My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (40-31)

Welcome back to my 100 favourite games of all time series! Today, I’ll be covering entries 40 through 31.

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!

40 – Driver San Francisco

Release Date: 1st September 2011
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 80%

It’s a game about driving around San Francisco while you’re in a coma.

Driver San Francisco is something so incredibly unique that I can’t even say I’d want to see more of it in the modern era because I’m not sure it could even be pulled off quite as good as this ever again. The concept of Tanner being in a coma gives the game so much freedom to do many weird and wonderful things.

For one thing, it’s incredibly open, almost like a sandbox. The mechanics let you float around any part of the map at any time and enter any car that you see. So much of the fun I’ve had in this game is just messing around in the open world, possessing a bunch of different cars in the same area and getting them all to completely mess each other up.

Arguably the game’s best feature though is it’s missions. I usually find missions are the least exciting parts of open-world games, however, the mechanics of the game allow for such incredibly innovative ideas of missions. You can act as the police and take down getaway drivers by hopping between every car on the road and boxing them in. You have to go through chase scenes where literally any car on the road could suddenly start darting towards you, or the stupendously impressive mission that you play from a second-person perspective.

This was a game that went above and beyond when it came to creative mechanics, and these mechanics all came together to create a ridiculously fun game no matter how you try to play it.

39 – Rocket League

Release Date: 7th July 2015
Developer: Psyonix
Publisher: Psyonix
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 87%

It’s a game about playing football with cars.

I don’t like sporty games for the most part. By that, I don’t just mean games about sports, I mean the kind of games that are popular in the esports scene. I like CS:GO, and when I’m particularly bored I’ll drop into a game of Overwatch, but that’s pretty much it. Yet, you add the phrase ‘but with cars’ to the end of the sentence, and suddenly I love it. As much as I never play it competitively (in fact, I very rarely play it with another human), it’s one of those games that has such a broad appeal that I think it’s quite hard to hate.

The concept is so simple too: football, but with cars. It hits that perfect niche of a casual game that lets the skilful people do skilful things, while the casual players can still jump into a game, have some fun and do pretty well. As you’d probably guessed, I fall into the latter category. I have plenty of fun just knocking the ball around against the decent AI every now and then. The game has such a strong sense of fast-pace that I find it so easy to just drop-in and play a match or two when I’m bored.

It’s also become quite the expansive games with all the different game-types and variants that you can tack onto those game types. Everything about it seems entirely designed to pump as much fun out of every match for casual players, while still maintaining the integrity of the standard modes for competitive players. It really is a game that lets you play however you want to play, and I think that’s what makes it such a widely popular game.

38 – Superhot

Release Date: 25th February 2016
Developer: Superhot Team
Publisher: Superhot Team
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux, Oculus Quest, Google Stadia
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about recreating that scene from The Matrix where you dodge the bullets in super-slow motion.

(From my Favourite VR Games article)

It may not seem like it on the surface, but what really makes Superhot great is how you’re always having to think a few steps ahead of each move. The slowed time concept gives you almost as much time as you need to think about each series of movements and despite having to focus on reacting to what’s going on, you’re forced into a proactive mindset to avoid certain doom.

Stick this formula into VR and you’ve got something so incredibly unique and special that I almost can’t comprehend what makes it so great. It’s still that idea of thinking a few steps ahead and making precise movements, only now those precise movements are going to have to be made by your body. It’s easy to avoid movement when you’re using a keyboard or controller, but when you’re in the situation yourself and every little wasted movement you make costs you precious seconds of reaction time, the stakes of the whole thing become so much more.

I’ve never felt so aware of every movement I’m making while in VR. It almost feels like the game heightens my senses, I become aware of almost everything that’s around me as I quickly calculate the best movements to escape the current situation. These plans almost never work and I probably look like a twat while executing them, but who the hell cares? I’m an action hero in slow motion and that’s what matters.

37 – Stardew Valley

Release Date: 26th February 2016
Developer: ConcernedApe
Publisher: ConcernedApe, Chucklefish
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, MacLinux, iOS, Andriod
Metacritic Average: 89%

I’m a game about running a farm and making friends.

