69) Metro: Last Light

Thanks, again, to PlayStation Plus, this was my introduction to a first-person shooter that was vastly different from the Call of Duties I was used to. Instead of prioritizing high octane combat, it submerges the player in a dark and oppressive atmosphere that I found incredibly compelling. No longer was gunning my way through all conflicts the only, or even the best, way to progress. The subtle way in which the game reacted to bloodthirsty and carless play vs. methodical and compassionate play gave its unforgiving world even more texture. In fact, that might be the aspect of the game I love most, just how much texture everything in this game has. Its graphical fidelity makes everything from the dirt on your gas mask to the skin of a mutant feel real. Its dedication to a minimal hud also helps with this, although even with me keeping some UI elements on screen, the immersion wasn’t lost much at all. Each of its characters, though featured too rarely in the grand scheme of the entire adventure, gives different perspectives of life in the underground tunnels of a post-apocalyptic Moscow. And even the choice to keep Artyom, the player character, alone through most of the game hammers home just how oppressive its environment truly is. But most of all, the design and unique mechanics of its weaponry is what left the biggest impression on me. Its machine guns always either have magazines that are too small or overheat after prolonged fire. Shotguns chamber each round from awkwardly placed chambers that are even more awkward to reload manually in the heat of battle. Even silenced pistols and rifles chamber and fire in ways that made it feel like the gun may very well shatter in your hands mid-combat. It’s a world in which nearly all of its comforts are built by the skin of the teeth of its inhabitants, and it makes normally boring tools like knives and lighters comfortably reliable in contrast to the constant instability of everything else the player relies on for survival. It’s a very interesting world to traverse, and while later titles in the series would explore that aspect deeper and with more variety, Metro: Last Light was a wonderful introduction to this aesthetic.

68) Astro’s Playroom

Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and with a new game or movie remake or remaster coming out every few months, I’m sure we are all aware of this fact. I talked earlier about my love for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and how it might be the best celebration of PlayStation’s history that we may ever get. I still think that is true in a sense, but even if it tries less to celebrate the characters of PlayStation, Astro’s Playroom is at least a much better game. Astrobot is no stranger to incredible platformers, as we’ll discuss later. So this pack-in game for the PS5 would be just as fun to play even if it didn’t serve as the best demonstration for its many new controller and hardware features. But aside from being a fun game that is also respectfully brief, it celebrates a different corner of PlayStation’s legacy. You get several references to the many IPs that have had roots on PlayStation, with a healthy number of third-party characters appearing. But the game celebrates the legacy of the brand itself more than the games that have come from it. And to be clear, I still find immense value in that, as its digital recreations of Vitas and NAvigation Controllers put a smile right on my face. The game overall has a level of passion and attention to detail all throughout it that makes the corporate and bare-bones feel of PlayStation All-Stars sting even more. But hopefully, the widely positive response to the game will clue Sony into the untapped potential to future capitalize on nostalgia. But for now, I can at least appreciate this small delight from Asobi Studio.

67) Fat Princess

Fat Princess is a perfect example of a game whose final form does not resemble it’s core features on paper. It’s a class-based, multiplayer title that incorporates resource gathering, fortress fortification, and per-match upgrade systems. From that description, you might imagine anything from a Rainbow Six Siege style shooter to a hardcore MOBA like League of Legends or DOTA. But the aesthetics are what make this game both interesting and one of my favorites. It’s a vibrantly colorful title with mechanics that are played for laughs, yet still remain viable strategies of play. The goal is to steal the enemy team’s princess out of her castle, and you do so by storming that castle and running through enemies, or gathering resources to fortify your own castle. But there are so many goofy and bizarre ways to go about these tasks. You can feed the princess cake to make them heavier, and therefore slower to walk while carrying. You can use a potion to turn enemies into fragile chickens, potentially wiping out an entire team if timed right. You can even build a slingshot in your own castle to launch yourself directly into the enemy castle, which is a strategy just as hilariously chaotic as it is viably if you’re skilled enough. Any game can be packed with jokes, and in the case of the game’s main titular one, even problematic ones. Any game can have a compelling multiplayer strategy. But very few games intertwine both concepts to make a game that is worth remembering. Even if there wasn’t much of a long term progression system and the single-player campaign was little more than multiplayer matches with bots, Fat Princess is still a game with enough charm and gameplay quirks to make it’s multiplayer chaos and strategy leave an impact on me.

