Halo: CE is a very critically-acclaimed game, this is not new, but there is something the Halo series lost from the pioneering original: immersion. Just exactly what this list is about, and Halo: CE had it in spades. You were the Master Chief, a cybernetically- and genetically-enhanced killing machine with a gravely voice and a brain full of the knowledge to operate any vehicle and weapon. Also, a side-note, the graphics for this game at its time of release were absolutely phenomenal. Anyway, stepping out of the crashed escape pod on the second level and onto the alien grass of the Halo for the first time, with a sky of faint purples and an omnipresent ring over your head, is one of the most memorable experiences in all of gaming for me. This game reeked in atmosphere, and, though it is now a little dated, the technology behind it was unmatched. Animations were incredible. Sound and graphics were especially unmatched, and the voice-acting was generally above average. Still, Halo: CE was a thrill ride with a conscience, and it never let you forget where you were, amongst the aliens, the flood, the dying-off humans, and the perilous journey incessantly ahead of you.
Bioware is one of those developers that you can just rely on to make a great game. They blew the world away with KOTOR, and they did it again with the Mass Effect series. Mass Effect, quite literally, speaks for itself, as in, the conversations are arguably the most engaging in all of gaming. You actually come to care about the characters and your squadmates, always wanting what’s best, or what’s worst. The graphics are always excellent, and among the best for their time, (though ME1 had substantial performance issues) and the jaw-dropping amount of lore and backstory put into the series is staggering. If you go through every side mission, the main story, and most conversations, the game’s Codex will be full of hours upon hours of narrated and un-narrated information about alien homeworlds, xenoviruses, human history between our time and the game’s time, and countless, countless entries for you lore-devouring pleasure.
MGS cannot get enough of story and brilliant visuals. Each game since the PS1 entry has set graphical standards, along with cinematic standards. Before MGS, the whole fad about making games more movie-like wasn’t very popular, but this series pioneered it. The main thing going for MGS that makes it immersive is the brilliant characters and (though sometimes convoluted) great story. It knows just how to suck you in, make you give a crap about what’s happening, and play the game with a deliberate purpose.
I recently reviewed Dark Souls, and it’s one of my favorite games ever made, but it also has one of the greatest atmospheres of any game I’ve ever played. The environments are vastly detailed and varied, and the NPCs and enemies are almost always utterly gorgeous. The tone is dark, haunting, harrowing, and unforgiving. You literally project yourself into this game. That is, if you’re one of the gamers with enough ‘mansack’ to play it (it’s really not too hard, you just can’t be impatient). For those that are, I speak to and for you: this game wrenches at your mental stability. There are points in the game that you absolutely dread and can barely convince yourself to make the next step. It isn’t because it’s a bad section, or you’re bored, but because you’re genuinely scared, cautious, and worried. Death costs a heavy price in this game, and that constant omen hanging over you makes you ever more delved into the game itself. It does wonderfully well at making you feel what an actual soldier in these horrific conditions would feel.