Recently I‘ve been trying to decide if Outer Wilds is my favorite game. If so, it would supersede what I otherwise previously called my favorite game, Link’s Awakening for the Game Boy.

Link's Awakening being my favorite is entangled with all manner of nostalgia, emotional impact, and retrospective self-awareness. Outer Wilds being my favorite game would largely be a combination of game design analysis and, again, admission of an emotional impact.

But the thought process has me wondering why I feel a desire to declare favorites, even if only to myself; and, then, wondering what actually defines favorite for me, in any context.

I'd love to hear about how and why other people define their favorites, in any context. Or is such a declaration important to you at all?

i think trying to define a single favorite game (or any piece of art for that matter) is really difficult to do. people‘s opinions are constantly changing, so trying to have one static choice to declare can feel a bit disingenuous. my favorite game could be Animal Crossing today and Bloodborne tomorrow, just depending on how i’m feeling, what i want to play, etc. some music critic whose name i can‘t remember a while back said that the lowest number of albums they could but into a list to consider it a “fair list of all time favorites” was 12, and i always thought that was funny so i’ve kept a list of various 12 favorites in my phone notes for a few years as just something to think about and look back at, which has been fun.

there are some cases where i think having a short list of favorites can be useful. for example, on Letterboxd (a movie reviewing/logging app), each profile has a slot for a user's Top 4 favorite movies. this is really smart, because it lets you know a bit about what each user values in movies and how to weigh the opinions of their reviews in regard to your own. if i see a friend whose Top 4 is a mix of movies i love and hate and they give a glowing 5-star review to something i'm interested in seeing, their favorites give me a lot of context to know that i might not like it as much as them but may still enjoy it.

terms like “favorite” or “best” make me nervous, in part because I‘m afraid of committing to one thing and having that stick. I’ve always spoken in grey areas - across my life - in general - which is probably a huge crutch. But regardless, I would be hard pressed to move beyond a “top 10” to a “top 1.” I‘d have to compartmentalize it down to such a degree that I could say my favorite walking sim set in a forest is firewatch. but… is it really!? I’d have a hard time committing to that for the future.

In the end though, I think the whole exercise, thinking about what you like and what you don't, and more importantly why, is super vital for any creative person. You've got to be able to define and quantify what you like and what you like it if you want to be able to make something that is true to yourself, and which will then resonate with other people as a result.

Games that come from a singular-feeling vision (deadly premonition, disco elysium, death stranding) live or die on whether you appreciate that perspective, but no matter what you can form an opinion about it that's worthy of discussion. I gave a micro-talk at GDC about making sure to define your own taste before making things, because otherwise you'll wind up with something generic, and why are you even making games at that point.

So definitely keep thinking about it even if, for me, the list would change by the moment.

Blood of Heroes is a top 5 movie for me forever though!!!!!!!!!!!


@exodus#2633 In the end though, I think the whole exercise, thinking about what you like and what you don’t, and more importantly why, is super vital for any creative person.

Yeah, this. This is what matters.

Even if you are not a creative professional, the necessary component of developing your own personal taste is understanding what you like and do not like and why.

Having "favorites" seems a little teenaged to me. I don't mean to be mean by saying that! Like, I had a "favorite band" when I was a teenager (it was a rotating position) but as I got older and became more interested in different types of music and appreciating it for different reasons, it seemed beside the point to worry about it anymore.

I've noticed people online tend to use it as a icebreaker, particularly with nerd culture topics like games and anime, though! Maybe it's useful just to have an answer if you want to be sociable. But I don't think it's a particularly useful lens for looking at things if you care more about your own development and taste!

Though I think the idea of favorite could be expanded to become “this is what my taste feels like today” - an absolute favorite feels theoretically possible but it‘d need to be so carefully reasoned that it feels difficult to achieve. If someone had a favorite after much reasoning and deliberation I think I’d find that pretty interesting though??

That's a good point actually!

I also think it's fun to think about! I don't mean to be a total killjoy here.

I‘ve been thinking about this recently, in terms of the amount of time I’ve spent with certain games, and whether or not this means I “prefer” them to other games I would rank amongst my “favourites”.

I've recently put about 300 hours into Slay the Spire, with no signs of slowing down, and Threes! has been the only game to consistently remain on all of my phones at all times since launch, and I would estimate I've played maybe thousands of hours of it while listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks. But do these games mean more to me than, say, Majora's Mask? This is a game I've played to completion only twice, but one I have significant emotional attachment to, that I think about and talk about often, that stirs something up in me. I don't have any desire to play it again, so is it even representative of my taste anymore? Maybe this will change! Or maybe I'll only ever play Slay the Spire and Threes! for the rest of my life.

That said, I love conversations with people and sometimes those conversations can be enriched by declarative statements of self, especially with someone you‘ve never met before. I’ve made lifelong friends with complete strangers based on telling them what my favourite bands are, for instance.


