Here’s our latest excerpt in the 100 games you must play before you die series. This week sees a particularly great lineup of games gracing our list as Time Crisis 2, Resident Evil 4 and Mass Effect 2 all make it on our top list of 100 to play before your time is up. Remember – the games are in no particular order.
Platform: Commodore 64
Release date: 1986
Nominated by: Phil Federico
Thinking back I must say, I’ve always had a love for Japan. Having read James Clavell’s masterpiece novel Shogun at an early age made me even more determined to learn more about Japan; to my surprise not long after reading the novel, Shogun was released on the Commodore 64. Picking this up for only $10 (which was about equivalent to about $50-$70 back in the day), I was super excited. I threw the game it into my C64 Cassette deck typed in LOAD, then pressed PLAY on the tape recorder and waited for what seemed to be an eternity for the game to load. Once it finished loading the intro music started playing. To this day I have not forgotten it: the music was composed amazingly well with simple audio tools they possessed back then. Personally, I think Shogun really hit home with the music score (as I’m typing this I’m humming the theme song).
In Shogun, the main goal of the game is to gather 20 followers and become the Shogun of Japan. This isn’t an easy task depending on what character you select. Many of the main characters from the novel are available to choose from such as Captain Blackthorn or Lord Toranaga. Along the way you can bribe, befriend, attack, kill rival lords, or anyone you think is a threat. The great thing about the game is it provides you with a live news feed explaining what’s going on in different parts of the game, such as “this person killed this person” or “this person is now friends with person”. For a game made back in 1986, I have to say that its truly was a work of art and very well programmed.
To complete the game you must have in your possession, the Mirror, Scroll and Buddha along with 20 followers. If you can pull this off you become the Shogun of Japan and the game is complete. I’ve heard that this can be done in less than 30 mins. I personally haven’t been able to finish it in that time but managed to get it done closer to the hour mark.
Getting your hands on Shogun will not be an easy task as the C64 is quite a rare item to get your hands, let alone sourcing a copy of the game itself. Probably your best bet for now would be checking out footage and gameplay on Youtube. If you can grab yourself a copy of the game play it and enjoy every minute, because classic games like this don’t come around very often.
32. Time Crisis 2
Release date: 1998 (Arcade), 2001 (PS2)
Nominated by: Matt Vella
The original Time Crisis II is one of my personal favourite video games of all time. The original Time Crisis revolutionised the rail-shooter genre by introducing an exciting duck-and-cover system, the helpful ‘crisis flash’ system and an epic time-based style of game play to speed things up. The sequel brings in a few new things, but most importantly it introduces a second player with both co-op and competitive game play. What’s so innovative about how this is done however, is that each player has a separate screen and a separate path to take. You constantly feel in competition with your partner to shoot secret event items first and shoot the enemy before the other player. There’s also an interesting take on friendly fire, as instead of loosing lives you lose points, which is a huge loss since the game as largely points-based. It’s also one of those few games that actually make you feel like your letting your partner down if you die, so you get this extra urge to stay alive and keep playing.
The narrator has a really memorable and awesome voice, and the game is filled with variety so nothing ever feels old. The bosses are cinematic, memorable and really exciting, and the cut scenes are done well with an interesting story that doesn’t drag on and keeps the action going – with some awesome scenarios to accompany them. Sporting an amazing soundtrack, great graphics (for its time), and the best damn level design I’ve personally ever seen in a rail-shooter, Time Crisis II is a must play!
33. Resident Evil 4
Platform: GameCube/PS2/PC/Wii/iOS/Zeebo/Xbox 360/PS3
Genre: Third-person shooter, survival horror, game changer
Release date: 2005 (GC), 2006 (PS2), 2007 (PC, Wii), 2008 (iOS), 2011 (360, PS3)
Nominated by: Alexis Ayala
You’ve played Resident Evil 4. Of course you have. Even if you haven’t played it you still have in some capacity. No other game in the last decade has been as influential as it. RE4 is responsible for creating the template of the third person action game as we now know it. The over the shoulder view, having the character in the lower left of the screen, the popular proliferation of quick time events. Yep that’s right, even QTE. RE4 may not have created them but it sure as hell made them popular with all the kiddos. RE4 was a drastic departure from the previous games in the series. Known for clunky controls; well the controls were still clunky –lets say, clunkier controls, scarce ammo and a creepy/moody atmosphere with lots of jump scares. RE4 changed all of those, the mood was less scary with more of an action/adventure vibe with it, ammo was far easier to come by, you can control where you shot far easier and you were no longer stuck in one or two locations continually backtracking. However it wasn’t all rose pedals and gum drops during production. RE4 went through 4 versions before the final was eventually made, the first one eventually morphed and was turned into Devil May Cry, another version, dubbed “fog version” saw Leon S. Kennedy (the protagonist of the final version) infiltrating the Umbrella headquarters in Europe. Fog version was 40% complete, scrapped and followed up by what’s known as the “hook version” which featured Leon again fighting spectres, suits of armour and, you guessed it, the hook man. There’s a video of this version floating around the internet.
