Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Video Games

I wouldn’t say I’m the most avid gamer in the world, but I do find myself often digging into a game for several hours at a time and not even realizing it. If a game is great, this is one of the easiest things to do without realizing. There’s few things better than getting immersed in the world of a game, or falling in love with some solid gameplay and just having a go at it. Video games provide an excellent resource for people to just hang out and have some fun, or take out some sort of frustration *cough From Software games cough*. And because I’ve been on a bit of a gaming kick recently, I decided there was little better time to talk about my ten favorite games of all time!

No honorable mentions this time around. There’s quite a few to count, and I’d rather just get straight to the list, since I have a lot to say for all of these entries!

#10 – The NCAAF Games

Probably the saddest thing in sports games is that we may never see college football return to the world of gaming. Which is a shame, because out of all the sports games I’ve played, the NCAAF titles have provided the best experience. I love the recruitment aspect of it all, trying to get the highest ranking, and even making your own player and taking them through the end of their high school career all the way through college on the Road to Glory. And there are so many ways you take the game!

I always love finding some of the worst teams I can and seeing how good I can make them in a certain amount of seasons, to see if the AI will recognize it as a legitimate team. It can be incredibly challenging, as recruiting lower-ranked players against top-tier schools is hard, but there are interesting ways around it. More so than the “Madden” titles, the NCAAF games emphasize strategy on and off the field, but it’s what you do off the field that matters most. The Player always has to account for two seasons: the one they’re currently in, and the one that’s coming up. Because, sometimes, players will just leave for the draft and you’re without your best receiver! What to do? Recruit a new one! Hope you got a good one over the season.

These games are some of the best time-killers I’ve ever played, even more than mobile games. If I have an hour to kill before I need to do something, I’ll usually just play a quick game and do some recruiting if I can to pass the time, and it’s always fun.

#9 – Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds World Championship 2011: Over the Nexus

There are really only a handful of great Yu-Gi-Oh! games, and I think this is the best of them. It has way more variety in terms of decks and Duel modes than other games, which can be attributed to the series that it’s inspired by (5Ds). While many mock the “card games on motorcycles” aspect of it all, the Speed Duels are exhilarating, and I’ll get to them in just a second.

The game takes the Player through the second season of the Western anime (leaving out all of the Z-ONE stuff, unfortunately). It’s a brand new character to the series, and one the Player makes all on their own. They mostly fulfill the role that Yusei did, as they Duel many of the primary antagonists and, in the tournament, have to face off against the three Nordic Duelists one after another. This is both good and bad, as it allows the Player to have the most agency throughout the tournament but it also means that the characters from the series are a bit diminished in their roles. It makes my boy Yusei look rather ineffective, even though he’s the best!

Still, the duels are great, and I like that they chose to focus only on the second season rather than the whole show. It focuses things up quite a bit, and it means the Player can get straight to the interesting Duel elements brought up, such as the Speed Duels, of which there are a lot. The game is, yes, about building a good deck, but because there are Speed Duels, the Player must also built a deck that can be used without their normal Spell Cards. It means you can’t just have two of the same deck, and forces them to start thinking strategically. Plus, there’s a stretch of story where they have to face three Duelists back-to-back-to-back all with the deck never restructuring. It’s the best part, and most challenging, part of the game, but it’s so exciting.

I could ramble on and on about this game, but I’ll cut it there. It’s a ton of fun for fans of the series, and for fans of the card game in general.

#8 – Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3

Part of me hesitated to put this list up now rather than February simply because I have a feeling that Dragon Ball FighterZ will replace this, but screw it, let’s talk about "Budokai 3." It’s the staple DBZ fighting game. It’s the one almost everyone remembers and the one that people still compare new DBZ games to. And it is THAT good. The fighting is fluid, the pace of the game is exciting, and it includes all sorts of crazy combos and transformations.

The game consists of all of DBZ and doesn’t allow for character customization, but if you collect all the Dragon Balls in select characters’ story modes, you’re capable of unlocking all their techniques at once, so you’ll have their full potential and don’t need extra character slots for Super Saiyan 3 Goku compared to just regular Goku.

