Waypoint Weeklies: How often do you find a new favorite?

It’s a classic video game focused ice-breaker. “What’s your favorite game?” It’s a difficult question to answer. Most gamers have a few favorite games. Some of us are blessed with many. But how do you find your favorites, and why?

How often do you find a new favorite game? What was your most recent new favorite? And when do you feel confident in saying that something is your new favorite?

And for the record, if you’d like to expand this to how often you find a new favorite movie, book, album, etc., feel free to!

Game? Very often Twitter. Hop onboard the zeitgeist train (or occasionally this person will post a “small games worth checking out” thread that introduces me to dope stuff like Regency Solitaire).

Music? This is the only nice thing Facebook’s algorithm has ever done for anybody:

it used to be when a new civ game came out but after We Know the Devil, I’d be surprised if I find a new one anytime soon.

for civ games it was the series i played the most of, with hundreds of hours in each entry, they’re safe and comfortable for me though as i grow older i find more issues with them

with we know the devil, it was partly when it came out. with my politics changing, coming to terms with no longer being religious, and being early on in my transition, a game about queer kids in a repressive christian summer camp hit perfectly for me. the ending definitely had a big impact on my identity, spiritual ideas, and politics

1 Like

My absolute favourite shifts infrequently, often less of a “I just played my new favourite game” and more of a “I find myself looking back most fondly at this game now, due to the little changes in myself that make me value X, Y, or Z” - my current GOAT is Fantasy Life, but it wasn’t right after I first played it. It’s just sort of settled into my mind as the platonic ideal of a game.

(The above is true for books, music, films, etc., though my favourite anime being Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is an exception where I watched it subbed for the first time a year ago and went “oh, this is redefining who I am as a person.”)

But my general sorta top 10 or so games? I find a new one of those every few months, probably. Paradise Killer and Umurangi Generation are two I played this past year, instant favourites.

3 Likes

I’ve come to terms with the fact that my “favorites” are inherently tied to nostalgia and so nothing will top playing Super Mario World when I was 7. But that doesn’t stop me from being absolutely smitten by games. Just recently, Unpacking bowled me over, and Metroid Dread completely engrossed me. Heck, even now I’m jonesing hard for more Halo Infinite (I’m going to be a mess in about a week when the campaign launches). So how often do I have a new favorite? Either never or pretty frequently, depending on your definition of “favorite”.

5 Likes

I’ve been thinking a bit about this kind of thing recently, since I’ve consciously tried to keep a note of the games I played this year (and some vague or not impressions of them), and with “end of year round-up season” approaching, I was looking back over the notes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “favourite” is a very situational thing. There’s definitely games I played that made strong positive impressions on them (say, Disco Elysium or Paradise Killer), but a lot of those impressions are also then tied up with the context [internal and external] of when I played them. Like Navster, I’m very aware that some of my favourites - say, Quake, or the R-Type series - are tied strongly to who I was when I played them first.

I think partly because of that, I think my rate of “new favourites” is probably decreasing over time. [As soon as I say this though, I’m thinking that the number of new games I played in my teens was probably less than it is now even - being mostly limited to coverdisks does constrain your experience].
But all of the “really great video game experiences” I’ve had in the last 5 years or so have been due to seeing other people talk about them first, often on forums like this, or seeing them streamed by someone. (I’ve also tried some games I have utterly hated via the same process, mind, so this is definitely not a flawless process.) I would probably say I hit maybe one or two “really strongly positive impression forming” games a year - last year Disco Elysium was very much that game.
This year, I dunno, it might be Sayonara Wild Hearts. A few years previously it was Transistor.
I hesitate to use “favourite” here because I don’t really replay a lot of games - other than either very arcadey flow games (in which case, Super Hexagon and AudioSurf would never leave their pedestal) or a few roguelikes (in which case, it would be Brogue probably) [I guess due to the big map making community, *Quake* actually is the exception to that, although then you get into the question of if a new set of maps using the same engine is *actually* the same game…]. So, my most recent “favourite” game might be a game I talk a lot about at the time, but I’m rarely going to replay it - or play any of my previous “favourites” again.

