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Top 9 best proprietary games of all time (and a few good ones)

Last update: 5 Oct 2018

I have a hard FOSS stance right now but I’ve been a gamer my whole life and played plenty of proprietary games before. So I thought I would talk a bit of proprietary games that are actually good. By the way, you really don’t have to play those games by yourself, sometimes, watching a let’s play is enough. Actually, a few games got in this list after only watching a let’s play. So, let’s begin.

Best games

9th place: This War of Mine

Genre: Survival

Release year: 2014

You play as civilians who are trapped in a shelter in a war-torn city. This game takes a very serious perspective. Characters have depth and are not simply a props to kill or interact with. What really got me is the atmosphere of this helplessness and impending doom. You never have enough food, medicine, sometimes the wheather is very cold. You are under constant stress, you don’t know if you will survive another day. But you go on. You just go on.

This game tries to adapt my life so it would be understandable by other people. Most western people don’t know the true levels of suffering so you need to use the concept of war to even start a discussion. And I hope more games will do so in the future.

8th place: Grand Theft Auto III

Genre: Action

Release year: 2001

Oh, this game didn’t age well at all. But it gave me months and months of fun that can’t be erased from memory. It was the first fully 3D GTA that introduced 3rd person perspective and a whole city to explore and cause mayhem. The story is very simple and works well. Also, I think that this GTA has the most neutral setting. Vice City is 80s bullshit, San Andreas is gangsta bullshit, GTA 4 is immigrant bullshit. This one tries to stay away from stereotypes. Also, this is where the mute protagonist works excellently. You can play as yourself.

One of the most important parts of the game is hidden package mechanic. There are 100 hidden packages in the city for you to find. For every 10 packages you find you get a weapon in your safehouse that effectively gives you unlimited ammo for that weapon. And unlimited ammo means unlimited fun of killing civilians and cops. It’s all about killing civilians and cops - these fucking bastards who uphold the unjust power of the government. The story missions simply act as a tutorial, after you finish the story and see the credits, the real game begins. It is fun to explore the city because you find hidden packages and get new weapons in your safehouse. Exploring the city is meaningful. Also, you can carry all your weapons at the same time. This is important. Vice city fails here because you have to choose what weapon you want and the choises suck. San Andreas only gives weapons after you found all packages in a given city. Vice City Stories has balloons which are extremely harder to find. And GTA 4… Oh boy. I found all 100 pigeons in GTA 4 and what did I get? A fucking achievement! What the fuck, Rockstar, are you fucking insane? Only Liberty City Stories uses mostly correct formula and that is it is also a very good game but still can’t beat GTA 3.

I’ve completed the game 2 times: first in 2003 and second in 2008. During the 2nd playthrough I got 100% completion. Many flaws were obvious this time and after getting 100% I’ve ununstalled it. If it would be FOSS, I’d mod it to no end but it’s not and that sucks.

7th place: Undertale

Genre: RPG

Release year: 2015

When I think about RPGs I usually imagine stupid levels, fetch quests, grind and other Skinner boxes. This game does not have it. Or at least makes it optional. The main feature of the game is that if you go into a typical “battle” with monster, you have the “mercy” button where you don’t have to kill anybody. You go through a story filled with light-hearted humor and memorable characters. Or not. It is your choice.

I was very suicidal after finishing this game. The world of that game is crafted so beautifully, I didn’t want this game to end. I didn’t want to leave that world. I was happy there and I could for a brief moment stop thinking about the horrors of real life. Be prepared.

6th place: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Genre: Psychological horror

Release year: 2017

It’s hard to describe this game. But it’s an honest attempt to portray mental illness with respect it deserves. This game can be a big hit and miss but it was an impactful hit for me. Eventually. It’s hard to talk about this game because a lot of it had a very deep connection with me and it would take pages and pages of text to describe this connection accurately. And honestly, I’m not feeling like revealing my inner thoughts here. If you are interested in mental health and have enough mental health of your own to get through this game, it’s a must play.

5th place: Night in the Woods

Genre: Adventure

Release year: 2017

Oh man, this game hits hard. Very hard. It has amazing characters and story and they are so close to life. Nothing in this game is really far-fetched and that’s why it is so powerful. You can really see real complex people behind the characters, you can really feel what they feel but this game never tries hard because it doesn’t need to.

It’s a very laid back game. It goes very slow and allows you to get in the mood. Yes, this is very much a mood game. And what’s the best way to enhance the mood? With absolutely amazing soundtrack. This game have several hours of it and it’s so consistently good. Listening to soundtrack alone is great experience by itself.

4th place: Spec Ops: The Line

Genre: Third person shooter

Release year: 2012

Best story in a shooter game. But coupled with a gameplay that, while being absolutely functional, doesn’t live up to the story and can be a bit too challenging, especially on the first playthrough. The game looks like another average military shooter and uses this in a very creative way to tell a meaningful and impactful message.

That is if you choose easy or normal difficulty on your first playthrough. Seriously. There are 2 different games inside - a great story-based shooter and okayish tactical shooter. You play the first game if you choose easy or normal. You play second game if you choose hard or insane. But if you choose hard on your first playthrough (you can’t choose insane there), you will never experience the first game. The 4th best game ever made. Don’t waste this opportunity.

3rd place: Saints Row: The Third

Genre: Action

Release year: 2011

First, character editor. You can create your character to be like you feel. You can be yourself to a great extent. Next, is the atmosphere of nihilism, of breaking norms and doing whatever you like. Freedom. This is something magnificient. Too bad some small stuff doesn’t put this game in a 2nd place such as your gang members being extremely weak even being fully upgraded, no way to keep reload for weapons after full upgrade, no way to customize the amount of damage you take. The last upgrades make you completely immune to bullets and other types of damage and this makes the game is bit less fun. Also, some DLC missions have tons of achievements inside them. This is just disgusting after playing such a great base game. Finally, the “fart in a jar” could be enhanced by making it kill people when they vomit several times. Say, you make people vomit 2 times normally and then they vomit blood and die just like in Postal 2. That would make it one is the best video game weapons of all time.

