Starting off the list with some physics, can't go wrong...can it? Things certainly could go wrong in this game, particularly in the latter part of the campaign mode where the difficulty started to ramp up to insane levels. The Rollcage series is essentially a racing series, but where it shines is it's application of physics and gravity-defying courses to create a fantastic environment. One of the first games that I ever played to include such ridiculous speed and airtime in a competitive mode, driving upside down on ceilings and blasting weapons whilst running wheel to wheel with other cars was made realistic by the engine. It also possesses some marvellously designed tracks and a stiff challenge in many respects. The later leagues are difficult - the ending 'Scrambles', simply mind-blowing. If you can get gold on them all, consider yourself a true great. I could've picked the first game in the series for truly starting the ball rolling, but this game is superior. High octane stuff indeed - honourable mention to the Wipeout series in the same breath.
Everybody knows this game - seems like an odd choice? This is all about one thing - sudden death mode. Things in the regular brawl matches can get very hairy indeed at times, and more often than not you'll find yourself hunched over with concentration whilst trying to evade that irritating edge-hog you're playing against, all the while facing a constant bombardment of attacks and projectiles. But when it's a tie at the end of normal time, and the announcer ominously decrees 'Sudden Death!', all bets are off. 300% damage for all, nowhere to hide - just a straight face off. Even worse, the longer it's dragged out on some levels, the more unbearable it can get, especially if the stakes are high. I can't even imagine what it'd be like at tournament level. Alternatively, try bomb-tennis for a more lighthearted approach.
#8: Lemmings (GEN)
This game deserves more plaudits than it gets, and more attention too. I included it on this list due to the fact that you can literally spend hours on a single level much later on in the game, in a frantic trial and error-fest that will leave you at your wits end. I recently came back to this game, and was embarassed to get totally stuck within the first fifty levels or so! It's a huge game, and one that demands constant scheming and puzzling in order to traipse your (annoyingly stupid) Lemmings from one of the stage to another. You will literally find yourself sucking away hours of time on this thing, without even realising what's happened. The level designs were good and original, very taxing - but above all, show me a game that is even remotely like Lemmings! It remains pretty much unique to this day, most likely because the developers themselves were driven mad by the sheer insanity of what they'd created. Well...perhaps not. Nonetheless, a cracking game that should be owned by every puzzle game fan.
This is more to do with concentration that anything else, and requires a level of intensity that is unmatched by most games outside the rhythm genre. Guitar Hero, DDR - all of those games could quality, but I picked this one because it's my favourite. Playing Rock Band may not be anything like the real thing, but it's still very challenging and entertaining in it's own right, and doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is - a game. A difficult game that will have you feverishly pressing buttons, smacking drum pads and frantically trying to stay in key to reach the end of a song, or reach another milestone such as getting five stars. It's a wholly interactive experience, and one that doesn't require you to sit in a chair and just use a standard controller - you're moving about, and in some ways I think this may well be one of many games that signals the advent of a wave of peripheral-based games and consoles that take interactive entertainment to a different plane. Definitely challenging, immersive, and fun.
Pure frustration factor, is what this is all about. Compared to previous titles, this one seems to be notably more luck-based and closer, perhaps due to pace being cranked up, and some severely broken weapons - how on earth was the Bullet Bill deemed worthy for competitive play?! Included on this list as the title most likely to force you into assaulting your friend who's just snagged victory on the line after a cheap blue shell, it's nonetheless a highly absorbing experience that will quickly get you hooked. A wide variety of tracks for this game and the older titles in the series make for a great party game, and one you'll thoroughly enjoy time and again. Similarly to Brawl, bragging rights are the main part of the intensity factor here, and you -will- find yourself turning your head with the corners on the tougher tracks, twisting your face into a grimace of despair when you get nailed by a star whilst running third. Onto the next race, then...
Speed! This game requires no introduction whatsoever, and the entire series is based around a concept of speed that had simply not been seen prior to the release of the first Sonic. Accompanied by lush landscapes and amazingly designed environments on the whole, Sonic's fourth mainstream Genesis adventure extended boundaries in many ways, both in scope and speed itself. It remains one of the ultimate 'pick up and play' games even today, and with several re-releases as part of greatest hits packages, missing this would be a travesty. Most people born in the 80's can remember this series, and can attest to just how fresh and new it was - what else could challenge the mighty Mario? Temporarily put aside the latest abundance of titles, and simply enjoy what remains a haven for anyone who enjoys running a character around at crazy speeds. If they went back to this formula for any and all future games, I doubt many people would complain!
