Scott's Top 25 Games of All Time
by Scott

25-21 | 20-16 | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1 |

5: Thief 2

Developer: Looking Glass Studios
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
System(s): PC
Date of Release: 2000
Genre: First-Person Sneaker
Reasons for being on this list:
I think it's kind of funny to move from the standpoint that FPS games are in a major rut and then the game series that breaks all of those conventions. The Thief games pioneered the stealth genre on the PC. While Metal Gear tried it back on the NES (and other systems). And while Metal Gear Solid went with the 'cinematic' approach, Thief went with the open ended approach. Think Deus-Ex, but remove the broken skill system. Before you complain about that last statement, think about this: is there any difference between the lock picking skill or multitool skill? Or is the swimming skill actually useful? Second, Thief is extremely hard; I'm talking about having to quicksave/quickload every 15 seconds until you get the hang of this game. On expert difficulty, for instance, you can not kill anyone. And I do mean anyone. Some missions in Thief 2, you can't even knock people out or even be seen. The best part about this is that it works so amazingly well. It was like the designers sat down on the first day of creating this game and had a meeting like this:

Designer #1: You know what the most annoying parts of any FPS game is?
Designer #2: Ammo starvation?
Designer #3: Stealth stages that you fail if the alarms are raised?
Designer #4: Those innocent bystanders who you can't kill yet get in your way?
Designer #1: YES! Let's make a game based completely about those parts!

I'll digress at point, since anyone who played Goldeneye knows exactly what I'm talking about. By only focusing on what everyone hates, they had to actual make these things work, and work they did. Every weapon had to be redesigned for the stealth aspect of this game. You have water arrows to put out light, moss arrows to cover up noisy floors, and arrows to distract guards. I'm talking about dynamic lighting, dynamic sound, and reactive A.I., back in 1998. So it didn't matter how you got the treasure, you could put out torches and slip past guards, you could knock them out and hide their unconscious bodies in a dark corner, or you could just kill them with a well-place arrow to the neck (on lower difficulty settings).

The Thief community is divided on which Thief title is better, Thief Gold or Thief 2. I personally like Thief 2 better, since the missions were designed first and the storyline was made to fit it after (which is reversed from the first game). While I might be against that way of designing games, it works here. You have to break into a police station and frame the Second-in-Command, escape from an assassination attempt, track two people through the city and more, and even travel through the city along the rooftops. Each mission is also freaking huge. The average time spent in each mission can easily reach over 2 hours. There's also almost no undead and monsters, unlike the first game. The first game removed the 'no kill' requirement in a few levels, adding in some unnecessary (and somewhat annoying) combat. Anyone who got the hidden 'Kill all Bugbeasts' objective in the second to last level knows exactly what I'm talking about. Course, you might want the zombies back when the steam powered robots start showing up in the second game.

The story side of Thief 2 was kind of rushed and doesn't flow as well as the one in first game, since Thief 2 was pushed out of the door (it's still better than games that were delayed for years). This is because Looking Glass Studios closed mere months after this game came out, so the poorly paced story is forgivable. Looking Glass might be gone, but the legacy lives on, the powerful map maker that came with both games still sees plenty of work. In fact, there is still a community making missions for Thief 1 and 2. Bet you Halo 2 won't have this many fans in seven years.

Ease of acquiring/playing: Moderate. You can find it easily on-line, and you can probably find it cheap as well. Getting it to run is kind of easy, but there are some errors. For example, you have to run the iv5play.exe file (found on the disk) every now a then to get the cinimatics to run in-game. If you have a duo core PC, you also have to turn one of the cpus off every time you turn the game on. And also turn both the thief2.exe and thief2.icd to 'high' or 'realtime' priority in the windows task manager. Make you sure you get the free Thief 2X expansion pack for this game as well. It's completely made by fans. By fans! How many other games have expansion packs made by fans? Now, about Thief: Deadly Shadows. Yes, it is a good Thief game, but the jury is still out if Thief 3 is as good as the other 2. For a fan-made mission of what everyone thought Thief 3 was going to be like, try out the Gathering at the Inn.

4: Beyond Good and Evil

Developer: UbiSoft
Publisher: UbiSoft
System(s): PC/GameCube/XBox/Playstation 2
Date of Release: 2003
Genre: Adventure
Reasons for being on this list:
The story surrounding Beyond Good and Evil is one of the most tragic in the gaming industry. Released around Christmas when plenty of other really great games (Knights of the Old Republic, PC version) came out, it never had the money to compete for shelf space or to be advertised enough. It also faced competition from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and both games of which were released by the same company at the same time, and all games targeted the same crowd of gamers. Like I always say, UbiSoft has scraped below the barrel itself for their marketing department. So, only a handful of people played this game, and discovered exactly what a masterpiece this was. The game drops the player right into the first boss, much like Secret of Mana, captivating the player straight off the bat. Hell, the music for the introductory fight is better than other games' final boss music. Beyond Good and Evil then opened up with quirky and lovable characters, such as the strong and determined Jade (who you play as) and the fatherly, talking pig Pay'j who's a mechanic.

