On the one hand, I’m sick of top ten lists…you see them everywhere, they usually feature the same games, and they often consist of some amateur videographer spouting their disjointed reasoning on Youtube.
On the other hand, if I counted the number of times that I’ve looked up “Top ten X,” I’d probably reach triple digits. For some reason, they’re attractive; it’s a bite-sized way to understand and appreciate (mostly) amazing games, or products, or whatever.
So, without further ado, here are my top ten favorite video games of all time. Note that I say “favorite,” not “best,” as those are two different lists. I’ve admittedly missed a lot of consoles over the years since I don’t do this for a living, so I’m also constrained by which games I’ve actually played. For example, I’ve never owned a playstation until recently when I bought a PS4, so I don’t have any games from those systems – sorry playstation fans! Though I do have a PS4 entry on the list that was originally a PS3 game, so there’s that. I’ve also never had portable gaming consoles until the 3DS and Vita, so I missed out on a ton there. But, I think I’ve had my fair share of amazing video game experiences, so I’m happy to share them with you here. Enjoy!
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 a 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.
So, you’re probably wondering at what point I’ll actually talk about why it’s on my top ten list. It’s because of dark link. It’s because that game made me care about beating him so much that I’ve played through it half a dozen times by now. It’s because, well, it’s…ok, it’s more than that.
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.
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 imprvoes 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.
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.
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.
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? You’re actually feeling like a badass as things unfold from the get go – 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 SM.
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 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 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.
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 absolutely 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 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.
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.
Well, now we’re getting to the cream of the crop. 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…”
Now I’m going to repeat myself for the final two games, but you have to play this game.
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.
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 Megaman 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 the top of my list. Mario 64 gets the #1 spot after 25+ years of gaming. How did it 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, and it’s my choice for my favorite game of all time.
11. Megaman 2 (NES) / Megaman 9 (Xbox 360)
12. A Link Between Worlds (3ds)
13. Danaganronpa (Vita)
14. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
15. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4)
16. Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
17. Wind Waker (Gamecube)
18. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)
19. Bayonetta (Xbox 360)
20. Solomon’s Key (NES)
21. Blast Corps (N64)
22. Velocity 2X (Vita)
23. Walking Dead Season 1 (Xbox 360)
24. Sin and Punishment (N64)
25. RBI Baseball (NES)
What do you think of this list? What are some classics that I missed? Share your favorites in the comments below.