I’m not sure what motivated me to make this list but a contributing factor was probably my own personal interest. I was genuinely interested to see what I’d put. I had a good idea of what the first three or four were going to be, but after that I honestly wasn’t sure how the cards would eventually be dealt. I’m 30 years old and have been playing video games since the early 90s, so there was a pretty big sample size upon which I could pick from.
As it was, I’ve enjoyed the process of narrowing them down, and it was the anticipation of this enjoyment that ultimately led me to do it. Will this list always be the same? Probably not. I’ve found my tastes and preferences have changed over the years, and I have no doubt that they’ll change again as I continue to age. However, right now in February/March 2018, these are my Top Twenty Favourite Video Games.
And that’s all they are by the way, my own personal favourites. This isn’t supposed to be an objective list, and it’s based heavily on my own narrow preferences. As a general rule, I prefer platformers and sports games, so expect quite a few of those to feature. I have no real love of turn-based combat or Japanese RPGs, so Final Fantasy fans, I’m warning you in advance that you won’t see a single FF game on here. I’m not saying they’re bad games, I’m just saying they’re not my own personal cup of tea.
Put. Down. The Pitchforks.
And with that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s get back to the list shall we?
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PlayStation 2)
Metal Gear Solid 2 is a game that I think has grown in appreciation amongst the Metal Gear fan base over the years. I think what I love the most about it is that it challenges the player to think about it in an abstract manner. The original Metal Gear Solid game carried an ostensibly anti-nuclear message and was open about acknowledging it, whereas Metal Gear Solid 3 lives as a tribute to the sort of popcorn spy-action movies of the 60s that Hideo Kojima is purported to enjoy.
MGS 2 is a much different animal from the other two though, and that’s ultimately why I like it. It plays with expectations and even causes the player to question whether the events taking place it in are actually happening at all. I first played MGS 2 in my early teens, and I’ll admit that I was incredibly freaked out by the sharp left turn the story took in the latter stages.
One of these days, I’ll take the time to give this game a full write up because I really do love it. Combat is now improved by giving the player the ability to shoot in first-person, and graphically the game looked superb for the time frame. The opening video where Solid Snake walks along a busy road in the pouring rain before leaping down onto a passing tanker is sumptuous stuff and stands as a shining example of Kojima’s film-like presentation when it comes to his games.
Despite the original furore that surrounded the game on its initial launch, I think MGS 2 has managed to instill far more affection amongst video game enthusiasts over the years. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly an ambitious one that doesn’t tread a traditional path, and that’s why I enjoy it so much. I also find it the most enjoyable of the original trilogy to play, and I have a lot of respect for Raiden as a character. He’s much maligned and unfairly so, in my opinion. His reason for existence is to make Solid Snake look even more impressive by comparison, and I can’t help but feel some pangs of sympathy for him in that regard.
Show MGS 2 some love and adopt a Raiden today. But remember, floppy-haired, cart-wheeling rookies are for life not just for Christmas.
Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo)
Don’t ask me how I managed this, but when I first got my Super Nintendo for Christmas all the way back in 1993, I got it with one game (Super Mario All-Stars) and then didn’t get another one until the following Christmas! Yes, I lasted a whole year on just one game (although, technically, All-Stars was four games in one cart, so it wasn’t quite as bad as I’m making out, in all honesty)
Despite enjoying All-Stars, after a year of just playing that, I kind of got the hankering for something new. Thus entered Donkey Kong Country into my life. As mentioned in my opening blurb, I’ve always been a big fan of platforming games, so I took to DKC like mustard takes to a hot dog.
I love almost everything about this game. First off, it’s gorgeous to look at, with some people actually thinking it was a fifth gen title when screenshots first started appearing for it. Secondly, the musical score is one of the best you’ll ever find in a game, with David Wise excelling himself with some of the tracks, such as “Aquatic Ambiance” and “Fear Factory”. And thirdly, the gameplay is both instinctive and enjoyable in equal measure.
Donkey Kong Country oozes character, drips with humour and is a delight to play. It also has, in my opinion, the most rounded collection of animal buddies in the DK series, with Winky the Frog still being my all-time favourite. Donkey Kong Country presents nothing but warm and pleasant memories to me, and that’s why it’s nestled comfortably into my top 10.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Multiple Platforms)
I’ve never really been a big first-person shooter fan in all honesty. I’ve played most of the big games in the genre, your Dooms and your Halos and the like, and I “get” why people like them, but they’ve just never been my cup of tea. There’s only ever been one FPS that has truly hooked me and made me want to keep coming back to it, and that game was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Modern Warfare was not the first COD game I had ever played. I’d first come across the series with COD 2, which I’d bought on the cheap to fill out my burgeoning Xbox 360 collection. I’d really enjoyed COD 2 and had completed it not too long before COD 4 made its way to shelves. With that positive experience in the bank, I decided to skip COD 3 and move right on to COD 4.
Whereas previous COD games had taken place during World War II, COD 4 decided to take things into a modern setting, which provided a whole host of new weaponry for the player to get their grubby mitts on. COD 4 also tightened the gameplay up in comparison to previous releases and was an imminently slick and playable experience.
