I got The Witcher 3 back in August after a Summer-long love affair with the first two games. It is incredible, wonderfully made, full of things to do and full of beautifully told stories. It is also monstrously large. Intimidatingly so. And when something is that big, and tells its main story in such relatively small chunks, it’s very easy to lose momentum and start playing other things. So here it is, the 5 best games I’ve played to completion when I should have been playing The Witcher 3. Which I still haven’t finished.

Disclaimer: I’m not saying The Witcher 3 is bad, just that its big. Really, really big. Its good though. In fact, I’m going to go play some right now.

  1. XCOM 2 (Firaxis Games, Released February 5th 2016)

 A recent release on this list, XCOM 2 builds on its predecessor in every way possible, cutting out the weak parts of 2012’s excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown and adding a whole bunch of fun new stuff. The big twist in XCOM 2 is that the aliens won the war, and XCOM is now a rag tag resistance group fighting to bring down their new overlords. From here, the gameplay is much the same as XCOM: Enemy Unknown, except that as the attackers your soldiers begin the mission concealed and can set up ambushes, choosing when and how to begin engaging the enemy, and on whose terms. It’s a great change to the formula and setting up a successful ambush provides a huge rush.

 XCOM has once again taken my house (and my Witcher 3 time) by storm with its high stakes-high stress gameplay, last minute hail-mary 40% hit chance shots and an even deeper character customiser.

  1. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer Games, Released November 4th 2014)

 Around November time I got the urge to play a first person shooter, and so, upon hearing good things, I picked up Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. I have a spotted history with CoD, having played the Modern Warfare Trilogy (because who didn’t love the heavily-film-inspired, over-the-top action of Soap and Price?), the first Black Ops and very little multiplayer among them. But I wanted to play a slickly produced first person shooter and Sledgehammer Games’ first foray into the series seemed like a good place to go.

“Simple yet elegant controls, varied and clever level design and plenty of hidden exits keep Super Mario World a super star in the 2D platformer world 24 years later”

 Advanced Warfare plays like a dream. The weapons feel powerful and varied and the movement feels tight, responsive and fresh. Advanced Warfare redefines the arguably stagnating Call of Duty franchise with its futuristic additions to traversal and gameplay and provides a campaign that reminds you of the wild, set-piece based experiences you had with those early CoDs.

  1. Super Mario World (Nintendo, Released April 11th 1992)

Super Mario World is a classic. It defined (and arguably still defines) 2D platforming. It is probably the best 2D Super Mario game and depending on who you speak to, the best Mario game full stop.

Until Christmas time, I hadn’t played Super Mario World in close to 10 years, but when I was home for the holidays (away from the PC that plays The Witcher 3) I dug out the SNES and played through Super Mario World again and it is still an incredible experience top to bottom. Simple yet elegant controls, varied and clever level design and plenty of hidden exits keep Super Mario World a super star in the 2D platformer genre 24 years later.

“Metal Gear Solid V stole 100 hours of my time in the fortnight after its release and I have no regrets. It was always going to stop me playing The Witcher 3 and I loved it all the while.”

  1. Catherine (Atlus, Released February 17th 2011)

As a house, we took it upon ourselves last term to play through the cult puzzle-platformer/anime-choice-simulator together, pooling our collective conscience and mental acuity to get through it and revel in the shared story of Vincent, the flawed hero of this very anime outing.

The game exists in two phases. The Bar, where Vincent hangs out with his friends and the locals; drinking, texting and building bonds with the bar patrons, and The Nightmare, where Vincent has to solve extended sequences of block climbing puzzles. The puzzles end up proving more tediously difficult than satisfyingly difficult, but it is made up for with the Bar sequences, that are dripping with charm and style, with a hefty helping of anime quirk and moral choices for good measure. Catherine may not have ultimately proved to be a riveting single player experience, but as a group effort it was a thoroughly enjoyable romp through yet another impeccably written world from Atlus.

“XCOM 2 builds on its predecessor in every way possible, cutting out the weak parts of 2012’s excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown and adding a whole bunch of fun new stuff”

  1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Konami, Released September 1st 2015)

I love Metal Gear. The story, the characters, the gameplay, the complete and utter idiosyncratic, incomprehensible lunacy of the entire Metal Gear experience as a whole. It is awesome, and MGSV is no different. Even though it falters at the last step, falling apart in its second act, MGSV still provided a gripping addition to the overarching lore of Metal Gear and redefined open world gameplay while doing it. On its first outing into the genre no less!

MGSV has the player joining Big Boss, now known as Venom Snake, on an adventure to fill in the last, unexplained gap in the Metal Gear Timeline. Finding himself embroiled in yet another world threatening mystery, Venom Snake embarks on a series of well-designed missions across Afghanistan and Africa while building his Private Military Army (read: skulking in the dark, knocking people unconscious and listening to Hall & Oates). It looks gorgeous. It plays at a smooth, consistent 60fps on the PS4. It has the most immersive stealth gameplay of the series so far. It stole 100 hours of my time in the fortnight after its release and I have no regrets. It was always going to stop me playing The Witcher 3 and I loved it the whole time.

Mark Northfield

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1 Comment

  1. Virgil
    March 5, 2016 at 09:05 — Reply

    Good article. Something different.

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