What makes a game stand out against its peers? Honestly? Often it’s because if how it resonates with the person more than how it may compare in a by the numbers game.
Continuing on our two week gush fest to celebrate Chalgyr’s Game Room’s 10th anniversary, here are our Wild Cards because nine other categories clearly weren’t enough to get in our Games of the Decade!
Thank you so much and we’ll see you all again next year!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
This was one of those titles that impacted video games in so many ways, from memes to covers of songs from the soundtrack and so much more. The first time seeing a massive dragon swooping in was an adrenaline rush of a moment. There was a ton of content – both official and also through the Modding community. Oh, and my review of this game stands as our 3rd most read article at Chalgyr’s Game Room, with over 30,000 unique views.
Here’s the thing – this series was basically dead before it re-released back in 2011. A series of sub-par games over the prior years had pretty much killed the interest of loyal fans such as myself before Mortal Kombat reinvented itself for a new generation. This was not the same pixelized arcade game I grew up playing at my local 7-11, and it was better for it. Tons of content, fantastic visuals and perhaps best of all, fluid combat that did away with the stiffness of its predecessors, Mortal Kombat has gone on to spawn some direct and (in the Injustice series) spiritual successors and is now alive and well.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I enjoyed Breath of the Wild quite a bit, even if I didn’t necessarily think it was a perfect masterpiece when it first released. That being said, a lot of people did, and it proved to be the perfect title for moving loads of Nintendo Switches when they were released together. Not many games truly move consoles – but this one did.
Mary Skelter: Nightmares
Mark Skelter, even after the sequel, is one of my all-time favorite Dungeon Crawlers and it deserved a spot on this list. Wizardry first-person dungeon crawlers date back almost to the dawn of video gaming so doing new and unique things is rare when it’s a style that’s been done to death. Kudos to FatBot Games for Vaporum that turned the style into real-time while keeping in tune with what makes the style the style, but Compile Heart turned it into a full-blown JRPG with parts being real-time and loads of interactive scary features both inside and out of battle with characters going berserk at the worst of times if you were careful. This? This was a fairy tale for the books with its very dark and bloody tale.
Gears of War 4
Since first picking up my COG tags with Louis in my friend’s living room before a poker night, I enjoyed the series but even as much as I did, it was always good, not great short of Gears 3’s Horde Mode. Once Gears moved from Epic to The Coalition, the story behind the bloody gameplay just got better, the characters got deeper, and the newer Horde Mode was amazing. Now? Now I just need to get around to finishing Gears 5’s campaign and starting its horde mode with my friends once they are all free at the same time. Oh, the joys of adult life.
Tales Across Time
Josh? You know how to make a game. Coming from Critical Games, Tales Across Time is a small title clocking in at 4-6 hours that I still keep coming back to on my list of Indie titles done well. Three separate but intertwined stories later, all I wanted was more.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
You would likely be hard to find a “best of” list for RTS games that did not include the biggest fish in the ocean, the StarCraft franchise. While Blizzard may have fallen out of favor in recent years (“do you guys not have phones?”), one thing is certain and that thing is the success of their properties. While many of us are itching for a 4th WarCraft RTS title, StarCraft II more than fits the bill for our RTS needs. Meticulously balanced, amazingly acted, excellently written, and possessing of Blizzard’s trademark design language, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty brought one of esports most competitive titles into the 21st century with a bang. From its variable Viking aircraft to a hulking juggernaut, Thor, the Terran-based campaign continues the story of everyone’s favorite Space Marshall, Jim Raynor, and his struggles with the aftermath of his on-again/off-again crush, Sarah Kerrigan while mixing in a heavy dose of revenge against the Terran Confederacy. The introductory campaign to a three-part series, Wings of Liberty expanded upon an already-beloved universe but catapulted itself into the spotlight with its focus on competitive esports (where it remains a backbone of the industry). StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is not only one of the most successful RTS games on the market, but proof that single-player games could still maintain market dominance in a time when MMOs were all the rage. Plus, it reaffirmed that Blizzard is the go-to studio for all things Real-Time Strategy.
