My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (50-41)

Welcome back to my 100 favourite games of all time series! We’re over the half-way mark now, and the games just keep getting better. Today, it’s entires 50 through 41.

If you haven’t read the previous instalment in this series, please do so here, and here’s the first entry if you want to start from the entry 100.

SPOILER WARNING!

Just a heads up that there will be full SPOILERS for every game I’m going to talk about in this series, so be careful if I talk about something you don’t want spoiled.

Let’s not waste any more time!

50 – Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles

Release Date: 2nd February 1994
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Platforms: SEGA Genesis, Windows
Metacritic Average: 79%

It’s a game about going fast.

Although I’ve grown an appreciation for Sonic’s red, plumber rival in recent years, nothing in the 2D platforming genre will ever be able to compete with the fastest thing alive for me. All three of the original Sonic 2D platformers could have conceivably made the list, but in the end, I decided to go for the combo of Sonic 3 & Knuckles because I feel it’s where the formula reached its peak for that era of Sonic games.

The momentum-based gameplay was down to a science by this point in the series, which meant that the development team were able to churn out more high-quality levels in a shorter timespan and that really showed when you combo these two games together. Most of my favourite zones from the whole Sonic franchise live in this game (Ice Cap, Lava Reef, Carnival Night) and that’s down to the fact that everything in the game felt so fantastically smooth in terms of the platforming.

Everything in the Sonic toolbox comes together so well in this game. It clearly had the staying power too, otherwise, the franchise wouldn’t have been able to endure for so long following so many crap games in the franchise following this one.

49 – Shadow of the Colossus

Release Date: 18th October 2015
Developer: SCE Japan Studio, Team Ico
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation 2
Metacritic Average: 91%

It’s a game about slaughtering harmless creatures that also happen to be skyscraper-sized monsters.

(From my Favourite Old Games That I Played for the First Time in 2019 article)

I went into Shadow of the Colossus with no small amount of hype behind me. This autumn was the first time I ever owned a Playstation of any iteration, which means there was a big library of exclusives that I’m still slowly working my way through to this day, but the first game I had to try was Shadow of the Colossus. Pretty much every critic/Youtuber/reviewer who’s opinions I value has spent at least some time talking about how brilliant this game is, so I couldn’t wait to try it out for myself.

After finishing it, the best thing I can think of to say about it, it that there is genuinely nothing out there quite like it.

Plenty of games allow you to fight massive monsters, but they’re always so restrictive in how they let you interact with the things. The fights often limit you to a side-on perspective, or just straight up have the fight be almost entirely scripted, that’s not what Shadow of the Colossus does. Not only does it give you complete freedom to tackle each of the Colossus, but it also forces you into that freedom. The game doesn’t baby you in the slightest, the moment when the foot of the first colossus steps into frame, only for the camera to pan up and show you how massive it is was magical. This is all made even more magical when the cutscene ends and, instead of telling you how to fight it like most other game, just leaves you to work it out yourself.

This means that not only is every fight in the game a massive monster that could squish you as soon as look at you but an intelligently designed puzzle that you have to solve so you can climb up onto the thing’s back/head and stab its glowing bits.

The story is minimal, but the whole point of it is to not give you much, and get you to interpret what it’s trying to say. The game sets you up with a straightforward premise, kill the monsters and save the lady; seen it and done it hundreds of times. Then, as the game progresses, you slowly get very subtle hints that maybe what you’re doing isn’t necessarily the right thing. The game makes every battle seem like an epic fight. The music soars in triumph every time you make your way onto the Colossus’ back and yet when you finally kill them, the music changes to be very sombre, framing the death as a tragedy that you’ve murdered this wondrous creature. This leads up to the genius gameplay twist in game’s final segment, where you are transformed and forced to play as one of these giant lumbering beasts. You finally see just how difficult it is to move and attack as one of them, and it makes you realise just how helpless these creatures you’ve spent several hours murdering were.

The core gameplay concept for Shadow of the Colossus was one that could’ve easily been repetitive and boring, but a combination of satisfying climbing & combat; intelligent & varied colossus design; gorgeous looking world design and an unwavering commitment to tone, elevates the game to something genuinely special.

48 – Gunpoint

Release Date: 3rd June 2013
Developer: Suspicious Developments
Publisher: Suspicious Developments
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 83%

It’s a game about using lightswitches to fire guns.

Gunpoint is a puzzle game where every single element of the puzzles can interact with each other seamlessly. The rewiring concept would’ve been fun enough on its own, but the game gives you total freedom in what you can wire up to what. You wanna make it so that when a guard fires their gun, it calls the elevator? Sure thing. You want a lightswitch to set the whole building on red alert? No problem. You want to wire literally everything in the building up to everything else in the building so that they all trigger each other and the whole building descends into chaos. Probably giving some poor guard an epileptic fit as you leap through a window and knock him out with one punch? Couldn’t be more simple.

Gunpoint establishes all of its puzzle mechanics very quickly and then just lets you do what you want with them. The levels are designed in such a way that encourages you to experiment with the mechanics to see what works. With quick deaths and quicker respawns, you’re not punished for trying to have fun with the mechanics. The evaluation mechanic at the end of each level rewards you regardless of what play-style you used (provided you did it well). It allows you to be a lord of chaos and trick everyone into killing each other or getting in and out, without anyone even knowing you were ever in the building.

This is a game that has brilliantly designed puzzles, but also made sure that the puzzle mechanics lent itself to fun experimentation and whacky antics if you so chose to go down that route; and do you know what? I think I will.

47 – Spelunky

Release Date: 21st December 2008
Developer: Mossmouth LLC
Publisher: Mossmouth LLC, Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Xbox 360, Windows, Chrome OS
Metacritic Average: 90%

It’s a game about spelunking.

There are plenty of games on this list that nail that “one more go” feeling, but they’re usually rapid games. Things like Super Hexagon that only last around a minute before they chuck you out and have you desperately wanting to go back in again, which is what makes Spelunky so interesting.

As much as you can complete it in almost no time at all if you’re good enough, for a standard player like myself, a single run can take around half an hour (assuming you don’t die in the first few levels), but that is what makes it work. What it means is that the game never runs out of ways to surprise you with brand new stuff. The environments are procedurally generated so that levels never feel the same. Even once you’ve been playing long enough to recognise the patterns in the terrain generation, they always link up in unique ways, showing you new traps, items or enemies almost every time.

No matter how much I play Spelunky (spoilers, it’s a lot), I never feel like I’m good at it. I’m a hell of a lot better at it than I was when I first started playing, but the game never lets you rest on your laurels. This sounds like a complaint, but for a roguelike/roguelite game that’s exactly what I want. I want a game like this to be genuinely unsolvable because that’s what will keep me coming back to it time and time again.

46 – Clustertruck

Release Date: 27th September 2016
Developer: Landfall Games
Publisher: tinyBuild
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux, Nvidia Shield TV
Metacritic Average: 76%

It’s a game about leaping between trucks as they get exploderized in various ways.

Clustertruck is an unbelievably simple concept, but one that I never get bored of. This is a game that takes the pure elements of total chaos and manages to distil that feeling into the core mechanic on the game. As you could probably tell by its title, this game doesn’t give a shit about anything other than providing you with absolutely mental fun at all times.

The idea of a “Floor is Lava” game is fun enough in and of itself (just look at 2019’s Hot Lava) but to have your tools to avoid the floor be trucks that speed along at over 100 miles an hour makes the experience all the more exhilarating; and that’s not even mentioning the obstacles. Lasers, Pillars, Lava, Swinging Axes, Massive Cogs, Weird Spinning Pretzel looking things; there’s nothing this game won’t throw at you to try and knock you off your trucks. Discovering what each new level is going to try and throw at you is just as fun as actually trying to complete it.

This is a game that doesn’t need to have any mechanical genius behind it because it’s an absolute blast from start to finish, which is more than enough for me to be happy with it.

45 – Blade & Sorcery

Release Date (Early Access): 11th December 2018
Developer: Warp Frog
Publisher: Warp Frog
Platforms: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift

It’s a game about being a medieval action hero.

