This list took me an unreasonable amount of time to put together, and was incredibly difficult. I have played so many games, and so many have impressed me for different reasons. To make myself feel better I have included a long list of honorable mentions. Godspeed getting through this! In no particular order:
10. Mystic Quest
This game is technically part of the Final Fantasy universe, which amazes me now as an adult. Mystic Quest is a simple, fundamental RPG. You explore 4 different Element based worlds, defeating 4 bosses and retrieving an elemental crystal from them in hopes of fulfilling the Knights Prophecy. This game provided my first solid memory of a “true” boss fight. The final boss fight took me about 45 minutes; I had to use potions liberally and timely, I had to divide certain tasks between myself and the second player under my control, and my palms were sweaty and my tiny child brain was fried by the end of it all. It was truly the greatest. While this RPG may seem Juvenile in comparison to other great SNES RPGS of it’s time ( Secret of Mana, Earthbound ) it hit the spot for me.
Favorite Part: Meeting Phoebe and exploring with her.
Least Favorite: The last boss fight and his “mirror” attack. Just – stop! STOP. FUCKING STOPPPPPP.
9. Jet Grind Radio
I worked a shitty summer job one summer vacation during High School, and most the money went to video games and anime. No shame. I bought a Dreamcast, and with it I bought Jet Grind Radio. I’ll admit I bought it because of the flashy cover and obscure game premise – but I am glad i did. The game-play is unique, combining skating physics and exploration, and the ability to perform dancing/spray painting combos. What a genius idea. It just works. The controls were easy to grasp almost immediately while guided by an array of eclectic music by DJ Professor K, the DJ for the radio station that all the “Rudies” listen to. Another fantastic feature was being able to create your own personal graffiti. My friends and I got really creative and…uh, juvenile with that feature. With expansive skating environments and the music being the heartbeat of the game, the replay value of this game alive and well for me.
Favorite Part: Hitching rides by grabbing onto cars
Least Favorite: Not enough levels for my liking.
8. Little Big Planet
If you can dream it, you can ultimately create it in the world of Little Big Planet. This imaginative platform may be short on the campaign side of things, but the million of user created online levels more than makes up for that. Collecting stickers, props and costumes becomes an integral part of the adventure. Playing this game co-op is never NOT hilarious. The more people you play with, the more chaotic. I tend to panic and grab onto the nearest Sackboy and drag them down with me. I’ve played this game for an embarrassing amount of hours, and picking up another player and throwing them is still just as funny as when I did it the first time. While living in The Tester loft, we had a 4 player Little Big Planet game going – and I am pretty sure we were all laughing so hard that we were crying.
Favorite Part: Playing with a friend(s)
Least Favorite: Needs more collectables! MORE CLOTHES.
7. Infamous 2
I tend to like “sandbox” style games for the freedom and ease of game-play, and Infamous 2 is my favorite one. It also doesn’t hurt that Cole is a handsome bike messenger – that is my bias speaking as a fellow cyclist. I remember watching the opening scene for the first time and trying to figure out what bike it was that Cole was riding. He also has several bike related tattoos, and as a bike nerd that appeals to me. I enjoyed the modern day setting of this game, and the idea that some people contain a “conduit” gene within them. The story of this game different and impressive, and I found myself enjoying and caring about every single mission. I have played this game both as a “good guy” and a “bad guy” – and what is remarkable to me is I didn’t enjoy one more than the other, as they both bring a lot of difference and excitement to the game. I knew I was going to love this game immediately when it throws you right into the excitement immediately by starting you off with a “boss” fight. With the addition of user made missions and the ability to upgrade and acquire new powers, this game has me wanting to ride a Tandem bicycle with Cole himself.
Favorite Part: Throwing cars at everything/everyone
Least Favorite: The boss fight with the Hive lord in the swamp. Ouch.
This game is so impressive to me I almost don’t know what to say about it. It’s truly one of those titles that you need to experience to fully understand. I feel this way about Journey, as well. It’s a puzzle platformer with stunning art and music, a thought provoking story with difficult but fulfilling game-play aspect. You can control various aspects of time throughout different relating levels. While frustrating, I have never wanted to understand and play a game so fully. The various time-manipulations in the game along side the romantic yet dark story, and the twist at the end….uhg. Just play this title. Please. Whatever you do. You can download it for both Playstation and Xbox – even PC! Do yourself the favor. If you hate it, just go back in time and pretend it never happened.
Favorite Part: Putting the puzzle pieces of the story together.
Least Favorite: The headaches I got while trying to figure some of the puzzles out. 6 bottles of Advil later…
5. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
I know the “fan favorite” of the franchise tends to be Ocarina of Time – but Wind Wakers sincerity and cel-shading won me over hard and fast. As much as I love Ocarina of Time, it was a true battle of nostalgia and over-all experience. Wind Waker won because it was so much different than what everyone was expecting, yet still stayed close to the true Legend of Zelda formula. I valued the simplistic whimsy of the cel-shading and the sense of wonder sailing around the map gave me. Link and Tetra, who is later revealed to be Zelda, have a fun relationship throughout the game. The last fight with Ganon is hands-down my favorite of any Zelda game in the franchise, ending my adventure on a fantastic note – no pun intended.
