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Gaming for me started when I was 5, when my uncle bought me my first PC. Playing old games like Contra, Mario and other stuff was primarily the thing back in the day. Back when Pentiums were the real deal. Yes, my first PC was powered by a Pentium 4! I also used to play educational games and stuff, till I figured out the need for upgrading to better hardware, when my friends suggested playing Rise of Nations on LAN. I was still the strategy lover back then, with Age of Empires 2 being one of my all time favorites (oops, spoilers!) I did play Counter Strike 1.6 in cafes on being insisted, but sadly, didn’t like the supposed world-class phenomenon. (Oh, how taste changes with time!) Ever since that, I’ve played through a slew of franchises, even amassed a pretty video game disk collection (for the feels, yeah). My introduction to Steam happened with the Counter Strike : Global Offensive, and ever since Steam unleashed Indian methods of payment and retailers like Reapershop, Golagames, Gamersgift and others had a field time by offering extra discount over the Steam price, I never looked back. I currently game on a GTX 660, FX 8320, with 6 GB DDR3 RAM, which is kind of backdated, but I didn’t really have a way of saving money, and my dad being the classical Indian dad with the approach “Games are a waste of time” wasn’t really helpful at all. I have quite a big library on Steam, and have played through quite some titles, but certain games stand out above others, making more of an impact than others. Here’s my list of the “top 5 games of all time”, without further due :-

5) Stardew Valley –

Life simulators are sort of boring, unless they do something unique which gets you hooked. That is just what Stardew Valley gets right! Starting up as a worker at Joja Corporation, and later coming to Stardew Valley when you get bored of your job, only to see the big farm you inherited from your grandpa. Start farming, and roll in some neat profits. Get trees, build an orchard, start a coop, a barn, raise animals, all while harvesting the crops and tending to them too. Love the quiet life of growing only crops and living on the resources of the land? Go buy some seeds, sow them, and reap a bountiful harvest. The wide variety of crops, from the ones that yield one time only to the ones that propagate through creepers on their own, or the ones that continuously yield, at least more than once in a season. If you think you’re earning quite some money, invest in orchards, in fruit trees. Fruit trees are perennial, and wield valuable fruit that sells for a lot of money. Animals of a various type can also be grown, and just like plants need water, animals need food in order to survive (and trust me, one death means a lifetime of moaning and cursing in the real world). The large variety of animals, each with their different needs also adds variety to an otherwise boring farmer’s life. However, life of a farmer isn’t quite the boring life it seems,especially not when your former employer Joja Corporation decides to pay Stardew Valley a little visit. Will you defend Stardew Valley from the greed of a multinational corporation? Or will you side with your former employers and screw the village residents? Either way, you get to immerse in a farming simulation that see the hours pass as fast in real life as they do in-game, once you get hooked on.

4) Age of Empires 2 –

Needless to mention, one of the games that defined my childhood (as has already been spoiled in the introduction), is Age of Empires 2. Microsoft achieved what many deemed impossible, and gave life to a whole new genre of games which was started by Dune and Dune 2, the first RTS’s in the sphere of gaming. Perhaps one of the most flexible and dynamic game genres in video gaming, thanks to the fact that it allows a player many diverse approaches to an objective in almost any game, be they multiplayer or singleplayer. Rush them out as fast as possible,by attacking within the first minute itself, and keeping up the offense. Building up defenses and taking control of certain areas of the map, so that the enemy is cut out of resources. Sending waves after waves of forces to take down enemy defenses before breaching their buildings. Or turtle your way to victory with a massive army that destroys anything that stands in your way. The choice is yours, and the AI will act accordingly, trying to counter you. An AI that mutually adapts to your situation in the field of entertainment was quite a miracle for a game that was released before the 21st century. But why Age of Empires 2? The answer is simple : historical accuracy in representation of missions. You can become Attila the Hun, destroying the Roman Empire, or Genghis Khan, expanding from Mongolia upto Europe,the biggest empire the world has ever seen (possibly seconded only by the colonial British empire). Or take part in the mighty Crusades, and try to win back the Holy Land from the Moslems. Smash the Turks’ entry into Europe as Charles Martel, or become Joanne of Arc and fight against England and its invading army. Also, an inherent history book, that talks about history as it happened, literally makes the game the ideal guide book to pass your history examinations at school. Multiplayer over LAN, or over what existed of the Internet back then, defined the childhood of many kids, myself included. Not to forget the iconic soundtrack which still sends shivers down my spine, as I embark on a nostalgic journey back to my childhood days.

3) Counter Strike : Global Offensive –

Perhaps one of the most influential modifications for Half Life was Counter Strike, which made it a team-based shooter. There were two teams, one group of Counter Terrorists, and one group of Terrorists, where Terrorists have to plant the bomb and defending it, while trying to eliminate the Counter Terrorists, while the Counter Terrorists have to stop the Terrorists from doing it by either killing them, or defusing the bomb after it has been planted. For the time, a multiplayer shooter that offered flexibility in terms of approach to the main objective, as well as multiple in-game strategies like boosts, crouch jumps, wallbangs, and other stuff which truly made it revolutionary for a game of that era, when the Internet had only started working its wonders. Global Offensive tries to cater to a worldwide audience by improving on the formula, providing improved recoil patterns for guns, an improved economy system, changes to the inventory, a ranking system as well as an improved UI besides improved visuals thanks to a completely different game engine. However, it isn’t the game mechanics, it is rather their implementation that keeps one hooked. You watch as the hours pass, but you are hard at it, carrying your own team with an AWP sniper rifle to victory, or rifling your way to glory with an AK-47 or an M4A4. And then you discover that your friends play the game too, which means another couple of sleepless nights as you win match after match, grinding for the next competitive rank for getting the ultimate bragging rights. The real problem about the game soon became its community, for the same ranking system that was designed to inspire rather than divide. And more recently, an increase in the number of hackers thanks to a divide due to the ranking system has led players off to greener pastures, particularly PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS and DOTA 2. While today it is only a shadow of its former glory, Counter Strike : Global Offensive reminds us about the roots of gaming, and incidentally, of Steam’s birth itself (Counter Strike was one of the first franchises to be listed on Steam).

