Welcome back everyone, I hope you enjoyed the event last week, and I hope you’ve had a great week so far. Before I get back into the list, I wanna mention a rule I’ve been following that I realized I hadn’t made clear, as well as some honorable mentions. I’ve made it a point to myself that I will not be including any games I’ve already gushed over in previous articles. This list will be all new content, since you guys are already pretty intimately familiar with my affection for those games; it’s old news. For those curious where they’d have otherwise ranked: The Last Remnant would take the number six spot, Resident Evil 4 would take second, and Atlas Reactor would take the crown!
As for some honorable mentions: Final Fantasy 9/Tactics and Dissidia are up first. Many people would expect a FF entry on a Top 10 list and these games are all so damn good for such different reasons, but ultimately the FF series as a whole hasn’t shaped my life as much as the other entries on this list. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 (KotOR) are fantastic games that emulate tabletop RPGs in a Star Wars flavor. I liked the games when I was younger but now that I understand Dungeons and Dragons so much better, I get how to play the game. Borderlands 2 is a masterpiece, and much like Connor said in one of his articles on our website, Jack is a masterclass in villainy. He’s funny, charismatic, hate-able and arguably correct about certain things. Borderlands 2 would have been #11 on my rankings but lost out due to having a lower replay chance for me than the other games on this list. Silent Hill 2 and Dead Space 2 are some of my favorite horror games ever. Lastly I’d like to give a shout out to Stick Fight and Speed Runners for being amazing and lesser known games to play with a group of four. They’re pure chaos, insanity, and extremely fast paced and occasionally when we are down a player in my online D&D group we’ll just play that instead and it’s always an absolute blast.
Supergiant Games is a shining example of why indie (independent) publishers are so important. From the sheer quality of every aspect of each of their games, to the amazing work environment their workers discuss and how they don’t push their employees to meet deadlines they aren’t comfortable meeting, to the love for the craft they have that you can feel in every minute of gameplay, to the clean performance with little to no bugs or glitches for their games on launch. I love Supergiant Games. When you compare these points with most big name publishers you find they can’t fill out any of these categories, or at best one or two. It’s not entirely the fault of these big name publishers either. It’s just one of those things that gets harder and harder to do the bigger and bigger the team gets, as it’s hard to share a singular vision for the project the more people you add to the mix. Again though that’s why the indie scene is so important; they’re capable of doing things differently. We need both, but the indie side of things could always use more love.
Enough on that though, we’re here to talk about my favorite games! Hades is a serious contender for one of the highest quality games ever crafted. In it you play as Zagreus, son of Hades, and attempt to ascend from the depths of hell to the surface in hopes of meeting your mother. What makes it so high quality is that literally every feature that makes up the game is amazing. It has amazing music and sound design, weighty and varied combat that feels satisfying to pull off with tons of customization, smooth controls, nigh infinite replay-ability due to the nature of it’s ever changing level layout as you ascend, top notch voice acting for the entire cast of 30+ characters, gorgeous and stylized visuals that gives the game a pretty unique look, a great story to be unraveled as you interact with the inhabitants and try to break free, and loads and loads of great humor to boot.
Much like with Slay the Spire, it also has a varying and customizable difficulty curve with its ‘Heat system.’ You can unlock ‘Pacts of Punishment’ that increase the difficulty (heat) of your run in a lot of varying ways. The game has six unique weapons to choose from and you unlock rewards as you get further and further with each weapon, with a final reward when you escape. Once you escape you can’t get rewards with that weapon unless you raise the Heat, but it’s up to you to pick your poison. I love how much you can customize the experience with these. Between all the relics you get, all the weapons with unique modifications and all the variance in each run, this keeps the game fresh for a really long time. I personally always turned the ‘Pact of Punishment’ on that made all the bosses harder because I love bosses in games, and it gives you a ton of heat without changing up the gameplay loop too much so I recommend it if you wanna keep the core gameplay loop the same but still up the difficulty and fun.
Last thing I’ll talk about are all the amazing characters. As Zagreus is fighting his way out of hell, you receive aid from the Greek Gods on Mount Olympus. They all have different ‘playstyles’ their boons promote, and whenever you receive one of their blessings you get a bit of dialogue between Zagreus and them that really fleshes out their personalities a ton in your numerous runs. Zagreus is an extremely well made and fully fleshed out character, and it shows in all of his many interactions. You will also run into people in rooms that aid you on your runs, like Theseus and Eurydice, and you can even help them out with their struggles! Most of the bosses you can interact with as well, exchanging witty banter every time you enter their boss arena. You also have a ton of NPCs at the ‘Halls of the Dead’ (home base) to talk to too, including best girl Dusa! Oftentimes when you return from a run they’ll be talking with each other and you can listen in on their conversation(s). There are also a few romance options to pursue, one of which being extremely “Greek,” another being a bit more straightforward. One of the options sees the person Zagreus is pursuing find that they do love Zagreus, but in a platonic/best friends kind of way, and Zagreus understands and accepts that and the two of you become ‘best friends forever’ (literally, seeing as they don’t age). I think that’s a super important love that people often aren’t okay with because they only think about romantic love, but love comes in many forms and they’re all crucial to our well being.
