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.
Finally, this is the entire, ridiculously long list. I did break it down into sets of 25 games in other posts on the site (see below), but this one is for all of you who just want the whole thing on one page without any ads or additional clicking required.
Without further ado, enjoy!
Top 100 Games of All Time
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.
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.
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.
25: Mario Kart 64 (N64)
Without a doubt, one of the most fun local multiplayer experiences out there, even to this day. At first, it didn’t seem like such a big improvement over Super Mario Kart, but dozens of hours later I realized it was something special. The one glaring problem with the best Mario Kart out there (MK 8) is its battle mode, and MK 64 simply nailed it. Yes, there were only four tracks, but at least three of them were so well designed that they proved you don’t need dozens of maps to have tons of fun with a game. It introduced the skidding speed boost that became a trademark for the series, providing a nuanced experience over its predecessor, and I can’t begin to say how many times it ended up being the fallback game to play with my friends.
24: Megaman X4 (PS1)
I wasn’t a playstation kid, so my X series experience ended with X3 when I was growing up. Fast forward to today, and I had heard nothing but good things about X4. I decided to give it a shot and played through the campaign as Zero. At first, I really didn’t care for it. Something felt off (besides the fact I wasn’t using a buster!), and I was struggling progressing in the beginning despite being a seasoned Mega Man veteran. I put it down for a few months and picked it back up. After I obtained the jump/spin attack, everything just fell into place and the game became amazing. It’s hard to believe how disappointed I would have been in the game if I hadn’t gone back to it and found that upgrade, but much like the metal blade from Mega Man 2, it really made things click (ok, it wasn’t that useful, but it still make a big difference). I found myself flying through the campaign and having a blast all the way. It was still challenging, but that jump upgrade really leveled the playing field, and I enjoyed this version of Zero much more than any of the Zero series games that followed on handheld devices.
23: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)
This was a surprise hit. I’m usually not a huge fan of this lore – I liked the movies enough, but I was bored to death by the first book and didn’t even finish it (though The Hobbit was great) – but what little story is present in this game really sucked me in and hooked me. It’s a conventional enough story of revenge, but the novelty of the arrangement makes all the difference. You can alter between characters when performing certain types of actions, and the game introduces the “nemesis” system where you actually make real enemies that hold grudges against you. And you form grudges against them.
I remember an Ogre named Pumpkin Spice Head or something like that and he would just repeatedly slaughter me. I’d keep trying to go after him as I got stronger, but time and time again I would get defeated. But there came a point in the game where I was sufficiently powered up that I was able to demolish that bastard, and the sweet stench of decapitation never smelled so good as it did that day.
In addition to a interesting story and novel enemy system, Shadow of Mordor completely nailed the combat, essentially making a game with Rockstar’s Batman combat but with swords. Which is awesome.
This was my GOTY in 2014.
22: Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)
Wait, RE5? But, but why? While not the RE experience that many fans were hoping for, RE5 completed the transition from survival horror to action for the series, and it was a magnificent game in its own right. I bought an Xbox 360 to play this game, and in addition to the main campaign, I spent dozens of hours racking up scores in Mercenaries mode.
Once you get past that it’s not the type of game you might have wanted, you’ll see that it’s a brilliant package of co-op third person shooting at its finest. Everything about this game screamed big-time: big budget, big characters, big muscles, big guns, big swarms of enemies, and the list could go on. The systems for switching weapons and interacting were expertly crafted and worked just as intended, and I honestly don’t have any complaints about the game at all.
Yes, it’s not the first Resident Evil. Get over it, and if you like action games then you’ll enjoy this game.
21: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)
Twilight Princess is yet another game that surprised me, as I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Many people claim its one of their least favorite Zeldas, but I really don’t understand why. Then again, I listed Ocarina of Time at #79 on this list, so I’ve probably lost all Zelda cred at this point anyway.
Moving on, I think one of the reasons I like TP so much is because of Midna. She’s the first companion character in a Zelda game that felt authentic, that I really didn’t find annoying. Yes, she helps out a fair amount in the early going, but she really does shut up after that and just interact with you for key sequences or when you request her feedback. In fact, she might just be my favorite Zelda side character ever, and that says a lot.
