When you play a game, you want several things: You want escapism, you want excitement and you want to have a good time. Some games do just that with tried and trusted mechanics, while others take those ideas and try to add some exotic flavour to the mix. Some fail, some succeed and some games create lasting memories that create new benchmarks in the entire industry that leave you so satisfied that you want to smoke a cigarette afterwars as you bask in the glow of a sweaty gaming marathon.
Here are ten such games, which are unbelievably satisfying thanks to one key gameplay factor.
Perfect parry – Batman Arkham series
The original and best. Before 2009, action games rarely allowed you to block incoming damage from mobs of goons that would surround you. This was survival of the quickest puncher, with the action demanding that you eject your fists into the face of unfortunate henchmen before they could react. The fist Batman Arkham game changed all that, giving players a chance to parry attacks and create a rhythm of their own that would leave foes stunned and ripe for a follow-up delivery of fist-based justice.
The vanilla version of this gameplay mechanic was brilliant, but there’s a certain satisfaction present in the follow-up sequels, culminating with Batman: Arkham Knight’s ability to parry multiple attacks and turn the tide back in your favour. Often imitated and never bettered, the Arkham benchmark still feels as satisfying to pull off today as it was a decade ago.
A beautiful drift – Forza Horizon 4
You’re driving a car which costs more than the annual GDP of a small African nation, you’re putting the pedal to the metal and a corner is coming up. Years of watching Fast ‘n Furious movies kick in, as you work some magic behind the wheel and perfectly engage the handbrake as you don’t just slide around the bend, you dance through it with precision and grace.
In racing games, there’s no better feeling than this. This idea of a concerto of burnt rubber that you leave on the tar as you surge forward and take pole position is mesmerising and the de facto benchmark that all racing games have to live up to. Whether it be through simulation or more generous physics-defying controls, nailing a drift is digital crack at its finest. And what better game can sum up the majesty of the drift, better than Forza Horizon 4 and its many gorgeous streets scattered across the British Isles?
None, but there are plenty of challengers who come dangerously close to usurping one of the best racing games of all time.
HEADSHOT! – Gears of War series
While I’m of the mind that nailing a perfect reload s the knees of the bees, Geoff did convince me that something better is woven into the DNA of Gears: Headshots. He’s not wrong either, because if you’ve been with the franchise since its Xbox 360 days, then you know exactly what I’m talking about: That perfect moment, when you’ve got the enemy lined up and you use whatever weapon you have on hand to deliver a squelchy and grosstacular explosion of brainy bits.
Something which is especially satisfying in the competitive scene, as seeing your opponent’s head erupt in an orgy of blood and grey matter is something that’s on par with winning the lottery. Or in Gears parlance: NICE.
Plasma cutter surgery – Dead Space
Dead Space will always be fondly remembered for its ability to make me wash several pairs of pants in a single day, but at the same time here was a game where you didn’t have to be scared so long as you kept Isaac’s handy plasma cutter topped up with fuel. Nightmarish monsters from beyond the void may have been present, but salvation came from the apt use of his trusty maintenance tool, a weapon which could chop foes down to size and leave them in a prime position for a head stomp.
Brutal? Absolutely? Satisfying? You bet your space buns it was, as Isaac could literally chop his foes down to size and toggle the functions on the Plasma Cutter to deliver both vertical and horizontal attacks that would send limbs flying. Just remember, in space, nobody can hear you squee with delight once you’ve taken care of another Necromorph.
Organ removal – Sniper Elite
Show me a gamer who claims to play any of Rebellion’s Sniper Elite games for the story and I’ll show you a liar in return. Sniper Elite has always prided itself on having an entire abattoir’s worth of blood in each game, highlighting that violence with a slow examination of the damage that your bullets do to each and every Nazi organ that the projectile pierces.
It’s that very camera, which makes each pull of the trigger so gruesomely satisfying. That post-mortem examination of the destruction unleashed, round after round after round and never getting old in the process or even after three games of European sniping action. It’s deadly, horrifying and something that fans simply cannot get enough of.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – Tetris
There isn’t a person on this planet who hasn’t played Tetris and anyone who claims otherwise is probably a lizard man from deep within the Hollow Earth. Probably. Anyway, while you’d think actually stacking your tetrominos in a block that leaves just enough room for you to jam a straight-4 down the side and get a Tetris score is the most satisfying thing on Odin’s world since the invention of Tinkies being sold in crates, you’d be…well kind of right.
At the same time, my heart goes out to those moments when anyone stuffs up royally and find themselves edging perilously closer to the top of the screen, only to win back the day by locking in block after block that clears the way back to the bottom. Whether it be vanilla Tetris on a Gameboy or the superb explosion of colour in the more recent Tetris Effect, each and every game in the franchise is capable of that anus-tightening despair and eventual victory.
Opening a chest – The Legend of Zelda
If you’re making a Legend of Zelda game, there’s a couple of ingredients you need to get this recipe right: Exploration, a vast world that makes the trek worthwhile and treasure chests hiding all manner of fun equipment. Over the last two decades, Zelda games have really polished that last idea, making the discovery of the original loot boxes a classic event that always feels rewarding.
That creak of the lid being opened, the faint glow of greatness within and that classic melody playing out as you slowly open the chest and uncover something within, only for it to all be capped off with a triumphant climax of instruments. Just imagine if all loot boxes were that satisfying, right?
Going super – Destiny
There are many many ways that Destiny excels at making you feel like a badass, whether it be the cocky reload of a gun or the fantastic pop of Fallen skulls that literally allows you to shoot the spirits out of their torsos. The greatest treat lies within a Guardian’s ability to summon forth all of their light into one grand display of power, manifested in one of several classes within Destiny and its sequel.
Sweet Traveler, does it feel fantastic. Starting from the actual animation which is badass to say the least, this glorious and vulgar display of power dials home the space fantasy. Whether you’re throwing solar-charged hammers of pure fiery vengeance at the Hive or blasting away at Vex legions with an almighty ejection of Arc energy as a Warlock, Destiny’s supers simply feel…well, super.
Dying Pan – My friend Pedro
A more recent entry on the list, My Friend Pedro does a lot that’s great in terms of giving players a tight and polished run ‘n gunner. Plenty of tricks can be pulled off as the game rewards creative carnage, but one of the best on offer has to be the imaginative use of a frying pan in the heat of combat. Kick one of those pans up into the air, slow down time and fire away at it as your rounds ricochet off the cast iron and into enemy skulls.
Who would have thought that kill it with a skillet could be this much fun? The mad chaps behind My Friend Pedro, that’s who.
SLIDE! – Vanquish
There’s no better action game studio on the planet than Platinum Games, and after recent successes such as Nier: Automata and an upcoming slew of new titles, that legacy looks safe and sound. Rewind back a few years, and boot up a copy of Vanquish, a game which was cheesy, over the top and introduced a concept of mech suit sliding that has never been repeated since.
Glorious fun and completely bonkers, Vanquish took the idea of sliding around the battlefield and made a crazy concept work beautifully. The feedback of initiating this action, the thrill-ride that it created and the success you could nab by using a slide to get behind enemies and fill them full of lead was simply ahead of its time. A one of a kind masterpiece from SEGA and Platinum Games, Vanquish is long overdue a sequel just so that players can see what an older and more seasoned developer could bring to the table if they were to revisit one of their greatest success stories.
Last Updated: July 24, 2019