#4: Silent Hill (PS)
Gaaahhh! Playing this in the dark (volume up, headphones on) is bound to give most kids nightmares. The Silent Hill series is famed for being extremely creepy and disturbing, for a relatively mainstream game series - almost the entire game is devoted to creating an atmosphere of terror and paranoia. The plot only adds to this feeling, and things get worse the further you progress in the game, even as the mysteries unravel. The feeling of helplessness is shared betweem protagonist and gamer throughout, and you find yourself forming sort of a bond with them as you forge onward. I decided to pick this over Resident Evil because the latter is more action-based rather than purely disturbing. Resident Evil is horror. Silent Hill? Just plain terrifying, no doubt about it.
I'm going to call spoilers on this one, so anyone who hasn't played all these games, look away! Could've picked literally any of the four games, but decided on this one because it was the only one that got me yelling at the TV - I'll just say 'microwave room' and people will know what I'm talking about for sure. What can I say? The MGS series is basically genius, with many many incredible moments that can mean danger for the tearducts - The Boss' death in MGS3 deserves particular mention, as does the very end of Metal Gear Solid 1 if you failed the torture sequence. However, the fourth iteration has so many intensely powerful moments that you can forgive yourself for shedding a tear or two. The stuff involving Naomi and Otacon in particular, as well as Raiden's attempt to save Snake at the end of Act 4 - all of it is the pinnacle of a plot that's been spanning for two decades now. If you don't feel something when Snake is crawling through that microwave room as your friends struggle all around you, you're probably dead.
An entirely immersive experience, pure poetry in motion. Mere words struggle to describe this - it simply has to be played, or even watched, to be understand the devastating power that this game holds. The sheer scope and desolation of the game world is almost overwhelming, and the phrase 'less is more' comes into play quite often. If you prefer your shooters and your action games, then you may not like the patient roaming that is required in this game, although the boss fights are something else entirely. On the whole, despite the sparse nature of the game at times, and the barren palette, everything comes together throughout this game and makes for a charged atmosphere that you won't easily forget. And the horse! Don't worry, it's okay to be sad...
Comfortably the newest addition to the gaming market on this list, and in many respects this is fitting. Valkyria Chronicles manages to be both derivative and innovative all at once, with a battle system that is more or less unique in execution, with a beautiful storyline that (for the most part) treads a fairly worn plot-path beloved by many RPGs. With that said, however - the design of this game is simply breathtaking. It looks (and feels) like a watercolour painting come to life, an oft-touted phrase by the fans of the game, but a very appropriate one nevertheless. The cutscenes are gorgeous, the characters affable and fun, the plot absorbing despite predictability at points. On the whole, this is a very compelling and original game, surprisingly developed by Sega, who should clearly try their hand at this sort of thing more often. I'd compare this to Okami in terms of art style, as the closest thing that I can think of. Later on, the characters and plot transcend onto a whole new level and you get seriously emotionally invested. In many ways a masterpiece, Valkyria Chronicles is essential for those who want to try out something new, but not go down a path of total departure from the norm. I know this could be considered a controversial choice given the quality of games listed above, but it really is something special - it reminded me of the memories of Ico, Okami, and many other games I've played where I adored the mix of everything in one pot. It takes the pick as being the game that stirred the most emotion inside me, from both a plot and design perspective.
There you have it - a selection of games that I think convey many different types of intensity, whether good or bad. Most of them are pretty good games all-around, and I'd highly recommend checking them out if you have the facility. I am honestly sorry for the abundance of Playstation titles looking back, but I'm limited by what I've played. Just remember, the next time you're flying around Mushroom Hill Zone yet again, or witnessing the incredible conclusion to Prince of Persia - this is what games are made of, and these are the things that they bring out in us, for better or worse. I think it was Hideo Kojima that said that he didn't consider videogames as a form of art - perhaps he's right, who knows? For me, though, there are games out there that bring across intense emotions better than many other mediums ever could, and the fact that they're still here in today's society shows the value that they can have.
List by SilverSwift (05/14/2009)
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