I’m honestly getting exhausted just thinking about this game. This is definitely not a VR game for beginners to the platform because it relies pretty heavily on having a decent knowledge of how to get the most out of VR, but once you get into it, there’s nothing that stops you from being the formidable warrior you always dreamed of being. The combat is so weighty in the game, that when I run someone through with a sword, I really feel it. It’s quite gruesome, if I’m being honest, the way that I can feel the resistance as the sword pierces through the body, it’s almost too real. The AI is just the right level for the game since they’re passive enough so that I can mess around with them and do stupid – yet awesome – looking kills, but are also good enough that they can provide a challenge in a straight-up duel.

There was something that clicked in my head as I took a running leap onto a zipline, using my axe to hook onto it, only to release from that zipline, landing on someone and stabbing them in the throat in the process before turning 180 degrees and throwing an axe into another person’s skull all in VR. I just stood there and realised that this is what VR is all about, it’s that empowering feeling that a regular video can’t give you, it’s the ultimate power trip. The only downside is that I can only play it for around 30 minutes at a time before being absolutely exhausted, but that’s not the game’s fault, I’m just unfit.

Ultimately, when I first imagine how cool games in VR could be, something not too far off of Blade & Sorcery is what came to mind and as new stuff is regularly being added (it’s still in early access), it only gets better and better.

44 – Mirror’s Edge

Release Date: 11th November 2008
Developer: EA Dice
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows, iOS, Windows Phone
Metacritic Average: 81%

It’s a game about running and jumping across a city.

Mirror’s Edge is a game that has the strange distinction of not only being a unique concept for its time but also remaining a unique concept to this day, despite being released over a decade ago. In a weird way, it took the same design philosophies as the Sonic the Hedgehog games, with the momentum-based gameplay that elevated the parkour mechanics to have an incredible sense of flow & satisfaction.

What I think made this game feel as great as it was (and one of the key reasons I wasn’t a fan of the sequel) was the linear level design. Each level was so carefully crafted to get the most out of the parkour mechanics, creating that feeling of being someone always on the run from the law. Those sequences where soldiers would be shooting at you from all angles and you could do nothing but run are some of the most exhilarating sequences I’ve ever played in a game.

Mirror’s Edge was a game that knew precisely what it wanted to be and did it to near perfection with a formula that I don’t believe has ever been successfully replicated.

43 – Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Release Date: 5th October 2012
Developer: Vertigo Gaming
Publisher: Vertigo Gaming
Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

It’s a game about running a restaurant, a whole restaurant, on your own.

When I first saw Cook, Serve, Delicious, I was expecting something along the lines of the time management games that dominate sites like Miniclip & Zylom, but it actually turned out to be something a lot more involved than that. Cook, Serve, Delicious is a game that requires all your focus at all times because it gets absolutely hectic. Orders & chores come in thick and fast, and you have to deal with them pretty much all at once. What makes this such a fun thing to play is the genius control scheme (on PC, at least). Using different buttons on the keyboard for all of the actions means that as long as you’re a fast typer, you absolutely can keep up with everything with some focus. It gives you this incredible rush of being able to do just about anything the game throws at you. It can be mentally exhausting at times, but I think it’s a fantastic feeling.

On top of that, it’s a game that I genuinely think improved my touch-typing skills. I could already touch-type reasonably well when I first found this game, but the rate at which I had to learn all of the different combinations and be able to dole them out on muscle memory alone meant that now I can touch-type so much faster than I ever could before.

Not only is Cook, Serve, Delicious an endlessly fun, fast-paced time management sim, but it has the potential to actually improve some clear real-world skills in the process. Something I’m not sure was its intention, but I’m impressed by it nonetheless.

42 – Dishonored

Release Date: 9th October 2012
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Studios
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows
Metacritic Average: 91%

It’s a game about stealthy stabbing in the middle of a plague.

Mechanically, Dishonored is damn-near flawless, the stealth & combat mechanics combined with the magic abilities creates this wonderful sense of satisfaction in the gameplay. You’re able to calculate clear plans of how to sneak/stab your way through each room and provided your level of play is good enough, you’ll be able to do it almost every time. Every ability feeds into each other and allows you to manipulate the world in just the right way to achieve what you need to. You use your Dark Vision to scout the room and work out the best order of which to take everyone down. You use your Blink & time manipulation abilities to manoeuvre the room and – depending on which play-style you’re going for – either take out every guard in one smooth sequence or slip past entirely undetected.

What really elevates Dishonored above you’re average stealth game, however, is its world-building. The world of Dunwall has such a visceral feel in every sense of the word. Visually it’s almost charming in the way it’s run-down and dirty. As the sounds of the city echo through the streets, I get so absorbed, I can almost smell the horror that lives in the city. That’s not all though, because you have the option to go through the game killing everyone or no-one, including your primary targets, which has an impact on the world. Instead of just telling you what the consequences of your choices were, it makes sure to show you. If you go around killing everyone the city will slowly become more and more worn down and horrible with each mission, those infected with the plague will start to litter the streets as the bodies you created help to spread the infection around the city. In contrast, much the opposite occurs if you take the pacifist route.

The mechanics and the world of this game mesh so well to create one cohesive experience that keeps me going right up until the credits roll (with an awesome song, I might add), creating one of my favourite stealth games ever.

41 – Jackbox Party Pack

Release Date: 26th November 2014
Developer: Jackbox Games
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, WindowsMac, Linux, iPad, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield TV, Xfinity X1

They’re games about having fun with your friends.

I’m lumping the whole series into one entry here because I honestly can’t pick out one pack that’s better than the rest. They really are the perfect party games, they have concepts that are incredibly simple to grasp by all audiences and can be easily enjoyed by all audiences. I’ve played these games will people of all ages and every time they’ve had great fun with at least one of the games.

The nature of how you play them is also easily accessible. In an era where just about everyone has some form of smart device, using them as the controllers is an absolutely perfect way of doing it that honestly hasn’t been used nearly as much as I thought it would have by this point in time. Each pack has a brilliant variety of games that there’s never a social situation where you can’t open it up and have some fun with a group.

It’s a game that understands that the best humour in a group of friends or family come from the little in-jokes and references that only the people in that group will get, so they’ve created a system to facilitate precisely that kind of humour. It’s a formula that, to date, no other game has been able to replicate because it really is just so spot-on with the atmosphere it creates. Whenever I’m with a group of friends or family and we’re looking for something to occupy us, Jackbox is always among my first suggestions.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of these games, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back this time on Saturday, where I’ll be covering the best on the Money in the Bank briefcase!

My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (60-51)

Welcome back to my 100 favourite games of all time series! Today, I’ll be covering entries 60 through 51.

If you haven’t read the previous instalment in this series, please do so here, and here’s the first entry if you want to start from the entry 100.

Let’s not waste any more time!

SPOILER WARNING!

Just a heads up that there will be full SPOILERS for every game I’m going to talk about in this series, so be careful if I talk about something you don’t want spoiled.

60 – Unheard

Release Date: 29th March 2019
Developer: NEXT Studios
Publisher: NEXT Studios, Bilibili
Platforms: Playstation 4, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 72%

It’s a game about solving crimes with the power of hearing

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

Out of all the games on this list, this is the one that I’d imagine the fewest people have heard of, because this almost passed me by too, so let me explain.

At its most basic level, it’s a mystery-solving game, however, the method by which you solve these mysteries is what makes this an absolutely exceptional game in my view. Instead of searching the scene and interviewing witnesses after the fact, you get to see the 5-15 minutes in which the crime happened, except you don’t get to actually see the details. What you get is a floor-plan view of the building in which the crime took place which you can wander around as you play through the events of the scene and the only tool you have to work out what happened is sound.

You can see the outline of where everyone is at any moment, but you can’t actually see their form, you can only hear their voices. Using this information you must work out who everyone is, and answer specific questions about the crime. I can’t really be more specific without giving away partial solutions to some of the puzzles, but the way in which the game gets you to hear every conversation in a level to slowly fill in all the blanks is so very innovative and clever.

The game typically starts you off in each scenario listening to one conversation that will give a rough outline of what’s going on, but naturally, there are other conversations going on all over the scene at the exact same time and each conversation slowly fills in all of the blanks. In every conversation, you listen to you’ll learn something new about the scenario that slowly allows you to draw everything together and hit that euphoria of the “eureka” moment when you nail your target.

