Posted by: Matt Y | 06/28/2017

20 Core Video Games That Every SciFi Fantasy Fan Should Know – Part 2

Video games are one of those weird mediums that are hugely influenced by Science Fiction and Fantasy and yet it is also the one form of media it comes in that comes with a much higher entrance fee than a book or movie, and requires user input in order to progress.

This is continuation of the list I started yesterday. This is not a ranked list. When writing the list though I noticed some natural themes emerged so today I’m listing four games that were early Eastern Role Playing Games that were strongly influenced by SFF while making their own spins on different SFF tropes.

No implication is intended that these are the only twenty games you should consider.

18. Phantasy Star 3

Phantasy_Star_III_box_US

Phantasy Star 3 was one of the most ambitious RPG games released for SEGA Genesis. The game begins with a scroll about how the legends of the past shape our lives and those of our children. This theme is carried strongly throughout the game as it takes place not just over three generations of characters, which are determined by the choices the player makes.

The game world is primarily a fantasy setting. The background of the world is shaped by a conflict led by two generals, Okario and Laya, whose factions are named after them, Okarians and Layans. During a peace talk the soldiers that went with them were killed and the leaders disappeared. Each faction blaming the other completely sealed their world off from the other side as the ultimate middle finger to the other group.

A thousand years later a prince is scheduled to marry a woman in a good political match, when a different woman washes up on a beach with no memory. The prince is so captivated by her he canceled his wedding and decides to marry the woman with no memory. Two months later at his wedding a dragon shows up an kidnaps the bride, as these things tend to happen, setting off the ancient war all over again.

Image result for phantasy star 3

The player plays as the prince and goes to save the princes in a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme. Only a bunch of twists happen and the game continues later as the child of the prince. The biggest difference here is everything about that child may be different based on who the prince, and player, decides to marry. Whole storylines, available techniques, and so one will completely be dependent on who the Prince marries.

This happens again later. Not only does this affect the character the player is but also the people they can team with or meet since the people you don’t marry go off and have kids of their own. This is one of the unique things video games contribute to SFF. Imagine a choose your own adventure story where instead of choosing to go to page 70 instead there’s a whole different set of sequel books. The theme of how legends of the past shape us and our children is powerfully carried out by showing how those legends and choices shape the world.

17. Final Fantasy VI

FFVI

Much like the previous game Final Fantasy spans throughout various console generations. However these Role Playing Games feature different stories, ones that incorporate sci-fi, steampunk, cyberpunk, fantasy, etc. Most of them are individual narratives that share common game mechanics and creatures within their worlds.

It’s unique in that aspect alone. I can’t think of many other series that share the same name and yet also vary so differently from each other. As they’re so different I’m pulling one out as what I feel is the core game that SFF fans should know of. To me that’s Final Fantasy VI (released as Final Fantasy III initially in the US and how I knew it).

I played FFVI at an age where most of my Sci Fi and Fantasy reading was Dragonlance, Shadowrun, Xanth, and Pern books. So when I started playing FFVI it knocked my socks right off so hard they landed in a different timezone. The world of FFVI is one where in the past there were three gods who fought each other for the dominance of the planet referred to as the War of the Magi. The fallout from the magical radiation of their battles turned the earth into a scorched wasteland. It also warped humans and animals turning them into magical creatures called espers and robbed them of free will. Realizing that they they were destroying the world the Warring Triad returned free will to the espers, created a pocket reality for them to live in, and then turned themselves into statues. This left the world without magic.

Image result for final fantasy vi

A thousand years later and the world has changed. Humanity has reached the level of steam power and gun powder. One Empire has managed to rediscover magic and has fused it with technology to become the dominant nation in the world. The game starts with a woman in a mid control collar using magic as a weapon, until the collar breaks. After that it’s a journey about discovering who she is, the large cast of characters who all have detailed back stories, and moogle dancing.

Spoilers ahoy

It also features an antagonist who doesn’t just threaten to destroy the world but actually does so!

End Spoilers

The game has something for every SFF fan. Magic, ninjas, mechs, airships, powerful personal stories and grand earth shattering events.  It also shows the impact of those who selfishly seek power with no thought to the harm they might cause others.

