What do you mean Mario retired?
July 4, 2009 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I stopped gaming when the dinosaurs roamed the earth (not quite PacMac, but Mario Brothers 3). How do I get back in?

I was an avid gamer when I was a kid (from Atari to Commodore 64 all the way through SNES and Sega Genesis), but I just stopped gaming all of sudden.

I vividly remember going to bed at night after a marathon sessions of Super Mario Brothers 3 and still being able to see Mario running across the screen in my head.

Fast forward 20 years: I want back in, but have no idea where to start.

Games I liked a lot back in the day:

 - The Legend of Zelda
 - Super Mario Brothers
 - Mega Man (really liked this one!)
 - miscellaneous fight games like Mike Tyson Punch-Out! and martial arts games.
 - Myst was just the ultimate; I really loved that game.
 - I liked some racing games, but tended to bore of them quickly.

I guess I like games that force me to figure things out through exploration and discovery (what, where, how, etc.)

I shouldn't limit my choices, but here are some dislikes:

 - first-person shooter games like Doom
 - games that require me to memorize hundreds of control key combinations
 - games where I have to press keys really fast (I remember a track and field game on NES that required pressing A or B really fast and repeatedly to build up speed)
 - games with a lot of dialog (where you have to either listen to characters talking incessantly or read lots scrolling text)
 - team sport games (football, basketball, etc.). Non-team sports can be fun, like tennis, boxing, etc.

I don't like interminable games (ones with no discernible end or take forever to finish) and (I'm probably wrong on this) it seems like most modern MMORPG questing games like Warcraft just go on and on and on. I just like a goal, not something that's interminable. I am open to MMORPG if they fit the above, but I just really don't know a thing about the MMORPG universe.

Lastly, hardware:

I have a powerful PC (quad core, 4GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT), but it's probably nothing compared to some of those gaming rigs with enough horsepower to heat a house (4 video cards, etc.)

I actually want to get away from the PC, so I'm open to buying a dedicated gaming machine like an XBOX, but I don't know which one to buy. I'm more of a cerebral gamer (not physical, jump around the living room) and I prefer to play alone (and usually late at night), so I'm thinking the Wii is probably not for me. No idea on Sony products.

Ideas on what kind of TV and sound system to buy would be great, especially if they work well with usual media activies like watching DVDs, etc.

So AskMe, now that Mario is retired (or is he), how do I get back in?
posted by foooooogasm to Computers & Internet (44 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Just because they market the Wii as a group-type console, there are plenty of awesome games you can play by yourself. I rarely play my Wii with anyone else.

Super Mario Galaxy is awesome. Everyone I know who has played it likes it.
posted by radioamy at 9:33 AM on July 4, 2009

Actually, the Wii might be a good fit for you. You can download a ton of classic games from the Virtual Console. Mario is hardly retired; Mario Galaxy 2 and New Super Mario Bros for Wii were just announced and both look to continue with the tried and true Mario formula. The new Punch Out is getting a lot of great reviews and there are exploration games like Endless Ocean that are worth checking out.

You don't necessarily have to jump up and down in order to play Wii and you don't really need multiple people. It sounds like you're a fairly casual gamer and Wii is designed just for that.
posted by Diskeater at 9:40 AM on July 4, 2009

3rding the Wii for reasons mentioned above. Most games don't require full body action. You can get by with mostly wrist movements.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2009

Yeah it sounds like you'd like the games out now for the Wii. Also many of the old games you say you liked, and many others like them, are available on the Virtual Console (downloadable games on the Wii)--including your SMB3. Invest in the classic controller if you go this way. Don't forget you can get a controller and play old Gamecube games on the Wii too. There are some good ones that can be had for cheap.

Also your computer is more than enough for most games. Check out Steam, try some demos and see if there's anything you like. They often have specials on older games, which are all new to you. I know they have Beyond Good and Evil which you might like.
posted by sevenless at 9:44 AM on July 4, 2009

Mega Man (really liked this one!)

