Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games(1 – 10)

10:  City of Heroes

This is the best MMORPG that I’ve ever played, or at least the MMORPG that I liked the best.  As I noted when I talked about Saint’s Row IV, superhero games are my kind of game, and City of Heroes was pretty much the best superhero game period that I’ve played.  While games like X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance were fun, they didn’t have the personalization that I like in my games in general.  City of Heroes had it in spades.  A wide range of costume options let you create pretty much any character you wanted, and the classes and powersets were distinct enough that unlike most MMORPGs you could pick up a different class and powerset and feel like you were playing with a different character (this is why I never got into World of Warcraft past a free demo, as when I switched from my Undead Warlock to my Dwarf Paladin it really seemed like I was doing the same things in terms of gameplay and quests, which City of Heroes never felt like).  I tried out DC Universe Online, and while one of the travel powers was fun — the one where you basically climbed over things in the city — it was a bit too chaotic for me in general.  And I never tried Champions Online but from Shamus Young’s description of it  I wouldn’t care much for it either.

I keep hearing about official and unofficial attempts to reboot it, but unfortunately I don’t really have the time to keep up with them and track down the ones that are working and are reasonable legit.  Of all the MMOs I’ve liked, this is the one that died the earliest, and while I was still playing it.

9:  Star Wars:  Rebellion

This is a video game that I liked so much, I bought the board game.  As well as the remake, “Empire At War”.  But neither of them are the same as the original video game.  The game managed to capture the addictive nature of real-time and turn-based strategy games — you were always waiting for something to finish or happen so that you could implement the next step in your plan — while managing to capture the Star Wars universe better than any other game I’ve played — and I’ve played a lot of them — by making individual characters instead of units important resources.  It takes a slate of characters from the movies and expanded universe and gives you the ability to use them to command your fleets, sway planets to your side, research new ships and new ship classes, spy on your enemy, prevent enemy actions against you, and even perform specific missions to capture or kill enemy characters and destroy enemy facilities and ships.  You can even — although I’ve never tried it — sabotage and blow up the Death Star that way.  It had a number of events from the movies, and characters could even be trained in the Force which made them even more useful.  About its only weakness is that it didn’t go all in on the events and make special events a fairly constant part of the game.  Still, the characters matter and are familiar enough that you can feel for them and be happy for their successes.  Missions, then, are not “My spy gave me information about that planet” but are instead “Lando gave me information about that planet”, which makes it at least feel like more than a typical game with Star Wars skins (like, say, Galactic Battlegrounds).  That’s what makes it (almost) my favourite Star Wars game.

8:  Wing Commander IV:  The Price of Freedom

The flight simulator gameplay is good, but to be honest there are better flight sims out there (X-Wing Alliance, for example).  But this game wins out for me and even wins out over the other Wing Commander games because of its story.  Taking place after the Kilrathi war, it explores what attitude changes might come from a war that the humans almost lost and marries that to a story of an old hero who returns to the cockpit and steps into this huge mess.  It has betrayals, shifting loyalties, conspiracies, and all sorts of things like that.  And the best part about it is that it ends not in the cockpit, but in the Senate Hall.  You have to convince them that there is a conspiracy and that the man they trust is behind it.  If you select the wrong options, you can indeed lose the game at this point.  That’s a brave move and perhaps is the best example of marrying the flight sim component with the interactive movie elements that later Wing Commander games are known for.

7:  Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII

This is a strategy RPG where you can create your own character and wander the land until you join a city, and then you get to manage the city, do things, and fight battles.  My best moment was definitely when I created a character that was the son of a character that I had played as, and joined a city that then asked me to essentially betray him — he was in command of a rival city — to gain control of the city.  I ended up refusing to do so and quit their city, but what was interesting about it was that this followed not from scripted events, but just from a series of semi-random events and the overall rules of the world.  In general, that’s what the game really had for me:  an open-world that nevertheless wasn’t too open, and so where I could easily have goals and yet where goals and attitudes and events could follow from what the world provided.  So I was neither imposing a story on the world nor having the world impose a story on me, and that didn’t leave the game goal or purposeless.  The world provided the opportunity for goals and purpose and I chose the goal and purpose I wanted to pursue.  I don’t play it much anymore, but it’s still a great game and has left me with a soft spot for the series (I recently bought XIV while browsing in a store just because I remembered this game).

6:  Hardball 5

This is the only sports game to make the list, and it’s a pretty old one besides.  I think it was missing a lot of features that would be necessary in a sports game for me today — for example, I don’t think it had a proper season format — but it had the one quality that really defined for me what I like in sports games:  when I created my own personalized team and played on the default difficulty, I won pretty much every game, but it was close.  I have never been able to recapture that with any other sports game I’ve played, as it’s either been too easy or far too hard depending on what difficulty I set the game at.  And for some, just moving up to the next highest difficulty moved it from a cakewalk to a game where I was losing pretty much every game.  I know this game wasn’t trying to hit my sweet spot for games, but it managed it nonetheless.

