Claiming that any subjective form of entertainment has a ‘best of all time’ is just asking for a heated debate. If you play games, you’re likely going to have an opinion, and we appreciate some of you will disagree with our personal picks. Although, isn’t that the wonderful thing about this medium? — i.e. just how wide-spanning and diverse the community is. As we could only pick one game each, you’ll notice plenty of iconic titles missing, so understand this list is far from absolute. However, knowing what a person’s favourite game is can tell you a lot about them, and with so many new writers joining our staff in 2015, we thought it’d be a fantastic opportunity to share with you the sort of gamers we are.
Persona 4 is an unusual game to describe to newcomers. It’s one part social-sim, another part dungeon crawler, and it also incorporates elements of Pokemon into the mix. If you’ve not played it before, you’re probably thinking that its either the greatest or weirdest thing you’ve ever heard of. (The answer is the greatest, if you’re not already convinced). Persona 4 spews an unmistakable personality, and I have no hesitation in saying it’s one of the best games of all time.
Mechanically speaking, it has a fantastic battle system with lots of customisation options, as well as creatures called Persona which you can collect and fight with, as well as fuse together to create new Persona. It’s an addictive system that keeps the dungeon crawling interesting. However, what makes this game so great is a gripping supernatural murder mystery that’s supported by what I think is the most relatable cast of characters I’ve ever encountered. The thing that’s so different to other games is that one of the ways you get stronger is by developing bonds with other characters by helping them with relatable real-world problems. At times, it tackles some controversial issues, and at others it’s just a positive reminder about how important friendship can be. It’s not afraid to be dark, but it’s also filled with so much positivity as seen with its bright colours, sense of humour and a J-POP soundtrack that’s unforgettable.
If you enjoy JRPGs, murder mysteries, sim games, dungeon crawlers, Pokemon, Japanese culture, or are just looking for a unique experience that you can learn something from and come out the other side feeling positive, this is a game worth playing. Persona 4 (Golden) also re-released on the PS Vita in 2014, which is by far the definitive version of the game. Although, if you can’t get your hands on a PS2 or Vita, I would even recommend watching the anime series which is the most faithful recreation of any game on-screen. Persona 4 is a game that I would recommend to anyone.
I replay a lot of the games I loved as a kid pretty regularly and, for one reason or another, the original Metal Gear Solid just hasn’t been one of them, even though I love it so much. When I first found the game, however, at the tender age of eight-nine-ish, I loved this game more than any other. I played, and replayed, and replayed this game so many times that, skipping cutscenes, I could clock it in just a few hours. It doesn’t represent any real firsts for me, though perhaps it was one of the first “serious” story-driven games I’d played, I just loved it because it was so cool! A terrorist threat with nuclear weaponry, a badass soldier-spy sent in to thwart it, and a slew of charismatic, off-the-wall, sometimes literally super-powered bosses.
As I got older and replayed it, and the sequels, I came to appreciate the convoluted, patch-work conspiracy that is Metal Gear’s overarching plot. I have incredibly fond memories of the time I spent playing the first three games, with Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater just compounding on the feelings from the first game. MGS set everything up for me and sucked me in so that every new game felt like a revelation, everything I played was compared to that first experience of the first game. At the time of writing this, I actually spent much of the day playing it with fellow GameClouder Nick Ballantyne, and Metal Gear Solid is total nonsense.
The controls are clunky, some of the dialogue is laugh out loud ridiculous, and parts of the story come across as total gibberish. This is to say nothing of the twitching head spasms that represent talking for character models, jerking back and forth as though threatening to wrench themselves off completely. I still love the game, it simply hasn’t aged very well; there was a time, however, when it held claim to being the greatest – at least for me.
