The 5 Greatest Sci-Fi Video Games
Science fiction has always been a prevalent element in video games and as a long time sci-fi buff I’ve compiled a list of, what I believe to be, the greatest games in the genre. There are of course many other great sci-fi games out there but these are the ones that really stand out from the pack for their brilliant story-lines, deep character development, and definitive art styles.
5. The Halo Trilogy
Okay, we’ll start with the obvious choice. This smash hit blockbuster has taken the video game world by storm and was the savior of the Xbox brand. I’ll freely admit that Halo is not perfect. The plot is pretty generic and the game really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. But what its critics fail to realize is that, although Halo has all the characteristics of a generic shooter, it manages to pull every aspect off flawlessly. The game-play is excellent, perfectly balancing the greatest combat elements of the First Person Shooter genre. The soundtrack is astounding, giving the game a great sense of magnitude and intensity with its mixture of the orchestra and rock. Although the story isn’t exactly ground-breaking its presented strongly, with clear objectives; it never leaves you wondering what to do or where to go. The character development is extremely subtle but very powerful. Excellent voice acting and scripting make a believable cast that you can actually care about. Halo perfects every aspect of the FPS and provides and wonderful experience making it a ‘must play’ for everyone.
4. Half-Life Series
One of the FPS greats, the first Half-Life was one of the pioneers of the modern shooter, and the sequel completely lived up to that legacy. The great thing about Half-Life is the simple variety of content. Most games peak after the first few hours and after that its just more of the same. But in the HL and HL2 you never know whats coming next. You might be whacking face crabs, or riding in your hovercraft or dune buggy, tossing ant lion pods at baddies, setting machine gun turrets, beheading zombies with saw blades, or firing rockets at giant Striders. Every part of the game is a new experience. The game’s plot is a bit convoluted but provides some very cinematic moments ranging from the “resonance cascade” that started it all to the gloomy trip through city 17 and dark streets of Ravenholm. Half-Life is world filled with dark terror and an intense struggle for survival that will leave any gamer wanting more.
3. Mass Effect
This game is truly an epic sci-fi story. Mass Effect boldly defines a vast universe filled with adventure and intrigue, and as part of a planned trilogy it leaves you waiting for the next installment with bated breath. The game does have its flaws, its plagued with many technical glitches, like the slow texture loading, and irritating quirks, such as the long elevator rides, but its plot and character depth more than make up for its short-comings. The creator, Bioware, expertly crafts a morality system far superior to the simple good vs evil mechanics that preceded it. Instead it uses what’s called Paragon and Renegade points. Paragon represents a character’s tendency to be tactful and respectful, whereas a Renegade player goes against authority and takes a more brutal, “whatever it takes” approach. Coupled with the game’s amazing character scripts and romance system, this leads to some deep character development. Mass Effect’s story spans a vast universe and gives you the chance to explore all of it, in a strong sandbox style game-play complete with a good collection of secondary missions. The story comes to an epic conclusion with an amazing plot twist, yet still paves the way for the sequel. The game-play is an nice mixture of the RPG character building and FPS action that keeps you on your toes but leaves room for all the depth of a good RPG. All in all Mass Effect is a ‘must play’ for any gamer especially the sci-fi fan.
Another big commercial hit, that’s an obvious choice for this list, Bioshock presents a beautiful look at a Utopian dream gone seriously awry. Bioshock’s strength lies in its deep rich setting. The city of Rapture is a magnificently dark dystopia filled with depravity and terror, all sealed beneath the depths of the ocean. As you progress through the city you’ll slowly uncover the shadowy secrets behind Rapture and how it fell into such a state all the while building up to the greatest twist in gaming history. Bioshock is like the Sixth Sense of gaming. I’ll try to avoid any spoilers but suffice to say that the game’s twist takes advantage of the long running gaming convention of the “voice in your ear” and how it relates to your objectives. Also, the game’s plasmid weapon system allows for RPG-esque character building and a greater degree of strategy. All told, Bioshock is a great pick for those who prefer a darker, more nightmarish setting than traditional sci-fi.
1. Advent Rising
Now for the surprise, my pick for the number 1 sci-fi game of all time. All the other games I’ve listed are relatively new triple A titles, that are pretty obvious, but my number one choice is one of the industry’s most under appreciated titles. Originally planned as a trilogy Advent Rising was lost in the shuffle as its publisher, Majesco, descended into financial collapse. This game brought the brilliant design team of Donald and Geremy Mustard together with acclaimed sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, well known for his hit novel “Ender’s Game”. This pairing was what truly made Advent Rising so unique. Together they were able to craft what is easily the greatest story-line of any video game ever created. The game suffered from some serious technical glitches and a sketchy control scheme which severely damaged its critical reception and sales numbers. However, the story was so jaw-droppingly beautiful, that none of that could hold this game down. The game follows pilot Gideon Wyeth as he witnesses the destruction of humanity by a race called the Seekers. Gideon learns that humans are a lost species worshiped as gods by much of the universe and that’s what made them a threat to the Seekers. Over the course of the game Gideon unlocks the amazing legacy of the human race and trains to become a powerful warrior ready to avenge his world. Throughout the game you can develop your powers and ascend to a god-like state. The art style, voice acting, and soundtrack all create an epic atmosphere of power and grandeur. Unfortunately this series was cut before it could overcome its shortcomings. What really makes this tale so tragic is that it ended on a cliffhanger. Recently Donald Mustard founded a new company called Chair Entertainment. He’s expressed interest in continuing the Advent series if he ever got ownership of the rights. Its a tiny thread of hope but I’m going to cling to it.