There aren’t too many modes in the game, but I do love the structure of the story mode, as the Player must soar around the Dragon World to scour for items, story events, and the aforementioned Dragon Balls. Almost every DBZ protagonist has their own version of the Story Mode to play through. Some events don’t make much sense, like having Goku actually fighting Recoome when, in reality, Goku beats him in a single punch. Or having Krillin square off with Final Form Frieza, but whatever, the game’s fun.

It’s just a good game to unlock all the moves for every character and have friends over to play. Everyone can go Super Saiyan and have a blast!

#7 – Dark Souls 3

Probably the game I sunk the most hours into last year, Dark Souls 3 had to make the list. And I know that this isn’t the favorite “Souls” game for many people (in fact for several it’s their least favorite), but this was my entry into the series and I’ll never forget the memories I made with the game. It’s a tough game, yes, but it’s probably the most fair out of all of them. This is also the only entry on this list that contradicts my “play games for fun” statement earlier, since it can be very hard to have fun in this game.

Except when you beat a boss you’ve been at for HOURS. There might not be a better feeling in games than defeating a “Souls” boss and DS3 certainly has its share of hard bosses. I’ll admit that I’ve never beaten bosses like the King of the Storms/ Nameless King, Sister Frieda, or Darkeater Madir, but I don’t think that should impede my overall enjoyment of the game.

I’ll freely admit that this isn’t the best game of the series (I attribute that to Bloodborne) but I will say that I have the most fun with DS3 since it leans on my play style more than any of the others. I’m a passive-aggressive player: I often overextend, but that’s only because I take so much time to stay on the defensive than the offensive. DS3 emphasizes this with faster gameplay but still making sure you’ve got plenty of defense before going into a boss that will absolutely crush you.

Plus, I do legitimately enjoy some of the challenges, even the controller-throwing, soul-crushing defeats that I’ve suffered. It’s part of the game. Soul of Cinder took me two straight hours to beat and by the end I was happy to have beaten the final boss in my toughest struggle yet. My battle against Gael was INSANE. I couldn’t beat him with the armor set I had, so I had to just put it all on the line with my strongest weapon. I, to hearken back to the previously mentioned entry in the list, essentially went Super Saiyan and finally took Gael down, and capped my journey with DS3. It was some awesome times playing through the game, even it got pretty stupid.

Check out some more of my thoughts on Dark Souls 3 HERE

#6 – Super Smash Bros. Melee

I can’t think of a game I poured more of my soul into than Melee back when I was a little kid being exposed to Nintendo for the first time. It was the most competitive game around and I made damn sure I was going to be good at it, playing it any chance I got and loving every second of it. It was always the default game to play. “Well, let’s just play Melee.”

Everyone’s played Melee, and if you haven’t, you should either find yourself a Gamecube and a cartridge, or check out some of the tournaments on Twitch that are always streaming. The game is an insanely fun time, one of the best couch coop fighting games every.

My mains were Fox, Pikachu, Toon Link, and Dr. Mario. I won’t admit to being any good with them as a kid, but I was much better in the past than I am now. I was able to play more with the game then than I am now. Melee’s one of those old, classic games that you go back to and hope that it’s just a good as you think, and thankfully, it’s better. The movements are fluid, the game is fast, and it’s a very vibrant game, very interactive and easy to get lost in the fight.

#5 – Dragon Age Inquisition

Ah, now we come to the game I’ve sunk the most hours into THIS year. Yes, I’m three years too late to the party, and I’m regretting every second of it because this is probably the best game I’ve played that’s come out in the last three years. Dragon Age Inquisition is the best fantasy game, certainly I’ve ever played and just blows me away with how good it is.

The combat is incredible, the story is pretty interesting, the world is incredibly deep, and characters are well-fleshed out and voice-acted. Player agency doesn’t really come into play with the main story except for one key part (picking Templars vs. Mages) but the main thrust would’ve happened either way. No, player agency comes up when it comes to dealing with the various NPCs and 9 companions the Player can get over the course of the game.

