As my profile reads, I am a gamer, but that is a bit of an understatement. The truth of the matter is that I have been playing video games for nearly as long as I can remember. Over the course of those many, many years, I have a collected a select few favourites among the multitude of games I’ve played. I’d like to share them with you all, so over the course of the next little while, I’m going to tell you about my favourite games and game series, five at a time. Let’s get started shall we?
My Favourite Games EVER Part 1
Listing of five of my favourite video games of all time featuring Mass Effect, Halo and Call of Duty
Master Chief's Collection
First up is really four games, but it’s too hard for me to pick just one so I went with the whole series. And before anyone asked, yes, there are more games (Halo Reach in particular), but I consider 1-4 to be the core Halo games, so that’s what I will talking about here.
I first picked up Halo: Combat Evolved in 2005 when I bought my first Xbox (ironically within a few weeks of the 360’s launch). I remember bringing it home, hooking everything up, and diving straight into one of the most iconic games of its generation. That first play through was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had, and Master Chief quickly became one of my favourite gaming heroes by the end of it. I even bought the remastered edition, falling in love with the game once again some years later.
Within a few weeks, I bought Halo 2, and was greeted by an even better game (despite that damn cliff-hanger ending). Halo 2 improved on almost everything Halo had built, with a deeper story presenting the player with a much broader universe. The game is famous for introducing the Arbiter, a new playable character not so unlike the Master Chief, and for revolutionizing console multiplayer. With a phenomenal story to boot, I’ve played Halo 2’s campaign more times than I would like to admit.
In 2008 I bought my first Xbox 360 (the old white Pro console), and what was the first game I bought? Why, Halo 3 of course! Halo 3 was the culmination of the trilogy, and had the biggest, most epic campaign to date. The game play was so smooth, the campaign so much fun, that I don’t think I’ve ever been more satisfied with finishing a trilogy of games in my life. The story of Chief searching for Cortana, trusting in her so completely, was a the best love story/not-love-story I’ve ever experienced. Even with the level Cortana (fucking Flood) being the biggest pain in the ass in the series, Halo 3 remains to this day one of my favourite games, and features my all time favourite level in gaming, Covenant.
Next up was Halo 4, which to be honest I was very apprehensive about. 4th installments to many series, be it movies or video games, hardly ever go well, and when I picked up Halo 4, a part of me was wondering if it would have been better to let that particular sleeping dog lie. When I got playing it however, I realized how foolish I was being. Halo 4 has the most tragic, and by far best, campaign in the series, Chief and Cortana’s tragic story one of the best in gaming, driving the action-packed campaign further and harder than any previous installment. In addition to that, 343 released a separate story called Spartan Ops, which are a welcome addition to the game, bringing with it an all new original story in the Halo universe. The multiplayer was great as well, but the campaign is what made Halo 4 great to me, that last image of Cortana still bringing a tear to my eye.
Last year, all four Master Chief games were remastered and released in the monumental Master Chief Collection. I haven’t been able to get an Xbox One yet, but when I do, I can guarantee that it will be the first thing I pick up. The sheer wealth of content in the package is unbelievable, and I can’t wait to break open and see what’s inside, especially with Halo 5 coming out.
The core Halo games are among the best games ever made, each one a classic in its own right. Whenever I make a list of my favourites, I have to start with Halo, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Halo 5 is coming next, and I have doubt it will live up to the legacy forged by four of the greatest games of all time.
The Legend of Dragoon
The Lost Great RPG
Back in the mid to late 90s, the gaming world was being dominated by either First Person Shooters (FPS), or Role Playing Games (RPG), in particular Japanese RPGs (JRPG). Final Fantasy VII had created a wave of new games with deeper storytelling and bigger worlds than gamers had encountered before. Among the later of those games came a little known title called The Legend of Dragoon (LOD) for the Playstation 1, release in 2001.
Though not a huge commercial success, LOD became a cult hit with JRPG fans. It’s unique combat system and traditional RPG elements blending together to form one of the most complete games of its generation. In fact, it’s been voted time and again as “Games that need a sequel/remake” by several media outlets.
I first played LOD in 2003 on my brother’s Playstation. He had borrowed it from a friend, but I was the one who ended up playing it the majority of the time. It reminded me very much of my beloved Final Fantasy series, but was unique unto itself. The characters were instantly likeable (a rare thing these days... looking at you Star Ocean: The Last Hope), the combat was fun, and the story was so epic it demanded to be played.
