There are some games that just stick with you. Like a good book they encompass you in their world, make you care about the characters, and they make you think. These games are games that stick with you, long after you’ve stopped playing. There have been several games like this for me through the years. I remember playing Dragon Warrior with my dad and brother on the old NES, trying to decide which attacks to use . I remember Deus Ex: Invisible War showing me how choices you make during a game can affect the outcome, and introducing me to the KidneyThieves. I remember Knights of the Old Republic making me feel like a Jedi. But I narrowed it down to these five games that have had the most lasting impact on me so far. There may be spoilers below. From most the most recently played:
- Mass Effect Trilogy (2007/2010/2012, Xbox360/PC/PS3/Wii U) – This game was the main inspiration for this post. I bought this game right after I got my Xbox. It’d been on my “to play” list for a while, but the first game didn’t come out on PS3 until the trilogy was released in late 2012. And since I knew it was an RPG, I really wasn’t OK with picking up in the middle. I’m glad I waited. I didn’t enjoy Mass Effect 2 as much as the other two (I missed my crew). While as I played Mass Effect 3 I appreciated the story from ME2, I didn’t appreciate it as much at the time. I think this would have killed the trilogy for me if I had started there. But as a whole, this series blew me away. Every choice, every line of dialog, had an impact on the game. Each mission or side quest from the first game, carried consequences through to the third. I love building a relationship (and romance, in Kaidan’s case) with my crew. I got to play as a female who wore real armor, and wasn’t just a Mary Sue type character. The soundtrack is epic. This game felt like a great book and movie rolled into one phenomenal package. This game made me feel ALL of the things in the best possible way. Now that I’ve reached the end, I feel like I can’t pick up another RPG for a while because nothing will compare.
- Bioshock (2007, Xbox360/PC/PS3/Mac) – If you haven’t played this game yet, would you kindly run to the store and pick it up? This game takes place in the failed utopia of the underwater city of Rapture which feels like it was loosely based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand. The atmosphere is all encompassing as you fight off Splicers (citizens of Rapture who have become addicted to genetic alterations), and Big Daddies (they protect the girls who are harvested to make more genetic alterations). As you travel through this steam punk world, you discover the dirty secrets of Rapture and who you really are. It definitely gives you something to think about by the time the end credits roll. I didn’t bother picking up Bioshock 2, because I heard the story was lackluster although the game play was fun. Without the story, it’s not Bioshock. Bioshock Infinite is supposed to be that amazing story re-imagined, and I can’t freaking wait.
- Portal/Portal 2 (2010/2011, Xbox360/PC/PS3/Mac) – You are Chell. You have somehow ended up in the twisted world of Aperture Labs. You are forced by the evil GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) to complete test after test as she berates you at every single turn. Now maybe it’s because I’m a software tester and can relate to having to complete seemingly endless complicated puzzles, but I love this game. I love the snarkiness of GLaDOS. I love bumbling Wheatley in Portal 2. I love (once again) that I get to play a strong female character that isn’t just in the game to look pretty in “armor.”
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002, GameCube) – I think this game would have been way bigger if it hadn’t come out exclusively on GameCube. Let’s face it, Nintendo isn’t known for their survival horror games. You play Alexandra Roivas (I am just now realizing how many of these games have strong female leads) investigating your grandfather’s murder. You find the “Tome of Ancients” and the story follows the tales in that book, and guides you how to save the world from eternal darkness. A solid story. But the most important part of this game is the Sanity Meter. As you go through this twisted story, you see things that are very unsettling. And this affects your character. Not only that, but it starts to affect you as well. Your TV appears to turn off on its own. Your volume goes up or down on its own. The system blanks out. You get a blue screen of death. Until the last one I had no idea what was going on. I played this game around the same time as seeing The Ring. You know what’s a sure way to have nightmares? Watch The Ring (which the girl in the movie messes with your TV, if you don’t remember) and then come home at one in the morning to a creaky old house and play this game. I don’t think a game will ever scare me this much again. It really was a perfect storm.
- Shenmue(2000, DreamCast) & Shenmue II (2002, Xbox) – Shenmue will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the first (and I believe only) time I’ve sat in front of a TV for an entire weekend to play a game straight through. I don’t even remember how I ended up with this game. It doesn’t seem like something I would have normally bought. But it was fantastic. I played, and played, and played as my brother would bring me snacks as he watched. The story was so engrossing he was content to just watch. This was when we were at the age we’d physically fight over the consoles too. But this game was so much bigger than that. You play as Ryo, who witnessed a gag leader kill your father in the hunt for the “Dragon Mirror.” The quest goes as you try to avenge your father’s death, and learn more about the mirror that was stolen. You learn about the second “Phoenix Mirror,” and the power the pair can hold. Shenmue II is the reason I picked Xbox over PS2 when it came time to pick a console. I needed to go to Hong Kong and find out what happened to the Dragon Mirror. Again, a brilliant display of game play and storytelling. At the end, you find a sword and a note and begin to realize the importance of these artifacts. And then, it ends. There was a third game, but it never was even produced due to poor sales. Up until the beginning 2012 we were still getting rumors of the final chapter, but the trail ends there. Can’t we get a kickstarter or something?