Rank #1: 'Splatoon 2,' 'Destiny 2,' and Aliens and Love in 'Grand Theft Auto' (Ep. 43)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh, Jason Concepcion, and Justin Charity discuss their impressions of 'Splatoon 2' and the 'Destiny 2' beta (4:00). Then, Ben and Jason bring on Kai and Gramz, two members of 'Grand Theft Auto' data-mining group Team Guru, to talk about their years-long hunt for 'GTA' Easter eggs, what motivates them to keep up their quest, the tools of their trade, their successful hunt for in-game aliens, and their real-life, long-distance romance that was kindled in 'GTA' and recently led to marriage (26:40).
Rank #2: Loot Boxes Are Bad, but 'Battlefront II' Is Good (Ep. 62)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss the recent releases of several high-profile Switch ports, what their success means for the system's future, and what might have been for the PlayStation Vita (0:57). Then they review the highlights and lowlights of the multiplayer modes and single-player campaign of 'Star Wars: Battlefront II' and lament the game's heavy-handed use of microtransactions and loot boxes (6:15). Lastly, they bring on 'Battlefront' writer Walt Williams to talk about the special thrills and unique challenges of creating characters and stories inside the 'Star Wars' universe (26:45).
Rank #3: The SNES Classic, Revisiting 'Night Trap,' and Gaming Fear (Ep. 54)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion reminisce about 'Red Dead Redemption' and react to the trailer for 'Red Dead Redemption 2' (1:10). Then they bring on their colleague Victor Luckerson to recap his all-day marathon with the newly released SNES Classic, weigh in on which 16-bit classics have held up the best, and forecast the future of retro gaming (7:10). Lastly, Ben and Jason bring on Kotaku's Stacie Ponder to discuss how the notorious (and recently rereleased) 'Night Trap' holds up 25 years later, her love-fear relationship with horror games, and the endless porting and remaking of 'Resident Evil' (27:35).
Rank #4: 'Tacoma' and 'PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' (Ep. 45)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss whether makers of future consoles will feel pressure to support portability to keep pace with the Switch (2:37), then talk about Ben's impressions of 'Tacoma,' the new game from The Fullbright Company (makers of 'Gone Home'), and the temporarily game-breaking bug that prevented Jason from playing it (7:19). Then they bring on professional fantasy sports player Al Zeidenfeld to discuss how he started streaming 'PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds,' why the game has become such a phenomenon, the best and worst tactics that players employ, a community controversy, and what's in store for the game's future (28:42).
Rank #5: '2K18' Release Week (Ep. 52)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss Jason's inaugural experience as a video game writer on 'NBA 2K18' (1:05). Then they talk to 'NBA 2K18' director Chris Papierniak about the difference between game direction and film direction, how to handle the development of a game that can't be delayed, how to channel NBA drama into an E-rated game, and the expanding scope of sports games (17:33).
Rank #6: Gamer Grooming and the Golden Age of Board Games (Ep. 46)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss the addition of a free-for-all deathmatch mode to team-based shooter 'Overwatch' (1:05), then bring on makeup artist Ada Trinh to discuss her work with Blizzard, Riot, and esports athletes; why gamers need help in the complexion department; and why it matters that competitive gamers look good (7:00). Then they talk to ESPN senior baseball writer (and Paste Magazine board-game reviewer) Keith Law about his gaming past, the current golden age of tabletop gaming, why tabletop games are making up an ever-larger share of the "gaming" category on Kickstarter, the parallels and differences between board games and video games, how designers have developed tabletop adaptations of video games, and which board games he thinks gamers should try (26:04).
Rank #7: 'Assassin's Creed: Origins' and the Xbox One X (Ep. 61)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss whether 'Assassin's Creed: Origins' innovates enough on the franchise's familiar formula to bring them back to the fold (0:15), then welcome Polygon senior reporter Samit Sarkar for a conversation about the benefits and shortcomings of the Xbox One X, the 4K and HDR difference, why the console's presence in the market makes for such a difficult purchasing decision, and what the Xbox One X signifies for the future of console releases and mid-generation hardware updates (15:15).
