Saturday, October 8, 2016

My 200 Favorite Games: 49-1

These are the game that I love. Not that I didn't love some of the others before, but this is the cutoff.

Last part here

49) The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Nintendo, 2000.

Probably the most existentially terrifying game ever made, or at least ever made by a company like Nintendo.

48) Halo Reach. Bungie, 2010.

Bungie's swan song is sometimes  more tribute than game, but it's a great tribute.

47) BioShock 2. 2k Marin, 2010.

The black swan of the BioShock series might actually be a better game than either of its lauded cousins.

46) Super Mario 64. Nintendo, 1996.

The great-grandfather of all 3d games still holds a lot of its charm. Just pure design at its best.

45) Mass Effect. BioWare, 2007.

A ridiculously charming and ambitious 70s sci-fi game. Sure, the Mako is bad, but it's different, you know?

44) Batman: Arkham Knight. Rocksteady Studios, 2015.

The Batmobile segments are more too important than flat-out bad, but it's just enough to make an otherwise gorgeous and slick Batman game the worst of the Rocksteady trilogy.

43) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Naughty Dog, 2009.

Every action-adventure serial ever made mashed into a sometimes overly-difficult package. Nevertheless, an excellent game.

42) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Nintendo, 2003.

One of the best looking games ever created also just happens to have all the depth, clarity and functional brilliance of the Zelda series.

41) Starcraft. Blizzard Entertainment, 1997.

The single most important RTS of all time is still bolstered by that trademark 90s Blizzard charm. You want a piece of me, boy?
40) Halo 3: ODST. Bungie, 2009.

The experimental Halo is still a touch too short, but what it lacks in content it more than makes up for with sheer atmosphere. One of the loneliest games of all time.

39) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda, 2011.

A game of such sheer enormity that criticizing it feels almost pointless. There's so much here, and it looks and feels and plays so well.

38) Batman: Arkham City. Rocksteady Studios, 2010.

Something was lost in translation from linear to open-world gameplay in this series, though it nearly makes up for it in sheer variety and scope.

37) Life is Strange. Dontnod Entertainment, 2015.

Quite possibly the single most unique game I've ever played, LiS tackles important topics with surprisingly nuance and tact, and stands as this generation's best sci-fi game.

36) Grand Theft Auto IV. Rockstar, 2008.

Sure, it's a grumpy, nihilistic game. Sure, it has a lot less content than San Andreas. Just look at it. It's a masterpiece. Not the best game in the world, but maybe the best game about the world.

35) Mass Effect 3. BioWare, 2012.

Bolstered by a shockingly great multiplayer, ME3 transcends its shit ending (most endings are bad) and weirdly-paced mission structure to be the most emotionally satisfying of the Mass Effect games.

34) Fallout 3. Bethesda Softworks, 2008.

This is still a hell of a game. I still can't get over how big it is. There hasn't been a better reboot in gaming history.

33) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo, 1998.

There's a reason every other 3D Zelda patterns itself off of this one. Even if it's aged poorly, the iconography is so vibrant and memorable that I can't ever forget it.

32) Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady Studios, 2009.

Much like Batman Begins, the best of a recent Batman trilogy is the one least detached from its comic book roots. Mark Hamill's best performance in anything, still.

31) Super Smash Brothers Melee. Nintendo, 2001.

The fighting game, perfected. Never has a game so deep been so accessible.

30) Metal Gear Solid. KCEJ, 1998.

A milestone title, and still the most visually distinct creation of Hideo Kojima's career. There's so much detail packed into this relatively short game. It's like a cornucopia of strange influences.

29) Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar, 2013.

This should almost be two entries: one for the flawed, weird single player game one for the work of chaotic art that is GTA Online. There are few games as detailed as this.

28) BioShock Infinite. Irrational Games, 2013.

A game that might be more well-remembered for its importance to gaming criticism than its existence as an awkwardly designed pseudo-shooter that thinks itself a great work of art (the thing is: it might be).

27) Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Valve, 2007.

It's been nearly a decade since an actual Half-Life game was released. At least it was a great one, full of new ideas and great setpieces.

26) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Eidos Montreal, 2016.

Unlike its predecessor, this game is not greater than the sum of its parts. That being said, all of its parts are pretty fantastic. 2029 Prague is one of the more well-realized cities in gaming.

25) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Kojima Productions, 2004.

In a way, this is the most straightforward MGS game. It's still completely insane, but in a way that lets you soak in the excellent game that surrounds it.

