#6. Halo: Combat Evolved – Truth & Reconciliation Suite
Rebellious as I am, I’ve been known to adhere to some rules rather rigidly, and growing up there were a lot of those. My mother, in a crusade that has never really ended, never cared much for electronic entertainment of any kind, and instituted a rule for my siblings and me that we could not play more than a single hour of electronic games per day, and no electronics at all on Sunday. Though exceptions were made for when friends visited, the rule stuck for most of my youth, and as you might imagine this made the few games I had access to last a remarkably long time.
I doubt my parents knew much about the ESRB — and I still remember when many games said K-A instead of E on them — but suffice to say they managed to keep my gaming pretty family-friendly all the same. I remember with a weird fondness the actual petition I wrote up to convince them to let me — then twelve — buy a T-rated game called Blast Chamber (which in hindsight was a terrible, terrible game, but we didn’t know any better back then). So M games? Forget it.
I got my first taste of mature gaming during visits to my neighbor’s house. Halo was unlike anything I’d ever seen: more realistic, more visceral, more thrilling. It was like playing a movie, albeit a movie more violent than I was used to or, frankly, quite ready to stomach (note: the same strictness went with film; I saw very few R-rated movies prior to turning 17). A post-Gears me wonders what it was like to be repulsed by Halo’s “gore.”
Needless to say, I got over it. And when I did, I discovered one of the most cinematic experiences in gaming history. Its graphics have aged (ergo last year’s revamp), but its story and world still beat those of pretty much every would-be “Halo Killer” to follow. The real star of Halo, though, is Marty O’Donnell’s score, and I won’t blame you if you go and get lost listening to that instead of following the rest of this list. After all, I did.