Hello, fellow gamers and followers! My post today is inspired by a recent conversation I had with my boyfriend about the games that I play. In my previous blog post, I reviewed a new game from one of my favorite titles: Kirby, the popular franchise whose games are always rated E for Everyone. My boyfriend, named Chris, read my article and wondered what my next review would be. When I told him that I hoped to review a Harvest Moon game next, he chuckled. “You can’t just review the games you like,” he said, “you have to review serious games too, not just cute games like Kirby.” Of course, the “serious” games in question were games like Halo, Fallout, and Assassin’s Creed – games with lengthy storylines, complex controls, and violence. Games rated M for Mature.
I’ll admit up front that I have no problem with M-rated games. Although I don’t play many (the Xbox seems to host a lot of M-rated titles and I don’t own an Xbox for that reason), I do admire and appreciate many of these complex and thoughtful games. I am also a fan of many T-rated games for Nintendo and PlayStation platforms. I even understand why some people decide not to play E-rated games. But I do cringe a little when people discount E-rated games simply because they’re easy and kid-friendly. Am I angry? Of course not. But will I defend my favorite E-rated titles until the end? You bet I will.
Instead of going through and making a comprehensive list of reasons why I love E-rated games, I thought I’d structure this post around a few solid examples. Presented below are just a few of my favorite E-rated games and why they matter in the gaming world.
1. Sonic the Hedgehog. Specifically, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. I have always loved the Sonic franchise, but Sonic Adventure 2: Battle is definitely my favorite Sonic game. For one, this game is interesting and exciting, with missions that can be relatively easy to complete the first time around, but take the time and effort of a true gamer to complete the fifth time around. This is because almost every level in Sonic Adventure 2: Battle is really five levels rolled into one. I love this, especially because each level is interesting and unique; I especially love the soundtrack for this game. It’s a mix of rock, pop, and electronic, depending on which levels you play. Even the Chao Garden, which is a great minigame feature as well, – one that I have played for hours on end, – has some great and memorable tunes. This game also features multiplayer missions outside of the storyline, which makes it a fun party game as well. In addition, I’ve always been a sucker for games and TV episodes that put the good and bad characters on the same side to defeat a common enemy, and that aspect of the storyline is one more reason why I think this game is very dynamic.
Finally, for an E-rated game, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle really packs an emotional punch. The ending of the game is, in all seriousness, heartbreaking, and much of the content is self-aware, and sometimes even mature (think Rouge the Bat). The Sonic franchise does not alienate older players with its content or humor. In fact, because many of the characters are all ambiguously teen or early 20s, they may even connect more with an older audience. In terms of complexity, the Sonic franchise often includes bonus missions within the actual storyline, as I mentioned before, and this is something that many “hardcore” gamers can enjoy. Don’t discount Sonic because he’s a blue hedgehog; these games, especially the one mentioned above, have real value, even for an older audience.
2. Mario. Specifically, the spinoff games, like Mario Kart, Mario Party and Mario sports games. I want to talk about the spinoff games specifically because these are the plotless, straightforward games that might be easy to discredit. The classic mission-style Mario games are often praised for the challenges and excitement they present. But what about those spinoff games? Mario Kart is arguably one of the best racing games for all Nintendo platforms, if not one of the best racing games of all time, even if it isn’t the most complex or realistic. In fact, this E-rated game is supremely fun for its elements of ridiculousness. So Skyrim has graphics that practically pop out of the TV, and so Grand Theft Auto is more dangerous and mature. Mario Kart relishes in its big-nosed, bright-colored silliness and flourishes because of it. And in its silly appearance, the Mario Kart games have even gained tons of competitive popularity. It’s surely not an E-rated game for kids alone.
The same goes for the Mario Party games and Mario sports games, like Mario Tennis. I play very competitively with my sisters in both of these types of games, and sometimes it isn’t good clean fun. Mario Party games in particular contain numerous competitive aspects that even serious players can enjoy in the right company. Finally, these Mario spinoff games allow for multiplayer fun, something that may be limited in more story-driven games. When playing with great friends, the company is sometimes even more important than the game at hand. (Other times, you despise the company and want to hit each one of them so flipping bad with a blue shell.)
3. Harvest Moon. Specifically, Friends of Mineral Town. Although the Harvest Moon series seems to be lagging behind in the gaming world, I continue to play the old games and still admire much of the original innovation. First of all, I’m impressed that this franchise has been so successful digitizing the rural world. These games make farming fun. Not only that, but the Harvest Moon series is also quite famously a dating sim. Although the storylines have progressively gotten sillier, and many of the new characters/potential husbands and wives are too far-fetched for me, this tedious game series yields many of the same accomplished results as many other tedious game series. It may take you a while to weed out your farm and woo up a lady, but the repetition can turn into an addictive rhythm that you may find hard to break away from, and it all becomes worthwhile when you find yourself with a beautiful house, a beautiful wife, and a beautiful farm.
