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 (50-26)
50: Ikaruga (Gamecube)
Here we are, the top 50! Ikaruga, what a game. I won’t even bother attempting this by myself; two-player is almost required because even at the lowest difficulty this game is tough as nails. What a neat mechanic to be able to switch your ship cover and thus be invincible to your respective color of bullets! The action is swift and relentless and any and all fans of shoot-em-ups must give this a try if you haven’t before. It even supports a mode where you can turn your TV on its side and play it the way it was meant to be played, which is just awesome.
49: Tomb Raider (Xbox 360)
Way to save the series, Crystal Dynamics. Tomb Raider had grown stale and was at risk of losing relevance, and they came out with this behemoth of a reboot that satisfied just about every itch that Lara Croft fans could possibly want to scratch. Presenting Lara as an originally vulnerable woman who grows throughout the story and becomes a strong person is so antithetical to the big-breasted stereotype that we were used to seeing in previous entries, and it provided for an immensely satisfying journey.
48: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U)
Captain Toad! It’s about darn time Nintendo put out a Toad spinoff, and this game is a puzzler gem. True, it’s not incredibly difficult, and it’s not an especially long game, but neither of those characteristics are necessary for a game to be good. Captain Toad’s inability to jump, his quirky mannerisms, the introduction of equally adorable Toadette, and expertly crafted rotating stages combine for a wonderful experience. I don’t normally gravitate toward puzzle games, but this one nabbed me hook, line, and sinker.
47: Kid Icarus: Uprising (3ds)
I was shocked how much I enjoyed this game. The writing is impeccable, the voice acting nails it, the jokes actually land, and the action sequences are fun and exciting. Every level features two sections, a flying on-rails shooting segment and a ground melee/shooting segment; the one downside to the game is the controls for the latter part. Touch screen controls actually work surprisingly well for the on-rails sections, but it’s absolutely atrocious for the ground parts. Still, I loved this game. Especially the writing – I smiled and laughed out loud at times, which is rare for video game writing. See my full review.
46: Blast Corps (N64)
There are definitely annoying parts to Blast Corps, especially the sound effects between levels. But the gameplay is pure brilliance – who doesn’t want to bulldoze buildings like some sort of all-powerful entity while saving the world from nuclear holocaust? I can’t believe there hasn’t been another game with this formula, because it works, and works well. It’s a ton of fun and I’d love to play an updated version of it.
45: Dance Central 3 (Xbox 360)
Not a dancer. But, my wife is, and as her only gaming outlet, she plays Dance Central fairly regularly. We’ve gone through all three games, and though I originally just participated to appease her and our guests when we’d have people over, I soon found myself having a blast. And my wife had a blast. And our guests had a blast. The Kinect is so underrated, and it’s a real shame it didn’t catch on more because it’s a great little device. Granted, I never break this game out on my own time, but I have a lot of fun with it when the time comes to bust it out.
44: Splatoon (Wii U)
Leave it to Nintendo to completely flip the multiplayer shooter genre on its head by eliminating the whole killing-other-people part. Using a variety of modes that mostly revolve around coating the ground more paint than your opponent, sometimes using that paint to strategically enable swift movement to accomplish various goals. Like many online multiplayer games, some of the ranked modes end up full of high quality players and that takes a little bit of fun out of it for the casual player such as myself, but it’s still a great time. See my full review.
43: Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
The Bayonetta series has made me a fan of Platinum Games for life. Without a doubt, Bayonetta delivers the highest quality, fastest, smoothest, easy to learn but tough to master combat system imaginable in an action game. Combos flow like butter on hot day, and the only thing that drags the game down at times is the lackluster plot. I enjoy Bayonetta as a character, but the story, well, it sucks. It’s a pain to watch. Bayonetta 2 is ranked a bit lower than the original on this list because I felt the story and action sequences just weren’t quite up to par with the first entry. Most people disagree with me on that, but that’s ok. They’re both amazing games.
42: Triforce Heroes (3ds)
I first played this game at an E3 demo booth, and as I shouted and laughed with the other players I knew this would be a hit. True, it’s a terrible single player experience. The systems they use to enable you to play through levels as a single player are lame, and if I looked at the game based on those alone I’d think it was a terrible entry. Playing with strangers online is much better, although it’s still relatively frustrating because (surprise surprise) Nintendo opted not to include voice chat, and it can be maddening to try to communicate with the limited icons provided. As a side note, this is one reason that in my article about what I’d like to see from the NX, I wish Nintendo would just up and charge us for an online service and invest their own resources in it to make it better. But playing with friends online? That’s where the money’s at. I’ve had an absolute blast, investing upwards of 30-40 hours playing with friends. Of course we had to have a Hangouts call on the side to make it all work. In that situation, the icons work great as a comical supplement to our chat.
