Sometimes a game can be so good you would want someone to erase your memory of it and then you can be floored all over again.

So here are the games we here at VGU would like to re-experience again because they all have had affected us in different ways.

Allan Muir – Admin/Co-EiC

  1. Life is Strange
Credit – GameSpot

This was an easy guess for those of you who saw me go from a somewhat regular guy to a Life is Strange “Stan” as my co-host on the LHG Podcast Emmett Watkins would say. Or you could listen to the episode recorded minutes after I had finished the first episode here. Or if you want in-depth on how I felt after playing the first game and the way Dontnod changed my perspective on narrative in video games with Life is Strange you can read it here. So before I begin I must warn those who have not played the game that I will be going into detail on certain moments, so SPOILERS!

Set in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon you are in the role of Maxine “Max” Caulfield, a student at Blackwell Academy and you are a normal photography student who becomes quite extraordinary over the course of a week. The atmosphere in the game is a mix of a search for a missing girl, Rachel Amber who is never seen throughout the game but always mentioned in one way or another. It’s very much like The Killing or Twin Peaks. The other part of the atmosphere of Life is Strange is reconnection. Max is from Arcadia Bay but here parents had moved away and she returned to go to the prestigious Blackwell Academy art program, specifically photography taught by star photographer Mark Jefferson.

It is during class that she is in some kind of vision where there is a mega-storm occurring and headed toward the town. Max soon discovers she can rewind time and is utterly terrified at what is happening. One of the characters or perhaps THE character at the heart of the story is Chloe Price aka Max’s best friend. At a certain point in the story Max is given a photo of Chloe and Max taken by Chloe’s late father William and somehow Max travels back in time to when the photo was taken and messes with time. The reveal of the repercussions made in the new timeline are startling and I gasped in horror like Max when the end stinger happened. Soon after the almanac is burned and Biff’s timeline goes away, (Back to the Future Reference) you have to make a very tough choice and the ramifications carry through to Life is Strange 2, albeit on a lower scale.

I’m on the Autism spectrum and for some odd reason I can connect more with videogames than people sometimes and when I like something I am in 110%. With Life is Strange I charged through and wanted to find more games like it and frankly there’s no other game like it. With Life is Strange 2 nearing the end I am confident in saying there will never be a game like Life is Strange.

2. Halo

Credit – GameSpot

My discovery of Halo wasn’t direct but more of a roundabout to it. I had played Halo 2 at a friend’s house and loved what I had played but wanted to know more. This was around 2006 when I was an Allan Jr. Heck, I hadn’t even had my Bar Mitzvah yet when I first played a Halo game. I did however get a chance to get the general gist of what was what through a gaming sub-channel of MagRack called “24/7 Gamer” in which talking heads talked about certain video games both old and new, or in the case of Possession never released. Halo as you know is about humans in the future on the run from a religious force known as the covenant.

(Fun Fact: Covenant was one of the names proposed for Halo) They had made a blind jump in an unknown part of space where they were under siege from the Covenant. They were forced to evacuate to a ringed surface called “Halo” and leading them was a super-soldier named Master Chief. He and Cortana, the AI who was too valuable to fall into the hands of the Covenant.

90-95% of the game takes place on Halo and the rest on ships. At the midpoint of the game a parasitical race “The Flood” are introduced and things take a bad turn when it is revealed that the race the Humans revere called “The Forerunners” created the Halo to destroy the flood. But were wiped out by the Flood before they could use Halo. The true purpose of Halo which is revealed by 343 Guilty Spark is that when Halo is activated it wipes out all life in the universe. The Covenant see Halo as a holy site the same way Bajorans see the Wormhole near Deep Space Nine in the Star Trek universe.

What really caught me with Halo was the famous “five seconds of fun repeated” which is still true to this day. Halo 1 is still smooth and is effortlessly fun nearly 20 years after its original release on the original Xbox. After buying Halo I made sure to play through the rest of the games barring the RTS as I am a bad armchair-strategist. I may get some criticism for saying this but when I played the much anticipated Halo 4 back in 2012 something felt wrong and that I was playing a pretender as the story had drifted away toward what had made it so popular to begin with. That along with the music not holding up to Bungie’s blockbuster level.

Josh Miller – The Backbone

Parasite Eve

Parasite Eve left a lasting impression on me. Not only was it the first true horror game I had played, but it was a damn good game in general. What made it even more worthwhile was the complete ignorance I had going in and picking the game up blind during a visit to Blockbuster. It was the first time, but certainly not the last.

I think Parasite Eve is a jack of all trades. The monster designs are wonderful and make something as common as dog and rat battles truly frightening. The battle system was unique for its time and made even more appealing by the weapon and armor system. Even the setting is something that to this day is very rarely utilized: a game set around Christmas in present day. All of these things and more make me adore this game.

Another plus I would get in playing this for the first time would be possibly understanding the story. Parasite Eve has one hell of a plot for a middle school student to wrap their head around. To this day, I’m still not positive I know what went on in that game other than sisters and mitochondria. Oh well, I still had a blast playing it.

I’m trying to think if any horror game has topped Parasite Eve in my opinion. Not any Resident Evil. Not Silent Hill. Not Amnesia. Maybe it’s because it was my first, but it left an impression that hasn’t been surpassed. That’s why I want to experience it again for the first time.

