Stian’s top 12 favorite games

Xzone

It is incredible to think that a year has already gone by since Casper started this site. I am so lucky to be on board and get the opportunity to improve myself as a reviewer with such a great man. I could not have improved as much as I have, without him by my side.

Now we celebrate the one year anniversary with one traditional, yet maybe the hardest countdown article to write. I have tons of different games I love and felt had an effect on me for different reasons. Gaming is really my passion, so picking just certain games for this list, was like picking your favorite kitten: you just feel awful for not giving all of them the attention they deserve. However, after going through all I have in my collection and spending years thinking, I believe I have come up with my 12 favorite games of all time. The only rule I have decided for myself, is to remind you that this is not a list of the best games ever, just my personal favorites. With that said: these are titles I can always pick up and play, and have a special place in my heart.

#12 Legend of Grimrock 2

Combining two of my other favorite memories from childhood: getting stuck in Myst and discovering Dungeons and Dragons RP, the original Legend of Grimrock was a huge surprise to me.

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It is a fantastic dungeon-crawler, with plenty of puzzles to overcome with brilliant brain teasers, fun fights that require more of you than just decent stats, and takes in consideration minor elements such as hunger and how you build your characters. It was also accompanied by an intriguing atmosphere that makes me uneasy, but also ready for anything that is to come. However, Legend of Grimrock 2 came along and it was even better. The enemy-AI was much improved, giving an even harder challenge, and there were more areas to explore besides caves, although they are thankfully still in here. Even the puzzles became bigger brain teasers and more classes were added with more customization, which is just fantastic.

I am also not a big fan of mods, as many use them as an excuse for why certain games are good to begin with, but Legend of Grimrock 2 made me a fan due to how many other gamers have made their own custom maps and stories that are quite impressive. I also feel it doesn’t overshadow the main journey, as it is fantastic in its own right. As a DM myself and one who enjoys to traverse and see how far I can go with both my wits and skills, this is one of the best ones to test you in both regards.

#11 Monster Hunter 4

I love to play co-op. Games that mainly focuses on the versus aspect of multiplayer have a short lasting-appeal with me, so having something where I can play with multiple friends to conquer whatever we set out to do, is something I always appreciate.

MH4

You could take Torchlight 2, Guild Wars 2, Portal 2, and plenty of other titles, and I would certainly have a great time. But by far my favorite of them all when it comes to focus on this aspect, is Monster Hunter 4. Fighting ginormous monsters where you will need to be both defensive, offensive, have made preparations, and so many different weapons and armors to make from the fallen beasts, are only few of many reasons why I love this series, and the fourth installment is by far the best one. This one might be dated if there comes another Monster Hunter that triumphs this one, but after how much I enjoyed Monster Hunter 3, despite some clear issues, 4th came and fixed all the problems I had with it, while adding some new toys to play with.

This one is also quite important to me for another reason. You see, when I want to play a co-op game, I always want my sister along. Not only is she a good gamer with some great skills, but also one I trust wholeheartedly and can make clear strategies with. When she got my old 3DS, I bought this installment for her. We used to play Monster Hunter 3 as well, as I had it for both the 3DS and the Wii-U, but now that she had her own machine, I wanted her to own it as well. It is somewhat of a comfort as I moved away for a while for my studies, so even if I should ever be far away again, I can always take comfort in the knowledge that we are able to go on adventures again. With this one, being one of my favorites.

#10 Rayman Legends

If your read my review of this game, you know how fantastic it is. It is hard to say much more about it, but I will give it my best. Before Legends, Origins already impressed me with Rayman’s return and was an instant classic for me. I played it all the way through when I acquired it for my Wii and I have multiple copies of it to this day. With fast-paced platforming and 4-player co-op in bizarre, dreamlike locations, it was hard to see what else could be added. However, when the demo for Legends came out, I was very interested.

Rayman Legends

I got it, and played through the first 2 stages that showcased how the Gamepad would be a unique way for platforming, and the more unique concept for the levels. Then, I got to the rhythm-stage with Black Betty. I was smiling with my jaw hitting the floor and by this point I knew Rayman Legends would live up to its name. I felt like a kid again, I knew this was made by people who loved Rayman and wanted to give it their all, and I can truly say: it is legendary.

The game is a 2D-platformer with areas that are both explorative, but also fast paced and have great level-designs that keeps the platforming flowing and varied. It is a fantastic mix for both speedrunners and those who wants to explore more of the imaginative stages. Not to mention the fantastic 4-player co-op, fun football-game, great use of the gamepad, online-challenges and even stages taken from Origin, I honestly could not ask for anything more. There is a reason why I gave it a perfect score, and since it is on just about any platform you could think of, there is no reason to not own it.

