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Top 10 Insanely Ambitious Games

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Fred Humphries Which games can you think of that tried something so big, so huge, so next level, so insanely ambitious that you’re surprised the whole thing ever got out of the brainstorming phase? Welcome to http://watchmojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Ambitious Video Games. Special thanks to our user “Sam Cossey” for suggesting this topic using our interactive suggestion tool at http://WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Top 10 Most Ambitious Video Games

We have these games to thank for the incredible industry we have today. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Most Ambitious Video Games.

For this list, we take a look at games that tried gameplay elements or features that had not been attempted on such a scale or never even been done before. The end results of that ambition and financial investment may or may not have been great, but that’s no matter as it’s the vision that counts here.

#10: “Mass Effect” trilogy (2007-12)


Covering topics and issues that are pertinent in our modern day society, this third-person sci-fi epic somehow manages to be an adventure you care about while taking place in an enormous setting that is ostensibly foreign to us all. Racial tensions, the benefits of war and intergalactic exploration are all prominent themes in a branching story that plays out over three interconnected games. Each decision you make has an effect on how your tale plays out for a tailored continuity full of characters that you’ll hate with a passion or love to the end of the galaxy. Although the Starchild ending did draw considerable fan condemnation, Bioware’s vision for a gradually unfolding space drama is hard to beat.

#9: “Fable” (2004)


Any game with Peter Molyneux attached to it will inevitably be accompanied by a large helping of hyping up from the famed developer, and this RPG from Lionhead Studios was perhaps the most notorious instance of Molyneux’s slippery tongue. It’s not a bad game, far above average in fact, but nowhere near his claims of “best game ever” – just one assertion he’d later publicly apologize for. The combat system was novel and the graphics truly outstanding, yet promised features like being able to have kids and a wholly reactive world where your decisions leave an eternal butterfly effect were absent. These ideas were great in theory – and were even in development – yet the reality was incredibly different to Molyneux’s fantasies.

#8: “Star Fox” (1993)


Known as Star Wing in Europe, The jump from 2D to 3D gaming is one of the greatest progressions in the industry and this rail shooter, while not the first 3D game ever, gave mainstream players an early look at the future. Using Argonaut Software’s Super FX chip to push the SNES to its limits, Nintendo created a game guided by Shigeru Miyamoto’s “seat of his pants” innovation; revolutionary polygonal graphics were backed up by gameplay that gave you the flexibility to blast a path of your choice to final boss Andross. 2D games of the time were still easier on the eye but the sheer technological breakthrough alone was enough to sell four million copies around the world.

#7: “The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall” (1996)


The numbers that make up this Bethesda RPG are immensely intimidating: 15,000 towns and 750,000 NPCs all contained within 62,000 square miles of randomly generated expanse. For 1996, that scale is awe-inspiring but that doesn’t mean it makes for a better experience than others in the genre. There are large periods of nothingness and each repetitive landscape is incredibly buggy meaning you’ll need to save a lot. Bethesda learnt from those shortcomings however, with every subsequent handcrafted Elder Scrolls map being smaller but with a greater density of content. Daggerfall might not have been ideal – hardcore RPGers may disagree – yet without it, Bethesda’s RPG recipe may not have been perfected in later titles like Morrowind or Skyrim.

#6: “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” (2015)


Beginning with the radically ambitious Metal Gear Solid, visionary developer Hideo Kojima has built a universe that is bafflingly complex and this $80 million monster was meant to be the pinnacle of his life’s work so far. Critics loved the final game’s near perfect stealth and combat mechanics, but there was a nagging feeling that something was missing – like, you know, an ending - possibly stemming from Kojima Productions’ separation from Konami. Kojima himself had said he was worried there was too much content in the game but he likely didn’t expect Konami to axe key plot points like Mission 51 and the data-mined chapter 3. This left many wondering what else of Kojima’s concept had been cut, possibly just waiting to be discovered.

#5: “No Man’s Sky” (2016)


Exploring and surviving in deepest space is the biggest challenge facing the human race and the prospect of being able to experience that on your couch was threatening to blow every game ever out of the water. By channeling his inner Peter Molyneux, Hello Games founder Sean Murray went all out promising features for their procedurally generated mammoth. As we all now know, many of those features never materialized as players quickly found it was more resource grind and less epic exploration of the intergalactic wilderness. Even if Hello initially over-estimated their development ability, future updates could deliver the gameplay depth and longevity we all envisioned, finally making their 18 quintillion planet-strong universe more than a demonstration of monstrous size. Seriously where’s my Crashed Frigates and Giant Snakes?

#4: “Final Fantasy VII” (1997)


This legendary RPG is one of those games whose reputation and legacy spans generations; its CG cutscenes and unprecedented plot scale made it the beginning of a new cinematic era of gaming. Squaresoft had ambitions to finally convincingly penetrate the Western market and their three-disc, $45 million PS1 game was bombastically promoted outside of Japan on almost any platform you can think of. Some old school gamers felt gameplay elements paled to previous Final Fantasy installments but this was a necessary streamlining to welcome in their new target audience. Absorbing narrative, technological advancements and accessibility was, in a first for the series, brought together in an almost perfect 3D package, rightly earning its status as a benchmark in gaming history.

#3: “Spore” (2008)


If you’re looking for a comparison of how great the hype was around this life simulation title spanning various genres, think of it as the “No Man’s Sky of 2008”. In the few years preceding its release, players were drip fed demoes and details of a single-celled organism’s journey to complex life, to civilization, to space exploration. Players were expecting gameplay where each alteration you made would impact your ability to survive, yet somewhere along the line Will Wright’s concept was dumbed down and every detail mere cosmetic fluff in an overly cute version of evolution. Critics were still impressed with the game’s breadth, but for the average gamer, it’ll be remembered as the definitive nightmare-fuel simulator.

#2: “Shenmue” (2000)


Sega were so ambitious with Shenmue they even coined a new genre in making it: as a quote “full reactive eyes entertainment” game, it brought a scary sense of realism. Gamers of the era had experienced enormous fantasy worlds but they had never been a part of an authentic virtual community with a realistic passage of time and dynamic weather effects. For many, it captured the mundanity of everyday life too well and without narrative guidance, players were almost stifled by the freedom they were afforded. In hindsight you can see how its QTEs and interactivity shaped future games – probably influencing our number one – but sadly for Sega and their $70 million investment, it bombed at retail for being such a pioneer.

Before we reveal our top pick, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions.


“Super Mario 64” (1996)

“EverQuest” (1999)

“Starsiege: Tribes” (1998)
“Crysis” (2007)

#1: “Grand Theft Auto III” (2001)


Seemingly a culmination of every gaming innovation that had come before, GTA’s first ever 3D title changed what was conceivably possible within one enormous world. While Shenmue flirted with greatness, it was realistic to a fault and is totally surpassed by the popular appeal contained within the satire-laden Liberty City. Choice is at the heart of Rockstar’s creation: if you want to go on a tank rampage and totally ignore the main, non-linear story, you can; you decide what sort of mobster you want to be. GTA V has again raised the bar of open-world perfection but its predecessor set the standard for 21st century sandbox games and inspired countless imitators, none of whom have yet challenged GTA’s free-roaming supremacy.

Do you agree with our list? Which game’s technical achievements keep you astounded today? For more top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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