Power Up

Video games that make us feel in control.

2012, Portable Pixels

Those of you who had Tamagotchis as children are already aware of their magic. For those that aren’t, the gist is this: you have a tiny digital pet that you have to feed and play with and even poop-scoop. It sounds simple, but it’s really easy to become obsessed—you make all the decisions for this little bundle of pixels who needs care at least twice a day. Hatchi adapted this concept into an iPhone app, and I can’t leave it alone! Your Hatchi evolves into one of many adult forms based on the choices you make for it. Mine is named Salad, he has flames on his head, and his favorite food is bread. Based on this, I think my decision-making skills are pretty on point. —Amy Rose

Bubble Explode
2011, Spooky House Studios
Mac, iPhone

I am the procastinatin’est girl in the world. When I have some Big Thing to do, I fret and freak out and clean my room and go for walks and tease my hair while watching Rihanna videos on YouTube—whatever it takes to avoid the task at hand. When I’m feeling intimidated, it helps to remind myself that even Big Things are really just a bunch of little things combined, and that at a certain point, I have to stop thinking and JUST START DOING whatever it is, even if it feels like moving a mountain pebble by pebble. No lie, the game Bubble Explode on my iPhone totally helps me do that. It’s really simple—you just tap strings of same-colored bubbles to clear them from the screen—but it moves so quickly that I literally DON’T HAVE TIME TO THINK, I just become a bubble-popping machine, eliminating all obstacles in my way with a satisfying digital “POP!” as my reward. I often play it to get myself hyped up to work on something I’ve been avoiding. It reminds me that there’s a time for hows and whys and strategizing, but sometimes you just gotta get to work. —Leeann

1984, Atari Games, MindScape, and Elite Systems

Paperboy is an old game, and when I tell you what it’s about you’ll be all like, “WHAT? THEY MADE VIDEO GAMES ABOUT THAT?” and I’ll tell you that they did because it was the ’80s and everything was topsy-turvy back then. This is a game about a boy who delivers papers on his bike. He’s not a superhero; he’s just a boy with a mission on a bike, and even though being a paperboy should not be a very stressful job, it is, because his street is full of dogs trying to bite him, gnarly skateboarders, and leather-clad dudes riding unicycles. The cool thing, though, is that he can use the newspapers he’s delivering as weapons—chucking rolled-up papers at peoples and animals (and windows!) makes you feel pretty powerful and therefore awesome (in the video game world, NOT in real life!). Also, at the end of the round when I always died and never managed to make it to the second day of delivering papers (I’m sorry, did I not reveal that I suck at video games because my mom hated them and this was the only game I owned and still I never managed to finish it—because it’s true), the GAME OVER window was a newspaper and the headline was “PAPERBOY CALLS IT QUITS” and nothing made me feel more powerful than knowing that my sucking at delivering papers made it to the front page. Also the background music is awesome. —Laia

2009 Ninja Kiwi/Digital Goldfish
iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Old love letters. Crappy relationships. Bubble wrap. Nothing is off limits when it comes to stuff I’ll wreck, because few things are more empowering than destruction. My favorite video games, if you can even call them video games, are the kind where you’re given a beautiful array of things to ruin. There are lots of games of this type: Poppit, Bubble Spinner, and the best one, in my opinion, Bloons. There’s something cathartic about popping a bunch of computer-generated cartoon balloons. Bloons takes this feeling to the next level by adding obstacles, bonus balloons, and kinda-but-not-really hard-to-beat levels. Turn the sound up: the soundtrack is simultaneously irritating and satisfying. —Jamie

1989-2006, Nintendo
Famicom, Super NES, Game Boy Advance

EarthBound is a Japanese RPG with a humorous and skewed view of America: the setting is “Eagleland,” a hamburger costs $48, enemies have names like New Age Retro Hippie. You control Ness, the main protagonist, as well as his friends Paula, Jeff, and Poo. Buzz Buzz, a bumblebee from the future, comes to tell you that the evil alien Giygas is taking over the universe through mind-control. So, naturally, you and your friends are embarking on this quest to save the universe—but you’re also just kids. Sometimes you get homesick and lose power points, often crying uncontrollably until you can call your mom to recharge. And you can order pizza and a delivery boy will come bring it to you, no matter where you are in the game. It’s features like this that make EarthBound incredibly complex from a design standpoint. It has over 50 hours of play, tons of unpredictable elements, plus three hours of original, awesome music. What I really love about this game is that, alongside the humorous and goofy elements, it is darkly philosophical. Giygas is so evil that he has lost his mind and become a limitless entity of horror, with no real identity. There are a lot of spiritual moments in the game as well: at one point you fight your inner demons naked in a dream; at certain crucial times only the power of prayer can save you. When you’re playing Poo, you go through intense martial-arts training that involves a god descending to eat your eyes. And since it’s an RPG, the god is like, “I WILL EAT YOUR EYES NOW—do you accept this? Yes/No.” And you have to keep clicking “yes” until your training is complete and the god has taken everything away from you, including your mind. —Maggie

1986, Bally Midway, Sega, Data East, Atari, and Activision
Arcade Sega Master System, NES, Atari Lynx, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, Atari 2600, Atari 7800, IBM PC, Gamecube, Xbox, PS2

Growing up, my brother and I used to play Rampage for 64 just about every Saturday afternoon. The game isn’t very hard: All you do is pick one of three characters (a lizard or possibly Godzilla, a King Kong-looking gorilla, or a werewolf), all of whom, for some reason, looked like they had rabies. Then you set out on a path of destruction, razing buildings and killing bystanders (and watching their blood gush out). You can jump on the buildings and grab and smash airplanes and helicopters, too. That is basically it, but it was SO MUCH FUN. It was kind of a stress reliever to just kick and punch and gain points for it. —Erica

