The blogoversary ‘things I love’ theme has been all about books and writing so far, so I just wanted to end with a post about my other favourite thing: games! I love games of all kinds – board games, roleplay, tabletop, etc – but video games are undeniably the best of the game bunch.
And here are my fifteen favourites:
(Note: there is a significant lack of Nintendo games here, particularly the Zelda and Mario games that tend to make it on to other people’s favourites lists. This is simply because I never had anything that ran Nintendo games when I was growing up. We're considering getting a Wii at some point because I believe you can play old Zelda games on it, but not much else on the Wii really appeals to us. So, for now, I’m still a Zelda virgin I’m afraid!)
(Note 2: Yes, there are a lot of Bioware games on here. Yes, I am a big cheat and counting all three Mass Effect games as one.)
1) Mass Effect series. Wonderful, fun universe to explore. Well thought out characters. A very interesting story that keeps unravelling. An extremely enjoyable game to play, and a satisfying player-character that I can really connect to. The interesting thing about the Mass Effect games is that they actually give you a lot less choice than many other roleplay games, and yet you feel like you have plenty of control over your decisions. This is due to two things – great writing, and fantastic voice acting.
2) Fallout 3. This is an amazing game. It’s so atmospheric, and at the time I played it I had never seen anything like it. It creates such an absorbing world, with its post-nuclear setting, recognisable landmarks, 50’s theme, and weird elements (spot the Lovecraft references – there are quite a few!). I spent many tense hours sneaking through subway tunnels, hearing ghouls shrieking in the distance. For my bookish friends, think The Eternity Cure. Julie Kagawa has definitely played Fallout 3!
3) Monkey Island. A classic. So funny, so addictive, so frustrating! How many of us have sat for hours trying to use every item in our inventory with every other item, and then with the tree, and the rock, and the anchor, and the monkey, with Guybrush, and so on, in the desperate hope that something would work, only to discover that if we’d just walked a little further left there was something we could pick up in the corner of the area? Oh, and the sword fighting? Genius.
4) Fable. What a magical, quirky, and just plain fun game! Hero fantasy with a very British feel. Slightly stylised art, which I really loved, and one of the very few games that doesn’t have a save-the-entire-kingdom storyline. My favourite bit was boasting and putting bets on myself before missions. “Oh, I can totally rescue those traders without getting hit, in eight minutes, and using only my fists as weapons. What’s more, I will do this naked!”
5) Dragon Age. It was the characters that made this game so fantastic. I got completely attached to all of them. There was some genuinely funny writing, and a few nice little twists that I didn’t see coming. The actual world and story themselves were not blazingly original, but I think the depth of interaction with the companions really was, and actually, I haven’t seen it done quite as well in any game since. No, not even in the Mass Effect games.
6) Knights of the Old Republic. A Star Wars game set a long time before the films. I think this was the first game that ever surprised me. What a twist! It was also an incredibly fun game all round.
7) Starcraft. Words can’t express that joy of setting your hatchery’s rally point on the enemy base and spamming the ‘produce zerglings’ button. Though, having said that, constructing artistic arrangements of bunkers and siege engines at bottlenecks was pretty fun too. All three races were really fun to play, and it could be very challenging at points. There was also a great story behind the game, which is quite unusual for an RTS.
8) Portal. Utterly addictive. I beat it in one night. Very well thought out and written, it’s a puzzle game with a surprising amount of depth. And then, when you’re feeling a little sad because you reached the end, it keeps going and you realise you were only about two thirds of the way through after all!
9) The Elder Scrolls games, and particularly Oblivion. I preferred Oblivion to Skyrim. The world felt a little more magical and less ‘fantasy generic’ to me. Or perhaps just as fantasy generic, but in a different way. Oblivion is stranger and more colourful, with a feeling that anything could happen. Skyrim is a little more realistic, with a medievalish feel and dragons. I enjoyed both, but Oblivion was more enchanting and memorable to me. I also felt that it was more fun to be thief in Oblivion, to join guilds and to go off on random tangents. Skyrim definitely wins on art, however, and the mage guild storyline was fantastic. And unfortunately I never played Morrowind, though I love the music.
10) Mad Professor Moriarty. I think this may have been my first ever game. So entertaining! This was a side-scrolling platform game, in which you played a mad professor who threw spanners at monsters. It was wacky and fun.
11) Neverwinter Nights. My first RPG, and my first introduction to the world and classes of Dungeons and Dragons (which I played for real later). I’d never played a game that felt this open before (though nowadays I suppose it would feel quite linear in comparison to, say, the Elder Scrolls games). I have a lot of great memories of this.
12) The Sims 2. The Sims was fun, but it really improved considerably with The Sims 2. I’m not sure if The Sims 2 really had a point to it; you could do what you liked, and sometimes I’d spend whole game sessions just building funny houses or trying to create characters from books and movies. Once, I made John and myself and gave them a house and jobs, and then just left them to it to see what would happen. John played video games instead of going to work, got a phone call to say he was fired, and then went straight to the kitchen to make a whole plate of hamburgers, which he proceeded to eat, one after the other, while crying. How could you not love this game?
13) Jade Empire. This was a fun game with an interesting world and one of the best twists that I've seen in a game.
14) Star Wars Battlefront. Just a fun game. Not complex, not hard, no real story, not groundbreaking, but – and I can’t really explain why – it’s still the most fun of all the first person shooters I’ve played!
15) World of Warcraft. Okay, this game has a lot of problems, and I don’t play anymore because I just don’t have time. But I still have so many good memories. Kharazan, raids, battlegrounds, silly roleplaying in the guild, meeting people from around the world... but especially Kharazan. That feeling of teamwork with nine other people, trying again and again and supporting each other until we beat it. So good, and what MMOs should be all about. Unfortunately, our guild broke down not long after, and we never found another group of people so friendly and so willing to help and support each other. Still, when it works, it’s fantastic.
So those are my fifteen favourite games (and narrowing it to fifteen was very hard). What about you? What do you love to play, or have fond memories of? :-)