We’ve come a long way in our pursuit of gaming’s greatest moments. We’ve counted down 36 games, explored a wide variety of worlds, visited series both old and new. We’ve battled, we’ve raced, we’ve climbed, and we’ve created items great and small… but we’ve still got more than 1/3 of the list ahead of us. Pretty crazy to think about, eh?
Our fourth to last list is next, featuring games 24 through 19. In this list, we’ve got genres ranging from RPG to Turn Based Strategy… and we feature two of the most well known games of the modern era. Shall we get to it? I think so.
24. Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is the greatest turn based strategy game ever made. And I’m beginning to think that, as genres evolve and the turn based strategy fades from prominence, it will never be challenged for that position. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 was a brilliantly crafted strategy experience that elevated the genre to new heights that nobody has since emulated… even its creators.
The game featured a massive series of campaigns, nearly endless replayability through custom maps which could be created and shared online, the ability to utilize an immense variety of different heroes, 8 different playable races (9 if you had the expansions) that each had their own distinct strengths and weaknesses, and a crazy variety of units, artifacts, and playstyles. Quite simply, the game was a masterpiece. And every time I go back and revisit it, I’m reminded of how awesome this genre was back in my childhood… and saddened by its decline since those days.
23. League of Legends
League of Legends is the world’s most popular online game. Riot Games saw that there was greatness in the Warcraft 3 map ‘Defense of the Ancients’, and worked hard to transform it into a standalone experience. Since its inception it has broken countless records, taken huge steps forward for E-Sports, and made the ‘MOBA’ genre one of the most prominent and popular in gaming.
Riot also continues to push their game forward, not afraid to change mechanics that have been around for a long time… and their decisions are usually positive in the long-term. For me, the key lies in the game’s E-Sports viability though. I habitually watch the LCS, catching most of the matches, and I love what they keep doing to push the envelope when it comes to competitive gaming – regardless of whether I still actively play the game.
22. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
There are a handful of game series that I have a hard time looking at as ‘series’ rather than a single game broken up over multiple installments… true episodic games, as it were. Both of the two recently released Legend of Heroes series have fit this description. Trails in the Sky came out initially back in 2011, but just last year the second chapter, which resolved the events of the first chapter, was released for us to enjoy.
And enjoy it I did… Trails in the Sky is one of the best stories I’ve seen, offering an extremely coherent tale with fantastic characters that just continue to develop throughout. In my review of Second Chapter, I described the story as a ‘progression of failures that were also successes’, and it is in that constant mix of disappointment and excitement that the game thrives. You keep reaching, keep pushing forward and striving for the main goal… only to find the end has been moved ever so slightly when you land. Yet, as this happens, you also get 3 puppies down from trees, save a small child, and put out a fire (okay, not those specific examples). It gives you just enough ‘feel-good’ to perpetually override the feeling of frustration at not quite succeeding… and at the same time, it builds up a sense of tension that makes the end just feel awesome.
21. Child of Light
When Ubisoft revealed the UbiArt title ‘Child of Light’, I fell in love immediately. An homage to classic JRPGs, it offers just the right mix of all of the stuff you love about JRPGs with just enough of a twist to be fresh. The gameplay is incredibly fun and strategic, and it even offers what I like to call ‘kid-friendly co-op’… basically, you can have a second player perform fairly simple yet important actions to help you through the game. It’s a great addition, yet completely optional. I played the entire game single player and didn’t suffer for it at all.
What made Child of Light so incredibly special, though, was the overall presentation. Sure the gameplay was good, but without amazing visuals, audio, and writing… it would’ve most likely fallen flat. The hand-drawn visuals were gorgeous and charming, the soundtrack was so good that I bought it and frequently listen to many of its tracks, and the story was told through rhyme in a way that just fit so well.
20. World of Warcraft
Much like League of Legends, World of Warcraft earns its spot off a combination of great design and notoriety. I played World of Warcraft for nearly 10 years, and extremely actively for around 8 of those 10. Very few, if any, games have captured my attention quite the way WoW did back in the good old days. I have so many amazing memories of this game, and have spent so much time thinking about it, that it has certainly earned this top-20 place on this list.
World of Warcraft took a genre that was seen as being for only the most dedicated players, a genre that typically had seen relatively low numbers, and brought more than 10 million people in so they too could appreciate the good that it had to offer. Regardless of whether I am currently among its active playerbase… the gifts this game gave to me in terms of friends, memories, and lessons will ensure I always think fondly of it. And the fact that it managed to hook someone like me – someone who had sneered at the thought of paying 15 dollars a month for a game – and had me doing that for two separate accounts for most of 10 years… well that proves it was truly something special.
My game of the year for 2014, Transistor, takes the #19 spot on this all-time list. Transistor is very difficult to describe… it is unlike almost anything else. At first glance, it does bear semblance to the standard 4-button action RPG setup, but it is so much more. The gameplay uses a ‘turn’ setup to add strategic depth… and it is through this dichotomy of strategy and action that makes the gameplay so enjoyable. That, and the game’s amazing soundtrack which is actually dynamically affected by the actions you take in some subtle yet interesting ways. My favourite is that when you activate the turn feature, our protagonist Red hums along with the game’s soundtrack. And each track has its own unique effect for that humming.
Transistor also features some of the most effective storytelling techniques I’ve seen. The protagonist is unable to talk, but her weapon can. The game is perpetually narrated by this Transistor, who seems to know Red pretty well, and his conversations with his silent wielder. Aside from that, the rest of the story is told through these various letters and digital newsletters you stumble upon throughout the game, which gradually give you more and more information about this world and its story. One interesting fact to the story is that, while they do spoonfeed you the core story of Red and the mysterious Transistor… they leave the world’s lore to you to puzzle out from what you see. And it works so well.
We’ve broken into the top 20! Any predictions as to what is to come? Sound off in the comments below!