My Top 50 Video Games

My personal pick for the best games out there, though I tend to focus on the classics.
October 18, 2012
50. Demon Attack (2600)

My favorite game on the Atari 2600. Demon Attack is an original title developed for the home console by Imagic, which in and of itself was rare, as most games at the time were simply ports of arcade games. The game is reminiscent of Space Invaders, in that there’s a ground based cannon firing at alien invaders, or in this case, demonic attackers. Things start out easily enough, but by wave five, the demons start to split into two after being hit, making the game considerably more challenging. Demon Attack isn’t much to look at nowadays, but you get to shoot things.

49. Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64)

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is hilarious. That’s not a word you often use to describe a video game, but the humor in this game will have you breaking out in fits of laughter. Mind you, the jokes are quite adult, so keep the kiddies away for this one. The story starts off as a red squirrel named Conker wakes up from a night of drunkenness, and he has to find a way back home. In his journey, he comes across rambling scarecrows, evil teddy bears, big breasted sunflowers, boilers with brass testicles, dinosaurs who just want a friend, and a boss known only as The Great Mighty Poo. It’s completely nuts. Conker is a platformer game that breaks all the rules, and yet is still fun to play.

48. Snow Bros. (NES)

Here’s an obscure gem. Imagine Bubble Bobble but only better… and with snow. Well, that’s Snow Bros. in a nutshell. Your goal is to roll up monsters in big snowballs, then launch them away so they crash. It’s simply superior to Bubble Bobble because of the combo system. You see, you can time your snowballs so that they hit multiple enemies, this makes the game more interesting. Snow Bros. is also a blast with two players.

47. Another World (Computer)

Think Ico is the best and most unique game ever? Yeah, play Another World or Out of This World as it was known in America. It was the admitted main influence of Ico’s developer, and you can see why he picked this game to model after. Another World is the story of a guy named Lester who gets transported to “Another World” where he has to just find a way to survive, forget about finding a way back home. The game is so good because it doesn’t assault you with crazy nonsense, it’s very subdued, and uses a minimalist approach. You really feel the desolate setting when you first burst out of the water in the beginning of the game to find yourself in a completely beautiful and alien land.

46. X-COM: UFO Defense (Computer)

X-COM is a game I am terrible at. I don’t last very long in this game, but I love it to pieces anyway. If you like strategy games in any shape or form, chances are you have X-COM to thank. It’s a turn based game where you have to build up your forces and save the earth from aliens. It sounds incredibly basic, but there’s a reason why IGN said this is the best computer game of all time. X-COM is just addicting, I can’t really describe it, but there’s just so many different options you can use to fight the UFO horde that it never gets old. The best part of the game is leveling up your soldiers and becoming attached to them… which makes it all the more heart wrenching when they die in battle and don’t come back. This game would have scored much higher if I were not so bad at it.

45. Sonic CD (Sega CD)

The defining game on the criminally underrated Sega CD. Sonic CD is quite unlike its Genesis counterparts. In addition to a funky CD soundtrack and some cool “Mode 7” style 3d graphics, Sonic CD features levels that actually encourage you to explore. While you still play as Sonic, and still run as fast as you can to the goalpost, the game no longer tries to force you along. There are three time zones that will have you going to the past, present, and future. In each of these time zones, the levels are different, and you’ll want to explore each era to see how the levels change. Sonic CD does lose a few points for introducing Sonic’s annoying love interest, Amy, to the series.

44. Super Star Wars (SNES)

Super Star Wars was the first Star Wars game to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. While that may not be literally true, it was the first game based on Star Wars to really capture the excitement of the original trilogy. In Super Star Wars you fight a sarlacc pit monster, cause a brawl in Mos Eisley’s Cantina Bar, slice through stormtroopers with your lightsaber, and blow up the Imperial Death Star with your X-Wing. Super Star Wars also lets you beat up on Jawas which is cathartic… I never did trust those little guys.

43. Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (Computer)

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary is a trekkie’s dream come true. You’ll find yourself shooting photon torpedoes at Klingons in hair-raising space dogfights, to going on away missions to solve various mysteries. The game is broken up into seven different “episodes” and is actually described as a lost season of the tv show. The cherry on top of the sundae is that the entire original cast does extensive voiceover work. 25th Anniversary was created to honor Gene Roddenberry who had passed just a year before the game was made, and it’s a fitting tribute. The adventuring spirit of Star Trek is captured here, and at the end of the game, William Shatner gives a short but heartfelt speech honoring his friend.

42. Doom 2 (Computer)

Doom 2 is everything Doom was but better. Doom 2 has more enemies, bigger levels, and a devastating new weapon, the super shotgun. In case you lived under a bridge in the early to mid 90’s, Doom is a first person shooter where you shoot demons. Sounds simple enough, but it was one of the first of its kind and the gameplay, while very simple (you can’t aim up or down), is endlessly gratifying. Killing demons is just fun, and Doom 2 is the definitive way to do it. Also, the final boss, the towering Icon of Sin, will keep you awake at night.

