10) Pokémon Snap: In the mid 90s, the Pokémon franchise was launched with the release of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green. The first generation were some of the best-selling video games of all time, and, for me, they were the only reason the Game Boy needed to exist. Fast forward a few years, and what does Nintendo decide the franchise needs? A spin off game where you take pictures of the things, of course! Pokémon Snap was an odd idea, but it somehow fit right in with the RPG strategy games it came from. The pokémon world was bound to be a diverse and interesting one, which would lend itself to creative levels, like Cave and Tunnel. And when I was a kid, I didn’t know how to buy pokéballs, get trade evolutions, or catch mewtwo. But being able to capture them on film was good enough. And even after I thought I knew everything, every once in a while a Gyarados would come out of a waterfall, or a Grimer would evolve to Muk, and it would blow my young mind. The only downside was that the game didn’t even have half of the original 151. How am I supposed to be a pokémon master without Blastoise? A lot of other people have said there should be a sequel, but with 719 pokémon these days, I don’t think a new game could give each one the same attention and charm as the original. What I’d like is a remake of the original Pokémon Snap, with new levels and every first generation pokémon included.
9) Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Yes Brawl, because of course Brawl. If you have severe difficulty seeing patterns and may fail to recognize the one in this list, let me just give it away right now: I like Nintendo. Given that fact, it’s only natural that I love the Smash Bros. series. A bunch of Nintendo’s history packed into one game via their most recognizable and beloved franchises, with an even more expansive roster in each installment. And now that they finally seem interested in new IPs they’ll have more of the history to go around. Maybe get one of those Splatoon squids in the next one. But my love for Brawl is actually a more recent development. I have a younger sister who’s only gotten into video games in the last six months, and her favourite game has been Brawl. We’ve been playing it almost every other night, and now I’m getting to teach her about all these characters I grew up with.
8) Paper Mario: If Pokémon Snap didn’t make it clear enough; the Nintendo 64 was my first gaming console. And though there were a ton of great games on it, none of them were as fun as Paper Mario to me. The first of the Paper Mario series perfected two things, pacing and difficulty. The start of each new chapter had tons of new content to keep it interesting. And just before it could start getting tedious, you’d realize that the boss is just around the next corner, and start worrying that you’re not ready. You adjust your badges and check your items; pick your partner and heal up, and then go in and find out what kind of monster you’re up against. Along the way you’d almost always find a new partner, and usually upgrade them a bit too. All of them had unique and fun personalities, which really added a lot of charm to the game. And it was once you were up against the boss that you got to put all theirs skills to use: Bombette’s ability to knock over the Koopa Ninja Bros; Bow’s Outta’ Sight protecting Mario from Tubba Blubba’s heart; and Spike’s Spiny Surge taking out Huff n’ Puff’s little minions so he can’t heal- The game wouldn’t have felt or played the same without them.
7) Bravely Default: I like RPGs, and Bravely Default is one damn good RPG, starting with the gameplay. You have four characters, each of whom can be assigned a class and a sub class. With 24 classes (or “Jobs”), which you unlock as you go through the story or by side quests, and which you can level up alongside the character, this gives you plenty of things to try out. And, refreshingly, hardly any of the classes suck. There are a couple I haven’t found too interesting, but I can see how each of them offers something new to the game. And even in the instances where I couldn’t find any reason to actually make one of my characters a certain class, I could still pick some useful abilities off that class and use them in combination with something else. The downside to the gameplay is that, though there are tons of ways to play, there are only a handful of right ways. On my first play-through I played on easy, and even then, when it came time to take down the final boss, I simply couldn’t get away with using the classes I liked. Eventually I had to look up a strategy, and as far as I can tell, to beat any of the more challenging fights in the game you need to use 1 specific overpowered strategy. I spent the final stretch of the game just grinding up new classes that I wasn’t that interest in, just to get it over with.
There are also some other features I didn’t really care for, like Norende village, where you tap an area and your villagers will take anywhere between 15 minutes or 99 bloody hours to build a shop or clear a path. It goes faster when you assign more villagers to it, and you get villagers through street pass. I think StreetPass was a good feature for the 3DS, but it’s annoying when it’s pretty much required to complete a game. I’ve hardly managed to get anyone into my village, because I don’t like playing my 3DS on the go –the battery life is too short for that. The grind against an arbitrary wait time is ridiculous, and sadly, it appears on a second feature of the game. Bravely Second is a battle mechanic that lets you freeze the fight at any time, even during the enemy’s turn, and strike. Using it costs 1 SP, and you can have 3 SP at a time. It’s an interesting idea, but because it’s so powerful it can only work if it’s hard to get, and that’s where the problem is. There are two ways to get SP, one is by leaving the game in sleep mode for 8 hours, and nothing says fun like waiting. The other is by purchasing it with real world money, and I’ll let Jim Sterling cover that one.
