Here it is, my version of a top ten list…times ten. As can be expected, you’ll disagree with many of my selections, and be upset at some of my omissions, but my hope is that you’ll enjoy this journey down memory lane. I haven’t owned every system or played every game, but I’ve spent 27 years gaming and there’s a lot to love here.
How did I make this list? I tried to be smart about it, but you can be the judge as to whether or not I succeeded. At the end of the day these are my opinions, nothing more, nothing less. Back to the point. I made a spreadsheet with well over 100 of my favorite games of all time, and created ratings using the following categories. I weighted some categories more heavily than others, as described below, due to the level of importance I assign to each variable. Again, this is just my best attempt at trying to be unbiased about assigning value, and you’ll certainly disagree with some (or all) of my decisions, but it is what it is. I rated each game on a scale of 1-10 for each of the following categories, multiplying the total for certain characteristics based on my perceived importance (for example, I view “fun factor” to be by far the most important variable). Here’s my formula:
Fun(*4) + Replayability(*2) + Story + Control + Importance for that period + Graphics/Sound for that period = X/100
I decided against assigning 0.5 values, so this means that in a list of well over 100 games, sometimes games ended up with the same total. In those situations, I used my best judgment.
Without further ado, enjoy!
Top 100 Games of All Time (100-76)
100: Heavy Rain (PS3)
I have a real love/hate relationship with this game. It’s an ambitious attempt to string together the stories of four different characters, and in the end the stories are woven together masterfully. At times, the writing is atrocious, and the controls made me want to through my controller through the wall. All the same, it was a great game, and I’m glad it made the cutoff.
99: San Francisco Rush 2: Extreme Racing (N64)
Two words: Stunt mode. Never cared for the main racing part of the game, but my friends and I lived in the stunt mode. A catchy tune, vibrant colors, and endless juggles was more than enough to provide dozens of hours of entertainment. Rush 2049 was surely the better game, but I had most fun with this one.
98: Ice Hockey (NES)
Frantic action at it’s best, the simple customizability of choosing the chubby, mid-size, or pencil-thin player, the chance to choose a country to fight for, and Zambonis patrolling the ice? What more could you ask for?
97: Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Vita)
People say this is the Uncharted that should be forgotten; I beg to disagree. I’ve played all four Uncharted games, and this is my favorite one. It’s got great action, just the right level of cheese, and beautiful visuals. Fun times.
96: RBI Baseball (NES)
What can I say, there’s beauty in simplicity. Little stubby round figures representing actual MLB stars, hilarious errors, excessive home runs, and drunken swearing all permeate every game, and I relish every opportunity to bust out this classic.
95: Street Fighter 2 Turbo (SNES)
I’m not a big fan of fighting games. In fact, I think there’s only two on this entire list. But this was the mother of all fighting games, and it deserves recognition for the ambitious precedent it set for all future games.
94: Wolfenstein 3D (PC)
One of my first video games, this was another pioneer for its time. Simply put, it’s a solid FPS where you get to prowl castle-like settings trying to find Hitler so you can kill him. Secret rooms, big guns and lots of fun.
93: Topspin 4 (Xbox 360)
To date, this is the best pure tennis experience out there. Yes, Mario Tennis got a higher ranking on this list because at the end of the day I had more fun with that game, but Topspin 4 is an excellent entry, not to be overlooked.
92: Tetris (NES)
One of few games I owned during my original tenure with the NES, Tetris is a classic and deserves to be on this list. By today’s standards, there’s not a whole lot of variety in this game, but that’s ok; what’s there is gaming gold. Classic.
91: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (NES)
Yes, this is very specifically the “Mike Tyson” version, because really, who wants to fight “Mr. Dream” at the end of their game when you could be rubbing elbows with one of history’s hardest hitting boxers? It’s really a shame this game was full of so many harsh ethnic stereotypes, but the gameplay is rock solid.
90: Burnout Revenge (Xbox 360)
Arcade-y bliss on the Xbox. I can’t think of another game where I had such feelings of pleasure racing faster than my eyes could track on the screen while engaging in fun, chaotic modes like Rage mode and the Crash mode. Such a good game, I’d love to see a modern equivalent. Criterion, where are you?
89: Corpse Party (PSP)
At times, this game frustrated the heck out of me, as you have to engage in very specific actions to trigger events and it was maddening at times to know what those actions were. But this gem was one of few games that managed to use pixel art to create a true horror experience at times. Some of this was due to the excellent (Japanese) voice acting and screams, but the story helped move the needle forward as well. Too bad the sequels lost their muster.
88: Starfox 64 (N64)
I debated whether or not to include this Starfox or the original on the NES, but the additional of a battle mode, as lackluster as it was, swayed me to choose the N64 variant. Plus, then I get to mention the Nintendo Power VHS promo they sent me where they first advertised the revolutionary pack-in, the Rumble Pak. Even as a kid I thought those videos were super lame, but this one was pretty hilarious – I remember the video had the entire screen shaking all over the place to simulate the “radical” experience of the Rumble Pak. Starfox 64 is super short, but there are multiple branching paths to keep you coming back for more. There was something special about the first two entries in this series that hasn’t been repeated in subsequent attempts.
