This may not be too much of a shock, but video games have been such an important part of my life. I’ve spent more hours than I can count navigating fantasy worlds as the courageous hero as well as inciting mass chaos. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve thrown my controller. Through good times and bad, I’ve been able to switch on my PlayStation and get lost in another world. So, in celebration of National Video Games Day, Becca and I are sharing our favorite video games with you! These are the games that we’ve played and re-played time and time again. The ones that have changed our lives. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top video game recommendations:
Dragon Age: Origins
Released in 2009, Dragon Age: Origins spins the tale of dark times in the high fantasy world of Ferelden. A horde of demon-like creatures are wrecking terror on the innocent and decimating entire cities. You play as a new Grey Warden recruit, vowing to save the world from these monstrous creatures and their leader. Without much support or information to go on, you must make alliances and create an army.
What I find most unique about Origins is that you actually get to choose and play through six different origin stories. You will learn how and why your character becomes a Grey Warden and what they are fighting for. What I love most about this game is that you must make difficult decisions that impact the game. Knowing your unique origin story, you can get into character and use your moral compass to guide you. And the origin you choose will determine how those around you react to your presence.
Throughout the game, you collect a group of unlikely companions to aide you in your mission. Like other BioWare titles, you get to intimately know your companions. The closer you become, the more they share with you about their histories and personal struggles, which you may be able to help them resolve. You also have romance options, which is always a lot of fun. I love this game and have played through it a dozen times. Even so, I expect there will be many more play-throughs to come.
Mass Effect Trilogy
Another amazing series from developer BioWare, the Mass Effect trilogy. The game begins in 2183 CE, after humans have made alliances amongst various alien races. You play as Commander Shepard, a human assigned to the SSV Normandy. Throughout all three games, Shepard and their crew follow a thread of mysteries and secrets with the sole purpose of saving the galaxy from an ancient and dangerous race. The story twists and turns as the crew meets conflict head-on, risking their lives and picking up new companions and supports along their way.
The Mass Effect series heavily focuses on the relationships between Shepard and their companions. Throughout their journey, Shepard has the opportunity to learn about each character and build an unconventional family amongst the ragtag crew of both humans and aliens. Having strong, trusting relationships with your crew is not only fun, but paramount to their survival. Despite this, though, heartbreak is inevitable. After all, what is love without loss?
Though the first game is on the precipice of its 10th anniversary, Mass Effect is one of my all-time favorite series. I’ll admit, it can be difficult to get into at first, but I promise, if you push through it, you will definitely be rewarded. There is nothing like playing as Commander Shepard, with their crew by their side and against all odds and doubt, facing down the most dangerous enemy in the galaxy.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Another oldie but goodie, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was initially released in 2006. Skyrim may be more popular, but for me, Oblivion is the ultimate Elder Scrolls game. I think I’ve probably put more hours into it than any other game.
Portals into the Hellish underworld of Oblivion have opened up across Cyrodiil, the homeland of the Imperial race, unleashing the monstrous Daedra upon its inhabitants. You play as a customizeable character who is tasked with bringing the invasion to a halt and ultimately saving Tamriel. Despite the dark themes, at its core, Oblivion is a light-hearted, fun game with plenty of strange and interesting side quests throughout the many villages in the province.
While it will always be one of my all-time favorites, I’m not saying it’s perfect. The levelling system is pretty messy and the graphics, especially compared to its successor, are dated. But I can look past all that. Because Oblivion is one of a kind. There’s something kind of magic about that hazy, over-saturated; nonsensical world.
Fallout 3 was my first – and favorite – Fallout game. I watched my friend play it all the way back in 2008 and I was immediately taken. I bought my own copy before I even got home, immediately tore off the cellophane, and popped it into my PlayStation 3. From there, I played for hours on end. I rarely tore myself away from the television. I was so enthralled.
