Warning: the following post is long as holy fuck. Reader discretion is advised.
10 Games You Should Probably Play
And, Like, 5 Honorable Mentions
Tired of playing the same damn video games every day? Are you stuck in a genre rut? Feel like treading off the beaten path and enjoying some quality non-AAA title games? Well, sit your ass down and prepare for a mildly interesting list of great games (in no particular order.)
Now, I'm going to try and cover a lot of games with very different gameplay, and I'm going to attempt to stay away from bigger budget games and/or games that are generally well known. I probably won't mention any REALLY obscure games. I'm just trying to enlighten everyone on some lesser known games that are worth playing, or games that are must plays in their genre. I've played a lot of games from many different genres, but I certainly have my preferences and I haven't played EVERY game out there. This definitely isn't a list of my favorite games, but all the games in the list are ones I've played, enjoyed, and feel that they're pretty easy to get into.
Please be aware that these are not reviews. Some are rough summaries of the games, but they're all just paragraph long mentions of the games I thought were particularly notable. If you want to know more about a game I mention, look it up on Google or just ask me.
#1: Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
System: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Tactical Role-Playing Game
We are going to start things off easy with a gateway game for one of my absolute favorite video game genres of all time, the TRPG/SRPG. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a pretty damn simple TRPG and a childhood favorite of mine. It has a simplistic battle system with none of the unforgiving elements of other games in its genre. It has the imaginative elements that gamers have come to expect from Final Fantasy games and its visual take on the non-human races in the game is my favorite of all of the Final Fantasy games (spin-offs included, of course.) It has a pretty basic story with a boy and his friends accidentally changing the real world into a fantasy land straight out of video games. The boy spends the entire game trying to get back home unlike his friends who have become engrossed with the new world. Mewt, a rather meek and often bullied child, is especially reluctant as he finds himself the prince of the new world with his father in a respectable position as head judge (enforcers of special laws that keep people from dying during battles) and a mysterious woman serving as a replacement for his dead mother. If you're fond of strategic board games like chess, but want that added spice that comes with RPG games then TRPGs are what you have been looking for. Hell, if you like FFTA, you can move further into the TRPG genre with more obscure titles like Jeanne D’Arc or Tactics Ogre. Just beware the titles with the perma-death feature if you are as anal as I am about keeping EVERY character alive (I’m looking at you Fire Emblem!)
#2: Diablo II
Developer: Blizzard North
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game / Hack-and-Slash
Okay, I admit that Diablo II isn't exactly “off the beaten path” or not very well known, but damn is it a good game and an absolute classic in its genre. It’s definitely a tougher game, but it’s so worth the challenge and experience. The different classes all feel distinctly unique and there are plenty of ways to play each one. Its usage of Dark Fantasy and Horror Themes is absolutely sublime, its skill tree system is awesome, and it's random loot system keeps each playthrough unique and fresh. This game is absolutely a must play for those interested in its genre, and hey, it has aged pretty damn well (wish I could say the same for Diablo.) On top of all that, it also has some great fan-made expansions that add even more quality content. A paragraph long description of this game really doesn't do it any justice. You just have to play it to get the full brilliant experience. If you enjoy Diablo II, Torchlight 1 & 2 and Diablo III are definitely worth playing; however, if it is gameplay more close to Diablo II that you're craving, Path of Exile is something you need to check out. Seriously, PoE seems more like a sequel to Diablo II than Diablo III.
#3: Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
System: PS1 & PSP
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Check out my old review: http://forum.duelingnetwork.com/index.php?/topic/129914-violentanemia-reviews-valkyrie-profile/
There’s not really much more I can say about Valkyrie Profile that I haven’t said before. It’s probably one of the lesser games in the list in terms of accessibility, but it’s definitely a unique, enjoyable experience. I will add that it’s definitely better than its sequel though. The graphical style of VP2 went 3D which did not age as well, and the battle system got unnecessary updates that make it less enjoyable.
