A more personal list than usual, this week, we’re celebrating the levels we love the most. The memorable moments, the challenging puzzles, the clever design, the beauty and drama. These are the moments in games that stuck with us the most. Maybe they’re not the best of all time, but we’re not historians, we’re here to share our love for the Top 10 of our favourite levels.
Happy Easter everybody!
Easter eggs are a huge part of video games. Some games do so much with their Easter eggs, it’s hard to not be impressed that it’s not a separate part of the game – It’s an explanation. From some games having giant heads, through to little tidbits of information you’d not find any other way, it’s no surprise that Easter eggs are so much fun. Video games over the years have found so many ways to hide these little events, as well as cleverly hinting at their existence. Some games thrive off the Easer eggs, some of them hide them as well as they can. Today, I’d like to share my favourite video game Easter egg.
Jump, jump for victory! Run to the right until you run out of right to run into! The platformer is a format so versatile that it has been changed and revolutionised so often that it’s no longer a genre to itself, it’s a style that has titles as wonderfully varied as gaming itself. It was there from the beginning, and is awash with incredible examples, how can we ever select only 10?
Or… 12… Because of the honourable mentions…
Anyway, we got together once more with Kevin from The Mental Attic to try and trim down the vast number of platform titles to a select few that we will inevitably have to revisit at some point. Here’s our Top 10 platformers. (more…)
Black Friday celebrates the end of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, an American holiday that – like so much of America’s culture – has made it’s way to the UK because of how staggeringly profitable it is, but I’ll come down from my political high horse before I get the urge to ride into the sunset yelling Viva la Revolucion!
Alongside some pretty huge deals on great titles, Steam are also running their own award ceremony as voted for by the gamers. So while you pick up a stack of games for a fiver, take some time to nominate some of your favourite titles and get another pointless badge for doing so. Why not? It’s nice to give back occasionally. Here’s my picks for the categories: (more…)
You may recall some time back we looked into the Top 10 Boxes. Well today we continue our long-ish tradition of ranking shapes, but today we’ll be cutting a few corners.
Balls! You wanted to know the best of balls, and so we have spent some time looking at and discussing balls. Whether they’re used for sports, storage, puzzle solving or rolling death, so long as they’re spherical, they’re up for consideration, so apologies to fancy soirees and elegant gowns, but those aren’t the balls we’re in this game for.
“A candle the burns twice as bright burns half as long… Mmm hmm”
– Scruffy, The Janitor
The most precious things in life are those that last the briefest, a snowflake, a rose blossom, the career of Fred Savage. They twinkle in the darkness before being swallowed by it, reminding us of our mortality and marking the passage of time. Is it their brevity that makes them so wondrous? Or does the memory of their shortcomings fade before that of their successes? Who can say for sure, but it is these brightest of flashes in an otherwise dull and listless life of successful stars and beloved characters that endure for years that we celebrate in the first Top 10 of the New Year! (more…)
Sidekicks, the oft-forgotten but ultimately necessary addition to any great main character. Let’s face it, what is Batman without Robin? Sure, we all care about the main guy more, but let’s face the facts: The sidekick serves more purpose than just comedic effect, (although some seem tied into this role.) Some are actually intelligent, capable and sometimes are more rounded than the main characters themselves.
In honour of all of the best secondary characters out there, as voted by you, this week we’re dedicated to bringing you our Top 10 Sidekicks in Games.
10) CL4-TP – Borderlands 2
Specifically Borderlands 2. Why? In the first in the series CL4-TP units were everywhere, each had their own variation on the basic personality type of arrogant and cowardly, and they would eventually come to rise up against their Hyperion masters and endeavour to assimilate various main characters. In the pre-sequel, the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin model becomes a playable character.
In Borderlands 2, that same Claptrap is the last of his kind, living in a mausoleum made of his broken friends. Hard to feel bad for him though, while he is essential to the plot, he spends most of the first chapter referring to you as “Minion” while shaking in a corner as you deal with his problems. He’s full of catchphrases and soundbites, and every one makes you want to throw him off Sanctuary just to watch him bounce. Sadly for us all, he’s necessary.
