Shack Chat: What game would you use to introduce someone to gaming?

The Shack Staff discusses some of the games they'd opt for when introducing someone to video games.

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Shack Chat is back once again, our weekly feature each Friday where we’ll ask the Shacknews staff to give their opinion on a particular topic, then open the floor to our dedicated Chatty community to provide a diverse mixture of thoughts on the subject. It’s a great way for us to get to know one another better while inspiring healthy debates with all of you passionate gamers out there. 

Question: What game would you use to introduce someone to gaming?


PAC-MAN - Asif Khan, Recovering PAC-MANIAC

I spent a lot of time thinking of games that sum up the video game experience, and I have landed at PAC-MAN. It is minimal in its design, easy to pick up and play, and incredibly difficult to master. This is a perfect game to introduce someone to the world of gaming as it doesn’t really require button pressing, just joystick movement. PAC-MAN was one of my first video game loves and I think it is still one of the best games for newbies to try out.


Super Mario Bros. 3 - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

This is a game that's easy to show just about anyone and get them into. Really, you could use any Mario game in place of this one, so long as you hand someone the controller and let them go to town. It's simple, easy to pick up and play without much explanation, and it's supremely addictive. There's nothing difficult to understand about it – just avoid the pitfalls and jump on the enemies to take them out. And don't die. Everything else works itself out. Break out Mario in a room, and everyone wants to play, even the so-called "non-gamers" of the world. It usually works like a charm.

Alternatively, Minecraft has a great track record of getting adults (and kids) who otherwise might not be much on gaming or creative modes inside games to care about jumping in and getting their hands dirty, so to speak. It helped rekindle a lifetime love of gaming for my father and brought us even closer than before, and really opened my eyes to Minecraft as a “gateway drug,” so to speak, for those who may have lost their spark for the hobby.


Tetris Effect - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

Tetris has one of the lowest barriers of entry for the common video game layperson. It's a franchise that's a household name, the premise is as simple as it gets, and the controls are so simple that anybody young or old can grasp them in two seconds. On top of that, it's a game that always encourages you to do better than you did last time. Tetris is never a game you "finish" in the traditional sense.

So what makes Tetris Effect the choice here? It's what Enhance was able to do with the game's soundtrack and its mind-blowing visuals. Tetris Effect shows what gaming is capable of achieving as both an artform and as a leisure activity. The art style is universally appealing and it doesn't take a hardcore junkie to appreciate what this game was able to pull off. It's the absolute peak of the series and a game that should be experienced by everyone.


Super Monkey Ball 2 - Josh Hawkins, Expert in Boredom

Honestly, the game I’d use to introduce somebody else to gaming really all depends on the type of person they are. I can’t really see myself using a game like Minecraft or something slower to introduce gaming to people who love action and thrilling explosive sequences. That being said, though, I can think of one game that would be perfect for getting people introduced to gaming, without just completely throwing them in the deep end.

That game is Super Monkey Ball 2. While it might not be the easiest game ever—balancing those pesky little monkeys in their balls was never very easy—the cuteness and overall easy to understand controls make it a very good conversation starter. I still remember the first day that I popped Super Monkey Ball 2 into my GameCube. My mom—who has played some games, but never been that big of a fan—was quickly engrossed in my struggle to get the monkeys to their goal. We ended up playing for a good few hours, and while she wasn’t the best at it, she did have fun.

Maybe it’s just the sentimental effect of having managed to draw my mom into Super Monkey Ball 2, or maybe the game is just good enough to pull people in like that. Either way, if I had only one game to choose to introduce people to video games, I think that Super Monkey Ball 2 would be that game. It’s fun. It’s cute. What more could you ask for?


