Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Top 20 Video Games: 20 to 11

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 30 and the topic is “Top 20 Video Games: Twenty to Eleven”.
            I initially only gave out 8 honorable mentions in addition to my top 10, because I couldn’t find 2 more games that I liked enough that I could just make a top 20 rather than a top 10.  Isn’t that a bitch?
            Well, that mostly had to do with my unwillingness to just laud the various entries in one series or from one company.  Some top lists on the internet contain 3 games in a series in three different slots.  Just lump those together, there is no reason to eat up 3 entries on what amounts to one set of games.  You are not providing greater context on your tastes and interests by emphasizing those titles so much.  Eventually I realized that I should reach much further back in my memory to games that I liked a lot as a child to grab some more… Then I started to have too many entries and started cutting things because I don’t think nostalgia is a reason to love something beyond whether I still like it now.
            I am also a bit lazy in that I tried to talk about most of these over the course of the month so that I could just link to them and save myself from having to write too much here.  And I have talked about a lot of these in the WAY BACK of “before I started writing this 30-day challenge”.  So hooray for me for making all of this slightly easier to get thru.
And just like yesterday I am posting to the music.
20) Sonic the Hedgehog 2
My family was not wealthy and we waited several years before getting a new game system for the kids to play with, and by the time I got a Sega Genesis the game that was packaged with it was “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”.  I still consider it to be an adequate platformer from the era and I played the hell out of it.  I generally like Sonic as a character (I grew up on two wildly different yet completely acceptable takes on the guy) and still have a sort of soft spot for the whole thing.
A lot of Sonic’s themes are nature vs technology and perhaps it is because I grew up in the era of “Captain Planet” and other such environmentally conscious kids’ entertainment that I consider Sonic to have a little more meat to it (on a foundational level) than the straight forward goofy adventures of “Super Mario Bros”.  I would also point to those factors as to why the franchise has endured even though the game series has become a laughing stock, the cartoons are garbage, and the fandom is an overflowing asylum of creepy weirdos.

Look at these pricks with their flawless character design.
19) Tales of Symphonia
I already talked at length to this game’s merits, not only having a good story with good characters, but the art and gameplay that mark it as being a cut above.

Getting real lazy, reusing images from past blogs.
18) Batman: Arkham Franchise
I have already talked about this one and I again point to how its flowing combat system, stealth elements, and the iconic characters of the Batman mythos make this one of the most well regarded franchises in video game history.

I guess I should have done a screen grab of my version of the protagonist.
Well, just picture Harley Quinn but with giant gag-boobs and dressed in wrestling gear.  Voiced by Lust.
17) Saints Row the Third
I haven’t talked about this one yet and I imagine some people will point to the final complete game in the series “Saints Row IV” (a game I enjoy) as the best of the lot but I disagree.  “IV” had the burden of tying up the series and paid homage to all the previous entries with callbacks to characters, voice actors, game mechanics, and events… all jokes and references that went right over my head because I only played 3 and 4.
“The Third” does not have the issues of putting the series to bed, so it can instead focus on introducing new characters and locations that are treated as new places (and thus I, the player don’t feel like I am late to the party).  The tone is pure madness as I fight a legion of luchadores with grenade launchers, genetically engineered giants, weebo hackers, and an invasion of space age soldiers meant to take the city back from me.  The action is fun, the music is fun, and the dialogue is all fun.  The game sets a tone of silly and strange and keeps the pace at a steady escalation right to the end.  I love it.

This game is all about the tunes.
            16) Zelda Ocarina of Time

            Already talked about what is probably the definitive fantasy game of the last 20 years.

Waaargh.  Waaargh never changes.
Wait... Wrong franchise.
15) Dawn of War: Complete

I mentioned this game in my “Disappointing Sequels” entry and I think that blog covered most of my feelings but I would also like to again point out that the mythology of the Warhammer 40K universe is just delightful in all the oddest ways.  Violent to the point of self-parody, grim to the point of farce, and so earnest in its stupidity that I can’t help but like it.

