|Overall Top 20||Editors' Picks|
John P. Hussey
Abraham Ashton Liu
Kyle E. Miller
|The Hall of Shame|
|#11 - Shadow Hearts: Covenant (PS2)|
At its core, Shadow Hearts: Covenant is a continuation of the love story that was a focal point of the original Shadow Hearts. That story involves one of the most memorable characters ever to lead a ragtag group of misfits against overwhelming evil – Yuri Volte Hyuga. Much like Dom Cobb in the film Inception, Yuri is tormented by his past: a past in which he failed to save the woman who gave her life in exchange for his soul. While numerous villains show up throughout the course of Covenant, the player always knows that it is Yuri's grief and his overwhelming desire to be with his love, Alice, that truly drives the narrative. His supporting cast includes a closeted vampire, the princess Anastasia, an old man who plays with dolls, a wolf that shoots comets, and a new love interest who looks suspiciously like his mother, among others, and each of them is well-developed with their own combat skills, backstories, and sidequests. To top off the excellent, character-driven story, the gameplay itself was exceptional, the graphics were vastly improved, and the music was just as excellent as that of the original Shadow Hearts. Covenant is truly a game whose story sticks with the player even years later, and that, among many other reasons, is why it can be found on RPGFan's Top 20 Games of the Decade.
|#10 - Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)|
The original Kingdom Hearts proved the concept, but Kingdom Hearts II took the idea and ran with it. With Kingdom Hearts II, everything was bigger – the story, the soundtrack, the gameplay, the roster of villains... you name it, and they brought it to the table in spades. For some, Kingdom Hearts II was the point where the series truly began creating its own incredibly elaborate (some might say convoluted) mythos, with Nobodies, Heartless, light, dark, shades of gray, revenge plots, backstabbing, hearts combining/separating/fading, and friendship all playing a part. The drama of the thirteen malcontents whose backstories are still being fleshed out in sequels years later (including one this fall!) was the heart of the game's plot, so much so that we saw director's cut versions of both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II that expanded on them, as well as an entire prequel game dedicated to the most famous of the thirteen, Roxas. The game's blatant disregard for gravity is also a well-known and somewhat divisive facet – and again, something that has become a hallmark of games (and films) directed by Tetsuya Nomura in the time since the first Kingdom Hearts' release. Regardless, this game was a much-improved sequel with a big heart, and as such has earned a spot alongside its predecessor on this list.
|#9 - Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC)|
Sneaking in to make the cut with a September 24, 2000 release date, Baldur's Gate 2 was the title that would catapult the name "Bioware" into the collective consciousness of RPG players everywhere. Baldur's Gate 2 didn't just improve on the original title in every possible way; it has become for many the Platonic Form, the Aristotelian Universal of the Western RPG. The wide open universe, focused more on interacting in interesting ways with the environment than killing every foe one encounters (although you could if you wanted to), the difficult moral decisions... these are things that we now take for granted and even expect in a Bioware game, but it was this title that first showed us the full scope of what this studio was capable of. It's a story and, more importantly, a game so good that it forever altered our expectations for epic RPGs.
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