16. Earthbound

earthbound

Earthbound is a game that is almost surreal in that it takes things that are recognizable and then uses those things as tools to craft an odd adventure.

The game begins as a 13 year old boy named Ness waking up to a meteor crash near his house. When he goes over to help a neighbor find his missing brother a space bee named Buzz Buzz that has time traveled to warn them of Universal Cosmic Destroyer Giygas who has dominated the Earth in the future. However he sense that Ness has the ability to turn things around and that he should go out into the world and record the melodies of 8 sanctuaries to gain the power needed to fight Giygas.

The game is a role playing game however it forgoes the typical fantasy conventions and instead of swords and armor you have yo-yos and t-shirts. Treasure chests are boxes and garbage cans. It takes place in rural America and many of the enemies are people, animals or in-animate objects that have been influenced by the power of Giygas (even a puddle of vomit).

Image result for Earthbound

It’s also a game where if the main character doesn’t call home every now and then is inflicted with homesickness and will miss an attack turn staring wistfully off. You meet a dungeon designer who leaves notes in his dungeons trying to explain their design…then eventual turns himself into a dungeon. One town is another town but reversed. The game uses the rural town setting and familiar game mechanics to give the player a sense of familiarity then turning that familiarity around in a trippy way that isn’t concerned with breaking the fourth wall for dramatic effect. Sort of like Twin Peaks. The oddity of this game has inspired a dedicated fan community which discusses the themes of the game (like if the antagonist is actually a fetus created from the rape of a character) as well as tried to get the sequel game released in North America. When that did not work the community translated the game itself and created collector material for it!

This isn’t a game where the plot moves forward constantly like a book or movie, it’s one where exploration is encouraged and talking to everyone to see what weird thing a character will say next is part of the experience. In some ways it feel like a Jeff Vandermeer book, which if one started with a time traveling space bee would not be surprising at all.

15. Chrono Trigger

Chrono_Trigger

When people talk about the best Time Travel stories of all time in my opinion Chrono Trigger should always be included.

What starts at a town fair as the demonstration of a teleportation device gone wrong, Chrono Trigger is an epic adventure through time. One of the more interesting things is that once the game sets up the world ending antagonist the main character and team can travel straight there. It’s a suicide mission but it was always interesting that the player could confront the final boss when they chose to.

The game takes place across different time periods, recruiting party members who have their own storylines and motivations. The game does a lot of clever things like a trial based on thing the character did earlier in the game that at the time seemed innocuous. Because time travel is involved there are things that you can do which will change the course of the future. It’s great to see how the same places look throughout different time periods or when it gets altered by something you do. It’s one thing to read a book or watch a movie about time travel and see the affects made to time by the characters, its’ another experience completely as a player to see how optional decisions you make influence the world.

Image result for chrono trigger

Add to that the team that made this game are some of the greatest RPG developers. The game managed not only to have a fantastic narrative that weaves together several stories through time, but the game itself looked fantastic for the period it was released in and featured combat mechanics that added new things like combo attacks and showing the enemies on the map.

Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 3/6 and Earthbound opened my eyes when I was younger about the possibilities of ideas in SFF in a way that the books I was reading at the time did not. The legacy of those games are so strong that despite the announcement of the Super Nintendo Classic, a miniature version of the console pre-loaded with most of the amazing games of the time including one previously unreleased game, was called a <a href=”http://gizmodo.com/without-chrono-trigger-the-snes-classic-is-just-a-fanc-1796434315″>’a fancy brick'</a> by Gizmodo for not having Chrono Trigger on the system. While I think that’s a little exaggerated I do agree that I associated the SNES with those three games and missing one feels incomplete. That a 22 year old video game had such strong characters people connected with and was fun to play can still inspire such emotion is pretty incredible though.

However it does show another limitation of SFF in video game format. I can always pick up a Dragonlance book off of my bookshelf to see how it holds up years later. Chrono Trigger I have to hope I still have the system for (I have 4 systems it was released on and bought versions of the game on each) that those systems and disk or cartridge still work (a legit problem for cartridges with internal batteries). There’s more effort involved than with a book or movie, and if it wasn’t a popular title there’s a chance that there’s no way to play it if you don’t own the system and cartridge, unless you have an emulator and ROM. Which is part of the reason there’s a sub-movement in gaming now to try to archive as much as possible.

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