You may be interested in Mega Man 9, a retro-style sequel which is available as a downloadable on all the current consoles.
posted by jozxyqk at 9:50 AM on July 4, 2009

Nthing a Wii. You would probably like the Paper Mario series.

You can get a lot of vintage gaming favorites (like the Zelda and Mario games) on virtual console, too.
posted by AV at 9:52 AM on July 4, 2009

Buy a Playstation 2 or Gamecube and a bunch of dirt cheap, but still great used games which you won't have seen.

Check metacritic or a similar site for well reviewed games that sound like a good fit, but here are a few suggestions:

PS2: Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Katamari Damacy, Grand Theft Auto 3, Guitar Hero, Jak & Daxter

Gamecube: Zelda:Wind Waker, Zelda:Twilight Princess, Pikmin, Metroid Prime, Mario Sunshine, Beyond Good & Evil
posted by ecurtz at 9:52 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Note: Gamecube games are also playable on the Wii.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:56 AM on July 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for answers so far, everyone!

A quick clarification: I don't anticipate going retro very often. While I liked those old games, I really want to experience how awesome games have become. I'm looking forward to new games that have the qualities of the games I liked in the past.
posted by foooooogasm at 9:58 AM on July 4, 2009

Seconding Steam. Being able to play demos is a nice way to decide if you like a game before buying it, and the selection is good. The ability to buy from home is also a nice perk.

I recently picked up one of the Tomb Raider games, and it sounds like it might be up your alley. Requires some thinking (solve puzzles, figure out how to get out of the room, etc.), has some shooting/jumping/quick movements/etc., but isn't a 'twitchy' game that requires uber button-pushing skills.

Also, give MMORPGs a second thought. As a WoW player, I can tell you that although it never technically 'ends', there are definite goals to achieve - you don't just wander around the world with no purpose. You can play alone if you like, but obviously there is a social aspect to the game which is in my opinion, the game's strength.
posted by tryniti at 9:59 AM on July 4, 2009

Seconding ecurtz. I got so much enjoyment out of my Gamecube, it is ridiculous. Literally thousands of hours of play. All the games he listed are great, as well as Chibi-Robo, Mario Kart, Luigi's Mansion (controls aren't great, but it was the first defining game on the Cube), and Spiderman 2 (it's a movie game, but trust me, it fits EVERY ONE of your qualifications. You have a seamless, scale version of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, and a few others. It's beautiful).

You could probably pick up a Gamecube and ecurtz entire list, as well as mine, for less than the cost of a current generation console. And not like any of this will feel "old" to you.
posted by Precision at 10:05 AM on July 4, 2009

2nding getting a PS2 real cheap these days, and lots of good (old) titles to choose from.

To ecurtz's list I'd add Lego Star Wars & Indiana Jones (or you could get the PC versions), Tomb Raider Anniversary Edition, and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
posted by fings at 10:05 AM on July 4, 2009

My wanky take on the spiritual heirs to your favorite oldies. I like puzzlers more than shooters.

The Legend of Zelda :: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Super Mario Brothers :: Little Big Planet
Mega Man:: The Orange Box: Portal*
Boxing or Martial arts games :: Ninja Gaiden Sigma or Fight Night IV
Myst :: Ico or Shadow of the Colossus (or upcoming PS3 sequel)

This list is a bit PlayStation-centric. I have a 360, PS2/3 and PC games, but the PS3 gets the most action. There's something about plunking down on the couch and starting a game in 4 seconds that the PC hassle can't match. One night spent fighting to get a game working on your PC is all it takes to turn you off PC gaming forever.

Also don't ignore Grand Theft Auto (any). I avoided them for years because I thought "bah, driving around game, boring." I was foolish.

