Anyway, since you won't be getting reviews of these games any time soon, the Monster Mash fell through, and I simply have no time to spare to anything else, I dug up an old, quick list, of my favourite video game franchises, rewrote it a bit, re-ordered it a bit as well, and decided to publish it as a stop-gap. This was originally supposed to be a list of best games of this last generation, but these two games which I have on the frying pan right now might or might not make a difference, so I'll save that one for a later date. (Besides, that list would have to have at least 20 games, I don't have time for that right now. Anyway, no huge surprises here to followers, except maybe Resident Evil's severe drop in rank. Nevertheless, enjoy your morning cup or nightcap.
|I'll spill my beans on Batman: Arkham Origins as soon as |
possible. Can't be worse than its name.
When I started making this list - actually, whenever I make any video game toplist - I seriously tried to avoid adding in a licensed product. I just kept on writing, and in the end, I realized I'd put Batman on the list without even thinking. But, it's just natural - upon its arrival in 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum created several whole new standards for video game licensees. Before, it was like "Wow, mom, a Batman game, can I have it?", then you went home, slapped the game in and you had no idea whether it was quite good or awesomely bad, but rarely anything from the between, with the exception of the Nintendo iterations of Batman Returns. Nowadays, it's like "A new Batman game's coming??? Damn, I've got to pre-order mine, quick quick quick!!!" It comes out, you get yours, you go home and slap it in with full knowledge that even if you're not in for a better game than the last one, you're in for some high quality time in the boots of the best superhero ever created. I find myself fearing that the Arkham games will be the last Batman games ever made, since after the series is over, it's back to square one - you never know who's going to pick up the franchise this time, they pretty much have to come up with something wholly different, and they pretty much have to one-up the Arkham series - which seems the most impossible task of them all.
Totally ignoring Batman's latest adventure for now in better and worse, the highest point of this franchise is, by far, Batman: Arkham City (2011). Since that probably isn't much of a surprise, let's mention Batman - The Video Game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (1989) as another one, effectively ducking the mandatory mention of the first Arkham game. When it comes to the lowest point, there are plenty to choose from, but I'll go with the movie-based 16-bit game Batman Forever from 1995. (For the record, I never tried Batman & Robin on the PlayStation. Might do that the next time I get suicidal.)
9. RESIDENT EVIL
|The iconic first encounter, which people will (hopefully)|
remember Resident Evil for. Besides the bad voice acting.
Resident Evil held on to the #2 spot on this list for years by its name and the memory of two games from both of its ends: the survival horror milestone Resident Evil 2, and the one that originally took the series to the all-action setting where it is now (and hasn't aged a day), Resident Evil 4. In 1996, the first game blew my mind while I hadn't even tried it yet. There was just something about the idea of blasting zombies' heads off with a shotgun that appealed to me, and when I finally got the game in my hands, I realized that idea. Even a bad game can be playable if there are zombies involved - and that, unfortunately, has been Resident Evil's lifeline for a few years. Ten years ago a main series game was always one to look out for, but the numerous spin-offs you could just leave be and spit at if you wanted to, they sucked without exception and I still have no idea why they were made. Then, the poor quality creeped into the main series as well - counting in the old spin-offs makes Resident Evil stand out as one of the most unstable, untrustworthy franchises there is. These modern games are good enough to see to the end, but I doubt I'll even look twice at Resident Evil 6 in ten years - I'll still play Resident Evil 4 which turns 18.
