While it might always feel like “Video Game Day” for some players, today is actually National Video Game Day (not to be confused with National Game Day, which happens in July and extends to all types of games). If you needed a reason to pick up a PlayStation controller today and spend some quality time with a game, well, it’s as good an excuse as any, right?
While “national” days like this are ultimately a little arbitrary, they do offer us a moment to reflect on the things we love. Video Game Day, in particular, allows us a moment to celebrate an industry that’s been instrumental over the pandemic as socially isolated people became socially connected players through games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Among Us.
If you’re looking for something to play today, here’s what the Digital Trends gaming crew is playing to celebrate the occasion (OK, we would have been playing these either way, let’s be honest).
Splitgate is the first-person shooter of my teenage dreams. Back in my early college glory days, both Halo 3 and Portal were formative games. One was a full-on social experience that helped me make new friends in an unfamiliar place. The other was a more personal solo experience that felt like a revelation for the medium I loved. So seeing those two games smashed together over a decade later is a little surreal. Splitgate adds the brain-bending physics puzzles of Portal to Halo’s fine-tuned gunplay to create something that feels both familiar and entirely new. It’s an especially perfect game to celebrate National Video Game Day, as it perfectly captures how successful the industry is when developers are in dialogue with one another, iterating ideas from other games to make gaming even better. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
After a few rounds of waiting until Black Friday to snag the newest NBA 2K installment at a discount, only to get absolutely destroyed by established players, I’m jumping in on day one this year. Praying that I pick up a killer Jayson Tatum card on MyTeam to rep my Boston Celtics, but will settle for the Blazers’ Damian Lillard if I have to. I haven’t tried MyPlayer in a few installments, so I’ll be building the ultimate player this weekend (obviously, I’ll be at least 7′ 2″).
While I’m jumping on the 2K22 release, I’ve also been playing some older titles lately. I just started a new save on Fable via Xbox Game Pass, where I still have the title of “Chicken Chaser.” My plan is to play through all three Fable games while I pretend Fable 4 is coming out anytime soon. My partner and I also just started a dual run of Pokémon Black and White this week. I’ve never played this one, so setting off on a new Pokémon adventure has been a blast. ~ Sam Hill
Golf Club Wasteland
I’ve spent way too much time searching for every collectible in Psychonauts 2, so I’m more than ready to unwind with something a bit less tedious. Golf Club Wasteland fits the bill perfectly — it features a lo-fi soundtrack, a slowly unfolding narrative, and surprisingly fun golf mechanics that beg you to return for one more hole. I expected to find a quirky, cartoony mini-golf simulator, sort of like those old Flash games that used to be all the rage a few decades ago. Instead, I’m discovering a brilliant narrative adventure that’s remarkably suitable for 2021.
Whether you’re listening to the dystopian tales told over the in-game radio, reading the level description before each new course, or just scanning the background of every location, there’s an astronomical amount of content hiding below the surface. Sure, you can play it as a straightforward mini-putt simulator, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice. Golf Club Wasteland reminds me that a good video game isn’t just about gameplay — and that even the simplest of concepts can tell a complicated story. ~ Jon Bitner
State of Decay 2
As someone who missed out on the Xbox One generation (like many people), I’ve been spending a lot of time catching up on games from that era, thanks to backward compatibility on Xbox Series S. One game that stood out above the rest for me is State of Decay 2, a zombie adventure that leans into exploration, base building, shooting, and survival. Perhaps this is a game that is just hitting at the right time for me, but it’s one that I cannot put down.
The best thing about it is its gameplay loop, which constantly rewards players for getting out and exploring while scavenging for goodies. As you do this, your character, comrades, and base grow stronger, allowing you to get out and complete missions more effectively. You can play it alone or with friends, which is a nice touch, applicable to all players.
It’s a little rough around the edges, but what’s there is fantastic. State of Decay 2 is one of the gems of the Xbox One generation, and I hope more people can give it a try on Xbox Series X/S. Best of all: It’s on Game Pass! ~ Joseph Yaden
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES and Arcade)
I’ve been a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since I was a kid. I’ve collected some of their rarest figures, read all the comics, watched all the movies, and seen every one of their shows aired. So, it should come as no surprise that I’m extremely hyped for Dotemu’s new Turtles beat-em-up, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. To celebrate my hype for the game and bide my time while I’m on what feels like a monthly Turtles high, I decided to play through every TMNT game released (that I’m able to play, at least, thanks to licensing issues for digital-only games).
This, of course, means starting off with the infamous 1989 NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a game known for its difficulty thanks to enemy and hazard placement. Though I think it gets a bit too much flack since it was a very ambitious open-world 2D platformer hybrid, similar to Zelda II. Despite me giving it that credit, I’m still not sure I’ll be able to beat it without save states or cheats. At least I’ll get to wash off the stench of my failure in TMNT NES with the legendary original TMNT arcade game, which was released in the same year. ~ De’Angelo Epps
Look, I’m only a little obsessed! OK, maybe I’m a lot obsessed. Apex Legends has stolen my heart — and my evenings — ever since a friend convinced me to give it a try back in February. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in Overwatch and Halo: CE, both of which are shooters with a lot of character, charm, and pure fun value. Apex is another entry in that category, which is to say it’s perfectly designed to get me to spend all my time and money on it.
Sharpening my skills in Apex’s battle royale has been the perfect pandemic escape. Taking on 20 or 30 other squads is a great way to keep in touch with friends and laugh long and hard at our bombastic failures, despite the struggling state of the world just outside my door. Even though I’m not very good at it, I find myself coming back to it again and again in hopes of finding that ecstatic moment of victory. There are a lot of titles coming out this fall and winter that will probably pull me away from it, not the least of which are two upcoming Pokémon titles that I know will occupy me for months to come. But for now, Apex Legends is a permanent member of my household. ~ Emily Morrow
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
The MechWarrior franchise has been largely dormant since the release of MechAssault 2 nearly 20 years ago. That’s a real shame, as smashing buildings and getting into a 100-ton walking BattleMech never gets old. MechWarrior: 5 Vengeance came to Xbox Game Pass earlier this year, and in the last few weeks, has become my current gaming obsession.
Picture this: You and your team of MechWarriors are mercenaries, free to fly wherever your ship and the money takes you. You get to negotiate for better contracts, earn money, and salvage parts from your fallen enemies. Over time, you build a growing stable of powerful Mechs and skillful pilots in order to take on missions of growing, greater risk and rewards. It’s an engaging loop and fun as hell, especially when you play with a lance (aka, squad) of friends. ~ Justin Koreis
No Man’s Sky
National Video Game Day will be dedicated to fulfilling a personal goal of mine in No Man’s Sky. After the Frontiers update launched, I have found a lovely little planet filled with sky-blue bioluminescent meadows and rich red lakes. A perfect place for a settlement. My day will be busy keeping up with resolving disputes amongst the settlers, greeting new visitors, and crafting enough aronium to finish the landing dock.
However, these tasks are just to kill some time. You see, this planet is actually home to sandworms. Titanic invertebrates that can rival in size to even star freighters. The ground rumbles and shatters when these massive creatures breach through the dirt like a terrestrial whale. Their roars can be heard from a great distance, and these gargantuan beasts can be seen from just as f