Get These Games And Keep Them Forever
Ask any film buff who consumes movies like a fat person consumes pies (too much?), or a bookworm who reads more books than there are words in the English language to fill them. Chances are regardless of how many films or books or indeed any other form of entertainment or pastime, each comes with favourites.
The film buff might watch a new movie every week, and have the loyalty points at their local cinema that would rival the bank balance of Donald Trump, but at home in their secret stash of time-honoured movies there exists a holy grail collection of only the best; which is probably the Lord of the Rings movies, the Star Wars prequel trilogy and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
Equally so, the bookworm might spend entire days at Exclusive Books reading through their shelves like a termite chews through wood but when they come home each day there is a bookshelf, usually above them because they value books so highly, filled with only their favourites; so again the Lord of the Rings books, the Star Wars prequel trilogy and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
Maybe also 50 Shades of Grey. Just kidding, we’re not talking exclusively about horny housewives here.
Or Are We…
Much the same would apply to gamers then.
While we might adhere to play all the latest and greatest games, no doubt a lot of you are eagerly anticipating the release of something or the other this coming Spring, be it Dishonored, Borderlands 2, Assassin’s Creed III or Call of Duty Black Ops 2, there are certain other games which we hold dear to us, amongst our finest and greatest, that we may go back to and play whenever we find ourselves without something new — a rarity these days, in truth.
These games aren’t life-changing experiences, they’re not the quintessential works of art that some might argue games to be. They are simply games that we play and enjoy, and then play later and still enjoy, and then play even later having lost none of the enjoyment. These are games we can keep forever. Like the horny housewife who finds herself a sexy pool cleaner to make her boy toy.
Half-Life 2 (The Orange Box)
I’ll start off with Half-Life 2 and more specifically the entirety of The Orange Box because in the history of gaming, never have you received more for every cent spent on a consumable. Ever. The Orange Box comes with Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal. And it’s a steal for the asking price. It always was.
The Half-Life series has reached an iconic level with the gaming world and it’s easy to see why. Valve as developers are worshipped and Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the Half-Life series is revered as a god by many — myself included.
What’s great about The Orange Box is that not only does it contain five titles for you to peruse through and play at least once, but it also contains five titles that you could peruse through and play many, many times over. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve started from Half-Life 2 and played all the way to the end of Episode Two before ending with the coup de grâce that is Portal, in all its black comedy beauty. Each experience is as memorable as the next and Episode Two specifically holds the accomplishment of being the only game that has quite honestly had me in tears upon the conclusion. I’m not ashamed to admit.
Buying The Orange Box isn’t something you do because you need a game to play, it’s something you should have already done because it is a prerequisite to calling yourself a gamer, like a sex addict needs to have first had sex or a pyromaniac needs to have first started a fire.
Ask yourself: What Would Gordon Freeman Do?
Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
Warcraft III: The Reign of Chaos and its subsequent expansion The Frozen Throne is a game that founds it way into my life rather stealthily, after a friend lent me a CD (back in 2002, that was how we rolled) with music on it and the game was also to be found on the disc. I sampled it out of pure curiosity, not quite sure how to approach the real-time strategy game having never played anything of the sort before it, and I was instantly taken.
I have since purchased both the original game and its expansion and while I’ve stopped short at that, never have I been more enthralled (Warcraft players will snigger at that reference) with a strategy game than with this series. In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear: I’m not talking about World of Warcraft. Fuck MMOs. I’m talking about the real-time strategy game that first released in 2002 with its expansion releasing a year later in 2003.
It’s telling of Blizzard’s quality when even now some ten years later there are still thousands of people logging on each day to play either the original melee maps (a minority in truth) or one of the various popular mods, the most well-known of those being Defense of the Ancients; something I gave well over three thousand hours of my life to, in just over three years.
The game’s campaign is alluring and the story really draws you in, as you follow the exploits of the brave and daring Arthas as he succumbs to his selfish desires, the well-intended but ultimately self-serving Illidan, the strong and honourable chieftain Thrall and the brash yet loyal Kael’Thas (my beloved Invoker in DotA) who is hopelessly addicted to magic after his elven people’s fall from grace.