Peggle - Kevin S. Tucker, Pops Caps

This is a tricky question to answer, because people who have no experience with video games will have zero gaming instincts and no controller-based muscle memory whatsoever. Getting them into a game would require something simple enough that they wouldn’t feel frustrated and rewarding enough for them to “get it,” or for video games to work their electronic magic. Any game that requires precise timing, knowledge of the mechanics, or even memory of the button layout is a no-go, which rules out the hilariously fun game PaRappa the Rapper, one of my first instincts outside of Tetris, which Ozzie had already claimed.

Truth be told, the puzzle genre is probably the best place to start. Puzzles serve the part of our brains that feel accomplished when we figure out solutions to unique problems, so that should cover what I’ll for whatever reason now call the grab-factor. With the genre nailed down, we should also consider a game that carries universal appeal, something that won’t turn away children or adults, women or men, or any other demographic with specific tastes. And, for better or worse, the less skill the game requires, the better.

Beyond this, the choice should be a game that does something distinctly game-y, i.e. a gateway into the broader world of video games. Something featuring a bit of the classic arcade flair, perhaps, with just a hint of the kind of thing gamers look for in modern releases. In my mind, light RPG elements like story progression, recruitable characters, and ability accruement do the trick. So what’s a casual puzzle game with lightweight RPG mechanics, approachable and skill-independent gameplay, plus a style with near-universal appeal?

You probably already read the game title above, but it’s Peggle. Not only is it another release from PopCap Games, one of the most prolific puzzle and casual game developers on the planet, it’s also available on loads of different platforms and requires almost no knowledge of video games to play. It has different heroes with different abilities, various power-ups, and an Adventure mode that allows for forward progression without putting forth any sort of substantial narrative. It’s inexpensive, it can be played over and over again, and there are three more Peggle sequels to track down once the first title has been completed. Best of all, it requires almost no skill to play, and yet the random nature of pachinko-style gameplay should be more than enough to sink its hooks into the player.

Looking at it objectively, Peggle seems like the perfect game to introduce newbies into the world of electronic entertainment. Pong is probably also a decent choice.


Area 51 - Chris Jarrard, Bowling Alley Arcade Legend

Arcade games are designed to quickly attract new players as well as to extract quarters (or whatever fake currency/cards they run on today). Light Gun games are an easy concept for nearly anyone to grasp. Because of this, it makes perfect sense for the dopest light gun game of all time, Area 51, to be the perfect choice to introduce someone to the world of gaming.

The cheesy digitized sprites and ludicrous plot make the game accessible for most folks, even those averse to violence. Using your plastic handgun to save the Earth is fun that anyone can get behind. There is a reason that Area 51 was pretty much everywhere that may have a coin-op machine for a period of 10-15 years, it’s easy to pick up and play and the joy it provides is nearly timeless.


Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo - Blake Morse, Reviews Editor

Puzzle games are always good options for people new to video games. The rules and controls are usually basic enough that even a layman can pick them up fairly quickly. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo definitely has that easy to pick up and play vibe, but unlike your Bust-a-Move or Tetris clones, there’s a deeper game you can learn if you choose to keep playing and dive further into the strategy.

The concept is easy enough: Put the same colored blocks together to make bigger blocks, then break them using orbs of the same color. The blocks you break then drop onto your opponent’s screen as counter blocks that are harder to break for five turns. That’s all someone would really need to know to get going. Beyond those basic rules are all sorts nuances and tactics, like learning character’s drop patterns, where and how to build gems and combos, and tech bonuses.

I’ve witnessed first-hand the transformative power of Puzzle Fighter can have on people too. Friends that have never touched a game or had any interest in trying one have gone from novices to rugged competitors in the span of an evening. Its competitive nature lends itself well to social settings more than traditional fighters where usually the person who owns the game just runs house on everyone. And if the setting is a bit more intimate, it’s just as much as a date night game.


Beat Saber - Charles Singletary Jr, Music Jedi

There are so many interesting ways to introduce someone to gaming, but selecting the entry point is a tough decision. Do you stick to something retro with a simpler look and control scheme or find something modern and familiar?

