When to Use a Guide

Do you ever look up what to do to progress in a game if you have no idea what to do? Or do you 100% figure it out yourself?

A bit of both. It depends on the game. Sometimes I try really hard to figure it out, because the reward is really sweet when I do, sometimes I brute force it or look up the answer. If a puzzle doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the game then I’ll sometimes bypass it by looking up what I’m supposed to do.

I had to look up where to use the basement key in dark souls for example.

Very recently I played Dishonored 2 and got stuck in the very first room, eventually had to ask a friend who did the exact same thing as me how to get out. There were two windows that I didn’t realize could be opened, they looked like a part of the wall.

I think I looked up one of the light redirection puzzles in DMC3, at least the first one, because I flat-out didn’t understand what I was supposed to do.

I remember being really ecstatic about figuring out the video puzzle in Phoenix Wright 1 where you need to notice that the evidence locker light is still on. I had no access to internet and had to figure it out myself.

I’ve cheesed the dice puzzle in DMC4 almost every time (use devil bringer right when the die faces the side you want).

I beat the first 3 days of majora’s mask on my own, then basically used a guide for everything up to the water temple because I couldn’t be bothered to figure out what inane connections there were between everything.

I came up to the windmill in Brothers, and thought I had to jump from the windmill onto the raised bridge, not the other windmill, so I looked up a lets play to figure out what to do there.

I remember looking up the fight for the final boss of Doom 4, because I didn’t really understand how to avoid the blue mist and getting skewered on top of the platforms. The videos I found seemingly just had the guy get lucky.

Recently I played Dishonored 2 and got stuck in the very first room where you have control. I tried interacting with literally everything in the entire room, but couldn’t determine what the fuck I was supposed to do. I went out the open window, but there didn’t seem to be any way forward there. I eventually asked a friend who had played the game before me, and he pointed out I could open the other two windows in the room. I thought they were just set-dressing, not interactable.

In Nioh, I played one level themed like a bathhouse called, Trail of the Master. In that level, you need to find 3 tiles to open a door to the boss encounter. I found the first two tiles by beating one time encounters around the level, and slowly cleared the level out. I found all the kodama, I found a secret wall, I found one of those wall demons, I found paths on the banisters into other rooms. I thought there must be something I’m missing. The last tile was on a corpse I thought I had already looted, because if you loot a corpse and it has consumable items when you’re at max capacity, the corpse stays active across resets instead of the item being lost like in dark souls. So I scoured the level up and down and eventually looked up a walkthrough.

My stance generally is that if just knowing what to do ruins a section, then it’s usually not a very good gameplay challenge to begin with. You can’t make a dark souls boss any easier with a tutorial video (unless it’s bed of chaos, and even then). I’m not proposing this as a hard and fast rule, it can be fun to figure things out for yourself, but I don’t really begrudge using guides or such when you’re stuck and there’s really no clear way forward. Though I’ll also say that if the challenge is presented fairly and you do have all the pieces to figure it out, you should try your best to figure it out before resorting to a guide.

How to Talk About the Feel of a Game’s Controls

When I play Project M I often think “these controls feel so good”. But how do I describe any game’s controls being good without using buzzwords like precise, tight, feels right etc?
Note that by controls I’m not only talking about buttons, but what makes what’s happening on-screen fun to see and satisfying to play. In PM/Melee’s case, for example, how the high gravity and the crunchy (here goes another one) sound effects make pummeling an opponent with repeated Marth’s utilt and uair feel so goddamn good. You probably know what I’m talking about, but how do I explain stuff like that in tangible terms?

First, you could try reading Steve Swink’s Game Feel. Second, try looking up the 12 principles of animation. Third, compare and contrast with similar examples that don’t feel as good, and figure out what the actual differences between them are. Fourth, consider how animations flow into one another, where the point where you’re allowed to input is, where each animation cancels.

It’s a lot of subtle things. Someone had a story once about a friend of his who made a side scrolling game where a dude shoots fireballs. Something about the fireball throw felt lame, but nobody could put their finger on it. Then the friend made it so the fireball was spawned a bit further in front of the character, and suddenly it felt great. Hearing this, I knew on the spot that it’s because there was a greater change between the frames, so it would feel like there was more force being applied in that moment.

In PM and Melee, when you attack in the air, your bottom collision point changes, so that you will collide with the ground further up into your body. In Brawl and Smash 4, this is not the case, so collisions with the ground feel abrupt and weak. In The Animator’s Survival Kit, Richard Williams points out that you can make a collision feel more impactful by adding a frame where the character is touching the surface before the collision happens.

