My Backlog of Shame: Five Unplayed Games That Call My “Gamer” Status into Question


We all have secrets. Some are dark. Some are deep, and full of shame. I trust you, readers, not to judge too harshly, and thus I will share some of my deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets with you here. We’re all friends, after all. Right?

I consider myself a gamer of the old-school variety. The oldest-school, in fact. I started shortly after Nintendo made itself known in the American market, and I’ve been playing steadily ever since. Hell, I still play the same MUD I started when I was twelve. That’s nothing but text, ladies and gents. It’s the step between tabletop games and World of Warcraft. And yet, even I have holes in my gaming history. I’ve missed out on playing some classic titles in the video gaming canon, if there is such a thing. Here are five of the most egregious sins from my (non)gaming past.



I’ve started this game more times than I can count. The first version of Myst I played was a downloaded demo back in the AOL days of old. The demo took hours to download. Hours. I waited with baited breath for the file to complete, not realizing that I would be shut out after the first two puzzles. I was new to the internet and didn’t realize I wasn’t getting a whole game to explore. I was twelve, okay? Allow me my naiveté.

After waiting four plus hours to download what I thought was an entire game (did I mention I was twelve?), I dutifully solved the first two puzzles in Myst. Then a message popped up, letting me know that I had to pay to unlock the rest of the game. Well, paper route aside, I didn’t exactly have a disposable income at the ready, so I deleted the files (this was back when hard drives were around 8 gigs) and moved on with my life. Later, in college, I bought the full game to play on my Mac cube, one of the most beautiful computers ever to run OS 9. Then everyone got OS X, and my Myst CDs didn’t work anymore. The game once again fell to the wayside.

This is one of the nerdiest holes in my gaming oeuvre, but nonetheless I feel a twinge of remorse every time I see it mentioned in gaming journalism.

Final Fantasy VII


Yes, the queen of emotional responses via video games never played the game that kicked off the era of emotional responses via video games. Aeris dying was a red letter day for the video-games-as-art movement, considering there were myriad internet postings on how to get her back, or how to avoid her death all together. Gamers everywhere were devastated by the loss of this particular team member, and I never experienced the pain of losing her.

I’ll have you know I downloaded this game from the Playstation Network as soon as I was able, but it’s been sitting on my homescreen for over a year. I’ve yet to fire it up. The graphics are terrible, what do you want from me? I know, I know, I need to play this game, for the love of all that’s good in gaming. Give me the rest of the year.

Metal Gear Solid


I’m going to give myself a bit of pass on this one, as the MGS series was a Playstation exclusive (for the most part, I never had a GameBoy Color), and I didn’t have a Playstation until I registered for one for my wedding. Protip to anyone I know getting married (Paul): register for what you want, not just plates and other housewares. Our families were tickled pink to see we registered for video game consoles and other fun stuff, and raced to buy them for us. We not only scored a PS3, but a new Xbox 360 and a couple of snowboards to boot. Not to mention a ridiculous assortment of Shakespeare DVDs (NERD ALERT).

Back to the confession at hand: I’ve never played a single MGS game, and I realize I’m missing out on some major gaming history because of it.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic


This post was actually inspired by the fact that I didn’t play the Mass Effect franchise until a few months ago. For realsies. I am walking around calling myself a gamer, and I never had the pleasure of strolling the Citadel as Commander Shepard.

Before ME, however, BioWare was known for creating one of the best RPGs to utilize an existing sci-fi universe. I remember very clearly my friends talking up KotOR in late middle school/early high school, but I was always afraid I’d get sucked into the world. To thine ownself be true, as The Bard says, and I was right not to add yet another timesuck to my already full itinerary of gaming. Like I said, I’ve been playing the same MUD since I was twelve. That’s seventeen years of medieval high-fantasy RPG gaming, my friends. There was a break in there, but it was fairly brief in the grand scheme of things.



When Bioshock Infinite launched this year, I experienced some of the deepest shame I’ve ever felt as a gamer. I hadn’t even touched the first one, let alone the second. I’m too much of a purist to jump into the third game of a franchise just to pretend to be current. No, I have to do things in order, so I was one of the few games writers I knew who wasn’t excited about exploring the world of Columbia.

I have watched my husband play the first one, however. I bought it and put in a place of honor on my shortlist, knowing there was no escaping this particular modern classic. One Saturday morning I awoke to discover my better half delving into Rapture’s secrets. This is the guy who wasn’t allowed video games as a kid, so it was particularly fun to watch him develop his skills with this game. I know the major twist to the story—and it remains a beautiful doozy of a twist—because I was able to sit back and watch him find his way through the world. I’m almost glad I experienced the story through his eyes. There’s really nothing more gratifying than watching someone evolve into a bonafide gamer.

Watching Frank Fontaine explain “Would you kindly?” to my husband was one of the best moments in my gaming history. He looked at me during the scene, his face full of wonder. “I get it,” he said with his eyes, “I get why you love games so much.” I smiled back at him, not saying anything outright either, but enjoying the small instant of complete synchronicity.

Not bad, for someone who hasn’t played the game herself. Maybe I’m not so ashamed, after all.