So what does this tell us? That you shouldn’t be afraid to scrap an idea you’re not confident in and iterate until you are. However that only works if you have millions of dollars and an infinite amount of time. But in this scenario, it really paid off. I’m not sure if the Resident Evil series will ever have another title in it like RE4<, but then again it’s hard to top one of the best games in the history of video games.
34. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Release date: 2003
Nominated by: Roger Ma
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best Star Wars games ever made. Set 4,000 years before the films (thereby cleverly sidestepping the complex Star Wars film canon), Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republicc is at heart an innovative RPG that plunged players deep into the Star Wars universe, leaving them free to explore the living, breathing galaxy.
As the game was not based on the films, Bioware was free to create their own unique epic story filled with memorable characters, settings, worlds and of cause one of the biggest plot twists ever told in a video game (if you haven’t played the game, please don’t go look this one up. Trust me, this one is worth playing the game for).
Asides from an epic story, what made the game so good was its setting. Bioware made sure that you were, in fact, in the Star Wars universe. Knights of the Old Republic was one first games to employ a dialogue tree with full voice acting, along with a morality system that actually effected events in the game later down the track. You choice in the game of which planets you visit affects whether you became a Light or Dark Jedi – these choices are entirely up to the player to make.
On top of this, the game just played well: both hardcore RPG players and causal fans could easily pick up and play this game without being alienated or freaked out by overly complex statistics, skill trees, menu layouts etc. Bioware found a balance between accessibility and depth in the RPG genre. They didn’t dumb it down; nor did they make the game overly complicated. Tying solid gameplay to Star Wars…well who knew that they were on to a winner?
Platform: PS3/Xbox 360/PC
Genre: First-person shooter
Release date: 2007
Nominated by: Mike Irving
If Half-Life 2 was the stand-out intelligent shooter of the last generation, then Bioshock is the current equivalent. While its shooting mechanics essentially stuck to genre standards, it dressed them up with a combination of regular weapons and genetic enhancements that allowed the player to unleash from their own arms a lightning storm, fireballs, or a swarm of bees, among others.
However, the most striking thing about the game was its setting: the underwater dystopia of Rapture. Secretly built at the bottom of the ocean in the 1940s, Rapture was designed to allow people to pursue their own goals that may fall outside of what society deems moral. Of course, it doesn’t go well, and the player arrives by way of plane crash twenty years later to find the city in ruin, stalked by its psychotic, genetically-modified residents known as Splicers. But the creepiest and most dangerous residents are the Big Daddies and Little Sisters, who roam the halls in pairs, collecting genetic material from the dead. The Little Sisters form the game’s central moral dilemma: kill them and harvest the valuable genetic material they carry, or save them from their zombie-like state and surrender your prize. Either way, first you have to get through her bodyguard: the hulking, diving suit-clad, drill-armed Big Daddy.
Bioshock was also praised for using a political and philosophical base, something video games had rarely (if ever) done previously. It was largely based around Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, and used elements of Art Deco and Steampunk in its environment design. It even challenged video game conventions such as player control: the “Would You Kindly…” revelation is one of gaming’s most powerful narrative twists.
Bioshock isn’t perfect by any means, but it should be noted for its achievements in straying from the norm, playing the posterchild of the “For” argument in the ongoing “Video Games As Art” debate, and attracting the attention of the general public to recognise video games as a maturing and versatile medium.
36. Tales of Symphonia
Release date: 2003
Nominated by: Luke Halliday
The Tales RPG series never truly competed with the Final Fantasy series (or Dragon Quest series, for that matter). The games just lacked the same spark that sent those series to fame…that is until Tales of Symphonia came along. Although it was released for the Gamecube (a console which is known for its low level of popularity), Tales of Symphonia made a huge statement in the RPG world and made waves that have impacted the genre ever since.
