Please help me prioritize my backlog

Since I am reducing my gaming time I really need to try and make the most of it. I would have made this a poll, but the backlog is just too big. These are all the games I have that I either haven’t played, or didn’t play enough to pass judgement. My question to you is this, “Out of these games you have played, which of these games are worth playing (single player) if game time is limited?”. You don’t need to factor in how long it takes to play the game. I’m trying to cull out the weak ones. No need to justify your selections unless you would like to. I’d be interested, but I don’t want to ask anyone to spend too much time on it. Thanks for your input!
PS- You should see the list of games I have played…

The 39 Steps

Achtung Panzer: Operation Star
AI War + 4 DLC
American Civil War
Arsenal of Democracy
Assassin’s Creed III

Battlefield 3
Beyond Divinity
Borderlands GOTY
Burnout Paradise Ultimate

Cities In Motion 2
Company of Heroes Complete
Chompy Chomp Chomp
Crusader Kings 2 + Expansions (demo never clicked, but I never tried again)
Crysis Warhead
Crysis Wars
Crysis 2 Maximum

Darkest Hour: A HOI Game
The Darkness II
Darksiders 2
Dead Space 3
Depths of Peril
Derreck The Deathfin
Dirt 3
Disciples 2 - Dark Prophecy 2, Gallean’s Return, Rise of the Elves Gold
Disciples 3 Reincarnation, Renaissance, Resurrection
Dishonored DLC
Dominions 3
DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder
DROD RPG:Tendry’s Tale
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Elven Legacy Collection
Europa Universalis IV

Fate of the World
Football Manager 2013 (or 2012, 2011, 2010)

Geneforge 1-5
GTA : San Andreas
GTA 4: Episodes From Liberty City
Guild Wars 2

Hacker Evolution
Half Minute Hero
Hearts of Iron 2 + Doomsday, Armageddon
Hearts of Iron 2: Iron Cross
Hearts of Iron 3 + Sempter Fi, For the Motherland, Dies Irae, Stars and Stripes, Their Finist Hour
Hitman: Absolution
Hitman: Blood Money

Imperialism 2

King of Dragon Pass

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Master of Orion
Men of War
Might & Magic Heroes VI + Shades of Darkness
Mount & Blade: Warband

Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Need for Speed: Shift

One Finger Death Punch

Patrician III

Reign: Conflict of Nations
Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood

Shogun 2 + Rise of the Samuri (Haven’t been a fan of any other Total War game - mostly due to tedious battles)
Shogun 2 Fall of the Samauri
Silent Storm Gold
The Sims 3 + Ambitions + Generations (Briefly tried base Sims 3 got bored)
Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
Space Empires 4 Deluxe
Space Empires 5
Spellforce Platnum
Spellforce 2: Gold
Strategic War In Europe
Sword of the Stars Collection
Sword of the Stars II
Sword of the Stars: The Pit

Serious Sam 3 BFE
Serious Sam Classic 1 & 2
Sine Mora
Stalker - Call of Pripyat
Stalker: Clear Sky
Stealth Bastard
Super Panda Adventures

Theatre of War
Theatre of War 2: africa
Theatre of War 2: Kursk
To the Moon
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent
Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Tomb Raider: Legend
Trackmania United Forever
Traffic Giant Gold 2012
Train Simulator 2013
Transport Giant Gold Edition 2012

Victoria 2 + A House Divided + Heart of Darkness (briefly tried base game and didn’t get into it)

Waking Mars
War of the Human Tanks
Wargame Airland Battle (Never got into European Escalation )
The Whispered Word
Wings of Prey

X-COM: UFO Defense
X-COM: Terror From the Deep
X-COM: Apocolypse
X-Com: Interceptor
X-Com Enforcer

Zafehouse Diaries

Victoria 2 and expansions: expansions vastly improve on the base game. Play a great power, though, or someone with a clear path to becoming a great power (Sweden, for instance). Otherwise, you’re locked out of the colonization aspects, which are a lot of the fun.

DiRT 3: totally worth it, if only because there aren’t any other modern games with rally stages in.

Arsenal of Democracy: I preferred this one to Darkest Hour. You really only need to play one.

Guild Wars 2: my favorite MMO, because I can put it down for several months and do other stuff, and I’m not wasting money on a subscription.

