Honorable Mention. Metroid – Zero Mission: I really wanted to put this on my list but everything else beat this out. FireRed was extremely close though and honestly the two are pretty much tied, so I figured throwing this in as an honorable mention was merited. Anyway I first played this game back in middle school. It was really an incredible game where I got the chance to play this awesome character in a battle suit that ran around blowing things up and taking out enemies. The game was just all around extremely well done, even if it’s a little older than my other choices. I played it again once I reached college and perhaps even enjoyed it more the second time around. The exploration and game play combined to really get me involved in the game, and I was really happy playing it.
10. Pokemon FireRed: The Pokemon series is one of the greatest series of games of all time. Gotta catch’em all, right? I wouldn’t say FireRed is necessarily my favorite, but I felt I had to pick at least one Pokemon game and this seemed like a fairly solid candidate. This will likely be a theme, but I love turn based strategy games like battling Pokemon, and I love creating an awesome team. On top of that, getting the chance to run around and collect all the Pokemon (which is actually fairly difficult) felt extremely rewarding (except Mew cause not being able to get him is ridiculous). Anyway I am quite happy placing this one at number 10 on my list. Side Note – Favorite Pokemon is Sharpedo.
9. Demon’s Souls: The game that preceded the rounds of Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. I never actually played either of them, but I’ve only ever heard good things about both (namely that Dark Souls implemented everything you wished Demon’s Souls had). Either way, the levels were all well done and there was plenty of replay-ability for me. Most people found the game insanely difficult, but I thrive when a game tries to beat me and go at it hard. I think the thing that made me really love the game, outside of attempting to find all of the cool weapons and trying to Platinum the game on my PS3 was the bosses. Each one felt unique and a lot of fun to duel (except Maneater cause that shit was absurd without Firestorm). Overall just a really exceptional game and one I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoyed Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. You gotta play the original, right?
8. Dead Space: I’ve never really been into horror games, but now that I’ve thrown two in a row maybe I’m wrong in that regard. Either way, Dead Space was just incredible. I didn’t play it until years after it came out and I think the thing that really stuck for me was the horrible controls. It felt slow and sluggish, not crisp and quick. The thing was – that sluggishness – is what made me love the game. I spent the game constantly low on ammo and never able to run, always fearing for my life and running from the Necromorphs. The controls really immersed me in the game, and I gotta say this is probably one of the best aesthetic games I’ve ever played. I really felt like I was on a mining ship getting attacked by mutant zombies and constantly in fear for my life. Definitely deserving of this spot. Side note – I tried playing the 2nd one, but just couldn’t do it. It just didn’t have that same aesthetic feel to me that made me love the first one so much.
7. Dragon Quest VIII: When I first saw this game I didn’t even want to play. I judged the game by the cover so hard and sort of tossed it aside, never really intending to play. It wasn’t until a few months later when my sister saw it and tried it out that I gave it a chance. I immediately fell in love. The game has literally anything I could ever ask for out of a single player game, and is the best adventure/rpg I’ve ever played. There was just a plethora of things to do and even after spending over 50 hours going through my first play through, I probably knocked out at least 4-5 more rounds (of play throughs) afterwards (of course these were more like 30 hours). I’ve always loved turn based strategy games where I get to think about the best move possible and how I can combo things together perfectly; this game really let me do that. On top of this the story was decent and there was never a time where I didn’t feel like I had so much I could go do if I so chose (never felt overwhelming though). I guess all I can say is give this game a chance and you’ll probably love it as much as me.
6. Mario Kart 64: Doesn’t everyone love Mario Kart? I mostly played this in high school, and I estimated about 500 hours of play during school hours when I bothered to try to guess how much time I had actually spent playing the game. I’d sit down with my friends after school and we’d rip out upwards of 30+ battles and maybe half of the racing maps. It never got boring and there was something perfect about the old school play that really attracted me to the game. Anyway, this is far and away the best version of the Mario Kart series.
5. League of Legends: I was introduced to League my freshmen year of college when I was sort of at a loss for video games to play. Warhawk had died off about 6 months before I got to college and there was nothing else major on my plate that I really wanted to play. I had never before played a game like League, but I gave it a chance and immediately fell in love. There’s just something about getting to play your own character and demolishing others that is insanely exciting. The strategic aspect certainly kept me hooked for a long time and my quest to be the best at every game I play probably had a hand in there as well. My first champion was Renekton and even to this day I still hold my little message under my name as “As I live, all shall die.” Getting to play this pseudo competitively against other colleges was great and beating teams that held players ranked far above ours (due to exceptional planning and strategizing) was one of the best times I got to have playing League. I play the game a lot less now, mostly because a lot of the people I used to play with have more or less quit, but I still usually come back every few months and play some more. I’m always watching the competitive scene as well, if only to keep up with the going ons of the top teams. Once I finally hit Diamond 1 I think I was fairly content, especially because I hit it fairly early in season 4 (well before it became rather inflated). I was around the top 1500 in NA at one point in Diamond 1, and I think being that high was about as much as I could have hoped to achieve. It really is an exceptional game. There’s a reason it’s the most played game in the world, after all.
