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How to pretend you've played 30 of the best games ever made

 Metal Gear Solid (1998) 

Format(s): PS1, PC

Alright, first off, this is just about the game "Metal Gear Solid." None of the prequels, none of the sequels, and definitely none of the retconning prequels that are also sequels. Ahem. So, in this game, government agent Solid Snake is pulled out of retirement and sent to infiltrate a nuclear disposal facility that has been taken over by terrorists. His goal is to rescue two VIPs and stop the terrorists from launching a nuke. Things go sideways pretty quickly, as both of the VIPs end up dead, a relative of the colonel who sent you there is discovered to be in holding, an old wartime buddy Snake thought was dead turns out to be alive, and Snake himself is captured. After breaking free of his cell and confronting several leading members of the terrorist group (including his clone twin brother), Snake discovers that they not only have the weaponry needed to launch a nuclear missile at the United States, but that he's been tricked into activating it. A few dramatic battles, a car chase, and one villain's death later, and Snake escapes the facility with either a nerdy scientist or a sexy redhead depending on if you gave in to torture earlier in the game (giving in means scientist survives, toughing it out means redhead). Now, you wanna know about the Metal Gear Solid series, you're on your own.

Key things to mention: MGS is like a soap opera with nanomachines, so one thing people will appreciate is if you know the names of the cast. There's way too many to list here, so I suggest heading to the Metal Gear fan wiki, picking someone you like the sound of, and studying up. Alternatively, just talk about Gray Fox, AKA the Cyborg Ninja. Because one, everybody loves him, and two, if you couldn't guess by the name, the dude is a cyborg. Ninja. He has sweet armor, stealth cloaking tech, a katana that can cut through anything, and a cool backstory as a wartime buddy of Snake's, now brainwashed to be a killing machine.

One of the major twists (other than the whole "you're actually a clone" thing) is that Snake has been infected with a nanomachine virus called "FOXDIE." When the two VIPs (Donald Anderson and Kenneth Baker) seemingly die of heart attacks, it's actually the virus that Snake has been unwittingly carrying that does them in. It's also this disease that kills Liquid Snake (the aforementioned twin clone) at the very end of the game.

The most memorable scene: The battle with Psycho Mantis, which many players believed simply couldn't be beaten. This telepath messed with players' heads even before the fight began, moving your controller via the rumble feature and reading memory cards. So for example, if you have a Castlevania save file, he would say, "So… you like to play Castlevania?!" He also read controller inputs as if he was reading your mind, so the only way to beat him was to switch your controller to another port. You won't get any originality points for discussing this oft-cited scene, but damn is it cool. Sam Prell

 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009) 

Format(s): PS3, PS4

Otherwise knows as ‘the one with the Cintamani Stone, Shambhala and the tree of life’. Uncharted 2 follows Nate, Elena, Sully, joined by Chloe (making her debut here) as they set out to explore Tibet via a Turkish museum heist, Borneo and Nepal. It packs in great action sequences as well as some lovely quieter moments like a Tibetan village (where you can pet a yak, very important to mention the yak). The game ends in the amazing-looking mystical city of Shambhala full of mutated former inhabitants, high on the sap from the tree of life, where Nat finally defeats one of the series’ best villains, Lazarević.

Key things to mention: Firstly this is the best Uncharted, don’t @ me. It’s the most perfect blend of action, character and pace the series has ever achieved. There’s the incredible opening train sequence where Drake has to climb as it slides over the edge of a mountain. And an astonishing escape across and through buildings as a helicopter gunship destroys them. There’s also a great bit where the game addresses the ludonarrative dissonance of Nate murdering so many as Lazarević asks him, “how many people have you killed?”

The most memorable scene: The opening train escape is high up, as is exploring the Tibetan village. However, if you really want to sound like you know what you’re talking about then mention Tenzin, the guide who takes Nate into the ice caves. The focus on their teamwork and relationship, albeit separated by a language barrier, directly influenced The Last Of Us. Leon Hurley

Grand Theft Auto 5 (2013) 

Format(s): PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

Grand Theft Auto 5 breaks the open-world cityscape mold by following three playable protagonists: Michael, a former bank robber bored of his lavish Los Santos life under witness protection, Franklin, a level-headed guy trying to escape the ghetto, and Trevor, a deranged meth dealer who flies off the handle at the slightest provocation (and thinks his old pal Michael died during their last heist). The trio of crime-inclined anti-heroes bond over their shared struggles, wreaking havoc around Los Santos' sendup of LA and the surrounding California desert as they commit a series of extravagant heists and odd jobs. In the final mission, you take control of Franklin as he makes the decision between killing either Michael or Trevor to satisfy outside forces, or the three of you band together to survive a massive firefight against the not-FBI and private security forces of the Merryweather company. Because you've no doubt learned the value and power of friendship across dozens of felonies, you'll obviously pick The Third Way.

Key things to mention: The over-the-top cast in GTA 5 is consistently great, but it all comes back to Steven Ogg's amazing turn as Trevor Philips, with his ridiculously short temper, unbridled crassness, and frightening penchant for wanton violence. The things he does to his teddy bear-turned-lover are unspeakable. It's also crucial that you call out Franklin's best bud Lamar, a gangbanger of Apache descent who's the perfect comic relief when paired with straight man Franklin.