#4: Persona 3 FES
Genre: Role-Playing Game / Social Simulation
Persona is a spin-off series of the SMT games. Generally, all Persona games revolve around high school kids thwarting an evil organization or deity that uses dark monsters called shadows, and the kids use their alternate selves (Personas) to do so. Persona 3 was a sort of reboot of the series that went in a totally different direction than the 3 previous games in the series (Persona 2 was 2 separate games.) Persona 1 was a first-person dungeon crawler while Persona 2 took the isometric approach instead, but still was heavily dungeon based. 3 is (surprise-surprise) also heavily dungeon based, but some huge changes were made. 3 is the first 3D game in the series, and 3 introduced social links to the game. Social links are basically social relationships with other people in the game. Establishing and strengthening these links powers up your personas when you initially make them and unlocks some of the more powerful personas in the game. The Persona series takes a lot from Jungian Psychology, a fact that I find rather cool. It presents an interesting mix of gameplay from 3 onwards, and the music isn't too bad either. Persona 3 FES specifically is a sort of upgrade of the original game with extra aftorstory content and improvements to the base game. There is a PSP port of the game, but it is a graphical downgrade and lacks the extra afterstory; however, it does give the option to play as a female main character which changes some of the social links a bit. Plus there’s a cool easter egg referencing another Atlus game. It’s certainly worth checking out if you liked P3 FES. Personally, I enjoyed Persona 4 more than Persona 3, but I do believe that Persona 3 FES is a better introduction to the series. They're both great games, so check them out.
#5: ICO / Shadow of the Colossus
System: PS2 & PS3
Developer: Team ICO
Genre: Puzzle-platformer / Action-Adventure (ICO) // Action-Adventure (SotC)
Now you're probably wondering why two games are being featured in the same spot. I chose to do this because the two had an HD rerelease for the PS3 and were both on the same disc. They're both absolute classics that fell under the radar at the time of their release, so picking up the HD version just gives you no excuse not to play both of them. Both of the games feature a minimalistic story with sparse dialog. The games progress the story through action rather than words (More so with ICO) and that makes them pretty refreshing and ingenious in their execution. ICO is more heavily focused on its puzzles than its action and presents the right way to do an “escort mission” sort of game, a concept that most developers have always had a hard time with. Shadow of the Colossus is entirely composed of boss fights at a breathtaking scale. It’s an amazing action game, and it has the most realistic horse handling out of most video games. They're both cult classics, and I love the hell out of them. Take a look at them, you won't regret it.
#6: Tales of Xillia
Genre: Role-Playing Game
The Tales series is certainly a good one; at least, I assume such from the three Tales titles that I've played. Xillia was my introduction to the series though it is nowhere near the first game in the series. Yeah, I jumped on the Tales wagon pretty damn late, but I did absolutely love the game. As a fan of RPG games, I generally prefer more action oriented combat systems rather than the more static classical menu heavy battle systems. I just love fluid gameplay found in action games. Racing through menus over and over again is quite the opposite of fluid. Xillia’s characters are likable and interesting and the enemies are imaginative for the most part. I know that a lot of people think that Tales of Symphonia is the best in the series, but I just like Xillia and its sequel more. Yes, I've played Symphonia. I own a copy of the original Gamecube release. No, I'm not crazy. I just often have an opinion that differs largely from the popular opinion (i.e. I think that Twilight Princess is the best 3D Legend of Zelda game and I think Resident Evil 4 isn't all that great.) Anyways, Tales of Xillia is a great introduction into the series and I really think anyone who likes RPGs with a more action oriented battle system should pick it up.
