Wario Ware, Inc
Breaking videogames down to their base components could surely never be made fun. The up, down, left, right of fine control, the wait, wait, wait, now! of precise timing; memory and recognition tests, logic puzzles and reaction games. But WarioWare is pure, barely restrained and irreverent fun.
Looking back, it’s yet more proof of Nintendo’s experience in immediately generating appeal – almost every minigame is a masterclass in how to instantly captivate with clear goals and a captivating alchemy of sound, image and control.
Super Monkey Ball
Some of the most striking demonstrations of videogame skill are still those by Super Monkey Ball players. Seeing its sturdy physics model being used to perform incredible acrobatic feats shows just how finely honed it is.
It also foreshadowed Wii Sports, flaunting the fine control of the GC pad, and its bright colours and loveable characters, minigames and engaging simplicity were tuned to appeal to all. The difference, though, is that Super Monkey Ball is hardcore. Just look at what the dedicated can do.
Of all Blizzard’s games, it’s StarCraft that has had the most interesting story since release, having become the most successful e-sport in the world, thanks to the fiercely competitive leagues of South Korea.
The reason for its success is partly a coincidence of cultural circumstance, and partly down to the thrill of learning and utilising its three precisely balanced asymmetric factions amid the blisteringly fast pace of its multiplayer battles.
Although initially critically overlooked, it has proven to be enormously influential and, at least on its own terms, still hasn’t been bettered.
It demands greater suspension of disbelief than most games, inflicting on players a litany of awkwardnesses and a patience-stretching opening that gives no clue to the freedoms that lie beyond. But once you’re outside Vault 101, Fallout 3 blossoms.
With the detail and wealth of discoveries that lie in wait, you can find as much fulfilment from just meandering the open wastes as from embarking on Bethesda’s missions, which boast remarkably freeform structures.
Once you’ve surrendered to its peculiar idiom, Fallout 3 empowers, engages and rewards to extents that few games have ever achieved.
A racing game becomes quite different when it’s brought into an open world.
That’s why there’s a race at every intersection in Paradise City – fail one and there’s another only a block away. Paradise is all about flow, not loading and restarting, about drifting, sweeping corners and seamlessly dropping into multiplayer. Couple that with a set of challenges and cars that allow you to choose how you want to play – to shunt and bash your way through or cleanly boost – and Paradise becomes just that.
Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
People argue over which Castlevania is ‘the best’. Certainly, the series has flowered in its handheld iterations, but Symphony Of The Night has something more than a just a carefully plotted path through its castle. When you get to that moment when the castle turns on its head, you see that it’s a work of genius.
Suddenly, it’s clear that every area was designed for you to run not only over its floors but over its ceilings, too. Rooms have dual purpose, and every crenellation and beam takes on new meaning – it’s a transformation of fiendish beauty.
In other games you destroy worlds. In Bioshock, you’re an interloper in a world that’s already destroyed, the crushed utopia of Andrew Ryan, tasked with not only finding out what’s happened but what your own role is. Rapture’s many idiosyncrasies paint a picture of paradise brought low, the excellent voice-acting sets a new industry standard, and its central revelation is a defining moment of interactive storycraft.
Yes, the narrative can’t quite sustain the game’s length, but Bioshock is a game as singular as its world: long after its mechanics are surpassed, the memories will remain.
Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
It seems the smallest of innovations – placing the next-highest score from your friends list in the corner of the screen – but it’s revolutionary. Urging you to play stronger, that number also incites flurries of counter-competition.
Let’s not forget the brilliantly balanced designs for each game mode, though, which elegantly squeeze new play from every corner of the original formula, from the calculated precision required for Pacifism to the switches between vulnerability and invincibility in King.
Team Fortress 2
The hardcore MP shooter sorely needed a slap in the face. The grimacing meatheads we’d played as in the past had nothing to do with the comedy violence, petty rivalries and cartoon physics of the fights we actually enacted. TF2’s fresh, vivid art style gives Valve the perspective to isolate and rectify everything else the genre’s been missing.
The result is a sumptuous and enduring shooter with distinct classes, satisfying relationships and co-operations and many more interesting ways of interacting than just by exchanging assault rifle fire.
It doesn’t really matter which version of Bomberman you can get your hands on (apart, perhaps, from Act Zero on 360).
So long, of course, as you have enough controllers to satisfy player demand and the option to specify the classic map, Revenge and Super Revenge off, burn, virus and scavenge on, and standard powerups.
In other words, Bomberman’s been perfect for years. Even online can’t improve it – the recent Live outing proves that its balance of sober bomb placement and blind panic is most certainly best experienced with all players jeering at each other in the same room.