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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

Unfortunately, there are many barriers for entry into the wonderful world of console gaming. Consoles are expensive, and many games assume a baseline level of gaming literacy that someone who’s considering giving the hobby a shot for the first time just won’t have yet. 

Whether you opt for the portable and family friendly Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation 4 and it’s excellent library of exclusives, or the Xbox One and it’s consumer friendly subscription service, Game Pass, here are the games you should seek out first. Also, if it really is your first console, don’t bother trying to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X just yet. They’re harder to come by than the vaccine in March.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4) 

You may have never played a video game in your entire life, but surely you’ve seen a movie. That’s what you’re getting here. Naughty Dog’s conclusion to Nathan Drake’s saga is arguably the most cinematic game of all time. You’ll swashbuckle your way through countless thrilling set pieces. The game’s intuitive design and immaculately crafted cutscenes will have you feeling like the star of your own “Indiana Jones” movie.

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“Uncharted 4” is a great way to get acclimated to third-person action-adventure games, and you can always just play on the easiest difficulty if the cover-based shooting and light stealth feel foreign to you. Don’t worry about jumping into the series at the fourth entry, either. The developers did an incredible job of telling a compelling and enjoyable story that is self-contained.

It can also be your introduction to one of gaming’s biggest sore spots, ludonarrative dissonance. Often times there’s a major gap between what the narrative of a game is trying to convey and what is actually happening during gameplay. Nathan Drake is an easy-going, wise-cracking hero who has also killed thousands of people over the course of the series. But you know, there needs to be gameplay, right?

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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The Wolf Among Us (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mobile)

While a seven year old game that was released on basically everything may seem like an odd place to start, developer Telltale’s games are a perfect place to begin for a newcomer. Their gameplay is comprised of dialogue options, walking around and looking at stuff, and the occasional quick-time event (QTE). While QTE’s, which are very quick button prompts that appear on screen, can be off-putting for a new player for whom the controller doesn’t yet feel like another appendage, the QTE’s in these games can’t negatively impact the story in any way. You just have to try again.

Based on the “Fables” comic book series, “The Wolf Among Us” puts players in the shoes of the big bad wolf, who is the sheriff of a clandestine commune of fable characters, many of which are incredibly likable and memorable. The story is a gripping detective noir, and the comic book-esque art style is a visual feast. You don’t need any video game literacy at all to enjoy this title, and that makes it a great place to start. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see beloved storybook characters beating the hell out of each other?

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Pokémon Sword And Shield (Nintendo Switch) 

The most recent entry into the Pokémon canon makes it onto this list primarily because it’s baby’s first role-playing game. It was quite controversial upon release due to the cutting of many monsters from the game, and some of the ugliest looking trees you’ll ever see. Aside from all the fuss, the final release was still a wholesome, fun and demonstrably cute game. 

It is the easiest iteration of what was already an easy franchise, and it will absolutely not let go of your hand. While this can be frustrating for long-time players, anyone who’s new to the franchise, or to video games in general, might find this very helpful.

RPG’s are among the most rewarding games the industry has to offer, but many of them overwhelm even experienced players with a myriad of complex mechanics and systems, so it’s best to start off with something simple. If you don’t find the turn-based combat compelling, catching new Pokémon should still capture your interest, and you can play fetch with them too. Nothing in the game happens in real time either, so it’s a great game to play while you do something else, as well. Catch up on one of the infinite TV shows out there while you play. Now that’s efficiency.

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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

Firewatch (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC)

To those outside of the gaming community, there are some prominent misconceptions. Many don’t realize the breadth of creativity and styles that games really have to offer. When they think about games, all that comes to mind is violence. Despite these misconceptions, the industry boasts some of the most evocative and fascinating stories being told today.

“Firewatch” is an ode to voice acting and beautiful art direction. It tells the story of two fire lookouts in a national park who communicate over walkie-talkie. In the interest of spoiling as little as possible, let’s just say things start to take a surprising turn. The story is full of intrigue and emotion, and the gameplay is as simple as can be, making this a tremendous entry point for a new gamer.

