Rank #1: Ep. 20: 'Achievement Oriented' on 'Horizon Zero Dawn,' 'Resident Evil 7,' and Video Game Phobias
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion have a spoiler-free chat about the newly released PS4 exclusive 'Horizon Zero Dawn,' discussing its obvious influences, how it tweaks the open-world formula, and whether games have gotten too long (1:00). Then they bring on Kotaku editor Luke Plunkett to talk about his aborted attempt to play 'Resident Evil 7' and try to pinpoint what combination of in-game mechanics and hangups inside their own psyches makes some video games so scary (24:30).
Rank #2: 'Mass Effect: Andromeda' and 'Moral Combat' (Ep. 24)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion have a spoiler-free discussion about their impressions of the perplexing 'Mass Effect: Andromeda,' Bioware's brain drain, and the ways in which recent releases have raised the bar for big-budget games (0:45). Then they bring on authors and psychologists Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson to talk about their research into the effects of violent video games and their new book, 'Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong' (23:25).
Rank #3: Ep. 4: 'Overwatch,' E-sports, and the NES Classic
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion talk to former pro gamer and coach and current 'Call of Duty' and 'Overwatch' caster Matt "Mr X" Morello about the appeal and future of 'Overwatch' and E-sports (1:31). Then, they bring on Kotaku news editor Jason Schreier to discuss Nintendo's NES Classic, the risks of going retro, and gaming nostalgia (32:12).
Rank #4: 'Super Mario Odyssey,' 'Shadow of War,' 'Wolfenstein 2,' and 'Darkwood' (Ep. 58)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion mark the pod's first anniversary by discussing a quartet of recent releases. First, Ben and Jason examine what makes 'Super Mario Odyssey' amazing and why the Switch is owning 2017 (1:00). Then they talk to 'Achievement Oriented' producer Kyle Crichton about 'Middle Earth: Shadow of War' (21:42), before welcoming in colleague Justin Charity to recount his impressions of 'Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus' and explain why the game's story takes on added depth in the current political climate (35:25). Lastly, Ben talks to 'Darkwood' developer Gustaw Stachaszewski about why he made a horror game despite being scared of horror games, how he channeled his real-life fears into the game, and why he decided to give the game away on torrent sites (56:10).
Rank #5: Ep. 22: Gaming Drugs and eSports Injuries
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion talk to Compete writer Maddy Myers about experimenting with supplements that promise gaming benefits, covering competitive gaming's growing pains, and gender imbalance in eSports (0:30). Then they bring on Dr. Caitlin McGee to discuss treating eSports injuries, the benefits of proper posture and ergonomic equipment, and how teams are trying to prolong careers (34:15).
Rank #6: 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 #7: The Athlete-Gamer Episode, with Trevor May and Ryan Blaney (Ep. 25)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion banter about Jason's move, convoluted 'Kingdom Hearts' titles, and what they want from 'Destiny 2,' then talk to Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May about how injury rehab impacts his gaming, his attempts to turn other athletes on to Twitch streaming, the parallels between esports and traditional sports, and whether he worries about a backlash from fans or his team because of his hobbies (7:00). Then they bring on NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney to talk about how he fits games around his race schedule, whether games can capture (and prepare drivers for) the exhilaration of real racing, his favorite video game vehicles, his surprising 'Star Wars' movie preference, and his opinion of podracing (29:45).
Rank #8: Ep. 10: 'Achievement Oriented' on the Past and Future of 'Star Wars' Games
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion name-check their favorite 'Star Wars' games and talk to Jack Sorensen, the former president of LucasArts, about how he helped oversee several classic titles during the heyday of in-house 'Star Wars' development (5:24). Then they welcome Douglas Reilly from Lucasfilm and Justin McCully from Electronic Arts to discuss the upcoming slate of 'Star Wars' games (34:10) and the challenge of telling original stories within the larger 'Star Wars' universe (38:10).
Rank #9: How to Get Back into Gaming and Laying Down Video Game Law (Ep. 32)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion talk to colleague Justin Charity about how he's made up for lost time after an extended hiatus from gaming (2:10), his recent article on streaming culture (8:46), his second (!) playthrough of the lengthy RPG 'Persona 5,' (19:30), and his first impressions of the newly released 'Prey.' (21:47). Then, Ben and Justin talk to Stephen McArthur the "Video Game Lawyer" about the legality of fan-made games (26:55), how video game developers protect their copyrights (33:17), how legal practices that specialize in video games have proliferated (43:35), and his own experience of trying to balance school and pro gaming in the early years of e-sports (46:34). Lastly, Jason shares his thoughts on the first-person horror game 'Outlast 2.' (54:45).
Rank #10: '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 #11: World of Warcraft' and 'Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator' (Ep. 28)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion banter about Ben finally losing his 'Overwatch' virginity (1:43), 'Star Wars: Battlefront II' (3:12), and the SNES Classic (4:13). Then, they welcome writer Tony Palumbi to discuss his new book 'Blood Plagues and Endless Raids: A Hundred Million Lives in the World of Warcraft' and the innovations, relationships, and legacies of 'WoW' (4:57). Lastly, they bring on one-man developer Rob Weaver to talk about his new YouTube and Steam Early Access sensation 'Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator' and the secret to rendering 100,000 AI characters on screen simultaneously (41:44).
Rank #12: 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 #13: All of Our E3 Reactions [Bonus Episode] (Ep. 37)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion digest the week's biggest news and announcements out of E3, discussing the notable trends, highlights—including Nintendo, Ubisoft, co-op and multiplayer, pirates, and long-awaited sequels and reboots—and lowlights like Xbox One X, the developments they're still skeptical about, and the evolution of their own video game greed.
Rank #14: '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 #15: '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). Article Link: https://www.theringer.com/features/2017/10/10/16451300/backyard-baseball-20-year-anniversary
Rank #16: '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).
Rank #17: 'Prey', the Business of Gaming, the Future of E-sports, and Expert Glitchers (Ep. 33)
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion pine for VR rigs and talk to their colleague Justin Charity about Arkane Studios' first-person shooter, 'Prey' (4:20), how the pace of a playthrough affects the player's impressions (6:05), and whether a disappointing ending can spoil a game (11:05). Then they ask Wall Street Journal reporter Sarah E. Needleman about covering the gaming industry from a business perspective (16:28), the future of e-sports (25:25), and the major trends she's tracking (30:23). Lastly, they bring on 'Destiny' glitcher "Dj" to discuss his two-year journey to Atheon's throne room in the Vault of Glass (32:59), what inspires him to explore beyond the boundaries of games (34:23), and what he's looking forward to in 'Destiny 2' (45:48).
Rank #18: '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 #19: Ep. 11: 'Achievement Oriented' on 'Assassin's Creed,' Video-Game Movies, and the Year of the FPS
The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion discuss the newly released movie 'Assassin's Creed,' then bring on their colleagues Jon Lovett and Kam Collins for a wider discussion about why video-game adaptations historically haven't worked well as films. Lastly, they talk to Chris Plante of The Verge about how and why first-person shooters broke out of their slump and whether 2016 was the best FPS year ever.
Rank #20: '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).