Hello gamers! Happy Thursday!
Lumbering into the #27 Position…
Shadow of the Colossus is, often and inexplicably, left off of a lot of “Greatest Games Ever” lists. Maybe that’s because it was originally a PS2 exclusive, or because it never spawned a sequel, let alone a franchise. One thing is for sure though; anyone who has played it will tell you it is an amazing title, easily deserving of the place it holds on our list.
The Forbidden Land
Like many RPG adventure games, the plot centers around a young hero and his quest to save the one he loves. In terms of generic RPG tropes, that about as far as Shadow of the Colossus goes. The rest of the game is a significant departure from familiar territory. T he protagonist’s love interest is dead when the story begins. Riding into a forbidden land, the young man, who remains unnamed throughout the entirety of the game, makes a deal with a disembodied deity in an ancient temple. If he slays the sixteen colossi that dwell in the areas around the temple, the deity will return the girl to life. Equipped with his horse, Argo, a bow and a sword, the journey begins.
As you cross the land, you encounter… nothing. There are no monsters to fight between bosses. No townsfolk to speak with and gather information from. Light from the hero’s sword when it’s held up to the sun guides him to where the next Colossus dwells, but the world is open to be freely roamed. The only living things are two types of animals that can be found sparingly: lizards and birds. Nothing indicates their importance, but eating the tail of the lizards increases the hero’s stamina. Other than that, the forbidden lands are eerily vacant. Except of course, for the colossi. The setting gives a sense of vastness, of emptiness and foreboding. It’s on a completely different track from pretty much every other RPG ever made, where monsters cover the land like a shag carpet made of death.
Shoulders of Giants
When you encounter the first colossus, it is an experience to be remembered. The term colossus is pretty for the majority of the creatures the hero must slay, and it is immediately evident in the first encounter. Going from feeling like an open world exploration game, with the only noise being wind and the beat of Argo’s gallop, the game veers into the booming sounds of the behemoth’s hooved feet and epic music roars out of your speakers like a tidal wave. The hero must leap onto the monster’s gargantuan leg, climb his way up the body before his stamina drains, then find the point of weakness on its body, shown by a glowing rune, and wound it as much as possible before being thrown back to the ground.
Everything about the fights in Shadow of Colossus are epic, from the scale, to the music, to how the creatures move; bringing down one of these legendary colossi is a spectacular experience. When they die, their towering forms come crashing down and the world shakes like it’s going to shatter. Just when the feeling of triumph in slaying the mountainous beast sets in, dark tendrils snake out from the motionless body of the fallen colossus and penetrate through the hero, knocking him down and unconscious, only to reawaken in the temple again where he will start his journey towards the next trial. Each time this happens, the hero begins to look more and more haggard, and signs point towards evidence that perhaps there is a reason this land is forbidden.
The nature of the gameplay, its dichotomy between open world exploration and titanic battles, makes Shadow of the Colossus almost feel like two games. The first is that of a peaceful, open, and quite honestly beautiful land, that functions perfectly as the backdrop for a light, easy open-world exploration game. For the graphics at the time, the game’s scenery is quite stunning. The forbidden land includes every type of terrain imaginable, including caves, forests, mountains, lakes, and desert. The world feels very real, except for its emptiness, which feels quite eerie. But it also means that there are no small creatures that you have to fight for seemingly no reason, just to get to the boss at the end of a dungeon. The game is two things: exploration and singular epic fights, making the game fairly straight forward. It works perfectly. It’s a masterpiece.
It’s a crime that Shadow of the Colossus seems mostly forgotten, given how amazing a game it is. Maybe it’s because it isn’t a huge franchise game; people aren’t reminded of it every couple of years when a new Shadow of the Colossus game comes out. But those who have fought and vanquished the colossi remember it as a game that stands as tall as the colossi themselves. It achieves perfectly what the game sets out to achieve, and I honestly can’t say there has ever been anything like it since. For me, it really is a perfect game, and so is one of the easiest five out of fives I’ve given out on this countdown.