66) Apex Legends

The placement of this game might surprise those familiar with my tastes in multiplayer shooters specifically. It took me a long time to come around on Apex Legends, as I still harbored a bit of resentment towards it as a Titanfall fan that has only grown more passionate over the years. But once I let go of the past, I was delighted to see just how compelling the future would be. Apex is easily my favorite battle royale and I owe that fact to its movement, progression, combat, and characters. While you can’t wall run, the ability to slide down slopes, and the speed and verticality of different legend abilities make the game dynamic to play from match to match. The gunplay carries over from Titanfall, but time to kill is a bit increased to allow movement to blossom. Progression is fairly satisfying as well, with it’s regular special events and fairly generous battle pass rewards enticing me to keep playing often. And it’s characters resonate with me stronger than nearly any other multiplayer only game. I love Lifeline so much that I have a statue of her on my shelf. I love Octante’s hyperactive personality with all my heart. And I love Loba’s confident demeanor so much that I love playing as her for reasons that have nothing to do with her gameplay abilities. It’s a game that is just fun to be a part of without even winning regular matches, so it easily has cemented a spot in this list.

65) Spec Ops: The Line 

Spec Ops: The Line is one of those games that gets talked about all the time in gaming circles. So, if you’ve been a part of one of those circles, you likely have heard everything I’m about to say before. But the things this game does are still worth appreciating, even for the 73rd time. As someone who’s played every single Call of Duty game since its fourth entry (sorry if I bring that up too often in this list), the way this game provides a rare critique of war and American militaristic idealism is fascinating. Near the end of the tale, the game almost feels like a horror game, as the things you’re asked to do and the things you see, get progressively more disturbing. Now, despite all of this, the game is actually really fun to play. It’s your standard cover-based shooting, but the addition of challenges for racking up kills with certain weapons and a touch of slow motion when getting a headshot makes it more satisfying to play. But despite that, the game is actively hostile to the idea that murder is fun, even in a purely digital context, as enemies can be heard talking about their normal hobbies and the families they’re hoping to get back to seconds before you gun them down. It’s both a critique of pro-military media that glorifies the horrors of war, while often also being that very same kind of pro-military media that glorifies the horrors of war, and that contradiction makes Spec Ops: The Line so noteworthy all these years later.

64) Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

One of the greatest examples of a hidden gem is Ninja Theory’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It released to decent critical acclaim, but this original IP didn’t attract a great deal of players to pick it up. But that hasn’t stopped the game from leaving a deep and profound impression on many, including me. The thing I love most about the game is the art design. It’s a post-apocalyptic game, but it forgoes the oppressive browns and greys usually found in the genre to fill its world with the luscious greens of wildlife reclaiming the bright blues and yellows of the high tech that once filled the world. But that technology isn’t all lost, as Money, the player character, and Trip, your companion, both employ it to tear through robots and climb obstacles. It’s the kind of game that has a whimsy and creativity to its world that is honestly shocking to see in a game on the PS3, as it feels more in place with PS2 games like Beyond Good and Evil. But it holds its own gameplay-wise, as the combat challenges, platforming set pieces, puzzles, and disc surfing segments all add variety while being satisfying each in their own way. Even if the ending of it’s story was too bizarre to be satisfying, it’s overall journey was one worth taking and certainly deserves revisiting from a new generation of game players.

