Because of circumstances in my personal life, these last couple of weeks have been a real drag, to say the least. So I have been struggling to find the motivation to write anything of late as I binge cooking shows on TV. However, you can’t stay stuck on the couch forever, and I thought if I was going to write it should be on something I care about a lot, so bring on those video games. Much like my personal top 10 films list I needed to come up with some criteria to be able to sort through all the really good games I have played in my life.
- Games that are beautifully constructed (art, story, etc)
- They have to mean something to me
- Video Games that are re-playable
- Games that engaged me emotionally
With that in mind, it means that once again there is a large list of those
games that end up in the Highly Commended list because they don’t quite hit all
of those criteria. There are of course those games you played when growing up
that still leave their mark. For me, I didn’t get to play a lot of consoles at
that time though I did enjoy WipeOut
and Super Mario World when I was over
playing at my friends. For me it was PC all the way, so I grew up with Captain Comic, LHX Attack Chopper, Tyrian,
Prince of Persia (the original), Freelancer
and Alley Cat.
Then there are those strategy games that you hone your skill against like Total Annihilation, Evil Genius, Age of Empires, Sins of a Solar Empire, Homeworld, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Command and Conquer, Star Trek Armada, Company of Heroes, Stellaris, Dune, Red Alert, X-Com, and SimCity. Yes, I do love me a good strategy game.
Of course, there are those games that are special to you because of the collective enjoyment of playing them with friends. Long hours of Call of Duty 2, robbing banks in Payday 2, being ruined in the goals in Rocket League, laughing your arse off by the unintended consequences in Worms, or building a world together in Terraria.
Finally, there are those games whose story captures you, like the falling blocks of Bastion, becoming a Jedi in Jedi Knight 2, saving the galaxy in Knights of the Old Republic, raiding every old tomb in Uncharted, Syndicate Wars which might have the best cheat code in video games, getting very morally conflicted in Divinity, and being devastated by the one-winged angel in Final Fantasy 7. Well with the Highly Commended list done, it is time to dive into the countdown with number 10.
10: Spec Ops: The Line
Finding just what will be the cut-off at number 10 is always the hardest
part of writing a list like this, and I went back and forth on a number of
titles before settling in on Spec Ops.
The reason that it was not a lock on this list is that while its story is hauntingly
constructed, it very much engaged me emotionally, and it also means a lot to
me, I don’t know if I could say it is repayable. However, it hits so high in
those other criteria that I think this list would be the worse without it.
Spec Ops: The Line is on the surface a very standard third-person shooter, where you play as Martin Walker who is leading a small tactical squad into Dubai which had been devastated by sandstorms for the last six months. Officially, you are there to assess the situation to help with relief, unofficially, you are there to investigate Colonel John Konrad who deserted with his 33rd Infantry Battalion rather than evacuate. A pretty stock standard setting, until that is everything changes.
This is probably one of the video games that I have written the most on in my days (see here), with its immersive and confronting storytelling, the way it shines a mirror on the genre and the player, how it explores our very motivations for playing video games. Why do we play Shooter Video Games? Why do we want to be a hero? It usurps those notions and shows them for what they really are. I wish more people had played it back in the day, so it would not have the dubious notion of killing off the Spec Ops series, but I will always be glad (well glad is not the right word) that I got to play it and have its questions placed upon me.
Developer: Yager Development
Publisher: 2K Games
Lead Designers: Cory Davis & François Coulon
Lead Producers: Tarl Raney
Writers: Walt Williams & Richard Pearsey
Voice Actors: Nolan North, Christopher Reid, Omid Abtahi, Jake Busey & Bruce Boxleitner
Of all the games on this list, I think this one needs
the least introduction, also I think it might be the game that I have clocked
the most hours in-game. But for those who have somehow never heard of Minecraft, it is a Sandbox-Survival
game. That means that there is no conventional story but the one you make for
yourself as you battle against hostile mobs while building, mining, and
crafting from the world around you to make more and more elaborate structures.
As with number 10, I have already written a lot about my time in Minecraft (see here), so I am not going to repeat myself a lot here, other than to explore how it came to be on this list. I have played a lot of Sandbox games, but this was the first one that really captured that feeling of being in a sandbox (or if you are Australian being on the beach) building castles from what you find around you. You can build almost anything, as long it can look like a block hidden with stairs, and even though I am not the best builder it is a joy to be in there.
Minecraft is a game that I don’t play as much as I did back in the day when there would be weekly updates on Friday and you would scramble to find out what is new. But it is one that I always go back and check every now and again to see what is new and to reminisce about the past.