I’ve chosen to utilize gaming’s future by tapping virtual reality’s killer app: Beat Saber. The game isn’t difficult to explain, even when considering the immersion of virtual reality. Thus, if you get someone going in this space, you’re introducing them not only to gaming, but to tech that could impact the future in other way.

Last but not even remotely least, Beat Saber is super fun. A round of “Pop/Stars” anyone?


Stardew Valley - Bill Lavoy, Managing Editor

This is a tough one because I think it depends on the person. If you show the wrong game to the wrong individual, you might only solidify their non-gaming stance even more. I also think that this question can extend beyond games and into platforms.

I saw a lot of posts in Reddit over the holidays that talked about parents getting into Red Dead Redemption 2 after their kids brought it home. I can see that, but at the same time I don’t think it stands out as a gateway to gaming glory.

On the other hand, my wife hasn’t been a serious gamer for many years, but the moment she got her hands on a Nintendo Switch, that was it. She sunk a lot of hours into Stardew Valley, and then moved on to Overcooked. She frequently looks at the store and we often watch YouTube trailers for upcoming games on the Nintendo Switch. In her case, it took the right game on the right platform to draw her in. I’d shown her Stardew Valley on the PC before, it just wasn’t how she would be comfortable playing. It took the right game, but also took the right platform. My pick is Stardew Valley if I’ve got to take just one.


Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - Sam Chandler, Guides Editor

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my grandfather who is approaching retirement sometime soon. While he no doubt has hobbies and things he enjoys, as well as other goals outside of his career, I’ve wondered whether I’d be able to introduce him to gaming. It could give him a new perspective on my life and career, help him really understand exactly what it is I do. It might even make him see it as less of a time-sink and more of something positive.

To this effect, I think a game like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the perfect game to use to introduce someone to gaming. Other games require too many game-y mechanics and ideas, like jumping and movement. Keep Talking relies far more heavily on being able to absorb information and relay it to your team. It’s all about communication and cooperation, as well as puzzle solving. I think it would be an experience that could show someone the merits and potential of gaming, without the imitation of controlling something on-screen.

My partner and I have used Keep Talking as a device when spending time with in-laws or as a game to play with other couples. It helps break some ice, remove some barriers, and get people working as a team. As far as introducing someone entirely unfamiliar to gaming goes, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, despite its hectic and pulse-pounding gameplay, could act as the ultimate introductory tool.


Rocket League - Donovan Erskine, Clasically Trained

A person’s first foray into gaming should be an experience with clear and concise goals and objectives as well as a solid gameplay loop. You don’t want to scare someone off with something too open-ended or with a game that doesn’t provide gratification early on. Rocket League is a perfect blend of what makes gaming special. It’s easy to pick up, with matches only lasting a handful of minutes. It’s quite easy to learn the game, yet difficult to master. This is what will keep new players coming back over and over. Lastly, Rocket League brings out that strong competitive instinct that lies within us. Scoring a goal, winning a match, feeling your skills progress is such a satisfying feeling.


Portal - David Craddock, Long Reads Editor

This question is fascinating because my answer could depend on current trends. These days I could hand almost newer players a Switch and awe them with the amount of classic and contemporary games in its library. A decade ago, I’d have handed them a Wii remote and taken them to Wii Sports’ virtual bowling alley.

But my mind keeps coming back to Portal. It’s older now, so it could run on a wide array of PC hardware. Someone who’d just bought a last-gen console--ask any GameStop clerk about the number of older hardware they sell to thrifty or older consumers--could get it for cheap as part of The Orange Box, giving them more games to play after they have their cake and… well, not eat it, too, exactly.

The reason Portal works is its perspective and objectives. It’s a first-person puzzler rather than a shooter, so it appeals to relatives of mine who are interested in games but shy away from them due to reports of “all those violent video games on the news.” It’s a laid-back experience, at least until later levels, but by then you’ve got your sea legs under you and are invested in the experience. And solving even the easiest puzzle is satisfying because of the effortlessness of placing portals and moving through them.

