The Desert Island Game List
Solved: “What Games Would You Take to A Desert Island?”
On a recent episode of the incredibly fun podcast ‘How Did This Get Played?’, the hosts purposed a question that we have all discussed at some point in our gaming lives.
What games would you take to a desert island?
This is the perfect water cooler question. We’ve seen dozens of variations on the core premise. Desert island movies. Desert island books. Music, games, then movies again. The question is fascinating to me for a lot of reasons. The idea of being stuck on an island alone is a nightmare. Entertainment and survival would be your core time spenders, so what better way to spend those terrifying hours than with the perfect entertainment?
I’ll be adapting their original premise to fit the purposes of the article. Here are the ground rules:
- I’ll be starting around the year 2000 for brevity’s sake.
- I’m using Wikipedia’s breakdown of console generations, which you can reference here.
- One console game per generation, one handheld game per generation.
Just a reminder, this is a highly personal list. You’re not to pick the best games of each console, but you certainly could if you’re so inclined. Let’s get underway with the Sixth Generation:
Sixth Generation (1998–2013)
Systems of note: Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS2, Xbox
Handhelds of note: GBA
Console: SSX Tricky (Gamecube)
SSX Tricky for the Gamecube may seem like an odd choice for this generation. Gamecube and the PS2 have dozens of games that could have gone in this slot, but I selected this arcade-like snowboarding game.
But why? For starters, I wanted a replayable game like this one. Something with high scores and music. I wanted high energy and silliness, and SSX Tricky has all of these things. I also can’t help but think that I may be sick of the sun, sand, and water of my tropical prison. I think some snowy mountains could be a wonderful antidote.
Handheld pick: Final Fantasy VI (GBA)
A handheld pick next. While constructing this list, I wanted at least one meaty JRPG. Something with a sweeping story, memorable characters, and addicting gameplay. I considered a Persona title, but I thought that their typical lofty ideas and dark tone could bum me out.
So I went with Final Fantasy VI on the Game Boy Advance! This game is massive and filled with wonder. It’s the perfect handheld experience, remastered to truly glow on a GBA screen. I think I’d be crazy to not bring a Final Fantasy game of some sort.
Seventh Generation (2005–2017)
Systems of note: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Handhelds of note: Nintendo DS, PSP
Console: Mass Effect Trilogy (Xbox 360)
This seemed to be the perfect choice for The Desert Island Game List. I considered the Mass Effect Legendary Edition first, but then I remembered that a boxset had been released during the previous generation. All one package, so I selected it for this.
When I played the first two games in this franchise, I discovered an action RPG with hundreds of hours of gameplay. I love that my protagonists and character interactions can carry between titles. This list is filled with RPGs like the Mass Effect Trilogy; so much fun, variety, and time to spend in these excellently designed worlds.
Handheld: Pokemon Platinum (DS)
I had to have one Pokemon game on this list. I agonized over this choice. This list was shaped on a notebook page over a couple of nights, sculpted, and weighed over and over again. I started with Pokemon Shield before deleting it. Pokemon Soulsilver also stuck with me for awhile, but in the end, that is a remake of a GBC game.
Pokemon Platinum ended being perfect. Firstly, it’s massive. It’s a long game, filled with Pokemon from other generations and a very large amount of variety. The game is bright and beautiful, with the Pokemon pixel art that I’ve always loved. Completing this Pokedex, hunting shinies, and spending time with Pokemon would help grind away the hours on my desert island.
Eighth Generaton (2012-present)
Systems of note: Wii U, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Handhelds of note: Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita
Console: Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)
This was a nearly impossible decision. I struggled because the eighth generation is easily my favorite. So many masterpieces with ground-breaking game worlds. The Witcher 3. God of War. Breath of the Wild. Excellent choices and none of them are wrong.
But Red Dead Redemption 2 just made the most sense. It’s pure escapism. It’s another time and place, created with the absolute pinnacle of game design. You can be a bank robber! You can play cards, fish, and then race horses! You can do this for an eternity, all while bonding with these grey people in a changing world.
Handheld: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
I would be insane to not pick an Animal Crossing game. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the biggest, and if the console slot this gen wasn’t so thick, it would be a slam dunk. I played New Leaf when it was new, and it was my favorite Animal Crossing game for a long time. I like that this franchise wants you to build a world that feels like home. I would worry that I would get lonely on this island, and insanity would follow. I’ve filled this list to avoid that. New Leaf gives me animal friends, and a routine to follow every day. Seems pretty great, and an excellent 3DS choice.
Nineth Generation (2020-present)
Systems of note: PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Handhelds of note: none
Console: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (PS5)
The Ninth Generation is still new. Of all the finalists for each generation, this gen had the shortest list. I made this call, and I stand by it. The just-released Skyrim Legendary Edition is the perfect game for this list.
I’ve said in previous Game Loot articles that I thought that Skyrim is the perfect Desert Island game. Think about it: one of the biggest western RPGs ever made. Hundreds of quests, locations, and NPCs. Magic systems, books, weapons, and a living world. You can get married, build a house, then save the world from the return of the dragons. If I had to choose one game on this list, it would be this one. You could live a digital life within this title, supported with the newest graphics and additional content. Skyrim is the ultimate desert island game for this generation.
After my plane crashes and I’m stuck on this isolated island with several generations of video games, I think these titles will hold me over. I have massive RPGs with Skyrim, Mass Effect Trilogy, Pokemon Platinum, and Final Fantasy VI. I also have some action with SSX Tricky, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf (action!). What games would you take with you to your desert island? And will they be enough to stave off madness?