Well, if you’ve been doing whole gaming thing for years, you’ll know which review sites to go to, what developers and publishers produce the best stuff and what everyone is looking forward to playing. But if you’re just starting out, it can all be a bit … overwhelming. Every year around 1,000 new titles are released on consoles, with many hundreds more on PC. Oh and there are more than 300,000 games available on the Apple App Store. So how are you supposed to work out what to play?
Following our Beginner’s Guide to Gaming, here are 20 titles which we think get you started. We’ve included smartphone, console and PC titles, and instead of focusing on those aimed at non-gamers, we’ve tried to select excellent recent titles that will introduce you to more complex gaming experiences and represent where the medium is right now. Feel free to add more in the comments section …
80 Days (smartphone, tablet)
This is a beautiful narrative adventure based loosely on the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in 80 Days. You plot your own route across the globe and just drink in the rich, branching story.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo 3DS)
The latest in a wonderfully bright and engrossing series of Nintendo games in which you simply live in a town filled with cute anthropomorphic animals, exploring, chatting and getting into adventures. The perfect travel companion.
Civilization V (PC, Mac)
Build your own civilisation from a roving tribe to an advanced high-tech society. The beauty of this complex strategy game is that it teaches you so much about how science and culture develop, while providing an engrossing gaming experience.
The latest football sim from Electronic Arts looks beautiful and with its four-player mode (two on each team) and it’s a great one to load up when sport-loving friends come over. The basic moves aren’t hard to learn, but there’s depth for persistent players.
Flower (PS3, PS4)
Recently re-mastered for PlayStation 4, this gorgeous, relaxing game has you controlling the wind as it blows petals through the air. The sound and visuals are lovely and it’s something you can just toy with rather than try to “win”.
Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
This vast crime epic is effectively the technical summit of mainstream game design. The violent narrative will upset some, but the game’s open-world environment is astonishing, allowing you to explore for hours as the radio plays and the city lives.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC, tablet)
This two-player fantasy battle game uses a range of cards that depict heroes with different abilities – the way you place them effects the ongoing war. It’s extremely easy to get into, but very compelling, with lots of different strategies emerging as you collect different cards and expand your arsenal.
The Last of Us (PS3, PS4)
An apocalyptic adventure, set in the aftermath of a deadly fungal infection, this is one of the greatest works of cinematic game design. The lead characters – Joel and Ellie – are convincingly human and there are moments of extraordinary tension and wonder. Like GTA, however, it is very violent.
The Lego games are a super introduction to the action adventure genre, allowing you to swap between a range of favourite characters as you complete missions. You can play co-operatively with a friend, enjoying the funny stories and simple puzzles together. Great for parents who want to discover games with their kids.
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The original Mario Kart was one of the greatest racing games ever made, mixing intuitive controls with lots of tactical depth and a great range of weapons and power-ups. Mario Kart 8 refines the recipe and adds new features. Get some friends around and have a tournament – there’s nothing like it.
Minecraft (smartphone, tablets, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
The hugely successful block-building game allows you to explore vast landscapes, constructing your own houses, castles and whatever else you want to make, while avoiding zombies and mining for useful minerals. Endlessly creative and rewarding, and brilliant to share with children of all abilities.
Monument Valley (smartphone, tablet)
Stylish and evocative, this intriguing and masterfully constructed puzzle game was one of the best tablet titles of 2014. Players must guide their character through a series of tricksy landscapes that combine optical illusions and the impossible architecture of an M. C. Escher print. A perfect huddled-in-an-armchair, fireside gaming experience.
Papers, Please (iPad, PC, Mac)
Winner of 2014’s prestigious GameCity prize, this minimalist simulation puts players into the boots of a border guard at an Eastern European country, deciding who can pass through and who must be turned away based on a series of documents and ever-changing rules. Fascinating and informative in equal measure.
Rayman Legends (PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
This long-running series of inventive and welcoming platform games reached its zenith with 2013’s Rayman Legends, a delightful almost hallucinogenic romp, filled with Gallic eccentricities.
Spelunky (PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
An indie platform game that rebuilds its levels every time you play, offering an inexhaustible challenge. Superbly compulsive alone, but even more fun with a friend.
Nidhogg (Mac, PC, PS4, PC Vita)
A ridiculously competitive sword-fighting game, where players battle to reach the other’s base area in a series of quick, stabby encounters. Great two-player party fun, with a tournament mode for larger competitions.
Stanley Parable (PC, Mac)
One of the most unusual and inventive games of the decade is effectively a surreal exploration of what games are, and what their conventions mean. You may not know what’s going on, but you won’t want to leave.
Talos Principle (PC, Mac)
In the tradition of Valve’s classic Portal titles, this is a first-person puzzler that gets you to re-arrange objects, avoid guards and unlock a series of garden areas, while a philosophical god looks on. Sort of Crystal Maze meets Kant.
Threes (iOS, Xbox One)
Very much the crystal meth of smartphone puzzle games in terms of moreish appeal, Threes get you to move tiles on a small board to generate and combine multiples of three. Sounds simple, and it is. Sort of. What isn’t so simple, is stopping.
Walking Dead (smartphone, tablet, PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Telltale’s harrowing adventure game takes the critically acclaimed comic book and TV series and turns them into an interactive drama where players have to make heart-wrenching decisions over who to save and how to survive. Grim, absorbing and extremely important as a landmark of video game storytelling.
A few sites have covered this area already. Here are some examples:
The Space: Games for people who don’t play games – a lovely selection of experimental and narrative games
Rock Paper Shotgun: Games for humanity – another interesting selection of intriguing PC titles
Kotaku: Games for non-gamers – a great selection including Portal, Journey and Tetris
Forest Ambassador – a blog kept by the game designer Merritt Kopas dedicated to uncovering interesting and accessible gaming experiences
This article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Thursday 19th February 2015 06.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010