#4: Persona 5: Royal
Persona 5 is a beautiful game in all senses of the word. It has mastered the blending of RPG elements with life simulator gameplay. You play as ‘Joker’, the leader of the ‘Phantom Thieves,’ as he attends high school, builds his relationships with the people around him, improves his life, battles the forces of evil, and saves the world. Just your typical high-school adventure! Blending an RPG with a slice of life game seems weird, but they’re perfectly balanced to make you want to succeed at both, and doing well in one aspect translates to benefits in the other as well. The basic gameplay loop is that you will be given a ‘dungeon’ of sorts that you have to clear within a certain timeframe before the story advances. The faster you clear the dungeon, the more time you’re left to do all the extra fun stuff outside of dungeon delving. When you’re not exploring the dungeon you’re studying for school, increasing your relationships with others, buying gear and items and increasing your personal traits like ‘guts’. You get access to new combat capabilities as you forge your bonds with others, and many bonds require you to head into battle to defeat something corrupting someone. All in all it’s a great system that’s enjoyable on repeat playthroughs that keeps you engaged the whole time!
I may sound like a broken record, and that fact should really show just how much I value these traits in games, but this one has amazing music alongside top tier characters and a great story. A lot of tracks in this are super motivational and I put several of them into my workout playlist. You can look up any random track from this game and it’ll be on par or better than the best tracks you’ll find in 90% of other games. It’s just that damn good. There are also a ton of characters to get to know and love (and occasionally hate). You make a lot of friends on your journey, but your connections with them starts out fairly surface level. As you spend more time with them you’ll find out more about their past and what makes them act the way they do, and oftentimes you’ll help them overcome a problem they’ve been stuck on for a long time. A ton of these have super endearing stories that really helps you empathize with the characters, and they’re worth all the effort it takes to see them through to the end.
This game also has a ton of amazing romance options in it, including one of my all time favorite gaming waifus. The romances can occur naturally as you progress with each character until eventually you have to decide if you wanna enter a relationship with them or remain close friends. There are ten romances to choose from, and all of them are at the bare minimum decent with several of them being amazing. I won’t spoil all the possible romances, however I will discuss my favorite one: Futaba. I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free, but she has an extremely unique introduction to the main cast, as well as some interesting connections to a certain coffee shop owner. She deals with a lot of trauma from some pretty horrible things that happened in her past and has coped with it through gaming and hacking. She’s the worlds best hacker, an undoubtedly useful asset for the team, but is also extremely shy and socially averse. A lot of advancing your connection with her is helping her overcoming that anxiety in small steps, and watching her grow out of her shell over time is extremely endearing. She’s also an extreme anime and gamer girl and makes tons of nerdy references, has tons of anime figurines in her room and makes tons of great references in her dialogue. I can’t say much more without spoiling things, but to she’s just so damn adorable, she shares all my favorite hobbies, and helping her grow and become more independent feels great.
#3: Library of Ruina
This game is the newest of the ones on my list, both in terms of when it was released and when I played it. I got this game on September 13th this year and have been in love with it ever since. It’s a story-rich deck builder made by the indie developer, Project Moon. Stories are some of my favorite parts about experiencing a new game, and this game’s story is one of the most interesting and unique I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. On top of that it has an extremely fleshed out and well thought world/setting to it that does a great job showing you what it has to offer. This game is also extremely hard which was another plus for little old masochist me. Mili performed a ton of the awesome music in this game and I find myself jamming out to its music daily. It’s one of those games where I just find myself falling in love with every aspect and loving the ideas and concepts they utilize.
As I mentioned, a big portion of what makes this game so great is its story. It’s complex, crazy, confusing, creative, chaotic and chilling. The game has two main protagonists: Roland and Angela. Angela is an extremely advanced AI that runs the mysterious library that the game takes place in. As she’s preparing it for the public, Roland stumbles inside. After some painful coercion, Roland ends up working with Angela to fulfill her goal of finding the ultimate book; one that will complete her. To do this, people ‘destined’ to enter the library will be find invitations that explain the dangers of said library and mentions books that are particularly relevant to the individual that is currently in the library. If the guests can fight their way through, they can obtain the books they seek. If they die in the Library, their essence becomes another book that gets added to the ever-expanding collection. Roland’s job is to ‘greet’ these guests by fighting and defeating them with the help of other ‘Librarians’. This is also where the deckbuilding and customization comes in. Defeating enemies drops books you can use to learn their attacks and gain new ‘equipment’. I love that even with it having a rather straightforward gameplay loop, the flavor of this game gives at an extremely unique and interesting feel. Rather than taking gear from fallen enemies, you’re turning them into books and learning from them.
