Hello everyone. I don’t know about you guys, but I love top 10s. I like it as a format for many reasons: it’s a fun way to objectively place subjective things, it gets you to think deeper on a subject, it encourages discussion, and it’s fun to fill my own answers alongside and compare placing and reasoning. So today I’ll be giving you all a top 10. The topic of the day (or week really) is video games and I’ll be self imposing a singular but important rule: Only one game per series. This will prevent repetition and will force me to pick only the best of the best, ensuring I think more on this rather than simply defaulting to several games from multiple series and calling it good.
#10: Darkest Dungeon
Starting off our list we have a game that’s inclusion should tell you a lot about my tastes in video games. I like games that are difficult. I tend to put games on hard or the second highest difficulty when given a chance for my first playthrough. This isn’t me bragging or claiming I’m an amazing gamer. I’d say I’m overall pretty average skill wise but I have a lot of tenacity and love to be challenged, so I love games that constantly demand your best from you.
Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike RPG where you bring characters on missions to terrible places in hopes of reclaiming your home that your ancestor royally fucked up. Like if I had a list of top 10 worst decisions made by game characters, the ancestor would probably be like 8 of the spots. It’s a brutal and unforgiving game where you recruit characters from specific classes like Crusader and Bounty Hunter. Coming out of a dungeon completely unscathed is a rare blessing. They can go insane, they can get horrible diseases, and they can develop both positive and negative quirks that greatly change how you use each character. You WILL lose characters. A lot of them when you get the hang of the game, the brutal nature of the game means that a few bad rolls can turn a situation south even when you’re using the best tactics. That’s one of the things that keeps the game so fresh though. The RNG and chance for shit to hit the fans keeps you from ever feeling complacent (or brutally punishing you if you do) and requires you to reevaluate your tactics on the fly to match a wide variety of situations.
Last thing I wanna mention about it and the reason it’s on this list above others is the modding community. The game is designed in a way that’s quite easy to add and change things so the modding community has created some spectacular content for the game. I genuinely believe that if you wish for a game to have the most possible longevity you should encourage and support the modding community. People that make mods are some of the most talented people on the planet and can often fix the shortcomings of a game and constantly add fun new content. It’s why I’m so happy to see Red Hook Studios not only support modding for their game but actively encourage it by showing off their favorite mods the community has made. Every four or so months I’ll check out the workshop on Steam, install a new set of mods, and do another playthrough of the game and it’s a blast every time.
#9: Slay the Spire
In a similar vein the next game on our list is Slay the Spire. It’s a roguelike deckbuilding game that’s extremely difficult, full of customization, requires you to constantly think on your feet, and has an active and supported modding community. I love deck builders. The process of experimenting with new ideas, finding all the best and most fun combinations and builds is something I absolutely live for. A lot of care goes into balancing deck builder cards. You’ll have cards that become staples for most builds, cards that fit a specific archetype, and meme cards. Meme cards are cards that are either so difficult to use or so bad in most situations that you often have to devote your entire deck build to making them work; I adore that. Slay the Spire does an amazing job at creating a ton of variance, allowing for new builds with each run up the spire. Its four classes feel quite distinct and promote extremely different playstyles with varying levels of complexity and differing kinds of mechanical prowess required.
As I mentioned with the Darkest Dungeon, I love a challenge. Slay the Spire is a challenging enough game in its own rights at its base, but it adds a mechanic I adore once you’ve beaten the third act with a character: Ascension. You can unlock up to 20 levels of Ascension with each character, each level adding another layer of difficulty on top of the game, and each Ascension stacks with every level below it. Beating the game with your highest Ascension on unlocks the next one, I love how challenging and demanding it makes the game whilst also allowing you to fine tune just how grueling of an experience you have. I’ve beaten Ascension 20 on ½ of the cast, with the other two at 18 and 19 respectively, and it’s a great way to keep you coming back to the game. It’s worth mentioning that of every game on my list, this is the only one I’ve 100% completed, at least by the games metrics. I’ve gotten every achievement for the game, though I won’t personally consider myself as having 100% it until I get everyone to beat the secret boss on Ascension 20.
