Best Games Ever

Okay, so I suppose it’s the right time to do this. Some surprising omissions, which show how my gaming tastes seem to be changing. Mostly gone are the games that are wonderful but which I only played once. Portal, last year’s number ten, was the hardest to cut. Super Mario Galaxy I played for a while, loved, but then never went to back to, so that was a hard cut, but one that I didn’t have to agonise over. Oblivion is a victim of Fallout 3. Fallout’s clearly the better game, but I’ve not played it nearly enough to put in the top ten. Halo 3 I forgot about until writing this paragraph. What’s left are, with a couple of exceptions, games that have kept on giving over a number of years and fewer of the brilliant, short-lived explosions of gaming.

(I’ve also resisted the temptation to add Little Big Planet, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see it in here next year.)

10. (NE) Peggle (PC/iPod) – If you added up all the hours I’ve spent on games over the last couple of years, I think Peggle would probably come out on top. You might think it’s completely random, but the fact is that you can get better at it over time. Impossible challenges become possible not simply through luck, but also through your increased knowledge and skills. Which is to say, it’s a game. A real, proper game. Fearfully addictive, impeccably designed, incredibly polished. It is, I think, pretty much perfect. And I love it. The iPod version isn’t quite as good – there’s the odd bit of weirdness with ball movement and the lack of a “speed up” button hurts it – but it’s still Peggle.

9. (NE) Animal Crossing: Let’s Go To The City (Wii) – My heart will probably always belong to the DS version, because that helped me through the long distance stage of my relationship with my now-wife. However, the Wii version is just better. It’s the same, but more so, with more items, characters, dialogue, activities, etc. There’s just something wonderfully relaxing about having a Crossing town to pop into after a hard day and I hope the series keeps on being updated and I hope it never changes too much.

8. (NE) GTA IV (360) – The best GTA game – though Saints Row 2 gives it a run for its money – with the best characters in any game, ever. Sure, I’m so pathetic that Suikoden 2 made me cry back in the day, but never have I cared for characters as much as I cared for Niko Bellic and chums. But the game was also incredibly good. The cover system made shooting people a joy, the car handling was new, different and fun and Liberty City was am amazing place to have adventures. Still, if it wasn’t for Niko, this wouldn’t have quite made the top ten.

7. (8) Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (PSP) – I don’t play it as much as I think I should, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the best games ever made. It’s an SRPG sandbox, with depths I’ve never reached. In all the years I’ve played, I’ve still only skated on the surface. The PS2 and DS versions are excellent, excellent games, but the PSP version gets my vote. I miss the DS version’s map, but it’s a lot smoother. It shouldn’t matter in a turn-based game, but I find the technical issues in the DS version very distracting. I’m just shallow like that sometimes.

6. (4) Mr Driller: Drill Spirits (DS) – I still play this fairly often, years after I first played it. I would really, really like a sequel please, Namco. But I don’t really need one, as there are still several stages in the main game that I’ve yet to clear. The 1500m stage has kept me going for a couple of years so far.

5. (5) Crackdown (360) – Same place as last year, despite the fact that I’ve not played it. I always think about it, though, and it’s never getting traded or sold. I will go back one day. I keep nearly playing it, but instead play newer games. I think I need to set a day aside soon, reset the city and go for it. I’ll jump around, shoot lots of bad guys and maybe even drive a car or two. The layout of the city is imprinted into my brain. I can run round it in my head even now. The best superhero game ever made.

4. (NE) Hitman: Blood Money (360) – I can’t quite believe this has never made my top ten before. Maybe it’s only in the last year that I’ve come to fully appreciate it. Each level is a puzzle with multiple solutions. Even if you’re going for a Silent Assassin rating there are different ways to approach levels. It’s an amazing balancing act, to give you so many ways to do things without making the game too easy. Also, very importantly, the game’s great fun when things go wrong, as well as when they’re going right. When your disguises work, when you stroll through levels unnoticed and untouched, you feel amazing. When you’re caught and the guns come out and you have to salvage something from the situation, the panic rises, the rag-dolls fly and, well, normally you die. But sometimes you don’t. It’s such a shame that the demo was just the tutorial level, as showing people the controls and rules of the game doesn’t show them the game itself. It doesn’t help, either, that the fist real level is easily the weakest of the bunch. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it – this is the fourth best game ever made.

3. (RE) OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (Xbox/PSP) – Dropped out of my top ten last year, because I’m an idiot. A game I’m still playing after it’s been out for years. A small selection of short stages. A small selection of cars, many of which feel very similar indeed. And the PSP’s analogue nub to contend with. Yet it’s still absolutely brilliant to play and feels fresh and exciting every time you start it up. How good must the two first levels be, to still be fun after all this time? Third-best-game-of-all-time good, that’s how good. There’s a version coming to Live Arcade and the Playstation Network any time now. I can’t wait.

2. (3) ICO (PS2) – Every year this seems to climb the top ten, despite me not having played the game. I should play it through again sometime, to make sure it’s worthy of this high praise. I know I’ll get annoyed by the combat. I know I’ll get stuck on some puzzles I should remember how to complete. I know I’ll get incredibly frustrated… but I’ll be back with Yorda in that lonely castle. I’ll see the sun again, the trees, the windmill, the great crumbling towers and bridges, the halls, the caverns… the beach. Yes, yes. I need to play this again.

1. (1) Doom (PC/360) – No surprise to see this year, what with it being the best game ever and all. It’s never been bettered. It’s looking likely that it never will be. The perfect combination of controls, weapons, enemies and level design. But can we have Doom II on Live Arcade please?

Chinese Checkers (iPod)

Does what it says with no issues, but it turns out I don’t like Chinese Checkers much.