63) Binary Domain

I had yet to play Gears of War when I originally played Binary Domain, which takes heavily from its rigid movement, bulky character design, and reliance on cover-based shooting. Many wrote the game off as yet another Gears clone, but I didn’t have the context to do so, which ended up being a blessing as this game differs from that series in so many ways. Instead of relying on excessive gore, you get to shoot the limbs off of its robots one by one until they crawl around barely clinging onto the technological equivalent of life. You have squad mates in nearly every mission, but you get to command them in combat and their banter does a lot more to characterize them outside of cutscenes. Plus, the action set pieces blow much of the set pieces in the Gears series out of the water in terms of scale and insanity. But more than any of that, Binary Domain is just way goofier than Gears of War, and that’s the main reason I love it. The characters are over the top to the point of almost being pure stereotypes and the plot is aggressively cliche, but both are so extreme that it comes back around to being more endearing than annoying. This all makes for yet another hidden gem on this list, but one that’s notable less for its originality and more for its big heart.

62) Bioshock

What is there to say about Bioshock that hasn’t already been said to death? It’s setting, the underwater world of Rapture, is a fascinating den of chaos that was brilliantly realized. The main twist of the narrative was a brilliant metta commentary on the medium of games itself, and, like everyone else, I was totally taken aback by it on my first playthrough. And it’s plenty of supernatural abilities, ballistic weaponry, and light RPG elements made the game satisfying to play throughout. But, I might be in the minority in having the opinion that Bioshock is not my favorite in the series. My favorite comes up later in this list, but I actually have enough criticisms about this first game to put it in the back half of this list. Combat is fun, but having to choose between wielding plasmids and weapons make combat more clunky and less fluid. The story is revolutionary, but for me personally, much of it pales in comparison to not only the big twist but also the Fort Frolic section. And the biggest issue is the final boss fight, which clashes with the tone of the rest of the game and also further highlights the flaws with the combat. I still like the game a lot, it is on this list after all. But I personally think of it as a fantastic foundation to build upon for sequels rather than a classic on its own.

61) Sleeping Dogs

Video games really do love Asian culture, huh? There are countless games out there about kung fu, samurai, and ninjas, but why are there so few games that visit the East in the modern-day? Sure, there are plenty that visit Japan, but China gets little love outside of Rise to Honor and the aforementioned Kane and Lynch 2. Well, Sleeping Dogs finally comes through with it’s Hong Kong setting, and instead of using the setting in an exploitative or over-the-top way, its compellingly grounded in reality. Wei Shen’s tale of playing both cop and criminal in Hong Kong’s underground crime circles was compelling enough, but the gameplay is what really sealed the deal for me. Melee combat was satisfying on its own, but the numerous environmental hazards to use on enemies made every fight exciting. Gunplay was not as fleshed out as I would have liked, but considering the use of guns was downplayed in the narrative, I can forgive it, especially when nailing slow-motion headshots already felt so great. And even the driving, one of the biggest chores in open-world games, felt great, alongside an even more fluid parkour system. Overall, the game stood toe to toe with other contemporary open-world games of last-gen, I just wish it made a big enough impact to get a sequel.

60) A Short Hike

This is another game that I walked into with no set expectations. Seeing screenshots and videos of it led me to look into it thanks to its gorgeous blend of pixelated art and isometric 3d models. But I didn’t feel compelled to pick it up until I was pushed by loads of praise for the game online. I’m happy I finally picked it up, as it has a lot more to it than a great art style. Mechanically, A Short Hike is a joy to play as it revolves almost exclusively around movement abilities. Climbing and gliding are the main ways you interact with the world, and as you progress, you collect golden feathers that allow you to do both for longer periods of time. That would have been enough for me to enjoy the game, but it goes one step further by having cute characters and an endearing, although minimal, narrative. It’s no Gone Home or Red Dead Redemption 2, but it did manage to hit me emotionally a bit. And the best part is that I was able to absorb all of this in roughly 90 minutes. To get a game that is this good and unique, but also respects my time is pretty much unheard of, and it makes for a game that easily lands itself in my top 100 list.

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