We’re back again! Counting down another 10 games that I adore.
If you haven’t read the first instalment in this series, please do so here, where I explain how I’m judging these games.
Let’s not waste any more time!
Release Date: 31st January 2013
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 82%
It’s a game about…ummm…mindfucks?
Antichamber is such a hard game to talk about because saying pretty much anything would ruin the experience. It’s one of those games that I think you should go into as blind as possible, because the more you know, the less of an effect it will have with you.
Antichamber is a game that sits you down, shows you the basics of its puzzle mechanics, and then proceeds to fuck with your head for an hour until either break through the game or the game breaks you. It’s a game where genuinely nothing is at it seems, as corridors change the moment you turn your back and the rules of the world are so fluid they may as well be non-existent.
It’s the kind of game that I love more for how impressively it was conceptualised and built, more than how it actually plays. Coming up with puzzles like the ones in Antichamber seems like an impossible task. How do you take the most random of elements and connect them into a puzzle? How do you create a world that changes on a dime, but still remains consistent the entire playthrough? Most importantly, how do you take any of those elements and turn them into an entirely solvable puzzle game? I couldn’t even begin to answer these questions, but Antichamber already has.
Just go and play Antichamber and you’ll see exactly what it means.
89 – Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Release Date: 7th December 2018
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios, Sora Ltd.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Metacritic Average: 93%
It’s a game where your favourite Nintendo characters all beat the ever-loving shit out of each other.
The appeal of Smash Bros is so simple that it was always destined to be a success. It’s the classic playground debates of “Who would win in a fight between…?” Nintendo takes beloved characters from all over the gaming world (not just their own IPs) and throws them into a world where they all coexist…when they’re not using their unique abilities to beat each other’s brains out.
The feel of the gameplay is incredible. ‘Casual Fighting Game’ doesn’t sound like it should be possible, but that’s precisely what Smash Bros is. Anyone can pick up Smash Bros and do ok at it once they’ve got the hang of the controls. At the same time, it has enough depth to it that taking the time to learn advanced strategies and grow your skill at the game is a fun and rewarding experience.
I don’t know how Nintendo was able to create a style of gameplay like that, but that’s what Nintendo seems to be good at; creating games that are simultaneously for children and the most skilled gamers in the world.
88 – Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)
Release Date: 30th October 2012
Developer: Criterion Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Windows, iOS, Andriod, Kindle Fire
Metacritic Average: 86%
It’s a game about driving around a city stealing cars.
One thing you’re not going to see very much of in this series is racing games. Not because I think they’re bad, some of them are extremely impressive, but because they’re not the kind of games that capture my attention for very long. Maybe it’s because I know next to nothing about cars, but for the most part, I don’t get enjoyment out of driving around the same tracks over and over with a few different cars and even when I’m playing with friends, I only tend to get a kick out of more basic ones like Mario Kart
As you probably realised though, Need For Speed: Most Wanted is an exception to that rule. I admit, its racing mechanics are nothing special, and its open-world has been done by plenty of other racing games before and since. What it can do though, is strike a perfect balance between races that are brief enough to avoid getting boring and an open-world with enough to do that getting between each race is loads of fun.
The system of finding cars out on the streets and jumping between them to unlock new ones is such a fun system that taps right into that collectors/completionist part of my brain. Whenever I’d find a new car out in the world, it was a sweet little thrill, and I was excited to try out some races with it.
As well as all of that, some scenarios like police chases could get crazy. There were plenty of times throughout the game where I’d howl with laughter after watching a police car bounce off my roof, off a bridge and into the ocean. Even though I don’t think its mechanics are anything special, it was still able to provide me with a fantastically fun time as I drove around the city, which is good enough for me.
87 – Nidhogg 2
Release Date: 17th August 2017
Platforms: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 80%
It’s a game about sword fighting someone just like you so you can be eaten by a giant worm.
So-called ‘couch’ games are among my favourite genres. When a game gets it right, it has created some of the best social experiences of my life. I think the key to a good couch game is a simple concept that anyone can pick up quickly, but it also doesn’t get tired after a couple of plays. Nidhogg is pretty much the archetypal example of this formula.