#7: Muramasa: The Demon Blade
System: Wii & PS Vita
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Ah, I remember back when I first played Muramasa. I had heard of the game while researching good Wii games that I should pira- er, acquire entirely legally from a reputable establishment. I heard about Muramasa from a Youtube video that listed some good, lesser known Wii titles, and I am damn glad I did. Muramasa may as well be an art piece as well as a game. Even with the Wii’s potato graphics, the world of Muramasa was a 2-dimensional beauty; the controls are fluid and responsive; and I'll be damned if the soundtrack wasn't the best it could possibly be. I love this game, and after I played it, I actually felt that my Wii was worth the money I paid for it… for once. Years later, a PS Vita port was announced AND I FUCKING POUNCED ON THAT SHIT! I preordered the limited edition, and when it came in the mail, I giggled like a giddy schoolgirl as decked out my PS Vita in the kickass hard case and vinyl cover that came with the game. I turned on that game and played the fuck out of it, and holy shit, I never could have imagined just how unjust the Wii was to Muramasa. Muramasa on the PS Vita is so beautiful and to this very day, that Muramasa port ranks very high in my list of favorite games. If you like side-scrolling ARPGs, go play Muramasa: the Demon Blade ASAP.
#8: Dark Cloud 2
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
So, a few months back, I emulated Dark Cloud on my Laptop (before it kicked the bucket) and was pretty mildly entertained. Dark Cloud was probably a really good game, but I don't think it aged too well thanks to its clunky controls. Dark Cloud 2 is an entirely different story. I got a lot of enjoyment out of DC2 and I was very glad to have played it. It’s a lot more vibrant than its predecessor and it got a major upgrade in the controls. Dark Cloud 2, like Dark Cloud, is an ARPG with procedurally-generated dungeons and real-time hack-and-slash combat. The game puts you in control of 2 different characters that you can freely switch between at any time. Both characters have their own weaknesses and strengths, so you'll often be switching between the two. The game requires you to collect pieces of villages that have been wrecked by the main villain in their attempt to ruin the future. The story has a pretty good deal of plot holes and inconsistencies, but the game’s gameplay carries it. It’s pretty good, and always fun.
#9: Age of Mythology
Developer: Ensemble Studios
Genre: Real-time strategy
Years ago, when my age was still in the single digits, I used to play RTS games. Well, more correctly put, I used to play 1 RTS game, Age of Empires. My dad owned the game, and I would play it too (on its easiest setting, of course.) One day, during a trip to Walmart (before all Walmarts carried foodstuffs) I happened upon AoM in the electronics section. Needless to say, it was the coolest game my adolescent self had ever seen before. At the time, Greek Mythology was a huge interest of mine since my Uncle had given me a few books on the subject, so I just had to have the game. Luckily, my mom must have been feeling generous that day since we did leave the store with it. Damn, I loved that game. I may be shit at RTS games since I can’t out-multitask a lemon, but AoM remains one of the coolest games that I have ever played. The monsters and heroes from totally different cultures battling it out were awesome, and the map constructor was extremely intuitive. There were some great and fun scenarios made with that thing. To top it off, the game received its very own HD remaster last year that you can buy off of steam. I’m no RTS expert, but AoM is a fun RTS that is worth anyone’s time.
#10: Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code
System: PS2 & PC
Developer: Type-Moon & French-Bread
Genre: Visual Novel / Fighting Game
Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code is a fighting game that boasts fluid gameplay, quality character sprites, and a ridiculously long and awesome name. I have only ever seen one game name that has trumped it, Maiden Rape Assault: Violent Semen Inferno, but we’re not here to talk about that game… nor am I allowed to. So, anyways, I’m a particularly major fan of Type-Moon and all of their works, but you don't really have to be a big fan of theirs to enjoy the game. It’s just a good fighting game, really. It’s not the first in the series, but it has the largest roster, so it’s the go to game for maximum Type-Moon x Fighting Games enjoyment. Much like the RTS genre, I have no business playing Fighting Games, but I love the hell out of them. The game just looks and feels good. There isn't much more to say.
The following are games that are all either:
A.) Unappealing to a wider audience and instead focus on catering to a small and specific group of people (or niche.)
