Ah. It’s that time of the year again. Where the media is shoving advertisements of games down your throats like a xenomorph in hope that you’ll buy or receive one as a gift under your light-up piece of pine. But you know what? Forget about 2014. It wasn’t great, and there’s little time for it to get better. Thanks, Ubisoft. If we can’t look forward to much this Christmas, why not look back and recall the best Christmas presents we’ve ever had? This list is compiled of the best games, in my opinion, that I’ve ever played. If there’s a game that’s not on here, It might be because I haven’t played it, like Halo or Red Dead Redemption, or simply because, in my opinion, it’s not as good as any of these, like GTA V. I should say that before I bought my Xbox One I used a ps3 to better my life. Now, bear witness to a few hundred words of my authoritative narcissism.
The allure of fantasy is something I will never understand. And that is why it is so beautiful. And with fantasy, Skyrim covers just about all of it. From dragons to dim-lit caves riddled with undead draugr, all across to cauldrons and creative spell-casting, Skyrim has it etched into its disc. If you’ve ever felt like raiding dungeons in games like Diablo III don’t really feel naturalistic, Skyrim blooms the accurate artistic and physical details games like Diablo don’t, down to the snap of a draugr bone. It’s fantasy games done at its best. Unlike its unfortunate descendant, The Elder Scrolls Online, this instalment was created to be an interactive, realistic, other-worldly land on the ps3. Which it almost achieved. Video games strive to create an experience that pulls away from the bounds of technology, to make you forget the controller in your hands, and upon release Skyrim was as broken as a vase to a dragon-shout. It was riddled with bugs and glitches, all of which constantly reminded me that I was not actually the dragon-born, but a mere gamer who had frankly wasted his money. Look past that, and despite its ambitions, Skyrim is imperfect. Its lack of a respectable…audible protagonist lets it down, and by no means is it a technical masterpiece. Would these problems have been solved, it would surely rank higher. But for now, let’s just call it the best fantasy game of all time.
9 Team Fortress 2
The epidemic of many multiplayer shoot em’ ups is that they take themselves far too seriously. Weather it be 1,000 useless attachments to choose from, or the cheesy cliché narrative, most suffer them. But Team Fortress 2 looks at these bad apples and goes “Hey, I don’t have to be like you guys!”. 9 classes, 9 ways to play, and a whole lot of fun. It’s so simple, and it prospers from its minimalism, but to me, where it succeeds the most is at its lore. Valve have made some more than impressive feature-length videos surrounding our comedic characters. And now, whenever I play, I am reminded that I am immersed not in a pretentious post-apocalyptic landscape, but that I am a cartoon sprawling through a comedy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLlLQ3LmZWU
8 Battlefield 3
Remember what I said about FPS narratives being ridiculously cheesy? Well, Battlefield 3’s singleplayer is just that…but if you focus on the multiplayer, Battlefield 3, like Team Fortress 2, breaks the multiplayer formula wide open but in a completely different way. If you compare it to Call of Duty, Battlefield outsmarts its competitor on multiple levels. The graphics are vastly superior, where Advanced Warfare can just hold on to 4K nowadays, Battlefield has trodden that ground for years. Battlefield, in its high-ranking status, really brings out the limits Call of Duty has. Yes, Call of Duty has more camos and custom reticules, but Battlefield 3 has more jets. Battlefield 3 has more parachutes. Call of Duty has a noob tube. Battlefield 3 has a tank. Battlefield 3 thinks much bigger with the same console limitations. Battlefield 3 is better. And it will entrance you for hours.
7 The Last of Us
In an industry where genre archetypes rule, The Last of Us is a fungus-ridden breath of fresh air. A slow start, granted, but once you slide into it, this game is about as infectious to your brain, and your heart, as its contemporary epidemic. I have so much respect for this game mainly because of the range of feelings it imparted on me. Other games had me more scared, others in this list had me better emotionally invested, but none since this had me scream and cry in such a short interval. And believe me, I screamed. The horror and the suspense in this game were sublime. Somehow Naughty Dog managed to make an undead scarier than zombies: clickers. The inexplicable blood-curdling click had my player and my heart running faster than any other game’s AI. And it’s because of this great horror element that reviewers criticise The Last of Us’s story, that the ‘Hollywood’ narrative is merely a glorified excuse to kill zombies. Well, shit, if that’s a ‘Hollywood’ story, send more coming! I think people criticise the story because they are Genre-Nazis. It was the same with Bioshock Infinite, because people don’t like two genres combining well. When you have good gameplay and story, the Genre-Nazis get confused because they have for too long been exposed to gameplay games with terrible story, and story games with terrible gameplay. That’s what The Last of Us is. It’s two genres spectacularly zapped together, encased in a beautiful apocalypse.
