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 (75-51)
75: Metroid (NES)
From what I’m told, I should have had the Zero Mission version of this game on this list instead, but since I haven’t played that yet, I’m going with the original. Plus, in terms of importance in gaming history, this one is pretty special. Introducing the concept of instruction through game design, featuring new pathways that can be opened up after the acquisition of new items and weapons, Metroid is a crash course in game design. It’s pretty tough though, so if you’re looking for an easy ride, look elsewhere.
74: Snowboard Kids 2 (N64)
I was never any good at this game. I recently had my N64 modded with an HDMI port so I could finally play it on modern TVs again, so I’ll pick it up again soon and probably have more to say at that point. For now, it’s on this list because it introduced some novel ideas at the time it was released (such as having special item boxes for offense and defense that were acquired through the spending of coins you collected on the course), it had some depth to the selection screen not found in most racers, and just because it was a great overall multiplayer experience.
73: Katamari Damacy (PS2)
I only played this game for about two hours at a friend’s house. Once. And that’s all it took for it to be this high on the list. I’ve played some subsequent Katamari games on other consoles, but they all pale in comparison to the eccentric original. I never owned a PS2 or I would have had this for sure. A fun, simple gameplay mechanic was part of the reason it was a great game, but the main reason it’s on this list is because of the King of all Cosmos. Nuff said.
72: F-Zero (SNES)
Mode 7 graphics, anyone? This was quite the feat for it’s day, and it remains a fantastic experience to this day. Sure, subsequent F-Zeroes introduced more features, more racers, more everything, but this classic original started it all and remains my fondest memory. And that music! From the first track, it rocked the house. I even decided to cover that tune for the intro song to my podcast!
71: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS)
This is the game that introduced me to this little thing called visual novels. OK, so this was also a puzzle game, but there’s a heck of a lot of reading to it, and it tells a gripping story about…well, you can read the title. Sometimes the puzzle rooms were a little annoying, but the game as a collective whole just plain works. I prefer this over its sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward, because VLR had too many branching paths, to a point approaching insanity, whereas this one was a lot more manageable.
70: The Wolf Among Us (Xbox 360)
I’ve played my fair share of TellTale games, including both seasons of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Law and Order Legacies, and BTTF, and The Wolf Among Us takes the cake on just about every level. On the surface, it’s what you’d expect from TellTale, but it’s so much more. The story is inventive and captivating, the main protagonist has personality, and your decisions affect who lives and dies. What really separates this from the pack is its atmosphere and setting, which combine perfectly to create a strange emotional ambivalence you wish you didn’t feel toward the story.
69: Super Smash Bros 4 (Wii U)
OK, so I guess this is technically a third fighting game on this list. But somehow it feels like it’s in a different category than KI or SF. Anyway, this game is absolutely jam-packed with quality content, and is easily, easily one of the best values on the Wii U. Not to mention it’s gorgeous, features a diverse cast of fighters, tons of new modes, sensational music, loads of available DLC…it’s the real deal. I never liked Smash games, but even I got into this one.
68: Muramasa Rebirth (Vita)
Yes, this game can be a little repetitive at times. But it’s so pretty! Joking aside, the vibrant color scheme blends well with the frenetic action as you wail on waves of enemies, and the use of unusual combo mechanics added some twists that kept it interesting for longer than if it was just another button mashing action game. Add in some leveling up and uniquely Japanese humor, and you’ve got a great game.
67: Megaman 9 (Xbox 360)
Coming out with a new Megaman game in the style of old? Not just in the style, but foregoing the charged buster in favor of the simple p-shooter? This seemed like a risky proposition in today’s day and age, but it was released during a time where retro styles were making a comeback, and that probably helped its reception. That, and because it’s freaking amazing. An incredibly solid Megaman experience, it had me on the edge of my seat as I battled the n’th final boss form and just barely, just barely scrapped by to beat it. And they were able to produce some amazing new tunes as well, just a solid effort all around.
66: Hearthstone (iOS)
Hearthstone is an excellent card game. I’m not a fan of the lore, but the mechanics are so tight that I can get past that part. I’ve had a ton of fun playing it for the first dozen hours or so, but it did get to a point where I felt like I couldn’t compete if I didn’t pay for new card packs. It might be that I just suck at it, but regardless, the level of fun dropped off at that point and I don’t play it as much any more. But still, it’s a great game.
65: Ninja Gaiden 2 (Xbox 360)
I played this right around the time I started getting back into video games in a big way, and it really is an excellent action game. Ryu gains a bunch of different weapons throughout his campaigns that add a ton of variability to the game, an decimating wave after wave of enemies was a joy. I soon found other action games which slightly surpassed NG2 in quality, but this was a fun romp.
64: Danganronpa 2 (Vita)
I literally bought a Vita for the first Danganronpa, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. The sequel isn’t as high on this list because the introduction of a second teddy bear didn’t sit quite as well with me as the discordant feel of having solo Monokuma calling all the shots, and also because I didn’t find the mini-games as enjoyable as the first game, but it’s still a great experience. As Danganronpa games are soon coming to Steam, all you non-Vita owners will have no excuse not to play it. And Vita owners who don’t own this game? Get yourself together for crying out loud.
63: Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
So torn on this game. It had to be on this list, because in my heart I know it’s absolutely amazing. An almost infinite number of creative Mario courses at your fingertips and improved abilities to share and find quality courses mean that this could definitely be a desert island game (assuming the desert island has internet). But at the same time, I’ve grown a little tired of Mario games. Yep, there, I said it. I mean, Galaxy and 64 are some of my top picks on this list, but I just don’t need anymore 2D Mario in my life. But, this is still a fantastic game, and I’ve had fun with it, so it’s on the list.
