Everything Beyond: Two Souls did well, Detroit: Become Human improved upon. This is the game that all other games, whether narrative or otherwise, should be ranking themselves against and aspiring to. If, for instance, Cyberpunk 2077 had managed to incorporate even 30% of what makes Detroit such a winner, it really might have taken the world by storm.
Featuring a story spanning multiple character perspectives, Detroit is a near-future narrative centered on the question “what is humanity?” It plays with well-known tropes in such a way that they take on a new form. The ability to interact with those tropes in a deeply engaging narrative manner provides even experienced science fiction fans with a chance to approach their own assumptions from a new angle.
Why I love it
Detroit manages to do what Quantic Dream has shown itself adept at with previous games: provide an emotional interactive journey that makes the player feel like part of a story, rather than a rogue actor in an optional quest. Once again, utilizing impressive motion capture and a great cast of actors, Detroit blends the realm of video game and film, striking a balance that allows any player, regardless of experience with video games, to become instantly immersed in. As with Beyond: Two Souls before it, Detroit: Become Human is really a template for the best of what video games could become if a philosophical shift away from pure violence for violence's sake could be emphasized, and empathy could take its place.
Until I discovered Beyond: Two Souls, I thought I’d never find a game that I loved as much as the Mass Effect or KOTOR series. But then David Cage, founder of the French game studio Quantic Dream, blew my fricken mind. Starring Elliot Page (star of Juno, XMEN, and The Umbrella Academy), and William Dafoe, both of whom were rendered into the game through advanced motion capture that provided an incredibly realistic graphical experience, the game follows a young woman with psychic powers as she struggles to understand her gifts and take control of her destiny. It’s an action-storytelling game with an extra-strong emphasis on storytelling, but far more dynamic than most narrative games on the market today; it provides the sort of dynamic environments and deep player engagement that makes a video game so tantalizing, but never loses sight of what it ultimately is: an interactive story.
Why I love it
For those of you familiar with the Star Trek series’ and their use of a holodeck device to create storytelling experiences… this game feels like the precursor for that technology. David Cage managed to do something utterly different with this game, transforming the possibilities for what a video game could be. Don’t believe me yet? It might interest you to learn, then, where the game first premiered.
Despite its being a video game, Beyond: Two Souls first met audiences at the 2013 Tribecca Film Festival, instantly captivating critics and audiences alike. Plenty of critics were annoyed with the game’s lack of total player control, but those critics miss, in my opinion, the entire point. This isn’t a game where players get to smash the world to pieces whenever they feel like it. The inability to do certain things is less obvious than in some games where specific limitations (on, say, the ability to fire weapons) are apparent. Ultimate, Beyond: Two Souls is about providing an interactive story — a story that remains the focus. The ability to explore the world, to interact dynamically is far superior to many narrative-style games. Still, that narrative remains the core driving force behind the reason to play the game… and that is, to my mind, a good thing.
At the end of the day, this is a game that you will never be able to forget. It’s a game that non-gamers can play and enjoy, but one which will give experienced gamers something different than they’ve ever tried before. It’s a 2000-page interactive script featuring superb acting, a sublime soundtrack, and some utterly gorgeous visuals. It is, quite simply, one of the best games ever made.
The game that started it all for me. Sure, there were games before this that I became enamored with, but KOTOR changed the way I viewed games. Suddenly, I could be immersed in a real story — a deep story set within a fiction setting that I loved. Since then, KOTOR is the game against which I have judged all others.
Why I love it
Starring an original cast of characters that each feel unique and yet utterly “Star Wars” in their conception, the story spans the galaxy in search of a way to stop the menace of the Sith Empire who have been beating back the Republic at every turn. The story is set directly after the Mandalorian Wars and provides a great deal of (potentially semi-canon) Star Wars information about that awesome Star Wars culture, including via a potential Mandalorian companion who can be added to the party.
KOTOR managed to build a unique series of relationships for the player to explore, some of which can even be romantic in nature; it’s another game that feels more like a dynamic interactive narrative than a video game, something oddly aided by its D20-origin style of gameplay. There’s a bit of classic roleplaying at work in the heart of this game, from the mechanics to the storytelling, and that gives it a freshness that other games of the era simply couldn’t match.
Disney sadly killed an awesome fan-made restoration of the game that should have been released a few years ago, but in early 2021 rumors began to emerge of something KOTOR-related in the works once more. No matter if it’s a restoration or a new addition to the series, I’m there for it (so long as it’s not another disgraceful MMORPG).