#9 Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown

I am actually quite a huge fan of Garou: Mark of the Wolf, Street Fighter 3, Samurai Shodown 2, Super Smash Bros. 4 and the Dead or Alive fighting games, but Virtua Fighter 5 is simply perfect to me as a fighting game. I often go for the 2D sprite-look, since I love that artstyle, and while I enjoyed 3D titles like Soul Calibur, it never stayed long for me, especially since I was more a fan of the 2D approach. I simply loved the more fast-paced side scrolling fighting-games, with the exception of DoA. However, Virtua Fighter 5 was a very interesting beast. It demanded you being precise, but much more than the normal fighter.

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With a lot of moves to learn, dealing with different blocks, counters, combos and of course: fighting styles, it is to this day a game I always feel like I have stuff to learn about. I am great at the SNK-fighters, I am good at Dead or Alive and in Smash Bros. I know almost everything, but Virtua Fighter 5 demands more of me. Yet, it is easy for newcomers to get into, since it had a good tutorial that showed it wanted you to become good and you only have 3 buttons to take in consideration. While many would say Virtua Fighter 4 is the best one, they might be right as it has more packed in it for a single player experience and even an anniversary edition of the original Virtua Fighter, but the fifth installment had so much to the VS-mode, that it was hard to put down. I went through plenty of other fighting-games, but Virtua Fighter 5 will always be a challenge that I seek to one day master. And that is why I regard it as one of my favorites.

#8 Yakuza 4

I feel open world-games rarely have enough quality to them. I was never a fan of most of the GTA-games, Elder Scrolls titles age poorly, and I can recall only one Assassin’s Creed-game I truly enjoyed. However, there are some fantastic ones that really give me a lot to praise them for. Lego City Undercover, Shadow of Mordor, the Saints Row-series, but my favorite is the Yakuza-series.

Yakuza

It has a fantastic story about morality with twists and turns all over the place, rivaling almost Kojima’s storytelling. Even better is the combat that is loose enough to make it easy to fight a bunch of enemies, but at the same time demanded you looking all over the place to not get hit. You could use items around you for adding more damage, such as slamming a person with a bicycle or paint their face in the asphalt. As an added bonus, for all of you who still miss Shenmue or never even played it, you can easily see inspirations from the original 2 games being much more fleshed out and matured in this series.

I chose Yakuza 4 as my favorite, mainly because this shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Four different characters in the same storyline, with a bunch of unique side quests, mini-games, and fighting styles that you could level up. It could have easily been a mess and felt tedious to start with new character each time, but everything is either highly polished or made simple, but enjoyable. There are some minor side quests that are actually quite heartwarming, such as taking care of a lost kitten, and you can even play mini-games that are a blast. This might actually also be something I rarely find in an open world game: side-objectives that made me care. Yakuza knows that the players interaction and the more bizarre or loving stories, are important to create an intriguing setting. If you decide to start with the later games, there are also watchable movies included in all of them to give you a recap of the events before. So no worries if you feel like checking out my personal favorite first.

#7 Castlevania: the DS-titles

I am a huge Castlevania-fan, so picking between my favourite ones was hard. I played all of them and you bet I will talk about them for every Halloween until there are no more Castlevania-games.

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My favorite constantly changes due to choosing between the linear style and the well-known metroidvania style, and even within these genres, I often mix between which one I love the most. However, I am always in the mood for the DS trilogy. Yes, this is a bit of a cop-out, but I really love each installment for different reasons and I did not want them to clutter the list more. Besides, each follows the brilliant setup made by Aria of Sorrow, which also could have been added to the list. Yes I know that Symphony of the Night is the one that started this genre, but it is a fantastic classic that I feel has been improved upon with the later installments.

To talk briefly about each, Dawn of Sorrow is a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow, and has the lovely finesse from its first installment with fun combat and exploration. With its interesting soul-system, where you absorb passive and active skills from enemies for either projectile-weapons, getting stat boosts or more, it becomes not just interesting to see new locations, but also different enemy-types.

Portrait of Ruin has you taking control of a duo, with one being magic-user and the other a vampire-hunter who is skilled with his arsenal. They both contribute to some interesting gameplay, and while Dracula’s Castle will be explored, here you travel through paintings to different areas, similar to Super Mario 64, giving the game more interesting areas to visit.

