design – your party starts with a private detective but soon you’ll be joined by a Marvin-like robot, a technomancer, a comic book hero and eventually a whole planet.
– Game Dev at Playable Worlds
World of Warcraft
It’s the last MMO I really fell in love with. It did a great job of naturally supporting guilds, just-in-time groups, and of course massive raids – which were my favorite thing. It was the first MMO that felt like I was simultaneously in an epic movie or book. I am of course talking about original, vanilla WoW.
There was a 4-player group quest in Stormwind where we defeated the BBEG and started celebrating when suddenly an NPC priest came in and simultaneously put us all asleep and raised the BBEG… and we had to beat both of them all over again. IT WAS AMAZING.
– Omar, VP of Engineering
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
I was already a huge fan of Zelda before playing it, and it became my favorite game by recontextualizing gameplay I already loved.
Dungeons are the core to Zelda. They’re filled with fun enemy encounters, puzzles, and treasures that urge you to find the next novel thing, and in previous games, any time not spent in a dungeon was spent searching for the next. However, within the premise of Majora’s Mask, you’re stuck in a time loop three days before the moon crashes onto the planet, and it pushed me to empathize with the game’s characters and their helplessness at the end of the world. On a deeper layer, each region of the world participates in its own apocalypse based on the values of its people. I found myself an observer learning about the haunting and beautiful ways they cope with change, and THAT was its core experience.
Majora’s Mask is ultimately a narrative game that serves its characters, and dungeons are just the game’s way of providing a victory lap to the emotional climax of each region’s story. As someone who was already sold on the series, the game rewarded me for an emotionally effective experience with something I knew I already wanted.
The game sat me down and told me, oh yeah, by the way, this is a ZELDA game. Let’s do this.
I recently re-experienced Majora’s Mask by spectating a friend who was completely new to the series. The game really builds its story on making people happy, but having to choose who to make happy on each time loop.
Well, this friend of mine is horribly empathetic. She couldn’t stand the idea that on any given loop, we couldn’t make anyone happy. After all, you only have three days (a couple real-life hours), how could you do everything in the entire game in that time? It’s madness!
Let me tell you, it’s possible. I spent a ton of time researching speedrunning strategies, optimizing an itinerary, and guiding her through an ultimate run of Majora’s Mask where we made the entire world happy. It was chaotic and exhausting and frustrating and finnicky and it was the most satisfying thing I’ve accomplished in a game in a very long while.
– Ben, Prototype Designer
It’s a very simple game, but everything it does is done excellently. The game loop is incredibly simple, boiling down to “get random event, respond with a decision, get a quirky consequence.” But after a couple games you start seeing events that chain together: one player’s early decision can create lasting consequences for every player for the rest of the game. And you start to see events that you’d seen before in prior playthroughs come up again, but you learn that they can play out in wildly different ways not just based on your response, but also based on your characters stats or other events from previous turns that you didn’t realize could be related. It’s a phenomenal implementation of one of the simplest mechanics around. And then it polishes that implementation with delightful art, a fantastic soundtrack, and an inherent multiplayer draw that makes it an absolute blast to play with friends. The Yawhg is easily in my top 5 games.
– Light, Technical Designer
Colossal Cave Adventure
It was the first video game I played (and one of the first video games period). I was 10, playing on my stepfather’s mini-mainframe at work. I was enthralled for hours. This launched my interest in video games and subsequent acquisition of Pong, Atari 2600, Commodore Vic-20, and C64 before I discovered regular PCs. I also fondly remember playing ASCII-based Islands of Kesmai on CompuServe in the mid-80’s on a 300 baud modem for $4 an hour. Those games really set my course in the world!
On Islands of Kesmai, the regular players would wait by the docks where new players got off of the ship from their home and ambush them, stealing all of their equipment to sell to vendors. After dying a few times to this, I made it through the gauntlet and escaped into the town, determined to trust no one!
– Chris, Production Director
Europa Universalis IV
Strategic depth and grand historical sweep.
Playing Bali, I got to Australia and colonized it before the Europeans got there.
– Greg, Lead Game Designer
Old School Runescape
It’s a bit of a sandbox where player progression is open to what you want to do, there is lots of interactions with the world (cooking requires finding a stove, smelting needs a furnace, etc) and crafting is the basis of the game (99.9% of items in game have some purpose that matters)
In OSRS, skills are tied to world actions (fishing, wood cutting, mining, cooking, etc) where doing those actions increase that skill up to a cap of level 99, or roughly 12 million experience (most training methods are 50k xp an hour at most).
My friend and I set a goal of 99 thieving (pickpocketing from NPCs) and after many months of work achieved it. These 99s never go away and the skill caps never increase, so it’s permanent progression. Felt amazing.