Best game of 2003
Knights of the Old Republic also made our list of the best games from the year you born for 2003!
I remember the original spread that Gameinformer did of Mass Effect and being awed by the graphics that looked so incredibly realistic, the alien races you could meet, and the hints of a storyline as epic as the very best space opera should be. It took a few more years before I actually had a chance to play it, but it was like a whole new world opened up before me when I got that chance. Mass Effect proved that the dream of games like KOTOR could be realized, that a universe as vast and epic as envisioned by science fiction authors like Straczynski or Bujold could become a reality on the interactive stage.
Why I love it
In Mass Effect, the player takes over Commander Shepherd's role (a fully customizable character) as they become embroiled in a galactic mystery of awesome and frightening proportions. Encountering friends and foes alike, Shepherd discovers ancient secrets of a galaxy-spanning civilization, trying to defend known space against foreign and domestic threats.
The gameplay, taking place in close third-person, is fast-paced action with various weapons under dynamic conditions, but the real heart of the game is the choices that can be made and the relationships that you build between Commander Shepherd and the other characters as you progress through the game. It feels less like playing a video game and more like an extended interactive novel mixed in with epic action sequences; there are the usual shooting-game fights and puzzles, of course, but these are filler for the storyline’s glory, not the point of the game.
With Mass Effect getting its own Halo: Master Chief Collection-style makeover in the early part of 2021, this is sure to find a renewed boom of popularity for a while, helping to build anticipation for the next game in the expanded Mass Effect universe currently being developed. If that new game manages to return to the simple beauty and deeply engaged story-arcs of the first Mass Effect, it’s destined to be another rousing success.
Fans were divided on this game when it first came out, largely due to its being rushed into an early release by the studio to make a holiday rush. Sadly, this meant that the game did get released with many story elements cut and a substandard ending compared to what the designers originally imagined. Luckily, the modding community got to work on the game straight away. It took ten years, but, using internal assets that had been simply cut off from the final product but were still present within the game files, the modding community released TSLRM: The Sith Lords Restoration Mod, and all that originally envisioned content got restored.
For an older game like this, mods really are the way to go, too. Not only can you get a fuller game experience, but you’ll end up finding mods that bring the graphics up to a much higher level than with the base game.
In TSL, you take on the role of the Exile, an ex-Jedi who fought during the Mandalorian Wars. Sought by thugs for a bounty, Sith who want to destroy you, and by the Republic who hope to use you for political ends, you fly across the galaxy attempting to reconnect with the full power of the Force (your final battle during the Mandalorian Wars having mysteriously cut you off from the Force).
Why I love it
It’s honestly one of my favorite games and a brilliant RPG. Especially once you use the TSLRM mod to restore it to its originally-intended glory, this game still shines even after all these years.
Mass Effect 2 did so many things right. Not only did it turn out an even more advanced and sweeping plot than the first game, but it also managed to enhance the best aspect of the game: the character interrelationships. It also proved to be more enjoyable as a straight-up action game, adding some new combat mechanics that vitally improved the feel of combat in the game. It also accompanied a renewed surge in other Mass Effect material, such as the novels and the graphic novels, both of which did much to expand the universe.
Why I love it
ME2 proved that the first game was more than just a one-hit-wonder, that the universe was deep enough for long-form storytelling of the kind not often found in video games, storytelling that explored the best that realistic space opera could offer.
Many fans disliked the 3rd and final game in the series, partly due to storytelling choices and partly due to odd gameplay mechanics, which I think is important for any potential game developers reading this. It’s better to have a rich, engaging, and dynamic story, with fully-realized characters and character interactions, than it is to have all the additional combat mechanics possible. For games like ME, the 33/33/33 rule of Sid Meyer doesn’t actually fit because what makes these games special is actually… not the gameplay.
These games are special because of the emotions they produce in the player, and that requires good writing and ways of more deeply engaging with the world. Mass Effect 2 managed to walk this line well, providing deeper mechanics while ultimately focusing on what mattered most: story and character.
Science fiction has long been a playground for designers of strategy games, but Stellaris promised something new. Not just another “4X” game (”4X” stands for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate), Stellaris promised a “grand strategy” experience in real-time, where a whole galaxy would expand and develop over the course of centuries. The player’s empire gains access to faster than light travel technology. It sets off into the void, where other empires, ancient galactic superpowers, archaeological secrets, and fascinating space fauna coexist and mingle.
