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Best Video Game Soundtracks Part 1: the 1980s

The Best Video Game Soundtracks Part 1- the 1980s

Video games possess a number of elements that, collectively, create the experience we understand as gaming.  Graphics are important, but so are controls, feedback, and the smoothness of motion, all of which are required for a game to be successful.  Additionally, one of the most significant aspects of our interaction with many games is the music, which for some games is crucial in creating ambiance and immersion.  In this series, each article will discuss some of the best video game soundtracks from each decade, beginning with the 1980s and moving through the 2010s.  Whether you’re reliving the music from your childhood or hearing it for the first time, these compositions are sophisticated and moving, and are in many ways a reflection of the times they were created.  This article begins our journey with video game soundtracks from the decade that started the console game era, and has some of the most iconic soundtracks of all time; the 1980s. 


Super Mario Bros

The most iconic Nintendo title, as well as arguably the most famous video game of all time, set the gold standard for platformers for decades afterwards by having some of the best game play imaginable.  Yet, what most of us likely remember more than where the off-screen Bullet Bills come from is the music that accompanied Super Mario Bros.  The invention of the prodigious composer and musician Koji Kondo, whose work will appear in later articles in this series as well, the soundtrack for the original Mario NES game was genius in its combination of lighthearted simplicity with sophisticated variation that keeps the music from sounding repetitive and dull.  If you no longer have a functioning NES, you can also grab the Mini NES, on which Super Mario Bros is pre-loaded and ready for play.


Best Retro and Indie Games for the PlayStation 4

Best retro and indie games for the ps4

The PlayStation 4 is a powerful game system, one capable of processing and displaying the most recent, visually stunning, and mechanically sophisticated games the industry has to offer.  There are, however, a number of great options for games on the PS4 that are older, or independently develop, for those uninterested in triple-A title games or simply looking for a break from the heavy and often extremely intense newer console games.  For a spouse or partner, younger siblings, or older parents who want to enjoy video games on their own terms, these retro and indie options offer a great way to share a great gaming experience with loved ones who would otherwise not relate. 


 Stardew Valley

Offering a stark contrast to Divinity 2 and God of War, Stardew Valley is an indie game with a retro feel that’s playful, relaxed, and rewarding.  As a farming simulator, Stardew Valley starts the player with a large plot of land, a handful of seeds, and basic tools that you must use to slowly clear and utilize the farm hidden beneath the weeds and rocks.  You can work at your own pace, allocating time to take care of animals, explore caves, or socialize with dozens of well-developed characters, some of whom you can ultimately marry.  Stardew Valley is, primarily, a game of catharsis, where every day offers an opportunity to reap what you have previously sown and to make further impactful decisions regarding your farm and your town.  Because of its depth and layers of experience, Stardew Valley is a great alternative for a number of different groups disinclined to play the latest console games, including younger children or family members not traditionally interested in gaming.


Best Family-Friendly and Casual Party Games

Best Family-Friendly and Casual Party Games

As discussed in our previous article, sometimes we derive enjoyment from games purely because of the competitive element involved, and for that, intense and difficult games of strategy are required.  At other times, however, the situation demands something casual and lighthearted; large gatherings, varying levels of strategic thinking, or a wide distribution in age range all generally preclude games like Risk and Diplomacy that were previously discussed.  Instead, this article will take a look at some of the less stressful, and more inclusive, games that present the same challenge and decision making we love about gaming.  For mixed company parties or family gatherings, these games are entertaining but not excessively intense.


Say Anything

 Age: 13+, 3-8 Players

 Apples to Apples is a game that has receive much praise over the years, and deservedly so, but in many ways Say Anything is strictly an improvement.  Say Anything proceeds similarly enough to Apples to Apples; question cards are read, responses are given, and the judge for that round determines which answer they like best.  The gamesmanship comes from playing to the particular interests and tastes of the judge for that specific round, and, because all responses are submitted anonymously, favoritism is eliminated.  In Say Anything, however, unlike Apples to Apples, your response is submitted via a small erasable whiteboard with which the player can create virtually anything that will go on to function as their response.  Thus, unlike in games where you are forced to respond only with the cards in your hand, Say Anything allows for unique, creative, and even pictorial responses.  This allows each person to have a customized experience with the game, enabling it to scale to a variety of ages and types of players.  Say Anything is intuitive, hilarious, and has virtually no set up time, making it one of the best party games out there.

Best Holiday Gifts for your Gamer Kids

Best Holiday Gifts for your Gamer Children

Welcome to the second installment of our holiday shopping guide.  In this article we discuss gift options for kids that love gaming, tailoring the list to address the specific needs of the age group.  Here you’ll find a handful of products that reflect a playful, but not infantile, element of gaming that children will appreciate and thrive within, providing a number of great options for holiday purchases.


Nintendo Switch

Starting with a big-ticket item, the Nintendo Switch is the latest of Nintendo’s legendary gaming consoles that will be sure to delight almost any kid who identifies as a gamer.  Unlike other gaming consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch is more specifically designed for a younger audience.  The controllers, for example, are much smaller than their other counterparts, even without a discussion of the enormous green monstrosity of the original Xbox controller.  Additionally, the games are generally more kid-friendly, with vibrant colors, less realistic violence, and a more overall playful tone.  Although the Switch comes with a hefty price tag, it’s a gift that will not only provide enduring entertainment for your children, but also for the entire family or groups of friends, as Switch games have a heavy focus on cooperative and party style games.


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