2) ARK : Survival Evolved –

This is possibly one of the games that influenced my mind the most. As a kid, I played a little Minecraft, and I know the basics of how to make big stuff (by that I don’t mean making a dirt shack and staying in there night after night). ARK doesn’t allow the flexibility of Minecraft, but it definitely improves on other areas. ARK : Survival Evolved is a game where humans are left to fend for themselves on planets called ARKs. Each ARK is different, with features of its own. The ARKs are home to numerous creatures, some of which are not very friendly towards other creatures, having a craving for human meat. Carnivores, omnivores and herbivores abound everywhere, with some zones of the world being more dangerous than others. You get to collect a variety of resources, and construct bases as you see fit. Unleash your creativity, while collecting enough resources to keep you armed and ready to defend from all sorts of monstrosities. Resource distribution varies from ARK to ARK, and the challenges are different. However, the weather in general is itself a threat, beside the numerous creatures that constantly roam around in search of prey. However, nothing can beat the threat posed by a rival human tribe with better weapons and technological know-how (thanks to them spending more time in-game), who will go to war with you, using every dirty tactic in the book to ensure their victory. ARK’s creature variety is immense, starting from dodos and jerboas to giganotosauruses and reapers. Tame them, kill them, incapacitate them – the choice is yours. If the freedom offered beside the freeform construction options and the option to domesticate creatures is not enough, you have boss fights at the alien-like obelisks, where you watch your pack of Gigas and Rexes get demolished by a giant boss (because we all know how well that goes, right?) The only problem with the game seems to be a toxic community, which definitely detracts new players who are treated like vermin on the official servers thanks to their lack of experience, beside the non-existent game optimization, which has been an issue in the game for two year starting from the date of Early Access.

1) Hearthstone –

For someone who has spent his childhood playing trading card games, playing games like Duel Masters and Yu Gi Oh, Hearthstone certainly makes a strong appeal. This is also due to the fact that I decided to get into Magic, but couldn’t do so, thanks to a rule book that keeps mounting with every expansion. Hearthstone’s mechanics are much easier to understand, and you don’t need to keep gazing at the rule book for understanding new mechanisms, because if you peer onto a new card in-game, the card mechanics will be explained in the easiest way possible. The real problem actually is the increasing difference between players that pay for packs and players who grind for their packs, and the new player experience is really bad, considering that the basic cards do practically nothing in helping someone learn the game (there are two types of cards in Hearthstone, basic cards, and expert cards – basic cards are earned by levelling up a class, while expert cards are earned from packs). Despite that, nothing can beat the joy of making your own deck, especially if you were a grinding player from the start, and find that it gets a decent winrate on the ladder. Then you continue to grind, putting in more time and effort to learn the classes, how they operate, card synergies, and deck-building strategies that help you in the long run. Slowly, you expand to other decks, and then to other classes. The struggle of low-budget players had necessitated action, which came in the form of a no-duplicate legendary rule, where legendaries, the rarest cards in the game, which come only from packs, will only be received if you don’t have a copy of it already, allowing completion of daily quests with friends, and reduction of repetition of the same cards that one can get in a pack. Of course, if you think you want to rake in substantial rewards for the price of gold, then Arena mode is the best way to get them. Arena is a game mode that allows you to build a deck from random cards, and take to challenging other players – the more you win in the Arena, the better your rewards are. Card packs, gold and arcane dust (which is used to ‘make’ cards) or even single cards themselves can be received as rewards. A slew of singleplayer content, in the form of interesting raids like the Curse of Naxxramas, One Night at Karazhan, Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers exist. In the raids, or in Hearthstone terminology, adventures, you earn cards for victories against the AI opponents, and can play them again later should you want to give them a more humiliating defeat with a better deck. Every opponent is unique, with boss opponents being particularly tough to beat, but nonetheless very rewarding when you do it. A recently added game mode called Dungeon Run, was added with the latest expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, where you can face boss opponents, and with each win, you get cards to add to your deck, starting with only 10 cards, and adding more with each victory. Besides, card variations are not overtly complex, yet they are surprisingly flexible when you want to build a deck, meaning that you have tons of ways to make your deck, and focus on different strategies to defeat your opponent. Either OTK your way to victory as Miracle Priest or Exodia Mage, or break down your opponent with board pressure using Tempo Rogue or Aggro Paladin, or simply control the board with frequent board clears, developing a win condition as Highlander Priest or Control Warlock. Not to forget the incessant belief in the “heart of the cards” (despite it being more of an Yu Gi Oh concept), as you pray for a particular draw at the last moment, to deal that burst damage and win the game. Whatever deck you play, just keep your faith in the “heart of the cards”, and you’ll automatically win.

That ends the list! Disagree with some games on the list? Disagree with my feelings about the game? Feel free to let me know in the comments down below!

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