In any game with deckbuilding elements, it’s important to discuss the options, and boy howdy does this game have options. I’ve never played a game with more combinations of ‘cards’ and customization in the deck building genre. Enemies drop unique books, and there are tons you’ll encounter that just leads to so many options to customize your Librarians. You’ll really want to experiment with these too because you’ll find some ‘builds’ may be really good at dealing with certain kinds of encounters but struggle in others. It’s also important to test out builds since you’ll be unlocking more Librarians as the game progresses, so it’s good to have multiple builds ready to go. There are also ten separate ‘floors’ that your Librarians will be from, each having unique bonuses they grant as you progress in the plot and battle ‘abnormalities’. As you get further along you can also transfer passive abilities of ‘equipment’ around to try to mix and match for some truly creative build options, and since you’re building decks for a team of people rather than just one person, it adds tons of teamwork and synergies to dive into as well!
Another thing I want to discuss with this game is the difficulty. As you’ve picked up from my other entries I like difficult games. I can say with utter confidence that of every game on this list, this one was the hardest game (at least for me). However this game does something extremely important in regards to their difficulty that is critical to making a difficult experience feel rewarding and enjoyable rather than just frustrating. It paces out the spikes in difficulty, quite beautifully I might add. The game has tons of elements and complexities to it that all add to the experience, but it starts out extremely simple. It takes its time and adds new mechanics one at a time, and the difficulty curve is constantly going up right until the final fight in the game. After you get through the ‘tutorial’ section of the game, it demands you improve constantly. There are several ‘walls’ in this game that you will get stuck on and have to re-evaluate your builds in order to overcome, and every time you succeed it feels all the more satisfying. Many fights in this game play out like puzzles rather than simple slug fests, with all the information of the mechanics presented to you that you’ll need to figure out the best way to approach, and this makes them honestly way more gratifying to overcome. It also adds to the deckbuilding aspect because encounters are rarely just “do as much damage as possible,” so your decks won’t simply be filled with hard hitting cards. I could gush about this game more (and maybe I will in a future article), but my last comment on the game is simple: Play it!
#2- League of Legends
I’d be remiss to make a list discussing my favorite games if I didn’t include the one that has eaten up the most of my life. For over twelve years now I’ve been playing League of Legends (LoL) with some regularity. The reason is quite simple: it takes the MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) genre I enjoy a lot and has refined it to its best form. This game was also a lot of stress relief for the toughest part of my life, my battle with cancer, so it also gets brownie points for that. While there have been large fluctuations in the quality of the game over the years, it has consistently remained the best MOBA to enjoy. A small bit of history for MOBAs and LoL as a whole: the first MOBA to come out was actually just a mod for Warcraft 3 that had you play as one of the heroes from the story and battle with other heroes on a massive three lane map. This progenitor was called Defense of the Ancients (DotA) and after receiving a ton of love from the community, several people that made the Warcraft 3 mod decided to work on their own separate game that was much easier to manage as well as their own studio, and thus Riot Games and League of Legends were born.
League has over 140 characters to choose from, which is great for someone like me who gets bored of playing the same character over and over in these types of games. Each character (champion) has lots of lore behind them, great voice acting, and punchy (in some cases literally) visuals and audio in game. Also this game has some of the best artwork I’ve seen… ever. I’ll post some of my favorites, but you can look at the art with a magnifying lens and find the tiniest details that they thought to add to the pieces in ways you wouldn’t even think of. I won’t lie, I’ve spent an honestly depressing amount of time playing this game over the years, and while I joke around with my friends that I hate the game, it has to be pretty good to keep me coming back this long.