I am not sure how normal this is - to add an additional question to this thread: do any of you actually replay your “favourite game” more than once? Or is it just “the game you remember most fondly at the moment”?

(This is very different to both favourite music - which I do tend to return to, and I am still not quite sure how I discover* (a lot of my musical influences even into my 20s are via my father, and I am very bad at musical discovery) - and favourite books - which I do often return to (I’ve probably reread Dune about 6 times, and I recently reread all of Joe Abercrombie’s “First Law” books). On books, I used to be much more connected to various genre magazines and so on, but really I actually do feel pretty disconnected from any actual subculture now online…)

*I believe the “modern” thing to do is to subscribe to Spotify or just be part of TikTok, but I hated Spotify deeply and viscerally the first and only time I tried to use it, and TikTok is one social network too far for me.

I’ll go into a specific book thing that has happened a few times and is quite wonderful: Little Free Libraries can be amazing for finding new favorites. I recently grabbed Baudolino by Umberto Eco out of one in my neighborhood and it has become one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I don’t think I would have ever sought it out otherwise. This same things goes for how great libraries and video rental stores (RIP) can be with that same type of serendipity. Browsing a curated collection of media can really lead to discovering things you might never have even considered. And I think the physical aspect of libraries and video rental shops really gets overlooked for how they can enhance enjoyment. Its why for the most part streaming services are garbage, except for Criterion Channel. The curated nature of the Criterion Channel means I’m more likely to take a chance on something obscure to me because a: the limited titles mean I have fewer choices, and b: I can have some faith in the curator for making good choices. Damn do I miss a good video rental shop… and I don’t think its all just nostalgia.

Its why I’ve really grown to enjoy Gamepass and EA Access. The limited number of games, plus low cost for trying anything, and to a lesser degree the curation that’s occurring, makes it more fertile grounds than other places to find new favorites. For example, I’ve been playing They are Billions non-stop for a couple weeks, and while it was on my radar, I don’t think I would have taken the plunge without it being on the subscription service.

1 Like

I can’t think of any games in my top 30, except ones that only came out in the 2020s, that I haven’t played at least twice. Though it does just depend on the sort of game; I don’t have the time in my life to replay Ni no Kuni annually, as much as I’d like to, but I don’t think I’ve uninstalled Into the Breach once since I first bought it since I can just pop in for a quick game whenever.

2 Likes

I’ve doubled up on both Ratchet and Clank (2016) and this year’s Rift Apart which is pretty extraordinary by my modern standards, but both of them are pretty short once you get through the initial playthroughs

1 Like

I rarely think of anything in terms of “favorites” these days, so it must have been a while ago, or possibly very recently? Like, I could make a list of games or albums that I like a lot but picking a favorite of them? Nah. Next month I’d pick something different that speaks to me in that moment.

Although I can hone in easier on more focused aspects, like my favorite soundtrack from a year, favorite action or even long running series. But mostly, finding new “favorites” to me feels more like adding new items to a large pile rather than reordering a list to make space for my “new” favorite.

2 Likes

I got asked my favorite in movies/books/shows recently on a first date (YEAH I’M BRAGGING) and it made me realize I’m very much a soft favorites person. No hard top ten list. But I definitely can come away with a “wow, that was an all-timer” immediately after consumption. But sometimes that feeling doesn’t last! It’s hard!

For games it’s rare to find a new favorite for me. I think my favorites develop as I reflect on games. Especially nowadays, when I sometimes find myself liking the idea of playing games better than actually playing. I like the idea of playing through FFVII in 2020 as I reflect on it now. But I quite frequently disliked the moment-to-moment experience.

Books and movies I don’t have the same issue with. Movies are quick and books make me feel smart, so I don’t worry about the time I spend with them quite like games. And I’ve missed a ton of classic books, so in trying to go through that catalog this year I’ve found a lot of new favorites.

