Lots of people are talking about Hatred right now, either decrying its deliberately gratuitous and provocative violence or championing it as a title to rally around in the name of free expression. Valve kicked it off Steam, and then Gabe Newell personally apologised and reinstated it, presumably after realising that they'd be able to make sick bank off of it.
Anyway, we'll deal with Hatred when we can actually play the damn thing and see if it's anything more than a poor man's Postal. In the meantime, however, instead of choking out some faux-outrage about a game we're yet to play, here are ten conversely joyous and uplifting games that you can absolutely play right now and remind yourself that gaming can be positive and life-affirming too.
Honourable Mentions: ToeJam and Earl, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Super Mario Sunshine, Harvest Moon, Elite: Dangerous
The entire point of OutRun was to leap into a Ferrari and soak up the sun, sea, and sights of the pixellated Californian coastline. It was basically a roadtrip sim, an encapsulation of a West Coast ideal, just blowing the day off and getting away. Pure escapism. OutRun's carefree spirit is what fuels the likes of Burnout Paradise and Forza Horizon 2 -- just leaping in a car and getting away from it all. What could better than that?
LBP is all about potential and possibilities. It's a series in which the hero is a knitted doll, and the powers of creativity and imagination are prized above all else. It's a series designed to make us, the players, the true stars, in an environment that's all about empowering would-be creators with all of the tools that they need. Also, Stephen Fry at his most whimsical.
Quite possibly the most life-affirming thing that I've ever played, and it's difficult to put into words exactly why that is, especially in a short paragraph. You can read the full Journey review here, but this is the short version:
Like the finest feel-good films, or those books you read again and again until the title on the spine is illegible from creasing, Journey is a game that exhibits pure joy. It plays with it, subverts it, threatens to take it away at times, but the end result is something inherently euphoric, deeply personal and, dare I say, even a little bit spiritual as well.
It's just brilliant.
You are a tiny, lime Tic-Tac with legs rolling around a giant stick ball that pick up objects, animals, people, and buildings in order to rebuild the universe. To awesomely catchy J-pop. If you're ever feeling down, play Katamari.
Animal Crossing is a whimsical game all about communities. It's an enormously charming life sim that plonks you down in a town filled with enormously charming anthropomorphic animals. New Leaf goes a step further and makes you Mayor, putting you in charge of a community filled with weird and wonderful characters, and tasking you with the job of ensuring everybody gets along. It's a game about making friends and getting along. And getting sweet furniture for your house.
The aesthetics of Okami are utterly gorgeous, and it's a game that actively encourages you to become a part of that beautiful art. Not only that, but Okami is a game where you basically grow more powerful by bringing beauty to the world, and you can make flowers bloom simply by running past them.
Rare at their best
I'm cheating here, but you could choose any game from Banjo-Kazooie, DK64, or Viva Pinata to put on this list. The first was a brilliant platformer that not only managed to out-Nintendo Nintendo, but also featured two best friends as the main characters. When Banjo couldn't make it somewhere, there was Kazooie to help. When Kazooie wasn't quite strong enough, Banjo stepped in to help I love that game. The DK rap is still a thing of hilarious wonderment (see also Conker's Bad Fur Day for musical excellence), and Viva Pinata was a game that managed to combine candy and gardening and animal conservation and a soundtrack that's just brilliant.
I miss you, Rare.
Guitar Hero / Rock Band
This is wish-fulfilment at its very best. You just feel like an absolute boss when you're doing kickjumps off of your sofa while wildly soloing to Welcome to the Jungle. For me, Guitar Hero 3 is the pinnacle of peripheral-based shredding solo, but it was all about Rock Band 2 if you wanted to get a whole bunch of friends involved too. For a few precious moments, these games made you feel like a freakin rock god.
Hohokum is a game that sort of defies critical appraisal from an adult perspective. Put it in front of kids and you'll see what I mean. It's a game that simply encourages play. With its bright colours, striking art, bouncy soundtrack and soothing atmosphere, Hohokum is a game you can dip into for a spot of relaxation. It's a mood game in many ways, perfect for when you want something a little charming and a little different.
By the same extension, Minecraft is a game that absolutely has to be on this list. There's a reason that it's the most popular game out there. You can build anything, do anything. The limits are just the limits of your imagination. Minecraft is actually being used to nurture the minds of children across the world. What's more uplifting than that?