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How to pretend you've played 30 of the best games ever made

Red Dead Redemption (2010) 

Format(s): PS3, Xbox 360

Former outlaw John Marston is forced by the Bureau of Investigation to hunt down his old gang. While doing so, he witnesses the Old West fade and die before him. Those are the main beats of the story, but it’s worth noting that every single worthwhile Western trope is here: machine gun shootouts in Mexico; hard liquor and gambling; you even get a trophy for tying damsels to railroad tracks, if that’s how you choose to live your life. It’s another example of how Rockstar do settings better than almost anyone else, and it’s possibly the best story they’ve written, too.

Key things to mention: The music generally, but specifically the bit when you go to Mexico. After the first act ends, you cross the river and land in a foreign country, your plans in tatters. So Far Away plays, by the otherwise intolerable Jose Gonzalez, and it’s one of the most memorable, soul searching moments in the game.

The most memorable scene: Are we really doing this? Are we actually going to spoil the whole game? Okay, here we go: after taking out his former associates, Marston gets to spend some time with his wife and son. It’s all going well, until the government agencies who employed him turn up and murder him. Afterwards, you take control of his son Jack, and decide what kind of man he’s become. Matt Elliott

Resident Evil 2 (1998) 

Format(s): PS1, N64, GameCube, Dreamcast, PC

So everything worked out at the end of Resident Evil 1! Those super cops went into the spooky mansion, found it overrun with genetically altered beasts and zombies, then blew it up and rode off in a helicopter. All’s well. Wrong! As with all zombie outbreaks, the Umbrella Corporation created T-virus spread to the local rat population who then carried it into nearby Raccoon City. Resident Evil 2 follows rookie cop Leon Kennedy and biker Claire Redfield as they arrive in town after zombies have completely destroyed the city. They try to survive by escaping through a spooky police department overrun with puzzles and traps before they find out it’s connected to a secret subterranean laboratory where a mad scientist has been developing the even more dangerous G-Virus.

Key things to mention: Mention the deep cuts! Say that you not only played through both versions of Leon and Claire’s stories - you can start as either character that then feeds directly into the other’s playthrough, giving both an A and B Scenario - but you unlocked the secret third and fourth campaigns. The first is where you play as an Umbrella soldier named Hunk. The other you play as a sentient chunk of tofu who squeaks when zombies bite him. 

The most memorable scene: Resident Evil 2 is full of great moments, but you’ll really convince your conversation partner if you focus on a scene from Claire or Leon’s B scenario. Bring up how freaked out you were when you meet the deranged police chief mooning over the slowly zombifying corpse of a young woman in his office. So freaky, so Resident Evil. Anthony John Agnello

Minecraft (2011) 

Format(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Vita, PC, mobile

Think of a thing. Literally anything. Now laugh about how it’s already been made in Minecraft, because it absolutely, definitely has. That’s why this is such an easy one to blag: it’s a phenomenon, rather than a game, and a source of income for YouTubers, modders and mappers the world over. Minecraft’s omnipresence is actually helpful. It means you don’t need to be specific if you’re pretending to love it, but it’s also worth remembering there’s a game buried under all that creativity, with bosses, levelling and measured progression. A word of warning, though: if anyone asks, don’t pretend you’ve seen Herobrine. He doesn’t exist.

Key things to mention: Minecraft is surprisingly scary. Your first night usually involves huddling in a muddy burrow, praying that the zombies and hissing spiders can’t find a way in to get you. When you start digging deep underground, it gets worse. This is a game that does darkness better than most others, and foul things that spawn in the gloom give you a reason to fear it.

The most memorable scene: Sunrise after your first night. If you’re playing on Survival mode, your goal on the first day is to build a shelter to see you through the night. Watching the sunrise is a glorious relief, made better by the sight of zombies and skeletons bursting into flames. Now all you need to do is make it through the next night. Matt Elliott

Overwatch (2016) 

Format(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC

Wait, you haven’t played Overwatch?! Do…do you hate joy? Well, if you don’t hate joy but do hate first-person shooters, then here’s the scoop on the newest IP from Blizzard Entertainment. It’s a team-based shooter, six players on a side. For now, there are two game modes: Assault involves capturing and holding points, while in Escort you either guide a vehicle payload to an endpoint or try to prevent the other team from getting there. The foundations of Overwatch are pretty common for multiplayer shooters, but what makes the game special are the heroes. Each one has a unique look and special set of abilities that make you feel like a superhuman, unstoppable bringer of justice and/or death.

Key things to mention: The most important thing in faking Overwatch experience is showing off convincing knowledge of two or three characters. Players usually specialize, picking in a couple heroes as their mains, so you need to sell them on yours. If you like being a team player, say you main Lucio, the upbeat DJ-turned-freedom-fighter who can skate on walls and either speed up or heal allies. If you’re not much of a shooter player, then the splash attacks of Pharah’s aerial rocket assaults are probably what you’d favor. Or if you just like adorably charming Brits, then clearly you play the zippy Tracer. Also, complain about how annoying Mei is. You’ll probably inspire the people you’re with to share their own sad stories about being shot-blocked by the cutest unintentional troll in the game.