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  1. I haven’t played a single one and don’t feel that it makes me any less of a gamer. Not everyone is going to like the same things so it’s a tad elitist to think there is a checklist of must play games in order to be a gamer.

  2. I had also not played through Knights of the Old Republic, HOWEVER, the game was just released this week as a $9.99 iPad app. I played for about 30 minutes last night. The controls are pretty slick and the graphics are not bad for its age.

  3. Oh noes, Gabriel! No writer has ever been glib before! I’m a fake gamer! Apparently playing a 23-year-old MUD doesn’t garner one any cred these days. You gotta admit it’s at least a little shocking going back to those PS1 games.

    I’m thinking about picking up FFVI, too. What do you guys think? Any other FF games I simply MUST play?

    Tywin, the controls are slick, you say? Is it weird not playing with a controller? Since its anniversary is coming up, I definitely have KotOR on my backlog catch-up shortlist. Not sure what platform to go for.

  4. Every single game on this list.

    Plus any Elder Scrolls games, pre Oblivion, any Fallout games, pre Fallout 3, any and every Killzone & Resistance game (except for an hour of the first), anything involving the words Kingdom Hearts, ALL Final Fantasy games (turn based RPGs can get bent), Twisted Metal games, Suikoden, Yakuza, Persona and really just a shit ton more that I can’t even name. It’s probably just easier to have people ask me about a series and expect a “No.”

    With that being said, if I have to play every single one of those games/series to be considered a “real” gamer, then you can keep that shitty title.

    I love gaming, but I don’t have a whole year to blow on catching up with digital landscapes & stories just to appease some entitled community with my “credentials.”

  5. Side note: Play Bioshock Infinite.

    I’ve never played a Bioshock game before any Infinite is absolutely amazing. I’m kind of the same way when it comes to playing games in order, but a friend let me borrow it and it comes with the original Bioshock as well.

  6. @lubz
    People might have different tastes, but these games are classics and come from a wide variety of genres. So if that is your defense, then you must not like amazing games. You can both call yourself “gamers” if you like, I personally hate the term and would never call myself that despite the fact that I play more than my fair share of games.

  7. FFVII is the best- the only one I’ve played multiple times. The others range from pretty good to disappointing though I did enjoy FFVIII and FFIX (really b/c the design is so darn cute).
    Love your story about watching your husband play. 🙂

  8. Need to play, FF7, even for non-rpg fans the story is a must.

    KOTOR just got released on ipad, if you have one not a bad way to play on the couch and ten bucks is great for a game of that caliber

    Protip: Bioshock inifite for PS3 comes with Bioshock as a download on disc, $2 rental from redbox = cheapo full copy of awesome game on your HD

  9. sara,

    i highly recommend FF IV, VI, and VII. 4 and 6 were originally 2 and 3 respectively for SNES, then updated to the Japanese numbering when they were re-released for the PS1. 4 is also available on GBA (or was it the DS?) and iOS. all three of those games have beautiful story lines and characters you truly care about (more than just Aeris, but yes, that’s the most heartbreaking moment in gaming history).

    actually, playing FF2 (IV…w/e) on the SNES is probably what made me a gamer in the first place; i didn’t like serious games before that, and i thought FF1 was stupid (at the time). i’ve played through those games so many times on so many systems; i just finished replaying IV on my iPhone a few weeks ago. still love it.

    glad you got to see the story unfold in Bioshock; that’s how KOTOR was for me. i had more fun watching KOTOR than when i actually tried playing it, and the twist slapped me right in the face.

    those 3 FF games, the Mass Effect series, Bioshock, and KOTOR are all games that were really stunning to me because of the way their compelling stories transformed them into more than just a simple video game — they were each an amazing experience to behold.

  10. I can actually for once read a list and say I’ve played all of them. Kinda makes me a little happy. I never got to fully play Megaman, Zelda, or Sonic. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend as a kid so I missed out on those. And as I got older I started missing out on more. Even now I’ve never played Mass Effect, Assasins Creed, Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry, etc. I don’t think you need to have played a specific list of games thruout the years to be considered a gamer. Although if all you do is play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja then you don’t count.

  11. Boo.

    Nah, I keed. Final Fantasy IV is the pinnacle of the turn-based RPG, and beat VII to the character death thing by a mile. The DS remake is perfect and you have no excuse not to play it. Believe me, the game holds up. VII not so much. I’d wager that one has not aged well. FF Tactics is the most flawless strategic RPG of all time so definitely get with that one. Unbelievable depth.

    KOTOR was pretty much the semi-turn-based prototype to Mass Effect, but I don’t know how well it’s held up give the smoothing out process Mass Effect has gone through.

    The Bioshock games are not really connected. Buy Bioshock Infinite. Just trust me on that one. If you play any game from the last 5 hears, that’s the one you don’t want to miss. Only the Mass Effect games have been as good for me this gen.

    I’m with you on Myst and MGS. Not usually a PC gamer and I got on the PS bandwagon really late in the cycle and just never got around to it.

    1. I’ve also never played FFVII, and can only make it about two hours into KOTOR before the ancient graphics and terrible combat system ruin it for me. I hear the story is great, but I know the twist ending.

