Favoritest Games Ever
This game defined my childhood in far reaching manner. So much about the setting and story of this game i find hauntingly beautiful. This game more than any other encapsulates a dark fantasy world I would love to explore more than any other. The sound design and soundtrack are among the most influential of any game ever released, cementing Koji Kondo as a soundtrack GOD.
There is no amount of appraise I can levy towards this game that could communicate how much I love it. I'll just cover the basics of why it is brilliant. Minimalist design focused on enacting thematic battles with godlike beasts roaming an empty painted landscape. Best soundtrack in a game, ever, by Ko Otani. Thoughtful pacing that distinctly lacks superficial trappings of conventional game design favoring a very focused objective. Plenty of time to explore portraits and crenelated valleys in a world no other game has managed to so thoughtfully paint. No kill rooms, endless henchmen to enact genocide upon, or contrived puzzles. No combos, points, tallies, head shots, awards, ratings, gold stars or other bullshit.
I also need to mention how Shadow of the Colossus is yet another book of the game developers Bible.
I have always preferred to explore more than to be narrowly guided through an adventure, and Metroid Prime rewarded that part of me more than any other game save Zelda had done before. I also absolutely love the how Retro studios is able to manage so much exposition through so minimal effort, relying on Environmental design, art assets, and very brief journal entries to build a believable setting. I can also appreciate the wonderful steam-punk Brian Froud inspired art design more than most.
Half-Life 2 is yet another book in the game developers Bible. Valve teaches us how to include exposition for your story within the game, rather than including it as a separate entity in the form of a cinematic, codec conversation, or Otacon. Valve also teaches us how teach the gamer how to play the game by instilling basic principles of the games design, expanding upon them in the form of tier challenges reinforcing these principles, and then appexing the principal and pacing of the game by having the concept be taught in a climactic watershed setting that then effortlessly shifts to the next bread crumb trail. Valve also teaches us how to embrace the input of the gamer, and to not become to beholden to your own craft.
Exploring the mind and its layered, symbolic archives of inadequacies, tortured memories, hidden and forbidden desires and complex emotions, Psychonauts is one of the few games to ever climb the imposing heights of Character development and live to tell the tale. Few games have denizens so fully fleshed out and uniquely bizzare, and almost no games are quite as hilarious. Consider Psychonauts a game for the Psychoanalyst, or rather, any person with a keen interest in inhabiting the mind of all but the most disturbed individual. To understand a person is to inhabit the space of existence fabricated by their fleshly lobes, nestled within the 'crenellated caverns of nerves and neurons' so to speak. This game spins a yarn and speaks a language that games to this day have yet to speak. It is because of this that I eagerly anticipate the announcement of a sequel, without bated breath.
With a unique setting and the tried and true Bioware formula laid out as foundation, Jade Empire makes for an excellent and approachable RPG for an audience unfamiliar or even disinterested in the traditional RPG. Dispelling antiquated mechanics like turn based excel spreadsheet battles for a more simplistic Rock/Paper/Scissors system that is easy to understand, Jade Empire still manages to offer an intelligent and challenging game for any who play. The story is interesting, takes the appropriate turns it should, and is filled with an ensemble cast of Bioware archetypes. What this means for you is back-story's to explore, dialog tree's to pursue and romantic entanglements to be tangled. This is a strongly recommended game for those who do not like to play the traditional 'game', but yearn for an interesting and unique fantasy story. This does not come with the baggage of a starwars game based in a Dungeons and Dragons rule set AKA Kotor, or the trappings of a Star Trek inspired Gears of War lite such as Mass Effect.
This game is one of Books of the Game Developers Bible, this book teaches developers to make a good control mechanic that is simple to learn, and dynamic in its utility. It teaches developers to allow the player to interact with their environment in more meaningful and expanded ways. It also teaches developers to grant the player forgiveness for their sins, for they know not what they do, so give them a fucking rewind mechanic.
