johan_joustJohann Sebastian Joust
2014, Die Gute Fabrik
PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

This game is just becoming available in the U.S. and Europe, but when I saw it being played at a couple video game conferences a while back, I fell in love. It doesn’t have graphics—instead, each player holds a controller that is very sensitive to movement. You have to keep it as still as possible while playing, because if it gets jostled too much, you’re out. The game plays concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, and when the music speeds up, the controllers are less sensitive—meaning that you can take the opportunity to try to swat your opponents’ controllers without eliminating yourself. The person who holds their controller steadiest until the end wins. You have to see it to really understand it; watching this trailer helps:

Playing this game feels like playing a schoolyard game like freeze tag, but without people constantly yelling things like, “She cheated, I saw her move!” No one has to say anything—the game knows. —Emily

goldeneyeGoldenEye 007
1997, Rare
Nintendo 64, Xbox 360, Pinball

Allegra wrote about the mechanics of this game last year, but it bears repeating: GoldenEye 007 is the finest multiplayer first-person shooter video game of them all. Even though its premise is violent—the characters are spies and bad guys basically hunting each other down—it was my way of bonding with my younger brother, with whom I’d play this game for hours on Nintendo 64. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve him yelling “Yeah! IN YOUR FACE!” at me, the perpetual loser, while I pouted with my arms crossed. No matter how many times I lost (and I did, EVERY SINGLE TIME), I would always insist on one more round, simply because I loved playing. Sometimes he’d round up his friends for some four-player action, and in those instances he would always defend me against his aggro pals. “Not cool!” he’d say as I was clobbered by laser beams. “She didn’t even have a weapon!” When I got older, my high school marching-band friends and I played this game tournament-style during the off-season, which was always a blast. Inevitably, I was eliminated in the first round, but I could still cheer for my friends as they pulled off some really spectacular throwing-knife maneuvers! There’s nothing like stuffing your face with snacks with your siblings and/or best pals and shooting video game versions of one another at global landmarks like the Great Pyramids. I haven’t played the “reloaded” edition, but if it’s anything like the one I know, it’s a work of art best enjoyed with others. —Meagan

just dance 4Just Dance 4
2013, Ubisoft
Wii, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Because Just Dance is essentially a dance-off—the main difference being that you have to dance AND hold a controller to play the game—any version is intensely competitive and a jammin’ good time. The fourth edition, though, is special because of its choice list of songs, like One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” Doing your best Bieber impression during “Beauty and a Beat” is not optional—it’s crucial when it comes to besting your opponent’s moves and getting the points you need to win. It also encourages people to come together in a really awesome way: What other game gives everyone the common goal of doing the greatest-ever/highest-scoring dance to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”? —Chanel

family feudFamily Feud
1993, GameTek
Super NES, Sega Genesis

This game’s title is a misnomer, at least in my experience playing it, because the “feud” in question was always between me and my best friend. And we weren’t battling, like the developers intended, to see who could come closest to guessing the most popular answers to fill-in-the-blank survey queries like “something kids imitate the sound of” and “a device you look through.” We played this game more like Mad Libs, searching only for ways to make each other laugh. For example: giving the pixelated families representing us names like “the Butts.” (Bonus laffs were to be had when someone got the red-haired family, which had a dude who looked like the action star Chuck Norris. I’ve never played the 2012 version for Xbox 360 and Wii, but I hope that character’s legacy lives on.) —Lena

2010, THQ
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U

We sometimes hear that specialization—having one particular area of knowledge or well-trained ability, rather than reading/thinking/exploring diversely—is the key to a successful career/life. Whomever says this has clearly never played Jeopardy! To truly slay at Jeopardy! you need to be a nonspecialist. A card-carrying dilettante and risk-taker. Someone who wants to learn about all kinds of different shit just because you like it, and who is willing to bet large quantities of (figurative, in the case of the video game version) CASHOLA on your quick-draw understanding of those wide-ranging interests. You are rewarded for refusing to specialize—for knowing the intricacies of the New Deal as well as you do the rapper who wrote the lyrics, “Never let me slip / ’Cause if I slip / then I’m slippin’,” plus also that squids belong to the molluscan biological class Cephalopoda. Jeopardy! requires a vested interest in the world on the whole, not just one vocational type of expertise. It also requires you to answer every clue with a question, as in, “What is jodhpurs?” It subverts everything you think you’re supposed to do in life, including, in the case of the video-game version, NOT YELL PRESIDENTS’ NAMES REALLY EXCITEDLY AT A PIXELATED GAME-SHOW HOST, which, by the way, is the most fun, especially when you’re trying to beat out whatever friend you’re playing with. Also? Even if you’re “losing,” you’re coming away with the fabulous prize of all-new factoids you didn’t know about the world before playing, which sounds like winning to this devout Trebekkie. For its audaciously topsy-turvy view of the world, when I hear Jeopardy!, I think, “What is the best?” And I’M RIGHT. —Amy Rose

2012, Sleeping Beast Games
iOS, Google Play, Android

Spaceteam is one of the most inventive, unique video games out there. To play, you and up to three friends just need to be on the same wireless network and each have the game installed on a smartphone or tablet. The premise is straightforward: As a team, you are tasked with saving your “spaceship,” and everyone has a control panel to operate during the mission. But there’s a problem, which is that you don’t have the instructions for your own panel—your teammates have them. The game uses voice interaction, meaning that everyone has to talk to each other about what to do next. You get to shout things like “TURN ON THE CONGIGAWATT!” at your friends, and almost nothing is more fun when you’re bored. —Emily

rock bandRock Band
2007, Harmonix
Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3

I have a very large family, including a LOT of cousins. Some family gatherings are so big they have to happen in a church basement, which isn’t the most intimate of places to catch up with relatives you haven’t seen since the LAST time you were all sitting there eating hamburgers and potato salad together. Standing out isn’t easy, which made it particularly notable the year my cousin brought Rock Band to the party, and immediately became everyone’s favorite person. Around the time many of us (myself included) would have been inching our way to the door to vamoose, we were lining up to get a turn playing songs like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” on the game’s plastic guitar instead. I recommend it for turning any kind of required quality time into a shred fest. —Lena

2012, Rusty Moyher
iOS, Google Play, Android

This game can be played by up to four people. Its rules are simple: Each contender is assigned a color, and the goal is to be the first person to touch all of their colored squares on the screen—except that everyone is using the same screen. Things go bananas very quickly, but it’s easy enough that you can play with anyone, including little kids or your grandparents. This is a great game to play in the middle of summer, when you are too hot to think about/do anything else. —Emily ♦