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Eric Campbell

Eric's Top 10 All Time Favorite RPGs.

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So here's a little fluff piece for you: my personal top 10 favorite RPGs countdown. It's easy to notice a casual gamer and a true geek gamer. At one point, a gamer was a gamer was a gamer. If you gamed, you were a fricken nerd, plain and simple. You were probably in that crowd that used a little more of your brain than most people, didn't get many dates and instead of religiously watching the football season, you were poring over tomes of Nintendo Power to find out when they were going to finally release the Arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES . Not like that now is it? Nowadays it's up in the air how much brain power the typical gamer uses (Xbox Live chat suggests very little) and you might find yourself on Xbox Live playing Madden '10 with a real life jock that's trying to get the Cowboys to have a better season than they are currently having.

There are games for everyone now and the true geek gamer can most commonly be found not behind the plastic guitar of Rock Band or the Limited Edition controller of Call of Duty, but in the lines to buy the latest release of Final Fantasy XXXIXIXXXIXXIXIIXXIXVVXIXXXXVII.

I am one of these people.

RPGs bring us a high standard of storytelling and deliver an experience that goes beyond the typical fast paced bombastic play style of the more popular games like Grand Theft Auto and the aforementioned Call of Duty. I do have to pause here however and tip my hat to Call of Duty and Halo, for being more than just head splattering action by delivering some truly compelling story lines.

So here it is, since the dawn of my time, my all time favorite top 10 RPGs countdown. It's not a definitive list and again, they are my personal favorite flavors.


10.Baldur's Gate

Yes, I love D&D, gotta problem with that!? If you do, you're gonna have to take it up with Vin Diesel. That's right, Riddick himself throws a 20 sided dice. This game was one of the first D&D video games to step out of the First Person point-and-click style and give us something more. It was a huge success on the PC when it was released in 1998 and was destined to change the way RPG's are played. Aside from the fun characters that joined up on your quest, my all time favorite feature of this game was when I figured out how to replace my characters normal VO with .wav files of my own. The result was a bizarre ass collection of dialogue that made the game all the more entertaining. And who was the maker of this hit title but Bioware, the company that would soon dominate the RPG market...and yes, most of this list.




9.Way of the Samurai

There needs to be more games like this. If you were ever a fan of Japanese cinema, if you ever caught yourself watching a film by the legendary Akira Kurosawa or any of the Samurai Triology by Yōji Yamada, then you would understand the love I have for this game. Way of the Samurai is an RPG that puts you in the sandals of a wandering Samurai during the great upheaval of the Meji Restoration in 1877, when the Samurai Caste was going extinct and Japan was becoming a modern power. While the play control did get clunky, the game sucked you in with violent action and a branching plot. The game has seven different endings and in true rpg fashion, the choices you make determine which one you will get...except there's a slight curve ball here. The consequences of your choices were never predictable and this was the deciding element that lured me into picking this game as a favorite. In one play-through I decided to take a less Zen Monk approach to my actions and be more of the straight forward, stand-up-for-the-weak kinda guy...which got the little girl I was protecting killed and ended my story tragically. Absolutely brilliant. This game was just another reason why I became endeared to the Playstation because it was impossible to find such a risky and out-of-nowhere title like this one, anywhere else.



8.Jade Empire

Yes haters, let your eye rolling begin because it's another Bioware game. Jade Empire was a risky move for Bioware, who stepped away from making the sequel to their smash hit, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and instead decided to tell an original epic of their own. The result was a game no one really played or talked about. Meanwhile everyone was clamoring to grab Knights of the Old Republic 2...a game I despise. It didn't take long for Xbox players to realize KoToR 2 was not the bar of gold its predecessor was and left many of us, myself included, with serious brain hemorrhaging after the game finished with a collection of unfinished plots and contradicting cut scenes. It was the Manos: The Hands of Fate (look it up if you don't know it) of the video game world. Meanwhile, there was Jade Empire: a fun and fresh RPG set in the epic backdrop of the classic Wuxia genre while fulfilling the fantasy of anyone who wanted to experience Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero first hand. While the twist at the end of the game wasn't anywhere near as fun as the original KoToR, the new fighting style in the game made up for it. It took awhile for the title to build its fan base and was received warmly by game critics. Come on! You can make people EXPLODE in a haze of blood and gore with a punch. Win.