@breadface#2669 This is a game I’ve played to completion only twice, but one I have significant emotional attachment to, that I think about and talk about often, that stirs something up in me.

I think this is a useful point: playtime doesn't necessarily indicate "favorite" to my heart. Similarly to as you said: even if I never again play Outer Wilds--or Link's Awakening, for that matter--the duration of their impact on me dwarfs the hours spent with a game that I put down unaffected. A good example of that, for me, is Metal Gear Solid V--a game I enjoyed immensely, and put many hours into, but that hasn't stuck with me.

I think the conversation thing is important actually, with the weird in group/out group thing humans have. My buddy and I went to a metal concert, but when we got there we found it was canceled, so we went to a nearby bar to hang out instead. A guy came in and saw that my friend was wearing a shirt of the band we were going to see, and sat down, and started asking what bands we liked and stuff. He was kind of an off putting guy but he liked my answers, and asked if I knew the band Razor from Toronto, saying “don‘t lie if you haven’t, that really pisses me off,” etc - he was getting more and more amped up (and I didn‘t know Razor - and in fact I like them a lot now), but I was honest with him and shared some more bands, and he said cool. My buddy hadn’t known any of the bands we were talking about. One of the last things he mentioned was how he joined the army because that‘s the only place you can legally kill people, which is best for the world because we’re killing the planet.

Then he went off to question some other people's taste in music and as we left he was starting a fight with some guy whose taste he didn't like as much.

Not the most uplifting story, but I tell you what, it sure helped for me to have a list of favorite metal bands to rattle off in that situation.

something I really like about the Insert Credit podcast is how ranking lists are crafted, because usually I hate those kinds of lists but it‘s interesting to see how the panelists are challenged on what they value when they’re presented with “what's ”better“ out of these two games”, then one gets bumped over the other and all of a sudden games you went in thinking would top have five games above them. Unlike most lists I see online where I scroll through them and I‘m like “ugh really” no matter what the list ends up being on the ICP the process is fascinating enough that it’s never bothered me regardless of personal taste.

I hate the idea of ranking my favourites as a top ten or whatever but when asked about it I like using the "best" representatives of my taste, like I love the Yakuza series but I'm not gonna put 2, 4, 5, 0 and Judgment all on a list together, I'm just going to say "0" and move on to games that demonstrate what else I value. I also feel uneasy declaring anything my "favourite" anything, I just like the present a nice pool that shows what I care about and not lose sleep over which of the hills I'd die on is the tallest.

On twitter last week (?) there was one of those viral "YOU CAN ONLY KEEP 3 THE REST ARE NUKED FROM EXISTENCE" memes going around for the 3D Mario games and scrolling through people's answers to it I couldn't believe how many people put Galaxy 1 AND 2. I guess some people like 1 or 2 things so much they're willing to go all in on just those and let one more hypothetical experience get trashed.

And yea personally I think hours played isn't that important a factor, the two games in my Steam library with the highest playtime are Bloons Tower Defense 6 and Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links because they're low effort comfort games I can do other stuff while playing, but if you called either of them my "favourite" game I would be calling my lawyer.

I think favorites and such often come out of some sort of resentment. “Everyone is talking about (insert popular thing that doesn't click with you) but (unpopular thing that has great personal meaning to you) is so much better.” Or “I‘ve spent so much time watching/playing/listening to X and I need to justify that by saying that it is better than the thing you’ve engaged with.”

I definitely catch myself doing that sometimes but it's always easier to see through when someone else does it. It's some sort of cognitive dissonance or something that's hard to break out of. I think if we spent more time just talking about what we enjoy rather than arguing about it we'd all be better off, but then again I do like reading top 10 lists as a way to find things I might enjoy.


@Lesmocon#2721 I think hours played isn’t that important a factor, the two games in my Steam library with the highest playtime are Bloons Tower Defense 6 and Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links because they’re low effort comfort games I can do other stuff while playing, but if you called either of them my “favourite” game I would be calling my lawyer.

Not quite the same thing: but right now I am absolutely compelled to be playing The Messenger, and it was all I wanted to play yesterday; but I would go so far as to say, "I do not like that game."

Human behavior is weird.

@anderbubble#2730 I played Let It Die for about 80 hours and not only do I hate that game I consider it morally bankrupt…partially because it manipulated me into playing it for 80 hours!

@Lesmocon I‘m really curious to know what that experience was like long-term! I (just two months ago) played it for about an hour and a half, and felt like… hmm, this is probably all it is, eh? and then I looked around for some videos, and the environments do change a bit but pretty much it’s just go around, hit some things, gather resources, go back to the hub. I never really saw anything resembling a hook. So after 80 hours, aside from feeling you might‘ve wasted your time, I’m curious to know how you managed to play that long, what kept you going, and whether anything evolved or changed?