9) Lydia – Skyrim
Otherwise known as Housecarl to the Thane of Whiterun, trap springer, arrow catcher, and “Dammit, get out of the way!” there is no more dedicated a sidekick than Lydia. Willing to fling herself into danger in the name of her Thane, no matter the consequences, literally no matter what the consequences, good/bad/irritating, it doesn’t matter.
She can take a beating, and she is sworn to carry your burdens, so she’s not all bad. And worst case scenario you can always tell her to go home. She’ll even stand in the cold and unfurnished shell of Breezehome, diligently awaiting your return. She’s not quite so keen as Oblivion’s adoring fan, but at least she has a name.
8) Ora – Mark of the Ninja
Ahh, here we go, a sidekick who knows what she’s for!
Mark of the Ninja’s Marked rarely sees his companion Ora except when she drops in to inform him of security measures up ahead that he may not have seen already, or critical changes in the situation. After that she vanishes, presumably to go deal with things off-screen while you get on with the game. She may very well be running her own little mission for all you care, but stays broadly by your side for when you need her most.
There may be a reason for this however [SPOILERS] Ora may very well be a hallucination brought about by the markings on the Ninja protagonist, and you are eventually faced with the possibility of killing your friend and ally, or possibly slipping into psychosis [SPOILERS OVER]. She’s a creepy question mark hovering over your narrative, but she’s also indispensible.
7) Murray, The Curse of Monkey Island
“I am Murray, the evil demonic skull! Muwahahaha!”
Murray is an interesting character overall. He’s a comedic relief, in a game series known for its humorous dialogue. The Curse of Monkey Island has a relatively ‘serious’ plot, in that you are trying to save Elaine from being a solid gold statue and defeat the evil pirate LeChuck.
Technically, this demonic talking skull isn’t really a sidekick, but in some situations he certainly acts like one. He gives you little hints and tips, all whilst realising the inevitability of his circumstances, (y’know, being just a skull means you can’t do much.) Whilst he’s snarky and nasty to you a good 95% of the time, he not only sometimes just appears out of the blue, (questionable how a talking skull gets about so much), but he’ll even go in your inventory and talk when you open it. At least he’s always there for you. Annoyingly.
6) Ellie, The Last of Us
The Last of Us is a game that took the world by storm and for good reason. The protagonist, Joel (not to be confused with our very own Joel,) loses his daughter and becomes a bit of a negative person. However, when push comes to shove, he is tasked with looking after Ellie and the two form a fantastic duo.
Perhaps it’s the strange bond of humanity that makes these two characters an absolutely believable team, or perhaps it’s the direness of the situations they’ve been faced with. Whatever the reason for these two and how they manage to look after one another, Ellie holds her own at such a young age. She makes a lot of sense in terms of character development and she’s up there amongst the most awesome youngen in video games.
Naughty Dog, you can be proud of yourselves for portraying Ellie so well in this. She’s the real hero to me.
5) Potato GLADoS – Portal 2
We struggled with this one, but frankly Wheatley made a far more interesting villain than sidekick. Somehow GLADoS’s journey from AI with god delusions – all-powerful within her self-contained domain – to science fair project with a personality disorder made her far more compelling a companion.
The excursion into Aperture’s abandoned projects and the narrative that unfolded their made her presence far more interesting, and her assistance felling the mad moron drunk with science was invaluable. Ok so her reward for restoring her to her rightful place was not killing you, considering her attitude towards you over the last eight years, you got off lightly.
4) Glottis vs Pey’J, Grim Fandango vs Beyond Good and Evil
This town ain’t big enough for two non-human engineer sidekicks. It’s time for you to cast your vote as to which of these two behemoths are video games best engineer sidekick, but first, let’s explain who these two are.
