Top 7... Games you just need to play to understand

No, thank you

As supposed game critics, we here at GamesRadar like to think of our taste in games as mostly unassailable. And usually, its pretty easy for us to justify our proclivities and even talk persuasively about them. After all, most good games have pretty apparent appeal: It doesnt take a politicians rhetoric to convincingly recommend Battlefield 4. All you really need to say is Yeah, so I just kept jumping into the helicopter and immediately blowing it up and killing my own teammates by accident. Done. Sold.

But there are some games for which I really cant easily explain my deep affection. Every once in a while, I get desperately hooked on the newest Harvest Moon iteration, and if asked why I can usually only muster a series of words that includes turnips and dating and in this one you get a dog. Eventually, my rants are punctuated by a somber, sobering I dont know. If you love any games you just cant convince your friends to play, then Im guessing you know exactly what Im talking about. Read on to discover our favorite games that you just have to dive into to understand.

7. Spelunky... sounds like a mean Mario, with no up-side

Spelunky is a real dick. Everyone--including those who love the game--will tell you that. The primary gameplay loop involves you getting killed in a way that will probably at least feel unfair, causing you to lose all of your progress and have to start the game over from the very beginning. And because the levels are randomly generated, anything you learned about the layouts and enemy spawns is rendered moot.

Im guessing the tight controls and satisfying gameplay variety wont be enough to convince you that the game is still a blast to play in spite of that. Or is it because of that? Spelunky is the rare game that makes you feel accomplished for succeeding, and enduring all of the unfiltered hatred and pain it throws your way is totally worth it.

6. 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors... sounds like it shouldn't even be a game

999 has almost no gameplay, and the gameplay that is there is actually pretty mediocre. The times when you have the most interaction are when youre solving puzzles that are admittedly poorly designed and not all that fun or rewarding. The rest of the games runtime is devoted to reading text and choosing dialogue options. Oh, and you have to play through the game six times to get the full story. Also, an--hey, wait, where are you going?

Okay, so its a visual novel, and thats why most people havent played or even heard of this game. but thats a real shame. What it provides, though unconventional in the Western market, is one of the best examples of mature, adult storytelling in games. The dialogue is well-written, funny, and heartfelt, and it may just be enough to turn you on to a whole genre that youve probably written off.

5. Dark Souls... sounds like the video game version of being bullied

You may have heard your friends blabbing incessantly about this melting pot of masochistic madness. Like Spelunky, its primary objective is to destroy and demoralize you. Its remarkable difficulty and opaque, abstract nature caused it to somehow become one of the most popular games on Twitch.TV livestreams, with a massive following that is completely baffling to behold. Basically, you're watching someone die over and over.

Heres the thing, though: None of that is undeserved. The games mechanics and controls are as tight as any 3D action games, and the insane difficulty only serves to make it exponentially more rewarding than any other comparable experience. I mean, just because I spent several hours trying to beat one boss and defeated it only to turn a corner and immediately be killed by another boss, instantly losing all of the progress I had made, doesnt mean I didnt have a great time doing it--ignore my screams and curses and the fact that I literally yelled "I'M NOT HAVING A GREAT TIME DOING THIS!" That doesnt make me crazy, right? Right?

4. DayZ... sounds less fun than a real zombie apocalypse

On the surface, it's appealing enough--over the past decade or so, cheeky fascination with the zombie apocalypse scenario has become deeply entrenched in our society. And DayZ is probably the most accurate and realistic approach to the zombie apocalypse of any game. So youre on board, right? Great, so I dont need to get into the specifics of the actual gameplay, which involve long-term, realistic injuries and constantly scavenging to keep thirst and hunger at bay. I really don't feel like explaining how if you want to get a blood transfusion, you need to find someone else with the same blood type. Seriously.

DayZ is really just a framework in which you tell your own stories. If that doesnt sound interesting to you, and the countless YouTube videos cant convince you to give it a shot, I dont know what other advice to give you other than to try it out for yourself and feel the visceral rush of having to find shelter before dawn.

3. Persona 4... sounds like a high school dating sim

I was on board until you said high school. Actually, its not even that; high school students could make fine video game protagonists. Its the part where you said roughly half of the game consists of attending high school. Taking tests, going out for sports, hanging out with other students--these are memories I either dont have or dont want to relive. And reading through reams of text so you can further your social standing with your classmates--which is essentially a requirement--sounds like it takes Persona from interesting, but not for me to dizzying cocktail of antipathy.

If youve played the recent Persona games, you know that the hypothetical speaker in the above paragraph is missing a few pieces in his impression of them. But dont blame him. For the most part, the imponderables are what make the games great: The music, the atmosphere, the quality of the writing. Theres some genius in the way the games systems interact with each other, too. But youll have to fully give yourself over before you can truly discover that.

2. Papers, Please... sounds like a game where you play as a TSA employee

In the same way that Persona doesnt actually feel like going to school, Papers, Please doesnt really feel like going to work at a mundane, soul-killing job, despite all indications to the contrary. Papers, Please sees its protagonist, an immigration officer in the fictional Communist nation of Arstotzka, working within a specific ruleset to decide whether or not to grant hopeful immigrants access. "If you look at TSA employees and think that they must have the most fun job ever, this game is for you!" is an accurate statement.

I mean, you dont really get to make decisions! As a player, you have almost zero agency, as not following the rules will eventually cause you to fail (and your family to starve and no we're not making that up it's seriously a mechanic in the game). Its primary action is to instill empathy in the player, both for the beleaguered protagonist and the weary immigrants hoping to gain passage for a better life. Papers, Please is probably the only game on this list that isnt at all fun, but if you play it, youll see that thats not necessarily a bad thing.

1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf... sounds like a collect-a-thon for nine-year-olds

Games like Persona might be a hard sell, but at least it has some surface-level appeal--for all of its weirdness, it at least has some traditional RPG gameplay to speak of. Animal Crossing is going to be much harder to argue for. Seriously, I dont even know where to begin.

Okay, here goes: We all love being in debt, right? Shit.

Let me start over. Animal Crossing is charming as hell! Its colorful world, bizarre art style, and adorable (and well-written) characters are enough to turn your irises heart-shaped. Plus, theres interesting multiplayer functionality and you can dig holes? There, Ive managed to avoid having to explain why collecting fruit is so much damn fun. Ill level with you: I completely understand why, if youve never played the games, all of us Animal Crossing lovers seem like were in some kind of cult. But if you join us, you wont regret it. Or, hell, maybe you will. Join us.

Did we convince you?

And if youre looking for more enlightening gaming facts in convenient list form, why dont you check out our Top 7 games where the bad guys actually win and our Top 7 coolest penguins in gaming?

Donny Tarin