I was loathe to do this blog entry, simply because it exists in so many forms with better writers than I explaining what their favorite games are and why they were chosen. I figured these games were mostly responsible for how I approach game ideas and will probably explain a great deal about the ones I've created in the past, which is why I decided to put this list together. Like a "Behind the Scenes" feature, almost.
Generally, though, in most other cases I hate lists like these. A regular player has no reason to trust my opinions more than anyone else's (especially their own), a fact that seems to go over the heads of the general population of game reviewers out there. The inception of this whole idea blog was to bring something new to the internet besides more opinions that the world of gamers couldn't care less about (and instead have game ideas that the world of gamers couldn't care less about), so I'd only recommend reading it for the background thing I mentioned above and to at least try these games if you haven't before. My advice has always been to try out any game you like the idea of, or if the graphical style grabs you or if you've been a fan of games from that series or genre in the past. Common sense, I suppose, as is telling you to rent things before buying. I'll stop insulting y'alls intelligence and move on then, why not.
A last note: I've never claimed to be one of those aficionados - "hardcore" in the collector's sense - that have played a lot of $200 games for systems that were only around for 3 months before sinking or were only released in Japan (looking at you, Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood). So keep in mind that until I've played every game that's ever existed (unlikely), this list is not final.
10. Space Crusade
Amiga 500+/Atari ST 520+/C64
Space Crusade was the first major Warhammer 40k game ever created that perfectly encapsulated that epic board-game of strategic warfare. You were limited to a squad of five marines (with a powerful Commander leading the charge) and were assigned missions on various creepy derelict ships or "Space Hulks" that had become host to various malevolent forces, sort of like the creepy spaceship from Event Horizon. While often generic and repetitive, these missions frequently challenged players by randomly assigning their stock of enemies over the stage, and the players could be easily taken down by approaching a force they are ill-equipped to deal with. Enemies could randomly appear in a corridor as you walked into it, or would ambush you in rooms as you passed. You had the ability to scan for lifeforms, but these lifeforms would then immediately know your position and hone in on you from all corners. Add to this Xenomorph-esque Soulsuckers (which are usually called Genestealers in WH40k), who would often drop down from just above you, and you have a game with the type of atmosphere that survival horrors and their ilk continually strive for to this day.
What I credit the most to this game was how it started my thing for strategy games, especially the squad-based ones like FFT or Vandal Hearts (both are well into my top 50, which I won't be covering any time soon). The fact that your men - though well-trained and genetically modified - were still human meant that they were frequently no match for some of the greater dangers that came your way. The only real way to survive was to act like a squad and approach danger methodically instead of charging in. Your strategy became all the more involved when you use the other two marine "chapters" (there are three in total), whom have different equipment and require a completely different approach to missions. Best of all, a friend (or two) could assume these other rival marine squads and be pitted directly against you, as you chase down each other as well as the mission objectives. Suddenly a small game (it only has 12 missions, a lot of which are interchangeable) becomes a huge game, simply through brilliant design and a desire to continually challenge the dark and unknown.
It had an expansion pack too, called The Voyage Beyond.
9. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
Sucker Punch Productions
Although a militant Nintendo fanboy, I have to grudgingly pass the crown to the Sony PS2 for the previous generation of consoles. Although plagued with faults with the technology and frequent crashes and system failures (my PS2 has yet to be affected, though it lost its drive cover a while ago), its game library has always been its biggest strength. Since multi-platform games tended to look better on the other two systems, what set the PS2 apart were its uniques. No other console put quite the emphasis on Platformers and RPGs (my two favorite genres), and the number of excellent PS2 Platformers is renowned.
The first Sly Raccoon was an excellent game in its own right. Some fans still prefer it to the two sequels. Although slightly generic with simple puzzles and a slightly forced stealth element, it was a solid gaming experience with some beautiful cel-shaded graphics which they, along with the overall comic book noir style, gave it a very distinct character - always a plus for a genre inundated with soulless child-pleasers. The sequel, in my eyes, blew it away.
You follow Sly Raccoon, daring Master Thief, and his two cohorts Bentley ("the Brains") and Murray ("the Muscle") as they plan a series of robberies to prevent a group of criminal masterminds from resurrecting the antagonist of the first game. Gone are the linear, straightforward levels of the first game and replaced with massive free-form stages with various points of interest to explore. Each stage starts with a reconnaissance level with Sly spying on the said points of interest (usually the weakest point of the level, since it involves nothing but hiding and photography), and relaying the information to Bentley who forms the master plan. The rest of the level involves putting the genius heist to work through various steps, possibly by finding some way to turn off the alarms or freeing a character who will come in useful later. The level then ends with the daring heist and getaway, in which you see all of the previous stages of the plan come together wonderfully. Each of these chapters of the game is a full game experience in of itself, and there are five or six more chapters like it to follow.