Rank #8: The Ascent of 'Rocket League' and a Comeback for 'Crash Bandicoot' (Ep. 40)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion briefly discuss Nintendo's SNES Classic (1:12), and then are joined by their colleague (and fellow 'Rocket League' enthusiast) Rob Harvilla for a conversation with Psyonix Studios' Corey Davis, the design director for 'Rocket League,' about the game's origins (3:23), the secret to its satisfying gameplay and controls (9:28), its advantages and rapid rise to prominence as an esport (14:23), its pursuit of cross-platform play (25:15), and what's in store for its future as its second anniversary approaches (31:26). Then Ben and Jason bring on another colleague, Kate Knibbs, to mark the release of the remastered 'Crash Bandicoot' trilogy by recounting childhood memories of the series (40:40).
Rank #9: Streaming Sins, Space Games, and 'Metroid' (Ep. 51)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss Jason's return to the new and (possibly) improved 'No Man's Sky' (0:55), then bring on colleague Justin Charity to talk about celebrity streamer PewDiePie's latest offense, indie developer Campo Santo's response, the uncertain symbiosis between streamers and publishers, and why gamers get toxic online (5:55). Then they bring on NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory systems engineer Molly Bittner to discuss her work on NASA's Cassini and Europa Clipper missions, what it's like to talk to a spacecraft, how she finds time to play games while working at NASA, and her thoughts on 'Hellblade' as well as 'Destiny 2,' 'Mass Effect,' 'Kerbal Space Program,' and other space-based games (22:40). Lastly, Ben and Jason welcome The Ringer's Rob Harvilla to reflect on the 30th anniversary of the release of the original 'Metroid,' share his impressions of the newly released 'Metroid: Samus Returns,' and explain why 'Metroid' might be gaming's greatest space series (53:13).
Rank #10: The Frustration-Free Challenge of 'Cuphead' (Ep. 55)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss Jason's ever-changing real-life look and how his hairstyles affect his character-creation strategy (1:40), then share their impressions of the new Windows and Xbox run-and-gun game 'Cuphead' (7:30). Next, they bring on brothers and 'Cuphead' co-creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer to explain how they conceived and perfected the game's eye-catching art while delivering difficulty without frustration, and to discuss the benefits and burdens of hype, the game's speedrunning potential, and their newfound financial prospects and future plans (14:25). Lastly, Ben and Jason wrap up with a few words about Ben's upcoming wedding and video game-themed bachelor party (47:50).
Rank #11: 'Dream Daddy' and Giant Bomb's Successful Pivot to Video (Ep. 47)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion banter about 'No Man's Sky' updates, mundane objects that look great in games, and Ben's plans for a video game bachelor party (1:20), then bring on their colleague Alison Herman to discuss the summer hit 'Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator,' a Steam game that subverts the tropes of traditional dating sims (8:40). Finally, Ben and Jason talk to Giant Bomb founding member and video producer Vinny Caravella about the origins of the site and how it anticipated trends in podcasting, streaming, and video that media members are still wrestling with today (32:24).
Rank #12: The Holiday Deluge, 'Stardew' on Switch, and the AI of 'Echo' (Ep. 57)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss the beginning of the grueling/exciting torrent of fall releases and what they anticipate will be a successful gaming holiday season (0:55), then bring on comedian Nick Wiger to discuss his experience with 'Stardew Valley,' the secret to the game's addictiveness and longevity, and its recent Switch port (9:32). Lastly, Ben talks to Martin Emborg, the game director and art director of newly released PC/PS4 stealth game 'Echo,' about the game's innovative, adaptive AI; the influence of 'Hitman'; and the video game acting debut of Rose Leslie (38:20).
Rank #13: Esports Roundup and a World-Size Sim (Ep. 38)
Rank #14: Video Game Writer Walt Williams on 'Significant Zero' (Ep. 53)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion reflect on why video game makers are hesitant to talk about the development process publicly (0:15). Then they talk to one who isn't: Walt Williams, who's worked on 'BioShock,' 'Spec Ops: The Line,' and 'Star Wars Battlefront II,' among many other games, and joins the podcast to discuss how game-writing works (20:35), the perils of crunch (25:20), the pitfall of player choice (38:42), how to make morality interesting in interactive games (43:15), and his new book, 'Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games.'