Of course, it’s also neat to play as Wolf Link, though I’m not sure why the game decided to have you play as Wolf so often in the beginning and then so infrequently in the second half of the game. Also, Wolf would have benefitted from a larger move set, as combat wasn’t especially robust. Still, I appreciated the novelty of the experience.
It’s a little long-winded, but I really appreciate all that TP tried to be (and for the most part succeeded), so it earned a high spot on this list.
20: Danganronpa (Vita)
As you can probably tell at this point, I’m keen to talk about which games persuaded me to buy a system, and for the Vita, it was Danganronpa. Actually, I’m really happy that it did convince me to buy the Vita, because it’s an amazing device. But back to the game, Danganronpa is different. You’re shacked up in a high school and you have to kill your classmates without getting caught to escape. Oh, and if you succeed, then everyone else dies. Happy fun day!
No, the dialogue isn’t always great, but the writing of the story is superb. For both Danganronpa games, once I started them, I played literally nothing else until I finished them. Which is a bit of a shame as I’d have liked to drag them out more to enjoy them, but it’s a testament to the quality of the writing and the gameplay that I wanted to continue.
Once a murder has been committed, you’re assembled in a courtroom and you need to judge who committed the crime, who tells the truth and who lies. It’s not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination, but you do have to think critically at times. Gameplay is simple but, like the next game on this list, it doesn’t matter. It’s the enjoyment of the experience, and Danganronpa scores incredibly high on that front.
And, you have Monokuma…a black and white talking psychopathic bear who creates opportunistic scenarios for children to commit murder so that he can punish them in ironic ways. Winner!
19: Steins;Gate (Vita)
Visual novels might seem pointless to play as a “game” to some, but not me, and Steins;Gate is a great example of why. With tons of different endings based on the choices you make, you do have influence, and the way the game introduces you to its main cast makes you really care about how it all turns out. The main protagonist, Rintaro, is hilarious for starters, and the supporting crew all have their quirks that make them unique individuals that I continually wanted to learn more about. Plus, there’s a lot of advanced concepts about time travel at the center of the plot, and though you have to suspend your disbelief for some of it, none of that affects the overall enjoyment of the experience.
I think what really makes this stand out is the quality of writing paired with fantastic Japanese voice acting. I’ve seen some clips from dubbed versions of the anime, and it’s not the same at all. The Japanese performances are stellar, and in conjunction with the writing caused me to really care about the characters and the world, and that’s saying a lot. It’s also rewarding to have the central topic be an intelligent one that challenges your beliefs in the universe instead of just another bland stereotypical game story. I look forward to playing this again when I have the time.
18: Until Dawn (PS4)
It was a tough call, but I put Until Dawn on the top of my list of favorite games of 2015. As you’ll see with several of the entries on this top 100 list, my opinions have changed in the five months since I made that original list, and in conjunction with my scoring formula listed at the top of this page, that resulted in this coming in slightly further behind than before. Still, it’s a fantastic game.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of a cheesy teen cabin-in-the-woods style horror flick, then this one’s for you. Supermassive Games has created a true achievement in video games, managing to bring a unique experience in living out a storyline with choices that truly matter and affect the outcomes of who lives and who dies.
Not only that, but everything is incredibly polished, the voice acting is phenomenal, and the visuals are breathtakingly accurate. The frame rate stutters at points and really remains the only low point in the game, but it’s easily overcome with all the other positives.
The story takes place overnight, and if you can manage, I highly recommend playing this over the course of a night as it’s very manageable to finish it in that time period. Playing with friends really adds to the experience as you can all enjoy the narrative unfold like an extended movie. For more thoughts, see my full review.
17: Zelda 2: Adventures of Link (NES)
Yes, this is the point where you decide this list is rubbish and move on to the next top ten list. But if you’re curious as to why I would hold this game in such high regard, stick around for a minute and find out. Slight spoilers for this game ahead.