Publisher: Mojang & Xbox Game Studios
Designer: Markus Persson & Jens Bergensten
Music: Daniel Rosenfeld
Art: Markus Toivonen & Jasper Boerstra
8: Supreme Commander
I mentioned back in my Highly Commended list that I like strategy games,
and this is the first of a couple of mentions on this list, it is also the
first game where neither the publisher nor developer exist anymore. But it is a
game that I have played a whole lot of battling with and against my friends to
concur the galaxy.
Supreme Commander, is part of the real-time strategy genre, which means that you don’t make all your commands and then click end-turn, you have to constantly be watching the map for signs of aggression, managing your metal and energy, and teaching up before you get nuked. You play as either the UEF, the Aeon, Cybran, or Seraphim, and using your commanders you build up a base, exploit materials, expand, and the destroy your enemies before they destroy you.
SupCom is the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation, and itself has spawned a sequel and its own spiritual successor in Planetary Annihilation. However, of the whole family of games, SupCom is the one that makes it onto my list. It is full of these moments that make you sit back and look in awe or at least joy. Like the first time you notice the Cybran destroyer get to the coastline and then pop out some legs and go for a stroll, or the moment you crash your CZAR right on an enemy commander while they are rushing to escape.
I’ve played so many hours of this with my friends that I know the contours of Seton’s Clutch like the back of my hand, and I also know that it is never a good idea to let me tech up early. I wish that any of the sequels had intrigued me the same way as this, but nothing yet has captured that same joy of building up your armies and then taking on the world.
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Designer: Chris Taylor, Bradley Rebh & John Comes
Writers: Jason Janicki, Evan Pongress & Bradley Rebh
Music: Jeremy Soule
Art: Kevin Pun & Steven Thompson
7: Star Trek: Birth of the Federation
If you know nothing else about me, you would probably know that I am a
fan of the 4X genre “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate” I am
also a great fan of Star Trek, so
when you have a game that combines the two of them together, well that’s my
In Birth of the Federation, you build up your civilization expand out and hope to have enough military clout that when the Borg arrives they don’t go all Wolf 359 on you. You got to play with the ships from the series, fight against the great antagonists, meet new races, diplomacy, war, and all that jazz.
For me this was the first time that several competing interests would merge together and coalesce into something greater than the sum of its parts. It would not be the first time with Star Trek: Armada coming a bit later, then there would be Babylon 5 mod for Armada, and then a Star Trek mod for Sins of a Solar Empire. However, I think you always have a special place in your heart for that first love.
Publisher: Hasbro Interactive
Designer: Bill Chinn & Kyle Brink
Writers: Dan Young & Kyle Brink
Music: Steve Scherer
Art: Rima Litonjua
6: Transport Tycoon Deluxe/ OpenTTD
This next entry is one that has absorbed hours and days of my time and
indeed I think it captured every member of my family at one time or another.
You would think that supply chains, logistics, and intricate railway crafting
would not be engaging, but boy is it ever. Now I have to confess
here that this is a game that my memories of it merge the original game and the
OpenTTD. However, they are both good
games, so here we go.
In Transport Tycoon Deluxe, you get dropped into a map of unconnected cities, towns, and industries, and you have to go about connecting everything together before the industries fail, and you can’t pay back the interest on your loans. There are supply chains that you have to take into account and that industries never quite line up the way you want them to. Which leads to some very creative interconnected train lines.
Indeed, that moment when you finally get goods into a city that took four different factories to create and a train line that stretches across the map is one of those pure joys. I have spent so much time in this game building small hamlets into major metropolises, fighting with the AI, checking every subsidy that pops up, playing against my friends and family and snatching that limited airport space. One of those pure joys that you can get in gaming.
Developer: Chris Sawyer
Designer: Chris Sawyer
Music: John Broomhall
Art: Simon Foster
5: Pokémon Emerald
There are a lot of Pokémon
games out there, indeed at the time of writing there is the new game that I
have yet to play Sword and Shield
full of fancy tea ghosts and beautiful dogos. However, for me (at the moment
because cute dogos might change this) if I was to pick one game that really
captured me, it would have to be the Ruby
and Sapphire finisher Emerald.
Like most Pokémon games you pick a starter, you explore the world, build up a team, take on gyms, fight against a team of villains (2 in this case), and then smash the Elite Four as if they were nothing. It is the sort of game that you know going in right away if you will like it or not, and I have enjoyed all the main entries except for maybe Black and White.
What sets Emerald apart for me is a couple of factors, the first being what might be my favourite Pokémon of all time Mudkip, which is delightful even before you discover that it is ground/water one of the best synergies in the game. They changed things up with abilities, double battles and contests, and just created a fantastic world to explore. It also, more than many of the others snapped up that ‘gotta catch them all’ feeling you get when playing the game.