The game makes sure to give you just the right amount of information so that everything you need to know is there, but without explicitly giving you all of the solutions. I found myself taking notes on every level, creating a list of suspects and slowly ruling them out as I went along until the true culprit reveals themselves.

The mysteries themselves are very well thought out, for example, you’ll have to locate a stolen painting and work out who stole it, but there are also a number of fakes that other people have stolen, thinking they’re the real deal and it’s your job to use the conversations around the scene to piece together a chronology of who committed the first theft in order to determine who holds the real painting.

At £5 the game is absolutely worth it for the 5 puzzles (plus 1 as free DLC) that total to about 4 hours of game time. This is one of the most enthralling and unique puzzle games I’ve played ever and it perfectly captures the feeling on solving a mystery, so if you’re into that sort of thing, this game is a must-have.

59 – Papers, Please

Release Date: 8th August 2013
Developer: Lucas Pope
Platforms: Playstation Vita, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 92%

It’s a game about becoming corrupt.

Much like Spec Ops, Papers, Please isn’t a fun game to play, but it’s still a brilliant one. It’s dark and dreary, it feels downbeat and without joy or hope, but that’s the point.

It shows you the mechanics and then lets you run with them, always adding more stuff day in and day out, to the point where you find yourself working through a routine in your head, and about halfway through you realise that you’re treating it like you would an actual job, and that’s how this game sinks its teeth into you.

It uses the monotony of it all as a way to draw you into the world, to make you feel like this actually is your job. It gives you the idea that the safety of your country and your family relies on you. Then, once it’s established those feelings, it throws the moral dilemmas at you hard and fast. That’s what they are in Papers, Please, dilemmas, not choices, because it doesn’t present you with a “choose A or B” option, it ingrains these dilemmas into the mechanics.

I’m going to give you an example here, but I will say this game is so much better if you play it blind, you have been warned. So a woman comes through your checkpoint, and all her papers are in order, so you let her through, but she slips you two notes. One is a business card for a strip club of some description, and the other is a note, naming a man who is behind her in the queue, saying that he’s holding her against her will and forcing her to work in the club and she begs you not to let him in. The thing is, all his documents are correct, by all legal definitions, you have to let him in, and if you don’t, then you’ll suffer a fine, which means you might not be able to buy food for your family. However, if you do let him in, that woman will be forced to work in a strip club against her will, so what do you do?

The game never outright tells you to make this choice, and you’ll never discover the consequences of your actions. No matter what you do, you never see that man or the woman he was holding again. The game is confident enough in its systems and moral dilemmas that it’s perfectly happy to let you sit there and ponder over whether or not you really did the right thing. Paper, Please won’t gratify your moral compass, it won’t tell you if you were right or wrong, because the real world very rarely does.

58 – The Stanley Parable

Release Date: 17th October 2013
Developer: Galactic Cafe
Publisher: Galactic Cafe
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 88%

It’s a game about a man named Stanley.

I’d love to go deeper than that, but for The Stanley Parable saying anything more would be completely spoiling it. I know I gave the spoiler warning at the start, but seriously, if you’ve ever wanted to play this game and somehow haven’t had it spoiled for you yet, keep scrolling, you need to experience this game with fresh eyes.

In the years since The Stanley Parable, there have been many games that attempted the so-called ‘meta-narrative’ to varying degrees of success. While I’m sure The Stanely Parable wasn’t the first, it is undoubtedly the first one to do it at this high quality to bring the concept in the mainstream (spawning a bunch of cheap imitations in the process, but what can you do?).

The idea of it is so straightforward, with the way the narrator tells you the choice you made before you’ve actually made it. Just the simple explanation of coming to a set of two doors and the narrator telling you that you went through the left one. Instantly, everything starts whirring in your brain, surely everyone who played it immediately had that instinct kick in where you don’t want to be told what to do. It’s such an instinctual reaction to go “no, screw you!” and then you’ve fallen right into the game’s trap.

From there, the game will take you on all sorts of adventures. Some funny, some weird and some rather grim. No matter what you do in The Stanley Parable, the game already knows you’ve done it. There are even moments where the game will trick you into thinking you beat it to the punch, only for something to be waiting for you on the other side, putting you in your place.

The Stanley Parable was made by people who truly understood how games traditionally work. The tropes and cliches. Only by having a real firm grasp on those things were they able to deconstruct it entirely to create an experience as mind-blowing and as memorable at The Stanley Parable.

57 – Super Hexagon

Release Date: 31st August 2012
Developer: Terry Cavanagh
Publisher: Terry Cavanagh
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS
Metacritic Average: 88%

It’s a game about dodging lines very, VERY fast.

Super Hexagon hits just the right spot when it comes to reflex games. Not only was it one of the first I played, but its difficulty is perfect for me. I would play it for hours and struggle like all hell, but I’d slowly but surely get better and better until suddenly I could do it. I’m not a master by any stretch, I’ve only completed the final level three times since 2012 (one of which was in front of my whole math’s class in secondary school, which is a fond memory), but I went from being hopeless at the game to being reasonably competent at it at a surprisingly steady rate.

Every death felt like a lesson, and every run got me just ever so slightly better at dodging the obstacles in front of me. The movement of the little triangle is so very precise and nails that feeling of only just being able to dodge everything in time. The soundtrack is a great listen, and it really adds to the chaotic feels that Super Hexagon goes for, the game makes it clear to you that you’re never in control, but at the same time, you never feel hopeless in your pursuits.

56 – Life is Strange

Release Date: 30th January 2015
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows, Mac, Linux, Andriod, iOS
Metacritic Average: 85%

It’s a game about being a teenage girl…with occasional time manipulation.

Life is Strange managed to create a world with countless characters, with varying personalities and colourful traits, which is impressive enough of a feat in and of itself, but what’s truly great about Life is Strange is that all of these characters mattered to me. I didn’t necessarily like all of them, or connect with all of them. Still, every single character I interacted with mattered, even in some of my favourite game stories there are characters I don’t care about *cough*Alfyn*cough* but that didn’t happen with Life is Strange.

It does such an excellent job of capturing the social structure of what school is like when you’re that age. That sense of recognising pretty much everyone, even if you don’t know them, having parents of friends that basically adopt you, or ones you find a bit off. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t long removed from that kind of social situation when I played Life is Strange, but I really found myself recognising so many situations it presents (admittedly not quite to the extremes that it goes too). The time manipulation is a clever mechanic and well-implemented, but that’s not really what everyone remembers about the game.

Those heartbreaking moments when you have to make some tough and horrible decisions in that game are things that stick with you for a long time after the fact. Not to mention the sheer weight of the final choice (and everyone’s reaction to it in all of the Youtube videos) is a moment that will go down in gaming history.

55 – Hand of Fate 2

Release Date: 7th November 2017
Developer: Defiant Development
Publisher: Defiant Development
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 82%

It’s a game about playing a tabletop RPG with a magical deck of cards.

The Hand of Fate games are compelling cases because it’s entirely true that if these games were just a regular RPG, they really wouldn’t be anything special. However, the twist of making you go through a tabletop RPG like D&D, using a deck of enchanted cards to take you through your adventure is such a genius change, and it makes the game so incredibly compelling when I’m going on my adventures.

The atmosphere of the travelling cart where you encounter the hooded & man who has these cards draws me in every time I boot up the game. The smooth and beautiful way with which the cards float their way around the space, shuffling themselves and laying them out before in such an attractive way that you cannot resist.

The scenarios that it puts before you always have a high level of intrigue to them, and every one of them brings you a unique challenge. These adventures are like a scaled-down version of what playing these tabletop RPGs can be like. Only there is the added advantage of the game having total control over the pacing, switching between combat encounters and interesting world-building seamlessly to keep thing varied.

All of the campaigns feel so carefully crafted, that you can tell there’s someone behind it like any other Dungeon Master you’ve ever played with. They keep that warm feeling of something created by someone for the love of creating it, but the medium of the video game allows them to tell it in much grander fashion. Which is what we all want for our D&D stories at the end of the day.

54 – Shovel Knight

Release Date: 26th June 2014
Developer: Yacht Club Games
Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo WiiU, Windows, Mac, Linux, Amazon Fire TV
Metacritic Average: 92%

It’s a game about ridding the world of evil with a shovel.