You gotta watch for this sort of stuff. Another guy just linked me a Bloodborne review where the guy complains that attacks in Lords of the Fallen are so slow, but honestly they can be about as long in length or startup as a dark souls attack. The issue with them is that the weapon moves at a consistent speed through the whole animation, unlike dark souls where there’s that same “merihari” that Capcom described having to teach Ninja Theory, which Americans would know as slow in and slow out or easing. Basically, the actual active swing time of attacks in dark souls is really short, where in lords of the fallen it’s really long, even though the full animation is the same length overall.

Sound effects are not my forte, I’m generally a bit weaker when it comes to sound, but listen to what they actually are, compare with worse alternatives, look up some words people use to describe sound, like high pitched or low, tinny or bassy, etc. Do your best.

Though identifying this stuff is probably harder if you’re not an animator, because it’s harder to look for it if you don’t know what to look for.

How do I Determine if a Game is Good or Bad?

What is your method of approaching a game to determine whether it’s good or not. You hold depth and challenge as high points, but how would you use them to determine whether a good is game or not, like figuring out how good Street Fighter or Mario are?

It’s a matter of thinking about whether the game is getting you to make interesting decisions or not. Is the game pushing you to do something that is kind of tricky and uncertain? I don’t have a good word or term for this. I should probably coin one. It would be related to a “Dynamic” (a group of mechanics that have a relationship between each other and create a certain style of play). A good simple game is one of these, a good complex game is many of these dynamics stacked on top of one another.

Kirbykid and I have been going back and forth on “Discrete” versus “Raw” game design (his terms). He favors discrete design while I favor raw. Discrete is where everything is clear and spelled out for you, where everything has clear separations between states and few fuzzy values. Raw is where many fuzzy value evaluations are employed, and frequently change over time, or based on position, speed, or other factors. The initial appearance of a game like Punchout or Furi is that it’s very discrete, but if you dig deeper into how the game works, there are many raw factors that shake up what the optimal strategy actually is and create more interesting decisions based on situations. Raw games frequently have many complex overlapping factors that work together to deliver a unique reactive challenge, discrete ones typically have minimal overlap and less reactivity to the player. Raw games make more frequent use of randomness to vary the challenge. Raw games have more subtle ranges of success and failure, while discrete ones have very clearly defined measures of them.

It’s funny how him and I can have such similar views and goals overall, yet be polar opposites on this very fundamental point about what good design is.

Lately I’ve been walking a tightrope. Literally. There’s this Slack Line that I’ve been walking across and getting better at. It’s simple overall, but it’s really fun. I can now do it forwards, backwards, stop in the middle and touch a knee to the line then continue to the end, turn around 180 while walking it forwards or backwards and finish, jump in the middle of the line and finish, as well as stop and maintain my balance while other people have lightly pushed me or shaken the line, or even walk to the end, stop, then walk backwards to the beginning. Actually doing all this stuff is somewhat tricky. Figuring out a good method took a lot of experimentation and practice. And actually doing it each time is not a surefire success. I need to pay attention in the moment and compensate for things as they happen. Need to pay attention to how my weight shifts, speed up or slow down, etc. Crossing the line is a simple action, but there’s a lot of subtle depth in actually doing it. I watch other people try it, and try to explain to them how to do it, and most of them can’t figure it out, none ever get as consistent as me.

And since then I’ve been super bored and tried figuring out how to balance blocks on my head. Foam blocks about the size of my head. I can do as many of 5 of those at a time. It took me only half an hour to figure out, though getting from 1 block to 2 took me maybe a whole hour or hour and a half. It seems impossible at first, but it has a similar dynamic to it. I need to be mindful of the balance shifting and simultaneously walk the direction it’s tilting, while rotating my head the opposite direction. Next project is balancing a ball on my head, that’s a LOT harder and I’ve only done it for 15 seconds at most, where I’ve done the blocks for several minutes before.

The question is, how actively does the game push you to think? How does this correlate with the complexity of the game? How many different states and outcomes can you envision based on your input and the game’s reaction? How does the challenge force you to be insightful? How does it force you to finely control the characters or elements that are under your control, stressing the solving of NP-Hard math problems, or fine motor control, or adaptation to specific situations, or reaction time?

How do you distinguish between a complex game and a deep game?

