My Top 7 Video Games of the Modern Era

A billion years ago, I hurled up a list of my Top 6 Video Games of all time.

 It’s time to expand on that idea. Refresh it. Modernize it.

Since the birth of my son, my availability to play games has been seriously reduced. As in, it’s fallen off a cliff. I used to be an addict, throw giant Halo parties, and stay up way past everyone’s bedtime. But now when I add in writing and painting, I’m limited to about 3.5 minutes of Xbox time every other night.

Even so…

I manage to squeeze a little in.

Here are my top 7 games from the last five or so years. These aren’t my favorites of all time, but they’re pretty damn awesome. After writing a few thousand words, slathering up a new canvas, or pounding down a few drinks, I reward myself with these. They’re like little electronic elixirs. They’re delicious.

 

PVZ

 

#7 – Plants versus Zombies (The original)

Don’t judge me. I know it’s a kids’ game. I get that it’s easy, cute, and totally contrary to the super-grim stuff I usually like. Despite all this, PvZ had me hooked within 3 seconds of meeting Crazy Dave. If Walking Dead had pea-shooters and potato mines, I might watch it. Nah…prolly not.

 

 

Halo

#6 – Halo – The Master Chief Collection

Normally I’d never consider a shooter for a top game. I liked Borderlands and Gears of War and all, but only as time-killers. Halo is somehow different. What I really love about the entire series is the story, the smoothness, and the ability to kill get killed by my friends for hours on end while pounding whiskey. And now that they bundled all the games into one giant package (which an awesome friend gave me as a gift) I’m hooked again.

 

Shadow Complex

#5 – Shadow Complex

For the uninitiated, Shadow Complex is an old school side-scroller set in the near future. It’s a splash of Metroid, a dash of Contra, and a tiny droplet of Mega Man. It’s too short a game to be considered higher than spot #5, but it’s still awesome for what it is. Quick, dirty fun. You get to blow stuff up and use your brain at the same time. Hard to beat a puzzle game that includes rocket launchers.

 

Half Life

 

#4 –  The entire Half-Life series (On the Orange Box)

Ok. So I know I said I didn’t much care about shooters. You got me there. But Half-Life is more than a shooter. It’s got the best (and most tragically human) story. It’s got a physics engine rivaling super-modern games. And it’s got headcrabs. I mean…who doesn’t want a game with headcrabs? And giant, skyscraping robots? And a protagonist who uses a fucking crowbar? Half-life = #winning

Limbo

#3 – Limbo

If Limbo were a full 10-15 hour experience, it might take top honors. The first time I saw the spider, I shat myself. The game only lasted a few hours (if that) but I must’ve died 4,000 times. It’s all so bloody perfect. Limbo has the atmosphere, the puzzles, and the perfectly-paced action to keep a dude like me hypnotized. It actually helped inspire a few of my paintings, including this one.

Thief

# 2 – Thief 4

I might get killed for this one. Back in 2004, I fell in love with Eidos’ Thief, Deadly Shadows. The game’s whole mythology hooked me. So when the newest Thief came out, I gobbled it up. Well: The game was buggy, easy to get lost & confused in, and sometimes unfair. Didn’t bother me a bit. Thief retained the shadowy atmosphere of the original game. I got to steal gold from assholes. I got to swoop down from rooftops and maul unsuspecting guards. If they still cried out, ‘Taffer!’ right before dying, I might’ve bumped this game to #1. And the real catch: I couldn’t even finish it. My Xbox crashed and deleted my save data before the end. One day I’ll return to it. One day.

 

untitled

#1. The Witcher III – Wild Hunt

In the history of ranking video games, this decision is easiest of all. The Witcher III is the perfect game. It has a sprawling landscape that feels even huger than Skyrim. It has deadly, precise combat. It has magic, alchemy, and character customization unrivaled in the business. It’s got a killer soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and a storyline that feels like an entire trilogy of really good movies. I wish I had more time to drown in this game. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever played…or am likely to play in the future. If you like RPG’s, get it. If you like video games at all…get it.

Honorable Mentions:

Mass Effect 3 (Like playing a great sci-fi movie)

Doom 3

Portal (The cake is a lie)

Games Everyone Else Loves that Bore Me to Tears:

Dragon Age Inquisition (The first one was the only good one)

Minecraft (They made tedium into a game)

Grand Theft # 5,000,000, Assassin’s Creed # 700, and Maddon 3016 (Yawn)

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So. You say you like video games? Test your knowledge with this quiz.

J Edward Neill

My Top Six Video Games of All Time

 

Skulltula

This week’s skull…the most abused creeper of all time.

I’m in my man-cave at 11-something PM. It’s raining outside. Save for the streetlamp’s flicker beyond my window and the low-key illumination of my laptop, the world is dark. I’m happy to be alone. Ecstatic, actually. If I can squeeze in about 700% more of this kind of time, I’ll die a happy man.

