My Favourite Games EVER Part 6

by GregFahlgren

My sixth and possibly final entry discussing my favourite games of all time.

Hello everyone! It’s been a long while since I’ve written an entry for this series, so I decided that today’s the day for gaming talk!

For those of you unfamiliar with this series, I have been listing my favourite games of all time, explaining why I loved them and why everyone should check them out. I’m coming to the end of my list sadly, at least until I play anything that is good enough to add to the list. So, if this is going to be my final gaming blog, I made sure to pick games that would make it a great one! Featuring the second best Bond game ever (Goldeneye is number one, and it will be hard to top), a classic Star Wars game, two of the biggest franchises in gaming history, and a sleeper classic for the Xbox, this episode may be my best yet!!

Wanna get started? OF COURSE YOU DO!

Knights of the Old Republic

Space Opera Masterpiece

First up are two of my all time favourite RPGs, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and its sequel, The Sith Lords. Both games were released on the Xbox back in its heyday, and instantly became megahits with both Star Wars fans, and the gaming community. The first game, made by RPG masters Bioware, was a triumph of the genre, and one of the most successful titles of that company. KOTOR was a fantastic experience, with great game play, superb (for the time) graphics, and a wonderful story filled with a diverse cast of incredible characters. This game is what made me a massive Bioware fan, and was easily one of the Xbox’s best efforts.

Its sequel, The Sith Lords, was produced by Obsidian, and built upon what the first game had done well and took it even further. Though the first “act” of the game is a bit of a drag to get through (stupid asteroid), the rest of the experience was incredible, following the tale of a disgraced Jedi General and his companions as they try to discover fate of the seemingly destroyed Jedi Order. The story, taking the players on a journey across the Star Wars universe, was fantastic, even though the final sequence seemed a bit rushed. (It probably was, but that’s not a knock on the developers, it’s just the way the modern gaming industry operates). The best new feature of Sith Lords was the ability to gain ‘influence’ over your party members (a device that Bioware would replicate for their award winning Dragon Age series). If you gain enough influence on specific members of your party, you could train them to be a Jedi, helping to rebuild the Order

With both games, you also got to choose the path you wanted to take, the story unfolding by the decisions you make. This is a common theme in modern gaming, but at the time, it was groundbreaking. In KOTOR II, there is even a conversation at the beginning of the game where you can decide what you did in the first game so the events carry over, a brilliant stroke before the use of ‘game save carry-overs’ were commonplace. The main character’s gender, which side of the Force you fought on, even the order in which you complete the game’s main missions all determined what happened to both the player and its party. This type of player involvement was so innovative at the time, many developers scoffed at the notion. Given how common it is now, it is clear that Bioware made the right call.

Both of these games were top-notch, which is why it left me scratching my head why a third game was never produced. Sure, there is Star Wars: The Old Republic, which follows up on the events of the KOTOR and KOTOR II, but it is a wonder why a direct sequel was never produced, especially given how the second game ended. Sadly, this is the world of gaming, where projects are put aside for reasons we as fans can’t understand. I still hold out hope that we’ll get something in the future, but for now, I will still look back at the fond memories KOTOR gave me.

007: Everything or Nothing

Become Bond

On another episode of this series, I discussed Goldeneye, the greatest Bond game of all time and likely one of the best shooters ever. There have been many, many Bond games since then, some great, some not-so-great, but none have been able to come close to what Goldeneye was for fans of 007, until the release of 007: Everything or Nothing.

Everything or Nothing was a change of pace for the franchise, many of the previous Bond games using the same formula as Goldeneye, and falling seriously short of the mark every time. So, a change of direction was taken, the developers attempt to create a more in depth gaming experience than a simple shooter. Taking inspiration from the films, they added more gadgets, vehicles, used a STELLAR voice cast, and did everything they could to put the player directly into James Bond’s shoes. They even had an opening music video, just like the movies, with a song specifically written for the project.

