We’ve transitioned into a fresh new year, and what’s better than starting off by recalling some of our favorite games of all time? These are the titles that are, in my opinion some of the finest games to ever grace the gaming industry. So let’s start with my very own Top 5 Games Of All Time list:
5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Eidos Montreal’s 2011 prequel to the cult-classic sci-fi/stealth action RPG Deus Ex, was my first introduction to this fantastic cyberpunk universe. Human Revolution brings forth an ambitious story exploring the rights and wrongs of science and predicts a possibly bleak future for mankind. But before I sing praises about it let me point out that it’s not a flawless game; it falls on it’s face when it comes to the shoehorned boss fights, tacked on (and underwhelming) DLC in the Director’s Cut edition (which was my introduction to Deus Ex) and the somewhat clumsy body-dragging mechanic; however despite these, Human Revolution is definitely a game no immersive sim fan should miss out on: it’s set in a brilliantly realized cyberpunk dystopia and packs in a wonderfully-crafted mature plot, tackling themes like poverty, corruption, mass media propaganda, genocide, etc. How many modern games dare step in that direction?
Couple that with fantastic level design, freedom of gameplay, great characterization, meaningful quests (rooted in morality no less), spot-on gameplay (and stealth), good RPG progression elements and an emphasis on exploration, and you’ve got a hefty package of sci-fi goodness. Immersion and choice are two things what many games claim to offer but fail at; Human Revolution not just delivers on those aspects, but it goes to great lengths to prove that devs aren’t afraid to show ambition in an AAA industry that loves playing safe.
Stealth games are usually not my cup of tea, but Arkane Studio’s Dishonored was the first one to win my heart. Similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, this is yet another “immersive sim”: a game with open ended game design. And just like Deus Ex, this game is a masterclass in that area.
Everything that I said about Human Revolution, also applies to Dishonored – minus the crappy DLC of course (because Dishonored’s DLC is brilliant); a dark yet superb narrative in a steampunk world, good characters, fantastic stealth, satisfying sword and gunplay, top-notch level design, freedom of gameplay (via lethal or non-lethal approach), choice that directly affects outcome of certain plot points in the game, as well as emphasis on exploration (that rewards players for taking their time to wander off the path – be it via loot or Bone Charms that provide passive bonuses).
Things like the level of verticality, approach to objective completion, atmosphere and adrenaline-fueled stealth are what make the game a classic for me; Dishonored is another brilliant game that understands player freedom and delivers in spades. It’s a must-play for a stealth fan. Oh and did I mention that the antagonist Daud is one of the best villians in gaming? No? Well now I did.
3. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
While making this list, I couldn’t decide between choosing this game or the next installment, Persona 4; both are brilliant games and each of them do certain things better than the other. Persona 3 however, won out for me due to it’s darker tone and themes of the individual characters struggling with their inner demons.
Dubbed “Persona 3 Portable”, the enhanced PSP port of the PS2 original was my very first Megami Tensei game and while I hated Tartarus’ randomly generated dungeon floors and the somewhat slow start at first, it soon grew on me.
With that out of the way, I could see the brilliance that Persona 3 is: a cohesive bundle of an original and engaging supernatural themed plot, endearing characters, fleshed-out interactions via Social Links, an addictive social sim/visual novel aspect (juggling stuff like attending lectures, hanging out with friends, grinding in dungeons to level up, etc), challenging quests, and last but not least, strategic and fast paced turn-based combat complemented by the smart Press Turn mechanic and the highly customizable Demon Fusion system (think Pokemon, just with creatures and deities from myths and cultures from all around the world – from Hindu, Japanese and Chinese lore to Greek, Egyptian and Norse legends).
Bar the repititiveness of the dungeons, it’s an enjoyable experience overall (although most bosses are kind of cakewalks) and is one of the most unique RPG experiences out there. Kudos to ATLUS.
2. Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Let me start of by saying that this game is not just one of Nintendo’s finest, but also one of the few games out there that’s actually flawless. Yup, there are no cons to speak about A Link To The Past whatsoever (abbreviated as ALTTP from now on). And this elevates all other parts of the game, and oh what a game it is.
While the story is relatively simple and perhaps cliché at first glance – a journey of a young boy to collect set number of magical crystals inorder to stop impending doom and an ancient evil from rising – the entire scope of the game as well as execution is grand; and “grand” is the perfect word to use here: We all know the Zelda series prides itself on brilliant dungeon and puzzle design, but in ALTTP the entire world map is one big dungeon itself; after the initial section, you’re free to explore wherever you like with absolutely no handholding, and tackle dungeons in any order you wish – the only barrier being an item needed to progress.
Of course depending on what item you manage to stumble across during your journey across the lands of Hyrule and Dark World (the anti-Hyrule; a dangerous world with a similar layout but more foreboding enemies, different locales and terrain), a dungeon – all of which are satisfying and brilliantly designed – may be a cakewalk or hard as nails, which is why exploration is the bread and butter of this game (and another aspect that the series excels in).
Tying into that aspect, secrets and goodies are smartly tucked away in nooks and crannies that require some thinking to be accessed, and smart players are rewarded for their cleverness, be it by coming across a room of faries who restore health to a magic pond that upgrades your gear in exchange for Rupees (the Hyrulian currency).
Ultimately, ALTTP is a fantastic game that should NOT be missed out on by any self-respecting action-adventure fan; it would’ve been my favorite game of all time, if not for….
1. Metroid Prime
This is it; the best game I’ve ever played.
Developed by Retro Studios and published by Nintendo, this GameCube classic not just stands the test of time but it’s also one of the finest games in existence.
Metroid Prime succeeds in all fronts on bringing the renowned Metroid formula to 3D. It manages to retain the series’ isolated atmosphere, fast paced gameplay, larger-than-life boss fights, brilliant level and puzzle design, tight control and movement scheme – a perfect recipe for a mechanically flawless game, which it is.
This is also a game that hasn’t aged at all; despite being a 15 year old game, the atmosphere and attention to detail is still very much engaging. The diverse areas of Tallon IV are a pleasure to explore, and yes exploration is a key element here as well, alongside observation: Scanning is an important aspect of Prime and one of the reasons the game is so good; it tells you everything you need to know, from the backstory on Chozo writings in the Chozo Ruins to enemy bio which puts you one step closer to beating an annoying critter.
Similar to Zelda, it’s teeming with secrets begging to be discovered and puzzle to solve, offers satisfying exploration rewards like Dishonored, boasts Deus Ex’s satisfying character progression as you find more and more upgrades to make Samus more powerful and more deadlier, as well as something akin to Persona’s tactical satisfaction as you uncover an enemy’s weak point via scanning – all in a massive interconnected world of passageways and elevators, full of hazards to platform across and hostile alien creatures begging to be shot down.
It’s also got one of the finest scores in the entirety of gaming as well as the most satisfying (and highly varied) puzzles in any game I’ve come across; it’s an extremely consistent, memorable and engrossing experience from start to finish, that will constantly keep you on the edge of your seat.
It’s a prime example of a gaming masterpiece, worthy of all the 10/10s in the world.