Video Games as Anti-Depressants

I’m feeling nostalgic. And also kind of depressed. Mostly about video games. For some reason, I can’t seem to bring myself to actually turn any of my systems on right now. I don’t want to play any of my currently in progress games, I want to play something old and comforting. However, I also cannot bring myself to go to the bother of scrounging up any of my old favorites. Usually the Wii’s virtual console is the perfect solution to this problem, bringing many of my favorite classic games to my fingertips, but even it is currently unavailable to me.

I am not unfamiliar with this kind of funk; it have spells like this several times a year. And I know just the games I need to snap me out of it. Some are old, some are fairly recent, but all of them turn the controller into a livewire that zaps my brain and jolts me out of my fugue.

Foremost on this fairly exclusive list is the Mega Man series, mostly the NES games, but some others also do the trick. Mega Man 2 and 3 are the absolute pinnacle of NES action games, and all the games in the series are designed to provide the maximum amount of fun as soon as the game is turned on. One of the best ways they achieve this is the level options. There are sure to be parts of even great games that the player doesn’t like and Mega Man at least allows the player put those off as long as possible. Another is the music, which alone is enough to perk me up significantly.

River City Ransom is a game so full of charm that is goes without saying that it is on this list. But I’ve made my case for it already.

Also on my list of picker-uppers is a select number of JRPGs. For anyone who grew up on a steady diet of SNES, the trio of Final Fantasy 3(6), Chrono Trigger and Earthbound should be familiar. Anyone of those is sure to plant a smile on my face that sticks for at least a week. FF3 is the one side of the tipping point of that series, foreshadowing the changes that were coming while still fitting seamlessly with what came before. Chrono Trigger is the genre’s purest expression and has the perfect snappy pacing to cheer one up. Earthbound is a slower burn, but it’s unequalled charm is immediately apparent. The only non-SNES RPG that works for me is Suikoden 2, another case of a game with fast pacing and one of the best looking 2D games around.

There are some newer games that also fit the bill. While not especially new, the Metal Slug series, played on the flawed but sufficient Wii collection, is the perfect game for a quick jolt. With infinite continues there is no stress, but it still provides a player with gumption a chance to challenge themselves. Every time I try to cut down on the number of continues I use, though I am not always successful.

And lastly there is the Phoenix Wright series for the DS. Playing that series again is like watching re-runs of your favorite TV show. There is absolutely nothing new or different, but the characters you love are always there.

The most important thing about these pick-me-up games is that they provide me with a quick, if not necessarily easy, sense of accomplishment. I can beat Mega Man 2 or a Phoenix Wright case in a short amount of time, giving me the sense that I’ve accomplished something. Which the lack of is usually what has me down to begin with. The RPGs are slightly different. Playing them is like listening to my Grandfather talk about fighting in World War II. The accomplishment was a long time ago, but by going over the tale again the sense of worth his brought again to the forefront.

The games listed aren’t the only ones that fit in this category. But they are my most used ones. Do you readers sometimes need to use a video game as a pick-me-up? What games are your feeling down cures?

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