Finally, Order of Ecclesia is more combat-heavy and it is such a brutal game, with a unique combat-system. Here, you absorb enemy-glyphs, which do remind me of Dawn of Sorrow’s soul-system. However, here it will affect all of your attacks, including normal melee-combat, and they all use magic, making it so you can’t spam any attack. It can actually in this regard, be similar to the Souls series as magic does recharge and functions almost more as a stamina-meter. There are plenty of areas to visit, but now more like an overworld map with smaller metroidvania locations, which is a nice change of pace. Overall, all 3 have interesting setups, lovely areas, gothic mythology, intriguing exploration, an amazing soundtrack and the best of all: the map is on the top-screen.

#6 Super Mario Galaxy 2

This is simply what I want from a game. I want focus, aka go with what you have as a concept to the fullest. While the first Super Mario Galaxy could also share this spot, the sequel just had more attention given to the gameplay, which is usually the meat of a Mario-title. Each area had different stars to collect, but more often as different goal-posts that led to different level-designs or different gameplay-mechanics that used Mario’s abilities well or had a nice departure. I much prefer this style over the collect-a-thon, as I love how linearity and being more restricted, can lead to more ideas on how to make this more straightforward journey fun. If I were to ever miss the collect-a-thon aspect, the more challenging green stars are fun and hard treasure hunts.

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There are so many fantastic levels to Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the return of Yoshi and new power-ups to both him and Mario, are greatly utilized for specific stages rather than just being situational, which is a great design-choice. The Cloud-Mario is a great example as it can create clouds to jump on and Yoshi’s-light ability, will make it so dark areas become accessible until you lose that power up. There was not a single level that did not entertain me. Combining this with an amazing soundtrack and stages that are varied and imaginative, as well as the motion-controls being well implemented, it was really an impressive title for the system. It might be cliche to say it, but it is beyond this world and is my favorite 3D-platformer of all time.

#5 Fire Emblem

How heartbreaking is it to have a character die, knowing it is all your fault? When I was about 14 years old, I acquired Fire Emblem for my Game Boy Advance and was excited to learn more about the sword-wielders from Super Smash Bros. Melee. I was intrigued when it was a strategy RPG where your units only consisted of people you met on the journey, instead of simply being static warriors you would not care for. All the characters you met had some form of a backstory that you could discover through conversations and they all felt important and believable, making it feel like you were a real group and not just an army. I loved how traditional it was in the beginning, but at the same time had personality and characters, with a setting that got more and more interesting as I played. The presentation as well drew me in as something out of a dream, at least for the system, thanks to the animations being so impressive and the beautiful soundtrack.

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Then there is the best part: the gameplay. I was blown away by how well it made the strategic aspect both adaptable, yet hard. You have a simple rock-paper-scissor aspect to the different weapons, such as how sword beats axe and axe beats spears, with multiple different weapons to utilize, that would eventually break. And hard it was. If you did not pay attention, you might lose a character and when they died, they did not come back. I remember the first time I did a poor move and I lost one of my favourite characters, Dorcas. He was a simple man who turned away from a life of banditry, after putting his wife and child in danger. I was devastated and did not know what to do. However, when I noticed I could restart the save, that’s just what I did. It might have made the game longer to beat, but like Yakuza 4, it made me care about the lesser characters and even more so here, because it was my mistake got them killed. A fantastic turn based strategy RPG with characters to root for? Sold! This is however not the best in the series, as Awakening is a far superior game in its content and how much it demands from the player, but this is such a colorful and charming adventure, that I can’t help but love it slightly over Awakening.

#4 Final Fantasy 6

Before the overemotional entries and the sci-fi elements, but after the medieval and the more traditional approach to JRPG, Final Fantasy 6 is a perfect combination of the old and what was to come. A steampunk setting with a bunch of unique and interesting characters that all had interesting stories, and a mysterious plot that got darker and darker the deeper you went in, still stands strong after so many years. It is hard to talk about the huge story without spoiling any character’s backstory or even the plot. There are so many devastating scenes and while it is a game that is over 20 years old, I can’t expect everyone to have played it. Let me just say that for a T-rated game, it has some quite depressive and beautiful moments that brought me to tears when I learned to read English. Not to mention, it has one of the most entertaining and humorous villains, that still terrifies me today.

FF6

The gameplay uses a time-based setup, where it is quite similar in options to a turn-based game, except you can’t make a move before your character’s bar is filled up, which happens according to his or her dexterity. This is nothing new, but the variety of characters are, as they are more than just your traditional classes. For example, the character Sabin is a monk and requires specific button-inputs to do his moves similar to a fighting-game, which can be devastating. Meanwhile, Celes can absorb spells with her sword and make huge magical-attacks through this ability. It might sound somewhat complicated, but these are examples of how unique characters can be and none feels useless. Because of how enemies will react differently and that you will have to make more strategies than just finding an elemental weakness, including that parties will go separate ways and you will have to create the teams you are comfortable with, it offers a lot of replay value. You might not be able to even see everything the game has to offer the first time, and since grinding is not a big element, it should all be a memorable and an exciting ride.

