5. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (2006)
Despite my fondness for the top-down MGS camera of old, Subsistence's release is the better of the two editions of MGS3. At its core you still have Snake Eater, with a narrative that grounded Big Boss' origin tale in a riveting Cold War alternative history, not to mention what may be Hideo Kojima's best design ever: classic Metal Gear gameplay augmented by deep survival mechanic that at times gave MGS3 the feel of an RPG. The addition of an improved MGS4-style shoulder cam perspective, freshly translated editions of the MSX's Metal Gear and its sequel, and extra game modes specific for this edition make Subsistence even better than Kojima's bloated opus MGS4.
4. Silent Hill 2 (2002)
When the original Silent Hill hit the PS One in 1999, it was praised for its atmosphere and psychological-driven horror over survival horror mainstay Resident Evil's comparatively cheap scares. With Silent Hill 2, Team Silent upped the ante in a major way, with a stand-alone tale of existential horror that introduced surrealism, sexual themes, and allegorical demons into the series' already-twisted psychology while modernizing the iconic rust-and-chain-link aesthetic that would become a staple of the Silent Hill mythos. (Let's not forget the rape scene with Pyramid Head, either—while tame by censors' standards, it remains one of the most thematically disturbing scenes in video games.) SH2 set the bar so high for what people expect in psychological horror games it has yet to be topped, even by its own series.
3. Super Metroid (1994)
The original Metroid and (to some degree) its Game Boy sequel were ahead of their time, but no other game in the series better captures a sense of isolation and loneliness than 1994's Super Metroid. With the leap forward to 16-bit graphics, bounty hunter Samus Aran's world could now fully be rendered in atmospheric detail, creating a brooding atmosphere that few games of its time could hope to match.
Super Metroid also perfected the series' non-linear adventure play style, a mechanic whose ripples can be felt in games as disparate as Castlevania's Symphony of the Night to Batman: Arkham Asylum—that more games don't make use of open-ended school is as much a testament to today's criminally derivative mainstream design as it is to this classic's merits.
2. Super Mario 64 (1996)
Mario 64 may be a less a sequel and more a continuation of Nintendo's most venerable series, but its importance in the history of video games can't be understated. The launch title contender of the Nintendo 64, Mario 64 gave fans a chance to quite literally see Mario from a new perspective, offering the deep gameplay synonymous with one of gaming's most cherished characters in three dimensions for the first time.
Far more important, however, are the initial baby steps Mario 64 made for the era of modern 3D game design—with a (to some degree) rotatable camera and a veritable virtual 3D playground to interact in, video games now had a primitive template with which to negotiate perspective, along with the inherent design foibles and innovations that could be gained from it. Mario Galaxy may well be the best iteration of 3D Mario, but it would never have existed without Mario's initial 64-bit outing.
1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2008)
If Uncharted's 2007 debut Drake's Fortune was a rousing-if-basic Gears of War clone masquerading in the well-traveled garb of an adventure game, Among Thieves ditched the somewhat formulaic constraints of cover shooting to fully embrace the feel of a serial pulp adventure. Blending action, setpieces, and highly-effective optional stealth with more open-ended exploration within its linear design, this sequel delivered everything befitting a globetrotting expedition with a modern-day Indiana Jones like Nate Drake. It also didn't hurt that Naughty Dog's crack script and technical artistry put most similar Hollywood efforts (likely including Uncharted's own recently-announced film adaptation) to shame, making Among Thieves not only one of the most satisfying sequels to date, but one of the best adventure games ever made.
By Steve Haske
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*