Before working on Mega Man 11, the development team at Capcom played through the entire original Mega Man and Mega Man X series, so we decided to ask the leads which Mega Man game was their favorite. Here are the Mega Man games that specifically inspired the design of Mega Man 11.

Director Koji Oda (previously worked on Resident Evil 0, Strider, Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop)
“I’d have to say Mega Man 1, because when I first tried it out there were a lot of things to be surprised about. The fact that you were able to choose which stage you wanted to try out first was great, and I loved all the different weapons that you get. But despite all the different weapons, the core gameplay was still intact. I felt like, every time you played it, you could discover something new. On top of that, you got a sense that you kept getting better the more you played. I thought that was really cool.”

Producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya (previously worked on Asura’s Wrath, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, and Mega Man 7)
“It’s a difficult question to answer, but if I had to pick one game it would be Mega Man 7, and the reason is because I was part of R&D. I was a programmer at the time, and I worked on all of the weapon bosses and some of the gimmicks [one-off sequences] from the stages, as well as all the programming for the character Bass.”

Art director Yuji Ishihara (previously worked on Mega Man Battle Network series, Mega Man Legends, and Resident Evil)
“I would say Mega Man Battle Network. I thought everything about it was fun, from the plot to the gameplay to the design. But from a design standpoint, I would say the very first Mega Man. I think there was a real beauty and simplicity to that title.”

Audio director Ryo Yoshii (previously worked on Resident Evil 5 & 6, Monster Hunter 3, and Dragon’s Dogma)
“Mega Man 2, because it was the first game I really got into. When Mega Man 1 came out, I had a Nintendo at home, but I was still a little kid at the time, with no money, so it’s not like I could go out and buy the game for myself. My only exposure to that was going to my neighbor’s house. But right around the time that Mega Man 2 came out, I had saved up enough allowance to go out and buy the game myself. One of my neighbors told me that I should fight Metal Man first. I remember thinking that he was incredibly difficult, and just taking forever to beat him. That was my first exposure to really trying, and falling in love with, the franchise.”

Click on the banner below to enter our constantly-updating hub of exclusive features on Mega Man 11.

Gamers have been begging EA to bring back the Skate franchise, and although there’s been no word on whether that will ever happen or not, that doesn’t mean we won’t be getting a skating game at some point. Montreal-based Crea-ture Studios has kickstarted a PC/Xbox One (hopefully PS4 at some point) project called Session that not only looks to resurrect video game skateboarding, but do it in its only particular fashion.

The article below originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Game Informer (#297), and since then Crea-ture has added reverts into the game, a vert ramp stretch goal and more. Check out the game’s Kickstarter page to see the latest on Session.

—————————————————————————————————————————

The Tony Hawk and Skate series had their differences, but both made it easy to pull off hardcore skateboard tricks at the press of a button or flick of a stick. New developer Crea-ture Studios is approaching the sport from a slightly different angle. Session’s control scheme is more difficult than what we’re used to, but it aims to give even the simplest trick an elevated sense of accomplishment.

The game’s hardcore and real-stances control modes split your avatar’s legs into the right and left analog sticks, respectively, instead of confining the trick controls to one stick and the steering on the other like Skate. Furthermore, pushing is on the A button and steering on the triggers, so Session does not feel like previous skating titles. “I’m not sure this kind of call would have passed [at a publisher],” says creative director Marc-Andre Houde. “We probably would have been forced to make it a more accessible, maybe more mainstream method of navigating for a game.”

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Playing the early demo of Session, the novel control scheme takes getting used to and isn’t immediately natural. In the head of a lifelong-skater like Houde, however, telling his feet to do different things depending on which way he’s facing is what he does every time he jumps on his board in real life. The game features a simplified control setting that locks the controls so you don’t have to keep track of which foot is leading on the board and therefore switch which one starts a trick. Whichever scheme you use, Session’s controls aim to give the user a sense of satisfaction for pulling off tricks, reclaiming it from the gonzo arcade nature of previous titles which have dulled our appreciation for these complicated maneuvers.

