I would say the original but the technical issues (frame-rate, texture pop-in, etc...) really ruin it for me.
Edit: Also the Mako. Fuck the Mako.
I feel like the second one had vastly better gameplay than the first. I do greatly respect the first one's RPG numbers and the ability to actually build a character (somewhat) as opposed to a few numbers here and there in the second game so they can keep the "RPG" label, but ultimately the superior mechanics and better level design trumps my complaints of a pared-down RPG system and pitiful gun count.
Forgoing the gameplay, the plot thread in Mass Effect 1 is definitely better but I found myself caring a whole lot more about the goings-on of the second game because the characters were far better rounded and infinitely more like-able. Some of the ME1 characters were OK but I enjoyed the turn Garrus took and I liked Thane and Mordin Solus, those names I remember. I don't really remember much about the characters of the first game.
I don't mean to trash the first game because it definitely has its merits, and the second game isn't even within throwing distance of perfection, but ultimately the second is just a better all-around game. Besides, the second gets kudos for taking a risk and killing off any teammates that you chose not to help or weren't really in good standing with - that idea took me by surprise and firmly planted that game into my memory.
I'm fresh outta 3 so this is a pertinent question for me. I'm gonna go with 2. Fixed a lot of the annoying stuff about 1, fleshed out an interesting universe and was fun as hell almost all the way through (which I can't say of 1 or 3). Also, Mordin.
I like how 3 has not been mentioned at all, even in passing :P That game was fine. Just not as good as 2.
I like them all a lot, but Mass Effect 2 is definitely my favorite. I prefer the squad members and how we get to interact with them in ME2, so I think that has a big hand in me liking the second game more. I do enjoy the story in ME1 the most, and I like some of the combat and skill tree changes that they made in ME3 (except the grenades, fuck those things). Funny how they each excel in different ways.
Mass effect 2, it played so much better than the first had excellent characters and storyline. It was the closest of the three games to come to striking the perfect combination between story, gameplay and rpg elements where as each game on it's own seemed to have it's strength in only one of these areas. It was also the only game of the three I wanted to re-play immediately after I completed it and the only one I S ranked. I also loved the suicide mission set up.
Mass Effect 1
Shit gameplay but the writing, atmoshpere and tone was impeccable. It did such a great job at introducing this wonderful universe, it truly felt like a huge living universe populated by various races and cultures. The sequels pissed all that away, they'll never re-capture that magic.
They all have their high points. ME1 has the best story and level design, but crappy combat and inventory.
ME2 has the best characters, best use of the interrupt system and much improved combat, but the story isn't very good and the RPG elements were too stripped down.
ME3 has the best character/weapon customization, combat, and pretty great multiplayer, but the story is kind of terrible, planet scanning blows, and there are too many fetch quests.
a year ago i would have said part 1 easy. But the process of replaying 1 and 2 to get my save game prepared for 3 totally turned me around. 1 is great but so hampered by a lack of polish and those awful planet missions that i loved so much the first time around, were nearly unbearable this time. 2 on the other hand is thoroughly exciting no matter how many times you go through it. The characters are fantastic and that final mission is so full of tension and possibilities. 2 edges out 1 by a hair.
God damn, I don't know.
ME blew me away when it came out and I still love it, but looking back on it it reminds me of the first Assassin's Creed in a way. Both games were experiments of sorts and had some things that worked well, and others that didn't. Mass Effect's experimental ambition was to create a universe full of planets to explore. The problem was in order to do that they made a bunch of cookie cutter planets which, in contrast to the kick ass main story planets, felt empty and dull and repetitive. Still it's the game I have the most nostalgia for in the series, and the one I have played the most. I've finished it 3 times already, and likely I'll go back for a 4th and maybe even 5th time down the line.
2 had my favorite main quest arc of the three games. The suicide mission aspect of it gave the game focus and a sense of immediacy which I didn't feel in the first. It also addressed the planet that by cutting down on the number of planets you could actually explore, but making each more dynamic and tied most of them to kick ass side quests. But what they changed character system was more of a mixed bag, for me. I liked that each class was more unique, and how now playing a sentinel felt completely different than playing a biotic or a infiltrator or so on. But they stripped down the RPG elements, and I was sad to see them go. I missed the sheer number of powers you had in the first game, and the myriad options to choose when improving upon them.