The story, complete with a Bond girl, a new villain, visits from Q, M and Moneypenny, and RIDICULOUS action sequences, felt exactly like a Bond movie. from start to finish. Featuring an all-star cast of Charlize Theron, Shannon Elizabeth, Willem Dafoe, and of course, Pierce Brosnan, Everything or Nothing’s story rivalled that of almost any of the 24 films in the franchise’s storied history. Highlights include driving a tank through Moscow, an adrenaline pumping sequence with a motorcycle, a base jumping sequence that rivals anything the movies have put out, fun stealth missions, and a few appearances by the classic Bond villain, JAWS! All these things combined to make Everything or Nothing a gaming experience that no Bond fan should EVER have missed.

The best feature of the game however was the ability to create “Bond Moments” by completing special task during the game. Some included stealthily sneaking past a host of guards, performing mind-blowing stunts, or just shooting the right object at the right time to take care of enemies in new and unique ways. These moments added to the experience, making the player feel like we are actually stepping into 007’s shoes. It was a brilliant stroke, making the game truly unique and adding to the replay value. It was a little frustrating at times to get all those challenges, but they were great fun when you could do them right.

Everything or Nothing was a turning point for Bond games, every game since using the same formula up to the Goldeneye remake. None have come close to achieving the same level of greatest though, but as with anything James Bond, there will always be another chance.

Max Payne

Noir Graphic Novel in a Game

Back in the early 2000s, games were starting to take a darker, more serious tone. Gone were the days of games being declared “kids stuff”, and with the media taking gaming more serious than ever before, publishers began making more games aimed at adults that any time in the past. This ushered in a wave of edgier, grittier, and frankly more realistic gaming ventures. At the forefront of this time was Max Payne, a neo-noir graphic novel like game that defied convention, and challenged the perception of video game heroes. The titular character, a cop turned mole trying to avenge the deaths of his wife and baby, was not a knight in shining armour. He was a dark, conflicted soul, step by step unravelling the mystery of his wife’s murder, while at the same time leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

The game’s story was incredible, taking us on a dark, harrowing journey into the heart of crime and corruption. The gameplay was fantastic, using the revolutionary Bullet Time effect to enhance the experience. The thing I loved best about it, and its sequel Mad Max 2: The Fall of Max Payne, was how real it was. This wasn’t a superhero fighting bad guys. This was an average cop, trying to do his job and getting caught up in events way bigger than himself, torn and conflicted by what is happening around him, no matter how much he might want going deeper down the rabbit hole, testing the limits of his soul despite his best intentions. In an industry where things are mostly in black and white, Max Payne forces us to look at the grey.

The first two games were so well received, many questioned why Rockstar didn’t produce a third game as soon as possible, and many fans (myself included), feared that Max Payne would become another KOTOR. Thankfully, Max Payne 3 came out recently to rave reviews, continuing Max’s dark journey through what was left of his life. I haven’t had the chance to play it yet (it’s on my HD, but I’ve got a ton of games on tap), but if it’s anything like the first two, Max Payne 3 promises to be an instant classic.

Assassin's Creed

History Lessons through Violent Murder

Now, as of this writing, I have only played the first three games of the series, but even so Assassin’s Creed is one of my favourite gaming franchises. At first glance, I thought Assassin’s Creed was just another run of the mill adventure game with a cool name. However, as I started playing, I discovered a deep, complicated world, filled with intrigue, betrayal, and death. Taking place in both the present/near future and the Crusades, the story unveils a hidden history of the world, while at the same time telling a story of two Assassin’s in different times, both fighting against the same dark forces. The gameplay was amazing, a unique feel in a genre that had become too repetitive in recent years. The present day episodes were great as well, within the first few hours making us feel like this was all a part of something much bigger than the game implies.

As good as the first game was, Assassin’s Creed II built on everything Assassin’s Creed did, and took it several steps further. Shifting to Renaissance Italy, the game uses the same technique of taking historical figures and bringing them to life in a new, alternate history. However, II makes it far more personal, the main character Ezio tugging at our heartstrings as he takes his journey into becoming an Assassin. The combat system, which was already stellar, was upgraded, as were the graphics which were among the best of that time.