That epic story was by far what I loved most about this game. I’ve never been much of a game play guy, which is probably why I don’t do multiplayer as much as other people. If the game has great game play/graphics, but so-so story, I probably won’t even finish playing it. However, if a game has a great story, I will play it no matter how terrible it looks (Final Fantasy VII... let’s face it, even for back then it looked like shit), or how poorly it plays unless it’s really bad.
LOD to me is a real hidden gem among RPGs, and it’s a shame that it never caught on enough for the publishers to make a sequel. It can still be played on PSN for $9.99 though, so if you have a PS3 or 4, I can’t recommend this game enough.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy
Another series where I couldn’t pick a favourite, this mention is probably going to get either a massive cheer or a large grown from gamers when they read this. For the groaners... grow up, it’s a video game, not the end of the world.
By 2007, Call of Duty was already on a serious roll. The first game was an instant hit for PC, earning itself an expansion the next year. The original Xbox had been given on offshoot called Finest Hour, and the second and third games became instant hits on the next gen consoles upon release. However, the theatre of WWII was getting a little tiresome, especially with so many other games out there using the same setting. Activision and Infinity Ward needed to change it up or risk becoming stale (something that some fans said has happened anyway, but I’m getting to old to care about other people’s opinions.) So, the next game in the series was announced as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Upon release it was an instant hit, its multiplayer easily out distancing Halo as the favourite among gamers, while the single player campaign is often considered one of the best of its time.
I first play COD4: MW back in early 2009, renting it from my local Blockbuster (remember Blockbuster everyone? Good times... not really). I played the campaign twice, getting right into the story of soldiers fighting to stop a possible World War, something we are probably far closer than most would like to admit. What was surprising was how honest the game was about warfare in the modern world, and how sometimes the lines between right and wrong are decidedly blurred (Captain Price blowing Al Assad’s head off is still a moment that I’ll never forget). Modern Warfare to the player straight to the front lines with today’s world, the story not the happy, “Let’s fight the bad guys” that most games still portray. Nuclear weapons, assassinations, and brutal interrogations highlighted the stellar campaign. Even the ending was left as such that you didn’t quite know if you had won or lost that fight. It also featured one of the greatest levels in modern gaming history, entitled All Ghillied Up. Still love playing through that level.
Two years later, Activision and Infinity Ward released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The sequel, set a little while after the events of the first game, continued the story, taking us further into the conflict that would become known as WWIII. Once again, the story is not a clean cut good guys vs bad guys type of thing. The mission in the Russian Airport is still the most controversial level in video game history.
My first experience was playing the first level at my brothers house, and then renting it the next day. I beat the campaign in one afternoon, eight hours to be exact, and couldn’t believe what I had played. The line, “We have Russian fighters jets over I95!” still sets my hair on its end, living not so far from there. Plus, the scene where you emerge from an underground bunker to see Washington DC under siege and being laid to waste is still one of the most jaw-dropping experiences I’ve ever had in gaming. Besides that, the campaign was non-stop action, the set pieces as good as any Hollywood movie to match the terrific story. The final level is still one of the best levels I’ve ever played in video games ever, coming close to matching All Ghillied Up and Covenant. With things ending somewhat on a cliff hanger, a third installment was inevitable, and I was more than happy for it.
By 2011, Call of Duty had become a mega power in the video game world, even if some gamers were growing sick of it (seriously, it’s just a game guys). But, the sales were still miles above everyone else, a trend that has not slowed down in the slightest. Despite this, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 had a lot to live up to. The campaign is easily one of my favourites, a personal journey told against the backdrop of a massive conflict as the world has exploded into WWIII. The opening levels were a roller coaster of excitement, then quickly shifted to the story of Soap and Price, our two heroes from the final levels of MW2. Along with new Russian cohort Yuri, they continued their mission to stop Makarov from perpetuating further bloodshed. Through it all, MW3 told a terrified and heart-wrenching story of soldiers fighting in an impossible war, ending with one of the most satisfying kills in gaming history. So many intense moments, so many huge events, it’s hard to believe that all that happened in the span of ten hours of gameplay (give or take).
The Modern Warfare Trilogy is one of the best trilogies in video games, and I guarantee you that if you give it a shot, you will not be disappointed.
Final Fantasy IX
Yes, I said IX.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “IX? What about VII!?” Final Fantasy VII is awesome, and it will likely appear on my lists at some point, but Final Fantasy IX is my favourite in the series, and the game I’ve probably played the most out of any Final Fantasy.
