Top 5 Games:
A Game

 By Shamus Aug 14, 2008 58 comments

In the latest Zero Punctuation review, Yahtzee mentions that a certain segment of his viewers seem very curious about what games he does like. This is a very predictable demand from any crowd of inflamed fanboys. The defining aspect of a fanboy is that he is emotionally attached to a game in such a way that lambasting the game is taken as a personal insult. When you stomp on the object of their affection their first reaction is going to be to try to do the same in return. This completely misses the entire point of being a critic, and indeed of having an opinion at all.

This is why, despite the normal friendly and jovial tone of this site, I tend to treat fanboys like vermin who must be exterminated. They can have no positive impact on a discussion. It doesn’t matter if they agree or disagree, because they aren’t having the same conversation everyone else is. If you set them off it’ll be profanity and angst.

But in a clever bit of fanboy-baiting, Yahtzee actually showed a list of some of his favorite games during the review:

zp_top5.jpg

At the end he promised that anyone who figures it out will win his “utter disgust”. All the same, we can’t let the threat of of disinterested loathing deter us from an amusing little puzzle. The moment I saw the obscured list I felt my puzzle drive kick in. I don’t care about the list in the sense that I care if Yahtzee likes the “right” games, but he’s presented us with a puzzle and (I’ll bet) just enough clues to solve it.

This is an interesting sort of puzzle because it’s a mix of what you know about the critic with your knowledge of videogame titles and box covers. If this was just a list of 5 random games it wouldn’t be very compelling. If there was no image and the problem was just “guess my top 5 games” it likewise wouldn’t be much fun. But here we have both clues and motivation.

My own attempt below the fold:

zp_top5_guess.jpg

Portal was a gimmie, but it took me a bit to recognize Silent Hill 2. I’m pretty sure my copy of the game had a darker green cover, and so the pale pixels threw me off.

(At least, I remembered it as green. I stupidly traded the game in years ago. I know sooner or later I’ll end up buying it again. At the time it was my first real survival horror, and I didn’t realize how sparse the genre was or that I’d just played the best it had to offer. I thought I could just pick up another survival horror game and have another enjoyable experience. I’ve spent the last five or six years looking for a game that satisfies on the same level. I’m still looking. My own plot analysis of the game can be found here.)

The third game in the list was Sands of Time, which wasn’t obscured. The fourth took me a while to figure out. Games with red covers are very common and I had to scan through my mental catalog for a long time before I came up with it. The fifth was Fantasy World Dizzy, which I never would have gotten if not for the fact that Yahtzee named the game in an earlier review. (And really, I wouldn’t have expected a guy in his mid-20′s to know much about the C64. That was more something for my generation.)

But now I’ve left you without a puzzle. I’ll put up five of my own. Note that I’m not going to use anything from Yahtzee’s list, because I’d put Portal and SH2 on my list as well.

my_top5_hidden.jpg

I know it might seems ridiculous and impossible at first, but give it a chance. It’s actually easier than you think once you consider the color of the pixels and the length of the title, alongside my past reviews. Even #4 is do-able, I think.

I’ll post the answers tomorrow.


20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Ben says:

    The top one is Hellgate: London.

    Guesses:
    4- Definitely Thief.
    5- Magic Carpet? … nah, couldn’t be.
    2&3 look a bit Warcrafty.

  2. mark says:

    2 is half life 2 for sure.
    5′s image makes me think metroid, but i dont recon its right…

  3. Rick C says:

    I bet one of #1 or #5 is System Shock.

  4. Kevin says:

    LOL! I have absolutely no idea. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested to know the answers however!

    (I need to know what games to make fun of in case Shamus ever stomps something I dearly love! :-)

  5. JKjoker says:

    4º has to be FEAR

  6. Mark says:

    #1 is definitely System Shock. I recognize the cyborg skin tone plus I recall a certain novel.

  7. Jeysie says:

    Even if you’re not interested in ammunition, I think that it’s always very useful to know which games a given reviewer likes, since it gives you more baselines from which to gauge whether the critic’s opinions are going to help inform your own or not.

    For instance, if I see a negative review of an adventure game, I need to know whether or not the critic is a fan of adventure games or not, so I know whether the critiques are coming from someone who likes/”gets” the genre’s conventions or not. I’m more likely to give consideration to the negative comments of someone who knows the genre, than to someone who might be viewing negatively a staple aspect of the genre that I don’t mind (but seems bleh to people who don’t like the genre).

