Top Games | Updated 2013-01-31

  1. One Finger Death Punch
  2. ZiGGURAT
  3. Catherine
  4. Vanquish
  5. Batman: Arkham City
  6. Bayonetta
  7. Super Mario 3D Land
  8. Braid
  9. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
  10. Ghost Trick

One Finger Death Punch

ZiGGURAT, my former favorite game (now #2), is the perfection of shooting without moving your character. OFDP is the brawler form of this idea. While your character does move as you press the only two buttons: left and right, you are not directing the 2D stick figure like a platformer or any regular brawler. The game is simply about timing. You can attack an enemy when she moves into range. Repeat this over and over.

It sounds simple, and it is! It is the most simplified and beautiful version of fighting, just as ZiGGURAT is the most simplified and beautiful version of shooting. It's pares down combat to the most basic frictions.

ZiGGURAT is more pure. There is only one mode: endless survival. One Finger Death Punch has many modes, which is a point to its negative, but I am choosing to compare ZiGGURAT to OFDP's Blind Survival. In this mode you try to achieve the highest number of kills (there's also score which includes parameters other than kills which is another negative point). Blind refers to the fact that the HUD element of attack zone is removed so you have to feel when an enemy is in range.

The major point that OFDP has over ZiGGURAT is redemption. Redemption in ZiGGURAT comes when the screen is full of enemies and you're about to get hit. Since the game ends when you get hit once you fire one last shot at the alien freak you believe will clear the screen, but you're gambling with your life. You have to. If you're successful, redemption occurs, and you continue on. This is one of the greatest moments in gaming I have ever felt.

OFDP handles redemption differently. You have 10 hits. In an endless survival mode this is usually a mistake. Why have multiple chances? This can force you to purposely end a run early because you've lost too much health early on, which leads to frustration. I do not begrudge ZiGGURAT for not including health. However in OFDP, once you've killed a certain number of enemies you enter a one hit kill mode. The screen changes to black silhouettes, and all enemies are killed in a single strike with your nunchaku or lightsaber. This mode seems to last forever if you don't get hit some number of times and as the endless streams of black silhouettes meet with your weapon, occasionally a white enemy with a red cross will come streaming in. Kill this enemy and regain one unit of health.

This redemption is beautiful because it forces you to push it to the limit every time. Get down to one hit? Fine. Just make it to the health round and fill up. The game forces you to be great to succeed, just like ZiGGURAT, but it gives you a few extra chances to show it without drastically diminishing the difficulty.

One Finger Death Punch is not better than ZiGGURAT by a wide margin. It was a difficult decision to put OFDP at the top, but I believe it has earned the position. ZiGGURAT was once the greatest game ever created and OFDP raised the bar one microscopic, yet significant, bit.

ZiGGURAT

ZiGGURAT is an iOS game developed by Action Button Entertainment, helmed by Tim Rogers.

The game positions you at the top of a ziggurat holding a strange gun. When you tap and hold the screen, the gun begins to charge a circular blast. The longer you hold, the bigger the blast until it reaches its maximum for a brief moment, and then goes back down to level 3. The size of the bullet indicates its explosiveness. The blast size isn't the only thing that changes as you charge. The arc of the shot goes from narrow to straight as the charge increases. Additionally the force of the shot increases. To aim your shot you must combine the arc, force, and finally direction which you control by sliding a finger finger back and forth across the length of the screen. This is the most complicated and at the same time simple implementation I've seen of a so-called "one button game."

Knowing how to use the blaster is critical, because as soon as the game starts, alien freaks begin coming in from both sides. Some scale the ziggurat slowly. Other bounce in, and others fly straight at you. Timing the shots of the blaster while predicting their position is the fun of the game. But that's not the only tool you have. As the alien freaks near your position, their heads grow and shrink in size, indicating their explosiveness. Combine the largest head with the largest blast-ball and you can start a chain reaction that will clear the screen.

Soon, giant alien freaks come in from off screen, taking several perfectly aimed blasts to kill.

ZiGGURAT is a high score game. If you get hit by one alien freak, your round is over.

What's good about it

This one screen game seems simple, but elicits all of the emotions a shooting game should, plus many more. Tension when a shot is released as you watch it collide with the target mirrors the relief at watching it explode. The gun charges up with force and size, meaning the beam sphere can arc like a grenade or fire directly like a bullet. And the alien freaks' heads grow and shrink to indicate the size of the explosion they will make, allowing you to chain the entire screen into a massive explosion.

Catherine

Catherine is a block pushing game for Xbox 360 and PS3. As Vincent Brooks, you scale blocks in your dream world to prevent dying in your sleep as you've seen many people on the news.

What's good about it

Catherine forces you to become a genius to win. Many games make you feel smart, but this one makes you feel stupid until you figure it out. As Jake the Dog said on Adventure Time, "Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something." This game takes this idea to an extreme. The only punishment is lack of progress, but once you figure it out, you literally are brilliant. Bravo, you!

Vanquish

Vanquish makes you a man in an armored suit shooting robots. Sound familiar?

What's good about it

Even though you're basically a space marine like every other game, Vanquish sets itself apart by being stylish. The Augmented Reaction Suit allows you to go into brief bouts of slow motion, rocket slides, and incredible melee. While your ARS is charged, you can vault over a wall, go into slow motion, shoot a thrown grenade, snipe a few enemies, then rocket slide over to a tank enemy, bash him in the face, and slow motion shoot him in his weak spot. Chaining things together is the essence of a good action game. This has it in spades. Plus how many other games let you rocket slide?

Batman: Arkham City

You're Batman. You beat up thugs and supervillains to save the day.

What's good about it

Everyone knows about the Rocksteady Batman games. There are three modes to the game:

  1. Badass fighting. This is by far the best part. As long as there are enemies you definitely can fight and never be hit, if you're good enough. There is no randomness, controls are tight (if simplified), and you can infinitely chain together your moves. Great brawling in this game.
  2. Stealth. When Batman's outgunned (literally) he needs to sneak up to the enemies and take them out one by one. This is also fun, but much slower than the fighting.
  3. Open world. This part sucks, but the highs of the game outweigh the lows.

Bayonetta

Bayonetta is a witch fighting angels who have come to claim her soul. Oh, and her clothes are her hair, which sometimes comes off during battle. Could be sexist? Or Bayonetta is an extremely powerful woman. Either way the brawling gameplay is excellent.

What's good about it

Another Platinum game, this is the brawler whereas Vanquish is the shooter. In Bayonetta when you dodge an attack at the very last moment, you enter Witch Time. Witch Time puts everything else in slow motion, allowing Bayonetta to move at normal speeds and attack. The dodging works well even without Witch Time and the combos are tight, but there are maybe too many. There needs to be a middle between Complex Bayonetta combos and super simple Batman combos. Either way, this game is still excellent.