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Found 10 results

  1. So, I received an email the other day from Crows Crows Crows, the studio founded by William Pugh, one of the devs who worked on The Stanley Parable. In it, they described an update to The Temple of No, a Twine text adventure they released back in 2016. I have to admit that The Temple of No had flown under my radar at the time, so I thought it would be a great time to hop into the thick of it and see what The Temple of No was all about. Now, I gotta level with you - I have no idea if Crows Crows Crows actually updated the game or if- Wait, no, they actually did update the game. I just went back and did some more due diligence, and there's an bit with a lightbulb and some cleverly concealed scrolling. If you can uncover that secret, you do, in fact, unlock a secret ice level. You can understand my initial confusion, though, right? Like, Crows Crows Crows really know how to mess with expectations and people's heads. They'd probably be able to make a great horror game if they weren't so good at comedy. Anyway, the update is simply called Fire! to reflect the fact that fire is now present in the updated version of The Temple of No! Exciting, right? That's probably why they put an exclamation point after fire. The update even comes with an action-packed live-action trailer - that's TWO actions which means double the action! Look, I don't feel like I have to sell you very hard on this concept. It's free, it'll take up maybe 30 minutes of your time, you'll have a solid selection of laughs and goofs. I swear, it's a good time! And it's free! A good, free time. And there's fire in it now with a new climactic moral decision that probably means something, but whatever. You can play The Temple of No on Crows Crows Crows itch.io page.
  2. So, I received an email the other day from Crows Crows Crows, the studio founded by William Pugh, one of the devs who worked on The Stanley Parable. In it, they described an update to The Temple of No, a Twine text adventure they released back in 2016. I have to admit that The Temple of No had flown under my radar at the time, so I thought it would be a great time to hop into the thick of it and see what The Temple of No was all about. Now, I gotta level with you - I have no idea if Crows Crows Crows actually updated the game or if- Wait, no, they actually did update the game. I just went back and did some more due diligence, and there's an bit with a lightbulb and some cleverly concealed scrolling. If you can uncover that secret, you do, in fact, unlock a secret ice level. You can understand my initial confusion, though, right? Like, Crows Crows Crows really know how to mess with expectations and people's heads. They'd probably be able to make a great horror game if they weren't so good at comedy. Anyway, the update is simply called Fire! to reflect the fact that fire is now present in the updated version of The Temple of No! Exciting, right? That's probably why they put an exclamation point after fire. The update even comes with an action-packed live-action trailer - that's TWO actions which means double the action! Look, I don't feel like I have to sell you very hard on this concept. It's free, it'll take up maybe 30 minutes of your time, you'll have a solid selection of laughs and goofs. I swear, it's a good time! And it's free! A good, free time. And there's fire in it now with a new climactic moral decision that probably means something, but whatever. You can play The Temple of No on Crows Crows Crows itch.io page. View full article
