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The List: My Top 100 Favorite Video Games of All Time, part two

By Damien Wilkens
11 February 2011 Our journey through my 100 favorite games continues with a mix of games that have absolutely nothing in common with each other, outside of my love, of course.

#95 - Dead or Alive Xtreme 2
System: Xbox 360
Originally released: 2006

What is it?
Just about the weirdest fighting game spin-off in existence. This isn't to say that there's a consistent formula for such a game, as there have been platformers, action-adventures, even strategy RPGs featuring famous characters. DOAX2, on the other hand, is a combination dating-sim, arcade sports, gambling, photography game.

Pick your favorite buxom DOA girl and hit the beach for a rousing game of volleyball. If that's not your speed, maybe you'd rather ride the water slide, hop on a Jet Ski, play blackjack, or just go shopping in an attempt to find gifts for your top-heavy partner. Back braces not included.

It is, if nothing else, an experience that's never truly been seen before or since, resulting in a misunderstood game with a lot of addictive elements and no real ending to speak of.

Why did it make the list?
Hmm. Well, this is awkward.

During the multiple revisions of my list, I found myself removing this game often. I mean, I like it a lot, probably more than anyone that's ever enjoyed it for non-creepy reasons. I just didn't want to be put in the position where I'd have to explain why it's ahead of a title like Sands of Time. Also, it's entirely possible that any future girlfriends of mine may end up reading this.

While it'd be easy to just say this is a guilty pleasure and be done with it, I'd be lying. The truth of the matter is that I feel no guilt in enjoying this game, which leaves me with the task of explaining why.

Honestly? It relaxes me. There's something about coaxing a cartoonishly proportioned women into joining you for a game of pool-hopping that can really make you forget about your worries. The most stressful thing in DOAX2 is making sure you used the correct color wrapping paper for Helena's gift, lest she return it. Is it redefining the art of gaming? No, and it doesn't really need to. As with most of the games on this list, it's unique and highly replayable, and that's all I really need it to be.

Best Moment: Hitting a spike at the perfect moment, knocking that chatty bitch on the other team on her ass. That's right, Christie; should've accepted that fancy tea set I bought you.

Fun Fact: Kasumi and Ayane, the two sisters of incestuous motivation always have their ages listed in the games as "??" or "not available." This is because they're 17 and 16 respectively. That's right. Why don't you do me a favor and have a seat over there?

#94 - Illbleed
System: Dreamcast
Originally released: 2001

What is it?
Survival horror in the most literal sense, Illbleed tells the tale of Eriko Christy, a high school senior on a mission to rescue her friends from the deadly theme park of the same name. What sets Illbleed apart from other horror games, aside from the B-movie insanity throughout, is the emphasis on pure survival. Every room you enter is populated with a combination of items, traps, and enemies, which can only be detected with timing and patience. You have to be careful that Eriko doesn't die of fright or blood loss, whilst keeping her adrenaline levels high enough to detect any coming dangers.

As one would expect, it's also one of the most difficult games of the genre, where attempting simple trial and error will result in a swift demise.

Why did it make the list?
Certain games have what I like to call Dreamcast Awkwardness. These are games that are so flawed and weird that they become intensely charming. They embrace an era when budgets were low, mouths couldn't animate, and the outlandish ruled the day. Illbleed is Dreamcast Awkwardness in its purest form. Horrible voice acting? Check. Clumsy, maladroit animations? Check. A completely batshit insane story? Double check. It's everything a B-movie game should be, with spin-kicking zombies, comical amounts of gore, and the feeling that the developers really weren't all that worried about how much they sold.

Early in the game, you fight the vengeful spirit of a pedophile with a baseball bat possessed by the spirit of his dead son. It only gets crazier from there.

Best Moment: One of Eriko's friends, Randy, is a dimwitted muscle head, and the source of some of the more humorous dialog in the game. A fun little detail is when you have to save Randy from the park. If you save him without recovering his brain first, the game will refer to him from that point on as "Brain-less Randy."

Fun Fact: Illbleed is one of the only commercially released console games to have a nude cheat. Beating the game will allow you to go through a second time, losing more and more clothing as Eriko's friends are left to die.

#93 - Warlords
Systems: Arcade, Atari 2600, Xbox Live Marketplace, lots of compilations
Originally released: 1980

What is it?
A goddamn classic, that's what it is.

Warlords is the evolution of the early Pong variant Elimination. In it, four players defend their castles from the fireball of a passing dragon. Armed with only a small shield, it is up to you to deflect the danger back at your foes, breaking down their defenses until you are the last one standing.