*Haters: think about it.
posted by rokusan at 10:07 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I also recommend the Wii. If Myst was your favorite game, I think you'll really love the Metroid Prime games. Although they're first-person, their gameplay does not rely on twitchy headshots like Doom. Rather, you explore a vast, lonely world, picking up bits and pieces of the story by scanning documents left behind by a destroyed civilization or doomed laboratory. They're like first person action-anthropology, and they're great.
posted by martens at 10:16 AM on July 4, 2009

A Wii is a good idea because yeah, Gamecube games, which seem right up your alley, can be played on the Wii. All of your old favorite franchises have freshly rolled out versions for the Wii, too. And you can download a ton of old old games; my boyfriend is just like you (grew up an avid gamer with love for Nintendo, Atari, Intellivision even; never cared much for first person shooters; his top five games ever include Mega Man and the Zelda and Mario franchises; for some reason fell out of gaming until the Wii revived his interest) and has had a ball downloading silly Starcade-era arcade games through his Wii. I don't know if you still have access to your old games, but if you don't, a cute sort of way to play them in passing is through Animal Crossing for the Gamecube. You can "collect" the old NES games and play them within the Animal Crossing game.

deBlob, Boom Blox, and Rampage are especially fun for the Wii.

There are "old skool" comps for almost every platform, full of Atari and retro Nintendo goodness.

How do you feel about portable systems (i.e., did you own and enjoy a Gameboy Advance)? The DS is really great if you're of the right mind, and some great games have come out for it. If you can get your mitts on it, I recommend the platform/arcade-and-draw games for the DS. Kirby Canvas Curse, Pac-Pix, stuff like that. Those retro comps are available for the DS too. And Pac-Man Vs., which involves a bunch of people taking on different roles--as ghosts and Pac-Man!--and duking it out by chasing each other through the grid. The controls are a little wonky on the version for the DS, but it's a lot of fun. It's also available on...g'ah, I forget. The Gamecube? It's a ton of fun.

I second the notion you'd probably really enjoy Katamari Damacy and We <3>
If you liked Myst, I have a feeling you might like some of the mystery-solving/survival critical-thinking games like Trace Memory, Hotel Dusk, Unsolved Crimes, Lost in Blue, etc. And everyone I know raves about the Phoenix Wright/Apollo Justice franchise. Not quite the same but a little related are the Professor Layton games, where there's a general mystery you're trying to solve, but to solve it you must crack a zillion little Mensa-brainteaser-ish riddles and puzzles.

Henry Hatsworth looks promising, sort of problem-solving combined with Tetris or something, but I haven't picked it up yet. Do you like Tetris-y games, by the way? If you do, check out Neves, Picross, Polarium, Arkanoid, etc. Ideal type of game for the DS.

Did you ever play Pikmin? You might like it. Ditto Meteos.

And regardless of specific interest, I have to recommend Puzzle Quest because I have yet to meet anyone owning a DS who didn't get hooked on it. It's Bejeweled/Zookeeper but reinvigorated, with an RPG storytelling and problem-solving layer, and the ability to cast "spells" against your opponent by strategizing which colored tiles you take off the board. It will keep you entertained for a zillion hours.

And nobody knows what Scribblenauts will actually be like (it hasn't come out yet), but the premise sounds full of potential. I just hope it lives up to some of it.
posted by ifjuly at 10:24 AM on July 4, 2009

Man, preview said it'd work even though I was skeptical...I meant "We (heart) Katamari."
posted by ifjuly at 10:26 AM on July 4, 2009

Sounds like you need a Wii!

Mega Man 9 (it's so hard, you'll want to punch the television)
Super Mario Galaxy
World of Goo
Zelda: Twilight Princess
Zack & Wiki
posted by AloneOssifer at 10:27 AM on July 4, 2009

I recommend the Wii. It's the cheapest console, especially with its much lower energy-consumption. And it plays games for Game Cube if you just get an old GC-controller to plug in, so you basically get a GC for no extra cost.

Don't believe the tv-commercials. You don't have to jump around, and you don't need to have social gatherings.

Super Mario Galaxy is great, btw. A bit confusing in places, but still.
posted by Ingenting at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2009

If you do decide to stick with the PC for now there are some fantastic suggestions above.

nthing:Portal and Tomb Raider:Anniversary, both of these should match you well.