  8. JKjoker says:

    #5 looks a bit like the first prince of persia box color scheme …

    well, they are waaay too pixelated much worse than Yahtzee’s you cant even tell how many words a name has and there are barelly any colors to work with in boxes 1-4

  9. Yonder says:

    #1 being System Shock makes a heck of a lot more sense than #1 being Hellgate: London, a game with which Shamus had a “so close to accepting”-hate relationship

  10. Laco says:

    #1 is definitely System Shock. The text fits, the cover has the right smudge of red at the bottom, and Shamus has mentioned it’s basically #1 in the past.

    #2 is almost certainly Half-Life 2. Once again the text and covers fit.

    #4 I would agree is Thief. The shape of the title and character on the cover matches, and not many games have such short titles (these days).

  11. Binks says:

    1 is System Shock, your review + the words + the cover fitting = near certainty.

    “I’ve played a lot of computer games over the years, but none have affected me so strongly as the 1994 classic System Shock.”

    2 is Half Life 2. Words fit, can almost see Freeman on the right, and you have enough posts about the Half Life series on your site to justify it being your second favorite

    3 is probably Fallout, this one I’m not 100% sure of. You did seem to like it in the post you had about its character system, and the cover and words fit, but I’m still not sure I can see the helmet in that picture.

    4 is the least certain one for me. Ben said thief, and I guess it fits, but you’ve never mentioned that game that I can find (just thief 3).

    5 is hard as well. It’s not metroid of any kind, unless you found an extremely rare ‘close-up on samus’ helmet’ cover that I can’t :P. The words really look like Metroid Prime, but that has an entirely different cover. Oh well, can’t get em all…and I did find a whole bunch of posts I want to re-read while looking through the archives :P.

  12. Heph says:

    I’d go with
    1 System Shock
    2 Warcraft 3
    4 Fear

    but I’m likely to be completely wrong. Based more off length of title and the spacing than on the covers – Europe usually gets different covers than the US does, so it’d be pretty useless to go by those.

  13. malraux says:

    5 is almost certainly monkey island.

  14. Matt says:

    1. System Shock
    2. Half-Life 2
    3. Fallout
    4. Thief
    5. Monkey Island

    These are my guesses combined with evidence from other people.

  15. Sharon says:

    Today I set a new record by finding 8 different ads on your site.
    a faithful clicker

  16. The Lone Duck says:

    By not guessing, I can avoid the embarassment of being wrong. The anonymity of the Internet allows me to claim that I knew it all along, even if I don’t! If you ask me, Matt’s guesses seem reasonable to me. Especially the Monkey Island. Only doubt there, is that it shpould read “The Secret of Monkey Island” which is a bit longer. For number 4, it MIGHT be Loom. I doubt it, but you would get massive awesome points if it was Loom.

  17. NobleBear says:

    No.2 has gotta be Half Life 2

  18. Derek K says:

    My first thought on #5 was Simpson’s Hit&Run….

  19. Oleyo says:

    Binks had all but monkey Island, I am sure. I would bet money that matt got the last one right. If I were a gambling man, that is.

    I remember playing System Shock 2 co-op with Shamus after work. We would dim the lights and used the phones to talk to each other easily across cubicle walls. Scary immersive game and I know Shamus gave the original the number one spot!

  20. Dev Null says:

    Effectively without looking at the titles or the covers, I’m going to say:
    System Shock
    Fallout
    Thief
    all must be on the list; possibly with some combination of sequel numbers after. And having read the other comments, I think you’re right; Half-Life 2 is probably on the list too.

    Its easier for Shamus than Yahtzee, I think. Yahtzee has carved a bit of a niche for himself as the fast-talking caustic scorner of crap, so we hear more about his negatives than his positives. (Thats not a criticism, by-the-way; I love his stuff, and theres a lot of crap out there to scorn. Plus hes not _always_ negative – I only found Psychonauts because of his review.) And I gather he gets handed games to review these days. Shamus, on the other hand, mostly plays games that he’d at least like to like, and often points out their good and bad points by comparing them to other games that have done them right. We’re bound to end up with a pretty good idea of games that you think did a lot of things right Shamus.

    But I’m hanging to find out if you guys are right about Monkey Island. Now that you mention it, its had quite a few good mentions on here too, but I’ve never played it so it didn’t occur to me; if its on Shamus’ top 5, I’m going to go find a copy.

  21. msgoldcup says:

    I dunno, everyone seems to think 4 is Thief, but it looks like Oblivion to me

  22. Shamus says:

    My Guesses:

    1) Halo
    2) Hellgate London
    3) Dreamfall
    4) Final Fantasy 12
    5) Neverwinter Nights 2

    Ha. Ha. I’m just kidding.

