November 04, 2015

KVRGaming's Ultimate Top 13 Games of all Time (2015 Edition)

From the most ancient of titles...No, I'm lying, we'll probably not go that far back. But we'll go a small way back. Probably. Most likely not. But either way: 

From the most moderately ancient of titles to the most budget-affordable of modern classics, we will take a look at the very best of gaming from the perspective of someone who has a rather odd taste in just about anything, including gaming, which makes the statement about "very best" extremely subjective. 

Nevertheless, we do actually have a criteria for selecting the Top 13 titles we'll be presenting to you this week:

1. Nothing too old. Only millennial games will be featured in this list.

2. Must have completed the game. This one is a no-brainer. Duh.

3. PC Games only. Sorry console gamers, but we won't be fair to you in this regard. (Titles which are cross-platform are allowed, of course.)

Tune in for our somewhat epic countdown of everything gaming has to offer, no holds barred, no punches pulled, and no cookie jars left undefiled. 

Hit the jump break, and let's get counting...

Kicking off the list with some juicy controversy, my thirteenth favourite game is none other than one of the well-loathed Call of Duty titles: Call of Duty Black Ops 1. Why, of all the titles in the world, would I choose this one? Well, let's take a look back at my life at the time of my obsession with Cod Blops 1:

At the height of the hype train for Modern Warfare 3, I chose to buy Black Ops 1 after wanting it for quite some time. MW3 landed, and I obsessed over it as well. (Video games were pretty much the only friends I had at the time, you see, so I would play them to death and back again.) After moving to a fairly secluded town in 2012, I was cut off from other people and had no choice but to retreat into my video games.

One of the two titles (both listed) which kept me going was Call of Duty: Black Ops 1. It may sound strange, but playing and replaying every single level in the game, and then writing about them in-depth in my rather over-stuffed review, kept me strangely sane against a background of loneliness. 

Black Ops 1 might not have been the most well received video game on the market, but the complex (if flawed) story, intricate (if linear) levels, and tight (if restrictive) gameplay struck a cord with me. I don't play it nearly as much as I used to, due to a change of environment and social standing, but Black Ops 1 is a game which I can gladly make time for in the near future.

One of my first true shooter games, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was one of the most defining video games of the FPS genre in the early 2000s, and a true masterpiece of entertaining gameplay.

Taking place across six varied stages which find player traversing the French countryside after surviving the brutality of D-Day, rescuing a POW from a Nazi compound in Morocco, scuttling a submarine whilst undercover in a Nazi base in Norway, and sneaking through the infamous "sniper town", a level of legend amongst those who played the game. (One does not simply "sneak" through "sniper town".)

Not sporting an epic story per se, Allied Assault nevertheless manages to thrill, excite and challenge the player all in one. A true classic, worth checking out ASAP. 

Fulfilling our inner Star Wars nerd's wild fantasies, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic made a huge splash upon it's debut in 2004. Featuring a vast galaxy to explore, KOTOR throws the player into a huge struggle between the Republic and the Sith. Your character, an amnesiac with an affinity for the force, is thrust into combat with little time to pick a side.

KOTOR takes the player on a journey from a mere warrior to a Jedi master. It also features an extensive, branching storyline with several likeable companions at the player's side. The player traverses through several beautiful environments during the course of the game, with excellent art design from the developers at BioWare.

The game features thrilling RPG combat, which mixes traditional gameplay with more fast-paced, modern style fighting. The player has an arsenal of weapons to their disposal, such as swords, guns, grenades, mines and lightsabers. (Yay, Star Wars fans rejoice!)

The story of KOTOR is well-written, with an infamous twist at the end of the second act which left players speechless. (A twist almost as good, if not better than, the twist at the end of Empire Strikes Back.)

Excellent from start to finish (even if it takes a while to get going), KOTOR is a must-have for Star Wars fans far and long ago in a galaxy far far away. Oh, I meant "wide". Yep. 

A harsh look at the psychological effects of war, Spec Ops: The Line was the subject of much conversation amongst gamers on it's launch in 2012. What appears to be an otherwise rather generic shooter at first, slowly evolves into something much deeper as it moves on.

The core of the story features Captain Martin Walker and his two teammates, Lieutenant Alphonso Adams and Staff Sergeant John Lugo, sent in on a reconnaissance mission in a ravaged Dubai (following the worst series of sandstorms in recorded history across the United Arab Emirates) after Colonel John Konrad, believed to be MIA, unexpectedly delivers a looped radio message from within the wall of Dubai. Walker, Adams and Lugo find nothing out of the usual at first, but as things go on, the plot becomes deeper and deeper, with more and more secrets coming to light...