There is also something of a renaissance of independent PC games at the moment. Braid, World of Goo, and Cave Story are all darlings of the gamer set which originated on the PC and are available both there and (usually by download) on some of the current generation consoles.
posted by ecurtz at 10:30 AM on July 4, 2009

Myst has had several sequels which haven't been half-bad, as well as a 3d remake.
posted by alexei at 10:31 AM on July 4, 2009

Seconding Lego Star Wars for whatever console you get. It's very very fun. I've yet to play the other Lego games in the series (Indiana Jones, Batman?), but the two for Star Wars were a ridiculously good puzzle/action hybrid.
posted by Precision at 10:33 AM on July 4, 2009

Has anyone suggested a Wii yet? Oh. OK, well, they are right. I love my Xbox and Xbox 360, but the Wii, even with it's lower-res graphics) is the best bang-for-the-buck when it comes to versatility and fun. There are plenty of older (but new to you) titles you can pick up for $20, or even less on the used market.
posted by The Deej at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2009

I didn't see your response about wanting to play new (to you) games, not just rehash. Ooops, sorry. Given that, I heartily agree with ecurtz--if my boyfriend didn't already own the sixth generation platforms I definitely would've picked them up in the past year when I finally got into gaming. You can buy a PS2 and a Gamecube plus a bunch of old games for less than the price of a fully loaded Wii. If you go that route, I'll throw another few recommendations in the pot and second some already mentioned: Simpsons Hit and Run (so much fun, even if you don't think you'll like something that seems like GTA lite), Golden Sun, Monkey Island, Oddworld Abe, Kingdom Hearts, Maniac Mansion, Rez, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Intelligent Qube, Cookie & Cream, Persona 3, and Chibi-Robo. And though I now know the "don't want to rehash necessarily" bit, I'll still mention you can get the PS2 comp of all the Sonic games. Wonderful (that was the only game I ever played as a kid, at my cousins' house, so it has nostalgic value for me...).
posted by ifjuly at 10:37 AM on July 4, 2009

AV: " You would probably like the Paper Mario series. "

If you don't like a lot of dialog, don't get Super Paper Mario. It's a neat game but it's an RPG and there is a lot of cut scenes and dialog and you have to remember the storyline. I found it confusing.
posted by radioamy at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2009

The one game, FYI, that was pretty disappointing for the Wii was Super Smash Brothers. It's just a rehash of the previous version. All button-mashing - didn't bother to take advantage of the Wii gyroscope technology. You're better off getting a different fighting game.
posted by radioamy at 10:45 AM on July 4, 2009

Buy a PS3 and Little Big Planet. That game is so fucking great it hurts.

Alternatively as mentioned above, Wii and Zelda, Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy.

We have both. LBP is crack.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:04 AM on July 4, 2009

World of Goo
posted by meta_eli at 11:26 AM on July 4, 2009

Nobody's said Okami yet? beautiful game, and fun too.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:27 AM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the Burnout series of games is really fun too. It's a racing game that rewards you for how aggressively you drive. The later ones also have a mode where the goal is to cause a crash with the most damage.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:30 AM on July 4, 2009

For the cerebral PC player: Braid is excellent. For about five minutes, you'll be thinking, "Meh, this is basically Mario"... and then your mind will be blown. Portal is fantastic; I can't say more without getting hyperbolic. You might also check out Psychonauts; it's a good mix of platforming and puzzling.

If you end up with something that can play GameCube games (the Wii can, too), for God's sake, get Pikmin. I was housesitting for a friend with a GC once, and I could not stop playing that game. I looked half-dead when he finally got back, but it is worth half-dying for.

