Five of My Most Pleasantly Surprising Games

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Now, I realize that I was a little bit of a negative Nancy last week in my article about disappointing video games. Fortunately, video games are not all doom and gloom, and while there are certainly a fair amount of games that many of us would rather not have had the misfortune of playing, there are still plenty that have left us feeling much more satisfied than we may have expected. That’s why today I wanted to share with you the flip side of my gaming experiences, so here is a short list of some of the games that had left me pleasantly surprised.

  1. Killing Floor

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Killing Floor has somewhat of a special place in my heart, because it represents my first real foray into PC gaming and was one of the first games I had ever gotten off of Steam. Killing floor is a multiplayer first-person shooter in which you shoot down waves of different types of zombies until the final boss zombie guy shows up and properly massacres your team. It’s sort of like Left 4 Dead without moving to a destination or like the zombies mini-games in some of the Call of Duty games. The premise of the game is very simple, but the feel and the shine to it make it a really fun experience. More than anything though, Killing Floor really opened the door for me into the PC gaming world, and that is a world that I have been thoroughly enjoying for the last five or six years.

  1. Tales of Symphonia

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Tales of Symphonia for the Nintendo Gamecube was an example of a game in which I had really no idea what I was getting myself into. While I had played a few RPG type games on the Nintendo 64 before, none of them had really captured my attention enough to make me any sort of fan of the genre. All that had changed during my first playthrough of Tales of Symphonia.

I was so captivated by all of the different characters, all of their different abilities, all of their background stories, and even all of the different enemies. The world felt so immersive, and I felt so genuinely invested in the central conflict of the story, that I could not take my mind off of this game. To this day, Tales of Symphonia remains the only game that I have ever played fully through seven times. That means that I have easily spent at least 700 hours on this game. Playing through a game more than once is very rare for me, and even that’s really only reserved for short games with multiple endings.

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One other major point of importance about Tales of Symphonia is that it led me to other amazing RPGs, such as…

  1. Final Fantasy X

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Most of the games in this list are either games that I did not know what to expect or games that I initially thought would be terrible, but Final Fantasy X is different. I knew going in that it would be good. I just never realize how good it would be.

Right from the introduction in Zanarkand to the final boss inside Sin, Final Fantasy X was, to me, a masterpiece. The dynamic visuals of the animations coupled with some of the best graphics I had ever seen at that point – which still hold up, surprisingly – simply blew my mind. The intro in Zanarkand in which you’re thrown up against these strange creatures while Titus is just as dazed and confused as I was sucked me in completely, and the rest of the game simply did not let me go. I quickly grew fond of every main character as they were introduced and felt that sense of protection you get when you’re determined not to let your in-game party die.

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What really left such a huge impression on me was the sad and desperate theme of the story and the characters and, well pretty much everything clashing with the pure and simple beauty of the serene world that we walked through. As you walk through the island of Besaid, the city of Luca, and even the Thunderplains, the aftermath of Operation Mihen, and the ruins of Zanarkand, there remains this ever-permeating feeling of depressing calmness. The world of Spira is broken, but its spirit is still quietly hopeful. The music direction throughout the entire game does nothing if not perfectly emphasize this attitude. That atmosphere is what made Final Fantasy X one of the most memorable games I have ever played.

Final Fantasy X is also the first game to ever make me cry at the end.

  1. League of Legends

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At some point around late 2011, I had gotten really into watching YouTube videos, and one of the biggest arguments in the comments sections was about League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, even if the video I was watching had nothing to do with either of the two. I remember watching YouTuber TotalBiscuit talking about the two and making a video showcasing the champion Trundle, as well as members of the Yogscast talking about HoN.

At the time, I vaguely remembered playing games like DOTA in the Warcraft III custom games, but I had never been a huge fan of the MOBA genre. Eventually, I decided to try one out for fun, so I downloaded a game whose name I can’t remember. All I really remember is some sort of scythe-wielder that I used in the jungle. Anyway, it was sort of fun, but I still couldn’t understand the massive hype these types of games were getting.

Then I decided to just jump straight into the water and downloaded League of Legends. I found out almost instantly why these games were so heralded so emphatically.

The first champion that I really tried out was Malzahar, whose spell kit seemed so crazy and fun at the time, that I almost instantly got hooked into the game. I was amazed at how his gate thing (Call of the Void) worked and how it looked. Thousands of hours of game time later and here I am, still avidly playing the damn game.

  1. Kingdom Hearts

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Kingdom Hearts is by far the definitive example of a game that I thought sounded like the stupidest idea to ever grace the ad space on my television.

I remember watching this commercial and thinking “That sounds like the dumbest game ever.”

Maybe it was my angsty pre-teen mind that thought I was too old for a silly game about Donald Duck. Or maybe the giant ass key in Sora’s hand threw me off. Either way I put off this game completely for a solid year or two until I decided to pick it up for some reason.

And my god, never have I been so wrong.

Much like Final Fantasy X, the music, atmosphere, and, yes, even the characters were all so touching that Kingdom Hearts went from one of my most hated ideas for a game straight to one of my favorite games of all time.

Kingdom Hearts is just one of those games that I can think about in any random hour and marvel at a new and interesting way to look at the story. Granted, the story itself isn’t all that ground-breaking, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t touching.

I mentioned before that Final Fantasy X is the first game to make me cry at the end. Kingdom Hearts is the second after this scene. (Spoilers for a 13 year old game!)

That scene still gives me massive goosebumps. It’s also kinda cheesy in the most glorious way possible, now that I watch it again.

That kind of emotional oomph remains present in pretty much all of the Kingdom Hearts games I’ve played so far, and it’s one of the biggest reasons I’m such a fan of the series.

Anyway, that’s the more positive side for games of surprising quality. Whether a game is surprisingly good or surprisingly bad, I think the cool part is that they all instill on us these sorts of memories that we can look back to fondly. It’s one of the things I love most about playing video games as a whole.

2 comments on “Five of My Most Pleasantly Surprising Games”

  1. In today’s world, with early release access, and extensive pre-release coverage, it’s hard for a game to be truly surprising. Especially if you are a big fan of video games and follow much of the press covering the industry. So when a title does surprise you it’s definitely a special experience. The big one that comes to my mind was the first Assassin’s Creed. I was pretty well informed about the game prior to release, but whether my memory failed me or it was just a well-kept secret, the Desmond stuff really came out of nowhere for me. A very pleasant surprise indeed. I know they’ve basically dropped that from the series either because they didn’t know where to take it or because unlike me, the majority of the player base didn’t care for it. There’s something to be said for holding back a good surprise.

    1. If I were to make a second set of lists for both disappointing and pleasing games (which I might), I think I’d somehow have to place the first Assassin’s Creed into both of them. The Desmond stuff really blew me away in the first one, especially at the end. The core gameplay, not so much. I’m actually really sad that they fell away from Desmond. Those segments really felt like they were leading up to something cool.

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