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My Top 10 Favorite Games (5-1)

After enjoying my one day off this week (because training screwed my schedule up), it’s time to finish up my list of favorite games.  And we’re finally getting into some recent games.  But before that, I was thinking about what all of these games have in common that makes them my favorite.  And the one trait that they all share is that I have played them many, many times.  I think that’s the mark of a good game: something you can pick up & play even years later & still enjoy it.  Because let’s face it, you couldn’t really have enjoyed a game if you beat it once, put it down & never touched it again.  In fact, with the exception of the two games that aren’t compatible with the 360, I still own every game on this list.  And technically I could still play them since my old XBox still works, but it’s on a tiny TV in the tiny guest room, so it’s not that appealing.

But with that ramble out of the way, on to the rest of the list!

# 5 – Legacy of Kain: Defiance


The Legacy of Kain series is one of the best gaming series made.  If it were a novel, it would be on the best-seller list.  It shows how to do a game story well.  It has an intriguing plot with twists & turns, compelling & believable characters & philosophical questions, not to mention a fantastic crew of voiceactors through ever single game.  I won’t attempt to give a full summary of the plot here because it took them four games to tie everything up (Blood Omen 2 is outside of the main storyline).  To give a brief explanation, the series revolves around the vampire Kain & his “son” vampire-turned-wraith Raziel as they travel through time, fighting each other & trying to discover if there’s such a thing as free will in a doomed timeline.

The reason I picked Defiance as my favorite out of the five games was because it was the final chapter & tied up all of the plot holes the series had given us.  It was the only game to allow us to play as both Kain & Raziel, & to me the best part of the game was bouncing back & forth between the two.  Not only did the story develop naturally along two different paths that joined together in the end, but because the story switches between times, I thought it was cool to see the same places in different times.  Plus, Kain & Raziel are two of the most memorable characters in gaming.  I can’t help but like both of them & want them both to succeed.  And Kain is a proper vampire.  He’s not some angsty teen.  Hell, he doesn’t even look human by the end.  And he can literally suck the blood out of a person from five feet away!

The gameplay in Defiance wasn’t spectacular, but it was functional.  The combat & puzzles are fairly simple, but everything else in the game made up for it.  I just wish I could play it on the 360.

#4 – Jade Empire


Jade Empire was the first BioWare game I ever played, & I’ve been a fan ever since (current bad decisions notwithstanding).  It still has what I consider to be one of the greatest plot twists in gaming history.  I won’t spoil it if you haven’t played it yet, but if you have I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  I can still clearly remember sitting there, staring at my TV in disbelief for a minute before saying, “Oh my god, these people are geniuses!”  The narrative of this game is easily the best part.  The whole story is so tightly weaved together that you can look back on certain moments & see the subtlety.  Not only that, but the pseudo-Chinese/Japanese world Jade Empire is set in is very vibrant, alive & interesting.  Great story, great characters, great sidequests & a dash of humor to round things out.

That’s not to say it’s a perfect game.  The combat doesn’t stand up to the story’s quality.  It’s too easy & repetitive.  I can’t hold that against the game too much, however, because it was BioWare’s first attempt at real-time combat (versus the turn-based combat in their previous title, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic).  They tried to change things up by giving you a variety of fighting styles, but I rarely encountered a situation where I couldn’t use my sword.

I plan to start a new blog series called Retro Reviews, looking at older games in a Then-Now perspective, & Jade Empire will be my first review, so I’ll only say one more thing: Seriously BioWare, why no Jade Empire 2?

#3 – The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim


What is there to say about Skyrim that  haven’t already said?  I’ve loved the Elder Scrolls games since Morrowind.  If I wasn’t limiting myself to one game per series, three of the games on this list would be the Elder Scrolls.  I don’t think any franchise has done the open world thing better than Bethesda.  And each game only gets better.  Morrowind was a vast & dangerous world full of quirky characters.  Oblivion was a beautiful game that let me talk with the God of Madness.

I think a big part of why Skyrim is my favorite so far is the way they revamped the skills system.  It feels much more dynamic & logical to have all skills available to the player at all times & for them to just improve as you use them rather than having a set class.  Plus, picking a perk is more involved than just having a skill given to you for reaching a new rank.  And lest we forget, it has dragons!  Anatomically correct dragons — by which I mean they closer resemble birds than lizards with wings sticking out of their backs.

#2 – Okami


Technically I shouldn’t be putting this game on my list because I haven’t finished it yet, but that just proves how much I love this game that I haven’t even finished it yet & it’s already my second favorite game ever.  Okami is amazing.  There’s no other word for it.  Every aspect is amazing.  It was the only game that I knew I absolutely had to get after my dad bought the Wii.  This game is one of the must visually stunning anythings I’ve ever seen.  I love the water color-calligraphy art style.  The game has a great sense of humor, & Amaterasu is the most adorable heroine in any game.  And even with my problems with the Wii motion controls, the whole idea of using ink to change the world is unique & exciting.

It saddens me that this game hasn’t done better financially.  It’s one of the greatest games that nobody played.  In fact, the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition lists it as the Least Commercially Successful Winner of a Game of the Year Award.  I think it is precisely the reasons so many people love the game (it’s uniqueness) that frightens a lot of gamers off.  But games like Okami are what being a gamer is all about.  You can’t just stick to the same old tried & true formulas.  Okami is what an adventure game should be like.