If anything, the Harvest Moon games prove that patience is a virtue, especially if you play hardcore. Many Harvest Moon games do include more challenging aspects. For example, in Friends of Mineral Town, marrying the Harvest Goddess is a near-impossible task that can only be accomplished by players with serious perseverance (and serious tolerance for a loveless marriage). Although I can’t say much for the newer Harvest Moon games – which I think may have alienated older audiences with niche gameplay and by turning towards an immature appearance/approach to marriage – I do think that the older Harvest Moon games, like Friends of Mineral Town and A Wonderful Life, offer a lot of challenges and rewards to gamers of all ages.
4. Professor Layton. Specifically, the first three Professor Layton games, the Curious Village, the Diabolical Box, and the Unwound Future, which are in beautiful 2D and are the “sequel” games in the Layton timeline. The Professor Layton series in general is a great collection of puzzles and brain teasers, but in my opinion the first three games are filled with the most interesting puzzles (there are more word problems, which I find more intriguing than slide puzzles) and are framed by the most provocative mysteries. While these games can be enjoyed by a younger audience, especially because they can teach problem-solving and critical thinking skills in an entertaining virtual setting, the Professor Layton series attracts an older audience in a similar way that the Phoenix Wright series might. The mysteries are not childish; the first three games excited and astounded me and my younger sister when we discovered major turns in the plot. Sometimes murder and abduction are parts of these games, and those two mysteries alone prove to be more than child’s play. Additionally, the puzzles are truly challenging and are also rewarding to solve. Even as I played the third Professor Layton game for the first time this summer, I scratched my head and in all seriousness thought about the puzzles in the game.
The Professor Layton series is indeed thought-provoking, and it presents its content in an E-rated setting. The games tactfully approach the more mature aspects of the game, like the murder and abduction plot points, in such a way that all ages can ponder about these mysteries without more mature aspects like violence and horror. But really, the games don’t need these “shock factors” because the mysteries are so shocking without them. Even the thoughtful, accordion-heavy soundtrack adds to the suspense. And if you solve the plot mystery right away, don’t worry – the 100+ puzzles that are featured in every game should give your brain a workout.
5. Pokemon. In general, the Pokemon franchise demonstrates that even E-rated games can include fighting. (! Insert canned laughter.) In all honesty, Pokemon is one of the most successful, innovative, complex, and memorable franchises in all of gaming. Even after completing the storylines, many gamers continue to play their Pokemon games for hours that turn into days and even weeks. I know I wore out my Pokemon Crystal game with the amount of hours I spent just exploring the map. The Pokemon series is classic and, like the Mario franchise, often applauded by critics and gamers, even if each game’s plot revolves around a ten-year-old child and his/her cuddly, butt-kicking pets. Of course, the plots of Pokemon are not often the main reasons for playing these games, since the majority of Pokemon games revolve around a vague plot to stop a randomly diabolical organization (minus from this the Pokemon Black and White series, whose plots are quite interesting and mature). Instead, the Pokemon series is loved for many other reasons. For one, the many worlds in the Pokemon series have become iconic in their design. Other games can only hope to emulate the fame of landmarks such as Mt. Moon and Cycling Road. The unique landmarks and designs in the Pokemon games have set aside the Pokemon worlds as gems in their own right.
Of course, Pokemon is most famous for the creatures, big and small, that inhabit the iconic worlds. While some play Pokemon casually, others spend hours collecting every Pokemon type, rare and shiny Pokemon included, to complete their collection. Many other gamers also spend serious time leveling up their Pokemon, whether it be for easy gameplay, completing sidequests, or for battling other trainers who have the game. However you play the game, it’s no surprise that Pokemon has a monstrous following, and that includes a significant group of hardcore players. The Pokemon series brings that hardcore potential and long-lasting appeal even as an E-rated title. It just goes to show that a battle game can nix the gore (and combating people, for that matter) to be enjoyable for everyone.
No doubt, all of these titles are wildly popular, and for good reason. Millions of people love these “easy” E-rated games, which are more profound than they might first appear to be. E-rated games are almost always the first titles that a new gamer will experience, though E-rated games certainly shouldn’t be the last. Even if they do include immature themes, it’s surprising how mature some of these E-rated games can be. I play E-rated games as an adult because they are interesting, compelling, and have great lasting appeal. I hope you continue to play too.
Thanks for reading this absurdly long post! xD What are your favorite E-rated games? Or do you still dislike them? Let me know in the comments!