When I write about or speak of my gaming history, Banjo-Kazooie is a game that comes up… a lot. I’ve found joy in many games, but none of them quite compare to the pure bliss I experienced with in the delightfully colorful world of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird. It’s a game that helped me through a real-life rough patch. It’s a game that needled itself so deeply into my mind that I can conjure up the sights and sounds of the game without much thought. It’s a game that continues to hold its own even among 3D adventure platformers of today. It is, pure and simple, Banjo-Kazooie.
Image Gathered From Flickr User: Charlie NZ
I almost didn’t play BioShock.
After having loved this game ever since picking it up in 2007 (has it really been that long?!), the thought of never having played it almost doesn’t seem possible. Yet this is true; Back when it first came out I very nearly passed it over. And the thing is, I almost did so without a second thought. Continue reading UWG Top 10: #8 – BioShock
Image above from flickr user: Tim Peacock
It’s a privilege and a burden to be given the task of evangelizing the Walking dead to the you, the good readers of United We Game. Unlike the other games on this list, the Walking Dead is not a trailblazer of ground breaking game play. The other, rightly vaunted, games on this list tend to stick in the memory for bringing new mechanics, control schemes and interactions with the game worlds to the fore.
The Walking Dead, however, uses a fairly basic graphic adventure game. The usual complex puzzles are stripped back to their very basics and take very little thought to complete. Graphics are low rent and the control scheme adequate at best.
This all pales into insignificance however when the true merits are considered. This is the game that finally treats the slowly ageing gaming population as the adults they’ve become. Gaming finally growing up but don’t worry there are still zombies in it.
Like all the best fiction, the zombies, become only a secondary adversary. This game isn’t about zombies, it’s about people, just like Jaws isn’t about the shark. Both these movie monsters serve only to drive the characters into situations where they can do nothing but show their true colours.
So for those don’t know, in this game you play Lee, a convicted murderer (whether or not he did or didn’t do it is left ambiguous for a good portion of the game) on his way to jail until an unexplained zombie outbreak kind of gets in the way. He happens upon a young girl called Clementine (Clem for short) and the pair quickly form a bond as he becomes her protector and she gives him a reason to survive. As mentioned above, there is a basic adventure game template but puzzles are straight forward. They are meant to keep you moving along, interested in the plot and serve as convenient time to wander your environment and talk to your ever evolving group of compatriots.
Nearly everything in this game is in place to serve as character development. How your comrades react to changing situations, the locations they’re in, the conversations they have, the looks on their faces and their reactions to your choices. Choices, indeed, this game gives you choices. Remember that claim I made earlier about this being an adult game? The moral choices you make are what defines how you play Lee but they are not the usual cartoonish moral choices that first appeared in Fable and Black and White. These are real characters and your choices mean consequences for them, suddenly the weight of the choices is real because each character has been subtly developed throughout the game.
The whole “Good” and “Evil” path was developed many years ago and has not really developed in games. It was seen as enough to let you be a devil or an angel. A few games began to iterate such as Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Introducing grey areas to your choices or making you really think about the outcomes of your decision. Too many games basically rely on there being two separate play throughs, right up to the modern day, a good one and a bad one. You do the good one because you’re a nice person and then do the evil one to see the difference.
The Walking Dead gives you choices but there is no right choice, no wrong choice. There’s just a choice, your choice. Sometimes it’s completely instinctual. Each choice has a timer, you can’t sit and ponder. Let me give you an example, in the first episode (the game is split into five episodes) you have to decide which of two characters to save. You’ve spent perhaps twenty minutes in total with these people, you have but a few minutes of conversation with each of them to base your decision on. There is no right choice. You’ll question your decision for the rest of the game. Therefore justifying the need for the dilemma to be there in the first place. There’s no point to having a choice if you decided at the start which of two options you are going to select each time.
This interaction between character and player agency is the true genius of the game. In reality, there is no branching path, your choices don’t effect the final outcome of the story but that doesn’t matter because this is your story. You are reacting to these characters because of how you feel about them.
This is why I champion this game, it may not be the genre defining entry that some other titles on this list are but it pushes forward the template for the whole medium. Now, characters can be more than electric ninjas and busty maidens and they can mean something real to us because they are flawed but striving for the best world they can. Players can make a choice that felt truly important. Conversations between characters can be for more than just plot development.
