Episode 90 – More Like Oscar the Grouch Than Batman

After taking a mental health break for a few weeks, Make Me A Gamer is back with an all new episode that was recorded before the break was taken! Atma and HarveyZ go over BlizzCon Online’s announcements regarding Hearthstone and Overwatch 2, then Atma goes in-depth on the Mortal Kombat trailer before talking about Valorant and their new obsession with it and why it’s hitting better than Overwatch currently. Enjoy!

(This episode was recorded February 24, 2021.)

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As always, thank you so much for listening and please leave us ratings and feedback however you’re listening to our podcast! Please stay safe out there and stay out of groups if you can!

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #60

Psychonauts

Release Date: April 19, 2005

Platform Played On: PS2

2018 Placement: #41 (-19)

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What It Is:

A platformer from the creative mind of Tim Schafer and others from the old LucasArts point-and-click adventure team and the first game from the Double Fine studio. At the time it was exciting and filled me with a sense of joy and wonder because writing and humor I’d enjoyed in a different genre was coming to another genre I had a total fondness for.

Psychonauts is very much a platformer that encompasses all the standards of early 3D platforming: there’s a hub world you run around in where you can talk to other students, and there are “worlds” you enter by jumping into people’s psyches to see what’s going on inside their head. You unlock cool psychic powers like pyrokinesis and levitation and use them to navigate the worlds of the mind. It has weird and wacky energy and is definitely a very niche kind of game, but it’s a good niche.

Why It’s Important To Me:

It just is, okay?

In all seriousness, Psychonauts was just a damn fun, creative game that was a new IP from the people who vacated LucasArts when their point-and-click video game making days were over. That was enough for me to be on board from the beginning, but then the world of Psychonauts itself was as charming as it was over-the-top. Going into the minds of different teachers/people to figure out what was happening was a fun concept and each world was very unique, taking on a different style from other platformers at the time and not just doing “fire world” “water world” etc. It also plays with cool concepts like the “censors” who are in people’s minds to keep things like hallucinations and Raz (the protagonist) out.

My Strongest Memory:

The Milkman Conspiracy is an all-time great level, where you enter the mind of a security guard who is a conspiracy theorist and end up in a warped suburban neighborhood patrolled by G-Men. It’s such a wonderful level that explores mental illness from a different perspective. There are winks and nods to big conspiracies and a playfulness to the overall theme, but it’s the stand-out level of the entire game and the one I still remember 15 years later.

Of course, I also remember Meat Circus as one of the all-time worst final levels in gaming as well. Fuck Meat Circus.

Why It’s #60:

This game has had such a lasting impression on me that it hangs out in the top 100 even though I haven’t played it in many years. It came out at a time where I missed point-and-click adventures and got excited seeing something new and different from the team of people I’d enjoyed many games from previously. I took to the overall theme and world-building instantly and it became a classic in my mind, proven by it slowly gaining a following over time. I eagerly anticipate the sequel.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #61

Darksiders

Release Date: January 5, 2010

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #52 (-9)

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What It Is:

At first glance, Darksiders is a gritty, dark, washed out action game where you play as War, a dour Horseman of the Apocalypse. If you only look at the surface of it, it really encompasses the tendencies of the late 2000s/early 2010s to make everything gritty and grimdark. But underneath the exterior is a well-developed, fun adventure that follows the Legend of Zelda format of multiple dungeons where you get new abilities that help you navigate that dungeon and the expansive rest of the world.

War is a fun, but perhaps a little straight-laced, protagonist who is framed for kicking off the apocalypse a little too early. After being imprisoned for a century, he is given a chance to clear his name and returns to Earth while being watched by the Joker, er, I mean, the Watcher who is voiced by Mark Hamill. The plot ramps up and gets actually intriguing as War goes through the forces of both Heaven and Hell to figure out who is responsible for setting him up.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I was initially hesitant to get into Darksiders because I’m a huge “fan” of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as a concept. And in this game they rename two of the four horsemen Fury and Strife because they didn’t think Pestilence/Conquest and Famine would fit well in an action game. I turned up my nose at this for a long while, but after people starting saying how good the game actually was and how it executed the Zelda formula really well I decided to dip my toe into it.

