Video gaming can be a very expensive hobby. The PS3 costs $500-$600. The Xbox 360 costs $300-$400. Games for these systems retail at $60 a piece. The Nintendo Wii is a bit cheaper, retailing at $250, with games selling at $50 each. A high-end gaming PC can easily cost $2000 or more, assuming you don’t have the time or tech-savy to hand-make one, but even then, the cost is around $1000. None of this includes costs for additional gaming gadgets, such as extra controllers, memory cards, or optical mice.
The good news, however, is that absolutely NONE of this stuff is necessary! For a fraction of the cost of these cutting-edge video game systems, you can get last year’s systems or an entry-level PC. There are enough bargain-priced games to tie down all of your free time every day for YEARS! Even a hardcore gamer who plays games every day of his life can easily find dozens of games for $20 or less that he’s never played before on a system he’s never owned.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a calendar for 2007 of every game you should play this year from the previous generation. I will aim for more obscure titles to lower the chance of you having played them. If you have, skip ahead to the next month. I have titles here for all three of last year’s gaming systems, as well as the PC. If you don’t have one of the older systems, you can easily get one used for $100 or less (in some cases, you can get them for that cost brand NEW!) or you can skip ahead to a game for a system you do have.
And, of course, every game on this list is available, brand-new, for $20 dollars or less.
JANUARY: “Jade Empire” for the Xbox: A brilliantly-done action-RPG, Jade Empire is set in a world inspired by Chinese history. So if Shaolin monks, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or ninjas (Japanese, but cool, anyway!) sound great to you, you will love Jade Empire! Also, Jade Empire is set to be released some time this year for the PC, so those of you who don’t have an Xbox can pick it up for that system, as well.
FEBUARY: “Psychonauts” for the PC, Xbox, and PS2: A darling of game critics everwhere, this action-adventure was created by Tim Schafer, a man responsible for several classic adventure games such as Grim Fandango and Full Throttle (if you haven’t played those yet, they’re available for the PC, and you can make those gems your March and April selection!) Featuring clever game mechanics and inspired art design, Psychonauts is also widely beloved for it’s excellent story and character design.
MARCH: “Freedom Fighters” for the PC, Xbox, Gamecube, and PS2: One of my absolute favorite shooters of all time, Freedom Fighters is set in an alternate history where the Soviet Union never fell, and invaded New York City. As a mild-mannered plumber turned Democratic rebel resistance fighter, you recruit fellow freedom fighters and try and take back the Big Apple from the militant Reds! Excellent AI and cover mechanics give this shooter a great balance of tactical gameplay with run-and-gun excitement. A must-play!
APRIL: “Transformers” for the Playstation 2: Some time this year, a Transformers film is supposed to come out. And when it does, you should complete your childhood nostalgia and pick up this surprisingly-addictive third-person shooter for the PS2! As Octumus Prime, Red Alert, or Hot Rod, you blast Decepticons all over the world while collecting “Mini-Cons”, miniature robots that modify you to do anything from sniping with your energy beam to turning into a glider and flying across the massive maps! Also full of cartoon and comic book unlockables, Transformers is a complete nostalgia package, and an extremely fun game in it’s own right!
MAY: “Champions of Norrath” for the Playstation 2: Another one of my all-time favorites of the previous generation, Champions of Norrath is an action-RPG, reminiscient of the PC classic Diablo(another game you can go ahead and add to this calendar if you haven’t already played it!) Choose from five different classes and hack and slash your way through randomly-generated dungeons and collect random-variable loot. This clever randomized system will assure that you can play though this game multiple times without it becoming too predictable. In other words, well-worth the $20 dollars!
JUNE: “Rise of Nations” for the PC: Easily one of the greatest real-time strategy games I’ve ever played, Rise of Nations takes the “build an army, crush your enemies” paradign of most games of this type and expands on it. Instead, Rise of Nations covers all of human history, and complex economic and expansionist strategies have to be employed to truly suceed. It sounds daunting, but the well-done interface and fully-interactive tutorial will ease you into the game perfectly.
JULY: “Age of Mythology” for the PC: If Rise of Nations sounds a little to complex for you, but you like the idea of a clever, history-inspired strategy game, then try out Age of Mythology. A real-time strategy game where you summon the monsters of ancient Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology to do battle with each other! It’s truly thrilling the first time your army of cyclopses take the field against a maruading army of minotaurs!
AUGUST: “Paper Mario and the Thousand-Year Door” for the Gamecube: A clever, colorful, and absolutely addicting RPG from the good people at Nintendo. This game is simple enough for kids, but smart enough, deep enough, and clever enough for adults, therefore making Paper Mario possibly the most family-friendly game I have ever played!
SEPTEMBER: “Final Fantasy XII” for the Playstation 2: Though currently selling for $50, I’m assuming this game will be marked down to $20 by September. That will be a perfect time to play one of the best games yet in this epic RPG series!
OCTOBER: “Resident Evil 4” for the Playstation 2 and Gamecube: Alright, alright, I know most people have already played this game to death, but if you haven’t, Halloween season is the perfect time to indulge in this game that is not only very, very well done, but also appropriately scary and tense! And even if you have played this game before, dust if off and go through it again. Chances are, with all the hidden secrets and play modes, there’s something you haven’t done in it yet!
NOVEMBER: “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” for the PC and Xbox: Also due out this year for the handheld Sony PSP, Pirates!(yes, the exclamation point is part of the title!) is an open-ended RPG/action-adventure/strategy game simulating the life of a pirate! You can be the terror of the seas, search for buried treasure, raise a fleet, pillage towns, or embark on the story in the game about finding your lost family.
DECEMBER: “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” for the PC and Xbox 360: Like Final Fantasy XII, Oblivion is currently $50, but I’m assuming it will be marked down to $20 by Christmas of 2007. Which is a good thing for budget gamers, because Oblivion is hands-down one of the best RPGs ever made. The graphics are beautiful, the story is epic, and the gameplay is mult-faceted and deep.
So there you have it! Twelve months of gaming greatness…and all 12 of these games added together doesn’t even equal the cost of one of the current generation systems. So whether you’re saving up for those new systems and need something to tie you down in the meantime, or you’re just waiting for the new generation to become the next old generation, here is videogaming at its greatest…at a fraction of the price!