Or I could be a jerk and pick Demon’s Souls. But, no, I’ll stick with Portal.


Disagree with our picks? Think we're a bunch of clowns? Let us know in the Chatty below.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 15, 2019 2:30 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What game would you use to introduce someone to gaming?

    • reply
      March 15, 2019 2:32 PM

      Gotta agree with Brittany Vincent and Kevin Tucker, and I've thought about this before.

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      March 15, 2019 2:35 PM

      Atari E.T., then leave them with these words "nothing but misery awaits you, go outside!"

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      March 15, 2019 2:38 PM

      no rock band or guitar hero?

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        March 15, 2019 3:22 PM

        I say this as someone who loves both of those games to death, but this would have been the answer 10 years ago.

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      March 15, 2019 2:42 PM

      It was Ultima III. I have also used Wolf 3d and Bubble Bobble. OH! And Vanguard of all games!

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        March 15, 2019 8:10 PM

        As difficult as Wolf3D can be (though easy cuts incoming damage by 75%), what better way to introduce people to the wonderful world of video games than by letting them mow down Nazis?

        It's fun and morally educational!

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      March 15, 2019 3:41 PM

      Astroneer?

      Non violent exploration.

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      March 15, 2019 8:14 PM

      Subnautica

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      March 15, 2019 8:36 PM

      Chrono Trigger

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      March 15, 2019 8:38 PM

      shower with your dad simulator

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        March 15, 2019 8:39 PM

        Rocket League

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          March 15, 2019 10:45 PM

          This is my new choice. It takes like ten seconds to learn how to play. Most people are already familiar with the basic mechanics of a car driving and the concept of soccer. It's great at hooking people in and five minute matches are a perfect length.

    • reply
      March 15, 2019 8:43 PM

      Dwarf Fortress

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      March 15, 2019 8:50 PM

      SMB3 is the one true answer.

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      March 15, 2019 8:51 PM

      Pong, Pac Man, and Tetris.

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      March 15, 2019 8:52 PM

      Simple as fuck. Diablo 1. That's how I introduced my ex in to gaming. It worked great.

      A runner up would ga Legend of the Mysical Ninja on the SNES but that's another thread entirely.

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      March 15, 2019 9:07 PM

      Balloon Fight

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      March 15, 2019 9:07 PM

      Picross and Fire Emblem: Awakening worked for my wife. She also loves watching me play the Souls games.

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      March 15, 2019 9:11 PM

      The Witness


      Basically the game needs to have no need for real-time execution, be visually interesting, and not require long time commitments.

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      March 15, 2019 9:14 PM

      i agree with SMB3.

      it's fast; it's colorful; the mechanics are simple yet have depth; there is a ton of variety; it's WEIRD in a compelling way.

      finishing a level brings a huge sense of reward. it has wonderful, familiar music.

      and that jump sound. classic.

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      March 15, 2019 10:07 PM

      Peggle

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      March 15, 2019 10:27 PM

      Journey was my best success with the total non-gaming Luddite. The Witness has worked well with old programmers-but-not-gamers.

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      March 15, 2019 10:43 PM

      Russian Roulette

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      March 15, 2019 10:55 PM

      I tried to get my wife to play Portal. She's a rock solid Mario Kart and Zoo Tycoon player, but shooter controls continually baffle her. It's interesting to watch sometime who can play some games very well struggle with what I consider to be get basic tools of gaming.

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      March 15, 2019 11:17 PM

      papers please. no buttons to learn, the story telling is profound.

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      March 15, 2019 11:48 PM

      Subnautica. Basic mechanics and an aesthetically pleasing experience that should be pretty universal.

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        March 15, 2019 11:49 PM

        Also violence is very limited so you won't lose people turned off by that.

