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Thursday, September 15, 2016

The 100 canonical games: 20-11



There are thousands upon thousands of games that have been released over the years. Narrowing them down to a "top 100" was always going to be a challenge, but the whole DDNet team has come together to build a list of the 100 most canonical games that we feel all people should play in order to determine the depth and breadth of experiences that games offer.

Each day we'll count down ten of the games, all the way to the mighty #1. Be sure to let us know in the comments if any games on the list surprise you, or you would add to the list yourself!

20. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth


It is incredibly difficult to do Lovecraft’s approach to horror well in any visual medium. On a very foundational level, Lovecraft relies on the imagination; in his stories you never got a clear picture of the monsters he was describing. Rather, you saw the impact that they had on people around them (typically, they are driven insane). That’s what makes Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth such an incredible horror game. It manages to take the qualities that make Lovecraft such a distinctive type of fear, and implement them within a game in a cohesive manner. As much detective and stealth games as anything horrific, Dark Corners takes one of Lovecraft’s finest works (Shadow over Innsmouth) and does it complete justice.

19. Catherine


In an industry that is often accused of having a very juvenile series of attitudes towards sex and relationships, there stands the mighty Catherine, proving just how well the medium can handle the topic. Catherine is an intense psychoanalysis of a brilliant character in Vincent, and an in-depth look at the nature of relationships in modern society, infidelity, and other such topics. Incredibly adult in theme and style, Catherine is the most genuinely mature game you’re likely to find, and needs to be experienced by anyone who takes their games seriously.

18. The Sims


Being the first in its franchise, The Sims wasn’t exactly the most feature-heavy offering of the series. It did not offer a story. It did not offer control over an entire world or even a measly city. What The Sims did, though, continues to ripple through video game releases. The Sims offered some seriously cutting edge person-making tools, some superb customizable home creation tools, and some of the weirdest “words” ever spoken. The game allows players to play however they see fit. Want to play perfect family? Go nuts. Want to play God and kill off people as fast as you can make them? Feel free! When we think of The Sims, think about all those games it inspired (Animal Crossing comes to mind) and how much you loved it when it came out. You know you did.

17. Soulcalibur 2


This was the game that really took Bandai Namco’s weapons-based fighting franchise, and propelled it to the top ranks among fighting games. Soulcalibur 2 was remarkably well balanced, with every character being a genuine contender were they in the right hands. There was something for everyone, too. You might like the light, lithe Talim, who compensated for her limited range weapons by dancing in and out of reach of her enemies to hit them with quick strikes, or perhaps you prefer the heavy hitting and long range of Nightmare. Button mashers struggled because counters were relatively easy to learn, too, so this was one of those rare fighting games where skill absolutely counts… but you don’t need to play for hundreds of hours to get there. The diverse cast was a fun lot too, and it certainly helped that the home console versions each had their own unique character – anyone with a Gamecube knows that that version, with The Legend of Zelda’s Link as the bonus character, was the best of them.

16. Animal Crossing


Not every video game needs to be an epic quest or an eSport. Animal Crossing understands this and is instead a living, breathing toy box where value is in the eye of the beholder. There are tasks to complete and money to strive for, just like life, but whether you're designing, digging, decorating, fishing, or simply chatting it up with one of the mammalian locals, every day is only as consequential as the player wants it to be. There's no rush and it's impossible to win or lose at Animal Crossing outside of the most self-imposed standards. Whether you want a creative outlet or a relaxing pastime, the town is your oyster.

15. Super Mario 64


You can easily argue that time has not been kind to Nintendo’s first fully 3D Super Mario game, and you’d be quite correct; this game looks and plays positively primitively now, by the standards of later games in the series, and the 3D platformer genre in general. But it really can’t be emphasised enough that this game was an instrumental, important game to both Nintendo, the company, and the development of games. As with Super Mario Bros. 3 will before it, Super Mario 64 was so influential that it’s difficult to find a 3D platformer that doesn’t owe at least a little something to this trailblazing masterpiece.

14. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night


Symphony of the Night is the reason we generally talk about “Metroidvanias” these days, and not “Metroid-likes”, and no game other than Metroid itself has had such an impact on this exploration-driven platformer genre. Its most obvious contribution is the addition of RPG systems – levelling up, character stats, and the like – and as a genre with character progression at its core, this was a natural fit. But it also pushed the boundaries of level design (which might be the single most important aspect of Metroidvania game), introduced new audiences to the appeal of Metroid-esque design, and proved that 2D games could still flourish in an age of 3D.

13. Chrono Trigger 



You know a game is important when people are so attached to it that they’ve hacked into it in order to mod it so that they can deliver their marriage proposal to their partners. Chrono Trigger holds a deeply meaningful place in the hearts of many players, and it’s easy to understand why; the game is gorgeous, plays better than just about any JRPG in the history of the genre, and has a plot that is deeply sentimental and emotional. Square Enix has wisely let this series retire, knowing full well that there is simply no way that it could develop a new game (or remake this existing one) in such a way that won’t be a crushing disappointment to the expectations and memories of a wide number of its players.

12. Beyond Good and Evi




One of the great injustices in the history of videogames is that Beyond Good and Evil didn’t sell as well as it should have, and now, 13 years later, we’re still waiting for the second game in what was planned to be a trilogy. That said, it’s rightfully developed a cult following because it just an excellent a game in every regard. The plot strikes a careful balance between lighthearted science fantasy silliness and heartfelt character development, while the excellent action-adventure gameplay takes the best of games like Zelda and Jak & Daxter and blends them together wonderfully. Top it all off with excellent production values and one of the most interesting female heroes in video games’ history, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful game.

11. Civilization 2 




Civilization 2 is not just a very good game (though it surely is). It’s also utterly inspirational and educational. From the videos that showed people the great wonders and got them interested in learning about the world, through to the abstraction of the timeline of great discoveries through human history, for many people Civilization 2, before Wikipedia was even a thing, was what piqued people’s interest across a broad spectrum of things. Coupled with a detailed grand strategy game and more units and gameplay options than most people would ever explore, the depth that this game offered truly felt limitless at the time when it was new, and is still deep enough that it holds up to this day – surely the mark of a superior strategy game.


The 100 canonical games: 20-11
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