Through a combination of diplomacy, trade, espionage, and grand space warfare, the player can advance their civilization into the fore of the galactic community, eventually even playing a major role in sprawling galactic crises that will force everyone to either work together or be destroyed alone (a 2021 expansion plans to allow the player even to become one of these major crises themselves, turning the goal of the game on its head and opening up the options for play even more).
Why I love it
What’s really fun about this is that you get to design your own species from the ground up, and especially once modded options come into the mix, the possibilities for wacky and weird species designs really become possible. The game designers have created fun options for extremely different play styles, too, with the option to become a “machine intelligence” or a corporation.
The latest release in the long-running Civilization series originally conceived of by legendary game designer Sid Meyer, Civilization VI continued to follow Meyer’s original goal of 33/33/33 sequel development, where 33% of a sequel should be devoted to the new material, 33% to enhancing features present in the earlier game, and 33% to preserving features of the original. In doing so, it managed to preserve the identity of the Civilization style while ultimately coming out with some truly transformative features for the series, like the “unstacking” of cities. In previous games within the Civ series, cities were single-hex entities on the game map, but in VI, they operated on a new mechanic, with districts and buildings built up around a city center. This creates a much larger area of the map that a city can cover, allows for a host of new tactical decisions based on that placement, and provides a nice graphical touch.
Why I love it
Since its release, the development team for Civilization VI has continued to provide updated content and expansions. New game styles and features now exist in Civ VI, which will likely make their way into future versions of the game as well, such as a new organically-shifting world that responds to increased levels of industrialization — eventually resulting in the detrimental effects of global climate change if the various world civilizations cannot find some way to come together and solve their collective problems.
Civilization is certainly one of the best strategy games ever to exist, and the turn-based model provides the player with a dangerously addictive experience.
What Skyrim did, Morrowind did first and did better. Skyrim’s engine is undoubtedly superior to Morrowind's aged one, but in all other respects, Morrowind is the superior game.
Why I love it
Its storyline, its open-world (barely heard of in 2002), its aesthetic that captured the flavor of entering an alien fantasy environment, and its rich range of character choice options all conspired to make Morrowind a monument to the RPG genre that cannot be forgotten and should certainly be aspired to.
Renewed by the open-source movement
OpenMW is an open-source reimplementation of the original game engine upon which Morrowind was built. It allows the game to be run on macOS and Linux, expanding the player base dramatically. OpenMW also natively supports better graphics and a wide number of popular mods for the game, making it an easy choice when considering a dive back into this classic game (you’ll still need to own a copy of the original game to use OpenMW, of course, but luckily Morrowind is easy to find for cheap on Steam and other retailers these days).
The Elder Scrolls franchise may be one of the most beautifully realized fantasy worlds of all time, with reams of lore built up across decades of writing and game design. Skyrim utilized a new game engine to expand the limits of what an open-world game could do and be and became such a colossal hit that it took the whole world by storm, spilling far over the sides of the gaming community and into public discourse.
Why I love it
Taking control of a player-designed character, the player adventures through the nordic-themed land of Skyrim, where political tension has erupted into a civil war between the local people (known as Nords) and the governing Empire (stylized on ancient Rome). The game world is massive, the quests are huge and diverse, and the player has the option to tackle any aspect of the world in a huge variety of ways. Further expansions for the game added massive feature improvements and additional storyline material. Simultaneously, the immense modding community has turned out to create entirely new worlds and total-conversions based on the game’s engine and assets.
Fallout 3 took the 2D aesthetic of the previous Fallout games and made it visceral within a marvelous, open 3D world. Funny, charming, dark, wicked, and nerve-wracking, Fallout 3 provided players with an emotionally-rich storyline set inside a world brimming with open-world exploration and combat potential.
Why I love it
What successive Fallout games never quite managed to offer, especially with regards to the primary storyline, Fallout 3 delivered in spades; it gave the player a world that really felt real and developed, offering a picture of an alternate American future where the crisis of atomic power is at one retro-humor stylized and incredible for its dark satirization of real-world problems.
