Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Top 10 Greatest Games of All Time

"Video Games", as many call it, is a progressive, abstract, and interactive kind of art. It is interesting to see where this experience is going to lead us in the future. These thoughts brought me to examine my video game experiences thus far. It's been expansive, eye opening, and entertaining to say the least. Has it always been about the graphics or the gameplay? A combination of both maybe? Perhaps it is deeper than those two factors, an antithesis, a self-referentiality? I asked myself, what would be the ten greatest games I have ever played? This list will be updated as I encounter worthy titles through my continuing video gaming journey... [Latest Update: 05/03/2015]

IKARUGA (2002)
Developer: Treasure
Platform: Dreamcast/Personal Computer/X-Box 360
Induction Dates: 2002 (DC) - 02/18/2014 (PC) - 04/09/2008 (X360)

Director Hiroshi Iuchi has crafted many masterpieces - don't be surprised if another one of his creations pops up later on this list - and Ikaruga deserves a spot as one of the best shooters ever. The game focuses on one simple gameplay mechanic - the ship's ability to switch colors between black and white where it is only susceptible to destruction when it comes in contact with the opposite colored enemy shots. The game is designed around this concept as it is expanded and stretched from all the different angles and corners of the imagination. Some of the later stages require the player to enter a state of total gaming nirvana to survive unscathed between the dual-polarity patterns. Story-wise (omitted from the U.S. Gamecube version), the game explored the notion of freedom and sacrifice with such heart-wrenching gusto that it is promised to shock you during its fatal ending. Hiroshi Iuchi also showed his musical creativity with a harrowing orchestral soundtrack he beautifully composed for the game that never lets up from start to finish. This will be a worthy repurchase when it comes to X-Box Live just for the fact that you don't have to rotate your screen to get the game to run in its full resolution! [Note 04/09/2008: It was a worthy repurchase!]

Developer: Omiya Soft
Platform: X-Box 360
Induction Date: 02/15/2008

Culdept Saga is a deep magic card battle game that is further elevated by its clever usage of a Monopoly-ish board game setup. There are so many beautiful cards to collect and they are randomly awarded after the end of each match based on their rarity. The combination of both strategy from customizing a deck filled with limited amount of cards to bring to battle combined with luck from the draw of cards at the beginning of each round as well as sheer experimentation guarantees a highly involving experience every time the game is played. There is no ultimate strategy when it comes to deck management and after seeing the high variation of card combinations while playing the story mode, playing the game online revealed some deviously clever deck builds from some of the more experienced players. If you have to own one Culdcept, Saga is the definitive version to pick up but why limit the fun when you can also pick up the U.S. PlayStation 2 release?

Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 2
Induction Date: 10/20/2005

Here we have a game that is going to be remembered for trying to achieve something new, bold, as well as different and succeeded in its overall delivery. It starts off with a simple set up - the hero is trying to revive his dead damsel and the only way he can cheat death is to take her to a ancient, magical land and kill off 16 colossi that inhabit the area. They must individually be located within the vast landscape - without any loading time between travels! The game is a marvelous accomplishment both in its uncompromising, artistic direction and technical wizardry. I can still remember the sense of awe and amazement I felt when I first saw the first colossus with its majestic, overwhelming presence and the flock of birds flying above its head. The battles are epic yet the story is minimalist in its approach and ambiguous in its moral, creating a mystical, mysterious tone to the experience. It is ironic how the soundtrack changes into an adventurous tone when you're able to stab a colossus' weak spot but then its death is greeted with somber and regret.

Developer: Silicon Knights
Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Induction Date: 06/25/2002

The fact that it is the first fully matured psychological horror fest for a Nintendo console should place it on any top ten lists. Of course, this masterpiece is more than a showcase of disgusting gore and disturbing concepts. Through some truly clever writing and artsy execution, the game is a story of the manipulation of humanity by the ancient Gods. Spanning across multiple locations and timelines, we see the lives and deaths of those unfortunate enough to cross the paths of these beings. Dramatic in its scope, the story unfolds with shocking discoveries and revelations, further exemplifying the desperation of humanity despite its valiant martyrdoms. To further heighten the feeling of dread throughout the game, a "sanity system" was implemented into the gameplay. When the sanity meter of the player drops, unexplainable and creepy things begin to happen on the screen, guaranteed to disturb and startle anyone because they are so visually inventive and deceptive.

Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 64
Induction Date: 2000

No top 10 list would be complete without a game from the talented people at Nintendo. Though many would disagree, Majora's Mask is better than Ocarina of Time because of its ability to manipulate the contents of the original into a whole new different creature. Sporting a much more mature storyline involving the end of the world where a menacing moon is on a collision course for Hyrule, Majora's Mask gains the benefit of perverse nostalgia for its self-references to the previous game. The game's structure involves Link having to repeatedly travel back in time and relive the 3 last days leading towards the catastrophe. All of Hyrule's inhabitants go about their separate lives progressively over the timeline and figuring out their secrets and patterns becomes part of the solution to the epic mystery. Adding to the tense and brooding atmosphere, Link discovers different masks that he can wear that transform him into different creatures. For that final touch of classic Nintendo moment, each transformation is preceded with Link screaming in horrific agony as his physical being is altered - interesting.