5:  Persona 5

This is the game that everyone knew had to make the list.  After all, this is the game that I compared to Dragon Age:  Inquisition and stated that after finishing it the first time I immediately wanted to replay it, while having no interest in replaying DAI.  But, no, it’s not my favourite Persona game.  I don’t like the characters as much as I like the ones in the other games (although I like Makoto and Futaba is a generally more interesting character than most in the other games).  It feels overstuffed with activities, so I never really felt that I could give them the focus that I wanted to give them.  The new emphasis on solving dungeon puzzles could be annoying when all I wanted to do was get through the dungeon and get back to the Social Links.  For the most part, I really feel like it added too much and became kinda cluttered, especially since it dragged the time to play it out to about 80 hours, which discourages replays.  The fact that I have played it three times and intend to play Royal a couple more times, though, is a testament to how good the game is.

4:  Knights of the Old Republic

This is the first Star Wars RPG, and the best.  It combines the interesting things of the Pen and Paper experiences with what computer RPGs were able to do to give a pretty good Star Wars experience.  Starting in the Old Republic era let them reference things we saw in the movies without worrying about whether they were contradicting anything in them, and gave them the ability to carve out their own story with whatever consequences they wanted it to have, knowing that it would all be swept away by the time we reached the era of A New Hope.  The characters are interesting.  The planets work.  The story works.  It’s really the ideal mix of fanservice and new story that makes it a great Star Wars game.  I replayed it myself not too long ago, and did enjoy my time with it.

3:  Suikoden III

This was the game that started my love of JRPGs.  I loved it from it’s incredibly evocative introduction:

I still listen to that intro every so often.

In addition to that, it had a unique Tri-View system where you could view the same story from the perspective of each of the three main characters for the first part of the game, as well as some other minor characters (and one joke character in the dog).  The first part meant that your view of the story could change depending on which order you watched the story in.  It also gave you time to get to know each of them, which was important because at about the half-way point you ended up having to choose one to become the main character.  On top of that, the game had over 100 other characters to recruit and get to know.  And it had a deep, JRPG-style story, and a bunch of other things to do.  This is the best Suikoden game I’ve played, and I’ve played a number of them.

2:  Persona 4

The Persona series is my favourite game series of all-time.  I like Persona 4’s ease of dungeons better than Persona 3, but like the characters and story a bit less than I like Persona 3.  However, this is the series that at least originally got most of the spinoffs, and so the characters are the ones that are most familiar to me.  I can’t really say more about the series except that I love the S-links, love the humour and find the tactical combat interesting even when it’s on easy mode.

1:  Persona 3

About all I can say here is the story about how I came to stop worrying and love this game and this series.  I remember buying it at one point in the summer, and as sometimes happened with me I didn’t have the time to play it and so it sat I think in a closet for a while.  Then I ended up having a much longer Christmas vacation than normal and came across it, and decided to give it a try.  I loved the game, and ended up one time staying up until 5 am in the morning because I thought that I was almost done with the game (I wasn’t, as it was the fake ending).  And then when I finished the game I did something that I never, ever do with games (or almost anything):  I started playing the game over again immediately.  This started my love affair with the series and pretty much settled the way I play these games.  I have easily put thousands of hours into the Persona series — definitely over 1000 hours — making it also the most cost-effective series I’ve ever played.

So, that’s the list.  Next week are the honourable mentions and then that will do it.



5 Responses to “Most Personally Memorable/Favourite Games(1 – 10)”

  1. Featherfoot Says:

    I loved Wing Commander 4 – it’s definitely the best in the series – and for all the reasons you do. In college, I actually wrote a paper for a junior-level composition class defending computer games as art, and I used that game as my example of how it can be done. For the paper, I basically treated it as an interactive movie, and argued how the choices made give a new dimension to an already existing art form. I think I got a B on it.

    Like you, while the game play was good (especially for the time) what really makes it shine is the story. The characters are wonderful, the plot engaging, the philosophical questions raised worth considering.

    I wonder what you would think of the Soul Reaver saga. That’s my go-to example of a series with decent gameplay but amazing story.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      My impression of Soul Reaver is that the gameplay really isn’t the sort of gameplay I normally like. It’s hard for the story in a game to overcome gameplay I really didn’t like.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Hardball 5: “only +sports+ game to make the list”

  3. More Musings on RPGs | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] from the perspective of role playing.  Sure, the Personas had clear goals, but the other game is “Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII”, which pretty much relied on you setting your own goals.  However, those goals were set inside a […]

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