Rank #15: 'Blood, Sweat, and Pixels,' 'Destiny 2,' and 'Localhost' (Ep. 50)
For their 50th episode, The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion welcome Kotaku news editor Jason Schreier to discuss the industry trends and revelations inside his new book ('Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made') and their early impressions of 'Destiny 2' (2:50). Then they bring on Sophia Park and Penelope Evans, the cocreators of 'Localhost' and 'Arc Symphony,' to talk about how they provoke emotional reactions in players, how they build games in Twine, and the economics of indie development (51:10).
Rank #16: 'NBA 2K' Player Ratings and the Rise and Fall of 'Backyard Baseball' (Ep. 56)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion talk about Ben's video game bachelor party, how 'GoldenEye 007' has aged, and ultra-precise esports competitors (1:45). Then they bring on Mike Stauffer of 'NBA 2K' developer Visual Concepts to ask how he manages rosters and develops player ratings for the game, how he incorporates (or ignores) feedback from NBA players and fans, and how advanced stats have made the ratings more sophisticated (8:50). Lastly, they welcome Ringer colleague Zach Kram to discuss his retrospective article on the 20th anniversary of the cult classic 'Backyard Baseball' series and the games' development and decline (31:58).
Rank #17: 'Call of Duty: WW II,' 'The Frozen Wilds' DLC, and 'Super Lucky's Tale' (Ep. 60)
In an intimate bonus episode, The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss Jason's concussion (0:15) and Ben's binge with three newly released games: back-to-basics big-budget shooter 'Call of Duty: WW II' (6:12), 'The Frozen Wilds' (the first downloadable content for game of the year candidate 'Horizon Zero Dawn') (24:23), and throwback Xbox/PC platformer 'Super Lucky's Tale' (33:24).
Rank #18: Recent Releases, 'Uncharted,' and 'Good Game' (Ep. 49)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss their impressions of 'Undertale,' 'Sonic Mania,' and 'Uncharted: The Lost Legacy' (0:45), then interview 'Uncharted' writer and Naughty Dog veteran Josh Scherr about the game's breakneck development, Naughty Dog's winning formula for 'Uncharted' ideas, and how he feels about working on sequels versus new series (16:30). Lastly, Ben and The Ringer's Alison Herman talk to Jesse Cox and Michele Morrow, cocreators and executive producers of the new esports sitcom, 'Good Game' (48:05).
Rank #19: Making Mo-cap Magic, and Going Inside an Esports Team (Ep. 48)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion talk to stuntwomen and voice actors Maggie Macdonald and America Young about their work in video games including 'Halo 5,' the 'Dead Space,' 'Uncharted,' and 'Saints Row' series, and the newly released 'Agents of Mayhem,' as well as how working in video games compares to big-budget movies, the advancement of video-game motion-capture technology, the most challenging stunts they've had to perform, and fighting while looking like Lara Croft (1:30). Then Ben and Jason bring on Kyle "Beef" Bautista, general manager of compLexity Gaming, to discuss his team's involvement in a new TBS 'Dota 2' documentary, attempting to qualify for The International 2017, the economics of esports, managing interpersonal issues and turnover on team rosters, and the future of esports statistical analysis, coaching, and corporate partnerships (55:30).
Rank #20: 'Overwatch,' 'Castlevania,' and Games Done Quick (Ep. 42)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss some of the challenges facing competitive 'Overwatch' in Season 5, including depleted rankings and a misaligned rewards system (0:39). Then they bring on their colleagues Matt James and Micah Peters to talk to 'Castlevania' executive producer Adi Shankar about the new Netflix series, 'Spider-Man: 'Homecoming,' Shankar's creative process, and the secrets to making a good video game adaptation (7:14). Lastly, Ben and Jason talk to writer Jacob Oller about the success of Summer Games Done Quick, why Oller likens the event to the Olympics, and why speedrunning is so fascinating (44:02).