So then. Like video games? Me too. They’re a passion of mine, and although I seldom play them anymore, I’ll always reserve a special place in my chest cavity for them. Anyone who’s ever been in love with video games knows there are two types available for consumption. Foremost, you’ve got games that are just that: games. You blast or hack your way through this or that horde, sort colored baubles to win imaginary prizes, collect coins and 1-ups, or just generally bust the laws of physics for fun. While these kinds of games provide an excellent way of murdering several days/weeks/months of your life, they’re not the type of game I’m talking about today.

What am I talking about? The second type. The games that aren’t just games, but mood-setters, sensory-devourers, mind-benders, and experiences. A long, long time ago, I blogged a related piece  – http://tesseraguild.com/was-only-a-matter-of-time/  but this time, I’m goin’ balls deep. I’m throwing my top six games out there. These are the pixels most palatable to my grim, grey state of mind. Subconciously, I’ve no doubt that playing these six remapped entire swaths of my brain.

So let’s get started:

2263102-diablo_head

 

 

 

#6 – Diablo (The original)

Playing Diablo for me isn’t the same as it is for other folks. Sure, I get a mild kick out of the treasure hoarding, demon slaying, and level upping, but for me Diablo is all about the mood and the music. Before I ever knew I liked to write, I’d sit in the dark at my paleolithic IBM 486 and play it until my eyes hurt. I’d wander ancient ruins with the game’s masterful 12-string guitar soundtrack thrumming in the background, the pixellated rain clattering atop dead men’s roofs. Hell, in recent weeks I’ve hunted down some of the music from the original game. If I ever move into a video game city, I’ll probably pick Tristram. It’s always cloudy there, and the mood suitable for my state of mind.

Metroid Prime

 

 

#5 – Metroid Prime

To be fair, I feel any of the Metroid games (sans the one that really sucked) fit this niche. I’ll go with Prime because if I go too far back I’ll confound the ‘what the hell is a NES?‘ crowd. Metroid for me was always more than a simple space opera. I never cared that the protagonist was a girl, nor that the villains were bland and underdeveloped. What I liked (and love) about the game is its atmosphere. One hero. Alone. Creepy music. Creepier monsters. There’s something elegant about the game’s fusion of far-out science with primeval alien mythology. I’ve always thought the game might’ve made a great movie, maybe even a killer novel. Hmmmm…

Deus Ex

 

 

 #4 – Deus Ex – Human Revolution

When I first picked up Deus Ex, I figured it’d fall in line with most other games. There’d be some cool moments, some blah, blah shooting, and a few dramatic cut scenes. I was wrong. In many instances, Deus Ex walks the line between game and art. Forget how tense and fun the action is. It’s like Blade-Runner blended  with Seven. It’s the not-too-distant future, rain-riddled and fraught with ‘What would I do if this happened to me?‘ moments. It’s fun + gorgeous to look at + elegantly dark. I. Love. It.

Witcher

 

 

#3 – The Witcher – Assassins of Kings

As far as games in the genre I prefer to muddle in, Witcher might be the best of them. The story (pariah accused of regicide) is pulled off better than in most movies. The love affairs, the rivalries, and the this-could-actually-happen feel as powerful as any fantasy novel. Heroes should be likeable and hateable. Love interests should be worthy of our affection and able to beat our asses. Villains should have believable reasons for hating the world. The Witcher has it all. If I didn’t have a three-year old kid, I’d buy the new Xbox and play the sequel.

Shadow_of_the_Colossus

 

 

 

 #2 – Shadow of the Colossus

Never played it? Unacceptable. Set aside three rainy days and get ‘er done. If you’re not interested in video games, buy it for your girl/guyfriend and watch them play it. Yes, really. Shadow of the Colossus is not the game you think it is.  On the surface, it looks like a dude fighting huge monsters to save the world, his woman, his dog…whatever. It’s not that game. In playing Shadow of the Colossus, you’ll find out what it means to be misguided. You’re the bad guy, and you don’t even know it. You’re a murderer, a destroyer of beautiful art, a sociopath, a monster. What’s the matter with you anyway?

Zelda

 

 

 

#1 – Zelda – Twilight Princess

As if you didn’t see this coming. Those who know me will roll their eyes and say, ‘Well that was obvious.’ Now, as far as atmosphere, I’ll admit most of the Zelda series doesn’t measure up to the Witchers and Metroids of the world. The music is good, but not soul-stunning. The graphics are neat, but not particularly immersive. Why then have I put Twilight Princess at #1? It’s easy. You’ve got a beautiful world worthy of saving (Hyrule), a familiar, likeable, and best of all silent hero to save it, and a dread-inspiring evil to overcome. Twilight Princess beats the other Zelda games by virtue of its edge, its willingness to embrace adult themes, and most of all, the presence of a villain you knew was coming, but likely spent the whole game asking, ‘Where is my arch-rival? I need that guy, else life is incomplete.’

Honorable mentions:

Doom – Grim atmosphere. Pinky demons. What else do you need?

Portal – Was pissed about not getting cake…

Skyrim – Too epic not to be included, but damn so many of its characters for being cardboard.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll indulge my inner geek. I found my old Gamecube in a closet last weekend. Time to visit an old, old friend.

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And if you think you know video games, take this 114 question quiz. If you score 60 or higher, you’ve got skills.

J Edward Neill