This point in the countdown is most commonly where countdowns start: the Top 10-20 items to countdown are right at the best-of-the-best. Most people don’t want to know about the 89th or 71st best titles, and it reflects on this countdown as the further it progresses, the views increase substantially. Still, those lower-ranked games still provide some delicious gaming goodness, so don’t forget about those lesser-known or poorer-ranked games. For less than an hour a day, you could help support these poor video games for a fraction of the cost. Because If you don’t care, those lovable lower-tiered video games will be taken down off their shelves and used to fill landfill holes in New Mexico.
Check out previous titles in the countdown for explanation of ground rules:
Top Xbox 360 games #100-91
Top Xbox 360 games #90-81
Top Xbox 360 games #80-71
Top Xbox 360 games #70-61
Top Xbox 360 games #60-51
Top Xbox 360 games #50-41
Top Xbox 360 games #40-31
Top Xbox 360 games #30-21
#20 – Final Fantasy XIII (2010)
Developer: Square Enix
MetaCritic/User Score: 82%/68%
Ah, Final Fantasy, one of the most popular and longest-running gaming series currently. Final Fantasy XIII, the first Final Fantasy, besides Final Fantasy XI, on the 360 caused a rift in opinions even in the Fantasy fanboys. On one hand, it continues the tradition of having top-notch presentation thanks to amazing graphics and a well-crafted musical score, but on the other hand it continues the trend of feeling like you’re watching an overly dramatic story then actually playing. Square Enix’s goal of creating cinematic battles is realized in the much simpler battle system. Instead of controlling all characters, control of one character is given to “direct” the battle essentially. Auto-battling handles the basic motions like healing and skill usage, while the player handles any advanced tactics via paradigm shifts. Battles look spectacular and flow more realistically instead of having opponents standing and staring at each other, but again, you’re watching a lot of the action then experiencing it.
Final Fantasy XIII is less an RPG considering leveling is controlled, with anti-grinding restrictions and the action/story is straightforward, following the pattern of cutscene, battle, cutscene, boss battle, cutscene. Exploration is kept minimal and towns are non-existent due to save stations which serve as a point for saving and item management. Because it’s more action-oriented, it may turn-off RPG purists. The popular notion regarding the game is to experience the first few hours, up to 10, and you’ll most likely begin to enjoy it. The emo-ness of characters can be quite derisive at times, usually characters having an outburst emotionally by screaming or crying without much context. But hey, for Final Fantasy that’s par for the course, meaning duh, there’s a lot of adult temper tantrums. Not pretty.
#19 – Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
MetaCritic/User Score: 90%/89%
Moving from the Holy Land of the Middle East to Italy during the Renaissance alone significantly changed Assassin’s Creed. The decor and buildings considerably change the makeup since structures and city layout is far distinguishable between the different lands and time periods. Altair from the original was an intriguing character, but new assassin Ezio’s life is experienced much fuller and is far more emotionally invested than Altair was. It’s slightly disappointing instead of continuing the trend for Assassin’s Creed III: Brotherhood and experiencing a different assassin and time period, Ezio is returning, considering there’s so much potential history to play around with. I thought Ctrl+Alt+Del’s idea for Assassin’s Creed occurring in the Revolutionary War was pretty intriguing. The dueling parallel storyline of Desmond and Ezio is a cool storytelling mechanic considering Ezio is the focal point, but merely a cog in Desmond’s mission. Historic figures like Leonardo da Vinci intermingle in the fictional story, along with Da Vinci’s inventions like the wonderous flying machine.
Violence and flexibility skips up substantially since swords aren’t Ezio’s exclusive combat weapon and expendable weapons leads to harsher finisher moves like the long spear’s impaling ability. Weapons stuck in someone’s liver probably shouldn’t be retrieved, plus it’d expend a lot of energy to do so. Assassin’s Creed’s best feature is its ability to make you feel like a badass without having to crouch in darkness for guards to pass since that’s what hay is for. The sequel furthers the notion with opening the assassination options to multi-kills for multiple close proximity guards. Escape is improved as well with more hiding options like water, which would kill the non-swimmer Altair. Altair would also have too many times in the original where he’d skillfully scale a towering structure to still not have evaded guards due to one pursuing guard four buildings back. The guards are more adept and improved including actually rifling through hay stacks, but open guard fights still result in circles of “wait until it’s my turn to be countered and killed.”