B.) Cannot be emulated while also being on a console few care to own.
C.) Carry a steep learning curve that makes it hard to get into the game.
For one or more of the above reasons, these games were not included in the main list. They're all still worth mentioning though… so I’ll mention them.
#1: Kamidori Alchemy Meister
Genre: Visual Novel / Tactical Role-Playing Game
I’m going to be entirely honest here; Kamidori Alchemy Meister is a porn game. Woah, hold on a sec. Stop scrolling down, dammit! Just give me an opportunity to explain myself. Contrary to what one might expect, I will talk about none of the adult content found in the game. Indeed, as a porn game alone, KAM doesn't really stand out. It’s not really why I feel the game is worth mentioning. Oddly enough, KAM is actually a really enjoyable TRPG. The battle system and graphical style is satisfactory. It has some elements of a store simulation game (Capitalism, ho!) and it has a crafting system that isn’t painful to use or completely useless. Hell, if it weren't for the game’s adult content, I'd have it in the main list. It’s worth picking up if you like TRPGs and can tolerate the adult content (or maybe you like eroges, I'm not one to judge.) Just be aware that there is no English release of the game. There’s a fan patch, but individuals with no experience in installing Japanese Visual Novels might have a few issues. Anyone interested in the game can PM me for an installation guide I typed up years ago.
#2: Soul Sacrifice
System: PS Vita
Developer: Marvelous AQL & Japan Studio
Check out my old review: http://forum.duelingnetwork.com/index.php?/topic/140430-violentanemia-reviews-soul-sacrifice/
Soul Sacrifice failed to make the list based on one simple fact… It’s a PS Vita exclusive. Don’t get me wrong, I love my PS Vita, and it’s still my favorite of the 2 current generation handhelds; however, it’s a niche system with no working emulator. Currently, I own 10 PS Vita games (11 when my preorder comes in) and that’s certainly enough to justify purchasing a system, but most of those games are niche games. They're games that just don't have that strong appeal, and that accurately reflects the PS Vita and the direction the system is heading. I like that direction, really I do, but I can't suggest that people go buy a niche game system just to play one really good game.
#3: Drakengard 3 / Nier
System: PS3 (Drakengard 3 & Nier) & Xbox 360 (Nier)
Developer: Access Games (Drakengard 3) & Cavia (Nier)
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
I have this both listed together because they're part of the same series, and my reasoning for not including them in the main list is the same. They both have a lot of flaws, but they're strange and unique. These are the kind of games that make great cult classics, and I really love them for that reason. I just can't really recommend them though since they're pretty hard to enjoy. I will say that they have damn good soundtracks though. I especially love the boss fight songs in Drakengard 3. Their OSTs are certainly worth listening to, at least. Really, the games aren't trying to be niche (they don't seem to try to appeal to anyone at all which is unique enough) but they just have the qualities of niche games.
#4: Demon Gaze
System: PS Vita
Developer: Kadokawa Games & Experience Inc.
Genre: Role-Playing Game / Dungeon Crawler
Demon Gaze is an extremely enjoyable Dungeon Crawler, but it’s also very niche in its presentation. Add its PS Vita exclusivity into the mix, and I gain enough of a reason not to include it in the main list. The same developers are releasing another game next month which seems to be Demon Gaze in a sci-fi setting. Needless to say, I have it pre-ordered and I'm really looking forward to playing it.
#5: Dark Souls
System: PS3, Xbox 360, & PC
Developer: From Software
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Dark Souls is my favorite ARPG game, but I feel like it’s been praised to death. I’ve especially gone into long rants on how enjoyable it is. In fact, it’s probably best that I don’t say much about it. Once I start, I have a hard time getting myself to shut up. I will say that it’s good, and anyone who even remotely likes ARPGs should play through it entirely, at least once. Oh, and I guess that it sort of has a really steep learning curve too… you get used to it.
Edited by ViolentAnemia, 26 May 2015 - 09:55 AM.