@exodus#2739 I write about games sometimes (or used to anyway) and I have an atrocious habit of forgetting specifics about games I‘ve written about because the writing process for me involves cramming all my thoughts into a ball and then launching them into space so I can forget about them. Here’s the piece which is from a few years ago so it‘s probably terrible but it’ll have a better memory than I do https://medium.com/@lesmocon/let-it-die-games-as-service-as-evil-592f3a5a2e48

FROM WHAT I DO REMEMBER: I was late to the Souls train and didn't play any of those games until BloodBorne came out in 2015 and mobile/gacha games were already beasts, I remember one of first "OH NO I DIED ALL MY STUFF IS GONE" moments from that game and thinking "oh no, someday someone's going to figure out how to monetise this feeling and it's going to be the worssttttt". IIRC Let It Die was announced a couple of months later lol

The game is designed around a confusing economy and loops that force you to constantly indulge in the Gambler's Fallacy, it somewhat eases you in at the start making you think it might be a legit action game (albeit a jank and not very interesting one) but by the time you're getting into the 3rd/4th zones you're getting killed by absolute nonsense, losing all your stuff and then wasting even more stuff in your futile attempts to get part, until you're trapped in this endless pit of despair which asks you to start grinding a new worthless shirtless avatar from scratch to have One More Chance or y'know..._money_. _It would be easier if you gave us the money..._

And this is not like Dark Souls where super pros take pride and joy in doing low equipment or no level up runs as a challenge, the game is a miserable grind without your kit throwing pebbles at dudes with mile long health bars. You _need_ your stuff, the game makes you _work_ for you stuff, and then it takes it away from you because it knows your stuff is valuable now because of how much _time_ you put into it. The levels and aesthetic change the higher into the tower you get, but the only meaningful difference between each section is that the percentage of cheap tricks and length of health bars has a larger leap as your time investment creeps up and the idea of cashing out your chips feels less appealing.

It was disheartening to see the reaction to the game at launch from journos and players alike not account to much more than "hehe funny skeleton" when all THIS is going on under the hood, but I don't feel an urge to rant about The Discourse when the game is intentionally disingenuous for its first 5-10 hours. Which would be bad enough on its own until I get to your question - why did I play it so much? Because I was poor! I was on the brink of homelessness at the time and it was a free game that was pretending to dip its toes in a genre of action I enjoy, and it offered me something repetitive and grindy to make the days melt away faster so I didn't have to think about THE WORLD.

Nothing I wrote in this post is enhanced with the power of hindsight; I KNEW from about 10 hours in this is what the game was doing and how it was going to be...but I kept playing it because what else was there to do, and then even worse...I BOUGHT something. I took a tumble I couldn't afford to take, it was too hard to get the stuff back I've lost with what I had l had left over, and if I didn't pay I would lose my time killer and everything I had done for the past week or two.

TLDR: that game is artless manipulative evil trash, nobody *likes* it they've only been coerced in having an unhealthy relationship with it, most progress/mechanics based micro-transactions are an ethical issue and any publisher who is fighting Johnny Law over gambling legislation in F2P structured games needs to thrown in the middle of the ocean and then charged 10 million dollars for a life preserver.

So yea don't go back to it, it's not a game you need in your life lol

That‘s about what I thought! I’ve played a load of f2p stuff and this one didn't even seem to have the hooks in it at the time. I guess maybe it was the cool skeleton and the grasshopper pedigree that got anyone to play it in the first place, but to me it felt so bad to say that I figured, why not finish another mediocre action game that has a bit more to it instead. Sounds like the right choice! (that or playing something good heh)

I was actually asked what my favorite game in an job interview was and I referenced this very thread. I do have an answer and that is Tetrastar for the Famicom. It‘s my favorite famicom game, and when I played the english translation it wormed it’s way instantly into my Top 5. And every time I thought about it I was like “this could be my favorite game”. But I think for a lot of reasons that were brought up in this thread, we‘re afraid to declare a “favorite” because it would say more about us than it would the game. However, I love this game so much that I don’t care.

So yeah during the interview I made my case for an obscure famicom game and it's basically
1) technical mastery: a combination of sprite scaling and a scrolling ground texture creates a great sense of motion
2) wonderful sprite art
3) cutscenes, melodrama, multiple endings
4) incredible boss battles

I discovered this game via a tumblr gif, it didn't have any context to it, but I found the graphics fascinating and wanted to play it. This meant I had to find a list of *every* space themed famicom game and go search each game until I found it. And I was so happy to find an english translation patch as well.


It also contains the most bonkers cutscene in videogames, which you can only see if you fail a mission partway.

so this is *my* favorite game. It's not going to supplant something like Kentucky Route Zero or Orcharina of Time, but I love talking about it, showing it to people for the first time, and seeing them blown away by it.