Surveys with specific questions can be restrictive, so I left some room for the most dedicated of poll-takers to give me their thoughts about the Bioshock series. Here are some of them, and not others! A few responses have been gently edited or excerpted. And thank you, sincerely, to everyone who contributed, even the person who suggested the next Bioshock game should take place, and this is an unedited quote, "up your butt."
Why Bioshock is the best...
"It was a perfectly realised atmospheric world, and what was most impressive was the way that you could imagine it really happening (apart from Fontaine's boss battle obviously). It had, in Ryan's death, arguably the best twist—and most horrifying cut scene—that I've ever experienced."
"It took the average shooter and combined it with an amazing setting and gripping story. The attention to detail within the fictional 50's underwater city was phenomenal. The replay value is also a great factor, I personally have played through it four times."
"Fort Frolic remains one of my favourite levels in gaming: a broken world of half-drowned bars and clubs presided over by the psychotic 'artist' Sander Cohen. It's a game filled with small yet powerful moments. We watch the decline of civilisation through the scattered thoughts of Rapture's denizens, all of them portrayed by voice actors who know their characters through and through."
"It was brought to life not just by the amazing characters like Andrew Ryan or Sander Cohen, but the character of Rapture itself, and how it felt like a living, breathing world full of an ecosystem of splicers, big daddies, and little sisters. Rapture felt like a world that existed before you came into it, with big daddies just doing their own duties, splicers fighting amongst themselves and looting areas, and little sisters attending to the dead ones, and it gave the impression that the world didn't revolve around you and that you were just another visitor, and that's an atmospheric detail that so many games lack even today. The variety of both weapons and plasmids were great, and none of them felt like they were any less viable as their own tool of destruction than any other. The limited weapon upgrades made you think twice about what weapon you were going to put more love into, and also gave your loadout a more personalized feel."
"It is, for me at least, one of the most engrossing games ever made. I was so sucked in on my first playthrough, I played through it in one sitting."
"The original Bioshock remains an incredibly compelling trip into a Randian fever dream. It mixed mystery, action and more than a bit of horror into a wonderful package. And while we joke about it today, that final twist still remains a jaw-dropper."
Why Bioshock 2 is the best...
"An atmosphere as immersive and enthralling as the first game but with a vastly improved combat system and a decent multiplayer addition."
"Playing as a Big Daddy was awesome. I really liked it in the original game when Jack had to "become" a Big Daddy in order to face Fontaine, and having a whole game around the idea of being a Big Daddy and protecting the Little Sisters was great to me. Some people felt those sections (protecting Little Sisters) were annoying, but they were one of the best part of the game in my opinion."
"I love Bioshock 2 for its more intimate story. I didn't like how the other two games felt they had to go for a big twist."
"Bioshock 2, first and foremost, is the most fun game in the series to play. Enemy balance is much more fair than the first game, and the ability to combine plasmid and firearm action, along with the new weapons, opened up all sorts of new combat possibilities. The spear gun is still one of my favorite weapons in any game ever. The story was perfect, offering complex, flawed characters and genuine emotional attachment where then characters in the first Bioshock were just stand-ins for philosophical ideals, and those in Infinite suffer from the game's inconsistent writing. Incredible attention to environmental details, great voice acting, and a focus on human struggle made Bioshock 2 something truly intimate and unforgettable."
"It's the most personal and human story, focused on the personal turmoil of fatherhood. It's a game where some of the worst villains were treated with compassion and humanity. The other games were about presenting big ideas without having anything meaningful to say about them."
"It was enjoyable setting traps and combat never felt like a chore. It was also enjoyably a counter-point to Bioshock. Where the first game focused on the upper class of Rapture and the struggle to control it, Bioshock 2 showed the seedy underbelly and the poor of Rapture. And the things you did mattered. It was more grand scale stuff, like four of five specific decisions, but they changed how the game ended. It felt more meaningful."
"The story is stripped down to something manageable and doesn't invariably shoot itself in the foot (as with BS1's last chapter or BSI's everything). A simple tale of a father reuniting with his daughter is quite lovely."
"Refined controls and combat compared to the first one. Story more relatable, despite lacking that [a] stellar twist."
Why Bioshock Infinite is the best...
"Fantastic story addressing varied meta-topics and issues, interesting combat mechanics and one of the best characters of 2013."
"Both Booker and Elizabeth essentially made the game come to life and being able to see and explore Columbia both before and after the events of the rebellion offered a unique look at the transitions of Columbia at its height to its fall. The fact that the game also dove more into the culture, race relations, and historical aspects of its time period were also fascinating and led to a lot of interesting discussions."
"The story and characters were interesting and engaging. I felt real emotions, man."
"While I love the original Bioshock, the gameplay in Infinite is so much smoother and the environmental interaction between your vigors and enemies. The stories are equally amazing, although Infinite does lack the quirky characters like Sander Cohen and Frank Fontaine, the Lutece twins and Elizabeth make up for it."
"Bioshock Infinite knows exactly what it wants to be: a blockbuster action/adventure. Its plot doesn't always hold together, and it comes across as pretentious some of the time, but it's just so mad that I can't help but applaud it. Booker and Elizabeth are both extremely interesting, and a combination of strong characters and great action is ultimately what makes it for me."
"Infinite's deep and complex narrative gives the player a lot to think about and understand about the world that you're playing in. Also I love the setting, the soundtrack, as well as the relationship between you (Booker) and Elizabeth."
"The graphics and setting of Columbia are breath-taking, juxtaposing the up-beat and happy themes at the start of the game with the melancholy and darkness of Finkton and other areas later in the game."
"It somehow manages to maintain the dark, macabre tone of the series while offering a much more colourful and charming setting."
"The visual spectacle of Columbia, mixed with the deep and emotional themes that run throughout Infinite of racism, family ties, and regret. Also Elizabeth, because she is possibly the greatest NPC ever created: emotional, relatable, she just felt real."