I recently replayed through this game for one reason: to beat shadow link. When I had beaten the game in the past, I could never beat shadow link. It drove me crazy. Old NES games are often brutally unforgiving with save locations, and going through that entire final dungeon to continually face him just about made me rip my hair out. The labyrinth of a final dungeon is frustrating enough on its own, but then you’re forced to beat multiple final bosses, the first of which requires you use half of your magic. And then, you face yourself. Your dark self. And he’s freaking terrifying.
After endless bouts of frustration and slamming the NES controller down (god bless whoever invented those sturdy bricks), I gave up. That is, until I found the power. Nintendo Power, of course. A cheat that we all likely know if you’ve beaten the game is that you can duck in a corner and just keep stabbing your sword and beat him that way. It’s lame, but it gets the job done, and that allowed me to finally conquer a game that had frustrated me for what seemed like forever.
Fast forward 15 years, and my conscience is burning a hole in my brain. I had to go back. I had to beat dark link legitimately. There was no other option.
Having sold my NES and all my games when I moved (stupid, stupid), I bought the game on 3ds and played through the whole thing one more time. Yes, I cheated this time too – I used the virtual console save option more than I should, and you better believe that I did so when facing dark link. It took about twenty battles, but I finally took him down. I don’t care that I cheated to restart right before him; it only mattered that I beat him, fair and square. No ducking and stabbing bs, this was mono y mono, and to the victor go the spoils. And that victor was me.
This game just rocked. A huge departure from the original Zelda, you were doing all sorts of creative crazy shit in this one. Going to town, RPG’ing it up all over the place, action sequences, fun dungeons, neat enemies, hard challenges – this game had it all. And for some reason Ganon would laugh it up when you lost, but they totally forgot to put him in the game. Which is awesome. I would fire it up again in a second if there weren’t so many other good games on this list.
16: Transformers: Devastation (PS4)
A close second for my GOTY in 2015, Devastation was, finally, the Transformers game that I always wanted. Featuring not only the original voice of Optimus like so many other games, it has many of the original voice actors from the G1 series contributing their special blend of charisma to the experience. The Autobots and Decepticons are expertly modeled after the G1 series as well, but include a modern flourish of cell shading that provides just the right amount of polish to their frames.
With just the above, I’d be stoked to play this Devastation, but upon finding out that Bayonetta developer Platinum Games had control over the game, I was flabbergasted. So many of my favorite things in one place, my childhood memories of watching G1 on a 13-inch black and white analog TV, the best action game developer out there, my ideal art style reminiscent of Wind Waker – it’s hard to beat the combination that this game offers.
The campaign is short, but you’re encouraged to replay it all using one of five different Autobots. And replay it I will, and you should too. Read my full review.
15: Bioshock (Xbox 360)
I never thought I’d like this game. In fact, a friend of mine had me play it for five minutes at one point, and I hated it. Absolutely hated it! Plunging needles into my wrists? No thanks!
It was only because of some ridiculous sale where I could get the game digitally for $5 that I picked it up, pretty much only on principle. I figured it was one of those games that everyone seems to really like, and I try to give such games a chance before dismissing them. I anticipated picking up the controller and setting it down after 20 minutes never to return. Boy was I wrong.
Starting the game from the beginning, I was completely hooked. This was a truly unique world and game! The story gripped me, as did the atmosphere. It was just scary and creepy enough not to turn off, and I remember deciding that I had to play the game at night with the lights off and headphones on. It was life-changing. I never knew that video games could create quite an experience like that inside my mind, and this one threw me for a trip. I was actively sneaking around the corner, listening for any faint sounds…and then I’d hear some insane laughing and arguing and my heart would skip a beat.
I know there are lots of other games that mess with your mind, many of which I have yet to play (I missed Eternal Darkness, Amnesia seems neat but I haven’t played it yet, stuff like that), but I think this one will hold the test of time as a must-play for any gamer.
14: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
To be fair, this list could probably include a bunch of other Mario Karts. The first one has a certain place in my heart, but going back to that today is painful. Mario Kart 64 was unforgettable and my most played Mario Kart – that battle mode was just awesome. I can’t tell you how many shouting matches erupted on the couch…but fun shouting matches.
