Welcome to the fifth part of our 100 games you must play before you die series! This round again has a variety of different games that our editors have nominated for different reasons, but each title is definitely worth putting on your “games to play” list. Just remember – the games are in no particular order!
41. Sonic Adventure 2
Release date: 2001
Nominated by: Michael Marr
This is probably the favourite of many Sonic the Hedgehog fans the world over. While the debate is always raging on about 2D vs 3D gameplay, Sonic Adventure 2 was a shining example of how 3D gameplay in a Sonic game can be done well. But it’s not just the gameplay alone that sells the game. This particular title introduced new characters and concepts that would forever change and mould the Sonic universe, particularly with the introduction of Shadow. It provided both a light and dark side story, finishing with one of the most epic gaming climaxes ever. This allowed players to play the standard hero beats villain story as Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, but also allowed players to delve into the role of evil as Shadow, Eggman and Rouge. The three different gametypes found in the game were also unique, but very well executed concepts – high speed platforming, third person shooter and treasure hunting respectively.
The game also featured a fun little mini pet raising section called the Chao garden. For the players who owned this game, this section was addictive. Hours of gameplay time would be devoted to raising these cute little buggers to perform and act like your favourite Sonic characters (and sometimes look like them too). The critters were super cute and could be used to play mini games such as the Chao race and Chao Karate. The Chao Garden was a concept originally introduced in Sonic Adventure 1, but the garden in SA2 perfected them.
42. Pokemon Red/Blue
Release date: 1996 – 1998
Nominated by: Jared Hilliers
Okay so not many games I’ve played can make me want to line up for a tournament…but I did that for Pokemon in Westfield as a little kid, and I also lined up for the movie. This sad admission (not so sad now, it’s got more cred) sums up the impact of Pokemon across the world. Pokemon Red/Blue is pretty much where it all started – from there the anime show was my next obsession, which made me even more obsessed with the games. For about two years of my life as a kid I was trapped between reality and the world of Pokemon, and I’m completely okay with that. Pokemon was the franchise of the late 90s that probably had the biggest impact culturally: it spawned films, merchandise, the TV show, trading cards and sequels, all of which are still going ten years later.
Everybody knows Pokemon, but it’s hard to put into words the sort of phenomena that spread from the game. You don’t even have to play it to know what it’s all about. Luckily, to back up all the word of mouth love at the time, it was actually a pretty good RPG, and it was portable – so much so that I specifically remember people in high school giving the emulated game to their friends on Floppy disks (just before they died). Pokemon helped spawn free emulated games…how rad is that? The ultimate goal was to catch ’em all, and that task on Red/Blue is probably the easiest these days. I’ve lost count as to how many Pokemon there are now in the sequels (I think most people have), but that’s what makes Pokemon Red/Blue probably the best and easiest Pokemon game to play before you die, certainly if you’ve never played a Pokemon game before. When I’m an old fart retiree, I reckon I’ll have another crack at it; the nostalgia almost matches that of any other classic Nintendo franchise.
43. Final Fantasy IX
Release date: 2000
Nominated by: Luke Halliday
When you ask someone what the best Final Fantasy game is they are most likely to say FFVII or FFX. While those games are great, Final Fantasy IX – the black sheep of the franchise – is without a doubt the most complete Final Fantasy title. The game features visuals which are a mixture of the older FF games (pre-FFVI) with the newer styled (post-FFVI), has more charm than any other title in the series to date, and has a complex, yet easy to understand story-line that no other Final Fantasy game has ever truly achieved.
But wait, it’s not just that! The characters are without a doubt some of the most well-developed and genuinely relatable characters the Final Fantasy series has ever produced. All of these characters’ journeys become your journey and you can not help but ride it with them. Whilst it did not change the series (it has no effect on it whatsoever, unfortunately), Final Fantasy IX stands a top as the series crowning achievement whether people realise it or not. If you love the Final Fantasy franchise, play this before you die. It is Final Fantasy‘s unsung high point.
44. Shadow of the Colossus
Release date: 2005/2006 (PS2), 2011 (PS3)
Nominated by: Claire Phillips
It is so difficult to put into words what makes this game special. Shadow of the Colossus is all about atmosphere and emotion, punctuated with incredible battles that leave you drained yet draw you ever onward. It is my favourite game, and I will love it forever for its bold design. It’s story without words, and it is the game that proves videogames can be art.
You play a boy trying to save a girl. There’s no background to it, and there’s none needed. You have a horse, a sword and a bow, and you must defeat sixteen Colossi in order to save her.
The Colossi are the only creatures in the entire game, and they provide some of the best and most unique ‘boss fight’ style gameplay I have ever come across. The majority are incredible battles, littered with spectacular moments like leaping onto the back of a flying eagle or shooting a snake in the eye from the back of your galloping horse. Some are quick and aggressive, others mammoth in scale and unwilling to fight. I remember taking hours over some of the battles, climbing up again and again in a desperate attempt to figure out and reach the weak point to bring them down.
And that’s the inexplicable bit. The emotion that this game somehow makes you feel is incredible for something so minimal. When you do kill the Colossi there’s just this horrible feeling that you are doing something wrong, that these creatures should be left alone. Victory is anything but sweet, yet the game is so well designed that it pulls you on anyway, the next battle filling you with both anticipation and dread.
There are so many stand out moments in Shadow of the Colossus but I just don’t want to talk about them – I want you to play them. It fully deserves the up and coming PS3 release (teamed with Ico and in full HD), and now that I’ve talked about it, I want it now. Damn.
