John’s Top Six Video Games of All Time

If all of your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do it?

If all of your friends wrote articles about their favorite video games, would you complete the series?

For completeness sake you can see Jeremy’s list, Amanda’s list, and Chad’s list. Compare and contrast to this one, whatever you want.

There was a guy who lived down the street from me when I was about 11 or 12. While I was stuck playing Space Invaders for the ten thousandth time, he had a Nintendo. No matter how much I pleaded going into Christmas that year my parents wouldn’t budge. I had an Atari and we had a computer. My Dad in particular couldn’t figure out why I’d want a game system when a computer could play games and other things. Luckily my buddy would let me come over after school, and from about 3 until around 6 when it was time to go home we’d do one of two things: play basketball or play Nintendo. Typically we’d play outside when the weather was nice and when it rained we’d move inside and play Super Mario or Contra or even Duck Hunt. There were more than a few afternoons where I wished for storms so that I could play. Anything was an upgrade over what I had. Here were games with better graphics and story lines. Heck, you could beat these games… there was no “beating” Joust, things just got faster and harder.

I think it was the following Christmas that the Nintendo came… oh, happy days.

But when I look back to those early days I’m not sure a list of 6 is even fair. There were so many games that I spent hours upon hours playing and reading old issues of Nintendo Power to try and gain even a slight edge. But far be it from me to buck the trend.

 

Tempest (Arcade Version)

tempest

Yes, it doesn’t look like all that much, but when you’re 8 it is amazing!

My first “favorite game” was one that I played at the local arcades early on. Instead of a joystick you had a dial that you’d spin and slam your hand on the firing button as fast as you possibly could hoping to hit all the alien/insects/whatever the heck they were from crawling up the Doctor Who style hyperspace tunnel.

At least, that’s how I like to remember the game. I believe it was more my memory of the game, than the actual game play itself, but for many years I’d look specifically for this game whenever I entered an arcade.

 

WCW/NWO Revenge

2409917-box_wcwnwor

I’ll admit it. I like wrestling. Back in the 80’s the best part about Saturday afternoons was the fact that one of the local stations literally played wrestling shows all day. Guys I’ve never heard of and guys everyone has heard of. These were the days of the WWF and then everyone else who were “stuck” in the regional organizations. Flash-forward to the late 90s and wrestling was going through a second golden age. Those wrestlers from the 80s that we all recognized were beginning to clash with the newer generation. And possibly the biggest storyline throughout that decade was the NWO vs. WCW feud. It turned the fan-favorite Hulk Hogan into a villain, something the ten year old me would have never thought possible, and the teenage me thought was amazing. This game really set itself up perfectly by captializing on that feud, splitting your characters into their NWO or Wolfpack or WCW.

But the reason that I list it among my favorite games is that it was the first wrestling game I had ever played that used a “Grapple” system. Where in older games it sometimes came down to who could hit buttons faster than the other guy, this game encouraged you to perform moves after the characters locked up. For some reason this made it feel more like skill was involved. It really introduced a strategy that future wrestling games have seemed to abandon to go back to the “push buttons and hope” techniques.

I’ve played wrestling games since this one, but this is the last one I would pop in just for the hell of it and run a match… that’s how good the controls were.

 

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal_Darkness_by_professortorcoolguy

True enough!

The single scariest game I have ever played.

Many a night I would turn off all of the lights in our town house and play this weird Lovecraftian adventure through time. You see, you’ve inherited the family house, which would be great if it wasn’t right on top of some kind of other-worldly portal. You would move around the house looking for clues about the overall plot and read about these ancestors who’d also had the misfortune of ending up in the Old One’s crossfire.

But the best part of the game was the Insanity Meter. As you took damage or weird stuff happened, your meter would increase. At first you might just hear strange noises coming through the TV. Maybe a baby cries in the distance… but you know that it is just a game. And then you open a door to look in a room you’ve looked in 10 times already and a dead body is waiting for you.

