Today’s post was inspired by a question tweeted out by Eric Bailey, a Christian gamer (though I suspect he’d prefer the former be put more far forward than the latter) and… I guess I can also call him an accidental satirist? Honestly, his Twitter content is equal parts wholesome and random. He should be in your social feed if he’s not already. And don’t let his faith scare you off: He’s actually one of the good guys.
Anyway, back to the post’s point. Bailey had tweeted out for examples of the perfect video game, citing Contra and Tetris as examples. This prompted one response out of me, but the more I think about it, the more I kind of pondered other video games that I would think fit the bill. Mostly because the question is so complex yet simple. It asks not about favorite game or favorite game story or favorite genre; it asks you to consider a video game condensed into its “purest” form. To consider gaming as perfect means it fits its function and executes its idea so flawlessly and so brilliantly that you don’t even have to think about it. At least, that’s my interpretation. So, I decided to write about it.
We’ll start with the game that was my initial response to the tweet: Mixolumia, a puzzler that most people probably recall as a game that kind of went through its whole development progression “live” on Twitter. The moment Tetris was mentioned as an example of a perfect game, my mind immediately flew to this. It’s simple, it’s communicative, it’s fun, it hosts a whole variety of different ways to play it whether you just want to relax or you want to test yourself. It’s without a doubt one of the best executions of a video game idea and it’s flawless in doing so.
Both Splatoon games get lumped in here, for the record. This game gets high marks from me purely because it does such a good job of conveyance. Right from the very start, what you have to do when playing this game is immediately obvious. Even the more “complex” competitive modes have a great sense of what you’re expected to do. And on top of that, this game is a master class in setting its scene and drawing you into its world. The second one, especially, feels like a place with history and makes you feel like you’ve lived in its neon city for a while. To say nothing of the fun concert that happens during larger events. I’ve said it before, but it absolutely bears repeating: the Splatoon series is the gold standard by which all other competitive shooters should strive for.
I’ve already written about this one before so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here, but I can’t think of perfect video games and not include this one, in my opinion. Even in early access, Shipbreaker has fully realized its idea with a level of apparent (but likely inaccurate) ease that it’s remarkable others of its kind haven’t come out before. Again, it’s simple and elegant in design, but also layers its challenges and difficulties so well. Add to that a world that feels completely realized and you have a perfect game on your hands.
I admit that I’m operating on old memories here, since I haven’t had any chance to replay this one either via collection or emulation, but I recall this game doing such an amazing job at meshing side-scrolling platform action with side-scrolling SHMUP. I believe this game came out in the NES console’s later life, so by this time developers feel like they had an incredible handle on things and this game shows it. I probably should revisit this game just so I can affirm its addition to this list, but I recall this one very fondly and remember playing it for hours until I defeated it.
Mega Man X
Once again, another game that’s full of brilliant conveyance and is tightly built and designed from start to finish, Mega Man X is peerless in its execution in action platformers. The entire game is so intuitively crafted that it’s alarming. I might be parroting the opinion of a certain YouTuber, but the little psychotic gremlin has a point. Several of them, even. Mega Man X is the epitome of “often replicated, never duplicated” even by its own publisher/developer, and stands far and above every other action platformer. Even the game just above it in the list.