Another great idea is making the rounds in our corner of the blogosphere right now, which is to name your most beloved game franchises and sing their praise.
I’m not aware of any official rules, but like Wilhelm I’m just going to assume that to qualify as a series there must have been at least three distinct games; expansions or DLC don’t count.
Anyway, here goes.
The Secret of Monkey Island
I started to play video games a lot earlier than that, but the first titles that managed to absolutely enthrall me and keep me glued to my chair until four in the morning were the early Lucas Arts adventures (actually ‘Lucasfilm Games’ back then), Maniac Mansion and Zak McCracken.
It’s no wonder then that those will always have a special place in my heart. However the pinnacle of that development team’s work was and remains the Monkey Island series.
I don’t think I’ve played any other adventure game that’s as good as Monkey Island 1 and 2, before or since, which is hardly surprising as those are pure perfection. Puzzles, dialogue, humor, control scheme, music…all unmatched to this day. Even the graphics were great by 1990’s standards.
Part three, The Curse of Monkey Island, introduced voice acting to the series, which was also outstanding. Overall it’s ‘only’ a very good game, but it was still miles ahead of the competition.
Unfortunately everything that came after couldn’t hold a candle to the first three titles, but those alone easily make the series one of my all-time favourites.
When I bought a Playstation 3 in 2010 the first two Uncharted games had already been released some time ago, and while I was aware that people had a lot of praise for them – especially the second one – they weren’t high on my shopping list for some reason or other.
Part three released in 2011 to critical acclaim, but even then did I not jump on the bandwagon, at least not right away. The hype prompted me to add its predecessor to my Amazon wishlist though, and some time later Lakisa’s parents gifted it to me for my birthday.
Holy crap, that game pulls no punches. Its prelude is probably the best, most gripping opening sequence I’ve ever experienced in a video game. It sucked me in, digested me thoroughly for about 15 hours and spat out an entirely new person. Or something. Look, I’m obviously exaggerating, but not by much. It was that great an experience.
Of course I bought parts one and three immediately afterwards and played them in order. The first is a bit rough in comparison, but still very good; the third is almost as great as the second, but not quite.
Uncharted 4 is one of the very few games I’ve specifically bought a piece of hardware for, in this case the Playstation 4, and it did only disappoint insofar that – spoiler, kind of – the ending makes clear that we really won’t be seeing any more adventures of Nathan Drake, like the game’s subtitle suggests.
If I had to rank them I’d say 2, 3, 4, 1, from best to worst, but in truth there is no ‘worst’ because they’re all great. I firmly believe that anyone who loves video games should have played these.
Grand Theft Auto
What can be said about the GTA series that hasn’t been said a thousand times? From GTA III onwards each game was a paradise for open world fans, full of memorable characters, action-packed missions, exciting and/or wacky stories and tons of optional side-activities.
Each new title’s release also reheated discussions about violence in video games, and the series has often been used by politicians as a poster child for ‘bad’ games that should be banned outright. I believe the most recent entry, GTA V, was the first that didn’t make much headlines in that regard, although the gameplay itself hasn’t changed much.
I guess that’s in part because gaming as a whole has finally started to become much more widely accepted in recent years, and it’s not quite as easily to scapegoat anymore. However the bigger reason, I believe, is that the game is just too good not to acknowledge it as what it really is: a piece of art.
I’ve extensively played GTA III, Vice City, San Andreas and V. They’re all great. If you only ever play one I suggest to play V though.
I’ve already talked about my history with the Mortal Kombat series in some detail here, so I’ll keep this short.
I’m actually not a big fighting game buff, so to have fun with a game like this I need it to be accessible above all else, and I also need more than ‘just’ the fighting to hook me.
The fact that one character looked and sounded just like Bruce Lee, of whom I’ve always been a big fan, was what prompted me to buy MK1 for the SNES, and since the game was pretty easy to learn I liked the gameplay a lot. MK2 was even better and introduced some of my favourite characters to the series.
Just like with GTA, Mortal Kombat games were always the subject of much debate, mainly due to their huge repertoire of gory finishing moves. Obviously no one ever really dies in a fighting game though, and MK is no exception. That fact alone serves, to me, as proof that the games don’t take themselves very seriously. The hilarious story modes later entries had only reinforced that impression.
Over a span of 27 years I’ve played five Mortal Kombat games extensively and dabbled in a couple more. Yep, definitely a favourite.
When I bought the first UT in 1999 it was quite a revelation. Up to that point I’d already spent a lot of time playing multiplayer shooters with a couple of friends – the likes of Doom, Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Quake – and we’d had a lot of fun.
Unreal Tournament was quite different though. Above all it was a lot faster and much more fluid. Sprinting across maps and fragging people had never felt that good, and I loved every minute of it. The futuristic setting was also right up my alley.
The icing on the cake were the available game modes though. We’d played pretty much only free-for-all deathmatch before, and while that can be all kinds of fun fighting in teams over flags or control points offered us a whole new level of tactical gameplay. We even used the great Assault mode to team up against CPU-controlled opponents, giving us our first experience of co-op shooter gameplay.
The series’ second entry was called UT 2003, and while it looked much better thanks to a new engine the gameplay was, in my opinion, inferior to that of its predecessor, mainly due to a changed Domination mode that I didn’t like as much, and the Assault mode outright missing.
Then came UT 2004 though, the undisputed apex of the series. It didn’t actually change that much, but it brought the much-missed Assault back, and also a cool new mode called Onslaught that had huge maps and vehicle combat.
I was so into 2k4 that I even joined a German UT-clan for a while. They were a great bunch, however playing the game that much and at that level made me realize that a) I’m not actually that good at playing shooters, and b) even the best ones get repetitive after a while. So I left the clan again, but kept playing the game on and off.
Of course I was pretty hyped for the release of Unreal Tournament 3 regardless (what is it with gaming franchises and their weird numbering?). Unfortunately it disappointed, for reasons I can’t quite explain myself. It had a new, great looking engine and hoverboards. Hoverboards!! Those are the only merits that immediately spring to mind though, so I guess by 2007 we’d all hoped for a bit more innovation.
My enthusiasm fizzled out relatively quickly then and I moved on to other franchises. I assume I wasn’t alone in this as there’s never been talk about another UT game as far as I’m aware. Still, I’ve sunk ungodly amounts of time into the first three titles, and 2k4 will probably remain my favourite multiplayer-shooter of all time.
Blapril 2020 post count: 10