Modding to the rescue
It’s a bit dated, now, in terms of game mechanics and graphics. Still, luckily there’s an amazing modding community out there that has developed a way to re-experience the great original world using the better game engine used by the later Fallout: New Vegas. This mod called A Tale of Two Wastelands allows the player character to travel between the landscape of D.C. where Fallout 3 is set and the New Vegas wasteland from Fallout New Vegas, keeping all elements of their character intact. I still think that Fallout 3 is fun to play in its original form. Still, if you have the patience to get A Tale of Two Wastelands working, that’s surely the ultimate way to experience the game (until an official remaster comes along, anyway).
I didn’t dig the original Bioshock games all that much, mostly because I felt constantly railroaded into boss-battles and combat encounters that I wanted to part in. The game's RPG aspects felt wanting in the sparse and confined hallways of Bioshock’s underwater city. Bioshock Infinite hooked me, therefore, with its focus on deep RPG interactivity and a sprawling open landscape that mixed some of the steampunk aesthetic of the original game with an eerily bright 1920s vibrancy. The storyline captivated me as well, providing a great mystery that unfolded as the game progresses. While ultimately more of a shooter than an RPG, it managed to capture enough of the RPG feel for me to get immersed in the game world. The game's aesthetic offered a stark difference to the oppressive atmosphere embodied in so many science fiction shooter games.
Why I love it
I’d grab it just for the storyline, honestly, dropping the combat difficulty to its lowest to ensure that that aspect of the game is sidelined in favor of following the clues to the great mystery at the heart of the massive floating city of Columbia and the violent racist cult that commands her government and armies.
Who hasn’t wanted to go ahead and design a rocket from scratch before? In this zany little game (which happens to be a favorite of space-mogul Elon Musk), you finally have that chance.
Why I love it
Kerbal is unique for operating on a real physics system that forces players to carefully consider every element of their spaceship design — launching a rocket into orbit requires an understanding of physics far more visceral than what most high-school classes offer and with funny little Kerbal test pilots to-boot!
If Halo broke the mold for what a “shooter” style game could be, then Halo 2 took that mold and… well, remolded it. Halo 2 improved on everything that the original Halo did, diving into a deeper storyline, providing better mechanics, and ultimately just offering an insanely good science fiction experience. Halo 2 would help pave the way for ones like Mass Effect where the storytelling depth went to even new incredible levels, but even nearly two decades after its release, it remains a great game in its own right, even if a few of the levels feel a little classic-shooter in their redundancy.
Why I love it
Recently released as part of the Halo: Master Chief Collection, where it received a full re-mastering for graphics and modern system optimization, Halo 2 is still the pinnacle of the Halo game series, managing to do something that subsequent Halo games utterly failed at achieving: providing a great action shooter with a storyline that felt like it mattered.
Even non-gamers have heard of that hallmark open world-building game “Minecraft,” but for many potential players, that expansive landscape is too big and complicated to dive into. Luckily Terraria’s a charmingly stylized 2D cousin to Minecraft, an insanely addictive little building and exploration game where the player takes over a character that mines deep into the earth, discovers buried treasure, and uses local resources to construct increasingly complex buildings and powerful items.
Why I love it
There’s a range of fun events, too, which add complexity and tension to the game (like the Blood Moon where hoards of enemies assault your home’s defenses). The ability to connect via multiplayer is a huge point in favor of Terraria, too, allowing friends to build and explore together, constructing vast complexes of rooms and battlements to launch further explorations to the farthest corners… and the deepest depths… of this procedurally generated world.
Like so many others, I first encountered the Witch through the Netflix series featuring the beautiful acting chops of Henry Cavill. After watching that (and falling in love with it, especially for its willingness to try out a more complicated narrative style on an increasingly passive world audience), I knew that I needed more. Out of all the Witcher games, The Witcher 3 is the one that most completely feels like dropping into the world of the television series, aided by the advanced game engine and the game studio’s clever approach to narrative structuring. The novels of Andrzej Sapkowski take on a whole new life within Wild Hunt as players can explore the vast open-world as they will, exploring, helping, and slowly uncovering the mystery of the Wild Hunt.
Why I love it
This is a game with a great aesthetic and a brilliant storyline. Still, it’s also a great accompaniment to the whole range of Witcher stories in the original novels, the previous games, and the Netflix show. It seems pretty clear to me that this will become one of the major fantasy landscapes of the next decade.
Exodus is the third video game based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro novels. An action-shooter at its heart, Metro: Exodus manages to far surpass its predecessors in terms of narrative depth and play-style opportunity. While previous games in the series were DOOM-esque shooters, Exodus takes on some of the feel of modern RPG games (though it still railroads the players' choices far more than games like Fallout).
