Greatest Game of 2005: Shadow of the Colossus
I have to warn you before you read this article. If you have not played Shadow of the Colossus, STOP reading and pick up the game immediately. The game was just re-released with another classic, Ico, on the Playstation 3 in spectacular HD for $40. Do yourself a huge favor and go buy this game. I can’t write this article without spoiling the experience and I’d hate to do that to you.
Now that we’ve gotten through that… I have a confession to make. I never beat Shadow of the Colossus. Oddly though, this is the main reason I feel the game is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing is that the world seems completely empty. All you know is that your lady friend is in a coma and your only hope to save her is to take down 16 Colossi that are scattered around the land. And about that land; it is sprawling and beautiful. You will not encounter any other living creatures but that does not stop it from being an absolute joy to ride around and discover. Your one and only goal is to find the colossi in a last ditch attempt to save your girl. As you approach the beasts you’ll first notice that they are gigantic. Most of these creatures will take up the entire screen and trying to take them down can be incredibly challenging. This usually involves a combination of climbing up the giant’s fur and stabbing them in one of their weak spots.
As you take down the first colossi you’ll feel a great deal of accomplishment and awe at the feat your just accomplished. The game is incredibly cinematic in the way these encounters are presented. Encountering the colossi, attacking them, and finally taking them down is presented in a truly epic fashion.
Something started to happen around the third or fourth colossi I took down, however. These creatures didn’t react like other enemies in videogames. They show pain and they’re clearly suffering as you are killing them. Unlike most in-game enemies the majority of these colossi are not attacking you, you initiate contact. You seek them out and you’re killing them- and the reasons for this are not clearly outlined.
At one point while playing (around the 10th colossi) the desire to see the new colossi and figuring out the puzzle to take them down was overtaken by the guilt I felt for destroying these great creatures. Never before while playing a game have I wanted to stop playing due to empathy I felt for the things I was destroying.
I’ve killed millions of enemies or even other people in games. The vast majority of these enemies are faceless and nameless. Most of the killing I’m doing is out of self defense- enemies are attacking me. The few enemies I have to seek out are evil or have wronged me in some terrible way. The colossi do not fit any of these categories, and the way they are presented it is clear that you are suppose to start feeling this emotion. Their deaths are long and drawn out and accompanied by dramatic music that makes you feel bad for your actions.
It is for this reason that many gamers will cite Shadow of the Colossus when making the argument that games are in fact art. While this isn’t a debate I will get into in this post, I’ll agree that Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most artistic games ever made. The artistic style and the emotional impact of the game are unlike any other I’ve ever played. Shadow of the Colossus is one of the greatest games ever made.