Plus, there’s how your character gets perceived by the world and the Inquisition as a whole. I chose to create a Male Human Rogue Archer that’s initially power hungry, but wants to build a better world and will not suffer those that want to bring him down. I chose Josephine as my romanceable option, since Sera wasn’t into me and I’d rather not have romance interfere with the battlefield with Cassandra (plus, she was a bit too brash for my liking). My right-hand guy has always been Solas, I take him on every single mission.

And all that’s just how I played the game! There’s so many other ways to play it, so many different paths you can take. It’s a true RPG, and it makes popping that disc in and going on an adventure in one of the many zones exciting. I kind of hope we can get a true open world for Dragon Age 4, since the technology certain exists to make such a large game nowadays. It’d make the experience that much more immersive to go from the grand forests into the heart of the frozen tundra on a grand quest with my merry band of warriors.

And the game just looks spectacular. The graphics may not be the best, but the colors just leap off the screen and really make the world of Thedas stand out magnificently. The musical score is also pretty exceptional, with an awesome main theme for the Inquisition. Couldn’t ask for more out of a videogame!

#4 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


This game.

It’s so good. Like, SO good.

While Assassin’s Creed II will probably go down in history as the one that ultimately shaped the franchise, this was the game that showed it was ready to go in bold new directions. The story was structured far different than previous entries and the focus was no longer on the combat but more on the journey, as a lot of the game takes place at sea. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag didn’t introduce naval combat to the series, but rather improved on it from the previous entry and made it a key component to the game overall, making it now something fans want back. Hell, they’d redo it almost immediately with Assassin’s Creed: Rogue and it can be argued that this game helped inspire the upcoming titles Sea of Thieves and Skull and Bones, two pirate games based on their naval combat.

Ubisoft did a lot of interesting things with the game that I didn’t initially enjoy. I blame the marketing for it, though, as it heavily implied that we would be playing the part of a pirate-Assassin, of a man who was operating full-time as an Assassin and as a pirate, showing a darker side to the mystic organization. What we instead got was an origin story for two vital Assassins in the franchise lore, and at first, it made me angry. I wasn’t playing as an Assassin this entire time? Boo!

But upon a second playthrough, I was tearing up at the end of the game. Already knowing what happens and how it all comes together, I was really able to watch as Edward Kenway grew into his own, and finally find the purpose he’d been looking for since he left his home. The end of the game is probably the best in the series, as everything comes together and there’s an incredibly touching moment as Edward heads off for his next adventure and says his final goodbye to everybody. But it’s full of very fun, very memorable characters that got justifiable screen time throughout the story. The villain is a bit lacking but it’s less about stopping the Templars and more about Edward discovering what he wants to do with his time on the world, especially since the Golden Age of Pirates is in its waning stages and men like him won’t be around much longer.
It’s a story about a man forced to choose his destiny while discovering how he makes that happen and what it means for him as a man.  Edward Kenway rivals only Ezio Auditore as one of the most developed in the franchise during their time in the main stable of games (Altair would see tons of development in spin-off titles).

Plus it’s just an all-around fun game to play, easily the best in the franchise. The map is humongous, taking us to various islands and locals to hunt animals or loot treasures and free slaves. There’s an added mechanic of going underwater and finding lost treasure there but I’m no good at hiding from the sharks so I’ve never been able to do all those.

I’d understand why some people fast-travel everywhere, but it’s just way too much fun to be out on the Jackdaw sailing the Carribean. I love going around everywhere on the Jackdaw, attacking ships and getting that notoriety rating up. Leveling the Jackdaw can be difficult by the end and create a big of a grind, but it’s worth it to become, essentially, an unstoppable force out on the sea. There’s nothing like charging head on into battle against a bunch of Man-O’-War caliber ships knowing you’re about to plunder it all.

