I enjoy making lists, and since I've been playing some very awesome games lately, I decided to think of five games I believe any self respecting gamers should play. I'm not talking about my favorites, but games I think exemplify certain aspects of gaming done exceptionally well. After thinking hard about which ones I'd pick, I've come up with the following list:
First off, Silent Hill 2.
I consider this game to have the best story of any in a video game. With its emotional, surreal tale of James Sunderland searching for his dead wife, Silent Hill 2 is more than just a horror game. As James wanders the desolate, foggy town of Silent Hill, he comes across equally disturbed characters looking for their own answers. The final third of the game holds some of the most emotionally tense moments in gaming. This game brought me closer to tears than any other I've played. If you can, play the HD version because the improved voice acting adds to the game in ways I cannot describe. It's worth the few technical issues.
Mirror's Edge is my favorite game of all time, but that's not exactly why I have it on my list. This game just oozes atmosphere in the best ways. The unique art design and soundtrack combine with realistic parkour gameplay to make something truly original. Esurance-styled cutscenes aside, there is absolutely nothing I would do to make this game better. Except maybe make it longer, because I want more of it. One of the many things that makes this game stand out to me is the fact that it gives the player the option to shoot cops but encourages the player to avoid it at all costs. Most gunfights can be avoided by simply running past the cops. The game's story is pretty simple, but it works. The kinetic feel to the parkour and atmosphere developed by the whitewashed city more than make up for any blemish the game might have.
Next, I have Catherine. This is the game that inspired this list. I'm on my third attempt to finish the game, the first failing due to me giving up and the second because I quit after seeing the ending while helping a friend. This game is hard, but I highly recommend everyone to stick through it. Playing through it again, I'm noticing a huge amount of symbolism in nearly every part of the game. It isn't just in story elements, either. The gameplay itself is a metaphor for overcoming our obstacles and climbing our way into heaven. The game doesn't try to hide its Christan imagery at all with its painting of Vincent on a cross, characters constantly referring to heaven and hell, and the confessional booth that rockets the player to the next level. The game can be interpreted on multiple levels, or not at all if one so chooses. The game doesn't lose much impact by taking it just for face value. The gameplay is solid, the art direction is exceptional and the storyline is gripping and bizarre. Not everyone will appreciate it, but I believe Catherine is a shining example of a game with multiple layers of depth.
Spec Ops: The Line has been talked about a lot among gamers and developers since its release, and for good reason. Whether one thinks the game's message was executed well or not, it is hard to ignore what it is trying to say. I ended up finishing this game in one eight hour sitting and was never bored by the game. The game's attempt to make the player actually think about his actions is commendable. Whereas games like Call of Duty and Battlefield try to wow the player with explosions and graphics, The Line provides jarring moments that make the player question the morality of his actions. It is the only military shooter I know of that has made me feel guilty for mowing down hordes of virtual people. And that whole white phosphorus scene? Damn. It's worth noting that since the game is loosely based off of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, it carries over the themes of western interventionism present in Apocalypse Now. Throw solid, if unoriginal gameplay and a very unique setting, and Spec Ops: The Line is a solid, thought provoking game that will surely be talked about for years to come.
And lastly, I chose Minecraft. This is a brilliant sandbox game that translates the creative appeal of Legos to a virtual world. Few games are based completely around the creativity of the player, but Minecraft succeeds by giving the player just enough mechanics to let them build whatever they want. Whether it's a modest cottage or a giant CPU within the game, players can make it. Honestly, I believe that all of the new features added since the official release have been unnecessary. I still think the most satisfying Minecraft experience is to play on peaceful, dig out some resources and build something. I think everyone should play around, preferably with some friends, in Minecraft at some point, just to say they have. No other game I've played integrates creativity directly into gameplay so well.
There's my five. Again, three of these aren't what I consider favorites, but all are games everyone needs to experience at some point in my opinion. What games would you choose, and why? As hard as it is, try to keep it to five. I can't do anything about it if you go over, but it isn't in the spirit of arbitrary limits.
Edit: As an afterthought, I might as well add that I definitely don't think everyone will like all of the games I listed. That's not the point. The point is they're unique experiences that everyone should at least try. They are games that made me think and appreciate gaming in a new or more serious way.