Glottis, the Demon engineer who isn’t allowed to torch anything bigger than a cigarette without a form signed by the boss himself. After Manny manages to get a signature for Glottis to do his thing to Mannys company car, Glottis becomes Mannys personal driver. Turning the car into the Bone Wagon that we all know and love, Glottis is a fun and incredibly enthusiastic character. He understands rules, but most importantly: He values loyalty and friendship above all else.
Pey’J is a Sus Sapien. If you don’t know what that means, it’s basically a pig human. Don’t be fooled by his gruff looks though, Pey’J is also an incredibly loyal character, but unlike Glottis, his head is way more down to earth and clearly understands the importance of Jades discoveries. He likes to create electronic devices for himself and Jade, often to help Jade out… But sometimes just be cause he enjoys making things. Conversely to Glottis, he doesn’t like driving, but he’s a master mechanic and engineer.
Luigi needs no introduction what so ever. The guy has his own stories and his own games that he goes through. Recently, there was even a year in his honour. If you missed out on that, then you missed out on a special part of the Mario universe. However, the Green Plumber is often picked over his own brother, which begs the question: Is he a sidekick, or an alternative hero at this point of time? Originally, he certainly was introduced as a sidekick, being the player two to Mario.
We can’t be too wrong with this one. Many other websites with similar Top 10 themes rate Luigi as a highly dependable character. With videos such as the below to support him too, whose to say he doesn’t deserve a top 3 spot? Honestly, the next two sidekicks however… They take it to the next level.
2) Tails – Sonic
Ok, so he’s not quite so good as Sonic, not as fast and not all that useful in multiplayer. But the twin-tailed fox has something unique that makes him surprisingly handy at exactly the right moment, and isn’t that ultimately what makes a sidekick perfect? Miles “Tails” Prower doesn’t exactly seize the spotlight but there are times you’d father rather you were flying than rushing past everything at breakneck speeds.
Unlike Knuckles – the third addition to the Sonic team – who has his own stuff to get on with unless he’s needed, Tails is friend and admirer to Sonic. Though he can increasingly depend on himself without the blue speedster watching his back, Sonic can always depend on him when he’s in a fix.
Plus he’s ginger. Gotta represent!
1) Alyx Vance, Half Life 2
Alyx Vance is, for all intensive purposes, the perfect Non-Playable Character and I cannot fault her at all. She’s logical, she’s believable, she’s very intelligent and she’s very athletic and helpful. There’s no reason to dislike Alyx, even if you’ve never played Half Life 2, you will at least know of her. She’s considered one of the greatest NPCs of all time by many, she’s full of presence in Half Life 2 and she’s likeable.
What helps is that throughout Half Life 2, you meet characters who are good for helping you out. Alyx is a constant reminder that friendship and devotion to a cause can be a powerful combination. She cares deeply about Gordon Freeman, the silent crowbar wielding protagonist, which is apparent. Combine this with stellar AI which possibly helps her be one of the smartest AIs in video games at that, it’s apparent she’s the perfect sidekick.
I know for a fact right now that if nothing else, there’s one GeekOut reader who’ll see this at the number one spot and be fist pumping and will never stop talking about it, because the guy never shuts up (and we love him for it). He knows who he is.
We’ve been through the motions of our Top 10 but now that the heroes helpers have been honoured, it’s time to have a look at some more sidekicks who didn’t quite make the cut for the full list. Nevermind, they’re still winners to us, even if they’re rarely remembered. We remembered them… Wait, that’s not how this works! We remember these characters for very specific reasons and here’s why!
Navi, The Legend of Zelda
ARGH!!! STOP IT NAVI!!!
Actually, the whole issue of Navi being an annoying character is slightly inflated by the internet. Hear me out here – I don’t remember playing Ocarina of Time and having Navi saying this all that often. Yes it is somewhat annoying when she does decide to go on a “hey listen” rant, but that’s probably because you’re not actually, y’know, paying attention to what she has to say? She’s there to help and she tries her damned best.
