The Top Shelf

List items

  • I loved the atmosphere, the subdued narrative, the puzzles, everything. But more than all that, I had an extremely memorable experience because of who I played it with

  • Loved the unique focus on the weapons system and how balanced all the subsystems were, loved the story and characters and cutscenes and music and art, just everything

  • The cinematic presentation was groundbreaking and unheard of at the time. The story was compelling yet straightforward. The art direction was cohesive and well executed, and it still looks great today. To top it off, it simply felt so good to actually play. It remains one of the few games I've replayed multiple times (had to have that tuxedo and bandana)

  • Easily sets the bar for a cinematic experience, but also delivers on every aspect imaginable. Incredible setpieces and refined gameplay with a compelling story, it's the total package

  • Fell in love with the characters and loved how smooth the gameplay was, it hit all the right notes with me. Seeing this for the first time felt like it was the beginning of something truly new, and sure enough there have been many imitators in the years following

  • The game you see on the surface is challenging and addictive as-is. But once you understand how to make it to the real boss, it almost feels like a different game. And even once you beat it, you'll keep going back.

  • Like Final Fantasy VII, it feels like this changed everything for me. It was so obviously created by a team of people that seemed to genuinely care not just about the world and characters that they were creating, but also about the player's experience as well. The combat was fast and satisfyingly imbalanced in favor of the player. Not to mention the excellent voice acting and engaging story

  • A remarkable insight into Japanese culture -- both grounded and fantastical. Kiryu and Majima are each endearing and admirable in their own ways. Humor is adeptly woven into an otherwise gripping and well-told story. What a treat to play

  • This felt like a wonderful homage to the series itself, but setting that aside, it has an endearing charm that sets it apart from -- and ultimately elevates it above -- the rest of the series. The painful self-seriousness present in both its predecessors and successors is refreshingly absent here and I love that about it

  • Perfectly-balanced with an incredible skill ceiling. It never stops feeling like there's more you can learn

  • A landmark hugely influential game that established (and easily dominated) a new genre and shaped the industry for years. I played more of this original game than any other in the series, but I also prefer the somewhat limited ability to link tricks together; in later games it felt like the revert and manual kind of cheapened the value of points whereas in this first game it was quite meaningful to score something like 100,000 points in a single combo

  • The open world concept was so well executed, I think all racing games should do it. Not to mention the seamless online integration and DLC. This is the game I'd want on a deserted island

  • What impressed me so much was the way the difficulty ramped up and eased me into each tier until I was playing Expert without thinking about it. Never would have thought I'd be doing that when I first started playing

  • Even though it's become an awful cliche, at the time this introduced so many groundbreaking elements that I can't rob it of its due. The cinematic presentation, the accessible and interesting materia system, the great pacing, this game set the bar

  • The more I think about Dark Souls, the more I appreciate what it does so well: the way the paths interact with each other and twist around upon themselves. The way the movement just feels perfect -- you always feel like you're in control and that you know exactly what your character will do. The combat is versatile so as to feel suitable for small enemies and enormous bosses. The way the world feels so mysterious as you explore, and then, suddenly, it feels comfortable. I couldn't care less about the lore, and the medieval aesthetic doesn't do anything for me, but everything about how the game plays is masterful.

  • What piqued my interest was the ability to cancel any attack animation at any time if you want to block; it was about dang time. But the satisfying combat and truly epic setpieces sealed the deal

  • Boy I got hooked on this game. There are a decent number of courses to play through, but what makes the game special is how you change the way you play those courses as you progress in the game and get better clubs and balls: a par 5 hole eventually becomes a par 3 as you realize that now you can cut over the dogleg if you hit it right and play into the wind. There's a surprising amount of depth and detail in the mechanics as well, but it never feels like it's taking itself too seriously.

  • Confidence in execution goes such a long way with me, and this game shines. The fluidity of control is unique among racing games, as you can feel your ship bob up and down when banking through turns. The speeds are intense and it's not uncommon for your eyes to dry out as you play at higher speeds for fear of blinking. On top of all that, the visual aesthetic is sharp and the soundtrack is pitch perfect.

  • I think this is Rockstar's most successful attempt at building a world that feels intimate yet expansive -- from the environment itself to the characters who are unique and expressive (even while stereotyped in Rockstar tradition). The way classes were incorporated into the game is clever, the voice acting is great and the music is standout as well.

  • The first FPS whose story really compelled me enough to play it through to completion. Really loved the feel of the gameplay, the atmosphere, and the story