The idea is easy for anyone to pick up straight away – you have to kill your opponent over and over again to run to the opposite side of the map – and the controls are easy to pick up. You wouldn’t think such a simple formula had such significant playability value, and if you were playing against an AI it probably wouldn’t be all that fun. However, when you’re playing against another person, of any skill level, it can be a tense and brilliant game.
The constant back and forth pushing creates matches that last ages and are tense and exciting for the entirety of their run times. The moment when you finally break through is a rush of adrenaline as you make a mad dash for victory, while your opponent now has to frantically work out a way to stop you. It’s a gameplay loop that has so much subtle variation to it that I never get tired of it, which is precisely was a couch game should be.
86 – Stacking
Release Date: 8th February 2011
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions, THQ
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 84%
It’s a game about solving puzzles with sentient Russian Dolls.
Allow me to introduce you to the beautiful world of Stacking, which may be the most intricately designed world the puzzle genre has ever seen. The basic concept of the world is that everyone is different sizes of Russian Dolls, and if you sneak up behind someone who is one size above you, you can jump inside them, control them and use their abilities. Disturbing implications of that aside, it may be the most genius puzzle mechanic I’ve ever seen.
It creates fantastic opportunities for puzzle solving, as you can stack up various dolls with various abilities all together to access certain areas or trigger a chain of events. Stacking has every element of the puzzle-solving weaved into the world so carefully that the atmosphere throughout the game is incredible. Not only that, but every puzzle has a plethora of solutions. Stacking weaves the exploration of its world into the core of the game, making the world-building and puzzle-solving blend into one cohesive experience.
It’s a unique concept for both a puzzle game and a game world – both of which are becoming rarer by the day – and it absolutely gets the most out of what it brings to the table.
85 – Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Release Date: 25th September 2008
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Metacritic Average: 74%
It’s a game where you gotta go…and do an RPG.
So here’s where we get to the first instance in this list where we get to a game that, from an objective standpoint, isn’t one of the best; but this is a list of my favourite games, not the best, so it goes in here.
A Sonic the Hedgehog RPG is such an obvious idea, you wonder why it hasn’t been done multiple times before or since. Sonic has a vast cast of characters, which is perfect for the JRPG genre, not to mention that Sonic’s whole level-design philosophies rely on bright, colourful and wildly varied terrains. As it stands, Sonic Chronicles is the only Sonic RPG we’ve ever gotten, and I wish it had taken off because I think it’s brilliant.
The exploration of the varied environments is fun, and you get to use a considerable portion of Sonic’s cast throughout the adventure. The game makes good use of the DS’s touch screen mechanics but doesn’t go overboard with it and risk making it a chore. The battling isn’t the most complex, but there’s enough strategy weaved into it that you’ll have to give every turn some thought before you act. I also think the writing is really good for a Sonic game. It’s nothing spectacular, but it tells a compelling story and even throws in a few meta-jokes in here and there.
Maybe I’m just being blinded by nostalgia, but for all this game’s flaws, I think it hit on a satisfying formula (which ended on a cliffhanger, by the way) that I’d like to see more of one day.
84 – Mark of the Ninja
Release Date: 7th September 2012
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 91%
It’s a game about sneakily murdering everybody…or nobody depending on how you feel.
A 2D stealth platformer isn’t anything unique on the indie market, but Mark of the Ninja doesn’t worry about being unique to stand out, instead, it just stands out by being the absolute best at what it does.
The sense of focus in Mark of the Ninja is outstanding. It’s a game that understands that its stealth mechanics are all it needs to be fantastic, so refines those mechanics to near-perfection. Your abilities, items, UI and combat ability (or the limitations thereof) all serve the central purpose of being quick, efficient and above all, stealthy. Every step you take will give you vital information to work out how to get through a room. Sound is very clearly visualised, guard’s cones of vision are clear and strict, while your limited combat capabilities push you to the more challenging, non-violent solution.
Few other games can take the essence of being a silent killing machine and turn it into what more closely resembles a strategy game. Still, Mark of the Ninja manages to make every single action satisfying to perform.
83 – Worms Clan Wars
Release Date: 15th August 2013
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 73%
It’s a game where Worms take turns blowing each other up.
