49) Darksiders II

As I talked about with Fallout 3 just moments ago, that game has a wonderfully deep fiction that I was glad to submerge myself in but woefully outdated gameplay that makes it difficult to return to. Darksiders II is the complete opposite. Darksidders II does actually have a deep and enriching lore and it’s mainline story does actually have plenty of satisfying character development. But, as I’ve said before, I do not care about fantasy worlds and stories. Whether it’s the lack of technologies that are so integrated to modern society or, historically, the lack of black characters in these spaces, there’s something about that setting that refuses to click with me. But despite that flaw, I was absolutely addicted to this game when playing it. It’s combat system is one of the strongest in any slash-em-up I’ve played. It’s focus on quick and powerful strikes and swift dodges and animation canceling makes you feel like a nimble glass cannon, but with a wide array of the biggest cannonballs imaginable. That arsenal is acquired through a Borderlands like loot system, but it avoids the excessiveness of that system by making every weapon in a given category feel the same. All hammers swing slow and hit hard, with only the damage numbers and status effects differing between them. That is the case for scythes, maces, claws, and every other weapon in the game, and this system makes for more combat consistency at the cost of loot variety. But outside of combat, the design of the dungeons in Darksiders II is consistently fantastic, thanks to it’s heavy influence from Zelda. So good, in fact, that much of the main quest funnels you through them. But the unique puzzles and satisfying platforming challenges made those moments highlights for me. Take all that and gorgeous art design throughout and you have a game that takes elements of its contemporaries and often outdoes them at their own game.

48) inFAMOUS

We’ve gone through a lot of firsts in this list up to this point, and inFamous is yet another one of those firsts. This game marks the first time that I felt compelled to check every box there was to check in a game. I played through both the evil and good endings of it’s campaign. I did every single stunt, collected every dead drop, and even snagged every agonizing blast shard. Why? Because this was also one of the first games I ever played in the open world, superhero genre. These games are a dime-a-dozen now, but back in 2010, these games were way more novel, especially outside of licenced titles. The story of message currier, Cole McGrath, going from zero to hero was full of tropes looking back, but was just the kind of stuff I’d eat up at 15 years old. But most importantly, the traversal is what made this game for me. I couldn’t just hop in a car or run endlessly to a location. Instead I had to plot a course of electric wires to zip on and rooftops to glide between as I went. It was not only a way more dynamic way of getting around, but it also enhanced the combat a great deal. Striking lightning from your hands in various forms was already fun, but doing so while flipping and jumping from cover to cover made it all the more fun. And the ability to absorb health from any nearby electronics made the difficulty easier to manage. Overall, inFAMOUS is the game that established my love for this genre and began my tradition of platinuming my favorite games, even if it took hours to find the last goddamn blast shard.

47) Watch Dogs 2

Games have been around for a very long time, so inevitably, certain types of stories and characters get tired in this medium. The original Watch Dogs is the poster child for this, because Aiden Perce’s story of revenge for the death of his niece was considered boring and derivative by many players and critics. But thanks to this criticism, Ubisoft finally decided to take the franchise in a new direction with Watch Dogs 2. As someone who fell off of the original title, I adore the sequel for a number of reasons. The stealth focus was refreshing to a guy who plays action games primarily, and it really rewarded my patience in it’s scenarios with a faster stream of upgrades than I would have gotten if I simply shot my way through the game. With the game taking place in San Francisco, the world is much more positive, vibrant and colorful in every way. And, the characters exhibit this newly jubilant tone more than any rainbow crosswalk or back alley dance cypher could. Marcus Halloway instantly became one of my favorite characters in any game, not just because his upbeat demeanor was infectious and relatable, but also because his blackness wasn’t just skin. His character is informed by his blackness, be it through his interactions with other blacks in the cast, his tastes in music, or his distinct reactions to events in the story. Sure, it helps for him to have a diverse and entertaining gang of friends to bounce off of, but Marcus really is the heart of the experience. I can’t thank Watch Dogs 2 enough for giving me the closest thing games have gotten to the human embodiment of black boy joy, because it was something I was sorely missing in this medium.