6) Minecraft: You know what else you can thank god for? Minecraft. This game doesn’t get to be higher on the list for the stupidest reason, but this is an inherently subjective list, so my personal experience with the game does affect its placement. The reason Minecraft isn’t closer to the number 1 position is that my computer isn’t powerful enough to run it above 5 fps. Perhaps that is some fault of the game, being extremely CPU intensive, but regardless the game running at a frame rate lower than a disposable camera has hindered my experience a fair bit. However, the fact that it’s still on this list despite that demonstrates just how much I love it anyway.
The comparison to Lego has often been made, but the understanding of what this means rarely seems to go deeper than, “you can build stuffs”. True, you can indeed build stuff with both Lego and Minecraft, but what exactly does that mean? I remember clearly when I played with Lego (it was last Wednesday); I never just built “stuff”, I built space stations doing research, I built castles defending against sieges, I built police in a standoff against criminals. I build scenes, and often stories to go along with them. Now with Minecraft, I’ve found a lot of fun building scenes which I then use as backgrounds in Bannedstory comics. Or playing in survival, building a story behind my characters by making the first thing I build a crashed spaceship, and building up my base as a new spaceship, equip with all the farms and machines I need to make the journey home. The lack of narrative is unsettling to me in single player, and makes me build my own narrative around the gameplay. The game gets me thinking creatively even outside of the building aspect.
I haven’t even touched on the adventure, the combat, redstone, building, command blocks and custom maps, or the community yet. But I don’t think I can sum all that up because it’s not even all out yet. I usually don’t trust early access games, but Mojang has certainly earned it. Even after they “finished” the game over two and a half years ago, they kept improving it and have new updates out every week, with no sign of slowing down. And these updates aren’t pay-for DLC; if you’ve bought the game, you have the whole game. I can’t think of another instance of a developer devoting so much to one game without asking their customers to pay a little extra. What else is there to say other than…
5) Pokemon Y: I was a pokémon fan in the 90s, and I’m still a fan today. Admittedly,
Platinum sucked some of the games have fallen short, but almost all of them are still worth replaying every once in a while. The reason Y stands out isn’t because it’s the perfect pokémon game (honestly, I don’t think we’ve had that yet), but because it’s gotten more right and less wrong than any other (note: I haven’t played X, but you can assume it’s here too). This is a big one for me, but I’ll try to keep it short.
First of all, the pokémon. This is debated every generation, and it’s very subjective, but I just liked the designs of the new ones. For once the early game catches weren’t just punching bags to get you through the first gym before you found better ones; fletchling and bunnelby are both great pokémon that can help you through to the end of the game. Their evolved forms are even popular in competitive battling. And having good new pokémon here makes it not feel like a desperate nostalgia grab when you find a lot of classic pokémon too. Also the abundance of fairy types on these early routes helps get you familiar with the new kind of pokémon right away, which was one of the things generation 2 did wrong. Having little to no experience with steel types, then suddenly being confronted by a Gym Leader’s steelix threw me off as a kid. But this time, I was ready for Valerie’s team. I also liked that eevee was available in the wild, and not at a ridiculously low encounter rate like in Black 2 and White 2. But having riolu available early on, and then a special lucario later was a mistake. Everyone’s going to pick up that riolu, so when they get the lucario it’s going right into the PC forever. It really breaks the feeling of friendship with your pokémon when you’re bound to neglect one.
The upgraded Exp. Share changes the way you interact with your pokémon. Some people say it breaks the game and prefer to turn it off, but I think it actually opens up a lot of the game. Ever since pokémon Red and Green, you’ve only been able to have six pokémon in your party at a time, and the difficulty was balanced so that six well-trained pokémon was all you needed. But in generation 1 there were only 151 pokémon, and only 69 fully evolved ones. Six were all you needed to get a good taste. Now there are 719 pokémon. Only being able to raise six would be extremely limiting. But, thanks to the Exp. Share, it’s easy to raise a bunch of pokémon, and then keep them in the PC until they’re needed. Be less like Ash Ketchum, and more like Gary Oak. It’s not a perfect system, and I’d actually like to see it gone in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but looking at the game as just one point in a massive franchise, I think it’s good to have this.
Lastly, there’s the save file system, which suffers from the same problem every other pokémon game has. Specifically, that a second save file costs an extra $60. Having spent days filling up the pokédex, collecting Mega Stones, and breeding and training my pokémon, I have no intention of ever deleting my save file. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to replay the game, I loved the game, of course I want to replay it. That’s a big problem with pokémon games. They have so much replay value, but at a high cost; either delete all your data, or buy a second copy. I think it’s ridiculous that this is still an issue. There is absolutely no reason modern pokémon games shouldn’t have multiple save files.
