My love affair with videogames began nearly 25 years ago, when the Smith household got its first computer. My sister and I would play hour upon hour of Concentration before graduating to games like Crystal Caves, Duke Nukem, and Commander Keen. By the time my dad picked up his first PlayStation, we were hooked.
Over the years, my love of chasing boys replaced my love of chasing bad guys in videogames – until I met a boy I could chase bad guys with. Ryan and I were an unstoppable team, traipsing through Azeroth and conquering the World of Warcraft – just a couple of elves on one whirlwind adventure after another. Questing and exploring, killing bad guys and learning lore – I loved the sense of escape, the sense of being more than I am, that I got from gaming.
I was a hero, and I didn’t even have to leave my living room.
Lately, though, I don’t have the time – or, quite honestly, the desire – to dedicate my life to a game like that. So I’ve turned to console games to get my gaming fix.
So, without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite console games.
5. Alice: Madness Returns
Right away, the concept of Alice: Madness Returns drew me in: the game is a new twist on Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is not an adventurer in a fantastical world but, rather, a mad child who has spent years in an asylum following the death of her family. And while it may have been the story that captured my imagination at first, it was the whimsical world and colourful graphics that held my interest to the end.
The gameplay is (mostly) simple. Madness Returns is a platforming game where Alice gets a variety of weapons to fight against some truly terrifying bad guys (I don’t care what anyone says; a baby-doll head on a spider body IS terrifying). But I wasn’t playing for the gameplay. I was playing to see what each new level would look like. Never before have I played such a truly gorgeous game. Each level had a theme: Classic Alice in Wonderland; Dollhouse; Queen of Hearts; Oriental; Under the Sea; and Steampunk. Each theme came with its own outfit and level styling. And while it may seem superficial to love a game based almost entirely on its looks, I’m okay with that. When a game looks as good as Alice: Madness Returns, it deserves to be objectified a little.
3 & 4. Dragon Age 1 & 2
I’ve grouped Dragon Age 1 & 2 together because I can’t pick a favorite from the two. There are things I loved about Dragon Age 1 that were missing from Dragon Age 2 – but there were plenty of things I liked more about Dragon Age 2 than Dragon Age 1.
Both games are set in a believable fantasy world (an oxymoron, I know, but Bioware did a fantastic job of world-building.) Building teams and forging relationships and playing characters was a rich experience – one that was often a minefield to navigate. Your choices affected your companions’ opinions of you, for good or ill. Bioware has a singular ability to make you care about the AI characters that you’re questing with. And every decision you make in the game affects its outcome.
Dragon Age 1 had the better story. I wept at the end over choices – sacrifices – that I felt I had to make. Now, it may seem silly to cry over a videogame, but when you’ve spent 30 hours in this world, with these characters, you tend to grow attached. You want them to have a happy ending – and that’s not always possible when you play Dragon Age.
Dragon Age 2 had better gameplay. I enjoyed questing more in Dragon Age 2, but I didn’t grow attached to the characters. I’m not even sure I liked any of them. The story was fine, and the ending was epic, but for most of the game, I didn’t really get the point.
Despite their faults, the Dragon Age series so far has been one of my favorites, and I can’t wait to see what Bioware creates with their third one.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an expansive fantasy role-playing game with fantastic graphics, a compelling (if long-winded) storyline, and good gameplay. The action starts right away, with your character being raised from the dead with the ability to choose his or her own fate – which is unique in a world where everything is pre-destined.
I spent a long time with this game, completing quests for the Fae (my favorite of all the questlines) and gnomes and humans. Every new zone I entered was a completely new experience, with diverse geography and races and questlines. It reminded me of World of Warcraft, in miniature. And of all the games I’ve ever played, this one had some of the most epic big boss fights, with a battle scene that rivals anything I’ve ever seen in a movie. I liked this game so much, I lent it to my sister. She hated it. There’s no accounting for some people’s taste.
1. Lego Lord of the Rings
I am obsessed with Lord of the Rings. Obsessed. So when I first saw the trailer for Lego Lord of the Rings, I knew immediately that I would love it. Over our Christmas break, Ryan and I sat down and finished this game in its entirety. 100 per cent. In three days. And when we were done, I wanted to play it again.
Simply put, Lego Lord of the Rings is clever. It takes an often scary storyline and puts a childlike twist on it to make it a bit silly. The puzzles are well-crafted for co-op gameplay, with each playable character bringing something new to the party. And, having since tried other Lego games based on movies, I have to say that using actual voices from the films during cut-scenes sets Lego Lord of the Rings apart. This is my favorite videogame of all time, and I’m only a little ashamed of that.
And of all the things about this game I loved, I leave you with my favorite:
Tell me, friends, what are your favorite videogames?