41: Gravity Rush (Vita)
This is another game that would fall into the “charming” category. A silly plot told through comic book style cutscenes somehow just works, partly because of the simple worldview of Kat, the main protagonist. The game also introduces a very novel concept of being able to change the direction of gravity for limited periods of time and using that for an attack system, and while it’s not as robust as would be ideal, it works for the length of the experience. Although this was released recently on the PS4, I’d opt to play this on its original home on the Vita, as it seems optimally arranged for that system.
40: Super Mario World (SNES)
I remember back in the day when I rented an entire SNES system from my local blockbuster after it just came out, with a single game: Super Mario World. I was in awe and played the heck out of that game, and for good reason; this is a classic in every sense of the word. Interesting additions to the Mario formula including the introduction of the little green dino Yoshi turned the series on its head while maintaining the strong level design and world structure that made the NES entries so great. To compare this to the Sega Genesis launch game, Sonic, was not even close: Mario World wins by a mile.
39: Megaman 3 (NES)
So, the third entry in the series had a ton of things going for it. Not only is it a much longer game than those that preceded it, including a showdown with bosses from Megaman 2, it introduced series staple Protoman and also the new slide mechanic. Featuring yet another stellar soundtrack and more iconic bosses, it’s a monster of a game. However, there was just something about it that didn’t thrill me as much as the seminal second entry, and for that reason it’s ranked slightly lower. But still, a must-play game for platforming fans.
38: Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64)
Yes, the humor in this game is terrible, but in many ways that’s what makes it so great. The main story isn’t where it’s really at though, it’s the multiplayer experience. Dozens upon dozens of hours were spent on raids as squirrels trying to get past teddies, and the landscape for that environment will be burned in the back of my brain for life. It had a bunch of different multiplayer modes, and while some were certainly less fleshed out than others, there’s a ton of content to come back to. Writing about this reminds me, where’s Conker? Why has this mascot died? And don’t give me any of that Project Spark junk, I want a true Conker game. Unfortunately Rare seems to have had its heyday during the N64 era, producing hit after hit and not much else afterward. And then Microsoft bought them. And then…yeah.
37: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)
I was really resistant to playing this game because of the lack of a whip. I mean, that’s the whole thing about Castlevania games, right? After hearing Colin Moriarty sing its praises on a podcast yet again I finally caved and picked it, and I’m glad I did. It’s a significant departure from what I’d come to expect from the series, but in lots of good ways, and there’s an absolute ton of content for those who want to dig deep. And the whole flipping the castle upside down thing? It deserves to be on this list for that alone. And the music, which is cheesy in all the right ways.
36: Shovel Knight (3ds)
Combining many of the best parts of some of my favorite games of all time while modernizing the look and feel of the experience sounds like a recipe for success to me, and Shovel Knight does just that. Zelda 2, Megaman, Ducktales, and Mario 3; what more could you want from a game? Shovel Knight stands out from the recent resurgence of retro style titles for good reason, because it doesn’t just throw those all together, it blends them perfectly in a single tasty soup that gives off just the right amount of heat and flavor to tantalize your taste buds. OK, so that metaphor went a little out there, admittedly I’m hungry while I write this. But the point remains that this game is essentially a compilation package of many of your favorite NES games of yore with tight gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and a killer soundtrack. Buy it.
35: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (PS4)
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed Sleeping Dogs, otherwise known as GTA in Hong Kong. I think it’s the local; not only is it set outside the overused US backdrop, the use of Hong Kong fits the atmosphere perfectly. You play as an undercover detective who is trying to infiltrate the triads, and it’s a great dichotomy that works beautifully. Add in solid gameplay, a thrilling story with believable characters, the insertion of just enough bits of native tongue to make it feel authentic, and you’ve got the making of a great game. I only wish there was more of it, because I didn’t want it to be over.
34: Portal 2 (Xbox 360)
This is the only game that is part of a series where I neglected to put a different entry on the list despite it being amazing, and I’m somewhat regretting it. The Portal series is so special, and both games are fascinating ventures into innovative puzzle systems. They’re brilliant just by virtue of the logistics of traversing through each level, and are accompanied by hilarious bouts of criticism from the one and only GladOS. At times I pulled my hair out trying to decipher a puzzle, but at the end of the day all of the solutions are reasonable, and it was always my fault for not figuring it out. I picked Portal 2 for this list because it’s a longer game and features multiplayer, but really either entry belongs here on this list.
33: Grand Theft Auto 5 (Xbox 360)
Part of me recognizes that it’s just the juvenile teenager in me that enjoys this game. The other part of me just doesn’t care. Rockstar should be commended for shaking things up in this entry by including interweaving paths of three main protagonists, and the scope of GTA5 is as ambitious as it gets. There’s so much to do and see in Los Santos, and there’s a level of polish that is rarely seen in games of this scope. Trevor’s persona became annoying fairly quickly, but there was too much going on to notice, and the story actually pays off this time. Just a really solid experience all around.