I mentioned the highest points of the series already, of which I personally think Resident Evil 4 (2005) is the slightly higher one, despite being the first game to abandon the series' survival horror roots which made it stand out for me in the first place, and zombies, replacing them with brainwashed villagers. The lowest point from this all-action series of Resident Evil games is definitely Resident Evil 6 - the epitome of repetition and how cinematics can just as easily destroy a game as enhance it. Then, there's Resident Evil 2 (1998), an all-out survival horror effort, which some would call the real deal after the first game's "testing grounds". Riddled with replay value, great level design and a humongous horde of zombies to kill... and not just one, but a few persistent buggers (particularly BIG ones) that were apparently specifically designed to make you crap your pants out of shock. Surgeon General says: always go the toilet before playing Resident Evil 2! The lowest point in this context is, without question, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, which some consider the best Resident Evil game ever, but to me, it was just a boring RE2 rehash with an initially interesting, but ultimately just annoying superboss to deal with. There have been plenty of bad spin-offs, but the one I've made the most acquaintance with is Resident Evil: Outbreak (2003), which once again recycled the setting from RE2 and Nemesis, but the focus was on a group of totally different people struggling to survive by the ways of co-op. Co-op did become one of the series' strongest qualities, even in the case of the lackluster Resident Evil 6, but only when the series made the transition to the full 3D environment. Outbreak wins in the race of the lowest point of the whole (game) franchise - for now.
|Although I dig the art style of Lords of Shadow the most,|
I thought a portion of the cover art from the very first game
would be more fitting.
From rags to riches, a real Cinderella story in my personal books - I used to hate this franchise, or if not hate, I at least found it extremely overrated, just because I always happened to play the worst Castlevania games. I saw the error of my ways after letting my friend borrow my (now late) copy of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, which I thought was total crap riding the coattails of Devil May Cry (a game which I didn't really hold in very high regard at the time, either), and he thought it was good. When asked why, he said "I dunno, I guess I'm that much of a Castlevania fan." Again, I asked: "WHY?" When he couldn't answer that question, I tried Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow on the Game Boy Advance. I loved that game. I traced its gameplay basics back to a little game called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and found that I had missed several of its kind by ignoring the franchise. Then, after all these years, I finally got acquainted with Castlevania (1986) and its 16-bit remake Super Castlevania IV (1991), and found some of the best games I had ever played from the basic platforming end of the series. The reboot Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010), which I didn't appreciate when it came out, has also become, to my huge surprise, a game worthy to at least call by name in the race for the best 3D action game of this passing generation.
It's like Konami's own version of Capcom's Mega Man - repetitive, yet inexplicably attractive, but with standout lows. I still very much stand by my decision to call Castlevania Legends for the Game Boy (1997) the worst Castlevania game ever made, but since I'm trying to avoid going into old-school handheld games when it comes to lowest points - they very often are - I'm compelled to name the SNES "remake" of the cult favourite Chi no Rondo, named Castlevania: Dracula X, instead. Even Simon's Quest, a commonly hated (but strangely respected) game has a much better chance for a second look than one of the longest steps back ever taken.
7. ASSASSIN'S CREED
|Three major assassins and a couple of other guys. You|
decide which way it goes.
Another game series that rose from the ashes of nothingness to one of my favourite franchises in the world. However, as I have later discovered, I would've appreciated this series more from the start if I had always played it on the Xbox 360 - it's been proven quite true that system achievements CAN do a lot to even the most boring game, and the PS3 version didn't have any. What made me come back for Assassin's Creed II was the magnificent story, the even better telling of it, and of course, the "WTF" cliffhanger of the generation. Assassin's Creed II turned out about a few dozen times better than its predecessor in every single aspect, and stands as one of the most remarkable games of this generation, and probably the best sandbox game not made by Rockstar North. The game's success paved way for annual sequels, and granted, there have been a few slumps along the way. The writers do not have such a tight grip on the brilliant series of conspiracy theories they originally conceived, and a new Assassin's Creed game is always a two-way risk - but never poor or unplayable, I'll give 'em that.
Just as in the case of Batman, the latest adventure Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag kinda has to be ignored for now, so the highest point of the series is still Assassin's Creed II - granted, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, the first major spin-off of that title, did improve on a lot of things, but it still wasn't as honest or emotional, and most of all, fresh experience its predecessor was, picking up royally from where the lackluster first installment left off - it was just a simple upgrade to a functional formula. I haven't tried the handheld games, YET, so I'll have to go with the second major spin-off of Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, when it comes to the lowest point thus far. Unlike Brotherhood, this one was a huge step back in every way, more reminiscent of the first game, and not just because of the strong ties it had to it by ways of storytelling. All that was good about it was already a part of Assassin's Creed II, and the worst part is, that it had the worst present-day gameplay and storyline of the whole series, which basically means that it lacked the one key element that originally drew me to this series, and thankfully made me a fan despite of my bad experience with the first one's gameplay.