3 Likes

I don’t think I’ve changed my answer in decades, it’s been Wind Waker since about 2005. I consider “favorite” anything to be kind of a silly question, I just picked a game years ago and stopped worrying. I say Star Wars is my favorite movie but that’s also after not putting too much thought into the question.

Maybe in the last ten years Undertale or Witcher 3 or Celeste have been extremely great, I don’t think anything is going to win-win.

2 Likes

Favorites, plural, I find new ones of every once in a while. Though after I played Outer Wilds in the late spring of 2019, nothing new broke into my Top 10 list until Returnal just blew me away this summer. That said, if I extend that list a bit it’s always a bit in flux. I’ve made an internal policy that only one Fromsoft game can be in that top 10, so I go back and forth a lot between Sekiro, Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborne.

My favorite, though? I think, at this point, I’m probably never going to find a game that means as much to me as Breath of the Wild, just because replicating the circumstances that led to my relationship with that game would be essentially impossible. It was an entry in my favorite series, one that had really characterized my experience with games up to that point, one I’d been wildly anticipating for what felt like years (and especially after that first trailer dropped — I still watch that sometimes). It was the first game I bought on the first console I bought for myself with money I’d worked for, one made by probably the only company I haven’t been able to get rid of my emotional attachment to (in the midst of all the speculation around whether Nintendo was going to get pushed out of the hardware market for good). That hype should have been impossible for any piece of art to live up to, but it did. It was even better.

And it also came out during my junior spring semester, when most of my friends were studying abroad and those that weren’t had moved out of the dorm we’d all lived in for multiple years. I was taking probably the heaviest courseload I took in college, in the midst of a very cold winter in upstate New York (we had our first snowday in like 30 years then). I had one or two people I hung out with with anything close to regularity, but even then there wasn’t much to do but see movies at the campus theater and… play video games. So, every day, I played a few more hours of Breath of the Wild. I played through Eventide Island on that snowday. I stayed up way too late one night trying to take down one of the medium Tests of Strength shrines before I was ready. I spent three hours after class one evening just exploring the Hebra region, going up and down snowy mountains with a blizzard outside. I don’t know if that kind of gameplay — of organically exploring a vast world with lots of physics and systems — was always something I loved, or if this game made me love it, but I don’t think it matters. It is my favorite gameplay loop, full stop. And for a solid month that was my routine, a couple hours a day, going deeper into Hyrule until I’d found everything. When I first heard the Hyrule Castle music with its remix of the old overworld theme, I actually teared up.

So… yeah. I don’t think I’ll ever find a new “favorite,” because I think that set of circumstances was utterly singular and could never be replicated. The closest experience to it was probably replaying Bloodborne at the start of the pandemic, but even that doesn’t really come close in hindsight. Perhaps I’m wrong though. I could see a Fromsoft game giving me a similar experience at some point. Or a Pokemon game if Game Freak ever let a studio that cared about narrative make something with main series resources (lol). But until then, Breath of the Wild, no contest.

4 Likes

I was going to write a long post about how I don’t have a favorite and it seems like a meaningless categorization, but then I realized that I do in fact have an all-time favorite video game. My favorite game of all time has been Kingdom Hearts 1 since the day it first came out.

I absolutely did not know these words at the time, but the reason I liked KH1 so much then and now is that it is primarily an action game, but it uses RPG mechanics to make your mechanical mastery of the combat diegetic. In a straight-up action game (e.g. DMC, Streets of Rage, or Halo), you get better at the game by practicing and the game gives you clear feedback on your improvement (style meter, score, or KDA respectively). In an RPG, you don’t really get that much better as a player, but your characters improve over time and the game gives you clear feedback on that (i.e. their level/damage numbers). I love both of those genres and the thing that struck me about Kingdom Hearts is that it combines both of them so well.

