Top 10 best and 5 worst titles for games

Looking for a list of the top ten games? Keep looking! Today we’re judging games on a different criteria: their title. Following up on last week’s post on how to title your game, here’s a list of the top 10 titles for games followed by the 5 worst titles.


10. Dead Space & Left 4 Dead (tie)
Regarding Left 4 Dead, “A perfect concise description of the game and the experience of playing it. I love their B-movie in-game posters too.” – Michael Abbott, the Brainy Gamer

9. Rocky’s Boots
A serious game with a sneakily entertaining title

8. Resident Evil
It sounds serious, important, and menacing all at once.

7. Peggle
“Peggle is adorable so I wanted to play it.” – Tamir Nadav, Vigil

6. Day of the Tentacle
“It sounds funny while evoking an old-fashioned, kind of 50s horror movie feel.” – Tracy Seamster, The Agency (SOE)

5. Master of Magic (aka MoM)
“When you win the game you see a little cutscene with your wizard saying ‘Having conquered the worlds of both Arcanus and Myrror I am truly the one and only Master of Magic!’ So that’s neat. ;)” – John Evans

4. Fallout
Evocative and a favorite title of Zeb Cook, Stray Bullet Studio

3. Civilization
“It is a simple title that very much sums up what the game is all about. If they had gone more complex, it would have sounded weaker.” – Bruce Harlick, NCSoft NC

2. Psychonauts
“Because it’s frikkin’ cool (psychic nauts!). Say it though… /phyyycchoooonnaauuutttsss/! What other name lets you have so much fun saying it?” – Andrew Armstrong

1. A Mind Forever Voyaging
“A Mind Forever Voyaging just has a wonderful wistful quality to it. In a way, it captures the essence of the gamer — a mind forever voyaging. It’s also a Wordsworth reference.” – Tess Snider


5. Tabula Rasa
Literally means “blank slate,” so not inspiring. That said, it is also a favorite title for some.

4. American McGee’s Alice
No one likes a show off 😉

3. Irritating Stick

2. Infinite Undiscovery

1. Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3
“Bloody stupid name!” – Jake Simpson, Linden Labs alum

Honorable Mention:
Dead Unity, which never shipped

What’s your take on the list?  Did your favorite make it or not?

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Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Comments (7)  

How to title your game

What’s in a name? As game writers, we are often called upon to title and name all sorts of things — quests, items, design docs ;).  When it comes to the game title, however, marketing and executives play a huge hand in finalizing the name, and sometimes you can tell.  I’ve uncovered a few trends in game titles that work and others… well, not so much.

Funny titles
The most memorable game titles have a bit of the funny in them.  How could you forget a game called Space Bunnies Must Die or Destroy All Humans?  Simple is better; Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am passes funny to reach “Enough already!”

Unfortunately, funny titles generally only work for funny games.  If they had named Halo ZOMG When Will They Stop Sending Me Into These Effed Up Situations? instead, something tells me it would not have sold quite so well.

Punny titles
Fortunately, games with a more serious tone can get away with a bit of humor when there’s a pun in the title.  King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human stands as a great example of a pun in an otherwise dramatic title.  Max Payne, a game with a dark and serious tone, offers a tip of the hat to the hardcore gamer with promises of, well, causing max pain.

Literal titles
Funny and punny titles often work if they have a bit of the literal in them.  Literal titles do the best job of telling the players exactly what they’re in for.  You will never find yourself asking what the game is about.  Great examples include Command & Conquer, SimCity, and the like.  Literal titles don’t have to be that on the nose: Warcraft underlines the point of the game without spelling it out too much.  World of Warcraft is similarly clear — it’s set in the virtual world of Warcraft, roger that!

The importance with literal titles is that they should, in fact, be literal.  Sims Carnival sounds like it should be a literal title, but no, it is neither Sims, nor a carnival.  Another literal title that had a bit too dull of a name?  Adventure.

Evocative titles
Evocative titles bring to mind the mood, spirit, or setting of the game.  Fallout, Defcon, and Eternal Darkness fall into this category and evoke the urgency and darkness of these games and sometimes quite literally the situation.  I personally like Burning Crusade which is both evocative and literal within the game’s fiction.

Unfortunately, attempts at evocative titles often yield the worst results.  Beyond the Beyond and Infinite Undiscovery are prime examples.  What exactly is infinite undiscovery?  Sounds like a quest for missing socks.  One game that never shipped was at one point called Dead Unity.  Take home message?  If you’re having trouble coming up with a name, avoid the evocative title!

Following genre conventions
Occasionally game titles hit the mark by following the conventions of their literary genre, such as science fiction, fantasy, etc.  Day of the Tentacle as well as Sins of the Solar Empire both bring to mind 50’s sci fi and horror movies.  Wrath of the Lich King hearkens back to Return of the Jedi or The Wrath of Khan.  Unfortunately, the sci fi genre conventions and sequel hell can lead to terribly long titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II The Sith Lords.

BA: aka the Best Acronyms
Unlike media such as television, games are usually developed with the hardcore fans in mind.  That means eventually every title will become an acronym to economize typing or speaking, and unfortunately not every title will benefit from the abbreviation.  Days of our Lives becomes DOOL, which makes it seem like a really cool demon.  A lot of DS games took advantage of this with titles such as Dawn of Sorrow and Deadly Silence. Sometimes acronyms get the benefits of a funny title: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed becomes STFU and Masters of Orion becomes MoO.

Try to shovel your title into a cool-sounding acronym, however, and it will just end up seeming lame.  The best acronym ever?  WoW for World of Warcraft, but note how the title is quite literal and grew organically from the game.

Next week I’ll post a top 10 list of best and worse game titles, so comment now with your favorite and least favorite game titles.  And, don’t be shy, share your own best and worst titles for games you’ve developed or conceived.

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Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 2:08 pm  Comments (8)