The four classes in the game are The Ironclad, The Silent, The Defect and The Watcher. The Ironclad is the ‘starter’ character and the most straightforward. He is great at hitting things, he’s great at buffing himself, and he’s great at defending himself. He’s the character I most consistently am able to beat Ascension 20 on and my overall favorite character to play. He is also the most consistent at dealing with some of the really annoying types of enemies that fill your deck with useless and detrimental/damaging cards for the combat, so he gets bonus points for that. I won’t go into more details about the other classes because otherwise we’d be here all day, but there’s a ton to love here.
#8: The Evil Within 2
The Evil Within games are fantastic survival horror games. They put your character in what’s essentially a twisted horror version of The Matrix and have you constantly overcoming twisted monsters, a plethora of dangerous traps, and constant mind-fuckery as you attempt to find a way to survive. However I understand and acknowledge that the first one is not for everyone. It is extremely unfair and uses tons of traps and gimmicks that will just straight up kill you the first time you encounter them that can feel cheap. It’s still an amazing game, but many people I know that I’ve suggested the game to dropped it because of how frustrating it is. However the second game took a lot of the frustrating parts of the experience out and greatly enhanced the survival elements of the game. It’s far and away much more accessible to the point that as long as you like over the shoulder shooters, you’ll probably enjoy the game.
There are a few main things that are worth mentioning when discussing this game. Firstly, it has some amazing open world segments. At several parts in the game you’re free to explore the town the game’s setting takes place at. You’re told how to progress the story and can sprint for it, but the game has some truly amazing exploration, side quests, and loot to discover across the town. You’re also free to approach all of the challenges of the open world in whatever method and play style suits you best. The map also changes several times across the story that encourages you to re-explore several of the already visited areas. I’ve beaten the game several times and exploring the town is always fun.
There are also two characters in particular I want to highlight. Stefano Valentini is an eccentric and psychotic artist that is one of the major antagonists of the game. He was a photographer that decided to take photos of wars when an explosive killed several people around him and launched shrapnel into his eye. However the photo he captured of that moment showed him the beauty of death and he began to obsess over killing people and stitching together bloody art. His character design is top notch, his personality is extremely enjoyable, and his boss fight is amazing.
The other “character” I want to discuss is the Anima. A mysterious ghostly figure that stalks the town, she is absolutely terrifying every time you encounter her. As you explore the town you’ll find some glimpses and clues to her existence including some chilling voice logs of people being chased by something weird before it catches them. Once you finally encounter her you begin a sequence where she somehow warps space around the two of you and stalks the rooms, slowly humming a creepy melody and occasionally calling out your name. You have to solve puzzles and figure out how to escape her whilst avoiding being found. None of your weapons can damage her and if she ever sees you, she’ll rapidly dash and instantly kill you, making her encounters all the more tense. Once you encounter her she will constantly appear on the world map and chase you, as well as adding encounters to buildings where she warps you away and you must evade her again. It’s a tense and frantic experience every time and it really injects more horror into the game.
#7: Divinity Original Sin 2
Shifting gears away from the horrific, we have an RPG with tons of customization that was designed and I daresay meant to be played with friends. Divinity Original Sin 2 is a turn based RPG that gives you full access to all of the customization and build paths from jump street. You can make your own creations for your character or you can choose to play as an Origin character. These characters have unique traits, story hooks and quests that are only available if they’re in your party. You can also fully customize their looks and builds, the only thing you can’t change is their name, so unless that really bothers you I recommend you go with an Origin character of the race you want.
While you won’t unlock the stronger moves of each skill until you have higher levels in them and are further in the game, you can freely put your points in any category upon leveling up. You aren’t required to have Strength a certain number to level up your Warfare skill, and you don’t need Intelligence to learn magic skills like Geomancy. While they’re often augmented by certain stats you can freely mix and match all sorts of skills together for a truly customizable and fun experience when you build your character. I’ve made battlemages that focus on intelligence, but run in with a staff and give enemies the beat down whilst also hurling massive motes of flames.
As I previously mentioned the game is extremely multiplayer friendly. You can have up to three companions in the game and in the case of multiplayer, you and three friends can play together. You play through the same story as the single player one and the maps are massive and you can all search every inch of it individually if you want to, don’t have to constantly stick close to each other. The only stipulation is that areas that load new maps will bring everyone along. While the game is balanced around a four man party, you can beat the game with any number of players if you’re good. If you have two or less party members you can both take a special Talent called ‘Lone Wolf’ that greatly increases your characters stats to accommodate the lower number of players. Even if you only have one friend to play with or if you are playing alone and don’t want to control four players, you have plenty of options with ‘Lone Wolf’.