With an unprecedented battle system that went on the influence RPG games that came after it, memorable characters and a brilliantly concieved storyline that doesn’t require an elephant’s memory to remember every single little detail in order to be comprehended, Tales of Symphonia not only changed the RPG genre overnight but it left a lasting impact on the Gamecube platform as well as gaming history. This is indeed one RPG you have to play before you die.
Platform: Game Boy
Release date: 1989
Nominated by: Jack Joly
A good measure of Tetris‘ success would have to be the amount of imitations out there; on a yearly basis the legal team must have their work cut out for them as they – with a hint of regret seeing as they could be destroying something creative – battle to shut down projects which copy their game. It must be hard to avoid similarities though, because Tetris is the definitive puzzler – almost a loose framework that many may feel inclined to build on.
Its simplicity is the reason Tetris is so addictive: the shifting of various shapes made up of four squares into neat lines hits a chord with our instinctive desire to organise. Almost every console has been christened by some form of the game appearing on the system, although the conclusive edition is still on the original Game Boy. As a launch title, it helped the system shift many more units as a Tetris craze swept the world, all the while making it portable so you could shift blocks with five minutes spare on the go.
38. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Platform: Sega Master System/Wii/XBLA/PSN
Release date: 1987
Nominated by: Kyle Moore
Sega’s answer to Mario, Alex Kidd, would go on to visit many worlds through out his time in video gaming. However, no world was so engaging and memorable as the very first: Miracle World. Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a platform game released for the Sega Master System in the late 80’s that also incorporated some strategy elements. Armed with a mighty fist, Alex Kidd was able to punch enemies and grab bags of money in order to purchase some pretty cool vehicles along the way, such as motorbikes or peddle powered helicopters. One of the most notable features is the inclusion of boss levels where you must play rock-paper-scissors (jan-ken-pon) in order to progress further, eventually facing off against Janken the Great. It’s this element that makes the game so unique, not to mention some pretty fun, often frustrating level design.
Perhaps my motivation for including Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a little personal, seeing as it was my first video gaming experience – one that taunted me with endless difficulty from the age of five until my Master System finally burnt out and passed away. Armed with new found dexterity, I was finally able to beat the game (an emulated version I struggled to find before the game was available for download), reaffirming my nostalgic love of the game.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World stands as the best of the Alex Kidd franchise, and at the time of release up until the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd acted as a mascot for Sega. Given the success of Sonic as a franchise, perhaps this was the best move. However, in doing this Sega have pushed Alex Kidd in Miracle World back into the vacuum of video gaming history making it a lost treasure of sorts. With the release the game for Wii’s Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, it’ll be all too easy to jump into the 8-bit Miracle World alongside Alex Kidd at least one time before you die.
39. Mass Effect 2
Platform: Xbox 360/PS3
Release date: 2010
Nominated by: Kelly Teng
One of the biggest complaints I have about “choose your own adventure” types of games is that the decision making always feels forced, and no matter what happens, it still feels like you’re playing through a linear title…that is, until Mass Effect 2 came along. With characters that truly touched your heart, a style of gameplay that virtually allowed you to customise everything, and a narrative that requires you to go out and save the universe, ME2 truly was a delight to play.
Even if sci-fi style games aren’t your cup of tea, it’s definitely worth having a taste of what ME2 has to offer. Being able to play as both the good guy and the bad guy offers endless possibilities, and many have replayed the title more than once simply to see how everything would have been if different choices had been made throughout the title. Throw this in with wonderful graphics, and a complex backstory on the different races and different nebulas, and you have a title that is enjoyable from start to finish, and then some.
Release date: 2001
Nominated by: Darren Resnekov
I dont have a massive amount to say about Ico despite it being in my list of choices of must play game titles – the main reason being that I dont remember any of the finer details of the games storyline or any of the characters encountered. What I do remember, however, is the sheer beauty of the game, the vast open spaces and the minimalistic feel to the entire environment. The game had a very Japanese feel to it, depsite being a commercially available Western title and centered around a boy meets girl concept. Ico came onto the market in a similar manner to Portal 2 and was lapped up by gamers bored with rehashed titles solely based around guns and weaponry. It offered a challenge not before seen within console titles and was groundbreaking in concept and visuals. Ico will be available in all its glory as Sony have decided to give it a makeover and will be releasing a HD version. This title truly is a work of art.