62: Wii Sports (Wii)
Another game that I felt just had to be on this list, even if it isn’t a game I find myself ever coming back to. This game united young and old generations of gamers, and enabled people to play sports in their living room for free. And it worked pretty well to boot! Of course it could have been better, but in typical Nintendo fashion they found a way to innovate with limited technology and produce a true gem.
61: Wayne Gretsky’s 3D Hockey (N64)
Even seeing the name of this game brings a smile to my face, as I think of me and three friends sitting around the TV in a circle racing at full speed to check each other as hard as we possibly could. This game made scoring way too easy on most modes, but that adding to the arcade feel of the experience and was a welcome component of the experience. I busted this out last week, and the glove still fits; it’s amazing. For some reason the sequel, WG ’98, just wasn’t as good, even though they basically recycled a bunch of stuff from this one.
60: DMC (Xbox 360)
The big reason I fell for this game was how smoothly you could switch between a few different weapon types and flow through a series of attacks during combos. It felt great, and though not quite on bar with Bayonetta, it came darn close. I could do without the teenage-emo mentality of most of the characters, but in terms of pure gameplay, give this game a go if you’re into fast action.
59: The Guardian Legend (NES)
TGL was revolutionary for its day. An RPG where you migrated from shoot-em-up to grid based adventure, it was like having two games in one, and both styles worked brilliantly. Not to mention it looked good for its day, had quality music, exciting boss battles, and an interesting set of abilities, and this game had just about everything. Why haven’t we had more games in this image?
58: Mario Tennis (N64)
Why did I pick the N64 version? Well, I certainly wasn’t going to pick the Wii U version, which will let you play online, but not with friends. Still salty about that, can you tell? I love the Mario Tennis franchise. As a tennis player, I can confirm that there’s actually a good tennis game behind it all, and adding a bunch of different skills for each character along with a large variety of court styles with different ball speeds and bounce heights made this a complete package. Still plays great today.
57: Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2)
Another PS2 game that, while I didn’t own the console, I played at my friends. Actually, my college dorm roommate had a PS2 and this game and we spent many a evening causing havoc every way we possibly could. Kids today (awe geeze, there I go sounding like an old fart again) don’t understand how revolutionary this game was for its time, and how controversial the level of violence, and suggestive sex with prostitutes, was in a game like this. And Rockstar pulled it all off really well. This game doesn’t hold up as much, and GTA 5 is the way to go nowadays, but this deserves a spot on the list.
56: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
Another Wii U gem that few people will play because few people own the console, Tropical Freeze does almost everything right. Again, one of the strengths, as with DKC, is the unique locomotion of your main character compared to other games. It’s frustrating at first, but after you get the hang of it you start to appreciate the novel gameplay. Expertly using 3D environments and backgrounds and foregrounds, the game is also gorgeous. Though some complained about them, I really appreciated the boss fights in this game, as they left behind the simple “bop the character on the head three times and call it a day” approach and instead had the boss change strategies every three hits, requiring a total of nine to ultimately win. This made boss fights much longer and interesting, and tougher, and I loved it. Except for that Fuji Fish or whatever it was called in that water level. F*ck that Fish.
55: Pacman (Arcade)
This had to be on the list. I don’t really play this anymore but I sure have spent my fair share of time in front of an arcade machine playing it over and over again. Yes, there’s not a ton of variability in the game, but what’s there is so solid and addicting that it makes you come back for more time and time again. There’s not much else to say; this is a classic in every sense of the word.
54: Life is Strange (PS4)
I always appreciate when developers take a somewhat unorthodox approach to story telling and gameplay, and Life is Strange does both…mostly successfully. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t parts of the game that annoyed the heck out of me (I’m looking at you, bulletin board full of pictures), but there were so many captivating story elements that the good easily overshadows the bad.
53: Bloodborne (PS4)
I’d never played a Dark Souls game before this, and I don’t intend to because I don’t enjoy being brutally slaughtered repeatedly. But I gave the genre a shot with Bloodborne, and I’m glad I did because it’s a phenomenal game. The atmosphere drips with dread in a way that envelopes you in the environment, and the monsters regularly cause panic and scares befitting of the rest of the experience. I did end up giving up on this game though, because I suck. No, scratch that, the game sucks. Kinda. Basically I couldn’t stand dying after I just played through a bunch of tense battles and losing all my progress and having to redo things over and over again. I get that that’s part of this style of game. I get it. But couldn’t they throw in an easy mode where you get an extra checkpoint or something for people like me? Because I’ve got way too many good games to play to keep working on the same section time and time again. And that’s why I don’t play Souls games.
52: Sin and Punishment (N64)
I remember the first time I cut the tabs out of my NA N64 so that I could play Japanese games, and booted up this classic. It totally blew my mind, and I was captivated from the moment I started. Nintendo, what were you thinking not releasing this here (until the Wii)? Such a great game, blending unique shooting mechanics with some tense melee combat, neat characters, a futuristic sci-fi setting, great music, and everything else I could possibly want…except it was a little on the short side. But otherwise, a very tight game.
51: Persona 4: Dancing All Night (Vita)
I really hesitated putting this one so high on the list. The story is atrocious, even though it has the characters from one of my favorite games of all time. But at the end of the day, the gameplay is tons of fun, engaging, and infinitely replayable, so it deserves a solid spot on this lineup. The soundtrack is stellar and just about every tune is enjoyable. The logistics of selecting which button to press are unique in that the prompts come from six different directions corresponding to locations on the Vita itself, which makes a lot of sense and adds to the experience. It also looks gorgeous, and is one of the prettiest games on the Vita.