But really, this latest version is just outstanding. There’s so many good things about it that I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I’ll begin with its one failure: Battle Mode. Nobody likes racing around entire tracks; forums are overflowing with people begging for a return to the older arena formats. Hopefully Nintendo will add some variations in the future, and make this a truly perfect Mariokart game.
Which is a distinct possibility, seeing as how Nintendo has stepped up and delivered an excellent piece of DLC that involved eight new tracks in November 2014, and eight new tracks six months later. Not to mention additional characters and cars, this is DLC done right.
Battle mode aside, I found a big smile breaking out on my face the first time I booted up the home screen. The opening tune is catchy, and the characters and environments are really pretty, but how does it play? I jumped in, and boy does it play well. The controls are just impeccable, and I was instantly hooked.
The game consistently improves throughout the entire experience. Cup after cup, track after track, it just keeps getting better. That awesome music on the intro screen? Every single song in the game is amazing. The beautiful presentation? Every single track seems prettier than the last. Characters? Tons of choices, though I feel a bit burned that they used all the koopalings, which to my knowledge no one really cares about. The koopalings and the battle mode – seriously, those are the only faults in this game.
Online works pretty well, and for someone who rarely plays online, it’s a ton of fun to race people from around the globe. As I mentioned earlier, they’ve also release just jam-packed DLC that couldn’t be more worth the $12 or whatever they charged – it’s like getting another 50% of the game! I can safely say that I’ll be playing this for years to come, and you should be too.
13: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
The first game that I’ve ever given a perfect 10/10, Mario Galaxy 2 is the complete package. From start to finish, I never found myself getting upset at the game, or bored, or frustrated with controls; it’s a near perfect experience.
I dislike motion controls so much that I pretty much skipped the entire Wii generation. But Mario Galaxy uses them in a way that doesn’t annoy me, and in fact contributes to the enjoyment of the experience. Much like the spiritual predecessor to the Galaxy games Mario 64, the controls feel like they’re built for this game and fit like a glove. It’s a joy to play.
Add in the expansive list of different power-ups and the continually impressive level design, and you begin to see the genius behind the game. It also features the most inventive boss fights in any Mario game that I’ve played, creating a sense of anticipation upon reaching the end of a stage, instead of one of boredom. I’d have a lot more to say about this, but if you want to read more you may as well read the full review.
12: Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)
For some reason, I might have played more RE4 than any other title on this list. OK, well, the most after Goldeneye. It’s one of very, very few games that I’ve actually gone through and completed the entire main campaign a second and third time. That might not sound like much to many of you, but I just don’t replay entire game stories (at least when they take more than a few hours), as I always have a backlog of games I’ve never experienced that I want to try.
On top of that, I wasn’t consumed by the story. And I never really felt scared, though there were some creepy parts that I enjoyed. The controls are solid, but it still had the annoying need to stop in order to shoot that plagued every single RE game until the latest mistakes, I mean games, in the series. OK, to be fair, RE5 was fun for what it was, but it definitely wasn’t traditional RE. RE6 was a mess and didn’t know who it was trying to appeal to. Revelations was ok but I had a lot of issues with it. RE ORC? Let’s not talk about that one.
But, that’s the power of this game. It didn’t excel in any one area, but it just all came together to create an unforgettable experience. Yes, it also deviated from the traditional RE formula, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it still keeps some of the best elements of the series intact. Solid atmosphere and a decent story combine to form a game that will have you coming back again and again – it’s just so much fun to play! Very little quicktime button mashing and solid gameplay mechanics combine to make me feel like I’m in control of whether I succeed or fail. Truly, this is an game I recommend to any gamer.
11: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Wii U)
I love how expressive Link is in this game. At one point he’s chasing a cat and hides behind a wall, and his upcoming expression made me stop playing I was laughing so hard. It’s burned into my brain! I’ve wanted Zelda game to return to this look for a long time, which is one reason I’m so excited for the next Zelda game on Wii U.