7.Shadowgate

When I hear people talk about the most difficult games they played on the NES they usually invoke a title most people knew, like Kid Icarus or the vicious Ghouls n' Ghosts. Of course, historians and scientists from various parts of the world have now confirmed that the most difficult titles were in fact, Silver Surfer and Dragons Lair (The Angry Video Game Nerd can vouch for this). These games were hard because they were stupid. But not Shadowgate. Shadowgate was a serious challenge and the first RPG I can remember ever playing. It was also the first game I got kicks off of committing suicide over and over by lighting myself on fire with my own torches, or drinking a goblet full of acid. It was the perfect stress relief when you couldn't solve the puzzle. Other titles in this series would emerge, like Déjà Vu. But Shadowgate was the best point-and-click RPG I played on the NES and I fondly remember freaking out over my torch light dying while I tried to figure out how to get the key from the skeleton who stood in the middle of a lake. Good times.




6.Tecmo Cup Soccer

You heard right. An RPG Soccer game on the NES. Okay so no story to speak of but I had so much damn fun with this one. The suspense is terrible when you're dribbling the ball down field and silhouettes surround you. You look at your stats and see you're good at passing, but suck at shooting. You check the map and see you have a team mate close by, but it might get stopped by the rival team. Do you A) Shoot B) Pass C) Dodge? The one complaint I had about this title was the difficulty curve, which launched into the clouds after the first stage. Otherwise it was easily one of the most original RPGs to come out on the NES. RPG Soccer. I still have to say it out loud to believe it.

You just don't screw with a man who has bubble gum pink skin, a broken neck...and is smiling at you.



5.Uncharted Waters II: New Horizons

There were a bunch of SNES games that tried to shell out the RPG experience the same way others had, but KOEI was the first to set sail during the historical age of exploration and piracy. This game was a follow up to the earlier and less popular Uncharted Waters, where you played only one character. But its sequel brought six characters to choose from, better game play and sword fighting!

If you were lucky to get this on PC (which I was), then the game came with an amazing orchestral soundtrack scored by legendary musical genius, Yoko Kanno, who would later bring us tunes for Cowboy Bebop. Find the song Tank! if you haven't heard it, it will bring new meaning to your life. Stepping away from dragons and magic, Uncharted Waters brought us stories about revenge, fleets of tall ships, stolen treasure and cannon fire...as well as the occasional outbreak of lime disease.




4.Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 is the Battlestar Galactica of RPGs. It takes what worked with Mass Effect and twists it into a darker, grittier and more unforgiving story where your choices could be what dictate if the characters you grow to love live or die. Including you. It never occurred to me what kind of overhaul the combat system in the first installment needed until I got a taste of the fast pace of Mass Effect 2. But enough of the technical crap. Bioware games are like opera. You either love them or hate them. I haven't met anyone who felt a Bioware game was so-so. Mass Effect 2 demonstrates the talent of the folks over at Bioware and their ability to write damn good dialogue and story. A shame they caved to the controversy that Mass Effect started with its sex scene, but in the end it didn't compromise the storytelling. Still...the dry humping in the engine room is just...awkward and why we don't get to see Tali's face is beyond me, though the meme that sprung up as a result of Tali's obfuscation has reached an elite level of hilarity. To me, this game is solid. Great soundtrack, compelling story, slick cinematic third person combat and the Bioware's signature full VO cast backing up each of their unique and dynamic characters. It is, in my opinion, a shining example to all RPGs out there. Who else has done what they have done? Seriously? You get to play in an epic- and I mean epic- in its original context. From the first game through to the last game, your choices alter the course of the story. Import your character from the first one so their story continues. When combined, that equals 150+ hours of game play and that's not counting all the great downloadable content from The Cerberus Network. That's just the first two titles! There's a third and possibly a fourth on the way. And come on...Martin Sheen. Need I say more?