Yet, all of that was child’s play for how the game played you. My favorite moment, that moment when I knew that this might be one of the greatest games I’ve ever played, was when, in mid-mission the screen turned black and a few words came up on the screen asking you to buy the full version of the game. As I say there, staring at the screen… thinking I’d somehow gotten a defective game, things flipped back to normal and you were back in the game.

They’d gotten me.

Eternal-Darkness-pic-9

If they ever do an Eternal Darkness 2, I will be buying that game at midnight and taking the next day off… that’s how good that game is.

 

Madden

madden-covers_00s

To be fair I can’t narrow this one down to a particular version. I’ve been playing some form of Madden football games for the better part of 2 decades. Now, I must admit, even though it is the best football game available (and the only one with the NFL license so that you can play with your favorite teams and players), I don’t buy every release. Typically I buy the new one every other year, as things (improvements) don’t change that much year to year. To me, this is the only football game worth bothering with (well, since Techmo Bowl back in the day, I guess). Upon releasing the latest one from its plastic prison, I launch directly into franchise mode with the Miami Dolphins and rack up Super Bowl victories until I grow tired and move on. But like a warm blanket, whenever I get the itch to play, it’s there, my franchise waiting to go into year 5 or something.

 

Rock Band

Rock_band_cover

Hey, I can be Eddie Vedder if I want to be!

This might be the greatest party game ever invented (apologies to Mario Kart) (I’m including the full gambit of Rock Band Games in here because of their song export feature).

For those that have played the game, I think they get it. Those who haven’t, I can see how it would be an odd thing to want to play karaoke with somebody holding plastic guitars and someone else banging on plastic drums. And yes, it is odd. I’d probably be one of the first to crap on the idea had I not gotten hooked on Guitar Hero first. Somehow it just works.

And then there is the the soundtrack. Without a solid soundtrack of songs everyone will know, the game wouldn’t have worked. But they even provided a work-around when you got tired of Dani California for the tenth time with downloadable tracks so that you could customize your experience. You like more heavy stuff? Go and spend a few more dollars on those songs. Want Pearl Jam’s Ten album in its entirety (yes please!)? The only bad thing about the game is that this whole genre of games seems to have died out… no new songs are being converted. Still, there are plenty of songs out there to get, so odds are this is a very small problem to have.

I still remember the very first night I bought the full band pack (a birthday present) we brought it over to some friend’s house who were going to have us over for game night. I might have felt bad about hijacking the event, but since everyone seemed to love it – I’ll count that one as a win. Recently Courtney and I broke out the plastic instruments for a comeback tour. Any game that my wife actually gets excited about playing is worthy of my list.

 

Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

AC-Black Flag

Yo ho ho, and a sword in your gullet!

Assassin’s Creed with pirates. Need I say more?

Yes? Ok, let me just say that when I finish a game and am immediately looking for something more to download, more missions, more anything it is either that the game was waaaay too short or the game ruled. Having just finished Black Flag, this one falls into the later category. I skipped a couple of installments on the way, but tying the franchise into the Golden Age of Piracy not only made complete sense, the fact that captaining the ship didn’t feel like a minor bit of the game, but actually was integral to multiple pieces of the plot, made it almost feel like two games in 1.

The overall story line seems to be getting closer and closer to revealing what’s exactly going on, which is cool as well, as the story outside of the stuff in the past (this makes sense if you have ever played any of the games) does a decent job of feeding you just enough information to have your brain work overtime.

Honorable Mentions: Dragon’s Age, Final Fantasy 1, Dragon Warrior 1, RBI Baseball, Batman: Arkham City, Castlevania 1-3, Zelda (all sorts), Frogger, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, NCAA Basketball 2k8, Super Mario 3, F Zero, and numerous others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Amanda’s Top Six Video Games of All Time

Skyrim Aurora

I’ve never been what you’d call a gamer, but I’ve been playing video games since the days of Atari, back before Nintendo shook up the market. I have my favorites, but I’m not obsessed. This week marked my 38th birthday and I’m still playing games when I have the time (Steam and Xbox360). After reading J Edward‘s post on his Top 6 Video Games, I felt compelled to take a walk down memory lane with my own top six list. The games on my list are those that turned me into a follower, buying up version after version.

