Anyone who calls themself a “gamer” probably spends at least 5-10 hours a week playing video games, and that’s just the bare minimum. There are plenty of gamers out there who are more than happy to spend nearly all their free time on video games, but even these crazy cats generally know when to stop.
Some games, though, just don’t let you put them down. You’ve played them during passing period at school, dedicated whole weekends to them, and looked at your watch only to find that “few minutes” you intended to play took you to 5 am. These games are just plain addicting, and they demand to be played.
Here are just a few of the many games that have claimed larger portions of our lives than we’d probably care to admit.
Super Mario 64
Arguably one of the most important video games ever made, and certainly one of the most iconic, Super Mario 64 was the best Christmas present you could get in 1996 (along with the Nintendo 64 it probably came with). Kids everywhere were enthralled with the new-fangled 3D environments for Mario to jump around in, and it wasn’t long before parents everywhere regretted that Christmas present.
Not that we wanted to do homework in the first place, but now algebra was even more boring, because we knew Mario was waiting for us in the cabinet under the family TV. And once we got a hold of that amazing, funky controller, we held it in a death grip until our parents made us go to bed. Cries of, “Can’t I at least beat the boss?” “But I haven’t saved Princess Peach, yet!” and, “Just one more star, I promise!” could be heard around 9pm in houses everywhere.
There was a very good reason for this obsession. The ability to save your progress in a console game was still a novel thing, and it opened up the possibility of content that you couldn’t play in one sitting. Hidden Stars, multiple worlds, and a variety of enemies requiring different strategies to defeat made Super Mario 64 one of the most addicting games of the 90s.
Candy Crush Saga
Of course, no list of addicting games would be complete without the microtransaction black hole that is Candy Crush. Anyone who’s owned a smart phone while sitting on a bus or in a waiting room knows about the gravitational pull of this color-matching puzzle game.
It falls into the “minute to learn, lifetime to master” category of games, which only adds to the appeal. Candy Crush is such a simple game that you always feel you should be able to beat the level you’re on, even if it’s been kicking your butt for two hours straight. And instead of being forced to admit defeat, you’re “allowed” to buy power-ups with real money, but it’s only a couple dollars, right? If nothing else, the fact that people will actually spend their hard-earned cash on a free mobile game that more or less amounts to Candy Crush meets Bejewelled proves that this game grabs us by our ADD-addled brains and doesn’t let go.
Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
As I’ve previously mentioned, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (not to mention DLC Afterbirth and Afterbirth+) perfects the “just one more” mentality. This roguelike dungeon crawler is fascinating in its awfulness – everything from the grim plot to the disturbing enemies, items, and animations makes you feel bad for enjoying it.
But enjoy it, you will. New players will be happy to beat more than one level, and their average run will probably last less than five minutes. But something about Isaac will keep you pushing until you’ve mastered the basics of gameplay, which will regularly get you through the first major boss, which is Mom’s Foot (yeah, it’s a weird game).
After that, it’s all about discovering new items, of which there are hundreds. Passive items, active items, trinkets, consumables… it takes true dedication to earn them all, as a good portion of the items (and playable characters) in Binding of Isaac need to be unlocked in various ways. Some items require you to pick up other items a certain number of times or in certain combinations. Others take exceptional feats, such as not taking damage, ignoring power-ups, and beating incredibly difficult enemies with incredibly awful characters/item configurations.
There’s no question that The Binding of Isaac will bring out your desire to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds, and keep you coming back for “just one more run” until the wee hours of the morning.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is a game that is used as a benchmark for other games. It’s inarguably one of the best games ever made, and one of the most played. With an all-time peak of 90,780 concurrent players, which is amazingly high for a single-player game, people are still regularly coming back to Skyrim over six years after its release.
Why all the interest? Well, my friend, if you’re not familiar with the glorious open world of The Elder Scrolls games, you should remedy that. Just exploring the entire landscape would take longer than finishing all available content in hundreds of other games, and that doesn’t even include plot, quests, or personal vendettas against trolls.
There’s just so much to do! Steam says I currently have 308 hours played in Skyrim (second only to the original Binding of Isaac at 484 hours), and I haven’t gotten anywhere near completing the official content, let alone the community content! People spend so much time on Skyrim that when they’re not playing the game, they’re creating mods for other players to enjoy, supplying an endless amount of content for the truly dedicated player.
I can’t even count the number of weekends my teenage self spent at a friend’s house hooking up LAN cables, chugging Mountain Dew, and bingeing the original Starcraft. For a self-proclaimed champion of single-player games, racking up so much time in multiplayer is a testament to how addicting Starcraft really was. On top of that, it took the dedication of packing up my PC, monitor, and peripherals, and convincing a friend to drive me to another friend’s house. How many modern games are worth that sort of investment?
Starcraft was excellent at being simple enough for just about anyone to beat the campaign, but complex enough to inspire one of the largest competitive communities in the history of gaming. Much like chess, even once you have the basic tactics down, there’s still so much to learn. It doesn’t take long to learn what a hateful phrase “Zergling rush” is, but it takes endless practice to come up with methods for consistently defeating them.
One of my favorite memories from a lifetime of gaming is the time my best friend and I played co-op against the hardest setting of AI, and ended up in a seven hour stalemate. Our defensive tactics just managed to hold off every assault the computer could throw at us, but we never had enough time between attacks to build up any sort of offensive force. We refused to give up until 4am, and then we played again! The sun was rising and the songbirds were chirping before we finally decided to pack it in. What an amazing weekend.
What games have made you stay up all night? Let us know in the comments!