This game is so old that it still has cool classic style fantasy art in its promotional images.  Boris Vellejo style.
14) Diablo II
I tried playing “Diablo III” a little and honestly it was one of my most anticipated games for a LONG time before it came out… and I could have (and should have) written about it in my “Disappointing Sequels” entry.  (Funny thing, I was anticipating the game for so long, the blog I wrote about my anticipation is on the site I used before blogger and I can't even provide a link, because I can't find it.)
For the time it came out “Diablo II” scratched an itch I did not know I had and I still think back on it fondly.  Much like Dawn of War the earnestness of its stupid plot about gory devils, skeletons, and goblins is just too sincere to hate.  It is a dumb little RPG beat’m up which has (literally) caused a mouse of mine to stop clicking from overuse.
I would point to “Torchlight II” as another title in this genre that I loved and I actually managed to play “Torchlight II” all the way to the end.
I am betting some people are telling me I got out while the getting was good.  But here is the thing, the only reason I quit forever is this: I got mad at them for charging me.
At some point they set up auto renewal and kept charging me even though I did not log in for a 6 month stretch and when I realized they had changed me 90 dollars for ZERO time spent logged in I left forever.
13) World of Warcraft
The appearance of two games by the same company back to back will be a onetime thing, though I am sure there are people out there who could make a personal best games list that would have lots of Blizzard titles filling slots.  Korean players certainly.
I got into “WoW” in undergrad and played regularly (30+ hours a week) for few months, then I would take a break and go back to a patch, play for a few months, take a break, and repeated that cycle for years.  I played thru “Burning Crusade” and felt no special attachment to any iteration of the game, I actually liked the game more each time I came back because of how much more accessible it had become (I do not have time to find the region the particular breed of slimes I am hunting is in).
I do think that “WoW” has had an influence that people might be aware of but do not fully appreciate.  That right now, in the cultural zeitgeist there are 4 fantasy properties that define the genre to people, “Harry Potter”, “Game of Thrones”, “Lord of the Rings”, and “World of Warcraft” each of them being more and more fantastical or distant from the real world than the last and these things have done a lot to bring the masses to the genre.  Even though I have not played “WoW” in 8 years, the fact that it is still going and that I have met people who met their spouse thru the game shows how wide and deep its impact is and how much longevity it has.
Call me crazy but any fantasy world that has room for Dwarfs dog fighting in biplanes is just making fantasy a more interesting place.

Not a very evocative title.
 12) Alan Wake
This will be a surprise to people reading this series, because I only mentioned this title once, and even then only in passing among other titles.  But, I have actually kicked around writing a blog about this for a while and for whatever reason it just would not crystalize, here is my best attempt at making my feelings readable.
To contextualize I am a big fan of the work of Grant Morrison, a writer who very much likes to write on the idea of creations coming to life and talking to their creators.  The idea that ideas and characters can take on a life of their own and have an effect on the world is a tantalizing concept to me as an amateur writer.  I am also a fan of HP Lovecraft and the idea that there are dark and hidden monstrosities in the world that seek to destroy us or drive us into a state of mass insanity.  Coupling these two ideas of a creeping darkness bringing to life the nightmares of a writer whose inner demons we do not want getting out, all of that is a very big and cool idea.
The plot is Alan trying to save his wife from the abominable terror, it took her into some world of darkness while Alan and her were going on a respite (really it was a trip to a detoxing resort) to help him get his creative spark back.  The game’s basic mechanic is having to weaken your opponents’ protective shadows via the use of light before attacking them with lethal force, that is a good metaphor, shining a light on the problem to reveal the greater crux of a personal issue and excising it.
The game also has lots of little fun things, like short segments of a “Twilight Zone” type show that Alan wrote for, one of the few instances in which I enjoyed a “Cut Scene” (the TV cut scenes in the mini-sequel “American Nightmare” totally failed in that regard).  There are also a good number of fun supporting characters with good dialogue and roles in the story, nobody has a bad thing to say about Barry, Alan’s agent, who comes to rescue him and actively helps in fighting the shadowy terror.
I would point to “Alan Wake” in much the same way people point to “Stranger Things”.  That it borrows a great deal from other stories in the genre (Alan takes a lot of Stephen King, Lovecraft, and “Twin Peaks”) but uses those elements to make their own thing with them.  A good apple pie does not have to be “original” so long as it is delicious.  “Alan Wake” is a delicious pie.

You can also thank this game for the lazy fucked up trend of every cover being some guy walking toward the camera away from explosions.  Maybe that was to indicate he was letting his health regenerate.
11) Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
I have already talked about this game in the context of it surprising me and how it surprised me.  It is the shooter that launched the contemporary setting for the genre because it has a very real feeling story in addition to its solid game play.  It crosses certain lines, but does so in a way that feels earned and impacts the player.

            What do you think of my list?  Do you have a list you would like to link to?  Do so in the comments.  Would you like to make a guess at my top 10?  Considering you are probably reading these months after I published it, you could just click on the link to tomorrow and read it (please do) but why don’t you make a guess first?  I offer no prize for a correct guess.

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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