So I mentioned in previous post A Introspective Reflection that I thoroughly enjoy a good story, and good stories will often drive the nature of my entertainment. I also promised a top ten list of my favorite video games. However I am only going to fulfill this promise in part, instead I present you with a list of my five favorite games (or/and series) per category (that I may or may not have independently placed them in), each with an honorable mention (hence a total of ten). The five categories will be: Jack-of-all-Trades, Turn-based Strategy, First-Person Shooter, Single Player Action-Adventure, and MMO.
Jack-of-all-Trades: Megaman Battle Network (GBA)
I’m actually cheating the system with this category because it allows me to pick whatever I want for whatever reason I see fit. However, my favorite game series of all time does include many elements of several genres and that would be the Megaman Battle Network series for the GameBoy Advance. Running 6 games strong ( with “alternative” versions of games 3-6 and 1 slight side-game in Battle Chip Challenge), this series had the strategy, action, exploration, customization, and puzzle-solving any good game should have. However, it was the combination of those elements with a solid story-line with relatable characters that kept me playing it over and over. The struggles Lan and Megaman faced were never easy and yet I felt the difficulty of the games was never too far below the necessary threshold to drive a sense of accomplishment when a challenge was completed. I have played a couple installments of the spiritual successor Megaman Star Force and unfortunately the game-play and story-line do not inspire nearly as well. I highly recommend this series to anyone and I would freely admit that the 3rd installment in the series is by far my favorite.
Runner-Up: Golden Sun (GBA/DS)
Like Megaman Battle Network, Golden Sun had a compelling story, strong character development across many games (although there’s a skip in generation from the GameBoy Advance games and the Nintendo DS games), brilliant action, wonderful art, and enough puzzle-solving to put the Game Show Network out of business. However it was over-shadowed by more “streamline” RPGs and I feel was not as appreciated as it deserved.
Turn-Based Strategy: Civilization (PC)
The Civilization games have been a cornerstone in the development of turn-based strategy games across the decades. While the original Civilization was rudimentary and lacked the sophistication of its successors, it set the tone for what successful turn-based strategy games would need. Civilization II opened the world of scenarios and alternative game modes and Civilization III added the crucial element of resources. However it was Civilization IV that truly gave this fabled series it’s moment of clarity. Heavily-modded and played for billions, if not trillions, of hours across the world this installment of the Civilization series was a benchmark of success for the turn-based strategy genre. While Civilization V did improve the game in some ways and add new aspects of strategic play, Civilization IV was by far the most revolutionary step in the series’ advancement. I feel the accessibility of play for all skill levels and yet the need for strategic planning as the difficulty was increased makes the series a clear stand-out in this category.
Runner-Up: Total War (PC)
Perhaps the only element at which any Total War game would out-class Civilization was the magnitude of its battles. Starting in the humble Sengoku period of Japan and now spanning the centuries modern and ancient, this series has combined the strategies of city-building, army-raising, and diplomatic maneuvering with the fast-paced manipulation of armies during a raging battle. Nothing beats the feeling of a ten thousand man army storing the gates of your mortal enemies last stronghold, and the Total War games make that possible.
First-Person Shooter: Halo (Xbox)
Now I realize this pick may feel awfully mainstream but let me consider the elements involved. Halo has spawned numerous games following Master Chief and even several games exploring the side stories around his conquests. Each game presented something new in gameplay and story. The music is breath-taking and the graphics were and still are top class. There is a huge online presence and the multiplayer following has pushed it to the forefront of the E-Sport scene. And honestly I feel saying this is enough justification for why the Halo series is at the top of my list for the First-Person Shooter genre.
Runner-Up: BioShock (Multi-platform)
While I have enjoyed game series such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Dead Space, BioShock has the compelling story, mystery and intrigue, and action rolled into one. If I were truly honest with myself, I’d call many of the FPS games I have played over the years worthy of a runner-up spot (Borderlands and Half-life come to mind) but none of them kept me playing like BioShock. Perhaps it was because the originals were underwater (and underwater settings give me the creeps to begin with) or that Infinite took it to the skies, but I could not stop playing. I wanted to learn more, discover more, and honestly shoot more. And the nicest part about the BioShock series is how they are slowly bringing everything full circle. I cannot wait to see where this series goes.
Single-Player Action-Adventure: Reckoning: Kingdoms of Amalur (PC)
Curt Shilling might have been a successful baseball player but unfortunately he wasn’t a great businessman. However his ambitions did spawn a truly unique experience in his solo game Reckoning: Kingdoms of Amalur. While it conformed to many aspects of the traditional action-adventure game, the way it presented them was how it aspired towards greatness. Nothing quite matched its combination of exploration and discovery with story-driven quests and epic boss fights. The customization of your character through armament and skill choices and range of play-styles gave this game an accessibility to the free-spirited while still presenting the necessary boundaries to keep a story-line intact. I have yet to decide whether I prefer a tanked-up warrior-mage or the stealthy arcane assassin, but needless to say Reckoning gave ample opportunity to enjoy both, and more.
Runner-Up: Knights of the Old Republic (PC)
I had a hard time nailing down a runner-up for this category but in the end KOTOR came out on top. It helped greatly that I am a rather huge Star Wars nerd and have always pictured myself as a renegade, just barely staying on the side of justice and morality, much like the protagonists of each KOTOR game. KOTOR II was by far my favorite of the series, but the gameplay, storyline, and artistry throughout were enough to keep me playing and exploring different paths through the game. If you haven’t detected the pattern of my preferred platform by this point, I’m sorry for your loss.
MMO: Twelve Sky (PC)
Never have I played a game into which I sank so much of myself into (the Megaman Battle Network games come close but not to the same severity). For nearly three years I put endless hours into this world, striving to become the unstoppable force everyone feared I could be. I was a master strategist and led many invasions into the heart of enemy lands. I was a respected leader and spent many months as the elected leader of my compatriots. I was the feared warrior of the forest and won several dueling tournaments with strength and cunning. Not only this but I made friends with whom I still interact. Twelve Sky falls short in almost every area to some other game, but for some reason I was drawn in at an early stage of its development and never could truly bring myself to leave.
Runner-Up: League of Legends (PC)
When Twelve Sky was shelved by it’s producers, I found an entirely different experience with League of Legends. The strategic element of team cohesion and the endless potential for personal improvement has captured my competitive spirit to the fullest. It gave me great pleasure when LoL was thrust onto the budding E-Sports stage and now holds a regular place in the rotation of competitive game, with its own professional leagues and teams across the world. While my dream of becoming a professional gamer is completely far-fetched and requires time I cannot afford to spend on improving my skills, I am still able to blow off steam at the end of every day knocking out a couple games and watching those better than I stream their own games.
Finally I have completed my top “ten”, and despite not quite delivering on all cylinders in my explanation for each pick, I am finally happy to have put out some of my personal history and gaming experience for the world to see. Perhaps those around me can better understand who I am by what I have played and what I value when I game…