There you go. Start with The Darkness II. When you’re done with that list, come back and we can do round 2.

Assassin’s Creed III
Company of Heroes Complete [Just play the original campaign]
The Darkness II
Dead Space 3
Dishonored DLC
Guild Wars 2
Hitman: Blood Money
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
Sine Mora
To the Moon
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction

Of those, I’d say the five very very best are

Dead Space 3
Assassin’s Creed 3
Hitman: Blood Money
The Darkness 2
Guild Wars 2

Good luck!

Rock8man, I guess I should also specify that I have Borderlands 2 and probably played 50% of it. I like it and plan on continuing at some point even though I took a break from it. Should I still play Borderlands GOTY or does Borderlands 2 supercede it?

The gameplay in Borderlands 1 isn’t much different although the classes are slightly different. You’d mostly be playing for the plot and humor, and I would assume that if you got 50% of the way through BL2 and put it down, the plot wasn’t grabbing you all that much, so I’d probably skip it.

I’m going to take a different approach to this. Rob, it sounds like you want to make some life changes. You might reach a point in your life where you don’t want this backlog weighing you down like a chain. So I’m going to list the most critical and unique experiences I don’t think you should miss. These are “important” games you should play to have a complete gaming background.

Company of Heroes (campaign, unless you hate RTS games)
King of Dragon Pass (iOS if possible)
Mount & Blade: Warband (unless you played the original)
X-COM: UFO Defense
Two I haven’t played but have a reputation as classics: Terraria and Blood Money

I truly believe if you played those games and wanted to delete the rest of your backlog, you could feel at peace with that. Giaddon listed some really solid, fun games. (Except for To the Moon.) But they are constantly making more “good” games. Start thinking of good as the enemy of the best, whether that’s games or whatever passion you settle on.

I noticed a few odd trends within your list. If you want to cut it down by yourself, here are some principles to consider.

  1. If you tried and failed to get into a game, just forget it.
  2. If a new version of a game is imminent or has already been released, and it’s very similar to the old one, delete the old one. Nine times out of ten it’s surpassed by the sequel. This includes all your Paradox games. There are exceptions, but don’t worry about it.
  3. Forget about multiplayer shooters that are either dead or on the downswing.
  4. There are very few critical indie games on your list. They will make more shoot-em-ups and puzzle games.
  5. Forget about playing an entire series. Pick the best of the bunch and delete the rest. This includes Tomb Raiders, Splinter Cells, GTAs, Geneforges, etc.
  6. If you want to hold yourself to two hours of games per day and still see a lot of different types of games, try my concept of treating marginal games like an extended demo. Play two hours to get the gist of it, and then quit. But only do this if you’re confident you won’t get hooked.

On the last point, you mentioned elsewhere you wanted to choose one game to dig into like you did in the past. Make sure you really want to do that. You have to decide on your own backlog philosophy. I try to avoid long games because I risk missing out on all-time favorites I don’t know exist yet.

With these principles you ought to be able to delete half of this list before you even begin. There are a lot of games that are just plain bad as well.

Tim, I’m putting rule 6 into effect. Bioshock Infinite has just been bumped down my list pretty far. I had put 9 hours into Infinite according to Steam (must include some pause time), and while pretty is one of the more mediocre shooter / action games I’ve played. Not bad, but surely the enemy of excellent. I’m probably only 33% done based on the level I’m on.

I’m updating my spreadsheet, so my games are in order of how much I want to play them. There are some games I’ve finished that I rather play again over some that are only partially completed. I’m sure almost all of the games I’ve played before (except some favorite replayable ones) won’t get touched again, but my list will let me quickly take a look and pick one I want to play. As I try new games, if they don’t hold up they will get stuck down the list. Some games are good for a quick spin to try and beat a high score - like Pinball FX2 or Race the Sun.

Thanks for bringing some sanity to my list of games. My spreadsheet says I’ve got 400+.