Company of Heroes 2
Entering the foray near the end of what I like to call the “Burn Out Period” for World War II game titles, Company of Heroes 2 took the world by storm by following up to 2006’s utterly fantastic Company of Heroes. Building upon their incredible wealth of knowledge, SEGA and Relic Entertainment delivered a knock-out hit to the longstanding juggernauts in the RTS genre by shipping a visceral, bloody, and dynamically stunning experience through its storied campaign and its heroic companions. Full of moments of sacrifice, tension, loss, and no small amount of fun in its war-torn villages and battered fields, Company of Heroes 2 is the mature older brother to all of its RTS brethren, showing that the genre is more than simply min-maxing your resource allocation and turret placement. Of all the RTS titles out there, the Company of Heroes franchise feels far more about the troops than the commander and that ideal is exemplified in the 2013 sequel.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
Stardock’s Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is an interesting beast; one part 4X, one part Grand Strategy, one part RTS. Genre-blending and brutally difficult at times, Sins of a Solar Empire is about expansion and destruction; manage your commercial dominance, scout a vast, meticulously detailed universe, and crush your enemies with military might, all in real-time. Adding to the wonderful and hectic gameplay is a mod-friendly integration that will add dozens, nay hundreds of hours worth of gameplay. From the innumerable Star Wars and Star Trek mods to Sins of the Prophets, a Halo total conversion mod, to other popular franchises like Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, or even Mass Effect; Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion can do it all and that is the founding reason that it has been a mainstay in real-time strategy games for nigh on ten years with no end in sight.
Paradox Interactive is a company that seems to have my number, because they publish games that are strategy, 4x, and city builders. Of course, the first wildcard entry for me is Cities: Skylines. It is infinitely better than other titles of its kind like Sim City, the developers allow mods for the game, and continually add new content to the game through DLCs. I have most of the DLCs to this game like Industries, Natural Disasters, and Mass Transit. Each DLC comes with new buildings, a new mechanic, and often scenarios are released. With the use of mods, players can create any kind of city they wish, like a European style with left-handed driving as an example. I’ve have dumped a ton of time in this game and enjoy every DLC that has been released (with the exception of Concerts. That was a bit of a disappointment because we only received two extra buildings, no scenarios, and not much else added. But, I love that I have a concert venue, so there is that.) Overall, it is one of my favorite city management games that keeps bringing me back. Also, I’ve managed to get a bunch of other people hooked on the game too, so yeah!
Cypher is a puzzle game that most people haven’t actually heard of. In fact, if you google the game, it will be stuffed in between the movie content. Anyways, Cypher is a puzzle game focused on code-breaking aka cryptography. It is also a really hard game if players aren’t familiar with different styles of creating and breaking codes. Each puzzle gives only one hint to its solution and often that isn’t enough. The best help that players get in this game is through the fact that the earlier rooms will have a title and a description of the kinds of puzzles that are present. For example, one room is substitution, which is one of the most basic ways to break a code. It simply requires players to substitute a letter for another, often finding a keyword, to figure out the message. On days where I’m really upset and need to focus on something quite difficult, I end up playing Cypher, because I don’t know all the different ways to break codes. It is definitely my runner up game in the wildcard category, and yes, I’m insane because of it. But there is true satisfaction once you figure out the solution.
You Don’t Know Jack
Sometime in the 90’s a game was released called You Don’t Know Jack. It was a quirky trivia party game that I used to play with my best friend. We spent countless hours ‘screwing each other’ out of money and answering crazy irrelevant/nonsensical questions. It’s the sort of game that I really took a liking to, that very few people had played (at least that I knew, at the time). Much later, the Jackbox Party Pack released with You Don’t Know Jack and let me tell you because I was used to Schmitty’s voice, I recognized it immediately. I needed this game in my life again. It’s still quirky and likely doesn’t make sense to many people, but it’s a trivia game that I love to this day. Do yourselves a favor and get a party pack with YDKJ (I also recommend Quiplash and Trivia Murder Party because they are fun as hell). Just trust me. They are fun and can be played with viewers on Twitch!
Mass Effect 3
This game isn’t on this list for the story or the color-coded ending. Rather it’s here because I broke 4 toes playing this game. No seriously, me and a group of friends were playing online, we were mid-round, and I had to go to the bathroom. Not willing to AFK my buddies, I stuck through it. Upon completing the round, I took off to the lavatory, skidded on the carpet, and bashed my foot off the door frame. Cue me having four broken toes 2 days before a major mid-term. It hurt, it sucked, I was right back playing again the following week. It’s now become a running gag amongst my buddies to say “too many praetorians” whenever a horde of any enemy type starts getting ridiculous.
This game is also on my “guilty pleasure” list alongside Moero Chronicle. What Criminal Girls brings to the table though is a battle system where your party members are making the choice and you have to pick one to listen to. The game was a little difficult, especially the last boss, but I really did love playing this game. Also, the callouts for the some of the special attacks in battle are great. Your party members don’t tell you skill names, they just say a phrase and you need to remember what they’re associated with. The callout “Everyone go Brrr” was my favorite, and I’ll admit I lost it at that.
I love me some puzzles, and Prof. Layton is all about the puzzles. They were almost all reasonable, and there were a ton, so I was a happy camper. While I barely remember anything to do with the storyline, I can state for sure that I enjoyed the plethora of puzzles and minigames that they offered.