Instead, she’s become a bit of a mocking point for the internet. A real shame, too. She is only doing her job.
Pikachu – Pokémon Yellow
The infamous and least useful “Fourth Starter” was the first Pokémon to stalk you through the Kanto realm because he refused to stay in a pokéball. Well go to hell you stuck-up glorified battery! And stop turning your nose up and threatening to shock me whenever I try to talk to you. I have to go through Brock’s gym with you and a pidgey, that’s gonna be like trying to demolish a building with a pamphlet!
Much like in the anime, the pikachu in Pokémon Yellow edition grows to like you in time. He’s not entirely useless despite the fact that you can’t evolve him without losing the entertaining bouncy sprite following you around, and with it losing one of the most unique features of the game (certainly at the time, not so much anymore).
Quite so Watson, it’s time for us to wrap up this weeks Top 10. Much like our sidekicks that made the cut, this list is secondary to them. Hey, some of these may be scoffed at but we truly felt they deserved a mention. Don’t forget to hit that vote button for our next list!
As always though, we wouldn’t make these lists without you, the readers. Please cast your votes and let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter: Do you think our choices were right for this, or are there any characters you feel deserves a mention? Did we put these in the wrong order? Is Alyx Vance really the top sidekick in video gaming, even above Luigi and Tails?! Let us know your thoughts and we’ll see you all again next week for another Top 10.
Oh boy, did I ever make a mistake with the wording behind this Top 10? I mean, let’s face the facts here, I wanted to make this Top 10 Music in Gaming, but I accidentally said Top 10 Songs in Gaming. Joel found this oh so funny, that I of all people would use an incorrect word. So instead of sneakily changing this over to Top 10 Music in Gaming, we thought we’d take the word mistake on the chin and do Top 10 Songs in Gaming.
The difference between a song and some music is that a song has words within it. Music however doesn’t have words, but is the actual arrangement of instruments to make a noise. Okay, a bit of rhythm helps, but that’s really the jist of it. So how many games are out there that actually have songs, y’know, the lyrical kinds? Joel and I set out on a voyage to see if we could make a boat befitting a god… Or maybe I just wanted Joel gone… Either way, this is our Top 10 Songs in Gaming!
10 – Sailors Song, Black & White
Oooh, we’ve got this notion that we’d quite like to sail the ocean. Ah, I seem to have been caught singing along to this little ditty once again. Damn it, I guess I’ll have to hand in my manliness badge (I had one..?) and I should just go jump on the boat for myself.
But in seriousness, this had to get in. Sooo many people found these guys annoying, but I honestly thought they were a breath of fresh air. Black & White was well known for its brilliant blend of humour in amongst an otherwise amazing god game. Before this, you only really had Populous, which I guess is fitting as Black & White is designed by the guy who made said franchise.
You heard this song in several parts… And then, surprisingly if you actually help them out and get their boat out there to sea, they reappear once again near the end of the game and oh boy, is it ever worth hearing their song one more time!?
Taking from a YouTube Comment in the above video:
9 – Charlie Mops, Bard’s Tale
Is it really a surprise that within the first few minutes of a game about a Bard is filled with bawdy songs? The first place you walk into and the merry drunks are singing a song about beer and the man who invented it, a surprisingly long song but enjoyable number sung at full volume in accordance with tradition.
It’s one of many songs in the game and indeed in the series, and though I’ve only played the one – the Android version which is awesome, amazing quality for a mobile app – it’s a song that sticks in my head like a earworm. I love it, it’s cheery and bouncy and really sets the tone for the rest of the game, a rolling parody filled with daft comedy.
8 – LocoRoco
Gather your friends, start a choir, sing your way into the secret places and fight out evil invading tentacle monsters. In LocoRoco you take the role of a planet, rolling and bouncing your last great defence around the your surface. Doesn’t matter, they’re adorable, and the songs are amazing.
