I realized after looking back over my older posts, that June marks the anniversary of my first year as a blogger. So to celebrate, & as a matter of self-indulgence since my birthday is coming up next week, I decided to write a post about what I would consider my favorite games of all time (so far). Every gamer has a list like this. And while I’ve mentioned games that I really like in some of my other posts, I’ve never really talked about a lot of them.
Just some ground rules before I really get into it. Firstly, I’ve limited the games on this list to one title per franchise. If I didn’t do this, most of the list would be made up of The Elder Scrolls & Mass Effect games, & that’s not as much fun to read about, I don’t think. So to get a broader range of games, I’m picking out my favorite games from such franchises. Secondly, don’t criticize my list. These are my personal favorites, not an attempt to list the Greatest Games Evar. While I’d love to hear what your list is, please don’t say you think such-&-such game is stupid & I’m obviously an idiot for liking it. If you don’t respect other people’s opinions, why should they respect yours? Thirdly, I’m splitting this list in half for length’s sake. The entire list all at once would take too long to write & read in one sitting, so this includes games 10-6 while the next post in a few days will have 5-1.
So with that out of the way, onward to the list!
#10 – The Sims
The original Sims was the first PC game I ever played (not counting the crappy Jeopardy! game that came with our very first computer). Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that The Sims franchise is a force to be reckoned with. The original Sims is the best-selling PC game to date, having shipped more the 16 million copies worldwide. And even though there have been other versions I’ve enjoyed, such as The Sims: Bustin’ Out on the XBox, the original is still my favorite. I played that game every way you could. I’ve cheated & I’ve played it legit. I’ve been serious, recreating myself & trying to be successful, & I’ve created Sims solely for the purpose of torture. I can remember being up for hours upon hours playing, until I had to quit because my back was screaming at me or because my laptop was starting the burn the skin off my legs.
I think there were three reasons this game can be so addicting. One, you could create anyone you wanted within reason. Although the original Sims had very limited character creation, you could make a close match to most people. So you could recreate yourself, your family & friends or even an enemy — likely to torment. Second, the game was very easy to pick up & play. It was really just a point-&-click game. The Sims have probably introduced people to gaming who wouldn’t otherwise have played. And third, there were regular expansions that added a large amount of new content. Unlike some games these days, the expansions for The Sims didn’t just add new house decor, but new locations, things to do & other mechanics. These factors encouraged people to continue to play long after its 2000 release.
The only thing about the game I didn’t like was that you had to have friends to advance your career. I’m sure it speaks to my unsociable nature, but if you’re trying to play the game legitimately, there isn’t a lot of time for socializing between taking care of your Sim, going to work, etc.
#9 – Titan Quest
A lot of people compare Titan Quest to Diablo II, but given that I’ve never played that game, that’s a useless comparison. Honestly, I think all dungeon crawlers follow the same formula, so comparing them is kind of pointless. It’s like saying all shooters are Halo clones when the whole gameplay mechanic is to point at stuff you want to die. But even if it is just a clone, Titan Quest is a great one. I loved the game when I had my old crappy PC that I could only play it on with the settings turned down & still got lag, I loved it when I could play on full settings on my XPS system, & I’m sure I’ll love it again when I install it on my new PC. I think what I love the most is the setting of the game & the classes. I love mythology of any kind, but given that I’ve taken several classes on Greek mythology, I really enjoyed recognizing the creatures & settings from the game. I also enjoyed the variety of classes & that you eventually get to pick two, providing even more variety in the combinations you can make.
The only downside to the game is that it can be very tedious & time-consuming if you’re borderline OCD like myself. I have the compulsion to pick up every single piece of equipment I come across to sell. I did eventually wean myself from picking up every broken item once I had a secure amount of money, but the temptation was always there.
#8 – Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Given that I listed The New Super Mario Bros. as my worst gaming experience from last year, it may surprise people to see this game listed among my favorites. But I don’t have anything personal against the Mario franchise, & given how long the franchise has been around it’s obvious Nintendo knows how to make good games. Super Mario RPG was the last game I played on the SNES, & actually the only Mario game I’ve played completely through. While the gameplay is traditional turn-based RPG, the game brought the colorful & quirky style that has since become familiar to Mario fans. And unlike most of the previous Mario games, it actually had a plot that involved more than just “Reach castle at end of stage, rinse & repeat until you fight Bowser & save the Princess.”