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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

From one of the least video game-y titles to one of the most, Insomniac Games delighted the world with one of the most purely funs games in recent history. You know what to expect with a game about Spider-Man; you’re going to be swinging around New York City fighting bad guys. That’s pure gaming, right there.

What makes this title a great place to start is actually the web swinging itself. It’s so satisfying and hypnotic, but it’s also relatively simple to pick up. The combat may not click as well for someone who is new to action games, but swinging around the city for hours is genuinely cathartic. The story is surprisingly interesting as well, giving audiences yet another fun superhero story to satiate their tacit need for heroism. We definitely needed more of those.

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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)

If you get a Switch, this one’s an absolute no-brainer. It’s one of the most acclaimed games of the generation. It’s inventive, boisterous and most importantly, intuitive. Platforming your way through these fairly open-ended levels is easy to pick up but hard to master, a balance that is often sought after but rarely achieved. Mario is arguably the most iconic video game character of all time, and this is one of his shining moments. You can also do things like dress Mario in his underwear and inhabit the body of a T-Rex.

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)

Even if you know next to nothing about games, you’ve surely heard about the “Grand Theft Auto” series. It’s been the target of so much controversy and public ire, yet developer Rockstar is crying all the way to the bank. GTA V sold 20 million copies in 2020 alone, a full 7 years after its initial release. 

The numbers are staggering, but what makes this cultural phenomenon a good starting point is the open world mayhem that it provides. Whether you’re playing online or not, the real fun here is wandering around and causing as much mischief as possible, and it doesn’t really require a big gamer brain to walk up to random pedestrians and punch them in the face. 

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Bugsnax (PS4, PS5, PC)

Let’s get weird. “Bugsnax” is what you get when you combine Pokémon with a buffet and throw in some body horror and existential dread. It’s impossible to understate just how bizarre this game is, yet it is is still family friendly and simple to pick up for a new player.

You play as an anthropomorphic creature called a Grampus, and you go around capturing the titular critters, which are literally what they sound like. They are bugs, but they are also snacks. If that wasn’t weird enough, you can feed the Bugsnax to your grampus companions, turning their limbs into snacks in the process.

Despite its baffling premise that gets more and more horrifying the more you think about it, the game is as fun and heartfelt as they come. You’ll find yourself strangely bonded to these creatures, and the ending has to be seen to be believed.

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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo Switch)   

This delightful simulator of island life dropped just in time for the pandemic, and as horrible as the past year has been, this game has been a ray of sunshine peering through the clouds. You simply play as a villager who is tasked with building out an island whichever way you see fit. It’s meant to be played over a long stretch of time, so don’t expect immediate gratification. 

The widespread appeal of a slowly paced, cutesy game like this is surprising. Whether something like this seems up your alley or not, chances are that if you give it a try, you’ll find that it absolutely is. It’s a perfect game for brand new gamers as well. It never requires complicated and dexterous inputs, and there is no winning and losing. There is only constantly expanding debt to Tom Nook.

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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

Life Is Strange (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mobile) 

“Life Is Strange” is similar to “The Wolf Among Us.” It’s another narrative adventure that foregoes normal combat and fail states for choice-based gameplay, making it a great way to ease yourself into gaming. It separates itself from its contemporaries by giving players the ability to rewind time, through the evocative inclusion of licensed music, and its penchant for farming your sweet, salty tears. 

It cannot be recommended without a couple warnings, however. First, the game tackles a number of serious and triggering concepts, like suicide and sexual assault. Second, you absolutely need a cringe disclaimer. Some of the dialogue just screams of a writers room full of 30-something adults going “How do the young people talk these days?” If you had hoped you’d never hear the phrase “Are you cereal?” again, then I’ve got bad news.