What first intrigued me was the setting. A retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic wasteland set in 2277, Washington D.C. I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, both shows featuring the bizarre 1950’s and 60’s vision of the future. This style, coupled with the utter destruction caused by nuclear attacks was more than I could have hoped for.
You play as a vault dweller – born and raised in a fallout shelter, 200 years after the bombs first fell. Interestingly, you actually get to play through some of the stages of growing up in the vault. But your adventure truly starts at the dawn of your adulthood, when you are forced to leave the shelter.
Out in the world on your own, you must navigate the wastelands, traveling through settlements and meeting many diverse characters from kind Ghouls to genius Super Mutants. You can choose to help others or create even more chaos. I tend to lean toward the latter.
How ever you choose to play, Fallout 3 is truly an experience and I highly recommend everyone give it a chance.
The most recent release on my list, Persona 5 quickly rose to the top of my all-time favorites. I’ve been a fan of the series for awhile now but this latest installation went above and beyond for me. The Japanese role-playing game centers on Akira, a high school student who moves to Tokyo under the terms of his probation after being found guilty of assault. Of course, my son would never “assault” anyone. In actuality he was defending a woman from a drunken attacker. But the rumor mill at his new school, Shujin Academy, seems to ignore that part and he’s labeled a delinquent.
Although the majority of his schoolmates stay away from him, Akira makes friends with Ryuji Sakamoto when the pair manage to step into a world of distorted reality and awaken to the powers of their Personas. These personas are the manifestations of their personalities which they can use to fight evil in the Metaverse and effectively force a change in the heart of their adversaries. Throughout the game, Akira and Ryuji recruit others who have awakened to their own Personas and together create The Phantom Thieves of Hearts.
Soon the Phantom Thieves garner attention from fans and critics alike. Even the police begin to investigate them, linking them to cases of mental shutdowns that have occurred in recent months. The more notoriety the Thieves gain, the more you and your crew need to keep your heads down. After all, you’re still on probation. So when you’re not going to school or saving Tokyo from criminal scum, you get to decide how you will live an honest student life. There are a variety of activities that you can do on your of time. From working a part-time job to kickin’ it with friends.
At this point, I’m sure you could guess that my favorite pastime is getting to know my friends. It pays off too! Not only are confidants fun to hang out with, but each time you take your relationship deeper you gain the ability to create stronger Personas as well as additional aid. Time is a precious commodity, though, and the game is designed so that you’re unable to reach the peak level of all skills and relationships. So make your choices wisely. Or just play the game again. It’s definitely got replay value on lock.
Honestly, this game is too rich to fully describe in just a few paragraphs, but I’ll tell you this: The Phantom Thieves stole my heart. And I hope they’ll steal yours too! Keep your eyes on our Twitter and Facebook page for updates as I promise to post a full review of my New Favorite Game in the days to come.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful game. Not just graphically, but in its story too. In the same vein as most Final Fantasy titles, it is equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching. The game spins the tale of Prince Noctis Lucius Calleum and his best buddies as they set off on a road trip toward Altissia, where he is set to marry his fiancé, Lady Lunafreya.
Unfortunately for Noct and the boys, things don’t turn out exactly as planned. En route, they learn that a terrible betrayal has occurred. The Crown City Insomnia had been attacked and his father slain. The Chocobros must turn their focus toward preparing for all-out battle and ensure that Noctis reclaims the throne.
It’s not all seriousness though. As they prepare for their return to Insomnia, they enjoy their share of hi-jinks along the way. You get to know each of the bros and see their relationships with one another unfold. Chocobo racing, camping out, fishing, and lots of group photos taken by Prompto, the resident photographer, make this game light-hearted and fun.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
I feel like Ni No Kuni is one of the most underrated games of all time. Even though it has won many awards and accolades, most people I’ve talked to have never played it, let alone have heard of it. And it’s a shame. This is another one I plan on writing more in-depth about because it’s such an amazing game that more people should get on board with! Especially with the sequel coming out soon!
