Well, most people who know me post undergrad believe my time for videogames is non-existent: it is, except when it comes to something that’s really good. There are some games out there many of us will just play for fun or as part of the social atmosphere, but there are a handful of games that I play just because I really really need to see them through: beginning to end like a good book. What makes the Best Video Game in my mind? Well, graphics, gameplay, music, sound all have to be well crafted, but before any of this stuff can come to fruition, what I want first is story. What kind of stories grab me? Anything involving zombies, mystery, and adventure. It’s got to have solid characters and a plot that pulls you.
What fits that criteria?
The Silent Hill Series (Playstation 1 – 2)
Hands down one of the best pieces of video game “art” out there.
I’ve got a screenshot to the left from Silent Hill 2 and one of its famous cinematics. This game has it all : characters you believe in, a plot that grabs your attention, antongonists who make you jump (not laugh). Moreover, the crafting of this game was just as finely and completely executed as some of the best movie directors yielding a complete, unbroken dream in which the player can lose his or herself for hours.
The Fear Effect Series (Playstation 1)
I was upset when this series was discontinued. It had those classic elements of story, and moreover, it had some flairs that just made Fear Effect something unto itself. The creators drew on chinese mythology and aesthetics in their settings. Kronos coupled this with their own brand of technology for creating immersive environments called Motion FX. The results were gorgeous. The distinct feel merged so tightly with the plot, music and overall experience that one can look at a screeshot and easily identify, just from the cell shading and colors, that it’s a Fear Effect screenshot.
Resident Evil Series (Playstation 1 – 2)
Everyone who plays video games knows the “Resident Evil” name, and even those who don’t play know the Resident Evil movies. I was in highschool when my little brother and I saw the cover of this game with the crazed charicature of some guy, a gun, and a spider. It just looked nuts! For all intents and purposes, at the time, the first Resident Evil was nuts! It was something new and, as most authorities tend to agree : the real beginning of a genre (alongside Silent Hill) of what’s become known as “Survival Horror”.
Resident Evil has that plot which just latches on. As time has progressed the environments, graphics and gameplay (Resident Evil 4) have evolved immensley, and underneath all that is still the continuation of plots that I, as a player, really want to see unraveled.
Haunting Ground (Playstation 2)
My brother got me this game for Christmas. I’m embarrassed to say, I hadn’t even heard of it until I played for the first time. Reviews on this game are fairly polarized. I’m among the group that considers this an incredible play and a great piece of work. The story has a similar element to Silent Hill 2 in that it revolves around revealing the forgotten history of the main character. Sometimes selective amnesia can be a cliche, but in this case, it just works well. The quantity of antagonists is significantly less than Silent Hill or Resident Evil, so the focus is more on the quality of the individual characters and the dramatics inherent.
This was the game in my library for a long time. I had a 486SX, upgraded it to a DX4-100 and tacked on a whole 8 Megs of RAM to run this! 7 CDs!! It was amazing. Live actors in a gorgeously rendered 3D setting. The story was incredible. In retrospect, the acting might’ve been “B” but it WORKED! It scared the heck out of me! I just couldn’t stop playing. I think I flew through this in two days or so of nonstop enjoyment. That’s how I often like a game : being sucked in and not being let go until I’ve seen it through, saved the day, turned the last page. This game is a classic and Roberta Williams is one of my favorite game designers. By the way, she is also known for her King’s Quest Series which was another jewel of the adventure games genre.