And the game plays pretty well. There’s the typical gameplay bugs of Edward running up random walls he can’t actually climb and sometimes characters will just fall through the over-world without end, but there’s a brand new mechanic, the darts, that add a new element to the stealth and combat aspects of the game. Plus who doesn’t like jumping on a ship and firing off four bullets? It’s friggin’ cool.

#3 - Marvel Ultimate Alliance

I’d say “they don’t make them like they used to” for this game, but I’ll save that properly for something higher up on the list. So, instead I’ll just praise the game that introduced me to a whole slew of Marvel characters I never knew existed. Like Deadpool. Or Blade.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance is a who’s-who of Marvel characters, with the Golden Edition expanding the roster out even further to add fan-favorites like Hulk and Venom. It includes basically every major character from the mid-2000s and throws them together in an epic story that takes us across all of the Marvel Universe, from a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier to the Inhuman city of Attilan.

This is a game made for comic fans but that can be played by people who don’t know a thing about the Marvel Universe. There’s tons of supplemental material that can be acquired along the way, and scores of characters willing to share backstories. What’s great about the game is that the backstory that’s spoken by characters is often not done in a boring expository manner, but rather as gossip. “Oh, did you hear about this character and that character?” “No way, I can’t believe they’d do that!” It adds to the more childish, youthful spirit of the game.

Plus, there are simulation discs for each character that give a brief overview of the backstory and allow you to battle against one of their major villains (like you get one for Iron Man and you fight the Mandarin, or something like that). There’s no excuse to not know who you’re playing as by the end of the game.

The game’s story isn’t the most complex of all things, but it is magnificent in scope. It sees Dr. Doom finally enacting his plan with the Masters of Evil (Ultron, Enchantress, Baron Mordo). They go after our heroes and begin stealing prominent artifacts from them, and it becomes a race against time to stop Dr. Doom before he can take over the world. I’d say a bit more but there are some really cool story beats that take place that we’ve seen in one form or another in the comics, but never in a way that we can actually interact with them.

This game isn’t really based on any story but if I had to compare it to anything, it’d be similar to Secret Wars, the recent 2015 version, where it’s everyone against Dr. Doom in a hopeless battle. Heroes are forced to work together to figure out their problems, and we get to see brand new sides of the Marvel Universe. It’s a very interactive game in that regard, too, as we meet characters and, if certain characters in your party meet certain NPCs, there are fun, unique dialogue options presented. It’s great.

The combat in the game is pretty fun, too, involving basic melee attacks but also adding in little super moves. Ultimate moves are pretty destructive, and certain characters can time their moves properly to have their ultimate moves combine. Captain America and Iron Man, for example, can use a combined ultimate move that attacks every nearby enemy (with the classic laser-shield combo). It’s all done from a top-down angle that allows you to see everything but makes somethings a bit difficult at times if you’re in a tight space, or if you need to do some platforming.

The voice acting and sound is pretty good, too. Sometimes the music will blare over character dialogue and you can’t hear much, but  more often than not it’s just a villain giving a grandiose speech so it’s not all that important.

By 2006 standards the game looks alright. Gameplay models look a little weird, but cut scenes look amazing even by today’s standards. I almost wish we could have a movie with that style of animation, because it would look phenomenal.

#2 - Pokemon Gold / Silver

I mean, what’s there really to say? It’s Pokémon! These were the first games I’ve played and while nostalgia definitely plays a big part in my enjoyment, I still think they’re incredibly well constructed games. These are the games that I hold as my gold (no pun intended) standard for future Pokémon games.

I do love HeartGold/ SoulSilver, but I just can never quite like them more than the original games. It’s hard not to compare the two, though, and I can completely understand why someone would enjoy the new games compared to the original. The addition of a Safari Zone to the Johto Region is incredibly enticing and there’s more post Elite-4 content…and Mewtwo!

But there’s just something about going back to the Kanto region in Gold/Silver/Crystal that really makes it special. Maybe it’s because the games were using similar graphics so it feels like stepping right back into the original games, maybe it’s the drastic change in tone and scope of the game when you realize that you can challenge old and new Gym Leaders. I’m not exactly sure what it is.