41. Duke Nukem 3D (Computer)

My favorite old school shooter. Duke Nukem 3D is just hardcore. In a time when games were all appealing to be kid-friendly, Duke Nukem 3D just busted down the door to awesome. From witty one-liners to badass weapons, Duke had it all. The greatest part of Duke 3D is just how non-linear it is, it’s great to just explore a level and find things to play around with. Also, blowing up aliens with the rocket launcher produces an endlessly entertaining paste of red goo. The babes loved Duke, and so did we.

40. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (SNES)

The greatest beat-em-up of all time. Turtles in Time is some of the most fun you can have with two people on a Super Nintendo. Obviously, the gameplay is bare-bones and an idiot could figure it out, but that doesn’t make this game any less of a blast. The music’s rockin (Sewer Surfin, anyone?), the levels are colorful and capture the look of the show, and it never gets old beating up on Foot Soldiers. My favorite part is throwing the bad guys into the screen for a nice pseudo-3d effect. It has to be said, so I’ll just say it… TURTLE POWER!

39. Mega Man X (SNES)

How many various incarnations of Mega Man have there been? How many sequels? It’s probably like asking how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop, the world may never know. Despite the glut of games the blue bomber has been in, this is his most memorable outing. In Mega Man X, it’s been many years since the original Mega Man, and machines called Mavericks have run amuck, and it’s X’s job to stop them. Mega Man X, to be honest like many Super Nintendo games, is a simple game in concept, but flawless in execution. Your goal is to defeat the robot master in each stage, then gain his power and eventually fight the head Maverick, Sigma. It sounds like standard fare, but actually, the fun is trying to mix and match all the weapons while finding different enemies’ weak points. Mega Man X will surprise you. Also, the game’s soundtrack is sick.

38. Super Castlevania IV (SNES)

Everyone loves Symphony of the Night. Everyone. In fact, it’s very tiring to hear how much they love it. I’ve got absolutely nothing against the game, but to me, the “metroidvania” thing is not conducive to a true Castlevania. Super Castlevania IV launched shortly after the SNES, and to me it’s one of the last great traditional Castlevania games. The art is still gothic as it should be in a game like this, as opposed the anime-like style of the newer games, and the level design is linear. In my mind, what makes the game better than Symphony is just how pure it is. The monsters are classic, the levels classic, and Simon Belmont is of course, classic. It’s also the only Castlevania where you can whip in 8 directions, which is a godsend. Play it, and send Dracula back to Hell.

37. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)

Wow, this is an oddball game. Yoshi’s Island almost completely forgoes the traditional gameplay set by previous Mario games. Instead of hopping and bopping on goombas’ heads as Mario, you’re protecting baby Mario as Yoshi all the while throwing eggs everywhere in a heavily stylized world that looks like a crayon drawing. While I don’t think this is quite as good as the other Mario games, this is a welcome departure from a well-trodden formula. It’s fun eating enemies and pooping them out as eggs (yes, that happens) and you’ll enjoy the inspired levels that will have you guessing what’s next. As a tip, if you want to see Yoshi waddle around and have blurred vision like he’s wasted, make sure to touch all the Fuzzies in the level “Touch Fuzzy get Dizzy.”

36. Earthbound (SNES)

Earthbound is essentially one big parody. It satires western culture in such a way that you won’t even realize you’re being made fun of. Jokes aside, Earthbound tells a great story of an evil entity named Giygas who’s hellbent on destroying the universe. Saviors come in the unlikely of four children whose leader is a boy in a red baseball cap. Earthbound is probably the most mature game Nintendo ever developed as its humor is sophisticated (you find a suspicious yellow submarine), and its story multilayered. The only real problem is the battle system… it’s terrible. The fights are incredible one-dimensional and graphically look like utter crap. That being said, the game is truly a diamond in the rough. By the way, make sure to eat all the hamburgers you find in the trash.

35. Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)

Haven’t you always wanted to be a pirate? How about an airship pirate? Yeah, it’s even better. You’re not a bad pirate though, you only target ships marked with the insignia of the Valuan Empire, an evil nation that aspires to conquer the entire world. The gameplay is terrific, with you not only fighting on foot, but having air to air dogfights as well in your ships. You can even equip your ship with new cannons and what-not, and find different crewmates to man her. With memorable characters such as Vyse, Aika, and Drachma, this is Sega’s finest rpg and the best game on the Dreamcast.

34. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)

While the original Donkey Kong Country set out to provide classic and conventional platformer style levels (a jungle area, forest area, ice area, and underwater area) DKC2 turns this on its head. The levels in DKC2 are incredibly diverse, from a pirate ship, to a bee hive, and even an amusement park. You also get a new Kong to play as, Dixie Kong, and let me tell you, she’s sweet. She can hover in the air to give you a second chance if you’ve screwed up, which is a huge blessing. DKC2 is a great game, but in my opinion they tried to go a little too wacky in this one as compared to the original DKC, but that’s just my taste.

33. Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Chrono Trigger pushed the poor Super Nintendo to its limits. At a massive 32 megabits, it barely squeezed onto the Super Nintendo. Chrono Trigger was developed by the “Big Three” Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series, Yuji Horii, creator of the Dragon Quest series, and Akira Toriyama, creator of the Dragon Ball series. With such a star-studded list of developers, Chrono Trigger had to be good… and it was. Chrono Trigger gives off a very unique feel, partly due to its heavy anime influence, which was rare at the time of its release in the west (doesn’t Crono look like Goku?). The game also has a whopping 13 different endings, which, suffice to say, was unheard of in 1995. The battle system was also different, while it was turn based, you could combine different characters’ attacks to make bigger ones. Of course, Chrono Trigger’s biggest claim to fame is the ability to travel back in time or forward into the future, which is very cool. While Chrono Trigger is an amazing game without any flaws, it’s still not quite my favorite rpg on the old SNES.

32. Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES)

Everyone at this point already knows that Super Mario Bros. 2 was not originally in fact a Mario game at all, and was instead in Japan called Doki Doki Panic with different characters. Everyone at this point also already knows that it doesn’t matter, because Mario 2 is fun as hell. Mario 2 features numerous things not found in previous or subsequent Mario games. You don’t jump on enemies, you pick up and throw them, you also don’t fight King Koopa, you fight Wart the evil toad. Mario 2 fits into the same category for me as Yoshi’s Island, it’s a breath of fresh air to the franchise, but I wouldn’t want to keep my Mario like this. Fun fact: Mario 2 has the most magical beanstalks in any Mario game.

31. Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

Panzer Dragoon Orta is gorgeous. It’s not just the outstanding graphics, it’s the top-notch art design that make Orta a marvel to behold. You’ll fly from burning cities to flowing rivers, rendered with all the power the Xbox has to offer. At its core, Orta is a rail shooter, much like Star Fox, but unlike Star Fox Orta actually has an intricate plot of dragons and mystery and the whole game gives you a beautifully desolate feeling. It’s hard to describe how beauty and desolation mix and compliment each other, but this game does it… so play it.

30. Ms. Pac-Man (Arcade)

As a guy born in 1989, I didn’t really grow up with Atari or other video game staples from the early 80’s. However, I don’t know when it was, or even where it was, but the first time I put in a quarter at the Ms. Pac-Man arcade machine I had a blast. It’s as simple as simple gets, and the graphics are almost non-existent. Despite this, Ms. Pac-Man is a trumpet blast of fresh and addictive gameplay. You run around the screen and munch as many pellets as you can, while avoiding all the ghosts who chase after you. It’s just an adrenaline rush to scurry by a couple of ghosts who were about to corner you on your last quarter. Ms. Pac-Man is also superior to the original Pac-Man as it features faster gameplay. Get the high score and show everyone that you’re the best.

29. Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)

Ninja Gaiden is not for casual gamers. This game will chew you up and spit you out. It is also, however, the ultimate action game. If you fail and die in Ninja Gaiden, it’s your own damn fault. This is due to the plethora of options available to be a total ninja badass. You can run across walls, throw shurikens, and command multiple weapons from your trusty dragon sword to the vigorian flail. You can even use a limited number of magic attacks. The combos and attacks are truly endless and you’ll never master the game completely. Now, avenge your fallen village and strike down the evil fiend Doku!

28. Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)

The Umbrella Corporation is no more. Thanks to Leon and the other STARS members, the company has faced its just demise. However, evil still lurks. In Resident Evil 4 Leon S. Kennedy takes on a new bio-hazard threat, this time in rural Spain. To put it simply, you’re not going to know what hit you when you play this game. It’s scary and tense and will probably have you peeing your pants. The gameplay is great too, with a pixel perfect aiming system and multiple pieces of heavy artillery at your disposal. Be careful though, you’re bound to see all sorts of monsters in your stay, from the freakishly huge El Gigante to tentacles that pop out of angry villagers’ heads. Resident Evil 4 is Resident Evil redefined… and it’s a very good thing.

27. Silent Hill 2 (PS2)

As scary as Resident Evil 4 was, it can’t hold a candle to Silent Hill 2. While RE4 had you peeing you pants, SH2 will have you crapping them. The story so far is that James’ wife has passed away due to an illness, but he miraculously gets a letter in her handwriting telling him to meet her in their “special place” the town Silent Hill. Once you get to Silent Hill to find her though, things aren’t quite as you remember it, with deformed creatures running around, and an executioner wearing a pyramid mask chasing you with a giant cleaver. The only real problem with this game is the gameplay and puzzles you come across… they suck. The puzzles don’t make any sense (just wait until the juice box puzzle) and the gameplay is slow, tedious and awkward. So, why is this on the number 27 spot? It’s because of the story. The ending of this game made me cry it was so emotional. No game before or since has done that, and I suspect none ever will. Seriously, grab a tissue box.