Why I love it
It manages to offer a great story with an engaging cast that the player quickly comes to care for. It’s often the little moments in between the action that makes this game so memorable: the points where you just want to stand listening to one of your friends play guitar, or just sit with your wife and watch the trees pass while you ride a train.
The gameplay's main characteristic is stealth-combat, with the player frequently rewarded for taking the silent approach over the guns-blazing assault. There are fewer “boss battle” moments in this game, too, which is a huge point in its favor for me (I deeply dislike seemingly open-world games that force boss battles on the player). But, again, it’s the little moments that make Exodus shine.
Taking on the role of Henry, a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest in 1989, players navigate an increasingly sinister mystery with the help of Henry’s supervisor Delilah (who communicates with Henry solely through the use of a walkie-talkie). Engaging writing is really what makes this game so wonderful to experience; it’s far more like immersing in an interactive dramatic film than playing a game, with all of the game elements present providing the feel of genuine obstacles for Henry to overcome or be overcome by.
Why I love it
The constant banter between Delilah and Henry, as well as the exploration of both their pasts and the mystery at the heart of the park are overshadowed by the delightfully immerse natural landscape that promotes a feeling of powerful human isolation.
The series of Dishonored games began here, with they hyper-stylized original and, in my opinion, the best. A bit similar to how Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Bastards is known as a “Jewish revenge film,” Dishonored is a sort of “Progressive revenge game” based around the concept of destroying a corrupt merchant oligarchy before the downtrodden people of the city Dunwall are completely overrun by famine and plague.
Why I love it
Players take on the role of Corvo Attano, one-time bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall. Through stealth and guile, the player navigates through various situations within game “episodes” that link together to form a greater narrative progression chain. As the story develops, Corvo gains greater access to special powers and abilities that allow for a more intricate method of solving the puzzles and situation he encounters.
Yes, I know there are newer versions of this game… but this is one of those times when “newer” really doesn’t equal “better.” The original Battlefront II managed to blend massive battle landscapes, a semi-strategic galactic conquest mode, and a wide range of play styles together, unlike any game before it. It became the definitive Star Wars battle game and remains popular despite the outdated graphics and remakes.
Why I love it
Fascinatingly, while the remakes (especially on PC) struggle to find consistent large numbers of players available for the online multiplayer feature, the original Battlefront II servers remain extremely popular. This may, in part, be due to the game’s avid modding community, which has provided several updates to the game’s functionality and graphics (with some mods overhauling the graphics enough that the game almost appears modern).
Though originally funded via Kickstarted in 2013, Rimworld got its official release in 2018 and has since blown the competition out of the water. Providing a top-down 2D interactive world, Rimworld takes place on a randomly-generated world, where the goal is to build a successful colony using the resources available on the map.
Why I love it
Other elements, like trade with other settlements, missions, and lots of combat against raiders and opposed colonies, create the action's main flow. The characters in the game are also randomly generated and may seek to join your colony in several ways and for various reasons; over time, the characters that join the colony will form relationships, deal with personal struggles, marry, farm, and help defend against attack. While the ultimate goal is to escape the world, it is the process of designing a functional colony that really makes the game so charming.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of mods (medications to a game that are created by independent parties rather than the studio responsible for the game's origination), and the modding community for Rimworld is large and vibrant. Their content adds a whole host of new features, from deeper character psychological interaction to theme sets based on famous universes like Star Wars.
A video game that transformed the medium, Myst was the best-selling game around until The Sims finally started outselling it in 2002. An interactive puzzle experience within an immersive and complex story-driven world, Myst is notable for both its deep internal mythology (that spawned several successors) as well as for being completely devoid of combat, a rarity in the video game world.
The player character moves around the island of Myst at their leisure, discovering new clues to the history of the world and their own backstory while solving increasingly complex puzzles of varying aesthetic styles. The game created a rich imaginative landscape and an almost mediative playing experience that rewarded patience and logic above all else.
Why I love it
While the company that produced Myst has primarily moved toward Virtual Reality games (including a VR version of the original Myst released in December of 2020), the original game is still a treat for anyone looking for a true retro gaming experience. Myst broke the mold for what a video game could be, and all the popular modern adventure-puzzle games owe their success, in part, to the landscape that Myst revealed.
Yes, I did play this game as a kid, and it was the absolute best. Unlike Pokemon Red and Blue, where you have to choose from one of three starter Pokemon (Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur), in Yellow, you receive your first Pokemon in the form of a wild Pikachu, just like the Pokemon anime. Even better? You get to capture the other three original starter Pokemon as well, eventually.
Players control their character’s journey through a large map of the Kanto region, battling other Pokemon trainers and encountering wild Pokemon to capture and train. Moving from town to town, the player must defeat the various Gym leaders and eventually take on the Elite Four (the greatest Pokemon trainers in the world) all while battling the machinations of Team Rocket (who, yes, constantly try to steal your Pikachu).
Why I love it
Originally made for Gameboy, the game has since been re-released on Nintendo’s 3DS Virtual Console, allowing modern players to experience (or relive) the epic journey through the Kanto region in search of all 151 original Pokemon. Complete with gorgeous 8-bit music, improved graphics over the original Red and Blue versions, and a delightfully retro-aesthetic that the modern Pokemon games never quite cracked, Pokemon Yellow is absolutely one of the best games ever made.
Designed by Singaporean game designer Sean "th15" Chan, Battleships Forever was a finalist for the 10th annual Independent Games Festival's Design Innovation Award — noted for being the first Singaporean game to receive that honor.
Featuring a 2D interface, Battleships Forever is a Real-Time-Strategy game that allows the player to compete with the AI in several game modes, including a single-player campaign. Combat in the game takes place within a simple physics system, creating one of the most innovative features. Weaponry and ship flight operate on physics, allowing shots fired to miss, creating differences in movement based on mass, and allowing local damage to ship sections to create a realistic damage effect.
Why I love it
I’ve never seen another RTS game that managed to reach the same physics realism level as Battleships Forever, which always surprised me. Most RTS games utilize random to-hit rolls (or a variant of such), which makes combat feel flat, like comparing who has the biggest number. In Battleships Forever, a small and speedy ship can quite literally go up against a bigger and better-armed ship… just by being fast enough to avoid incoming attacks. This allows for a whole new range of tactics. I always wanted to see this feature added to games like Stellaris, which would allow for real tactical combat.
Other great features included a community-developed ship editor, allowing a wide variety of ships to be built block by block.
Another successful Kickstarter game, Reassembly raised $35 thousand for advanced development and has since released both an expansion and a game soundtrack. Likened by reviewers to playing with Lego, the game features a large randomly generated map filled with asteroids and other celestial objects. Different sections of the map are home to different factions, constantly at war with one another. The player tries to help their faction’s control spread across the map, destroying enemies and gaining resources and new parts for their spaceship design as they go.
Why I love it
One of my favorite aspects of the game is how, as the player builds new designs, the player’s faction will start to use the most successful of those designs, changing how the faction’s tactics operate. The game also features a fully-fledged modding community supported by the developer, allowing for a whole host of new features, blocks, and effects to be added to the game.
Obsidian Entertainment, the company responsible for developing Outer Worlds, is well known for its work on other action and role-playing games, including Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas. Outer Worlds is the studio’s first attempt at an original intellectual property developed in the action-RPG style of the later Fallout games. The player controls a character referred to as “The Stranger” (typical of this genre, the player may choose several character elements, including name, sex, and race) who is thrust into a dangerous struggle between various Mega-corporate entities in a far-future alternate reality where Earth has colonized other star systems.
Why I love it
Praised for its voice acting, difficult combat, and overall writing, the game manages to be mechanically rewarding without feeling restrictive. It provides the player with an immersive experience to make the hard choices that affect the outcome of the story. I especially love the world's aesthetic, which reminds me of other alternate-future games I’ve played but manages to capture some unique twists all its own. The familiarity I had with games such as the Fallout series (the newer editions of which use the Unreal Engine as their base) helped Outer Worlds feel comfortably familiar, which helped in some ways. However, it also left me wanting more added depth, interaction capability, and overall mechanics.
Overall, Outer Worlds worked well for me, though, providing a solid gameplay experience that I know I’ll return to in the future (something that I cannot say for all the games I play).
What can be said about a game that managed to get itself briefly banned in Australia? Well, Saints Row IV certainly pulled out all the stops when it came to irreverence, so it makes sense that it would be banned somewhere. It’s raunchy, sassy, violent in a cartoonish 80s-action-flick sort of way, and utterly ridiculous. The whole premise rests on Earth being invaded by an alien species. Simultaneously, the player character (the Saints Row gang leader, who also happens to be the President of the United States) attempts to escape a simulation the aliens trap them within. That simulation was one of the game's biggest defining features: a massive open-world space where their character has the freedom to explore, explode, and exploit their way up the level-tree.