The most memorable scene: The beauty of Overwatch is how much random stuff happens in matches, so the odds are good that nobody can call you on totally making something up. Just take a look at the top posts on the Overwatch Reddit one day, then use what happens in the first gif that makes you laugh to use as your go-to “memory”. Anna Washenko

Earthbound (1994) 

Format(s): SNES

You play as Ness, a chubby little suburban kid with a heart of gold and a Louisville Slugger, and you've been charged with a destiny by a time-traveling bee. You must travel the world (i.e., a cartoony version of Earth where the cheeseburgers you find inside trash cans restore your health), meet new friends, find several magical locations and absorb their essence, and use them to defeat Giygas, a malevolent alien hell-bent on warping the minds and hearts of Earth's life-forms and destroying the planet from within. You meet a babysitter named Paula, a genius inventor named Jeff, and a mystical martial artist named Poo. Together, you'll defeat the forces of evil, your journey eventually leading you to transplant your brains inside robot bodies to travel into the past, where your only recourse after attack after ineffectual attack is to pray.

Key things to mention: Earthbound is funny, weird, and sometimes frustrating. Balk at the limited inventory space, or how you get a free bicycle in the second town for speedier movement and have it immediately made worthless when you get a second party member an hour later. Laugh at the time you totally vanquished the evil, blue-worshipping Happy Happyist Cult. Joke about how you ordered a pizza that costs over $100 and how it was delivered to you in the middle of a swamp. Agonize over how you spent untold hours fighting Starman Supers until one of them dropped the Sword of Kings, the only weapon that Poo can wield to increase his attack power. And always mention how you totally owned a copy on SNES before anyone ever heard of it and how you even had the included strategy guide with scratch-n-sniff cards; people love when you do that.

The most memorable scene: There are loads of great moments, like investigating a mysterious blackout in a shopping mall, watching Blues Brothers-knockoff The Runaway Five perform, or sitting down for a coffee break with a member of the strange, orb-shaped race known collectively as Mr. Saturn. But one of my favorite bits is when you lead Jeff across big lake by making a gum-chewing monkey summon a loch ness from the watery depths in order to save Ness and Paula from a zombie-infested town. This game goes places. David Roberts

World of Warcraft (2004) 

Format(s): PC

World of Warcraft is the big cheese of MMOs. The original 2004 game, which the insiders call vanilla WoW, emerged out of Blizzard Entertainment’s real-time strategy franchise Warcraft. Those games introduced the fantasy land of Azeroth and the core conflict between humans and orcs. With WoW, those two races have spearheaded the Alliance (which included humans, gnomes, dwarves, and night elfs at the start) and the Horde (with orcs joining trolls, tauren, and the undead), two groups that are at each other’s throats until some big bad appears that threatens the very existence of Azeroth. In vanilla, there are a couple enemies so terrible they unite the two rivals. Onyxia is a black dragon who tried to take over the main Alliance city of Stormwind by mind-controlling Highlord Bolvar Fordragon. Nefarian, another black dragon, played mad scientist with the blood of other dragons. And ancient elemental evil Ragnaros the Firelord appeared in Azeroth to burninate the countryside a la Trogdor. That’s just in the core game; expansions have seen WoW players exploring once-hidden corners of Azeroth, destroying loads of ancient evils, and occasionally (ugh) traveling through time.

Key things to mention: First, declare your faction: are you Horde and the person you're talking to is Alliance or vice versa? Conversation done. WoW players have playfully (and sometimes not-so-playfully) ragged on each other for their allegiance since launch, and there's still a slight sense of "we don't associate with those people" if said people are of the opposing side. If the person is of the same faction as you, compliment them on their class choice but always add, "it's too bad they nerfed <person's class> so hard recently." This will take all the weight of conversation off your shoulders - WoW players love to talk about their own class. Lastly, if someone asks you which expansion you think is the best, the correct answer is The Burning Crusade (2007), Wrath of the Lich King (2008), or Legion (2016). Cataclysm (2010) and Warlords of Draenor (2014) are widely considered to be outright bad, and Mists of Pandaria (2012) is just ok.

The most memorable scene: WoW hasn't placed much emphasis on story in the game until recently, so instead of scenes, players often reminisce about their favorite raids. The siege of The Black Temple from Burning Crusade (where players got to kill big bad Illidan Stormrage - even though he's alive and a good guy now) and the storming of Icecrown Citadel from Wrath of the Lich King (where players killed, you guessed it, the Lich King) are good old-school examples. Alternatively, say that just thinking about King Varian Wrynn or Warchief Vol'jin's deaths in the Legion expansion get you too choked up to continue talking. Sam Prell and Anna Washenko

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