We are into the last of this 3 part article by Styrophoamicus as we delve into his top 15 games. With the last 4 games to go, we check out why horror is so much fun, how Mario is still going after all these years and…
4. Resident Evil 4
It’s weird how the game that revolutionized the survival-horror genre is still better than any of the games its revolution produced. RE4 still remains king of what I call the “new-age survival horror”. After several games of zombies, “tank controls”, fixed camera angles, and hammy dialogue, RE4 gave the Resident Evil franchise a breath of fresh air with new enemies, a modern third-person control scheme, a revolutionary over-the-shoulder camera, and hammy dialogue—well, some things never change. Considering its long, troubled development history, it’s a surprise that RE4 ended up the way it did. It paved theway for the entire next generation of survival horror games (Dead Space) and action games (Gears of War). Unlike its action-oriented co-op sequel, RE4managed to balance the action and horror elements perfectly. The sound design is one of the game’s greatest achievements: the enemies all speak Spanish, and hearing them communicate with each other or chant in a foreign language is oddly creepy; the music is the right mix of heart-pumping action and heart-pumping horror; and the rip and roar of your weapons as they blast through it all is extremely satisfying. The upcoming Resident Evil 6 appears to be a return to a balance of action and suspense, but it has a long way to go if it wants to even come close to the benchmark set by Resident Evil 4.
On A Personal Note: Regenerators. Good God, Regenerators. Those things gave me nightmares for weeks. They’re vicious, hungry, and unstoppable. Shoot off their limbs and they just grow right back. In a brilliant move on the developers, the only way to kill these things was to stand still and snipe off several small parasites off its body as it walked towards you. No other video game creature scared me—legitimately scared me—as much as Regenerators did. Especially the twitchy “Iron Maiden” versions. But on the same note, no other video game creature was more satisfying to kill. Once the final parasite is shot off—or you just pump an obscene amount of ammo into it—it pops like squeezing a cherry tomato.
3. Super Mario Bros.
The great granddaddy of video games. If this game failed, it’s quite possible that video games would have failed too. After the Great Video Game Crash of 1983 it seemed as though video games would just be a passing fad. The release of the Nintendo Entertainment System was a huge gamble, but thankfully it had its killer-app: Super Mario Bros.. The game became so popular that since its original release, Nintendo has ported it to all of its consoles (except Virtual Boy, but who cares about that). The combination of whimsical music, bright colourful settings, and simple controls help make this game infinitely replayable, even to this day. Its famous secret, the Warp Zone, was one of the first examples of developers hiding a game-changing cheat within the game. And what’s surprising is that this game could have been very, very different; yes, the beloved mustachioed plumber could have been packing heat. But Super Mario Bros. defined video games for an entire generation. Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Goomba, Nintendo, all of these have since become household names. It’s not very often that every single element of a video game, from sprites to sounds to music, becomes iconic, but Super Mario Bros. has certainly earned this status, reputation, and legacy.
On A Personal Note: I was born in 1988, so my earliest memories of video gaming come from the equally impressive Super Mario Bros. 3. That being said, however, I’ve played the original many more times than SMB3, though I’ve only ever beaten it once. I believe that 20 years from now, people will still be playing Super Mario Bros.; I know I will. And if you’re looking for a fresh take on this iconic game, download Mari0, which finally fulfils Miyamato’s original vision of giving Mario a gun—a Portal gun, that is.
2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
There was a moment, playing through Uncharted 2, that I thought to myself “This is the greatest game ever made.” It wasn’t until the final boss fight that I conceded with myself, “This is the second greatest game ever made.” But apart from a slightly disappointing final battle, everything else about Uncharted 2 is saturated with the makings of a perfect video game. Everything that the first Uncharted did well, Uncharted 2 did better, such as characterization, set pieces, and story; and what the first Uncharted didn’t do so well, the sequel either improved it (hand-to-hand combat) or ditched it entirely (motion-controlled aiming for grenades). With Nathan Drake, the video game world finally found its Indiana Jones. He is an everyman with a knack for history and finding himself in seemingly impossible situations. I mean, the game starts with you escaping a train dangling off a cliff,and it only escalates from there. The game kept me closer to the edge of my seat than any Hollywood blockbuster in recent memory, and there were so many moments where I thought to myself “Ok, that’s justcool.” And the characters surrounding Nate, such as on-again-off-again love interest Elena or wisecracking mentor Sully, are just as important to the story and just as memorable. Developer Naughty Dog pulled out all the stops on this one, crafting a finely tuned and expertly paced adventure that you not only played, but experienced.
On A Personal Note: The multiplayer in Uncharted 2 is surprisingly addicting. I’m not quite as enamoured with online play as many gamers are, but Uncharted 2 had me hooked. My boss actually got hooked on it as well, and so for a while we would both team up and play online, then discuss our battles the next day at work. Neither of us had a working Bluetooth, so we ended up communicating over text messaging, which is exactly as inefficient as it sounds. Which is ironic, considering we work at an electronics store.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
What can be said about this game that hasn’t already been said? Ocarina of Time is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Some will say its overrated, but as of yet, no other Zeldagame has had the same impact on the franchise or industry as a whole than Ocarina of Time. It successfully brought Zelda into the 3D world, much like Mario did with Super Mario 64, and took the franchise in a bold, exciting direction. For the first time, we could actually experience the world of Hyrule as it went about its daily life. We could explore its secrets in greater detail, and become more immersed in its history and people than was ever before possible in a video game. The original Zelda on the NES was the first exampleof an open-world game, andOcarina of Time was the first truly open-world 3D video game, paving the way for modern games like Skyrim.The time-travelling mechanic was a breakthrough in storytelling, as gamers could see how their actions in the past could affect the future, and the lock-on “Z-targeting” control scheme kept the action focused on one-on-one combat. Every moment I played the game I was smiling (at least on the inside, as is the case with the Water Temple). It’s hard to describe this game without going into superlatives, but even now, even 15 years after its release, I still regard it as the greatest video game ever made.
On A Personal Note: Ocarina of Time is filled with so many ionic moments that it’s hard to describe them all: walking out into the broad expanse of Hyrule Field for the first time; Link saying goodbye to his childhood friend, Saria; pulling out the Master Sword; discovering that Sheikh was actually Zelda the whole time; and the final bittersweet ending. Impressively, the manga series by Akira Himekawa manages to condense the epic story into two standard-sized manga volumes. They are pretty easy to find (Chapters usually has them, as well as most comic book stores), and hits most of the high notes from the video games. I think these would be a good way of introducing someone into the world of Legend of Zelda, since they can be read in a couple hours and follow the story of the game pretty closely.
Also, LEGO Zelda needs to happen.