Favorite Part: Discovering and exploring the Tower of the Gods.
Least Favorite: Tingle. You are the Jar-Jar Binks of the Zelda universe.
4. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
I had this game on both Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. My little brother (co-op partner) and I would play this game for hours, until our parents had to literally pry the controllers out of our hands, or shove a hot pocket in our mouth to prevent starvation. We would go into full on gamer tunnel vision with this shit. You could play this game 1player, but it wasn’t nearly as fun. Working as a team to save cheerleaders, tourists and even dogs from a plethora of B-movie horror stereotypes was way more fun than it should of been. Armed with comical weapons such as squirt guns, and cans of soda – the sheer campy-ness of this game was damn near perfect. With over 50 levels to survive, becoming more and more challenging – the replay value on this game is probably one of the best in my opinion. Every level was so different and unique in it’s difficulty, making it hard to get bored. I loved this game so wholeheartedly, the only time I’d take a break from it, was to try and recreate its iconic music in Mario Paint!
Favorite Part: Drinking potions and Hulking out.
Least Favorite: The “Giant Baby” level. Oh god. Just let me get through this level..
3. Metal Gear Solid
Oh, Solid Snake. How I love thee. I could write Shakespearean sonnets about how much I love this game and the entire series. My dad picked this game up for me while on his way home from work one day, after I had showed him a review in a issue of EGM. I immediately took it to my room and got down to it. Holy motherfuckin’ shit. What the fuck. Within the first 5 minutes I was enthralled. Fantastic music, engaging intro and controls that made sense. The excitement I felt when the Genome Soldiers could notice and track my foot-prints was incredible. Never in my life was I so excited to spend so much time in a game, waiting, hiding, sneaking, planning – This game was engrossing right from the beginning. Collecting weapons became a thrill. Putting the story together piece-by-piece was all I could think about in my Junior High classes. The characters were all dynamic, that you even found yourself sympathizing with them. I’d listen to the OST on my CD player on my way to school, planning my course of action for when I returned home and back to the game. After relentlessly trying to save Meryl, to my confrontation with Liquid – no game has ever had a hold on me like Metal Gear Solid did. I love all the others in the series, and hope that Kojima never relinquishes creative input into the series. I wear my FoxHound patch proudly.
Favorite Part: The fight with Revolver Ocelot. He’s awesome.
Least Favorite: Mashing that O button to save Meryl.
2. Final Fantasy 9
One of my favorite RPGs and easily my favorite Final Fantasy. As a person who is primarily driven by story and experience within games, this delivered and exceeded my expectations. With a colorful and moving cast of characters set in a sprawling and whimsical fantasy Utopia, the essence of this game is self discovery and innocence. I have played this game in full multiple times and at different ages. It touched me and taught me something different every play through. This is rare for a game to touch me so continually. From the unique character story arcs, to the battle system, to the music – this RPG is near perfection to me. In fact, it truly is perfection. I can listen to the Final Fantasy IX OST and it immediately takes me back to all those familiar places that were to me, more like home than the house I was playing the game in.
Favorite Part: When Garnet reinvents herself by cutting her hair, and embracing uncertainty and adventure.
Least Favorite: The uncooperative “Trance” system could of been a little better.
I have so many feelings towards this game that if I could marry it – I probably would. Despite it being a short, downloadable title for PS3, it contains more emotion and delivers a much more fulfilling experience than a lot of titles I’ve played. The heart of this game lies within the anonymity of the online play. Through your Journey, you come across other players. You can not communicate directly with them, but you can “chirp” to them, displaying your unique symbol. Some players may not be interested in going through the game with you, while others will depend on you, and sometimes lose their way. You can tell new players by their robes, the more you play, the more elaborate the pattern on your robe will become. You can even achieve a white robe. You can help new players with their Journey by holding their hands, so to speak. Every Journey is different. I met a player at the very start of the game, we chirped to show appreciation and concern and eventually completed the entire Journey together. Before walking through the final light, we stopped and stood next to each other for a minute. My partner then drew a large heart in the sand with their feet, by running the pattern around me. I have never been so mentally and emotionally stimulated by a game experience. This game truly is all about the Journey, and not the destination.
Favorite Part: Guiding new players to glowing glyphs and helping them grow their scarf.
Least Favorite: Acknowledging that a player you were helping has lost their way.
Silent Hill 1, 2 and 3
Resident Evil 2
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy Tactics
World of Warcraft
Skies of Arcadia
Mass Effect 2
God of War 2
Marvel vs Capcom