This feels like a hot take, but I think it’s pretty true: Kingdom Hearts is primarily a DMC-style action game where the RPG elements make your improvement as a player diegetic. You can’t beat KH1 if you don’t get good at it: you can’t feasibly grind levels to get past a certain area or boss without learning the mechanics, and it’s also pretty unlikely that you hit a wall simply because you’re underleveled. The RPG mechanics don’t replace you getting better as a player, they let you choose a build you like and they give you clear feedback that you have improved (specifically, how long the HP bar can get).

The games I like the most are all structured like this: Dark Souls, Nioh, Monster Hunter, etc, but the thing is that I played Kingdom Hearts long before all of those, so it will probably always be number one in my heart.

Now to restate all of that as a silly hot take: Kingdom Hearts 1 is my favorite game because it was my first Souls game.

2 Likes

The topic of “What’s my favorite game?” always comes up for me around this time of year since it’s Game of the Year season and that’s basically what I use to define my lists every year. It’s pretty easy to figure what those games are inside the confines of all the games I’ve played in a given year but when I think about my all time favorites it’s suddenly a much tougher question for me.

Whenever I see those image/text prompts that float around about favorite games (or movies, music, anime, characters or whatever) I always think that I couldn’t ever make one of those for myself because I rarely think about how the things I enjoy on that grand of a scale. Or, to put it differently, maybe the fact that the scale itself is (perceived as) so grand is why I don’t bother to quantify it in the first place. Like I said, identifying my favorite games each year is no sweat. Same deal for games within a series or genre. But my favorite games ever? Suddenly that process becomes a lot less interesting for me. I could probably do it if you pressed me to do so (if the 5 games on my Backloggd are any indication) but it’s easier enough to not bother with it and focus on the specifics instead.

As far as other forms of media go I’m pretty much the same way. I listen to a ton of different music each year and carve out a yearly list of standouts but will not dare to even attempt building a list of all-time favorites. I actually tried to do something on a much smaller scale last year where I reflected on my favorite music of the 2010s through a Spotify playlist where I added 10 songs from the decade to it every week and by doing regular write-ups throughout the year on stuff that fell outside of that. My main takeaway from that was even after spending an entire year working on that project from two different angles that by the end of the year I barely scratched the surface on my entire experience with the music of that decade. It was extremely demoralizing!

But uh, to end on a positive note, I’ll say that actually finding favorites (or stuff to like in general) is pretty easy for me. Outside of more direct and person-to-person interactions (like reading articles or the posts here) for games there’re also things like Steam250 or Steam’s own interactive recommender that’ll surface plenty of cool looking stuff you may or may not have heard of that are much easier to interface with if you aren’t willing to comb through store pages like I am. I’d like to think that the only thing stopping me from finding my next favorite thing (outside of money) is my willingness to go out and find it. It’s served me well so far!

3 Likes

I am constantly discovering new favourites that are simultaneously very much in my wheelhouse, and yet also not something I’d normally think to try.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to recognise the same manic, gleeful enthusiasm in others that I have when say, describing It’s Always Sunny to the uninitiated. I can tell when someone has the same impish taste for excess that I do and consequently check out whatever they’re into.

The results over the past couple of years have included Warhammer 40k (my current arts and crafts hobby), the Yakuza series (probably my game series favourite of all time), and HK action movies. You don’t realise how much more there is of the kind of shit you like until you discard the ‘I probably wouldn’t like it’ impulse, the Mark Corrigan in all of us, and embrace the infectious enthusiasm of others.

3 Likes

I think the notion of having favourites is constantly changing with me, hopefully as I grow as a human being and things that I’ve experienced change in terms of importance.

In terms of movies, Jaws, Jurassic Park and Aliens will always appeal to my inner child, whilst The Shining or Network only grow in my appreciation the older I get and the more times I rewatch. On the other hand, this year I had this glowing moment on my 120th watch of Hot Fuzz that this is probably my favourite movie of all time. The way it is, to me, endlessly quotable, the way it escalates so hilariously into a full on action movie (an escalation that’s way more effective than Shaun of the Dead becoming a Romero zombie movie), the way that back in 2007 the big twist envisioned the conservative small town mindedness of little England as the legitimate threat to the younger generations… I guess it’s not a new concept. Sometimes I think of Hot Fuzz, as a Brit, and get so full of patriotic pride, it’s like watching the 2012 Olympic games opening ceremony again.

