1. Dark Souls
Dark Souls nudging out a Zelda game? Yes. From Software's masterpiece evolves, extrapolates, and elevates Link's loose template into something grander and truly, deeply mature. But far beyond that, Dark Souls does so while exhibiting peerless examples of all that is truly important to gaming in the modern era. Its core mechanics are impossibly precise and well-honed, yet endlessly malleable and open to vast experimentation and personalization. Its environmental design is a boggling feat of intricacy, realism, playfulness, and drama, a world wrapping around and folding in on itself in endlessly organic, yet utterly grandiose fashion.
And ye gods, its narrative. Initially cold, oblique, and indifferent to the player's presence, Dark Souls' Lordran is a world carved from the densest lore. Its history, characters, and stories infest every environment, object, and eventuality almost without a word, imperceptible to the casual player but revealed in gratifying, enigmatic patches to those who truly invest and investigate. And invest you will. Because once Dark Souls gets you, all of the above and more make it the most personal, affecting, challenging, empowering, and real-feeling journey in video games to date. However much Dark Souls might seem to hate you at first, the opposite is really true. It has only a world of wonders to show you.
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