100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed). Book Review

100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed) by Nate Crowley
Rebellion, p/b, 208pp, £12.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming.

In December 2016, Nate Crowley tweeted “1 like = one fictional video game”. One little tweet and 100 Best Video Games That Never Existed was born. Complete with images, developers, development history, and feedback, 100 Best Video Games takes us through the history of gaming from the 80’s through to 2010 and beyond, and future trends in gaming, so detailed you can forget these aren’t real games.

Don’t let the title fool you. There are over 250 games mentioned in the book. Aside from the 100, there are honourable mentions; lists of 10 Luurvely Cockney Games, Celebrity Tie-Ins, and A Brief History of Star Trek Games.

The attention to detail is glorious. The artwork for each of the video games reflects the technology of the time whether it is clunky and two dimensional or simulated with actors. As an aside, if you scroll through Nate’s Twitter feed, (@frogcroakley) you can find media of samples he created for some of the games.

Each game has the year it was released, the genre, developer, and format. So, to use one of my personal favourites as an example, No. 74 The Cristal Maze is a “phone game about an aristocratic lush, trying to negotiate a monster-crammed labyrinth while absolutely leathered on champagne.” It was released in 2011, developed by Fifth Estate Games in the genre Privilege / Dungeon Crawl and was available on smartphone and tablet. It also has a summary of the game, with its benefits and pitfalls, followed by a verdict. According to the book, The Cristal Maze is so enjoyable despite how dislikeable the protagonist is because of all the gruesome deaths he faces in the labrynth and the choice of whether to avoid them or not is entirely in your hands.

Not all the games are so joyous. No. 22 Rage Baron tracks players’ rage level using “pioneering sensor technology” and adapted the character’s strength accordingly, and No. 6, Noah’s Rough Month needs you to “Guide Noah through difficult and often bleak choices in this apocalyptic narrative management game.”

There were times when I forgot these games didn’t exist. So much work went into creating them with development backstories, sequels, public reception, and verdicts, they felt real. While many of the games were positive, there were a few mentioned because they did all the wrong things (look out for No. 04, Jimmy Bumshow. It is as bad as it sounds.)

I could go on. Every page is crammed with nods to past and present gaming phenomenon. The future trends of gaming include games with real consequences with players as much at risk as their avatars, and live streaming of people watching live streams of gamers, none of which seemed that far-fetched in the book’s universe.

The title drew me in and I was hooked wondering where this journey of video games would take me next.