Top 100 Games of All-Time: #19

Bioshock Infinite

Release Date: March 26, 2013

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #9 (-10)


What It Is:

The third game in the first-person shooter Bioshock series, Infinite steps away from Rapture and instead flies to the clouds in the city of Columbia. You play as Booker DeWitt in 1912, a man sent to Columbia to find a girl and bring her back to New York unharmed. The intro is a very confusing boat ride which leads to a foreboding lighthouse, which leads to a very uncomfortable city of American exceptionalism and politically religious fervor. The game starts mysterious and unsettling and just gets moreso as you continue forward: the atmosphere of the city sometimes feels incongruous with the frenetic action of the enemy encounters.

The shooting gameplay copies the popular first-person shooter mechanics of the time: you can only carry two guns at a time (a mechanic that is still stupidly artificially limiting). But the game also adds Vigors (instead of Plasmids) that allow you to combo with your guns by doing things like electrocuting enemies or blasting them with a murder of crows. It also adds the Skyhook, making some battles with enemies a lot more frantic and mobile, letting you traverse across multiple islands as enemies are bouncing around trying to kill you. It ends up being my favorite iteration of the Bioshock gameplay despite its flaws due to the increasing mobility.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Bioshock Infinite is a hard game to talk about nowadays. When it came out in 2013, it was seen as a subversive take on American heroism. The political climate has changed drastically since its release, and the game’s stance ending on a “both sides are bad” note has turned public favor against it. I can’t say any of the criticisms of the game’s plot and message are wrong; in fact the people who dunk on this game are mostly right about their interpretations.

But honestly I still love the game.

“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt” is an iconic line that echoes in my head. Songbird as an antagonist is still one of my favorite steampunk enemy designs. The sequence where you find Elizabeth and escape from her tower with Songbird after you is in the top 5 tensest action scenes to me and it still puts my heart in its throat when the fantastic score plays. Combining Bucking Bronco with Undertow and sending enemies flying out into the sky to their doom never gets old; and using Vigors while shooting around on the Skyhook just feels good. The artistic design behind the Vigors is also top tier for me: I have an Undertow bottle sitting on the shelf behind me as I type this and I have two pillows with Undertow and Shock Jockey designs on my couch.

I understand its politics are not great after a decade of reflection. But I still love the game.

My Strongest Memory:

In 2013 I wasn’t as invested in gaming on the internet as I am now. I visited forums but hadn’t really jumped headfirst into gaming media (i.e., I wasn’t on Twitter until 2017). As such, I was able to play Bioshock Infinite almost completely unspoiled. I was also unemployed when I played it. Not that it really matters in the context of the memory, but I do remember binging the game and finishing it at 2 AM and just sitting there with my thoughts as the ending played.

I remember being blown away by the ending and just not being sure how to feel. At the time I may have thought it was the greatest ending to any video game ever and probably said so somewhere. While I don’t have that opinion anymore, the game’s turn still resonates with me and I wouldn’t say it’s a bad ending. It might be a little too self-congratulating in the way a Whedon or Moffat show masturbates over how clever it is. But I still can’t forget that initial feeling I had when I completed it for the first time and thinking “Yeah, this will always be one of my favorite games of all-time.”

Why It’s #19:

I think inevitably it will become harder and harder for me to rank this game high on my list as the political climate changes more and more rapidly. But removing the political messaging and stance of the game’s plot, everything else about this game I will always be in love with. It is another one of the games that is in my 1000/1000 achievements club and I’ll always have an inexplicable fondness for it.