Controversial top ten list incoming!
We all have our favourite games, and some of us talk about them constantly. Note that this is not a list of the BEST games of all time – that list may come at a later date with more playtime. Rather, this is a list of my favourite games of all time, a list of titles that really have stuck with me all these years or really defined how I play games. Every year I love games but it’s been a while since a game crept into this list, as you’ll see only one of any recent heritage has succeeded in that, knocking Doom off the list (Which I do love!). It’s almost too hard to do a list of just ten, I feel like I need to do twenty or fifty, but that might take a while to read and I’d bore you stupid in the process, so here are my current ten favourite games.
#10 – Vagrant Story (Playstation 1. First released in 2000.)
Vagrant Story is a game about discovery. Redemption. Jealousy. Lies. Deceit. Politics. Heroics. And a city deserted, cursed and left to ruin. The story, as rich and complex as it is, is the tip of a very deep, very LONG iceberg. It hit me in 2000 with the same kind of subtlety that an iceberg hit the Titanic. No, it’s not too soon.
It’s not that Vagrant Story is perfect – you’ll get that a lot in this list – but that its list of things to do, places to explore, weapons to modify with an insanely large list of modifications – but that it’s one of those games which has depth beyond its surface visual. From the endless weapon customisation to the endless cycle of the narrative, through to secret and bonus areas unlocked slowly but surely every pass, Vagrant Story blends a complex action-packed and stat-heavy RPG with charm and narrative excellence that Square, as they were then, used to have in truckloads. It’s an incredible game that deserves adulation and appreciation.
#9 – Haunting Ground (Playstation 2. First released in 2005)
Everyone talks about Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but when you come to me to talk about horror games, I prefer and champion the lesser-known brands, and Haunting Ground is one of the finest examples of a survival horror game that Capcom ever produced.
With only an abandoned pooch called Hewie, and her wits, Fiona is trapped in a crazy castle with some rather unstable characters. This means no guns – but there is plenty of action if you want to try attacking with Hewie. And the games setting allows for a constant and unmitigated stream of utterly crazy, unsavoury events that horror, delight and upset. Indeed, emotion is the key ingredient here. Daniella is one of the most disturbing bosses in any game I’ve played – and yet, her tale and inevitable end are horribly ironic and instigate a sensation of guilt quite unbecoming of a game. Way ahead of Silent Hill and Resident Evil games. Except one.
#8 – Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (Nintendo Wii. First released in 2007)
I love Resident Evil 4, but it’s the Wii Edition that is the one I’d rate the highest. Not because it was the complete version, or the prettiest (unless you fan-modded the PC version). But because the Wii Remote controls were sublime and made the game better.
Of course, despite this coming in the early days of the Wii and laying down the framework for arguably more of this amazing kind of material, Capcom and Nintendo never really made a control mechanism that was better than this game had. Which is kind of depressing, I guess. Some argued that the less twitchy and more accurate shots made the game too easy – but a game with artificially borked controls isn’t really doing a game much of a service. The game was of course nothing that the title hadn’t done before. But it looked great – and much nicer than the recent and awful HD remake. This is the best version. No doubt about it.
#7 – Dark Souls (X-Box 360 and PS3. First released in 2011)
The most recent entry into my list, Dark Souls gets in by virtue of being unashamed about what it is – an action RPG designed to pose a significant, daunting challenge to all those who would dare to seek and consume the flame of life.
Played straight, Dark Souls tells a wonderful narrative without extensive motion clips or acres of text. But those of us who truly know Dark Souls understand it is when you deviate and indeed, punish the game for its own weaknesses that you find a completely different – and much more interesting – story at hand, one that is much more meaningful and darker than the first. The risk and reward mechanics are balanced just right, the depth of the game is astounding and the tone is bleak and harsh without being too devoid of colour and life. A modern-day classic RPG. If you have the stomach for a fight, that is.
#6 – Grandia (Sega Saturn and PS1. First released in 1997)
Some argue that Final Fantasy 7 is the best game ever. But whilst others fell head over heels in love with Squaresoft’s magnum opus, I found comfort once again in a game that was overlooked, and unjustly so I feel – Grandia, a tale of growing up and falling in love.
The adventure of the game is grand and expansive, with lots of side-stories, but it’s the developing relationship between Justin and Feena that makes this a nicer game than Final Fantasy 7. The tone in Grandia is lighter, frothier and far more entertaining and humourous, with very very few random encounter fights. Seeing and being able to avoid fights gave it a tactical feel, whilst the chipper cast of vague RPG stereotypes were a breath of fresh air when other games were getting darker and more “mature”. A grand epic of a game, Grandia deserves to be celebrated as much as Final Fantasy 7, if not perhaps moreso.