Following up on the second’s games success was Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Though feeling more like an expansion than a sequel, Brotherhood took what II had done well, and expanded on those concepts to great success. The story took us deeper down the rabbit hole as it were, both in the past and the present giving more insight into the world of the Assassins. There were some story drawbacks near the end (no spoilers, but decisions were made that as a writer I didn’t understand), but overall the game was an incredible experience that I would go back to again and again.

The franchise since then has dominated the gaming industry. Every year, a new game is released, and every year, the fans demand more. With game of the year nominations for nearly every title, Assassin’s Creed has quietly become one of gaming’s biggest franchises. I can easily recommend this series to anyone looking for a great adventure game, historical fiction, or if they just like running around, randomly stabbing guards while they swear at you in Italian (not joking at all). Check this series out, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Mortal Kombat

Ready... FIGHT!

Our final entry in this episode is one that I’ve been saving as my grand finale to this series. This is a series that I have been playing for over twenty years, and no matter how many times I go back to it, I’ve never been disappointed.

Simply put, Mortal Kombat is the measuring stick for fighting games, ever since the first game came out way back in 1993. The Gameboy version was one of my first video games, and I was hook instantly. Famous for its gore, fatalities, and adult content, Mortal Kombat was a landmark achievement in the gaming industry. I cannot tell you how excited I was whenever I got to play the SEGA Genesis version, and how disappointed I was I couldn’t play it longer.

The success of Mortal Kombat was nearly unprecedented, a sequel in development soon after the game’s launch. Mortal Kombat 2 took everything that MK1 had done, and made it even better. Many of the classic characters of the franchise were introduced in MK2, the Fatalities that had made the first game famous were expanded upon, and the story was made bigger and more important than ever, a rarity for fighting games at that time. MK2 was also the game that revolutionized the combo system the franchise became famous for, fans finding ways to pull off huge combinations that not even the developers could have dreamed up.

The success of the first two games was so huge that the franchise was quickly becoming a monster in the industry, leading to the release of the third installment, Mortal Kombat 3. MK3 (which would be re-released as Mortal Kombat 3 Ultimate and Mortal Kombat Trilogy), blew both its predecessors out of the water. With the biggest roster to date, the inclusion of new Fatalities (including numerous subtypes), new game modes, including team fighting and story modes, MK3 was an amazing effort by Netherealm Studios, easily becoming the greatest fighting game of its generation, and cementing the franchises place in pop culture.

The next installment, Mortal Kombat 4, is the game that I am most familiar with, and have spent more hours on that game than I’d care to admit. Introducing new villains, game modes, abilities (including weapons for the first time in the franchise), and bringing back some old favourites, MK4 was an outstanding achievement in gaming history. The story was also greatly expanded, bringing to a close to some of the game’s longest standing rivalries, while also creating new plot points to launch further games from. The game was so successful that an upgraded version, Mortal Kombat Gold, was introduced for the SEGA Dreamcast system. Many fans consider MK4 the peak of the series, which is a hard thing to say considering where the series went from there.

Next up was Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and the first entry into the next generation of consoles. This installment introduced a new fighting system, giving each Kombatant three unique styles for the players to choose with. It also introduced new characters, many of which becoming instant favourites. A new story mode was brought in as well, for the first time allowing players to dive deep into the world of Mortal Kombat. Deadly Alliance also took numerous risks, such as killing off Liu Kang, and introducing new, dangerous factions into the fray such as the Red Dragon. For many other franchises, killing off such popular characters could be considered a huge mistake, but it paid off, Deadly Alliance becoming a huge success, and leading the direction of the series in a new, exciting direction.

