The games that I'm going to talk about here aren't anything but some of my personal faves. There might be better, there are definitely worse, some of them are on ancient platforms. My histories may be wrong. Whatever.
The game that's now doing it to me is Sid Meyers' Civilization 3. I started playing Civ when it was the somewhat related boardgame, put out at the time by Avalon Hill. An amazing game, it required at least four players and at least 6 hours. When I was in highschool, we used to get together in the little river cabin of a friend of mine outside of town, load up with Mountain Dew, run to the bar nearby for pizza when the time came. We got maybe 10 games fully played in about two-three years.
Avalon Hill (as I recall) had to give Meyers permission to use the name. Civ 1 was something I found at my dad's house, back when I had a Mac Centris. It came on several 3.5 inch disks and oh my god. I was living in an apartment by myself, kinda working and kinda going to school, and it was hours and hours. Then, when I'd switched to the PC world (work and games) I overcame my stingy and got Civ 3 (skipping Civ 2, which was a major PC title.)
I recently felt the need to play something a little deeper, because I'd been playing a couple of others; Freecell, Wierd Worlds (more later) and Fate, which was a Diablo clone.
Diablo and Diablo 2 are both examples of the kill things, take their stuff, sell their stuff, get better things to kill things, rinse and repeat game. (This genre is known as 'hack and slash') Blizzard titles, they have great interfaces, simple concepts, and good stragegy. (Fate, which was my last purchase, is Diablo-like, and it's OK but not the shit.)
I have a friend who refuses to put Diablo on any of his harddrives, bought upwards of 10 copies, and spent real money on fake game stuff. I never got that financially into the game, but man, did I put hour upon hour into it.
Both Civ and Diablo can take hours at a time. On the other hand, Wierd Worlds: Return to Infinite Space by scratchware developer Digital Eel can be over in 15 minutes. So it's time for another!!
The sequel to Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, Wierd Worlds is tasty fun. You fly around, get stuff, find enemies, blow them up and take their stuff. (Sound familiar?) And then you do it again!
This fits the same niche as card games, except it's science-fictiony and written by someone with 5 skill levels in Teh Funny.
And for those who want a politics-games crossover, go spend time at Man!festo Games.
Showing that I am indeed a true and deep geek, I will now drop two games in the huge D and D empire into the mix; Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and Planescape:Torment.
I, with four of my friends, ran a 3 round AD and D tournament at Gencon (gamer mecca) for five years. My active roleplaying career stretched from ages 15 to 35. I've since gotten political, which eats into said time. (I did run a superhero game for many years.)
I ain't got much to say about D and D, except I was there, man, I was there. If you get it, you got it, if not - may Bigby's Extended Finger give you the message.
Planescape: Torment narrowly beats out Fallout as my fave CRPG. And the Wikipedia entry on CRPGs tells why:
In most computer role-playing games, character advancement does not affect the characterization of the player character. Planescape: Torment and Fallout both stand as notable exceptions to this trend for their inclusion of complex quest structures and NPC behaviors that were altered depending on the player's choices, with Torment taking into account the player's predilection for law or order and Fallout introducing reputation-based traits such as "Child Killer" or "Gigolo."
The richness of those two games - the writing - made them interactive novels in a way that most games don't. I got into Morrowind, yeah, with it's freedom to act, and create your own structures, and if I weren't a cheapskate and was willing to pay for a comptuer that would run Oblivion, I'd be blogging in two sentence entries every 3 days. But it is the writing (and the well-known game mechanics of D and D) that made it for me. I remember when I reached the end of the game, when the storyline peaked; and it wasn't a happy ending. Kudos to the writer. (who was either Colin McComb or Chris Avallone. (OK, the writer was Avallone, but Colin deserves a link as well.)
And while I'm on CRPGs, the cultural and political content of Grim Fandango deserve a link as well. Where else can you settle a strike by dockworker bees?
The final position (and yeah, I mentioned more than five) goes to World of Warcraft.
I spent more time on Everquest than I did WoW. I also spent way more money, because all of my WoW time was spent playing the beta. I got into it early, and it was awesome. Fortunately for my sanity and pocketbook, I recognized that the wonderful colors, beautiful art, clever characters, solid interface, and odd adventures would have threatened my job, my marriage, and most of my other relationships. But if you want to know what massively multiplayer online RPG to play, it's WoW.