Wizardry for NES

#6 Wizardry

Have you ever played a game that annoyed you so much you became obsessed with it’s annihilation? For reasons I cannot fully fathom I played this game until our system kicked the bucket. It had a tendency to freeze up right in the middle of my progress too, but I kept playing.

After the NES left us, I went on to play Wizardry on our computer. MS-DOS. The days of Wizardry are long gone, but there’s a newish game on Steam that has the feel of the old dungeon crawlers but with updated graphics–The Legend of Grimrock. Yes, I play it too.

 


Knights of the Old Republic#5 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

I do have a soft spot for games where your character’s evolution is guided by the choices you make in game. But let’s be honest, I have a soft spot for Star Wars in general. Star Wars was a massive influence on my childhood. I don’t think I knew any other girls with as many Star Wars toys as I had. I’ve been replaying this game on Steam, but I’ve also played other Star Wars games on the first Xbox and the Xbox 360. I’m currently in the middle of The Force Unleashed II.


Doom#4 Doom

I’ve been playing Doom since the days of DOS. I’m sure someone introduced me to the game, but the memory escapes me. This was (and is) a game I can play for hours. I’ve played Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom, Doom 64, Doom 3 and now I own Doom 3 BFG Edition for Xbox 360 (includes Doom and Doom 2). For some it might be embarrassing, but I have zero issue revealing that I also played mobile editions of the game. Yeah. I love this game.

There’s been some rumors/announcements about a Doom 4, but I have yet to see any promotional material from id Software. Before anyone asks, no I haven’t played Rage but it’s on my wishlist.


Resident Evil 5#3 Resident Evil

Here’s another game I’ve been playing for ages. I can’t even recall which game I started with (before Resident Evil 4) but I can tell you how unbelievably terrified I was of this game. I’ve always been a horror fan, but this game took it to a new level. Mindless zombies are one thing, but zombies with wits, biological experiments, monsters, abominations… You can’t reload your gun fast enough.

 


Skyrim Nightingale Armor#2 Skyrim

Skyrim made it to my top list, partly because I’m an Elder Scrolls fan and partly just for the amazing beauty of the world. I agree with J Edward on the characters (Too epic not to be included, but damn so many of its characters for being cardboard.) but I just don’t care. I still laugh when I hear the sweetroll comment or the arrow in the knee comment, because all I can focus on is the amazing scenery. The auroras alone. Wow. Riding my horse across the Giant lands. Slaying dragons.

Dovah Kiin!

It also doesn’t hurt that Skyim is inspired by the Vikings. My character is a Nord named Brynn. My daughter, playing the Dark Elf Alythrae, thinks that’s boring.


Zelda#1 Zelda

On this, J Edward and I are on the same page. I have played every single incarnation of this game, even the Gameboy and DS versions. All, except Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. My daughter is playing it first on her 2DS. Without a doubt, Twilight Princess was extraordinary but The Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64 will always have a special place in my heart.

Before the Nintendo 64 version (1998) we had Link’s Awakening in 1993 (Gameboy) and A Link to the Past in 1991 (Super Nintendo). When I first saw The Ocarina of Time I was dumbfounded by the leap in graphics and storytelling. It blew my mind. No other Zelda game has done that. Yes, Twilight Princess was beautiful–but expected.

Honorable Mentions and Forthcoming:

All of the Lego games. They are just too much fun. I especially love the Star Wars collection.

Tomb Raider — the newest game by Square Enix. I’ve only played this game a bit. It’s my daughter’s game and I’ve watched her play it from start to finish. Amazing! Another extraordinary achievement. You feel as if you’re part of the game. Stunning graphics and story.

Alien Isolation — This game isn’t out yet, but I have a feeling it will make this list a year from now. I’ve been waiting my entire life for an Alien game of this caliber. I’m so excited!! I’ve been having everyone watch the trailer….