Lastly, I’d like to mention difficulty… again. This game is quite hard, especially your first time through. Lots of fights have unique mechanics, encounters are often deceptively complex and often times requires you to adapt your fighting tactics for each. Some enemies will be extremely resilient to physical damage, some to magic, others entirely immune to certain strategies. It’s good to have fallback plans ready when you come across enemies that can counter your strategy or have a build flexible enough to deal with multiple situations. The game has a more casual difficulty if you aren’t into super tough games, but it intends to throw some pretty brutal things at you. So why not face these challenges head on with a friend or several and laugh, scream and triumph together?
Bloodborne has a lot going for it that puts it above the other Fromsoft games for me. Firstly, the gothic Victorian setting with Lovecraftian corruption seeping into the city far and away is my favorite setting from Fromsoft. Secondly, and this may be a bit controversial to say so, but it has none of the ridiculous magic from the other games. The magic in the Dark Souls games is extremely polarizing and ridiculous in many cases, capable of completely trivializing much of the game once you get them going. Many bosses can be cheesed with magic, some of which can even be killed before entering the boss arena, and I also don’t enjoy how much they polarize the PVP aspects of the game. At least ⅔ of the people I’d encounter would just spam magic and roll away, an experience that left a lot to be desired for me personally. While Bloodborne has a few “spells”, they’re overall quite terrible and ineffective. It’s a lot harder (but not impossible) to cheese the bosses in Bloodborne.
Thirdly, I’d like to discuss weapons. In Bloodborne they went with a unique and fun concept where all of the melee weapons are “Trick Weapons”. What this means is that they have two “modes” they can be in that change the way the weapons function fundamentally in each mode. One example is a sword that has a sheath that’s a massive rectangular slab. It’s primary mode is using the sword as a one handed weapon that functions exactly as you’d expect a sword to, but the second mode sees you putting the sword in its sheath and then wielding it like a massive hammer in two hands that hits like a steam engine. Each weapon in the game has its own unique identity that makes mastering them a ton of fun and promotes lots of repeat playthroughs to learn and master them all. While it’s roster of weapons is much smaller, every weapon is interesting and offers unique tradeoffs apart from simple stat differences.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly is the pacing of the game. It is much faster paced with more aggressive enemies and to promote this faster playstyle they introduced the ‘Rally’ mechanic. Whenever you take a hit from an enemy, a portion of the damage you took becomes orange on your health bar. If you hit enemies with your melee attack you can recover that health back, but you have to be quick. It promotes a much more aggressive way of playing the games, this mechanic on top of the absence of usable shields and strong armor, really taught me how to play the Soulsborne games a lot better and more enjoyably. Before Bloodborne, I played through the other Fromsoft games by maxing strength, wielding a massive shield and wearing the best armor I could find and brute forcing my way through the game by out tanking enemies. Now I am much more aggressive and proactive, I never use shields anymore. I two hand my weapon and I duel my opponents, turning fights into an epic skirmishes rather than a simple slugfest or war of attrition. Bloodborne is a much faster game against monsters that completely outmatch you in strength, so the wooden shield would be more of a hindrance to try to use against them (which translates in gameplay too). Overall these factors make Bloodborne such a fun experience and by far my favorite of the Fromsoft games, though I admittedly haven’t played Elden Ring and it could well dethrone Bloodborne in the future.
Now that we’re halfway through the list I’m gonna cut the article here for the time being. I want to make sure I give every game the amount of time they deserve. If I did the full list in one article I’d have to remove a paragraph per entry to keep it from being way too long and I just don’t wanna do that. These games are great and deserve every letter of every word of praise I give them, I hope my discussion of what makes them so great has gotten you to add some to your radar and/or play them yourself. We’ve got our event planned for next week so you’ll have to wait for the list to be finished, but in the meantime I’d absolutely love to hear from you guys. What are some of your favorite games? Are any of the ones I’ve brought up your favorites too? Have I convinced you to try any of them? Until next time, thank you guys for reading, I hope you enjoyed, and stay healthy!