89) Virginia

Virginia is a difficult game to talk about without spoiling it. In fact, it’s just a hard game to talk about in general, because there’s not much to it. It’s a walking simulator, and there’s really not much else mechanically that it asks of you, but so much more than that is minimalistic about the game. Graphically, there isn’t much in the way of textures, and models are comprised of simple shapes and silhouettes. The plot is literally wordless and purposely surreal so there isn’t any dialogue to quote or a timeline of events to make out. But none of those aspects are as important as a good vibe. It rejects any attempts to be fully figured out, as it throws many strange sights and scenarios at you over its brief two hour runtime. Despite the lack of details, some of the sights and sounds presented are as transfixing as they are beautiful. It even uses a few aspects of film, like jump cuts in the middle of gameplay, to enhance the pacing and presentation. And on top of all that, it has a very easily obtainable platinum trophy. This all makes for a game that I’ve only grown fonder of over the years after playing it. It’s novel not because it’s the only game to have Lynchian vibes and a wordless narrative, but it has an immaculate vibe that I find hard to ignore.

88) Wolfenstein: The New Order

What started as a mildly interesting shooter in a long stale franchise quickly turned into the start of one of the most underrated FPS trilogies of all time. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a fun shooter, and thanks to its perk system, it rewards you for playing through its campaign, no matter your playstyle. But this game really sticks out once you become invested in its story. Sure, its sequel blows the narrative of this game out of the water, and you’ll hear more about it soon I’m sure. But this game introduced the wonderful characters and the grounded, yet wacky tone that the second game would run with. The relationship between Anya and BJ alone is worth seeing, and since many of the characters in this game don’t return in the sequel, I implore everyone to give this game a shot.

87) The Surge 2

Certain genres have unfortunately passed me by over the years. As this list continues, you’ll be fully acquainted with the kinds of games I like, and not included often in that list are Souls-likes. They often tend to be too slow-paced and too punishing for my tastes so, with exception to a few hours of Bloodborne, I’ve never had the patience to get into one. But The Surge 2 is the one massive exception to this fact. It’s not because it has a great story, because its convoluted, over-the-top sci-fi story doesn’t leave a lasting impression, nor is even easily comprehensible. It’s not even because it has incredible polish, as its interesting sci-fi world and characters have it’s a fair bit of jank. But it gets my love based purely on its gameplay and progression. Imagine if a Souls-like had a Devil May Cry-inspired style meter, and what if that style meter was there not to grade your skills, but to give you more abilities? Well, in The Surge 2, you build up a meter with consecutive hits that allow you to cash in for mid-combat abilities. Wanna finish off an enemy with a stylish takedown? Cash in your meter. Want to heal yourself up a bit before the next hit? Cash in your meter. Want to give yourself a boost to combat speed or damage? Cash in your meter. It leads to my timidness in most Souls-likes being washed away, because my aggression is always rewarded. Plus, on top of all of that, the upgrades to your character and armor, the varied classes of weapons, and the multitude of equipable perks make the game a joy to progress through even if the narrative largely falls flat. It is easily one of the most surprisingly satisfying games I’ve ever played, and despite just a bit of jank, it is easily my favorite Souls-like of all time.

86) Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days

Now, I can admit that the 3rd person, cover-based, gunplay of Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is certainly generic thanks to its lack of variety in combat options and set pieces. But, I’m the same guy who looks at movies like Bad Boys II and Sleepover as top-tier cinema. So, despite its flaws, I love Kane and Lynch 2 ‘s remarkable style and tone. The game in motion looks like a seedy LiveLeak video that you dug up on the dark web. Even its narrative and characters are equally disgusting and off-putting, and while that is understandably a detriment to anyone else, I found it fascinating. Much like one of my favorite movies of all time, Cloverfield, it feels like a piece of art that was never meant to be seen by the public. But Kane and Lynch 2 takes it further and seems to actively try to repel those who look in its direction, and for some reason, I’m intoxicated by such a vibe. So, yes, the gameplay isn’t much to write home about, but it remains a favorite of mine thanks to its style, which I’ve yet to see matched by any other game before and since.

85) Burnout 3: Takedown

As one of the few PlayStation 2 games on the list, I shouldn’t really be able to praise this game for its impressive graphical power. But honestly, it keeps the scope low enough to hit a consistent 60 frames per second on such old hardware, and the detail of the vehicular destruction is still novel to this day. But I don’t love Burnout 3 Takedown for its visuals, I love it for its incredibly unique racing gameplay. I’ve played dozens of racing games, but to this day, I’ve never played a game that understands so well why cars are cool. Burnout is not about the detail of the upholstery, or the feelings synonymous with car brands, or even the handling of individual vehicles. No, Burnout is about the utter joy in controlling the chaos of high-speed combat just long enough to stay alive. Burnout 3 finally fully realized that core concept, and I’m glad to say it was my introduction to the franchise. Hell, it even appealed to folks who liked their chaos less constant with the crash mode. But for as much as I love this game, it’s ranked so low because there is one other title in the series that resonated with me even more. But Burnout 3 is well worthy of the praise and it’s spot as my 85th favorite game of all time.