The control scheme isn’t the only thing that strives for a manner of realism. “Skateboarding is a really creative sport, so we really want to make sure we are not going to dictate which trick is worth what or anything like this,” Houde says. “We’re really trying to keep this as open as we can so people don’t always feel forced to do the same combo tricks because this is the one that pays the most.” De-emphasizing a combo score may remove an easy way for players to gauge themselves against others, but skating is a sport where the admiration of your peers is more quantifiable than an arbitrary score. Accordingly, Sessions includes the ability to broadcast your achievements via various social channels as a way to gain respect.

The game starts in the streets of New York City (other cities will be added as updates), with vert/ramp skating as a stretch goal for the recently activated Kickstarter project. Other features on the stretch-goal wish list include a park editor and a mode to film your friends in action. Houde talked about the need for licensed clothing – something that’s important to him because of brands’ importance in skating – but didn’t have any official deals he could mention.
Activision’s 2015 reboot of Tony Hawk didn’t take, and while fans have been clamoring for EA to make Skate 4, it’s not on the horizon. Sessions – made by a team of two developers and assorted freelancers – doesn’t follow exactly in these famous series’ footsteps, but it’s also not here just to fill a void. The game’s unorthodox control scheme makes demands of players, but they can reap its rewards as well.  

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Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below.

Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkato.

 

REVIEW ROUND-UP 

Madden NFL 18 
NASCAR Heat 2 
NHL 18 
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 
FIFA 18 
NBA 2K18 
NBA Live 18 
Golf Story 
Project Cars 2 
Forza Motorsport 7
NBA 2K18 (Switch) 
FIFA 18 (Switch)
GT Sport 
Mutant Football League  
Steep: Road to the Olympics (shown)

 

THE TICKER
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week

Draft Day Sports: College Football 2018 Now Available  
You can also sample the demo.

NBA 2K18 Adds Historic Players Such as Rashard Lewis and Kevin Martin  

More UFC 3 Changes Detailed After Beta 
Click here and here.

Martin O’Donnell is known predominantly for his musical work on the Halo series. Today, he is working with Jaime Griesemer at Highwire Games (a studio the two co-founded) on a PlayStation VR title called Golem. Between those two projects, however, he worked on the music for Destiny and in the creation of that game’s music, he was able to work with Paul McCartney. While chatting with O’Donnel for a preview of Golem (which you can find in issue 297) we spoke briefly about working with the former Beatle, and his strained departure from Bungie.

Game Informer: You worked with Paul McCartney. Does he play video games?


O’Donnell: [Laughs] Yeah, he did actually, while we were working together. He played Halo. He played Halo with his kids and his grandkids. He said he wasn’t very good. He said he got killed all the time, and I said, “Yeah, join the club.” I doubt he’s hardcore, like play everything that comes out, but he was definitely interested in the medium and what it can do and what’s going on.


I would love to explain more about it. Here’s this theme that’s in the game, and there’s this theme that’s in the game, and this was Paul’s, and Paul came up with this, and we recorded at this studio – but that ship has sailed a bit.


He worked in his own studio and then we worked together at the Capital Records studio in Hollywood. We worked at the former power station, it’s called, in New York City. I went to Abbey Road twice and worked with him. For me it was a dream come true. It was amazing and if stuff hadn’t happened, there would probably be more stories about it, but there you go.

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O’Donnell and McCartney worked predominantly on Music of the Spheres, an album that was meant to be a prequel album that would release ahead of Destiny.

While we were developing Destiny, we got inquiries from Paul McCartney that he wanted to work on music for a game and he wanted to work with us and the game, let’s say, just wasn’t coming along as fast as we were hoping. So one of the ideas was, “Why don’t we do a musical album that would be the music prequel to Destiny, and then it would be released before Destiny was released and people could hear music that would eventually be in the game sort of as a marketing thing as well as a fun standalone musical work?”


I worked for a couple years on a thing called Music of the Spheres, which was the music prequel to Destiny, and then, let’s see, how shall I say this… a bunch of stuff happened. It turned out because of all the stuff, the music of the spheres album, although the music was in Destiny the game, the actual album itself was never released, much to my disappointment.

