The Most Intriguing Games of the Decade

Okay, been having some discussions lately about the best games of the decade. I don't know, I wanted to make a list of the games I've either found particularly excellent or very intriguing in ways I want future games to take into consideration. Basically, innovative or unique ideas and storytelling techniques that I'd really like to see revisited.

List items

  • The black sheep of the Zelda series, but one that I maintain had the most radical ideas of all of them. Everyone (including me) complains about how the Zelda games are always so formulaic and predictable yet no one seems to remember this one. Typical Zelda story: Ganon (in some form) kidnaps Zelda and you (as Link) need to do something about that by visiting a number of dungeons to get various items (be they crystals, Triforce pieces etc) so you can take on Ganon and save the day. Not the case here. You are trapped in a Groundhog day style situation where you must relive the same three days over and over again in an effort to prevent the MOON FROM DESTROYING THE EARTH!! It does not get any crazier than that, especially in a Zelda game. Yes, much of the game-play still involves dungeons and collecting stuff but the narrative framework is so much more compelling and urgent this time that it more than makes up for it. That, and the idea of a clockwork city that you can relive over and over to learn every little thing that happens in it is truly fascinating and something I would like to see someone take another crack at. Getting the extra masks in this game was a compelling task as it allowed you to fully appreciate the intricacies of the time travel mechanic.

  • Strange and beautiful in ways few games are. Much like its predecessor, ICO, SOTC puts you in a haunting, larger than life world. This time, that world is populated by equally wondrous creatures that you must face in some of the most spectacular boss battles in any game ever. Yet, there is a strange sense of sadness that permeates the entire game. Every time you down one of the mighty Colossi, you can't help but regret destroying such a unique wonder. The game's storyline is also unlike any other, sucking you into this strange world and these mysterious characters with very little dialogue. There are technical limitations, the frame-rate dips very often, but the wonders this game provide more than make up for it and I hope a game with similar qualities but more refined technical aspects comes out (yes, I'm hoping The Last Guardian reaches that lofty goal).

  • The first from one of gaming's most extraordinary and eccentric developers. It has a simplistic story at its heart, the efforts of a young horned boy to save a mysterious girl from strange shadow demons, but it is so perfectly conveyed by every polygon of this game that I can't help but marvel at it, even eight years later. All of the game-play enhances the storyline. You are never without your companion and the game manages to instill very real feelings of concern and awe throughout. The environments in this game and the haunting audio that accompanies them are so bewildering and sad that I cannot help but wonder why it hasn't influenced more developers out there. It really has a lot in common with a Hayao Miyazaki film, a simple tale of children tossed into a bizarre, magical yet strangely off-putting world.

  • One of the most replayable games I have ever encountered. Yes, it may be only about an hour long but the things REZ does have never been repeated. Flying through the five musical landscapes this game provides as you battle a variety of foes in time to the electronic beats is so mesmerizing and unique, its as effective today as it was when it was first released. I sincerely hope some kind of successor is one day created, but only because I have literally played it dozens of times by now and want some more. I can envision myself revisiting it annually for years to come, certainly something that cannot be said of most games.

  • I must thank Giant Bomb for bringing this extraordinary game to my attention. I had pretty much lost all faith in JRPGs, after burning out on the repetitive drivel Square Enix has been dishing out the last couple years. But lo and behold, Japan is still perfectly capable of crafting one of the best games I've played in recent years, and probably my favorite RPG of the decade. The interplay between the character driven real-world stuff and the stylish dungeon crawling is really quite ingenious. I would be lying if I said there weren't occasions during the dungeon side of things that I got quite frustrated with the game, but the incredible amount of depth it builds for the large cast of crazy characters is really an amazing achievement and it provided more than enough inspiration to power through those rough patches. The translation is excellent, the game has style to spare and the voice-acting is generally very very good. It took nearly a hundred hours of my time, but I would be happy to jump back in and give it some more.

  • The best Metal Gear game of all. In my opinion, MGS4 took a huge step backward from this one in terms of narrative and depth. I LOVE codec conversations, and this game has my back in spades. It enriches the game's universes in a variety of ways, tells the best and most personal of all the Metal Gear Solids and features some incredibly memorable sequences. Big Boss' encounters with The End, The Sorrow and the final battle with The Boss are truly extraordinary. Yes, it still features the incredibly long cut-scenes you either love or hate (I obviously fall on the love side of things) but it also manages to create memorable game-play sequences and establishes a very clear sense of place that you inhabit for much of the game. I choose Subsistence over the original release simply because the improved camera helps you appreciate this game's strengths that much more. Yeah, its still crazy, but in the way some of the best comics and sci-fi films are. Timeless.

  • My pick for Game of the Year last year, Braid still sticks in my mind as one of the most unique little wonders in recent years. Yes, once it has been beaten it lacks some of the punch it had during that first playthrough (though that final revelation is still incredible and must be experienced), but the incredibly devious ways this game plays with time and the unique narrative it provides remain quite striking. Yes, its got some angst that occasionally comes across as cheesy, but its still quite wonderful that such a singular vision can be crafted by, essentially, one person. And it does some things for puzzle based gameplay that future games should take note of.

  • An actual, no-fooling cult hit. In video-game form. As terrible as the graphics are, never going to forget these characters or the unique experience this low-budget wonder has to offer.