2nd place: Postal 2

Genre: Satire

Release year: 2003

Postal 2 is Undertale with fantasy setting replaced by a hard reality. You play as the Postal Dude who lives with his bitchy wife in a trailer and goes through a daily chores such as buying milk or returning a book to a library. The catch is that the world is full of crazy people who make trivial tasks not so trivial. And the game gives you a blank canvas and you have a lot of freedom in painting it. But unlike Undertale which mostly gives you the ability to paint the canvas with flowers, mercy and friendship, Postal 2 gives you the ability to paint the canvas with blood, vomit and piss. Literally. You can unzip your pants and start pissing on the street. Or on another people. But you don’t have to do this, you can finish the game without killing anyone. All tasks can be solved without violence. But most people simply see this game as one-dimentional shooter that breeds maniacs.

I really love this game because of a huge freedom it gives you. There is no time limit on the tasks and you can explore the city however you wish. And you are generously rewarded for exploring. Also, there is a huge replayability. I’ve finished the game like 8 times, I knew the city almost by heart and it was still fun to play. Also, the stuff you can do with petition errand is amazing.

1st place: The Stanley Parable (the mod version)

Genre: Meta

Release year: 2011

There are 2 versions of the game: the free (as in beer) Half-Life 2 mod version and standalone paid version. I mostly want to talk about the mod version. You can’t tell anything about what happens in a game without spoiling it. The game takes roughly an hour to experience all it has to offer but that was the best hour I’ve ever spent playing a game and this is why it deserves the 1st place.

I myself was very involved in Source engine modding and playing this game was like talking to an old friend. I knew how each tiny bit of the game was done and was able to talk the same language as the game developer. This is why it was so powerful for me, how so much was achieved with so little effort. The paid version, on the other hand, was done with the help of people whose skills far exceed mine and I felt more disconnected. Also, some unlicensed proprietary music from the mod version had to be removed and new music is much worse. And, ultimately, the paid version doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It tries so hard to achieve the same but in the result waters it down into several hours that no longer feel that powerful. If you’re a game developer or have made maps for Source engine and can see the diamond in the rough, you will appreciate the mod version. If you are a regular gamer and prefer “shiny graphics”, you will probably find paid version more accessible.

Honorable mentions

These games have some brilliant ideas inside them but have flaws that prevent them from being the best. But I feel they deserve a mention.

Beholder

Genre: Quest, I guess

Release year: 2016

You are a landlord in a totalitarian state and must spy on your tenants to make sure they obey the absurd laws. Everyone is poor and life gives difficult challenges. This game has some very good writing and generally well done. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t allow you to be overly evil. There were a few cases where I would go on the tenant with something like “I’ve reported your wife and I will report you. What are gonna do, you fucking scumbag?!” and they would pull out a gun and kill me. EVERY. FUCKING. TIME. What the hell?

Papers, please

Genre: Puzzle, I guess

Release year: 2013

Another example of doing so much with so little. You are playing as immigration officer in a totalitarian state. Your job is to inspect documents of potential immigrants and allow or deny entry. Your salary depends on amount of people you processed and you have a family to feed. And the game tells little stories via those documents or a few interactions where you usually have to choose between your family and wellbeing of other people. It is subtle but powerful and all game mechanics fall into place. The game has many endings and your choices can have wildly different consequences.

Manhunt

Genre: Murder simulator

Release year: 2003

You are on a death row and should be executed. But after your supposed execution you wake up and find that you were chosed to participate in a snuff film where you must execute gang members. And you use stealth to approach them from behind and choose between 3 levels of executions. Well, that’s pretty much the whole game.

This is one of rare games where violence is satisfying enough. But the scope of the game is way too small. You only go through small locations with gang members and police in it. There are no civilians, women or children to execute. Also, the game is pretty hard. You don’t feel yourself to be unstoppable, there is no way to “play with your food”, your victims are not afraid of you. I would love to see more sandbox, GTA approach where I would go on the streets and execute random people.

Black & White

Genre: God game

Release year: 2001

This is the only mainstream game I can think of where you can casually torture and kill children - the feature I missed so much while playing Postal 2. You play as a god and have at least one village where people believe in you. And you only exist if people believe in you. This is why it makes a great example of how stupid religious people are. Actually, the whole game is pretty much mocking religious people. Your villagers are extremely stupid and can’t accomplish any tasks without your close supervision. You have to constantly hand hold them. You can do “miracles” but you need power to do them and the only way to get power is to make people worship you. But worshippers need food and there is no way to automate this so it is easy for them to die without your help. Just like in real life.

The game gives you a lot of freedom in how you can complete the task. Although, your actions will be judged as good or evil, there is no way to get game over by being too evil. For example, you can get power by sacrificing people and this mechanic is introduced by a family offering their son to be sacrificed. You can choose not to sacrifice, but in my case I did. And then immediately sacrificed the whole family. Just for shits and giggles.

You need to make other villages believe in you in order to progress through the game. This mostly involves using miracles to impress the villagers. I noticed that the less people there are in the village, the more easily they are impressed. So I went Catholic way and killed all of the villagers with lightning except a few and then gained the village using only one miracle. Again, just like in real life.

Overall, this game is very depressing. There are no fun moments in the game. Only you with your own thoughts and judgements. And that is why this game is very good. It is thought provoking, it gives you a lot of questions to ask but it’s up to you to find answers.