COD 4 also has possibly the most engrossing and enjoyable single-player campaign of any FPS I’ve ever played. Some like to complain about its linearity, but a linear experience has never been an issue for me so long as it is engaging, and I was certainly engaged with the travails of, amongst others, “Soap” MacTavish and the 22nd SAS troop. There’s also the incredibly powerful “Aftermath” level, upon which Infinity Ward have been trying to replicate without success ever since.
However, my abiding memory of COD 4 was the utterly addictive online multiplayer. I’d never really played online that much before. I’d dabbled here and there and had played the original Crackdown quite a bit, but that was about it. COD 4 changed all of that. I enjoyed the online play so much that I’d play it long into the night during my student days, especially if I didn’t have any early lectures the following day. At the time, I was living with my long time pal, Luc, and sometimes he would have an early lecture and would go to bed, only to find me still up and playing when he came down in the morning!
Yes, I was utterly hooked on COD 4, and I bloody loved it too! Now that I’m a (supposed) adult with a full time job, I couldn’t ever commit to something like that now, but back in 2007, I had far too much time on my hands, and I eagerly filled it by playing Domination and Team Deathmatch. It was a different time, and part of me kind of misses it, in all honesty.
WWE SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth (PlayStation 2)
Noted wrestling wordsmith Scott Keith once referred to this game as “crack in PS2 form”, and I think that would be a very good description of one of the most addicting and enduring games I’ve ever come across. Shut Your Mouth is everything grapple enthusiasts had wanted but not received from the previous Just Bring It, and was a deserving sequel to the first two SmackDown games from the fifth gen.
Whereas Just Bring It had featured a roster which had been woefully out of date upon release, Shut Your Mouth included pretty much every top WWE star of the day, along with graphics that looked like a real step up from the original PlayStation. Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan in particular look brilliant, even to modern eyes.
Whereas Just Bring It had featured some of the worst commentary in the history of video games from poor Michael Cole and Tazz, Shut Your Mouth had much better announcing from WWE’s premier television double act Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
Whereas Just Bring It had featured an anorexic season mode which could be completed in under an hour, Shut Your Mouth introduced a magnum opus of a career mode that branched two in-game years and featured branching story paths which evolved as the season progressed. It was in season mode where I spent most of my time, sinking hour after hour into it and completing it with everyone from Stone Cold Steve Austin all the way down to lower ranking guys like Planet Stasiak.
And this is something the current 2K WWE games are missing when they force you to create your own wrestler every time you want to play career/season mode. Some of us don’t want to faff around creating our own feeble fighters. We want to take existing superstars that we like and take them to glory, along with sometimes picking someone rubbish just for a challenge.
I honestly can’t tell you how many times I played the Shut Your Mouth season mode, but it was enough to try it with most of the roster. I just wish the modern WWE games would go back to this kind of presentation instead of insisting we make a crap avatar for ourselves. I want to take Chad Gable to the main event of WrestleMania. Why won’t you let me, 2K?
Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (Multiple Formats)
It was back in Christmas of 2004 that I first came across what would go on to be one of my favourite ever football games. I decided to play PES 4 on Xbox as I’d recently acquired the console that year and had a minimal library of games for it. As I was in the habit of playing PES over FIFA during that time, I decided I’d pick up the newest one for the big brick that was the original Xbox. I’m not normally one to get involved with silly “console war” nonsense, but after playing PES 4 on both the Xbox and PS2, I can say that the Microsoft version is the superior one. It just generally runs smoother, and the graphics are better.
I loved PES 4 pretty much instantly and played the absolute wallop out of it. My “Merseyside Blue” team ruled all that winter and summer, and the game quickly worked its way into my affections. I think what I like most about PES 4 is that it really captures the “feeling” of what football is. Even something as simple as hearing muted music playing in the stadium during half time whilst you adjusted your team’s formation and checked scores around the grounds contributed to making the game “feel” like football. It was something the FIFA games really lacked at that point in time, which assisted in pushing me towards Konami for my footy fix.
As a football fan, PES 4 brought the beautiful game to life in ways that previous games had not managed to do, all while being graphically pleasing to look at and imminently playable from the off. Whereas FIFA was moving from gimmick to gimmick in a desperate attempt to claw punters back to the fold, PES was basing its football game around the actual football.
This game just had an intangible feeling to it that made it special. If you know and love your football, this was the game for you. I don’t know how accessible it was for newcomers or casual fans, but they were probably all playing FIFA anyway. PES was the superior football series of this time period, and PES 4 was the game from this unbelievable hot streak that I enjoyed the most.
Yes, the game lacked the official licenses that FIFA enjoyed, but it had something FIFA just didn’t have at the time, and that was a grasp of what football was and what the football fanatic wanted from a virtual kick about. It managed to overcome its lack of license by providing a better overall football experience. It was only when FIFA caught up in terms of gameplay that the lack of license really started to hurt the series, but then again, Konami cutting corners is hardly anything new these days, is it?
That’ll do us for now. I’ll see you all back here next week where I finish the list off with 5-1.
Thanks for reading
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave