20. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Of all 50 games on this list, Modern Warfare 2 was probably the game I put the most time into. I’m not sure exactly what clicked for me; I had played the original Modern Warfare online and liked it, but got bored after a few months. I put a ton of time into Killzone 2’s multiplayer as well, but I mostly only played that a few times a week. But with MW2, I wanted to play it every day. I wasn’t amazing or anything (I think I ended up with just below a 2.0 K/D), but I did manage to go positive most games, and that always made it more fun. Eventually, the balancing problems and twelve year old kids trying for quickscope montages ruined it for me, but for over a year, MW2 was the game I wanted to play when I got home from class. The single player was mostly forgettable, but there were plenty of explosions and set piece moments to keep you going to the next “follow this dude” objective.
19. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix
The original Kingdom Hearts for PS2 is one of my favorite games of all time, so an HD remake with trophies was a no-brainer. It had all of the same great characters and worlds, and even added a few new enemy types to keep things interesting. The easy combat didn’t hold up terribly well, but the nostalgia was at max capacity. And the addition of the Chain of Memory cutscenes and 358/2 Days was a nice bonus. Neither one really wowed me, but Kingdom Hearts proper was enough for the entry fee, so the other two were just icing.
18. Killzone 2
The reason Killzone 2 ended higher up on the list than Modern Warfare 2 was that the single player was actually worth your time. I loved the multiplayer as well, and sunk many a summer hour into it (I managed to crack the top 5% of players one week), but the real standout was the single player campaign, a rarity in first person shooters. The original Killzone on PS2 was great, but the controls were super outdated by the time Killzone 2 came out, so thankfully they updated everything for the “modern era” of shooters. Honestly, the fact that Killzone 2 was so good made the disappointment of the third game hit even harder.
17. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
This is around the time when the list got tough to make. Uncharted 3 was so damn good, I was honestly kind of surprised that it ended up so (relatively) low on the list. But when you get to my top 10, I think you’ll see why. Don’t get me wrong, Uncharted 3 was an amazing game. It improved on the second game’s mechanics in several major ways, and the craziness was dialed up to 11. But something just seemed like it was missing to me; it just didn’t have the same magic as the second game. I think the focus on a more intimate and dramatic story ruined the fun-loving feel of the first two games. The multiplayer was vastly improved, however, and I spent plenty of time messing around with it. If you haven’t played the series, I absolutely recommend it, but I’d suggest you play on Hard for a little extra challenge, especially in the late game.
16. Mass Effect
Mass Effect was another example of an RPG that changed a lot after the first game. Mass Effect 1 was much more “hardcore” than the following two games, and I really loved it for that. The combat could feel slow at times since you had to bring up the power wheel if you wanted to use all of your powers, but it made the game a lot more tactical, something that most third person shooters lacked. I wasn’t a fan of the overheating weapons, but at least that’s something they changed after the first game. The story was amazing, though. It brought up issues about racism and classism, only dealing with aliens in space so it didn’t feel heavy handed. Until about a year ago, Mass Effect wasn’t available on PS3, but you can now download it from the Playstation Network. You should do that if you haven’t already.
15. Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction
If there’s one game on this list that I wish had trophies, it would be Tools of Destruction. I platinumed two of the other Ratchet and Clank games, and there’s no way I wouldn’t have gotten it for this one. But, unfortunately, Insomniac said they have no plans to bring trophies to Tools of Destruction, so I just have to look back fondly without the drive to play it again. More than anything, Tools of Destruction brought Ratchet and Clank to the next generation, and honestly at the time, the franchise desperately needed that. Go back and try to play the original game without lock on strafing. It’s miserable. But more than anything, Tools of Destruction had (at the time) next-gen graphics, cool new weapons, and most importantly, the same great sense of humor. Seriously, Captain Quark has to be one of my favorite all-time video game characters. Maybe I should put together a list about that. Hmm…
14. Dead Space
Where Dead Space 2 ratcheted up (see what I did there?) the action sequences, the original Dead Space was a much more reserved game, if tight corridors, low light levels, and horror waiting around every corner was your definition of “reserved.” But seriously, this game was terrifying. I don’t typically play survival horror games because they make me feel like a wuss, but my brother was obsessed with Dead Space so I just had to give it a try. And before you ask, yes I felt like a wuss the whole time. I had to play with the lights on and there was no way I was going to play at night. I’m only a lot bit ashamed of that fact, but I digress. Dead Space was a horror game not only in that it had plenty of jump scares (which it did), but mostly in that it set up an ambiance and environment that had menace, and a mostly unknown one at that. There was just no way that Dead Space 2 could have recreated that feeling of wandering around the Ishimura with barely any idea of where you were going. The most terrifying thing was knowing that bad shit was about to happen but having no power to stop it. And the space setting with upgradable suits and unique weapons was just a bonus to make the game stand out amongst its peers.