46) Ratchet and Clank (2016)

Ratchet and Clank, much like Call of Duty and Far Cry, is a series I have depended on for consistent thrills and fun for over a decade, since all the way back on the PSP with Size Matters. Since I played nearly a dozen of these games, I’m fairly intimate with all of their levels, weapons, and mechanical variations over the years. So, when Insomniac announced they’d be releasing a remake of the original game, I was excited. But it wasn’t until I actually played it that I realized just how big of a deal that was. They brought back so many of my favorite aspects of the series in one title. The open world collect-a-thon segment from Into the Nexus was back in a new form. The hoverboard races from the original game were back, just in a new form. Mr Zurkon returns from The Future trilogy, the Agents of Doom return from Size Matters, and so many other gameplay aspects return from earlier in the series. It makes for a game that, for longtime fans, feels like a highlight reel of all the reasons you fell in love with the franchise in the first place, and I was happy to receive that reminder. Still, despite how excellent this game is, there is another Ratchet and Clank game that managed to mesmerize me even more than this one, but we have a couple dozen games before we get there.

45) Deep Rock Galactic

A lot of the games on this list are these massive open-world titles or endless multiplayer grinds that I’ve put hundreds of hours into. Deep Rock Galactic falls into that latter category, but unlike other titles here, I’ve put just under a dozen hours into it. But that’s all I needed to play just to know how great this game is. It’s like someone put the cooperative gameplay of Left4Dead, the bug swarms of Starship Troopers, and the chill mining of Minecraft all in a blender, and sprinkled a heavy dose of vibrant art design and atmospheric lighting. Every match of this game feels unique as well thanks to its randomly generated levels, and those space caverns never become a chore to traverse thanks to the fact that it’s all destructible. Its varied classes make sure the game is best played with others, but the folks at Coffee Stain Studios have fostered such a wonderful community that just playing with randoms never got toxic or frustrating. Yes, you can play alone, but between mining for minerals to earn supply drops for armor and health, collecting certain items to accomplish mission objectives, building zip lines and platforms to make a safe path through the caves, placing lamps throughout to light the way, and wiping out hordes of bugs, it might be hard to juggle it all alone. But this balancing act, along with the algorithmic level design, makes every match just as unique, and as fun, as the last. It’s a shame I haven’t put more time into it, especially since it has gotten even better since its release from early access. But I can still easily recommend this game to anyone looking for their next co-op obsession with a welcoming community ready to show you the ropes.

44) Control

It’s really easy to put some weird shit in a game. From the over-the-top tone of something like Binary Domain to the completely fantastical world of Steamworld Dig 2, the restrictions of reality are often disregarded in games if you know where to look. But it’s much more difficult to establish a tone that is just…off. Not overly fantastical, not aggressively grounded, just off. To create a world that is equally familiar as it is alien is a difficult balancing act, but Control is notable because it successfully pulls this off. It’s a universe where levitation, shape-shifting firearms, sentient mold monsters, and fridges that deal psychic damage are all the norm, but these bizarre things are presented in such a matter-a-fact way that they don’t seem out of place with the otherwise oppressive tone. In fact, it’s that oppressive tone that brings out some of the humor inherent with this clashing of tones, a humor often found in the game’s numerous collectible logs and videos. But even without that unique tone, the game is still incredibly fun to play and beautiful to look at. Its gameplay is reminiscent of my favorite superpowered romps like inFAMOUS, and the use of colored lighting, brutalist architecture, and imposing UI design makes the game look as gorgeous as possible. In fact, Control is so great that I got the platinum in it, despite it being my first Remedy game. I can’t wait to see where this franchise goes next and to finally make time to check out their older titles, many of which will likely hit the spot in similar ways.

43) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Y’all knew this one was coming, though maybe it showed up sooner than expected? But in any case, Uncharted 2 is a game worth all of the praise given to it, even if time hasn’t been as kind to it. I mean yes, its gameplay, art design, and narrative all still hold up pretty well years later, but it’s still a game full of tropes. Most of its characters could be found in any number of adventure movies over the last few decades, and the same goes for its locations and set pieces. But that’s part of the reason they’re all so iconic. Nathan Drake is the lovable rogue we love to root for, Elena is the smart badass we all love to see outclass him, and Chloe is the fem fatale we all love to see make him sweat. Nepal had dozens of war-torn streets that were a joy to fight through, the Tibetan village was a wonderful change of pace from all of the preceding gunplay, and Shambala was a hidden world that mesmerized all of us upon first visit. And the set pieces are still talked about to this day, from jumping from the collapsing Hotel Shangri La to shooting your way through the speeding train. Add to all of that a wonderful multiplayer mode that sucked up many hours of my adolescence and you have easily one of my favorite games in the series. But, in a move that might be controversial, this isn’t even my favorite Uncharted game. That title goes to the most recent release…