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon Company & Nintendo
Director: Shigeki Morimoto
Writers: Akihito Tomisawa, Hitomi Sato & Toshinobu Matsumiya
Music: Go Ichinose, Junichi Masuda, Morikazu Aoki & Hitomi Sato
Art: Ken Sugimori
4: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Let’s go back in time to the calmer years of 2011, a time when Bethesda
could do no wrong, and it had not been ported to every platform under the sun
there were those first few moments of a new game where you are just about to be
executed and then DRAGONS!
This is the single-player game that can always go back and start a new game and ever after all this time still find new things that I have not seen before. It is a world where giants can send you flying into the stratosphere with a single smash of their clubs, where fighting and intrigue goes all the way to the top. It is also the game where we can all agree that Ulfric Stormcloak is the literal worst and that no one gets to hurt a single scale on the back of Paarthurnax.
There is so much beauty in this world (though this might be the remastered version helping the purple haze of nostalgia). Those moments when you come out into the world and discover an aroura exploding across the night sky, or the sun setting behind the grand mountains, or the crystal clear icy pathways that you walk down just before you get ganked by a troll.
In this game, there are so many moments that still echo through the ages of time for me. It can be using Fus Ro Dah for the first time, getting captured be that opening title music that appears when the dragons show up, stumbling across Blackreach (Fal’Zhardum Din) for the first time, and getting to build my dream house as long as you ignore the demonic necromancy summoning alter just down the hill. I know these days it is mostly known for the jokes around its multiple additions, but for me there is still that moment of joy when I boot it up when that soundtrack roars to life.
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Director: Todd Howard
Designer: Bruce Nesmith, Kurt Kuhlmann & Emil Pagliarulo
Writer: Emil Pagliarulo
Music: Jeremy Soule
Art: Matthew Carofano
Voice Cast: Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Joan Allen, Michael Hogan, Vladimir Kulich, Alexander Brandon, Andy Morris, Stephen Russell, Carla Delaney, Charles Dennis, Charles Martinet, Jean Gilpin, Paul Ganus, Christopher Corey Smith & Cindy Robinson
3: Mass Effect 2
From one single player epic to the next, and from a fantasy epic to a
good old fashioned space opera to boot. When the first Mass Effect came out me and my brother had to borrow a friend’s
X-Box and smash through it in a weekend (which given those driving sequences
was quite a challenge). It was a really good entry into this universe, however
in the first five minutes of Mass Effect
2, you knew that this was going to be something very special indeed.
There have been a lot of game that have attempted the “your actions will have consequences” angle before, but I have not seen any game do it as well as Mass Effect, to the point that I will always play through that first game even with all its clunkiness just so I can set up the right plot threads.
It immerses you into the world, builds upon what came before, but also fixes a lot of those more fiddley elements that were all over the first game. But more than this, this is the game that created characters that I cared for deeply, so deeply that I have played through this game probably more times than any other single-player game even knowing that the ending in Mass Effect 3 is lacklustre.
It opens with a promise that it is going to change everything up and ends with a triumph, a moment that I don’t think any game has really replicated again. Also it gave us Legion, Mordin, two characters that I had no idea would move me as much as they did with their arcs across the game. I don’t think we will ever see another game like Mass Effect 2 (even in the form of another Mass Effect title) but I am glad I got to play it.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Director: Casey Hudson
Designer: Preston Watamaniuk
Writers: Mac Walters & Drew Karpyshyn
Music: Jack Wall, Jimmy Hinson, Sam Hulick & David Kates
Art: Derek Watts
Voice Cast: Mark Meer, Jennifer Hale, Maggie Baird, Michael Beattie, Steve Blum, D.C. Douglas, Keythe Farley, Brandon Keener, Adam Lazarre-White, Ash Sroka, Yvonne Strahovski, Courtenay Taylor, Steven Barr, Kimberly Brooks, Raphael Sbarge, Ali Hillis, Carolyn Seymour, Robin Sachs, Kym Hoy, Seth Green, Tricia Helfer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Martin Sheen, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Adam Baldwin, Claudia Black, Keith David, Michael Dorn, Armin Shimerman, Dwight Schultz, Cara Pifko, Michael Hogan, Simon Templeman, Jocelyn Ahlf, April Banigan, Ashley Barlow, Shannon Blanchet, Brian Bloom, Jessica Anne Bogart, Wes Borg, Wendy Braun, Lora Brovold, Natalia Cigliuti, Belinda Cornish, Jim Cummings, Jon Curry, Josh Dean, Casey DeFranco, Grey Griffin, Collin Doyle, Alastair Duncan, Chris Edgerly, Jeannie Elias, Gideon Emery, Dannah Feinglass Phirman, Dave Fennoy, Keith Ferguson, Quinton Flynn, Peter Giles, Jesse Gervais, Zach Hanks, Roger Jackson, Martin Jarvis, Phil LaMarr, Bill Ratner, Cindy Robinson, Jeff Page, Naomi Mercer, Anndi McAfee, Vanessa Marshall, William Salyers, Keith Szarabajka & John Ullyatt
2: Commander Keen in Invasion of the Vorticons – Episode Two: The Earth Explodes
For the second entry on this list, we jump back in
time to the 1990s and to what might have been one of the first proper video
games that I ever played Commander Keen. Back in the early 1990s there was no
internet, no EB Games, no CD Rom, hell we didn’t even have Windows. If you
wanted a game it came on the 5 1⁄4-inch floppy disk (the grandfather of that
save icon you use in Word) but through all this one of the first-ever joys of
gaming entered my life.