    Everyone knows I’d give #1 to The Witcher.

  23. Deltaway says:

    Notice that Number 3′s box art is square.

  24. msgoldcup says:

    I can’t wait to find out what 5 is
    It has Monkey Island colors, but seems wrong somehow

  25. Deltaway says:

    I support Matt, who completely coincidentally shares my first name. I’ll upload a spoiler once the guesses have cooled down so as not to, ahem, spoil anybody’s fun. I’m sure Shamus will let us know the truth soon enough anyway, but it’s nice to see the proof in all its radiant glory.

  26. Fuloydo says:

    My first computer was from a clone from a company called Eagle Computers back in the early 80′s. Had to take out a bank loan, my very first experience with credit. All my friends thought I was buying a Jeep. Very nice computer for its time, though. Dual monitors, one color and one green screen. Dual 5 1/4″ floppies, 192K of RAM which I later upgraded to the max 512K. I can’t remember if it was the 8086 or the 8088 processor. Good times. Too bad the company went out of business about six months after I bought the thing.

  27. Fuloydo says:

    Oops. Wrong place for this comment. Sorry…

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ill just go with Matt here.

    Also,no starcraft?

    As for the comment about c64,Im a bit younger than yahtzee,yet I too have started with commodore,and have very fond memories of it.Dont be so surprised that us youngsters can be as nostalgic as you.

  29. Smileyfax says:

    1. Bioshock
    2. Mass Effect
    3. Prey
    4. Oblivion
    5.

    Eh, I can’t think of a fifth game to complete the joke.

  30. Dys says:

    I can’t help but note that there is no game named ‘Thief’.
    Its full title is much longer, though I guess that doesn’t stop you cutting it short for a list like that. My first thought for a title that short was F.E.A.R.

    Having looked at the cover art for both however, it has to be Thief. The art for the last one matches Monkey Island too, though again no such game.

    Checking the blurs against wikipedia box art images shows Matt’s list to be unquestionable. Try to get the names right next time :P

  31. Danel says:

    I have absolutely no idea as to your games list, but I wonder if the Commodore 64 is a British thing? I’ve heard somewhere that it was a lot more popular over here during that time period; despite bring somewhat younger than Yahtzee I used to have one too. It was my first ever computer/games machine of any description… ah, nostalgia. The tape deck wasn’t much fun, though.

  32. Shamus says:

    Now that I think of it, the C64 isn’t THAT unexpected. I mean, in my mind the gap between the heyday of the C64 and the attack of the IBM clones is like, HUGE. All the way from junior high to graduation. (For me.) That’s AGES, man.

    But really that’s only 6-ish years. It’s just my perception of time in those younger years makes those landmarks seem so much further apart.

  33. Drew says:

    Funny. My first thought was that #4 was ZORK. But then I checked the box art, and it’s not much of a match.

  34. Mr. X says:

    #5 is Jade Empire.

  35. Pete Zaitcev says:

    Shamus, ROMs, emulators. Actually there is a kind of resurgence recently that erases old timelines. Now I want a PC emulator, because my UFO Gold that you linked won’t work on my LCDs.

  36. Factoid says:

    I know for certain that:

    1) System Shock

    2) Half Life 2

    3) Fallout

    4 is definitely not FEAR or Theif. FEAR has a fair amount of fire red on the cover, and Thief has either blue or green depending on which version. It’s almost certainly a 4-letter title, though.

    It looks very much like a face with “blast goggles” on, similar to the face on the box of Command & Conquer, but it can’t be that because it would show some yellow/orange in the lense.

    5 I thought at first might be Rollercoaster Tycoon, but the title is too long and the box-art doesn’t quite match.

  37. Factoid says:

    I’m convinced now that #5 is Monkey Island as well. I had thought of that before I started looking at comments, but the box colors seemed too subdued to be a match.

    So that leaves me with:

    1) System Shock

    2) Half Life 2

    3) Fallout

    4) ? (but not F.E.A.R. or Theif)

    5) Monkey Island

  38. Eric says:

    #1. The Witcher

    #2. Halo

    #3. Halo 2

    #4. Halo 3

    #5. Unreal Tournament III

  39. Deltaway says:

    Meh. Since Dys already pointed it out…

    WARNING: Only go here if you have no sense of fun:
    http://www.majhost.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?i=1837266

    Good taste, Shamus.

  40. Ben says:

    http://pwned.com/gamecovers/pc/ThiefTheDarkProject.jpg

    There’s NO WAY that 4 isn’t this box.

