Mansoor is a pro wrestler and former WWE superstar where he won the only known 51-man battle royal to ever exist. You can often find him on Twitch with his fellow former Maximum Male Model tag team partner.
Everyone told me having a child would change my life. What they didn’t tell me, however, is that it would BE RUINED.
I’m just kidding! Raising my daughter has been the most fulfilling experience I could imagine. The extent to which I love her only grows exponentially, truly amazing and terrifying me. That being said, sometimes you just wanna bing bing wahoo and stomp some goombas instead of keeping the little munchkin alive, ya know? Sadly, my fascist wife puts the Switch on a shelf I can’t reach and won’t get it for me until the baby is asleep, so here are the top ten games I played in 2023 during my newborn’s naps!
I am not exaggerating when I say I have sat down to play Firaxis’ tactical RPG set in the Marvel universe multiple times across various naps, and not engaged in a single minute of actual gameplay. This game will make you withstand seemingly endless amounts of tutorials, cutscenes and dialogue centered around aspects of the game I have no interest in engaging with. Take, for instance, the in-game social media where you are instructed to DM superheroes and read their posts. My daughter pissed and shit on me during her newborn photos, but that was nothing compared to the disgust I felt seeing Blade tweet about Taco Tuesday.
Midnight Suns also tries to trigger your gamer lizard brain by having all kinds of loot box types you can watch opening animations for. That doesn’t work for me, brother. I’m 28 with a paid off house, if I wanted to gamble I’d just hit the slots (or I would if it wasn’t for my fascist wife guilting me for borrowing from our kid’s college fund).
At its core, however, is a very fun card game with an addictive gameplay loop. As an XCOM fan, I appreciate Firaxis keeping some of that DNA while keeping this game unique. The difficulty and complexity of the game strikes a good balance, keeping me engaged, but never frustrated. I just wish the great fundamentals of this game wasn’t surrounded by unnecessary fluff.
My verdict: play it, but skip most of the story stuff, unless you’re a huge Marvel fan. It’s the only way to get a mission in before your spawn awakens and demands more titty juice.
9. Katana Zero
First thing I want to say is there is no way I am writing as much for any other entries in this list as the last one. That shit took me an entire day, and I’m just now realizing I have like 9 more to go??? Fuck. Anyway, this game rules. It’s almost antithetical to Midnight Suns in its respect for your very, very limited baby-less time.
This game borrows many elements from the stellar Hotline Miami, one being that dialogue and plot progression serves as short, but impactful breaks between the fast-paced gameplay. I personally feel the narrative has a little to be desired, but if your priority is an engaging experience with almost zero filler, Katana Zero is your game. My one big hangup is the very unsatisfying ending that leaves you with bigger blue balls than me when the old ball and chain had to spend weeks recovering from giving birth.
That joke was horrible, I’m sorry you had to read that. I asked my wonderful wife for permission to write it, she just shook her head and called her mother.
All this talk about the fragile balance between narrative and gameplay in gaming… Here we have a game where the story unfolds from a small canvas into a beautiful (or sometimes horrifying) tapestry, all depending on your choices. Covering much of our planet east of the Americas, CK3 gives you the opportunity to lead countless kingdoms, empires, baronies, duchies, counties, and tribes across hundreds of years of recorded history.
As the King of Spain, I married a beautiful Irish princess whom I soon found out could not bear children. The only way to get a game over in CK3 is to die without an heir to play as, so I sadly petitioned the Pope to permit a divorce. My new wife bore many children, the first of whom inherited my Kingdom and immediately fell in love with my ex-wife. After marrying her, he was promptly seduced by his own mother. One thing led to another and my son’s affair with my wife while married to my ex-wife resulted in an inbred bastard child, the existence of which allowed for his brother to blackmail him for more power.
Boy am I glad I had a girl!
I have very, VERY fond memories of absolutely bodying my friends in this game while rocking my daughter to sleep. The maddening lullaby I sang while performing spinning piledrivers still rings in my opponents’ ears: “naaani naaani naaaaani” (like Carl in the Jimmy Neutron movie). Some of my closest friends would get on call and wait in line just to get absolutely destroyed by my old pal Zangief. Accusations of “scrub tactics” or “lag switching” were the soundtrack to my dominance. All the while my little girl fell soundly asleep, oblivious to the cope and cries of the peanut gallery.
If you’re wondering, yes, I squashed my jabroni tag team partner Mason in this game. Nobody can touch me (except for my beautiful wife after recovering from giving birth, waka waka!).
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “Mansoor, you were just complaining about games having too much dialogue! Why would you recommend what is essentially a visual novel?” Or maybe you’re asking “what the fuck is Planescape: Torment!?” Either way, hear me out. Torment has some of the most captivating and thought-provoking writing I have ever experienced in the medium. If your game has writing like this, I will gladly put on a velvet robe, some slippers, and old-timey spectacles before sitting by the fire and burning my eyeballs reading your beautiful words on an LCD screen.