Looks aside, the game felt like a true adventure. You’re sailing the high seas on quests, and you have tons of side missions to undertake if you so choose. It really felt like a gigantic world, much more so than any other Zelda game, and I think that’s a mighty impressive accomplishment.
Combat was beautifully fluid, and dungeons had just the right amount of twists and turns to invigorate the sense without pushing the frustration meter too far (water temples, I’m looking at you). It did come across as too easy at times with regard to how much damage you could take, but that’s a small complaint on an otherwise almost perfect Zelda game.
10: Super Metroid (SNES)
I’ve actually just replayed this one for the first time in almost 20 years, and I can’t tell you how many times I smiled to myself and thought “see, this is how games should be made!”
Seriously, I don’t think another game on this list or on this planet so skillfully and plentifully introduces cool new gameplay elements to the player. Huh, I just got an upgrade called a morph ball…what do I do with that? Oh wait, I can shoot that brick – ahh, I have to morph to escape? Brilliant! What’s that you say, a speed booster? Well, what what do I need that for? Oh shit, the lava’s rising, I better ru…ahh, I see! It makes so much sense!
In an era of handholding and inane tutorials, this game shines through like a beacon of hope, proof positive that games can instruct without treating you like a child. You could make the argument that games today have so many more buttons and so many more actions that tutorials are warranted, but really it just comes down to laziness (or release deadlines, whatever you want to call it). There’s no reason that a modern game can’t use this same system to introduce most if not all gameplay mechanics.
From the get go, deep and foreboding tones introduce you to the erie space atmosphere, transmitting you to the intergalactic world of bounty hunter Samus Aran. Even her name is badass. We get some back story and boom, we’re just throw in. I’ve already established how well the game teaches you, but it’s worth mentioning just how good the ambiance is in this universe. I never imagined a SNES cart could create such a fantastical world. No, I’m not going to be fooled into thinking I am that bounty hunter, but I sure as heck lost track of time while playing, which is the mark of a quality game. Every time I’d get even the tiniest bit bored or frustrated, I’d run into a new ability or something that kept me playing for “oh, just another 10 minutes…”
9: Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
I’m as surprised as all of my friends were that I liked this game, but here we are. Persona 4 puts you back in high school, but in a really good way. I personally hated my high school experience, and this gave me an opportunity to revisit those times in an environment where you form strong bonds and embark on meaningful journeys together, complete with special Persona powers and perfectly awkward dialogue.
I’m still not entirely sure why I invested 75 hours in this game, but the fact that I did is a true testament to its successes. Not only that, but it motivated me to play Persona 3, Persona Q, and Persona 4 Dancing All Night, all of which are excellent games in their own way.
Persona 4 Golden is gorgeous on the Vita. Between building your social links with various characters in the game and a robust expertly executed RPG battle system that managed to feel fair and balanced throughout the entire game, there’s a lot to love here.
8: Velocity 2X (Vita)
Music is really important to me, and not enough games put time into developing strong qualities in this area. Not the case with Velocity 2X, as the tunes are simply monster tracks that perfectly complement the action.
Velocity 2X doesn’t seem like an especially complicated game, but it’s proof positive that you don’t need to have an immense world to create an immensely pleasurable experience. You’re constantly switching back and forth between speedy ship combat and exploration and 2D run and gun environments, and you’re tasked with doing it all as quickly as possible to reap rewards and progress to later stages. The format reminded me of The Guardian Legend from the NES, except sped up with amazing electronic music. Once you get the hang of using the transportation system of speed bursts, you really, truly feel like a badass.
To top it all off, the story is actually light hearted and funny, something that I didn’t expect and that really, the game didn’t even need. It’s a nice feather in a cap for Velocity 2X. I can’t recommend this game highly enough. Read my full review.
7: The Last of Us Remastered (PS4)
I literally bought into the Playstation ecosystem to play this game, and I did not leave disappointed. I had avoided PS for years because I just didn’t gravitate toward the games and couldn’t stand the controller – my 360 had just about everything non-nintendo that I needed. But I’m a sucker for a good story, and with all the neat advancements that came with the PS4, I made the plunge knowing that I could play the newest version of this classic.
