I've been thinking of making a list just for myself but figured why not share it with this community and start a discussion. It could be beneficial for others who are looking for recommendations or just for you to get your thoughts out about a game. Below I ranked my personal 10 with a bit of description as to why I like them.
Half Life 2 – This game hasn't left my #1 spot since it came out. It was the first single player FPS game I played. I haven't played Half Life 1 before Half Life 2 so I didn't really know that standing Valve had in the FPS community. But man, the gravity gun changed my life. The physics engine blew my mind. I was so happy that Half Life 2 included puzzles based on physics as well. I think its incredible that a game whose protagonist is a physicist compared to a soldier did so well. I remember when the demo came out I played the Ravenholm level probably 20 times. Then when I was able to buy Half Life 2 I played it another 20 times. I love the setting of Half Life 2, and the oppressive nature of the Combine. The strider fights were a spectacle and meeting DOG was amazing. I personally believe this game is perfect, between gunplay, story, setting, music. I almost cried at the end of Half Life Alyx and am so happy that Valve is continuing the universe. I believe that Half Life 2 still stands the test of time nowadays. It goes on sale often so please try it out! My ranking of the Half Life games are 2 > Alyx > Episode 2 > Episode 1 > Black Mesa > Half Life.
Persona 4 Golden – Atlus shows a masterclass of JRPGs with the Persona series. I haven't played Persona 1 or 2 and my first intro to the series was Golden on the Vita. I remember I played it and finished it in one weekend during college. I didn't even leave my room and stayed up all night getting it done. The characters in Golden from Chie to Kanji are a joy to be around and building relationships with. The soundtrack of the Persona series ties so well with the atmosphere of each game. Persona 4 Golden was also the first JRPG I played and finished. Boy it was a joy. The combat got improved upon greatly in Persona 5 but having the introduction to the series through Golden puts it over the top for me. Soon after beating Persona 4 Golden, I played Persona 3 Portable which was a great game too! Persona 5 deserves all the accolades its getting but I believe that the groundwork for the Western audience was laid by Persona 4 Golden on the Vita.
Judgement – As with many others, my first taste into the Yakuza franchise was when Yakuza 0 came on Steam. Since then I have finished 0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2, Judgement, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 in that order. While the other entries in this series are amazing, it was nice to see Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios venture out from the Yakuza storyline and focus on a detective story. The combat was a lot more fluid, almost reminding me of Majima's moveset in Yakuza 0. There was also a slice of life feel to Judgement. I think my favorite thing about the game was the pay off for completing side stories and relationships with people in the city. The last substory was amazing to see. I put this on the list even though I love the other games in the series so here is my ranking for the series. Judgement > Kiwami 2 > Yakuza 6 > Yakuza 0 > Yakuza 4 > Yakuza 7 > Kiwami > Yakuza 5 > Yakuza 3.
Hotline Miami 2 – The Hotline Miami collection introduced me to Retrowave music, and I will forever be grateful for that. Hotline Miami plays as a top down shooter with a very David Lynch like story. The chapters jump from the Past to Future to Present in different ways focusing on different characters. It is all tied up nicely at the end of Hotline Miami 2 in my opinion. This game is as bloody as a pixel game can be. The sense of fear you get when you try to see if anyone heard your gunshot is insane. I put Hotline Miami 2 here instead of 1 because of the larger cast of characters and for the ending. While I did love Hotline Miami 1, 2 for me was just a bit better. This game is eye candy from the floor plans of each level, the retro Miami colors, and the gory way of killing enemies. Hotline Miami 1 started my appreciation for indie games as being powerhouses.
Inside – I once heard someone on the Gameinformer podcast refer to this game as being carved out of one single block of clay. This game runs so smoothly you forget that there is a bunch of code in the background. Playdead is on a roll after Limbo and Inside in the creepy side scrolling puzzle platformer game. Inside had one of the most interesting backdrops I have seen. You are a child breaking into a facility of seemingly unknown reasons. But the game doesn't tell you that, there is no narration or voicework in this game. But its a testament to how carefully crafted this game is that the story can be told by what is happening in the background as you are making your way from left to right. The ending of this game caught me by surprise but I absolutely adored this game from start to finish.
Wolfenstein: The New Colossus – Who doesn't love killing Nazis? Ever since Machinegames took over the franchise of Wolfenstein each entry has just gotten better and better. I've heard different qualms about TNC mainly about the story, but to be honest that was my favorite part of this game. It made BJ into a deeper character rather than a meathead and his Jewish ancestry being a background for fighting Nazi's was poetic. My favorite moment was, in the courtroom dream sequence, right after you get out and meet the memory of your mom. It honestly brought me to tears. The gunplay was as good as it gets as well as the characters on your ship. My one issue was the hacking minigame. I did love the sound effects used but felt overall it was a useless addition. Although I did complete all of it! If I had to rank all the Machinegames Wolfensteins it would go TNC > New Order > Old Blood > Youngblood.
Mass Effect 2 – This game has about 200 hours of play time on my Steam. Bioware were masters of incredible RPG experiences. Mass Effect 2's companions were some of the best party members in an RPG ever. The storylines for each of these characters were a joy to take part in and it was extremely daring for Bioware to say, Hey! Lets put a suicide mission for the ending and have some of your characters permanently die. While the main villain wasn't that good, the overarching villain with culminated into the grand finale of Mass Effect 3 was worth it. I can't say enough as to how fleshed out the crew on the Normandy was. I'm excited to see any quality of life changes in the legendary edition!
What Remains of Edith Finch – I was debating putting this on my top 10 but the more time passed, the more and more I was thinking about the experience playing this game. I didn't play Unfinished Swan so I didn't know much about the developer but I do love Annapurna Interactive's published games. Edith Finch was no different. A first person/adventure/walking simulator game with an engaging story about a very strange family, the game immediately dug its hooks in me and never let go. The house of the Finches felt like a maze but because of how well crafted this game is you never feel lost. The side story about the unfortunate ends of the family is engaging. Not enough can be said about the last family member's story you find and how incredible that experience was.
Pokemon White – I am a huge Pokemon fan having bought one of each of the main series. I am also one of those people who liked SwSh. But I believe that Pokemon was at its best during the Black and White era. Created a new 150 pokemon while not including any past ones was risky, but for me it paid off. It was fun not being shackled by past favorites and looking towards a new generation. While it did seem that they just replaced skins for Pokemon, i.e. Swoobat/Zubat, Timburr/Machoke, etc. I liked almost all the new designs. The story for this game was also great. N was a great antagonist and actually made me sympathize with what was supposed to be your foe in the game. Why would I fight against someone who views that Pokemon should be free from trainers?
Ori and the Will of the Wisps – I absolutely adored Blind Forest and when Will of the Wisps came out it was just more of Ori but with a bunch of quality of life improvements. The story was even more emotional than the first. Without spoilers I found the villain's story especially after the final fight to be incredibly touching. I love how Moon Studio works as well, being completely decentralized while producing beautiful games.
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