It's often named alongside arcade classics like Joust, Defender, and Dig Dug, and for good reason. With each new generation, there is the inevitable rerelease or collection showcasing the greatest games of a bygone era. Warlords is always one of them.

Why did it make the list?
Warlords is the first video game I ever played. I was all of nine at the time, and had really no clue what I was doing, no idea what the point was. What are those block things? Why did they build these castles so close together? "Game over? I just started!"

Turns out, as with most things, I was over-thinking it.

I tend to look at the game from a whole new perspective these days. While it still has the fun pick-up-and-play appeal that it always did, I also have to credit it for introducing me to a lot of the concepts that make video games so fascinating. Here is this world that's created with the touch of a button, and I, as the player, have the ability to nurture or destroy it. No matter what I decide, I can simply walk away when I'm finished, and when I return to the world, it's ready for me to shape all over again.

The fact that games can hide such abstractions is what makes me want to fight for their respect so much more.

Best Moment: Whenever you find yourself in the final two, with four fireballs bouncing around the screen too fast to hit. From that point, you face either a crushing defeat, or the most satisfying of victories.

Fun Fact: The original prototype of the game had the title Castle Kings. Warlords, as they eventually surmised, was much more badass.

#92 The Mark of Kri
System: PlayStation 2
Originally released: 2002

What is it?
Quite possibly the most underrated game for the PlayStation 2, The Mark of Kri is the story of Rau, a warrior tasked with protecting his village. Taking jobs as a vigilante for anyone that will ask, he soon finds himself and his people in grave danger. What starts as a simple scuffle with bandits quickly turns into a fight to save the world.

The thing that makes The Mark of Kri stand out is the contrast between its cartoonish art style and the violent brutality that Rau is often forced to commit. Most of the art team were 2D animators from companies such as Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, Don Bluth, and Disney, and have crafted a distinctive world based on Polynesian, Asian, and South American cultures. It has all the makings of a Disney animated feature. The only difference is that in this world, decapitations are much more frequent.

Why did it make the list?
It's a game that really defies what should and shouldn't work in an action game. Everything from the design of Rau, to the hand-drawn level transitions, to the way the game approaches combat is there to remind you that you're experiencing something very different and very memorable. It's these aesthetic choices that take what is, at its core, a linear action-stealth game and makes it so much more.

Best Moment: The first time you cut off the arm of a foe, watching as he stands in shock at the torrent of blood spewing from his body before collapsing. The Disney Channel this is not.

Fun Fact: The Mark of Kri had it's own self-contained achievement system, known as Baumasu's Challenges. Ranging from simple to absurd, they offered some self-imposed replay value in a generation before it was the norm.

#91 - Deus Ex Machina
Systems: ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, MSX
Originally released: 1984

What is it?
The closest thing the medium of video games has ever gotten to a concept album. To call it a "game" seems to almost miss the point, as Deus Ex Machina exists in the nebulous space between interaction and immersion.

Silent on its own, the game was packaged with a cassette tape, supplying narration and music for the journey, offering both a creepy, disjointed experience, as well as allowing sound quality much greater than the system could handle.

Borrowing from Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man," Deus Ex Machina tells the story of a "defect," a life accidentally sprung from the dying remains of the last mouse in a machine-controlled world. Detailing the stages of conception through senility and death, it is up to the player to navigate the abstract minigames, accompanied by sights and sounds seemingly more fitting for a Portishead concert than a home video game.

Why did it make the list?
You may have already noticed, but I have a real soft spot for games that try to re-imagine the limits of the medium and break through the concepts of genre to create something memorable and different. This may be the best way for me to explain why I'll often hold a flawed game with unique ideas in higher regard than a big budget title with elements perfected and refined from other sources. While there's no doubting that games like Gears of War are necessary to sustain the industry, games like Deus Ex Machina are necessary to strengthen the art form.

What makes it even more notable is the fact that it came out in the 1980s, long before forum posters were having flame wars with Roger Ebert. Before Ico forced developers to rethink their approach to storytelling, Deus Ex Machina was a prophetic piece of software, reaching a level of surrealism that still hasn't been attempted since.

Best Moment: Early in the game, when the narrator details the mouse's demise, describing what happened "as the nerve gas eased its sphincter."

Fun Fact: Said moment becomes even greater when you realize that the narrator of the game is Mr. Kung Fu Rod Stewart himself, Jon Pertwee.

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