The songs are in a language very similar to Simolian, a put-together mash of syllables oddly representative of any and all languages, but they’re even composed in many different genre styles; reggae, brit-rock, blues. LocoRoco is a fun little game, sure, but it’s an even better listen.
7 – Master Onion’s Rap, Parappa the Rapper
Most people at some point of owning a PlayStation likely came across the Parappa the Rapper demo. This was the song that was on that demo, which was also the first level from Parappa the Rapper. The little rapping dog has to grow up pretty quickly through the course of the game and he does everything though the medium of rap. Joel and I have a little soft spot for geeky raps, as we’ve covered before (Try our Top 10 ERBs!)
However, the unique selling point to the songs in Parappa the Rapper is the fact that you actually make an impact on the songs. You see, as you play through the game, you get involved with the raps. So in this, you have to say the words: Kick, Punch, Chop, Block, Jump, Turn and Pose. By pressing X, ⬜ , ◯ or △, you end up with Parappa saying one of the words at the right times. A very unique game that earns a soft spot with me, but it also shows that you can make songs the entire point of a game… And that’s not including things like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, where you can be the singer. Very cool for its time and definitely a classic!
6 – I Am Murloc by Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftain, World of Warcraft
A lot of you reading this may be feeling a little bit cheated with this one.
“But Timlah,” I hear you start, “That’s an actual band who made a song because of a game, not made a song for a game. It was just a song that made these guys famous!” You’re absolutely 100% correct too. This was a song that was made because these rockers were serious fans of World of Warcraft, to the point that they made an entire song about being a Murloc. I mean that’s pretty damn cool unto itself, but there’s another part of this story…
See, Blizzard saw this… and they also saw the popularity of L70ETC. Blizzard let them be a live performer at Blizzcon, but to top this off, they even included in-game performers of L70ETC and the song, I Am Murloc was added into the World of Warcraft. This is proof that if you’re just that geeky enough and you have that really fun little idea, uploading a video can get you into the thing you’re most interested in.
5 – A Pirate I Was Meant To Be, The Curse of Monkey Island
The fact it takes Guybrush Threepword the word Orange to progress the game after this shanty begins is absolutely superb and comedy genius. But of course, fans of the fantastic adventure game series, Monkey Island, would hold this song dear to them in their own little way. I must have only been about 10 years old when I first heard this song… and I still sing along to it to this day.
It’s catchy and it shows the predicament our hero is in. He’s gotten himself a crew of would-be adventurers (or pirates as he’s referring to them). They are so ecstatic about being officially called pirates, they can’t help but to just break down in song and dance… And the expressions on Guybrush’s face are a sure fire sign that he’s not really digging the fact his crew are so carefree about their singing.
Guybrush, how could you spoil this amazing moment in gaming? You’re as repulsive as a monkey in a negligee!
4 – Melodies of Life, Final Fantasy IX
The Final Fantasy franchise is full of songs which are worth listening to. Of course, everyone remembers One Winged Angel, but when you look at the actual words it’s kind of… Lame. I’m sorry, but when the lyrics of the song are literally saying about how Sephiroth is full of rage, you kind of just want to say “nope!” In Latin it sounds great though. So what about Final Fantasy 8’s Eyes On Me? It’s a beautiful song after all… But now we’ve gone from rage to “I love you!” It’s touching, it’s almost as good as…
Melodies of Life. A song that really discusses the whole game that you’re about to play before you even get to play it. Not only that, it’s a recurring song (like Eyes On Me) and guess what? Nobuo Uematsu, the composer for the Final Fantasy series, has said that this is his favourite track from the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack, which is full of some fantastic music. If you’ve not heard the soundtrack, I urge you to look it up, as it’s just fantastic. It’s composed beautifully and it’s downright sweet to listen to.
Yes, you literally can understand the whole game through this one song… But had I also mentioned that it was used in a lot of other media? Performed live all over and this even appeared in a Coca Cola advert which was also advertising Final Fantasy IX, it’s been around! Move over One Winged Angel, this is the truest Final Fantasy song. Pah, full of rage.