The gameplay is ass and the vast majority of your time “playing” will be reading dialogue as your characters stand completely still, but you will come away from this game wondering about your own life choices and how they affected people you’ve long forgotten. Torment also features some of the most interesting and fully characterized companions in RPG history. Although not always present, the few times you hear voice acting from the star studded cast in this game, the performances are absolutely stellar. Homer Simpson plays a robot with crossbows for arms. This game infuriated my wife because every time something happens the main character says “UPDATED MY JOURNAL” in the manliest, graveliest voice imaginable.
If you have the patience and are interested in being taken on an adventure examining the crushing weight of regret, play this game. What can change the nature of a man? It’s time to find out.
btw put all your points into wisdom, intelligence, and charisma.
I’ve been writing this list for days. I said I would stop with the long write-ups and that lasted like 2 entries. Nobody is going to read this shit! Putting aside the fact that most of these games didn’t even come out in 2023, who wants to read the ramblings of a guy who hits his head for a living? Okay, seriously this time, we’re speedrunning the final five.
I’m not telling you one goddamn thing about this game. Don’t read anything about it, don’t ask anyone about it. If you are into puzzles and/or uncovering mysteries, play it. Your deduction skills will be put to the test. I’m going to make my daughter play this instead of sending her to college (more money for slots!).
If you are a parent or have a complicated relationship with your parents, this is a great game to play if you want to cry. Lisa makes me confront the overwhelming fear I wish I didn’t feel when I look at the infinite possibilities in my daughter’s eyes. It deals with extremely dark and traumatic topics, I would recommend doing your research before trying it out.
Lisa is very difficult, in a gameplay and thematic sense, so be aware. It’s also somehow the funniest game I’ve ever played. I want this list to eventually be completed, so I won’t go on. Just know Lisa is both a very silly and very disturbing game that can have a profound effect on you.
The Last Jedi, but good!
An excellently written deconstruction of everyone’s favorite space opera. The universe of Star Wars is examined here from a somewhat Gnostic lens, probing the nature of its unseen and irrefutable… well, force, that seemingly controls the material world and the fate of every living thing within it. Jedi believe that The Force guides them, Sith insist.
The Force is a tool to wield. One woman mastered each philosophy, light and dark, only to find both lacking. She asserts that The Force imposes predestination, removing her agency, and she despises it for that. This woman dared to challenge the very fabric of the universe. She loves you dearly, as a mother her child, for you are the very thing that will kill The Force and free the universe once and for- aaaah shit, I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Fuck it.
The crux of the game is choice and its echoes. Your character is the one being in the universe who is not touched by The Force’s influence, and from that freedom comes immense power. What you choose to do, or not do, creates waves that grow larger and larger as they are felt across the galaxy. Your companions fundamentally change as they are influenced by your choices. Your enemies, Sith Lords who need The Force to survive, are left powerless by your lack of dependency. I find it significant that you are the only character in the game who has the choice of what to do and say, right down to the most meta aspect of having dialogue options. This is standard for any video game, the player character is almost always the only one with true agency. In a video game whose central theme is choice and its consequences, however, I find it particularly meaningful.
KOTOR II isn’t perfect by any means. Like every Obsidian game where they were rushed to make a sequel under strict time constraints, it suffers from many technical issues. I would not recommend playing it without the restored content mod, which not only fixes game breaking bugs, but reintegrates unfinished quests and dialogue. Is the game even fun? Not really. I think about it all the time, though. I could certainly write about it all day, as evident by this long passage where I haven’t even mentioned my rugrat in a list where gaming during her naps is the entire gimmick.
Should I, a nearly 30 year old man who has never used Tumblr, love UNDERTALE as much as I do? Maybe not, but goddamn do I love these games. The music, the gameplay, the humor, the lore, the music, it’s all like crack to me. Like its predecessor, DELTARUNE assembles a wonderfully charming cast of characters that are hard to forget (Berdly is literally me, sadly). I intended to wait for this game to be finished before playing it, but even as it stands, it’s definitely worth experiencing. I just smile so much when I play these games. I genuinely can’t wait to play them with my daughter one day.
1. Elden Ring
What’s funny about Elden Ring taking the top spot is it’s actually the WORST game to play during your baby’s naps. You can’t even fucking pause! The glare your wonderful, beautiful, totalitarian wife gives you when it’s your turn to pick up the wailing gremlin but you’re so incredibly close to beating the giant zombie gravity wizard on a tiny horse… it pierces the soul. Needless to say, Radahn was not slain that night.
What is there to say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said by the far sweatier? The apotheosis of FromSoftware’s design philosophy over decades of work, Elden Ring champions the best (and worst, but mostly best) qualities of its genre. The true beauty of this game is the wonder and mystery it rewards you with when you engage in exploration. Before any NINTENDRONE jumps down my throat, I’d much rather climb a giant mountain and find a talking snake monster that fights you with a sword made of bodies than find a FUCKING korok seed!
I’m just kidding, I don’t care about console wars. I sleep in a big bed with my wife.
There you have it! If you actually read through all this, what is wrong with you? Also, thank you. I love video games, but most importantly I love the feelings they can evoke. No matter the objective quality, a game succeeds for me when it makes me feel something strongly. Fear, curiosity, disgust, joy, regret, etc. These are the tools for how we process life. To be able to digest and examine these feelings safely, while having fun doing it? That is the beauty of the interactive medium.
Now if you excuse me, it looks like someone is waking up!