Video games have been an integral part of my life from a young age, covering off everything from entertainment and comfort as a child through to being the seed that I cultivated into the career that I have now.
Most good memories I have from my childhood involve playing the PlayStation after school, or as a teenager my computer. In my late teens I was able to translate my love for video games into a love for programming video games, which I did briefly with a lot of success. That skill earned me a job at an agency, which then grew slowly into the skills I have now as a successful full stack developer.
Unfortunately, the way technology around game development has evolved has focused on the visual quality of games and the ease of development rather than the flexibility older development environments offered and ultimately the room for creativity. Instead of having the bare essentials to work with and start from, developers now have enormous engines that have very opinionated routes to take when developing a game with them, which I've noticed leads to a lot of games feeling like the same thing over and over again with new graphics.
Fortunately, there are still diamonds in the rough, which is what I'll talk about below.
5. Diablo III
Diablo III is a bit of a controversial choice here. I originally hated it when comparing it to Diablo II, which is naturally what you would expect someone to do when playing a sequel to a game. The initial iterations of the game upon launch had a lot of flaws (e.g. the auction house, very low drop rates for good items which ruined the main component of the game) and I found myself very much forcing a complete play-through for the sake of getting it off my plate and being able to move onto other things. As the flaws were corrected and the expansions were released, I did another couple of play-throughs and found myself enjoying the game a lot. Once I stopped making constant comparisons to Diablo II, it helped show what was good about the game and how to properly enjoy it.
4. Resident Evil 2 Remastered (2019)
The Resident Evil 2 remaster really impressed me (and a lot of other gamers based on what I've seen around the internet). It's a really great horror game done perfectly. I played the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 games when I was very young and they absolutely terrified me, and this game definitely manages to bring that experience back into my adult life. The horror elements are implemented to perfection, the survival horror (ammo conservation, limited saves, very realistic mortality) elements are perfect and the sound track and graphics are perfect too. The only reason this is 4th on my list is that it's not typically the style of game I play (fantasy role playing games) and is missing a lot of elements I'd like to see in a game that is perfect for me.
3. Final Fantasy XII
The Final Fantasy series is something I was heavily invested in before this release. I spent many months as a 10-12 year old playing Final Fantasy 8 and the following years making my way through Spira in Final Fantasy 10. This series makes up the bulk of my single player gaming journey even now. 12 was a stand out for me because of the shift in gameplay mechanics which I really embraced and enjoyed (non-turn based). I found the lore really interesting, the story progression interesting and the side-content (hunts, etc) really fun and a good way to provide non-story content).
2. Vagrant Story
Vagrant story is a bit of a dark horse, it's not a game that you've probably heard of or seen on the shelves at your local games store. It's a product of Square Enix, specifically with the involvement of Yasumi Matsuno, one of my favorite game designers who has actually been involved in all 3 entries at the top of this list. It's the original "Dark Souls" of PlayStation games, requiring a lot of time investment and patience to be able to play not just effectively but at all. The combat and crafting systems were extremely intricate and frustrating, but very rewarding to learn. The story is easily a 10/10 and the sound track is still a favorite of mine across all scores ever composed.
1. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Tactics Ogre (Let Us Cling Together PSVita remake) is a perfect game. It has gameplay mechanics that have 100% overlap with what I like to see in a video game, which is basically a lot of micro-management. You need to invest a lot of time perfectly composing your party of dozens of characters - their skills, equipment, relationships with other party members, etc. The character development system was very detailed and flexible and a single battle could easily stretch over 20-30 minutes. The story was solid and the characters were all interesting, and the icing on the cake is a very well designed post-game "time travel" feature that let you go through all of the many possible paths of the game. The pacing is much better than Final Fantasy Tactics, which I can't stand because it takes 15 minutes to get through an ability animation.