And then you go online and give away thousands of hours of your life, if you so desire.
This game epitomises timeless.
Dark Messiah: Might & Magic
This one is probably the only really big surprise of the games I’ve listed here. Dark Messiah: Might & Magic holds a special place in my heart and I still don’t quite know why I adore playing it so often.
Perhaps it’s the truest representation of first-person medieval combat with swords, daggers, bows and magic. Perhaps it’s the semi-RPG elements that allow me to craft and differentiate my character as I see fit. Perhaps it’s the characters and the story that unfolds before you. Or perhaps it’s the naked demon lady who appears in my visions. Now do I have your interest?
In truth Dark Messiah is more of a flawed masterpiece than a real gem. It’s like a weird amalgamation of diamond and coal, where the Earth decided to ease up on the pressure in some parts but really go in hard in others. The game offers interesting, truly fun battles with some tactical choice as well; be it electrifying enemies standing over water or kicking them into spikes, or something a little trickier, such as shooting an arrow onto a hanging boulder so it drops on a cyclops forcing it down to ground level thus allowing you to strike at its weak spot — the eye. It’s all here in Dark Messiah.
Nothing about the story is really great and most of it will fly past you, but that’s okay because you’ll probably be having too much of fun along the way to care. I played through this game with pretty much every character variation I could possibly try and still, I would go back and redo it all. I probably might just do that if I could get the game on Xbox 360, having previously played it on PC.
Dark Messiah is like that really awesome friend who made a terrible first impression. At first you want to walk away from it but make no mistake, if you give it the chance, your perseverance will be rewarded. And how.
Rock Band 3
I wanted a music game on this list because fuck what any of you say, Guitar Hero / Rock Band / any rhythm game is fun. I would love a real guitar if I could afford it, I would love to spend many hours cutting my fingers and gouging out my nails practicing on it until I’m actually decent enough to hold a riff. But I know I’m never going to be able to play Buckethead’s Jordan or Iron Maiden’s Minutes To Midnight phoreals. So what am I to do then? Do I wave my hopes for a musical outlet goodbye, or do I throw in Guitar Hero, grab my chunk of plastic and rock out?
That’s what it’s all about, really. It’s about having fun, and playing music. We all love music, don’t we? Some of us fancy ourselves decent singers, even. Singing into our phones or in voice chat sessions with friends, or even in the shower because we can. And usually we’re not so great. But with that plastic guitar in our hand, it’s quite a different story. No longer is it about how serious we are, or how — cue Simon Cowell — how utterly, egregiously woeful we might be. It’s just about having fun and kicking back. And trust me, playing a song on Expert, nailing pretty much everything but the trickiest of guitar solos. It’s still a workout, and it’s still fun as hell. And you will feel like a rock star.
I chose Rock Band 3 specifically because it has an unrivalled library of songs to choose from, albeit almost entirely paid DLC. There’s a few free downloads and around eighty on-disc songs but the rest you will have to buy. Still, it’s a great offering and if you’re willing to part with some cash then you’re bound to find yourself spending hundreds of hours doing the red-red-green-yellow-blue, perhaps even with friends.
It’s always more fun if the homies can have some.
Here’s another game that jumped at me out of completely nowhere. I love science fiction as much as the next geek, and when I saw a demo for Freelancer on a disc way back in 2003, I didn’t waste any time installing it and trying it out. You can’t imagine the surprise I felt as I was struck by sheer quality.
I spent more time playing that demo than any other game I played that year, and for good reason. For one, it allowed some amount of freedom to the player which is always pleasant. For two, back then Microsoft were cunts and the full game on PC cost the grand total of R600. Now complain about Call of Duty, you insufferable haters.
One day I got really lucky and saw the game going for next to nothing, and it was truly Christmas come early that year — not that I celebrate Christmas, or years for that matter — as I hurried home and installed and finally played the full offering from Digital Anvil and Microsoft Game Studios.