And the character’s name is Amanda. This game was made for me.

Top Ten Villains of all time

The Skull

 

It’s simple. To achieve perfection, abandon morality. I’ve been doing it for decades.” – Archmyr Degiliac, Pale Knight of Thillria

 

It’s no secret. I love, love, love the bad guys. I love to read about them, write them, watch them, and (gasp) root for them. I’m the kid who got pissed off every time Skeletor lost to He-Man, the teenager who pulled for the Alien to wipe out everyone (except the cat), and the guy who wept a little bit inside when Sarah Conner flattened the Terminator. I find a strange sort of beauty in antagonists’ raw emotion, be it their mania, their arrogance, their self-loathing, or their cold, cold dedication to being evil. Better still are the rare little moments when the sunlight cuts through the shadows and the bad guy glimpses himself as a better man…and then plummets straight back into darkness.

I’ve looked forward to this for a while. And so, without further delay, I present to you my top ten villains (in film, literature, and video games) of ALL time:  

Shrike

 #10: The Shrike – Hyperion 

 Memorable Quote: None. The Shrike has no voice

 Bio: It time travels…backwards. It slows time for itself, but not for its victims. It moves at will through the universe, vanishing on one planet only to reappear an instant later on the other side of the galaxy. It’s nine feet of shining, stabby chrome, and it’s nigh invulnerable to conventional weaponry. Among all the villains on the list, the Shrike is probably the most powerful. It enjoys the luxury of emotionless power, which most other baddies should be jealous of.

Moriarty

 #9: James Moriarty – Sherlock Holmes short stories (and one novel)

 Memorable Quote:You stand in the way not merely of an individual, but of a mighty organisation, the full extent of which you, with all your cleverness, have been unable to realise.” – Speaking to Sherlock Holmes 

 Bio: The evil genius of all evil geniuses. The puppetmaster prime. Even though the Professor appears in limited capacity, he defines his antagonist role flawlessly. What he lacks in raw evil power, he makes up for with his wicked wit. I envy his genius, if not so much his obviously tortured soul.  

Spacey

 #8: John Doe – Seven

 Memorable Quote:What sick ridiculous puppets we are, and what gross little stages we dance on. What fun we have dancing and fucking, not a care in the world, not knowing that we are nothing. We are not what was intended.”

Bio: John Doe is a sick, sick man. He’s not the sort of villain even I could root for. That said, he’s marvelously effective at what he does. Grimmer so, he believes in what he does. And his speech about the innocent (a bit too long to post here) still gives me chills. What’s in the box, John? What’s in the box?!

 Harkonnen

 #7: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen – Dune

 Memorable Quote:Alone and vunerable at the edge of the universe, Duke Leto Atreides will finally come face to face with fear. When I’m done with him, he won’t know who to trust, not even that Bene Gesserit whore he sleeps with. They’ll all be turning on another like rats in a flood. By the time the traitor is fully revealed, the fate of Atreides will already be sealed.”

Bio: The universe’s hugest hedonist. The Jabba the Hutt of the Dune milieu. He’s rich, he’s hideous, and he’s chock full of good (bad) ideas. He sprinkles sleeper agents around like candy. He delights in imprisoning his relatives. He corrupts his enemies and makes them his allies. Hell, even after he’s gone and his imperial army crushed, he’s guaranteed to live on in his enemies’ bloodline. We need more baddies like the Baron. He’s just so…damn…thorough about his work.

Ganon

 #6: Ganon

 Memorable Quote:My country lay within a vast desert. When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came, the wind carried the same thing… Death.”

Bio: Zelda’s antagonist takes many forms: a pig-faced mutant, a blue-skinned desert nomad, a godlike warrior. He’s the only video game villain to crack my top ten. Ganon is not particularly mysterious. He just wants the Triforce (and who can blame him?) Link whips him again and again, but he doesn’t care. Another entry in the Zelda series due out soon, and he’s up for it.

