4.) Super Smash Brothers Melee
There is not a single game I've spent more time playing than Super Smash Brothers Melee. Having launched early in the life of the Gamecube, it's also one of the few games I've played throughout an entire console generation. It's a game I enjoyed in high school and carried with me to college, but it's not just about the game itself. Smash is about the bonds, friendships, and rivalries that are born from multiplayer matches that fit the definition of "fun" more than any other game I've ever played.
Gamers and even people in general are often drawn to Smash Bros because of the fast-paced action, bright colors, and most importantly, the classic Nintendo characters. On the surface, observers see a fun, party game with wacky items and zany stages. Admittedly, the party-game style and atmosphere is what drew me to the Nintendo 64 original and the subsequent Gamecube sequel.
Over time, I played Melee with many different people. I started with a neighborhood friend and eventually my dad and two sisters even joined-in on the action. Throughout high school, I started playing with friends on a pretty consistent basis. A few of the more dedicated players and myself started playing more frequently and tweaking various options. We would turn certain items on/off, play only on certain stages, shift from timed matches to stock matches, and so on. Eventually, we decided to remove items completely and only play on stages that didn't actively affect players. Basically, we removed the elements of chance to result in a game more based on skill.
Many games would crumble after taking away so many options and stripping the game down to a bare-bones state. But with Melee, the opposite happened. My friends, myself, and gamers around the world discovered there was actually an incredibly deep, intricate fighting game underneath the party-game veil. We started to have more fun - and more competition - by playing in this style.
Turns out, Melee had a whole host of advanced techniques underneath the surface. Many of them were difficult to master, especially against another human player. Crouch-canceling, wave dashing, edge-hogging are just a few of the strategies dedicated players attempted to learn.
Once I went off to college, I made new friends...and new Melee rivals. I quickly discovered there were so many others who also preferred to play Melee as more of a competitive game rather than a party game. We poured countless hours into the game, playing night after night. The crazy thing? It never got old. I can probably count on one hand the number of games I could play repeatedly, for years, and never have them feel old or stale. We were constantly improving and learning new things about the game. It probably helps that many of us were ultra competitive and wanted to be the absolute best we could be.
Whether you prefer party games or competitive games, Melee is great for both and I don't fault anyone for enjoying one over the other. What's incredible is how Nintendo and HAL Laboratory created a game that so effortlessly works in either environment. In fact...I think I'd like to go play right now.