  3. The Stanley Parable originated as a mod for Half-Life 2 made by Davey Wreden. The mod proved to be relatively popular for its unique sense of humor and the way it played with gaming interactivity in novel ways. As a result, it became a fully fledged title that released at the tail end of 2013 with revamped graphics and additional content. Falling into that adventure game sub-genre of games that are sometimes derisively called "walking simulators," The Stanley Parable focuses on exploring interactivity in a digital medium by posing an iconic choice to the player: If you enter a room with two doors and someone tells you to go through the door on the left, but you are fully capable of going through the door on the right, which do you choose? With humor, minimalist design, and some brilliant voice work by Kevan Brighting, is The Stanley Parable one of the best games period? Outro music: Lunar Pool 'Looser Tool' by Harmsing (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03704) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  4. The Stanley Parable originated as a mod for Half-Life 2 made by Davey Wreden. The mod proved to be relatively popular for its unique sense of humor and the way it played with gaming interactivity in novel ways. As a result, it became a fully fledged title that released at the tail end of 2013 with revamped graphics and additional content. Falling into that adventure game sub-genre of games that are sometimes derisively called "walking simulators," The Stanley Parable focuses on exploring interactivity in a digital medium by posing an iconic choice to the player: If you enter a room with two doors and someone tells you to go through the door on the left, but you are fully capable of going through the door on the right, which do you choose? With humor, minimalist design, and some brilliant voice work by Kevan Brighting, is The Stanley Parable one of the best games period? Outro music: Lunar Pool 'Looser Tool' by Harmsing (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03704) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  5. For the first time ever, the Los Angeles Film Festival will be including Let's Plays as their own interactive section. Games from numerous genres and commentators approaching those games from different angles will be featured. Prominent games/commentators include: 140: Techno Buffalo – GAME DEVELOPER Jeppe Carlsen LET’S PLAY CREATOR Jon Rettinger Happy Wheels: Captain Sparklez – GAME DEVELOPER Jim Bonacci LET’S PLAY CREATOR Jordan Maron Illusion-Ghost Killer: Nilesy – GAME DEVELOPER Incrible Games LET’S PLAY CREATOR Liam J. Mackay McPixel: Cupquake– GAME DEVELOPER Mikolaj "Sos" Kaminski LET’S PLAY CREATOR Tiffany Herrera Mount Your Friends: Inside Gaming – GAME DEVELOPER Daniel Steger LET’S PLAY CREATORS James Willems, Bruce Greene, Adam Kovic Proteus: Nerd Cubed – GAME DEVELOPERS Ed Key & David Kanaga LET’S PLAY CREATOR Daniel Hardcastle Slender the Arrival: Game Society Pimps – GAME DEVELOPER Blue Isles Studios Inc. LET’S PLAY CREATOR Aaron Yonda Stick it to the Man: Gadget Girl Kylie – GAME DEVELOPERS Zoink! Studios & Ripstone Games LET’S PLAY CREATOR Gadget Girl Kylie The Stanley Parable: Toby Games – GAME DEVELOPER Davey Wreden LET’S PLAY CREATOR Toby Turner After the screenings, there will be a Q&A session held by a collection of developers and commentators. The festival is being held from June 11-19. View full article
  6. Jack Gardner

    2014 LA Film Festival Adds Let's Plays

    For the first time ever, the Los Angeles Film Festival will be including Let's Plays as their own interactive section. Games from numerous genres and commentators approaching those games from different angles will be featured. Prominent games/commentators include: 140: Techno Buffalo – GAME DEVELOPER Jeppe Carlsen LET’S PLAY CREATOR Jon Rettinger Happy Wheels: Captain Sparklez – GAME DEVELOPER Jim Bonacci LET’S PLAY CREATOR Jordan Maron Illusion-Ghost Killer: Nilesy – GAME DEVELOPER Incrible Games LET’S PLAY CREATOR Liam J. Mackay McPixel: Cupquake– GAME DEVELOPER Mikolaj "Sos" Kaminski LET’S PLAY CREATOR Tiffany Herrera Mount Your Friends: Inside Gaming – GAME DEVELOPER Daniel Steger LET’S PLAY CREATORS James Willems, Bruce Greene, Adam Kovic Proteus: Nerd Cubed – GAME DEVELOPERS Ed Key & David Kanaga LET’S PLAY CREATOR Daniel Hardcastle Slender the Arrival: Game Society Pimps – GAME DEVELOPER Blue Isles Studios Inc. LET’S PLAY CREATOR Aaron Yonda Stick it to the Man: Gadget Girl Kylie – GAME DEVELOPERS Zoink! Studios & Ripstone Games LET’S PLAY CREATOR Gadget Girl Kylie The Stanley Parable: Toby Games – GAME DEVELOPER Davey Wreden LET’S PLAY CREATOR Toby Turner After the screenings, there will be a Q&A session held by a collection of developers and commentators. The festival is being held from June 11-19.
