The top 5 video games you (maybe) haven’t heard of but should definitely play

Why? Because they're smart, fun — and may just do the unthinkable, says Concordia expert Mia Consalvo
September 11, 2015


What with Super Mario's 30th birthday (see him celebrating above) and Video Game Day, electronic-entertainment-love is in the air this weekend.

Mia Consalvo, Concordia’s Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design, took us off the beaten path with these five picks...


1. Redshirt by The Tiniest Shark

You’re on a new recruit on a space station and you need to make friends and move up the ranks in your career. How do you do those things? Via Spacebook, of course.

The game is a great satire on Facebook, pushing you to make friends, suck up to your superiors and avoid dying on away missions (hence the ‘redshirt’ reference from Star Trek). On one winter break when I didn’t have internet access, I played Spacebook/Redshirt to feel like I did.

2. Papers, Please by Lucas Pope

Step into the shoes of a border agent in a fictional eastern European country who has to process an unending line of potential visitors and migrants.

You’ve been drafted for the job, you need to feed your family, and the rules for who to let in and who to keep out keep changing every day. Will you let in a couple, even if the wife doesn’t have the correct documents? Will you engage in possibly illegal activity if it means money to buy medicine for your son?

The game did the unthinkable — it actually made me sympathetic towards people who work in systems like the TSA, where the rules seem ludicrous and the system itself forces decent people to do indecent things.

3. Okami by Clover Studio

This is an older game (2006) for the PlayStation 2 that’s since been remade for the Wii and in HD for the PlayStation 3.

Okami is perfect if you enjoy Japanese culture — the mythology, the classic art styles and the haunting music. You play as Amaterasu, a white wolf/goddess who has to bring life back to the world’s countryside, through attacks that kill enemies as well as through painting the damaged world via a calligraphic brush (and restoring it to full beauty).

This game isn’t just fun — it’s beautiful and moving at the same time.

4. Muggle Studies by Flourish Klink

Interactive fiction is coming back in style, thanks to simpler interfaces and design tools like Twine, ChoiceScript and InkleWriter opening up the genre to more potential designers.

Muggle Studies is a little more old school, but it’s easy to pick up and explore. The game gives you the role of potential recruit to teach Muggle Studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but something has gone magically wrong at the school and you need to solve the mystery. (Full disclosure: a friend of mine made this game and I am a huge Harry Potter nerd.)

McDonald’s Videogame by Molleindustria

5. McDonald’s Videogame by Molleindustria

This game is more great satire — and actually comprises four mini-games that thrust you into the role of McDonald’s magnate, tasked with increasing worker productivity, finding more grazing land for your cows, turning those cows (plus maybe some other stuff) into burger and managing the company’s corporate marketing campaigns.

McDonald’s Videogame really makes you think about the lengths to which corporate giants will go to be (or remain) profitable. Plus, the game is really hard.

Find out about Concordia’s Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) Research Centre.

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