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!

My Favourite Virtual Reality Games

It seems like the debate surrounding whether or not Virtual Reality is a passing fad or the future of everything isn’t going to end anytime soon (which ironically kind of answers that debate, but let’s not go there). People and companies are using VR technology for all sorts of things and it’s still not entirely clear just how permanent of a fixture they’ll become, however, one area where VR has been undeniably successful, is in games.

While VR is far from being the future of gaming as a whole for a myriad of reasons, developers have been able to create some absolutely incredible games for the platform that simply wouldn’t be possible without Virtual Reality technology. VR in games is something unique and wonderful, so I thought now would be a great time to celebrate that by running down some of my favourite VR games that I’ve played over the past few years.

Before I start, I just want to mention Boneworks, it looks amazing, but I haven’t had the chance to play it yet so I can’t give it anything more than an honourable mention. Sorry.

8 – Universe Sandbox² VR

One of the biggest things that VR can achieve that regular gaming can’t is to create an incredible sense of scale and Universe Sandbox is easily the game that shows that the best.

This is a game that lets you mess with planets, solar system and even galaxies in pretty much whatever way you want. The tools are very in-depth but quite simple to get your head around as long as you’re familiar with how gaming menus work. You want to delete the Sun from the centre of the solar system to see what happens? Easy. You want to overflow the Earth’s oceans and then crash it into the moon? Not a problem. You want to create a teapot the size of the Earth and throw it into Jupiter? Come right this way.

What absolutely puts me in awe with this game though is when you zoom in and out to scale the planets up and down. You can have an Earth spinning in front of you that’s the size of a basketball, or you can push it all the way up until it’s a planet-sized planet sitting right in front of you for you to just stare in awe at; and when I saw awe here, I really mean it. When I first started looking at stuff like that it was genuinely a bit unsettling to look at just because of how bloody massive it was, my tiny human brain almost couldn’t comprehend the scale of the thing.

Then I threw the TARDIS at it and played pool with Jupiter’s moons. So a pretty mixed afternoon overall.

7 – Accounting+

I only wanted to include one of these “comedic adventure experiences” in this list and I ummed and erred over which one to include. I considered Job Simulator, but it’s been around so long that the joke’s a bit played out and I think most people are at least aware of it, so I went for Accounting VR instead.

Written in part by Justin Roiland (of Adventure Time & Rick and Morty fame) the game is top-notch with its comedy at almost all times. Originally released as a fairly linear experience, it has since been expanded greatly into a game with a whole host of different weird and wonderful comedic scenes for you to play your way through.

It strikes a brilliant balance between watching characters interact with each other (and you) and getting you to do fairly simple tasks in the VR environment, which range from a police shootout at high speed along a highway, to literally summoning Satan round the back of what looks like a McDonalds.

I could go on, but saying any more would spoil it and the original, more linear, version of the game is available for free on Steam, so you should go play it.

6 – TARDIS VR

It’s a TARDIS. In VR. Need I go on?

Doctor Who has tried to create a couple of official VR experiences over the past couple of years, but I really feel like any of them have quite reached the heights of being amazing, they tend to just be very simple experiences where you do a couple of really simple tasks while you watch a not all that interesting (if very pretty looking) story unfold in front of you. So a wonderful person who goes by Feroxxy decided they were going to create a big TARDIS of their own for us all to have a look around, and release it for free.

It is still technically in alpha had they’ve put the project on an extended hiatus, but for the low, low price of free, I’d say it’s absolutely worth checking this out because it is by far the best Doctor Who themed VR game out there. There are all sorts of little treasure troves of interesting stuff laying around the place from the various episodes where we’ve seen a little deeper inside of the TARDIS. You can even fiddle with just about everything on the console and even travel to a couple of small locations from the show’s past.

Once again, I don’t want to spoil it, but I assure you that if you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’ll get a kick out of this one.

5 – I Expect You To Die

This is a game that brings together a unique combination of chaotic gameplay with a very lighthearted and charming style that is able to draw me into just about any game I play.

This game is essentially a series of escape rooms that are each only about 5 minutes long, but they get very frantic very quickly and it’ll often take you much longer to solve some of the puzzles. The spy theme is on point and the game puts you in plenty of classic spy-themed situations, such as hacking into a spy-car and driving it out of a plane that’s in the air, or escaping a capsule that’s stuck at the bottom of the ocean.

While the setting and many of the interactions in the world are very fun and silly, the game still makes sure to throw into the deep end to see whether or not you can swim. Once you start the ball rolling in any of these scenarios it can be very hard to stop it and it’s likely that you will go through multiple failures on your way to averting disaster.

