I've been thinking recently that I should make a list of my favorite games of all time, especially as I find it harder and harder to find games that I like. For now, though, I want to mention several games that don't have the wide spread popularity I think they should, even in the development community. I'm always surprised when I'm talking to game developers and bring up specific games that I feel are "cannon" that they haven't played. So here's a list of 5 specific titles I think you should play.
- Strife: I mention Strife in conversation a lot, and I'm always surprised how few people have even heard of it. Strife is a plot based, almost open world RPG like first person shooter, based on the Doom 2 engine, and was actually the last game to use the Doom 2 engine. In my opinion, the game was largely ignored mostly because it game out the same year as Quake, and the graphics couldn't compete with the more modern 3D engine. That said, the story is reasonable, the dialog is good to great at times, there are interesting choices to be made (though, unfortunately, mostly in dialog) and the level design is pretty fantastic. If you play Strife, you'll realize why I feel horribly let down by 90% of FPS games. If you can find a copy of the game, you can either play it in DOSBOX, or use the zdoom engine, which will allow the game to run natively in windows.
- Star Control 2: Now available in a renamed open source format, there is NO excuse for anyone to not play this game, save lack of time, but even then I'd say you should find the time. Another open world game, Star Control 2 basically gives you a galaxy to explore, and very little direction, at least at the beginning. However, it's very good about chaining elements together, or giving you pointers if you get stuck. The story and dialog are some of the best I've ever encountered in a game. The choices, again mostly though dialog, have actual impact, and you feel repercussions for most things that you do, eventually. Just play Star Control with a pad and paper, because people will tell you coordinates for things, names of stars, and information, which no in game system keeps track of, one of its few failings.
- Beyond Good and Evil: A platformer RPG with an interesting story, an interesting mechanic involving photography, great action / escape sequences, and amazing music, this game got passed up by the general buying public partially because the title has nothing to do with the game and partially because there was little to no marking for it. Thankfully, an HD version is being released in 2011, and you should pick it up when it comes out. When you play it, pay close attention to the puzzle design, and how the puzzles build on each other from stage to stage, as well as the variety of encounters throughout the game. In addition, note the various music, camera, and speed tricks that are used to provide the game with a really amazing atmosphere.
- Quest for Glory 4: If you know me, you know I can't talk about games without bringing the conversation around eventually to Quest for Glory 4. This is adventure gaming done right, with light RPG elements that keep the game especially interesting. The 4th game in the series I feel is especially interesting because it deals with a lot of really dark and mature subject matter, and although it's standard lock and key puzzles (you don't really have too many choices about how to solve puzzles), very frequently in the game you'll find yourself wondering if you actually did what was "right". The story aside, the game also has fantastic puzzle design, and does not contain any of Sierra's traditional "unsolvable" puzzles.
- Intelligent Qube: This game is almost unknown, and actually extremely rare. It's a real time puzzle game for the PS1 where you're a guy on a big box trying to get rid of other boxes before you get crushed by them. The game is exceedingly hard without practice, but the style of it is amazing, specifically because of the music and sound. It was so insanely epic for what was, essentially, a pretty standard puzzler. If you can find a copy (or emulate a copy) I highly recommend you do.