Redundancy and Relevancy.

Redundancy is about having elements in the game be distinct from one another, actually function differently. JRPGs typically have this problem the worst. They have a hundred weapons which are nearly identical except for stats being higher or lower. They have 40 magic spells which deal more damage, less damage, differently typed damage, but are still just, deal damage to target. Very similar in effect. No matter how much you level up or what abilities you get, the gameplay is still very similar. Attack, heal, attack, heal, and try to deal more damage than you’re taking. A game with redundancy has a lack of interesting choices and more clear sorting orders between options. Modern Military shooters, you trade up for the best weapon in its respective class, because most weapons function extremely similarly.

Relevancy is about having the potential for depth, but sabotaging it by having poorly balanced options relative to each other. Nier is a great example for this. It has a ton of different sealed verses. It has dodging and blocking. It has melee attacks and charged attacks, it has that ability to finish off enemies who are knocked down, but you don’t want to use most of these options. You really only want to stick to regular melee attacks, dark blast, dark lance, dark hand, and dodge. Those options are great, but a small selection of the total available to you. The Charge attack is especially sad, doing barely more damage than a melee strike. The number you can do during the time it takes to charge far outstrips its damage, so there’s really no reason to ever use a charge attack. Blocking is super pointless, it’s directional, and you walk slower while doing it and can’t change direction from the way you initially start blocking.

Another example of relevancy would be smash bros melee. There’s 26 characters in the game and only 12 are really relevant to anyone who plays competitively. There’s a large segment of depth that is locked off, where the same is not true in say Project M.

Or the hypothetical example, imagine a fighting game where there was 1 move that just wrecked everything and the game became about doing that one move and almost nothing else. Super Turbo Akuma might actually be a good example for this, his air fireball was broken as hell.

Deep games are complex, but complex games are not always deep (though some games might be deep and not appear to be complex because they do a lot with a little, like divekick arguably). Depth is about determining how complex the end product you actually play is, about determining the complexity of tactics and strategy. To that end, you need to assess the total possibility space of the game, eliminate the states that are redundant, then limit the search to only those relevant to the players. This can vary by community, and can change as the community comes to understand the game differently over time with the relevant segments of the game increasing or decreasing.

Can a Game be Good Without Anything Extraordinary?

Do you think games with several different gameplay elements, where each of them is serviceable, but not great, amounts to a merely competent game, or can proper implementation of those features, make the overall product great. Does a game like Beyond Good and Evil succeed at it?

I’d say it’s competent or bad. I wouldn’t call Beyond Good and Evil good.

To make a good game, you can’t just do a bunch of things well. If anything I think it comes down to doing at least one thing really well, then continuing to do other things well or really well. Continue reading

How should we form values to judge games by?

How is it possible to establish which values we should hold games up to in order to figure out how good the game is? You can point to the best games and say they have X value, but in order to establish that those games are great, you have to presume a value by which to judge it.

It’s based on people. People tend to like certain things, we notice what those things are, we attempt to establish what values within those things are desirable, we produce new work based on those values, we see if our work is effective, and refine our model.

It’s a big cycle that informs itself. We need to build models, and refine them based on observation and experimentation. Nothing of what exists today came to exist in a vacuum. We’ve gone through millennia of cultural evolution. I think that the base desires that motivate us have stayed relatively consistent on a human level (though this is debatable, and also culturally influenced) and we’ve steadily found things that we respond more strongly to, then we had children, who also responded strongly to those things, either because culture informed them they should, or because it’s a human desire, or both, and the previous generation died. So the next generation is stuck with preexisting works that express preexisting values, and does not begin totally from scratch. We’re born in the middle of a chicken and the egg problem. Objects from the prior generation are already considered valuable by the time we get here, and we need to individually interpret whether that value is true or false. I wasn’t around for the NES, I came to the conclusion NES games were good based on playing them myself.

I’ve selected values based on what I think the most important aspects of games are across observation of a bunch of games, and tried to separate those values from the influence of culture. These might just be what I personally value more than anything else, people have certainly accused me of that in the past, and will again in the future. However I try to separate it from my own value system by acknowledging that not all games I’d consider good are necessarily games that I like, and not all games that I like are necessarily good. I think that the values I’ve chosen tie back to human nature, or exist for practical design reasons. I recognize that human nature varies a bit on an individual level, but I think we’re similar enough as a group to attempt to make general value evaluations.

