Top Ten

A gaming friend of mine (@GabrielleKent on Twitter) was asked recently to construct her Top 10 list of games. She decided to throw this up on Facebook and it prompted an awful lot of discussion as these things do.

Whilst it's very easy for people to criticise and critique the lists of others, it's a whole different ball game coming up with your own. So, in the name of Science, I thought I'd give it a bash.

Rules

The first step is obviously to establish a ruleset and possibly throw out a disclaimer or two. This is my list. You might not like it, so go make your own. Feel free to suggest games I may have 'missed', although don't expect me to agree with you.

I'm also going to try this in an entirely organic fashion, which may involve returning to this post several times to update the list. I'll try and keep my working in place, which might make for a fascinating read later on. As of now, I'm torn between grouping games into their series or cherry-picking the best one. I think cherry-picking will be harder, so maybe that's the one to go for?

The games will be listed in the order I think of them rather than on a leaderboard. Also it's worthwhile noting that some selections might be tinged with more than a little nostalgia. Finally, I will try to explain my reasonings behind my selections.

Elite

Easy one. Got to be Elite. It's a stick-on. No other game of the time created such a buzz in the playground. I've played this thing on the Spectrum, BBC, ST and Amiga and it's the one title that it still held up by many a developer of a certain age as the game they'd most like to see remade. None of this Frontier crap either - screw Newtonian physics and give us dogfights. And trading. And a massive universe to explore. Oh, and ship customisation. And Multiplayer... Here's hoping the Kickstarter does it justice.

Bosh! One down. All too easy, this list making lark.

Dark Souls

Again, based on the length of time I talk about this one, it has to make the list. Boasting the finest melee combat system this side of a dedicated beat-em-up, some brilliant level design and a wonderfully refreshing brutality, Dark Souls is absolutely my favourite game to come out for a long time.

Ico

For emotional involvement, this game is hard to beat. No other game managed to get me as invested in my character to the extent that I was quite misty at the end. Ico goes on the... oh, wait - scratch that...

Journey

I know it's only a couple of hours long and more of an 'experience' than an actual game, but Journey has the power to move you like you wouldn't believe. A lot of it hinges on the type of companion you'll meet but thankfully the community is such that it'll either be a noob, who is only too happy to accept your help, or a veteran who has only logged in to escort noobs through the trickier parts of the game.

Command & Conquer

This spawned the phrase "C&C o'clock" at Bullfrog to denote 6pm - when we could down tools and start playing. The seamless and intuitive interface made marshalling your units a joy. Aw, crap.

Total Annihilation

I suppose I was never really happy with the single-unit production that C&C went with. Or the insane micro-management offered by Starcraft. TA gave me epic RTS action. Supreme Commander went even further, but lacked some of the charm of the original. Again, I have high hopes for the recent Kickstarter.
4X games never look particularly good in screenshots...

Master Of Orion 2

Could have gone for Civ, or any number of other 4X games. Still got a huge soft spot for VGA Planets, Stars! and Space Empires V, but out of all of that lot, the one I'd love to play again would be MOO2. Part of that is down to the fact that they got it spectacularly wrong with MOO3, which left a bit of a bad taste.

Mario 64

This game holds my personal record for Longest Single Continuous Play Session - a weighty 32 hours, edging out the previous holder, Command & Conquer with it's paltry 26 hours. Mario 64 was a joy to behold and play. The controls were superbly fluid and the camera wasn't all that bad. But it's his interaction with the landscape - leaping around, diving into the water, spinning up trees and generally acting like he was having a great time - that really marks this one out for me. Sunshine just didn't capture any of that and although Galaxies did and is a remarkably good return to form, 64 gets the nod from a purist and nostalgic standpoint.

Actually, it was a close-run thing between this and Super Mario World on the SNES, which was subject to some pretty insane play sessions. I could tell you about the convoluted way I completed the Japanese version without realising I could throw shells up in the air or the time at a party at Peter's house where I showed the Bitmap Brothers' Sean Griffiths that I could finish the thing before the party finished. But I won't.

Syndicate

The proper Syndicate, not the shameful FPS 'reboot'. Don't get me started on that...
Syndicate - squad-based RTS, not an FPS

Part of me thinks this shouldn't be on the list as it could be construed as shameful self-promotion, but I loved this game. I loved making it and we had such a good time playing it both during and after development (which any developer will tell you is practically unheard of). In fact, the only thing that stopped us playing Syndicate was Doom. So I should probably add that to the list too.

Doom

What a game-changer that was. But, my FPS of choice would have to be...

Duke Nukem 3D

The soundbites, the comical weapons, the level design, the intuitive editor, the fact that you could look up and down... The office was very much divided between this and Quake and ultimately, ID's effort won out, but personally, I was always a Duke man. My personal favourite was the level that really took advantage of the non-cartesian nature of the engine to create four overlaid arenas with a surrounding corridor and interlinking vertical tubes. Filling those things with laser trip mines was most entertaining.

Mass Effect 2

I love the Mass Effect series. It's the exception to the adage that says you can't replay a story-based game. Well, you can, but that game would require a metric shit-ton of resources to make properly. ME2 gets the nod over the first game as the combat was considerably less clunky. It gets the nod over the third because for some reason, I just didn't find the third one as engaging and haven't had a desire to go back and play it again to see a different ending. Odd really, as you'd think I'd be really invested by now.

Also, big points for catching me out trying to game the system. "We've got to hurry and do this very important thing" - yeah, whatever. I know how games work. There's no time constraint - I'm just going to toodle around and finish off these little side quests before I... oh. Crap.

Rock Band 3

I do, indeed, Rock
I've loved the rhythm action genre since we first started getting into the Bemani stuff. Coming through Drummania and Guitar Freaks was epic. The first Guitar Hero night had me standing 2 feet in front of my TV, rocking out until the week small hours. At the launch of the EU version of Rock Band, I happened to be working at EA and they'd hired out the local night club for us to hold a battle of the bands. It was an epic night and one that made me feel like a proper rock star.

Of course, there are those (my brother especially) who scoff at this. "Why not learn to play a real instrument?", they say. "Because I will never be as good as this game allows me to pretend to be."
RB3 is the pinnacle for me. It's a platform with an ever increasing library of kick-arse songs. It's here over, say Guitar Hero World Tour, mainly because Harmonix 'get it' more than Neversoft - it's not about battles or power ups or other crap like that.

It's about rocking out with your mates.

The Final Ten

Okay, I say 'Final', but there's 10 games up there that aren't crossed out, making my list look like this:

Elite
Dark Souls
Journey
Total Annihilation
Master Of Orion 2
Mario 64
Syndicate
Duke Nukem 3D
Mass Effect 2
Rock Band 3

Must resist the urge to do an 'honourable mentions' section. Sorry Bard's Tale... Dammit!

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