My Favourite Games

I wanted to share with you a list of my favourite video games, to give you some insight on how they influenced and inspired me, and to explain my tastes and preferences. They all took me on marvellous adventures through fantastic worlds where I got to meet some truly great characters.

 

Portal 1 & 2

I couldn't make a list like this without the Portal series, the first-person puzzle games with a unique central mechanic that allows for some truly brain-teasing tests and fantastic level design While the 'hook' of these games is worthy of praise on their own, both games are elevated with wry, dark humour provided by GLADoS, one of the medium's greatest characters. As well as through the humourous exposition provided by GLADoS, the first game also tells its story through visual design, the sterile test chambers followed by the grimy underbelly of Apeture as the true motives of GLADoS are revealed. Naturally, the second game expands on the back-story of Apeture Science and it's eccentric founder Cave Johnson.  Get Portal 1 on the Orange Box on Xbox 360 and on PS3 and Portal 2 on Xbox 360 and on PS3

 

Fallout 3

Barring one other game on this list, Fallout 3 is the game I invested the most time into, completing the main campaign (and a couple of DLC packs) twice. While on my second time around I knew exactly what to do, my first time with the game I became lost in the nuclear wastelands, randomly taking on side-quests and gathering bottle caps while listening to jazzy music. There was also one time I took out two Super Mutants with nothing but a nail-embedded baseball bat. This game offers a vast open world with tons of content to discover, a world where your decisions have notable consequences. Given the post-apocalyptic setting, it's deliberately a grimy, rusty looking game, helping to instil a bleak tone as you wander the wastes.  Available on Xbox 360 and on PS3

 

 

Mass Effect

As well as video games specifically, I love sci-fi in a broader sense, which is what encouraged me to get this game. While all of the games on this list feature world-building to various degrees, it's Mass Effect that encapsulates it the most for me. It gives you an entire galaxy to explore and multiple alien races to interact with and learn about. Like with Fallout 3, I appreciate how your choices impact the world around you. My mission team always included Garrus and Liara, two characters I enjoyed getting to know throughout the game. In my down time I liked exploring the Normandy or simply wandering through the Citadel to admire the architecture.  Available on PS3 and on Xbox 360

 

 

Saints Row IV

I never got into the Saints Row franchise prior to this instalment, since I bought into the stigma of it being a GTA knock-off. Thankfully, this game put my concerns aside and is truly its own entity. What I love about this game the most is that it's proud to be a video game; while many modern games strive for “realism”, this game throws that out of the window and embraces the daft fun of video games, giving you super powers, a ridiculous arsenal of weapons (the Dubstep Gun being my favourite), an open city packed with content to test them out and a story campaign that satirizes trends in video games and makes good use of its licensed soundtrack.  Available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

 

 

Donkey Kong Country

I remember the huge selling point of the original DKC was its revolutionary new graphics and fully rendered character models. As we're all aware, graphics technology has made leaps and bound over the last twenty years and DKC looks incredibly dated. Thankfully, Rare punt plenty of effort into the game-play as well, and that aspect still stands the test of time. DKC and its sequels have a steadily rising difficulty curve, with some levels offering memorable and unique challenges (of course one of the highlights being the mine cart levels). The music does a fantastic job of setting the atmosphere for each world as well as just being extremely catchy, something that has become a staple of games made by the Rare team. Available on SNES and Gameboy Advance

 

Half Life 2

I've never really been into first-person shooter games, something about them just doesn't appeal to me. Half Life 2 is an obvious exception. While I never got into the first game, I knew enough about it to get invested in 2, and I was hooked to the story all the way through playing. The dystopian sci-fi setting was what attracted me to the game and it truly delivers on creating a sense of despair and fighting against the odds. The game offers a good mix of FPS combat and environmental puzzle solving as well as fantastic set-pieces and even elements of survival horror. And of course there is the Gravity Gun, one of the most instantly fun game weapons in the medium.  Part of the Orange Box Collection

 

 

Bayonetta 2

While I never played the original beforehand, this game got me interested in the series. I'll admit that a lot of what I enjoy about this game is the eponymous Bayonetta herself. She stands out in a modern AAA industry saturated with generic angry white men with stubble and buzz cuts, demonstrating her over-the-top personality through her exaggerated figure and costume, her flowing combat moves during fights, her sultry voice acting and even little things like her walk cycle. She enjoys beating the crap out of angels and demons as much as the player does. Speaking of which, the designs for the angels and demons are visually interesting, looking other-worldy and bizarre. The combat is fluid and varied enough to not get boring, while the architectural design of the worlds you explore are a visual treat.  Available on Wii U

 

 

