If you're anything like me, video games occupied most of your childhood. Even now as an adult, I continue to play video games as a hobby. I realized though as I got older, that I stopped buying new games as frequently as I used to.
Part of this is because like most millennials my age, I'm not exactly rollin' in the dough, but the other is because I find myself wanting to go back to games I've already played before. Whether it's because they're immersive or because they just make me feel like a kid again, the games I've listed below are some that I always come back to one way or another.
1. Tales of Symphonia
This game is without a doubt my absolute favorite video game of all time. Everything about it from start to finish is just incredible. The Tales series is still going strong to this day, but even after a new game is released, I always find myself coming back to Symphonia. Tales of Symphonia follows Lloyd Irving, an orphan raised by a dwarf in a world stricken with poverty and violence. In order to bring peace to the world, he must accompany the Chosen, Colette, on a journey to regenerate the world. Keep in mind, this is just the starting plot. The actual plot becomes more complicated over time.
As you progress through the game, you gain more members to your party, all of which have unique and lovable personalities. They have their own sub-plots which provide excellent character development, and your decisions throughout the game influence your relationship with these characters.
In addition to a great story-line and characters, Tales of Symphonia's battle system is truly where it shines. You fight battles in a party of four and each of the eight characters is usable by the player. Every character has a unique fighting style and each style can be altered between two types: Strike and Technical. You get to pick these types based on your personal fighting preferences, and it makes a world of difference for certain characters you may not like playing with as much. The ability to swap your player makes fighting feel more challenging and less of a grind.
I can't emphasize enough how amazing this game is. I can easily say I've beaten it approximately 9 times, and every time I play, I discover something new. Even if you don't like RPGs, this game is a must!
Talk about a game with a million and one emotions. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll feel stupid for crying over a game that took you only six hours to beat. Undertale is one of the most emotionally jam-packed games I've ever played. Don't let the pixel art fool you!
Undertale tells the story of a human who fell into the monster world and simply needs to get back home. As you play the game, you'll find yourself laughing at the silly jokes and funny characters right up until you get to the end when you realize the story is DEEP. Undertale has three different endings, which makes it easy to replay it over and over again. These endings are based on your actions, all of which affect your moral alignment. Should you choose to be evil and kill everyone in the underworld, the game will actually make you feel like a monster. When I tried it, the game actually made me feel so terrible, that I couldn't even complete it. How's that for an emotional roller coaster?
Despite its somewhat cringy fan base, Undertale is a game everyone can enjoy, and the soundtrack is flawless. Most impressively, the game was entirely made by Toby Fox with some assistance from his friend Temmie. If you want to experience the feels while enjoying some laughs along the way, Undertale is definitely worth playing.
3. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Why Nintendo never made another Paper Mario game as good as this one is beyond me because it was a huge success. If you've ever owned a Nintendo 64, you've likely played the first Paper Mario game. The original Paper Mario was also amazing, but just like the first Sims series, the sequel was a greatly improved version than the original.
If you're a fan of turn-based combat and cute artwork, this game is for you. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door tells the tale of our favorite plumber and his journey to collect the crystal starts to find the secret treasure behind the Thousand Year Door. I'm not exactly sure what it is that makes this game so replayable. It's probably because we are still coming to terms with the fact that Nintendo dropped the ball with Super Paper Mario and no game in the series will ever be as good as this one.
If you are a completionist with your video games, you will appreciate The Thousand Year Door. Between badges to collect, a recipe book to fill, and quests to complete, you'll have more than enough stuff to do.
The puzzles that come with each chapter are more fun than stressful, and the turn-based combat gives you plenty of time to strategize your attacks, a dream for a natural planner like myself. This is seriously one of those carefree games that's fun for you and for the kids. The dialogue is silly yet well-written, and the cute paper artwork is endearing.
4. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
You probably expected this one somewhere on the list, considering Todd Howard continues to shove it down our throats still eight years after its release. But, while we can roast Bethesda all we want, the fact of the matter is it's our fault they've kept milking it out for so long. I myself have an embarrassing amount of hours logged into Skyrim. I won't say how much specifically, but it's well over a full week's worth of gameplay.
Skyrim is probably the most replayable video game of all time, or maybe just for me because I've started fresh in that game more times than I can count. It never gets old either. And just because I love the game doesn't mean it's without flaws. Open world games tend to have a lot of bugs and repetitive spawns that almost feel disruptive at times. Regardless, the amount of quests Skyrim has to offer keeps you playing over and over. The combat has since become outdated, but it's still fun experimenting with the different races and classes you can become. We've all made a one-handed warrior, a two-handed warrior, a full mage, a rogue, and more. These all become sneak archers in the end, so it doesn't matter, but it's still fun to attempt.
And the mods? The opportunities are endless with the number of mods you can install. Some mods offer completely new areas with quests included, making Skyrim feel almost like a completely different game altogether. I personally recommend the "live another life" mod, which allows you to begin your adventure in a plot of your choosing. That way you aren't always reliving a dragon attack on the executioner's block.
But seriously, with a gorgeous map, a plethora of skills to enhance, and an endless stream of quests, it's no wonder we keep coming back for more after all these years. We may be ready for the next Elder Scrolls game already, but for now, Skyrim makes for a solid time-waster.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
I begin with the obvious. We've all played Ocarina of Time because somehow it was just always available to all of us as kids. Even if you didn't play it, you watched someone else play it. This game was an unavoidable staple of our childhood, right next to Super Mario 64. While there have been a LOT of incredible Zelda games released since Ocarina of Time, this one is still my favorite. This is mostly due to nostalgia, I admit, but that doesn't rule out its credibility.
Ocarina of Time is a fantastic action-adventure complete with swordplay, horseback riding, and archery. While many people argue that Zelda games have become more linear in recent years, (not you, Breath of the Wild) Ocarina of Time doesn't exactly hold your hand from start to finish. Sure we all know what to do now that we've beaten it a million times, but there are some points in the game where you have the freedom to explore free of hints on where to go next. And like any good adventure game, there are dungeons and temples with enough puzzles to keep you occupied for hours. Each enemy has a different weakness, and the action aspect of battle keeps it exciting.
It has since been re-released a few times, once for the Nintendo Gamecube and again with enhanced graphics on the Nintendo 3DS. I'll be honest, if they released it again for the Nintendo Switch, I'd buy it again, because it was just that good. This may not be a game we come back to all the time, but every once in a while we get the urge to feel like a little kid again. And when we do, Link is always there.