Continuing our Favorite 50 with numbers 40 through 31
Back in the early stages of site development, an idea came up among staff to compile a list of our favorite games released since the turn of the century (prior to August 2011) as one of our launch articles. When the original release date never came about, the project fell by the wayside and was largely forgotten. Now though, we’ve brought it back and will be sharing it with our readers over the next couple of days - Press2Reset‘s Favorite 50.
While most Top 50 lists boast market research, discussion, and analysis, we didn’t do any of that. Instead we all just voted for our personal favorites and compiled a list based on the results. It’s not about what we thought marked the turning points in gaming history, it’s about what games we enjoyed most as gamers. If you don’t see a title you liked especially, let us know. Someone may even check it out and write a Retro Review on the title.
40. ICO (PS2)
ICO has been the catalyst for many debates about whether or not video games are art. Just for this stellar adventure game to raise this question among gaming enthusiasts, journalists, and art critics alike should be a testament to the power of its beautiful visuals and emotional journey.
Team ICO were able to tell a compelling tale and give the two main characters a surprising amount of depth with a minimal amount of dialogue or narration, instead relying on visuals and sounds to heighten the immersion. While the gameplay doesn’t receive as much attention as the aesthetics, it is a terrific mix of Zelda-style puzzle solving and platforming. The escort-based gameplay isn’t just the first game that I’ve played that used this mechanic, but it is also the best. Whether it is considered art or not, there is no doubt in my mind that ICO is a true masterpiece.
~ J. Seifried
39. Gears of War (360/PC)
Gears of War lacks variety, has a plot full of bullet holes, and is loaded with meatheads that share one dimension between the lot of them. Any one of these weaknesses would have me turning my back in disgust to a lesser title, but Marcus Fenix’s maiden voyage demanded my attention for not just one, but multiple playthroughs.
Gears’s greatest triumph is the way that it feels. I felt like a 225 lbs soldier wearing about half of that weight in armor when Marcus slammed into cover. Each weapon felt balanced with the appropriate amount of heft and kick. Combine that feeling with the incredible atmosphere of a war-torn, grime-covered city; and Gears is one of, if not the, most visceral game that I’ve played. Add in tight and responsive gunplay with the perfect Normal difficulty level, and Gears manages to not only rise above its flaws, but Lancer chainsaws them in half.
~ J. Seifried
38. Rock Band 2 (360/PS2/PS3/Wii)
I can’t say anything bad about Rock Band 2. As a guitarist stuck with marginal skill, the game let me live out some semblance of the performance fantasies that most musicians have. Easily the pinnacle of the music genre when it came out, I could never keep away from the game for very long. Playing some of my favorite songs was always a blast, and with new DLC every week, the team at Harmonix had me hooked. I’m pretty sure I went on an eight-month stretch where I played the game for at least an hour a day, and gold-starring Dream Theater’s Panic Attack on expert guitar will forever remain one of my greatest gaming accomplishments.
~ Tony Zuniga
37. Valkyria Chronicles (PS3)
I’ve heard many complaints that innovation has stagnated in the current generation of gaming. Let me introduce exhibit A to prove that original ideas still exist in modern packages. Valkyria Chronicles is a breath of fresh air, from its mature storyline, which parallels World War II and the persecution of the Jewish people, to the original gameplay, which features an addictive mix of real-time movement and turn-based strategy.
Infused with all of this originality are a cast of instantly likeable characters and a fascinating tale that coaxed not just tears of sadness, but also tears of joy from… a guy I know. Yeah, that’s it. The missions are varied, exciting, and challenging and the beautiful graphics look as if they were pulled straight from Welkin’s sketchbook. In a sea of modern sequels, Valkyria Chronicles is truly a prize catch.
~ J. Seifried
36. Infamous 2 (PS3)
inFamous was the first game that I ever played on my new PS3 and it was enough to sell me on the system. When inFamous 2 debuted, it left its predecessor in the dust.
There haven’t been many games that I’ve found myself looking deep into a character’s motives and actually started trying to think as they would. Sucker Punch’s thrilling sequel drew me in and wouldn’t let me go until it was finished with me. The two very different endings were each in their own way powerfully emotional and the perfect conclusions to the tragic story of Cole McGrath, the man who never asked to be a hero but shouldered the responsibility anyways.
~ Marc Lynch
35. Alan Wake (360)
With a healthy dose of Stephen King tossed in for good measure, Alan Wake brought about a new level of storytelling that played more like a TV show then a game. Few other titles have had the same level of pacing and storytelling. While the controls and lack of variety in enemies had some disappointed, Remedy’s mastery over telling an engaging story and use of music to create atmosphere more than made up for it.
~ Aaron Carlisle
34. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (Xbox/PC)
Back before BioWare became a huge name in the industry, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series was a testament to the juggernaut the company would become. The Obsidian-produced WRPG continued this with Sith Lords.
You begin your story relearning the ways of the Force as the recovering Jedi Exile. Many colorful characters join you along the way and even more decisions await you to draw you to the Light or Dark side of the Force. Sith Lords built on the foundation of an already stellar game to tell a great story with some interesting plot twists along the way.
~ Marc Lynch
33. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360/PC/PS3)
While JRPGs may have ruled roleplaying last generation, I don’t think there is much debate that WRPGs have taken the crown this gen. Oblivion was the instigator of this coup as one of the earliest and most successful titles of the seventh gaming generation.
The current trend is to make RPGs more accessible by upping the action and streamlining roleplaying mechanics, but Bethesda achieved success with a hardcore, stat-heavy, inventory-managing, open-world RPG. No compromises were made for the more casual crowd, and upon first emerging from the introductory dungeon, I can’t imagine there were many who didn’t feel at least slightly overwhelmed. Once things clicked though, the “do what you want, when you want, where you want” structure and sheer number of things to do was liberating and provided hundreds of hours of entertainment.
~ J. Seifried
32. Assassin’s Creed II (360/Mac/PC/PS3)
The original Assassin’s Creed was fun, but heavily flawed. It featured an interesting story, intriguing cast of characters, incredible setting, and revolutionary open-world platforming. Unfortunately, it was also burdened with so much repetition that only the hardiest and most patient of gamers witnessed the ending. The second title took the great ideas from the first game and incorporated them into one of the most improved sequels of all time.
Assassin’s Creed II meshes missions that showcase an impressive variety of gameplay with a classic tale of revenge set in beautifully rendered Renaissance-era Italian cities and landscapes. From performing Aerial assassination to scaling the tallest tower in Venice, the gameplay remained fresh and thrilling throughout. Assassin’s Creed II is a complete package and one of Ubisoft’s greatest works, akin to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (though personally I prefer Leo’s dual hidden blades).
~ J. Seifried
31. Halo: Combat Evolved (Mac/PC/Xbox)
I bought my Xbox for Halo: Combat Evolved. My first taste came at a friend’s house where we played a three-on-three match between two systems. That was the first match that led to many more. The Halo universe has grown and evolved over the many years since its birth but it always comes back to the title that started it all.
Master Chief and Cortana stole the show in the early days of Xbox gaming and rightly so. With smooth controls, well-detailed landscapes, and fantastic voice acting, the game is one that will go down in history as a title that made the Xbox such a huge success.
~ Marc Lynch