Dylan Chaundy – Reviewer
Silent Hill 2
Few games have left their mark on me like Silent Hill 2. Some of my most vivid memories from university life were the many late nights (and early mornings) spent alongside a throng of roommates — who interestingly had very little interest in games — crowded around a tiny TV screen, enraptured by its arresting atmosphere, potent narrative and horrifying imagery. Akira Yamaoka’s beautifully melancholic soundtrack is note-perfect too, and it’s the thoughtful writing, poetic symbolism and meticulous pacing that really cements it as one of my favorite games of all-time. It’s an unforgettable artistic journey that I embark upon at least once every year.
The Last Of Us
I’m a sucker for Naughty Dog games and The Last of Us is my favorite of the bunch. It’s not the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat horror or the beautifully bleak post-apocalyptic world that makes it exceptional; rather, the characters, the storytelling and their relationships with each other turn a relatively trite concept into a remarkable character study of the human condition. It’s a very deep, incredibly thoughtful narrative that highlights the harrowing psychological impact that loss, pain and despair can have upon the human spirit. This game is essential.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Have you ever wanted to be Jean-Luc Picard? Okay, fine, who’s your favorite Star Trek Captain? Well, FTL: Faster Than Light is the closest yet to ever fulfilling that power fantasy you’ve always secretly had. It’s a superbly-crafted space rogue-lite that is brutally difficult and astutely designed. The writing is excellent too; you legitimately feel like you are a part of a huge conflict, with slaver ships, boarding crews, asteroids and solar flares patiently waiting to wreak havoc upon your fragile Federation spaceship and your amiable crew. If you have an iPad lying around, then you should totally check this out — it’s a perfect fit for touchscreen controls. Set phasers to “fun!”
At a time when triple-A games often felt like shooting zombies in a barrel, the Souls series stormed onto the scene to remind us what we were all missing; tight, challenging, punishing gameplay like the old-school games of yore. Its wonderfully grotesque enemy roster really sticks with me, its world’s intricate architectural construction is scrupulously designed and its weighty combat is sublime. It’s that feeling of elation when you trounce that pesky adversary by learning, experimenting and persevering that takes this action-RPG to the next level. Heart-in-mouth, risk-and-reward gameplay has rarely been as refined as this.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The open-world freedom of Oblivion was absolutely jaw-dropping when it was first released. That moment when you stepped out from the prison at the beginning of the game, walked into idyllic rolling hills, wind-swept orchards and glimmering lakes, and realized you could go anywhere was a hugely powerful moment for me. I’d spend hours just walking, taking in the gorgeous vistas and orchestral score and just sighing every now and then in between each excited step I took. Add to that some of the most memorable quests that Bethesda have written yet, a freedom to truly sculpt your own character any way you see fit and a proper fully fleshed-out arena, and Oblivion’s stellar craftsmanship shines through beautifully.
Pound-for-pound, this may well be my most-played game of all-time when it comes to raw gaming hours. It’s an expertly-balanced tower defense title that is both incredibly calming and devilishly stressful in equal measure. Its excellent couch co-op is where it really excels though. Working together as a team to protect your little flock of Tiki-babies from being eaten by a plethora of nasty critters is hopelessly addicting. The fact that there are a near-infinite number of maps to play on makes this game’s life-span virtually endless. It’s the gold standard for tower defense games.
This was a huge eye-opener for me; as huge triple-A developers were making their games bigger, but not necessarily better, a little Japanese team launched Deadly Premonition, an open-world, narrative-driven survival horror opus with B-movie charm, side-splitting humor and genuine heart by the bucket-load. It may not be a technical marvel, but it is an unforgettable experience with superb writing, ambition and sound design. It reminded me of how stale triple-A titles had become. If every game henceforth had a fraction of the heart that Deadly Premonition possesses, I’m sure the industry would be a much, much better place.