Before I can open your eyes to the above subject, let us first determine what each of the related terms actually mean. The phrases hardcore and casual get thrown out entirely too much these days in gaming. It has gotten to the point that the definition of the two phrases has become skewed by personal opinion and blind bias. The two hold their original definitions despite the recent convulsion. At their core, ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ are rooted in the concepts of ‘ease of use’ and ‘experience’. How ‘pick up and play’ friendly they are is what truly determines whether or not they are hardcore or casual. With that necessity out of the way, let’s get to more pressing matters – like what four hardcore games are actually casual.
Popularized On: Xbox
Notable Titles: Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo ODST, and Halo Reach.
Described as the ‘golf’ of shooters, people good at Halo seem to believe they are the elites of the genre. This can true to the extent that a golfer is the elite of athletes. Let’s consider the facts. Halo is extremely easy to pick up and get good at- thanks to forgivingly quick energy restoration, overpowered and unbalanced weapons, a user-friendly damage dealing system thanks to dual-wielding, and the bare minimum of shooter skill requirement.
They key factor behind Halo’s success has been it’s standing as a shooter that anyone can play and easily get good at. The very core of casual play. By taking a user-unfriendly genre and streamlining the gameplay into something appealing to outsiders, Halo deserves praise. For further reading on Halo‘s casual roots, check out my review of Halo: ODST.
2. Grand Theft Auto
Popularized On: PS2
Notable Titles: Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
Few games can captivate our time quite like the GTA series. Just pop one in and try not to spend the next two hours driving as fast as you can and gunning down anyone in your path. It’s mindless, casual fun to the very end- my example ahead. A good friend of mine, George Wilson, happened to fall asleep with his PS3 hooked up and Grand Theft Auto IV inside. Upon waking up, George discovered his nine year old sister effortlessly playing the game without prior instruction, experience, or even the cheat codes for that matter.
The main reason for this ease of play boils down to the game mechanics. You run around the city, you shoot people, and you steal cars. Very simple, very addictive, very casual. It’s the kind of gaming experience that needs no introduction and little skill to be successful at. Lending credit to the casual title- the simple auto-aiming feature, the prevalence of cheat codes, and the highly forgiving AI. For further reading on Grand Theft Auto‘s casual aspects, check out my review of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
3. Final Fantasy
Popularized On: Super Nintendo
Notable Titles: Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XII, and Final Fantasy XIII.
Square Enix’s cash-cow RPG series wouldn’t have made this list prior to Final Fantasy X. The tenth entry in the long-running series forewent much of the complexity and intrigue behind the mechanics of previous titles. Instead Final Fantasy X and its successors simplified the gameplay formula, decreased the challenge, and instead focused more on visual flair and straightforward action. Both a blessing and a curse, the change of style has alienated many former fans of the series while attracting less experienced newcomers to the series.
The main casual factors revolve around a lessened focus on ‘level grinding’, simplification of the battle system, switching focus from story elements to action sequences, and the removal of much mystique from the series. The main feature taken from the series to afford a more casual play-style would be the removal of the overworld and the exchange of exploration for a linear experience. For further reading on the casual focus in Final Fantasy, check out my review ofFinal Fantasy XIII.
4. Street Fighter
Popularized On: Super Nintendo & Arcades
Notable Titles: Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV.
Capcom’s trademark fighting series is a more recent addition to this list. There was a time when skill was the main factor that determined the winner in a Street Fighter match. In Street Fighter II, button-mashing only got so far. Facing off against a skilled counterattacker or a practiced defensive player would spell your doom. With the most recent entries of the Street Fighter catalog a trend of focus on casual play has appeared. The skill gap matters less and less when you have highly unbalanced characters, button-mashing friendly gameplay, limited defense options, and skewed movesets shifted in the favor of characters with easily spammed specials.
Street Fighter IV came out and essentially left an impression of ‘it isn’t how you play, it’s who you play as’. A player that mains Balrog or Blanka, for instance, will always have an uphill battle against the likes of Ken, Ryu, or the dreaded Sagat. While the roster of the Street Fighter games has never been particularly balanced, the SF IV titles and their offense-oriented gameplay mechanics make the imbalance much more noticeable. These days it’s a fighter series that anyone can pick up and button-mash their way to victory without too much experience required. For more reading on the casual alterations to the Street Fighter series, check out my review on Super Street Fighter IV.
Halo 2 Xbox Disc
Halo 3 Xbox 360 Disc
Grand Theft Auto IV PS3 Disc
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City PS2 Disc
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City Disc
Final Fantasy X PS2 Disc
Final Fantasy XIII PS3 Disc
Super Street Fighter IV PS3 Disc
Nintendo Power Magazine