I personally detest the terms “casual” and “hardcore” when it comes to video games. They’re divided by a rather blurry line, and I think separating good games from bad games is a much better idea. Still, a lot of the auto-denominated elitist hardcore gamers believe a game’s quality is completely related to the audience it’s targeted at. That may be true most of the time, but there are several games aimed at hardcore gamers that are bland and boring, while there are lots of casual games made with a lot of dedication, polish and creativity. Casual or hardcore, games are games and they’re supposed to be fun in the first place, not flashy and pretentious. Here are five games I consider a lot of fun, even if my mother wouldn’t mind playing them.
Wii Sports initiated Nintendo’s series of simple, Mii-based games for Wii. It’s a simple and fun game, and while it lacks some replay value, it’s still a very fun experience, and one that set the bar for other developers when it comes to sports games on Wii. The visuals are quite modest, but some of the backdrops are considerably good looking, especially when playing golf. It was the perfect multiplayer game during Wii’s launch window, even in Japan where it was sold as a retail game, outselling The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It also spawned a lot of clones, even recently on rival consoles trying to have a similar killer-app for devices like Kinect and Move. It was followed by Wii Sports Resort in 2009, but this is the game started it all. I can think of a lot of hardcore games that could use some of the polish and fun Wii Sports has.
There was a brief time during Nintendo DS’s early life when a hardcore gamer could be seen playing Nintendogs without feeling bad about it. Nintendo’s casual focus was still pretty new, and it was probably because of the success of games like Nintendogs that it decided to go that route. Nintendogs is pretty much the best pet simulator to date, with very good looking 3D dogs that would respond to your voice commands thanks to the DS microphone. Other than Wi-Fi connectivity, it used all the capabilities of the DS and delivered a fun game. Since it was released before casual games were automatically bashed because of their target audience, it received mostly positive critical reception. Again, just like Wii Sports, it generated a plethora of mediocre clones.
Cooking Mama is defined as a simulation game, or mini-game compilation. I personally think it’s also somewhat of a puzzle game. In Cooking Mama you are supposed to cook a lot of different recipes using the DS touch screen, however, it’s easier said than done. There are some quite difficult recipes, and getting a good score takes a lot of patience and practice. This game shows that even a casual game can be played in a hardcore way, since becoming better and getting good scores is actually not that easy. So not only you get a (rather Japanese) virtual recipe book, but also a fun and potentially challenging game. Don’t worry if you’re struggling with a recipe; Mama will always fix it for you at the end. But she’ll still be angry and rate your dish a failure.
Tetris is hugely popular. And by hugely popular I mean it’s practically the game that made the Game Boy a success. It was bundled with Nintendo’s handheld and was an absolute hit. Tetris is casual in the sense that is an easy to pick up game and can be played in small bursts wherever you are. Still, being a good Tetris player requires a whole lot of mathematical and logical skills. Sure, your father can pick it up and clear a few lines, but he’s not winning a world Tetris championship anytime soon. Tetris is the king of games with simple rules but very complex and deep gameplay.
In a time when most gamers were in love with space shooters, Pac-Man tried to appeal to both men and women and became a gaming icon in the process. It doesn’t get any simpler: eat all the dots on the screen while avoiding ghosts and win. That’s it, there’s nothing else to learn, and that’s probably why it was a huge arcade hit back in the eighties. Pac-Man comes from a time where games were not tainted by marketing, and still was immensely popular, which proves making a fun game is much more effective than spending millions on edgy advertising.