My wife asked me this the other day, and what I thought was a pretty inane question actually turned into an absolute mind-tearer. Why? Because I wouldn't take my favourite game.
That game is Wind Waker. I love it with every ounce of my heart, but faced with the prospect of playing only one game for weeks, months or maybe even years at a time (my desert island has power but no internet, OK?), I had to pause. It's my favourite game, sure, but it's far from the one I play the most.
In fact, I don't think I've played through it in the last five years. I'm even getting hazy on plot specifics. The impact it made on me at release was profound, one that may never be beaten, but it's just not something I replay over and over, nor is it something I put on when I've got a rainy day to myself.
That's different to, say, my favourite comic. Or movie. Or album. Of those, the ones I've consumed the most are my favourites. That's why I've consumed them the most.
If I had to take one game away, though, it would probably be Empire: Total War. I've played over 400 hours of it since release, and when you add the 300+ I've spent on its sequel Napoleon: Total War, you can see I have a love for sending colourful men with muskets to their deaths. I can spend entire days playing this game, and regardless of how much I've played previously, I just keep coming back for more.
The reason it's on constant repeat, and Wind Waker isn't, is because of its narrative. I don't play games for challenge, or competition. I play games for escape, for story, for immersion in another world, and the fact Wind Waker's was so enjoyable and so complete played a big part in why I love it. But the second time you play it, you're playing the same story. The game doesn't change.
Total War, on the other hand, builds you a new "narrative" every single time you play it. Each alliance, invasion and conquest writes a new story, one that will only play out once. The King of France might be your sworn enemy one game, your best friend the next. It's a structure shared by games like Crusader Kings II and civilisation, which explains why I love those to death as well. Each playthrough is like an all-new story, one you're writing with each turn.
Comparing the two games, and why I've played one so much more than the other, has been an interesting exercise. One that's got me reconsidering my criteria for how I determine what my "favourite" video game really is. Simply comparing playtime is crude and ineffective; of more use was looking at why I spent way more time with Empire than I did with Wind Waker.
In the end, I couldn't budge. Empire may have a stranglehold on my spare time, but I couldn't sit you down in a bar and shout at you - like some current and former Kotaku writers can attest - about how "fucking magical" it is like I can with Wind Waker. That passion is about as good a criteria as any to keep Nintendo's adventure at the top of my charts.
What about you guys? Do you play Pokémon every day but prefer Deus Ex? Pass your train ride with Temple Run but still saddle up with Skyrim? If so, ever ask yourself why?