After going through a similar process a couple years ago, I had an epiphany about my attitude toward entertainment, and switched to a much more relaxed approach:

  1. Banish all notions of obligation from your gaming time. Don’t play anything because you feel like you “should”. Don’t force yourself to play something because you bought it and you don’t want it to be wasted – the purchase is in the past and can’t be changed, so focus on how to have the most fun going forward. Don’t feel like you have to stick with something you’re not really enjoying after a fair shake. Don’t force yourself to push to the end of a game that you’ve enjoyed but have lost interest in. And contrary to Tim’s “important games you should play to have a complete gaming background”, don’t feel obligated to go down some checklist of important games. Completing your knowledge of a “canon” is not an inherently valuable goal, there’s no prize at the end, and nobody will care. You can’t keep up with everything worthwhile across all of gaming, and trying to do so is a recipe for making it feel like work and killing the joy you found in the hobby. What matters is how much you enjoyed the games you played and what value you personally found in them.

  2. The counterpart to #1 is to play what you want, what excites you at that moment. There’s nothing wrong with playing those big landmark games, but do it because based on what you’ve heard, you’re fired up to get into the experiences they offer, not because they’re considered necessary. If you’re struck by a mood to return to a familiar favorite, then do it – don’t feel guilty about not putting that time toward new games. If time-sink RPGs or endless multiplayer matches or finishing every last optional goal in a favorite game are what grabs you, then embrace that! As long as you were having fun, never feel guilty about “I could have played a dozen games from my backlog in the time I put into _____”. Forget about Rule 4 and 5. If a game from a particular series or subgenre really clicks with you, and you finish it and are left wanting more, then bloody well play the next one. There’s nothing inherently worse about diving deep into a genre than sampling a bit of everything. And if a game’s mechanics or art style or whatever speaks to you, then who the hell cares if it’s not considered “critical” or has a lower metacritic than something else in its genre. There’s something especially satisfying about trying some unheralded title on a whim and finding that you love it and don’t care about its rough edges.

  3. Stop thinking of your games as a “backlog”. That’s an inherently negative view steeped in notions of obligation, inevitably tending to make your hobby feel like work. It implies something to be gotten through, purged, and cleared out, and that’s a toxic notion. You will never play every worthwhile title produced by the game industry. You may even never play every good game you already own. Both of those things are okay. Think of your games not as a checklist to be worked through, but as a vault, a collection, a smorgasbord of interesting experiences of all types and genres, waiting for you to pluck whatever happens to sound the most appealing to you at any given moment. Having lots of games is a resource, not a duty. All that matters is the value you place on your own experiences and enjoyment – by all means prioritize what you’ve heard the most appealing stories about, but do it because those stories ARE appealing, not because you’ll feel guilty missing something that there’s a consensus about.

All that said, the games on your list that I really liked are:

Elven Legacy: Full of crunchy, satisfying tactical battles with nothing else to get in the way.

Burnout Paradise: Perfect mix of speed and aggression, with room for skill but nothing too excessively demanding.

To the Moon: More an lightly interactive short story than anything else, but well worth experiencing.

Ok, I’m going to go with unique/different games that I think are must play even if they might not be as polished as the AAA stuff you have there…

Achtung Panzer: Operation Star: Really cool mix of strategic and tactical battles. Sort of Total War on steroids (the strategic side is simpler, but the combal modelling way more precise). It’s rough around the edges, though…

AI War + 4 DLC: Weird and unique game. Plays very slowly but it can be quite rewarding just to learn how to play. Beware, this + the DLC is BIG. I have yet to even try all the options…

Dominions 3: Really engrossing and content heavy game, but be aware you will have to go multiplayer to fully enjoy this. In a way, I prefer AI War (yes, TBS versus RTS, so not quite the same) for it’s emphasis on singleplayer/co-op.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion: If AI war is too low key for you… Very different, and slightly more traditional but for the SCALE of the game. Also, multiplayer focused.

DROD: Gunthro and the Epic Blunder: I would actually recommend DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold instead of this, but I think you can get that one as an expansion (they call them holds) to the newest version. These are some of the very best puzzle games out there (along with SpaceChem, maybe) and they have been sadly overlooked as of lately. This series ought to be selling orders of magnitude more, but the creators were slow to go into Steam and other distribution platforms, opting for their own. I am currently subscribed to CaravelNet (their high-score tracking system), but they should go away with it and just use steam. If you get into these you will have gameplay to last you hundred of hours…

King of Dragon Pass: Amazing game that just went through an unexplored evolutionary path. It’s a narrative strategy game. Very text heavy, but incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing like it out there, and it’s a pity… As stated above, get the iOs version if you can.

