Last time, we had a look at the bottom half of my top 10 favourite games of all time.
Sadly, in a few previous posts I’ve already noted my favourite game, but the ones between five and two are a complete mystery to some of you, so on we go!
5. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Konami)
Metal Gear is a long-running franchise, having its roots way back in the Nintendo Entertainment System days and, save for a few graphical updates and quality of life improvements, it has remained largely the same.
You are a single agent on a mission, deep in enemy territory. You have to scavenge all of your equipment on site, including weapons. You’re given an objective and told to complete it the way you best know how (though there is a preference for being sneaky).
Through the entire Metal Gear mythos, you hear two names over and over again: Solid Snake and Big Boss.
In Metal Gear Solid you learn Snake and his “brother” Liquid are nothing more than clones of the original Big Boss, with Solid Snake having received the dominant genes, turning him into an almost identical person.
In Snake Eater, you meet Big Boss himself, on the mission which ends with him receiving that code name. Prior to this, in true Metal Gear fashion, he is named Naked Snake.
Along the way, you run across other fan favourites, including Revolver Ocelot, and see the beginnings of the Metal Gear project, which would later be completed by Big Boss.
The engine in Snake Eater is the same as Metal Gear Solid 2’s, but with a few graphical updates and a couple of new systems. Specifically, you need to hunt and eat animals to survive, and on occasion you’ll have to perform first aid on yourself. These first aid sequences are brought to life with particularly gruesome CGI video attached to them. Just wait ’til Snake sets his own bones. Awful.
The entire MGS trilogy from the PS2 is now available in a bulk pack for PS3. I suggest picking it up. It’s 100% worth your while.
4. Pokémon (Nintendo/GameFreak)
I struggled to narrow down which Pokémon game I was going to list here in this spot. I figured Red and Blue because I started on those in the fourth grade, but I have enjoyed every single instalment in the series for one reason or another.
For those who have been living under a rock for the better part of 20 years, Pokémon is a series wherein you play a small child who is on a journey to become a Pokémon master.
This involves travelling a region of the world, then capturing, training, and battling Pokémon against other trainers and wild Pokémon. It usually culminates in a battle with the five most powerful trainers in your region, with you eventually claiming the title of “Champion”.
Along the way, you usually foil the plans of a criminal organization which is akin to the old Team Rocket from Red and Blue as well as the TV show.
This series has grown and adapted not at all, short of giving Pokémon various new evolutions, or adding new Pokémon all together. There are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600 of the little critters now, and I think I own most of them.
What I do enjoy these days is the ability to compete and trade with players from around the world with Nintendo’s WiFi system. It’s superbly well implemented and I have yet to experience a time (save for intercontinental flight) where I couldn’t play against other people.
There’s really nowhere for a series like this to go, except maybe the MMO I’ve been dreaming of for years, but it also doesn’t really need to. It works, and it always has. The original system has been polished to a mirror shine and there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo)
This is probably going to be one of the more unpopular entries in this entire list, even if it is seeing a 3DS re-release next month.
This particular Zelda is a direct sequel to the previous game, picking up almost immediately after Ocarina of Time ends. But it takes place in the “child” timeline. (I’ll explain the timeline another day, just go with it for now.)
Link, having lost his fairy friend at the end of the previous game, sets out on a journey to find her.
Along the way, he stumbles upon a trickster called the Skull Kid who steals his Ocarina and horse and leaves him unconscious. Link comes to, and gives chase. He ends up in a parallel word scheduled to be destroyed in three days. He then goes on a Groundhog Day-like journey, continually reliving the same three days over and over until he can stop the moon from crashing into the world.
This is a massive game with a huge amount of side quests, and they are all linked to a collection of some 20 or more masks, each with different abilities.
The four main masks allow you to possess the bodies of dead or dying heroes of the various races spread around the world, and each one has a story to go along with it, tied intricately to the five stages of grief. There’s even speculation saying the entire game takes place in Link’s head after he is bodily thrown from his horse at the start of the game. You see, he lands on his neck. So, the theory goes, “Link’s neck broke and he died. The rest of the game is his progressing through the stages until he can come to a form of acceptance.”
It’s a great game with an even greater story, and almost no one in it has a happy ending. Oh, there are a few, to be sure. But the majority of the characters, including Link, learn sometimes all you can do is put one foot in front of the other.
2. Mass Effect Trilogy (Bioware)
Okay, I’m cheating a bit here by including three games in one spot, but all three together make up one long tale. I can’t justify splitting them up. Also, I couldn’t choose between Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 with a gun to my head. But I digress.
Mass Effect is, in my opinion, Bioware’s magnum opus. It doesn’t, and will not, get any better than this for them. I’m not going to go into any detail about the story, because it is that incredible. Suffice it to say, they managed to make science fiction approachable for a new generation, and they didn’t require an outlandish form of space travel or technobabble to do it.
The characters are well-rounded, and they have story arcs where they change, grow and evolve. They are not the same people by the end of the series that they were when they started. Some have lost friends and family, some have gained some valuable insight. Others don’t make it through at all.
And that’s the key thing. Your choices, and how you interact with these… people, these amazingly complex beings, has a direct impact on the outcome of the game. It was heart-rending for me to watch my Commander Shepard’s love interest die in Mass Effect 2, because I chose the wrong person to lead the First Fire Team during our final Suicide Mission. I was completely shattered because I’d gotten to know her, and care for her, at least from where Shepard stood.
And it’s worse to watch Shepard lose her. The agony is plain on his face with every loss, and it only gets worse as the war with the overarching villains draws out. He has to choose when soldiers live and when they die. He also loses friends and colleagues. (I say “he,” but you can play a female Shepard as well, and Jennifer Hale does an amazing job bringing her to life.)
If you’ve never played this game and you have a PC, PS3 or Xbox 360, I urge you to go out and play it. Just…be warned. The first game is a little hard to get through because it’s using an old engine and play-style, similar to Knights of the Old Republic. But don’t let that stop you. The story more than makes up for any drawbacks there.
So the inevitable question is which game could be so much better than Mass Effect that I put it first?
1. Star Ocean: The Second Story (Enix)
I’m not going to break this game down for you, I’ve done that elsewhere on the blog before. I will reiterate, however, that it still holds up. Its graphical style is simplistic, and that gives it more of a timeless quality, rather than a poorly-aged one.
Also, the game engine is creative. It’s a free and open battle style where how you treat your party members outside of combat has a direct impact on how they perform during battles. In addition, it’s a game that allows you to culminate your long and arduous journey by literally killing a god (or archangel, it really depends on your point of view).
If you can get your hands on a PS1 and a copy of this particular game, I highly recommend it. Be prepared to pay through nose, however. The game is rare and has a cult following. This makes it a collector’s item, and that makes it pricy. I suppose you could play the remake on PSP. But I’d be very disappointed in you.
So, there you have it. My top ten games and the reasoning behind each one. I hope you like the list, and go out and try some of these games. There are millions out there, and millions yet to come. Some of the games on my list may drop off as I play others, but I don’t see that happening soon, given the length of time these games have been around.
Let us know in the comments which games you like, and if you disagree with me on some of the ones I chose!