And I’m glad I did because Darksiders is a fantastic action game and I love what they do with the horsemen in this universe. It helped me realize how much I love the standard Zelda formula as well, as seeing it being put to use in a different setting was really, really refreshing. I figured out it wasn’t the actual format that was stale, it was just the setting of it being Hyrule every time that wore me down. They also play with the grimdark aspect of the aesthetic and it doesn’t bring the game down in any way. I liked this game so much it was the first game I ever got 1000/1000 achievement score on my 360.

My Strongest Memory:

The strongest, best example of this game coming out in late 2000s/early 2010s and being peak 2010 in its identity is that the last dungeon’s item is…a portal gun. It doesn’t even try to hide it – right down to the portals it creates being orange and blue, it’s a shameless ripoff/homage/whatever you want to call it.

The dungeon is still fun, although it lasts a little long. But it is definitely the thing I remember the most about the game because of how flabbergasted I was in its inclusion. Because it’s the final dungeon of the game, it’s almost like the developers went “hey, Portal’s gotten really popular let’s add a portal dungeon here at the end of the game but don’t really do anything else with it in the rest of the world. It’ll be a hit!” That’s probably not exactly what happened, but it definitely feels like it!

Why It’s #61:

Darksiders is proof that other games can apply story and use the Zelda game format and be successful. Unfortunately the Darksiders license is tied up with THQ Nordic (a company I don’t like due to them hosting an interview on a horrible website) and each sequel has strayed further and further from the Zelda format. Still, the first is an absolutely wonderful game worth playing through even if there’s been three games since and they still haven’t addressed the cliffhanger in this one’s ending. NO I’M NOT BITTER.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #62

Fallout 2

Release Date: October 29, 1998

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #54 (-8)

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What It Is:

The sequel to the original irreverent RPG by Black Isle, Fallout 2 is a wonderful apocalyptical satire in turn-based, CRPG format. Before the apocalypse was chic in video games, the two Fallout games set the standard for having fun in the aftermath of the world nuking itself. From Super Mutants to the Brotherhood of Steel to ghouls to power armor, there are so many classically “Fallout” things that were established in these games.

The story of Fallout 2 is you are sent out from your village to find a “GECK” – Garden of Eden Creation Kit – to revitalize the village and keep it from dying out. Throughout your journey to find it you come across many strange characters and stories you can choose to either be a part of or ignore completely. You can customize your character and roleplay any way you want to, from being a fast-talker to someone who sneaks and steals, or a low-intelligence gunslinger who just blasts everyone on sight. It’s a true “RPG” in the sense you can play it however you want to and the game accommodates you. It’s a blast.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I was a firm console gamer for a large portion of my life growing up and only gravitated to the PC for the specific genre of point-and-click adventures (and Doom). It wasn’t until high school, where my friend gave me a bunch of “completely” “legal” “bought” “copies” of PC games that I tried out other games that I’d never even thought of playing before. It took me a while to get around to Fallout 2 because I tried it and was turned off by the start of the game (the visuals and starting dungeon were very not indicative of the rest of the game) so I shelved it for a while.

I came back to it later and actually gave it a chance past the starting area and my life was changed. It was the first CRPG that really grabbed me and enraptured me. I loved the in-depth customization and how I could play my character however I wanted. I loved the humor of the game. I loved the different weapons and how you could approach combat in many kinds of ways. This was the game that made gaming on my PC really “click” for me and I dove headfirst into expanding my horizons after this.

My Strongest Memory:

There’s a story I tell very often about Fallout 2. One weekend morning I got up around 10 AM and after breakfast went over to my PC, intending to play a little bit of the game as I was in the midst of my campaign and the game fully had its hooks in me. Next thing I knew, it was 10 PM at night and I’d played Fallout 2 straight for 12 hours. I didn’t eat, I didn’t move from my chair, I probably went to the bathroom but the entire day was just a fog of Fallout.

Ironically after that day I never touched Fallout 2 again because I was worried about my health and gaming addiction and knew I couldn’t fall down that sort of rabbit hole ever again. But that’s how good this game was to me and how well the universe pulls you in. Just remember moderation, kids.