The modern indie scene has done weird things to my brain. Whenever I see a game like Stardew Valley that presents itself as a cute & happy farming game, I expect there to be some weird and meta-narrative twist on the whole thing. That’s not the case in Stardew Valley, it turned out that it genuinely was just a cute and happy farming game, but I’ll tell you what, it’s a really bloody good one.

I only spent about a month playing through Stardew Valley, but during that month I was playing it CONSTANTLY, I just couldn’t put it down because everything about the world was so engrossing. The thing that gets me, though, is the way in which it was engrossing. It wasn’t because of some lucrative story or addictive mechanics, it was the simplicity with how every little activity in the game is dripping with a light, fun tone.

From the big and obvious things like the visual & audio style to even the smallest little things like the touches on the animation as you character sows seeds or waters crops. With every character having a very distinctive personality, the whole village feels alive, so you really do become part of a little community as you get to know everyone.

The farming stuff is pretty simple, but that makes it perfect to be the driving motivation of the game. The pacing of the farming is extremely refined to the point where I never got bored of it, despite being somewhat repetitive in nature. An in-game day is long enough to just about everything you want/need to do, while not giving you so much time that you’re sitting around waiting for the clock to tick by. On top of that, the different crops/animals in the game grow/produce at just the right speed so that you’ll always be making progress. Even if you haven’t got anything grown today, chances are there’ll almost certainly be plenty ready for you tomorrow.

Combine that with a wealth of side-activities and clear goals the entire duration of the game (something many of these games lack), and you’ve got a cute little life-sim game that is among the best of it’s kind.

36 – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Release Date: 18th June 2019
Developer: ArtPlay
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
Metacritic Average: 84%

It’s a game about murdering everything in the world’s most ambitiously designed castle.

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

I’d never got around to playing a Castlevania game before, but they always seemed right up my street. So, when I heard there was a game coming out made by the original creator of Castlevania in the style of Castlevania (but not officially called Castlevania because Konami doesn’t like using the historic franchises they own) I knew I had to check it out. I was absolutely blown away by what I found.

Bloodstained always keeps you on a journey of discovery. The items, enemies and powers it’s possible to acquire/encounter mean you’re always going to be finding something new and the map itself is packed with an almost overwhelming amount of variety. Every area feels extremely different to the ones that surround it and they’re all just the right size so that once you get comfortable in an area, you’re thrown right into a new one.

The combat system is wonderfully designed, it took a little getting used to, but once I got the pacing of when I should be striking and dodging I had so much fun with it. Every room presented a great challenge and I had a lot of fun trying to work out how best to tackle each combination of enemies that got thrown my way. It nails that balance of enemy design, where every enemy is easy on its own, but when a bunch of different ones are thrown together, it creates a great challenge.

That was also a game that reminded me how amazing boss fights can be, because not since NieR Automata have I had so much fun fighting bosses in a game. They follow that ethos that so many, typically old games do in that every boss has clear and recognisable patterns that are easy to dodge/counter and the skill comes from being able to react to them in time to deal out the damage. It’s a game that makes sure that every single failure and death I experienced was because I wasn’t skilful enough in order to pull it off, not because I got unlucky.

Bloodstained makes sure that every room and every enemy teaches you something, not necessarily something about the mechanics, but about what is the most optimal way to fight. This sense of pushing forward and constantly getting to experience new stuff is what pushed me towards achieving 100% completion without even realising I was doing it until suddenly I was 95% there and had to get that last little bit.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a game that is constantly pushing you deeper into it using its world & enemy design along with its combat system to enthral you in its world and give you the best Metroidvania experience I’ve had in many years.

35 – Quarantine Circular

Release Date: 22nd May 2018
Developer: Bithell Games
Publisher: Bithell Games, Ant Workshop Limited
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 73%

It’s a game about talking to an alien.

I often struggle to engage with pure-story games like this. I often find it difficult to get involved and focus when my attention isn’t being drawn continuously with gameplay. When it comes to Mike Bithell’s games, however, it’s an entirely different scenario. I’ll break down his style more in future entries of this list, but the main thing that I think makes Quarantine Circular so special is the understanding and insight it gives you into all of your characters.