3 – Dovahkiin, Skyrim
For the first time, the Elder Scrolls theme has lyrics, along with an epic tempo, blasting orchestral score, and OH it’s all written in draconic script! It’s become known as the Skyrim theme, but the same tune (at different tempos, keys, but the same melody) is used in Morrowind and Oblivion. It’s Skyrim that we all remember!
Interesting fact: A choir of thirty people recorded the song Dovhakiin three times to sound like a much bigger ensemble, they had to work to a common pronunciation and emphasis of an entirely invented language, although one that obeys common linguistic rules. The anthem of the Dragonborn is one of the modern masterpieces, not just in games, but in pop-culture of the decade. But not number one?
2 – Katamari Damacy
The song for rolling up large chunks of planet to redecorate the sky. It’s fast paced, uplifting and oddly heart-warming. I’ve never really picked up the ability to memorize japanese lyrics like many anime and gaming fans have, but you can’t help but join in the chorus. It’s got a real party feel that just can’t be beaten, you just have to “roll with it”! Hah! Sneaky pun near the end of the list.
1 – Want You Gone, Portal 2
We debated this. One or other of the Portal songs was going to make the list, they’re beautiful, so why Want You Gone over Still Alive, or even the Aria of the Turrets?
Portal 2 may not have quite so many distinctive and memorable memes to its’ name, but its’ cultural impact was so much more explosive. Seizing upon the fame of its’ predecessor, its’ imagery, its’ music, its’ characters spread further and faster than that of any other game. It was endemic, and in a way Want You Gone was the perfect finale to it all.
Both songs were written by Jonathan Coulton, famous comedy musician whose entire personal works are in the public domain (at least they were last I heard) and performed by GLADoS actor, opera singer, and generally lovely woman, Ellen McLain. If there’s one reason to hope that Portal gets a third instalment, it’s that these two may never compose together again.
The above songs are in game, for sure, but hey, these ones are also in game… So they count still, right? Maybe, but these certainly aren’t on the same level as the above. Never the less, we thought we’d give a nod to these, as they kind of deserve it…
Guitar Hero / Rock Band
Literally you’re picking up plastic guitars, or picking up drum sticks, hey even the microphone or a keyboard… And this is the whole game. Unlike Parappa the Rapper where you are given freedom to be creative with your songs, even hitting the notorious COOL Modes, Guitar hero and Rock Band are requiring you to be as accurate as possible. The giants of the rhythm game genre…
Oh what’s that? Great Aunt Mable is over? Great, she can be our vocalist. Mum, get on the bass guitar, dad get on the drums and everyone stand aside for me, the greatest guitar hero player ever. *Clunk, clink clunk!* Oops, I missed a few, now that song sounds dreadful…
Covers by characters, various games
Just because someone’s a character in a game doesn’t make them any less human, they like to butcher songs in the radio just like the rest of us. Cruising around Saints Row with the radio blasting, who could resist the urge to pick up the tune and do worse things to it than you ever could pedestrians.
And of course, let’s not forget this cheery little ditty. Let’s never… ever… forget.
That’s all we’ve got for this weeks Top 10. Hopefully you found our lyrical content to be just the right blend of funny, epic and awesome… Or you just really liked listening to them sailors singing about their boat. Joel and I sure as hell know we do! But it’s now time for you to join in once again and let us know what you think our next Top 10 really should be. My personal opinion is that every single one of you should click Top 10 Music in Gaming right now, so we can actually settle this one and for all. Go ahead, click it. I mean you could press the others, but where’s the fun in that? Please vote for Top 10 Music in Gaming…
As always, what did you think of our list? Did you enjoy the songs we’ve included here, or do you think we fell just a little bit flat? If you think we were off key, then please let us know where you would have placed our entrants, or if you think we should change our tune entirely, what songs would you suggest for the Top 10 Songs in Gaming? Please leave your comments below, over on Facebook or Twitter!