I refuse to number these, because, well, I just can’t choose. It was hard enough to choose just three, and even then I sort of cheated. Enjoy:
- Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition
No game quite shocked me like Fallout 3 did. My roommate-to-be said she loved it but it was too scary to play alone, so I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. The only other ‘scary’ game(s) I’ve really enjoyed was Resident Evil 4/5, and I was picturing a game along the lines of Silent Hill. I don’t remember what it was that convinced me to start playing, but once I picked up that remote I did not leave my room for a month.
Holy mother of sheep covered in applesauce, was that world open. I had never played a game quite like that before. It was so fun, and so interactive and so customizable. And the dialogue – marvelous. I can’t believe there are so many memorable characters that have so few lines. The writers did a wonderful job of keeping the feel of the world while making each new character feel different from the last. On top of that, and this is why I added Game of the Year addition, was the inclusion of super creative levels.
I understand some players weren’t a fan of the (possible spoilers) space ship, Alaska, or 50’s murder mystery levels…but wow, I was delighted. It broke up the monotony of the (admittedly overdone) subway tunnels. Did I mention Liam Neeson? Because Liam Neeson. And Fawkes’ “By all means, llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllet’s,” is just as permanently lodged in my mind as Resident Evil’s shopkeeper’s “Waddya buyin’?” And with so many side quests and choices for dialogue, this game is a never-ending bundle of fun.
- Assassin’s Creed 2
Awhile back this spot would have been taken by, you guessed it, Prince of Persia. I loved PoP for a long time, and even though it disappointed me in a lot of ways, I still loved the concept, the feel of the world, and the gameplay enough to turn a blind eye to some of its more glaring flaws. So when I found out that the same makers were creating a historical game about an assassin, I was the giddiest Jenny on the block.
I was again taken in by the world of the first one, but it had some pretty important things it was lacking. The gameplay was so repetitive, and the cut-scenes, for the most part, left me more bored than a baseball game on TV. And Altair, bless him, received so little characterization and personality, I was sure he was the drone they were looking for. And yes, I know he’s a secretive assassin, but c’mon, even assassins have pasts and futures (and I mean more than awkward tower scenes in order to show that he at one time did create an heir).
That’s why I chose Assassin’s Creed 2. While the first one intrigued me, the second one gave me passion for the series. My cat’s name is Ezio Auditore da New Richmond. I think that sums my feelings up pretty well, but for a little more gushing: just like the first one, the world is open and amazingly detailed, right down to construction workers working on buildings that would have been under construction during that year. One of your best friends in Leonardo DaVinci, your uncle makes a Mario joke, and you are a charismatic guy with actual reasons to become an assassin? Sign me up! I was a big fan of all the conspiracy stuff going on too. It added such a cool spice to the game, and made the theme of ‘history and present being more connected than we think’ all the more clear. It also taught me some less than pleasant things about Ford…Those puzzles were actually surprisingly eerie to the point where I felt creeped out doing them by myself in the dark.
As for the games following AC2, I enjoyed them a lot, but none of them had quite the spark or ingenuity of AC2. And I was rather disappointed that they managed to make Connor even more bland than Altair. I was impressed by their use of native voice actors and language though.
- Final Fantasy (yep, here’s the cheat) VII, X, XII
I know, I know. Pick one. But I can’t. These three were all groundbreaking to me in different ways, and I just can’t choose.
X was my first one. Before I played it, I hated RPGs. I didn’t understand how sitting there, waiting for your turn, could possibly be entertaining. I mean, just go smack the guy with the sword! But somehow or other I ended up watching my brother play it anyway. The characters and their stories sucked me in until I refused to watch my brother play anymore, so that I could see what happened in my own game. On top of that, it was beautiful, and had such a fun world. I finally understood the hype (and as a result later experienced the extreme let-down that was X-2).
XII was the second one I played, and it fixed everything I didn’t like about RPGs. I know a lot of people said it was too easy, but in my opinion, being able to move around like that enhanced the turn-based combat, and I was sorry to see it disappear in later games. XII was by far the most fun for me, gameplay-wise. The story was where this game kind of suffered. A little bit too political-driven and not enough character-driven. I also will never understand why they picked Vaan as the main character. They even literally had another character who was always claiming to be the leading man.
Not to mention Balthier is pretty much the sexiest video game character of all time…
As for VII, well, I know I’ll probably get some flack about how ‘overrated’ it is, but it was an excellent game, and you guys are just going to have to live with it. I actually went into it thinking something along those lines – there’s no way it’ll be that good. It couldn’t be. I had seen Advent Children too, so I thought, okay, it’ll be a solid game, another fantasy epic, hometown hero saves the world, the end. But wow, was I surprised at the characterization and story. It was a bit like reading Kurt Vonnegut for the first time. I knew it was a ‘classic’ so I had this image built up in my mind of how it was supposed to go. After playing it, I actually thought less of Advent Children. I realized how much of the magic had been lost in transition from game to movie.
Its secret isn’t in its epic tale plot line or *spoiler* sad death. Its secret is all of the little moments that add up – from the possibility of going on a date with Barrett (admittedly they didn’t do too well on his character, but his relationship with Marlene is cute), to the entertaining conversations with random people on the street and sub-plots you might possibly miss entirely the first play through, to unique chapters of the game like entering Cloud’s mind. It makes the world seem so much more human than most fantasy games (and books). The characters felt much more alive to me, despite being, well, the epitome of PS 1 graphics. And any game where it looks like your hands are either beer cans or horse hooves and can still make you feel the terror of Sephiroth (man, the burning village scene sent chills down my spine), or make you burst out in laughter,
will always be considered genius to me. I do really wish they had given Tifa a better outfit though. She’s one of the coolest female video game characters of all time and she’s dressed like a drunken construction worker.
So that’s my list! If you disagree with me, well, you’re wrong. But feel free to explain why you’re wrong in the comments.
- Honorable Mentions
Kingdom Hearts (I actually debated a really long time over whether KH or FF should be in the list, but…without the FF influence I might not have even tried KH)
Okami (If I ever make a post on the most gorgeous games, Okami and Ico would definitely make the list)
Resident Evil 4/5
Super Mario Bros.
Champions of Norrath
Jak and Daxter 2
Prince of Persia 1 & 3
Final Fantasy VIII
League of Legends (winner of the most addicting award, however)
Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages