I’ve never been huge on puzzle games, but it was impossible to ignore the positive talk surrounding Portal when it was released on PC. So when the Orange Box came to PS3 and included Portal, I had to check it out. I had heard that the game was challenging and hilarious, and boy did it live up to all of those expectations and more. The setup of being able to place portals around the map and move through them to solve puzzles, all with a sarcastic narrator making fun of you the whole time was pretty strong, and it was well executed. I do think Portal 2 was a stronger game (more on that later), but GLaDOS was a great villain.
29. God of War III
God of War III was the last great God of War game, and that’s saying something considering there may never be another one. It was a fitting conclusion to the (admittedly cliche) story set up in the first game, and it definitely had the strongest combat mechanics of the three. The boss fights were bigger, the weapons more varied, and the enemies more intimidating. The God of War games are must plays if you own a PS3, and now it’s really easy to play through the whole series with the HD collection.
28. Dragon Age Origins
Dragon Age Origins was actually a game that I didn’t have a ton of experience with until about a year ago. The first time I tried it, the combat was just too slowly paced for me; it was full of micro-management, not to mention incredibly difficult. So after dying the fifth time in a row within the first two hours of playing, I decided that I had had enough of Dragon Age Origins. But on a whim, I decided to give it another shot relatively recently, and I was pleasantly surprised by how things had changed for me in the game. It was definitely still difficult, but because I knew that going in, I played more patiently and didn’t just run in without planning anything. And what I found were characters that were surprisingly deep and a combat system that while slow, was immensely gratifying when things went exactly the way you wanted them to.
27. Final Fantasy XIII
I have a feeling that a lot of people are going to disagree with this one, but before you leave a nasty comment, let me explain myself. I’m a huge Final Fantasy fan, I’ll say that up front. I’ve played most of the games, and pretty much enjoyed all of them. FF XIII was a unique experience because, let’s be honest, the story wasn’t as strong as in some of the games of the past. BUT, the combat system was maybe the best in the series. It was a great mixture of turn based and real time, which seems to be more and more popular in JRPGs nowadays, and for good reason. I had a ton of fun fiddling around with different character and paradigm setups, and yes, while the game didn’t open up until you were several hours in, once it did, there were plenty of cool places to explore and the combat never got old. Though I will say that I muscled through FF XIII-2 without having much fun and skipped Lightning Returns completely. The Final Fantasy series needs a big shake up.
Guns, guns, and more guns. That was the promise when Borderlands came out, and boy did it fulfill those expectations. The thing that kept me playing well after I should have stopped was wanting to kill just one more boss in the hopes of getting a really awesome shotgun or shield. I will say that things could get repetitive while playing solo, but playing with a couple of friends was one of the most fun experiences of the last generation. And while the humor and visual style wasn’t for everyone, I definitely found it funny (and unique looking) more often than not.
25. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
I talked up Brothers a lot in my “Best Games of 2013” list (check that out if you haven’t), and I think it absolutely deserves a place on this list. The gameplay mechanics were unique, the story was very touching and well executed without the use of any dialogue, and the world was beautifully crafted and diverse. The game was short, but I wasn’t left wishing that it was longer. And the moment at the end of the game where the dual stick mechanics met up with the story was simply amazing. Play this game, you won’t regret it.
24. Fallout: New Vegas
When it was announced that a studio other than Bethesda was making a Fallout game, people were understandably nervous. Fallout 3 particularly was a superlative game, and it was hard to believe that someone else could make a game that lived up to that pedigree. And while I didn’t love New Vegas quite as much as Fallout 3, it’s still a fantastic open world RPG. It was different enough from the previous game that it didn’t just feel like an expansion, the shooting was a little less floaty than Fallout 3’s, and New Vegas was a very fun place to explore. And you know what they say, more of a good thing is always a good thing.
23. Tomb Raider
Let’s just say it, Tomb Raider was a reboot that no one asked for. The original games were pure 90s, with a skanky, unrealistic female lead and straight up terrible platforming mechanics. So when I heard that they were making a new game, I couldn’t have cared less. And then I saw the first gameplay trailer, and holy crap was I on board. Lara was a younger, less confident version of herself, and while she was still plenty attractive and British, she actually looked like a real person. And while the story took some weird turns towards the end of the game, the action was fast paced and the platforming was super fun. My biggest complaint, though, was the general lack of actual tomb raiding, except for half a dozen small challenge rooms. But far be it from me to expect tomb raiding in a game called TOMB RAIDER. Still a lot of fun, though, and I actually enjoyed gathering all of the hidden collectibles, which isn’t something I can say of most games.
22. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Speaking of collectibles, holy crap Assassin’s Creed IV is so much fun to play (and I’m using the present tense because I’m still working my way through the main story). I had been completely burnt out of the franchise after AC II, but when I saw that they were taking the best part of AC III (the ship to ship combat and exploration), and making an entire game out of it, I’ll admit that I was curious. And then I heard that you played as a pirate and I pre-ordered immediately. I mean, seriously, there are not enough pirate games out there. It is a woefully underdeveloped market. But in all honesty, the exploration and ship combat is still the best thing in the game. The climbing buildings and eaves dropping on guards is getting pretty tired, and the first person modern day segments aren’t really worth your time, unless you’re dying to expand the lore of the AC series. For now, the seafaring highs are enough to get me by, but Ubisoft is going to have to rethink a lot of their mechanics if they want me to pick up AC V. Being a pirate just isn’t enough anymore.
I feel like Guacamelee didn’t get enough credit around video game awards season last year. I heard a lot of people talking about it when it was released, but then it was quickly forgotten about once people started putting their “Best Games” lists together. Not so with me, people. I loved Guacamelee when I played it and I still look back on it with enough joy to put it on this list. I honestly didn’t play that many side scrolling platformers as a kid (my first system was a Sega Genesis), so there wasn’t a whole lot of nostalgia in me for the genre when I played Guacamelee. That being said, I now totally see the appeal of these kinds of games. Having a world that opened up as you learned more abilities made it feel like you were constantly progressing, and managing to get to some of the hidden collectibles after several failed attempts at a jumping puzzle was extremely satisfying. I will say that some of the later bosses were unfairly hard, but boy did I feel like a badass when I finally finished the game. If you decide to take it on, know going in that you’re going to be frustrated constantly, but also know that you’ll still have a smile on your face while you’re trying not to throw your controller.