#18 – Bioshock 2 (2010)
Developer: 2K Marin
The imperfect underwater world of Rapture, already descending into madness, was brought to its knees by an “outsider” in the original Bioshock. Andrew Ryan’s nightmare was realized, although he took it quite in stride, taking a “more powerful in death” stance. The complete and well-written story raised a question if gamers, and Rapture itself, could stand another go around in the sun-less society. It was an impossible task to replicate the brilliance of the original story and while writing in Bioshock 2 still shines, Sofia Lamb isn’t as compelling or charismatic as Rapture founder Andrew Ryan. The illegitimate family and remains of Rapture story is still compelling and full of twists, just not the exclamation point the original pulled off.
Playing as the original Big Daddy made a lot of sense considering they’re the Bioshock mascot. The player’s Daddy powers are limited comparatively to regular Daddies and differences feel minor between playing as the Big Daddy and Jack from each iteration. The Big Daddy perks are useful like the larger weapons, such as the rail gun and drill. Plus jumping on enemy heads is squishing-ly satisfying. Much of the gameplay is retained from the original, except the Little Sisters dynamic is altered because of their relationship with the behemoth companions. You can defend them during their diligent harvesting of the power-inducing ADAM from bodies which proves to be an adrenaline-pumping moment to protect against an onslaught of ADAM-hungered splicers, but wears down by the end when story progression is all you desire. Big Sister was supposed to be another new dynamic, but in the first battle/encounter you actually kill the Big Sister, showing the existence of many of the loopy ladies, instead of one omnipresent Big Sister. The fear of an agile, disturbing enemy is minimized since Big Sister is simply another enemy who appears at scripted points.
Multiplayer makes its Bioshock debut with an interesting premise: instead of forcing a link to Bioshock 2’s story, it focuses on Rapture’s downfall at the beginning, when splicers first battled over ADAM. Unfortunately it never builds further then the initial narration. There are some cool twists, like capture the Little Sister opposed to an inanimate flag, and an experience system where Sinclair Solutions provides new plasmids and weapons built off in-game challenges, performance, and collecting ADAM. Big Daddy suits are limited and powerful, but easily beatable if unknowledgeable players possess it.
#17 – Gears of War 2 (2008)
Developer: Epic Games
MetaCritic/User Score: 93%/76%
In order to forge a legitimate sequel to a high-praised game with strong, refined gameplay and presentation, changes typically occur in other areas for fans to perceive a significant difference. Gears of War 2 sought to make gamers more emotionally involved with the story that was absent in the original game, which also lacked substance and didn’t establish a strong base. Dom’s pursuit of his lost wife helped skip up the emotions, which either caused feelings of depression or confusion considering how it ends. Epic events are skipped up with more bosses and do-or-die situations, like the giant tunnel worm destroying Jacinto, the last human city. Several of the events are memorable, like the battle with the sea monster which requires dexterity and a steady hand to punch-out the mutated fish. Other events, like avoiding the worm’s digestive system that causes one-hit kills, are more annoying than exciting. Avoiding bullets is good, but Mario-style column evasion in a 3rd-person shooter, not so much.
Horde mode is a welcome addition, pitting the player versus 50 waves of increasingly difficult Locust. Four players can enjoy barely surviving the Locust onslaught. Competitive multiplayer is a different story as it’s hit-or-miss if you garner any enjoyment. A lot of the modes operate under one-spawn rounds, so once you’re dead, prepare to watch. Any Call of Duty fans enjoyment of insta-spawn will most likely not have the patience for the constant waiting periods. Also, the jumping about like a loon to avoid fire gets annoying as well.
#16 – Mass Effect (2008)
MetaCritic/User Score: 91%/88%
Like previously mentioned in the Dragon Age: Origins ranking, Bioware is the beastly bearer of western RPGs. There’s very few companies that stand to compete, with the exception of Bethesda with Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Mass Effect was the next generation of role-playing and Bioware nailed it. The game is like a “choose your own adventure” story except not corny and much more complex. A lot of games contain decisions that can determine minor aspects within the game, but Mass Effect’s choices not only have major consequences in this first game, but in the planned trilogy. For instance, losing squad members can make the final missions more difficult if you lose vital members, but it also dramatically effects the storyline in Mass Effect 2. One aspect severely drags the game down: the Mako vehicle. The Mako is simply a mess of a vehicle; it’s hard to control, weapons fire in a fixed position and battles are frustrating due to the previously mentioned and low armor and no upgrades. It would be nice if this was only a small portion, but every planet exploration utilizes it along with at major points in the game.
Graphically, the game is absolutely stunning. Half-Life 2 ushered in a new age of graphics by blowing people away with lifelike facial expressions, but Mass Effect not only crafts believable looking humans, but fantastically invents aliens capable of being real in our world. Imagine if a Krogan would be our first contact alien? We’d totally all die. Maybe that’s what really happens in 2012, which is unfortunate as Mass Effect 3 may be released that year. This is also what ultimately hurts this iteration. The sequel rectifies all the minor issues including replacing recharging ammo with numeral thermal clips, scrapping the Mako entirely, and more action-oriented gameplay.
