I was talking to a friend recently about my favourite games and I decided to make a list! Picking a favourite was pretty easy, but there were so many contenders for second and third place that I had to blow the list out to ten. These are those treasured favourites which I keep close to my heart!
10. Perfect Dark. This was one of the first video games I ever really got into, and it blew my ten-year-old brain. Not only was the action ridiculously cool with a wide variety of kick-ass guns, the story of Joanna (Perfect) Dark was amazing. She was characterised perfectly as sarcastic and witty, whilst simultaneously being nonpareil and a total badass. I spent many hours of my youth shooting out all the lights in the dataDyne headquarters, creeping around with the experimental night vision so that Cassandra de Vries would have a huge repair bill. My brother and I also played elaborate multi-player matches where we would spend half an hour setting up bases for the other to infiltrate, or having long-range sniper battles across the stage. In one memorable night of mania, my brother and I eventually abandoned our mission in favour of playing Capture the Flag with Jonathan’s magnum.
9. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. As you may be aware, I am exceptionally fond of role playing games with interesting moral choices. Tamriel was particularly rich in these, and I spent many, many hours immersing myself in the world and helping its many inhabitants on my quest to become a true warrior. I have particularly fond memories of repairing my centuries-old Akiviri dai-katana, trekking through the lonely mountain ranges, matching wits with Daedric Princes and spending hours meticulously arranging my bookshelf (Note: This was an early picture. My final shelves had 40+ books on them). To read about my excellent and, if I may say so, well thought-out adventures, I regale some of them here and here.
8. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It’s no exaggeration to say that KotOR shaped the way I live my life and the morals that guide me. I learned so much about the deep universe of Star Wars, particularly the philosophies governing the rather complex and hierarchical organisations of the Jedi and the Sith. Between hunting dragons and shaping civilisations, I spent many hours contemplating the Jedi Code. I didn’t realise at the time that it was based on Buddhism and in many ways Taoism, so I always felt embarrassed to admit that my own life views were strongly shaped by the game. It’s one of the few RPG’s that I’ve played more than once, and its binary morality system combined with sweet D&D combat is a winner every time.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess is the game that I had dreamed of for years and years. When it finally arrived, I loved it so much that I literally treated it as sacred, and played it only when there was no chance of interruption. Link was the ultimate bad-ass, particularly given his unique sheathing animation after successfully executing an enemy. Playing as a wolf was utter joy, as was riding around Hyrule Field with Epona. Discovering the secrets of the Desert, swimming with the Zora and snowboarding with Yeta are just some of my favourite moments across a beautifully crafted landscape. However what I loved most about the game was Midna’s incredible growth from scorned brat to selfless Princess, a transformation that touches me deeply even today.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. A surprising entry on the list for me, Wind Waker was a taste that took years to acquire. It was not the Zelda I had been waiting for (see above), but darnit, it was amazing in its own ways. Those open seas, that tight combat, that endearing characterisation of Link as a child rather than a warrior… Miyamoto later said it was his favourite entry to the series because it was everything that he had wanted The Legend of Zelda to be. Eventually I came to I love sailing across that endless blue for hours, and it brought me great pleasure to discover the secrets of each of the islands. Most memorable of all was the room containing the Master Sword where many plot twists took place!
5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I have already extolled the brilliance of the Legend of Zelda series, but Skyward Sword holds a special place in my heart for being one of the only video games to make me cry. There is a particular moment in the plot where one person makes a tremendous sacrifice and I found myself moved to tears. Chronologically the first game in The Legend of Zelda series, the shaping of Hyrule and the defining moments of its history was delightful, awe inspiring and beautiful to behold. It was a great pleasure to finally use the Wii-mote as was meant to be used, and I loved every minute of exploring that fantastic world above and beneath the clouds.
4. Guild Wars 2. I have spoken much on Guild Wars lately, describing how addictive I found it, how pleasurable it is in the quiet hours of the early morning, and how it provided the inspiration for a rather sensational dream. Suffice it to say that I adore the world of Tyria, and each of its lovingly crafted inhabitants. The greatest pleasure I derive from the game is not from phat loot or speedruns through dungeons, but from talking to NPC’s, exploring the landscape and seeking out areas that are hidden or difficult to get to. It’s also one of the few multiplayer games on this list, and it has enabled me to meet some of my closest friends.
3. Mass Effect 2. Words cannot adequately contain the praise I have for this masterpiece of story-writing and characterisation. Part of what makes Mass Effect so sublime is the not-too-much-of-a-stretch set-just-in-the-near-future world that the game is based in. The science behind space travel, future technology and the biology and culture of fictional sentient races is utterly commendable. But I think what makes Mass Effect so darn endearing were the conversations and choices that Commander Shepherd constantly had to make. Although on the surface it seemed like the game operated on a binary morality system (Paragon/Renegade), every single dialogue wheel represented a different sort of person that I wanted Shepherd to become. Was he a disciplined military leader? Was he a gentle-hearted warrior? Was he a thoughtful captain, or a romantic lover? Or was he an egomaniacal bully who punches women in the face? As a good friend pointed out to me, we are all Commander Shepherd in a way, and it is the countless choices that we make that enable us to live vicariously as the champion of the human race.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There has never been a game that I put so much time and thought into as Skyrim. One need only look at the retellings of my adventures in the stories I wrote (parts 1, 2 and 3) to understand just how deep I got into the game. Seriously, give them a read. The extents I went to in order to abide by my character’s strict moral code were perhaps a little bit ridiculous. More-or-less everything I did in the game was aligned with my vision of breaking down xenophobia and fear, helping others great and small, collecting and protecting dangerous artifacts from all around the world and wielding my unique power as the Dragonborn responsibly. Those 200+ hours are some of the fondest of my life.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. My number one, obvious to anyone who knows me. What can I say about this masterpiece? I loved the world, its inhabitants and the story so much that after playing it for the first time, I was utterly transformed into a fanboy and I began trawling the internet for art and fanfiction (even producing some of my own). I wrote quizzes to test people’s knowledge (featuring questions such as “What sort of necklace is Malon wearing?” and “How many steps does Zelda take when she approaches Link in the Temple of Time?”). Once as part of my high school English class we were required to write an anthology of poems, and I based every single one on Ocarina of Time. I have purchased and learned to play a variety of ocarinas, have orchestrated and arranged several variations of my favourite soundtracks and have generally incorporated OoT into my life in as many ways as possible. I even have a Mastersword. It’s true that there are games that have better graphics, deeper characters and more enjoyable gameplay. But there has never been such a magical world to live in, so full of secrets and wonders. It is the little things that make Ocarina of Time so great. I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed dawn at Hyrule and beheld a group of peahats take to the sky (before trying to hack me to pieces). Each moment of that game is pure magic to me, and I think it will very likely remain my Number 1 for all time.
And that’s my list at this moment! I am sure that the list will soon be outdated, as there are so many games that I have yet to play which look to be strong contenders. There are also quite a few games which I dearly loved and wished I could have added, including: Okami, Assassin’s Creed 2, Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Pokémon Silver Version, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Mass Effect 3, The Last of Us and Dragon Age: Origins. But alas, they didn’t quite make the cut!
What about you? What are some of your favourite games of all time?
EDIT: Late entry, but it must be acknowledged. If I were to re-do the list, Katawa Shoujo would probably come it at Number #3, or maybe even #2. It’s that good.