Mount & Blade: Warband:
Very rough, but very compelling game just to play around and discover the world and the breadth of the gameplay options. I would love to see something like this with higher production values.

To the Moon: Similar to Dear Esther, Gone Home and the like. All good stories told through videogame form. Some people like to say these are not games, so beware. There is NO choice within. I don’t care. I think they are astounding all of them. But To the Moon has the best writing of them by far (also the worst production values, so whatever).

X-COM: UFO Defense: I loved the remake, but this is different and also great. Use Open X-COM, though.

Company of Heroes is the greatest RTS ever made. So I’d prioritise that one.

I’d play these games in this order and just ignore the rest.

  1. Dishonored DLC
  2. Crusader Kings 2 + Expansions (demo never clicked, but I never tried again)
  3. Company of Heroes Complete
  4. Monaco [Thsi is much, much better if you can play with at least one other person. The harder missions are better with 4]
  5. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light [once again, good co-op]
  6. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction
  7. Stealth Bastard
  8. Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood
  9. Mount & Blade: Warband
  10. X-COM: UFO Defense
  11. Hitman: Blood Money
  12. Dust: An Elysian Tail
  13. Terraria
  14. Serious Sam Classic 1 & 2
  15. Football Manager 2013 (or 2012, 2011, 2010)
  16. Gnomoria
  17. Men of War
  18. Europa Universalis IV [only if you didn’t play CK2]
  19. Victoria 2 + A House Divided + Heart of Darkness (briefly tried base game and didn’t get into it) [only if you didn’t play CK2]
  20. Hearts of Iron 3 + Sempter Fi, For the Motherland, Dies Irae, Stars and Stripes, Their Finist Hour [only if you didn’t play CK2]

That’s fine. But if you ever feel overwhelmed by the backlog, don’t be afraid to move half the list to different categories that are out of sight. I have ones for games I don’t want to play, games I played for a few hours like an extended demo, and games I’d like to play if I had time, even though I know I never will. If you just re-order them you might still get stressed out about it.

Or maybe you won’t. It all depends on your personality and philosophy. Boojum presented a somewhat rival philosophy. His is closer to the whimsy style. I am trying to mine every genre specifically for all-time favorite games. I know they pop up everywhere – an RPG, a multiplayer shooter, ten year old strategy games, space sims, race sims, flight sims. And there are more out there that I don’t even know about. That’s why I listed some canon classics off the beaten path, as opposed to GTA Clone #18, which might be fun but might never do anything special for you.

Certainly if you find an all-time favorite you should let that ride. I just think it’s a much better use of my time to move on from those “good” games so I can find more gems off the beaten path. I’m committed to the simple idea that good is the enemy of best. You might think differently.

The other advantage of taking a backlog seriously and working through a broad canon is that you learn what new games are safe to skip. It’s hard to resist forum buzz sometimes. If you’ve played ten games just like it and know they are merely decent ways to pass the time, you’ll be able to skip it. Not everyone has a personality that is at peace with amassing a never-ending pile of games.

I think a combination of Boojum’s and Tim’s philosophies would work best for me. Basically, we play to be entertained in some way. Sometimes the sheer act of experiencing something new is entertaining. A game that is merely good can be worthwhile when it is fresh and new, but I’ve got to pay attention to when it slides into the mediocre territory. In that respect, for me, it is worth trying to spend at least a little time with the games in my backlog to see if they click. If they don’t then I can’t feel guilty about shoving them aside. For some games it isn’t always clear at what point you should shove it aside. I think I’ve gotten in the habit of jumping from one to another game too quickly. I used to be the exact opposite. I would force myself through a game no matter how much I wanted to stop.

I also have to remember not to ignore the games I’ve already played if that is what I’m in the mood for. Civilization is always on my drive. I want to return to Civ IV at some point because in my head it is better than V. There are all sorts of games that are fun to fire up when there are only 15 minutes to play - racing games, platformers, some puzzle games. I’m in the middle of Rayman Origins and find it fun to fire it up a little at a time. I could be spending time with something new, but there are times I want something familiar. What I want to avoid is spending time with a game is when I rather be spending it with a different one.

Just play Sword of the Stars: The Pit

You honestly don’t need any of those other games.