With a grim premise, bleak setting, and disturbing plot for you to follow you would think Fallout 3 would be a drag to play. Somehow, the promise of an immense irradiated landscape to explore manages to pull you in more than you would think, and the depressingly bleak backdrop serves as a great narrative tool to portray scenarios and stories usually reserved for more heavy hitting sci-fi stories than your average game. Exploring the wasteland and reenacting a steampunk/sci-fi Western version of The Road meets Mad Max creates a unique world that allows the designers to layer exposition toying with iconic and familiar imagery one moment, and yet also portray a completely abstract setting the next moment without missing a beat. The game is full of bugs, unpolished assets, control issues, terrible animation, disgusting character models and various other video game misdemeanors, yet it also manages to thoroughly establish a setting and narrative better than any other. It does this by creating a seamless, open ended world for you to explore however you wish. It is because of this there are the aforementioned bugs and felonies, yet I am willing to take the good with the bad. More than willing, as this is something of a recurring theme with the setting as well, as you find yourself placed in situations where there are no clearly good outcomes, and you are forced to paint a world with shades of grey, and other unsavory yet beautiful colors.
I can imagine most Silent Hill fans would rather put one of the Newer Silent Hill American clones on a favorite list sooner than place this entry, but I have a rather soft spot for this game. While I can understand most fans complaints with the gameplay elements, I believe that the core concept of the game is able to carry this game above any other Silent Hill game for me. The idea of a Horror game centered around a man trapped in his room, peering out of his confined psyche into the outside world desperately trying to communicate to any one is simply terrifying. The subtlety and depth of the setting work on a psychological level that no other Silent Hill game except for the second operate on. So desperately alone, removed from society, trapped within the memories of a man he has never met. Reliving his troubled life, reliving moments as if flipping the pages of a disturbed religious tomb. There are so many wonderful ideas bottled within this game that I am willing to forgive the rather mediocre gameplay elements to favor the excellent narrative.
Also, the Soundtrack for this game ranks amongst my favorites. Akira Yamaoka is a supremely talented musician who's tastes draw from a similar pool to my own. I can easily imagine Radiohead, Scott Walker and Tangerine Dream as being inspiration for the sound.
Admittedly, the setting might not have an instant appeal. Balancing heavy dystopian themes with a lighter Miyazaki Porko Rosso like artistic design and setting, the elements can seem to be at odds. This might have worked against the game had they focused more heavily on the darker elements of the dystopian world, but instead Michele Ancel chose to favor a more abstract approach to the overtones and a more detailed approach to the fantastic, which makes this game both deep and subtle without coming off as superfluous and faux-precocious.
GTA: San Andreas is a game that consists of the interplay of 3 separate games that fluidly transition from one to the other and mesh to create a whole. The 3 separate games are GTA’S Racing game, GTA’s 3rd Person Action Game and the GTA Meta RPG. The first two games are used to advance any goal and support any conflict for the player whilst the Meta RPG element is where you spend all of your down time and is what also drives you (pardon the pun) to receive a reward for a goal. While the previous GTA games in the franchise had a limited Meta RPG element sealing the game together, GTA: San Andreas went balls out with the RPG elements, creating a much more comprehensive economy to the game, a gang war strategy mechanic, a pseudo-rpg experience/skill system and a larger variety of side quests. The setting for GTA is a lot more modern and much less nostalgic than Vice City, and supports a much larger cast of characters than the first two combined. Critically speaking, the approach to design favoring bigger, better, and badass tends to leave a rather ho-hum aftertaste for those expecting a more polished experience over a large quantity of content. Many fans of the franchise favor the previous entry in the series (Vice City) over San Andreas. I tend to favor San Andreas over Vice City purely because of how much it embraces the over the top satiric absurdity of the franchise, rather than attempt to become a self serious filmic doppelganger (GTA IV epitomizes this goal). Having tried to go back and play Vice City, I can say with certainty that San Andrea’s is the better of the two. Once you eliminate the superficially appealing setting and story elements (sorry, I don’t play GTA for the story) of Vice City, what is left is a game that is not nearly as developed and tight to play as San Andreas.
