There are a lot of great games in different genres. What 'classic'/must-play games offer a good, smooth progression curve to expose someone to a genre that they might not be familiar with?
I'll preface this by saying I'm not equating either "easy" or "hard" to "bad". I play a lot of RPGs. However, not all RPGs are made equal. Some are great games but really benefit from playing a different game beforehand to make sense. Some games are fun, but have systems that reasonably expect that you already know gameplay genre conventions, even if they vary greatly and bring their own ideas to the table. Difficulty is part of this, but far from the only factor. Bravely Default or Octopath are solid games, but it's probably a good idea to play a Final Fantasy game like VI as your first JRPG to learn the basics of job systems before diving into either of those games. I'm curious as to transferable ideas that apply broadly to a genre, i.e. "job systems" in the above examples, rather than the specifics of one implementation that's really only used in a single game, i.e. "BP management" for the Bravely games. I also mostly see this asked within a context of a single series, i.e. "what order should I play Metroid/Fire Emblem/Megaten games in," so I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts from a broader genre perspective.
A classic example would be traditional 2D platformers. I love games like Cuphead, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone who is fairly new to gaming, has never played a platformer before, or is liable to get frustrated. So one idea would be to start with some Kirby games, progress through Mario games (first an easy modern game like one of the New Supe games, then Super Mario World), then tackle Donkey Kong games. Since I mentioned Cuphead, it would probably be good to throw in a 2D platformer shooter like Megaman or Contra as well. Obviously a lot of variation within each series and you could drill down to specific games, but this is kind of the idea I'm trying to get at. I think those cover the gamut of general tools that give you the basic skills for everything else in the genre, from Super Meat Boy to Celeste (non-Assist Mode) to Cuphead.
You could obviously make different recommendations depending on how much you dig into a genre or which games you consider "critical" to experience, which will have some games that everyone agrees on and some games that people don't think are necessary. If you're looking at Metroidvanias rather than platformers in general, this could start with your "easy" games like Metroid Zero Mission (or Shantae), then progress to Super Metroid, then Ori or Hollow Knight or Axiom Verge. Games like Ori and Hollow Knight are fantastic and bring up terrific ideas, and I know you could certainly beat them if they're the first games you're exposed to in the genre, but I'd probably recommend that someone play an easier/classic Metroidvania first.
The final example is first person puzzle games, which are harder because they really don't share elements and the difficulty might be considered more subjective. I'd still imagine a progression like Portal/2 -> Talos Principle -> The Witness would be a decent progression curve. Again, plenty of other great games like The Stanley Parable and The Turing Test that don't really fit into this mold.
Would be curious to hear everyone's thoughts on this or on a genre that you might know better- I don't play many shooters, for example, so I don't think I could make recommendations on the "best" way to learn/get into those type of games.
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