What games would you recommend for learning game design and depth in different genres (games for FPS, Action, Fighting, Strategy, Puzzle, RPG, etc.)
I think you gotta play a little of everything, good and bad. It pays to see games that screw up too. I think analyzing Nier was interesting in part because it’s so clearly flawed.
Doom (great enemy variety, great level design, alright weapons), Blood (one of the best doom derivatives), Quake (3d successor to doom, awesome movement, so-so weapons and enemy variety, but still good compared to modern shooters), Unreal (I dunno, supposed to be good), Serious Sam 1 & 3 (good enemy design in the absence of good level design), Tribes (cool movement system, amazing emphasis on large maps), Desync (great enemy/weapon variety, very focused on combat encounters, weapon combos), Crysis Warhead (best in the series, nice suit abilities, nice levels, decent enemy AI)
SF2, SF3, SFV, KoF 98, 2002, XIV, Garou, Last Blade 2, Guilty Gear AC+R, GG Xrd, Marvel 2/3, Skullgirls, Vampire Savior, Melee, Divekick,
Pokemon (lots of configurable parts, every monster you encounter is made from commonly accessible parts), Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne/Digital Devil Saga (press turn system is brilliant, strong emphasis of buffs/debuffs), All the Mario RPG games (Timed Hits yo, and a couple other nice things), TWEWY (alternative approach to RPGs from the the ground up, tons of interlinking systems), Penny Arcade RPG (unique approach to ATB systems and realtime action queuing), Zeboyd Games RPGs (interesting choices at every step), Tales of Symphonia/Abyss (I think these are the best in the series, I don’t really know, action combat with a fighting game inspiration), Megaman Battle Network (deck building, unique grid based combat system)
RTS/tactics: (I’m weak in this category and haven’t played a lot of the games I’m recommending)
Starcraft Brood War/Starcraft 2 (I recommend brood war because it’s good, though unless you have someone who knows how to play that you can springboard off of, you won’t get much out of it, 2 for contrast and because it’s also good, but less so), Supreme Commander Forged Alliance (I believe this is the best version of supcom, I’m currently playing this), Company of Heroes 2, Dawn of War, Dungeon Keeper, Warcraft 3, Warcraft 2 (for contrast, the two games are significantly different), Age of Empires 2, Homeworld, Command and Conquer (Red Alert 2 or Generals), X-COM, a fire emblem game, advance wars.
Thief 1 & 2 (great emphasis on lighting levels and floor surfaces, great level design, slightly collectathon-like regrettably), Metal Gear Solid 3 (the deepest stealth game), Mark of the Ninja (one of the most versatile stealth games around, second deepest perhaps), Monaco (gets the interesting part of running away from guards completely right, does alright at everything else), Hitman (disguises), Splinter Cell (I dunno).
Mario 64 (has a ton of different options for movement and levels that allow you to take advantage of them), Mario Sunshine (Same, but slightly different), all the mainline Super Mario Bros games (1, Lost Levels, 3, World, NSMBW) Yoshi’s island, Kirby Canvas Curse (unique as hell, one of the best kirby games), Ducktales, STREEMERZ, Bubble Bobble, Sonic (pick one), a donkey kong country game, Megaman 2, 3, 9 (solid design), Megaman X1, 2, 3, Megaman Zero (I don’t know which to recommend), Castlevania 1/3 (great level design with simplistic limitations), Order of Ecclesia (nonlinearity and complex melee platformer combat), Ninja Gaiden 1-3 (great simple fast design), Cave Story, Kero Blaster, Demon’s Crest, Metal Slug, Contra, probably a dozen NES and SNES games.
Metroid, Super Metroid, Metroid Zero Mission, AM2R, Ori and the Blind Forest (tons of movement mechanics that all have interaction with each other), La Mulana, Battle Kid 2, Megaman ZX, ZX Advent.
Top down 2d action:
Zelda, Link to the Past, Link’s Awakening, Oracle of Seasons, Ys Origin (like a 3d zelda), Ys 1 & 2 (Bump system!), Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (tons of unexpectedly 3d object interactions), Hotline Miami (stealth and mixed action),
Beat Em Up:
Devil May Cry 3/4 (command moves for days, tons of recombineable moves), Bayonetta (Dodge offset, great enemy designs), Ninja Gaiden Black/Sigma/2 (enemies that want to kill you so hard, great use of blocking and dodging in one system), Transformers Devastation (culmination of everything platinum, 3rd person shooting, unique vehicle dodge system and vehicle attacks),
Mario Kart DS (my favorite mario kart, best physics), F-Zero GX (deepest racing game), Wipeout, Trackmania, Need For Speed (dunno which one)
Antichamber (metroidvania puzzler with a funky layout, and nice unique puzzle mechanics), Portal 1 (lets you place portals in a ton of places, has multiple solutions to every puzzle, great speed tech), Professor Layton (just a ton of nice puzzles of all different varieties, not really deep necessarily), The Witness (interesting approach to puzzles even if it doesn’t work out all the time)
That’s all I can think of. Notably this is not just a “my favorite games” list.