Following up on MKDA, Netherealm continued its path of greatness with Mortal Kombat: Deception. Delving deeper into the universe of MK, Deception (and its PSP port Unchained), widened the realms, introduced new villains and heroes, as well as bringing back old favourites to add a more chaotic feel to the story. Favourite characters were even changed drastically, Raiden becoming more violent and brutal than before, while Liu Kang became a zombie, hell bent on avenging his death at the hands of Shang Tsung. The story mode was the most immersive yet, following the journey of Shujinko as he unwittingly unleashes the Dragon King from his prison, and creating a threat greater than any the realms had ever faced. The game was a massive hit, and set the stage for the grand finale of Netherrealm’s epic (or at least, that stage of it).

Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was the final entry for Mortal Kombat for that era, and like MK3, it featured a MASSIVE roster. Every Kombatant MK had ever had (plus two new characters) were thrown into the massive mix as the war to end all things had begun. Featuring a new story mode, the game took players on the final adventure of MK, as all the fighters past and present marched towards their final battle. As much as I liked many things about this entry, I did feel it fell a little short-changed by certain things. The Create-A-Fatality feature was a good idea, but it felt repetitive, and frankly, watching the many characters perform their own Fatalities was one of the biggest highlights of the franchise. The story mode was great, but it focused solely on one character, and felt like all the franchise mainstays were being pushed aside in order to tell that character’s story. I also found the fact that this huge final battle (depicted in one of the best intro videos in gaming history), was barely even touched upon. For something like this, I would have loved the story mode to feature this battle on masse, leading us to fight after fight as the Kombatants came together one last time to settle old scores and determine the fate of the Realms. It was still a great game though, and one that I had a lot of fun with, even if it didn’t tell us how the whole thing turned out...

In 2011, we would find out with Mortal Kombat. The ninth entry in the franchise (the 8th being Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, which I think many fans would like to forget) was for all intents and purposes a reboot for the franchise, though not in the truest sense. The game’s story depicts Shao Khan standing on the brink of victory at Armageddon, with Raiden at his mercy. Raiden sends a message back through time to his past self, his last effort to prevent Armageddon. From there, the story unfolds as it had before with new twists and turns as Raiden and the other Kombatants fighting against the forces of Outworld. The story also does a great job of expanding on the events of the first three games, while also changing their history, and creating a new story, much darker than the one that came before. The game play was amazing, the X-Ray moves a welcome addition to the already brutal fighting series, and the Fatalities were back with a vengeance. Mortal Kombat was a new masterpiece, not only one of the best games in the franchise, it has to be one of the greatest fighting games of its generation.

Earlier this year, Netherealm released the tenth entry in this incredibly series, the story picks up some thirty years down the line. With a host of new characters, many of whom are the children of the original Kombatants, the game has received rave reviews, and is being lauded as the best fighting game of the current gaming generation. The moment I get my Xbox One I am picking it up without hesitation.

Simply put, Mortal Kombat should be considered one of the greatest franchises in gaming history, and any gamer worth their controller sticks should check it out, no matter the entry.


Farewell for Now Fellow Gamers

Well, that’s end of this series for now. It has been A LOT of fun for me walking down memory lane and talking about the games that have been such a huge part of my life. Video games are a part of my daily routine, my way to relax, my way to escape. They aren’t just silly kids things that I play because they’re cool. They’re adventures, challenges, goals to achieve. They help me deal with the hard times, and make the good times all the better just by playing them. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment, and I hope that through reading this series, some of these games may peek your interest, and you’ll give them a go yourselves, and find them as enjoyable as I did.

Until next time everyone, HAPPY GAMING!


Listing of five of my favourite video games of all time featuring Mass Effect, Halo and Call of Duty
Going back to a time before online multiplayer, HD graphics, and rumble packs to make your controller vibrate (seriously, we bought those, look it up).
Part 2 of my listing of my favourite games featuring Arkham, Gears of War, and Donkey Kong.
Back again taking a look at five more of my personal favourites!
Another listing of five of my favourite video games of all time.
Updated: 12/14/2015, GregFahlgren
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