I’ve played a huge number of games over the past decade – let alone over the last four decades – and consequently, it’s always really hard to narrow down my choice of ‘best’ games to just a few. ‘Best’ is so subjective anyway; I always struggle with that when it comes to choosing my favourite things of any medium.
However, there are most definitely a few titles that grabbed my attention and lingered in my mind for far longer than any others. Here are just three of them – let’s take a look.
Mass Effect 2
I adored the first Mass Effect. Even the Mako mining felt to me like an updated version of the mechanics found in the pretty much forgotten 80s/90s computer and Mega Drive classic, Starflight – so I didn’t find it as dull as other people did.
However, the Mass Effect games most definitely hit their high point with Mass Effect 2; it felt bigger, more refined and overall just better in almost every way than the first game. The story, choice and romance elements were never better handled than they were in part 2 either, with some truly heartbreaking and difficult decisions to be made throughout the course of the game.
It’s a testament to the strength of the writing and general feel of the game that it remains so strong today, given that it originally released at the very beginning of the decade (in early 2010); it’s arguably the best game that Bioware have ever produced (though Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is still up there for many people, it’s quite dated in comparison to any of the Mass Effect titles).
I still hold a candle for Tali, even all these years later.
The Walking Dead
Telltale’s first game based on Robert Kirkman’s astonishingly popular comic book series was an absolute triumph for storytelling-based games – and was a peak that Telltale struggled to reach again, despite trying to apply the formula (with varying levels of success) to many other licensed properties.
Much like Mass Effect 2, many of the choices presented to players have no ‘good’ outcome, with morally grey or just outright bad options on offer at several points. The combat always felt like necessity rather than using zombies as guilt free stress relief (as they so often are in other games) and killing them never felt like catharsis, given how situations were often set up. Of course, as in the source material and in the best zombie fiction in general, the undead are far from the only threat to the survival of the protagonists.
It’s an absolutely remarkable game with a protagonist whose past is apparently somewhat dubious, but by the heartbreaking conclusion he’s more than redeemed himself. One of the few games that’s ever made me cry.
Though I’m rubbish at coping with horror in general – especially horror games – there are two of them in my favourite games of the decade. I’ve always been an absolutely massive fan of the Alien franchise, so it’s perhaps not a surprise that Alien: Isolation is here, given how well it deals with the licence.
Ridley Scott’s films are notable for their level of detail and brilliant art direction; both Alien and Blade Runner, for example, are notable for feeling as if they’re set in real, tangibly functional environments. Alien: Isolation recreates this feeling wonderfully, with a very clunky, tactile, retro-futuristic feel to the game’s gadgetry, environments and characters. All of the environments feel lived-in, used, real. The Alien itself feels like a cunning and devious predator; the low cost labour of the androids in the station – the Working Joes – feel like a deadly exercise in cost-cutting by a financially struggling corporation.
Though the story runs a little too long – outstaying its welcome by a few hours, by the time you reach a certain part of the narrative – the rest of the game is such a tense, terrifying and enjoyable experience that this doesn’t leave a bad taste.
I’m sure there are many more games I could mention, but those three immediately stand out as the games whose narratives and overall experiences lingered with me long after the credits rolled. I’ve no doubt that the 20s are going to bring more absolutely fantastic experiences – and I can’t wait to see what’s next, particularly with a new generation of consoles imminent.
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