What’s Your Favourite Game Name?

What’s in a name? Loads, it turns out. Flicking through the review list of a (nameless) games magazine recently, it struck me how generic the majority of game names can seem – especially without any accompanying graphics or even a recognisable brand font.

Once you’ve actually played a game, it’s hard to keep the style, tone and even characters from your mind the second your eyes read a game name. Even to the point where, personally, simple words like ‘Portal’ now entirely belong to the world of Aperture Science and GLaDOS or when a Halo has far more to do with the Masterchief than with angels and saints.

So what makes a good title?

As with a lot of wordy things, simplicity plays a big part. The working title for the mega successful Plants Vs. Zombies franchise was ‘Lawn of the Dead‘. In some ways, it’s a better title but, on the other hand, it also doesn’t describe the game play as well and also seems potentially more niche (and after Shaun of the Dead, it perhaps risked being Yawn of the Dead for that sort of pun. Hmmn… would Yawn of the Dead make a good game?)

As well as game play, I think the most powerful thing titles convey is tone. As much as I analyse titles like Silent Hill to be anagrams of ‘Instil Hell’, mostly it works as a title because it just *sounds* creepy. It seems like it’s really easy to over think names which is how we seem to end up with a great deal of very committee-conceived sounding [Insert Franchise Name]: Operation Shadow Revenge Evolution on our shelves. (The colon seems to be a tell-tale sign)

I started writing this post before we started developing a game of our own which we’re now mulling several titles for. I know it’s out there, but we’re just waiting for that final moment of inspiration and clarity that will tie everything together and seems so obvious now you think of it.

Mind you, I think lots of great games have terrible titles (again, no names!) And, vice versa, a good title doesn’t necessarily mean a good game. (Check out this great list of games that seem to satisfy neither category).

So, genuine question. What’s your favourite game name? And does it belong to your favourite game?

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  1. Daryl - 26/11/2012 - 12:43

    Bare with me on this…The abbreviation of Call of Duty Black Ops to “COD Blops” (must be quickly said after one another)….just because if I was to say a decade ago to you there will be a game in the near future known as “COD Blops” and it contains epic proportions of killing and destruction and will generate billions of pounds world wide. You would double take.

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  2. John - 21/11/2012 - 09:47

    Thanks, everyone!

    Is QWOP actually a good title in an of itself though? Or just it just bring a smile to our faces because we know what daft fun the game is?

    Johan Sebastian Joust though… absolutely!! 🙂

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  3. Elsa - 20/11/2012 - 18:24

    Fav game names:

    Johan Sebastian Joust
    GIRP and MegaGIRP

    The list could go on.

    agree with Shadow of Colossus and AaaAAaaAAaaa too

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  4. Liam - 20/11/2012 - 15:09

    My favourite games often come in the form of parts of a series. This usually brings really long titles.

    The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
    The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

    That’s not to say there aren’t some dynamite single/double word titles out there for me.

    Half Life
    Guild Wars
    Raptor (old shareware game, spent hours playing and recently discovered an iPhone app version!)

    Nice article, John!

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  5. James - 20/11/2012 - 14:59

    Misread this as favourite name of a CHARACTER in a game–which would be Guybrush Threepwood from my favourite game, ‘The Secret of Monkey Island.’

    However, upon further review, I’ll agree with John that ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ is a fantastic title. I’m also a fan of ‘Streets of Rage,’ because it also sounds like the title of a low-budget ’80s action film. And ‘Wasteland,’ the spiritual ancestor of the ‘Fallout’ series.

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  6. John - 20/11/2012 - 14:21

    Some grand choices all round!

    Interesting how (apart from long jokey titles) a lot of great games do seem to have one-word names. There always seemed to be a ‘wisdom’ in the film industry that great films had two words in them (you know… like ‘Jaws’ o_O) so I wonder if there’s any kind of pattern forming for statistically latches onto our brains!

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  7. Laura - 19/11/2012 - 18:09

    I like ‘Katamari’. It’s a really fun game too.

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  8. Paul - 19/11/2012 - 15:45

    Civilization and DOOM.

    Both one word titles, both describe concepts (but only concepts – not characters, objects, objectives or actions) applicable to the game.

    Oh, and if you shorten Civilization to Civ, as everyone surely does, then both are only one syllable.

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  9. Dan Hett - 19/11/2012 - 11:22

    Interesting article. It’s all in the name!

    Of course, the greatest videogame names in history all come from the same developer, Dejobaan:

    – ‘AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity’
    – ‘Monster Loves You’
    – ‘Drunken Robot Pornography’
    – ‘1… 2… 3… Kick It! Drop That Beat Like An Ugly Baby’


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  10. John - 19/11/2012 - 11:10

    Having asked the question, these are my own answers –

    I think Shadow of the Colossus, Heavy Rain, Earthworm Jim, Final Fantasy, Portal and Frogger are my favourite game names.

    Two games I really love (but which have pretty un-evocative titles) actually both had alternate titles, neither of which really do the game justice: Deadly Premonition/The Red Seed Murders and Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy.

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