This list illustrates my preference for games driven by both story and fairly simple game design which are very enjoyable to play. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like games like Super Mario World, Zelda: A Link to the Past, Ratchet and Clank and Katamari Damacy and any number of other games. However, I do have a serious bias toward console games as a controller is so much easier to handle and I never had a serious PC to run games. So take that into account. This is a follow up to a discussion on why I like video games at all inspired by the Game Grumps.
11 Deadpool (X-Box 360)
Ok, this one is cheating a little bit. There is source material outside of the game in the form of a long-running comic book character from all the way back in the nineties. However, I contend that you can play this game and enjoy it without ever reading a comic book. The gameplay is mostly hack and slash but the story and voice work makes the game really surreal and fun. Deadpool is a character who is very meta and tends to nuke the fourth wall from orbit. The game ends up feeling like something from the Marx brothers mixed with a parody of video games in general. Coupled with that, the character spouts a million funny one-liners. The gameplay is fun enough but the comedy kept me going.
10 Red Dead Redemption (X-Box 360)
I’m a big fan of westerns. My personal favorites are The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Two Mules for Sister Sarah and the True Grit remake. Every bit of this game feels like walking through a really good western movie and that’s exactly how it’s designed. However, you also get a lot of the feel of the scenes they cut out from the movies. Sure, you participate in gunfights, pitched battles and you even get to engage in bounty hunting. However, you also fight and skin animals and ride your horse across empty plains. The game is really beautiful and I find it so easy to get sucked right into the world. The game has a morality system so you can play the game differently every time.
9 Final Fantasy IX (Playstation)
I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game that I absoulutely hated and most of them I’ve at least enjoyed. However, if we’re going for enjoyable gameplay and story, I’m actually going with number nine. The game is a very long Japanese RPG that uses a lot of cool fantasy archetypes but, at the time, shook things up a bit. The female protagonist isn’t just a damsel in distress, the male protagonist is a thief and some of the heroes just don’t get along with each other at all. There’s a lot of story about what it means to be a hero and doing what’s right. There’s also a pretty heavy message about questioning reality and what makes a person a person. It gets fairly philosophical and heavy at some points but it’s a really beautiful game.
8 Psychonauts (X-Box 360)
This game absolutely blew me away when I first played it. I have fond memories of summer camp. The idea of kids attending psychic summer camp amused me. Above all the game is really funny but below that humorous exterior is a really creepy, offbeat story. There are a ton of really neat characters including a whole host of fully developed extras. The concept behind the game is that you enter people’s mindscapes to sort out their psychological issues. Very rarely do you actually fight anybody or anything in the real world. So a lot of the time it feels like there’s a sunny world where very evil things are happening just out of sight. As mentioned before in this blog, I love the juxtaposition of happy and scary so this was right up my alley.
7 South Park: The Stick of Truth (X-Box 360)
I don’t really think you need to have watched South Park to enjoy this game. However, it makes it infinitely more fun if you’ve seen most of the series. If you’re not ready for a ride that is super obscene and incredibly inappropriate then just skip this one. Just skip it. However, if you have a good sense of humor and you were ever a fan of the show then I suggest you pick this one up. The gameplay is simple and based on a lot of turn-based RPGs. There’s a lot of character customization that further immerse you in what feels like playing in a three-part South Park episode. Because of decisions, side quests and easter eggs I’ve played this one over and over and enjoyed it every time. It’s not very long but a very fun (and raunchy) ride.
6 Brutal Legend (X-Box 360)
I must have mentioned that I love heavy metal music. In fact, I love a lot of different genres of metal. I even love BabyMetal but that’s another thing entirely. The fact of the matter is that DoubleFine (the makers of Psychonauts) teamed up with Tenacious D and they made a video game celebrating the Metal. The game is full to the gills with heavy metal music, album cover imagery and even has the voice talents of Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Ozzy Ozbourne, Lita Ford, Rob Halford and Lemmy Kilmister. The game is funny most of the time but actually hits some deep felt moments. The game is full of epic atmosphere and, as the great story unfolds, the gameplay evolves. You also get to cast spells with a guitar which is something I had often imagined in my high school and college days.
