Class is in Session
College campuses are a melting pot of fresh cultures, personalities, and ideas from every walk of life. As a “mid-sized campus” consists of roughly 12,000 students, you’re bound to meet people with experiences you’ve never dreamed of. No two college experiences are the same. That said, no matter where you go, you will encounter these eight games before you walk the stage on graduation day.
1) Mario Kart: The Obvious Choice
The Wii U is far from a popular console. Despite this, you will undoubtedly receive an invite to head three rooms down for a round of Mario Kart 8 at least once in your four years. If not, replace the 8 with Double Dash, Mario Kart 64, or Mario Kart Wii. With its recognizable characters, accessible controls, high ceiling for mastery, and endless potential as a drinking game, the Mario Kart franchise is an absolute college-must for gamers and non-gamers alike. Always remember, only cowards use blue shells and heavy characters have a higher top speed. As a quick aside, Mario Kart 8’s Switch port adds an unbelievably fun cops and robbers mode, a first for the series, forcing you to adapt the kart drifting skills you’ve amassed over the years into a frenzied, hunt-or-be-hunted couch-coop game.
2) FIFA: The Surprising Regularity
Sports installments seldom appeal to me. I consider myself a diverse gamer, messing around, in equal parts, Hyrule and Los Santos. However, FIFA may be the most popular game I’ve never played, with a crack-esque addiction level to “non-gamers.” I’ve had RAs, stoners, and club hockey players invite me to FIFA tournaments. Apparently, a kid in my town recently gained massive online popularity streaming ranked FIFA matches. For a sport Americans are passionately indifferent about, you will find the most unlikely of individuals boast intimidating FIFA skills. Though it may be more common on college campuses than Mario Kart, I’ve always been too intimidated by the high level of gameplay my unlikely peers possess to join them in a match.
Honorable Mentions: While FIFA is the most common sports game you’ll find, I’m including Madden, NBA, and other popular sports games in this entry.
3) Smash: Casual Heaven, Competitive Hell
It’s no secret the Melee competitive scene is huge. Just a warning, you will see wave-dashing and mind-numbing Fox combos before your college days are done. But as I mentioned with Mario Kart, Wii Us do exist on college campuses. For every EVO-ready Melee fanatic you find, people will be just as eager for a friendly-level Smash 4 session. Similar rationality exists for Smash as for Mario Kart. The large pool of friendly-looking characters attract a non-gaming audience. Controls range from accessibly simple to blistering combos depending on how deep you dive. Play a round or play all night, regardless, Smash-sessions are as college as togas.
4) Call of Duty: Not Just for the Bros
Call of Duty games consistently make Scrooge McDuck levels of dough every single year. For that reason alone, you are bound to find a couple guys playing their CoD of choice every now and then. They don’t camp either. If they bring it to college, they are definitely throwing C4 onto your spawn before you even finish the kill cam. Personally, Black Ops Zombies was the big game in my suite. Rounds were quick to start up but as later maps boast a detailed host of features, the low commitment often yielded highly enjoyable rewards.
Honorable Mentions: Here are your shooters. Halos, Battlefields, Medal of Honors. Whether it be in space or a World War, if Mountain Dew ever ran a cross promotion with it, it’ll fit nicely here.
5) The Retro Game of Choice: N64 Edition
First, don’t consider this a cop-out, consider this an interactive segment. Somewhere in your college experience (for me: Week 2) you’ll walk into a dorm with a decorative Nintendo 64 resting on a pile of textbooks. On the off chance it gets any play, you’re in for some Super Mario 64, or Ocarina of Time, or Majora’s Mask, Goldeneye, Banjo Kazooie, Mario Kart/Smash/Party/(Tennis?). Regardless of the game, somebody found their attic’s retro console and stuffed it in their back-to-school supplies thinking it’ll be fun for a night or two. Trust me, it will. Bonus points if they brought a CRT. A quick aside, these games rock for nostalgia, not so much for controls. As great as exploring Peach’s castle may be, the night will likely switch to playing something playable.
(Dis)honorable Mention: if someone pulls out an (S)NES Classic, congratulate him/her for finding one but we’re just sticking with the real-deal oldies in this entry.
6) Rock Band: The Holy Grail
If you go to a Boston College party, your night won’t likely end until you’re standing in a sea of Mr. Brightside-singing business-management majors. The thirst to absolutely belt out your favorite songs is an all too real one. Rock Band is the feel good drug of choice for anyone on the gaming spectrum. Blissfully cooperative jam sessions, for dummies.
Rock Band’s fatal flaw rests in math. Dorms are small. TVs are big. Drum sets are bigger. Stuff four to twelve sweaty, premed hopefuls in a room with a plastic concert rig and you don’t have much room for the college essentials: sleeping, studying, and being a decent roommate. Because of the heavy “real estate cost” Rock Band demands, encounters with this game will be few and far between. However, for the unparalleled community experience it creates, this game is an absolute must play once in your college experience.
7) The Twist: House Rules to the Extreme
You’ve played thousands of rounds in MW2 but as you tag in for the next round, everyone around you starts equipping strange loadouts. This isn’t typical free for all, they’re playing knives only. In college, the games you love may become the games you tolerate (definitely the games you’ve sunk too much time into). Changing the rules, creating games within games, or flipping the game on its head entirely are common ways to keep things fresh and impose your own “Dorm 117” flair on a familiar title. One of my suitemates was an avid (and relatively prolific) OoT and Goldeneye speedrunner. We’d spend the early hours of Saturday nights discussing Wrong Warps and Forest Escape followed by Blops: Zombies with bizarre rules: starting room only or no iron sights to name two.
We even discovered a sweet spot of Project M settings that enabled high-velocity launches with stage wrap leaving your character flying, infinitely parallel to the ground more often than traditional Smash action. Every gamer you meet will have their own guilty pleasure rules. Part of the fun of meeting so many people is to discover game modes you’ve never imagined.
Honorable Mentions: Video Game based drinking games tie in nicely. Beer-io Kart was the go-to in my friend group: one beer per race, no drinking and driving (must be at a complete stop).
10/10 would recommend.
8) The Facebook Games Played in Lecture Halls
These aren’t winning game of the year. They don’t have characters, plot lines, combat, or an incentive to play them other than the fact that matching gummy bears is marginally more interesting than basic finance and slightly less addicting than year four of a meth habit. If you see someone playing it, try not to think about how they, no matter how long they get away with Flash gaming, will get a better grade in the class than you despite never learning the professor’s name.
Whatever your college experience, whatever your guilty, gaming pleasures, good games are good games. College is the most communal experiences we will ever have. Like any self-evident truth, Mario Kart is an obviously great couch-multiplayer to play with your best buds at 4 AM after a night of unsuccessful bar-hopping. Keep an eye out for these (mostly) enjoyable titles during the four, craziest years of your life.
Author: PJ Manning
PJ has been gaming for the better part of 15 years. His first console was the iconic, purple Gamecube with a copy of The Wind Waker he often revisits. His love of Nintendo persists to this day. In addition to unapologetically defending his Wii U, his current arsenal consists of a PS4, Vita, and 3DS. While studying English at Boston College, his roommate introduced him to the wonderful world of speedrunning, a community PJ now actively follows.
PJ is an avid Zelda player and complete trash at any competitive shooter. He once bought a JRPG and was never seen again. Send help.