Do play Burnout Paradise. As many other games as I’ve played, that one stays on my hard drive, not least of which because my son can drive the cars and have a blast with Road Rage and Marked Man.

Civ is great but just too time consuming for me. With limited time, you have to be ruthless with your backlog, ignore what you’ve spent and just play the ones you want to.

Yes, that’s tricky. The ‘play what you feel like’ style pretty much abandons any potential favorite that takes too long to get over the hump. There are people here who only give a game 5 minutes to start entertaining them. It’s still a valid way to choose what to play. But there are a lot of times where I have to dash myself against a game 3 or 4 times before it turns into one of my favorites. Weighing the risks – wasted time vs missing a great game – is another call you have to make.

Mount & Blade: Warband, Stalker - Call of Pripyat and Terraria, Are the games that to me seem to monopolize your time on this list. The only trouble with all 3 of these games is they will eat up a couple of hours in no time flat. But each of these gems has a different play style, and different strengths. All of them are games you can put down, and come back to pretty easily.

Limited your list to games I’ve spent at least a few minutes with.

I feel comfortable saying anything over the top of line 1 you can eliminate. While those games have their attractions, there is only so much game playing time.

I feel comfortable saying anything over the top of line 2 you can also eliminate, but …the games in between line 1 and line 2 are “best in show” dos strategy games that have enormous gameplay. If you play them, your time will be rewarded but you will likely fight their interfaces every step of the way.

I feel comfortable saying that anything in the quote box can be eliminated, but …
King of Dragon Pass is an extraordinary game, but the ipad version is supported and tweaked to provide better gameplay.
Dominnions 3 by far has provided me with the most gameplay experience for the dollar, but …multiplayer is where it’s at and Dominions 4 should be available within the next 50 days.

Special mention for the paradox games from the EU line. Probably the best of these games is Crusader Kings 2 with the dc. In the QT3 thread somebody mentions that steam has them as playing more than 100 hours with this game and there are still large parts of it that they don’t understand. If that’s an experience that appeals to you…go for it. It’s not my cup of tea.

Anyway…Don’t feel bad about PLAYING computer games and not completing some comprehensive knowledge of gaming. It’s a big ocean. Sample from this and play with that. You simply cannot experience everything. If you aren’t having fun with anything, back away from the computer for a bit. When you come back, there will be a whole new crop of wonderful games to experience.

I haven’t played a lot of these, but:

If you haven’t checked it out and have any interest, I certainly recommend Guild Wars 2. It’s a HUGE game but it does allow for relatively brief and productive play sessions and is the first MMO that I’ve really enjoyed.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is a hell of a lot of fun, although I mostly played it multiplayer. The SP is plenty rewarding.
Company of Heroes is generally put on the shortlist of “greatest RTS games”.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is a great space RTS with many elements from turn-based strategy games. Caveats: no campaigns (skirmish only), slow pace (short sessions aren’t great here). The AI is good enough to provide fun single player just skirmishing though.

And a few things you can eliminate:

Burnout Paradise is a great game but it has a lot of similarities with NFS: Most Wanted (Most Wanted is effectively a kind of spiritual sequel by the same developer under the NFS license). I’m sure some would argue for it over Most Wanted, regardless of which I would pick one and go with it.
Rebellion effectively obsoletes Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity since they don’t have campaigns.
In a similar vein, I don’t see much of a reason at all to play Borderlands with Borderlands 2 around (in response to a later question you posed).
Battlefield games are special by virtue of their multiplayer, so since you specified single-player you should feel fine in removing it. I also think it’s a lesser installment in the series anyway.
If you haven’t liked any of the other Total War games, then as much as it pains me to say so, you can probably drop Shogun 2.
Monaco is brilliant but is really made for multiplayer with friends.
GTA 4’s world (Liberty City) is fantastic but it kind of left me cold and I never actually got around to finishing it. San Andreas, meanwhile, is my favourite of all the pre-GTA V installments (I don’t know yet where V fits in, but from what I’ve played so far I’m guessing it’s a new series high)…but it comes with all the mechanical imperfections of last-gen GTA games, and other games have since one-upped its brand of crazy to greater heights (Saints Row 4, Just Cause 2). So I’d probably recommend just waiting on V’s inevitable PC release if you don’t have a console.

My two cents!