Released in 2000 on the PS1, Final Fantasy IX (FFIX) wasn’t as big at hit as previous titles, nor did it get the same publicity, but for me, it was a near perfect RPG. Going back to Final Fantasy’s roots, its medieval theme and young characters made the game easily accessible, he story more light-hearted than the dark FFVII or FFVIII. What I loved about it the most was that the game was constantly adapting and changing, characters moving forward and developing steadily, instead of a many games that just said, “Hey, he or she has changed, look at them now!” The characters grew, like real people, making me genuinely care about what was going to happen to them.
Besides that, the battle system was another throwback, each character given a particular skill set, even allowing for team ups between certain characters for a more unique experience (Vivi and Steiner FTW!). The villain, Kuja, was both tragic and evil, easily one of Final Fantasy’s most unique antagonists. The long, tremendous story was classic Final Fantasy, starting simple and then building to become bigger than you ever thought possible with a video game. Besides that, there were enough side quests and secret locations to keep you occupied for months in a world so massive and detailed it’s hard to believe they could fit it all in.
Still available on PSN, Final Fantasy IX will forever hold a special place in my heart. That final scene of Garnet and Zidane reuniting to live happily ever after still one of my favourites, a stark contrast to us never finding out what happened to Tifa and Cloud until like ten years later. In my opinion, no other Final Fantasy game could more easily have a sequel than IX, which is a shame considering so many people don’t know about it.
Mass Effect Trilogy
Oh, Mass Effect. A good friend of mine recently said, “The game that ruined other games for me.” Though not entirely true of myself, Mass Effect is my all time favourite trilogy in gaming, bar none. Hell, I’m playing through my first FemShep (Female Sheppard for the uninitiated) play through at the moment, and enjoying it immensely.
Released in 2007, I first played Mass Effect in 2009, quickly becoming obsessed with it. Being of a fan Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic (and its sequel, The Sith Lords), I was excited to see what they had next. What I got to play turned out to be one of the best RPGs ever made. The story of Sheppard and his mad chase of the corrupt Spectre Saren took me across the galaxy, exploring a diverse and detailed universe the likes of which I had never seen before. There is too much to list here, but I have never encountered a Science Fiction universe since Star Wars that was as full of life and wonder. Not But what was more was that Mass Effect truly made the gaming experience “mine”. My choices, my character, my consequences, everything was mine and mine alone. At the end, I as chomping at the bit for a sequel, and a year later, I got one.
Mass Effect 2 was released in early 2010 to immediate critical acclaim. EA had bought Bioware by then (much to many fans disgust... see earlier comments on video games and that they shouldn’t be taken that seriously), and together with Bioware create a new game that built upon the success of Mass Effect, while eliminating it’s failures. Starting with the single hottest opening in video game history, Mass Effect 2 was a bigger, fuller, and more personal journey than Mass Effect. Each squad mate you recruited for your suicide mission had a story to tell, one that was personal and could possibly have an adverse affect on the outcome of the final mission. Besides that, the side-quests were unique, and fun in their own right, though didn’t have the same kind of lasting consequences as those in the first game. The DLC was a welcome addition as well, Lair of the Shadow Broker my favourite DLC ever released until Mass Effect 3: Citadel. By the end, I couldn’t wait for Mass Effect 3 to come out.
Mass Effect 3 was the first game I ever preordered (though I missed the Special Edition... dammit). Over the course of the next three days, I barely put my controller down, playing long into the night each night. Then, when I reached the end... well, those of you who have played the original ending know what I felt. It was not how the game ended in story context, the three choices were to me a hallmark of Mass Effect’s theme. It was how there was no explanation of what happened next that irked me, fueling a very angry email to Bioware over it (sorry guys).
However, Bioware made good, releasing an Extended Cut for free, that tied up all the loose ends, and gave us closure on the greatest gaming trilogy of all time. With the added DLC in to boot, I’ve played Mass Effect 3 probably well over a dozen times now. The multiplayer, a first for the series, was surprisingly fun, and a constant relaxation technique for me (though there are some flaws with it admittedly). With too many moments to list here (maybe a future blog post will do that), Mass Effect 3 is a testament to what video games can do. I laughed, I cried, I cheered, and yelled in anger, but it was all in the name of good fun.
Together, trilogy forms the greatest story video games has ever seen. From start to finish, the journey Sheppard takes us on is second to none, feeling bigger, more real, and more emotional than any other game I’ve ever played. I have NEVER been so emotional attached to a video game in my life, and likely never will.
Well, that’s it for now. There will be other lists such as these, for subjects as well, so keep checking back to see when they’re posted. Have a great day, and happy gaming!
PS, if anyone wants to buy me the Special Edition for Mass Effect 3 off my Amazon Wishlist, go right ahead. I won’t mind.