Shadow Hearts is where we high five, though!
I've always held the view that if Shadow Hearts 2 has ONE flaw (and it really doesn't), it would be that you have to play Shadow Hearts 1 to make full sense of it.
Not that the first game didn't have some truly wonderful moments, but it became really frustrating towards the end.
Now SH2 I will admit, is one of the best games I've ever played.
Come to think of it, that makes TWO SH2's in my list...
Aww heck, might as well make that list now.
In no particular order, because I hate ranking:
1. Silent Hill 2: Because it is, to this day, the best, most mature, most intelligent and most emotionally engaging story I have ever witnessed in any videogame ever, and indeed blows even most movies I've seen and books I've read out of the water. Jay said this game made him think for weeks, I say it has never actually left my mind to this day, it's always there, just lingering and making its presence felt whenever I hear people speaking of loved ones struggling with an illness.
In fact on the topic of SH2 AND Shadow of the Colossus, let me quote Penny-Arcade's Tycho, because he puts it much more eloquently than I can:
I have been emotionally ravaged by a total of two games: the first is Silent Hill 2. I've been to enough conventions and talked to enough people about it that I know I am not alone in this. There are many ways to interface psychologically with the game, but if you are a sentimental husband with a young, beautiful wife, the game is precisely calibrated to annihilate you.
The second game is Shadow of the Colossus.
The dread starts at the very beginning, simmering in your gut, and it never gets better ever - hour upon hour. You know immediately that you are engaged in something like evil, if not evil itself, but our appetites as players demand that we seek objectives and conquer them - and the game scourges us for this dereliction of conscience. The technology at work often obscured the game itself, but the emotional wavelength has resounded years after the fact. At this late hour, I can recall no camera foibles or performance valleys. All I can recall now is the black bargain, and concentric waves of anguish.
2. Shadow of the Colossus, because of the above.
3. Shadow Hearts 2: because it is the third (and pretty much final) entry in the list of games that have had a heavy emotional impact on me. This is one of the most heart-rending love stories I know, mainly because the object of the protagonist's affection is dead from the very start. (Come to think of it, all 3 games I've mentioned so far have that in common, although SotC is kinda iffy)
The pure unrelenting and maddening frustration of having lost the one person you've ever loved makes Yuri one of the most emotionally engaging protagonists in a videogame ever, and the lengths to which he will go to get her back at all costs lead to some very tense and disturbing scenes in the game.
But what is perhaps the most brilliant thing about this game is that, despite the emotional heaviness of the story, there is an all-pervasive sense of self-parody and absurd humor. You need some balls to create such a wry story and then try to balance it by planting your tongue firmly in your cheek, but this game pulls it off magnificently.
That the game itself has a solid battle system and is actually fun to play is only icing on the cake.
4. Final Fantasy X: because I feel it is the Final Fantasy that manages to get the most things right.
The story is weird and not totally sensical (to put it nicely), but I have a thing for bitter-sweet endings (I hate the bog-standard boy-gets-girl happy endings), and this game does not disappoint.
It also has one of my favorite casts in the entire series.
I can't speak for the English version, but the Japanese voice cast was pretty much spot-on, with the exception of Kimahri, but he didn't talk much anyway.
Tidus is a bit of a whiner, but he is also one of the most understandable and relatable protagonists in the series (to me at least). His love-hate relationship with Jecht is probably the best and most emotionally complex father-son relationships I've ever seen in a videogame (not that that is saying much, mind you), and the supporting cast is great too, Wakka being probably my all-time favorite.
What's more though is that the gameplay itself was just so good.
Out of all FFs, this game does by far the best job of balancing the party, of giving each character a specific skill set that is ACTUALLY required to deal with certain situations.
Not to mention that almost every boss fight has some kind of cool gimmick that makes you think and fight strategically instead of just hacking away like at a normal enemy, only longer.
It is a tie-in for overall best FF package with 7, but gameplay-wise, this one probably wins.
5. Resident Evil 4: I could write a long rant here, but I'd be preaching to the choir, wouldn't I?
I will let our joined community playthrough speak for itself.
6. Super Mario Galaxy: I hold Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World as some of the best games ever created, which fortunately, a lot of people seem to agree on. Where I start to disagree though, is the success of Mario in 3D. Mario 64 failed to truly capture me like the 2D games did, and the less said about Sunshine the better.
Galaxy though, manages to capture that true essence of fun and challenge that the old games had, in a 3D environment. In fact, it does so much better than the New Super Mario Bros series do in 2D so far.
Some people were disappointed that the next 3D Mario is going to be a sequel to Galaxy, I say it is the only logical thing to do.
Bring it on!
7. Valkyrie Profile: A 2D platform game as an RPG!? Surely games like Zelda 2 and Castlevania 2 have shown that this is not a good idea? (shocker: I don't like the 8-bit Zelda games very much).
Well, Valkyrie Profile is here to say you're WRONG.
Although battles still take place in turn-based fashion in a walled-off arena, they are fast paced and fun, requiring quick thinking and timing to make the most of the situation.
Not only that, but the dungeons are clever and challenging.
What has always struck me as the most brilliant thing about this game is how they offer you 3 difficulty levels, and the course of the game is actually DIFFERENT per level. Each difficulty mode has unique characters and dungeons, making at least 3 playthroughs necessary if you want to see everything, and it's a total blast every single time.
The only complaints I have are that you cannot skip any of the cutscenes (although you could opt to just not recruit any other members, but that would not be wise), and that the path to the true ending is really too obscure.
Still, the game itself is a fantastic experience, which is something the sequel never managed to repeat.
8. The Orange Box: Okay, this might be cheating a little, since this isn't [i]one[/b] game. Feel free to read this as Half-Life 2 then, but it is still one single DVD, and it's one of the best deals EVER.
Portal was brilliant, but still slightly overrated, but Half-Life 2 and its 2 expanding episodes are fantastic.
If you can manage to pull in someone who has never had much interest in FPS's and totally have him hooked from beginning to end, you are obviously doing something right.
It's still visually stunning to this day, and the gravity gun makes sure that the action never actually gets old. This is probably the best FPS ever made, period.
9. Shenmue II: As much as I will readily admit I play videogames for escapist reasons, I do have a thing for games that try to be realistic. Like Half-Life 2, the graphic style and environmental design of Shenmue II is incredibly realistic, despite outdated graphic engines, and in the case of Shenmue II the gameplay is down to earth as well. Some may consider this boring, I think it's a great way of identifying with your character. The first game nailed the feeling and atmosphere of suburban Japan, and the second one (I can only assume) does a great job at depicting a believable Hong Kong (ignoring the fact that everyone speaks fluent Japanese/English there).
Also, this is where the story starts picking up and showing promise, which makes it all the more vexing that the sequel seems to be pretty much dead in the water.
And I'm going to stop here, because I'm not too sure of a 10th one.
I'll throw some random titles out there: Kingdom Hearts 2, Bioshock, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Dissidia, Metal Gear Solid 3. Just saying.