32: Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)
I am the Batman. Or at least, this is just about the closest I’ve ever come to thinking that. Yes, the latest “Arkham Knight” game was more ambitious, visually pleasing, and featured neat innovations, but I never felt like Batman like I did in the middle entry in the trilogy. In Arkham Knight, you had Batman constantly pulling up his stupid holographic video monitor, and blowing stuff up in his tank, and that just isn’t Batman. Arkham City provided the best balance of gliding around Gotham while taking out the baddies of the series, and it’s simply a must play for any Batman fan.
31: Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One)
The opening scene beautifully sets the stage for this masterpiece, and the rest is history. A majestic quest takes you through highs and lows, and every aspect of the experience works beautifully, from the tough as nails platforming segments to the extended cut scenes that require and extended sequence of actions. Apart from a brilliant presentation, the skills you acquire are meaningful and fun to implement, and some even venture outside the typical platforming qualities to new inspirational heights. I died 450 times during my playthrough, but I never got mad about it. That tells you that it’s an expertly crafted game.
30: Fire Emblem: Awakening (3ds)
A close second place in my list of favorite 3ds games, FE: Awakening was a tough sell at first. In fact, I hated it. I complained about it on my podcast, as there were so many things about it that I didn’t understand as newcomer to SRPGs that I just couldn’t enjoy it. Then, I heard Peer talked about it on NVC as his favorite 3ds game, and I decided I had to give it another shot. This time, I spent a few hours watched videos of people playing the first stages on YouTube, and hearing their explanations of why they did what they did helped me put it all together. I still suck at it, but I was able to play through on Classic just fine, and I had a heck of a time doing so. Incidentally, I did buy Fates, but I just didn’t like it nearly as much as Awakening. There’s something about Awakening that makes everything fit together, and I don’t care for the formula of Fates, it just feels more artificial, more phoned in, more of the same. Awakening was brilliant.
29: Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)
I know this game was just a rehash of a different Japanese game with the Mario characters shamelessly tossed in for good measure, but I don’t care; it’s a blast to play. I just got through replaying it on my 3ds, and it’s still a joy. Way ahead of its time, you’re able to pick from one of four characters, all of which have unique attributes which make for a completely different experience. The music makes your head bop throughout the entire game, and the art design and characters are just dripping with charm. And then there’s Birdo. And Mouser. And Wart. Why haven’t these characters been revisited? I’m sure I’m going to continue to replay this game every few years for as long as I play games, because in addition to the nostalgic high I get each time I pick it up, it’s just plain fun.
28: Rocket League (PS4)
My most played game of 2015. I’m not sure how to feel about that, but it is what it is. Rocket League was my comfort food on many nights, and it always had me on the edge of my seat. The lack of customization actually ended up being a really great quality of the game because it made you focus on the core gameplay, which is tight as you can hope for given, you know, the whole soccer with cars thing. As a huge fan of soccer who has no real understanding of how the game is played, Rocket League is the perfect entry point for the average joe to experience the thrill of a fast break, or of nailing a header into the net. I can’t recommend this game enough.
27: Megaman 2 (NES)
The seminal Megaman game that I’d recommend to anyone new to the franchise, Megaman 2 is just about a perfect game. Yes, I’d like more of it, but I can’t hold that against it because everything is done so well. The music, the enemies, the gameplay, the music, the art style, the bosses, the music, Wily’s castle, the opening sequence, the music…did I mention the music. I’m seriously embarrassed how often I listen to these songs while I work during the day. Perhaps most insane about the tunes is that it’s not just one level, or two levels…it’s every single damn song in the game. There are so many iconic battles that take place in Megaman 2 that I don’t even want to talk about them, I just want to go play them. Again, and again, again. If you haven’t plated this game, drop what your’e doing and get to it. It’s important, damnit. I’ll wait. Pro tip: Play Metal man’s stage first. You’re welcome.
26: A Link Between Worlds (3ds)
This might have been my favorite Zelda game, were it not for a few features that just weren’t my cup of tea. First of all, I love A Link to the Past, and this is essentially a spiritual sequel, so I couldn’t be more happy when I first heard it announced. The modified art style stay true to the roots of its inspiration while adding its own pizzazz, and of course the music is epic as would be expected from this sort of entry. My one set of qualms has to do with the weapon system, which is funny because so many people were happy about it. In this game, you can do the dungeons in any order. That in and of itself is fine, and I appreciate the freedom, but what I don’t like is the ability to rent weapons. One of the neatest features, for me, of any Zelda game was looking for an item in dungeon, and then figuring out how to use that item to proceed further in the dungeon and often eventually how to beat the boss. That’s missing in this game, and that bummed me out. Still, it’s my #1 game on the 3ds, so yeah. I like it. A lot.