4) Fallout 3: I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s a good game. Kinda glitchy and has a crap ending, but it’s a good game. Just wandering the open wasteland and making raiders explode into a bloody mess by shooting them in the foot is more relaxing and cathartic than anything else in the world. I can’t even explain it, it’s just great.
3) Jak 3: Show of hands, who loves the PlayStation 2 with an undying passion hotter than the core of the sun? Yeah, me too. And despite the thing’s extremely vast library, most of my total time spent on it was with just one game, Jak 3. It was a big difference from the GameCube games I was used to at the time, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. The story was more complex than I was used to with a videogame, and the world really fleshed out. There were tons of different styles of gameplay, and though none of them were perfect, they also weren’t ever broken or boring. In fact, this might be the only game that I can say never bored me for a moment.
Growing up, Jak 3 was a continuous challenge for me, especially towards the end. With such varied gameplay, I’d occasionally run into missions that I just wasn’t very good, but wanted to get good at. I couldn’t beat them in a session or two, so then I’d take a break from the game for a month or so. When I went back to it, I’d have a different approach, and usually get passed the mission then, but soon after another one would come up. It felt like a proper challenge, and there’d always be a cool power-up in-between the hard ones, so I could still feel like I was progressing, and enjoy the world opening up more.
Exploring the world was wonderful. I didn’t grow up with games like Legend of Zelda or Metroid, but I still get what people mean when they reference them as good games for rewarding free exploration, thanks to Jak 3. Even though the things you find are only ever Precursor Orbs which are used to unlock extra stuff, it felt rewarding getting them. And the different ways of getting around kept it from feeling grindy; you use hover cars, leaper lizards, a hover board, a bunch of different off road cars, wings, or just walking. And the Isolated atmosphere (which is created almost entirely by the music alone) also gives it some of that Fallout 3 effect.
2) Okami: Forget HD, forget having quadrillions of polygons, and forget super high frame rates. You want good graphics? You want a game that looks good? Look at Okami. Nothing (except maybe the number 1 position on this list) can stand next to Okami when it comes to pure aesthetic beauty.
But graphics aren’t everything and gameplay comes first, and in Okami’s case the gameplay is great. All the brush techniques have a tone of different uses, and there’s the all-important adventure aspect. Combined with a fantastic story and three-dimensional characters, the game is nearly perfect in everything it tries. Unfortunately, the game makes the mistake of turning one of its strengths into a hindrance. It’s filled with long cutscenes, and, alongside them, an excessive number of loading screens. I’m not a big fan of cutscenes in games, especially when they’re completely disconnected from the gameplay. I understand sometimes they’re needed to tell the story, but often it seems developers don’t even try to tell the story through gameplay. In fact, this is why I like Quick Time Events, because they give the developer the control to tell the story, without giving up gameplay entirely. Okami’s QTEs are probably the best example of this.
Cutscenes, load screens, and the tutorials (seriously, Issun way worse than Navi) make Okami play at a snail’s pace sometimes, and gives it such a slow beginning that I rarely have the patience to replay this amazing game.
1) Bayonetta: Before anyone comments, let me remind you, this isn’t a list of what I think are the best games, it’s a list of my favorites. Is Bayonetta the best game ever? I don’t know. Is it my personal favorite? Absolutely. Anyone who’s played Bayonetta already knows it’s all an absolute joy. The visuals, the gameplay, the music, and the story and characters are all in perfect synchronization, creating something special.
Bayonetta’s not a perfect game, far from it. It’s got some of the worst use of QTE, the controls are awkward at times, and the grind for some weapons leaves you with nothing left to actually do with the weapons once you have them. But damn is it ever fun!
Bayonetta fights with an arsenal of pistols, swords, rocket launchers, whips, claws, ice-skates, and most importantly, her own hair. She wields two weapons at a time, one set in her hands and one on her feet, but she can always combo enemies with fists and feet of hair. Then, at a moment’s notice, she can transform into a panther, raven or swarm of bats, get a better angle on her heavenly foes, and then start whaling on them with a legendary living sword.
Two headed dragons, Colossal monsters, and gods; all die before Bayonetta, and all accompanied by a dance cover of “Fly Me to the Moon”. Playing these fights, being the cool and powerful Bayonetta, seeing these monsters, and listening to that damn song just gives you this feeling that I can’t describe. It’s got the same catharsis of Fallout, but about twenty times stronger, and with no relaxation, because Bayonetta is HARD. You just want to keep pushing forward into the next fight, constantly near death, and fueled by a consistent flow of adrenalin. Slowing down is for wimps!
Well, those are my top 10 favorite games. There are definitely some better games out there, some of which I’ve played, but these are the ones I like most. There’re great games, and I love them all. Thanks for reading.
Don’t Lose Your Way