6. MARIO BROS.
|I wanted a pic which would reflect on old-school instruction|
manuals and their cheap, but strangely awesome look.
Mario could be described as my first (totally straight) love. Granted, I dropped off the Nintendo wagon a long time ago, and before just a few years ago, I even had no clue what games like Mario Party, Paper Mario, Super Smash Bros., Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy were all about. I dropped off some time after Mario Kart 64 in '96 or '97, but until that time, official Mario games had never disappointed me. When I started this blog, I delved deep into a sea of mystery with a whole bulk of Mario games I had never played before, and found some more great games, even true masterpieces I totally ignored for years. I still don't understand what the hell's so great about the Super Mario Galaxy series, but all things considered, I would love to get myself a more recent Nintendo system to stretch out my Mario knowledge and collection - which is now physically limited to one single game, the one and only Super Mario Bros. from 1985.
Some might struggle when asked for their favourite Mario game, but as far as I'm concerned, the answer is very quick and simple: Super Mario 64 (1996). It was among the first full 3D platformers ever made, but the inexperience didn't show one bit. It was a full-blooded, exciting 3D platformer which is almost just as fun to play today as it was back then. The larger part of the Mario catalogue which Nintendo is directly responsible for, is nearly devoid of total mistakes; if you want a bad Mario or Mario-related game, you should check out those Nintendo really had nothing to do with, except for handing their precious license to the wrong people. The educational series is the first to come to mind, although there are others, even worse games in that corner of shame. When it comes to Nintendo's own products, Mario spin-offs have always been kind of a two-way deal. Several types of games starring Yoshi the dinosaur - who made his debut in the masterpiece Super Mario World in 1990 - for example, have usually been quite poor, and for an odd reason, perhaps by coincidence (not likely), these games have tended to taste like test material for something bigger.
5. METAL GEAR
|Check out James Rolfe's review for the NES version of|
Metal Gear, if you want to have Solid Snake ruined forever.
I've explained it a few times, here's the well-practiced short version: I hated Metal Gear on the NES (it took me many years to figure out that so did the original designers), I kinda liked the non-canonical sequel Snake's Revenge but ultimately hated that too, but my brother considered them some of the best video games ever. I liked to watch the games for their interesting look, boss fights, gadgetry and such. When Metal Gear Solid came out, I borrowed it from a friend and brought it to my brother for him to play, but he hated the game - in turn, I loved it. I loved it so much that Metal Gear Solid 2 quickly became the sole reason I wanted a PlayStation 2. That took me a few years, and there were other even more important reasons in between, but even after a couple of years, I certainly bought Metal Gear Solid 2, it certainly hadn't aged and it certainly didn't disappoint. The pattern recurred in 2008, when Metal Gear Solid 4 convinced me that I had to get a PlayStation 3. So, you could say that Metal Gear carries - or at least used to carry - the most influence on deciding which hardware I pick each generation... although now it's gone multi. Kind of strange, don't you think, that back when Metal Gear Solid 4 came out, Kojima stated that the game was utterly impossible to port to the Xbox 360 due to technical issues, and now Metal Gear Solid V is being released on the Xbox 360 six years later? I'm not complaining, just wondering how much bullshit comes out of that man's mouth. He can afford it, though - he's a damn genius.