– Jordan, Simulation Engineer
As a ship-based space simulation, there is a ton to explore, both hand-crafted and procedural. Beyond that the game’s mechanics have led to meaningful opportunities for emergent gameplay patterns, including publicly sanctioned player-driven events. I was a frequent organizer of rally-style races for the Buckyball Racing Club. While racing is not a formal feature of the game, the main idea behind the club is that improving your race times means that you are learning to be a better pilot in general. It also lets people share their exploration experiences, with organizers crafting races around the more interesting and extreme examples of the galactic environment.
The last race I organized was called Nebulocity; it required racers to visit several beautiful nebulae outside the bounds of human-colonized space, and it was my most popular race. It was also the first race to launch from Fullerene C60, a star system that the game devs had renamed in honor of our informal club, and where they provided new stations and minor political factions to ensure our group’s control over the system.
– Mike, Engineering Manager
A surreal RPG that managed to be a cult-classic without ever getting an official English release. I like how it celebrates the strange quirky edges of an idea that often get filed down, ending up such an unfiltered look into the creators’ minds it’s as close you’ll get to being psychic. Mother 3 is an absurd and bittersweet experience I’d recommend to anyone.
– Technical Artist at Playable Worlds
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
There are things higher on my personal list, but the reason I ended up on Animal Crossing: New Horizons were multi-pronged. Gameplay is simple, but it’s fun and there is a surprising amount of depth to it. 2 years after release, I still pick it up pretty frequently. It was also a more – uh- positive way to disassociate during the early days of the lockdown.
Another reason is the accessibility of that game. When my kiddo first picked it up, they were able to figure out how to do most things without having the ability to read. Anything else took less than a minute to explain. My father – who is a seasoned gamer and tends to stick to more “adult” games also fell in love with it. Seeing the cross generational impact that game has had on our family was impressive.
Not thinking my husband would ever actually play the game, I used their account to create an old conspiracy theorist hermit in the corner of the map. The house was surrounded by skulls, headstones, and just chock full of weeds. The interior only contained a cot, a radio, an electrical kit, and stacks of paper everywhere. They decided to try it out one day and their reaction was priceless.
– Addison, Senior UX/UI Designer
The combat makes you feel like a Ninja, beautiful graphics, deep storytelling (The Tenno)
Archwings came out and let us finally combat in space. Then they released battleships for more space combat!!!
– Datwon, Test Automation Engineer
Pokémon, World of Warcraft, Banjo-Kazooie, Animal Crossing
I love animals and collecting things. Even with the graphics of Pokémon Blue, I loved the weird and even ugly design of all the Pokémon. I wanted to collect them all.
World of Warcraft: My first MMO. I loved the guild I was in. Helping my friends achieve a unified goal that took effort. Coming up with strategies for defeating a raid boss with the composition of our raid group. The fantasy of the world.
Banjo-Kazooie: The humor and music of this game is on another level. I love collecting stuff. I love finding secrets. Finding something extra, whether it be an easter egg, a random item or a hidden area in a game just hits different.
Animal Crossing: It’s chill, it’s cute, it has animals. They all have different personalities. You can build a bond with them. You collect things that you can show off. You can be creative with how you decorate your town and home.
Pokémon: My first starter was Bulbasaur. I picked him because he looked so dang weird! Squirtle was a turtle and Charmander was dragon, but I had no idea what the heck this little cabbage monster was. I’ve also always been super into dinosaurs so I picked up on a “saur” part of name, and even when he evolved into the most hideous toad-flower I had no regrets! I either go full blown cute or WTH is that thing. No in-between.
World of Warcraft: I was realllllly into raiding. I loved healing because it wasn’t as boring as DPS where you execute your 123 rotation while standing in fire, and had more freedom than tanking. Well, when my raiding guild split up and I joined a more casual guild they struggled in most raids because of attendance. So, because there was less pressure in general and I wanted to progress the raid, I started dual boxing my healer and a hunter. Making the macros, and keeping track of both characters positioning was a new level of chaotic fun! Let’s just say that I would still be the top healer and mid group for DPS. =P Good times.
– Sarah, QA Engineer
Horizon: Zero Dawn
There is so much to love about this game. There is a beautifully woven story, set in a post-apocalyptic world that among other things, serves as a reminder to be kind to our own world. Aloy is such an awesome character to play: she’s strong, a natural leader, and always willing to help even when she’s underestimated. I loved being able to play such a strong, yet empathetic female protagonist. The graphics are stunning and the open world is free to explore, discover new machines, and unravel mysteries as you go. I especially love that each type of machine has very unique abilities and equally unique ways of being destroyed. It takes some planning to make sure you have the right abilities and resources to take down your foes.
Some of the machines are TOUGH and take a lot of work to beat. So when you do take down a giant beast in a boss fight, you feel so rewarded. I remember a specific boss, the Rockbreaker – it could dive under the ground and pop out somewhere else. It was so challenging to overcome since it was pretty unpredictable. After a few tries, I was able to pick up on patterns and finally beat it.
– Danielle, Senior Community Manager