6 Far Cry 3
You’re stranded on an island. But you probably won’t want to be anywhere else. The supporting characters do more than cover up for Jason’s severe introversion, with Michael Mando killing it, and everyone else as Vaas, one of gaming’s best antagonists ever. The monologue screamed at your bound-up Jason makes for some extremely memorable stuff, and the whole idea of ‘insanity’ stretches throughout your entire experience. Your drug and testosterone addled player will meet some brilliantly written, insane supporting characters, but in the blissful, bountiful landscapes, your free roam experience is truly INSANE. You will bear witness to a random event on the beach, where a caged tiger breaks free and nibbles on his captors one moment, and the next you will be hand-gliding into a hidden temple under the ocean in search of buried treasure. This game is like a David Attenborough documentary with guns, explosives, fire rituals, friends, and a whole lot of drugs. So it’s essentially what goes on off-set of a David Attenborough documentary, I would Imagine.
5 Assassin’s Creed II
Bella cosa tosto è rapita. A pretty thing is soon taken. As is the brilliance of Assassin’s creed II by its weird son, Brotherhood. Any Assassin’s Creed game has a flaw but this assassin-white gem. Brotherhood’s story was lacklustre, as was Revelation’s map, but this game had it all, bundled into my passionate love of Italy. I could bound across the tiled roofs of Florence for hours, but I would get too tempted to attend the Venice carnival for that, and after that I would ride horseback across the plains of Tuscany. So many delightful distractions from the brilliant story would hold anyone entertained. The game’s story worked so well because it eradicated any danger of ‘dead-family’ cliché by, actually making you care about Ezio’s relatives, with meaningful family quests and well composed dialogue, unlike Watch Dog’s awful family-vengeance plan (I mean, come on, the niece?). But all of this ignores the fact that Jesper Kyd’s soundtrack to this game was almost as beautiful as the Ubi-made Italy itself.
When you hear the term ‘sandbox’ you think about games like Little Big Planet, or the LEGO games. “Make your own adventure!” they say “Build your own fun”. But none of them actually live up to those claims. Except Minecraft. It’s very hard to look at Minecraft objectively because there’s so little substance to it, apart from its fun poke at fantasy. Minecraft is essentially a blank void where you can, for the first time ever, let your imagination run wild. I applaud Mojang for enabling me to release my imagination into sprawling castles and caverns and coastline canopies. It’s like an inexpensive way of building LEGO to any extent you want, and then seeing what other people can do with their own LEGO, and playing with their creations too. And people can generally do some amazing shit with LEGO. Fascinating to children and adults alike, minecraft, a small indie game made in java, is a landmark of our generation, and I certainly hope Microsoft adopt it well.
3 Bioshock Infinite
I think Elizabeth’s beauty and power accurately reflects the atmosphere of the whole game. I talked previously about double-genre busters like The Last of Us, and Bioshock Infinite is similar. It takes FPS mechanics and mixes it with brilliant narrative. And the Genre-Nazis scream butthurt because they think that the gameplay and story don’t merge seamlessly. I personally don’t think that. I just think that people say this because they are used to FPS stories bombarding you with unsolicited random explosions every five seconds, which is fitting of the shooter gameplay. But I think Levine’s steam-punk retro shooter is a relieving break from modern day Michael Bay FPS Jizz-fests. The main critique people hold on this game is that the narrative falls short in the middle of the game, that it becomes confusing and uninteresting, and I will not argue this. But the mind-boggling revelations at the end will mean that the seemingly irrelevant middle section becomes extremely important, and it will all suddenly make much more sense. It will leave you blown away for days. Now that the dlc has been released, I have not played it, because nothing could ever top the ending to that game. It’s no use trying to. The ending to that game was so spectacular that it renders any efforts to top it futile. The game is beautiful in design, but not nearly as beautiful as it is emotionally powerful. It is so powerful that it makes you question everyone and everything in the game after completion because of your dramatic change in perspective. Ken Levine managed to for the first time in my life render me speechless after playing a game. I could not speak I was so awestruck. I am perfectly comfortable saying that I do not expect to fall in love with a game in quite the same way ever again. [UPDATES: I misspelled Ken Levine, the game designer, as Adam Levine, the lead singer of Maroon 5. God, please forgive me… Also, out of my insurmountable love for the game I have decided to try Burial at Sea. You may hear more about this later]
2 The Walking Dead: Season 1
I love Telltale games. I love them so much, and this is the main factor why. I was furious to find out that Telltale didn’t win anything at The Golden Joysticks this year, despite their biggest year for releases as of yet. This game is proof that the indies can win. A little studio that makes games better then the triple As. How amazing is that? It won the BAFTA Games story award at the 9th British Academy Video Games Awards over 4 triple A nominees. A little giant, and I love it. It’s hard to say why I love this game so much without ruining anything, because it is an entirely story driven game. All I will say is that, where usually I am the only dry-eye in the cinema, this masterpiece made me well up. Twice. After I completed it again. I cried harder the second time. Is that weird? Your morals, in this game, will be challenged like never before. Your previous expectations of good storytelling will be completely eradicated. You will build real relationships. You will love these characters, and because of that, you will cry for these characters. I hope Telltale get the triple A treatment they deserve.
1 Batman: Arkham City
All I’ll say is that it is just good to know that there are studios out there who are just as passionate about making video games as I am about playing them.