13. Mirror’s Edge
Mirror’s Edge was something completely fresh and new, and I’m honestly surprised that more games haven’t tried to ape the first person freerunning. I will say upfront that the story was mostly forgettable and the addition of guns kind of ruined a lot of the combat, but Mirror’s Edge almost gets a free pass on its original idea and execution. I’d really recommend trying to play it without firing a weapon; it’s a very hard trophy to get, but it makes the combat more interesting and challenging. In the later levels, “challenging” translates to “unfairly hard,” but once you hear that trophy pop, the hours of retrying segments is totally worth it. I also liked that the game implemented the freerunning into some puzzle mechanics. A lot of the game was trying to figure out where to jump to next, and the clever way the developers highlighted things in the game world told you subtly where to go. But there were almost always multiple paths to choose from, and I typically chose whatever the most stylish one was.
12. Borderlands 2
I talked about this in my “Best Games of 2013” post (check that out if you haven’t already), but I’ve now played Borderlands on three different consoles. First 360, then PC, and now on PS3 thanks to Playstation Plus. Damn is Borderlands 2 fun as hell, even solo. Of course, playing with other people is more fun, not just because you have someone to talk to, but it also raises the difficulty and gives you better loot, something you’ll constantly be fighting your teammates over. I’ve been working my way through a solo Commando playthrough on PS3, and even after a couple times through the game, I still find myself laughing at the snarky dialogue and giggling like a little girl when a new orange rarity weapon drops. There’s just something ingrained in me that wants loot, loot, and more loot.
11. Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite was a really hard game to put outside of the top 10, but I choose to think of it as the winner of games 20-11. In my mind that makes it easier. But really, everyone, Bioshock Infinite is a superlative game in every way. The story was great, then ending was open-ended but satisfying, it tied into the previous games in a surprising way, the combat was solid, and the DLC has been a ton of fun so far. So why didn’t it crack the top 10? Part of the reason is that it just didn’t live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. I LOVED the original Bioshock, and I expected more of that. More dark story, more bizarre NPCs, and more gray area between good and evil. And honestly, the game did deliver those things, just not was well as the original game. The biggest reason that the story didn’t live up to the hype was that the most interesting aspects of the lore were relegated to audio diaries, and most of them probably weren’t even found by the average player. That’s pretty lame. The combat felt tighter, but I couldn’t help feeling like I had used all of these weapons before. And that’s because (with few exceptions), I already had. There were shotguns, pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers. Everything you’d expect, and nothing you wouldn’t. The same was mostly true of the vigors; they just felt too similar to the plasmids from Bioshock. There was one to light guys on fire, one to shoot lighting at them, even one to turn them against each other. Some of it just felt downright lazy. The biggest upsides of Infinite versus it’s predecessor, though, were the main characters. Booker was a character that actually WAS a character, much different from the faceless man you played as in Bioshock. And Elizabeth had a ton of depth to her. She wasn’t a damsel in distress per se, but she was so damn naive that you couldn’t help but want to protect her. I just wish they would have gone more in-depth with the world of Columbia and left less up to the imagination. I normally wouldn’t lodge that as a complaint against a game, but I trust Ken Levine (the Creative Director) implicitly, and I’m sure his version of Columbia was a lot more interesting that mine. I’m still greatly looking forward to Burial at Sea Part 2, but mostly so that I can be back in Rapture again, not so that I can play as Elizabeth or learn more about her story. That’s pretty telling.