Next to last post until this list is wrapped up. Well, at least until I get to the spinoff lists, but I’ll sit on that one for a while. As usual, get to the rest of the blog posts in the series by clicking the Top 300 Games tag. I should note that at this point in the list, it’s extremely difficult to differentiate between games and make up my mind about whether or not one of them should be ahead of another.
20: Thief 2: The Metal Age (PC) – Garrett, the ultimate gaming antihero, returns in this, the best sneak ‘em up of all time. Karras is a really creepy bad guy and on the way to the end you go through the most inspiring levels I’ve ever seen in a sneak ‘em up. Every single level is fantastic; the first warm-up mansion, the harbor, the bank, fleeing from your house, getting to know the mechanists and then the pagans, etc. It’s all set up so well.
19: Mega Man 3 (NES) – Among a lot of Mega Man fans, there’s a divide between those who regard MM3 as the best in the series and then you have those who give that honor to MM2. I’m one of the latter, but holy shit is MM3 close. I still remember firing it up for the first time and trying out Gemini Man because he seemed to be the coolest boss on the startup screen. Rush joined the gang and was a good addition. Facing the MM2 bosses was also an interesting curve ball.
18: Half-Life (PC) – Even though the first game is missing the gravity gun, the impact of playing it hit me more than playing the sequel. I still remember battling headcrabbed scientists, trying to get to the surface of the Black Mesa research center and then there are soldiers there and they … shoot at ME! It was such a cruel twist. People like to rag on the game for the Xen levels at the end, but I didn’t have any problems with them. The expansions are interesting too, especially Blue Shift. I’m still waiting for the mod called Black Mesa, which is a conversion of the entire Half-Life game to the Source engine used in Half-Life 2.
17: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC) – When I first played this game, I thought it was much more mature than anything I’d ever played. I think I’ve played through it four or five times and I still love the narrative and detail, but most of all I love the perfect action. The TV shows you can catch throughout the game are complete genius. I thought I would be annoyed by the change in Max’s appearance since the first game, but it actually worked really well. The romance with Mona Sax was perfect and the environments, the city of New York, it’s still like one of the characters in the game. I’m dreading the release of Max Payne 3, because it seems the new developers have dropped all the good aspects of the first two games.
16: Mass Effect (Xbox 360) – I fairly recently replayed this one, because I had only played it once and I wanted a second character to import into Mass Effect 2, one that was the complete opposite of my first character. My first character was a male good guy who had a romantic relationship with the soldier Ashley Williams. I saved the council at the end because I’m such a philanthropist. My second character was a female, evil, lesbian asshole who didn’t give a shit about the council and also saved that almost extinct murderous insect race. I figured that I will play through ME2 at least twice, so why not make it interesting? Mass Effect has its flaws, to be sure, but it’s the general impression that’s so lasting and thorough. Even though the battles can be a bit stilted, that’s easily overshadowed by the fantastic cinematic feel of the entire game. The inventory sucks? Fuck it, just sell everything. I love the whole story and the world just pulls you in. I also read the two books and they put some of the things in the game in wonderful perspective.
15: Final Fantasy VI Advance (Gameboy Advance) – This is a game that could just as easily be in the top three as in spot #15. One of the greatest RPGs ever and I’m actually glad that I didn’t get to play this one properly until I was a grown-up. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated it as much in my early teens. Kefka is the most evil bad guy ever and the whole ensemble of heroes is fleshed out A LOT. The storytelling in this game pulls no punches even though it’s just a 16 bit game. You care about those small sprites. I’ve been thinking about who are my favorites, but the longer I got into the game, the more I got to know each character and the harder it was to pick a favorite. Still, Celes and Locke has a special place in my heart. And Terra of course… and Cyan! See, it’s impossible to pick just one or two! And we can’t mention this game without bringing up Nobuo Uematsu’s excellent music. Quite possibly the best game soundtrack ever in my opinion.
14: Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) – The expectations I had for this game were so high, I don’t think I’d ever had them that high for anything. Apart from a few small details, this game lived up to them and was a slam dunk and a home run at the same time. What I missed the most was the witty writing from the first two games. The action was awesome, the blend between turn-based and real-time battles was perfect, atmosphere and settings were great, and the list goes on. At this time I haven’t even touched the five DLC episodes, but that’s coming and with them, this one might rise.