The game plays almost seemly like a copy of Legend of Zelda, Wind Waker, until you notice how much better Beyond Good and Evil is. In fact, Beyond Good and Evil makes Zelda its bitch. Every new Zelda game is going to have to compare itself to this game (Twilight Princess comes up a little short). Instead of pointless and frustrating mini-games like that battleship game to get a piece of a heart (worst innovation, ever), the mini-games were fast paced and fun. There are races, a nifty air-hockey like game were the objective is to send all of your disks to your opponent's side, and unlike the aborted monstrosity that is the Picto Box, Jade's cameras tells you when something is in focus, and is very forgiving (I spent two hours just taking a picture of that guy putting letters into the mailbox in Zelda).

Add to this a very good storyline about tyranny and the exploitation of people. This game has some truly cinematic moments, but it does suffer that one: it's a bit too easy, and two: it's also too short. While anyone who can beat the Zelda games should have no trouble beating this one, it is a very good ride while it lasts.

Ease of acquiring/playing: Moderate. Go up and look at the systems it was released on. Yeah, PC, GameCube, XBox, and the Playstation 2. All simultaneously. In English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and freaking Dutch. Again, at the same freaking time. Sadly, due to it being overlooked when it was first released, the only place to find a copy is online. Be careful, some versions of it can go for a high price. Screenshots are from the Official Beyond Good and Evil website.

3: Fire Emblem (US)

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
System(s): Game Boy Advance
Date of Release: 2003 (North America)
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/Japanese RPG
Reasons for being on this list:
I completely suck at strategy games. I have never won at chess my whole life, or even at checkers. Let alone a complex war strategy game.

Me: "Ok, my tanks get a bonus of +1 because they are in light woods, another +1 because they are on a hill, and a final +1 because they are strong vs infantry."
*Tank dies*
Me: "What just happened?"
Opponent: "Oh, my artillery was in range, so that attacks first."
Me: "But it's across the map!"
Opponent: "That's its range."

I just kept on forgetting every last rule, and usually the rule I forgot about was the one that screwed me over. Fire Emblem (actually the 7th one, called US to tell it apart from the others), introduced all of its rules slowly so you got the hang of each one in a very long tutorial, a 10 mission tutorial to be exact. Plus the rules were based on a rock-paper-scissor model that was easy to remember (It took me very long to learn it, however), and the bonus you got was slight enough not to matter too much if you didn't notice the enemy that could hurt you, but still important enough to use all the time. A huge army was placed under your control, and unlike in Final Fantasy Tactics, it mattered who you took to each mission. "Gee, there are lots of lance users in this mission, maybe I should send out my axe users." Each unit in your army had a distinct personality, some were very funny, others were quite tragic, and due to a permanent death system, you cared when they died.

Now the storyline, I'm not going to sugar-coat it. It's your simple 'Evil mage wants to summon up ultimate power to conquer yadda yadda yadda'. It succeeds because it takes a while for this plot to become apparent to the player. Instead it focuses on political intrigue between people in power (most are called 'marquesses'), allowing the player to get familiar with the characters. Second, you can skip almost every single story scene in the game. You can't skip 2 of them, and one is the ending. So go make yourself a really bitchn' ham sandwich if you don't care about the plot. Personally, a huge shout out goes to whoever decided not to put voice actors into the GameCube version. Anyone who bitches about no voice acting should record Elincia saying 'My lord Ike' during the ending and play it back every time she says that, which is every freaking time she talks, in every one of her lines. See how long you can last before you fucking hang yourself with the controller cord.

Ease of acquiring/playing: Moderate. Wow, despite being very popular (or maybe because of it), Fire Emblem still can cost you around the price of a new Gameboy game. You might be able to find this one is stores, but all I've been able to find is the not-as-good-but-still-great Sacred Stones.
Screenshots are from the website (because the official site doesn't exist anymore).