I also regret getting World of Goo for the Wii; controlling your seething hordes of blobs is much easier with a mouse.
posted by McBearclaw at 11:32 AM on July 4, 2009

Thirding a PC, Steam, and seconding the Lego Star Wars series. I bought my first PC ever in order to play Portal, and it was worth the price of admission. I own a Wii, but it's been on loan to relatives for about a year. I don

Seriously, it sounds like Portal is the kind of game you're looking for. It's a serious puzzle game, but is fully modern - gorgeous graphics, deep puzzles, very modern plot, for a video game.

I just got Fallout 3, and two hours in, am very impressed, but it might be too first-person shooter-ish for what you're after.
posted by dylanjames at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2009

(whoah, editor snafu! reaching for `, hit tab, then return posted). I was just saying "I don't miss my Wii" at the end of the first paragraph.
posted by dylanjames at 11:43 AM on July 4, 2009

I recommend you start with some simple but fantastic games that will play on your current PC that are either cheap or free. That way you're making a small commitment at first, in case gaming turns out to be something you don't have time for now or aren't as enamored with as you once were. Specifics:

Knytt and Knytt stories, both available here, are fantastic free platformers with a unique art style and an emphasis on exploration.

Cave Story, available here for free, plays like an NES-era exploration platformer, but is better than any that were actually made in that time. It's currently being remade for the Wii.

World of Goo, available here, costs ten dollars or so, and is a rather inventive 2D puzzle game in which you connect flexible balls of, well, goo, to form structures--this mechanic is iterated in a number of startlingly creative ways.

Plants Vs. Zombies, available here for twenty dollars, is a simple but charming strategy game in which you attempt to keep zombies away from your house by growing a large selection of deadly but adorable plants.
posted by IjonTichy at 11:50 AM on July 4, 2009

I know there have been a billion suggestions for the Wii in this thread, but let me nth it anyway because I had a VERY similar background to yours. I loved computer games and also loved the NES as a kid/teenager. I basically stopped playing games for a long while though, roughly starting in college. I have pretty similar preferences - not a huge fan of interminable MMORPGs, hate insanely complex key combos, etc. (The only major difference is that I did not like Myst.)

All that said, I got a Wii a couple of years ago precisely because it seemed appealing to non-hardcore gamers, and it is. I don't play it as much anymore, but there are a few truly excellent games for it. Super Mario Galaxy is awesome, as is Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Guitar Hero is seriously fun and very different from what you've likely played in the past. The new update to Punch-Out!! is fun and will bring back a bunch of nostalgic memories.

I found Metroid Prime: Corruption to be too complicated and just generally had a hard time seeing all the little hidden details on the screen which I was supposed to see. You may enjoy it more - can't say one way or the other, of course.

But there's also another key nostalgia factor with the Wii that others have mentioned already - the Virtual Console. Your friends (if they are of similar age) will squeal with delight when they see that they can play classic Super Mario Bros. on your Wii. It's super fun.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:33 PM on July 4, 2009

I'd recommend the Wii, just because the franchises you used to know are still alive there and modernized. Plus, it's compatible with the Gamecube, which is a bonus; sometimes Nintendo will re-release Gamecube games with "New Play Controls", meaning Wiimote enabled. And finally, the Virtual Console spans the gamut of games you recall and platforms between then and now. On to the specifics:

Capcom never stopped making Megaman games. You may have already played most of the NES games, but they also made a new long running series, Megaman X. The gamecube had a collection of these games into a single disc you can find for like 20 bucks (or $100 new from Amazon!). As other people have pointed out, they also released a new retro Megaman game. So basically, between Virtual Console and the GC anthology, you're covered.

The virtual console also carries lots of other games. You could start with Mario 64, then pick up Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube and then Mario Galaxy for Wii. By the time you're done, Mario Galaxy 2 should be available.

As far as racing goes, my collection is F-Zero GX , for the Gamecube, Mario Kart Wii and Excite Truck / Excitebots. F-Zero GX is a rather awesome and Nintendo Hard game. Excite truck isn't a bad game if you find it cheap.