It’s been said a million times already, and I’m saying it again: Half-Life is the best game of all time. This is the game that invited the player to engage in a conspiracy or just blast aliens, and both choices were as legitimate as each other. This is the game with mechanics so satisfying, there’s still a dedicated community for CS 1.6 15+ years later. This is the game that made crouch jumping a thing, and it wasn’t just a gimmick, it was a core mechanic that took skill to pull off. Half-Life is an unequalled achievement in gaming, and not least because it’s seamless in almost every way.
The thing that blew me away with HL was that everything gelled together perfectly, from the visual to the mechanical. This was a game that took realism very seriously, and everything still looks, moves and reacts more naturally than most modern shooters. On top of that, weapons didn’t feel like cheap imitations; they had heft to them, and even the alien attacks felt like they were meaty. Everything looked and felt great, and it complemented every other element, and then there was the story.
All too often, games will break up story and gameplay, but HL integrated it’s narrative into the progression of the game. Sometimes it was hidden, other times it required prompting, but you didn’t need to care about what was happening. There was a story, but after the set up, it was up to you whether you wanted to know more or just blast more aliens to shreds. It was a complex story, but you never had to pursue it if you didn’t want to. It would accomodate what the player wanted to do, and that is, after all, the most important aspect of a game. Now we wait for 3…
For my 13th birthday, ye olde parents took me to the largest electronics store in London and told me I could pick any video game that I wanted. I’ll never know if it was the box art, the blurb or excellent product placement and marketing techniques that drew me to Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. I spent the rest of the family holiday consumed by the Piggyback guide bundled with the game, and wishing I had access to my PS2 so I could start the fantastic journey that the guide promised. Little did I know that said journey would take me 4 1/2 years to complete and not only leave me with a multitude of gaming memories but also an appreciation for the kinds of experiences that games could create.
Buzz words in the title paint this game as an epic medieval fantasy- adventure, and the plot, characterisation, and 3D open world fail to disappoint. This game was so far ahead of its time; it astonishes me when hardcore players a) haven’t heard of it, or b) haven’t played it.
The plot is clever and has an incredible amount of depth, the characters are realistic and brought to life through some quality, and oft-times tongue-in- cheek British voice acting (of which there is more than I can recall any other game at the time having, and which is appropriately interspersed), the art is aesthetically appealing and graphics high-quality, and the classical, orchestral music gives the game a serious and historically- contextually appropriate feel- all of which help to immerse you in the expansive world that has been created.
Further, you are able to customise your equipment (weapons, armour, accessories, your in-battle inventory), travel a multitude of ways (by foot, on a cheetah-like creature, on the sea by boat, fly through the air on a hawk-like creature or use magic to teleport yourself), explore a range of environments (countryside, villages, underground dungeons, caves, mountains, towers, wells etc.), collect secret mini-medals, participate in side quests and monster arena battles, gamble at casinos, customise the skill tree of your characters, create your own items in the alchemy pot and so much more! And this all makes sense within the context of the game. Nothing feels as though it is just tacked on.
I struggled hard to limit what was an incredible 70+ hour experience, to a short paragraph. The game will be released on 3DS in the west sometime in 2016- as to whether it will do the PS2 version any justice, I’m keen to find out. (Hint, nudge, let me review it please great Editor-in-Chief).
Canis Canem Edit, to me, is one of the greatest and most overlooked open-world games of all time. It’s a game I’ve completed a handful of times, collected 100% achievements on the X360 version, and a game I never wanted to end. It’s such an entertaining and engaging sandbox to play in; pretty much anything is possible in the town of Bullworth, and absolutely everything oozes personality. The plot features the protagonist, Jimmy Hopkins, who is forced to go to the most satirical high school imaginable, Bullworth Academy. At the academy, you’ll meet and interact with different social groups such nerds, jocks, rich kids, cheerleaders, and bullies, with each stereotype turned up to 11. The interactions with every character, whether it’s the students, adults or teachers, are all hilarious and cleverly written.