Aside from the humor, the other aspects of the game I like are the variety of tasks you encounter, how each area is unique but includes familiar enemies & the unique attacks. Sure, while at the core you’re just going through each area until you reach a boss fight & find a star, there were a lot of side tasks that added variety to the game. Some of my favorites were playing music with tadpoles, the minecart stage & the Yoshi race. I also liked that there were no random battles. You could see the enemies on the overworld, so if you didn’t want to fight you could just avoid them.
I also have to give the game credit as being one of the few that made Princess Peach sort of useful. Sure, she gets kidnapped & Mario has to save her, but that’s not the whole point of the game. And given that she’s only party member who has a lot of healing spells, she’s useful to keep in your main party.
#7 – Fable II
Like most gamers, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Fable franchise. I lost interest halfway through the first Fable, & only played Fable III once despite having what I think is the best plot out of the three games because of the bland gameplay. But Fable II I’ve played through several times & still enjoy it. It’s hard to point to one specific aspect of the game as what makes it superior to the others. It certainly had its flaws, like the limited character customization, fairly useless NPC population (unless you want to torment them) combined with horrible accents, & samey plot. And let’s not forgot those annoying children that forced me to run through the town to avoid hearing them begging for an autograph.
But it did a lot of things right, in my opinion. I loved the different skill systems & that you also had a general experience pool. The game is graphically beautiful & has some very funny moments. The dog companion feels more natural than it does in Fable III & has a reason for being there. I became very attached to my friend through the game, even if he stopped helping in combat to bark about treasure. The jobs are kinda interesting & varied. One minute you’re making swords, then you’re hunting a bounty, then you’re serving drinks, then you turn around & drag some poor sod off to slavery. And while I wasn’t very good at them, the pub games helped expand the world some. And I can’t leave out my favorite part: that if you level up your Skill (Ranged) ability, you can target specific areas of an enemy, including the crotch, which is endlessly hilarious.
To me, it felt like the good parts of Fable III were the parts carried over from Fable II just for the sake of carrying them over (like the dog, which really served no role in the story) while I missed the parts they left behind. The world as a whole just felt more alive & engaging. In fact, after writing this, I have the urge to start up a brand new playthrough…
#6 – Tenchu: Return From Darkness
The Tenchu series probably comes to closest to how ninjas actually acted, minus all of the supernatural aspects of the series. As much fun as it is to lop enemies’ heads off left & right, I can’t help imagining that Ryu Hayabusa would make a poor ninja. Instead of focusing on flashy combat, the Tenchu series focuses on stealthily eliminating enemies. Although it takes more patience, I find much more satisfaction in picking a room of bad guys off one by one without being spotted, taking great glee in watching them try to find me but knowing they won’t.
Tenchu: Return From Darkness (also known as Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven for the PS2) is by far my favorite game of the series. It’s one of those games that I would still play today if the 360 was compatible with it. The game had a lot going for it. The stealth mechanics were pretty good. Of course you could crouch on rooftops or hug walls to remain hidden, but you could also latch onto ceilings & drop down on passing enemies, shoot them with blowguns or use a sheet that makes you blend into the wall. There were a variety of stealth kills you could make depending on how you attacked. For instance, dropping on an enemy from above used a different scene than running up behind them. My favorite strategy was to lay down some poisoned rice to lure a guard away from his patrol, run up behind him when he went to pick it up & score a stealth kill while saving my rice. The story was also pretty good. I liked that you played through the story with three different characters (Rikimaru, Ayama &Tesshu) & although each character’s story was different, they linked together. The game also had replay value because there were a few sections where you had a choice to make & the game plays out slightly differently because of it.
With interesting characters, including one of my favorite female video game characters, some great music, the ability to change enemy positions, a bonus mission putting Rikimaru in a modern city, a versus mode where you could literally fight as a ninja dog & fun ninja items (like exploding pinwheels), this game was a must -have for any stealth or ninja fan. The only downside to the game was the combat wasn’t too great, & with most of the boss fights this problem was unavoidable.
In the next few days I’ll post my top five favorite games, which does include some new stuff.