First of all, I am so happy you’ve started a list topic that asks for explanations of choices. Just, thank you for doing it up proper.
I’m going to avoid the titanic franchises that are widely loved (by myself included) and stand-alone titles that were mega-hits that a lot of people have probably played. I’m picking my top five games “you run a good chance of having not played,” in the hopes that some of you will check them out.
In no particular order:
Killer7 (GameCube) - Shooter / Adventure - Killer7 is probably the strangest game I’ve ever played, full stop. If you’ve not seen it in action, YouTube a clip of this bad boy immediately. It’s got the strangest take on cel-shading out there (much more so than later Suda51 games), and a story that’s split between political conspiracy and supernatural horror (with a lot of bondage, because). Look, this game includes characters with names like Trevor Pearlharbor and the Handsome Men. This is a work of mad genius, and it’s completely okay if you hate it. But you cannot deny its singular vision of… something.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii) - Exploration / Narrative - The best game in the series outside of Silent Hill 2. Just got our own Clint started on it last night, and he seems to have had a blast with the first couple hours! While creepy at times, unlike other later entries in the series that try to recapture the older games (and reuse Pyramid Head to death, or come up with worse knock-offs), Shattered Memories is much more focused on telling a character-driven story, and it exceeds remarkably at its goal. If you’re at all into “games with stories,” this is an absolute must. It also has the single best “gameplay-integrated” plot twist of any game I’ve ever played. Yes, I’m including BioShock’s twist, and yes, it makes that plot twist look like amateur hour. Truly affecting and captivating.
Ikaruga (GameCube / Arcade) - Bullet Hell Shooter - This is one of those “pinnacle of technical gameplay” titles, that you can make grand “you have not gamed until you’ve played…” kind of statements about. It’s a tough-as-nails bullet-hell shooter (top-down 2D airplane shooter with extremely high amounts of enemy shots to dodge – Raiden on steroids). Ikaruga also incorporates puzzle game elements, a combo system, and a rating system, which basically translates to “gameplay unicorn giggles.” Your ship has two polarities, white and black, which are shared by all the enemies (and their attacks). You’re immune to shots of the same color, so gameplay becomes a dance of toggling polarities, and “eating” bullets of your ship’s color, then flipping back before you get killed by an “unavoidable” attack. Combos are based on killing enemies in groups of three of the same polarity. Aaand then say goodbye to three months of your life.
Dark Souls (PS3) - Adventure/Online - I might be cheating a bit since the Souls games are fairly well-known, but I’m not aware of too many players on here, so I’ll make the (re)introduction! While Dark Souls is known for being difficult, it’s a game that rewards caution, experimentation and strategy, and offers some of the most rewarding victories (especially over bosses) in gaming. It’s all about high-stakes risk-reward. You can only level up at save points, but resting there respawns all enemies, minus bosses. Money and EXP are the same currency. Dying drops all your Money/EXP, and failing to retrieve it in your next life means it’s lost forever. Co-op is possible after using a rare consumable, but that also opens you up to being attacked by PVP invaders. The game also has the best fictional world of anything I played last generation, and there’s an active YouTube community dedicated to sorting through all the lore and speculating about the deeper meanings of everything. Just great, imagination-capturing stuff.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC) - Action/RPG-Lite - I’m kind of cheating on my own rule again here, but like the above, I’ve met a lot of people who would love this title but never played it. It’s not as open-ended as the original Deus Ex, but this is my favorite cyperpunk world in a game; the whole title is just dripping with atmosphere, and it’s one of those rare games of which I hold memories that are as detailed as if I’d really been to the game’s locations. A really evocative title that still puts gameplay before being “an interactive story.” Also, your character has sunglasses surgically implanted into his face. I mean, come on.