4. Star Wars Battlefront II: Wow did I play this a lot. Before online gaming was really a thing (mostly before the Xbox 360 and PS3 came out), I had a PS2. And on my PS2 I probably played thousands of hours of this game. It doesn’t quite reach the levels of play I had on online games (League’s probably around 3k hours, Warhawk probably around 1.5-2k hours), but as far as single player goes I’m pretty sure this one cleans up. This was more or less the only game I played through middle school and high school, until I got a PS3 and started playing Warhawk. I don’t really know what to say about this game, but it is a travesty that Battlefront III never happened and if you’ve never played this game you really need to give it a chance. This is one of the best games I’ve ever played and probably the first shooter I truly enjoyed.
3. The Last of Us: So let me start this one off with a story. I was house sitting/dog sitting for my Mom’s friend for about two weeks and while I never watch TV at home, I was watching it over there. I wasn’t really paying attention, but as I was browsing my computer a commercial came up on the TV, and I noticed it. The commercial was pretty solid and the game looked incredible, and I could almost tell it was a Naughty Dog game. Thirty seconds later I got the confirmation and immediately began looking for the nearest Best Buy/Game Stop where I could go purchase the game that very second. Sadly it was 9 pm and everything was closed, but I went to sleep and first thing the following morning I went to the nearest Best Buy and bought the game. I had literally done no research, knew literally nothing about it except for the 30 second commercial and that Naughty Dog made it and this was probably the smartest purchase I’ve made in the past 5 years. The game was absolutely exceptional and if Uncharted didn’t have the emotional attachment it would probably beat it out as well. Everything you could ever expect from a Naughty Dog game was present, and I just don’t know what else to say. Go play it and if you can keep yourself from crying 10 minutes into the game, you really need to develop your emotions cause holy shit is the beginning sad. Anyway GO PLAY THIS GAME. SERIOUSLY.
2. Uncharted- Drake’s Fortune: Another Naughty Dog game in my top 3, very deservedly so. Back in 6th (or maybe 7th) grade we were learning about explorers and the new world. I was assigned Francis Drake as my project and the more I read about him, the cooler I thought he was. I mean, he was basically a pirate and a knight and also a bad ass explorer and also was so nuts that he sailed around the entire planet. No one really had his credibility as far as total bad ass goes. Anyway, there was a buy two get one free going on at Best Buy and Uncharted 2 had literally just come out. I went there and purchased Demon’s Souls, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time and Uncharted 2. Of course I needed to play the first Uncharted first, obviously, so I went to the nearest Game Stop and bought a copy there. I got home, threw in Uncharted and literally (and I mean literally) did not move from that spot for the next 8 hours until I was done with the game. That’s how much I instantly loved the game and how much I still love that game to this day. Everything was fantastic, from the artwork to the game play to the characters to the story. Getting to watch the series grow and seeing how well received the second game was was awesome, but I think the first one will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the game that bridged the gap and introduced me to everything Naughty Dog (and holy crap do they make good games). Anyway, go play this. At least one play through of this and The Last of Us should be on everyone’s bucket list. The games are just that good.
1. Warhawk: And finally, Warhawk. This was the game that truly got me into video games. Obviously I had played video games before this and had dedicated quite a bit of time to various games, but there was just something about this game that I loved. I think the thing that I loved more about this game than any other was how I never felt screwed. There were times when you were getting nuked by like 6 Hawks or something, but in just about every case I never felt I had no chance of escaping from the fight as long as I could be smart enough and clever enough to figure out how to get out of the hole. My fondest memory of this was a fight where I had a flamethrower and a rifle and I came around a corner directly into another player. I immediately started getting gunned down before I could respond and I only had seconds before I knew I was going to die. I returned fire as best I could and began kiting in an arc around the opposing player, slowly spiraling in towards them while avoiding everything I could. With maybe 20% of my health left, I was able to get close enough to whip out my flamethrower and torch out the last 50% of their health, surviving with maybe 5% of my own – all because I knew how to get out of that situation and I could figure out the best way to apply my weapons and abilities.
That’s not to say the game favors mechanically or tactically better players; anyone can be successful once they learn the basics. Even the worst player in the game can still lob grenades and gun down people with a rifle without needing to worry too much about how they were doing. At the same time, more talented players were still constantly rewarded by making plays much like mine and coming out ahead because of a stronger mechanical or tactical play.
Outside of the game play, which was phenomenal all around, the community was amazing. I met a couple people around the end of my sophomore year of high school and ended up joining up with them in a clan my junior year. Halfway through that year we started playing competitively and got utterly obliterated in just about every game we played. However, I got to know a lot of the good teams and good players and quickly learned more and more about the ins and outs of the game, rising through the ranks as one of the most talented clan leaders and players in the game. Although my clan never ended up winning anything, we were able to finish our third and final season of play as the 8th seed (and they only took 8 teams) in the playoffs and took the team that won the ladder that season to all five games with the last ending in a sudden death capture the flag match. If it wasn’t for my incredible play (where I successfully team killed everyone on my team and committed suicide) we quite possibly could have won that sudden death and potentially placed as one of the best teams of that season.
I ended as arguably the best player (probably top 10, minimum) in the game on the ground at the time I finally quit. I never really took to Warhawks like a lot of talented players, but I loved the versatility and power I could bring as a ground support player. After my clan retired I joined two others clans during two separate seasons and assisted them in taking the ladder and one of the top spots (I honestly don’t remember but I believe they each took first place the season I was with them). Anyway it was the aspect of really getting to know an awesome group of competitive, fun players and insanely exceptional game play that really made me fall in love with the game. I’m not sure any game will ever pass this one, but this will always remain as one of my favorites of all time.