Aaron’s Top Ten Videogames

Posted: July 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I thought I’d take this chance to write up about my favourite videogames, it having been more than two decades since I started playing the damn things.  It’s worth noting that this isn’t intended to be a list of the best videogames ever- merely my pick of the litter

 

10. Rock Band 2– PS3, Xbox 360

rock

So, for my first pick, a triumph of the rhythm action generation.  That’s right; I was massively into the plastic ax genre when it was big a few years ago.  Honestly, it was hard to pick a favourite with the original Guitar Hero and its successor being strong components, but Rock Band 2 just edged ahead for two main reasons:  Firstly, the character and band animations were incredible, with your customized band members playing off each other, stomping about the stage and just plain rocking out in perfect time to the music.  Puts GH’s repetitive rhythmic bouncing to shame and one of my favourite things to do was turn on no-fail mode, switch off the HUD and set a rocking playlist for my band to perform for the evening.

The second point is the music itself.  Guitar Hero quickly lost sight of its original goals and descended into Indie/Pop-Punk hell (though fair mention to Warriors of Rock for a sterling attempt at shaking loose of that quagmire).  Regardless of your feelings for the genres, hard rock and heavy metal will always be the backbone of a headbangers library and Rock Band 2 had this in spades.  That, and a decent catalogue of other genres to keep everyone happy.  Add in the vast, vast quantities of DLC albums and you have yourself the ultimate rockin’ party game.

 

9. Dragon’s Dogma (& Dark Arisen)- PS3, Xbox 360

dogma

Imagine you have a blender that works on games.  You decide to try throwing in a copy of Dark Souls, then some Skyrim.  A pinch of Shadow of the Colossus and a little Devil May Cry for flavour… what you’d end up with would probably be a crunchy plastic mess.  But if it were an actual game, it would most likely be something like Dragon’s Dogma.  Now, I make no bones about it; this game has some real issues.  In many places it feels unfinished, or at least un-fleshed out.  But what is there is of such staggering quality, that those shortfalls can be immediately forgiven.  The first thing that hits you is how comprehensive the character creator is.  Budge over, Skyrim, you can actually make Tyrion Lannister.  Suck it, MMORPG community.

Adding to that, combat is sheer joy, despite the lack of a lock-on button.  Taking on a group of goblins with a greatsword never gets old, and neither goes summoning a swarm of meteors to wipe out everything in a fifty-meter radius.  And it all looks beautiful, with the game’s engine compensating marvellously for your character’s dimensions.  So yes, you can have Tyrion swinging a greataxe.  The combat really comes into its own with the giant boss enemies, though.  Here, the SotC inspiration really shows, with you and your pawns clinging onto enemies and frantically stabbing them like army ants on a spider.  The story is about as bat doo-doo as you’d expect from anything Capcom, but the translation job is beautiful, especially for any Song of Ice & Fire fans.  The only real problem with this game is the lack of co-op multiplayer… but then there’s always next time.

 

8. Shadow of the Colossus- PS3, PS2

shadow

Perhaps it’s easy to look back at the Playstation 2 as a shining example of a console generation, but it had so many corking titles, all throughout its life.  Shadow really stands out from the crowd in this regard, not just as a game, but a story experience unto itself.  You play Wander, a young boy whose girlfriend has been cruelly taken from him by untimely death.  He exiles himself from his clan, taking the body of his lover and the sacred sword his clan was sworn to protect, and heads for a sealed land of great mystery, and reputedly, great power.  Here, he encounters a being named Domin, who promises him his love’s life back, in return for the destruction of the sixteen giant guardians that hold it sealed away.

What proceeds is essentially sixteen boss battles, separated by ranging gallops across sweeping terrain and scrambling over ruins to find each creature and slay it in turn.  With nothing but scenery to find on the map and no enemies bar the Colossi to fight, the game might have been boring… Yet somehow, its staggering visuals and incredible atmosphere make it a joy to play, even if you’re just cantering Agro along a ravine.  The fights are incredible though, with the tiny, almost powerless Wander, armed with only a sword and bow clambering over skyscraper-sized guardians to find and destroy their weak spots.  Truly a triumph of an adventure game with a story that will leave you breathless and possibly dead inside.

Did I say dead inside?  Ignore that.

 

7. Fallout: New Vegas– Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Fallout_New_Vegas_05

The Fallout series is a favourite of mine.  Something about the 80’s-style post-nuclear setting with 50’s scenery and values, combined with the sense of freedom and incredible storytelling have hooked me in every incarnation of the series (yes, even Brotherhood of Steel.  Helps that Devin F**king Townsend did the music!).  I was a very happy bunny when Fallout 3 was announced and though I thoroughly enjoyed romping through the Capitol Wasteland, New Vegas came along and just blew its predecessor out of the water.  Functionally, they were both very similar… so what sets them apart?  Well, three main things stand out for me:  Firstly, the change of environment from the grey wastes of DC and its endless sewers was very welcome.  By comparison, the Mojave is a verdant oasis of (twisted) life, though still with plenty of wreckage and run-down urban sprawl to keep the theme going.