26. Metal Slug 3 (Neo Geo)

Metal Slug 3 is Contra on steroids. Released by SNK right before they declared bankruptcy, this was meant to be the Neo Geo’s swan song. The game is clinically out of its mind, it’ll have you fighting a giant crab with a tank on its back to having your character become a zombie with vomiting up blood as your special attack. The game can be violent but it never strays outside of cartoonish boundaries. Metal Slug 3 also has wonderfully chunky and detailed 2d artwork, especially considering it was released on a system that was ten years old in 2000.
25. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (Gamecube)

For a game as cinematic as the original Metal Gear Solid, it was poorly served on its platform, the original Playstation. This is because the PS1 looks like shit, to put it bluntly, and could never hope to match the vision of MGS. Cue in the game starved gamecube, a system that had a permanent drought of quality titles, but always had the horsepower to make them. Hideo Kojima (creator of Metal Gear) and Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of just about everything Nintendo related) struck a deal and remade MGS for the system. The Twin Snakes fixes the graphical blemishes of the original, and adds in the more action paced gameplay of MGS2. Of course, the gameplay to MGS2 was about the only thing that game got right anyway, as the plot was a stinker. Anyway, you play as Solid Snake, an agent who has to go to Shadow Moses Island in Alaska to stop a nuclear incident. To be frank, the gameplay to Twin Snakes is almost incidental to the epic story. You’ll see more action-packed cutscenes than you can count. The main thing to remember when playing Twin Snakes is you’re essentially going to be watching a movie, but don’t fret, it’s a damn good movie. You’ll know you love this game as soon as you see Gray Fox chop down dudes with his sword.

24. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)

Knights of the Old Republic took the sagging Star Wars series and made a game based on it that was actually better than some of the films. The game is set 4000 years before the events of A New Hope. Of course, nobody’s wielding a club and wearing a loincloth, this is still Star Wars here, so in all honesty, you’d be hard pressed to notice 4000 years of going back to the past. Regardless, this is the pinnacle of western rpgs, even the gameplay, which is turn-based, is somehow fun and addicting. You’ll meet interesting characters from Carth, the guy who whines a lot, to HK-47, the droid who hates humans. You’ll even get the chance to customize your very own lightsaber. This game also features possibly the biggest plot twist in gaming, so be prepared.

23. Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)

What memories I have of the first Halo. I’d go to system link gatherings just for the chance to play the multiplayer. I remember crazy fights over “screen watching” and all that jazz, but mainly I remember how much satisfaction I felt when I killed one of my friends onscreen, the glee that came with the taunt “I owned you.” I really feel that split screen first person shooters are almost a lost art form, and Halo 1 was the top of its class. Of course, sticking friends with plasma grenades was fun as all hell, but the single player campaign was no slouch either. You could even play the entire thing cooperatively. The story is basically you’re Master Chief, and you crash land on an ancient artifact called Halo, where you proceed to kill all the aliens you find on it named the Covenant. You’re humanity’s last hope, or something like that… but really, just kill the aliens and have fun.

22. Halo 2 (Xbox)

Halo 2 is my favorite fps of all time. This is a case of the Doom 2 syndrome where everything that was great about the original was just made better in the sequel. Honestly, gamers may cry over sequelitis in games, but when developers make games as phenomenal as Halo 2, I could care less about the lack of original titles. The graphics push the Xbox to its limit with new Bloom lighting effects, its campaign is so varied that no level plays the same (The siege of New Mombasa is my favorite level in any fps game), and the multiplayer singlehandedly brought Xbox Live into the mainstream. You’ll even have the chance to switch playing from the stoic Master Chief to the honorable Elite Arbiter. There’s so much to say about this game, but all I really have to say is this: if you liked Halo 1 even a little bit, you will fall head over heels for Halo 2.

21. Star Fox 64 (N64)

Star Fox 64 took a mere interesting graphical showpiece, the original Star Fox on SNES, and took it to new heights. Whereas Star Fox on the SNES could only do so much graphically, being limited to a 2d machine after all, the sequel is just jam-packed with levels that take hold over the imagination with the support of the power of the N64. From Fox’s city home world, Corneria, to the hot furnace of the sun, to the watery planet Aquas, to the bleak and dying planet Venom, Star Fox 64 had level design in spades. The gameplay, as beholden as it is to rail shooter mechanics, is a blast as well. It’s just a joy to shoot down enemy ships, and when you’re in trouble you have plenty of evasive maneuvers to get you out of harm’s way such as the barrel roll. As much as I love flight sims like Wing Commander, Star Fox 64 is just more fun in a simplistic kind of way… sort of like an arcade game. As a pro tip, if you go the “hard route” in the game, you can meet Fox’s dad at the end of the battle with Andross.

