All of us here on Team Xbox are tremendous fans of the talent involved in the creation of games, especially those that come into the [email protected] program. From cartoon platformers to adventure games to strategy simulators, there’s a robust catalog of titles that deliver countless memories from those gaming worlds. It’s almost unfair that we can only share a few of those with you too, but we’ve taken some of our most memorable moments and captured them here in this feature. Enjoy.
Chris Charla – Senior Director of [email protected]
Having been part of [email protected] since the beginning, it’s extremely hard to pick one moment from the thousands of great moments and games and people involved with this program on both the Xbox and developer side. But if you made me pick just one, it would be E3 2015, when I was onstage, in the dark, watching Chad and Jared Moldenhauer introduce Cuphead. I knew how hard they were working, and I knew that after the teaser the year before, people were expecting a lot. I also know how much that trailer was going to blow everyone away. That moment when the StudioMDHR logo came up on stage, I got goosebumps like I never have before, and I just could not get the silly grin off my face watching that game own the stage at E3. There have been tons and tons and tons of other fantastic moments and games over the last five years, but that moment will always stay with me!
Phil Spencer – Head of Xbox
The game that comes to mind for me is Brothers. I have such a vivid memory of the first time I completed the game as there’s a key moment at the end in which the game mechanic is designed to reinforce the emotion I felt as a player. If you haven’t played it, Brothers is a cooperative, puzzle-based game where each thumbstick controls one of the two brothers on screen simultaneously. In the game, the brothers’ mother has died and their dad is sick and in need of medicine. The game is about the brothers’ quest to get medicine and by the end of the game, the older brother dies as well. As the story draws to a close, the younger brother is alone, trying to get back to his dad and to do so, he must swim across a stream. We learn early in the game that the younger brother does not swim. Until this moment in the game, he’s only crossed water on the back of his older brother.
So there I was, trying to finish the game, pausing and working to solve the puzzle of how to get the younger brother across the water without his older brother. And then the answer just came to me and when I tried it and it worked – it was spine tingling. I felt the loneliness and sadness of the young brother. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a gameplay mechanic that evoked emotion in the way Brothers did for me and so many other players.
Ashley McKissick – Head of Xbox Game Pass
Four years ago, when my son was six-years-old, we spent our winter vacation playing Never Alone and exploring the Iñupiat culture together. It was the perfect game to play with my little one. The co-op nature meant that we had to work together, and the controls were so intuitive and well-crafted. The fact that, while playing through the adventure, we also got to learn about this special Alaskan Native community, made it even more special. I also just absolutely loved the art style in Never Alone, especially the environments, and I am so glad that [email protected] enabled us to discover this game. Playing this little gem will remain a fond holiday memory for my son and I.
Craig Duncan – Studio Head, Rare Games
I’ve enjoyed many incredible [email protected] games over the years but my favorite moment is quite a recent one while browsing the what’s new in Xbox Game Pass section there was a game called Manual Samuel. I hadn’t heard of it but was drawn to the art of a cartoon death holding a puppet and then spent the next few hours being pulled out of my gaming comfort zone doing what appeared to be normal everyday tasks; without spoiling the plot which everyone should experience spoiler free it made me smile throughout and laugh at some of the dialog and the crazy moments that poor Samuel had to navigate with appropriate well deserved achievements awarded throughout including probably the craziest driving achievement I have ever earned ? A really funny, enjoyable and unique little adventure.
Katie Stone Perez – Principal Program Manager, Mixer
The timer ends, you see the results, and my daughters jump up and cheer “We did it!” We have come together as a family and defeated the unbread. That’s my favorite [email protected] moment. My family loves playing games together and Overcooked 2 provides a great level of challenge but when we work together we can always be successful. Each level starts with us coming up with a plan and then the chaos ensues. The game has become an almost nightly ritual for us before bed and I love that we can have that moment of success that unites us as a family.