    I would bet my life on this list:

    1. System Shock
    2. Half Life 2
    3. Fallout
    4. Thief: The Dark Project
    5. The Secret of Monkey Island

    Wait, that’s Matt’s list. Good work Matt.

  41. Jeff says:

    No love for Deus Ex, eh?

  42. Heph says:

    I prefer the Curse of Monkey Island, myself. Why does nobody differentiate between all the Monkey Island games, anyway?

  43. Kristin says:

    I’m 25, and the first computer I ever really loved gaming on was a C64.

  44. croikle says:

    It actually becomes much easier to read the text when you stand 10-15 feet away from the screen. Your brain is used to reading text at small resolution when it’s that small, so you can use its superior visual processing circuitry. It still takes some guesswork, but that easily validated the first couple for me.

  45. LintMan says:

    Like Jeysie said, knowing what a critic likes is useful to more than just fanboys looking for ammunition. It can help you compensate for the critic’s biases vs. your own.

    But in Yahtzee’s case, and perhaps even Shamus’, there’s probably just a lot of curiosity – They both are pretty harsh critics (most enjoyably so!), but it could possibly lead people to eventually wonder – “well, what do you like, then? Is there any pleasing you, or are you just a crank?”

  46. GAZZA says:

    Man, I wouldn’t even recognise my top 5 games. The case for any game I buy has a lifespan measured in nanoseconds.

    Still, cool puzzle!

  47. AdamB says:

    Number 5 is the Curse of Monkey Island (3 for those not in the know), Secret of Monkey Island was 1.

  48. Spider Dave says:

    Man, when you said that #5 and Monkey Island in the same sentence, my heart lept in hopes of a fifth installment.

  49. NobleBear says:

    I’ve been thinking about comments some have made about fanboys looking for Yahtzee’s likes in the manner of a mob boss looking to see where a federal agents wife and children live to exploit that “weakness” for leverage. While I consider that valid, that is not the intent of everyone who desires that knowledge.

    I’ve been wondering what Yahtzee likes but not because I’m looking for a foothold to denigrate him. I’m actually less interested in what titles he prefers and more what principals or design philosophies stand out to him as constituting a good game.

    I appreciate that at one level, what he is doing is almost exclusively for entertainment; people like to hear a good tongue reaming and that’s what he provides. I guess its that there in an inherent intelligence and articulation to the opinions he renders that I’m wanting to take my nonexistent force powers and draw out the other side of that analysis. Sometimes I’ll get it too, piecemealed here and there throughout other reviews, like not hearing until the Oblivion review that he thought Assassins Creed had good immersion.

    Anyway, just sayin’.

  50. When I figured out that Yahtzee’s #5 was Fantasy World Dizzy, I gained a lot more respect for his good taste. (That’s NOT sarcasm, for those who are unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is the egg named Dizzy.)

    I was surprised at Spiderman 2, though. I like it too, but I wouldn’t put it in my top 10.

    NITPICK: Although it would have made Shamus’ #5 more obvious, the proper title is “The Secret of Monkey Island” not “Monkey Island”. Shortening the title threw me off at first.

  51. Tom says:

    I’m surprised Jade Empire’s not on there, considering the various posts detailing what a great game it is.

  52. Zaxares says:

    Heh, so obviously Yahtzee isn’t an RPG fan. No wonder he hasn’t liked any of the games I’ve liked.

  53. [...] turned out that people solved it very quickly. By comment #16, Matt had the correct answer, just an hour and forty minutes after I posted it. By comment #41 Deltaway has recreated the list [...]

  54. Factoid says:

    Yeah I’m backpedaling and agreeing with “Theif: The Dark Project” as number 4.

    I wasn’t convinced until I opened the blurry shot in photoshop and got a color sample on the lower right corner. It’s got just a bit of yellow in it, which would be consistent with the Thief box.

    I sort of assumed that any Theif game that made a top 5 list would be Thief 3…what with that one being the best and all ;)

  55. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Factoid

    No way!Thief 3 had the best graphic,true,and had the best designed level Ive seen in a game(the shalebridge cradle),but it is not the best of the series.First,its just too easy(compared to the first two parts,at least).Second,its gameplay is just not as deep as the previous 2(especially since you can so easilly dispose of all the enemies and just waltz around the levels,which is quite the opposite of what a thief game is about).And,while it does tie in the story nicely,its the first part of the game that sucked me in,so I consider it much more important.

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  1. [...] turned out that people solved it very quickly. By comment #16, Matt had the correct answer, just an hour and forty minutes after I posted it. By comment #41 Deltaway has recreated the list [...]

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