#15 – Super Street Fighter 4 (2010)
MetaCritic/User Score: 91%/78%
If Mortal Kombat teaches us anything, besides human physiology and impromptu surgery, 2D fighting games don’t translate smoothly to 3D graphics/gameplay because developmental teams are inexperienced in creating 3D gameplay or fans are reticent to the change. Many years passed before the most popular 2D fighting series Street Fighter released a sequel, outside of the numerous special editions of previous iterations, making people speculate on how the series would evolve with modern technology. Capcom expertly maneuvered the series to maintain the popularity by keeping the 2D gameplay and modernizing with a 3D aesthetic, and worked well enough for the next Mortal Kombat to emulate the style. The expanded roster, thanks to the Super edition, contains a character and flavor for everyone. Old favorites like Guile, Blanka, Chun Li and Dhalism return while delivering new characters that fulfill the expectations Capcom has been come to known as ranging from the bizarre, like the pudgy Rufus, Mexican luchador and inspiring chef El Fuerte, and Turkish oil wrestler Hakan, to the evil, like Tae Kwon Do expert Juri and Dr. Manhattan lookalike Seth, to the overly serious, like the amnesiac Abel. Every character experiences their own storyline, complete with anime opening and endings, which is awesome considering other fighting games barely put a text blurb up to explain significant events.
Online multiplayer, the lifeblood of fight games incorporates enough options to satisfy any fighter fan. Standard options are available along with team battles and arcade style, where players lineup to fight each other like on an arcade cabinet. There’s also a ton of icons and slogans to unlock to show your prowess to other fighters. A nice touch is giving an overall ranking but also individual rankings for each character so if you’re not proficient with Rose, your individual character rank would match you against a lesser opponent opposed to your overall ranking, which may be far superior. Much like any other fighter game, expect to get your dignity handled to you in a crumpled paper bag as most competitors online are much better than you. There is an option to fight others based on your “ability” but despite the rankings, it can be a crap shoot. I have managed to win a few bouts, but be ashamed; it was with the cheapest characters like Ryu and Ken.
#14 – Bayonetta (2010)
MetaCritic/User Score: 90%/77%
Over-the-top, crazy, insane, stylish, a disregard to all decency, an assault on reality, maniac, absolutely out-of-this-world, cool, fiendish, impressive, ridiculous, mind-blowingly amazing, contorts your brain into a viscous sludge from incomprehension, or a visceral and carnal experience. There are not enough words to describe the bizarrely incredible experience that’s exhibited by Bayonetta, a game that surpasses even its already outlandish predecessor series, Devil May Cry. Imagine battling angels with guns, firing from legs that run at least 7-feet long, and hair, that also serves as your clothing, to execute your enemies via a number of torture devices. And that’s under normal circumstances during Bayonetta.
Everything is quirky: lollipops serve to replenish health/magic and can be crafted in the middle of battles. Loading screens even have personality allowing players to practice combos and check which moves are utilized the most. With style comes arrogance as the developer secures everything to play their way like controls that can’t be altered which is annoying since both dodge and transformation is mapped to the right trigger and in the fast-paced action it can be hard not to button mash. Also, much like modern 3rd-person action titles, Bayonetta doesn’t favor the weak and while easy modes are available, they virtually play themselves to mock your inability to play the game.
Bayonetta is so obscenely fast and the graphics rarely sputter. It’s a gorgeous game with fitting music. Comprehension is not needed nor required and its best enjoyed by sitting back, absorbing the colors and simply enjoying. Action is graceful and elegant, speedily tearing from enemy-to-enemy, activating a slowdown “Witch Time” when evading attacks can become disconcerting when taking damage, disrupting the flow. Angels don baby-face masks while Bayonetta’s hair transforms into dragons, spiders, and giant fists to finish off the churlish cherubic bosses. Don’t pretend you understand any of it.
#13 – Dead Rising (2006)
MetaCritic/User Score: 85%/81%
Dead Rising is like a modern day Smash TV, pitting Frank “I’ve Covered Wars” West against hundreds of zombies at once with tons of items to utilize as weaponry thanks to the mall setting. Unlike Smash TV’s simplistic structure, Dead Rising has a complex story to uncover, survivors to rescue and loads of dark humor. If dressing-up zombies with servbot helmets and then peppering them with tennis balls from a tennis ball launcher by West donning women’s clothing and a horse head isn’t funny then I have no idea what constitutes humor. Sometimes in games you want nothing but to simply sit down and have unrestricted, unabashed fun. Dead Rising provides the scenario and the tools and lets you enjoy the entertainment you reap from it. For example, an antique store provides endless medieval axes, which can be leisurely tossed at zombies since they’re wild and slow to swing. It also boasts the eeriest elevator music ever. The game does preach a tad bit about anti-consumerism, especially about the American lifestyle, but it’s enjoyable to uncover the strange circumstance of zombism outbreak in the quiet town of Willamette, Colorado.