O’Donnell’s idea of a prequel album did finally reach fruition with Golem. “After I was gone from Bungie and Jaimie and I got together and started talking about working on a new thing, one of the first things Jaimie said to me was, ‘Hey! Why don’t you do a musical prequel to Golem? And this time you can release it!’ O’Donnell says. The result is Echoes of the First Dreamer, a prequel album for Golem that functions as a standalone record, but includes music that will also appear in the game. You can hear the album now by checking out the embedded Spotify album below, and it may surprise you if you’re familiar with O’Donnell’s previous work. “I actually made a conscious choice to use almost no big percussion,” O’Donnell says. “Just strings, woodwinds, piano, and harp, so it’s a chamber-orchestra approach. The music itself feels a little more magical. A little more, the wonder of childhood kind of thing.”

Golem is coming to PlayStation VR in Spring. You can read more about the game here.

Building and sustaining a healthy relationship has its share of ups and downs, and mixing that with game development can be an even greater feat. Although the term “don’t mix business with pleasure” suggests relationships and work should remain sepa- rate, some couples in the games industry believe otherwise. From Perception’s developer duo running a studio from home while taking care of four kids, to the family trauma that drove That Dragon, Cancer’s creators to build an emotional game, it’s clear that for some, making games is best accomplished when it’s a two-way street.

This feature article originally appeared in issue #291 of Game Informer magazine.

Two Is Better Than One

Putting aside differences is one thing, but for Amanda and Bill Gardner, the creators of horror game Perception, differing backgrounds ended up in influencing their work in positive ways. By combining their diverse talents and applying them toward the game, they found innovation through each other’s strengths.

Perception’s concept, which puts you in the shoes of a blind woman who uses echolocation to navigate a haunted house, is something Bill came up with in grad school after a creative exercise. Following the closure of Irrational Games, his prior employer, he switched over to the indie scene and began collaborating with his wife to make Perception.

With Amanda’s background in English and Bill being a games industry veteran, the two come from significantly different areas. Learning the ropes happens on both sides, with Bill better understanding the ins and outs of literary references, and Amanda rethinking how a story can be told for an interactive medium.

“If you’re a couple working together, it’s very important to take a step back and constantly evaluate where you’re at and how things are working,” Bill says. “Because I’ve collaborated with Amanda for so long, it’s easy for me to forget that she doesn’t know every last little inside-baseball term we have in games.”

They may have different backgrounds, but their love of games is mutually strong. Video games are a family affair, and often they play with their four kids. Even their infant daughter, Rinoa, is named after the Final Fantasy VIII character. Despite different career paths, their similar interests in movies, shows, and more has made collaboration easier.

“We’ve been together for 17 years,” Amanda says. “I can reference a scene or thing and know we’ve seen it together. It definitely cuts the time down because you don’t have to explain it.”

Amanda and Bill aren’t the only couple that see collaborating on video game development as a positive experience. James and Michelle Silva, who have been married for five years, developed action/RPG Salt & Sanctuary together.

The two are so passionate about their work that even during their honeymoon they would spend evenings working on their game. “I mean, what are you supposed to do after dark on your honeymoon, but code tools?” jokes James.

Working under the same roof, and often in the same room, James and Michelle are careful to not push each other’s buttons. They describe themselves as “emotional sponges of each other,” often sharing similar highs and lows. But this doesn’t mean working together is always smooth sailing.

Clashing Perspectives

Working closely with a significant other can be tough, with emotions stronger than they would be with an average coworker. Communication and openness are key to success, but sometimes other factors come into play.

Before Michelle came into his life, James always worked solo. As both programmer and creative lead of Ska Studios, James sees his work largely as his brainchild. Sometimes this balance of control leads to minor conflicts.

“We try really hard to work together and have a shared vision,” James says. “But the problem is I’m the coder and I attach everything together. Subconsciously or otherwise, I tend to just do it my way.”

Despite these difficulties, James and Michelle don’t recall ever having a significant fight that affected their work. Comparatively, Perception’s Amanda and Bill had qualms about working together, but also managed to push through.

“That was something I was personally a little bit apprehensive about going in,” Bill says. “We had collaborated for years and years on everything. I knew her perspective, I knew her style, and all of that. But you know, when you’re actually working in the trenches together, you never know how it’s going to go.”

This uncertainty can be a deal-breaker for some, and certain couples that work on games together face problems that can become unsolvable. This is what happened to Jessica Curry, who stepped down from working alongside her husband Dan Pinchbeck at Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture developer The Chinese Room in 2015. In a lengthy blog post, she noted how working alongside her husband caused issues. Whether it was the press giving all the credit to her husband, or even Dan himself discrediting her, she felt it was wise and healthy to step away from working alongside him.

