Throughout this industry there are a plethora of experiences that shaped childhoods, defined the identity of studios and raised the bar for videogames changing the activity from a childish hobby to a bonafide art form. Everyone has their own personal opinion on which games fit that description and which ones out of those are the best of the best, the ones that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who even hints at being a gamer. So that is exactly what the list below is: these are the top five games that any self-respecting gamer should play because they are just that damn good.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
First on the list is actually my favourite game of all time: the Sony exclusive Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This doesn’t only earn a place on my list because it is the game that entertained me through a whole week of snow days, never letting my attention slip from its charismatic characters, poppy world hopping adventure and satisfying cover based third person shooting, but it also earns its place because it is a damn masterpiece that gave us the legendary Naughty Dog that we are still enjoying the fruits of today. This was the game that put Sony’s first party studio on the map and for good reason. For decades before games had always been chasing the cinematic prowess that movies had over the art form, but here the videogame industry finally caught up. With a whole host of set pieces that remain some of the most enthralling in any form of entertainment, Uncharted 2 is simply explosive fun done in the best possible way. Plus without this game we may never have seen The Last of Us, so there’s also that. Side note: this game also revealed Naughty Dog’s secret ability: being surprisingly awesome at creating tacked on multiplayer. Uncharted 2’s multiplayer quickly became the number one virtual meet up spot for me and my friends and wasn’t overthrown until its sequel invested even more into what should have just been a throw away mode that was forced upon them by studio notes.
Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? Of course you have. Flying through the skies would be amazing and definitely better than sitting in traffic on the way to work, plus saving people from dastardly criminals would feel spectacular (presuming you know how to safely fend them off and not get beaten up yourself). This is the fantasy that has filled my thoughts ever since I was a wide eyed kid watching Sam Raimi’s first webslinger flick in cinemas back in 2002. Since then the superhero genre of films has blown up and we now have a whole record breaking cinematic universe full of marvels to delight us almost on a monthly basis. But while the movies have been getting better and better, there wasn’t really a superhero presence within videogames. Not a good one anyway. The Batman Arkham series came close, but towards the end lost their way a bit (damn tank fights). All hope seemed lost. That was until the same hero that ignited my passion for superheroes in the first place swung onto the current generation and landed with an almighty boom. Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is the closest any of us will probably get to actually having powers and becoming the guardian of a city. The game perfectly captures everything that makes Spider-Man such a compelling character. From his unique sense of humour and his notorious Parker-luck, to how immensely fun swinging around New York City is. Insomniac games effortlessly puts you behind that iconic web-patterned mask and lets you run wild. This is the perfect superhero experience we have to date, hands down.
Crash Team Racing
When talking about videogame kart-racers everyone instantly jumps to that iconic Italian plumber and his various karting meet-ups where he inexplicably keeps inviting his enemies to race. Everyone touts these as the best kart-racing experiences on the market, but I’m here to tell you that they are wrong. In fact it is not a plumber with the need for speed that has the best racing game, but a trash talking jorts wearing bandicoot that takes that trophy. I am of course talking about the original PlayStation classic: Crash Team Racing. Back in the day (1999) this was the game that had me and my dad arguing over who was the best driver for hours on end. And even though I was a five year old, it was indeed me. But it is not only nostalgia that gives Crash the top spot in my eyes; Crash’s drifting was - and still is - a tighter system that has more accuracy than its more floaty counterpart, the items used to show that you are not only fast but also furious never seem overpowered or unfair, and the host of tracks available in Crash’s first speedy outing were a perfect mix with none feeling similar to the last. And the best part of all of this, 20 years on the game still holds up. And I’m not even talking about the Fur-K remaster that we are all excitedly waiting for, no I’m talking about the PlayStation 3 PS1 classic port of the game that me and my dad have enjoyed just as much as the original. So there you have it, the truth has finally been revealed, sorry Mario.
Keeping on the split screen multiplayer track, over the past few years there are few games that have made me uncontrollably bawl my eyes out. And out of those, only one has done so while at the same time making me scream: “No! I’m the one washing the ‘effin plates, stay in your lane chopper”. Simply put, a game about being a team of chefs shouldn’t be this fun. The amount of utter carnage that can come from a single kitchen filled with your friends and a pile of simple, yet seemingly impossible orders is not only absurd, but addictively fun. Get any mix of four of your friends together, put this on, and just wait for the heated arguments over who is in charge of the tomatoes or the fish to begin. The gameplay is simple enough for anyone to be able to pick up and play, but learning how to master the work space to gain that highly regarded three star rating is difficult enough to have you replaying the same mission dozens of times over. Think that being a chef will get boring fast? Well when the game moves your kitchen to a blimp or splits your team between two moving trucks things rise to a whole new level very quickly. Warning: some friendships may not survive this experience.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1
Before Telltale released their first season of The Walking Dead they were the point and click adventure people. After the release, however, they were industry gods. That is how special this episodic choose your own adventure game is. Telltale’s emphasis on spectacular writing and emotionally charged character development dictated by the player’s many decisions, from random remarks to story altering choices between life and death, proved to everyone inside and outside of the industry that videogames weren’t just a place for kill streaks, but also a platform for touching and compelling experiences that absorb you into the drama on a level that a film can never do. The devastating tale of Lee and adopted daughter Clementine surviving the zombie/walker apocalypse is one that is still talked about to this day, and for good reason. The series always had you on your toes, agonising over even the simplest things, all because you cared so deeply for the people on screen and wanted nothing but their happiness and survival. All of this emotional intensity whirled together into a perfect cocktail that delivered an ending that shocked as well as broke its fair share of hearts. While the series, and the studio themselves, unfortunately met a sad end, the impact the first season left on videogames as a whole is a legacy not only to be proud of, but is one that will inspire whole generations of developers to create their own incredible experiences. And really, is there anything more you could hope for when creating art?
And there you have the five games I think every gamer should play to get the full scope of this marvellous industry that we all enjoy so deeply. Agree with my choices or have your own, comment your suggestions below.