As you may have noticed, I happen to be a big time gamer (as with the rest of us here on Metal State). I started out on an Atari 2600 back in the beginnings of the 1980s and haven’t looked back since. I can not think of a time in my life when I haven’t been completely in love with my digital darlings. Not to brag, but I will, I have played and finished hundreds of games, and not like 100 something games. Roughly counting, I’d say that number is up around the 500 mark. Yet somehow in my ~30 solid years of gaming I have not sat down and tried to make list of the best games I have ever played. So given we are slightly obsessed with lists around these parts, I figured it’s time to do so (my cohorts will be joining in with their lists as well in the coming days). Every single game on this list I consider a must play and highly suggest you check all of them out.
For my own set rules I made the cut-off anything released before 2013 as I still need to let the new releases sink in a bit more and some games get an entry as a series and some games in the series get their own number. If a specific game in a series affected me more than the rest, that game gets top billing and a series gets the number if I feel that the whole series works together to make a cognitive whole. I hope you all enjoy this little list and find some games to either revisit or discover for the first time. And as always, I’d love to hear your favorite games. Even though I have played a lot of games, chances are I may have overlooked a hidden gem and point in its direction is always welcome. Peace Love and Metal!!!!!!
The realm of indie games is such a wonderful place filled with some of the most imaginative and wonderful games available today. Pretty much any style of gamer, from the COD armchair soldier to manchild stuck in the days of Super Mario Bros., can find a game that fits their fancy. But there is also a loooooot of crap to sift through as, bless them for trying, many basement developers just don’t put the required passion or energy into their game and you end up dropping your cash on something less than lackluster. So, since I don’t mind sifting through the feces for that hidden gem (much like I do with music) I’m here to point out the gaming gems that you may overlook and never end up playing. You will notice that I do have a thing for retro-syled games and my preferred platform is the PC, so you will see quite a bit of them here, but I’ll do my best throughout these series of posts to be as diversified as possible and I’ll try to mention some deep cuts as well as some of the more popular indie games you may have overlooked. So, without further ado, I, the Indienaught, kindly request that you check these game out. I also kindly request that you head over to Steam’s Greenlight section and start checking out some games and upvoting the ones that look cool to you. Enjoy!!! Peace Love and Metal!!!
What is it about pixel art graphic aesthetics that will forever draw me into a game? Many will argue that their usage is reaching a point of over-saturation, that their time has passed, and are just a cheap trick to prey on my generation of gamers nostalgia. Me, however, feels just the opposite. I will never get enough of pixel art graphics and with modern technology there is just so much more one can do with them. And while my nostalgia does play a part in why I enjoy their look, there are many other reasons why I find them pleasing to the eye, such as the adage that one’s mind will fill in the blanks with something more personal and more horrific and/or beautiful than the artist could ever create (see: Japanese horror flicks). In pixel art graphics, no matter how detailed they get, there is always room for me to fill in blanks and smooth out edges in my mind, therefore creating a delightful mix of what the artist intended and the brush of the artist in my mind.
Anodyne looks not only to explore this facet of gaming and art, but also asks the player to take a deeper step into not only different aspects of game design, but also into game playing and beyond. Why do we enjoy the medium, why the pleasure derived from an aesthetic, why do we all almost always perform certain actions, and why don’t many of us want to grow up. Many of these questions are aptly answered in the games title alone, but once you delve into the game and start exploring its surrealistic pixel world the introspects of the 2 man development team’s (Sean Hogan (audio, programming) and Jonathan Kittaka (art, writing) for Analgesic Productions LLC) very personal thoughts and feelings will really start encouraging you to ponder the same theories as they were. And when all is said and done and the games finale is reached you will realize that you discovered new things about yourself other than why you like video games or pixel art graphics. So, like the filling in the blanks of the visual art with your imagination, you will be filling in the questions and creating your own questions with the framework the game creates. Oh, and Anodyne is a lot of fun to play too!
A little over 5 years a little game called BioShock was released and unless you happened to be in the know, it arrived on release date with little fanfare. The lack of hustle and bustle didn’t last long until reviews started to pour out praising every aspect of the game, many even going as far as to call it the most revolutionary game to date. The game went on to become a hit seller and many gamers, myself included, found themselves prone to agree with the high praise of the press. While delivering some great FPS shooting and a neat super power system and a really great underwater city setting, the game really shined and revolutionized in the narrative department utilizing clever tricks at delivering exposition to transform a Maltese Falcon style story (oh, yeah, spoiler, but if you haven’t played it by this point, your fault) into a deep and attention grabbing sociopolitical commentary. Whether you just wanted action or something deep to analyze, it delivered on all fronts and created a bar so high it became highly questionable if a sequel could ever come close to reaching the heights that it did.