I’ll give a proper review once I finish the game, but I will say this much… GO BUY IT!

And my Number 1 favorite game of all time is…

#1 – Mass Effect 3


I have to admit, I wanted to give this rank begrudgingly.  I’m still a bit miffed about the ending.  But cutting out the last fifteen minutes of the game, I loved every part of Mass Effect 3, & the trilogy is firmly planted as my favorite gaming series.  A large part of why the third chapter is my favorite is because of the previous two games.  It’s because it is the conclusion of everything that’s happened up until them.  The liberation of the Krogan from the Genophage.  The peace between the Quarians & the Geth.  The way the relationships with the characters from my squad play out.  Everything from the previous games was leading up to this.

I think ME3 struck a good balance between the first & second games.  While it keeps the action orientation from ME2, with the ability to target specific parts of an enemy & interrupts, it also brought back more of the RPG aspects from ME1 with the different ways to evolve your powers & weapon customization.  Although I was disappointed BioWare didn’t bring back the full-blown planet exploration from the first game, I was immensely relieved they got rid of that stupid scanning.

All missteps aside, the Mass Effect trilogy is a great franchise, probably one of the greatest of this console cycle.  I love it so much I’m even in the middle of replaying the series from the very beginning.


So there you have it, my list of my favorite ten games.  Of course such things are always subject to change if I play an even better game.  It’s these games that I look to when I see some of the same old muck developers crank out to remind myself why there is no other media like video games.

– GamerDame

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Permanent Playlist

Most games have little replay value.  Sure, you may play it once, or maybe twice if you want to complete everything.  But most of the time once you’ve finished the game there isn’t much reason to play again.   You have your fun, then trade it in towards buying newer (hopefully better) games. But then there are some games that you keep coming back to play again & again, even when they’re considered outdated by most.

A lot of developers try to cash in on this.  Why do you think so many older titles are available to buy through various online services?  I think some games have a nostalgia aspect.  We want to relive a small part of our childhood & play the games we remember loving as kids — even if they don’t always live up to our memories.  More modern developers release dlc packs to extend the playtime of their games.  Whether this is new in-game content or maps for multiplayer, these add-ons make new playthroughs unique & enjoyable again.  And then some games owe their extended replay value to modding communities.  A lot of PC games allow fans to modify the game through a variety of ways.  The most recent example is Amnesia: Dark Descent.  Editing software that comes with the game allows players to create new storylines to share with other fans.

I applaud all of these efforts to extend our playtime.  Games aren’t cheap, after all.  Anything that can help me get my money’s worth is appreciated.

I was looking through my game collection the other day & noticed that I still own a lot of older games that I still enjoy playing.  So I decided to make a list of my permanent playlist, if you will.

From Midas Magic mod, the most endorsed mod on Tesnexus

Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

This was the game that made me spend my tax refund on a brand new, high-powered gaming PC.  Originally I played Oblivion on my 360.  It was the first game I bought on the system, in fact.  But I bought the PC version when I saw the dedicated modding community.  Seriously, if you’ve only played Elder Scrolls on a console, you’re missing out.  Mods further expand this massive game.  Not only are there literally hundreds of mods (current count places it at 23,173 files on Tesnexus alone), but the people who are creating these mods should probably work as programmers & designers themselves.  A lot of them are really high quality.  You can add quests, factions, houses, gameplay effects, armor & even races & character models.

Indigo Prophecy

Simon Says take out the cops

Time for something a little more obscure.  Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit in Europe) is an old XBox game released in 2005 by Quantic Dream, the same developer of Heavy Rain.  The gameplay is very similar in that the game is more of an interactive story.  You play through three connecting character stories as you investigate a ritualistic murder that has one of the characters as the prime suspect.  The reason this is in my permanent collection is the unique gameplay & engaging story.  Most of it plays out as a point-&-click adventure, but the action sequences require Simon Says-style use of the dual analogues.  Conversations are timed, & it’s strangely exhilarating to be hunting yourself.  The second half of the story kinda falls off, & the graphics aren’t great, but I still love it & continue to play.

You can bring 1 ally to fight

Jade Empire

Another old XBox game, & by my favorite developer, BioWare.  Jade Empire was the first BioWare game I ever played, & it encouraged me to buy Star Wars KotOR, even though I’m not a big Star Wars fan.  The story is Jade Empire is absolutely brilliant.  I can vividly remember the shock I felt when I saw the plot twist halfway through the game (not going to spoil it for those who haven’t played, but let’s just say when you think you’ve won… you haven’t).  My first thought was, “What the hell?”  My second was, “These people are freakin’ geniuses!”  I’ve been a fan ever since.  Although the combat is a bit repetitive, the characters & story are more than enough to keep you hooked.

I also have to give an Honorable Mention to Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath.  I loved this game on the XBox.  It’s one of those games that is just fun to play.  It has a real sense of humor, & the live ammo system is both unique & well-designed.  The reason I didn’t put this on the list is because you can’t play it on the 360.  A remake was announced for the PS3, but so far the developers haven’t announced anything for the 360.  But if it does become available, you can bet I’ll be playing this again.

What makes a game a part of your permanent collection?  Is it the variety & entertainment of the gameplay?  A great story?  Drive to reach 100% completion?  A dedicated multiplayer base?

– GamerDame

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