  7. Great video games aren’t random mishmashes and hodgepodges of disparate visuals, mechanics, and stories. With games that stand the test of time, those elements need to come together to create a cohesive whole. Given that video games are an interactive medium, arguably their most important component is how they allow players to interact with them. The Stanley Parable, Shadow of the Colossus, and Beyond: Two Souls, perfectly capture this concept, albeit in different ways. I’ve made a point of mentioning a game called The Stanley Parable recently. Talking about The Stanley Parable is difficult without spoiling much of what makes it enjoyable and thought provoking. However, I don’t think it is giving away too much to say that the core of the experience is built around player choice and how that relates to game design. Developer Galactic Cafe stripped down the gameplay to the bare minimum required to convey this message to players. The Stanley Parable uses similar mechanics to games like Dear Esther and Gone Home, giving players only the ability to move and interact with certain objects. One of the criticisms leveled against both Gone Home and Dear Esther was that the level of engagement afforded by the limited scope of the gameplay wasn’t interesting or necessarily fun. Where those games fell short, The Stanley Parable excels by using its mechanics to help demonstrate and complement its story through intelligent game design. Essentially, players are presented with a series of branching paths and options with an amusing narration responding to whatever the player happens to be doing. The narration urges players down a predetermined path, while other opportunities are constantly presented for players to derail the experience. This allows The Stanley Parable to not only directly talk about the struggles of developing video games but also demonstrate those difficulties through the player’s experiences. Interactivity and storytelling are difficult to reconcile with one another, as interactivity is necessarily freeing and storytelling is by nature restrictive. Shadow of the Colossus marries the two in an interesting way. Colossus’ story revolves around a young man who brings his deceased love to a forbidden land and makes a pact with a demon or deity to bring her back from the dead. At the end of their interaction, the supernatural entity nebulously states that the price might be higher than the young man could imagine. As players progress through Shadow of the Colossus, killing the sixteen colossi, players begin to notice subtle changes, both in the visuals and in the gameplay. With each defeated colossus comes a flood of dark tendrils that infuse the young man’s body and transport him back to the starting area. Each time that happens, the young man receives increased health and stamina and begins to look more haggard, eventually sprouting small horns, transforming into something inhuman. This is done with little to no dialogue, but as players, we experience the transformation ourselves and recognize that something sinister is taking place; the cost alluded to at the beginning. It is an achievement in subtlety that few games ever manage. While the story in Shadow of the Colossus remains static with no branching paths, it leaves the details hanging for players to interpret and experience differently with each playthrough. That's how you can have many players walking away from Shadow of the Colossus with different takes on what happened in the game. Was it a love story about a man going to the ends of the world for the woman he loves? Was it a dark parable cautioning against hubris? Or perhaps it was a tragedy about someone coping with grief in destructive ways? These vastly different outlooks depend on how people interact with Shadow of the Colossus and the set of life experiences each individual brings with them. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have games like Beyond: Two Souls, which treat gameplay mechanics almost as a hindrance rather than a strength. Playing Beyond: Two Souls feels like watching a bad movie that grudgingly pauses every so often for players to do quick-time events and contextual button presses. The game rarely communicates when players are making important choices that are arbitrarily more important later on in the plot and plot-related decisions are essentially the only meaningful gameplay in which players can partake. Yes, it has branching storylines. Yes, it integrates player choice. Yes, it looks great. But its story doesn’t serve its gameplay and that renders the interactive element of the game inert. When players can't understand how their choices mattered, that represents a fundamental problem with a game supposedly built on player choice. Interactivity should be used to help tell a story rather than having a story draped around unrelated mechanics. When the two don’t sync up right, we get games that might as well be movies or books. If we wanted that, we would go to a library (those are still a thing, right?) or flip on Netflix. View full article