I think each year, I tend to watch at least one or two movies that become favourites. Over recent years, it’s been films like Nightcrawler and American Animals, this year it’s been The Green Knight and Tick Tick Boom!

In terms of games, I think my favourites are entrenched within the golden age of adolescence. It’s a concept I think about a lot, comes from an interview between Jeff Gerstmann and Paul Barnett a few years ago on Giant Bomb. The golden age being your most formative years, usually as an adolescent, where things just hit bigger than they ever did before and harder than anything thereafter.

I remember not being into games as a kid, but it all changed when I played Tomb Raider when I was 10 years old. There was just something about exploring those low res polygonal environments that spoke to me more than the bright colours and action of say Sonic, Mario, Street Fighter and MK, which all my friends were obsessed with. I continue to look for elements of Tomb Raider in other games, definitely slower paced exploration, a certain atmosphere or stillness, a versatile move set to master. Hello Dark Souls.

But then a game like Titanfall 2 can come along and just blow all other games out of the water and become an instant favourite. It just hits so many highs, it can’t not be a favourite.

3 Likes

Some great thoughts already in this thread.

So much this. Most of my absolute favourite games are from the late '90s, early '00s when I was a teenager. Is it actually that they’re all the best games I’ve ever played or was that just a really formative time for me and those games shaped my perceptions of pop culture?

I definitely overthink these things but over on Letterboxd I made a rule for myself: any movie I’m calling a favourite or putting in my all-time top 20 or whatever, I have to have watched at least twice. I don’t have quite the same kind of list for games but the ones that I’d regularly mention as favourites - Deus Ex, Halo: CE, Ocarina of Time - are also ones I’ve replayed several times. It’s now been a good few years since I last touched Deus Ex, but I just finished a playthrough of Halo: CE (well, the anniversary edition!) and I was planning on replaying Ocarina of Time but it sounds like the Nintendo Switch Online N64 games are… janky. There are some exceptions - I could point at huge RPGs like Baldur’s Gate as old favourites but it’s less likely that I’ve actually gone all the way through them multiple times.

As for finding new favourites, it’s rare. I think it takes a lot to unseat those classics from their nostalgic thrones. For games, more so than other mediums, I feel that it’s complicated further by advances in game design and technology - my favourite Halo is probably always going to be the original Halo, even though later games in the same series might have better level design or writing or aesthetics, because it’s so tied up with memories of playing it for the first time and endlessly replaying it in co-op with an old friend.

My most recent ‘new favourites’ tend to be games that throw back to that late '90s, early '00s era of game design but haven’t remained as popular: immersive sims or isometric western RPGs. It’s probably no surprise that Disco Elysium is the latest game on a short list of recent favourites.

3 Likes

I have checked in with my personal top-10 and unruly honourable mentions lists every once in a while for the past couple years as an exercise. There’re games that I can’t imagine leaving the list, while others have fallen farther from my heart harder than I thought they could.

There’s recency bias, certainly, but in my case I can pretty confidently say that it’s less about forgetting the old in favour of the new as much as my tastes have really, really matured in the last 5 years or so. Nostalgia still carries some titles if they continue to be interesting to me on merit, but other games I would’ve said were absolute favourites when I was younger could not seem less interesting to me now if they tried (sorry, Gears, it’s not you it’s me). But having gone way back and adored games like OG System Shock in 2020, I know it’s not just a matter of modern sensibilities/expectations.

I think I am more likely than ever before to have games shoot up to the honourable mention list, at least, but that’s largely because I know what I like, I know what I really shouldn’t bother with, and when I am self-critical in that way I get more out of my experiences. I eagerly look forward to the opportunity to revisiting favourites or sharing with others why they had the impact on me that they did. Frankly, that’s what keeps me coming back to here to talk to you fine folks.

4 Likes