3.Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic

I'm not going to say much here. If you know what the letters "RPG" stand for, you have played this game and know its power. It is the game that launched Bioware into the stratosphere and changed the face of modern Role Playing Games. Everything Bioware does today is thanks to the work they did on this title. It also has the greatest video game twist I've ever experienced. I know I am not the only one that got chills and said, "No...wait-WHAT!? HOLY SH-!" out loud. Tip your damn hat to KoToR.



2.Mass Effect

I was stunned when I played this game. I came to it knowing nothing about it. The game had been out for awhile and I simply ignored it. I heard some people talk here and there, but shrugged it off. When I finally sat down to play and found that it was not only fully voiced but a completely original game world inspired by classic sci-fi from the late 70's and early 80's, I realized I had found the greatest modern RPG game I had played. KoToR was a hit. But Mass Effect was what made me see that there was something special going on inside the offices at Bioware. This was the first game I have ever played that made me feel like I was a character in my own film. It introduced me to a new level of RPG game play that passed KoToR by miles, a feat I thought to be impossible. Once again Bioware shelled out a gripping storyline where the stakes are high and the characters are complex, real and interesting. It made me notice how long it had been since I had played a game where I actually gave a damn about the characters on the screen (and of course we have a sex scene but moving on). RPG games will be seriously hard pressed to compete with the standard this game has placed on the genre. Now, it might be surprising to you that with all my eye batting and blushing I have done toward Bioware in this piece, that I didn't chose Mass Effect as my favorite game. It's true that I have become a Bioware fanboy, but that's what happens when a company constantly puts out damn good games. They get fans. True, Dragon Age: Awakening pissed me off for wasting hours of my life on a meaningless merry-go-round that didn't come close to measuring up to what Bioware is capable of, but still...

No, despite my love for the artists of Bioware, the love of my favorite all time RPG belongs to...



1.Final Fantasy II

Damn straight. Called Final Fantasy IV in Japan, this game was the first game I ever played that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Screw Final Fantasy VII. You heard me! No Final Fantasy has been so well written and so damn interesting since. I know thems fightin' words, but I stand by them. This game had it all. I also remember it being the first game to actually kill off a main character, which had an impact on me as a teen. Since when do we kill off characters? That had never happened before. Now it's true that nostalgia factor plays heavily in this pick, but it's the foundation of the house on which my love for RPGs was built and we all remember what it was like that first time we stepped into another world and began to alter the landscape through our actions. I know this may sound hard to believe, because of the technology of the day, but the soundtrack to this game was outstanding. The moment when the great airship, called The Big Whale, rises from the sea to take my characters to the moon for the final battle...I still grin to this day and hum the tune.


And that's what makes a good game in my opinion. When you can look back over ten years later and remember the wonderment you experienced as you unlocked the story piece by piece. Or find yourself picking up the game again and again, because you want to see where the other paths lead. For me, RPGs hold a special place in my pixelated little heart, because they invite you to experience a journey the way a good book might. A good RPG not only tells a good story, but causes you to wonder what your character might be feeling at that very moment. How would you feel? You are Darth Revan. What do you do with that? You understand why Bastilla did it don't you? After all the time you've spent fighting him to save the Crystals from being taken, you learn Golbez is your Brother?! You're running low on food and water and the nearest port belongs to the enemy but the men are starving. There could be desertions or even mutiny. What will you do?

It's not just the story the game tells you, it's the story you tell the game. A good RPG gets you filling in the blanks yourself and sometimes you don't even realize you're doing it. For me, these ten RPG's have left their mark and got me asking all my friends, "What did you do?"

Well?

Eric "GameScribbler" Campbell
Assistant Editor

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Updated 13-11-10 at 08:12 by Eric Campbell

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