#3 Legend of Zelda: A Link to Between Worlds

I am a huge Zelda-fan and been it since I got my first Game Boy Color with Link’s Awakening. However, with a series that is as legendary as the title suggests, which installment to go with? Well, I was always mostly a fan of the overhead 2D-games, and then you might have already guessed that A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds stand out. I was thinking on why this is though. Why this more traditional approach in comparison to Skyward Sword, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and all the other ones? Simply because these two are easy to pick up and play. I can easily get into it and start an adventure right away, and get into completing it in almost one sitting, with dungeons to explore and fun if simple combat to boot, while the other ones I need a specific mood for, despite them being incredible entries as well.

A Link between Worlds house
However, out of those two, it was again hard to decide due to their similarities. A Link Between Worlds can easily be described as a reimagining of A Link to the Past, due to how similar they are, despite some clear differences as well. In the end, the more free roaming aspect, the smart idea for renting and purchasing items to tackle the temples with at your own pace and what you want to discover first, and the fact that this is such a fantastic take on what used to be my number 3 favorite game of all time, I decided to go with A Link Between Worlds. It is the perfect mix of exploration and traditional Zelda-gameplay and I love the small touches, such as not having to deal with bomb bags, being able to have more focus on puzzles and the enjoyable yet simple combat. Not to mention the fact that it doesn’t have a single temple I did not enjoy, is also a feat not many Zelda-titles hold. I even have a tattoo based on this entry, that should say something for my love for this installment already

#2 Tales of Symphonia

A 70 hour RPG that I have played more times than I can count, with one of the best new-game plus modes ever, there is so much to this game. If we start with the story, the game touches upon so many different cultures, and problems with racism and religion in a manner that is mature enough to be interesting, but also adaptable for children to take in. Adding to this, are your main-characters that have their own stories and backgrounds, affected differently by the situations around them. It is such a grand story, I even wrote an assignment on it, which yielded me a good grade. There are plenty of worlds and interesting characters to meet, not to mention sidequests that can yield different titles, cooking-abilities or simply items for progression.

Tales of Symphonia

When describing the gameplay: there is even more to sink your teeth into as well and it is incredible. First, there is the XP, where you choose to focus on certain passive or active skills, which will determine if a character is more technical or physical. Through this, you will acquire new attacks for your characters to use in combat. The combat is a blast, with you entering a battle-arena of sorts with real-time combat similar to Smash Bros, where you will have a semi-2D fighting approach, with attacks affected by the direction of your movement. It can even be played co-operatively with up to 4 players. That in itself should be a treat and I haven’t even scraped the surface. Think of it like this: this is a 70 hour RPG with no filler. That is a hard accomplishment in itself, but Tales of Symphonia made it work and even worth revisiting.

#1 Chrono Trigger

This is it. My favorite game and I never think I can do it justice. If I ever get around to review it, it might the last thing I ever do, it is that special to me.

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Why is that really though? There is so much to this game, I don’t know where to start. All the characters are likeable and unique, the worlds are interesting, it does time travel beautifully which in itself is a terrifying concept, the plot is intriguing, the game is wonderful in its difficulty-curve and the soundtrack is amazing. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it knows what it wants to do and has many smart and interesting parts to it. All characters are also deeply involved with the main-plot, giving them backstories that tie into the main-goal, making it easy to follow.

The gameplay itself is fast moving and has a lot of energy to it, with a time-based combat where you can combine attacks, and will fight against enemies that require strategy and patience, as everybody moves while you wait and can do specific attacks depending on the surroundings. There is no grinding to this and it’s easy to replay in the New game+ mode to see one of the multiple endings it offers. I honestly can’t ask for anything more and that is the oddest thing. It is really like having an artistic painting: it should be left as it is. I try to be as critical as I can be, but Chrono Trigger is timeless for me.


There you have it. These are games that always have a special place in my heart and I will cherish them till my end.There are hundreds of other games I also love, but could not talk about, so why not share some of your favorites? We might not always agree, but that’s not the point. It is all about finding parts we can agree upon or respect each others personal feelings towards games, as long as it is presented respectably. Now, let’s start planning for the next anniversary!

One Comment Add yours

  1. gin says:

    Nice gaming :3 , I’d love if you visit my blog as well tysm

    Like

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