In each chapter, you take control of a different person and see the story from their perspective. You get a chance to fully understand exactly how each character operates and why exactly they take the stances they do. The writing is intelligent enough to let you slip into answering questions and scenarios exactly how you believe that character would, perhaps without even realising it. It’s so tightly in control of your outlook and feelings on the situation at any given moment, and yet, you don’t even realise what it’s doing to you until you finish it and have the time to reflect.

Once you understand all the characters so deeply, it gives the critical choices so much weight, it deepens the emotional investment in the story so much more than almost any other game. Not because of any kind of world-ending stakes, but because of the personal stakes between each of the characters.

34 – N++

Release Date: 28th July 2015
Developer: Metanet Software
Publisher: Metanet Software
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 90%

It’s a game about being a Ninja who dies, a lot.

When it comes to controls in a platformer, I don’t think this game has an equal. In N++, even the most minute movements feel precise and make you feel totally in control of every single jump and manoeuvre you make; Which means that when you miss the jump by half a millimetre and fall into a pit of mines, it’s entirely your fault. Every jump feels so smooth, and when you get good enough to chain a lot fo these movements together, the sense of flow you get is easily on par with that of the Sonic games.

It also has the difficulty to boot, with one of the most well-constructed difficulty curves I’ve ever seen. Every level is designed so creatively and given the literal thousands that there are in the game, it’s quite frankly amazing that they managed to keep them all confined to a single screen. Each different element that will kill you in a level is placed so perfectly that you can almost instantly see the way you’re supposed to get past them, but that doesn’t make doing it any easier than it should be.

The game knows precisely how forgiving it wants each level to be and they seem to have been laid out in an order that means you’re always mastering the skill you need to push through to the next set.

33 – Overgrowth

Release Date: 16th October 2017
Developer: Wolfire Games
Publisher: Wolfire Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

It’s a game about rabbits murdering each other.

This one is a real oddity, and seeing “2017” as the release date blows me away because this game has been around for about a decade in some form or another. As you can probably tell from the lack of any on this list, I’m not really a fan of fighting games, I’m not entirely sure why they’re just not for me. However, even though at its core, Overgrowth is a fighting game, it doesn’t really follow the rules of any other game in the genre.

Instead of having health bars and the like, Overgrowth instead uses a system of body parts that slowly take damage and get crippled over time. I don’t know anything in the way of specifics, so I’m not going to explain anymore, but it leads to a high-speed, but very weighty fighting game where no two fights ever quite feel the same. The details of the sounds and blood when you take hits in certain places are almost too gruesome to look at in some cases, but it’s precisely those responsive mechanics that make fighting so much fun and drive me to do it over and over again.

32 – Heat Signature

Release Date: 21st September 2017
Developer: Suspicious Developments
Publisher: Suspicious Developments
Platforms: Windows
Metacritic Average: 79%

It’s a game about performing space heists where you inevitably fling yourself out of an airlock accidentally.

Heat Signature has just about everything you could want from a heist game because that’s essentially what each mission is, a mini heist inside of a spaceship. You can sit there and survey the entire scene before you as you craft a highly detailed and skilled plan to reach your target. Every movement you make is slow and clever…until you get seen, at which points it descends into chaos where you have to either use your various tools to escape with your life or be flung into the cold vacuum of space.

The set of tools you have at your disposal hold a bunch of surprisingly unique concepts that do things like reverse forcefields, magnetise enemies and just cause general chaos to your targets. The catch is, the enemies have all of these tools too, and these dynamic systems are so cleverly interwoven to create plenty of unique experiences that are always sure to surprise you in terms of just how spectacularly they go wrong.

Heat Signature that understands that it needs to let the mechanics speak for themselves and gets you to learn by doing. This means you’re bound to form your own tactics and strategies that will vary wildly from anyone else’s but will still lead to equally as hilarious fuck ups.

31 – WWE 2K19

Release Date: 5th October 2018
Developer: Yukes, Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Metacritic Average: 77%

It’s a game about wrasslin’.

My original plan when I was putting this list together was to put the whole WWE 2K series in this spot because they’re all of pretty equal quality. Then WWE 2K20 came out and was an utter shit-show, so 2K19 gets the spot instead.

I know may people prefer many other wrestling games, but as a modern wrestling fan, these are more than enough to satisfy my needs for video game graps. Once again, it’s a fighting game that doesn’t follow most of the traditional rules of fighting games, and I think it’s much more fun to play because of it. The gameplay is so easy to grasp, and it really captures the feel of a live WWE show in interactive form.