When it comes to indie games, the phrase ‘retro-platformer’ is always an instant turn off for me. Most of them are just bad attempts at recapturing the magic of the classic SNES games, and to put it plainly, Shovel Knight puts them all to shame.

Shovel Knight takes that idea of the retro platformer and makes it it’s own. The visual and sound design are great at capturing the sense of nostalgia and joy that so many of those classic games had. It doesn’t just copy though, as it’s not afraid to mix in modern techniques and use the advantages of modern technology to refine the edges of the game and get rid of all the unwanted quirks. It doesn’t feel like a cheap imitation because quite simply, it’s not, it’s able to form an identity of its own, while still aping that retro style

On top of all that, Shovel Knight’s main mechanic is genuinely unique and innovative. The titular shovel could’ve easily been a gimmick that worked as a retextured sword, but instead, time & care were put in to make it something that worked in a way we hadn’t seen before. The way you could dig through walls, and use it to bounce off of enemies allowed for some enjoyable puzzle-platforming opportunities. At the same time, the level design absolutely nails the flow and the challenge required to really gain mastery over the mechanics.

Very rarely does a game like Shovel Knight come along, where they seek to ape the style of retro games, while still creating a unique identity for itself. Regardless, Shovel Knight somehow managed to nail that landing…then bounce off of that landing with their shovel over a pit of death onto another landing.

53 – Red Faction Guerrilla

Release Date: 2nd June 2009
Developer: Volition, Reactor Zero, Kaiko Games
Publisher: THQ, THQ Nordic
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 85%

It’s a game about destroying everything with the sledgehammer.

We’ve got an open world, powerful & varied weapons, and basically everything except the ground being fully destructible. If you’re anything like me, that sentence will have got you very excited indeed about Red Faction Guerrilla, which definitely doesn’t disappoint. The entire game is built around the core mechanic of the fully destructible structures that litter every nook and cranny of the open world. Almost every mission is focused around blowing up buildings in some way, shape or form and the massive variety in terms of both the buildings themselves, and the tools at your disposal ensure it never gets old.

Buildings can be anything from massive skyscrapers to long and wide warehouses that you can just plough a truck into and watch it crumble around you. Then you’ve got the weapons, starting off as the always popular (and extremely satisfying) sledgehammer, moving up to Arc Wielders and Remote Charges, before reaching stupidly over-the-top levels of destruction with Thermobaric Rocket Launchers and Singularity Bombs.

Red Faction Guerrilla simply focuses on making the unabashed destruction that makes this game so fun the primary focus at every opportunity and it’s a game that I will always go back to when I’m the mood for some carnage.

52 – The Binding of Issac: Rebirth

Release Date: 4th November 2014
Developer: Nicalis
Publisher: Nicalis
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo 3DS, Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS
Metacritic Average: 93%

It’s a game about using your tears to kill unholy (and sometimes holy) abominations.

The modern roguelike/roguelite genre is one that the PC indie market has managed to completely oversaturate over about 5 years, but The Binding of Issac was one of the first and remains one of the best. Not only is the visual design and general aura of the game so weird and uniquely disturbing, but the gameplay has been whittled down to near perfection for the genre.

The sheer volume of different items and modifiers in the game means that you’ll never have a playthrough that looks even remotely similar to the previous one. It avoids the trap that a lot of roguelikes fall into where I’m able to fall into a pattern for each run by merely giving me completely different items every single time. It forced me to play completely different every time I boot it up.

Then once you think you’ve got the hang of the game, you go online and look at some Youtube videos of people playing the game and you’ll see that they’re in a level you’ve never seen before, fighting a boss you didn’t even know existed with the craziest items you can imagine. I will genuinely never reach the bottom of The Binding of Issac, and I think that’s fantastic.

51 – Prison Architect

Release Date: 6th October 2015
Developer: Introversion Software, Double Eleven
Publisher: Introversion Software, Double Eleven, Paradox Interactive
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux, Andriod, iOS
Metacritic Average: 83%

It’s a game about building a (mostly) functional prison.

I’d generally consider myself to not be all that big a fan of the modern builder/management sim. They generally require a somewhat creative mind to get some fun out of them, and I just can’t tap into those elements. Prison Architect manages to get around that issue; however, by limiting how much you can do at each step. I know other games in the genre try to do that, but it always feels like it’s way too much. Prison Architect, meanwhile, is very good at holding my hand through the early stages of the game so that by the time it opens up, I’ve got plans and ideas of how to move forward.

On top of that, the system with which you construct all of your facilities is extraordinarily intuitive and has quite a tactile feel to it, which makes it so much more enjoyable to build and manage things. Even though I like it because of its constraints, it can also be an almost entirely open game if you want it to be. I’ve seen people get unbelievably creative with their prisons in this game, and it absolutely blows me away that what seems like such a simple game can produce so much.

Prison Architect really ticks all the boxes of a builder/management sim. If you want something simple to introduce you to the genre, then this will do that for you, but if you’re an experienced player who wants to build some crazy stuff, that’s absolutely a viable option for you too.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of all these games, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back here ton Saturday, where I’ll be releasing a sequel to my Pokemon music article!

My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (70-61)

Welcome back to my 100 favourite games of all time series! Today, I’ll be covering entries 70 through 61.

If you haven’t read the previous instalment in this series, please do so here, and here’s the first entry if you want to start from the entry 100.

Let’s not waste any more time!

70 – PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate

Release Date: 10th December 2009
Developer: Q-Games, Double Eleven
Publisher: Q-Games, Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 90%

It’s a game about liquid physics.

Pixel Junk Shooter is a game that is fun on multiple levels. On one level, it’s an intelligent puzzle game, with combat elements that mean you’ve always got something to do. Then on another level, it’s one of the most surprisingly fun co-op experiences I’ve ever played.

It’s a rare occasion where I’d recommend playing this game with another person rather than on your own because it adds so much to the experience. Solving the puzzles and defeating the enemies is fun enough on your own, but suddenly it becomes a chaotic ball of fun when you add a second player. It feels like the developers knew this and leaned into it with their design.

Once you’ve got the hang of the game, the combat becomes relatively basic, and the puzzles don’t have the most difficult of solutions to work out, but executing them is surprisingly hard. This is partly because each level seems to be designed almost by the pixel to require precise and skilled movement of both yourself and the different liquids you get to play around with. However, it’s partly down to the fact that your co-op partner just got the lava suit and won’t stop spraying it everywhere.

I often found the puzzles becoming secondary while playing through this game as me and my co-op partner (usually my brother) would simply mess about the entire time. Let me tell you when one of us picks up the lava suit, and the other has the water suit, it is a battle for the ages.

Pixel Junk Shooter knows exactly the mindset its players will have going into it and designs an experience that will maximise fun, while still carrying a compelling singleplayer experience.

69 – Spec Ops: The Line

Release Date: 26th June 2012
Developer: Yager Development
Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 77%

It’s a game about realising what a horrible person you are.

Another game here that is better the less you know going into it, Spec Ops: The Line keeps its cards hidden for as long as it possibly can. Spec Ops presents itself as a generic military shooter, with pretty basic shooting mechanics, but an extra level of tactics behind it to keep things interesting. After a few hours, it still feels like your standard military shooter, but it’s going a little bit off the rails. As Spec Ops progresses, things start to feel more and more uneasy, with the main character making some questionable decisions, and commit certain acts which have significant consequences.

I’m speaking in very vague terms here, so I don’t spoil it, but when the game finally reveals what it’s been doing the entire time, it was one hell of a narrative gut-punch. It’s a very dark and depressing twist, but one that really makes an impact on you, especially if you’ve just been treating the game like a standard military shooter up until that point. The narrative takes the military shooter – a genre I have very little interest in – and blows it wide open, deconstructing some of the more ‘grand’ elements we take for granted.

68 – Grow Home

Release Date: 4th February 2015
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Playstation 4, Windows, Linux
Metacritic Average: 75%

It’s a game about climbing.

I’ve talked a lot so far in this series about the focus of games. What makes so many of these weird experimental/indie games so great is their grasp on precisely what they want to build. They don’t worry about appealing to as many different audiences as possible, so they don’t overstuff their worlds with a load of guff. What games like Grow Home do that make them so great is that they focus on a singular core mechanic and refine it until it’s as close to perfection as it can possibly be.