“On a personal level I look back at my huge contribution to the games that we’ve made and I have had to watch Dan get the credit time and time again,” Curry wrote in the post. “I’ve realized that the only way I’m going to get credit for the work that I do is if I take a step away from Dan.”

This decision, while difficult, helped the couple move past this problem. As for Amy and Ryan Green, a couple from Colorado, they turned to game development to cope with trauma and heartbreak.

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During the original Destiny’s early years, then-composer Marty O’Donnell, composer Mike Salvatori, and Sir Paul McCartney (who is likely a canonical part of the Destiny universe) came together to create Music of the Spheres, a sort of musical accompaniment to the game (not to be confused to the game’s actual soundtrack). The project was never fully released due in part to a rift between O’Donnell and Destiny developer Bungie that eventually spawned a legal case. Now, however, it’s been leaked online.

The project is available on music website Soundcloud. Last month, O’Donnell tweeted that before the project was shelved, he gave away “nearly 100 copies” of Music Of Spheres. According to Kotaku, two fans who had attempting to the project from publicly available bits of the music were contacted by an anonymous owner of one of those copies, and have released the soundtrack online.

It’s likely Activision or Bungie will issue a takedown notice soon. For his part, however, O’Donnell seems supportive of the leak, tweeting both a photo of someone playing the songs on their computer and gratitude about Music of the Spheres being available.

To learn more about Music of the Spheres, you can check out our cover story feature delving into the project.

What a year, right? I’m going to try and create a temporary oasis from all of the horrors, disappointments, and overall awfulness that 2017 brought to bear on all of our lives. And what better way to do that than with poetry? And not just any poems – we’re talking haiku, the Cadillac Coupe de Ville of written verse. I looked back at the past 10 games that I played and have immortalized my experiences through that classic form.

You know, it’s basically that thing that I’ve done a few times before (herehereherehereherehere and here.). As always, you’re welcome. And no, you’re a slow news day.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Staring at a door
Waiting for him to enter
A Venus Guytrap

Night in the Woods
It’s just like my life
back when I was a young’un
but I’m a girl cat

Persona 5
This game is real cool.
Wait, that imp’s on a toilet?
Freaking anime.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Check out my hot take:
The breakable weapons are
the game’s weakest link

Assassin’s Creed Origins
I have one question:
(No, it’s not the pyramids)
“Why’d you shave, Bayek?”

Super Mario Odyssey
Never thought I’d see
what happened to Pauline or
Mario’s nipples

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
“It gets so crazy”
When does that happen? … Oh. wait.
OK, this is nuts.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
The series I loved
minus all of the good parts
Tom Nook would be proud

Overwatch
Mystery Heroes
The greatest possible mode
then I get Doomfist

Star Wars Battlefront II
“The Death Star Blew up?
“That’s where our bosses lived, right?”
“Moving right along…”

If you don’t have a fireplace, and don’t mind having a stranger in your home, you won’t find a better video to warm your day than Overwatch’s Yule Log Featuring Jeff Kaplan. For hours, Kaplan, the vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, has been sitting mostly motionless in a chair, resisting the urge to eat from a huge plate of cookies. At times, I thought the look on his face said “Should I make Overwatch 2?,” “I shouldn’t have eaten that last night,” and “I regret agreeing to do this stream.” Periodically, Kaplan will open a present. The present I saw him tear into contained a framed Overwatch image reading “I need healing.”

Humorous yule log videos are all over the place. Heck, you can even watch a Game Informer-themed one featuring Kyle Hilliard below. If you want to watch Kaplan, which we highly recommend, click here. He’s been going for a while now. Let’s see how long he lasts.

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Final Fantasy XV: One Year Later

It seemed like Final Fantasy XV had the odds stacked against it. Coming off the divisive Final Fantasy XIII and its spin-offs, a grueling development cycle spanning over a decade, and a change in directors midway through, the game had a lot to prove. Many questioned if the series could stay relevant in modern times where open-world RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher dominate the sales charts. Final Fantasy XV marked a big change for the franchise with a more open structure and action battle system. Much was riding on its success and, thankfully, it did what it needed to: earning accolades and reaching global sales of 6 million faster than any Final Fantasy entry to date. But perhaps its greatest achievement is its post-launch content, with a steady stream of free updates, paid DLC, and a multiplayer expansion. This model is different than anything Square Enix has done before with a single-player Final Fantasy game. We visited Square Enix’s studios in Japan to chat with the team, look back on how the game has changed through its first year, and see what’s in store for the future.

[Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in issue #297]

A New Approach

When director Hajime Tabata took the reins from Tetsuya Nomura back in 2014, he knew he had a lot to tackle not only on the game, but also with fans disappointed at the project’s lack of updates and continual delays. Instead of keeping things secretive, as Square Enix had done in the past, he openly enlisted the help of fans for feedback. He has always been fond of this direct communication style, and considered their opinions in the development process. “We had such a curiosity about how they’d take the game and how they’d react to it because obviously, this is not a game we set out to do on the same kind of direction as the previous entries,” he says. “We deliberately took [the series] in a new direction to try and expand and make it something new. We were excited to see what the traditional fans would think, but a bit scared at the same time as well.”

Tabata said the feedback was good, but he also heard many negative comments. That didn’t discourage him, though; he looked at it as an opportunity to improve those elements, even after launch. “We were told by the fans what we should be improving and expanding on in the series,” he says. To this day, the team keeps fans in the loop with a video feature called Active Time Report, which highlights the game’s continual progress.

All The Spin-Offs
Final Fantasy XV had its share of related projects spanning various media, from film to mobile games. This has caused some confusion about what all these parts entail and their necessity to the lore. But is it too much? Has the team felt it may be diluting the identity of Final Fantasy XV? “That’s something we are, in fact, very concerned about,” says director Hajime Tabata. “What we’re trying to do is actually quite simple in essence, but it’s something that maybe is quite difficult to get across. I think we’re going to have to work a bit harder to get that message across in the future. Obviously, the people who bought the main game are the most important to us. It’s a group of people we feel we have to value very highly, so expanding on the main game and improving it for those people is our number one priority. That’s what we’re really aiming for and it’s showing in what we’re doing. We also want to expand the audience and bring new people into it and these side games are a part of that.”

Since launch, Square Enix has been dishing out improvements – ranging from off-road modifications for the Regalia and an alternative take on the penultimate chapter – to fun content, such as a Moogle Chocobo Carnival and Assassin’s Festival, a collaboration with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise. Adding such substantial post-launch content is a radically different approach for a company steeped in tradition, but it was important to Tabata. “This is a game we kept people waiting for such a long time,” he explains. “We felt [that] rather than having the traditional model where you release the game and then say, ‘Okay, that’s it,” we’d rather go for the service-type model and take a bit longer to give back to those people because they’ve been waiting so long – we felt we had to give back to them somehow.”

Since this model was unfamiliar to Square, Tabata acknowledges it wasn’t conveyed well to players at launch. “What we could have done a little bit better was communicating the game as a service model and shared that information with the new players right from the start and gave them a [better] idea of what they can expect and what this whole overall project is about.”

Square Enix largely considers Final Fantasy XV a success, both from a financial standpoint and for bringing in new fans. Its profitability made the free updates possible. “The reason we decided to do [ongoing free updates] was looking at the day-one sales and the profits we made back on the game,” he says. “It’s also a way to thank the users who bought the game and give back to them as well. That was a big factor in deciding to do that one year of free updates. Of course that was a very limited period, limited to the first year of the game. We have to reexamine that and look at what we’re doing for our plan next year.”

The growth of the fan base is also starting to show. “I think since the release of Final Fantasy XV, there are a lot more people now who have played Final Fantasy and even if they haven’t, they have at least heard about it, or they never had any interest at all in Final Fantasy and they got a little bit [curious],” Tabata says. “That’s one big change that I’ve certainly felt myself happening.”

Tabata also takes note of how the demographic of the fan base shifted with this entry. The main volume of players used to be in their mid-30s, but now it’s mid-20s. “That’s not saying the fans in their 30s and 40s don’t like the game; they’re still in there as well, but I think it shows the amount of time and investment we put in this game,” he says. “The fact that we’ve expanded on the demographic of the user base there is a very big achievement and very important to the future of the franchise.”