Freelancer is a game in which you, Edison Trent, escape with your life after an unexpected attack on a cruiser which leads to galaxy-wide nervousness in a new set of systems modelled some time in the future when humanity as we know it collapses, and rebuilds elsewhere. The sectors of the galaxy, now modelled after the ships that brought the first settlers (Bretonia, Kusari, Alliance, Rheinland) are on the brink of war and your first priority is to find the guy who owes you a literal shipload of credits before high-tailing your ass into one of the edge systems.
If only it were that simple.
What Freelancer offered you was right there in its name; you had freedom. Sure the story was there and although rather short, it was very well told and interesting enough that I played through it many times just to enjoy the set-pieces (and probably some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard, even now) but once all was said and done, and even before that, the galaxy opened up to you and you had freedom of choice, whether to live out your days as a humble trader, shipping goods between systems (tried it), become a bounty hunter and take contracts for various factions (tried it), ally with a sector’s government and attack their enemies (tried it), become a pirate and steal goods in raids (tried it) or just pretty much explore until you’ve seen it all and tried it all.
No game will ever be open and expansive as Freelancer was, in my humble opinion, and no game will ever be as easy and fun to play all through it. From the first ship you acquire until the the strongest available in the game some two hundred hours later, you will never feel inferior or overwhelmed unless you bring it upon yourself. And once you’re done with that, throw on some mods and enjoy yet more fun and freedom.
There’s even a Star Wars mod. With TIE fighters. Go. Now.
No surprises here, yes? Fallout 3 is not Bethesda’s magnum opus, it is certainly not the quintessential RPG. In fact in many ways Fallout 3 does things in a rather silly manner. It plays in the first person although combat is atrocious and actually not the point. It offers you an open world where every step you take is perilous and could be your last. And it teaches you that actual cash is worthless and the real currency should be bottle caps.
Yet it’s this very juxtaposition that makes Fallout 3 the perfect game world to get lost in.
Make no mistakes, you are a surviving human in a post-apocalyptic world that is still reeling from the effects of a nuclear war waged by the USA and China. More than that, you were brought up in a Vault and know no other life. Your first steps out of that vault at the beginning of the game form the beginning of a journey in the truest sense. If I had to describe Fallout 3 in a single word, I’d use “Discovery.” Not the channel on TV which shows animal porn for perverts to get off to. Real discovery, of new and unfamiliar places. There is no feeling quite like the first time you set foot in Megaton or Rivet City and discover an entire city of your own kind going about their lives and actually surviving. Nor is there quite a forlorn gripping when you first set foot in the ghoul-occupied Underworld or glance the bustling Oasis up north.
The combat doesn’t matter. It’s just a way to kill things. The open world is meant to be dangerous. You’re a solitary human being who is trekking through otherwise uninhabited lands. Did you expect a warm welcome? And finally, when the world falls and there is no economy left, what use is printed money?
The things you could learn from Fallout 3 eclipse most other games in every way that matters. You must survive, you must discover all that you can, and ultimately, you must find your peace in the world.
What’s even better is that after you’ve completed the admittedly short main story, with all the DLC installed you will have many, many more hours of gameplay ahead of you, together with the hundreds of hours of exploration on offer in the Capital Wasteland, with all the side-quests scattered around for you to find. I’ve lost count of the number of hours of my life I’ve given to Fallout 3 in my two playthroughs. No other game does downloadable content better, either.
It is not for you to question the vault boy, only for you to take your G.O.A.T. exam and forge your destiny.
It Never Ends
Each of these games has the one thing in common and that’s that
I’ve listed them in this feature they’re all timeless offerings that have not only withstood the test of time thus far, but will continue to do so long after the Mayan prophecies fade and the next generation of gaming comes.
In my many years of playing games, sure I’ve played many others and even right now I’ve got a venerable collection of games still to play, but I’ve held these titles dear to my heart and never uninstalled them no matter what. And every now and again, just like the film buff goes back and watches their favourite movie or the bookworm goes back and reads their favourite book, every now and again I go back and play my favourite games. They’re just worth going back to, time and again.
Get these games, and keep them forever.