  8. Great video games aren’t random mishmashes and hodgepodges of disparate visuals, mechanics, and stories. With games that stand the test of time, those elements need to come together to create a cohesive whole. Given that video games are an interactive medium, arguably their most important component is how they allow players to interact with them. The Stanley Parable, Shadow of the Colossus, and Beyond: Two Souls, perfectly capture this concept, albeit in different ways. I’ve made a point of mentioning a game called The Stanley Parable recently. Talking about The Stanley Parable is difficult without spoiling much of what makes it enjoyable and thought provoking. However, I don’t think it is giving away too much to say that the core of the experience is built around player choice and how that relates to game design. Developer Galactic Cafe stripped down the gameplay to the bare minimum required to convey this message to players. The Stanley Parable uses similar mechanics to games like Dear Esther and Gone Home, giving players only the ability to move and interact with certain objects. One of the criticisms leveled against both Gone Home and Dear Esther was that the level of engagement afforded by the limited scope of the gameplay wasn’t interesting or necessarily fun. Where those games fell short, The Stanley Parable excels by using its mechanics to help demonstrate and complement its story through intelligent game design. Essentially, players are presented with a series of branching paths and options with an amusing narration responding to whatever the player happens to be doing. The narration urges players down a predetermined path, while other opportunities are constantly presented for players to derail the experience. This allows The Stanley Parable to not only directly talk about the struggles of developing video games but also demonstrate those difficulties through the player’s experiences. Interactivity and storytelling are difficult to reconcile with one another, as interactivity is necessarily freeing and storytelling is by nature restrictive. Shadow of the Colossus marries the two in an interesting way. Colossus’ story revolves around a young man who brings his deceased love to a forbidden land and makes a pact with a demon or deity to bring her back from the dead. At the end of their interaction, the supernatural entity nebulously states that the price might be higher than the young man could imagine. As players progress through Shadow of the Colossus, killing the sixteen colossi, players begin to notice subtle changes, both in the visuals and in the gameplay. With each defeated colossus comes a flood of dark tendrils that infuse the young man’s body and transport him back to the starting area. Each time that happens, the young man receives increased health and stamina and begins to look more haggard, eventually sprouting small horns, transforming into something inhuman. This is done with little to no dialogue, but as players, we experience the transformation ourselves and recognize that something sinister is taking place; the cost alluded to at the beginning. It is an achievement in subtlety that few games ever manage. While the story in Shadow of the Colossus remains static with no branching paths, it leaves the details hanging for players to interpret and experience differently with each playthrough. That's how you can have many players walking away from Shadow of the Colossus with different takes on what happened in the game. Was it a love story about a man going to the ends of the world for the woman he loves? Was it a dark parable cautioning against hubris? Or perhaps it was a tragedy about someone coping with grief in destructive ways? These vastly different outlooks depend on how people interact with Shadow of the Colossus and the set of life experiences each individual brings with them. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have games like Beyond: Two Souls, which treat gameplay mechanics almost as a hindrance rather than a strength. Playing Beyond: Two Souls feels like watching a bad movie that grudgingly pauses every so often for players to do quick-time events and contextual button presses. The game rarely communicates when players are making important choices that are arbitrarily more important later on in the plot and plot-related decisions are essentially the only meaningful gameplay in which players can partake. Yes, it has branching storylines. Yes, it integrates player choice. Yes, it looks great. But its story doesn’t serve its gameplay and that renders the interactive element of the game inert. When players can't understand how their choices mattered, that represents a fundamental problem with a game supposedly built on player choice. Interactivity should be used to help tell a story rather than having a story draped around unrelated mechanics. When the two don’t sync up right, we get games that might as well be movies or books. If we wanted that, we would go to a library (those are still a thing, right?) or flip on Netflix.