In Commander Keen, you are trying to stop the Vorticon invasion of Earth with nothing more than your quick wit, football helmet, pogo stick, Bean-with-Bacon Megarocket, and a blaster. In the first game you explore Mars (and this might be the reason why I am so enamoured with the red planet), in the second you land on a Vorticon mother ship in orbit over the Earth and set about destroying it before it can destroy the major cities of the world like London, Sydney, Moscow, and New York.
It thus gives you this mix of arcade action with the ramifications of a disaster film with all those world landmarks sitting there waiting to be destroyed. It makes ever level compelling, as you fight through every level to make it to the top to save Earth from destruction. The gameplay is more than a bit fiddley for today, but back in the day it was amazing, you could go back and forth across levels, there was a verticality that you didn’t see all that much and a strong sense of joy.
This was also a game that I will always remember for sparking that joy that could be there in gaming. In the first game there were all these signs with random gibberish on them, which you mostly ignored. But in the second game, all of a sudden you noticed that wait a moment that gibberish has the same number of letters as London, wait no it can’t be … it is. It was in that moment that you discovered the Standard Galactic Alphabet, which we wrote out on some dot-matrix printer paper and filled in at every chance until we had the entire alphabet. It is these memories of the past that put Commander Keen on this list.
Developer: Ideas from the Deep (id Software)
Publisher: Apogee Software (3D Realms)
Designer: Tom Hall
Programers: John Carmack & John Romero
Art: Adrian Carmack
1: Civilization (series)
A lot of the games on this list come from series with many entries, and
in each of those cases, it was clear to me which one of the entries would make
it only my list. However, that became a struggle when it came to number one. I
knew Civilization would be on this
list, I also knew that it would be in first place, but which Civilization game would be here.
Would it be the first Civilization game which first introduced me to the joys of the 4X or Civ 2 that somehow bored into my soul with its waves and colours (more than 8)? I know for a lot of people it would be Civ 4 on this list, and that would be a fair call as it is the pinnacle of the square tile, or should I go for Civ 5 that went it is Hex time now. Or do I go with Civ 6 that finally gave me the joy of building that elusive canal? I spent a lot of time trying to work out which one would be on my list before realising that it was my list and like I get to make the rules, so stuff it, I choose all of you.
I think I have learned more about the world through Civilization than more than any other game on this list, and indeed more than any other game I have played. I never knew that the Chocolate Hills were a thing, thanks Civ 6, I had no idea about the Niger River civilizations of Mali and the Songhai, thanks Civ 4, or that 15th Century Korea had a rocket launcher called the Hwach’a, thanks Civ 3. There is this joy of discovering something new that I have not found in other games, even those using a historical setting like Civ.
As the years have gone by I have sent my generation ships to Alpha Centauri, made sure everyone was wearing my blue jeans and listening to my pop music, founded religions, championed the United Nations, and yes once or twice been on the receiving end of a nuclear salvo … and may be sent a few myself. It is a series that has captured so much of my time (thank goodness Steam was not around to log the hours of some of the older games) but I am always wanting to go back for more. I mean I liked it so much that I mapped all of Civ 6 out. These days the Civilization series is the only game I would even think of pre-ordering and that I think speaks volumes. I have loved the series and can’t want to see what they do next.
Developer: MicroProse & Firaxis
Publisher: MicroProse, Infogrames, Atari, Aspyr & 2K Games
Designer: Sid Meier, Bruce Shelley, Brian Reynolds, Douglas Kaufman, Jeff Briggs, Soren Johnson, Brent Alleyne, Jon Shafer, Ed Beach, Scott Lewis & Anton Strenger
Writers: B. C. Milligan, Jeff Briggs, Bruce Campbell Shelley, Dave Ellis, Paul Murphy, Michelle Menard & Pete Murray
Music: Jeff Briggs, Roland Rizzo, Roger Briggs, Christopher Tin, Michael Curran, Geoff Knorr & Phill Boucher
Art: Michael O. Haire, Steve Ogden, Dorian Newcomb, Chris Hickman & Brian Busatti
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
What are your favourite films of all time?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of each respective film