#19. Bioshock – Cohen’s Masterpiece
My freshman year of college, I remember asking a roommate what he was playing, and he told me he was playing Bioshock. It was apparently some sort of horror game, and I had no interest at all in knowing more than that. In the long list of ironies that is my gaming history, that one takes the cake. The game I ignored in 2007 became, by 2009, my favorite game of all time. A dreadfully-designed final boss is the only blemish on what is otherwise, in every way, the pinnacle of game design for a narrative-driven mind like mine. Bioshock was dread and awe, beauty and macabre, joy and misery, all wrapped into one murky package, and no part of Rapture captured that essence better than Fort Frolic, purview of Sander Cohen, whose playground wouldn’t be complete without this chilling gem.
#20. Modern Warfare 2 – Assaulting the Submarine Launch Base
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, had been, in my mind, the arrival of the PC gaming experience on a console, as it finally captured the pacing and madness I’d come to love about playing the original CoD whenever I visited my friend Dave. Somehow, Modern Warfare 2 improved everything about the first game. The game ran smoother, the level selection more robust, the offline multiplayer less butchered, and the Spec Ops missions (a few absurdly impossible exceptions notwithstanding) thoroughly enjoyable. Every part of Hans Zimmer’s blockbuster-level score is epic, but this one might take the cake, channeling a bit of Lux Aeterna in the process.
#21. Assassin’s Creed II – Heart
If Kingdom Hearts is my favorite franchise of all time, Assassin’s Creed is my most consistent. While I hear grumblings from those who are growing tired from sequel fatigue, I have not personally reached that point. Each game has built so well on its predecessors (tower defense gimmick notwithstanding), and I find the faux historical tapestry riveting. I’ve even come to care about what happens to Desmond, a fact that I’d likely have found astounding while playing the first game. But while I’ve enjoyed every AC game, AC II remains my favorite, and its haunting score, in my mind, the most impressive. Kyd recycles a lot of motifs in this score, and Heart gets my blood rushing a little bit faster than the track I could just as easily have put here, Ezio’s Family.
#22. Mirror’s Edge – Still Alive
Assassin’s Creed introduced most of us to parkour, and then it was only a matter of time before that pseudo-sport became the basis for a game. Thankfully, that game turned out to be Mirror’s Edge, which was, well, really, really fun. I played through it twice — the first time as a pacifist, the second guns-blazing — and enjoyed it thoroughly both times. I’m still crossing my fingers for a sequel, a wait made easier with Lisa Miskovsky’s memorable anthem to keep me company.
#23. Final Fantasy XIII – Battle Theme
Memorable for entirely different reasons is the music of Final Fantasy XIII, a game I begrudgingly attained 100% completion in despite losing the passion to do so roughly 50% through. Time has been kind to the game, because I seem to have forgotten most of the things I came to loathe about it. And it turns out that the music is much nicer to listen to when you’re not running down another endless, featureless corridor.