The climbing mechanics in Grow Home are without a shadow of a doubt the best I’ve ever played. They’re incredibly intuitive – just click one of the mouse buttons depending on what hand you want to move and then drag the mouse – but mastery over those mechanics takes time and skill to achieve.

It’s not just Grow Home’s mechanics that receive a sharp level of focus either, because the world also feels very refined and polished in its design. The game makes it very clear what your goal is right from the start, so every single mechanic is built around helping you to achieve that goal. There isn’t a tremendous amount of openness or exploration to be had in Grow Home, but it doesn’t need it. It’s a game that drops you off in the world, throws about every challenge it can at you centred around the climbing mechanics and then sends you on your way before it has a chance to get competitive.

Grow Home is all the proof you need that a great core mechanic is all you need to make a fantastic game.

67 – Pool Nation

Release Date: 5th September 2012
Developer: Cherry Pop Games
Publisher: Cherry Pop Games, Wired Productions
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
Metacritic Average: 81%

It’s a game where you play Pool.

The so-called “Pub Game” genre – things like Pool, Darts & Air Hockey – is one that I don’t think ever gets enough attention. In real life, they’re the kinds of games that you’re not really all that good at, but you play it with your friends because it’s a fun way to kill 3 hours.

VR has added a lot to this genre, and the VR version of Pool Nation is also enjoyable, but there’s something about the nature of the regular Pool Nation that holds my attention for much longer. There’s not a lot I can say about the mechanics, because I’m not going to sit here and review the game of Pool, but the control scheme in Pool Nation is one that I don’t think has ever been topped for a pool game.

The whole game is able to capture the very causal feel that comes with playing a game of Pool in the pub. Yes, you care about the game to a certain extent, but it’s more just a tool for you and your mates to piss about a bit and have a nice time. Something in the sound design feels so very real, and when you combine it with the fact that Pool is a game I enjoy playing anyway, you’ve got yourself something I’m bound to sink a lot of time into.

66 – Katana ZERO

Release Date: 18th April 2019
Developer: Askiisoft
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 83%

It’s a game about taking drugs and slicing people in half with a katana.

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

One of my favourite things a game can accomplish is to be one specific thing while disguising itself as something else. To explain what I mean by that, let’s take a look at Katana ZERO.

When you star Katana ZERO, the impression I got from it is that it was going to be a fast-paced hack and slash, where you slice your way through waves of enemies feeling like a katana-wielding action hero and while the second part of that statement is true, Katana ZERO is in fact not a hack and slash, but a very clever and high-octane puzzle game.

The goal of each room is to introduce every enemy in the general vicinity to your Katana, usually by separating them from most of their limbs in the process, but if you go charging madly into every room, you’ll most certainly fail almost instantly. Instead, every room in the game is cleverly designed to be “solvable”, with a distinct order and pattern in which you need to show everyone their own spleen before removing their head in what can only be described as a “flourish” of blood. Every time I entered a room, I would instantly scour the whole place looking for the one weak spot where I could start my slicing rampage, running through a mental checklist every time I failed and restarted a room, which gave incredibly satisfying feeling when my master plan was executed to perfection.

What makes Katana ZERO stands out though, is the fact that it has that element of chaos to it. I could make the most ingenious plans ever, but that doesn’t mean I was good enough to pull them off perfectly all the time and that was where the game was at its most fun; when plans went wrong. Once a plan went wrong, it would be easy to just take the death and try again, but I think doing that takes out a huge element of the sheer joy that this game brings you when you improvise. Admittedly, my improvised plans very rarely bore fruit, but that didn’t stop it being an absolute blast when I missed my second strike, which sent me sailing into a room of armoured guards, causing me to panic, throw a firebomb which killed the armoured guards but alerted everyone within a 5-mile radius to my presence, at which point I went on a killing spree, slicing every neck I could lay my eyes on before finally being gunned down.

In addition to that…well…clusterfuck, the game has simplistic but masterfully styled visuals with great uses of colours and effect to create a depressingly beautiful cyberpunk dystopia, a feeling only helped by the brilliant choices that were made with the music, which helped elevate the already fantastically designed boss-fights to epic clashes and nail-biting encounters.

Katana ZERO is a game that strikes that perfect balance between careful & tactical planning and total chaos that makes for an incredibly focused and fun game, all tied together with a clever story that keeps you interested and invested in the world all the way to the credits.

65 – Intrusion 2

Release Date: 11th September 2012
Developer: Aleksey Abramenko
Publisher: Aleksey Abramenko, VAP Games
Platforms: Windows, Linux
Metacritic Average: 80%

It’s a game about shooting everything lots of times.

Intrusion takes a formula that worked in the past – in this case, the side-scrolling shooter – and adds on all the lessons and improvements in game design that we’ve learnt since the genre’s golden era to make an entertaining game.

It seems quite hard at first, but you don’t actually have to spend much time with it to get the hang of it. It plays off the design philosophies of the old Castlevania or Mega-Man games where if you’re good enough you could definitely go through the entire thing without taking a single hit, but it’s just tricky enough to challenge even experienced players of the genre. All of the bullets move just slow enough to dodge, but not slow enough to make it easy, and the level design finds a way to make each of these challenges feel new every single time.

On top of that, it has some of the best boss fights I’ve ever seen in a game. It keeps that idea that every single attack is dodgeable, but overwhelms you with spectacle. Every boss had clearly recognised patterns that manage to inject their own sense of personality into every fight. Be it using their gun as a motorbike, wagging their giant mechanical finger at you before smashing you in the face with it, or eating its way through a building to get to you. It’s a game so very full of character that I can’t help but smile at it, even when I’m getting my arse kicked.

64 – The Ship

Release Date: 30th July 2006
Developer: Outerlight
Publisher: Mindscape, Merscom, Blazing Griffin Ltd
Platforms: Windows
Metacritic Average: 78%

It’s a game about murdering people on a cruise ship.

I feel like The Ship was a game that passed most people by at the time, and yet, the ideas it innovated can be seen through a couple of popular genres today.

It innovated a style of multiplayer gameplay that would be the inspiration for the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer mode a few years later, and I’m surprised no-one else has really taken the idea and ran with it outside of the odd indie title. The setting is one that allows for a large and varied map design, with big open decks with pools and bars; the tight corridors with the passenger’s rooms; and even into the bowels of the engine rooms in the ship. The whole thing has an air of class and charm to it that is the perfect comedic juxtaposition with the murder tournament that’s happening around you.

The game also adds extra layers to its gameplay, with each kill being assigned a monetary value based on what weapon you used; the value of the weapon being determined by how commonly it’s been used in that game. In addition to this, you’ve got the fact that you need to be consistently subtle in your kills. Security guards, cameras and even other passengers can cause you to be caught in your actions, resulting in a fine and being locked up for precious seconds that could be spent killing. It stops you mindlessly running around hacking people to bits and instead forces you to think more strategically to achieve your goals.

It’s a style of multiplayer gameplay that has you constantly scheming and planning a few steps ahead while being on edge that your killer could round the corner wielding an axe at any second. The atmosphere the game produces is simultaneously charming and tense, which mixes in just the right way to make one hell of a fun game.

63 – Far Cry 3

Release Date: 29th November 2012
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows
Metacritic Average: 91%

It’s a game about taking drugs and being eaten by tigers.

As I’ve said before, First Person Shooters are one of my least favourite genres, so for any game in the FPS genre to adequately capture my enthusiasm for it, it has to have something unique. Enter, Far Cry 3.

I know many people prefer Far Cry 2 to 3, but I was too young to notice when 2 came out, and while I enjoy going back on it now, it didn’t have that first-time rush that 3 does for me. The thing with Far Cry is it takes the standard shooter format and meshes it with your standard Ubisoft formula (before it got way too bloated). It made it an open world, added survival and crafting elements (again, they were still new back then) and of course, bases & radio towers (those weren’t).

The bases in Far Cry 3 were the main thing that put it over the top for me because it managed to make both rousing success and catastrophic failure feel just as fun to play out. It feels awesome to take down a base completely unseen. Either through taking some good vantage points and sniping them all down one by one or by getting in there with your knife and getting your hands dirty. However, it’s equally as fun when you attempt those tactics, it goes very wrong indeed, and the thing devolves into an all-out gunfight, with bullets flying everywhere, explosions going off and the occasional tiger getting involved.