24) The Walking Dead. Telltale Games, 2012.

The greatest point and click adventure game ever created, and only barely because of the actual adventure bits. By far the best thing associated with this license.

23) The Last of Us. Naughty Dog, 2013.

Putting Walking Dead above this was deliberate. All hail the rise of Dad Games. A sometimes breathtaking experience that loses a little just by virtue of being a game. Excellent stuff.

22) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Kojima Productions, 2015.

Kojima's final vision is a bit obscured, but still exists, thanks in large part to all the people who worked on it who aren't Hideo Kojima. An absolutely massive game with an incredibly distinct aesthetic.

21) Diablo II. Blizzard Entertainment, 2000.

THE dungeon crawler par excellence, and one of the crowning achievements in art and sound design. It's incredibly difficult to stop playing.

20) Deus Ex. Ion Storm, 2000.

There's an old adage: every time you mention Deus Ex, someone reinstalls it. They could not make a game this big today. It would take a decade.

19) DOOM II. id Software, 1994.

This isn't a shooter. This is THE shooter. The first one. There's a quiet self-seriousness this game lacks that every other 90s shooter could have learned something from. It's also the fastest and most vibrant shooter of all time.

18) Final Fantasy X. Square, 2001.

Hidden amongst the bizarre character designs and some bad performances is the best combat system of them all and a surprisingly sad story.

17) Halo 3. Bungie, 2007.

Though it trends a little too close to cartoonishness at times, Halo 3 will always be one of the more satisfying third acts in gaming history, and my personal favorite online shooter. Finish the fight.

16) Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Eidos Montreal, 2011.

A work of such cohesion and care that all others, even other immersive sims, pale in comparison. Not a perfect game, not even close, but one with a real spark of inspiration evident in its creative process.

15) Shadow of the Colossus. Team Ico, 2005.

An incredible game. An awe-inspiring game. The final hurrah for the PS2 generation lands one of its very best titles. I can't really explain this game's allure. If you can find a way to play it, do so.

14) Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Obsidian, 2004.

This game was made in less than a year with the same assets by a new company and still managed to be drastically different from its predecessor. If it had an actual ending, it might have been just as good.

13) Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar, 2010.

An elegiac game that finds the exact right tone all of Rockstar's games should strive for. Absolutely gorgeous.

12) Halo 2. Bungie, 2004.

Maybe the first real blockbuster game of this century has its flaws, but it reaches so high and does so much so well that I can't help but love it. For better or worse, it invented online gaming on the console.

11) BioShock. Irrational Games, 2007.

A game of titanic importance, ambition and style is weighed down by unsure shooting mechanics and a terrible ending, but only just.

10) Final Fantasy VII. Square, 1997.

It might be the most overrated game of all time (because no game could ever be that good), but FF7 really introduced the JRPG to the rest of the world, and it has such a unique aesthetic and sense of humor that it hasn't really faded in the 19 years since its release.

9) Portal. Valve, 2007.

The only perfect video game. The only game I know of that I can't think of a way to improve. This was supposed to be a throw-in on the Orange Box. Through some form of alchemy, it became the star attraction.

8) Metroid Prime. Retro Studios, 2002.

This is the game that taught  me the importance of art design. Of level design. Of world-building detail. I will always love it. More importantly, I will always enjoy playing it.

7) Dishonored. Arkane Studios, 2012.

An oil painting come to life, Dishonored makes every other immersive sim look like it's taking place in slow motion. The level of detail, tuning, and precision in design is staggering. This is a game that challenges you to get the best of it.. It wants you to succeed. That's a rare thing.

6) Mass Effect 2. BioWare, 2010.

BioWare's modern masterpiece, it departs from most party-based games by making the party the point. The people you meet on this ride are the reason for undertaking it. It's almost perfect, and will likely be BioWare's second greatest game for as long as they exist.

5) Half-Life. Valve, 1998.

It boggles the mind that this could possibly have been someone's first game. Even by today's standards, it's incredibly large in scope and in design. There are so many small details in the world and the mechanics of the world that still seem fresh and exciting. It's the most important FPS of all time. Nothing has been the same since.

4) Portal 2. Valve, 2011.

If the original was perfect, Portal 2 is something better than that: it's great. As full of charm and humor and three incredible performances as it is mind-boggling puzzles and inspired solutions, Portal 2 is the puzzle game mastered.

3) Halo: Combat Evolved. Bungie, 2001.

