Hello, Javy Gwaltney here, Associate Editor for Game Informer. I currently putting together a series of deep dives into my ten favorite games of all time. You can read all about the origins, as well as the beginning of the series, here.

This week we’re going to be talking about my #3 pick: System Shock 2. Feel free to leave comments below and thanks for reading. Be sure to come back next week on Wednesday at noon CST for #2

A creepy spaceship adrift in space. A maniacal artificial intelligence run amok. Horrific mutants roaming hallways with metal pipes, ready to beat anyone they come across to death. And then there's you, hacker. All alone. Unarmed.

Time to survive.

System Shock 2 is a revolution of a game and my favorite work of horror except for Ridley Scott's Alien. I think it's the only horror game I've ever played that's struck the perfect balance between giving a player power to survive a nightmare situation while also making them feel fragile. As you explore the Von Braun, the space ship that System Shock 2 takes place in, you come across body modifications that grant you special powers. These mods are essentially skill tree currency and let you craft how you play the game.

What kind of person would you yearn to be in a horror movie? The man or woman who hacks their way out of every situation? Who sneaks from desk to desk, sticking to the shadows to avoid beasts of the night? Wanna go all Schwarzenegger? These are all valid options in System Shock 2 and years later, the game's design flexibility stands up to fellow heavy hitter immersive sims like Dishonored and even Deus Ex.

You spend a fair amount of time in System Shock 2 feeling powerless, running low on supplies as wails of beasts and the grind of dangerous robots can be heard around the corner. But you always have the means to fight back, even if it's just with your wrench. One of the most frustrating developments of the modern horror game made in the mode of Amnesia and Alien: Isolation is that they tip too far in the direction of powerlessness.  Yes, it is scary to be hunted by a monster you can't fight...until they kill you a few times. Then these games eventually devolve into acts of trial and error.

But System Shock 2 is smart. It gives you the means to survive but still makes survival challenging thanks to its flexibility. The game's approach to letting players build their character, including an impressive intro where you literally live out your training by picking which branch of the military you serve and how you spend your time there in the years leading up to the Von Braun incident as well as the skill trees themselves, have also been highly influential for games like Mass Effect, Far Cry, and Wolfenstein: The New Order.

The plot is also fantastic, with you serving a pawn in a war between two artificial intelligences, the religious figure-like XERXES, and of course narcissistic and unforgettably insane SHODAN. Ahead of the likes of Bioshock, itself a spiritual successor to System Shock, and Spec Ops: The Line, System Shock 2 was one of the first and most effective games that probed at the idea of who the player is, challenging the notion of video games as pure power fantasy.

System Shock 2 is an all-time classic for many reasons but for me, it's simply the perfect horror game, uncontested. If you haven't played it yet, and have a decent PC, you should fix that ASAP.

For more on System Shock 2, check out where it lands on our top 10 cyberpunk games of all time as well as this feature on how Nightdive Studios revived the franchise.