  9. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from writing in the video game industry it is that people go bananas for top ten lists. Since console generations don’t come along every day, I thought I would take this opportunity to reminisce on the past few years of gaming history and write a list. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the top ten video games of the previous console age. 10. The Stanley Parable The strength of The Stanley Parable isn’t in its gameplay, which consists only of movement, or aesthetic, which is that of a bland office building. No, the strength of The Stanley Parable lies in the high-caliber writing and the fantastic voice acting by Kevan Brighting as the Narrator. The Stanley Parable explores the issues of game design in a hilarious fashion and makes its points by responding to whatever the player does. The difficulties of creating for an interactive medium are so clearly illustrated by what players decide to do that it is hard, or even impossible, to imagine The Stanley Parable in any other medium because so much of what it has to say is told through a player’s interaction with it. And that is something that I have never experienced to such a degree with anything else in this medium. 9. Sid Meier’s Civilization V It is by no means an overstatement to say that Civilization is one of the best turn-based 4X strategy franchises on the market. While Civilization IV also came out during this generation, the dramatic shift away from squares in favor of hexagons and the elimination of unit stacking opened up more interesting combat scenarios and paths to victory. The end result of revising these mechanics was a much more fluid and exciting game relatively free of massive stacks of units entrenched against each other. Smaller empires became more viable and more mechanics were added later through hefty expansions that deepened the gameplay and added unique paths to victory such as espionage and faith. Civilization V strikes a great balance between the various methods of victory: combat, culture, diplomacy, and science. Other turn-based 4X games that follow in Civ V’s footsteps will surely be taking cues from this shining example of strategy for the foreseeable future, which earns Civilization V a place on this list. 8. Red Dead Redemption One of the biggest problems inherent to the design of open world games has always been effectively conveying impactful stories. Allowing players to goof off or pursue side quests between important plot points often diminishes the effectiveness of an open world game’s storytelling. Red Dead Redemption seems to be the exception to the rule. While there are sidequests and plenty of distractions to keep the completionists busy for years, the main focus of Red Dead Redemption never wavers from protagonist John Marston’s quest to escape the specters of his checkered past and save his family. That dedication to story eventually pays off with what ranks as one of the best video game endings ever that is shocking, sad, anger-inducing, and ultimately satisfying all at once. The ending alone would be enough to elevate red Dead Redemption to a position on this list, but toss in solid third-person shooting mechanics and leaving it out would be a crime. 7. BioShock Infinite I’m just going to come out and say it: BioShock Infinite had the most interesting narrative of any first-person shooter released this generation. Some people might argue that the first BioShock was better in some respects, but Infinite had so much more to offer on a narrative level that it makes the original look like a pale reflection. Themes of racism, isolationism, overzealous nationalism, religious persecution, predestination, and more pervade the game and open it up for interpretation on numerous levels. Furthermore, carrying on BioShock’s tradition of meta-comments on gaming and gamers, the ending of Infinite not only takes into account all of the players of BioShock Infinite, but also retroactively the players of the first BioShock and provides a new perspective on the material in both games. On top of that, Infinite’s city in the clouds was astoundingly beautiful which provided a great contrasted with the horrific violence and bigotry that lurked just beneath the surface of Columbia. Remember, there is always a lighthouse. 6. Mass Effect 3 The culmination of the Mass Effect trilogy was the ultimate payoff for players who had spent years of their lives, two games, and several packs of DLC building up to the final conclusion of a galaxy in peril. After carrying over the same Commander Shepard from game to game along with the baggage of all the difficult decisions made along the way, the finale carried so much meaning for players. Mass Effect 3 was better for all the time spent developing the characters in Mass Effect 1 and 2. The ending left people so vehemently divided because they cared so deeply about the universe of the series and the ending wasn’t what they expected. Was it bad? Personally, I enjoyed the game before the extended ending was released and I enjoyed it afterward. The game was more than its ending, though. Mass Effect 3 was a vast improvement over the first and second entries in the series: the story was more focused, the sidequests were more interesting, and combat was drastically improved to the point that an enjoyable multiplayer could be built around it. More than any of that, though, I loved Mass Effect 3 because after all of the choices I made as a player over the course of five years, the story came to feel personal, like it belonged to me. And, well, that was special. 