This past year also included episodes focused on individual characters and a multiplayer expansion for purchase to keep hardcore fans invested. However, that’s hardly the end of the team’s plans to support the game in the future. “We actually only had a proper plan for the game up until the end of this year, and we were sitting down and like, ‘Okay, what are we going to do after that? Is that going to be the end? Where are we going to take this?’ We decided the best way [to figure that out] was to discuss it with the fans and get their opinions and find what they [still] wanted from the game. So we’ve done that now. We discussed with fans in Europe, America, and Asia as well. And we pretty much decided we want to carry on after that to finish off at the end of next year.”

Improving The Game

Most fans’ biggest complaints have already been addressed, from the problematic chapter 13 to the addition of New Game Plus. However, Tabata and his team feel there’s room for improvement and even new features left to implement. One of his biggest goals in the next year is to add more to the story and lore. “There is still something missing, not quite satisfactory yet, in the way the story explains itself and the information you get there – that’s what I think I need to still focus on,” Tabata says. As to what this entails, Tabata said he wants to go deeper into the background of some characters and their personalities alongside explaining more about Eos itself. “There’s more of a backstory to this world that this game takes place in than [the game] had,” he says.

Tabata also couldn’t help teasing more than just story enhancements. “There’s also one other thing – a completely new gameplay experience I want to provide to players of XV as well. I can’t tell you what that is yet, though. We’re currently thrashing through the plans for that and getting it into shape, so we can announce exactly what that is at the beginning of next year.”

He also clarified more regarding future DLC. “The important thing is [that] we want to release DLC that’s closely linked to the main game – the main story – and has a strong influence on that, rather than something somewhat peripheral and unrelated. That’s the kind of content we’re looking at.”

[Click to the next to learn more about multiplayer expansion and what’s in store for the future…]

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One of the things I love most about video games is their
ability to transport players to new and magical worlds, and no other game in
2017 delivered on that promise quite like Super Mario Odyssey. Sure, I enjoyed exploring
Aloy’s robot
dinosaur-laden landscape
and spent
more time
than I
care to admit
fighting off aliens in Destiny 2, but no game offered more
unbridled joy and creativity than our heroic plumber’s latest adventure.

But I didn’t just play through Odyssey with a big dopey
smile on my face the entire time – I also took screenshots. And because I can
be a highfalutin
artsy type
from time to time, I decided to run them through an app filter
like those cool (and maybe ironic?) millennials do. So without further, here is
my artistic ode to Super Mario Odyssey.

Note: Some of the images may contain spoilers for Super Mario Odyssey. Also, click on any image to view/download a larger version. 

Metamorphosis


Slack


Trending Tweet


The Unexpected


Life Electric


Afternoon Nap

 

Greed


Ode To The Open Sea

 

Dodging A Bullet

 

Heading East

Coming Up Next: Another wing of Super Mario Odyssey art…you know, like in a museum.

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Last year, I wrote about my love of podcast games, or grind-oriented games that pair exceptionally well with podcasts. I gave a few recommendations, too. I haven’t stopped listening while I play, thanks to games like Path of Exile, Pinball FX 3, and Overwatch. If you’re not sure where to start – or are just looking for some solid recommendations of shows that you may not have heard yet – you’ve come to the right place.

Let me preface these recommendations with a quick note. First, I already spend an awful lot of my day playing and thinking about video games. For that reason, I don’t listen to video game-related podcasts. Sorry. Additionally, I don’t expect that all of these will be a 100-percent hit for everyone out there. I will say that I have listened to dozens of hours of each one of these – binging through most of them in their entirety, when reasonably possible – and that I wouldn’t bring them up at all if I didn’t like ‘em. And I hope you find a few that you like, too!

The Best Show
With a name like that, it has to be good. Fortunately, Tom Scharpling’s long-running show is absolutely great. Each weekly episode clocks in at around three hours, but it flies by. A typical episode of the call-in show features an interesting guest, a jokey appearance from Jon Wurster (drummer for The Mountain Goats), and a bunch of regular callers. Listen to a few episodes, and you’ll probably start looking forward to some callers (and grind your teeth when others show up). Tom is the voice of Greg Universe on Steven Universe, but I first heard him from frequent appearances on Hollywood Handbook. He is legitimately the best. (Here’s a great clip from the show, where he and comedian Paul F. Tompkins talk about the Gathering of Juggalos.)