20. Metroid Prime (Gamecube)

The main reason to pick up a Gamecube, Metroid Prime. In my mind, the Gamecube was an abject failure compared the glory of past Nintendo systems, but there were a few gems sprinkled here and there, and Metroid Prime was the big fish in the pond. Prime basically follows the traditional Metroid formula: explore and find new weapons and abilities to unlock new areas and defeat the evil space pirates. The new twist, of course, is the ability to do all of this in glorious 3d using a first person perspective. I don’t consider this an fps though, in an obvious sense it is, but it’s more of an adventure game than Halo. After landing on the Planet Talon IV to chase the space pirate leader Ridley (the guy that looks like a dragon) our heroine Samus begins her quest of exploring the world and figuring out what’s up. You will literally lose yourself playing this game, as the environments are huge and this game does not hold your hand at all. The only downside to this game? No Mother Brain.

19. Mario Kart 64 (N64)

Name me a single person who hasn’t enjoyed Mario Kart. Can’t do it? Thought so. Mario Kart 64 is a racer for people who can’t stand racers. It’s just fun, it takes all the minutiae of driving a real race car and boils it down to just driving as fast as you can in a go cart. Really, any Mario Kart would be well-served to be on this spot, but Mario Kart 64 holds a special place in my heart due to its varied tracks. From the humble and simple Luigi’s Raceway, to the dangerous Bowser’s Castle, to the sparkling Rainbow Road, Mario Kart 64 has not only fantastic driving controls, but great places to drive to.

18. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

While not a traditional fighter, Smash Brothers has always been about action so crazy that you almost can’t tell what’s going on. For this, some people hate it thinking that it’s entirely chance, but those people are idiots. If you’re good, you can dominate, and you can use everything in the arena to your advantage, from items, to the actual environment. I will admit that sometimes someone who was clearly going to lose will win based on luck, but this is a small quibble when you look at how outrageously fun this game truly is. Brawl is an apt name, because it’s a four person brawler, and anything goes. Brawl is simply better than its predecessors due to more levels and more characters… there’s almost literally not a Nintendo character I can think of that they didn’t add into the roster save for Issac from Golden Sun and Little Mac from Punch Out… but they are in the game as support trophies.

17. Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting (SNES)

Street Fighter 2 Turbo: Hyper Fighting Super Alpha Awesome Fun Edition… Okay, maybe some of that was made up. Street Fighter 2 Turbo was the definitive Street Fighter 2 package for home consoles back in the day. While this version doesn’t contain the four new characters (who honestly sucked except for Cammy) it features faster gameplay and a more refined control. Street Fighter 2 is classic, everybody knows these characters. From the cocky American Ken, to the evil boss of Shadaloo, M. Bison, these guys (and one gal) don’t get any more memorable. This was the first game to really pull off fighting game mechanics, and the surprising thing is how well it still holds up. Pulling off those Hadoukens and Shoryukens never gets old, and will keep you mashing those buttons well into the night with a buddy.

16. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

When Sega was gaining the lead in sales figures in 1994, it took only a single game to reverse the tide, and that game was Donkey Kong Country. DKC had, for the time, life-like graphics for a 2d machine like the Super Nintendo. People were stunned to see the game in motion, and many probably believed that Rareware had sold their souls to conjure up such a feat. Besides the graphics, the gameplay is just rock-solid. It plays sort of like a Mario title where you jump on enemies and have to reach the goal. You play as Donkey Kong along with his little nephew Diddy and your job is to get back your banana horde that was stolen by the reptile-like kremlings. The levels are classic real world settings, and the soundtrack goes beyond catchy to just beautiful (Aquatic Ambience is almost zen-like). DKC is a definite winner.

15. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (360)

If you think you know fighters, play this game. If you think you’re hot stuff UMVC3 will kick your teeth in and show you your place. Seriously, I’ve seen newbies get absolutely wrecked by someone who knows what they’re doing. UMVC3 is not forgiving. It has user friendly controls, but it’s going to take a while to get your metaphorical shit together. The gameplay to UMVC3 is lightening quick, and if you blink at the wrong time, you’re quite liable to get torched. You can use hyper combos that can go close to a hundred hits, tag team to one of your three teammates, and use super special attacks to do major damage. There’s a laundry list of moves, so much so that I couldn’t even begin to scratch the surface… but suffice to say, if you screw up, it’s due to your dumb fingers. The only thing I have a problem with is the character roster. While they have most of who I want, there are some glaring omissions. The lack of Mega Man and Venom is just ridiculous, and there’s no excuse for it, especially since Ultimate is supposed to be the definitive edition of MVC3. Ah well, almost nothing is perfect, but damn does this game reach pretty freakin close to fighting nirvana.

14. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360)

“Find him, and close shut the jaws of Oblivion.” These are the dying words of the good emperor of Tamriel, Uriel Septim. His task is a daunting one, find his rightful heir, and with his help, stop the invasion from the demonic (Daedric) realm, Oblivion. The fourth entry in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion was the first game that showcased the next generation of video game consoles and what could be done on them. The graphics are gorgeously lush in Tamriel and hellishly twisted in Oblivion. The gameplay is as open ended as it was in the previous games, but only bigger and better. There’s more to see, more to do, and more treasure to loot. You can literally start on any quest you so desire, and complete it in any given way. You can join the Thieves Guild, the Mages Guild, the Fighters Guild, or even ally yourself with the sinister Dark Brotherhood. There’s a main quest, yeah, but half of the fun in Oblivion is just seeing what you can do. Oblivion as an open world western rpg would only be topped by one other game, also made by the same developer, Bethesda.

13. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)

While New Super Mario Bros. Wii may have come out first, Donkey Kong Country Returns brought back the fun of 2d games in a way that put Nintendo’s Mario effort to shame. DKCR even manages to improve on the Donkey Kong Country formula. In the original DKC you had to alternate characters in two player mode, you couldn’t play at the same time. Here, you can play simultaneously, and unlike Mario Bros. Wii, you pass through your buddy instead of having to bump into him. The level design is also better. While DKC was very advanced for the SNES, it was still limited to a 2d machine. Here, you’ll see dynamic moving 3d backgrounds while you play, and many of the stages are multilayered. Retro Studios, the folks who designed DKCR (who also made Metroid Prime), wisely decided to get rid of the traditional Kremling enemies in place of creative Tiki Shaman bad guys in order to keep the game fresh. DKCR also features new rocket barrel segments in addition to the mine cart levels, and the game even features an entire unlockable world to explore. DKCR is the best outing for Donkey and Diddy yet.

12. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

What do you do after you’ve been everywhere else? Well, you go to space of course! This was the mindset of Nintendo after they’ve developed their plumber to scurry around everywhere else in the Mushroom Kingdom. It might be a bit lazy in concept, but in execution Super Mario Galaxy shines. While you still run around and jump on the bad guys’ heads, there’s a new wrinkle in the system. The twist is that almost everything you run around on is a mini planet, and you can go up, down, and all around to get to your goal, the power stars. Actually, what I said is a little inaccurate… because there isn’t really an up or down at all, since the mini planets are spherical and sometimes rotate, sense of direction is subjective. It’s quite frankly mind blowing to play this game. Your senses won’t be able to keep up as Mario flies through space and runs around environments that have no top or bottom. It’s a blast, and it’s proof that Nintendo is still a leading innovator in today’s gaming world. Also, bless Nintendo’s heart for making the wiimote’s only motion controls aiming and shooting mostly useless “star bits.” Motion controls are terrible and I’m glad that they seemed to realize this, if only for this one game.

11. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

As groundbreaking as the NES Zeldas were, they haven’t held up very well. Everything looks the same, and it just isn’t very fun to explore. The Super Nintendo, with its colorful new 16 bit graphics changed this. Coming out soon after the launch of the system, Link to the Past was an instant reason to pick up a SNES. Link to the Past features not one world to explore, but two, the light world and the dark world, both mirror images of themselves, so it’s interesting to see how each world affects the other. Detail is just stuffed into every square inch of this game, the dungeons are full of brain teasers, the bosses are ferocious, and the Hyrulian landscape is a 2d marvel. Besides that, Link to the Past has that classic Zelda adventure feel, and the story is retro as well with you having to defeat Ganon to save Hyrule. I will always prefer Ocarina of Time as my Zelda of choice, but you certainly can’t go wrong here.

10. Fallout 3 (360)

So, the nuclear armageddon has come and passed, but you’re living in style underground in Vault 101… that is, until something goes wrong and you’re forced to come to the surface. Once your eyes adjust to the sunlight, you realize that the world is in bad shape, really bad shape. The surface has been blasted to hell and buildings are crumbling apart on streets with bombed out craters. Worst of all, unlike the vault which had its own little purifier, the water in the world is irradiated. Your only lead to a better life is to find your father, who is a scientist researching how to clean up the world’s polluted water supply. So, with a cold wind at your back, you brave the unknown world of Fallout 3, praying that there’s a bit of hope left. So, that’s the story anyway. If you think that’s good, just wait until you actually start playing the game. Fallout 3 is everything Oblivion was, which makes sense because both games were made by Bethesda, but grittier and better. Like Oblivion, you can go anywhere you want to and complete quests in any order. Unlike Oblivion though are the gray moral choices you’ll have to make, there’s not always a perfect moral option to pick in a destroyed world like this. Also, unique to Fallout 3 is the V.A.T.S. system, in this mode you can freeze time and selectively target an enemy. To me, Fallout 3 is superior to Oblivion because of the moral dilemmas and, quite simply, I just like post-apocalyptic settings.

9. Super Mario RPG (SNES)

A Japanese rpg that’s fun? Get out. Nope, it’s true. While the battle system is turn based, you’re still quite involved in your attacks as you can press a button mid strike to amplify the damage you inflict. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it makes the level grinding much more tolerable and even, like I said, fun. That’s not all though, there are numerous mini-games that take you out of the turn based world and into the feel of a Mario game, even the overworld is structured like a platformer and you’ll still need to make precise jumps to get to places. Now, the main hold-up for many is probably preconceived thoughts as to how goofy the story must be. Thankfully, those notions are dead wrong. The story is not only witty, but heartfelt and even serious. Basically, an otherworldly entity named Smithy has come to the Mushroom Kingdom and he’s even taken over Bowser’s castle. Smithy’s goal is simple: destroy all who oppose him and rule the world. This sets in motion the most diverse characters for any Mario game, with original folks like the doll Geno and the self-described “tadpole” who looks nothing like a tadpole, Mallow. Of course, the coolest part to this game is that even Bowser joins your party. I know it may sound a bit strange to have Mario in an rpg, but I urge you to give this unorthodox game a try.

8. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)

After saving the land from the king of evil, what’s a young pointy eared Hylian to do? The answer? Side story time! Yes, Link’s outing in Majora’s Mask is not really a true sequel, but a side story. It sounds disappointing, doesn’t it? O Ye of little faith. Majora’s Mask is about how the lonely Skull Kid gets tricked into helping an evil mask called Majora, and how it eventually attacks Link and transforms him into a Deku Scrub… sucks huh? Well, after getting transformed, Link follows the corrupted Skull Kid and finds himself in a strange new world. This new world has a giant moon that is going to collapse on it in a mere three days. Luckily, Link’s trusty ocarina can revert back to the past before this happens. After finding a way back to his original form, Link must save this bizarre land by finding different masks with unique powers and finally try to confront the manipulative and evil Majora’s Mask. The gameplay here is just fantastic, with new abilities being unlocked every time you get a new mask, which makes traveling through the game’s dungeons a treat, as you constantly experiment with your newfound powers. Majora’s Mask might be a side story, but it’s one hell of a good story.

7. Super Metroid (SNES)

Sadly, there haven’t been many 2d Metroids made, but sometimes less is more. Super Metroid exemplifies this saying by packing in a heaping ton of action in a tiny little cartridge. The premise of Super Metroid is the same as the first one on the NES, defeat the Space Pirates and their leader, Mother Brain. To do this, you’ll need to explore every crevice of the game to find a new path forward, as many entrances are blocked until you acquire a new ability. What makes Super Metroid so great is the feeling that you’re entirely alone on planet Zebes, and a new enemy lurks behind every corner. It’s a massive game, and you’ll never beat this in a few sittings, so forget about blazing your way through. Super Metroid also features a surprising final fight, where a baby metroid that you previously saved comes to your rescue. It’s a very emotional moment, especially for a game that has a minimalist plot. Also, Super Metroid features the coolest self-destruct sequence in video game history, as the whole planet Zebes is crumbling and about to blow, you have to run like a bat out of hell to get to your spaceship in time.

6. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

I don’t want to sound full of my own opinions… but, how to say this… Final Fantasy VI is the greatest rpg ever made or ever will be made. Was that straightforward and in your face enough? I hope so, because FF6 deserves such a spirited defense. Everything in this game ties together in a package so elegant, that it’s a marvel to believe that such a piece of art, yes, art, could be accomplished on a little 16 bit machine like the Super Nintendo. From graphics that push the limits of the 2d form to a soundtrack crafted by the brilliant Nobuo Uematsu, FF6 has it all. What it has most, however, is story, an epic story. The plot of FF6 is that an evil empire has risen up and is using the “dread destructive force known as magic” to enslave the world. Luckily, a group of rebels have banded together to fight back. Yeah, so it’s just an evil empire again, right? Wrong. FF6 starts there but doesn’t end there. Eventually the emperor’s magician known as Kefka kills the emperor, and takes on the godly power of the three statues of the Warring Triad and becomes more dangerous than the entire empire. With this power, Kefka scatters the heroes of the game (which consists of a massive 14 playable characters) to the far corners of the globe, and proceeds to destroy the entire world… yeah, the world gets destroyed, and that’s only the halfway point in the story. Once your characters awaken in this “world of ruin” you must gather your strength and launch one last desperate attack against the evil magician in his tower. The final confrontation with Kefka is the stuff of legends. The game’s cast all speak to Kefka and tell him why he is wrong about humanity not having any hope, and why life is worth living. Predictably, Kefka being the evil bastard that he is, doesn’t listen, and the epic final battle ensues. Play this game and experience a story as grand in scope as the original Star Wars trilogy.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

Ocarina of Time is the perfect adventure game. It’s something you play when you want to feel heroic. It’s something you play when you want to hear good music. It’s something you play when you want to see a world filled with wonder. And it’s also something you play when you just want to have fun. Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 to stunned gamers everywhere. There had never been a game this immersive before. Never before did you really feel like you were on a quest. Now, with the power of 3d based consoles like the N64, this came to fruition. Ocarina of Time, despite being in three dimensions, plays like the 2d Zeldas before it. This is a very good thing. Why fix what isn’t broken? Ocarina of Time is unique though as it features the ability to go back and forward in time. Your inventory is also diverse, as you’ll use items like the hookshot that will latch you onto various objects, to the bow that will shoot a variety of magical arrows, to bombs that you can throw and blow up enemies, to the Ocarina of Time that has various enchanted songs you can play. The story plays out when Link’s still a child, but later he gets sent seven years into the future as a young adult. The whole goal is to stop the machinations of the evil desert king, Ganondorf. Ganondorf possesses part of the Triforce, the Triforce of Power. He needs the other two pieces however to gain any horrible wish he desires. Luckily, Link and Princess Zelda will go down fighting to stop him. Your task is to beat the guardian in every dungeon Ganondorf has corrupted, and to gain the abilities of the sages so you’ll have the power to banish Ganondorf to the Sacred Realm when the time comes to face him. Ocarina of Time is the definition of epic, play it, and be a hero.