The transition from light to dark is most evident in the three central characters, with the protagonist undergoing the biggest transition over the course of the game. The other two characters go from cheesy stereotypes to reflections of the player's actions over the course of the game. As the game goes on, the stock characters fade away to form concerned human beings, heavily affected by the traumatic experiences they undergo in the shadow of Dubai.

Spec Ops: The Line presents an excellent satire on modern shooter games from within the genre itself, using its gameplay to make a statement on the futility of trying to be the "hero" in combat and what it means to be a wartime leader when the time comes. The earth-shattering ending brings everything together, and is a must see for those who make it to the end of this rather stressful yet brilliant game.

Check it out, if you're looking for something much deeper and more engrossing than standard shooter fare. 

Proving that a video game featuring very little combat can actually be a major success, Portal 2 bases it successes off of its razor sharp writing and loveable characters.

Featuring the player going from the sterile testing environments of Aperture laboratories to the decidedly less sterile workings of the facility behind-the-scenes, Portal 2 is an adventure game through and through. Characters like Wheatley, GlaDos, Cave Johnson and the three personality cores (their part in the game will not be spoiled) make the game an incredibly fun and hilarious experience from beginning to end.

With challenging, yet not impossible, puzzles and engrossing set pieces, Portal 2 moves the player at a deliberate pace at first, but ramps up the tension in unexpected yet appropriate ways. Twists and turns are to be expected, with much character development over the course of the game. Let's just say, that as soon as you think you've reached the end, you're thrust back into the swing of things at what you later discover to only be the halfway point.

Great stuff from start to finish (with a slight sag after the halfway point), Portal 2 is a must have for those who want less violent, yet not less entertaining, fare within their library. Give it a whirl, and enjoy

Killing zombies has never been more fun. Featuring a ragtag team of four survivors banding up to survive the apocalypse together, Left 4 Dead 2 is a game where you and your friends survive together through the biggest of hurdles mankind has ever faced.

A first person shooter at heart, Left 4 Dead 2 gives the player a wealthy arsenal of weapons with which to confront enemies, ranging from shotguns, to katanas, to pans, to batons and even chainsaws. (Chainsaws!) 

Guiding the player without hand-holding, Left 4 Dead 2 is skillfully made to help the player through levels and grasp the concepts with ease, only to tear the training wheels from out beneath them upon the first sign of comprehension. This is a game where doing well in a level is a surefire sign of impending doom, due to a complex AI system known as the Director.  

The Director looks for the player's progress through a level, adjusting ammo drops and health packs as needed to help/challenge the player as it sees fit. It also makes the game highly replayable, with zombies reacting to player presence, health, ammo and location fluidly, making for a highly unpredictable journey through the levels of the game. Just as soon as you think you've got everything figured out, the game throws yet another curveball at you and before you know it, half of your squad is dead. Yelp.

Teamwork is at the core of the game. Try to lone wolf it, and you'll most likely end up torn apart by hordes and hordes of zombies in neverending droves of insanity. This causes players to depend on one another, resulting in immense satisfaction once the player passes a level.

An incredibly worthwhile experience, especially for those who can play it in co-op, Left 4 Dead 2 excels as a zombie game and as a game game, period. Put it on over a weekend with a good pal (or two), and enjoy slicing zombies apart with your katanas and chainsaws. Now where did I put that bottle of puke...?

A trippy, psychedelically punishing indie game with a knack for brutally massacring the player within a few seconds, Hotline Miami is know for it's rather unforgiving nature, with even less mercy towards complete beginners. But it's okay! KVR is here to help you win Hotline Miami with this helpful ten-step guide! Have a look:

Step 1. Try walking through a door.  
Step 2. Now try walking through it again. 
Step 3. Another round.  
Step 4. Okay, once more. 
Step 5. If first you don't succeed...
Step 6. Try try again. 
Step 7. Repeat step 6.  
Step 8. Maybe a few more times might work.
Step 9. Refer back to step 1.
Step 10. Profit.

See? So easy a sentient being can do it within a few hours.

Jokes aside, the game is H-A-R-D. Make. No. Mistake. (Be it assumptions about the game or within the game itself.) No game will challenge you quite like this one. (With the possible exception of number 2 on this list.) Featuring top-down beat-em-up gameplay (gosh, way too many hyphens (and parentheses) in one paragraph) and a story which makes you think, Hotline Miami is an interesting, trippy and just plain hardcore experience.

