Like food, games can provide comfort in a time of need - be it a need for something familiar or just a quick pick-me-up after a particularly distressing day. Here's a list of my current favorite stick-to-your-ribs games. You should chime in with yours in the comments!
1) Burnout 3 - Burnout 3 allows me to experience a perfect storm of visual and aural noise. It's not just the engrossing Road Rage mode, which pits opponents against each other in a shunt-vs-shunt auto-porn fest, but the custom soundtrack which rivets me. I grind fenders to the tune of Jim Thirlwell (I prefer driving to his classic 'Pussywhipped' remix of Front 242's 'Religion', Asche ('Riding On The Atomic I.C.E.' is always a lark), Haujobb (nothing's better than the 'High Frequency' remix of 'Dream Aid') and even Sleater-Kinney ('Entertain' is surprisingly fun to crash to) and more. While sober, it completely fuels my gaming cells. While inebriated it overcharges them. Nuts to Burnout Revenge's traffic-checking madness, Burnout 3 incites real vehicular drama that moves my very core.
2) Guitar Hero - It's no secret that I love Guitar Hero, and the hours and hours I've spent playing the game make it particularly suitable for a day that require mindless winding-down and external reinforcement of just how hard I can rock. After a few playthroughs of Take It Off or Unsung, I can't help but find myself gleeful despite a day of horrendous events.
3) Mega Man 2 - This Capcom classic has been with me since I was a kid, and I know it like the back of my hand. I'm sure that, if blindfolded, I'd somehow intuitively be able to maneuver through the levels, but I'd much rather be able to view it in all of its 8-bit goodness and remind myself of the good times.
4) Samba de Amigo - Call me crazy, but I actually prefer playing this with the Dreamcast controller instead of the maracas. Of course, that might be because we've never been able to get our maracas to work properly, but hey, I feel I can better reach "the zone" and be a more precise maraca champion without them. Plus, no matter how many drinks I have, it's always fun and never infuriating. Lastly, I bowl better thanks to Samba & Ricky Martin, and that's nothing to scoff at (okay, some maybe it is - but just a little)!
5) Zoo Keeper - Yet another game I've been vocal about. Its puzzle-ways have properly numbed my mind in times of need, and I suspect it'll do so many more times. Is it derivative? Sure. Have any recent casual game managed to out-shine it in my mind? No way.
And the runners-up:
1) Crazy Taxi - Sadly Burnout 3 has stolen its vehicular thunder, but I occasionally return to it when I'm shunt-ed out. A pulsepounding soundtrack and excellent energy keep it from being completely lapped though!
Runner-up 2) Viewtiful Joe - Sadly, there's only room for two excellent Capcom platformers on this list, and Joe's just a bit too recent to get anything but bronze.