5. Braid Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece was one of the first big indie hits and became a symbol for what indie developers could achieve in a modern market via digital distribution. What many people found appealing about Braid isn’t hard to see: fantastic art design, interesting time warping mechanics, and an abundance of clever puzzles. At first glance, Braid appears to be a traditional 2D platformer in the vein of Super Mario Bros. However, anyone who believes Braid to be nothing more than a pretty game with cunning mechanics is sorely mistaken. Tim, Braid’s protagonist, becomes the most interesting element of the game by shrewdly playing with the commonly accepted conventions of the platforming genre. By the time the credits roll, Braid has introduced the concept of the unreliable narrator to video games (or would that be the unreliable avatar?) and left a feeling of uncertainty. I’ve played through Braid multiple times and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand it, but I am sure that it is one of the most influential games of this generation. 4. Portal Portal is the textbook example of near perfect game design in the modern era of video gaming. Its simple-yet-complex gameplay slowly escalates in difficulty along with a gradually revealed antagonist who is delightfully sadistic and entertaining. The game world similarly reflects the gameplay design by going with a deceptively simple aesthetic. Sterile environments surround the player initially, but eventually cryptic warnings in nooks and crannies start to peel away the benign façade. One of the best parts about Portal is that it knows not to overstay its welcome. The game is long enough to be satisfying and feel like an adventure, but short enough so that the mechanics of the portal gun don’t start to feel overused or gimmicky. Portal isn’t just one of the best games of this generation, but it can hold its own as one of the best video games ever made. 3. Journey The minimalistic, “less is more” approach to game design has always appealed to me since Ico made waves back in 2001. Thatgamecompany has taken a similar design philosophy to heart with fantastic titles like Flow, Flower, and ultimately in their Opus, Journey. Journey is a simple platformer with some minor points of open exploration and only the barest hints of online play, yet its sophistication and subtlety set it so far ahead of most games that it feels transcendent. The animations and art direction are so well crafted that every time you jump you can feel the joy radiating from your character or the tense fear of being hunted. The musical score of Journey can touch even the stoniest of hearts and dredge up considerable emotion. All of these are great, but one of the most remarkable aspects of Journey is the inclusion of drop-in online co-op. Other players online can walk into and out of your game, drastically altering the experience with their presence. Some people are friendly and helpful, others lone wolves with no time to spare. Journey can be funny, sad, angry, lonely, and joyful all at once. Quite simply, Journey is a beautiful game in every sense of the word; a game that everyone should play at least once in their lives. 2. Bastion Developer Supergiant Games is one of the most amazing developers to spring into being this generation. They have a knack for crafting amazing games with a signature artistic and musical flair. Bastion’s quality is obvious from the first minute of gameplay. Playing through the shattered fragments of Bastion’s world is like stepping into a fantastical storybook unlike anything you’ve ever read. The similarities to a story book are further reinforced by the compelling narration that follows players’ every move, emphasizing the simultaneously wonderful and sad fairy tale feel. The amazing soundtrack by Darren Korb is a huge credit to Bastion and works with the other audiovisual components to enthrall players. The story takes unpredictable turns as it gradually unfolds and ultimately leaves players with a heartbreaking choice. Bastion is a fairy tale that spellbinds players and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. 1. Minecraft The sheer genius of Minecraft is that it gives players a set of tools and then unleashes them within a world that is practically infinite. That world, and by extension the game, can become pretty much anything the player wants it to be. Feel like building something without having to worry about pesky things like deadly monsters or dangerous falls? You can play in a creative world where you have the ability to fly and have access to infinite resources. Do you want a more adventurous experience? Start a survival world and brave the horrors of night and Nether to find the gateway to The End. Content update after content update have been added to the game for free since its release, leading to more blocks, more monsters, more… everything. While offline Minecraft certainly shines, playing online with friends and tackling a colossal project or deciding to journey together into the unknown begets a spirit of camaraderie and excitement unrivaled by many triple-A releases. On top of that, Minecraft’s simplistic aesthetic strikes me as incredibly beautiful, to say nothing of the endless supply of texture packs which add new visual effects. The massive popularity of Minecraft speaks to how much it resonates with its players, and while popularity doesn’t necessarily indicate quality in any form of media, in this case it is not hard to see why so many people have fallen in love with the title. No other games this generation come remotely close to what Minecraft offers its audience: The chance to unlock pure imagination. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, agree with me, or even better share your own lists in the comments. View full article
  10. Jack Gardner

    The Top Ten Games of the Generation