I think what people get hung up on with your way of thinking is that you think of the word ‘good’ as objective while things you ‘like’ are subjective, whereas to most people they’re both subjective and pretty much the same thing. Why bother ‘liking’ things if you can’t call them ‘good’?

Because the qualities I admire in them don’t outweigh the negative aspects of those things, but are unique to those things. Or I liked them as a kid and still unironically like them even though they’re fucked up or kinda lame. Like Dungeon Keeper 2, even though everyone else seems to prefer Dungeon Keeper 1 and DK2 itself is kinda broken and one dimensional in a lot of ways.

I think most people connect things that are good to some type of objective basis. I think that when you assign something a property, you’re saying that belongs to the object, not to your perception of the object. Rampant subjectivism comes from recognizing that we assign properties to objects based on our perceptions of objects, so it is assumed that especially for non-functional or impractical objects that their properties are indistinguishable from our unique perception of them, which is unmappable to other people’s perception of them. I’ve explained my reasons for disagreeing with this in the past and don’t really want to repeat myself.

That loltaku post you linked on twitter is dumb. no good first year philosophy course will tell you “nothing is objective.” he also equates objectively quality with how the “average person” sees art.

I’m pretty sure the implication is that first year philosophy isn’t good, it’s introducing people to basic philosophical concepts, not all of which are in agreement with each other. That and haven’t we gone over before that nobody can be perfectly objective off the bat, but we can use various methods to get closer and closer to objectivity and refine our models until we approach analysis more descriptive of the world as it is and detached from our individual lens?

“Roger Ebert, on more than one occasional, gave movies he personally disliked a thumbs up, and movies he liked a thumbs down, because despite his personal enjoyment he could recognize the quality of the movie and how the average person would feel after seeing each.”
loltaku is coming at this from a pretty standard perspective, where the problem isn’t the methodology of the reviewers, the problem is that they give the wrong scores relative to common consensus, which is why people like older game reviews and dislike modern ones. They perceive that old game reviews were more in line with public opinion, or at minimum that reviewers were more direct and honest.

And the concept of a general audience reaction thing is a type of objectivity, I mean, I’m pursuing a slightly different standard in my own writing, more about the way a game appeals to the base instinct of fun, but both of these are about generalities in relation to people.

That and the important parts of the post to me were,
“yes, reviews can never be purely objective, but if we want to get into intolerable first year philosophy, nothing can really be objective. That doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to judge things with an objective eye.” with that last sentence being the operative part of the paragraph.
“The ability to detach yourself from your personal preferences and view things objectively, as well as the ability to articulate why you think something is good/bad are what is SUPPOSED to separate a professional critic from an amateur one”
“Roger Ebert, on more than one occasional, gave movies he personally disliked a thumbs up, and movies he liked a thumbs down, because despite his personal enjoyment he could recognize the quality of the movie”

Critiquing Control Schemes

What do you think is the best method to critiquing controls?

That’s complicated. I think criticizing controls sits somewhere between User Experience and Game Feel. Also controls can mean a number of things. It can mean the actual buttons that each action is bound to, and it can mean the way the game responds to input. It’s a matter of figuring out what feels good in terms of how the animation responds tightly to your input (like nero’s shuffle or calibur). And it’s a matter of figuring out how to make it easy and understandable to input the actions the player is trying to input.

Here’s something recent for binds: Nero’s controls in DMC4 are just fucked. There’s 3 buttons you want to be holding like, all the time, Lock-on, Gun, and Devil Buster. Holding onto an enemy with Devil Buster is optional, it’s not the most useful feature in the world, but the other two you want to be doing rather frequently. In the default control scheme, charging the gun is ridiculous. Everyone I know rebinds the gun to a trigger. Even with the gun bound to a trigger, it’s a pain in the ass to hold the trigger and also pump the shoulder button to get EX-ACT. Maybe a better configuration might be having the exceed bound to the button gun used to be on, but devil buster is just completely fucked. It gets worse when you want to juggle an enemy, summon swords or stay in the air longer by shooting the gun repeatedly. That’s difficult on a trigger. Continue reading

My Standard of Quality for Games

Your definition of quality in games is meaningful/interesting depth, right? Doesn’t that leave out satisfying gameplay? Melee would have the same amount of depth if there were a big input delay, all the sounds were really annoying, the animations were not as pleasing, etc.

Depth is not my only component for quality of gameplay, it is only the most significant component by a large margin.