I am a little embarrassed to admit how much I like this game, but I feel it must be stated and justified. Doom 3 is the System Shock sequel that preempted Bioshock. While Bioshock covered itself with heady themes and art-deco designs, Doom 3 had the misfortune of having a rather cliched science Fiction horror vibe that failed to impress an audience on the fence about the genre. However, I am of a position where I happen to like Doom 3 for what it does as a game, in that it offers a very tight experience, unfettered by precocioius themes piled upon it, much like Bioshock had. Where as Bioshock attempted to tackle complex and disturbing themes involving Objectivisim, dystopia, and Eugenics, BIoshock only manage to apply the themes to the setting and never managed to integrate it into the story or narrative in any meaningful way. Doom 3 only wishes to be a heavy metal horror fest, and it does pull you into the setting. Bioshock pulls you into the setting as well, and may accomplish this better in some respects. But what Doom does, and it does well, is that it stays consistent, polished, and well creatfted throughout its entirety. Bioshock is a mixed bag of poor pacing, inconsistent level design, slow moving story, and crudely crafted game mechanics. I happen to think Doom 3 is a little more influential than most people give it credit for, I would suggest it was partly responsible for the resurgence of games of a similar genre that followed, due in part to Dooms success, games like FEAR, Bioshock, Prey, Dead Space might never have been green lit.
Bethesda softworks is a developer who structures their games to be much akin to a long running television series. The world of Oblivion is filled with scattered bits of Episodic quests, some of them monster of the week episodes, others advance the core fiction. Some quests are utterly tangential but add a flavor and perhaps a bit of exposition you would not have otherwise seen. Unlike a television series, you get to play the role of the writer, plotting your own way through the established world. Do you want to advance the main plot, or would you rather spend a few episodes dawdling in a certain city, or maybe advancing a plot within the Thieves guild? The RPG engine beneath the hood of Oblivion may require a learning curve to understand, however it is not required you understand it for you to play the game, which is what makes the game almost easy to pick up. I only wish Bethesda would learn how to make a game that controls well, has a good 3rd Person camera, and maybe, just maybe, has a Game engine that can handle the scope of the designers imagination.
Oblivion also suffers from having a rather bland fiction for it's setting, feeling much like a poor mans Low Fantasy novel. I would also love for Bethesda to make a cool steampunk fantasy game, that would knock my socks off. Maybe if they licensced the Id Tech 5, outsourced the game engine and tech to a 3rd party (maybe also Id) and focused on the game's design itself.
Halo was the first FPS franchise on a console to nail the controls. Prior to the release of Halo, many FPS games had dabbled in the console field with only several being considered any good (Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and maybe Turok). Halo has the distinction of being the catalyst for a rapid shift in game design philosophy, and not just for it's genre or console. Part of what makes Halo control so well is how streamlined the core mechanic is for the game. There are no large inventory tree of guns to sift through, but instead just two available slots for weapons and only one button to switch between the two. Halo also evolves the antiquated mechanic of periodic health regeneration (though this still exists within this entry) by having Health regenerate over time if the player remains unsolicited by attacks. This dramatically changes the pace of the game cutting out time spent scouring battlefields and backtracking for supplies, allowing the player to focus their priorities on the tactics of the game. This shield system also focuses the player to move through battles in an entirely different manner, rewarding the player for taking cover, flanking enemies, strategically retreating and maneuvering for good territory and other such strategies. Previous FPS games might at most benefit from a strategically placed cover point and that would be the end of it's tactical depth. The limited inventory also reinforces the tactical approach to a firefight, forcing you to change your play style and strategic approach based on your weapon stock and available weaponry. Grenades also serve a tactical purpose in addition to their payload, allowing the player to flush enemies out of their cover (taking advantage of the games excellent AI), countering Vehicle assaults, stalling an enemy advance, and with the help of a sticky grenade, turning the leader of a particular assault into a dangerous obstacle for it's followers.