Secondly, the addition of the Hardcore mode toggle gave me what I didn’t know I wanted, but absolutely did want to add to the Fallout experience.  It always struck me as strange that in the chaos of post-nuclear war, your only real concerns were stepping on landmines and running into Deathclaws.  Now, you have to worry about your water supply, make sure you rest up regularly and eat to stay strong.  It’s a great little mechanic that adds welcome flavour to the experience.  The third, but by no means the least of the additions was the better soundtrack and atmospherics.  Whilst the music is mostly just re-uses of the original soundtracks, things like the creaking of rusty metal as you pass under a decaying antenna strut is a great little detail that adds to the immersion.

With these welcome additions, a great story and DLC that’s even better than the excellent Fallout 3 add-ons, New Vegas really is a cut above when it comes to first-person RPGs.

 

6. Demon’s Souls– PS3

Demons-Souls

Remember when games were hard?  No, not hard mode hard…  I mean repeatedly-slamming-your-head-against-an-unyielding-brick-wall hard.  Demon’s Souls is just such a game.  It gives you just enough tools and information to do your job, then drops you into a giant lightless pit filled with demons, undead and unspeakable horrors that all want nothing more than to crush you into the gravel and mount your dismembered corpse on a pike.  And they will do so, again and again, until you either claw your way to the top of the pile, or give up in frustration.  And to make matters worse?  If you’re online, other players will take the opportunity to do just the same.  I know I’m not selling this to anyone, but what can I say?  I love a challenge.

Despite the crippling difficulty, the game plays beautifully with some really amazing graphics to show off what the PS3 can do and inspired, if twisted, enemy designs that take more than a little inspiration from classic high fantasy (and more importantly, Berserk!). So why Demons Souls over Dark Souls?  Well, that’s a little more difficult to pin down, but I think it has to do with the set-pieces.  Boletaria is just a more fascinating place for me and even though the lore isn’t nearly as good, I loved the mines/dragon ruins, the huge wall-like castle, the tower of hope replete with prowling illithids and the altar of the storm god as levels.  That, and I felt the range of character types you could actually use was greater- heavy characters had as much fun as light ones.

Anyway, if you’re not afraid of a little challenge and want an adventure/rpg/platforming game with skin-tight controls and mechanics, Demon’s Souls could well be for you.  Give it a try; if you end up sobbing on the floor, we might not tell anyone.

 

5. Diablo 2 (& Lord of Destruction)- PC

diablo

Has there ever been so perfect a hack & slash game as Diablo 2?  Certainly not 3, and 2 was such a great improvement on the already fantastic first game.  The formula of random item drops + randomized dungeons + skill tress has oft been copied but never bettered.  And seriously, this game never gets old.  I think since first picking it up in 2001, I’ve only ever gone off it for a few months at a time before picking it up and starting the whole vicious cycle again.  None of this World of Warcraft rubbish- this is Blizzard at its finest.

With a fantastic backstory based around the war in Heaven/Hell and its effects on the mortal realm, you jump into the thick of it with a character only loosely based around typical fantasy archetypes, such as a paladin, necromancer or sorceress and prepare to take on thousands upon thousands of demonic and undead minions in your quest to hunt down and slay Diablo, the Lord of Terror.  And what a quest… The add-on pack brings even more pain and the ability to replay the game on harder and harder difficulties once completed adds virtual crack to keep you hooked ad infinitum.  Diablo 2 is definitely looking it’s age, but despite that, it’s well worth a play for anyone who enjoys dicing up gothic monstrosities with magic flaming swords.  And who doesn’t like that?

 

4. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (& Knuckles)

sonic

Is it cheating to include these two games as a single entry?  I don’t believe so, considering that you can link the two cartridges together and run through both the games back to back with any of the three characters.  So yeah, I’m, considering Sonic & Knuckles an add-on for the purposes of this entry.

No bones; I frikken love the original Sonic games.  I must have played each one a hundred times or more when I was a kid and still boot them up every now and then today.  Why 3 and not the first two classic games?  As much as I love them, 3’s graphical style was that much more colourful and sleek, with new items and bigger levels to flesh out the experience.  And then there’s Hyper Sonic, who you can only get by playing both games together and collecting all 14 emeralds- seizure-inducing and utterly broken, but so much fun.

The combination of great music, fluid level design, simple controls and the speed and style that is a trademark of 2D Sonic games makes this an absolute classic platformer that literally leaves certain stereotypical Italian plumbers in the dust.

