“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”
Due to the size of its map and the amount of things there are to do in the world, “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is not meant to be finished. Instead, it is the greatest time thief ever created. Even if gamers play it for 50 hours and put it aside, they will undoubtedly return. With hundreds of quests that can last for hours, “Skyrim” makes it easy to lose oneself in the gameplay. Whether playing as an assassin, a thief or a mage, “Skyrim” delivers on all fronts. It is a beautiful world that will push its devotees to keep going over the mountains in the hopes of finding something new to do. Put simply, “Skyrim” is an epic that may never be topped in terms of scale. Anyone who plays it will always find something new to accomplish, no matter how much they play.
The sequel to the 2007 sleeper hit “Portal,” “Portal 2” expands on the limited scope of the original and creates elaborate puzzles that require critical thinking and careful attention. Fortunately, players will be laughing too hard to become frustrated or annoyed with any part of the game. A hilarious script and some astonishing voice acting performances (from actors Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons) make this possibly the best-written game ever made, and maybe the funniest as well. “Portal 2” takes the simple game formula of “Go from Point A to Point B” and forces players to do this in a factory filled with moving floors, turret guns and potatoes. There may never be another game that can be breathtaking and hilarious at the same time in such a perfect fashion. “Portal 2” may not be the most exciting game at all times, but it is challenging and fun in a way rarely seen in a game.
“Dead Space 2”
The original “Dead Space,” released in 2008, reinvented the survival horror genre of gaming by placing the player in a spaceship overrun with mutated humans that needed to be dismembered instead of simply shot in the head. It was scary and had a perfect atmosphere of sound: the slightest bump could fill anyone with dread. “Dead Space 2” takes everything that worked in the original and adds in a meaningful story that was clearly missing from the first game. Main character Isaac Clarke has suffered a nervous breakdown from the events of the first game, but is forced to deal with more enemies if he has any hope of clearing his head. Clarke, as a psychological mess, is far more realistic than the vast majority of video game protagonists. More than anything, “Dead Space 2” is exciting and scary all at the same time. The chills felt whenever the lights flicker or a shadow runs in front of Clarke can cause players to jump in their seats. It is a must play for any gamers who are fans of horror.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 3”
Moreso than any other factor, the first debt that video games owe the consumer is to be fun. “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” manages that feat and more, presenting a neon lit world of clashing superheroes and virtual champions. It’s a game that draws players in with flashy combos and recognizable characters like Wolverine and Dante of “Devil May Cry” fame, but the obscene replay factor keeps it interesting. The game’s cotton-candy-meets-Resident-Evil-5-meets-Dragon-Ball-Z aesthetic perfectly suits the clashing of pop culture titans and the near limitless depth of character options, ultra combos, tag team attacks and snap backs will leave this disc spinning in consoles for years.
“Batman: Arkham City”: Batman has had to star in a ton of terrible games before Rocksteady finally did him right in “Arkham Asylum” and they were able to expand on what they did well in their massive sequel “Arkham City.” The city is a delight to explore and the game is a comic book lover’s dream with lots of nods to classic characters like The Joker and Mr. Freeze as well as more obscure villains like Hush, Mr. Zsasz, Calendar Man and Black Mask. For all it’s shadowy and gritty looks at Gotham City’s darkest corner, there are still moments off goofy glee, whether it’s a Penguin orchestrated shark attack, a tea party with the Mad Hatter or a series of awesome Harley Quinn jokes. It’s a blast from explosive start to the shocking finale.