Dracula Book

 #5: Dracula – Bram Stoker’s

 Memorable Quote:Listen to them—the children of the night. What music they make!”

 Bio: Dracula is the best kind of villain, leastways to me. He’s ancient. He’s terrifying. His desire is not to do evil simply for evil’s sake, but for vengeance against God, for the preservation of  his immortality, and for love. He’s much more romantic in the movie than in the book, but both versions have villainous value. Bram Stoker wrote him indelibly. Gary Oldman played him perfectly. Forget Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Nosferatu, etc. Vlad Dracul is where you want to be. And better still, some of his most brutal acts are based on real events. Chilling, just the way I like it.

 Satan

 #4: Lucifer – Paradise Lost

  Memorable Quote:Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

  Bio: I have to tread lightly here due to Tessera Guild policy regarding religion. That said, I believe Lucifer is history’s most easily sympathized-with villain. I plunged into Paradise Lost some dozen times during my high school years. It’s no easy read, but more’s the better. Poor Satan. He’s tormented by his position of servitude. In the beginning he desires freedom, but by the end…hmmmm. His journey through the abyss might be considered a noble quest were it not for the religious aspects of his rebellion. By no means is John Milton’s work canon as far as Christianity is concerned, but I urge everyone, religious or otherwise, to try it out. Shove aside what you think you know. No evil is absolute.

 Darth Vader

 # 3: Vader

 Memorable Quote: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

 Bio: Forgive me this, my most obvious of entries. For a long while, Vader was the standard by which I held all other villains. He has everything. He’s a warlock. He’s a swordsman. He’s physically intimidating. He casts a huge shadow (literally and figuratively) across every room he’s in. What better story (I’m looking at you, Empire Strikes Back) than one in which the bad guys win? And what villain has ever entered a room with such Force (pun intended) than Vader?

Darkness

 # 2: Darkness 

 Memorable Quote:Every wolf suffers fleas. ‘Tis easy enough to scratch!” 

 Bio: Now we’re getting somewhere. If Darkness is so high on my list, it’s because he’s the purest embodiment of an antagonist. He’s not a man corrupted by tragedy or an angel cast down by his creator. He always was, always will be. And yet…even so…I find him worthy of sympathy. He hungers, as we do, to be loved. He suffers just like mankind. Like so many of us wish we could, he is passion, fire, and he wears it all on his sleeve. No matter that he wants to cover the world in eternal night. Never mind that his fits of rage shake the foundations of the earth. He is who he is, and he never regrets it. It doesn’t hurt that his voice (Tim Curry) rattles the movie screen every time he laughs, nor that Darkness’s appearance (transcendant considering the era in which it was filmed) awes and terrifies. If they ever re-release Legend in theaters, somebody call me. I’m there. I don’t care about Tom Cruise or Mia Sara. I want Darkness.

Sauron_Tolkien_illustration

 #1: Sauron

 Memorable Quote: None directly.

 Bio: The watercolor illustration here was painted by JRR Tolkien. It’s not exactly what you probably expected (giant fiery eyeball). In literature, Sauron was man-like. He was the chief lieutenant to the very Lucifer-like Melkor, but every once in a while the second-in-command becomes more terrifying than the master. Thousands of years old, driven by the not-initially-so-awful desire to put everything to order, Sauron becomes more terrifying as time rolls along. He’s willing to sacrifice his physical form to create a relic of absurd power (the One Ring). He doesn’t hire his armies, but breeds them. He means to clear out all the imperfections (men, elves, and almost admirably, dwarves) and afterward sit godlike atop his tower…forever. If not for his hubris (and those damn snooping hobbits) he would’ve gotten away with it, too.

Honorable mentions:

Anton Chigurh – No Country for Old Men

Pinky Demons – Doom (F those guys!)

Oh, and if you want bad guys galore, check out Down the Dark Path.

Who’s your favorite villain? Drop by in the comments and let me know!

Until next time,

J Edward Neill