By: BRENDAN McDANIEL
Staff Unqualified Advice-Giver
This past Friday was Valentine’s Day, everybody’s favorite romantic holiday. Personally, I recommend celebrating it like the Romans did; find a goat, slice that bad boy up, then go around slapping your favorite women and plants with the blood-soaked skin flaps for good luck.
It was called Lupercalia back then, and I wish I had gotten a lucky slap from that juicy goat jerky so I could have been gifted enough talent to have made that story up for a joke.
But since goats are hard to find, and murdering them is a bit frowned upon these days, I’d like to present an alternative way of celebrating. Grab your partner(s) or fellow single friends, and enjoy these five games to play whether you were lovey or lonely this Valentine’s Day:
#1: The Oregon Trail
Much like the 19th-century migrants who made the journey from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, the game of Oregon Trail does not get old. In it, players become a caravan of American travelers moving westward in search of prosperity on the Great Frontier.
You manage resources of food, ammunition, and medicine as you brave 2,000 miles of the American continent. Playing the Oregon Trail with friends makes for a great bonding experience of trying to survive now-eradicated diseases, hostile forces of nature, and all the Native American peoples whose land you keep trespassing on and wondering why they are angry about you slaughtering their families.
The Oregon Trail is one of the few genuinely fun educational games, being both fun to play while also not pulling any punches about just how terrible America’s history is.
Emulated versions of the 1974 classic are just a google search away, modern editions generally go for below $5 online, and Target carries a board game adaptation if that’s more your speed.
#2: Your Favorite First-Person Shooter
This may seem like an obvious pick, I believe that the appeal of gathering up your closest friends to slaughter legions of the undead or stab in the back with an energy sword is for everybody, not just obnoxious white guys. Really anything will work, be it the classic Halo deathmatch, leaving your slacker friend to the zombie hordes in Left 4 Dead, or tossing each other sweet new guns in Borderlands, so there’s plenty of options to suit your specific tastes.
You can pick up a used copy of just about any multiplayer FPS for cheap, but if you do not already have a dedicated game system, most working computers can run games through platforms like Steam or GOG.com.
#3: Stardew Valley
After having several of the most obscene screw-ups in the history of American democracy all happen in the past week, I’ve seriously considered the idea of leaving it all behind, marrying a witch, and shoving off to live in a cottage far away from our collapsing society.
Although a number of things keep me from doing that in real life, I can do it in video games thanks to the delightful Stardew Valley. The world of Stardew Valley is a simple one, in which you play as a farmer living with the carefree Pelican Town.
Last year saw the game updated to support multiplayer, which means you can take your friends with you into a world where your biggest concerns are making sure you watered all the plants or got home on time to get enough sleep.
There are no looming threats, no uncomfortable subtext, and not even a single game over to be found; just the quiet bliss of farming, fishing, and friendship. You can get it on smart devices for $7.99, or on console and PC for $14.99.
#4: Monster Hunter
There are monsters, and they need to be hunted. While the “Monster” part is phenomenal all on its own, each creature is designed with such care and precision that each one feels like it could be a real, breathing animal, and each one also offers a fight fundamentally different from every other- the best part by far is the “Hunter” part.
Working alongside friends and loved ones to get the last piece you need for that great armor set, pulling off the perfect strategy for a tough fight, or even just sitting around between hunts laughing and telling stories is where the game really shines.
If you and your partner are not able to take down a tough monster on your own, then you can head online and meet up with others; the bar is pretty much embedded into the ground at this point, but Monster Hunter has the single kindest and most accepting online community out there, no contest.
Used copies of the most recent title, Monster Hunter: World, run as low as $10 for console and PC.
#5: Dungeons and Dragons
Board games may be more popular and have a slightly less toxic fanbase, but there is only one undisputed greatest game of all time. It works like this; two or more people gather around a table, usually but not necessarily drunk or hyped up on soda.
One person is the Dungeon Master, and they get to decide how the game is played. Everybody else is a player, and they do the playing.
Everything else is dictated by whatever the group agrees is fun. Don’t like the rule about needing a bunch of stuff in order to cast spells? Ignore them and do it anyway.
Think combat takes way too long and slows down the game? Don’t start fights, and talk your way out of as many situations as possible.
Bored of cultists and goblins, and want to do something else? Use magic to build a rocket and go to space, who cares!
The only rule that matters in D&D is “Have Fun.”
You can buy basic kits to get you started for $10 or $15, or you could make use of the decades of player-made adventures and rule systems all for absolutely free. Dungeons and Dragons is not about the rules, the lore, or even really the game itself.
It is about good friends getting together and enjoying each other’s company; their virtues, their shortcomings, and all their weird nonsense they think is funny. And if we are being honest, isn’t that all love really is?