The overall size may be smaller than most open-world games, but that’s what makes it great. Everything from the town to the classrooms is littered with fine details and the people that exist in Bullworth feel genuine; like when you see students rushing off to class when the bell chimes. It also features many different gameplay styles, and, amazingly, they all play very well. The combat formula is sound, the puzzle solving is challenging, and the bike rides like a dream; honestly, it’s a hard game to fault. Even weapons such as the Spud Gun and the Slingshot are fun to use, and each mission offers a great variety; more so than any of the GTA games, in my opinion. The town of Bullworth is charismatic and offers such a great sense of freedom that it’s so easy to lose yourself in. It’s a game that never fails to draw me in.
Mark of the Ninja is a 2D stealthy platformer. For those who have tried it, it may sound like a strange choice, but hear me out. As a reformed weeaboo, I’ve always thought ninjas are The Coolest Thing Ever ™. Whenever I saw a game with a ninja in it, I’d just have to pick it up and give it a shot. Even though I was sorely disappointed 9 times out of 10, I’d still keep trying things out. One of the worst games I tried was Red Ninja: End of Honour while one of the best was Shinobi. In the end, Mark of the Ninja’s focus on story and creative stealth mechanics was what I had been really searching for this whole time.
Mark of the Ninja opens with you attempting to rescue your fellow ninja clan members, and finding out who attacked them so you can assassinate them. I love how even the boss fights involve sneaking and evading guards and traps while you set everything up for the single blow that will kill them. Unlike in other ninja games where you’re either some super god-like warrior or the controls are far too clunky to do anything with, you actually feel like an assassin who needs to plan out their attacks and a, uh, ninja of the night.
The art in this game is beautiful. The cut scenes and dialogue are minimalistic, and the plot has a really great twist at the end. The game has simple and creative ways of representing when you are hidden in shadow and how far sound travels. Being able to change your ability set and the optional objectives all add great replay value to this title. I’ve sunk 25 hours into replaying this one, and will probably go replay it again right now!
Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate. Burnout 3: Takedown for the PS2. Angsty pop/rock soundtrack, awesome car crashes, and the biggest knobhead of all time as a DJ. Man. What a great game. Never as pretentious as Need for Speed (or any of the actual racing games), just wanted to smash cars into other cars and go real fast. No cops, just scratched paint and screeching tyres.
Track design was cool and varied, and the story mode took you all over the world unlocking cars, races and challenges. There was an entire game mode dedicated to racking up the highest possible dollar value of carnage by jumping garbage trucks over ramps into busy intersections.
It. Was. AWESOME.
There were something like, 70 cars which sounds low for a racing game, but they were all pretty varied, and the novelty numbers like F1s and fire engines always managed to entertain (and provide a massive pain in the ass to beat in the challenges). Speaking of challenges, it came from a time in gaming where there wasn’t a difficulty lever, and there weren’t prizes for second best. You either beat them, or waited until one of your friends could.
But the single-player “story” mode was hardly what we all signed up for. There were “single races” you could play single-player or multiplayer split screen, one of which was Road Rage. Your car gets damaged as you race. You race until your car breaks. In the meantime, you drive people off the road, bully them into intersections, ram them off cliffs, and rack up as many “Takedowns” as possible. Getting into the zone, where Animal by Mudmen is playing and the bagpipes are blaring, and you’re on critical damage but still smashing people around like a car-shaped hurricane. Oh man.
It’s 2015. The PS2 has been out for longer than some people on the internet have been alive. I still boot mine up from time to time to play Burnout. It’s the best racing game of all time.
Prepare To Die. This is the tag-line for FromSotware’s second Souls game (Demon’s Souls being the first), and an essential mantra for any player delving into the stark, brutal world of Lordran. Crushing difficulty, overwhelming odds and unguided exploration layered with a minimalist and obscure plot somehow comes together to create one of the most engaging games to come out in recent years. The plot unfolds through a few scant cinematics, vague conversations with NPCs, item descriptions, and mostly the world around you. Simple goals are dangled in front of the player who is then left to their own devices to work out how to get there, all the while discovering what became of the land.