Super Star Wars

This one is mainly on the list because of how it influenced me outside of video games. Prior to playing this I had never seen Star Wars. It led me to watch the films and become a huge fan of the franchise (Fun Fact – I own a film cell from A New Hope signed by Kenny Baker!). This in turn helped me to get into other sci-fi properties such as Aliens, Terminator, Doctor Who and countless others. On it's own merits Super Star Wars is a brilliant game, though it's quite challenging. The graphics and soundtrack do a great job of recreating A New Hope. But obviously the best part is when you get to use the light-sabre.  Available on SNES

 

 

LoZ: Twilight Princess

This one holds a special place on the list because it was the first game I had for the Wii (aside from Wii Sports, naturally). In Britain the Wii was released on December 8th, 2006, the same day as my 20th birthday. I practically spent all day on Twilight Princess. While many people scoff at motion controls these days, at the time it was exciting to use the Wii Remote to swing Link's sword and aim your ranged weapons with the IR pointer. Hyrule was bigger than ever with plenty to do outside the main quest. One of my favourite boss fights was against Stallord in the Arbiter Grounds. I like the visual style of the game, especially when exploring the Twilight Realm. And then there's Midna, one of the most fully fleshed-out and likeable characters in the Zelda canon.  Available on Wii U, Wii and GameCube

 

 

Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga

Apart from Pokemon, I never really got into RPGs until I played this game. Aside from a couple other games on this list, this one made me laugh the most; the whole game has a “Saturday Morning Cartoon” vibe to it, lending it plenty of charm. As well as classic Mario characters, the game has plenty of memorable new characters such as Popple the Thief and Prince Peasly. The battle system requires both strategy and reflexes, which livens up the game-play, and the over-world offers plenty to do with more areas becoming accessible when Mario and Luigi learn mew moves. If like me you're a fan of Mario, it's worth checking out.  Available on Gameboy Advance

 

 

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

I was born in the 80s, so I feel this particular game released at just the right time while I was at high school. As well as being a genuinely fun game on its own terms, it made me appreciate 80s pop culture ans the music in particular. When not doing missions I could just drive around the titular city in a flashy sports car while listening to Wave 103. While GTA 3 was revolutionary, Vice City took the formula and improved it through mechanical tweaks, new features and by giving it a distinct visual style. While later games in the series offer more content and better graphics, Vice City will always be my favourite.  Available on PS2 and Xbox

 

 

Banjo Kazooie/Tooie

Once upon a time, the 3D exploration-focused platform game was king and hopefully the genre will see a revival with the release of Yooka-Laylee. For now, let's talk about its spiritual predecessors, two bright and colourful games packed with memorable characters, a distinctly British sense of humour, incredible music and a variety of themed levels to explore. The dynamic duo of Banjo and Kazooie learn a variety of moves throughout their adventure, opening up the worlds they visit. To top it off, both games finish with the most challenging and epic boss fights against Banjo's arch-nemesis Gruntilda (well, after you complete a quiz show).  Both are on Rare Replay as well as N64 (Kazooie) and (Tooie)

 

 

Jak II: Renegade

While I thoroughly enjoyed the original Jak & Daxter as a phenomenal exploration-platformer, I've omitted it from the list because I already have Banjo-Kazooie on here. Instead I've gone for the sequel, which is one of the more successful examples of the 'Darker and Edgier' trope. Replacing the bright and colourful world of J&D is a dark, dystopian city ruled by a ruthless tyrant and attacked by monsters. This game fulfils on a wish I've had for ages - ”What if there was a GTA-style game in a futuristic sci-fi setting?” - by giving the player access to high-tech weaponry, flying vehicles and even a hover board. Despite this tonal shift, the game still offers plenty of platform gaming, not to mention racing segments and thrilling set pieces. Plus, alongside Kazooie, Daxter is one of my favourite sidekicks to have in a game.  Available on PS2 and part of The Jak Trilogy

 

 

Conker's Bad Fur Day

To put this one into context, it was released when I was still in high school. I really shouldn't have played it at that age, but that didn't stop me. Subverting the whole “cutesy, cuddly platformer” genre, CBFD is full of dirty humour revolving around sex, violence and scatological comedy (one of the bosses is a giant opera-singing lump of poo!). It also makes references to plenty of films, including The Matrix, Saving Private Ryan and even A Clockwork Orange. Putting all this aside, CBFD has solid game-play mechanics from multiple genres that the player experiences from a superbly structured linear story campaign. Out of all the games on this list, I feel this one deserves a sequel the most (How about an open-world sandbox called “Grand Theft Conker?”)  Available on N64, remade for Xbox and part of Rare Replay

 

 