The highest point... well, that's hard. If you just look at the Top 40 list, you'll see that every main series game of the Solid variety is on it, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is far above all the others. In truth, it's not that simple due to my (once again straight) love for Solid Snake (yep, I have a love for "solid snake"), but sure, it's still my favourite, most inventive game in the franchise. My favourite story would have to be that of the first Solid game, also my favourite boss fights are in that one. I liked the conspiracy theory of "the Patriots" which was brought along in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and I loved how it all came together in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the epic conclusion to the story of Solid Snake. So, each of them have their qualities. Once again, spinning off too drastically is a scourge - I have never understood any designer's ambition behind making a card-based game out of everything, and thus, Metal Gear Ac!d is a red cloth, its sequel too. Also, I don't think Raiden, who debuted as the "lead" character of Metal Gear Solid 2 was such a great asset to begin with - I find Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance simply... well, wrong. I'm sure it's a decent game, I just need to forget its name once I buy it from some sale at €10 or less...
4. GOD OF WAR
|One of my favourite moments in the whole saga: ripping|
that God damn ungrateful bastard Helios' head clean off his
O' God of War, let me count the ways... the first game blew my mind to ashes, the second game came out to stomp on those ashes, and the third just... fucking rocked. I think the first God of War was the first game I ever had the "Is it out already? When? When? Now? No? When then?" mentality for. Not common for a new IP, not in the slightest - when I saw the first preview pics back in 2004, I fell in love with it. I've never been that much of a geek for Greek - I am now, though - but this game looked so damn good, so damn brutal and so damn epic that I had to have a taste of it. It turned out one of the best games I've ever played - a friend of mine is constantly raining on my parade by saying that it's a boring Devil May Cry copy, which is totally off - and what's best is that when God of War II came out and really paved the way for God of War to become a trilogy, it was like The Empire Strikes Back (actually, very much like The Empire Strikes Back now that I think of it!), the first game felt like a mere prototype! God of War III was the audiovisual climax of the series, and sadly, there's just no way the series can get any better. Still, Sony keeps trying. For the money, moolah, dinero.
Kratos is one of my favourite characters in video game history - he's not likeable, not in the slightest. He's a murdering, batshit insane, seriously self-centered asshole. If people express positive feelings or any sympathy for him, Santa Monica makes him worse. And that's how he should be, and perhaps just because of that, I'm naming God of War: Ascension as the weakest God of War game of them all, despite initially giving it a higher score than God of War: Ghost of Sparta, which the developers have admitted to be scraped up from leftover ideas. In Ascension, Kratos was a damn wuss, and that's even worse than having a run-of-the-mill God of War game with Kratos' personality in the right zone. Even though God of War III was a climax in many ways, I still consider God of War II my favourite game in the series - once again, since I think that Kratos was at his worst in that game... I love it!
3. MASS EFFECT
|I tell you: every single time I see two or more characters|
from this series striking a pose, I feel the sudden urge to
replay the whole trilogy... AGAIN. ...Or maybe it's just
Mass Effect 2 had been out for quite some time when I finally discovered this magnificent series by BioWare. I was kinda blessed to have been kept in the dark that long, 'cause I could just jump into Mass Effect 2 right after finishing the awesome, but a bit clumsy first game, and not only did I find one of the best games I'd ever played, but the first game in existence which enabled you to import your own character, along with your complete gameplay history, from the first game into the next one. It was like you were playing the same game, only the graphics and gameplay turned a hell of a lot better somewhere at the midway mark. Mass Effect 3 turned out a bit disappointing, but it was a great game as well, in its very own way. Many people consider it shit, but for all the wrong reasons - I've not heard many complaints about the gameplay, which is admittedly almost completely devoid of the franchise's RPG roots, just the original ending of the game, which has since been extended by ways of _free_ DLC, and still they severely criticize the game for "the ending". Here's a dime, go get a set of brains, or some augmentation of progressive thinking at least!