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Despite the cringe, the “Life Is Strange” series is one of the most unabashedly sincere games you can ever play. The gameplay process itself is incredibly relaxing, even if the subject matter is anything but. It’s this juxtaposition that makes them truly special. With a remastered collection of the first two titles, along with a brand new game on the way, there’s never been a better time to jump in and get hurt.

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The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Nintendo Switch, Wii U)

We can add this one onto a separate list of “duh” Switch titles. Many hold this game up as the greatest game of all time, and given the relative lack of big budget titles on the Switch, this one can’t be missed. 

In stark contrast to “Sword And Shield,” this game doesn’t hold your hand at all. It provides players a gorgeously stylized and fascinating open world to explore at their discretion. This is the kind of experience where players will get out of it whatever they like, so even though it may confuse the uninitiated, there is still plenty of splendor to be found. Cook food, climb towers, glide around, do whatever you like.

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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“Ghost Of Tsushima” (PS4)

An open world samurai game may not seem like the best place to start your gaming journey, but “Ghost Of Tsushima” finds itself on this list for one reason: it’s so dazzling to look at. It’s a cornucopia of vibrant colors and marvelous particle effects, showcasing the beautiful landscape of the island of Tsushima in a delightfully stylish way.

It can also serve as an introduction to many of the open world tropes that you’ll inevitably encounter as you dive deeper down the rabbit hole. Capturing outposts your way has become a staple of the genre, and the game’s combination of stealth, melee and ranged combat is far from novel, but its execution is among the best that the industry has to over. Do you like man butts? You’ll see plenty of those as well.

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Until Dawn (PS4) 

Now this is baby’s first horror game. The scariest genre might be the hardest for some to get into, as the interactive nature of video games means that jump scares can be that much more harrowing. While “Until Dawn” can be genuinely scary at times, it’s more of a parody of teen slasher films than anything else.

It’s a choice driven, narrative adventure like “Life Is Strange” and “The Wolf Among Us,” so you don’t have to worry about the gameplay being too strenuous. Be warned, though, the QTE’s can actually impact the outcome of the story. In this way the game is less noob-friendly than is ideal, but it’s still a great way to ease yourself into the horror genre. Instead of watching a film and yelling at the TV when the characters do something stupid, you’ll be yelling at yourself, and that’s the magic of video games.

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo Switch)

Fighting games are one of the most enduring staples of the industry. Franchises like “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter” have dominated arcades and home consoles for many years. While you certainly could start with those franchises, it may be best to start here.

Often simply referred to as “Smash,” this series is a long standing homage to Nintendo’s most iconic characters, pitting them against one another in frantic combat. There is always so much going on that skill level often doesn’t even matter that much, assuming you’re not playing online. Smash is a great way to ease into the world of fighting games without having to memorize insane button combos, and the expansive roster of characters from other games will help you get to know some of gaming’s most recognizable mascots.

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Untitled Goose Game (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC) 

Let’s conclude with the silliest game of the bunch. Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be a goose, terrorizing the people in your neighborhood? No? Well even so, it turns out that it feels really good.

“Untitled Goose Game” is short and sweet, even though the titular goose is anything but sweet. It offers co-op now too, so you can be a feathered menace to society with your friends. What’s strange about this preposterous game, though, is that it’s also a great introduction to stealth gameplay. The stealth genre is full of incredible titles like “Dishonored” and “Hitman,” but those might be a little daunting for new players. That’s where the goose come in. 

The Games You Should Play First If You’re New To Console Gaming

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Good luck on your foray into console gaming. Quite frankly, that’s a tremendously enviable position you’re in, to get to discover the wealth of incredible works of art that the gaming industry has to offer. What do you think you’re going to play first? Let us know!

Featured Image source: playstation.com
Images via playstation.com, telltale.com, polygon.com, firewatchgame.com, nintendo.com, rockstargames.com, bugsnax.com, lifeisstrange.square-enix-games.com, supermassivegames.com, smashbros.com and goose.game