ATB’s Best Games Ever: (4) Mass Effect 2

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I’m going to do what you brought me back to do. I’ll fight and win this war without compromising the soul of our species.

This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. We’ve reached the top five, which means things are about to get REAL. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.

4) Mass Effect 2 (360/PS3/PC)

Chris: Gamers love choice. They loathe console exclusives — they want to see their favorite games on their favorite console, not the other way around. They want multifaceted DLC and costume options and branching stories and nonlinear paths and a choice on which characters get it on and…phew, gamers are a pain in the ass to satisfy sometimes.

masseffect2boxIt shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Mass Effect 2 is so beloved, because it delivered all of those things in spades.

Perhaps the most ingenious part of ME2 was its connectivity. The clever design meant that your choices from the first game carried over into the sequel, which was already somewhat of a novelty, but it had been seen in games before. The difference here was that your choices felt like they mattered. Specific scenes would show up in ME2 based on characters you kept from the first game, or a particular dialogue choice. And best of all, the amalgamation of everything you did in both games became the impetus for even more overarching story in Mass Effect 3. The second game was the lynchpin that held everything together.

I’ve never played Mass Effect 2. I tried to play the first game, but couldn’t get into it for two reasons: a number of small flaws (which Shaun will document momentarily) and a glitched battle against a sandworm where it stayed alive with zero HP and murdered my poor ship. But I’ve seen four different people play through ME2, and all of them absolutely loved it. In fact, the ending of the game (spoiler alert) is the perfect example of how firmly you’re in control of your own story — your entire crew can survive, your entire crew can die, and everything in between. It all depends on how much loyalty you had with your characters and what missions you did over the course of the whole game.

In fact, I think ME2 being so strong is part of the reason why everyone was so disappointed with the ending of Mass Effect 3 — after a 100+ hour trilogy’s worth of building a personalized story, the ending flushed it all away in favor of multi-colored fun-time cutsceneapalooza. That can’t be held against this game, though; BioWare’s foresight and smooth gameplay design made Mass Effect 2 deserving of being mentioned with the all-time greats.

Mass Effect 2 is this high on the list thanks to a strong balance in voting, particularly from Dave, Shaun and Jason, who all had it in their top 3. No other game in our list had that kind of support.

Shaun: Lookie lookie, another sci-fi game has breached our top five. Whereas KOTOR revolutionized how rich sci-fi worlds and stories can be brought to life through gaming, ME 2 built upon that premise, delivering one of the most cinematic, compelling, polished gaming experiences ever.

ME 2 is, at its core, a love letter to fans of the original. While solid in its own right, the first Mass Effect had its fair share of flaws and frustrations — and ME 2 addresses all of them:

  • combat is faster, tighter, more fluid, and more fun.
  • the conversation wheel is more intuitive
  • choices reflect a more balanced Shepard, especially in regards to the Renegade; instead of a giant evil douchebag, you can choose to make your Shepard more like Jack Bauer in space; ruthless, but still a good guy
  • side quests and leveling are improved
  • the RPG mechanics are pared down, keeping you in the action instead of sifting through menus

By making the gameplay vastly superior, and implementing the perfect blend of shooter mechanics and space power usage, it allows the player to focus more on the story. And damn, what a story it is.

Taking a cue from what many regard as the best bridging chapter in cinema trilogy history, The Empire Strikes Back, ME 2 is dark.

It starts dark, with your Shepard suffocating to death in space after his ship is attacked by a fearsome new enemy. In the first two minutes.

It stays dark, with thousands (millions?) of humans being abducted and harvested, requiring Shepard to team up with an enemy to solve the threat.

It ends dark, implying that the fight is far from over, and the enemy invasion is imminent (or even darker if you made poor decisions and got your crew killed in the final mission).

Dark. Powerful. Brilliant. And the ability to carry over a huge amount of your decisions from the first one makes the game that much more personal and engaging. My personal highlights was Conrad Verner making a second appearance, and me punching the reporter (again) for absolutely no reason. ME 2 is the pinnacle of personalized storytelling in gaming, and continues to pull me in for new playthroughs, even to this day.

Dave: Let’s take an amazing game from start to finish like Mass Effect, then revamp the shooting system, add a plethora of new characters and then connect the two together so what you did in the first game matters and you get possibly the best game ever. Seeing Commander Shepard die in the first minute of the game allowed you to keep the same Shepherd alive, or completely change from the first game to be whatever you want it to be. The ability of the team at Bioware to seamlessly connect all of the possible plot lines from Mass Effect is remarkable, and has now revolutionized the storytelling video game genre.

Honestly, what can I say more than what Shaun already said? Our entire top five is pretty much gaming perfection, and we’re really just nitpicking at this point, because any one of our top five games could easily have been the best of all- time. I think we’re noticing a theme though: games where you make decisions and can make the character into your own rank extremely high on our lists. I guess we just like options.

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MORE FROM AT THE BUZZER’S TOP 25 LIST

(5) Knights of the Old Republic

(6) Pokemon Red/Blue

(7) Portal

(8) Final Fantasy VI

(9) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

(10) Super Mario 64

(11) Kingdom Hearts II

(12) Persona 4 Golden

(13) Super Mario Bros. 3

(14) Halo

(15) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

(16) Super Smash Bros. Melee

(17) Super Mario Galaxy 2

(18) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

(19) Final Fantasy IX

(20) Star Fox 64

(21) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

(22) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

(23) Fallout 3

(24) StarCraft

(25) Bioshock

Best Games Ever: #50-26

Best Games Ever: #75-51

Best Games Ever: #100-76

Honorable Mentions

Introduction

3 thoughts on “ATB’s Best Games Ever: (4) Mass Effect 2

  1. I completely agree with this. Out of the three games, I actually consider Mass Effect 2 to be my top favorite. Mass Effect 3 could have topped Mass Effect 2, but of course the game started to lose its greatness as you got closer to the end.

    I prefer games with choices and options. To me, they are the best kind. I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth when every time you play the game, you end up getting a different game each time. That level of replayability is highly attractive.

  2. If we were rating games based solely on how many great moments were embedded throughout the playthrough, I don’t see how ME 2 wouldn’t be number 1. Every single mission was somehow unique and compelling, from your death at the beginning to the “suicide mission” at the end. Amazing.

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