    If there is one thing that I’ve learned from writing in the video game industry it is that people go bananas for top ten lists. Since console generations don’t come along every day, I thought I would take this opportunity to reminisce on the past few years of gaming history and write a list. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you the top ten video games of the previous console age. 10. The Stanley Parable The strength of The Stanley Parable isn’t in its gameplay, which consists only of movement, or aesthetic, which is that of a bland office building. No, the strength of The Stanley Parable lies in the high-caliber writing and the fantastic voice acting by Kevan Brighting as the Narrator. The Stanley Parable explores the issues of game design in a hilarious fashion and makes its points by responding to whatever the player does. The difficulties of creating for an interactive medium are so clearly illustrated by what players decide to do that it is hard, or even impossible, to imagine The Stanley Parable in any other medium because so much of what it has to say is told through a player’s interaction with it. And that is something that I have never experienced to such a degree with anything else in this medium. 9. Sid Meier’s Civilization V It is by no means an overstatement to say that Civilization is one of the best turn-based 4X strategy franchises on the market. While Civilization IV also came out during this generation, the dramatic shift away from squares in favor of hexagons and the elimination of unit stacking opened up more interesting combat scenarios and paths to victory. The end result of revising these mechanics was a much more fluid and exciting game relatively free of massive stacks of units entrenched against each other. Smaller empires became more viable and more mechanics were added later through hefty expansions that deepened the gameplay and added unique paths to victory such as espionage and faith. Civilization V strikes a great balance between the various methods of victory: combat, culture, diplomacy, and science. Other turn-based 4X games that follow in Civ V’s footsteps will surely be taking cues from this shining example of strategy for the foreseeable future, which earns Civilization V a place on this list. 8. Red Dead Redemption One of the biggest problems inherent to the design of open world games has always been effectively conveying impactful stories. Allowing players to goof off or pursue side quests between important plot points often diminishes the effectiveness of an open world game’s storytelling. Red Dead Redemption seems to be the exception to the rule. While there are sidequests and plenty of distractions to keep the completionists busy for years, the main focus of Red Dead Redemption never wavers from protagonist John Marston’s quest to escape the specters of his checkered past and save his family. That dedication to story eventually pays off with what ranks as one of the best video game endings ever that is shocking, sad, anger-inducing, and ultimately satisfying all at once. The ending alone would be enough to elevate red Dead Redemption to a position on this list, but toss in solid third-person shooting mechanics and leaving it out would be a crime. 7. BioShock Infinite I’m just going to come out and say it: BioShock Infinite had the most interesting narrative of any first-person shooter released this generation. Some people might argue that the first BioShock was better in some respects, but Infinite had so much more to offer on a narrative level that it makes the original look like a pale reflection. Themes of racism, isolationism, overzealous nationalism, religious persecution, predestination, and more pervade the game and open it up for interpretation on numerous levels. Furthermore, carrying on BioShock’s tradition of meta-comments on gaming and gamers, the ending of Infinite not only takes into account all of the players of BioShock Infinite, but also retroactively the players of the first BioShock and provides a new perspective on the material in both games. On top of that, Infinite’s city in the clouds was astoundingly beautiful which provided a great contrasted with the horrific violence and bigotry that lurked just beneath the surface of Columbia. Remember, there is always a lighthouse. 6. Mass Effect 3 The culmination of the Mass Effect trilogy was the ultimate payoff for players who had spent years of their lives, two games, and several packs of DLC building up to the final conclusion of a galaxy in peril. After carrying over the same Commander Shepard from game to game along with the baggage of all the difficult decisions made along the way, the finale carried so much meaning for players. Mass Effect 3 was better for all the time spent developing the characters in Mass Effect 1 and 2. The ending left people so vehemently divided because they cared so deeply about the universe of the series and the ending wasn’t what they expected. Was it bad? Personally, I enjoyed the game before the extended ending was released and I enjoyed it afterward. The game was more than its ending, though. Mass Effect 3 was a vast improvement over the first and second entries in the series: the story was more focused, the sidequests were more interesting, and combat was drastically improved to the point that an enjoyable multiplayer could be built around it. More than any of that, though, I loved Mass Effect 3 because after all of the choices I made as a player over the course of five years, the story came to feel personal, like it belonged to me. And, well, that was special. 