4. Super Mario 64 (N64)

In 1996 gamers were entering a new world, the 3d era. No longer were you restricted by two dimensions. You could finally move in 360 degrees of complete freedom… or at least that was the idea. See, before Super Mario 64 came out, this was only a theory, never actually done in practice. Games like Bug! For the Sega Saturn and Crash Bandicoot for the PS1 proved that 3d platformers had a long way to go. Then, Mario 64 came out. As soon as you started up the game you could roam around outside Princess Peach’s garden outside her castle. Just In this little area, gamers were blown away. You could run, jump, slide, crawl, and swim anywhere your heart desired. This was true freedom of movement. Nintendo did it. They mastered 3d and they wanted the world to know about it. Even the camera, for its time, was highly fluid, as opposed to the terrible fixed cameras of games like Bug! and Crash Bandicoot. Once you get inside Peach’s castle however, it’s apparent that Bowser is up to his old tricks again, and has kidnapped the poor princess along with the castle’s life source, the power stars. To get them back and save the one you love, you have to be a bit crazy… you have to jump into the castle’s paintings. Yes, in each painting is a whole world waiting to be explored and saved from Bowser’s minions. This was an innovative idea from Nintendo. Of course, once you’re in the paintings, the standard Mario rules still apply, hop and bop on enemies’ heads and make precision jumps to get to your goal. Mario 64 is best 3d platformer ever made, and it’s the greatest game on the N64.

3. Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Ah, the first Super Mario Bros game. This game single-handedly saved the video game industry. Before Mario Bros. came out in 1985, no store would even sell video games. This is because of the Video Game Crash of 1983. You see, due to the glut of all too similar titles on the Atari 2600, people had just stopped caring about video games. To most folks, it was a worn out fad. This is understandable given the mostly awful games they were saddled with. From E.T. to the worst version of Pac-Man to ever see the light of day, people were just sick of Atari putting out crappy games. Come Nintendo. Once people saw Mario Bros. in action in 1985, all the bad blood faded away, kids and adults just wanted to play Mario and his brother Luigi in their wild adventures. Never before in a game did you actually discover secrets in a magical fantasy world, or have the screen scroll to reveal more of the level, or hear catchy music, or see colorful 8 bit graphics. Mario Bros. was a game of firsts, and it rekindled many a person’s love for video games.

2. Super Mario World (SNES)

When the Super Nintendo first launched, Nintendo was mired deep in a console war with Sega’s console, the Sega Genesis. Worryingly, Sega was quickly gaining ground as Nintendo was late to the 16 bit era. Sega even had a new game called Sonic the Hedgehog and kids were eager to play it. Luckily for Nintendo, they still had Mario, and they still had Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Mario). So, in 1991 with the launch of the Super Nintendo, Nintendo released Super Mario World, the first 16 bit Mario game. Super Mario World delivered the goods. The graphics were crisp and bright, and the gameplay expanded on the classic Mario moveset and gave Mario a new item, the feather. Most notably, however, was the addition of Mario’s dinosaur friend Yoshi, who Mario could ride on. The levels were massive too, with 96 levels (actually goal posts, so a few of the “levels” are the same) crammed in the cartridge. Super Mario World is a must own for the Super Nintendo, and is the best game on the system. Still, as flawlessly executed as this game is, it’s not my favorite Mario title.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 3 is gaming perfection. Mario 3 took what worked in the original Mario, and kicked it up a hundred notches. The control is precise, you could even land on a pin if you so desired. The graphics are great and push the humble NES to its limit, the game looks so much better than the original Mario. The music is catchy and a joy to listen to. And the levels, oh boy, the levels… The levels in Mario 3 are the most imaginative and magical you’ll ever come across. From the lush Grass Land, to the arid Desert Land, to the freezing Ice Land, to the overgrown Giant Land, to the cloudy Sky Land, to the fiery and inhospitable Dark Land where King Koopa resides with the kidnapped Princess Toadstool. You also have many different suits you can wear, all with different powers such as the Raccoon Suit, which grants Mario the ability to fly in short bursts. Mario 3 is just primal fun. It never gets old running through the whimsical levels and jumping on goombas. Nintendo waved its magic wand for this one. I could play this game until my eyes bled and I wouldn’t care. I grew up on this game, and I distinctly remember how I would dream I was Mario. I would dream I could fly and have amazing adventures. I realize now that I can’t do that in real life, but I can still live out my childhood fantasies in a video game, the greatest video game of all time, Super Mario Bros. 3.
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