Sure, it could get repetitive to the point where that very fact is why I didn’t enjoy Far Cry 4, but once every couple of years, I will drop into Far Cry 3 and have a lot of fun taking down some bases and messing around in the open world.

62 – Portal

Release Date: 10th October 2007
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android
Metacritic Average: 90%

It’s a game about thinking with portals.

I don’t think there’s a game that has stuck so hard in the general gaming consciousness quite like Portal. It’s not the most famous game ever made by a long stretch, but it feels like pretty much everyone in the gaming sphere has played – or at least seen someone else play – Portal.

As a puzzle game it’s pretty good, again, not the best ever but certainly a sound challenge the first time you play it, but that’s not why it’s so good, or why it’s been remembered so fondly for so long. Portal is a game that just seems to have an endless amount of character to it. The way it plays its humour, so subtle yet hilariously dark, it’s something that had never really been done to that extent in games so far. Many other games following Portal would attempt to ape its style, most would fail, but the ones that succeeded are still remembered today as beloved titles (a couple we will be talking about a little later down the line). In fact, with GLaDOS carrying the whole thing, you could even argue it was the progenitor of the ‘unreliable narrator’ trope in games.

Portal is a quick and focused experience that leaves a considerable mark on you when you play it and spits you out when you’re still wanting more. It’s a game that I will continue to go back and play, time and time again over the years – not to mention the countless attempts at copycats that it’s spawned – because it’s truly a game that never goes out of style.

61 – Fallout 4

Release Date: 10th November 2015
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Metacritic Average: 88%

It’s a game about exploring the American wasteland [insert topical political joke here].

It took me a while to crack Fallout 4, so much so that until 2019, when I was finally able to get into it, I only had about 7 hours of total playtime in the game. The weird thing is: I really don’t know why it took me so long. Sure, it’s a first-person shooter, but having played Fallout 4 for an extended period, it honestly doesn’t play like one, which to me, is a huge plus.

There’s a much more tactile feeling to the combat in Fallout than in most other shooters I’ve played. Pretty much all of the guns feel utterly different from one another, which is something I can’t say about most other games that I’ve played in the genre. Not to mention that the VATs system means you can almost play the game as a turn-based strategy if you really want to.

On top of that, the world-building is excellent. While I don’t find myself becoming as attached to the characters as I do in The Elder Scrolls games, I find it exciting to learn more about the world and what exactly society is like after America got destroyed. I love investigating the abandoned buildings and finding the terminals that teach me about how this place used to be before the bombs dropped. Or even better, what’s been going on in the places where society has started to rebuild itself. There just aren’t many games out there that pay that much attention the detail of their worlds.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of all these games, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. The next entry in this series will be uploaded next Wednesday, but in the meantime, come back here on Saturday, where I’ll be covering WWE’s Extreme Rules!

Every Main Series 3D Platforming Sonic the Hedgehog Game Ranked

Being a Sonic fan can be tough sometimes. The series has gone through more than one period of critical slumps, and it’s unfortunately caused the Sonic franchise to become somewhat of a red-headed step-child in the gaming sphere. Sonic Mania’s critical success went some way to undo that damage, but this is a franchise with some genuinely terrible games under its belt that will never be forgotten.

Why am I bringing this up? Because most of them fall under the ‘3D platforming’ genre, which is what I’m going to be talking about today. I’ve always believed that Sonic works far better in 2D than it ever has in 3D, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some wonderful games that have 3D platforming as their core gameplay.

What I’m counting as ‘main series’ could be a bit subjective. For example, I’m not including the ‘storybook’ games (Sonic and the Black Knight & Sonic and the Secret Rings) because, for one, I’ve never actually played them, and two, from what I’ve seen they play very differently to every other game on this list. So if you want to argue about that, be my guest, but I didn’t want to make this article any longer.

So…let’s start off with the shit, shall we?

11 – Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)

More commonly referred to as ‘Sonic 06’, this is a game referred to by many as ‘the worst game ever made’ and…I can’t say I disagree with them. I honestly would’ve loved to kick this list off with a classic, controversial opinion, but there’s just no way I could put anything else in last place and still be able to look at myself in the mirror.

There are plenty of reasons behind the mess that this game turned out to be. For one thing, the team were working with an engine they hadn’t used up until that point, so there was still a learning curve amongst the development team. Then, in early 2006, the head of the team resigned to form his own company, leaving a significant role in the team unfilled. Then SEGA management stepped in and remedied the problem by…splitting the development team in half in order to work on yet another Sonic game for the Wii.

The problems still could’ve been avoided if those in charge had the wherewithal to push the game’s release date back. Instead, they doubled down. Insisting that the game much be ready for the holiday season 2006 to line up with both the release of the PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360 and Sonic’s 15th anniversary. This meant that there was absolutely no time to put any level of real effort into the game. The team was under a tight schedule, so they were forced to rush stuff, and boy, it shows.

If you’ve ever watched a gameplay video of this game, then you know how terrible this turned out. The physics engine is problematic at best and straight-up broken at worst. Textures and assets are plonked around the world randomly, with no visual cohesion, and the game lags like hell if there are more than 2 enemies on the screen at once. Not to mention the hilarious amount of glitches you could perform. You could clip through just about any wall in the game if you hit it at the right angle and with enough speed, and specific mechanics like Silver’s telekinesis and Sonic’s gem abilities absolutely tore the integrity of the game engine to shreds. Just go and watch a speedrun if you want to see what I mean.

Then…there’s the story. I’m sure someone out there enjoyed it – and good for them – but the ‘blockbuster’ style it was going for, which was reportedly drawn from the big superhero movies of the time, fell totally flat for me. When people talk about ‘Sonic cringe’, it’s usually the stuff from this game’s story that they’re referring to. The dialogue is basic at best and laughable at worst, and that’s not even mentioning the unintentionally hilarious stuff like the Silver/Shadow fight or THAT kiss.

While the world of asset flips and terrible indie developers have made Sonic 06 look like a veritable masterpiece in the years since, when it comes to triple-A studios, you’d be hard-pressed to find a worse game.

10 – Shadow the Hedgehog

This should’ve been last. In ANY other franchise, this abysmal game would’ve been in last place, yet somehow, this franchise managed to shit the bed even harder.

Who…WHO? Who thought it would be a good idea to take the bright and cheery, kid-friendly franchise and turn it into a grungy shooter? The whole idea of it is laughable and just watching the intro cutscene for the game is enough to send anyone into hysterics. It’s just such a dumb idea.

There absolutely was a possibility there for Sonic Team to make a more teenager-oriented game using Shadow as the main character, Shadow was an interesting character with a solid backstory when he was introduced into the series. However, they went down the worst possible route with the character. It would’ve been so easy for them to make him a slightly darker, more jaded alternate personality to Sonic, but instead, they made him the most stereotypical ’emo kid’ you could possibly imagine. It’s so bad it’s almost parody.

Then there’s the gunplay, which may as well have not even been in the game. It was an option for combat, but you were much better off using the standard Sonic combat style instead, as it was so much more enjoyable. Note, ‘more enjoyable’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’ and this is very much the case here. The homing attack didn’t know what to do with itself, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the camera had absolutely no idea what it was doing most of the time. Everyone I’ve ever seen play this game has, at some point, accidentally catapulted themselves into a death pit because the camera and the homing attack refused to cooperate.

The branching narrative was largely pointless as well, especially considering, the whole point of the story is for Shadow to find out who he really is. The problem is that the answer to this question changes depending on what ending you get, which doesn’t make sense in the slightest. Also, how you branch the narrative is dull and tedious, as you have to go on two different collectathons in each level, one of which will take you down the ‘bad’ path, and the other the ‘good’. Meanwhile, doing neither will give you a neutral path. This is a nice idea, except for the fact that the game doesn’t ever communicate this to you. IN fact, sometimes some of the enemies or collectables you need to finish the objective don’t spawn into the world, and you have to restart the level.

Shadow the Hedgehog was a hilariously terrible idea and was just as horribly executed. The only reason it’s not in last place is that it’s not entirely broken like Sonic ’06 is.

9 – Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric

This sure as hell comes close though.