Jeff Rubenstein – Xbox Comms and Inside Xbox Host
I may not recall my daughter’s first word, or exactly when she took her first steps. Should we have saved a lock of hair from her first haircut? Yet I vividly remember her first Minecraft world, I showed her how to record her first PotG in Overwatch, and was sitting right next to her during her first Fortnite Victory Royale – the culmination of a carefully laid game education curriculum that began with… Chariot. Yes, Frima Games’ platformer has players dragging a king’s coffin to a more luxurious burial site to placate his demanding spirit (who berates you on your journey), but it’s colorful, kid-friendly, and teaches the mechanics of platforming and cooperative play. More importantly, it sparked a love of gaming and a father-daughter bonding activity that continues to this day. And that’s better than a pair of bronzed baby shoes any day.
Graeme Boyd – Xbox Live’s AceyBongos and Inside Xbox Host
The day I got married is one of the greatest days of my life. I am, of course, talking about Stardew Valley. My real wedding was pretty good too, I guess. But in Stardew Valley, getting married felt like the culmination of months of hard work and careful relationship building as I carved out my new life on the farm. It felt like acceptance.
That’s the funny thing about Stardew Valley – it starts out like a nice mash-up of Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and even Minecraft. But soon enough the rhythms of it – tending your crops, selling your goods, making new friends, exploring the town, the seasons rolling in and out – they get inside you. You feel part of something special. And for me, that experience was one of the most relaxing and fulfilling I’ve ever had in a video game. Stardew Valley became my happy place (I still have a map of the town next to my desk at work and I gaze longingly at it during stressful conference calls). Getting married made it even happier.
Oh, yeah. I got married to Leah. Obviously.
Will Tuttle – Editor in Chief of Xbox Wire
I’m a sucker for a great narrative and [email protected] has no shortage of amazing narrative-driven games, from the haunting family drama of the excellent What Remains of Edith Finch to the sci-fi horror of Soma. The best of these combine a compelling narrative with unique simple-but-complex gameplay. One of my favorite games of this generation, Thomas Was Alone by Bithell Games, is a pitch-perfect example of that intoxicating blend. At first glance, the game looks like a straightforward, minimalistic platformer starring a group of quadrilateral shapes, but it quickly becomes clear that it’s much more.
Thanks to top-notch writing and some truly wonderful narration by British humorist Danny Wallace (who won a BAFTA for his performance), those little blocks become Thomas, Claire, Chris, John, and Laura. By combining those beautifully humanized shapes with some good old-fashioned puzzle platforming, Thomas Was Alone helped to push the medium forward in unexpectedly new ways.
Larry Hryb – Xbox Live’s Major Nelson and Inside Xbox Host
As a fan of film, music and obviously video games, I’ve long had an appreciation for content created and produced by independent studios. So, when I heard the [email protected] team was celebrating the release of their 1,000th indie title, I naturally considered some of my favorites and it was impossible not to think about Cuphead.
Cuphead is an absolute gem, featuring beautifully crafted visuals reminiscent of sound cartoons from the golden age of animation. The soundtrack is easily some of the best music you will hear in a video game, composed using live musicians playing jazz, early big band, and ragtime music, a favorite genre of mine. But Cuphead doesn’t just look and sound great, it plays great too. My colleagues may heckle me a bit as I praise Cuphead’s gameplay since I am admittedly “challenged” by some of the levels, but the game is just so much fun to play.
As great as Cuphead is though, the real magic of the game is with the number of subtle references (some might even call them Easter Eggs) seamlessly interwoven into the game. I heard mention of a Street Fighter reference when you battle the frogs Ribby and Croaks, and when I encountered that particular scene, it indeed appeared to be a clear tribute to Street Fighter.
Sure, there are the more obvious ones, like a building in the background named after the developers or the name of their studio appearing in different places. But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover a seemingly unending link to other cartoon characters, video games and real people including actors, musicians, artists, and cartoonists. It’s fascinating as you play the game when you recognize one of these subtle links and even more fascinating to think of all the hidden connections yet to be discovered.