The most memorable scene: In one of the most WTF missions in Grand Theft Auto history, Franklin meets a labrador out in the wilderness and is 'told' via a series of interpretive barks that someone's in trouble. Franklin follows the pooch until they find a skydiver stuck in a tree, helps the poor thrillseeker down, and then suddenly realizes that he's presumably hallucinated the dog's existence entirely. No drugs are involved, and no explanations are given. Sometimes, these things just happen. Lucas Sullivan 

Super Metroid (1994) 

Format(s): SNES

Super Metroid begins with a throwback to Metroid 2, but don't worry about that too much. All you need to know is that ace bounty hunter Samus Aran nearly exterminated the species of energy parasites known as Metroids on their home planet, but she couldn't bring herself to destroy the last one, which had just hatched and imprinted on her like a baby bird. Samus drops the toothy li'l space jellyfish off at a research station instead and is all set to go back to her mercenary ways when she gets a distress signal from the station. Showing up just in time to see her old nemesis, the Space Pirate Ridley, snatch the baby Metroid away, she pursues him back to planet Zebes - the site of the original Metroid. What follows is a semi-remake of the first game including boss fights against familiar characters like the dinosaur-ish Kraid (who is now inexplicably three stories tall) and that concludes in a final battle against Space Pirate leader Mother Brain. Then the entire planet starts blowing up and Samus only has three minutes to escape, because that's how things tend to end when Samus is involved.

Key things to mention: Super Metroid is the mother of all "Metroidvania" games. Talk about how that freedom to explore and find your way through the game using environmental hints, rather than overt objective markers, is still rarely matched in video games today. Also joke about how that voice line at the beginning ("The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.") sounds super cheesy now but was so cool back then.

The most memorable scene: Definitely, definitely the final fight against Mother Brain. Just as the giant spiky-brain is moments away from killing Samus, the baby Metroid re-appears all grown up and drains the life out of Mother Brain. Then it transfers the energy back to Samus, restoring her health and bestowing the Hyper Beam - the best weapon in the game - upon her. Then Mother Brain recovers and kills the Metroid just as it completes its final act of filial love and devotion. Now it is goddamn personal. Connor Sheridan

Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) 

Format(s): Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

This is the game that made Xbox. Originally an RPG designed for PC, Halo evolved (intended) into the first-person shooter that sold Xbox to a deeply PlayStation-dominated world. You play as Master Chief, sent to investigate a mysterious ring world (the titular Halo), and to kick the human-hating Covenant off it. While attempting to activate the Halo, Chief accidentally unleashes a parasitic life-form called The Flood, which turns both humans and Covenant into mindless monsters. It’s here we meet 343 Guilty Spark, a sentient orb who tells Chief to retrieve The Index, and use it to activate the Halo to stop the Flood. But it turns out that by doing this the Chief would activate a series of Halos and wipe out all organic life in the universe so, instead, he destroys the ring world by activating the self-destruct mechanism on the ship he arrived on, The Pillar of Autumn.

Key things to mention: Halo CE takes place directly after the events of Halo: Reach, which appeared nine years after CE on Xbox 360. The pistol is the best weapon in the game, the library is painfully repetitive, and the old Xbox pad was an absolute nightmare to play it with.

The most memorable scene: Probably the beach-landing in the level simply entitled ‘Halo’. It’s the first time you get a true sense of the size of CE’s world, and the wonderful flow of the combat. Andy Hartup

Fallout 3 (2008)

Format(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC

After a peaceful childhood in Vault 101, your scientist father suddenly goes missing. You break out of the underground bunker and begin to search for him in post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., hundreds of years after the Great War’s nuclear devastation. Turns out he’s working on a clean water effort known as Project Purity. In the irradiated, bombed-out Wasteland, controlling the water becomes a power grab between two competing factions: The Brotherhood of Steel and the Enclave. The game’s B-story is a moral choice about whether you’ll carry out the Enclave’s plan to inject the fresh water supply with a modified virus that would kill off any and all mutated life. Choices about life and death, power and control, allies and foes…gee whiz, you’re in for a fun time with Fallout!

Key things to mention: If you’re trying to pass as a lifelong fan of the franchise, you’d obviously mention how Fallout 3 was when the series became the Bethesda entity we all know and love. You’d also have a favorite of the player companions; Dogmeat is a safe, familiar choice for those who’ve played Fallout 4, but the friendly super-mutant Fawkes is also a delight. Even though Fallout 3’s gunplay is notoriously wonky, you’ve probably got a wacky and wildly overpowered weapon that never left your side. Most likely that was the Blackhawk, the Gauss rifle, or Lincoln’s Repeater. 

The most memorable scene: There’s only one acceptable answer here: Nuking Megaton, the little village that serves as your first base of operations in the game. As you become more powerful, and maybe more jaded by life in the Wasteland, you wind up on a quest line that allows you to activate the nuclear bomb nestled within the town. It’s a moment that captures all the possibility and power of what a Bethesda RPG allows you to do. Anna Washenko

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