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      March 16, 2019 12:00 AM

      Solid list. Peggle is a great choice. Area 51 too. Anyone who has seen an action movie can pick up a gun and shoot at the screen, zero finger muscle coordination required. I remember A51 at the arcades played by boys and girls alike.

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      March 16, 2019 12:07 AM

      Daikatana

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      March 16, 2019 12:36 AM

      Cool article I like the selection it is ACE! Well done. Damn that is a really tough thing to come up with.

      This would be my intro into video games I think( not sure if I could pick only one ):

      Diablo 3 : ARPG
      Witcher 3 : Open World
      Inside : cinematic platformer
      Resogun : shooter
      Alienation : twin stick shooter
      New Super Mario Bros. U : platformer
      Forza Horizon 4 : racer
      Dragon Ball FighterZ : fighter
      Shadow Warrior 2 : FPS
      Skyrim : RPG
      Ori and the Blind Forest : Metroidvania
      Resident Evil 2 remake : Survival horror
      Rock Band 4 : Rhythm game
      Dead Cells : Roguelike
      Portal 2 : Thinking game
      Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II or StarCraft II : RTS
      Divinity: Original Sin 2 : CRPG

      -- OR ---

      Diablo 1 : ARPG
      Outcast : Open World
      Flashback : cinematic platformer
      U.N. Squadron : shooter
      Mercs : twin stick shooter
      Super Mario World * Yoshi = money! * : platformer
      Daytona USA : racer
      Super Street Fighter II Turbo or Mortla Kombat II: fighter
      Doom : FPS
      The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past : RPG
      Super Metroid : Metroidvania
      Resident Evil 1 : Survival horror
      DDR 1 : Rhythm game
      ToeJam & Earl : Roguelike
      Tetris : Thinking game
      Star Craft 1 : RTS
      Baldur's Gate 1 : CRPG

      There are way too many video games in my head and too many eras and platforms to pick from so this task seems impossible.

      Super Mario Bros. 3 is an epic choice for sure but I still would go with Super Mario World over it cause everyone loves Yoshi. The first time anyone hears that eating sound it is a done deal plus the Feather is > than Raccoon suit(both are money & instant crack). Come to think of it I think Super Mario Bros. 3 is way harder than Super Mario World(so that is a factor too), 3 is sort of the Dark Souls of Mario. Anyways I love them both and maybe Super Mario World is my real answer for only one game.

      Still feels like a person would have to get the full treatment only one game is not good enough they need to explode and go Wow! The Hype needs to hit 1000!

      So many questions like what platform(s), do you blow them away with graphics or gameplay or both, what genera(s) and what decade(s) 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s? Then you got ask your self what if they don't like your genera, etc that you pick, that could be it and you blew it LOL.

      Almost feels like you need to sample them all... ok I give up :) good times though.

    • reply
      March 16, 2019 12:42 AM

      Kingdom Hearts did it for my wife.

      That turned into her loving Knights of the Old Republic, Torchlight, Diablo 3 and most recently Persona 5.

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      March 16, 2019 2:53 AM

      Probably something like Uncharted 4

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      March 16, 2019 3:54 AM

      Journey or Firewatch

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      March 16, 2019 4:16 AM

      Portal

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        March 16, 2019 7:54 AM

        A very good answer

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        March 16, 2019 9:00 AM

        This. It is humorous and very engaging for the player. It really shows off what you can get from a video game that you can't from a movie or book.

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        March 17, 2019 1:45 PM

        great recommendation

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      March 16, 2019 5:31 AM

      Genital Jousting.

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      March 16, 2019 6:41 AM

      No Mario Kart in this discussion? Dudes...it's the perfect game for everyone. You step on the gas and steer, which is a concept inherently intuitive to everyone. Picking up power-ups and shooting them is a single buttton-press. At the 50cc level, you really only need a pulse to be competitive. And it's super fun, instantly!

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      March 16, 2019 7:32 AM

      Stardew Valley