87: Dragon Warrior (NES)
Ah, my first turn-based RPG. At one time I thought those were super lame, but this game helped win me over. I’m not sure exactly what it was that made playing through it such a pleasurable experience, but I loved every minute of it. Something about it screamed charm.
86: Guacamelee (PS4)
I really disliked this game at first. Thankfully I stuck with it, and it grew like a weed the further I got into it. A clever mashup of a few different classic games, Guac’s brimming with its own personality all the same. Difficult to reach areas were always attainable with just the right amount of suave moves, which is a sign that the game was doing its job.
85: Killer Instinct Gold (N64)
Ludicrous speed. Play through all the games difficulties and you eventually unlock this speedy brutal c-c-c-combo breaking cacophony of chaos. OK, so maybe that’s overselling it a bit, but this is my favorite fighting game of all time. People complained that it wasn’t as good as in the arcade, but I never understood why that mattered when it was still awesome. And that intro guitar riff? One of my favorite to jam out to when I feel like playing the role of a metal rock god.
84: Castlevania (NES)
So, these early NES games sometimes had really, really annoying quirks about them. Castlevania’s was the fact that you bounced back every time you got hit, which made crossing pits next to impossible at times. Brutal and unforgiving at times, Castlevania still stands tall as an amazing game in no small part due to the somewhat novel mechanic of using a whip. And Simon Belmont was a badass. And it had Dracula. And amazing music.
83: TMNT 2: The Arcade Game (NES)
Back when I was a kid – I can’t believe I just wrote that. How old am I? – we only had a few games to play, and we only had a single device to play things on. For my family, it was the NES (I missed out on all Sega platforms, hence the absence of those titles on this list). I think the most games we had at any one time until I got my first job as a caddy at age 13 and started making my own money was 11. And that seemed like a crazy big library at the time. I received TMNT 2 as a gift for my first communion in second grade, and I played this like crazy. Perfect beat-em-up bliss for me and my friends, we had fun playing through this time and time again. Some will argue that Turtles in Time should be on this list instead, and those people are wrong.
82: Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Look at those graphics! Another VHS promo video tape in the mail from Nintendo Power sold me on this before it even came out, and luckily the game backed it up with excellent platforming levels. Donkey Kong and Diddy offered unique mechanics and responded differently to controls than a standard game character at the time, and that coupled with the neat settings and gorgeous graphics make this game a definite choice for this list.
81: Solomon’s Key (NES)
I beat this game, and I’m damn proud of that. I wish I had a counter for how many hours it took me to do so. The last roughly ten levels were brutal, and each time you continued (which required a special button combo after your final death, those jerks! Thankfully it was simple) you had to start back at level 41. I can’t remember if it ended on 49 or 50, but I’m pretty sure I had to look up a solution for the last few levels because they were so intense. But what a cool game overall. I can’t believe I never burned out on the music, even if it’s still burned into my brain to this day. Love this game.
80: Burnout Paradise (Xbox 360)
Though I technically played Burnout Revenge more, I think this was the better game. It was a huge graphical upgrade and had more of an open world format. Plus I could just cheat and pay a buck or two and download a badass GT and rage the streets in my insanely cool car. Much like #76 on this list below, there was something cathartic about revving engines in this game and gunning it all over the place. The only downfall? It was too easy to blow up.
79: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3ds)
Why is this so low on your list? I can hear people complaining now. Yep, I’ve got six Zelda games on this list, and this is the lowest. For some reason, I’m just not as into this game as so many people are. I recognized that it was an incredible achievement, and there’s lots of cool stuff going on, which is why it still made the cut. But at the end of the day, I felt there was a lot of things wrong with it too. Sorry metacritic, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
78: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3ds)
I’ve never been a big fan of Animal Crossing games in general. I always asked myself, so, what’s the point? Then I played New Leaf. And though I still asked that question, I had fun searching for the answer. I never got crazy into it like some people, but I spent probably 20 hours or so in my little community and enjoyed every minute of it. But that was enough, and I moved on.
77: Undertale (PC)
What a surprise this game was. A hat-tip to the RPGs of yore with a twist; you can manage to get through the game without killing anyone. I didn’t realize the option until well into the game, and ended up experimenting with a mix of approaches, but it was still a blast to play. It’s hard to believe that the characters were as likable as they were despite the fact that I spent such a short amount of time with them, but it was easy to become attached to several of them (I’m looking at you, Papyrus!). Add in a pervading subtle sense of humor, and you’ve got the winner that is Undertale. Read my review.
76: Wolverine: X-Men Origins (Xbox 360)
Cathartic. The movie was blasted by critics, but I love the Wolverine saga and enjoyed both the movie and the game. This is the first occasion of being able to play as Wolverine where it actually felt like you were the character, as you could fly into fits of rage and essentially tear_shit_up. I’d love a modernized version of this game, as there were occasionally bouts of choppiness, and it could have looked better, but what’s there is still pure, unadulterated fun. A few moments of cheese don’t ruin the experience at all. Next time I feel the need to punch a pillow, I’ll pull out this game and get my fill.