Why I love it
What first drew my attention to the game was how it allowed the player to utilize superhero-esque powers (due to the story’s focus of the character being in a computer simulation, a la The Matrix). Saints Row IV weirdly manages to do superpowers better than most games dedicated to the superhero genre, making it a fun diversion for players who want to “be epic” for a while. The story contains lots of geek-culture jokes, pokes fun at everything from The Matrix to Mass Effect, and manages to be funny through its sheer level of ridiculousness.
Set on the fictional continent of Calradia, Bannerlord is the 210-year prequel to the 2010 game Mount & Blade: Warband. Like Warband, the game operates around a campaign-map mode where the player-controlled character moves across the continent to fulfill quests, grow more powerful, and amass a large number of followers. These followers join the player during combat encounters, where the map switches to a local environment on which sprawling open warfare can occur. Bannerlord improves upon Warband in a number of areas, especially its battle system and the sheer amount of options for grand battlefield carnage.
Why I love it
Warband and Bannerlord became an easy sell for me: it’s just too darned fun to work your way up from nothing to command of an entire army; you get a feel for the characters you recruit, and their loss during battle both affects your ability to fulfill your quests and takes an emotional toll if you’ve been with them for a long time. Another great feature that Bannerlord introduces is the ability to have children. In Warband, you could marry, but now your children can actually inherit your holdings and continue your line (with them becoming your main character should your previous character be killed).
Super Smash Bros. Is a mashup fighting game featuring famous video game characters from a number of different Nintendo franchises, including Mario and The Legend of Zelda. It spawned a number of successful editions and, for its time, was considered innovative for its approach to the historically low-selling fighting game genre. Different characters possess different attacks and special abilities, providing a wide range of tactical opportunities during play.
The designer, Masahiro Sakurai, wanted to create a new type of fighting game, one which would appeal to players new to the genre as well as those who were already fans. Wanting to create a game that used Nintendo characters, he actually developed the beta of the game in secret, only showing it to Nintendo once it was properly balanced and could showcase his vision.
Why I love it
Maybe I just like Super Smash Bros. 64 the most because it’s the first in its series that I played, back when the N64 seemed like the height of technological impressiveness… but I actually think it’s because of how the game managed to mash-up the different game characters while retaining a specific “retro” feel that felt fitting for the whole premise. Later versions felt too clean compared to this… the improved graphics detracted from the “vibe” of the game. I liked Super Smash Bros. Melee, too, but my love of these games remains cemented in the original Nintendo 64 edition.
FTL is an inspired roguelike game based on tabletop board games where the player is required to manage the functions of a starship. Taking place in realtime, the player guides their craft through a number of randomly-generated “star systems” where procedurally-generated events occur. The player’s crew can be assigned to different stations within the ship, providing bonuses and allowing certain ship functions, while also working together to repair the ship and repel borders.
I dig this game specifically because of the community-designed editor features which allow you to create your own ship designs, uploading images, and input your own information for the statistics of the ship. I like any game where you have the ability to modify and customize to your heart’s content, and the modding community for FTL is strong.
What happens when you lose in a video game? Well, if it’s a game with a manual saving system, you can just reload to a save right before your loss and keep playing. This means that there’s a much lower risk of making the wrong choice when you’re playing the game; if you make a mistake, it doesn’t really matter. Roguelike games do away with that by limiting how save functions work, disallowing manual saves, and forcing automatic saves under specific conditions only.
Nostalgia is at an all-time high and what better way to take yourself back to the time of bonfires and summer camps than to dive into The Quarry, the horror-drama spiritual successor of Until Dawn from developer Supermassive Games and publisher 2K Games. Like Until Dawn, The Quarry features a cast of teenagers with various levels of relations with one another, finding themselves in danger and needing to rely on their surroundings and ingénue to survive. The plot of the game kicks off with an introduction to the setting, Hackett’s Quarry, by two camp counselors on their way to the camp a day early. Something in the middle of the road causes them to swerve off and get into an accident which, from there, The Quarry's story unfolds as players begin to make their own choices. Each choice creates a new branching path in the story that affects the game later on, as stated by the path chosen sign appearing to remind the players of their chosen fate.