I was one of the few that enjoyed the restrictive time system, considering it’s optional to rescue every survivor, and it gives you a focused goal. Since the main storyline can easily be cherry picked out of the myriad of events, it doesn’t necessarily prevent enjoyment on any level and actually challenges the player to constrict their lackadaisical nature, grab-and-move on the items and keep survivors moving. The AI on survivors could definitely be better, considering they’ll always stop for either no apparent reason or to fight the losing battle against the numerous zombies around them. Oh, and there’s the overly chatty Otis…
#12 – Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 (2008/2009)
Developer: Valve Software
MetaCritic/User Score: (L4D1) 89%/79%-(L4D2) 89%/90%
As former Washington Post editor/writer Jeanne McManus would say, “You can’t swing a cat nowadays without hitting x.” In gaming, the cat is whipping wildly into zombies. Plants are fighting zombies, Nazi zombies (Call of Duty: World at War), zombies in the west (Red Dead Redemption), on desolate planets (Borderlands), bikini-clad girls fighting zombies (Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad), they’re everywhere in gaming. What’s next? Pokezombies? Zombies Mama? There’s no end to the zombie video game. Two games stand at the top of the hill of rotting corpses: Left 4 Dead, for the fast-moving zombies and Dead Rising for the slow, shambling living dead.
One of the most prolific events is burned in my mind from Left 4 Dead: covered in boomer bile, vision obscured as dozens upon dozens of living dead sprinting towards the worn-out group of survivors. One survivor, felled by a hunter, is incapacitated on the ground getting their guts ripped out as the rest are overcome by zombies. Plus one moved too close to the edge of a cliff and is dangling without the upper-body strength to pull themselves up. The situation hopeless, I sit back, sighing heavily knowing all hope was lost. Left 4 Dead conveys feelings of desperation and loneliness expertly once friends/companions are claimed by the undead. Sheer numbers isn’t the only threat zombies pose as their speed can overwhelm survivors if unable to take them down fast enough. Specialty zombies serve to provide extra intensity, like smokers and jockeys who pull/ride survivors apart from each other or hunters and chargers who incapacitate survivors until rescue. Valve smartly forces teamwork, as solo survivors won’t make it their own. Healing and reviving downed teammates and pulling each other from the clutches of the undead is required.
Surprisingly the eight survivors have a lot of depth, and through dialogue, you learn about their character and personality. Ellis is always telling tales of his slow and adventurous friend Keith, Bill is that gruff grandfather who loves you with cursing instead of hugs, Nick lives in a world of his own and the internet has made Louis an out-of-control pill-popper. Strangely the internet was abuzz with negativity about the yearly sequel yet the user score is actually higher than the critic’s score. Oddly people change their opinion on the internet of all places.
#11 – Orange Box – Portal (2007)
Developer: Valve Software
MetaCritic/User Score: 96%/90%
Stuffing five stellar video games into one retail package is ridiculous, especially considering it sells for under $20 currently (that’s economical). Of course, if you dislike first-person shooters (FPS), well the title screen is pretty to look at. Half-Life 2 encompasses much of the content and despite the age, still remains relevant in the gaming world thanks to the heavy puzzle-solving from the PC-style gameplay. Half Life 2’s glasses-infused, crowbar-wielding hero Gordon Freeman and his plucky sidekick Alyx Vance help circumvent the Combine and make a superior and interesting story through the main game and two expansions. A good story is always an asset to levitate a game to a higher echeleon and preserve it in time.
Portal is a part of the original content in the package and an inventive puzzle game that boosts your confidence by making you feel smart in completing each section. Even if it’s in first-person view, it’s not a shooter or about violence, although you get shot at by adorable robots. Your portal gun is utilized in creative ways by Valve, like using the portals to build up speed to make higher jumps or moving heavy objects to use as place-holders or makeshift weapons.
Team Fortress II provides the multiplayer component of the box, and is a role-specific, team-based (duh) multiplayer with a lot of personality thanks to the personas of each character. It’s also not overly difficult to at least contribute to most games as roles are effectively laid out. An engineer’s role in constructing support turrets is obvious, although you need to watch out for devious spies banging your turrets.
90 video game titles generically written about and formulated into a random countdown, only 10 titles to do the same to on Monday. Be sure to post your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.