The true joy of Dark Souls is the incredibly well-designed gameplay, as difficult and pitiless as it may be. The hardest thing to grasp is the realisation that when you die, it was most definitely your fault. Large sweeping weapons will bounce off walls leaving you defenceless, enemies will attack any opening, charging into unknown areas is a great way to die quickly, and Blighttown suuuuuucks. However, these are rules quickly learned, and it’s hard to fault the gameplay itself. When you die, you drop all the souls – the currency and experience points of Dark Souls – collected to that point, unless you make it back to the scene of your death to pick them up. Die again before this, and they’re gone forever. It’s a painful, yet effective way to train caution and hone skills to progress. While experience points help improve stats, and obviously weapons and armour increase your deadliness, none of this matters without taking time to master combat. Like a wise Butler once said: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” – On the verge of a controller-smashing rage-quit.
Resembling the likes of Diablo II, comes Path of Exile, a dark fantasy online action RPG set in the continent of Wraeclast to where your character has been “exiled” at the beginning of the game. This free-to-play highly addictive game is full of challenges from the very start. With rather complex game mechanics, you build your character’s “strength”, “dexterity” and “intelligence” with armour and weaponry, bought through a bartering system from pre-existing items you own by loot collecting along your journey. Many of these items can be co-equipped with skills gems (that match with the three main attributes of “skill” within the game) which can level up as the player is bestowed experience throughout the game defeating enemies.
Upon levelling up or completion of certain quests, you are awarded a skill that can be allocated to the complex Passive Skill Tree. These are used to customise the player’s abilities or grants unique talents that your character doesn’t normally have.
This game involves intricate layouts. You just don’t go in one straight direction, from point A to point B. You go up, around, and down, often finding yourselves in dead ends or discovering portals to underground areas within the area you’re exploring. Sometimes getting sidetracked from finding your “waypoint” because new enemies pop at you and for someone like me (who likes a challenge), I’ll be gung-ho focused on: I want to kill these new ones and see if… My character is still super awesomely equipped… Or… Ohhhh! I just died within seconds, better retreat and update my inventory.
These constant diversions provide hours of gameplay and by the time you’ve completed your main mission, your character and your personal skills are tenfold better than what they were since the last time you logged on.
“Clever” is one of my favourite qualities something can have. Movies, jokes, technology, kids, pets, and video games – the clever ones are the best ones. “Clever” is also a succinct yet comprehensive summary of Portal 2. Few games are as intellectually challenging, intelligently designed or interesting as Portal 2, and even fewer are as entertaining. Built around infinitely simple yet mind-numbingly complex mechanics, the beauty of Portal 2’s puzzles is how they challenge you. It’s not about being killed by an enemy, respawning, and trying again. It’s about being stuck in a room with a logical solution and thinking your way through it. There’s nothing beating you, nothing opposing you – only obstacles waiting for you to overcome them.
Valve didn’t settle for a brilliantly laborious puzzle game, though. Portal 2 tells an intriguing story, featuring some of the most interesting characters and settings I’ve come across in any fiction. As the arduous repetition opens up into exploratory, story-driven scenarios, still rife with confounding puzzles, it becomes clear how wonderful Portal 2 is. You won’t find anything else so immaculate, intelligent, interesting, and clever.
It’s hard to peg a more influential game than DOOM. The same rag-tag, good-time, heavy metal loving developers from Shreveport, Louisiana, previously famed for their cult goof-platformer hit, Commander Keen, were sure this was going to be something big. Coming off both the technological and commercial success of their first major foray into the first person perspective experience (Wolfenstein 3D), the unlikely Gen X heroes were about to blast the virtual hellspawn right out the screen and into our faces with DOOM. The time was the halcyon days of 1993, with the holiday season right around the corner, and the blossoming PC gaming market needed something to define its feasibility as a gaming platform.