The many different game modes mean that whatever kind of way you want to play the game you’re covered. Whether you just want to do random matchups with your friends, play through written stories or craft your own grand storyline and shows. Since the series first came to PC with 2K15 I’ve put over a 1000 combined hours into the games, which isn’t even including the time I spent playing it on consoles before then. I just have so much fun putting all these matches together. The fighting mechanics are enjoyable enough that I don’t even mind playing against AI all the time.

However, when you’re not a loner, it’s easily one of my favourite games to play with friends. Not only is there a rapid and easy learning curve, but once you’ve both got the hang of it, you can have very intense matchups. On top of that, I’ve had many friends (myself included) who played the games first, and that led to them becoming wrestling fans, which makes it all the better. Except for 2K20, fuck that one in particular.

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 running down the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who!

Game of the Year 2018: 4th & 5th Place

This one was really hard to organise.

As where with pro-wrestling, it’s fairly easy for me to pick one match over another, and thus rank them quite quickly, I find it much harder to do with games. Since games have so much variety to them, almost all of my favourite games every year appeal to me in different ways which makes it much harder to just plainly rank them based on enjoyment.

Add to that the fact that I played more games in 2018 that ever before and you’ve got yourself a rather tricky task when it comes to picking out the best. That said, I’ve mulled it over for pretty much all of December and I’ve got a top 5 that I’m happy with.

Since I have a lot more to say about games than I do about wrestling matches, I’ve decided to split this up into three posts, with 4th and 5th today, 2nd and 3rd coming tomorrow and finally number 1 will be revealed the day after.

I should also mention that the only platforms I own are PC, HTC Vive and Nintendo Switch, so if a game didn’t release on any of those, then I haven’t played it and won’t be ranking it. Additionally, if a game is still in early access, then I also won’t be considering it, since I don’t think it’s fair to review an unfinished game, I will instead rank those games in the year they eventually release.

Finally, before I get started I’d like to mention the other games I loved this year, but didn’t quite crack the top five, so: Dead Cells; Two Point Hospital; Into the Breach; Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and Return of the Obra Dinn, were all great games that I had considered for this top 5 at some point.

Now, let’s get onto what did make the top five, starting with….

 5 – Moonlighter

This was a game that, despite its May release, I didn’t find this one until a couple of weeks ago. However, once I started playing it, I played it every single day until I had completed it, and boy was it a fun time.

The basic premise of the game is that you play as Will, a simple young man who runs a shop called Moonlighter, and he lives in a town that was built around a series of mysterious dungeons full of weird and wonderful artefacts and treasures.

There are two different sides to the core gameplay, the first is the dungeon crawling. This has the many rougelike elements you’ve come to expect from games such as these, with random generation of rooms and progression through “floors” of a dungeon to progress. However, in this game your goal is slightly different. In most games of this genre, such as Dead Cells or Binding of Isaac, your goal is to collect upgrades and items along the way to eventually get to a boss and kill it to beat the dungeon, but that isn’t really your goal here.

There is a boss at the end of each dungeon (more on that in a bit), none of the items you pick up along the way will actually make you stronger or better in any way, instead your goal is to collect as many of these items as you can, and then escape the dungeon to use these items in the second side to the game.

The combat really feels nice, and with a variety of different weapon classes to choose from, you really can play the game whichever way you feel best. It follows the rules which I think all roguelikes should follow: Every enemy is easily killable on its own, however if you fill a room with them in a balanced way then it’s a difficult but fair challenge to clear every single room.

The boss fights are in a similar vein, it’s a fair challenge because I know all of their attacks are easily dogable, I’m just not good enough to dodge them. It’s that kind of game design that makes me determined to keep trying over and over when I die, and not just get frustrated and give up.

That second side of the game is where you manage your shop. You put out your items you retrieved from the dungeon on display in your shop, and then during the day people will come in and buy the items from you. As simple as that sounds, the developers were very clever in the way they implemented it.