The original Halo hasn't aged as well as some of its peers, even the games that followed it, but the games that followed it were all trying to be it. It's a game of dazzling scope and assured, self-evidently enjoyable gameplay. It feels less like someone's creation than something that already existed, waiting for us to find it.

2) Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. BioWare, 2003.

The most well-written game ever to exist. The best usage of the Star Wars medium this side of The Empire Strikes Back. Quite possibly the game I personally know the best. It's been out for thirteen years and I've never gone more than a few months without wanting to play it. I don't know what else I can say than that.

1) Half-Life 2. Valve, 2004.

I mean, what else did you think it would be? This is the shooter perfected, where Valve proved themselves masters of all things.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My 200 Favorite Games: 99-50

Last part here

99) Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. Blizzard, 1995.

Hardly an original concept is greatly aided by an incredibly vibrant style and well-focused gameplay. For my money, the best of the series.

98) Gears of War 2. Epic Games, 2008.

A bigger, badder and better sequel and the biggest release of 2008, if you had an Xbox 360.

97) The Walking Dead Season Two. Telltale Games, 2013.

Pacing issues aside, this is a very good game that manages to not embarrass itself in comparison to its legendary predecessor.

96) Alan Wake. Remedy Entertainment, 2010.

Extremely moody, atmospheric and unique, Alan Wake is Remedy's strange little gem.

95) Perfect Dark. Rare, 2000.

Why did we ever agree to play shooters on this console? An excellent cyberpunk shooter that still holds up. Now, about that expansion pack.

94) The Legend of Zelda; Twilight Princess. Nintendo, 2006.

A game whose wiles never quite got their hooks in me. Plays a bit like it thinks it invented Zelda. Still, a poor 3D Zelda is better than most games.

93) Half-Life Opposing Force. Gearbox Software, 1999.

How do you outdo a masterpiece? Blue Shift tried to tone things down. Opposing Force turned them all up to 11. It works, most of the time.

92) Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Rockstar North, 2002.

This whole section is lesser versions of all-time great series. Vice City is no exception. I found it grating, but still pretty great.

91) Jade Empire. BioWare, 2005.

BioWare's unplayed and unfinished masterpiece. There's so much to this game that even now I feel like I'm not done with it.

90) Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Retro Studios, 2004.

I've never been crazy about the dark world/light world dichotomy. It's been done better before, and the difficulty spike is inconsistent. Still, this is a solid sequel to a great, great game.

89) Batman. Telltale Games, 2016.

Telltale's take on the Caped Crusader has been very interesting thus far. Might jump up this list in the future.

88) Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City. Rockstar, 2009.

I'm counting The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony as the same game here, even though the latter is much better than the former. A welcome return to Liberty City.

87) Dead Space 2. Visceral Games, 2011.

The absolute pinnacle of this sort of game. I can't even conceive of a more taut, suspenseful survival space horror game. Some of the best setpieces in the industry.

86) Dragon Age Inquisition. BioWare, 2014.

Sort of splits the difference between the first and second Dragon Age titles, which makes for an awkward experience that isn't all that fun on repeat playthroughs.

85) Rocket League. Psyonix, 2015.

An incredible concept executed to its fullest extent, to joyous results.

84) Final Fantasy IX. Square, 2000.

The dark horse of the three PSX FF games might honestly be the best.

83) Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. Raven Software, 2003.

Modular level design and greatly moddable multiplayer made this the little game that could. It lasted for nearly a decade.

82) Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Retro Studios, 2007.

Smoother, Wii focused controls made MP3 perhaps too easy, but also perhaps more inventive and inspiring than its direct competitor.

81) Lost Odyssey. Mistwalker Studios, 2007.

The lost Final Fantasy game proved that turn-based JRPGs weren't as dead as we assumed. One of the most poignantly written games I can think of.

80) Resident Evil 4. Capcom, 2005.

A rapid departure from the series raises it to glorious heights and, eventually, terrible lows. Still the best game in the series.

79) Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Naughty Dog, 2011.

At what point do you sacrifice spectacle for content? Uncharted 3 skirts that line for its entire run time, but I still enjoyed it.

78) Gone Home. The Fullbright Company, 2013.

The level of detail and care put into this game rivals anything on this list. Environmental storytelling is important, and this is one of it's shining beacons.

77) The Stanley Parable. GalacticCage, 2013.

There hasn't been a better game about games that I've ever seen. Incredibly funny and interesting, if not all that replayable.

76) Just Cause 2. Avalance Studios, 2010.

