Top Ten Games of the Decade: 5th and 4th

December 7, 2009

I’ve decided to list out the ten games since the year 2000 that I enjoyed the most.  For numbers 10 through 6, click here.  For five and below, I’m going to go in to a little more detail.

#5: Fallout 3

Even though I’ve only recently become a PC gamer, years ago I would play games wherever I could get them.  It was through this insatiable desire to try anything and everything that I came across Fallout 1 at a friend’s house.  I played the hell out of it, never quite making it to the end, and never really understanding what I was doing.  It was a world of complexity that savaged my child mind, previously unwrinkled by fun but simple platformers and go-kart driving games.

It’s in that same context that Fallout 3 managed to blow my mind, yet in an entirely different way.  Despite intense fear of becoming like Tim Rogers, I reluctantly posit that Fallout 3’s opening was literally and symbolically the act of birth.  There is, of course, the actual intro where your character is born.  After that, when your character emerges from the vault and is given no instruction about what to do next, is what defines Fallout 3 to me.  A feeling of post-natal fear and loneliness that has to be overcome if you want to survive.

The game neither leads you along a tightly designed path nor offers an amusement park of activities like some most sandbox games do.  It strikes a middle ground that all nonlinear games aspire to, even if they didn’t realize it at the time.  Fallout 3 creates a world to explore, and populates that world amicably, leaving you playing a fantasy version of real life.

It doesn’t do it perfectly, and sometimes exposes the flaws of trying to design a world without unlimited resources, but it tries its damndest.  And it’s an experience worth rewarding.

#4: Metal Gear Solid 3

I am unsure exactly what prompted me to pick up Metal Gear Solid 3 the first time.  I distinctly remember grabbing the box from Blockbuster and, in a description to a friend, inaccurately telling him what the game was about.  “I think it’s about Vietnam,” I mentioned.  “Some kind of stealth mission that goes on during then?”  I had recently finished a review of Spy Hunter, a fairly mediocre stealth game, for the then-fledgling, and was on some sort of stealth kick.  So, having never played a Metal Gear game before for any significant amount of time (and thoroughly mocking their absurdity online), I tried Metal Gear Solid 3.

I couldn’t describe to you why the game grabbed me.  Maybe it was the first time I walked across a bridge, saw a guard coming my way, and hung off the edge.  Maybe it was that time I stood in the water with a crocodile hat on and proceeded to kill every guard inside a building by setting off the alarm repeatedly outside.  It could have even been the very end of the game, where Kojima emotionally manipulated me to feel an emotion I wasn’t aware video games could evoke – remorse.  I do know that when the credits rolled, I realized I loved the game.  I hate long cutscenes, I hate being emotionally manipulated, I hate cheese, I hate awkward controls, but I loved Metal Gear Solid 3.

It was the game that showed me that some games are more than the sum of their parts.  In our review-oriented industry, we like to break down games based on what we like to think are objective criteria.  Game X is great because the graphics are at least a 9, the score reminds you of a Jerry Bruckheimer flick, and the developers made sure to fashion the controls like everything else that’s popular out there – 9.7, there you go.  MGS3 fails a lot of what I considered important to me, yet the game is dear to my heart.  This was the game that made me reconsider why I played games and the answer was to enjoy them, even if I didn’t love everything about them.


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