Batman Arkham Asylum/City

One of the great accomplishments of video games is that they allow players to indulge in power fantasies, and what could be better suited to that than a game where you play as an iconic super hero? Both Arkham Asylum and City get this entirely right, they real do make you feel like you're the caped crusader as you sneak around, use gadgets and take on a crowd of henchmen. Both games take elements from previous iterations of Batman – the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan films, the Animated Series and even the Adam West show – but blends them together so well that they become their own entity. There is plenty of fan-service with appearances from some of Batman's greatest villains and nods to the Batman mythos. The game-play is broken up into stealth, exploration and beat 'em up segments which keeps the game fresh and interesting, not to mention the fantastic Scarecrow segments in the first game.  Asylum is available on 360 and PS3, City on 360, Wii U and PS3, or get the Return To Arkham pack on PS4 and Xbox One

 

 

Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2

While the debate about whether video games should be considered an art form usually focuses on narrative and aesthetics, one overlooked aspect that is unique to games is the art of level design. Nintendo have always been pioneers when it comes to level design, particularly with the Mario series, and the Galaxy games are a testament to this. Using the gravitational pull of tiny planetoids and other structures, the Galaxy games offer a fantastic twist on the tried-and-tested Mario formula, not to mention the other experimental game-play mechanics used in these games. Even though the Wii was no graphical powerhouse, the Galaxy games are visually stunning, complemented by some of the greatest orchestral music in the gaming medium. As with Banjo, the final boss fights with Bowser feel grandiose. In a long-running series of platform games that always offer fun, challenging levels, the two Galaxy games still manage to stand out.  Both available on the Wii

 

 

Bioshock Infinite

Despite not being into FPS games and not really getting into the original game, I got Bioshock Infinite because of the praise surrounding it, plus the unique setting appealed to me. With this one it's more the story and setting that appeals to me more than the game-play (which is still exciting and challenging). I love the steam-punky, vintage Americana visuals of the floating city of Columbia and I admire that this game has the courage to shine a light on the murkier aspects of the time period. Elizabeth Comstock on her own is the highlight of the game both in terms of story and game-play. In game-play she feels like a true ally rather than a burden to the player and her interactions with the narrative make you care for her. And then there's the ending... No, I won't spoil it if you haven't played it, but it's bold and brilliant.  Available on 360 and PS3, as well as part of the Bioshock Collection (PS4 and Xbox One)

 

 

Pokemon Silver

While many people would argue that the original Red/Blue/Yellow were the best Pokemon games, usually out of nostalgia, I say that Gold/Silver/Crystal were far better. If anything, Gen 2 proved that the main Pokemon RPG series not only had staying power, but could add new game-play features that could incrementally improve the experience through subsequent generations. The introduction of Steel and especially Dark Pokemon fixed major balance issues from R/B/Y, and the main draw – having 101 brand new Pokemon to collect alongside the original 151 – was a real treat. To top it off, after players travelled the new land of Johto and beat the Elite Four, they were free to explore Kanto, the setting of the original games! While slight, the graphical improvements were noticeable (thankfully it could also be played on the original Gameboy) and the music was just as catchy and memorable as R/B/Y.  Get the DS remake or the original

 

 

LoZ: Majora's Mask

For me, the parallel this game has is GTA: Vice City. Ocarina of Time is like GTA 3, both were ground-breakers that laid down new foundations for the entire gaming medium. Majora's Mask, like Vice City, took those mechanics and feature to create something unique and compelling. Majora's Mask is comparatively small compared to other games in the series, but that means the world of Termina is packed with content, it let you get to know the characters that live in this world. The game's two central mechanics – the ever-ticking doomsday clock and the use of masks – are used to portray and enrich the game's narrative as well as set a foreboding and seemingly helpless tone. Unlike Ganon, the game's antagonist Skull Kid is sympathetic, lured to the titular mask like Smeagol is to the One Ring. Overall, I love the Zelda series, but this will always be my favourite.  Get the original N64 version or the 3DS remake

 

 

And my favourite game?

 

 

Yoshi's Island

I imagine this is a surprising choice. It's not as popular as many games on this list. In comparison it doesn't have spectacular graphics, a massive world or a rich narrative. Why is this my favourite game?

 

Well, for a start, you get to play as Yoshi. Ever since I played Super Mario World as a kid, that's what I always wanted in a game. As well as their signature long tongue, Yoshi also gained the flutter jump and egg-throwing moves. That may seem like a small upgrade, but it allowed for a variety of challenge. The game forgoes a traditional health system; instead when Yoshi hits an enemy they lose Baby Mario and you have a certain amount of time to get him back – Yeah, his crying was annoying, but that aspect of game-play reinforces the game's theme, that you have to protect this child. Compared to the other games on this list, which in terms of graphics have aged to varying degrees, Yoshi's Island goes for a bright and colourful storybook style, making it look timeless. As with other Mario games, the seemingly simple game-play gives rise to plenty of varied level design. The boss fights are phenomenal, especially the final battle against a gargantuan Baby Bower. It's just charming, it represents the sheer amount of joy video games can provide us, and that's why it's my favourite game. Get the original SNES version or the Gameboy Advance remake

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© A L Harvey