 

3. Persona 4/P4 Golden

p4personas

There are some that will tell you all modern RPGs, especially J-RPGs, are terrible and that their day is over, what with Square being what it is today.  Those people are wrong.  Or they just haven’t played any of the Shin Megami Tensei series.  Of the series, Persona is by far the most popular, though only 4 has really managed mass acclaim.  And with good reason!  Persona 4 takes a basic turn-based system, adds a few snazzy elemental-based mechanics and the ability to completely customize and switch out your main character’s skills with the Persona aspect.  After so long playing modern action-RPGs, a neat turn-based system feels almost refreshing and new, though it helps that this one is done well, even by old standards.

More unique to SMT:Persona is the dating sim-esque Social Links mechanics.  This will turn a lot of people away from the series I know, but hear me out- The S.Links are mostly optional and cover a broad series of interpersonal relationships from your close friends and colleagues to supernatural entities and mystical creatures, and romance options are totally optional.  The Social Links mean you can effectively pursue twenty or so people’s stories within your own and each one is interesting in it’s own way.

The Golden version  for Playstation Vita acts like an expansion pack for the original, adding new NPCs and new Social Links, as well as some combat mechanics, new areas in rural Inaba and activities… it’s crammed with extra content, most notably the extra story-based cutscenes and videos.  I love both versions, but Golden really completes the experience.  If you’re a Final Fantasy or Breath of Fire fan, or indeed a fan of any traditional RPG, you can do a lot worse than checking out the SMT:Persona series.  It really shows the genre is not done for by any means.  Now roll on P5!

2. Final Fantasy VIII

final-fantasy-8-07a

There are a lot of haters for FFVIII out there, and to them I can only say ‘to each their own’.  FFVII was by no means a perfect game either, though I was tempted to add both that and FFX to the list, being such a fanatic of the series ( I decided to keep it at one-game-per-franchise to allow for variety ).  So why VIII over the others?  That’s harder to pin down…  I enjoyed the way the ATB battle system worked alongside the new GF and Draw mechanics… I actually enjoyed the card game and it had a point to it, as opposed to most JRPG mini-games.  The Junction system was just complicated and breakable enough to be rewarding for me and the graphical upgrade since VII blew me away at the time.

Most controversially though, I actually like the main character; Squall.  Okay, he comes across as a whiny emo teenager with a lot of the character interactions and he definitely lacks the charisma of someone like Locke or Zidane…  but something about his situation rang truer for me.  Squall is a teenager, and has had some pretty bad, and moreover relatable, family issues that would probably cause a real person to be withdrawn and sullen.  And yet despite that, he’s every bit the mercenary captain- cool, calculating and with enough fire in him to dash to the rescue more than once.  Besides, for what he is, Squall is a badass.  If you doubt me, try looking up unique Renzokuken videos online.  Can any other FF protagonist boast charging into a flying demon to knock it to the ground then dashing through it like a gorram samurai?  How about going toe to toe with a giant spider and actually knocking it back on it’s arse?  Or running across the wings of a dragon god, and flipping over it’s horns to ram a gunblade into it’s face?

I didn’t think so.  And that brings me to my next point; gunblades are really cool.  Impractical (I can’t see how firing a bullet into the back of a sword blade would do anything but shatter it…) but really awesome to watch.  And there’s something satisfying about using the trigger yourself to critical every attack with your main character.

So yes, I love FFVIII, for it’s story, it’s character, it’s mechanics and its badassery.  If you still doubt me, look up pictures of the Ragnarok spaceship.  It’s a dragon, with machine gun arms and a battle cannon on it’s back.  Eat it, Highwind.

 

1. Front Mission 3

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Now, I’ve ranted about this game on here before, so maybe I don’t need to say anything more about this tactical robot sim.  I should probably justify it being in my top spot, though…  How about the fact that I’ve clocked close to 2000 hours on it?  How about the fact that every time I go back and replay it, I discover new combinations of skills, weapons and parts that change the way I play it?  How about the dual-perspective story clocking in at 120 hours or so, with amazing artwork for the character portraits and backgrounds, a great soundtrack and brilliant humour that sucks me back in every time I pick it up?

There’s something about a game that can last you that long that overrides other more exciting or technically brilliant experiences.  It’s like a favourite book; every time I flip it into the Playstation I feel like I’m returning to the home of an old friend.  It’s warm, nostalgic and predictable in a good way, but there’s always something new to discover.

So there you have it; my top ten games of all time.  No doubt in a year or so, it’ll change drastically.  There are always fantastic new games coming out, but isn’t that what we love about the medium?  Gaming always offers us new and exciting challenges and experiences.  They say a reader lives a thousand lives, but what of a gamer?  A thousand thousand?  Maybe infinite lives if you’re into cheat codes!

Agree or disagree, I hope you enjoyed my countdown… let me know your own picks in the comments!  Until next time…

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Comments
  1. The Joystick Junkie says:

    Nice to see someone else who enjoys Fallout: New Vegas over Fallout 3. This is a pretty interesting list.

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