Playing Undertale made me think about what video/computer games I find particularly meaningful or impactful. So here's an annotated list of questionable interest to anyone else.
- Chrono Trigger: This is my choice for "canonical JRPG". It's noteworthy for a few places that break your assumptions, and time travel is great. (Also, I played it on the Shinkansen from Tōkyō to Ōsaka.)
- Earthbound: Fun, quirky RPG with basic mechanics that are reasonably standard but a lot of straight-presented weirdness that gives it something of a Jenna Moran vibe.
- Mother 3: Takes the stuff that made Earthbound cool and added extra layers of emotion an expectation-subversion. Fun, has impact, has some interpretation possibilities, and fundamentally solid.
- Undertale: Goes without saying. Also, hard to say much about why its great without spoiling things, though it's a progression from/response to games like the above.
- Planescape: Torment: super-cool and elaborate setting and use thereof, excellently done amnesiac-hero-that-learns-their-deal-
over-the-course-of-the-game, best integration of philosophy and plot. Glad I eventually jumped through the hoops necessary to play it.
- Persona 4: I must like it, I've written multiple LARPs inspired by it. The divide between the slice-of-life social day world and the monster-fighting night world is cool, though it's a bit on-rails for the relation between the two to reach it's full potential.
- Honorable Mention to Kingdom Hearts: I feel like the metaphysics have lots of potential, but then they just keep introducing new classes of stuff instead of realizing that potential, and the metaphysics doesn't really impact the gameplay much.
- Spider and Web: an excellent story that takes advantage of its medium well and depends on the player being clever and understanding what's going on beneath the surface.
- Counterfeit Monkey: a really fun and zany mechanic of word manipulation that I totally want to put in a LARP sometime.
- Gone Home: the 3D-exploration-based presentation made what might otherwise have seemed like a pretty standard linear story much more impactful and personally-connected, for reasons that are hard for me to full conceptualize. Definitely unique.
- Spelunx: it's hard to imagine a game that's had a bigger impact on me, in terms of being a large part of inspiring me into a life of programming. It's a shame that modern games don't make it so easy to look under the hood and see how the game itself was made.
- Honorable Mention to Spellbreaker and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: a lot of the classic Infocom games are really good. Those two are probably the ones I've played with the most conceptually interesting bits.
- Braid: puzzle platformer with great exploration of different ways of doing time manipulation that holds together really well and ties in with the story well.
- Link's Awakening: Link to the Past is probably my favorite Zelda game overall, but Link's Awakening is definitely the most philosophically interesting.
- Ossuary: Most Discordian game ever!
- Honorable Mention to Portal: I liked it a lot, and it's got great characterization. "But it's too mainstream."