Game theory by Matt S (premium article).
There are some examples out there of games that anyone who cares about the artistic validity of the medium really needs to play. These “canon” games are not necessarily the most popular titles, nor are they often best sellers. In many cases they’re not even critical successes. Some of them you could barely call “fun” in the traditional sense.
But they are important games to play, because they have meaning; they might do something to genuinely push the game medium forward, or they might offer a deep emotional resonance with the player. Others are deeply personal works to the creators, and still others are vital simply because they are out-and-out academic works, more interested in exploring philosophy then giving players something that’s easy to follow.
Of the latter group, Nier is king of them all.
It’s difficult to really describe the number of levels on which the game operates, without suggesting that it’s an inarticulate mess, which it is anything but. But to try and summarise simply: Nier is a true masterpiece because it explores, in a very meaningful manner, how we play games and the assumptions that we make as we play them.
It does this in a number of ways, which I’m going to explore below.