Why It’s #62:

Fallout 2 is a classic CRPG that’s a great place to start if you haven’t played any of those kinds of games. It has some of the best humor writing in all of gaming and the customization is off the charts. I think it’s a great example of the timelessness of the RPG format and even though I got a little “too” into it, I still revere it as a high quality game and have fond memories of the antics I got up to. Maybe one day I’ll be brave and return to it with a little more self-control.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #63

Final Fantasy IX

Release Date: November 13, 2000 (NA)

Platform Played On: PS1

2018 Placement: #36 (-27)

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What It Is:

From FF6 to FF8, the Final Fantasy series got progressively further from the “fantasy” aspect. FF8 especially  double-downed on a nearly all human world that went to space and in some ways leaned more science fiction than fantasy. FF9 was a “return to form” at the time, with a beautiful fantasy world with crazy-looking characters of all shapes and sizes. It dropped the unique systems of FF7 and FF8 for a much simpler leveling up/item system and in general was very well received because it just “felt” more like the SNES Final Fantasies in presentation.

It’s a JRPG-ass JRPG, with everything you would expect from one. A love story between the main male and female protagonists, a secondary protagonist that is actually the best character in the game (Vivi the black mage), and an out of nowhere final boss that is kind of like a god but doesn’t actually have anything to do with the rest of the game. It also does a lot of quality of life improvements, like shortening summons so they don’t take two minutes of your life every time you summon one. It doesn’t really reinvent the wheel, but it does provide a very solid, fantastical turn-based RPG experience.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I grew up on Final Fantasy, but had mixed feelings about FF8 due to its Draw system spiking the worst obsessive-compulsive tendencies in me. FF9 being a more “classic” Final Fantasy (lol thinking about that 20 years later) was really refreshing and I just loved diving into the world. The system of weapons teaching you abilities was a really cool riff on the job system. The characters also had wonderful interactions. Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, and Vivi are a solid starting four who all are very unique and very endearing (aside from Zidane being a bit of a sexist pig).

It also has awesome music (as most Final Fantasies do) – the boss music is one of my favorites of all the FF games due to how its structure makes the actual battle feel a lot more impactful. FF9 is one of those games that, again, doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or crazy innovative but just nails every aspect of the genre to give a very memorable and lasting experience. From the story to the characters to the world-building to the music, each part of the foundation makes up a 100% great game. And what can I say, I’m a huge Final Fantasy nerd so that just makes it get even more points in my book.

My Strongest Memory:

Okay there’s two: the first is the most well known complain of the game: fucking Necron. The penultimate final boss is perfect – the character is a longstanding rival with the main party throughout the entire game so the fight has weight and emotion behind it. Then after you beat him, suddenly you’re in the presence of this motherfucker and he’s like “I’m a god, I’ve decided everyone should die” or some shit and then you fight him for no reason. Literally an ass-pull of a boss with little to no foreshadowing. It’s such an absurd end to the game, to the point that it wraps around from bad to outright hilarious.

The second is one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters of all-time: Beatrix. She’s the honorable knight who serves one of the main villains and is just absolutely a badass. Every time you fight her, she destroys you without mercy. And then for the brief period of the game where she joins as a guest in your party, she absolutely wrecks enemies. I love her so much. She also has two of the best musical themes of the entire game, nay all of Final Fantasy: her base theme and her battle theme. Beatrix rules.

Why It’s #63:

Back at the beginning of the countdown I said the top 3 Final Fantasies weren’t even in question. This is #3 of the best mainline Final Fantasies and there’s nothing you can say that would change my mind. Quirky, fun characters, a stellar soundtrack, and all the things I’ve said multiple times already in this entry to the point I’ve started repeating myself just to make a point. If you want to play a “classic” “fantasy” “video game” this is a great place to start because it has everything and is also great for newer people to the genre.

