This is a subjective list. If you feel differently, let us know in the comments section, on Facebook or on Twitter. You may also notice that there’s no numbering system. “Why?” you ask. Because gaming is something that brings us so much enjoyment, why distract from that or the important issue of outlining 50 games by ranking them…which only serves to make everyone unhappy. Every day this week, we’ll be releasing another ten games that we feel deserve your attention, so stay tuned! Part Two, and Part Three are now available.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009/ PS3, Xbox 360)
Holy Cow, Batman! Do we love this game! Sure, there are any number of reasons why we really REALLY like it… That Free-Flow Combat really reinvigorated fisticuffs of its ilk, encouraging players to plan three steps ahead, JUST LIKE THE BAT! That tight, focused narrative merged perfectly with the larger, if still linear, Metroid-esque playgrounds. And those open predator encounters exemplified both the necessary agility and innate vulnerability of The Batman.
But we LOVE the atmosphere, the tone, the feel of Asylum. It is drenched in Batman lore, from myriad Riddler trophies to creepy taped therapy sessions. Even the distressed chatter of armed goons nervously awaiting Batman’s wrath. Asylum was so good, you’d wonder how exactly every other superhero game got it so very wrong….
Mark and Jack
[Our Recent Retrospective]
Borderlands 2 (2012/ PS3, Xbox 360)
Borderlands 2 is SO funny. Like seriously funny. Consistently funny.
Funny enough to almost double my 50+ hour playthrough with the sheer quantity of instances I’d set down the controller to better appreciate the madcap, rapier insanity. Not only did this quick-fire wit emulate the systemic arsenal, but as often as not they struck with the same explosive force you’d expect from a Torque Industries rifle!
But it’s not an entirely flippant venture. Buried beneath the humour, style, role-playing gameplay and thirty million odd guns, there’s the occasional moment of poignancy. These moments are gut-punches, and reveal Borderlands 2 as an extremely intelligent game wrapped in an extremely ludicrous package.
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon (2013 / PSN, XBLA)
Far Cry 3 was great, but Blood Dragon added awesomesauce… and cybernetic ostriches. This stand-alone DLC rocked up almost out of nowhere, creating an 80s action movie fuelled, neon infused, robotic Michael Biehn starring masterpiece.
What could have been a mere cosmetic reskin instead took the faultless open world gameplay of Far Cry 3 and just kept adding layers of ridiculous. Your hero REX POWER COLT runs like a freight train, suffers no foolish fall damage and bounds like a kangaroo on amphetamines while robot baddies heads explode and the incredibly synth score by Power Glove booms out.
Why are you still reading this? Go play it!
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2012/ Xbox 360)
The Witcher 2 isn’t NECESSARILY the best Fantasy RPG. But…
No-one does moral ambiguity like Witcher 2 and likewise nowhere else are the consequences of seemingly innocuous decision made so plainly apparent. No-one does replayability like Witcher 2, locking out entire acts and hours of content depending on your choices. And no-one, NO-ONE can hold a candle to ass-kicking, name-taking white maned amnesiac leading man Geralt of Rivia. Being the Dragonborn is one thing. But offing a dragon with little more than a fishhook and gnarled tree stump is quite another!
BioShock (2007 / Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
BioShock’s Rapture is one of the most iconic settings that we’ve visited in a videogame. The underwater city had its own story to tell, a utopia of sorts which descended into madness, leaving behind ADAM obsessed splicers, Little Sisters and the ever-dangerous Big Daddies.
It was fun to play, combat was fluid, the moral choices were interesting, but perhaps most importantly, BioShock featured an engaging and engrossing story that kept players moving forward. It didn’t offer many reasons to stray from a given path, bar the prospect of finding baked beans in a purse, but when the core of the game was so intriguing it didn’t really matter.
Hotline Miami (2012 / PC, XBLA, PSN)
Dennaton Games exploded onto the scene in 2012 with the release of Hotline Miami, a top-down murder simulator of sorts with a killer soundtrack, unbelievably slick gameplay, and a surreal story. Hotline Miami stacked the odds against the player, sending them empty-handed to a building jammed to the rafters with weapon-wielding foes and tasking them with clearing it.
All of the game’s mechanics and elements just seemed to fall into place and click. And once you had the basics down, players were encouraged to string together kills, use cunning strategies and rack up as many points as possible. It’s utterly bonkers…and quite difficult…but in the best possible way.
[Our PS Vita review]
Sleeping Dogs (2012 / PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Deciding not to attempt to follow in Grand Theft Auto’s or Saint’s Row’s footsteps, Sleeping Dogs blazed a trail of its own with a fantastic story, an interesting protagonist in Wei Shen, tight combat mechanics and a bustling city to explore.
Developer United Front Games realised that less is often times more. The city is quite large, but navigable (plus the game puts directions on screen so you can admire your surroundings rather than the map), the side quests and activities are usually related to the main game (though the less said about karaoke), and there’s no multiplayer tacked on for the sake of it. But you’ll still get your money’s worth…and then some.
Mark of the Ninja (2012 / XBLA)
Klei Entertainment may have turned some heads with 2010 downloadable title Shank but this stealthy number saw them really raise their game.
Forgoing the brawly barbarity of their previous game, Mark of the Ninja puts you in the soft-soled shoes of a master of the dark and deadly. It’s gorgeous to look at, handles like a dream and presents you with a constantly evolving set of challenges, bringing a puzzle aspect to combat and clambering. And you can murder dudes and hang their bodies to terrify their friends. Kewl.
[Mark of the Ninja was one of the most Pleasant Surprises of 2012]
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013/ Xbox 360, PS3)
Revengeance might be a hyper-kinetic, samurai cyber-punk locomotive of gibberish. But it transformed Hack/Slash forever! By marrying its Health and Stamina bars with a twitch bases Parry mechanic and ambitious new free-slicing Blade Mode, Revengeance draws the focus away from the tired Combo system, and into a more reactive, rewarding, riposte heavy experience.
It’s a wild ride! With high-octane stealth, energizing Jap-Rock soundtrack and absurdly excellent Boss Battles, Platinum have steered the once great Hack/Slash genre away from crude button bashing and onto a more cerebral, strategic course.
Peggle (2009 / Xbox 360, PS3)
Addictive gaming masters PopCap’s biggest triumph and one of my biggest weaknesses!
Originally released on PC in 2007, Peggle has invaded just about every platform known to man. And for good reason – it’s just darn wonderful! Shoot a ball from the top of the screen and try to hit all the special pegs before you run out of ammo, that’s literally the entire game. Yet the variation in powers, trick shots and the ferocious physics of the thing is absolutely captivating – all leading to a magnificent reprise of Ode to Joy when you’re victorious. Get it now!
[Mark has been hands on with Peggle 2!!!]