A nice Christmas gift or stocking stuffer this holiday for a young gamer you know might be Ben Bertoli’s new book, 101 Video Games To Play Before You Grow Up. The content of the book is precisely as the title would suggest, a list curated by Ben of 101 games that he recommends all youngsters should play.
The first few pages contain a short intro from Ben, a list of acronymns used for the different consoles (ranging from NES to the Switch and many points in between), and a two page table of contents, listing every game to be found and its corresponding page. A side-bar in the contents page also shows a breakdown of genres included, from Adventure to Strategy.
The flexibound book is more hardcover than paper back, perfect for kids that might toss the book around a few time over the years as they refer to it, loan it to friends, you name it. Page layout is nice and simple; some games get a two-page spread like Super Mario Bros., while most other games get one page. The left side includes what platforms the game is available on (including digital-only formats), the Genre, ESRB rating, the year it was released, and who made it. Ben writes a brief but sufficiently detailed synoposis of the game and some entries include sidebars with tidbits about the game or series that grown-ups aren’t likely to have known either. You’ll also get recommendations in some cases about what series or game to try next; for example in his Madden NFL entry, Ben recommends checking out the Tecmo Bowl games and the FIFA series, too.
Another cool feature on each game’s page is a small white box that the reader can fill out. There is a check box next to “Played It!” and also five blank stars that the reader can fill out to rate their experience with the game. A “My Favorite Moment” line leads into a couple of other blank lines for “Notes” — pretty cool, and if you have a serious young gamer that you know (or are one yourself), it would be a pretty special thing to share with them over the years as you journey through these games together. Not every recommendation is likely to be a hit, but most of these recommendations are classics that you can’t go wrong with.
In summary, 101 is a nice book that is much more than just a list of 101 games. For this book to succeed, it had to be more than that given that lists and recommendations are all over the internet; so I liked some of the ideas here that, in the right hands, can give this book some longevity beyond a first read. I recommend the book for gamers, young or old, who want to know more about the rich past of the art and who either have been, or are open to, being amazed with the classics.