8. Shadow Hearts: Covenant
The thing that impressed me the most with Shadow Hearts: Covenant is how vastly it improved on the sequel. Because of the nature of video games being half artistic vision and half technological competence, a game's sequel can (and often does) end up becoming much greater than the original, something almost unheard of in the movie/book world. Although the story's creativity suffers from what is essentially a repeated tale (though SH:C does a good job tackling a completely new plot by building on the original and expanding it), the game is significantly larger with many plot twists to become a more "complete" vision of what the designer(s) had in mind for the first game. A sequel that far exceeds the original (even if the original was already excellent, as is the case here) is something I (and I suspect everyone else) always loves to see.
Without giving too much of the storyline away (it's a vast, sprawling tale that continues from where it left off in the last game) you resume the role of a Japanese boy named Yuri who is blessed/cursed (depending on who you ask) with the power of "harmonixing", which is basically taking the demonic power from creatures you defeat and using them to change shape, in a story set in the middle of World War 1. Borrowing quite heavily from Christian/Aramaic/Japanese mythology and occasionally authors such as Lovecraft, the game is like a twisted view of world history where demons and angels directly intervene with the Great War and untold horrors lurk directly beneath the dying soldiers of the Somme, waiting for the mortal world to tear itself open to let them out. Despite the apocalyptic foreboding, however, the game is also rife with humorous interchanges and memorable bit players and recurring roles.
The greatest strength of this game is the Judgement Ring, which effectively takes the stolid "mash the X button" battle systems of similar RPGs and turns them instead into challenges of skill. The damage you give and receive is based on a timing-heavy mini-game, allowing you to play it safe (clicking a wide "hit" area allows you to give normal damage) or risking it all for a critical strike (which is a much smaller "critical" band of red after the "hit" area) by pressing the X button on a spinning clock as accurately as possible. As you get better, you can change the Judgement Ring in various ways to provide greater challenges with better awards. Likewise, many of the status effects of the game will directly affect the Judgement Ring instead of the character directly, either by shrinking it, making it faster or, worse still, making the "hit" areas invisible to you.
7. Katamari Damacy/We Love Katamari
A good year for video games, you might say. To be fair, this entry is actually for We <3 class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_29">Katamari, since the original was never released here, but I included the original in the entry since they're practically identical (I've been told the original had better music too). Where to start with Katamari? The basic goal of the game is to roll up a "katamari" or sphere by steadily increasing its mass by hitting objects that are smaller than the katamari itself, thereby collecting them in the katamari's gravitational field (from what I can understand, though it could just be the Katamaris are sticky). As it increases in mass, it is able to pick up larger objects, which boosts its mass further still. You could start with paperclips and build up to VHS cassettes and then soccer balls and then household pets, people, trees, houses...
As well as the goofy premise, you're also provided with a set of intuitive controls regarding the control of the sphere, allowing you a range of maneuvers such as rolling it to the side or reversing the direction on the fly if you so choose. The stages are timed, forcing you to find the best route through the cluttered settings to build up the katamari to the goal height as quickly as possible, piling on the bonuses for getting it even bigger than necessary. Add to this several catchy tunes, a large dose of insane humor, a collection subquest with an inventory in the thousands and you've got something that I personally couldn't put down for weeks. But then so much has been said about Katamari Damacy and so many people have tried it already that any further exposition on my part would be moot.
6. Secret of Mana
Squaresoft (now Square-Enix)
Secret of Mana was the first ever Console RPG I ever played, so there is some element of nostalgia regarding its appointment to the sixth spot. To say I was hooked would've been an understatement.
The second of the Seiken Densetsu series of games (often just called the "Mana" series over here, due to the word "Mana" being in most of the titles of the English-language releases), Secret of Mana followed a party of three different characters as they fought an evil empire in an effort to save the world. Sort of a trite storyline by today's standards, but the 1993 version of me was blown away by the vastness of the story, as it took you all over the world in an effort to gain the powers of the Mana Spirits and prevent the resurrection of the Mana Fortress, a giant flying mechanical castle with unimaginable power. In fact, in many ways I would say this game was inspired by the Hayao Miyazaki movie Castle in the Sky, but that would probably just be me being a nerd.
Forgoing the standard turn-based RPG combat of other, slightly more famous Square titles around at the time, all the battles in Secret of Mana were real-time, meaning you had to be cautious and strike when the timing was right. Though Real-Time combat is now a popular design choice in later RPGs (most notably ChronoTrigger, which I dropped from the top ten in favor of this entry), Secret of Mana was one of the first proper Console RPGs to try it, and they nailed it perfectly. The gameplay was solid, grinding spell/weapon levels was rewarded but usually unnecessary (as it should be) and the 3-person multiplayer element made the whole experience even more fun. A perfect introduction to what would later become my favorite console genre.
OK, so, this thing's rambled on enough. If I ever get the notion to continue the list (that is to say: if, like this week, I'm unable to think of an idea in time) I'll reveal the top five games that I consider to be gaming crack. Until then, more nonsense about game ideas. Probably.