Visually, it was a boring game. Every level felt so muted and bland, especially when compared to the vibrant and fun colours that most other games in the franchise have given us. Although the new character designs did at least same some interesting design to them, they weren’t great. I don’t mind when characters get redesigned, especially if it’s for a new purpose, however, the new designs in Sonic Boom felt like they were trying to be something totally different, while simultaneously holding onto the old designs. This resulted in things like Sonic’s weird and lanky limbs or Knuckles’ upsidedown triangle of a body.

‘Dull’ is actually a pretty good word to describe the gameplay too. The puzzles were very basic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – this is a franchise aimed at children, after all – but they were implemented in such a way that every puzzle felt the same. This wasn’t helped by the fact that you had to complete each puzzle room four times. The platforming was a bog-standard affair, with no real feeling of speed, even when you were supposed to be zooming along an open path.

I wouldn’t quite call Sonic Boom ‘broken’ like I would with Sonic 06, but it’s undoubtedly lacking any kind of polish. Cutscenes and dialogue would constantly talk over each other, and there were many points where I straight up couldn’t hear what was going on because of how loud the music was. Which reminds me, even the music wasn’t particularly interesting in this game, which is mad, as even Sonic ’06 had a decent soundtrack. Thankfully, modern technology had meant that most of the major bugs that were in Sonic Boom at launch (most notably the ‘infinite jump’ glitch you could perform by continuously pausing & unpausing the game) have since been patched. Though there are still plenty of places where minor glitches rear their heads.

What baffles me most is that the story was terrible. I know, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but when you look at the Sonic Boom cartoon series that released around the same time as the game, you see that it’s an extremely well-written and genuinely funny kids’ cartoon. I’d argue that it’s one of the more underrated kids’ cartoons of the modern era. Yet somehow, the writing team behind the game just took a basic framework for a story and filled in the bare-minimum details.

You could argue that other games higher up in this list are technically worse, but what drags Sonic Boom so low for me is it’s complete and utter lack of soul and character. It’s like someone’s taken a paint-by-numbers Sonic game but only filled in the browns and greys. Nothing excites me about this game, although there is plenty that frustrates me.

8 – Sonic Lost World

I see what they were going for with this one, I just think it’s already been done so much better.

Let’s address the most prominent problem first, this is way too slow to be a Sonic game. I know many of the classic games weren’t just about speed, but there was always a certain upbeat pace to every level, you were always on the move. Lost World doesn’t really have that feeling. In the levels where you’re rolling along the long straights, Sonic moves with so little momentum that it always feels like I’m missing something. The movement lacks that sense of fast-paced fun that every other Sonic game is filled with.

Then, there are the more platforming-focused stages. In these levels, I don’t mind the slower pace so much because they’re deliberately trying to be something different. The problem is that 3D Mario Games existed long before this and they did the job so much better than Lost World does. It feels like someone’s taken the essentials of a 3D platforming game, played Mario Galaxy and then made levels for Lost World based on that knowledge. So not only is it a bad fit for the franchise, I can’t even say it’s bringing anything new to the genre.

However, as much as it doesn’t work, for the most part, it absolutely has it’s moments. I quite enjoyed the early stages, and it is at least a technically proficient game (which is more than can be said for all the other games I’ve covered so far). The problems only come in once I’d played it for a little while, the formula lost the novelty, and nothing new or compelling came into replacing it.

The writing is fine, although I think the comedy aspect of things fell flat. I know this doesn’t sound like anything surprising, but in some of the games leading up to this (which I’ll talk about more later), I thought the comedy worked well.

Sonic Lost World is a game that tried to take the Sonic formula in a new direction. It didn’t quite stick the landing, but it didn’t make a total mess of things either. If you’re a fan of the slower platforming style, then I can see the appeal in a game like this, it’s just not what I want from a Sonic game.

7 – Sonic Forces

If there was ever a game I’d describe as ‘just fine’ then it would be this one.

There’s honestly nothing special about Sonic Forces, for good or for bad. It takes what had already been done with the 3D Sonic formula and iterates on it in a reliable performance. While I don’t particularly care for yet another Green Hill Zone remake, most of the stages have a decent flow to them and the visual design has plenty of character, using the factors that make a good Sonic stage.

The character creation aspect of things is fine, but ultimately pointless. It’s one of the most bog-standard character creators you’ll ever see, and your character’s unique abilities aren’t very noteworthy. The ‘wisp gun’ thing that you use works a hell of a lot better than trying to inject actual gunplay into the game, although I still could’ve done without it. All it meant was that I’d always go barrelling into enemies by mistake because I forgot that I wasn’t playing as Sonic and couldn’t just bounce off of all their heads like I have done for every game in the franchise up until then.

Speaking of characters, there was absolutely no reason for Classic Sonic to be involved in the story. I get why it was included following the praise it received in Generations, but here all of the 2D levels felt like afterthoughts. The story didn’t accommodate for their presence at all either. Looking at the story…it’s okay. It might have tried to be a bit too complex for its own good, but I wouldn’t say I hated it. Infinite is as good a character as any for the Sonic franchise, although I can’t say I care about him in any way, shape or form.

At the end of the day, if you want a standard Sonic game that lets you blast through a bunch of fast-paced stages with little thought towards anything else, then you’ll have a pleasant time with Sonic Forces. Just don’t go into it expecting anything amazing.

6 – Sonic Adventure

The first fully 3D Sonic platforming game (no, 3D Blast doesn’t count because it’s isometric and no, Sonic Jam doesn’t count because it’s shit), Sonic Adventure feels like more of a proof-of-concept with many kinks to work out, rather than a landmark Sonic title.

Sonic Adventure has a lot of incredibly frustrating design choices. The most prominent of which is the camera, which cannot navigate the 3d terrain in a meaningful way. It had all the makings of the kind of things that someone doing for the first time wouldn’t consider. For example, the player has total control over the direction of the camera…sometimes. The game would decide that it wanted to take control of the camera away from you at seemingly random times, which was incredibly annoying. Doing that is fine when you have something you want the player to focus on, but a lot of the time it felt like Sonic Adventure only does it to stop you looking at bits of the game they didn’t finish.

It also doesn’t help that when the camera swings wildly away from where you wanted it, it doesn’t preserve what direction you were running. To clarify, this means that if you push your joystick to the right to make Sonic go around a right turn when the camera turns to follow you, you keep going right and end up flying off the side of the level. This wasn’t just a product of its time either. Nintendo had already released Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time by this point, both of which have camera systems that still holds up to modern standards. I know SEGA wasn’t a part of Nintendo by this point, but you would’ve thought the dev team could’ve learnt a few lessons.

When the camera is working correctly, you get a bit of mixture when it comes to the levels; both in design and in quality. Having 6 different characters, all with the own, interlinking stories was an odd choice. It could’ve helped vary up the gameplay (which it did in SA2), but instead, they were all locked behind each other, meaning chances were you’d blast through all of a single character’s stages in one go. Honestly, I would’ve been happy with just Sonic’s series of levels in the game, as those are by far the most fun to play. They don’t quite tap into the same feeling that made later Sonic games great, but they still have a nice flow to them that is only ever broken up by faulty tech, not the level design itself.

While it definitely doesn’t hold up anywhere near as well as most other games of its era, Sonic Adventure definitely laid the groundwork for what would eventually become a delightful formula. The storytelling style may have been a bit ambitious, but they’d work out those kinks in time for the sequel. It results in a flawed game, but one I was still able to draw enjoyment from.

5 – Sonic Unleashed

Sonic Unleashed is halfway to a good game. In fact, if the other half of Unleashed was entirely removed, it might rank in one of the top slots…but the bad half of the game is genuinely awful.

This was the first game developed entirely withing the Hedgehog engine. This was a brand new lighting engine for 3D Sonic games that allowed Sonic Team to create long and fast-paced levels a lot quicker than they had previously been able to, and looking at the daytime levels, it shows.

Where Sonic 06’s level design was cramped, and Sonic’s movement was slower than usual, Unleashed’s daytime levels were long and blazingly fast sprints along varied and exciting terrain. New mechanics such as Sonic’s new boost meant that you could always keep the level flying by at an astonishing speed, with the roadblocks in your way being reactionary obstacles designed to momentarily trip you up, rather than stop you entirely. It made for levels that were easier but flowed a lot better, and it made for some of the best 3D levels the franchise has ever seen.

Then…there was the nighttime levels. Featuring Sonic’s new ‘Werehog’ form, these nighttime levels focused less on platforming and more on brawling. There was a chance for this to be quite fun, traditional beat-em-up brawlers that have you face off against hoards of enemies can be extremely satisfying when done right. Sonic Unleashed’s brawling, however, is no fun at all.

For one thing, the game absolutely could not cope with the number of enemies of the screen at once, especially when there was a bunch of particle effects covering the screen. So often while fighting in a big brawl, the game’s framerate would drop to genuinely unplayable levels, it would cause me to take unnecessary damage and even totally miss quick-time events. Even when the game is running fine, the combat holds no weight to it, the sound design doesn’t put enough emphasis on the impact of your strikes, so nothing feels satisfying, which for me, is the main appeal of this style of gameplay.

The writing in Unleashed is among the worst in the franchise too, to the point where I honestly believe it’s one of the main contributors to many outside of the Sonic bubble believing all Sonic writing to be a total joke. The ‘Werehog’ is a dumb concept that doesn’t fit in the world of Sonic at all. The performance on Sonic’s ‘Werehog’ voice acting is abysmal, with it just sounding like Sonic needs to cough and clear his throat. The sidekick in the game is incredibly annoying, with a personality that puts me in mind of the worst cartoon sidekicks ever (I’m looking at you, Scrappy-Doo) and I longed for the days of having Tails silently following me through every stage.

Despite it’s massive, glaring flaws, there’s still a lot to love in Sonic Unleashed. As I said, the daytime levels laid the foundation for what 3D Sonic levels should look like going forward and levels like Rooftop Run are easily among the best in the entire franchise. I almost feel bad for it having to carry this horrible weight in the form of the nighttime levels, and I’m certainly glad they never caught on for future instalments.

4 – Sonic Heroes

I think this might be one of my more controversial opinions, as this game is looked upon unfavourably by the community at large, but I actually rate Sonic Heroes quite highly.

The fact that you have to complete every level four times is quite annoying, even if your objectives in these levels are different depending on who you’re playing as. In fact, it may actually be those objectives that make the levels so annoying. Racing through these levels, just trying to reach the goal is really fun. Having to wander around trying to collect a certain number of rings, or kill a specific amount of enemies is really boring. Not to mention it’s stuffed with a roster of characters that don’t need to be there, and the writing is full of cringe.

However, the gameplay, which to me, is always the most important thing, has a lot to offer. The level design is fantastic, I feel it’s one of the few 3D Sonic games to truly tap into the classic Sonic school of visual design in its levels. Every area is distinct and unique, with bright colours and crazy settings being the focal point. This made blasting through the levels very satisfying because there was a lot of fun scenery to look at.

The gimmick of switching between one of three characters, each with their own unique abilities was fun. The system behind it meant that you could do it on the fly, without having to totally kill the pace or momentum of the level and most of the levels were designed in an intelligent way that got the most out of the gimmick. By the end of the game, it did become a bit tiresome to be switching between characters for basic tasks, but for the majority of the game, I felt the pace carried it well.

I can see the flaws in Sonic Heroes, but I think the gameplay is enjoyable enough for me to overlook most of them. The platforming is fun and fast, while the level design has a sense of character to it that 3D Sonic games often lack. Ultimately, I just don’t think this game’s flaws are anywhere near as significant as the games I’ve covered up until this point.

3 – Sonic Adventure 2

Sonic Adventure 2 is arguably the game on this list that is most beloved by the overall Sonic fanbase, and I can definitely understand why.

This was the first 3D Sonic game that didn’t have any of the massive issues that the previous ones had. It finally felt like it was the full package, the grand 3D Sonic game we’d all been waiting for since Mario 64. For one thing, the game lets you play as the bad guys, which is a nice touch. Plus, even though you have to play through all of the stages twice, it doesn’t get tiresome because of how the game paces itself.

Instead of lumping them together like in Heroes, each of the three characters you play as in SA2 were given their own distinct style of levels. Sonic/Shadow get the classic platforming stages, Tails/Robotnik get a hybrid platform/shooter level in a walking mech, and Knuckles/Rouge get sandbox-style levels where you have to hunt for fragments of the Master Emerald. The game mixes and matches these levels to create a game that has a continually shifting pace and makes sure you never get bored of doing one thing for too long.

Once again, the levels have a good variation in their design to keep things fresh and visually appealing. I would say that the colour palette is a bit muted and there are a bit too many industrial levels for my liking. Still, it’s miles better than much of what I’ve covered so far. There are also vast improvements from the first Sonic Adventure, where it feels like Sonic Team had genuinely learnt from their mistakes.

The speed-based levels were now more focused on being long-shots of fun platforming, rather than weird hybrids of areas you’re supposed to take slowly. The camera is vastly improved too as the game knows exactly the right places to take control away from the player and point the camera in the direction of something they actually need to focus on. That said, it’s still not perfect, and it can get caught on terrain some of the time, but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of what SA1 gave us.

Ultimately, SA2 feels like a much grander adventure that is worthy of being a landmark title in the franchise. It still has some features that haven’t aged well, and the writing is still relatively simplistic. However, I think if Sonic Team had kept producing 3D Sonic games at this quality, then it’d still sit in the upper echelons of mainstream gaming culture today.

2 – Sonic Colors

Following up on Unleashed seemed like the easiest thing in the world for Sonic Team. There was one style of level that received critical acclaim and another that was absolutely panned. Thankfully, for Colors, Sonic Team picked up on that fact and made a bloody good game out of it.

While this game did still have a gimmick, instead of shoving into an entirely different style of gameplay, the Wisps in Colors were instead integrated into the regular 3D platforming stages that were so great in Unleashed. Overall, Colors just refined the formula, things like the boost and homing attack were polished, getting rid of the small amount of frustration that could arise from them in Unleashed.

When it comes to level design, I’d argue Colors is second to none on this list. Finally, 3D Sonic games abandoned all premise of having semi-realistic settings, and it allows the art and design team to go absolutely nuts with the levels. The concept of the whole place being an intergalactic theme park built by Eggman is absolutely fantastic, while each individual level has such a distinct and bright colour palette, it’s one of the most alive feeling worlds the Sonic series has ever created.

The Wisps themselves are implemented quite well. They’re not all winners (looking at you, Cube), but for the most part, the usage of the Wisps wasn’t overdone. Whenever a section where you needed to use them came up, it felt like a natural progression of the style and challenge that the level was trying to convey. The only time you’d ever have to go out of your way with a Wisp section is if you were trying to perform a tricky platform manoeuvre or find a secret.

Ironically, I’d say this game’s biggest issue is the 2D sections. Later games would work out how to do this better, but in Colors, when you were switched into a 2D section midway through a level, it led to slow & slightly tedious puzzle-platforming. It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it often killed the pace of the levels and had me itching to just be able to blast off at top speed again. There still needed to be a greater level of integration between the two for it to work properly.

That’s pretty much it though, I honestly can’t say I have any more major complaints about Colors. It learned from the previous game and improved on it in almost every way, creating one of the best 3D entries in the franchise. It’s a joy to replay and treat for the eyes too. A roaring success if you ask me.

1 – Sonic Generations

(From my 100 Favourite Games (90-81) article)

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 an excellent 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.

Adding to what I said there, Generations really did the reimagined classics justice. Stages like Green Hill & Sky Sanctuary looked absolutely beautiful in Generations. They edited the colour palette slightly, but it was absolutely to the stages’ benefit. Every level felt so much more vibrant and polished than they did in their original games. The boss fights were great little trips down memory lane and the Metal Sonic, Shadow & Silver fights might be my favourite in the whole franchise.

Generations felt like a true celebration of everything Sonic. Much like Mania would feel for the classic games. Everything was as good as it could’ve been, and there was little disappointment. 3D Sonic games have never been so good.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of these games, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here on Wednesday for the next part in my 100 Favourite Games series!

My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (90-81)

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!

90- Antichamber

Release Date: 31st January 2013
Developer: Demruth
Publisher: Demruth
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.
Publisher: Nintendo
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
Developer: Messhof
Publisher: Messhof
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
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: SEGA
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
Developer: Team17
Publisher: Team17
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
Publisher: SEGA
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!