Does Saints Row better than Saints Row ever has, and stands tall as one of the biggest, most malleable and most chaotic open world games in history. Still looks great, too.

75) Max Payne. Remedy Entertainment, 2001.

Remedy's crown jewel doesn't have the impact it did 15 years ago, and it's sometime cringeworthy, but it conjures up a mood that nothing I've ever played has been able to replicate.

74) GoldenEye 007. Rare, 1997.

The original master of console FPS has often been overlooked as a single player game. Really good and really important.

73) Halo 4. 343 Industries, 2012.

An awkward transition from Bungie to 343 can't mask some inspired design choices (and some terrible ones).

72) Super Smash Brothers WiiU. Nintendo, 2014.

A return to form for the most unique fighting game on the market, and the best game on the WiiU.

71) Fallout 4. Bethesda, 2015.

A more colorful art style can't quite hide some unfortunate streamlining and a piss poor quest system, but it's still Fallout.

70) Grand Theft Auto III. DMA Design, 2001.

I'm not sure there's been a more important game in the last twenty years, and that alone makes it better than Vice City.

69) Dark Souls. FromSoftware, 2011.

A gloriously brutal, well-wrought survival game that a small part of me is still afraid of.

68) The Banner Saga. Stoic, 2014.

A true gem that captures the spirit of tabletop gaming in a way I never thought possible. Oregon Trail + Final Fantasy Tactics.

67) Fallout New Vegas. Obsidian Entertainment, 2010.

A departure from Bethesda's style and more of a throwback to original Fallout games makes for a disjointed, but very worthy experience.

66) LA Noire. Team Bondi, 2011.

A game of staggering ambition and immense detail that fails in some very illuminating and interesting ways. Still, it's unlike anything else that's ever existed.

65) The Legend of Zelda; Skyward Sword. Nintendo, 2011.

An over-simplification of the Zelda formula? Perhaps, but it looks great and the swordplay is never anything less than intuitive. Some of the best dungeons in the series are here.

64) DOOM. id Software, 2016.

A startlingly good reboot sees the best single player FPS game in the better part of a decade. If it's too loud, you're too old.

63) Star Wars Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. LucasArts, 1997.

Alright, I won't pretend JK has aged well, but it was fairly innovative and held the first live action Star Wars footage of any kind since 1983.

62) Super Mario Sunshine. Nintendo, 2002.

A gorgeous game with a great gimmick that pales in comparison to SM64 because everything does and will until the end of time.

61) System Shock 2. Irrational Games, 1999.

Moody, atmospheric as hell and too complex by half makes for a great first run for Ken Levine. This game still gets under your skin.

60) Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Kojima Productions, 2008.

Kojima indulges his worst tendencies in a game that feels like 40% of a game. The 40% that's there is fascinating, though.

59) The Wolf Among Us. Telltale Games, 2013.

A purple tinted noir masterwork from Telltale. This game's pacing is just as important to their future as The Walking Dead was.

58) XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Firaxis Games, 2012.

It's remarkable how much affection you can feel for personality-bereft interchangeable drone soldiers. This is a game of two halves, both of them immaculate.

57) Halo 5: Guardians. 343 Industries, 2015.

An absolutely excellent new movement system and some fun, open level design saves 343's increasing inability to tell a coherent story. Still, if you're going to do something right in a Halo game, making it fun is a good start.

56) The Elder Scrolls IV; Oblivion. Bethesda Softworks, 2006.

The first game I ever played that truly felt "next-gen." Still a monolithic achievement, but a lot of the luster is gone.

55) The Banner Saga 2. Stoic, 2016.

A truly improved sequel sees some interesting refinements that further separate this game from everything else in its genre.

54) Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast. Raven Software, 2002.

The ultimate Star Wars action sim. It probably won't ever be topped, despite how much I'd like it to.

53) Half-Life 2: Episode One. Valve, 2006.

The weakest official Half-Life game by far, mainly because it treads no new ground, makes no real improvements. Still a great game.

52) Dragon Age Origins. BioWare, 2009.

BioWare's throwback to Baldur's Gate style RPGs is enriched by some quality worldbuilding and a sense of scale that actually is "epic."

51) Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Kojima Productions, 2001.

Maybe the cleverest game of all time is weakened a bit by how little actual game is there. I still love it.

50) Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Rockstar, 2004.

By far the best of the PS2-era GTA titles is still one of the most exuberant and delightfully insane games of all time.
Final part here