DOOM has earned its rightful place amongst the ‘Best Games of All Time’ for a number of reasons. From the lightning-fast gameplay (that still stacks up today), to the thumping MIDI-metal soundtrack, to the overwhelming sense of dread and despair players felt trudging through the ruins, and corpses of friends through Phobos/Deimos/Hell/Earth, (not to mention DOOM is still regarded as one of the most balanced deathmatch experiences even by today’s standards). DOOM’s graphic violence and disturbing (albeit, biblically derived) imagery upset parents, teachers, religious leaders and politicians. Doesn’t the coolest stuff always, though?
Notwithstanding it’s monolithic influence over an entire genre, DOOM has arguably the longest sole legacy of any other game of its generation; with legions of modders and mappers creating countless source ports utilising modern technology, as well as new and exciting experiences for DOOM (most notably, Brutal DOOM and Project MSX), as well as a near infinite range of map-packs, weapon add-ons, custom monsters etc as well as some memorable Total Conversion mods recreating classics such as Sonic, Mario and Megaman, as well as the offensive, grotesquely schizophrenic ‘Grezzo 2’, there really does seem to be something for everyone in DOOM, and consequently it’s largely a game that still stands up today, over 20 years after its initial release.
While many might consider this a generic or obvious choice, there’s a number of personal reasons as to why I believe The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the best game of all time. As a general part of my own history, the first console I ever owned was a Nintendo Entertain System (NES) which I played to death and then subsequently a Super Nintendo, which suffered the same fate later on.
However, when Ocarina of Time launched on the Nintendo 64 – It was the first time I’d ever truly been captivated by a game. The world seemed so rich to me, a fully 3D landscape with different places and locations to explore. Coupling this with an overarching fantasy epic about a boy/man who traverses time and defies all obstacles to save the Princess, it was something truly worthy of my undivided attention.
As the years have gone by and I near my thirties, I’ve found a number of games that I’ve really liked such as the Mass Effect, Uncharted and the Assassins Creed series – but I’ve never loved them like I did with OoT. It was the first time I realised that I was a “gamer,” and it makes me proud to be part of such a rich and vibrant community with this game as the launching point.
Sure, there have been plenty of games that have come out with better graphics, arguably better stories and crisper gameplay mechanics – but the epiphany and experience I relate to playing Ocarina of Time as an 11/12-year-old boy is something I wouldn’t trade for any other memory. It’s an experience that many young, old and varied people are probably still having every single day, and they’re memories worth holding on to!
Company of Heroes was such a masterpiece because its awe-inspiring presentation created a truly cinematic experience. It combined epic visuals with amazing sound assets, voice acting, music and animations quality. When taking fire, your troops would organically take cover or drop to the ground for protection. They’ll crawl around, return fire and reload their weapons. It really brought your soldiers alive in a way that RTS had never achieved before, especially as you could zoom in all the way and see even the small details on their faces. Playing Company of Heroes feels like you’re jumping into a battlefield, a battlefield where you are in control.
Behind the shiny surface, Company of Heroes brought a whole new level of nuance and tactics into RTS. It forgoes a demanding production and economy in favour of intricate weapon profiles and unit statistics. Everything has so many more layers of variables and attributes that what you would expect from an RTS game, dictating very different ways of controlling each unit, weapon and ability. Rifle Infantry are powerful at range, whereas Assault Troops are best up close. Machine Gun teams devastate at all ranges, but only fire in a limited cone and can be flanked. Controlling units and utilising the mechanics of the game is so fun because each unit is so nuanced and unique to each other. The game is all about combined arms and tactical manoeuvres.
Company of Heroes does the resource system brilliantly; by dividing the map up into resource nodes and victory points, players are required to fight constantly over the map. This results in such a great flow where players are always active and interacting with each other to contest the map
Company of Heroes stands as a shining example of how to design fun unit control and proper flow in RTS games.