13: Duke Nukem 3D (PC) – I think you could say pretty safely that this game is what got me so heavily into the FPS genre and it also got me to appreciate the fun of multiplayer. You see, when a bunch of other people were praising Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64, saying how awesome it was in slow four player split screen multiplayer with worthless controls and boring, bland settings, I was playing with eight others, each of us on our own screen, killing each other in colorful and detailed settings at a fast pace and with incredibly fun weapons. This game had it all and I replayed the single player part of the game last year on XBLA for the 360. With the news that Duke is finally coming back, I don’t really care how good or bad that game is. This one is the grandfather of FPS games for me and it still holds up today.
12: Counter-Strike (PC) – I could have included this with the Half-Life spot, but I’ve spent so much time playing this that I view it as an entirely separate experience. Counter-Strike. CS. I guess I’m referring to the old-school version here and not the one that was released along with Half-Life 2, with the upgraded Source engine. At first when I started playing this I didn’t really like the constant interruptions of new rounds and I didn’t like that I could only carry one rifle and one pistol. That you ran faster when holding the knife was so ridiculous that I didn’t even know where to begin. But then I started liking it and I got really good at it. I didn’t play with a clan or anything like that, but I played consistently with the same people at a few servers, so we got to know each other pretty well and could play together as a team. I was pretty good with most weapons, so it wasn’t like I went AWP sniper rifle all the time, although that was pretty fun. I liked to vary my play style to keep the opponents on their toes. My favorite map was cs_office because I always dominated that one by listening to the enemies while sneaking around the corridors.
11: Quake 2 (PC) – Quake 2 is the game I was probably the best at at one point. I knew for a fact that I was among the top 30 in Sweden when it came to free for all deathmatch. Several different server stats made that a sure thing. I was simply good at the game and even though I didn’t work on becoming better, the insane amounts of time I spent on the game probably helped make me even better. When we played local multiplayer I could take on everyone else at the LAN, 8-10 people, in CTF and still come out on top. A friend of mine was the same when it came to StarCraft, but Quake 2 was MY game. Online, I liked to play the regular DM maps, but there was a special server that ran only one map over and over. It was a secret map in the single player part of the game and it was called Space. What made this map special was that the gravity was very low, so when you jumped, you flew across the big rooms and this made it a wonderful place to use the railgun, my favorite weapon in the game. I had a lot of fun on that server.
The next post will have the final top ten. After that I’ll get it up as a separate part of the blog and update it with a few games I’ve played since I started making the list.
Time to fire up this list again, now that I’m back in action and everything. For those of you who are only checking out the list because I’m linking to it, I’ve been cranking out a few other posts lately. Check them out if you’d like. Anyhow, time to get down to 51 so there are only 50 games left. As usual you can find the older posts by checking out this tag.
60: No One Lives Forever (PC) – Cate Archer is the agent that, to me, is a classy mix between James Bond, Austin Powers and whatever female action hero you want to throw at the screen. In fact, Archer’s boss seems to be ripped right out of Austin Powers, copying the boss from those movies. But it all ends up being a very nice mix of action, bright colors, fun gadgets, hilarious dialogue and just an overall sense of humor that’s spot on.
59: Metroid Prime (GameCube) – I never actually completed this game, because I took a break pretty far into it and then when I got back to playing it I had forgotten the layout of all the places and I was supposed to find a bunch of hidden glyphs or something. That’s one of my biggest gaming regrets, but in the end… it doesn’t really matter. But I digress. Metroid Prime was for a very long time the GameCube game with the most powerful ambience. At first I was very skeptical about how the developers would transfer the Metroid feel into the first person perspective, but they pulled it off. The music also needs to be mentioned because even if it’s distinctly different from the other Metroid games, it’s still pure perfection for this particular game. Some of the platforming gets a bit old at times, but the action is tense and generally the play sessions end up being really long because you can’t stop playing.
58: Rainbow Six (PC) – I bought this game before I bought the book, but the game was goddamn awesome back in the day. It was like nothing else that had been released back then. Everything was just run and shoot monsters and suddenly, here came a tactical shooter where you shot terrorists and a single bullet could kill. You could also plan the missions in detail, but I wasn’t very good at that. I usually let my guys stand back so I could sneak through the level myself, but there were a few missions that forced me to plan an assault that came through two or three entry points simultaneously and that was just beautiful. The game’s story is a bit gimped compared to the novel, but for the time it was released, it was pretty good. I just wished I read the book before I played the game.