      I got stuck like 99% of the way through Myst because I forgot to bring some page somewhere.

  12. I came in here thinking I was going to have a very similar list, since my gaming backlog is extensive, but nope. I’ve played all of these. I was just being very Xbox-centric, so not having played Mass Effect, Oblivion, etc. was what I was thinking.

  13. You can skip FFVII, the gameplay is fun, everything else about it feels flat to me, and the character models were awful looking when it came out, that’s not some ‘omg 5 years later and it feels so silly’ thing. 😉

    If and when you make it to kotor, I’d recommend playing on PC, as then you can actuall play KOTOR II with a lot of the content that was left out, is put back in (it also includes another planet to explore that was left out of the main game.)

  14. I think something that’s hard for most to admit is that some games which are considered classic–and are!–had to have been experienced when they were released.

    Like the_truant posted earlier, Final Fantasy IV and VI (originally called 2 and 3) are what made me a gamer and I’ll still happily replay them. And yes Final Fantasy VII is a classic that broke hearts and defined beliefs…but I don’t know anyone who only played these games for the first time today that feels the same way about them as those that experienced them when they were newly released.

    When a game is one of the defining ones of your childhood/teenage years, the nostalgia factor can be enough to keep it special for life. But trying to look at it objectively? I’d be surprised that someone could play through the Mass Effect series and then be impressed by story or character as found in Final Fantasy VII.

    I’d certainly be curious to hear your reactions if you ever go for it, but my own recommendation would be to jump ahead to Final Fantasy XII.

  15. Playing ‘old’ games is in my view not that difficult. I think, especially with the very popular indie games of late, graphics don’t matter as much, as long as the atmosphere is good.

    Play FFVI and forget VII. I’m not the only one who thinks SNES games have aged better. And dare I say it? VI has a better villain.

  16. Was too young to want to play Myst maybe? Diablo and Baldur’s Gate got me into RPGs.

    KotOR is one of my fave games ever. FFVII was awesome too but definitely not my favorite.

    The article wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, there is no “definitive list”. As a number of people have already pointed out, it’s all subjective.

    Otherwise, there would be no such thing as a gamer who hadn’t played Planescape: Torment 😉

  17. Sara Sara Sara, so you have fooled us all to think you were a true blood.
    we took you among us, took care of you, nourished you and defended you with our lives and what did you do? you stepped on our hearts and betrayed us.

    and I was starting to feel for you after all this time, but it’s my fault for trusting you and falling for your treacherous webs..

    I’m now forced to do this: “SEIZE HER”… we will take care of you later.

    … how was that? 😉

    anyway, you missed on a couple great games there namely FFVII and MGS and even though I doubt FFVII will cut it at this age I still believe MGS can still hold itself as a metal-solid game even today, go on and play it. you won’t be disappointed (at least story wise).

  18. I tried playing Myst when I was younger and got completely lost as to what the hell I was doing. Then I looked up a way to beat the game in 10 minutes. I did that and can still proudly boast that I’ve beaten Myst, as long as no one asks about certain parts of the game. For me Final Fantasy IV (or 2 for SNES) was and is the BEST FF game ever. IX was also a great one just because the story was amazing and the characters were some of the best I’ve ever gotten to know. There is a scene where the main character teaches the black mage (sorry, I forgot the names even though I love them so) the joys and peace one experiences when you pee off the edge of a cliff. I love that scene.

  19. Love the story about watching your husband play Bioshock and seeing him fall in love with games firsthand. I’ve been gaming ever since I can remember and I also have some holes in my repertoire. Everyone is so shocked to hear that I’ve never played Zelda. I’ve always been very aware of it and it’s place in the cultural zeitgeist but there are just so many versions of it I feel like I’m too late to the party to start playing it. Metal Gear Solid is the same way. I played the first 2 and loved them but I got behind and now I wouldn’t know where to begin. Also I’ve never played Final Fantasy but I’m not interested in it.

  20. This is my list… I also include the oldschool zelda games, making my way through ocarina still…. I gladly got into bioshock infinite and purchased the first 2 but I never really got to downloading them yet… its’ the same with the other games listed. I have them… they’re just… hard to play through once it’s past their time. They’re not like mario games… I hold my head in shame as a gamer but I grew up with nintendo as my lover, and only got into the other systems in my late teens.

  21. I wouldn’t feel too much shame in your list. Actually to be completely honest I don’t think there is a single game here that you should feel shame about not playing or be in any rush to complete with the exception perhaps of KOTOR.

    If you have an iPad and are anxious to knock one of your games off this list I would highly recommend the KOTOR release on iOS. It’s a tad pricey (7-10 bucks), but is a straight port of the game and a pretty good one with good touch based interface. It was a big hole in my gaming as well, but not anymore thanks to this port.

  22. I haven’t played any game even mentioned in this article. Don’t worry, though, I’m playing Bioshock this weekend, followed by Arkham Asylum and probably AC: Broherhood.
    I’m a fairly casual gamer, but most of the games I play are strategy games or Bethesda, and you get an almost inexhaustible amount of gameplay from those.

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