23/07/2020

๐Ÿ•น️๐ŸŽฎ Britt's Personal Top 20 Video Games ๐Ÿ•น️๐ŸŽฎ @BrittRecluseuk #RetroGaming #IndieGames

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Introduction
I find any list of this type to be very fluid, listing the top twenty games of all time objectively would be impossible. 

What I’ve done here is to list the games that had the biggest impact on me across a broad spectrum of genres as possible and always come to mind during these types of conversations. 

I actually wrote out this list a couple of weeks ago and then returned to it later to see if it still felt ‘right’ and it did, so I stuck with it. 

Next month, who knows? It could be a different story. 


Shining Force

The first turn-based game I ever played and one that still stands up today. A story that seems generic now but was fresh to me at the time, Climax Entertainment’s Shining Force was unlike anything I’d seen. A huge world to explore full of towns, fantastic music and a host of characters that were wonderfully drawn. It felt like ‘chess made fun’, each skirmish broken into tense, slow, turn-based action with awesome animations and a satisfying levelling-up system. A strong personal memory for me is my younger brother forcing me to keep ‘Horsie-Man’ (Chester) in my party, even though he was about as useful as a wet baguette in a sword fight against Connor MacLeod. 

The sequel was just as fun, albeit with an astonishingly difficult final boss that eludes me to this day!  Although the Shining series is still going today, it’s the charm and simplicity of the original releases that keep me coming back. In fact, Shining Force 3 on the Sega Saturn was a housewarming gift from my brother, he didn’t want it because ‘Horsie-Man’ isn’t in it.

Landstalker

In a list of my favourite games, Landstalker on the Sega Mega Drive will always be mentioned. It’s a game that I return to and complete every couple of years just because it felt so special, an isometric adventure, it was like nothing else I had played. The dozens of hours I’ve spent with Nigel, Friday and that amazing soundtrack have been among the best I’ve had in my gaming career. I know there were sequels, Ladystalker, Time Stalkers etc. but, much like Alundra on the PS1, they were sequels in name only with vastly different game play styles that never quite captured the spirit of the original. I would love nothing more than either a remake or direct sequel to Landstalker. It’s also a game by the much-missed Climax Entertainment that will feature again in this list!





Fallout 3

As a fan of the first two Fallout games, the leap into 3D was something that completely took my breath away. To explore those ruined buildings, hunting through cupboards and drawers for a handful of shotgun shells or some precious caps in a first-person perspective was something I’d dreamed of for years. 


There are many Bethesda games that could fit here, Skyrim, Morrowind, Oblivion, New Vegas etc. but for me, Fallout 3 is the one that springs to mind and so it deservedly earns its place here, I’ll see you at Tenpenny Tower.

Beckett

This is one of the many, wonderful indie games that writing for Games Freezer has allowed me to drink in. Beckett by The Secret Experiment (Simon Meek) was a game that grabbed me by the eyes and has never let go. A unique title that ostensibly tells the tale of a man looking for a missing boy, the real gold here is in the grey mood, striking ‘microfiche’ visual style and some of the best writing I’ve ever come across. 

This is a game that is clearly made purely for artistic expression and is all the richer for it.

Gunfighter / Action Biker

My first home computer was an Amstrad CPC and I have many fond memories of titles on the system such as the Dizzy series and The Curse of Sherwood among others. In all honesty though, from the 8-bit home computers, there are only two games that I HAVE to play when I boot up a Commodore 64, Atlantis Software’s Gunfighter and Mastertronic’s Action Biker (Starring Clumsy Colin, sponsored by KP Skips). 

To me, Gunfighter is the birth of survival horror and has a random factor that always makes it feel tense and fresh whilst Action Biker, on the other hand just feels like putting on an old jacket. Simple, effective gameplay backed up by an amazing soundtrack, courtesy of Rob Hubbard. Interestingly, both are budget titles that cost a couple of quid at the time in the mid-’80s but of course, I didn’t care about that as an eight-year-old…and I care even less about it as a thirty-six-year-old. A great game is a great game, regardless of the cost behind it.

Felony 11-79 / Runabout Series

Am I cheating by including an entire series of games? Possibly. Do I care? Not a jot, kind sir! There are several reasons for including Felony 11-79, Super Runabout and Runabout 3: Neo Age, not least the wonderfully janky, floaty physics that add so much to the quirky gameplay and the baffling missions such  as ‘Quick, collect mustard and ketchup for the Mayor’s hotdog!’. The real draw is the kinetic surf-rock soundtrack from The Surf Coasters, it brings everything together so well that I always return for more genuinely bonkers fun…and a quick turkey-neck to that music.