84) Prototype 2

I’m a sucker for superhero games that put you in an open world, as it’s a power fantasy that not only encourages expressions of strength but also expressions of freedom. Usually, these games keep me engaged with something other than great gameplay, but Prototype 2 is the only exception to that as I love it solely due to its gameplay. Its story is not only forgettable, but outright annoying thanks to a frustratingly angry protagonist, but the gameplay makes it all worth it. From the start of the game, you pretty much have the entire suite of traversal abilities, and from there, they only increase in power, versatility, and utility. Meanwhile, your combat abilities go from one note to a weapon wheel worth of different combat styles, from close-range claws to long-range tentacles and firearms. And from there, you’re given free rein over an entire city to find upgrades, discover collectibles, finish side missions, or just wreak havoc on the populace; all of which give you more experience points that go directly into making you more agile and lethal. It makes for an experience that, while outclassed by other similar games, still delivers an exhilarating power fantasy, and with an incredibly fun platinum trophy experience as well.

83) Warhawk

There are a bunch of multiplayer shooters in this list, but Warhawk, the PS1 game remade as a PS3 launch title, has one thing that none of the other games here have: scale. Yes, other games here have higher player counts and also have a bunch of vehicles to pilot, but Warhawk also has a tone similar to that of Burnout, actually. Much like that series, so many of Warkawk’s contemporaries prioritize realism into the game mechanics, but Warhawk throws that out the window and it leads to a game that is less of a military sim and more of a “playing with toy soldiers as a kid” sim. Arcady mechanics both reward mastery and raise the skill floor to a manageable level. Tanks, planes, and jeeps all control naturally, which allows the driver to focus more on where to go. And thanks to fantastic DLC support, vehicles that totally jump the shark, like 7 player Dropships and individual jetpacks, make the lighthearted tone hit even harder. If only the multiplayer servers weren’t relegated to convoluted workarounds, then I’d easily recommend digging out your PlayStation 3 to try out this multiplayer classic.

82) Borderlands

As I hinted earlier, my history with the Borderlands series has been strange thanks to the second game aging incredibly poorly upon revisiting. But upon revisiting the original Borderlands, I discovered that it holds up much better. The fact that the pool of lootable weapons is significantly smaller means that guns feel more consistent and therefore makes changes to my arsenal throughout the game less jarring. The grating humor from the sequel is replaced by dialogue and characters that are much easier to suppress into the background, especially when listening to a podcast while playing. And I progressed through levels so much faster than the sequel that the relative lack of dynamic enemies didn’t even affect me much. Overall, objectively, Borderlands 2 is probably a better game. But, if you haven’t figured by now, this list is anything but objective, and since I have a better memory of the original Borderlands, it goes above the second game by a decent margin. And if that makes you mad, then you might despise the fact that my favorite game in the series is actually the only one without its traditional shooter gameplay…

81) Battlefield 1

Saving Private Ryan is as much of a cliche war film as any other, but when I originally saw it in grade school I was captivated by it. The way it portrayed these totally ordinary characters in a preposterously massive and grandiose conflict really left me an appreciation for those who existed in a time long before my existence. Now, in the years since, I’ve seen that glorification of the military as problematic at the very least, but come the release of Battlefield 1, I discovered that the personal stories told during the war can still resonate with me. The little-known tales of WWI presented in the single-player campaign aren’t particularly moving on their own, but the Spielbergian presentation makes the character-driven stories hit way harder. Even the multiplayer is brought up by the presentation and theming, and that helps the minimal upgrade systems and relatively flat gameplay of the mode substantially. My biggest flaw is that the tone and emotion are rarely felt through gameplay, with a lot of the core combat playing out very generically. There’s even a handful of times where elements of the multiplayer, like capturing control points, sneak in and almost completely break the immersion. But overall, I really have a soft spot for Battlefield 1, and its focus on lesser-heard stores of World War I, especially those of the Black Harlem Hellfighters and female Bedouin rebels, made it stick with me long after finishing the fight.

80) F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a game that, on paper, I shouldn’t like at all. It’s the sequel to one of the most notable horror games of all time, it promises to raise the scale of those scares in many ways, and its ending is not only utterly depressing but taps into one of my deepest and relatively irrational fears. Yet, it’s a shooter that I still have a large soft spot for. While I’m typically too much of a coward for horror games, I found the supernatural ways in which the horror elements of the game are expressed visually and auditorily arresting, with the ghost near the start of the game being a big highlight. While the scale is bigger than the original F.E.A.R., or I assume so as I’ve yet to play the first game, that change in scale affects the combat more than the horror, and considering it’s the reason I was attracted to the game, I was happy to see it. The arsenal was as varied as it was satisfying to use, and the addition of slow-motion made the satisfyingly visceral feel of combat even more pronounced. And yes, while the plot is nothing to write home about, its ending is a truly twisted choice to me, and not in a pleasant way. I straight up don’t like the ending, it brings me no joy to think of it as it plays off a personal fear of mine. But I do respect how it runs parallel to the incredibly dark tone of the world and series, and the supernatural context in which it takes place makes it more palatable to me. So, while F.E.A.R. 2 is a game I love primarily for the gameplay, there is a lot more here to love for those who love horror more than I, and I’d recommend the title to anyone looking for a game where the fights are just as strong as the frights.

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