See, instead of just slapping the item out and letting people pay the price for themselves, you have to be a proper merchant and assign every item a price. Of course, people won’t just pay whatever price you put on it and you have to gauge the reactions of your customers to work out if you’re undercharging or overcharging for an item. In addition to this, an item’s popularity in the town will fluctuate depending on how much of it you’re selling, and how much you’re selling it for. If an item isn’t in very high demand people won’t pay all that much for it, however if an item is extremely popular in town, you can bump the price up a bit and no-one will mind paying the extra coins.

This side of the game has a really nice level of strategy to it, since you can use the prices of items you already know to work out what a good price for a new item would be. It also means that during the day, you’re not just sitting there waiting for the cash to roll in, you’ve got to be paying attention to your customers to work out your prices and also make sure no-one tries to steal anything…

Of course, you don’t just earn money for the sake of it, so what is there to spend that money on? The spending of money is pretty well split in this game between three things: buying better gear for your character; buying upgrades for your shop and buying new facilities for the town, which will provide services to you, such as weapon enchantments and money investments.

These kinds of games that essentially work as one big loop of tasks that all feed into each other, is one that can often get quite tiring after being done for too long, so Moonlighter gets around this by giving you an endgame goal right at the start.

The town has four main dungeons just outside it, however at the start of the game three of them are closed. In order to unlock each dungeon, you have to defeat the boss of the previous one. Every new dungeon you unlock will have tougher enemies and deadlier traps, but will also provide much more valuable treasures.

Your main goal however, is to unlock “the 5th door” which is a final dungeon which has remained locked for centuries and you want to see what’s behind it. Each of the four dungeon bosses holds a key, so you need to defeat them all, this makes sure you feel like everything you’re doing has a sense of purpose to it, and it’s that exact driving force that kept me involved in the game the whole way through.

This game comes together beautifully, with both sides to the game stopping the other one from getting too tedious, and a main quest that really drives you achieve and see everything the game has to offer. If you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers, but also want something a bit new from the genre, then this is absolutely one you should check out.

4 – Quarantine Circular

This is a much harder one to talk about.

Quarantine Circular is a game made by the wonderful Mike Bithel, who made one of my favourite ever games in Thomas Was Alone. Bithel’s games are always so masterful in how they tell their stories, and since that is what drives the entire game, it’s hard to talk about it as a reviewer, since I don’t want to spoil a moment of it.

I’m going to try my best to do it without spoiling things, but anything I do spoil will be from the first chapter only so I can illustrate some of my points.

The game tells it’s story mostly through the dialogue between characters, although there are visuals on the screen whilst it’s going on to draw you in to the feel of the world. The basics of the story is that, the world has been almost wiped out by a disease unknown to the human race, and the military has captured an alien that they suspect might be to blame.

Most games at this point would drop you right into things, with the important military people interrogating the alien to try to get information out of it. That doesn’t happen though, instead the first two chapters you play as a low ranking engineer on the military ship with the simple job of installing a translator so the alien can understand humans and vice-versa.

This is a great way to introduce the player to the world, since you spend the whole of the first two chapters playing as a character who doesn’t really have much idea of what’s going on. It allows the game to explain things to you in its dialogue without it sounding like it’s solely for the audience. It also makes sure that it doesn’t present the alien as an antagonist in the first two chapters. While you do have the option to be mean to it, the game encourages you to simply listen and learn about what this alien is like from a personality perspective, which is very important for later chapters.

In Bithel’s previous game, Subsurface Circular, which was made in a similar style to this game, you played as one person the whole time which worked really well as you were solving a mystery. However in Quarantine Circular, you play as almost every character involved in the story at some point. While this could’ve taken away from the luster and mystery a little bit, it’s written in such a way that all it really serves to do is allow you to understand each of the characters as the story progresses. In order to make some important decisions later in the story, you need to understand exactly what every single character is thinking, and this is perhaps the best way to achieve that.

Oh, and did I mention, you get all of this for less than £5?

When it comes to pure story based games, I don’t think there was anything that drew me in or left a greater impression on me looking back on it now. Bithel always seems to knock it out of the park with these games, and if we get more of these in the coming years from him I’ll be very happy.

So that’s 4th and 5th place in my game of the year rankings! If you enjoyed it then please share it around. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo for more impressions on games as they come out through 2019, and @magiclollyl for editing this. Lastly, make sure to come back at the same time tomorrow for my 2nd and 3rd place picks!