5. Braid Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece was one of the first big indie hits and became a symbol for what indie developers could achieve in a modern market via digital distribution. What many people found appealing about Braid isn’t hard to see: fantastic art design, interesting time warping mechanics, and an abundance of clever puzzles. At first glance, Braid appears to be a traditional 2D platformer in the vein of Super Mario Bros. However, anyone who believes Braid to be nothing more than a pretty game with cunning mechanics is sorely mistaken. Tim, Braid’s protagonist, becomes the most interesting element of the game by shrewdly playing with the commonly accepted conventions of the platforming genre. By the time the credits roll, Braid has introduced the concept of the unreliable narrator to video games (or would that be the unreliable avatar?) and left a feeling of uncertainty. I’ve played through Braid multiple times and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand it, but I am sure that it is one of the most influential games of this generation. 4. Portal Portal is the textbook example of near perfect game design in the modern era of video gaming. Its simple-yet-complex gameplay slowly escalates in difficulty along with a gradually revealed antagonist who is delightfully sadistic and entertaining. The game world similarly reflects the gameplay design by going with a deceptively simple aesthetic. Sterile environments surround the player initially, but eventually cryptic warnings in nooks and crannies start to peel away the benign façade. One of the best parts about Portal is that it knows not to overstay its welcome. The game is long enough to be satisfying and feel like an adventure, but short enough so that the mechanics of the portal gun don’t start to feel overused or gimmicky. Portal isn’t just one of the best games of this generation, but it can hold its own as one of the best video games ever made. 3. Journey The minimalistic, “less is more” approach to game design has always appealed to me since Ico made waves back in 2001. Thatgamecompany has taken a similar design philosophy to heart with fantastic titles like Flow, Flower, and ultimately in their Opus, Journey. Journey is a simple platformer with some minor points of open exploration and only the barest hints of online play, yet its sophistication and subtlety set it so far ahead of most games that it feels transcendent. The animations and art direction are so well crafted that every time you jump you can feel the joy radiating from your character or the tense fear of being hunted. The musical score of Journey can touch even the stoniest of hearts and dredge up considerable emotion. All of these are great, but one of the most remarkable aspects of Journey is the inclusion of drop-in online co-op. Other players online can walk into and out of your game, drastically altering the experience with their presence. Some people are friendly and helpful, others lone wolves with no time to spare. Journey can be funny, sad, angry, lonely, and joyful all at once. Quite simply, Journey is a beautiful game in every sense of the word; a game that everyone should play at least once in their lives. 2. Bastion Developer Supergiant Games is one of the most amazing developers to spring into being this generation. They have a knack for crafting amazing games with a signature artistic and musical flair. Bastion’s quality is obvious from the first minute of gameplay. Playing through the shattered fragments of Bastion’s world is like stepping into a fantastical storybook unlike anything you’ve ever read. The similarities to a story book are further reinforced by the compelling narration that follows players’ every move, emphasizing the simultaneously wonderful and sad fairy tale feel. The amazing soundtrack by Darren Korb is a huge credit to Bastion and works with the other audiovisual components to enthrall players. The story takes unpredictable turns as it gradually unfolds and ultimately leaves players with a heartbreaking choice. Bastion is a fairy tale that spellbinds players and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. 1. Minecraft The sheer genius of Minecraft is that it gives players a set of tools and then unleashes them within a world that is practically infinite. That world, and by extension the game, can become pretty much anything the player wants it to be. Feel like building something without having to worry about pesky things like deadly monsters or dangerous falls? You can play in a creative world where you have the ability to fly and have access to infinite resources. Do you want a more adventurous experience? Start a survival world and brave the horrors of night and Nether to find the gateway to The End. Content update after content update have been added to the game for free since its release, leading to more blocks, more monsters, more… everything. While offline Minecraft certainly shines, playing online with friends and tackling a colossal project or deciding to journey together into the unknown begets a spirit of camaraderie and excitement unrivaled by many triple-A releases. On top of that, Minecraft’s simplistic aesthetic strikes me as incredibly beautiful, to say nothing of the endless supply of texture packs which add new visual effects. The massive popularity of Minecraft speaks to how much it resonates with its players, and while popularity doesn’t necessarily indicate quality in any form of media, in this case it is not hard to see why so many people have fallen in love with the title. No other games this generation come remotely close to what Minecraft offers its audience: The chance to unlock pure imagination. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, agree with me, or even better share your own lists in the comments.
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