Mass Effect is, for now, the smallest franchise on the list by the quantity of games, and each game in the series is absolutely magnificent by some fashion, and by some archetype. Mass Effect 3 is still easily the weakest game in the bunch, for being so short on role-playing as far as I'm concerned; I never had that much of a beef with the ending, 'cause the story leading up to it was so good; I could name at least three or four games/franchises that are the exact same way, and ones in which the endings are much worse. Mass Effect 2 shines as one of the greatest games ever made, and a perfect mix of all the best of the first game, and all the best that was to come in the conclusion. Adding to its strength is the single best downloadable content pack ever made - Lair of the Shadow Broker.
2. GRAND THEFT AUTO
|The heists. The cream of the crop in the whole series.|
There's no bigger Cinderella story in video game history than Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto, GTA between friends (however, since I got into the series so late, I wasn't really there to witness the transition). What started as somewhat of a brutal DOS joke panned by critics, is now the most popular and expensive media franchise in the world, with over 150 million games sold. I was indeed in the army when Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came out back in 2004, and absolutely everyone was discussing the game, or even playing it at the barracks. I had just a slight idea what it was about - my last hands-on experience with the series was the first game. When I finally tried San Andreas myself, I was totally hooked on it, and went on to buy every game in the series with the exception of GTA 2 which I'm still lacking. I also went on to name Rockstar Games this generation's Konami - remember when almost every NES game that had Konami written on it was almost just as good as every game made by Nintendo? - and familiarize myself with their other works, rarely coming out disappointed.
As it's been well documented in the last couple of months, I consider Grand Theft Auto V my favourite video game of all time... kinda (read on). It just made that sort of first impact I rarely get from any game, and the impact lasted throughout the whole experience. What I consider the weakest links in the series should come as no surprise - I never really liked the first games, and I practically have no more respect for them now than I had for them in way back when.
1. FINAL FANTASY
|A love letter signed "Dissidia".|
Although the 15 main series games - not counting the sequels here - have practically nothing to do with each other by ways of story, there are always some core elements which remain the same. A group of different people and creatures of different origins comes together to fight a sinister world order and restore balance, usually discovering some far greater threat to the whole planet than they originally set to oppose. So, each story is basically the same, but it always feels fresh. There has rarely been any sign of repetition or a bad Final Fantasy story...
...But then, we have Final Fantasy XIII. Not a totally bad game, really, but this particular series' ultimate downfall, which Square Enix on the other hand loves so much that they've made two direct sequels to it already. Also, Square Enix has apparently determined that the age of single-player Final Fantasy has run its course, since there are already two MMO's in the main series. All of us Final Fantasy fans do not appreciate MMO - if they had to make them, they could've at least spun 'em off the main series. Thirdly, let's take a million fans of Final Fantasy. I'm willing to bet that 999,999 of them want to see a remake of Final Fantasy VII. Square Enix keeps on lamenting bad sales and poor reception, and wondering how they could make Final Fantasy fans happy... and totally rejecting the option of remaking the most definitive game in the series, perhaps igniting the new coming of the classic J-RPG, introducing it to the new generation who will most likely love it, as long as it's done right, and making a shitload of money just by the name of the game. "It's not what you want. You think you want it, but you don't. Actually, you don't know what you want. Luckily we do, so here's Final Fantasy XIII-14!" I know some of you are thinking "what if it went wrong?", and I understand that, but how could it, really...?
Final Fantasy VII held the #1 spot on the Top 40 for ages, finally giving way to Grand Theft Auto V less than two months ago, but after giving it a lot of thought, I'm still very compelled to name it my favourite game instead, 'cause it means so much to me, and it has meant much to me ever since the day I first laid hands on it. It was so influential, not just to the genre, but to me as a gamer. It should be obvious that I consider it the top game in the series, but VI, IX and X follow very close behind, they're masterpieces in their own rights. I haven't even played nearly every game in the franchise - there are some spin-offs which I will probably never even want to try, but would love to have them on my shelf nonetheless. I'm sure I can find a dozen of bad games digging through that pile, but I'm turning to the main series when it comes to the lowest point, and that is most definitely Final Fantasy XIII. I'm letting everyone else influence my decision on the quality of XI (which I own, two versions actually) and XIV, since I'm probably never going to take an extensive look at them.