Much like how the gameplay has evolved, the lore surrounding League of Legends has evolved over the years too. I discussed this in greater detail in my post here, but over the years Riot has taken great lengths to really expand on the lore surrounding the game. The characters hail from various regions across Runeterra and all have their own stories that are often interconnected with several other characters. Not only do these individuals have their own arcs, but many regions have arcs of sorts that they are following. The Freljord’s inhabitants are at a civil war as different factions try to unite it, Demacia is undergoing a massive change in its views of magic and mages, and Ionia has been forever changed by outside influence and now must try and adapt to a new future. These are just a few extremely simplified examples, but they really show that Riot is thinking on a large scale for story telling, and they try to make all their new events make ripples across Runeterra in often subtle ways. While League of Legends is strictly an Online Multiplayer game, knowing the lore behind the game and especially its characters adds a level of enjoyment for me. Like I’ve said numerous times by now, I love and appreciate a good story, and league has tons of good stories to find when you dive into its lore. To be honest there isn’t much else to talk about with League of Legends. It being an online game means that a lot of the things I’d discuss with every other entry aren’t applicable, and the main reason it places this high is because of the sheer amount of time I’ve spent playing it.
#1: Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite
This entry is really for the Monster Hunter series as a whole, however Freedom Unite will always hold a special place in my heart for several reasons. First off, it was my first ‘real’ experience with the series and made me fall in love with the franchise. While I played the original one on PS2 when I was 8 years old, I was too dumb and too terrible at games to really understand how to play and couldn’t even get past the Yian Kut-Ku. High school was when I finally started playing Monster Hunter again, and MHFU was a PSP (PlayStation Portable) game so I got to bring it to school and play during down time. Secondly, I spent a TON of time playing this game, a large portion of which were with a dear friend of mine named Aaron. Every weekend I’d go over to his place, we’d sit on his bed in his room and just play for hours and hours. It got to the point where I had been over to his house so much that his mom pulled me out of the room to ask if we were a ‘couple’. We played other games from time to time, but Monster Hunter was our jam, and being able to hunt incredibly dangerous monsters together in one of the toughest entries in the series was loads of fun. Thirdly, but still connected to the second point, this game was a comfort for me when I was going through chemotherapy. Aaron and I still hung out and played this game on the weekends, but rather than it being after school it was after my hospital visits. He also didn’t treat me any differently and didn’t breach topics he thought would be uncomfortable with me, he simply knew I was really stressed out and wanted to just have a good time with friends and so we did.
Alright that’s enough sentimentality for one article, back to the game! Monster Hunter games see you battling large monsters that pose a threat to your home and then crafting new gear using components from the fallen foes. It has tons of extremely cool looking monsters to do battle with and tons of amazing looking gear to go with it. If you’re like me, fashion matters a lot in games (even more so than stats sometimes), you’ll find a plethora of amazing options. Many monsters also have their own unique battle music that really help make each fight feel epic. This game also has my all time favorite monster in the series as an important monster in the story, and overcoming the Tigrex is one of my favorite gaming experiences to date. It absolutely mopped the floor with me when I was first fighting it, and the first time I beat it I was on my last leg. I wanted to prove my victory over this creature more resoundingly though and set out to craft armor from its gear set and ended up mastering the fight to the point that I rarely used more than five or so healing items. It was truly gratifying conquering this beast that had decimated me over and over in the past.
This is also going to be a rare and unique case with this list, but I don’t recommend everyone play this game. The older monster hunter games whilst great, also suffered from requiring you to do a lot of tedious tasks in order to keep playing and have some features in them that would turn off a lot of modern gamers. This applies to all the ‘old school’ Monster Hunter games, they simply aren’t for everyone. Newer games have taken great strides to make gameplay smoother and streamlined a lot of tedious elements of past games without removing them. Where before you’d have to carry around 10-15 pickaxes that took up inventory spaces and could break if you wanted to go mine for ores you need (which also took up inventory space once you mined them), the newer game just lets you mine whenever with a pickaxe your character just has, and has a separate inventory for item components. Lots of things like that lets the new games spend as much time as possible at the meat of the series: battling monsters. I whole heartedly recommend MHFU if you aren’t intimidated by having to occasionally grind for components and don’t mind sporadic tedium. While newer games have polished certain aspects, they are hopelessly outmatched in regards to the sheer scale of enemies you can battle and the difficulty of encounters that you’ll find in Freedom Unite. There are so many monsters to battle and many challenges to overcome. The newer Monster Hunter games are much much easier than the older ones, and while that isn’t inherently a bad thing, it does remove a bit of tension from the fights. Freedom Unite has not only an overall tougher roster of monsters to fight on average than the latter games, it also has way more ‘Uber’ fights. The Fatalis and its variants are some of the toughest monsters in the franchise, and you can fight all of its variants in MHFU as opposed to only being able to battle the weakest Fatalis variant in one of the newer games.
And… that’s a wrap! What a list! Writing this article was a trip down memory lane for me, and it was lots of fun to dive into nostalgia and remember the great things about my favorite games. What did you think? Surprised at any picks? Are you checking any of these out now? I’d love to hear from you! Until next time, thank you guys for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed, and as always stay healthy!