 

 

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #64

Left 4 Dead 2

Release Date: November 17, 2009

Platform Played On: XBox 360, PC

2018 Placement: #55 (-9)

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What It Is:

Before The Walking Dead made zombies appear everywhere, there was Left 4 Dead: a 4-player co-op shooter where you took on hordes of zombies (and occasionally specialized ones like Hunters or Tanks) with friends as you cleared different scenarios. It was a story-light experience focused on quips between the four main characters and enjoying a co-op romp against AI zombies. Left 4 Dead 2 is the sequel that improves the quality of life of the game and the one I spent a ton of time playing with friends.

Each campaign is divided into several chapters where you have to fight from one safe room to the next, pursued by hordes of zombies while arming yourself with whatever you come across. From rifles to pipe bombs that attract zombie attention, you must fight your way through just a mass of zombies in locales ranging from a mall to a circus. Mechanically it’s just you shooting AI zombies and occasionally rescuing your teammates from a Boomer who threatens to explode all over them. It’s fun. The game’s “AI Director” also makes it so no two runs through the same campaign are ever exactly alike as well.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I think I had no less than three different friend groups I played these campaigns religiously with on both 360 and PC. I’m not normally one for repeated content and playing the same thing over and over but let me tell you, I played the shit out of these campaigns. I even played them on the hardest difficulties with my friends as we tried to survive against the rampaging hordes (which is something I hardly EVER do unless I’m chasing a trophy). It was just that enjoyable of an experience. Also for a long time my Steam avatar was a headless Coach that had happened when the game glitched out on me.

This game was the first game that truly cemented “online co-op with friends” as an actual fun mode for video games for me. It’s fairly obvious to most people who know me that I tend to fall on the single-player side of things as games are my escape and I love getting lost in stories. I never got into MMOs and really resisted online play for a while until Left 4 Dead 2 came around and broke down my barriers due to how much enjoyment I got out of the game.

My Strongest Memory:

There are countless memories. My friends trolling on purpose by jumping out windows to make their characters yell “Help!” and having the AI characters follow them because the AI is dumb. My friends trolling by not getting on the boat and derping around as Tanks came running in during the finale, only to die to the Tank so they didn’t actually escape. Actually, I think a lot of my memories of this game are of my friends trolling while I tried to play it seriously. Hm.

We also spent a lot of time chasing the achievement of surviving all campaigns on Expert mode, both on 360 and Steam. The achievement eluded me until the end (or at least when I stopped playing regularly) but it was still a fun, hair-raising time. I got most of the others achievements on 360, though!

Why It’s #64:

Like I said, I spent a LOT of time playing this co-op with friends. It was an absolute joyful experience clicking zombie heads, both with a controller and a mouse. It opened up a new world of how co-op could be fun and make me laugh while being social with my friends. And it still holds up today as a great game that can be repeatedly played over and over and still have a fun time with it. It’s worth it to play even if you’re sick of zombies at this point.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #65

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Release Date: October 26, 2004

Platform Played On: PS2

2018 Placement: #67 (+2)

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What It Is:

The wildly successful follow-up to both GTA 3 and GTA: Vice City. It’s the final PS2 era GTA game before the next true numbered sequel on PS3/360. It contains all the mayhem and destruction of the other GTA games along with irreverent humor and taking place in the 90s. The protagonist CJ starts out as a gang member and works his way up the social ladder until he’s in charge of everything, all the while being harassed by Samuel L. Jackson as a cop (among other harassments, like say the infamous David Cross and his toy airplanes).

There’s tons of weapons and cars and it’s the first time San Andreas and Los Santos were put on the GTA map – the predecessors to GTA V’s versions. There’s also the fictional version of Las Vegas (Las Venturas) that is one of my favorite locales in all of GTA (and I’m hoping we get a hi-def version of it in GTA VI someday). There’s gang missions, story missions, side missions where you torch a weed farm, and all sorts of other capers and hijinks. A classic 90s soundtrack blares through whatever genre of radio you like to listen to (Radio X or The Dust for me) and I guess there’s also the infamous Hot Coffee mod. It’s a true open world experience where San Andreas is your oyster in a time before open worlds had checkpoints and towers to climb.

