#3. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war. Awesome, awesome war. Warhammer 40,000 is a world where people realized that you couldn't tackle the bleak horror of an uncaring universe with a chainsaw, so they invented chainaxes and chainfists, too. It's a universe where warriors sail planet-killing warpships to alien worlds, fly turbolaser-equipped gunships down to the surface, drive volcano-cannon tanks to the front, then get out and run at the enemy with big swords. And if you think I was taking the piss, you've missed the point.
The chainsword has five points on the hilt alone.
The Dawn of War games were fine real-time strategy titles, but Space Marine was where 40K explained that the "Gears of War" were actually the little hinges on a pink handbag. Gears of War is a whack-a-mole simulator with fewer colors. You learn someone's true nature in the moments before their death, and in Gears of War, that nature is "cower." The regenerative health system in cover shooters means that the smartest move is huddling where no one can see you and not doing anything until you feel better. That's not a battle strategy, that's hibernation. That crisis response tactic is one couch and a pint of ice cream away from both watching and being Ally McBeal.
"We're not coming out to play until you stop being so mean!"
The Space Marines don't have a cover button, for the same reason they carry guns instead of white flags made of frilly lace panties. Health recovery is via execution -- if you take a second to kill an enemy with a particularly brutal move, you recover health. That's badassery as a core gameplay mechanic. When you're about to die, your impulse reaction becomes "diving at the enemy to destroy as many as possible" and "wondering why that's not always the case." It's made very clear that if you ever have full health, you're not doing it right. You're not playing endless shooting galleries; you're an engine of war powered by enemy blood.
"And THIS is what I think of your waist-high walls!"
#2. Evil Dead: Regeneration
The Necronomicon Ex Mortis is an evil text that can raise the dead, possess the living, and curse the most guaranteed action hero in history with an eternity of terrible games. Ashley J. Williams has a chainsaw for one hand, carries a shotgun in the other, and is sustained by sheer kickass to avoid the lethal risk of ever unzipping his pants. He's the only action hero who could kill enemies with a high-five, but most of his games have been worse shambling wrecks than his own Deadite enemies.
A game so bad that Ash's own right thigh is attempting to escape through a hole in his pants.
In A Fistful of Boomstick, it was possible to run out of gasoline and be left clutching a useless power tool. Meaning that at least one programmer thought a video game about a zombie-shredding chainsaw was the place to work through his impotence issues. THQ apologized with Evil Dead: Regeneration. The game is an alternate sequel to Evil Dead II, where instead of traveling back in time, Ash has traveled to a criminal asylum, because that's what happens when the police find you connected to a chainsaw in a shack full of girlfriend parts. In this game, Ash can replace his chainsaw with a harpoon launcher, flamethrower, and grenade launcher, providing an omnipotent trinity of answers to the previously unanswerable question, "Why would you ever replace your chainsaw hand?"
It also understood gamers by giving you an annoying sidekick character and then letting you immediately repeatedly murder him. One of the first things you can do is punt him into a wood chipper. Note: I want this team working on Duck Hunt: Regeneration. Picking up pages of the Necronomicon in the game unlocked DVD extras of interviews with Bruce Campbell, proving that they understood Evil Dead fans, because anyone still buying Evil Dead games in 2005 has reached a point where it's medically impossible to get enough Bruce Campbell.
#1. Saints Row: The Third
One of THQ's last works was Saints Row: The Third, in the same way that one of Jesus' last works was the salvation of mankind. Saints Row 3 wasn't a game; it was apotheosis. That THQ could go bankrupt after making this is proof that there is no justice in the world. They took Grand Theft Auto and turned it into something you'd actually play for fun, instead of a sense of duty to impressive technical achievement.
"No, sure, a cutscene and escort mission sounds way more fun than playing a game."
The game escalated like oral sex in a launching space shuttle and featured more burning fuel. The first mission airlifts a bank vault, the second flying-kicks right through a (now exploding) jumbo jet, and after only three levels of driving cars, your character says, "Screw this, get me the tank." No grinding, no game-long unlocks -- the game gives you everything it can think of as soon as it can, then gives you jetbikes and a TRON cannon, too. This game even achieves the impossible by making escort missions fun, because your driving style is affected by whether your passenger is receiving oral sex or being a goddamn tiger.
Also featured: The greatest energy bars ever.
Saints Row 3 knows it's a game and loves it. If you're within 10 square meters of a car and press "steal," you immediately leap headfirst through the windscreen to take it, because fuck moving around to get into the right position. Just like a lack of tigers or grinding boringly until you're done, their design document was "If you don't want it during sex, you don't want it during this game." If you're in the water for longer than a second, you can teleport to shore. Getting within half a block of a mission objective triggers it. It's almost like the developers actually played the game and got rid of all the problems. Saints Row 3 should be a compulsory part of beta testing. ALL beta testing. Every other developer should be made to finish their work, play Saints Row 3, then go back and fix their game.
For example, any lack of this exact situation is a terminal error.
Saints Row shouldn't just have made money. Saints Row should have made everyone connected with the game immortal. Like the Holy Grail, it simply cured the ills of anything it was exposed to. THQ's studio Volition Inc. shouldn't be bought by another company; they should be granted executive freedom to remake every other game on the planet. They'd make Final Fantasy role-playing games where you actually play a role again, instead of wearing improbable clothes down endless straight paths like the world's worst and longest catwalk. They'd make an Assassin's Creed where you spend most of your time actually killing people. Hell, they could probably make a new Madden game that was actually worth another $60.
Luke explains why Arnold Schwarzenegger Must Be Stopped, and is almost killed by Apple when he actually reads the Terms of Service, but is saved by drinking five antidotes to the winter. Luke also tumbles and responds to every single tweet.
Behold more video game history with 6 Video Games That Just Didn't Get It and The 10 Most Insulting Things Video Games Charged Money For.