Featuring an everyman who is phoned by a mysterious stranger, who gives him the order to kill a couple of targets, the everyman (nicknamed "Jacket") is pulled into a dark web of secrets which spans the criminal underground of Los Angeles. As the bodies begin to pile up, Jacket gradually loses his sanity, as his moral choices become more and more difficult to discern from the immoral.

A smartly written tale which makes you think, not unlike Spec Ops: The Line, Hotline Miami challenges your moral decisions and makes you question your actions in a subtle, albeit visible way. The ending is purposefully frustrating, but that only serves to prove the central argument when all is said and done.

In conclusion, Hotline Miami is a crazily addictive experience and one of the best retro video games ever made, hands down. (Number 2 on this list being the best one, im(-notso)h(umble-)o.) Good for one of those stress-relieving gaming sessions after a hard day at the office of simultaneously eating paperwork and your co-workers' rubbish in one big sandwich called "work", Hotline Miami is a great game. End of story.

One of the most acclaimed and celebrated titles of the new millennium, Deus Ex is a true classic of player choice and consequence, a game where your choices aren't punished, but rewarded. Taking you through the story of JC Denton, an agent for UNATCO, (a taskforce dedicated to bringing down terrorists and preventing mass rebellion), who discovers a vast conspiracy threatening to take over the world as we know it through the use of technology, to create a literal "God within the Machine".

Featuring emergent gameplay, where your choices affect the gameplay and narrative, yet don't change the structure of the game to entirely, Deus Ex feels oddly "alive" when adapting to your actions. Characters react to your choices realistically, alliances are made and broken, and children are killed without the game even so much as slightly punishing you. Oh, did I say that last one out loud? My bad, he he. He he, he he he. 

Anyway, Deus Ex would've fallen short if not for it's well-written storyline and well-crafted atmosphere (especially evident in the New York levels), which manages to be one of the richest in gaming, yet the player is never forced to explore the lore, instead leaving it to the very committed within "datapads" and books scattered throughout levels.

Not much more can be said about this game without filling an entire book and a half, so I'll just leave it at this: Get the game and play it immediately. Even if it may be old and the Chinese accents unintentionally hilarious, Deus Ex is still a masterpiece of gaming which influenced a lot of titles after it. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Here's the link. Thank you sir/ma'am/I'm not really sure. Good day to you further!

This one was a no-brainer. Half-Life 2 is one of the greatest games ever made, no doubt about it. Featuring probably the most well-realised and authentic dystopian atmosphere since George Orwell's 1984, Half-Life 2 does everything in it's power to enthrall the player whilst making it feel "real". Featuring ingenious puzzles, stunning set-pieces, an incredibly immersive atmosphere, Half-Life 2 more than succeeds in that goal.

Stepping into the boots of the mute Gordon Freeman, Half-Life 2 starts off on a train heading to a dystopian Eastern European city known only as City 17. Gordon Freeman is hunted by the Combine, an authoritarian organisation made up of extraterrestrial and intraterrestrial forces aiming to oppress everyone on the face of the planet for their own nefarious purposes.
Gordon Freeman meets with up with resistance members Barney Stillson, Isaac Kleiner, Eli Vance, and the ever loyal Alyx Vance. Taking the player through the urban slums of City 17, the lakes of the countryside, the abandoned town of Ravenholm, and the alien interior of the massive Citadel, Half-Life 2 always keeps the pace varied and exciting.

The ending is divisive, yet the experience before that is more than enough to satisfy gamers far and wide. This is a must play title for any serious gamer, and it's two follow-up "episodes" are more than enough to crave your need for more. (With the exception of Episode Two's heartbreaking cliffhanger.) A classic of modern gaming, no doubt about it.

The second of the two games I obsessed over during my stint in lonely town, Deus Ex Human Revolution takes the classic Deus Ex and modernises it in the best way possible. Featuring several choices throughout the course of the game, Deus Ex Human Revolution truly succeeds in, well, succeeding it's legendary predecessor.

The player takes on the role of Adam Jensen, head of security for a fictional "human augmentation" corporation, Sarif Industries, who gets lethally wounded in a terrorist attack on his employer's company. After the incident, Adam is significantly augmented a la RoboCop, and sent back to work after six months absence to absolve a hostage situation at one of their plants in Detroit.