I Expect You To Die is responsible for some of the most insanely chaotic moments I’ve had while playing a VR game, it constantly keeps you involved with the action and also makes sure your brain remains active as you attempt to solve its puzzles.

4 – Creed: Rise to Glory

I really didn’t expect this one to be so compelling, but I always have an absolute blast with it.

To be clear, I know basically nothing about boxing, but everything from the Wii Sports to Kinect Sports has taught be that furiously flailing my fist in order to punch virtual men in the face is great fun, although, if there’s no structure to it, the fun doesn’t last all that long. That was the key problem with both Wii Sports & Kinect Sports, the fact that the best strategy was always to just wildly flail and the AI would never get a chance to attack and you’d be guaranteed to win.

Creed: Rise to Glory is able to find a much more nuanced position on this and it actually creates quite a challenging experience that works quite well for a workout if you’re in the mood for it. I may be hitting my opponent with a mostly random rhythm and only blocking in a panic when I realise I’ve used up all my stamina, but boy do I feel like I’m being a real skilled boxer, coming up with strategies and adapting on the fly.

Each fight is just enough challenge for it to feel so fantastically cathartic when I eventually win and each victory motivates me to push onwards into the next fight. If you’re looking for a boxing game, this one is easily the best choice.

3 – Blade & Sorcery

Do you play games to feel like a badass? To cut through enemies in the most brutal ways possible? To become the lord of death? No? Well, you will once you’ve played Blade & Sorcery.

I’ve played my share of violent games and when it comes to the level of gore & violence that you see in the game, this one isn’t actually that graphic. However, the sensation of physically running your sword through someone’s body, then them falling to the ground as you pull it out is weirdly haunting and surprisingly empowering. This game lets you be the absolute monster you would be if video games were how the world really worked.

Every strike you make feels so forceful and powerful that you almost get into that mindset of a medieval action hero, slicing limbs and cutting through armies. If you’re still not convinced that this is the most empowering game ever, I’ll leave you with a moment that was perhaps the most amazing I’ve ever felt while playing a game; because I don’t think anything sums up the joy of playing in VR better than leaping off of a cliff, using your axe to hook onto a zipline, dropping off the zipline halfway, landing on top of someone and embedding your axe in their skull, before doing a 180, pulling a dagger out of your belt and it going through another enemy’s eye socket.

…this is usually where I’d summarize my point, but I think that says all I could ever want to.

2 – Superhot VR

I’ve never felt like moving my body is so much of a puzzle.

It may not seem like it on the surface, but what really makes Superhot great is how you’re constantly 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.

1 – Beat Saber

(From my Game of the Year 2019 article)

The concept is so simple as it’s just like any other rhythm game, except you’ve got to move your arms to hit the blocks instead of just pressing buttons in time with some music.

This game as a mastery of its sound design, making sure that every slice of a block has an extremely satisfying sound to it, helping to create this cool factor as you slice left, right and centre, even when you know that to anyone watching outside of the headset, you just look to be flailing around wildly. Even the sounds and music on the menus create an intense sense of atmosphere as you stand in what seems to be the most neon warehouse to ever exist.

A lot of VR games that I enjoy are games that I think would still work fairly well without the VR component. While games like Job Simulator and Budget Cuts would need some tweaking, I don’t think the VR element is specifically what makes them as good as they are. Beat Saber is very much the opposite, I’ve never particularly cared for rhythm games, nor am I all that good at them, but when you take that concept and put it into VR suddenly it becomes one of the most all-out fun experiences I’ve ever had.

I don’t know what part of how my brain works causes this, but I am so much better at Beat Saber than I am any other rhythm game I’ve ever played. I’m miles away from being among the best of course, but I can play on the higher speeds and difficulties and not struggle massively as I play and I think the sense of pure fun the game as injected into it is a big part of that.

On top of all of that, it works as an exercise game, but it doesn’t frame it as one. I’ve never got along with games like Ring Fit Adventure or Wii Fit because they make sure to let you know you’re doing exercise the whole way through, but in Beat Saber you just start flailing your arms and suddenly you’re drenched in sweat and have lost about 20 pounds without even realising it.

Beat Saber is a game that realised the massive potential that an existing genre of games could have in VR and made sure to tailor the experience perfectly so that it couldn’t possibly work without it and that is fundamentally what I believe makes a good VR game.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please let me know what your favourite VR games are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time next week, where I’ll be running down my favourite matches of The Undertaker!