The order of this list makes no sense whatsoever. It is, in the truest sense, an amalgamation of random habberjackery; solely a reflection of the order in which these wonderful works of art came into my mind. Thus, although I would go far defending the honor of these magnificent games, don’t take it too seriously.
FAVORITE GAMES OF ALL TIME
- Super Mario 64
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Sid Meier’s Civilization 5: Brave New World
- Half Life
Super Mario 64
My good friend and fellow Next Level Podcaster, John Danho, once used a term that I enjoyed so much, I will use it to describe why I love Super Mario 64 to the degree that I do: it “informed” my taste in video games. What I mean by that is, Super Mario 64 showed me just how wide the boundaries of video games can be stretched by the capacity of a tasteful developer’s imagination and creativity. The in-game world is vast, colorful and light-hearted, but most importantly (and this can be said of all Mario games), it was pure pleasure from start to finish. Every painting within the curious mansion brought with it a uniquely themed charm, from the snowy and festive landscapes to the ominous and threat-filled sand world. Absolutely nothing was found to be superfluous. Every single inch I was afforded to explore in this universe brought with it a charm that only the 10-year-old me would be able to properly communicate with pre-pubescent moans of joy. This is all without mentioning the technical wonders that this game introduced such as the double and triple jump and the ground-pound… In so many words, Super Mario 64 was the game that defined the pleasure of gaming to me, and that will forever be the case.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Kotor. Jeez. What an ambitious game this was. It is remarkable that Bioware had the sheer minerals on them to take such a universally beloved multiverse and attempt to create a detailed, large-scaled RPG out of it with an absolutely incredibly written story to boot. What resulted was a game that instantly cemented itself in the Star Wars lore, and very deservedly so. The music, cantina scenes, dialogue, light-side and dark-side balance, feats, powers, attributes and audacious freedom of choice all blend together to make the perfect Star Wars cocktail. Simply put, the game encompassed everything that everyone loved about the franchise and translated that into an RPG that was as rich in content as it was in its beautiful aesthetics. Most important of all, the creators respected the task that they put upon themselves by making this game, and they deserve all the respect in the world in return.
Sid Meier’s Civilization V: Brave New World
Alright. This game, I really cannot say enough about. I’ll attempt to by listing some of the joys that myself and (assuredly) others receive throughout the process of carving out your chosen civilization’s place in history: boosting your civ’s culture by creating a beautiful work of literature which is masterfully narrated as soon as you conceive it, researching a technology which allows you to build spaceship parts to travel to the moon, going on trade missions with newly discovered city-states to make boatloads of cash, creating diplomatic ties with several nations in a bid to collect the most votes in the world congress (which you then use to suggest whatever the hell you want as new world orders), creating an army large enough to either peacefully defend your treasured civilization or strike fear into the hearts of opposition leaders…the list goes on. I’ve always said that if humanity were to send a package to extra-terrestrials in the hope of explaining humanity to them, this game should UNDOUBTEDLY be in that package. It at once explains our curious place in this world, all the while giving you the keys to determine the disposition and world-view of your beloved civilization. Whether you prove yourself to be a saint or an asshole, the nation that you create from scratch is uniquely yours, and yours alone.
I’ve never met a single person in my life who has played Half-Life and not been totally enamored by it. I would completely understand if a random friend of mine were to play the previous three games listed and tell me it’s not their cup of tea…but if somebody I know were to say that of Half-Life, I simply would not accept it. It’s just too fucking cool. You assume the role of Gordon Freeman, a scientist who has to brutalize enemies, shoot aliens, explore wonderfully creepy corners, and solve very clever puzzles to exit a research facility after an experiment gone wrong, all the while witnessing an engrossing narrative that is an ode to all things cerebral. It is deservedly revered as one of the objectively greatest games of all time, and the entity that provided a new standard for our senses of immersion within video games. A game that is impossible to replicate. Except, oh wait, they kinda did with their flawless sequel, Half Life 2. But enough about that.
It is appropriate that I mention Half-Life before bringing up Bioshock, because I see Bioshock as a spiritual successor to Half-Life in a lot of ways. That notion may be misguided, but I can’t help but draw parallels between this and the aforementioned masterpiece. Bioshock is also an immersive first-person shooter with a truly captivating storyline, but the main difference between the two is the degree to which Bioshock touches on a plethora of philosophical and moral themes. This game introduced me to a new kind of confusion: a blurring of the lines between a video game and what otherwise appears to be a film. In one moment, I am harvesting powers and shooting lightning from my hands while simultaneously blasting a foe in the face with a shotgun. In another, I am laying back in my chair, listening to characters argue about the ethics of slavery. All of this occurring in the middle of the underwater city of Rapture, a world so gorgeously conceived that I often found myself dumbly staring at random corners of my periphery as a result of the sheer wonder of it all. This is, without doubt, a game that deserves to sit among the best of them all, upon the highest of thrones, due to the flawless realization of its inspired vision.