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer, Art
Release date: 2008 (XBLA), 2009 (PC/Mac/PSN), 2010 (Linux)
Nominated by: Alexis Ayala
Braid put Jonathan Blow on the map. The former Inner Product column writer for Game Developer Magazine made a huge splash with his first big entry into the game scene with Braid.
It’s rather simple when you think about it. Braid is a 2D puzzle platformer where you use a time mechanic to navigate the protagonist, Tim through six worlds. However, each world has its own rules as to how the time mechanic works, starting off as simply being able to rewind time at will and changes with time moving in the direction that you’re walking or using a magic ring that warps time around it when dropped. Beautifully constructed puzzles aside, Braid really rises above the scrap heap with its narrative. On the surface you have Tim searching for a princess who “has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster”. The details are vague but we know that Tim has made some sort of mistake that he wants to fix in some manner. Braid‘s story and game design are married in a way that few games are. What you do in the game directly tells a story metaphorically of what Tim wants to accomplish. He regrets something and wants to fix it, or rewind time to fix it. I’m not going to go into the details as it would surely spoil the game but I implore you to check Braid out. It’s a beautiful experience.
Release date: 1989
Nominated by: Kyle Moore
Developed by game genius Will Wright, SimCity allowed player’s to finally play God. Well, if God was a city planner, then this might true. Regardless, SimCity opened a world of possibilities for players, allowing them to recreate their own city and watch in awe as it expanded and came to life.
Originally a PC release, SimCity would go on to spawn dozens of ports, from consoles to handhelds and even smartphones. Not only this, but SimCity also gave birth to a plethora of simulation based games such as: SimEarth, SimSafari and most notably The Sims. Arguably, The Sims itself is a game to play before you die, but where would The Sims be without SimCity? Since it’s release in 1989, SimCity has gone on to win a number of awards, from Game of the Year in 1989 to being named number 4 in the Ten Greatest PC Games Ever by PC World in 2009. SimCity has left a profound impact on video gaming, and now can take its rightful place as one of the 100 games you should play before you die.
47. Banjo Kazooie
Platform: Nintendo 64/XBLA
Release date: 1998
Nominated by: Phil Federico (written by Jared Hilliers)
Classic rare titles are rarely released these days, and Banjo Kazooie is one of them. It was re-released on Xbox Live Arcade for a reason and you should pay attention and take advantage! At the time of it’s release, Banjo Kazooie was a landmark graphically for the N64 and it was compared quality-wise to Mario 64 across the board. Some would even argue that it’s in fact better than Mario 64, and that’s a pretty big deal. It still stands the test of time over 10 years later, even though the port on Xbox Arcade isn’t the greatest.
Banjo-Kazooie successfully blended humor, fine gameplay, a great soundtrack and some of the best graphics found on the N64. Everything you want in a platformer is found in Banjo and for under $20, it’s well worth playing before you die.
48. Left 4 Dead 2
Platform: Xbox 360/PC/Mac
Genre: First-person shooter, survival horror
Release date: 2009
Nominated by: Michael Marr
Left 4 Dead 2 is the ultimate zombie survival game (never mind what MasterAbbott tells you). I love this game because it promoted co-operative gameplay with friends. Sure, it was certainly playable alone with the AIs, but it delivered a better experience with human players – not to mention that in versus mode that allows teams to play as special infected, there’s a degree of challenge in facing down a human controlled opponent in a survival horror game that you can’t get anywhere else. Couple in all of the gameplay improvements that were made over L4D (such as melee weapons, dispensable ammo and unique grenade types) and you’ve got yourself a definite game that you must play before you die.
49. Starfox 64
Platform: Nintendo 64
Release date: 1997
Nominated by: Matt Vella
Hands down, some of the most fun I’ve ever had while wearing pants. Starfox 64 is asily one of the most charming and memorable prodcuts to ever come from Nintendo! This third-person rail shooter has players control Fox McCloud in his Arwing spaceship as he travels through the Lylat System with his team in the attempt to defeat the evil Andross. Amazing level design, unique game play, awesome soundtrack, great boss and character design, alternative level paths, consequences for not helping/protecting your team mates….oh god, there are just too many things to describe about this game. It also introduced the Rumble Pack for the Nintendo 64, a revolutionary feature and a monumental moment in gaming history.
This game still looks and feels amazing to date. The personalities of the characters are so memorable and it’s just outstanding. For those who don’t know, all you need to know is that Falco is a douche, Slippy is a wuss, Peppy is old and Fox is awesome.
50. Halo: Reach
Platform: Xbox 360
Release date: 2010
Nominated by: Dustin Spencer
Halo: Reach may be young in age, but in my opinion it gave rebirth to the Halo franchise as a whole. So how does a series deliver without the main protagonist (Master Chief) returning? By delivering five early spartan soldiers to team up with in a whole new campaign.
Jorge, Kat, Carter, Jun, and Emile were a lot more than subtle stand-ins for combat, as each had their own traits and personalities that the player could relate to in one form or another. Introducing such a rich teamwork based storyline did wonders for keeping the player immersed in Reach‘s plot, and the finale was truly one of the most kick-ass moments this generation.
Along with the lengthy campaign, players were given a whole new set of stunning locales for multiplayer combat, the largest map editor in history, and a ton of tools to communicate with the millions of other fans from all over the world. Bungie may not be working on the franchise anymore, but they set the bar for all sequels to come with Reach, and if history serves correct…this could very well end up being the definitive title in the series that is sure to see every top 10 list for the genre for generations to come.