Final Fight

Growing up in Pontypridd, trips to Porthcawl and Barry Island were plentiful and Porthcawl especially was a goldmine of golden arcade machines (Hi-Tide Arcade being the crowning achievement). One game stood out through my entire childhood as being THE sign of a great arcade and that was Capcom’s Final Fight. The huge sprites, pulsing music, cool characters and satisfying fighting mechanics always drew me in. Thinking about it now, I can picture in my mind exactly where Final Fight used to be in Porthcawl (opposite The Wimpy, which is still there – the last one in Wales) and, having returned there last year, discovered that the arcade that once held such gaming gold was now a stall that sold seaside tat. Times may change but Final Fight will always be the best arcade title for me.



The 7th Guest

It feels like I mention The 7th Guest on almost a daily basis. Good. From the film-like, (at the time!) presentation to the seemingly omnipresent, creeping voice of Henry Stauf, The 7th Guest TERRIFIED me as a young boy and still has one of the most frightening opening scenes of any game, as far as I’m concerned. Having played the game several times over the years and the well-meaning, fan game that was released last year (The 13th Doll), I’ve realised that what I truly, truly adore about this game is the music. The soundtrack provided by George ‘Fatman’ Sanger is one of the best, in my eyes. Last year, it was the album I listened to most heavily on Spotify and still regularly put it on, the instrumentation and eclecticism of the 7/11 soundtrack feels almost unreal in how odd and moody it is but my, how it all hangs together sow ell. I interviewed George Sanger for Games Freezer and he more than lived up to how highly I hold his talent and skills in my mind. What a man. The game would be a shadow of itself, were it not for this glorious audio work. (https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2019/04/britt-interviews-george-fatman-sanger.html)

The Secret of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island holds an extremely special place in my heart. Growing up, I had very few friends who were into games and so paying this on my uncle’s Amiga - whilst he was in work - was a revelation. He was never into adventure games (I recall him spending dozens of hours on Super Skidmarks) and so had never bothered to play it. It was like a book come to life, I can’t remember how many hours I spend just wandering around melee Island, drinking in the sounds and mood but I vividly remember crying at the end, purely out of the thought that I’d never have that original experience again. Whilst it is one of my absolute favourite games, it is a title I have never replayed because I’m quite happy with the space it occupies in my childhood, flawless and untouchable.

The Witcher 3

As much as I enjoyed the first two Witcher games (let’s not discuss the combat system in the original), the third was astonishing in story, presentation and scope, it was like the gameplay caught up with everything else. I loved this game and the world of Geralt so much that it catapulted me into purchasing all of the books, I couldn’t get enough. It’s one of the few open-world RPGs that I’ve played through multiple times and it has the ‘Monkey Island Effect’ in that I can never bring myself to finish the final quest of the Blood and Wine expansion, because I don’t ever want it to end in my head.





The Gardens Between

A much more recent game than some others on this list, I played The Gardens Between for review purposes in 2019. I don’t tend to be drawn towards games that rely on sentimentality or that try to pluck on the heartstrings and so unless this had been sent to me, I may never have played it… which would have been a huge loss on my behalf.
A game that is based around the time-bending journeys of two friends through a fantastical landscape, when I completed the game, I genuinely felt a wave of emotion wash through me because this short, fantastically designed and – most importantly of all -  wordless tale for me encapsulates the power of ‘show, don’t tell’.

Halo

This is a game that I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of and just felt like a solid, high-value overall package in that the campaign was fantastic fun (especially in local co-op) but the real draw for me was the complete hilarity and pure gameplay experience that existed in the 4-player deathmatch mode. I can’t imagine how many hours I spent on the Coagulation map with my cousin, brother and uncle in the mid-2000s. Whilst I never followed the series right through, I’d pick up a ‘Duke’ and smash into Halo multiplayer right now… for hours.




Blood

Blood is a game that I still regularly return to. To me, it is the high-water mark of the Build engine (Thank you Night Dive Studios for the recent re-release!) as it melds great, frantic FPS action with a darker tone that was right up my Strasse. I played this for dozens of hours over a LAN with a friend one summer and I never tired of it. Last year, I played this for twelve hours straight with a group of friends for a charity stream and, again…I didn’t tire of it. It’s a game that can be unfair sometimes in its enemy deign (I look at YOU shotgun-wielding cultists!) but the fun factor keeps you pushing forwards. I actually know someone who claims that Blood 2: The Chosen is their favourite game of all time. 




For me, the character and mood of the first didn’t follow through in the series but the original Blood remains the best Build engine game, for me.

Bushido Blade

I urge everyone to play Bushido Blade, the game set in feudal Japan with one of the most wonderful and woefully underused fighting control schemes ever designed. The whole premise that the 3D, free-roaming battle can be over with a single stab of the sword is one that is ingenious, intense and fun. A hit to the legs can mean you fight on your knees and an arm strike leads to the loss of the use of that limb. How many times have I spent running around a bamboo forest, laughing and desperately trying to gain an advantage on my opponent? No idea. 