#5 – Beyond Good and Evil (PS2, Gamecube, X-Box 360 and PC. First released in 2003)
Beyond Good and Evil is the sort of game you dread describing, because it has no defining genre to sit in. But despite the schizophrenic genre-hopping that changed almost constantly as you progressed, it never felt like it was anything but itself – a great game.
I’ve never been entirely sure why no-one bought it. The game was advertised well, and received great reviews. Somehow, no-one really ‘got it’, and that’s often where Cult Classics are born. The sci-fi plot of political intrigue and alien invasion, peppered with racing segments, shooter action, stealth sequences and rudimentary puzzles with some basic RPG elements all somehow blend together into one seamless mass that looks beautiful. Frankenstein’s Bride, if you will. It’s a little strange to talk about but somehow there’s still something undeniably beautiful about it. That sounds so strange. But trust me, it’s a good thing.
#4 – Day of the Tentacle (PC. First released in 1993)
Day of the Tentacle was the sequel to the classic adventure game Maniac Mansion, and continued the completely crazy and mad tale with more vibrant colours, new characters and a whole lot more childish hamster-abusing humour. When you could joke about that and no-one thought you were a psychopath.
It’s one of those time-travel games, but what happens in one era with a character changes things in another era for another character, so don’t get the impression this was another strange adventure game – it was hugely sophisticated for its time, if not somewhat ahead of it. It also continued the trend for crude, childish gags and humour but in that setting it just worked, as you tried to save the world from being ruled by Purple Tentacle. Everything was wonderous, hilarious, charming and brilliant. It’s such a shame then that LucasArts focus so much attention these days on Star Wars. The lack of Star Wars games in this list is telling, no?
#3 – Portal (PC, 360, PS3. First released in 2007)
It is perhaps an inevitability that Portal appears on a list of personal best games ever. I’ll spare you the tired memes and overbaked gags. We’ve heard them all before, and besides, they detract from what is arguably a triumph (DAMNIT!) of uncomplicated, pure-distilled game design.
You see, Portal is a puzzle game at heart. You solve a puzzle, you progress, then you solve more puzzles to survive whilst being taunted, teased and oppressed by a cold, emotionless and yet somehow surprisingly chipper-sounding artificial intelligence called GLADoS. The game is not showy, not somehow rife with technical wonders, but it doesn’t need to be. Stripped right back to bare components, Portal works because it’s a quality-made, very solid product that is impossible to dislike. As has been proven with all the gags and jokes in recent years, which is a shame – because Portal should be remembered as a great game. Not as a great joke.
#2 – Terranigma (Super Nintendo. First released in 1995)
And yet again, I avoid the overrated title of the era – in this instance, Chrono Trigger – for a game I again fell for in a big damned way. Terranigma is an action-RPG that I can only but adore, in every regard, at every point. I want this on 3DS. I NEED THIS ON THE NINTENDO 3DS ENIX PEOPLE!!!
Ahem. This isn’t to say I didn’t like Chrono-Trigger, far from it in fact. But you can’t help who you fall in love with, and for me it was Terranigma that stole my heart and a huge slice of my life to boot. The world needs to be created and moulded, and Ark – who ballses it all up to start with – is tasked to turn things around. There is no religious sentiment, no sanctimonious rubbish about saving the world. It’s a solid, brilliant, fantastic adventure through the history of a world – maybe our world – as it develops and grows. I love this game. I love it so much I’ll debase myself to see it re-released on the Nintendo 3DS. Come on. DOOO EEEET!
#1 – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Game Boy. First released in 1993)
I think it was always inevitable a Zelda game would hit my number one, but I hope I’d surprise people by putting the older, less powerful Game Boy/Color version as my favourite of the lot. There’s just so much to love about this game that it takes my breath away every time I try to talk about it.
Sure, it’s a stripped-back Zelda, but you see, that’s what sells it to me. There is no complexity to it, there is no surprise, there is no deviancy or sense of urgency. The plot grows and builds steadily, becoming greater and more potent as time goes on. The dungeons, the overworld, the bosses and enemies and the cast all lend the game gravity and weight, a living and breathing existence that pulls you along. There is little to no fluff or forced controls to really distract from the actual business of playing the game. It’s a pure, purist experience. And Nintendo, for me, has never topped it. Which is also a little bit depressing.
And so that concludes my top ten games ever. Perhaps not to everyones tastes, I’ll grant you, but if you agree or indeed, disagree, comment, rate and subscribe as you will. Love is a funny thing. And I always fall for the nice girl in the corner. Nobody puts Baby in the corner… oh damnit, did I really just use that line? Mayday! MAYDAY!