Lastly, Halo is largely responsible for the shaping of the LAN party based frag fests that are very popular across college campus's world wide. Halo was assisted by the rather portable nature of video game consoles and their unobtrusive controller interface (Mice and Keyboard don't work so well on an armchair). Having the multiplayer be feature rich and polished only cemented the game as being a multiplayer juggernaut.
Contrary to popular modern belief, Halo was not made popular for it's amazing story, complex narrative and unique setting. That is a myth. Halo does not have a good story, it has a passable story that keeps you interested enough to fight the next battle...well, it does for the first half of the game any way.
I love a good platformer, and the 64 game defined the 3D platformer. I find 2D platforms to have grown stale since Super Mario world.
I wish there were more games like this. Jet Grind has a very simple premise, Jet around a stylized Tokyo graffiti'ing walls to a J-Pop soundtrack. The gameplay mechanic is simple, with a very approachable control layout. There are no complex combo's and all abilities are easy to use, including the simple Grind Mechanic. Boost your way through cel-shaded levels gaining speed by Grinding and jumping, this game is more of a platformer than a racer.
I had some difficulty deciding whether to put this game, or the original on my list. Considering how this is the one I was able to finish, I decided I would be honest with myself. The sequel streamlined the rather loose mechanics of the original into a relatively more tight package. I would consider no mechanic lost in translation, with most abilities instead re imagined and sequestered into a more simple format. Deus Ex purist seemed to dislike this, but it ended up working in the games favor as the game was much easier to digest than the original.
Like a good zombie movie, Left 4 Dead manages to capture the frantic race for survival and include all of the madness, hilarity, and horror that entails. Designed to encourage you as the player to assume a role within a team of survivors, and if you do not play within the character of your role, you will die. Left 4 Dead is one of the few multiplayer games in existence that truly encourages cooperation. It is also one of the few multiplayer games that is enjoyable for the inexperienced, and for those with a skill disparity to play with each other. I found myself playing a random match of the campaign online, playing with a team with skills that ranged from lackluster to experienced. Each player had a character of their own, expressed through their action. Even though some might have been more 'skilled' than others, as long as we were all working towards the same goal, and helping each other, it only made the game more fun when one of the hapless team members was stuck in a tight spot, leaving us racing to save the unfortunate soul.
The game dynamically shifts tone, throws zombie attacks, and paces the game to make for a truly testing experience that allows you and your team to craft a thrilling Zombie ride much akin to a movie. Of course, if your team is filled with Idiot death-match honed Call of Duty Machismo soldiers unwilling to cooperate, this game can quickly devolve to a horrifying bloodbath for all.
While Halo 2 failed to mature the themes of the story and plot of the first game in any meaningful way, it did excel at polishing and refining every element of the franchise otherwise. I prefer the pseudo-satirized sci-fi elements of the first game, and also like the more simplistic and mysterious nature of the original Halo to the second installment. For some reason amalgamated Urban-Conflict Call of Duty circa year 3000 doesn't appeal to me as much as Muppets Meets Starship Troopers. But, unlike most, I do prefer the Arbiter as a character compared to the Mister Chef. The voice actor for the arbiter is Bad Ass.
I had a lot of trouble getting into this game. It sat for a good 4 or 6 months after I bought it, unloved. I created a character, played for an hour. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing at the time, and got so fed up with the learning curve of the game, I just turned it off and played Fable 1 instead. But, after sinking in more time to the game out of sheer boredom, I began to learn more about the game mechanics, and eventually developed a more healthy relationship with the game.
After the first Fable came out to a lukewarm response, I sat on buying it for a good two years. But, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up the rather cheap lost chapters edition. I bought this around the same time I bought the Morrowind, and I developed an affinity for this game sooner than Bethesda's offerings. I am still surprised by the response this game received,considering how polished and excellent the game is as a whole.
One of the best games of it's Era, and it serves as a great foundation for the later games in the series. It should however be layed to rest, and not continually rehashed as most Zelda games are perhaps a little too reliant on this entry.
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