2: Super Smash Bros. Melee

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: Nintendo
System(s): GameCube
Date of Release: 2001 (North America)
Genre: Fighting
Reasons for being on this list:
I don't like fighting games. I came onto the fighting games late, when huge combos were the norm and players could kill you without letting you catch you breath between punches. "Dude, there's a practice mode," they would say when I comment that I don't know the difference between quick attack and slow attack and they're wailing on me. "Yah," I say, "there is, but the practice dummy doesn't attack back." Plus, when you finally get good with one character, and you try a new one, you have to learn a whole new set of moves from scratch. Screw that. Then came Super Smash Bros, and I groaned and rolled my eyes. A fighting game staring the heroes of several Nintendo games? I would have loved to see how this game came about.

Nintendo employee #1: Who would win in a fight, Mario or Link?
Nintendo employee #2: It would be Link for sure.
Nintendo employee #1: But Mario can shoot fireballs, and he can jump really high.
Nintendo employee #2: True, but Link has bombs, and a boomerang, and a freakn' sword!
Nintendo employee #1: Mario would just jump over all of those attacks kick Link in the head!
Nintendo employee #3: You guys are both wrong, Samus would own both of their asses.
Nintendo employee #1: Well, I'm going to make a fighting game staring them, and I'll prove that Mario would win!

I later read an interview with the guy behind Super Smash Bros, and yep, the game did kind of come from conversation like that (Oh, and in case you were wondering, Link wins). Super Smash Bros Melee just piled on more modes, characters, and arenas to sheer ambrosia level excitement. The best part about this game? Each character used the same button combination for every move, and they were all simple. No "roll your thumb from down to right and push quick attack" shit; just hit the B button and shoot a fireball, throw a boomerang, or do whatever the hell your character does. It was the perfect game that anyone can pick up and play and have lots of fun without learning complex combos and crap. Plus it has four players simultaneous and items, something other fighting games need.

Ease of acquiring/playing: Easy. Years later, and this game still sells like proverbial hotcakes. What the hell is a hotcake anyway? Not the point. You can still find this game in stores, and it still costs a bit on-line. Course, there's always Super Smash Bros. Brawl, which I'm sure is going to sell even faster. Screenshots are from the website.

1: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
System(s): Super NES
Date of Release: 1992 (North America)
Genre: Adventure
Reasons for being on this list:
What can I say about this game? Perhaps the one and only flaw: that there's just too much crap to collect. So much that some of it's completely worthless. However, if you tried to not pick up anything that was not required, it was one freaking hard game (I call it 'hard mode'). I did beat this 'hard mode', but I thought you had to get the tempered sword. Not true! A spin attack with blue Master Sword will hurt Gannon. So maybe I'll play it again.

Kind of funny, since when I first played this game, I died right off the bat. I first played this game when Nintendo was still going across the country and showing off their new system (SNES). I happened to be at the mall at the time. No, I went to the mall just to play the SNES (I hate malls). And one of the demos was Zelda. Now, you could only play the game for 5 minutes before it reset on you, so no one managed to rescue the princess from the palace. You're probably thinking that I pulled some zen mega gaming awesomeness and rescued her in the five minute time span. No, I got killed on the escape. Yep, I sucked, but I chose the 'save and quit' option, which allowed my brother to pick up from right where your get the princess out of the cage, so he was the one to rescue the princess. I'll never forget what he said on the car ride back home, 'Yeah, some kid really sucked and died while escaping with the princess, but saved it so I could beat that part.' Ah, childhood memories.

Anyway! It was the game that brought an epic feel to the Zelda franchise, and made Shigeru Miyamoto (who also created Mario) one of the greatest game makers alive today. The game could be seen as a remake of Zelda 1, and it was remade into Ocarina of Time, which many believe to be the greatest Zelda game. But it was A Link to the Past that introduced mind-destroying puzzles, the legend behind the goddesses who created Hyrule and the Triforce, huge boss battles, and an actual changing world (enemies appeared in town after you reach the dark world). A Link to the Past also has one of the best endings in any game, going through every location and showing how the people improved since you won, much like the ending of Fire Emblem, which timed in around 40 minutes, but it was not a simple slide show like Ocarina of Time's ending. This Zelda game has what few other games have, greatness in all things, great and small throughout the length and breadth of it, and it brought all of that greatness into a single package that never distracts you with inane things (tingle), like a stew made from your favorite foods. It proved that games were an art.

"May the way of the hero lead to the Triforce."

Ease of acquiring/playing: Easy. Just like Zelda 1, this game has been re-released on the gameboy advance, so it's easy to find a copy. For the original, there's plenty on-line. Screenshots are from the VGM.

Well, since I've reached the end of my article, I think I should quickly name off a few more games didn't make the cut, in no particular order: Homeworld Cataclysm, Sacrifice, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Serious Sam, Planescape Torment, Freedom Force, Medievil, Star Fox, Mario Kart 64, Mischief Makers, Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, Cave Story, plus all the games I referred to throughout the article.

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