Why It’s Important To Me:

While GTA has always been a single player affair (up until the success of GTA Online) I’ve always considered GTA a local co-op game. During the PS2 era, me and my friends would load up a GTA and just fuck around by messing with cops or stealing tanks and seeing how long we could last. And once the inevitable six star assault killed us, we’d pass the controller to the next person and see what chaos they could cause. Eventually we’d do an actual mission or two to unlock some cool new stuff and then go back to shooting rockets at civilians or parachuting out of planes onto a military base.

GTA: San Andreas was the epitome of the “fuck around and find out” gameplay once all three cities were unlocked. We’d ride to the top of Mt. Chiliad before driving whatever we had off a cliff and laughing as it either exploded in slow motion or we somehow miraculously survived. CJ was highly customizable in his look, and you could own all sorts of cool cars. At the time, San Andreas felt like it was the peak game world where you could do anything you wanted and really make your own fun. A true “open world” that had first been envisioned in GTA 3 and it was just an absolute blast to play with friends.

My Strongest Memory:

Fuck David Cross and his stupid model airplane.

Why It’s #65:

GTA V has been the gangbuster GTA, persevering for nearly a decade due to GTA Online and its updates. But San Andreas was not only the formula-setter and blueprint for success, but it was the one I spent the most time playing with my friends. I only tangentially got into GTA Online due to not having many people to experience cooperative mayhem with, so I have many more strong feelings towards the late college nights where we’d fuck around in San Andreas. It’s the #1 GTA in my heart and I’ll always have a place for it on the top 100. Catch me listening to Tom Petty while cruising outside of Los Santos any day.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #66

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

Release Date: February 14, 1992

Platform Played On: NES

2018 Placement: #56 (-10)

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What It Is:

In the 80s and 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage. And after the success of the arcade game the TMNT game formula was basically cemented as “co-op brawler.” TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project was the first game to release after the Secret of the Ooze and while the game did include Tokka and Rahzar, there wasn’t any Go Ninja Go involved. Instead the plot revolved around Shredder making the entire Manhattan island float into the sky? For some reason? It’s a Turtle game plot don’t think too hard about it.

The game is a straightforward brawler where each Turtle is armed with their different weapons and a special attack that lowers your health each time you use it. Of course you can’t kill yourself by doing it, so the best option is always to spam your special attack when you’re at one health do to max damage. There isn’t too much complexity to this game and it has the same level of difficulty as any brawler of the NES era. But it is wrapped in a nice Turtle shell (heh heh) and includes some lesser known villains of the franchise like Groundchuck and Dirtbag as bosses, so that’s cool.

Why It’s Important To Me:

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were my jam growing up as a kid. From the movies to the cartoon show to a comic audiobook I listened to on cassette tape many times, I loved the four ninjas and their master Splinter. I never owned the original, balls-hard NES game and while I liked the Arcade Game, this one was the one that really spoke to me first out of all the Turtles games. I played this a bunch in my basement as a kid, dragging my friends into the co-op mode to beat up on Foot soldiers.

It’s also a Konami game (my first Konami game, actually) and had a variant on the Konami code to unlock a debug menu where you could give yourself more lives and continues, which is mostly why I actually played this one a bunch. (Modular difficulty in games is actually good, y’all!) But it also was the first game I can remember to have a sound test menu within its cheats, and so this game was the first one where I really got to enjoy a video game soundtrack. In fact, this game was probably the genesis of me wanting to have video game soundtracks to listen to outside of the actual games. I would sit in that debug menu and listen to music tracks without playing the game and it was fantastic. I can still hear Tatsujin in my head without any prompting.

My Strongest Memory:

Well, listening to the game’s music in the debug menu is probably my strongest, but I already talked about that one.

My favorite moment in the game itself, though, happens at the end of the fourth level. You’re in the Manhattan subway and the level music fades out and the boss intro fades in as Dirtbag comes riding in on a minecart. Except…the minecart doesn’t stop and Dirtbag does a little wiggle of frustration as he just rides past your Turtle. The boss music then just fades out and you’re left with a second or two of silence and your Turtle just stares at the camera…before the minecart comes back and Dirtbag jumps out to fight you for real.

It’s a remarkably dumb joke that always makes me laugh because it encapsulates TMNT humor. Just a quick gag that’s completely unexpected at that point in the game. The music fading in and out is what makes it for me. If you want to see it in action yourself, take a look here.