Wrath of the White Witch was initially released for the Nintendo DS in 2010 and re-released later for the PlayStation 3. I’ve never played it on the DS, but honestly, I think to really experience it, you need to play it on PS3. The graphics, designed by Studio Ghibli, best known for its full-feature animations like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, are truly awe-inspiring. It’s like stepping into the magical world of Miyazaki’s imagination.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch takes you on a journey as Oliver, a young boy who finds himself in a strange and fantastic world as he sets out to save his mother. Beautifully tragic yet uplifting, this game deals with grief, family, and self-discovery.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Up until San Andreas, I had been disappointed in the Grand Theft Auto franchise. I adored the third, but the following games fell flat for me. I almost didn’t even pick up San Andreas because I thought it’d be a waste of time. But I’m so glad that I decided to give the series one more shot. The story of Carl Johnson, from the Grove Street gang, is now one of my all-time favorites.
San Andreas was so different from previous GTA games. It was a departure from the mob-style games of the past. Instead, it focused on CJ, a young black man from an impoverish urban area based on Los Angeles. Gang violence, racism, police corruption, and family were all major themes in this game. You see first-hand what it’s like for individuals who want to leave the gang life and come up in the world. Spoiler alert: it’s not a simple process. Of course, as with all games, it’s a stylized version of the truth, but I think that the story was far more interesting and heartfelt than previous games.
The story isn’t the only thing that set San Andreas apart from previous titles. There were so many new aspects of gameplay. You can go on dates, hit the gym or the club, and customize CJ’s look from hair styles, tattoos, and clothes. This all may seem like GTA staples now, but let me tell you, it was exciting as Hell at the time.
If you enjoyed other Grand Theft Auto titles, I highly recommend trying San Andreas. It’s dated now, but still as good. And, FYI, it’s available on both Steam and the PlayStation Store for PS4.
Grand Theft Auto V
It seems that when I discuss Grand Theft Auto V, many people first bring up the online aspect. Some people haven’t even played through the story. Which is disappointing for me, because the story and its characters is where this game really shines. In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece. I was hooked from the start.
The single player mode focuses on three different playable characters, Michael De Santa, Trevor Philips, and Franklin Clinton. Their lives converge as they attempt to pull off the perfect bank heist. The three become unlikely friends, despite their dissimilarities and dark pasts. As the story unfolds, you glimpse the skeletons in their closets. And those closets are chock full. It has all of the great aspects of other GTA titles: madness, mayhem, and the occasional hooker. But the characters take on a life of their own. I’ve become especially attached to Trevor, the white trash psychopath of the group for his off-the-wall antics.
So, if you’re waiting for a sign to give story mode a try, this is it. Play it! And tell me what you think!
Resident Evil 4
Released in 2005, Resident Evil 4 was my first survival-horror video game. And while it scared the shit out of me, I couldn’t put it down. Even though the mind-controlled, chainsaw-wielding villagers haunted my nightmares every night, I couldn’t get enough.
The U.S. President’s daughter has been kidnapped by an ominous cult hidden away in the back-country of Spain. You play as special agent, Leon S. Kennedy, tasked with rescuing her and dismantling the cult. Along the way, Leon fights his way through hordes of hostile cultists and grotesque monsters. Perhaps it seems like a simple plot, but there are many aspects of the cult and their motives shrouded in mystery and it’s your job to bring them to light.
Looking back, there are definitely some facets of the game that are kitschy and silly. And I mean that in the best way possible. It brings some humor into an otherwise grim game. My sister and I have plenty of inside jokes that have stemmed from it. If you’re down for an old school play, Resident Evil 4 is a classic.
Sadly, I had to cut a bunch of amazing games out of my list. Otherwise this bad boy would be a ten-page essay. But I wanted to give these games a shout out because I love them. If you haven’t played them yet, I strongly recommend you check them out!