I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats
Since I brought up The Mountain Goats, it’s only fitting that I mention this show. I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats is a show from Welcome to Night Vale creator Joseph Fink, where he sits down with John Darnielle, the singer and songwriter from the band The Mountain Goats. It’s one of my favorite bands, so I’m probably a little biased here, but the show is a great listen even if you’re not a fan. Each episode breaks down a track from the album All Hail West Texas and then concludes with an all-new cover version of the featured song.

Dissect
If you like the idea of getting deep dives on albums, Dissect is another great option. Its first two seasons have featured song-by-song analyses of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Host Cole Cuchna does a fantastic job of digging into these songs, providing not only lyrical breakdowns of each track but also delving into chord progressions, the origins of the samples, and other music-nerd stuff. The show gave me a much deeper appreciation for each of those albums, and I’m looking forward to whatever Cole picks next. 

Doughboys
You like chain restaurants? How about filthy jokes from a pair of hosts who seem like they can barely stand to be in the same room together? Welcome to Doughboys, where actor Mike Mitchell (The Birthday Boys), comedy writer Nick Wiger, and a special guest go to a different chain restaurant each week and give their review of the food and overall experience. The cuisine may not always be great, but the show is. Usually. Even when it does go off the rails – something that happens with an alarming frequency – it’s one of my favorites. 

Heavyweight
I have a tendency to dwell on things way past their expiration date. It seems I’m not alone. Each episode of Heavyweight focuses on a person that has something in their past that they’re not able to get past – whether it’s an unspoken thought, bad breakup, or the fact that when you were both in college you loaned Moby the CDs that he used to later record the platinum-selling album “Play.” Host Jonathan Goldstein tries to give people a chance to confront those past situations head on, with often cringe-inducing results. 

The Nod
This may be a shocking revelation, but I’m a white guy. I know, I know, it’s pretty unusual considering I live in Minnesota. I like to hear about what other peoples’ experiences are like, which is why I really like The Nod. Hosts Brittany Luse (formerly of Sampler, RIP) and Eric Eddings talk about being Black in America through discussions that are frank, funny, and illuminating. At least, they’re illuminating to this white guy who lives in Minnesota. 

More Perfect
This podcast, from the creators of Radiolab (stealth recommendation!), highlights some of the most important decisions that the U.S. Supreme Court has made throughout the years, and provides context for how those decisions affect our daily lives. Recent episodes have tackled police use of force, the second amendment, and whether U.S. law can be applied to people who don’t live in the United States. And, oddly enough, it’s a really fun – or at the very least, interesting – show.

Wrongful Conviction
This one ain’t fun, but it’s important. Every episode of Wrongful Conviction highlights another case in the criminal-justice system where an innocent person was convicted and imprisoned for a crime, often for decades, before later being exonerated. Host Jason Flom is a founding board member of The Innocence Project, and his guests offer first-hand accounts of how the work of that organization and others can make a difference. Ultimately, it’s a terrifying glimpse into situations that any number of us could fall into, and a reminder of the power of skepticism.

The Turnaround
On a lighter note, Jesse Thorn doesn’t know what he’s doing. At least, that’s the impression that the radio host and podcaster likes to present when it comes to the art of the personal interview. In The Turnaround, Thorn has a high-profile guest from radio, television, and other media outlets on to talk about their own individual approach to interviewing people. Guests include Ira Glass, Larry King, and Werner Herzog. It seems everyone has their own way of preparing – which in some cases means no preparation at all. I can’t recommend this enough to anyone who’s interested in journalism or has a curiosity about how the stories they read, watch, or listen to are put together.

30 for 30
“Boo, sports!” That seems to be a common sentiment among people who play video games, but those people are missing the point. As ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series showed, a good story is a good story, even if it involves a sport or person that you don’t know anything about. The same sentiment has made the transition into podcasting, with ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast. Past topics include the rowdy world of bootleg T-shirts, the birth of the UFC, and the effect that EA’s John Madden Football series has had on the sport itself. I’ve listened to every episode, and there’s not a dud among them.

Did I miss any of your favorite shows? Let me know in the comments!