The video game canon may be young, but boy, is it mighty. There are titles that have stood the test of time and call for at least one playthrough over the course of your life: your Metal Gears, your Portals, your Fumito Ueda games. Well, forget about those! We’re not here for them.
We’re here to talk about the titles that, if you haven’t played, gamers won’t even look at you for. We’re talking about the games you better damn well have an opinion on fresh out of the womb. You plebeian. We can’t believe you consider yourself “born,” let alone a gamer.
#1. Super Mario Bros.
This goes without saying, but you need to have played a Mario game before you do anything else. Start by memorizing 1-1. You don’t want to be the jackass wearing Mario merch your aunt got you while knowing nothing about Mario, do you?
#2. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
On second thoughts, play this one. Mario’s a baby in it. It’ll give you a better understanding of how much of a burden you’ll be the first few years.
#3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It’s commonly believed that real-life took heavy inspiration from Breath of the Wild. There’s grass outside, and weather, and you can usually pick a direction and walk in it. By seeing these elements in their original form, you’ll develop a true appreciation for your hometown’s open world design — and you can talk all the other dumb babies’ ears off about it.
#4. Dark Souls
You can be 60 years old and gamers will still call you a baby if you haven’t played Souls. Or, you can “Git gud” as an infant and be crowned the realest adult of all.
#5. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This one’s for the lil’ siblings out there. Get some practice rounds in, ’cause big sib’s not gonna hold back.
#6. Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Same deal as above, but for fighting games. I think Super Smash Bros. would be too overwhelming; there’s way more characters and franchises than you can be expected to know at your age. An MvC game, on the other hand, will introduce you to a bunch of Marvel heroes you’ll be expected to know by first grade — and a bunch of game options to look into after birth.
#7. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy is an anthology series, meaning every numbered entry is self-contained and you can start with any one. WRONG! Before you start, you need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of VII. In fact, you should know everything about VII before you even play VII: What happens to Aerith? Is Gaia Spira? Do we still know Sephiroth?
(Also: It’ll make Remake wayyy cooler, trust me.)
#8. Super Mario 64
Mario 64 was revolutionary for its time — and continues to be a cornerstone for 3D platformer game design to this day. If you’re coming into this world and picking up the hot new game your kindergarten friends are into or some shit, you won’t be able to appreciate how it draws from the OG — which is, of course, essential to the experience.
#9. Pokémon Red / Blue Version
You need to have the first 151 Pokémon memorized straight out of the womb. They’re on all the merch. Learn to sing the Pokérap by age 3.
Minecraft also has a bunch of kids’ merch you want to be able to talk about. In addition: If you can understand Minecraft early on in life, your parents will have millions of hours of YouTube to slap on an iPad to shut you up. Do it for them?
#11. Red Dead Redemption 2
Forget about the M rating and just play it now. Trust me. Prioritize RDR or you’ll be saying “Oh yeah, it’s on my list” for your entire life.
#12. Life is Strange
See? I never got around to this one. But I wish someone had told me when I was young, ’cause the devs are totally right. Life is strange.
#13. Kingdom Hearts
Picture this: It’s 2025. This trailer comes on for a sick new game featuring your favorite Disney characters. You’re psyched!!! But here’s the catch: You need to play ALL the older ones to understand it. I’m just trying to give you a head start here. Go in release order and you’ll be fine…
#14. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
No, seriously. Really get that head start.
I’ve heard literal eight-year-olds wax poetic about the good ol’ days of Fortnite. Bro. You are eight. How long could it have been? Unless…
#16. Five Nights at Freddy’s
Y’all really have been gaming since infancy, huh? What does a six-year-old mean when they say FNAF “really fell off?” When were you around that it was “on?”
#17. The Last of Us Part II
Everyone and their mother is expected to have an opinion on this one. If the mother hasn’t passed that on to their child, is she even parenting?
#18. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
If there’s two things Star Wars fans love, it’s (1) hating Star Wars, and (2) namedropping Darth Revan. Imagine how jealous the other kids will be when they pull out their Boba Fett lunchboxes and you pull out your 42-page dossier on why Revan is the GOAT.
#19. Overcooked 2
Twins in utero? No problem! Go for a 4-stars run on this one and you’ll come out as an unstoppable duo.
#20. Hollow Knight
Get in on this one early! Baristas have been extra nice to me because they’ve seen me in a Hollow Knight shirt. Being an HK fan is the closest I’ve come to experiencing what folks call “pretty privilege” — and I want that for you too while you’re growing up.
#21. Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2
Trust me when I say: This is the most efficient way to gain a comprehensive understanding of Dragon Ball Z without sitting through the whole 200+ episodes. Now, this is important: You wanna make sure mom gets you 2, not 3 (You don’t have friends yet, so it’s not like you need the bigger roster). BT2 is the only one that takes its time with its story and fleshes out the details.
#22. Donkey Kong Country
This is the definitive game for inducing nostalgia from before your time. It doesn’t matter when you came into this world; when you lived; when you left it all behind. Its soundtrack has been with you since your conception, and it will be there with you at your end.
#23. Assassin’s Creed II
Speaking of premature nostalgia: Maybe Ubisoft is onto something. Maybe genetic memory is a real thing. Maybe it’s your dad speaking, not you, when you say, “Ezio was the peak of the series. Everything after has been downhill.”
Good. Now say it again. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not; you’re getting so much street cred with the older kids.
#24. Yakuza 0
Here’s another head start to a long-running series for you. This one’s literally numbered 0! It’s like it was made for you. Born people can start with 1 or Kiwami.
#25. Final Fantasy XIV
I hear it gets really good after 400 hours. This way, you can get to Heavensward as soon as you’re born!
#26. Halo 2
It doesn’t matter how “Before Your Time” this one is. Gamers will just start reminiscing about Halo 2 apropos of nothing. I did not have an Xbox growing up and never have I felt more left out than when my friends would just start… chanting. Dude.
#27. A Google Doodle
Okay, we have a whole lot of pop culture trivia in there. Should probably invest some general knowledge in you too, eh?
#28. What Remains of Edith Finch
The first test of every person’s life is whether or not they cry the moment they’re born. Play this one, and you’re guaranteed to pass.
#29. Shadow of the Colossus
Okay, I know what I said about Fumito Ueda’s stuff — but this one really is essential at any stage in life and literally ends with [Spoilers]. You can replay it after being born, and it’ll offer a fascinating perspective. Make us a video essay about it!
#30. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Todd Howard recently announced Skyrim: Womb Edition, so you really have no excuse anymore. This is the must-play RPG. The only reason we ranked it #30 is that it takes like the full 9 months to beat — and we want to be realistic about your time.