3's best trait, in my opinion, was that it had a nice mix of 1's combat options and 2's unique classes. And when it comes down to it, the way the Tuchanka sequence played out in my game might be the best and certainly was most emotional sequence out of all the games, for me. And it was in large part because my choices in previous games unexpectedly came back to bight me in some tragic ways. But other than Tuchanka (and perhaps to a lesser extent, Rannoch) I felt the games missions weren't up to snuff. Whether that is a result of the writing of the scenarios failed to live up to the highs of the previous games and the best moments of 3 itself, or the scenarios themselves just being uninteresting, I'm not entirely sure. I guess I'll need to play it again to get a better impression of that. Also I felt the game was lacking in characterization and dialogue in general. I think I loved the talking in Mass Effect more than the shooting and space magic, ultimately. I loved the choices. I loved deciding to be a dick to someone. Or deciding to be nice. Or kicking someone out a goddamn window because fuck that guy. There wasn't enough of that in 3.
In conclusion: "Ahem... Fuck you I can't choose.
But if you're gonna press me on it and if I have to pick just one, I suppose it'd be the original since it's the one I want to play the most."
Mass Effect 2. Never had that legendary experience with Mass Effect 1 a lot of people are talking about. 2 was straight up a better game. I think the story and villain in 1 is definitely better though.
As for 3, it was fine. Tuchanka and Rannoch were the high points of that game, but other than that... Also, I finished 1 and 2 multiple times, while I never saw the ending of 3. That speaks a lot about what I think about it.
1, easily. I didn't enjoy 2 and felt pretty betrayed by BioWare. Didn't even play 3 because it looked like 2 but to even more extremes.
Everything people complain about for ME1 I loved. I loved managing the inventory (it wasn't bad as long as you didn't hoard everything and sold between each couple missions), I loved the Mako, I loved the skill trees, I loved the RPG-influenced combat that wasn't just a shooter with abilities. I also played on PC so I didn't have any technical issues at all. I also loved the story, whereas I felt the story in 2 was the typical awful BioWare 'do this repetitive gathering of your party and then fight a thing: the game' that they seemed to have fallen into after ME1.
Simply put: I played through ME2 to completion and then uninstalled it the next day; I've played through the entirety (i.e. all side missions) of ME1 three separate times and I still have it installed for my inevitable next playthrough.
ME3 takes the cake for me. I am a sucker for the cheap tricks that it used to pull at my emotions. I genuinely felt sad at some points.The gameplay was much more refined: As a Vanguard on Insanity I was glad that I could actually use my biotics instead of having 2 levels of shields blocking it for all enemies all the time. It just felt more exciting and well paced.
ME1 was just OK. It's bad that I pin it all on one thing but the Mako really left a bad taste in my mouth. And when I had to sacrifice a teammate I just picked at random because I didn't care for either of them.
ME2 was great but somehow I didn't feel as invested in the characters and the gameplay was just slightly worse than ME3. ME2 does take credit for introducing Mordin to me though. He is awesome.
I still think calling ME1 the best is totally crazy, but I guess you are all entitled to your opinion and whatnot. Personally, there are just too many little things (the way the frame rate tanks, all the texture pop-in, loading times) and big things (the RPG systems are neither interesting nor especially deep, the Mako, inventory) for me to be able to remember it entirely fondly. It has a much more distinctive tone than the other two (the film grain is super heavy and the soundtrack is pretty much all synth), but I find it actively unfun to play at times.
Mass Effect 2 on the other hand relied on what I think Bioware is good at, namely vignettes and side characters. Say what you will about how it dissents from the tone of the first one or how the main plot makes zero sense if you think about it at all, I think the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.
Mass Effect 3 is like 2 but not as good and with an ending that will be infamous in games forever, though that's partially because of how utterly childish and retarded the fan response was. Still, I enjoyed it.
I went with the last option as I really don't have a favorite.
The first one was a great introduction to that universe and had the best main story of all three. It also had the best RPG aspects of the series (taken too far in some cases) but, the poor technical performance and weak gunplay hamper it a bit. Also, squadmates were the least interesting here and were damn near useless in battle. Also, the best soundtrack of the series... probably.