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon is a complete 180 from Parasite Eve. There is nothing scary about the game and I didn’t go into it blind. But it was one of the few games that sold this SEGA Genesis kid on a Super Nintendo after seeing it in a Nintendo Power magazine. To this day it is one of my favorite birthday gifts I have ever received and didn’t disappoint me in the slightest.

Although it is horribly outdated now due to sequels and superior takes like Stardew Valley; the original Harvest Moon took something so mundane in farming and made it one of the most addicting things I have experienced. The tediousness of breaking rocks and tree stumps became a worthwhile chore as I made my farm slowly come together. It made me want to be a farmer.

It was also one of the first games in which I experienced a relationship sim of sorts. As a shy kid, talking to girls was my kryptonite. In Harvest Moon though, I could whoo a girl in the most basic ways possible and see it blossom into a family. A family that didn’t have the problems my family had in particular. Harvest Moon gave me a life outside of my own and at the time, I greatly needed it.

I never would have imagined a game like Harvest Moon would have been one of my favorite games of all time way back then. Stardew Valley has usurped it, and for good reason, but even Stardew Valley couldn’t replicate the feeling Harvest Moon gave me as a kid.

Graydon Webb – The Contrarian American

Saints Row the Third

Credit: GameSpot

I know, I talk about Saints Row a lot. In the last roundtable, I pitched my own Saints television show and movie ideas. This time around, I’m going to tell you exactly what Saints Row means to me. More specifically, I’ll be telling you just how Saints Row: The Third changed my life.

Few games have come along in my life that I would say define me as a person. Whether they define my own personal being, or the relationships I have with the people around me, these games help establish memories that I will call upon for the rest of my life. I think about games like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance – which I filmed a let’s play series of with my friends back in high school – or Never Alone, a darling indie title that my sister and I hold dear for its mystifying use of cooperative play, and the way that its narrative impacted my little sister on a spiritual level.

You see, I have a massive soft spot in my heart for co-op games. Nothing else brings people together in the same way video games do. I vividly remember the first time I picked up a Rock Band guitar and jammed with my extended family at a reunion party, and the first time I hopped online to play GTA V with my school buddies. But nothing has left a genuine mark on me and my friend DJ’s relationship quite like Saints Row: The Third did.

Having never played a Saints Row game before, I can’t exactly pinpoint what made us take a chance on this one. Whether it was the rave reviews or the dildo bat, we may never know. But from the first moment we laid eyes on the Third Street Saints, we knew we belonged among their ranks. From the crazy cast of characters like Pierce, Killbane, and Professor Genki to the absolutely badass soundtrack that scored our epic journey, we just could not put it down. Remember skydiving onto the penthouse while “POWER” by Kanye blared in the background? Brilliance!

We’ve played a lot of games over the years, DJ and I. One might say it’s what has kept us so close – going from middle school theater pals a grade apart to attending different high schools, and ultimately growing more distant due to college and work – yet we’ve always had games to unite us through our respective career paths. From Modern Warfare‘s Spec Ops mode to currently playing through the entire Halo franchise, we’ll always have Saints Row: The Third to thank for bringing us closer together in the beginning.

What I wouldn’t give to relive that initial spark once more…

Telltale’s The Walking Dead

Credit: LosHarrowGames

This pick felt like a no-brainer to me, and as this roundtable was proposed I knew we’d have to allow for two choices each so I could pour my heart out about Telltale. If you’ve ever found me talking online about Telltale games, you’d know that while I adore them for their creativity and their ability to craft a masterful narrative that keeps me glued to the screen until the bitter end – I’m not one to replay their games at all.

I find that when I finish a Telltale game – or any game with narrative choice, for that matter – I don’t wish to replay it, as that initial playthrough is my playthrough with my choices, and they are not to be toyed around with for entertainment purposes. This is especially true for a game so expertly written as The Walking Dead. More on that in a moment.

Now this isn’t to say I never replay games. Some of my favorite games in the world I have revisited – such as BioShock Infinite, Portal 2, and Black Ops – but much like The Walking Dead or Saints Row: The Third, nothing beats that first experience (damn it, Allan, why couldn’t this have been a top 5?!) Furthermore, I plan on replaying certain games in the near future, now that I have taken some time to digest, and subsequently forget, their overall plot devices and choices (Detroit, L.A. Noire, and Gone Home come to mind).

But at the end of the day, one game series stands out among the rest when I consider reliving that first breath of something new. Even throughout the meaty backlog of Telltale properties, none strike me as initially mesmerizing as The Walking Dead: Season One. From the moment I took control of Lee, confronted my first walker, and interacted with Clementine, I knew my mind, heart, and soul were being taken on a trip. The thrill ride didn’t stop until March of this year, and I must say the past seven years have been some of gaming’s finest, thanks to Telltale’s involvement and grueling dedication.

While the original Telltale Games studio may be defunct and its status as a top notch developer future up in the air and The Walking Dead game license in the hands of Skybound Games, The Walking Dead will always be my favorite Telltale product, as well as one of my favorite game franchises of all time. No other game has made me cry so much, feel so much, and thank the industry so much for allowing a game like this to leave its mark on so many people like myself. There’s a reason it’s Telltale’s most profitable property, and I think The Walking Dead will live on in our hearts for decades to come. I will never forget the choices I made, the characters I met, and the bewilderment that overcame me as I sat in the back of that police car for the very first time…

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