Black & White 2
2005, Electronic Arts, Feral Interactive
Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X

I am obsessed with this game, in which you play a god (you choose if you’re a good one or a bad one) and you get to cast spells and go on missions and have a pet creature (I always pick the…tiger thing? Cat? The other pets are unfortunate-looking, I gotta say). You can also, if you choose, sacrifice people to gain power, make your pet eat people, and play catch with your pet using small children as the “ball”…not that I’ve done so or anything. The game starts off with a story where Aztecs have raised an undead god and ruined your perfectly lovely civilization; your job is to rebuild by gaining followers and influence through either brute force or goodwill. It’s very fun and strategic and THANK GOD FINALS ARE OVER because now I can play for days at a time without moving. The power that comes with being an actual god is, predictably, addicting. —Arabelle ♦


  • missblack May 10th, 2012 11:17 PM

    Now I want to play Paperboy soooo badly.

    Also this doesn’t really have anything to do with anything but USC is making a video game based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. !!!!


  • Kathryn May 10th, 2012 11:29 PM

    I just downloaded Hatchi and I’m super excited!

  • asleeptillnoon May 10th, 2012 11:50 PM

    Love all of these but what about The Sims?! I’ve devoted entire days playing those games, haha.

  • Leanna May 11th, 2012 12:08 AM

    Oh I’m so downloading Hatchi. I was hoping a cute retro digital pet app existed for iPhone.

  • rainymouse May 11th, 2012 12:59 AM

    EarthBound sounds a lot like Homestuck… I really want to play this game now!

  • Sonja May 11th, 2012 1:09 AM

    i love these reviews.

  • cherrycola27 May 11th, 2012 1:27 AM

    I was playing Jazz Jackrabbit today. Anyone remember that??

  • Kathryn May 11th, 2012 1:59 AM


  • mayaautumn May 11th, 2012 2:31 AM

    i haven’t heard of ANY of these, but they are v.great reviews!

  • alliya May 11th, 2012 2:57 AM

    I’ve been meaning to play Earthbound for a while now – but my DS is broken… D:

  • ivoire May 11th, 2012 3:09 AM

    i really want earthbound :(

  • DitzyMo May 11th, 2012 9:03 AM

    HATCHI- have to get that

  • missmadness May 11th, 2012 12:03 PM

    Oh my god, whenever my boyfran and I are driving and crazy shit keeps happening (we had a truck drive serpentine at us going 60mph on a two lane country road once) we ALWAYS say it’s just like paperboy.

  • appledarling May 11th, 2012 12:57 PM

    to play earthbound (im not encouraging pirating… but it IS difficult to come by), just download an emulator and u can play on the computer you’re typing on. its super easy. and you get the whole game without the infamous pirated ending loop.

    ++ the soundtrack is BEAUTIFUL

  • Lou922 May 11th, 2012 2:47 PM

    Okay, I figure this may be just the place to get some great advice!
    I’m a 19 year old Irish girl visiting Toronto for a few weeks really soon, and I’m soo excited! Does anyone have any suggestions of cool things to do, places to go, anything that really shouldn’t be missed?

    Thanks in advance!

  • VelvetRibbon May 11th, 2012 6:45 PM

    I remember playing Paperboy! Didn’t you have to avoid all these crazy obsticles like cardboard boxes on the footpath, and then he had to cross this really treacherous road at the end where you nearly always died!

  • VelvetRibbon May 11th, 2012 7:03 PM

    I remember paperboy- it was mental! You had to swerve the cardboard boxes and fire hydrants that were strategically placed in the middle of the footpath, debris littered the road- it was a treacherous place. At the end of a level you had to cross a really busy road where you almost always got run over!

  • Caden May 12th, 2012 3:41 AM

    I know what I’ll be doing for the rest of the weekend……..


    Caden x

  • NotReallyChristian May 12th, 2012 5:13 PM

    My favourite: Trinity, from 1986. I don’t know if it’s technically a video game because no videos involved – the game describes what’s going on in words, and you type to do stuff. But it’s such a complicated, exciting story (it’s about atom bombs, and there’s all kinds of crazy symbolism and stuff) plus it’s super-challenging. My boyfriend and I play together at dinnertime :) It’s a perfect game for nerds like us! It’s basically like doing one of those game-story books, y’know (‘if you picked A, go to page 76!’) only on the computer and, like, much better because the guy who write it is hilarious.

    My favourite games growing up? Zoombinis (duh totally amazing), 102 Dalmations (not actually that good but my best friend got it for Christmas or something) and Rick Dangerous, an incredibly difficult and looking back on it kind of racist game for our very first all-colour computer!

  • Ranga May 12th, 2012 7:08 PM

    Ok Gamerperson here. Everyone should play Portal. Everyone. Even the elderly. It’s so insanely good and it’s super cheap if you get it on Steam (google “steam” and get it). I can’t emphasize how good portal is. It’s so good.

  • 280807 May 14th, 2012 6:50 AM

    What about the sims?!! D:

  • Jennifearz June 18th, 2012 3:13 PM

    Earthbound and Super Mario: RPG are the best games ever made. If you haven’t played both of them, check them out. So much fun :D

  • tuntematon August 10th, 2012 10:06 PM

    Why can’t Hatchi be freeeeeeeeee??????? :cc

  • This is my Alias March 29th, 2013 5:11 PM

    i so wish hatchi was free cause then i could totally find some thing besides killing templars (Assassins creed ) to do.

    :) im addicted