42) Uncharted: Lost Legacy

That’s right, Uncharted: Lost Legacy is my favorite Uncharted game. Now before you cancel me, let me explain. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Drake Fortune, and Drake’s Deception are not even on the list, but considering how much I just glowed up Uncharted 4 and 2, this might come as a surprise. Well, the Achilles heel of both Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 4 is their length. Despite the quality of both games, their third acts come with a deep urge to wanna be done with them already. That feeling is less intense in Uncharted 2, but I still feel that game is a few hours too long. Lost Legacy, being a smaller-scale experience intentionally, completely avoids that issue, and also uses its more experimental nature to do some new things for the series. The non-linear structure of its second act, the way it handles and rewards collectible hunting with useful new mechanics, and the focus exclusively on characters who don’t have a deep relationship with each other are all unique to this entry in the franchise. In fact, Chloe and Nadine are my favorite pairing in the series, even more than the dynamic duos of Drake and Tenzin and Drake and Sully. Even the final set piece is better than any of the other ones in the franchise, yes, including the train sequence from Uncharted 2. But the thing that seals this as my favorite in the series is the fact that all of these new twists and improvements on the series all happen withing a campaign that is way shorter than the other games, with possible exception to Golden Abyss. As I often mention in this list, brevity is a valuable quality and leaving me wanting more can often leave me with more positive feelings than trying to deliver an epic that overstays its welcome. Uncharted: Lost Legacy desire to hit all the highs of the series while also switching up the formula in subtle ways is what makes it top all of the others, and I really hope my explanation here has gotten you to delete your angry tweets.

41) Inside

Inside is a difficult game to talk about because you don’t really understand why it’s so great until you experience it yourself. This is because it’s individual pieces are so difficult to talk about separate from the whole. Like, it does have characters, but they never have dialogue and most of them barely are established enough to have much of a personality. There are set pieces, but they’re often way smaller in scale than other games, and can be bizarre beyond comprehension. It’s art design is incredibly atmospheric, but also dark and brooding almost to the point of being repulsive. Considering you play though the whole game as a child, it really paints the world of Inside as so much more threatening than normal, because even the most mundane threats are lethal. Yes, despite the layer of dread and discomfort that persists throughout the game, it lived in my mind rent free for weeks after completing it. Sometimes, a piece of art can resonate with you on a deep level without any connection to conventional aspects of life. Like, there are no Marcus Halloways to fall in love with here, or even combat and upgrades to enjoy, just pure art direction, excellent sound design, and clever puzzle platforming. And, good God, that ending was on some other shit entirely, in the best way possible. But I’ll leave it there, because I truly think this is a game that needs to be played to be understood, and even then you might not understand it all, which is honestly part of the magic of it.

40) Doki Doki Literature Club

Ok ok, if you’ve heard of Doki Doki Literature Club already, then you might be appalled that it outclasses classics like Uncharted 2 and Inside. But my reasons for this are incredibly personal. As I’ve mentioned before, Japanese games usually don’t pull my interest much, so I have played very few of them in my lifetime. This means the visual novel genre is something I had never experienced until playing this game. So, because of that, the incredibly generic and trope filled opening hours were novel to me. I genuinely began to care about the characters and looked forward to seeing them every day at this fictional school. And because I was already sold on that foundation, it hit me so much harder when the game inevitably took it’s turn to insanity. And here is where I get vague, because I’m certain that I wouldn’t have touched this game if I knew what awaited me in its second half. But I was so glad to have been ignorant of it, because it might be the most satisfying narrative twist I’ve ever experienced in a game. I’m a sucker for having my expectations subverted, and I genuinely can’t think of a game that subverted them as effectively as Doki Doki Literature Club. So, even if visual novels normally turn you off, and even if you rarely play games on PC, I urge you to download it, for free off of Steam. Because I also fell into all of those categories, and now it’s an instant classic in my eyes.

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