You can argue all day about which Worms game is the best and, to be honest, they all have their charms, but I think that Clan Wars was the game that refined the 2D Worms formula to the best iteration we’ve had so far.
I adore the turn-based strategy genre in all its forms (as you’ll see later in this series), but it does mean that there’s a lot of games out there vying for my attention. This generally means I only have one or two games that fit into each role for what I want from the genre. For example, I have one or two 4X games that I like or squad-based tactics games. While they all fall under the ‘turn-based strategy’ umbrella, they apply the genre in very different ways.
Worms fits into these roles as my go-to ‘casual’ turn-based strategy game. It’s the one that I go to when I’m feeling like I want to play a bit of strategy, but don’t want to spend an hour or more staring at my screen mulling over hundreds of possibilities. That’s what I think I love about Worms the most, it takes a typically quite complex genre and boils it down to its simplest elements, making a fast-paced and fun game.
Where most other strategy games will have you balancing countless factors as you push towards your goals, Worms only gives you a few things to think about. These things include: Where is your worm? Where is the worm you want to blow up? Which over-the-top weapon are you going to use to bring about their destruction? THAT’S IT, and it’s brilliant.
82 – Just Cause 3
Release Date: 1st December 2015
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Metacritic Average: 74%
It’s a game about explosions.
Just Cause is a series that I’ve become less and less enthused with over the years, but I still think there’s a base level of enjoyment there every time I play. I didn’t like Just Cause 4 very much because it shifted focus to something I didn’t really care for, but Just Cause 3 knew what the franchise was best at and rolled with it.
Making every base a checklist of things to blow up was great, and some of the most fun moments I can remember playing games have been while trying to find the most creative ways to blow a base to pieces. That’s the thing about Just Cause, and why it can be quite divisive. It’s because if you play it as your standard AAA open-world game, just doing what you’re told, then it’s not the most fun experience. The fun comes in when you let your mind wander and realise that the game is a sandbox for the most mental stuff to happen.
The whole world is specifically designed to be more of a toybox for you to mess around with. It gives you plenty of tools that are specifically designed to interact with the environment in weird and exciting ways and depending on how you tackle every challenge, it can be an extremely dynamic experience.
Not only that, but it provided players with the wingsuit, which is one of my favourite methods of traversal in gaming history. The entire landscape is designed to work perfectly with the wingsuit, as you use the grappling hook to drag yourself along it can be so satisfying to glide over the terrain in the perfect way to make an excellent feeling method of moving around the world, no vehicle required.
81 – Sonic Generations
Release Date: 1st November 2011
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Windows
Metacritic Average: 77%
It’s a game where you gotta go fast…multidimensionally.
I’ll be the first to stand up and say that 3D Sonic games have their flaws and I will always prefer their 2D counterparts. However, that doesn’t mean there’s never been a good 3D Sonic game. I can’t deny that Sonic Adventure 2 is the most popular of the 3D Sonic games, but my personal favourite is undoubtedly Sonic Generations.
Firstly, the readdition of the classic 2D Sonic levels was a brilliant touch. It didn’t quite have the same feel as the original games, but I think Generations’ reimagining of the 2D platforming mechanics made for a fun experience. The nostalgia factor was prominent, not just with the mechanics, as I’ve already discussed, but with the levels too. They picked one level from every major Sonic game, and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane, seeing how beautiful some classic locations could look with the modern art style.
Meanwhile, the 3D platforming mechanics were, for my money, as good as they’ve ever been throughout the franchise. By this point in time, SEGA had made many, many mistakes with their 3D platforming mechanics and this game finally polished everything to the point where I believe it will hold up far into the future. The sense of speed and momentum was fast and snappy, the levels were designed in such a way that didn’t go too far to hamper your speed. Instead, it provided you with a series of quick challenges, where the punishment for failure was usually only being forced to take a slower path.
Generations did a wonderful job on iterating on the progress the series had made with Colors & Unleashed, combining it with Sonic’s gameplay routes to create the most complete feeling modern Sonic game to date.
So there you have it, 10 more awesome games in the bag! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post, if you haven’t read the first one already, then please do so here. Please, let me know what you think of these games, either in the comment below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be covering Money in the Bank cash-ins and their subsequent title reigns!