57: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360) – I should begin saying that I never got hooked on the online multiplayer in this game. We played a bunch of split screen deathmatch, but my most lasting impression of this game is the single player part. The sequel was waaaay too all over the place, whereas this one was very focused and the narrative moving between characters and present/past worked perfectly. It wasn’t over-used or anything. The sneak-and-snipe mission in flashback Russia is one of the most memorable gaming moments ever. The game is extremely tense throughout the entire experience and it’s a must-play if you have an Xbox 360. There’s just one thing that got to me with this game and that’s the fact that I got it into my head that I should max out the achievements, resulting in me grinding my way through the story on veteran mode, which in turn resulted in me dying about … hell, I don’t know. 2500 times? I really have no clue. I just know that I died. A lot. And I didn’t even max out the game. I gave up on the next-to-last mission. Still an awesome game, though.
56: Bioshock (Xbox 360) – A lot of people love this game and praise it because of the freedom in how you choose your skill progression and whatnot. Same with the storyline and the way the characters and the story are presented. These people have obviously not played System Shock 2. I have and that’s why Bioshock ends up in spot 56 and not higher up. Seriously though, it is a very special game and it has mood and ambience coming out the wazoo. Rapture, the underwater city the game takes place in, is a character in itself because of its presentation. I also love that this game takes an enormous dump on the so-called “philosophy” of the hypocritical and intellectually dishonest bitch/so-called author Ayn Rand. Objectivism deserves every bit of shit thrown at it and this game illustrates beautifully how fucked up it is.
55: Advance Wars DS (Nintendo DS) – When I got my DS, I got a handful of games and this was one of them. I didn’t really get around to playing it all that quickly because I didn’t really know what to expect from it. I hadn’t played the Advance Wars games that had been released for the Gameboy Advance, so I wasn’t really hyped about the DS game. Then I started playing it and I just couldn’t put it down. It is a perfect game for the DS as a platform and while the characters and story are EXTREMELY corny, they actually work and they actually engage me as a player to keep going until the end. The single player story part is also perfectly balanced in terms of difficulty progression.
54: Day of the Tentacle (PC) – This could very well be the funniest game I’ve ever played all the way through. It has some of the most hilarious writing ever and it’s perfectly complemented by the animation, art style and voice acting. Hoagie is my favorite character, but they’re all golden. The puzzles are really ingenious, especially since you have to send stuff back and forth between different time periods.
53: Thief: The Dark Project (PC) – Garrett, the protagonist of the Thief series, is one of my all-time anti-heroes. He does the right thing when he has to, but he also does the morally wrong thing when he wants to. He’s also been the inspiration to a character I started writing a novel about. I played the second game before I played this one, so it was like taking a step back in some respects, but not enough to make it a worse experience overall. There are several scary levels in the game, but the Bonehoard almost made me shit my pants. The zombies were extremely scary because, as Garrett, you’re not very powerful. The regular guards were also scary, of course, but the unstoppable zombies were one step beyond annoying. Tense doesn’t even begin to describe the Thief series. It is a beautiful experience.
52: Flashback (SNES) – How a game could have such a strong and movie-like narrative on such a relatively weak console as the SNES is astounding. I would almost go so far as to call it pixel perfection, if it weren’t for the somewhat confusing beginning of the game. Every movement by every character in the game seems so lifelike, which was very impressive at that time. Motion capture wasn’t really common then. The whole job system is also interesting.
51: Neverwinter Nights (PC) – I never actually really played this game on my own. I spent a week or so at a friend’s house and we co-oped our way through NWN. Another friend jumped in here and there too. I was playing as a rogue/mage while my friend was a tank wielding dual weapons. I pelted the enemies with arrows and sometimes laid traps. Later on I started throwing magic missiles and fireballs wherever I could and I also found that buff spells were really useful. Normally I don’t use buff spells in RPGs. Anyway, NWN’s story is nothing I remember right now, but I do remember the atmosphere. That game’s atmosphere made the entire experience. The co-op element was also extremely entertaining and easy to control.
There, down to the fifties, down to the nitty gritty.