There are some excellent games out there; I have tried to distill them into a very short list. The title is a bit of a misnomer; most of these are series, rather than individual games. The reason, by the way, that I am not including the SNES in this list is because it would crowd out other games, and the whole list would just become a big Nintendo fanboy love-fest. And that would be wrong.
5. Dwarf Fortress
This is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in modern gaming. It is an excellent game not because of graphics (let’s face it, these are 80’s-era visuals), not because of difficulty (It is difficult, though; the unofficial motto of the game is “Losing is Fun!”), not even because it is superbly designed (It is riddled with bugs and glitches; this is forgivable, since it is technically still in Alpha testing. The controls are also impossibly complicated to get used to without hours of practice). No this game is marvelous because it has taken the concept of “Wide-open sandbox” gameplay to the extreme. There is absolutely no “win” condition for this game. You set your own goals, and then you either meet them or – more often – fail spectacularly.
I would argue, in fact, that the graphics of the game are actually a boon; your imagination creates the story, and, as the countless illustrated stories of battle-hardened DF veterans can attest, this is where most of the charm arrives.
4. The Disgaea Series
First of all, let’s get something straight here: this is a weird series of games. It’s turn-based strategy mixed with a healthy dose of truly bizarre humor, all thrown into the Underworld. It’s so strange that I am sometimes uncomfortable playing it in front of other people. But here’s the thing: it’s fun.
It’s one of the most fun series of games I have ever played. I enjoy the level-grinding, the over-the-top voice acting, the nonsensical storyline, and the not-terribly-good graphics (this last part, by the way, is why my wife doesn’t like the games; if she can count the pixels, she’s done with it). It’s all overblown, all ridiculous, all flashy-lights-and-noises entertainment, and I eat it up.
3. The Halo series
This game ruined me. I cannot enjoy any first-person shooter unless it is packaged in the siren-song that is a Halo game. I need shields, Heads-Up-Displays, and waves upon waves of evil aliens to shoot, stab, and smash with an over-sized hammer.
The game’s graphics are, of course, wonderful and have only gotten better with each new installation. The online capabilities kept me hooked for way longer than was strictly necessary; college would not have been the same without them. Character development? Negligible. Storyline? Convoluted and best ignored. Violent? Might as well be each game’s subtitle. Nevertheless, you, I, and every gamer you know likes these games. If they say they don’t, they are lying. If they say they are not lying, they are still probably lying. The games didn’t sell eleventy-billion copies each with nobody buying them.
2. Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask
Let me begin by saying that the fact that this is not the #1 post may cause some very close friends to disavow any former relationship with me.
There’s a reason for that: these are great games. In fact, they are just about everything you should expect out of an Adventure Game. Moreover, most people began playing them at a time when they were first really becoming of deeply ingrained in the gaming culture. The games helped show off what could be done with a “3-D” style of play. Platformers like Mario 64 were, honestly, sort of a proof-of-concept, but the new generation of Zelda games helped to flesh out what could really be done with the next generation of games.
These are perhaps two of the most awesome games ever written. The slightly alien world in both is like something taken out of a fairy-tale, a world with pointy-eared people living next to rock people who are terrorized by dragons and wizards and thieves. Few things, in fact could top these two.
1. Arkham Asylum/Arkham City
This will actually be a very short defense consisting of two points:
A. The game is designed to make you feel like Batman.
B. The game succeeds in making you feel like Batman.
I have yet to meet anything in a video game that can even approach this. The only thing that I imagine could be better is if your system suddenly started spraying money out of the disk drive while you played. If you see that feature at the next E3, you’ll know where they got the idea.
Further Reading: a “Cracked” article. As always, language. Also, SPOILERS.