Developer: Sonic Team
Platform: Personal Computer/SegaSaturn
Induction Date: 08/18/1996

Before they committed the sins against humanity with the recent 3D offerings of the Sonic Adventure series and the sequel to this classic, Sonic Team used to know how to create masterpieces. The original Nights is their grand opus, featuring addictive rail-based "free" flying gameplay mechanics, Freudian sensibility, mesmerizing "Cybersound" technology that remixes soundtracks with every play, a mini "pet" game where dream dwellers can be uniquely altered through clever gameplay tweaks, and some of the most unique boss battles in gaming history. Oh, it also contains a theme song that actually doesn't suck! The focus of the game is to find the best ways to manipulate the time spent as "Nights" on each section of the dream stages and collect as many orbs as possible to beat previous score performances. The boss battles are also timed to fit the overall theme. Nights was bundled with the first analogue controller, which is still one of the best controllers ever made, and the first console game ever to utilize such technology. I remember playing this one constantly over a period of two years.

Developer: Enix
Platform: PlayStation
Induction Date: 08/31/2000

Valkyrie Profile is memorable for containing the saddest, most bleakly depressing story ever told in a video game. Throughout the game, I sometimes wonder if such an extreme was necessary to evoke the desired connection to the adventure. The player takes the role of Lenneth, a Valkyrie sent down to earth to recruit souls of brave warriors to be sent to Valhalla in preparation for the battle of the Gods while trying the figure out the mystery of her own existence. The only catch is, these warriors have to die first and yes, they all died some terribly tragic deaths. The player gets to experience lengthy introductions to each of the many, many characters that can be recruited and learn about their lives' desires and struggles, and the detailed ongoing leading towards their lurid fate - no one deserves to die the deaths prescribed here. In addition to the mature, challenging storyline, the mix of platforming elements, strategy, and elimination of random battles further pushed the final product forward as one of the most polished games ever made. The opening scenario itself had scarred me for life - I am still very perturbed that it got a "T" rating.

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Platform: Personal Computer
Induction Date: 02/19/2015

It may have taken Blizzard too long of a time to officially enter the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre but the wait has been worth it. Instead of a mere mimic to the original Dota formula, which in itself was a mod of their own Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Blizzard has meticulously designed Heroes of the Storm with original elements to make it THE ultimate of all past and future MOBAs. There may not be that many champions in the game yet but even at this time but what's there are varied and some are well known characters taken from Blizzy's game franchises. But what has truly made this the best MOBA to date is its modernization of character leveling and progression. You don't have to worry about "buying items" from a store to illogically attach to your heroes (boots on serpentine heroes?) and instead, you choose talents on the fly. Then, there are also the varied maps, each with their own objectives and themes. I plan to play this for a very long time and I can only see continued greatness as the game receives even more heroes and maps.

Developer: Treasure
Platform: SegaSaturn /X-Box 360
Induction Date: 07/26/2002 (SS) - 09/14/2011 (X360)

Utilizing what seems to be the maxed-out power of the SegaSaturn that Sega themselves could never dream of, director Hiroshi Iuchi created the most brilliant, technical, thought-provoking, and beautiful space shooter that is light years ahead of its competition even to this date. The core of the game is its emphasis in mastering 6 available weapons the ship is equipped with to successfully navigate through the game's genuinely ingenious enemy patterns and events. The game is constructed around boss battles after boss battles. Each boss is amazingly complex and the battle with "Penta" is easily the most epic boss battle in the history of the genre not only due to its nostalgic storyline revelation but also due to the artistic direction of having the entire screen rotating 360-degrees over a devastated landscape and somber-looking grey skies as it showers the player's ship mercilessly with bullets. The sound effects are beefy and the background music screams out with brilliant, organic tension. To complete the experience, a philosophical storyline that involves the desperation of family and friendship, humanity's ignorance, and one ultimate time travel. It starts out rather comedic but it gets pitch black and apocalyptical as the story unfolds. Radiant Silvergun is a pure masterpiece to be treasured forever. [Note: 09/14/2011 - The X-Box 360 re-release is the best version of the game. No need to find the original SegaSaturn version anymore.]

Developer: Squaresoft
Platform: PlayStation
Induction Date: 1998

Because of the linearity of its design, here's a video game that uses the basic RPG gameplay progression and changes it into an extreme art. The human/robot turn based battle mechanic is fun but what drives this one into the number one slot is its perfectly directed presentation and high philosophy. The narrative follows the story of a conflicted man named Fei as he delves deeper and deeper into his past as the world around him collapses into the devastation of an escalating war. The game in itself is a long ride, clocking way into the 80+ hours, and it is packed with story details that could easily make those unprepared for the journey lost in its heavy literary references that are biblical, Freudian, and philosophical in nature. The story explores what it means to be human and the flaws in our "design" as we keep repeating our past tragedies. It explores the notion of reincarnation by genes passed through previous generations and the prevalence of memory. It dwells into the secrets behind human's obsessions with religions and the origin of such programming. It's very, very deep stuff that can easily offend those with a closed mind - It's a miracle that it made it to the United States against all odds. Xenogears is art in its highest form and it is tragic that the sequels - the Xenosaga series - are just pale in comparison.

---10 Honorable Mentions---
Banjo-Kazooie (1998) - Nintendo 64
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003) - PlayStation 2
Gunstar Heroes (1993) - Multi-platform
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) - Multi-platform
Silent Hill 2 - PlayStation 2
Sonic & Knuckles - Multi-platform
Suikoden III (2002) - PlayStation 2
Super Mario Galaxy (2007) - Nintendo Wii
Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) - Nintendo GameCube
Thunder Force V (1997) - SegaSaturn


Marty said...

Woah! I don't know any of those games. Great blog by the way.

Magma said...

this list is pure awesomnes

never spected to saw RS in any tops gaminf list... it should be first in everyone of them tho...