Adam comes across a massive conspiracy involving secret corporations manipulating the debate about Transhumanism for their own good, in order to enforce their agenda upon the unsuspecting masses.

Tautly written, heavily replayable and massively engrossing, Human Revolution is an epic title worthy of it's own series. I'm not alone in saying that I can wait for the follow-up, Mankind Divided, to hit stores next year.

A video game which went beyond the call of duty to absolutely cripple thousands of players worldwide with it's absolutely heartbreaking ending, The Walking Dead is an brilliant tale by then relatively unknown indie developer Telltale Games. The story revolves around Lee Everett, a man on his way to jail for the murder of a senator who slept with his wife, Lee is involved in a car accident caused by the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse.

After the accident, Lee stumbles across the house of Clementine, a frightened little girl cut off from her parents due to the apocalypse. Lee takes her under his wing, forming up with other survivors such as Kenny, a brash yet caring man with a wife and young son, Lily, a harsh and strict woman with an even more domineering father, and several others.

Taking place over the span of five "episodes", the Walking Dead slowly unfolds it's deeply emotional journey with heartfelt storytelling, particularly in its depiction of the bond between Lee and Clementine, which manages to be the sweetest depiction of a surrogate father-daughter bond in gaming.

Give it a try. Have some tissues handy, because you'll need it. One does not simply play this game and walk away with dry eyes.

A delightfully crazy blend of everything great about retro video games in one delicious package, MDK2 was the first game I really obsessed over during my childhood. Featuring three playable characters with varied (yet vaguely similar) playstyles, MDK2 unfolds over ten viciously difficult yet superbly enjoyable levels, with several interesting little surprises during their individual runtimes.

As you may know, the game is brutal. You'll find yourself hurling choice words (toxic or laminated) at the screen several times, especially during Level 7, which manages to scare and frustrate the seven heavens out of you. Level 7 is arguably the weakest level out of all the levels, due to it being rather confusing to navigate in certain areas, despite the game's overall linearity.

Nevertheless, it quickly course corrects towards the end, with an arena-like area which manages to be the most fun you'll have in the entire game. The weakest level in the game delivers the strongest section of the game. Interesting. Tells you a lot about the game, doesn't it?

A game which manages to combine everything good about retro gaming, MDK2 excels at challenging, enthralling and ultimately entertaining the player. Give it a try, you'll never have this amount of fun in quite some time.

I never thought a video game would have the power to make you change your beliefs. It just didn't seem possible. I had never come across any game which had that kind of impact on a person, whether it be an old classic or a modern masterpiece. That was until I played BioShock Infinite.

The core of the story finds hard-boiled private detective Booker DeWitt unwittingly stumbling across the flying city of Columbia in a quest to retrieve a missing girl. All is not what it appears, however, as Columbia is host to several jingoistic, racist and cult-like ideologies. The leader of Columbia, Zachary Comstock, is viewed as a messiah by the masses who inhabit his city.

Booker is labeled as an "antichrist" by the fanatical city's population, and hunted by the local authorities, some of which range from semi-normal to semi-insanely twisted and bizarre. Eventually, as Booker finds Elizabeth (the girl he was sent to retrieve), he starts to untangle the threads of a vast conspiracy spanning the city, history, and even several universes. (Long story.)

At the time of my review, I had been a rather closed-minded person and heavily religious, not unlike the people within the fictional city of Columbia. My reviews were scathing, my heart was harsh towards content in video games, justified by context or not, and my attitude towards "outsiders" who didn't share my beliefs was quite rotten. Something about the story of BioShock Infinite changed that immensely. It didn't change me right away, but it caused me to start questioning my beliefs at a fundamental level.

Later that same year, we left a ministry we had been part of, which unfortunately developed strong cult elements, if not becoming one in totality. Leaving the ministry made me open my eyes to the narrow-minded beliefs we had been holding, and made me rethink the entire vision of my site.

It shifted from "condemning all the satanic games" to "helping people decide which games are best for them". BioShock Infinite was a major step in my change from a bigot to someone who questioned things more openly before believing in any cause, be it mainstream or otherwise. 

Changing someone's religious beliefs is an accolade not many games can wear with honesty. Nevertheless, BioShock Infinite went above and beyond it's mission to deliver an entertaining and complexly written video game to something much more. A wonderful game, a thought-provoking story, a life changing experience. Didn't expect that from a game featuring robotic George Washingtons brandishing machine guns, now did you?

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