Melee and other competitive action games end up being very different games if you introduce significant amounts of input delay, for reasons of reaction time. Though their absolute depth stays the same, their relative depth changes when you introduce a big delay like that, because players are less able to adjust and make fine grain inputs precisely, so the way they need to play the game changes, basically always for the worse. Continue reading

What Should be in a Review?

How would you sum up what you want from a game review?

Ostensibly the purpose of a game review is to tell the reader whether the game is good or not, with or without existing knowledge of the game. (usually without, but it becomes more of a tastemaking thing over time instead of a consumer awareness thing). The goal is either to give a consumer enough information to make a purchasing decision, or to justify/influence a player’s opinion of a game they’re familiar with.

Assuming this is the job of game reviews, then the question is, what are all the things necessary to accomplish this? Assuming the reader has no knowledge of the game beforehand, the review must make clear how the game plays. Thanks to streaming video, we can do this much more easily than we used to be able to, but everything about a game’s operation is not clear from video alone.

From there, I think it’s about evaluating the way the game is played, and the content that is played through in a way that is made clear through predefined criteria. You need to establish what traits make a game good and how this game lives up to that. If this game violates norms, you need to argue for how it redefines what makes a game good, and not in a localized way that explains this one game without offering a broader, more general, explanation for games categorically.

Beyond that, there’s probably a bunch of really specific examples of what I’d like to see out of game reviews that are hard to sum up generally. I’d like to hear less of, “This mechanic feels loose and difficult to control” and more of, “This mechanic functions exactly this way, which may produce a loose feeling.” I want to see more of the scientific process going into game reviews, more evidentialism. Cite examples and use them to build conclusions. Do not mix opinions and observations. Do not attempt to tell us how you feel about something in the process of describing it. Describe it first, then explain why it does or doesn’t work.

Beyond that, try to get at the heart of the game. What’s the central enjoyable thing the game is about?

Have you talked about what you think makes a good review? Is it anything besides a precise description of mechanics and an evaluation of depth?

Yes, I answered that in this older ask:

It’s about user experience, depth, challenge, game feel, and maybe a couple other things.

Novacanoo wrote a summary of what guidelines he inferred for reviews from my critique of his review:

Oh yeah, I’ve updated that. http://pastebin.com/CjuxfCbn The first and second points are now somewhat contradictory, but that’s the eternal struggle.

That’s cool, thanks for the update. Don’t totally agree about the judging intention thing. I’ve gone over that in other asks.

Definitions: Fairness and Challenge

You’ve got a solid definition for “depth.” Can you give similar definitions for “fairness” and “challenge”?

Sure thing.

Fairness is perceptual, people have differing standards of fairness. In single player games fairness is typically a matter of accurately communicating to the player what they’re engaged in, preventing them from getting blindsided, or letting them know that they may get blindsided and how to prevent it. Fairness is typically perceived as a matter of clarity. For that purpose many single player games even overcorrect, adding extra buffers or leniencies to tilt things in the player’s favor, because player perception is not always perfect, and they can miss an input in the space of a frame or two and think they got it when they didn’t. Many games make enemy hurtboxes smaller for this purpose.

In multiplayer games, there’s a similar impetus on communicability for fairness, but more than that it comes down to fairness between players and there’s even more widely varied standards there. This is typically a matter of balance, but players can perceive a lot of things as unfair, leading to scrub mentality. They can get hung up on individual moves that they think are unfair. They can get hung up on other players being better than them. They can get hung up on which characters are good or bad. It’s a mess. Is it fair that players can master certain techniques and win way more consistently? Is it fair to use unintended tricks? Is it fair to use unreactable mixups? Is it fair to have randomness affect the outcome of a match? Is it fair for a player who puts in less time to beat someone who puts in more time? Is it fair that some characters are better than others? A lot of these questions will be answered differently by different people.

Fairness means treating players without bias and preventing injustice. In Singleplayer contexts, preventing injustice is a matter of figuring out what players perceive as injust or imposing your definition of just upon them (“average human reaction time is about 15 frames, if this move’s startup is 15 frames long, you have no right to complain”). Ultimately you’re working to satisfy your players, so you need to be in tune with their perceptions to make them feel like the game is fair.

Challenge is a lot simpler. It’s a task that one is inconsistent at completing, where consistency is dependent on the individual’s skill. It may be used to refer to a specific instance of a difficult task in a game (eg. a reaction challenge).

Games for Learning about Depth

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.