To be honest, much as I love the Kanto stuff, I do think it’s the Johto stuff that really lets these games shine. I absolutely adore the early game, with getting to meet all the new Pokémon and having the world open up slowly and steadily. Johto feels like a far more mystic region than Kanto, and some of the later regions, by the second Gym alone. There’s a ton of cool lore introduced in these games too, and I absolutely adore all the new Legendary Pokémon introduced (Suicine, Ho-Oh, and Lugia being some of my favorites of all time).

This game also makes it pretty easy for new players of the franchise to get into, and gives them a ton more to do. This game really set the standard for how future games would have to play out. Gen 3 games almost feel like a bit of a letdown compared to this series because of how little post-game content there is until FireRed/LeafGreen, in which they basically ripoff the Kanto additions into that game.

Plus, this is the game that everyone sort of wants to make a comeback in some form or fashion. It seems that with every new game, fans are hoping that there will be shared regions, even going so far as to look at tiny hints throughout the game that, in the post-game, they’ll be able to travel to a nearby region and explore brand-new areas.

Pokémon Gold/ Silver is probably the game I’ve played the most all the way through. Only just now did my Silver version from way back in the day stop working, and it was a blast for the last 17 years to go back to it and play through it again or continue a brand new playthrough of it. These are the games that got me into not just Pokémon but video games in general. And they’re absolutely amazing. 

#1 - Star Wars Battlefront II (2005)

I got this game on accident for Christmas one year. I mistakenly asked for it rather than the Revenge of the Sith game coming out later that year. Twelve years later and it’s the best mistake ever. It’s actually quite difficult to describe my feelings for the game. I’ve loved it for twelve years and I’ve got so many great, fond memories playing it with friends, by myself, or showing it to new people. A bunch of kids in my neighborhood also got the game and we would always play it together. Everyone was good at different classes in the game, or maybe someone was better at space combat, or another was just unconquerable as a Leader.  

It’s the only game I still fall back on as the game that I can play if I need to kill time or just sit and play a quick game of anything. If I’m stressed or need to just refocus, Star Wars Battlefront II has been there for me to just pick up a controller and play. When I switched over from my X-Box to my X-Box 360 I was mortified at the fact that I might not be able to play the game anymore. Thankfully, that was never the case; and with the recent announcement that the X-Box One X might become backwards compatible with the original X-Box games, I can only hope to someday play it on the new generation of consoles.

But enough personal history with the game (for now), what makes it so great? Well, for one, it’s definitely a unique Star Wars experience. The combat isn’t too groundbreaking and the visuals are pretty “eh,” but it’s the ability to enter Galactic Conquest and fight a war across the stars, or to play through the fall of the Galactic Republic and rise of the Galactic Empire. It’s setting up Instant Action and playing any map you want in any order.

There’s so many ways to play. I’ve never been bored with the game. It’s so much fun to play Galactic Conquest with others and come up with different strategies on how to take own the galaxy. What’s great is that, even 12 years later, the game still has planets and maps that I’m terrible at and dread playing during Galactic Conquest. The game hasn’t lost any of its shine since I first got it.

The different modes of play are also great. I personally enjoy Capture the Flag quite a bit, given that I can just rack up my KDR and improve my character’s abilities. I also love the Mos Eisley Assault map, where you play as any Hero or Villain and fight a bunch of other heroes and villains around the Mos Eisley spaceport. Or you can play the Hunt mode and play as Gungans or Wompas or Ewoks. It’s great! VARIETY!

Star Wars Battlefront II is a game I hope to one day play with my kids. I’ve got a special appreciation for it now that the current generation of Battlefront games aren’t too great (in fact my disdain for the new Battlefront is quite incalculable). You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to love it and you don’t need to be a fan of shooter games to love it. It’s a game made for everyone to just play and have fun, to get immersed for several hours and play through several different modes and characters in a single sitting. I hope it one day resurfaces as an online game as a throwback game for it to be available again for the mass markets. 

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