2 not only brought about some pretty massive improvements to gameplay and performance but also has the best cast of squadmates in the series, which were able to be decently used strategically in combat this time. Where 2 hit a snag is in the reductions it had from 1. The reduced focus on exploration (I missed going to random planets and The Citadel), weapons, and powers were all a bit jarring for me. That said, I actually liked how they handled armor in this one over the first. 2 also has the weakest main story of the series. Really bad final boss.
Finally, I think 3 has gotten a way worse rap than it deserves for some reason. The combat is at its zenith here and the return of more weapon choices and customization were welcome; it was the middle ground between 1 and 2 when it comes to RPG vs. shooter. Wrapping up the story of all these characters that have been introduced, and doing so in mostly satisfying ways was a pretty enormous task and Bioware rose to it. Even if I didn't get to have someone like Mordin in my squad anymore, I at least got to see him again and see the end of his arc. I also appreciate that the atmosphere in the game is downright depressing a lot of the time. The events taking place are bleak and Bioware didn't shy away from portraying that. Much like the "rpg-ness", the main story falls between 1 and 2. Stronger than 2 but not as focused as 1, I blame the rush they seemed to be under. Now, the ending. Was the original one good? No, but I think many people still blew it way out of proportion. No point in going into too much depth about it all as we all know the details by now, I'm sure. I do think the Extended Cut dlc did fix most of the issues but also created a couple of minor new ones that I wasn't thrilled with. I wasn't bothered by the fetch quests but they did rely on them too much.
So, yeah. Each one has had its ups and downs and been great for different reasons... and honestly I think that's one of the things that has made the franchise one of the best in the industry.
Mass Effect 2 is a much more personal game. It's one of the few examples in videogames in which I actually understood the characters. It contains a lot of memorable moments like Mordin's song. Plus, the extreme sexual tension between my female Shepard and Kelly.
Ill be in the minority but im going to have to say Mass Effect 3 since to me that game was brilliant. All the little nods and throwbacks to stuff from 1 and 2 were pretty awesome and the emotion the game trys to pull for the most part works quite well. It also doesnt hurt that its easily the funnest of the games in the series to actually play since the shooting isnt as clunky as it was in 1 or 2.
I replayed 1&2, "gearing-up" for the release of 3. Actually, I started after 3 came out. I listened to all the controversy/drama about the ending. I looked at the reviews. I even watched the ending on youtube. I got kinda excited watching the "conspiracy/REAL ending" stuff with the supposed indoctrination angle. Then I went back through the first 2. I did new game plus on the first one, and re-imported my character into 2 and got some upgrades for having a previous completion save.
I've gotta say, I still like 1 the most, with 2 a close "second". I liked the possibilities that existed before the wrapping up of the 3rd's story. I liked having an inventory like 1, even though it was cumbersome. Vehicle sections of the "planet" (read gameplay field) made the world fell fleshed out as though there was more to the game than tight corridor shooting with enemies that run AT your gunfire. ME2 was fine and dandy, IMHO. Turning the game towards a shooter path was understandable and the backstory team/party missions made me care about who I was saving the galaxy with. It had its flaws like the silly planet scanning, but it was a small price to pay for the ability to finish the game killing the ENTIRE party and yourself.
I'm sad to say, I didn't complete ME3. Just got fed up with the story simply trying to tie up loose ends and being forced down corridors to kill enemies into a cutscene. I guess I know how people who hate later Metal Gear games. I just found the combat to be a slog.
ME2 had hub sections, Tuchunka/Omega, and in ME3, as far as I got, only had the Citadel. I just found it to be a big dissapointment, and the extended endings finally came out and trashed any of what I thought the story could end as...kinda like I felt with LOST.
TL:DR, ME1 bestest to me, then 2 then 3.
ME1 will always have a special place in my heart that the other two just don't. The fresh new ideas, the soundtrack, the future sci-fi setting, the (admittedly a bit shallow) RPG mechanics--all these things made it such a rewarding video game experience that was truly new and impressive at the time.
ME2 had some solid character writing and added some great world building and interesting lore to the ME universe. The main plot was hokey, but they developed a lot of potentially really interesting conflicts and situations with the various races(Genophage, Quarian/Geth war,the situation on Tuchanka, places like Illium, Omega and Bekenstein etc.).
It never went anywhere in 3, but that's not ME2's fault.
EDIT: wow, its amazing how little votes ME3 got.
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