As a side note, I know that many people get annoyed about the gravitation toward remakes of late, especially when the original game was released recently. Last of Us is about as recent as you can get for an HD remake, but I’m glad they did it. I think it was really smart; there’s obviously a huge buzz around the game on the PS3, and what better way to entice people to a new system that has a shortage of good games at launch than to bring back a Game of the Year in HD? It secured my decision to buy the system.
Back to the game itself, this one is a monster. The story had been heralded as the best in the biz, so I knew what to expect, but wow this one delivered. Joel and Ellie just felt so real; some of my favorite parts of the game were when you could have optional side conversations, and when Ellie did things like tell a joke out of her book.
The gameplay’s great but not without it’s flaws. Occasionally I felt like I was just going from shootout to shootout, but it never lasted too long and some of that great story would butt in to bring me back into the experience. This isn’t a review for the game so I won’t go into more detail, but just a fantastic experience – a must-play game.
6: Bayonetta (Xbox 360)
I was conflicted if I should list this or Devastation higher. After all, Transformers is, well, Transformers! But at the end of the day, I decided to put Bayonetta higher on the list because it was a pioneer in its field.
Without a doubt, Bayonetta’s combat is second to none. It’s the most silky smooth, intense, and fluid action that I’ve ever experienced. Devastation did a great job with combat, but it’s still no Bayonetta. Easy to pick up but extremely challenging to master, it’s a deep system that is incredibly rewarding for every style of player, and that’s a tough feat to accomplish. It’s simply astonishing how beautiful the game runs with such fast action all over the screen.
Platinum also created new IP with Bayonetta and really gave her style all her own, style which, while not exactly the way I would describe my ideal heroine, made her all her own. She’s a strong female lead that kicks ass and takes names, and I’m really happy they gave her a sequel. It’s unfortunate that the game was exclusive to Wii U as many people didn’t get to experience it, but thankfully this original is available in all its glory for all to play.
5: Goldeneye (N64)
So. Many. Hours. I can’t tell you how many nights were spent huddled around my crappy 29” Samsung playing four-player matchers on this N64 gem. It got to the point where my friends and I just knew the levels so well that we had to set up rules (no guarding body armor!) and spend most of our time just trying to trick each other.
The crazy thing is that I despise first person shooters. I really don’t like them! For one, I tend to suck at them – I do much better with the over the shoulder perspective. But another problem I have with modern FPS is that they often feel too real…in COD, it feels like I’m shooting another human. I don’t want to shoot real humans! Give me a game about zombies, ok, well, I find it pretty hard to argue for their right to exist, so I’ll shoot them and have a damn fine time doing it. I’m not a prude. But those overly realistic FPS games where you’re running real missions that have you shooting and killing in a real-world setting? No thanks.
But Goldeneye somehow overcame these obstacles. It’s blocky enough to not seem realistic at all, but it’s based on a movie which sorta makes it like real life but not in a consequential way. It’s hard to describe. I know video games are fake just like movies are fake, but being distant from the action in a movie is different from actively doing things like killing in video games. So somehow this all worked out and it didn’t bother me. It was just pure fun.
People complain about the control in this game now that everything has dual analog sticks, but for me it’s perfect. I love using those C buttons to strafe around corners! The fluid movement (frame rate aside), the action so real but still fake enough to not make me uncomfortable, the famous characters, the fan service, the neat weapons, intelligent mission design, difficulty options, unique cheats, and the fact that you’re playing a part in a movie, and a secret agent – ok, the best secret agent ever – just makes this game a phenomenal part of my gaming history.
4: Megaman X (SNES)
Disclaimer: Megaman is my favorite character of all time. Link, you’re second – sorry about that. Samus, get a new game out on Wii U and we’ll talk.
Anyway, back to the game. This_game_is_amazing. After spending the better part of a decade growing up with Megaman, playing all his games and anxiously awaiting the next one (if you can’t relate to this, you probably weren’t playing games in the late 80s/early 90s), to see him take this evolutionary leap was one of the most exciting developments of my childhood. Megaman was always a badass…but now he’s a mega-badass!
