Desert Island Games: Ten Titles to Play While Stranded

Across the pond in the land of Great Britain, there’s a great radio show called Desert Island Discs that asks guests to imagine they are stranded on a desert island and to pick the eight records, one book, and one luxury item they’d want to have with them if such an event were to ever take place.

Well, I don’t live in Great Britain, and I’m not currently stranded on a desert island. But, I learned a long time ago from public access television that it’s fun to pretend, and so pretend we shall. Boot up your imaginations, kids. It’s about to get crazy.

Let’s say you’ve crash landed on a desert island when everything went wrong on a luxury cruise line. Assuming that you’re unharmed, found all the necessary appliances and consoles, and have access to electricity and a stable internet connection, what are the ten games you’d play while waiting for the Coast Guard to come find you?

The following are the ten I’ve selected. Feel free to post yours in the comments below!

1. Civilization V


When you’re stranded for an indeterminate amount of time, it’s important to have games that will yield a high amount of replay value. And since Civ V is an open-ended strategy game with multiple ways to win and use tactics, why not take along Sid Meier’s classic for the PC?

Civ V is a brilliant game that sees you building nations and seeking to claim victory over other neighboring countries and civilizations by several different means. Diplomacy, Scientific research, building Wonders, and even good ol’ military strong-arming are but a few of the ways to claim victory over your enemies in order to rule the world. And when one game can take you several hours to complete, it’s an easy pick for a game that will keep you from boredom and madness from being all alone.

2. Skyrim/Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I include both, because either one will do. Both Skyrim and Oblivion are excellent open-world RPGs that embrace the term “open” in a way few games have before. It’s completely possible to sink hours upon hours in either one of these games without ever taking on a single quest, making them massive time sinks with a high replay value. Plus, they both have fascinating and immersive worlds that allow you to harness the power of escapism in games and transport yourself into another world. And trust me, when you’re stuck on an island trying to not think of how hungry you are and how you need to keep sand away from every orifice in your body, this is a good thing.

3. Mario Kart 7


Of all the games I’ve played this year, few have absorbed quite as much of my time as Mario Kart 7. And for good reason; after all, the game is a veritable gem, with brilliantly designed tracks, fluid and responsive gameplay, and an addictive quality that brings you back to the races over and over and over again. The racing is so fun, the controls so tight, and the game so brilliant, that even if I was stranded all alone, I’d probably be okay with my 3DS by my side. That is, as long as I have access to electricity to charge it once the battery dies three hours into my solitude.

4. Pokemon


I don’t specify which one, because really, any one of them would do. The Pokemon games are fantastic RPGs that take a fair amount of time to play through to completion and yield a lot of really interesting discoveries for those who are willing to backtrack and explore. And since it takes nearly an eternity to catch ’em all anyway, there’s no time like being stranded to start filling your Pokedex to completion.

5. Bejeweled


Yes, a casual game. Because really, you’re going to be somewhat depressed after finding yourself stuck all alone on a desert island. And since you’ll have a lot of time to be alone with your thoughts, it’s not a bad idea to have a game on hand that allows you to de-stress and sort through your worries while taking in the sensory pleasure of combining colored gems and watching them explode. Plus, we all need a break from some of the brain-heavy games on this list anyway, and a nice casual game like Bejeweled seems like the right fit for this.

6. Saints Row: The Third


Let’s face it: being stuck on a desert island could get pretty depressing. And since I don’t want to have to deal with a bad case of the sads, it’d be nice to have a crazy game that never fails to make me laugh. Saints Row: The Third does just this time after time, making it one of my top candidates for a desert island game.

Much like Skyrim and Oblivion, there’s so much to do in Saints Row: The Third that you could easily mess around for hours on end without ever completing a single side mission or story beat. There are cars to steal, innocent people to terrorize, vehicles to customize, and challenges to complete. And with little surprises around every corner in Saints Row, exploring and experimenting never felt so fun.

7. Super Mario World


You have to respect your classics. And since Super Mario World is arguably one of the best games ever made,  it’s one of the most important classics any gaming fan needs to have in their collection.

But why would it belong on a desert island? Simple: because it’ fun. Super Mario World isn’t necessarily the never-ending deep and expansive adventure that Skyrim or Mario Kart might be, but it is a game that requires skill and finesse for those who really want to take the time to master it. And since you’ll have all the time in the world to do so, why not bring Mario along for the ride? Plus, there’s no denying the sense of joy that Super Mario World’s soundtrack inspires in each of us every time we hear it. And when you’re all alone and talking to yourself, joy might be the only thing you have to keep a hold on your sanity.

8. Mortal Kombat


No, I’m not a fighting game expert by any means. But I do still enjoy a fair amount of button mashing from time to time, and Mortal Kombat has all the fixings for a great game to play when stranded alone. A full roster of characters to master, a complete story mode, and endless combinations of fights to experience with the many fighters in the game. Hammy dialogue aside, this is one of the best games to play in this situation, especially when there’s no other way to vent your frustrations outside of punching someone in the face. As long as I don’t have to use the awful d-pad on the Xbox 360 to play it, that is.

9. XCOM: Enemy Unknown


Much like Civ V, strategy is key for Firaxis’ turn-based game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. And being that there are so many ways to build your characters and use tactics to take out aliens on each of your encounters, having this game with you on the desert island is a no-brainer. There’s plenty of opportunity to master your skills and figure out how to keep the entire world happy without having everyone and their grandmother abandon the XCOM project once things start to get a bit hairy. Just take care to not get too attached to the characters you create; permadeath might be detrimental to your mental health if you have to deal with the loss of your soldiers time and time again.

10. Mass Effect 2


I realize that of all the games on this list, this is the one I’m likely to get bored of the fastest, being that it’s a narrative-driven game that decisively ends. Still, I like to have great stories in my games, and being that the Mass Effect trilogy boasts one of the broadest and best-told stories in gaming (my opinion, obviously), I’ll be happy to watch the characters interact in a galactic crisis while I’m happily trying to avoid dealing with my own.

So why Mass Effect 2? I loved both 1 and 3, but there’s something about 2 that makes it really special. It’s the near-perfect marriage of the two, a true to form RPG combined with great action gameplay that makes the entire experience a blast to play. Plus, there’s always planet scanning to be done when the main story is over. Who doesn’t love that?