All this and I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic voice acting and brilliant plot. They are all part of the package. Due to the episodic nature of the game, certain sections are stronger than others but each is an important development to the harrowing conclusion. Oh, and that conclusion. The less said for the uninitiated the better. Just experience it. If you haven’t played it then grab a copy and spend an evening with some complex, annoying, strong, terrified and brilliant people.
To this day, I still don’t know how I managed to choose Super Metroid.
Lets face it, 1995 was a completely different era for gamers. It was the age of Super Nintendo vs Sega Genesis, Mortal Kombat was still considered to be extremely controversial, Nintendo Power was a huge selling magazine, game purchases were done only in big retail stores and more importantly, online blogs, game sites, and social media didn’t exist. I know to many of you, I just blew your mind, but yes, buying a game was a major process back then and usually involved trying to convince your parents to shell out the necessary money.
Walking around the local Toys ‘R’ Us (when they used a crazy yellow ticket system to purchase games), I can remember coming across a game called ‘Super Metroid’ featuring a character in a orange suit fighting a dragon like character. I had played the original Metroid years before on the NES, but I’m not sure I made the connection. You see, I had never played Metroid to completion as back then in my young age, that wasn’t why I played games. I played to have fun and also lacking any sort of direction, I never made it very far. For years, Super Metroid would act in a similar way, more as a playground than something I pushed to complete.
The magic of Super Metroid for me came from that game’s ability to tell a compelling story without the use of things we see now a days in cutscenes or character dialogue. When booting up the game, the only time you’ll see story based text is at the very beginning from the heroine, Samus Aran, giving players a quick overview of the story so far. Amazingly, the game’s story really unfolded through player exploration. You see, the entire map was open for the player to explore as they see fit with the only requirement being that you found the necessary tool or weapon in order to access the place where you want to go. These days we call these types of games “Metroidvania” so you can see where that term originates from. Navigating to different zones changed the music and visuals of the area around you giving way to new enemies and challenges to overcome. This style has also made Super Metroid a prime candidate for speed runners, showing off incredible feats and ways to get around locked off areas in abnormally short amounts of time.
Other elements of Super Metroid that really stand out for me are the boss battles sprinkled throughout the world. Each zone typically had a mini-boss along with an end boss battle and each proved to be challenging yet extremely memorable. I can remember the first time I entered Kraid’s lair in Brinstar, the music gave way to a more ominous sound letting you know that something was coming. Entering into his chamber the floor crumbled away and this three screen high monster rose up forcing you to climb the room to his head level to shoot a few missiles into his mouth.
Fighting the spirit monster Phantoon on the Wrecked Ship was also a standout moment for me. As you enter this crashed ship on the surface of planet Zebes, the power has been completely sucked dry. You’re navigating through this now derelict ship looking for any signs of life. Your scanners sense a power spike coming from one of the central locations on the ship where you eventually come upon this odd looking creature known as Phantoon. Turns out, this spirit has fed on the raw energy of the ship and can phase in an out during the battle. It’s a tense, exciting fight and victory means the ship’s power and systems are restored.
Lastly, the progression system in place isn’t anything to write home about with what we have these days, but back then it did a really great job of making you feel like a complete badass. Starting the game relatively weak, you continually upgrade and grow in power during your time on planet Zebes. Even though you’re a full equipped badass bounty hunter, you never quite feel like you’re overpowered as the game does an excellent job progressing with you.
Even to this day, Super Metroid manages to capture what I feel is great about video games. While many games just don’t stand up against the test of time, for me, it’s still incredibly fun after all these years. Samus Aran and Super Metroid is main reason why I still have my old SNES with me and feel compelled to return to Zebes to face off against Mother Brain every few years. In fact, I think I’m a bit overdue.
Thinking back, I still really don’t know what appealed to me about Super Metroid, but I’m glad I took the chance on it. It’s one of my favorite games I’ve ever played.
Derek of GamerCrash.com had the honor of kicking of this most epic of top 10 lists for us! If you liked what he had to say about Super Metroid, why not head on over to his site and see what he has to offer on all the most recent gaming happenings and rumors!