How many more times will I play the game again for its uniqueness? MANY.

West of Loathing

West of Loathing is by far the most hilarious game I have ever played. I was literally in tears of laughter as I played this game by the fantastic development team, Asymmetric. I had no idea that stick figures could be so endearing and expressive. The soundtrack by Ryan Ike is absolutely glorious and delivered by using instruments ‘of the time’, leading to the peak of the ‘banjo disco’ genre. One of the biggest points of the appeal here was that the humour never punched-down, it was always presented in a charming way that relied purely on very clever writing as opposed to cheaper and possibly more unpleasant tactics and the result is one of the best games I have ever played. I yearn for the next game from Asymmetric, there is no one out there can touch them for their comedic writing skills. Although this list isn’t in any particular order, you can be certain that this would be in the top ten if it was.

Streets of Rogue

I’ve played thousands of games in my life and reviewed almost 500 of those for various publications (mostly The Mighty Games Freezer), over the years I’ve come across a few games that describe themselves almost preposterously as ‘a cross between Grand Theft Auto, Deus Ex and Zelda’. As you can imagine, when you realise that it’s a mostly one-man project developed with zero budget, my response is usually, “Is it, though?” When I played Streets of Rogue I was blown away by so many things, the number of characters and the differences therein, the smoothness of the local four-player action, the fun factor but most of all, how bug-free and balanced the game was (also an amazing soundtrack by Craig Barnes). This is a rare example of a game that really lives up to its promise and one that will never, EVER be uninstalled from my Switch. A stone-cold personal classic for me and one of the best indie games ever made.

Trine 4

I’m not a huge fan of puzzle games and the ones I do play tend to be more casual, relaxing titles such as Peggle etc. I first played Trine 3 on the Switch and whilst I did enjoy it, the fourth game in the series really is the high watermark. I played this with my friend, Rupert, and we laughed. The story of the game is well presented in an almost Disney-like way via short cut-scenes but the smoothness, gorgeousness of the surroundings and, most importantly, the quality of the puzzling blew me away. The number of times in that game that one of us was stumped on a puzzle and, after mulling it over for a while said, “Right, I’m going to leap off this ledge, create a block in mid-air, land on it, you fire an arrow at that platform and I’ll time it so I hit the switch on the way past and then make a separate block to hold the door open for you” only to fall to our deaths instantly as the whole plan came crashing down was baffling and brilliant. A game that represents the height of co-operative puzzle-platformers, this is one for the ages and will probably only be bested by its own sequels, long may they run.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

It’s back to my youth for this entry in my top 20, which is for me the best in the series. The introduction of two players, the gameplay, the level design and my god that music. What a combo. There’s not much to say about this. 
It’s the best Sonic game ever made.








Dreamweb

This is a bit of an oddity for a list that supposedly states the best games of all time as it’s a deeply flawed game…but it’s also one I hold extremely dear and set a mental template for the things in gaming that would shape my love for the medium over the years. If you haven’t played Dreamweb, it’s a top-down adventure that was initially released on both PC and Amiga in 1994 (although the PC version is superior for reasons I’ll go into later) and sees the protagonist, Ryan, in a dystopian near-future hunting down evil-doers to balance out the ‘Dreamweb’, a cosmic balance that exists in the realm of sleep. Whilst this all sounds fantastical, it’s actually an incredibly morose game that feels quietly depressing and this is helped by both the accompanying book, ‘Diary of a Mad? Man’ and the soundtrack by Matt Seldon which is half ambient and half techno, a perfectly bizarre soundtrack that suited the game and sadly remains the only work by the author, of course, this soundtrack is only available in CD versions which is why the PC version is a must. That mix of cyberpunk, depression, sonic importance and gritty darkness flicked a light on in my mind that I will always adore Dreamweb for.

Moonstone

If ever a game was ripe for a remake, it’s Moonstone. The overworld is effectively a four-player, fantasy board game and the action sequences  are pure video game. This mash of genres still feels fresh and the game, whilst showing its age, still plays fantastically. Over the years there have been rumblings of remakes and the like but I’ve stopped checking on these because I get too excited and then disappointed when the projects go quiet. I’ve seen two copies of this game, boxed in real life, one in Britain and one in France and both times they cost hundreds of pounds and both times…I’ve almost picked it up but talked myself out of it. For more information, check out The Moonstone Tavern on the internet, an absolute treasure trove for lovers of this game.

That’s it! This took a surprisingly long time to write because these games mean so much to me and I could write thousands of words on each entry. 

I’d love to hear your choices and thoughts on the entries here. 

Right, I’m off to play some of these beauties again!
Britt

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