Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dave Lamb's Top 25 games of all time (10-1)

Carrying on from 25-11 here's my top 10 games of all time.

10. Shenmue
Many people will think I’m crazy for placing Shenmue in my top ten but I think it’s severely underrated. The story surrounding its creation is remarkable. A game which allegedly cost $47 million to produce in 1999. It would have required everyone with a Dreamcast to purchase the game twice to make a profit! This game took the excellent fighting system from Virtua Fighter series and expanded it into an open world with many more aspects of gameplay. Metal Gear Solid introduced us to games that felt like an action movie but Shenmue is a game where you step into the life of a character in an action movie. The level of graphical presentation had also greatly increased by this time which made me feel this was another benchmark of what was possible in games.

9. Portal 2 
Portal 2 is my favourite puzzle game of all time, but maybe the best way to describe it is a first person shooter mixed with a puzzle game. The game features brilliantly designed puzzles using the ingenious mechanics of placing portals around each room. The game is brought together with some hilarious writing and excellent voice acting. The challenges are never tedious and are always satisfying to solve. The first entry in this series is also worth a huge amount of praise. However it was slightly short and Portal 2 managed to make a larger and deeper experience, while adding in an excellent co-op mode for you to enjoy with a friend.

8. Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango is a dark comedy neo-noir adventure game that I love to death. It’s the best adventure game I’ve ever played and if you missed it’s well worth revisiting. The artwork in this game is incredible but it’s the characters and story that make it stand out. Grim Fandango features outstanding voice acting to bring every character to life and cement the varying concepts behind each of them. This game also made me start to view video games as an art form due to its neo noir style. I’m thrilled that the museum of modern art is adding this game to a permanent exhibition that showcases video games as art. MoMA - Video games as art

Grim Fandango sales were poor despite the very positive reception of the game. This was taken as a sign that the adventure genre was commercially dead. The video game market was turning towards action-based games but again, there’s a large story behind that one too.

7. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is a terrifying game with one of the most intense atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. It’s a deep adventure that's scary and disturbing which could not be achieved through anything other medium. When I played Silent Hill 2 did it with a friend because playing this game by yourself can really put you on edge. You know, a problem shared is a problem halved and you need all the help you can get with this game. The reason horror games work so well is because you genuinely feel fear for your characters safety. Silent Hill creates a town where you never know what strange experience may occur next. Most of the characters you meet seem blissfully unaware of the horrors unfolding and this is where the game can really start to mess with your head. You start to feel unsure of what’s real and what’s not. Is this all occurring in the protagonists head or is the town messing with you? This helps create a great sense of despair that makes this game my favourite horror game of all time.

6. Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect is in my view, the best trilogy ever created in video games. It’s a comprehensive experience where actions from the first game carry through to the final act. The game is a perfect blend of the action and role playing genres. You are given the freedom to shape the story through the many choices and dialogue options, making it one of the most personal games you’ll ever play. The writing is excellent, the voice acting is excellent, in fact, pick any aspect of Mass Effect and you will find that it’s above many other games. The characters you meet are so strong they will be engraved in your brain for many years to come. Mass effect 2 is the strongest game in the series but the trilogy should be played throughout as your character and decisions are imported from game to game. Every gamer should experience this trilogy regardless of their genre preference.  

5. Bioshock
Bioshock is a work of art, it may still have all the violence and action of a first person shooter but that doesn’t detract from its artistic nature. The game's developers drew heavily on literary fiction such as Atlas Shrugged, which leads to themes few developers are willing to tackle. The game follows the story of Andrew Ryan, an individual who has rejected society's ideas of capitalism, socialism and religion. He has withdrawn from the world and built his own city under the sea. You play a nameless character who arrives at the city where it becomes immediately clear Andrew Ryan’s vision has failed catastrophically. 

You are left to explore the decaying city containing the horrors of genetic modification which sent people insane. The game has a brilliant atmosphere which often uses terror juxtaposed with humour. The world here is so cohesive you get the sense this world could actually exist. The game also has some excellent action. There’s a deep combat system the combines the use of special attacks named plasmids with gunplay to provide the player with endless variety. This game reaches some notes that were previously untouched in video games which is why I believe it’s one of the best games ever created. 

4. Shadow of the Colossus
Sometimes people talk about boss fights being their favourite part of a game. With that in mind a very talented studio from Japan made a game which is essentially just 16 boss fights. However, they made them the best boss fights you will ever experience. But maybe the phrase “boss fight” isn’t even applicable here. The genius of each boss is that it’s a giant puzzle. You are trying to fathom how your comparatively tiny character can reach the colossus and navigate to its weak point without being crushed and maimed. This brilliant experience is combined with superb art direction, a gorgeous world to explore and a very fine example of how to convey emotion through gameplay. Shadow of the Colossus uniqueness is the reason it ranks so highly on my list and I believe any self-respecting gamer should play it.

3. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is the reason I say to people they are missing out by not playing video games. It’s been hailed as the “HBO” of video games and I whole heartedly believe it is. It proves you can have cinema quality presentation while combining it with the interactivity of a video game. To me, it sums up the true potential of video games. They can tell a heartfelt story about characters you care for but also immerse you deeply through its interactive elements, something that still isn't standard in video game narratives. This game almost takes it for granted that the gameplay is rock-solid and shifts its focus to the writing and story. It’s a beautifully written and has expert voice acting. You only need to compare the voice acting in this game to the first Resident Evil title to see just how far video games have come. The Last of Us is a masterpiece that will be remembered for many years to come.

Have a look at the videos below and compare the voice acting and presentation of Resident Evil to The Last of Us .

Resident Evil (1996)

Last of Us (2013)

2. Super Mario 64
After all the praise I’ve given games for being arty and telling a top-notch story Super Mario 64 runs counter to that logic! There’s little to no story here accept rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. What Super Mario 64 is, is a shining example of a traditional video game. Collect the coins, collect the stars and beat the boss. It’s all here, everything you associate with video games. However, what makes Mario 64 so special is that it does all these aspects so well and it was one of the first to do so in 3D.  

There were other 3D games around at the time but none of them created a fully realised 3D world like this one. Crash Bandicoot was a 3D game but the levels were essentially lattice like corridors rather than a fully three dimensional environment. I remember my first time playing this game at a Toys 'R' Us promo kiosk and it completely blew my mind. I’d never experienced a 3D world you could run around so freely and easily. At the time it just wasn’t even something I thought possible or expected from the gaming world. The fact that one of the first open 3D world platformers is still one of the best, speaks volumes about how good this game is. The levels are incredibly varied, the puzzles are expertly designed and I’d recommend this game to anyone who enjoys video games.

1.The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
OK so here it is my number one game of all time - The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time. A huge open, long-form, action adventure game that excels at everything it touches. Again with this game Nintendo were introducing new ideas in the transition to 3D gaming. It was the first time lock-on targeting (then called "Z-Targeting") and context sensitive buttons were used. These ideas were so strong that they are still widely used today. I’m not sure how Nintendo struck gold with their first 3D iterations of games but struck gold they did. 

The art direction used for the characters and world design is stellar, the gameplay is gripping and the puzzles innovative. This game is unmatched when it comes to the variety of puzzles and diversity of actions. Even mini-games such as fishing are so good they could be fleshed out into their own games. This outstanding game is accompanied by the most memorable melodies you’ll ever hear and it gets my vote for best soundtrack on this list as well. Ocarina of Time is just as important today as it was back then. If for some reason you haven’t played this game, go out of your way to play it! It will be worth it.

So there you have it my top 25 games of all time hope you enjoyed reading it. Let us know some of your favourites in the comments section below and here's a few honourable mentions that crossed my mind.

Honourable Mentions
Super Mario World - Nintendo's most iconic 2D platformer.
Jak and Daxter - An excellent spiritual successor to Crash Bandicoot.
Final fantasy 10 - One of my favourite JRPGs.
Banjo Kazooie - A wonderful platformer from Rare.
Rayman Origins - An excellent modern game still flying the flag for 2D platformers.
Portal - An ingenious puzzle game as stated above.
Pokemon Red and blue  - Because you gotta catch em all!
The Walking Dead season 1 - Raises the bar for emotional story telling in games.
Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 - The original fun and crazy extreme sports game.

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