BioShock 2 saw the return to Rapture, the once utopia under the sea. Expectations were high and the hype around the development was closely monitored in the press. While finding itself underdevelopment from much of the original team, a key member was missing, lead designer Ken Levine. When the game landed it was a hit and a damn fine game that worked well at expanding the first’s universe, but it just lacked that extra pinch of inspiration and love that sent the first over the edge and it could be accredited to the absence of Levine. Fortunately Mr. Levine wasn’t just passing the reigns of his baby off to someone else while he disappeared, instead he slunk back into hiding and began almost immediately working on the game under the microscope today. And after 5 years of work and polish and an incredible amount of hype from both fans, press, and Ken Levine and Irrational Games themselves BioShock Infinite is upon us looking to not only reach the bar first set at the start of the series, but surpass it and yet again revolutionize the landscape of gaming as we know it. So, if you’ve been following the game you’ve probably already heard the unanimous praise by critics and fans and what can I say, they are all spot on. From this day forward, when you dig up the old Websters-Merriam to look up the word success you will find a picture of BioShock Infinite sitting there in all its glory.
Cpt. Bigglesworth is the perfect example of the unsung hero. During the extraterrestrial invasion of 2025 he gave his life not just for his country, but for the world. During a small squadron mission into the recently discovered alien base to obtain technology that could help the team of X-Com’s scientists understand and better destroy the invading threat, the team found themselves in a vicious firefight. Brazen as always Lt. Nipplechip rushed into some shady cover to try to get some effective shots in with his laser rifle to try to push the resistance back some to allow the rest of the squad to move into some semblance of favorable positioning. To his dismay, he had made the wrong choice of taking pot shots instead of laying down a flurry of suppressing fire. This led to the enemy getting an opportunity to move in to flank half the team and if they all didn’t act smart on their next steps, the whole team would find themselves in big trouble.
Armed with a rifle, grenades, and a bevy of health packs that could have easily been used to cure his wounds and buy him enough time to get himself to safety and retreat back to base, Cpt. Bigglesworth made the heroic move to risk his own life to ensure the safety of his squad mates. Opting to rush into the face of the gigantic brute flanking them he tossed one of his grenades gravely injuring the over-sized and heavily armored alien and also destroying all the cover that surrounded it. By doing so he put himself right in the path of another brute who quickly turned his sights on the weakened human who would make for some very easy target practice. As the lasers began to fly at his soon to be perforated body he saw Rk. Tiddlywinks finishing off the flanker and Lt. Assface gearing up his sniper rifle to take perfect aim on his attackers head. Cpt. Bigglesworth did not live to see his murderer’s head gush green ooze as Sgt. Assface’s shot penetrated its face, but the moment right before he died he smiled knowing that his brazen action, not only saved the rest of the squad, but also the entire Earth.
Back at X-Com’s inner-mountain base there is a small memorial dedicated to Cpt. Bigglesworth and his heroic deed, but due to the secretive nature of X-Com, his name and actions will never be known to those outside of the alien defense force collective. A week after that bloody battle and the retrieval of the highly sensitive information and technology, the scientists and engineers were able to use the findings to both build weapons which would effectively counter the aliens as well as learn of a way to take down entire invading space crafts with the alien armies inside. This tech led to Earth defeating and fending off the alien forces.
Exploring through a mountain turned dungeon staring at the same tile-set on the walls for hours on end may sound like something that would make for a dull and tedious game. Especially when the game limits you movement capabilities to a square-based grid and tosses environmental puzzles your way that could be easily solved if you could stand at a diagonal position. Then there’s the odd dial-a-spell magic system and unclear narrative that come off as clumsy. But somehow, Legend of Grimrock, developed by Finnish studio (seriously, is there anything the Finns can’t do?) Almost Human, have taken all of these bad design troupes and used them in a way that makes the game a highly memorable, and more importantly, deeply engaging game experience that should not be missed.
If you are familiar with old-school first person PC RPGs like Eye of the Beholder, than you should know exactly what you’re getting into here, so you can stop reading and just go play the game and get full satisfaction. For others, in Legend of Grimrock, everything is based on square tiles, the map, movement, puzzles, etc. Even your adventuring party is square; a group of 4 that your design yourself whom are all chained together, have been charged with a crime and cast into a mountain cum dungeon, Mt. Grimrock. Your task is to escape the mountain, and if you do so, your crimes will be absolved.