Ask any PC gamer to name the 10 best platform games of all time and he will likely bore you to death by rambling on about his favorite games and what made them so awesometacular. Which is precisely what I’m about to do. So pull up a pillow and prepare for a nice long nap.
Fox Interactive, the network’s short-lived effort as a game publisher, released this brilliantly conceived first-person shooter almost a decade ago. No One Lives Forever was a comical parody on 1960’s spy thrillers – centered around a sexy female superspy named Kate Archer whose job is to save the world from an evil terrorist organization known as H.A.R.M.
As a shooter style game it held up to any other, but what really made this game so deserving of its title as a classic was its amazing voice acting combined with a plot and story design that sucked you into the game – the secret formula for great game design. Every level was immensely enjoyable and offered funny character dialog and comical “pedestrian moments”. At the opening of each level you would overhear amusing conversations between two enemy guards discussing such topics as the health and 401k benefits of the terrorist organization they work for, or in another scene – one guard confiding to another that he worries that his evil laugh doesn’t sound evil enough.
This is the game that made its developer, Valve Studios, a legend in gaming. A sci-fi shooter set in a secret government research facility called Black Mesa, where a science experiment gone awry creates a tear in the fabric of space and time through which all sorts of nasty aliens begin invading earth – which you must defend, armed only with your wits and a crowbar (the crowbar will do more damage).
Half-Life set the standard for sci-fi shooter style game design and nearly every such game you pick up from the shelf at GameStop owes its roots Half-Life.
Remember when LucasArts made games that didn’t suck? Neither can I. Well actually I do but it was so long ago its all just a fog in my memory. This game however I do remember. Jedi Knight was what every Star Wars game today should be – a mix of awesome cinematic cut scenes and story design worthy of the big screen.
The game sets off with Kyle Katarin – a former Jedi turned mercenary in search of his father’s murderer. As the story unfolds we learn that Kyle’s pappy was slain by some bad ass dark Jedi dude looking for some secret valley which holds some secret power thing which he needs in order to take over some galaxy. The typical boy meets girl – girl turns out to be a wookiee – boy marries wookiee – boy saves galaxy. Something like that. What’s important is this game was something that George Lucas’s latest films weren’t – kick ass.
Ok, so I lied. This is another of LucarArt’s former glories. You would think that a cartoon-like adventure game is really just for kids. And that’s probably true, but this game was so amazingly well done that you won’t notice the fact you’re wearing Buster Browns while playing it.
Monkey Island takes us on the epic adventure of Guybrush Threepwood, out to rescue his honey from the evil zombie Pirate LeChuck, who isn’t very fond of Guybrush and makes several failed attempts on his life.
The voice acting in this game is probably the best in any game ever made – and that’s tall praise indeed. The characters were funny, the story amazingly well written, and level design so good that you easily found yourself sucked into the game, playing for hours on end. I give it two hooks up.
Ok, so I let yet again. LucasArts made another awesome game, and it’s this one. Grim Fandango is a, well, grim tale about a Grim Reaper com travel agent named Manuel “Manny” Calivera – working as public servant selling expensive travel packages to qualified souls in the afterlife in order pay off his debt to society and gain entrance for himself to heaven. Sounds just like Carnival Cruise Lines, doesn’t it?. Unfortunately Manny has a problem – none of his “clients” seem to quality for any travel packages – leaving him in limbo, literally.
As the story unfolds we learn the reason why his clients are so under qualified – a criminal mastermind has embezzled their precious golden tickets and is reselling them to souls who were more naughty than nice. Naturally it’s up to Manny to put a stop to all this and set things right again.
Anyway, the game was incredibly designed – set in a macabre art deco themed world where the dead live in an urban purgatory. The characters were delightful and had unique personalities which seem to make them almost lifelike. Which is something of an oxymoron for characters who are supposed to be dead.
Oh, this one tickles my geeky funny bone. Not THAT ONE you sicko! Thief 3 was an all time great first-person “sneaker.” In the game you play a character named Gareth – a professional thief (hence the game’s title) in search of certain, shall we say, rare items. The story begins with Gareth seeking artifacts needed by a religious sect to translate an ancient prophecy. Then things start getting weird. The story has many unexpected twists that leave you saying “Holy crap! Didn’t see that coming!’.
Thief is a dark world of catacombs and shadowy medieval city streets. You sneak around by using the shadows as your main method for concealment. The game rewards stealth but punishes conspicuousness. Those who enjoy senseless violence can still get their freak on – just don’t leave any bodies around or you’ll be sorry.
Thief was original. Thief was immersive. Thief was great.
Role playing games seemed almost a dying genre until this game arrived. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is one of those games that you find yourself coming back to again and again years after you first tore open the shrink wrap and open the jewel case. Filled with an engaging main storyline and tons upon tons of quests, Oblivion is a single player game that gives you all the entertainment value you can squeeze into weeks of gaming.
The plot focuses on the story of an empire in peril at the hands of a dark cult working to unleash the forces of hell upon your world. As the game starts out you play as a prisoner turned prince, out to help the Emporer (whose sons were just assassinated) escape from his Imperial City by way of the sewers. Unfortunately your efforts fail, with the emperor suffering the same fate as his sons. But hope is not lost, and soon the story picks up and questing begins.
I’ve never played an adventure game so addictive as Oblivion and unless Bethesda Studios releases another in this series I doubt I ever will again.
I never seemed to catch the WOW bug, but a great many friends I know did. Make that former friends, because they became so addicted to playing WOW they locked themselves away in their homes never to be seen again. I should hand out copies of this game to my enemies.
Still, while WOW was a yawn for me, it was (and still remains) a great game that gave rise to the MMO, which is where the game development money gets spent these days. Like it or not, WOW is significant and can’t be ignored as a classic game.
American McGee is a legendary game developer who can best be described as a mad mix of Andy Warhol and Tim Burton. His 2000 game title American McGee’s Alice was ground breaking in its art, and gained critical acclaim. Rightfully so.
Alice was a dark and twisted revisit of the famed childhood tale, that takes place many years after Alice’s journey through the looking glass. We see a mentally disturbed adolescent Alice raised in an asylum after the loss of her parents and home in a tragic fire. As it the story unfolds we discover that Alice’s world isn’t the only one in torment. Wonderland too has fallen into darkness and despair, with Alice as the cause. It’s up to her to restore that world – and herself.
American and his team did an amazing job developing this game. The story was well written, and the dark alternative characters were creepy and compelling. A sequel to this game is currently in development, and I hope it too will earn a spot on my list right next to this one.
What’s really Unreal about this game is that it continues to be played and developed even now, nearly ten years later. Unreal gave rise to Unreal Tournament, and with it came online multiplayer gaming. It wasn’t the very first such game but it certainly was one that defined the category.
Those are my picks. Agree or disagree, these games are awesome and worthy of being called classics. I’m sure you have your own candidates for this list and if so please share them below. I’d love reading your feedback.