5 Dark Cloud 2 (Playstation 2)
I bought Dark Cloud 2 on a whim, mostly because I enjoyed Dark Cloud which I bought heavily discounted. I was expecting more of the same and boy was I in for a surprise. The basic gameplay is the same but with heavily updated graphics. However, the story received a huge boost as in Dark Cloud 2, the stakes feel 200% higher and it includes time travel. More than that, the time travel actually makes some sense. In the game, you play as young inventor Max and also as Monica, warrior princess from the future. Your job is to rebuild the present in order to make sure that the future happens as it should (so it can help you in the present). There’s magic, sci-fi and plenty of fun characters to interact with. The game play is simple but not really ground breaking but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun as hell.
4 Borderlands 2 (X-Box 360)
I never really liked first person shooters as I was growing up. Most of them were on the computer and I never had a good system to play them on. I also was forbidden from playing first person shooters by my mother. I really don’t blame her. The media had drummed up a lot scary stuff and being a parent is really hard. I was never really good at them anyway. For some reason, the Borderlands series instantly clicked with me. I tried Borderlands 2 because I found out it was written by Anthony Burch of Hey Ash Whacha Playin’. It’s clear through playing the game that Anthony understands a lot about comedy when it comes to video games. The game is surprising at times, beautiful to look at, funny and above all the characters feel pretty real. Everytime I play it I find some new detail I never noticed before. It’s a non-stop adventure that is endearing and just challenging enough to keep you from pulling your hair out.
3 Kingdom Hearts (Playstation 2)
Disney animated movies are great and they have been adapted so many times into video games but I can’t think of a single one that was worth playing. They all felt too half-assed and most of the ones I played were way too hard. I’m looking at you Lion King and Alladin. They also had to adhere to a set script because that’s what was expected of them. Kingdom Hearts combines fun Disney storytelling with some creative parts from the Final Fantasy series. It actually forms a new animal that’s equal parts new and equal parts nostalgic. The gameplay is fun and it’s really great to run around with Goofy and Donald to save the Disneyverse. It’s very hard to describe how good this game (and its sequel) is without giving too much away. This was the first game I can remember having a very real emotional release when I finished it. After this game, and its sequel, I teared up and felt so good and bad at the same time.
2 Portal 2 (X-Box 360)
I never played the original Portal but I was definitely well aware of all of the memes. I’ve since played the game and it’s a cute little game using the Source engine. I actually played the sequel first and I absolutely loved it. From the first five minutes I knew that the game would be exactly up my alley. The game immediately immerses you in a complete environment with amazing detail and really fun gameplay. As the game progresses, you’re introduced to extremely rounded characters who only become more interesting as you go. It’s not just the constant voiceovers that unfold a really cool story but also the environment your character is walking through. My only gripe is that I wanted for their to be more game, more story to follow. There’s so much quotable dialogue and moments that actually packed an emotional punch. If they ever make a Portal 3 (doubtful) I will be in line to buy a copy.
1 Arkham Origins (X-Box 360)
I love Batman. It’s been a pretty key fixture in my pop culture life since I was 7 years old. I’ve greedily gobbled up every piece of Batman whatever whenever I have a chance. My problem was that games based on comic books mostly sucked. When I played Arkham Asylum, for the first time I felt like I was Batman. I didn’t just beat up criminals, I did detective work, I climbed and swung and faced down the rogues gallery. When I played the sequel, Arkham City, I felt even more like I had been dropped in a comic book. When Origins dropped I was expecting good things but it exceeded expectations. Just like all of the Arkham series games, the characters have gravity and the storyline is told in such a way that you don’t have to be familiar with the Batman mythos to understand. However, it’s also a Batman fanboy’s dream as it an adaptation that strikes new ground while also scratching so many nostalgic issues. If you take anything away from this post, play all three of these games. Eventually, I will play the final game in the series, Arkham Knight.
Tags: Arkham, Arkham Origins, Borderlands 2, Brutal Legend, Dark Cloud 2, Deadpool, Final Fantasy IX, Kingdom Hearts, Portal 2, Psychonauts, Red Dead Redemption, South Park: The Order of the Stick, Video Games