Seriously, Megaman X had everything you could want from this franchise and then some. You start off kicking ass in a tutorial disguised as a real level. How cool is that? No boring “press X to extend your hit range” explanations, just pure unadulterated fun. Super Metroid did this better than any other game I’ve played, but this game does a darn good job of it as well, although not nearly in as much detail as Super Metroid.
In this game, you get to upgrade your armor. Not just to get another Rush accessory, no, this was the real deal. And you found these upgrades in hidden locations. And when you found them, you stepped into this neat futuristic pod and got to see a holographic Dr. Light. And then there was this awesome “ching!” sound, and you were more badass than before. So good!
As always with Megaman games, level and boss design is phenomenal, and the sound fits the levels well. It’s not quite as catchy as the Megaman 2/3 tunes, but really, what is? I honestly have no complaints about this game whatsoever. I’d say I wish it was longer, but I really don’t. One of the reasons I love Megaman games is because they’re difficult but not unfair, and they are linear but not boring. I know what I’m getting, and I expect to finish the game in a timely manner. I’m especially appreciative of this type of game now that I’m older and have real-world responsibilities – I (usually) don’t have time for 50-hour campaigns anymore! Frankly even 20 is a pretty big stretch for me. So I appreciate these types of games.
3: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Full and embarrassing disclosure: I haven’t played this game in over 10 years. Haven’t even touched it! I actually bought it again recently on Wii U and am going to pick it up soon, but it created such a strong impression on me during the 90s that I am still putting it on this list. I had considered replacing it with A Link Between Worlds, which is also a stellar game, but there’s a few things that this game just got right where I feel ALBW stumbled a bit, so I’m sticking with the classic.
Again, unbelievable game design. Writing up this top ten list, I guess that’s my most valued component of a game, because pretty much all of my entries have really good design. This one starts you off waking up in your bed with no sword, only to hear that your Uncle has left to do something important. Well, I want to do something important! So you go looking for him. You eventually find him in a dungeon, where you’re immediately thrust into the action. Move over, stupid boring tutorials!
I’ve forgotten many of the specifics, but who could forget that first time that they found out about a dark world. I remember the first time I ventured into that realm and found new, powerful enemies to face – I was so excited, it was like a whole different game! Not to stop there, the game then expertly forces you to use your mirror to enter/exit the world at special locations. And the music! The Dark World theme is among my favorites of all time.
Not be outdone, the rest of the music in the game is phenomenal as well. Easily one of my favorite soundtracks, I would absolutely love to hear these tunes remastered, if they ever decided to remake the game. I got some of that in ALBW (how cool was it to play tunes over and over in the milk shop?), but it wasn’t quite the same.
Speaking of ALBW, I should explain why I didn’t select that game instead, since I have played it so recently. Simply put, I think that is an amazing game as well, but it had a few things which I subjectively felt took away from the experience. First and foremost, the whole renting thing just didn’t do it for me. Yes, it added more meaning to your death, but I think I only died once in the entire game – it’s not a hard game at all. In fact, that’s another complaint about ALBW – it was a little too easy for my liking. I want bosses to kill me (in a fair way of course)! But back to the items, I loved loved loved finding cool new items in each dungeon in ALTTP, but that aspect was absent in ALBW. It was what I most looked forward to while finishing dungeons – not knowing what power you’ll get or how that will help you with the boss makes it exciting when you finally find that big chest that has a new item. ALTTP uses this formula masterfully, and I personally favor that approach for this franchise.
If I go into more detail this will start being a review instead of a list, so I’ll stop there. Must_play_game.
2: Mario 64 (N64)
This was a tough one for me. Mario is not my favorite character. In fact I’ve never especially liked the guy. I mean, I’ve dealt with it because Mario games are usually pretty amazing (except in certain circumstances – see my article on the new Mario games), but I never liked him. And as a big story/atmosphere buff, Mario games tend to be lacking in areas that are otherwise really important to me. I mean, I love Mega man games, but that’s partially because I love the character, and the simple linear approach is what I want from that series. Mario? Not so much.