Why It’s #66:

This game isn’t going to win any Oscars for its story, and its gameplay is by the numbers brawling. But the Turtles will always spark a nostalgic joy in my mind and heart. While others grew up on Final Fight or Streets of Rage as their brawler of choice, I always landed on the Turtles because I liked them across all media. It has a bopping soundtrack and fun character bosses and is the first video game to use Super Shredder as the final boss, since it’s the first Turtle game to come after Secret of the Ooze. What isn’t there to love?

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #67

Control

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: Unranked

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What It Is:

If you’ve ever read anything from the Secure-Contain-Protect archives, Control is just that in game form. You play as Jesse Faden, who enters the Federal Bureau of Control in search of her missing brother and guided by something she considers a friend that communicates with her telepathically. The FBC investigates Objects of Power (objects that do weird supernatural shit) and Altered World Events (events where weird supernatural shit happens) and contains them within their headquarters in the Oldest House, which itself is an Object of Power – a building that is larger on the inside than outside and shifts its structure at a whim. You quickly discover that all hell has broken loose within the building and you’re thrust into the role of the Director due to picking up an OoP called the Service Weapon.

From rubber ducks that play hide and seek to a malicious refrigerator, there’s all sorts of weird stuff going down in the building. It makes for a spooky, unsettling atmosphere that is tinged with humor if you read all the reports scattered about the Oldest House. Mundane things like officer workers getting upset they can never find the bathroom because the walls keep shifting are mixed in with terrifying redacted reports of people dying. Oh, and I guess the main game mechanic is shooting and using a few cool supernatural abilities like flying and mind control, but really it’s the atmosphere that makes the game.

Why It’s Important To Me:

As I’ve said before, horror is not my genre. However, Control is exactly the right amount of disturbing and unsettling while also keeping me on the edge of my seat. This game was everything I could have asked for in terms of a spooky, supernatural game. From the creators of Alan Wake (which is another spooky game right up my alley of spooky), they absolutely nail the idea of a government agency trying to control the uncontrollable. I read over every document I found, I listened to every audio file and explored every nook and cranny to eat up all the possible material I could about this universe. Including the brutalist architecture of the The Oldest House, this game has probably the most captivating world-building and atmosphere of any game in the last decade.

I got into this game so much I Platinumed it on PS4, which isn’t something I do often. So when I do put in the time to get every trophy you know it’s a worthwhile cause. In addition, it has some really cool optional bosses that keep with the Object of Power theme and make you use your abilities in neat ways. Jesse Faden is a great character and a solid protagonist, who is as unsure of what’s going on in the FBC as the player. The supporting cast is also stacked, with Dr. Darling carrying the brunt of the work through live-action film sequences and his role getting more and more weird and disturbing as the game progresses.

My Strongest Memory:

So first, obviously, the Ashtray Maze. I’ve already talked about it on my podcast but this was the absolute top setpiece of the entire game. I don’t want to spoil it so just play the game and when you get to the Ashtray Maze be prepared to be amazed. (Pun intended.) It’s just pure joy in action-shooter form and the best sequence Remedy has ever put together. Topped off by a wonderful soundtrack, it is absolutely the highlight of the game because it makes you really feel like a badass using supernatural powers.

The other strongest memory is on the disturbing end of the spectrum. Throughout the Oldest House you can find different videos, one of which is a series called the Threshold Kids. It’s a puppet show, ostensibly aimed at training children to understand the FBC and supernatural entities. The puppets are creepy and the show is just a little off-kilter every time you watch it. There was one that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, simply because it ends on a creepy line and then the puppets turn to look at the camera, their gaze lingering in an unsettling matter for just long that I thought they were going to reach through the TV and grab me. Finally the video ended, but I’d never been more nerve-wracked by a video game. No thank you.