There is one other retro-game that you probably know of and have written off Super Smash Bros. The wii edition comes with an epic (if mundane) single player campaign, but you're right that it's mostly multiplayer oriented. The above criticism that it's not very Wii-like and dominated by Smash Bros. games before it is right, but will be hard to notice if you haven't played them. Maybe rent it to see what you're missing.

As far as new games on the Wii, Metacritic lists the top scoring games for the Wii platform. Regardless of what platform you want to look at, they should have a list of top rated games derived from statistical analysis of critic reviews.
posted by pwnguin at 1:27 PM on July 4, 2009

If you don't mind being one generation behind, the Playstation 2 is one heck of a machine, though.
Huge number of games for that platform, with pearls like Okami and Shadow of the Colossus.
posted by Ingenting at 1:52 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

My background of gaming is almost exactly the same, so here's my short-list of MUST PLAY games. These tend to be of the well-written story, artistic atmosphere, puzzler variety:

Beyond Good and Evil
Shadow of the Colossus
Zelda: Twilight Princess
Super Mario Galaxy
Silent Hill 2

Also, if you liked Myst, be sure to check out the sequels, especially Riven. Note, these titles span various platforms. I assume you have a PC, and you can play a lot of them there. A few are exclusives (zelda and mario are wii/gamecube only, obviously).
posted by cj_ at 3:01 PM on July 4, 2009

I'd actually recommend the DS over the Wii for someone dipping their toes back into gaming after a long absence, particularly if you're not interested in multiplayer games or lots of jumping around. The cost of entry for hardware and games is lower, good titles are plentiful and you can take it with you anywhere.
posted by Lazlo at 3:35 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Whoa! I got a lot more than I bargained for. It looks like the Wii's have it. I think if I start now, I'll be up to speed in the year 2050 or so...

All best answers, thanks much!
posted by foooooogasm at 4:05 PM on July 4, 2009

PS2 recommendation here. Cheap console, huge affordable back catalogue.

Psyconauts, Okami, Ico, Beyond Good and Evil, Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid 3, Jak and Daxter

I have a 360 and would happily put that away to fire up any of those games at any time.
posted by Frasermoo at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Samorost and Samorost 2 should appeal to a Myst fan, and there's more coming from the same stable.
posted by flabdablet at 7:09 PM on July 4, 2009

Free browser games I loved, for when you are at your PC:

Portal: The Flash Version is a 2D game that might be called a modern mashup of Lode Runner and a puzzle game.

Lemmings is a, oh, call it a real time puzzle game.

Air Monkey is dead simple (but not easy!), and I'm embarrassed by how much time I've spent playing it. It's a pretty crude swinging physics / timing game.

Tower Defense is a whole genre of real-time games based on the idea that bad guys march onto a field and you have build turrets to kill them all before they get you. There's a finely balanced challenge / reward cycle, and the link goes to one prominent example among many.

Bejeweled is a fast puzzly game in which you race against time (only play the timed version) to shift stones to make groups of three or more. It very well made with lots of positive feedback as you play. cheerful and challenging simultaneously.

Planet Defender is basically Tower Defense meets Space Invaders. Addictive!

Dogfight 2 is a gorgeous and challenging 2d airplane combat game. Very well made!

Mirror's Edge 2D is a superfast-paced platform runner game. The time trial mode is super OCD fun/infuriating!

Blocks With Letters On is a challenging and quirky puzzle game with spatial and linguistic aspects. Play the sequel if you like the original.

Bridgecraft is an unforgivably cute 2D physics simulation game of bridge building.

All of those except Bejeweled do have defined endings. Enjoy!
posted by NortonDC at 11:45 PM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you do get a Wii, pick up Endless Ocean. All descriptions I've ever read make it sound incredibly boring, but I picked it up and holy crap it's an amazing game.
posted by etoile at 5:55 PM on February 2, 2010

Ooh, this thread's still alive! And Machinarium has been released since my previous comment. I bought a copy. I've now played it through several times, just for the pleasure of looking at it and listening to it, and will probably do so again soon.
posted by flabdablet at 12:39 AM on February 4, 2010

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