I wouldn’t classify myself as a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination – usually a critically-acclaimed game is out for at least a year before I get around to playing it. But I do have my favorites, and as hard as it was to choose only five, here are the biggest thieves of my free time over the years.
Of course, different people enjoy different things about art – and that the same is true for video games. So I rank my favorites based on characters, storytelling and world building first, while elements like gameplay and graphics usually take a backseat for me.
5. Bioshock: Infinite
I am not skilled at first-person shooters at all, but the Bioshock franchise is one I have put aside my disdain for the genre and have found myself enjoying. Narrowing it down was hard, too. I was more wrapped up in the storyline and uncovering the mysteries of Rapture in the first Bioshock game, but overall I found the latest installment more fun to play, zipping around the clouds in Columbia and working my way to a plot twist that still gives me a headache to this day.
4. Final Fantasy VI
This was another hard one to narrow down – I’ve played Final Fantasies VI, VII, IX, X and XV, and loved every single one of them, but the sixth installment (or the third installment, if you played it back in the day on the Super Nintendo) made me forget that I hate level grinding and I found myself more invested in the narratives of the characters than any other installment I’ve played so far. Of the ones I’ve played, VI has the most simple storyline, and with Japanese role playing games, I often find there is beauty in simplicity.
3. Horizon: Zero Dawn
This is the first game I bit the bullet and purchased brand new in quite a while, and I am really glad that I did. I’d had my eye on Zero Dawn for a few years, and it far exceeded my expectations. If you couldn’t tell by this list, I am a big fan of role playing games, and what really intrigued me about this one is that this game was the first open world RPG for its company, Guerrilla, and they knocked it out of the park. The world is beautiful to explore, the storytelling in the game is astounding and keeps you digging for more mysteries of the past and the present.
2. Dragon Age: Origins
I started Dragon Age three times before I actually completed the first game. The gameplay was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and there were so many menu options I didn’t know what to do with myself. But I loved the characters, and the fantasy world intrigued me, and the third time I started the game ended up being the charm. Once I learned to navigate the tactical menu, I couldn’t stop, and I loved that choices your character makes in the game carry over to the other two installments. I have more planned playthroughs of this game than any reasonable person has time for.
1. The Last of Us
When making this list, I knew The Last of Us would be number one. Stealth is a big factor in the gameplay of this dystopian, action-adventure game, and anyone who has watched me play Assassin’s Creed knows I am hilariously bad at stealth, it took me a lot longer to get through some more challenging parts than I’d like to admit. But what made me fall in love with this game was the evolving relationship between Joel and Ellie, coupled with the difficult (and realistic) choice he has to make at the end that made it one of my favorites. The second installment comes out soon and will erase the ambiguity of the end that I loved, but I’m curious to see further development of two of my all-time favorite characters.
Email Jessica Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.