Why It’s #67:

The atmosphere, characters, and world-building of Control are absolutely top-notch. The gameplay, however, is standard boring third-person shooter. Even if it does give you cool abilities like telekinesis and floating in the air, most of the enemy encounters involve shooting and hiding and shooting and hiding. The enemies are also overtuned, to the point that you can be killed by something off-screen without warning even if you’re at a high level. For such a wonderfully creative world, 90% of the combat is lacking that same inspired creativity. I think if it had nailed the actual gameplay better, Control could have been a top 10 game of all-time. Let’s hope for a Control 2 that improves the combat, everyone.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #68

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Release Date: May 23, 2013

Platform Played On: 3DS

2018 Placement: #43 (-25)

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What It Is:

Shin Megami Tensei is most famous for the Persona series (which has now dropped the SMT label starting with Persona 5) but has a lot of other franchises underneath its belt. From the SRPGs of Devil Survivor to the long-named Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, there are plenty of different games within the SMT umbrella. But of course, there is also the mainline numbered Shin Megami Tensei games, the most recent of which was IV on the 3DS.

The SMT series proper plays partly like a demonic Pokemon: it’s a turn-based RPG where you find and recruit demons into your party and fight other demons. It uses the Press Turn mechanic, where if you exploit the weakness of the demon(s) you’re fighting you get an extra turn, but if you hit one of their strengths you’ll lose extra. Similarly the enemy can exploit your weaknesses to get extra turns as well so you have to be careful which demons are in your party so you don’t give enemies an advantage. It’s an intriguing system that adds extra layers to battle that could be perceived as difficult, but once you get used to the system everything flows together nicely. Oh, and eventually you fight God. Because it’s not an SMT game if you don’t challenge God at some point.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Persona 3 was my first SMT game and while I tried to get into Nocturne, it didn’t really click for me. I enjoyed Devil Survivor because I’m an SRPG slut and I still have an unopened copy of Devil Summoner 2 with the Raiho plushie somewhere. But it wasn’t until SMTIV that the non-Persona SMT formula just clicked for me. I put over 90 hours into this game on the 3DS and dethroned multiple gods along the way and had a blast doing it. It’s a fun battle system and has the same addictive gotta-catch-’em-all style collection as Pokemon, along with a pretty bleak yet hopeful story.

It also pulls a surprise twist on the players as it starts out in a very feudal-like setting, with the main character being a Samurai in a country called Eastern Mikado. But a few hours into the 80+ hour game your group decides to head down a tower into the “Unclean Ones’ Country” and the player discovers that Mikado is actually an alternate world and you descend into an apocalyptic Tokyo. It blew my mind when I was playing it even though nearly every SMT game takes place in some form of an apocalyptic Tokyo. I think that was what hooked me: between the story beats and characters that were in your party (that weren’t demons) it really grabbed me from the very beginning.

My Strongest Memory:

If you know anything about Shin Megami Tensei games, you’ve probably heard legends of the Matador fight from SMTIII: Nocturne. That’s the boss fight where the game stops fucking around and tells you “learn how these systems work or you’re not getting any further.” It’s a “tough” fight that’s fairly straightforward if you’re following the rules of the game, but will absolutely kick your ass if you’re trying to brute force your way through.

Which brings me to my favorite boss fight of this game, the absolute beast of the Minotaur. It’s not quite the same level as Matador, but the Minotaur is still the “skill check” boss fight of SMTIV and can be quite difficult if you aren’t prepared for it. He also has the best modern design of any new demon – I mean look at that picture above. Look how awesome that character design is! AND this is the first time the “boss” battle music kicks in during the game and it fucking slaps, giving the battle even more weight. AND he basically precedes the Tokyo reveal so he’s not only a skill check boss, but he is the boss right before a big twist in the game. Long story short, I was gripping my 3DS tight the entire battle and was ecstatic when I succeeded at beating him.

(If you want to watch his intro/see the boss battle, watch this here. It’s so good.)

Why It’s #68:

It’s a damn good RPG and the SMT series outside of Persona shouldn’t be slept on. They are some fantastic RPGs with stories that are slightly more adult than what Persona’s high school drama brings to the table. If you’re looking for a little less anime-ass-anime tropes, SMTIV does a good job of not delving into questionable territory (as far as I can recall). It also provides just enough of a challenge to be satisfying but not annoyingly so. It’s good shit.