But, here it is, residing at #2 on my list. After 25+ years of gaming, how did Mario 64 overcome the odds? Because this_game_blew_my_mind.
I remember very clearly going to Toys R Us just to play the demo kiosk. Like any good little Nintendo tyke, I had a subscription to Nintendo Power and had been following the dolphin, or Ultra, or whatever name they were going to give to the next gen system. I saw the N64 Disk Drive and thinking about the capabilities prepared me for what promised to be a new era of gaming. And that crazy controller? I had to try this.
And it completely and utterly blew my mind. I literally remember my mouth hanging open as a kid – I had never seen anything like this! I just ran in circles with Mario until the next kid in line poked me to see if I was still alive. It was so liberating to have a full range of motion that I just couldn’t get enough of it. When I finished my session I went straight over to the counter with my pre-order ticket to ensure I had it day one. I was 13 years old in 1996, which means it was the first year I had a summer job caddying for a highbrow snobby country club, dealing with rich people who couldn’t be bothered to give a $5 tip to someone who was just their little servant for 5 hours on the golf course. I really hated that job, but it gave me expendable income for the first time in my life. And you better believe that went straight to the N64, along with one game: Mario 64.
It’s weird now to think that I just started with the one game. Nowadays there are so many options that it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but back then, I didn’t have any money and games cost basically the same as they do now, so I couldn’t afford them. I bought Wave Race when it came out, but otherwise it was just me and Mario for a few months.
I don’t even really know where to begin with how well this game just works, but suffice to say it’s simply amazing. It has a bit of a story (not much), but really it’s just, like RE4, how everything comes together as a whole that makes this game so special. I personally loved the innovative N64 controller, and this game plays like the controller was built for it (I think I’ve read that to actually be the case). The use of the analog stick to run in circles or around corners, and the ability to adjust camera views with the C buttons, was all just so unique and fresh that it’s burned a favorable impression on my brain for life. This game just clicked for me.
I’m sure that nostalgia played a large role in this pick. After all, the N64 was the first console I bought with my own money, and for that reason it will always have a special place in my heart. Heck, I even recently re-bought a Japanese N64 and started acquiring my favorite old games…and I’m not the collecting type. But Mario 64 has stood the test of time and plays just as great today as it did back then.
1: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4)
Until just a few months ago, Mario 64 had reigned supreme at the top of my list of favorite games for almost 20 years. And then The Witcher 3 happened.
The quality of this game didn’t really hit me at first. Being a newcomer to the series, I was put off by what seemed like complicated systems galore, tons of reading, and really jerky combat. In fact, I had bought it when it first came out, and the combat was so bad that it was literally unplayable. I remember not being after to beat the first griffin because my character just wouldn’t respond when I pressed buttons, and I gave up and sold it. Several patches later, I decided to give it another shot, and wow was that a lesson: Don’t buy games like this on Day 1 and expect the same polished experience you’ll get several patches later. It literally played like an entirely different game.
An entirely different, absolutely massive, game. CD Projekt Red has created a magnificent experience, with so many things to do that I think you’d be set on games for years if you’re a casual player and want to do everything. I’ve spent near 100 hours and I still have tons and tons of things to do, and the quality is still extremely high. To say nothing of the upcoming expansions, the scope of the game is impressive.
What really stands out to me is the quality of the story and the dialogues. I’m used to big RPGs like this being rife with boring, nonsensical side quests, and that’s always turned me off from them. But the quests in this game in conjunction with stellar writing and voice acting really make you feel like you’re a part of the Witcher universe. Yes, there are a few fetch quests here and there, but you rarely are forced to do them. The main quests tell interesting stories and introduce you to surprising scenarios and characters that you’ll learn to love or learn to hate, and I never, ever felt bored.
It’s hard to say enough good things about The Witcher 3. It’s truly something special and unique, and CD Projekt Red deserves every bit of praise they receive for this creation. On top of a stellar game, they give everyone who buys the game the equivalent of a mini special edition, including stickers, maps, and even a soundtrack CD.
You simply must give this behemoth of a game your time and attention. Push through the early going, and you won’t be disappointed. Read my full review to learn more.