Ask me what my favorite games are, and I’ll give you a different answer each time. The top few spaces will remain consistent, but depending on my mood and what games I happen to remember, I’ll probably reply with a varying list toward the bottom.
Have I been playing a lot of fighters lately? If so, Street Fighter Alpha 3 would definitely appear on the list. If I’m not in the mood for fighting games though, I’ll probably forget it exists and have one of those “oh shit!” moments a few hours later. It happens.
What I’m getting at is that inquiring about a person’s 10 favorite games of all time is a lot like asking what they want to eat today. I love buffalo wings, but sometimes I want pho. Steak always sounds amazing, especially a rare steak with a cold bottle of New Castle Brown Ale on the side, but at that exact moment I could be craving sushi instead. Make sense?
I bring this up today since I’ve been asked to appear on the next CA! Radio podcast, where we’ll be discussing Chuck Zodl’s time with his fancy new PSVR headset, as well as our thoughts on the Nintendo Switch reveal. The last time I was on, Chuck gave me a “homework assignment.”
The task: think of my 10 favorite games of all time and talk about them the next time I’m on the podcast. That’d be tomorrow. So here goes.
As of today, October 26th, 2016, my 10 favorite games of all time, in reverse order, are the following.
10. Xenogears (PSone)
The original PlayStation had a lot of impactful, special games during its lifespan, particularly in its revival of the RPG genre. Games like Wild Arms, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Breath of Fire III, Chrono Cross, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Suikoden I & II, Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX, and Legend of Dragoon kept me awake well beyond a reasonable hour.
It was tough narrowing down which RPGs to include on my list, but I’m confident in saying Xenogears is one of my absolute favorites. Squaresoft’s futuristic tale inspired by religion, philosophy, and dissociative identity disorder suffers from uneven pacing at times, but its central theme of man coexisting with machine was unlike anything I’d experienced at the time.
I really loved Xenogears‘ unique take on turn-based combat, as well as its transition between classic sprites and 3D models when switching between the different characters and their hulking mechs (called gears).
But hey, rather than going in-depth about what makes the game so great, I’ll just say it’s fantastic, you should play it, everyone should play it, and it’s available on PS3 and Vita as a PSone Classic.
Side-note: Contending with Xenogears for my #10 spot was BioShock, Mega Man 2, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Final Fantasy VIII, Dragon Age: Origins, SOMA, Undertale, Axiom Verge, Dark Souls, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It was a tough decision and this spot could change with any one of these games on any given day of the week.
9. Silent Hill 2 (PS2/Xbox)
It’s no secret that I love horror games. Love them. The first four Resident Evil titles, the Fatal Frame series, Clock Tower, man, I love them so, so much. Yet sadly, the only true horror game to crack my top 10 is Konami’s Silent Hill 2.
The original Silent Hill holds a special place in my heart, being the first video game to truly scare the crap out of me. There was just something about the muted color palette, the unsettling camera angles, and the iconic fog that elicited fear of the unknown. It was a master class in environmental storytelling but also covered some pretty gnarly subject matter within its narrative.
Silent Hill 2 somehow improved on every aspect of the original, with more manageable combat, more unsettling environments, the introduction of the murderously iconic Pyramid Head, and one of the most shocking reveals in gaming history.
8. Mass Effect 2 (PS3/360)
I love the original Mass Effect for what it is, but I wasn’t a fan of the clunky Mako, the needless amount of junk acquired, or how much the game favored two classes more than the others. Mass Effect 2 may have done away with some of the more RPG elements of the original, but I definitely appreciated its more unified armor system, distinguished class play, and the new cast of characters.
As a whole, Mass Effect 2 just feels better in terms of its combat and story, whereas the third game plays slightly better while fumbling a bit in its finale.
As long as I’m alive, I’ll never forget taking the crew along for the final “suicide mission,” losing Mordin Solus forever. I was so depressed knowing that my decision would carry over into Mass Effect 3 that I replayed the entire game again in order to make better decisions. Everyone was going to live, dammit!
Side-note: As an example of the ever-changing nature of my list, this spot was originally taken by Dragon Age: Origins, which, while being slightly tied with Dragon Age: Inquisition, was outvoted by Mass Effect 2 once I remembered it existed. Woops.
7. Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
Persona 4 was already an amazing RPG on the PS2, with its stellar writing and lovable cast of characters. Yet it didn’t get much fanfare until its eventual Golden update on the Vita.
Persona 4 Golden isn’t just a simple port, or even a basic update of the PS2 version, instead adding all sorts of delicious content, like skill cards, new social events, more control over fusions, new persona, a new dungeon, and more.
It’s easily my favorite game on the Vita, packing in nearly 100 hours of content and allowing me to play one of the best RPGs of all time wherever and whenever I please. If you own a Vita, you need Persona 4 Golden. Don’t own a Vita? It’s time to change that.
6. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is often regarded as not only the greatest Castlevania of all time, but also one of the greatest games of all time. And with good reason.
The beautiful sprite work, the labyrinthine environments, the hunt for loot, the soundtrack, the boss encounters, the campy dialogue, it’s all so good!
But the best part? Upon beating the game, the castle itself turns upside down, completely redesigns its rooms, adds all new bosses and enemies, and essentially becomes an immediate sequel. Your reward for beating the game is a BRAND NEW GAME. How fucking cool is that?
5. Final Fantasy Tactics
I made a rule when devising my list that I’d only represent one game within a series, rather than fill it with mostly Final Fantasy and Silent Hill games. The original PlayStation era of Final Fantasy is perhaps most synonymous with Cloud’s LEGO body-meets-whatever the hell is going on with his hair, and when it comes down to which Final Fantasy is everyone’s favorite, the answer is usually a mix of IV, VI, and VII, (my favorite numbered entry is VIII, by the way) but I’ve yet to play one of them more than I have Final Fantasy Tactics.
This was the first game I’d ever maxed out the timer on, having obsessively grinded out XP until I had every job class unlocked, every subclass I wanted each character to benefit from, recruited Cloud and Worker 8, and bought all of the different spells and abilities. I couldn’t get enough.
There was just something about meticulously crafting the perfect group — having an Archer with the Knight sub-class so they could break every piece of armor on an enemy before they could even get within melee distance was so, so rad. But there’s also the tragic tale of best friends torn apart by war and their social status, painting a depressing picture that always felt truly hopeless.
In the realm of SRPGs, the best (in my opinion) are Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, but I’ll always choose Final Fantasy first. Shout out to Vandal Hearts, though. Man, what a game that was.
4. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Although I grew up in the NES generation, Chrono Trigger is the game that introduced me to more story-driven games. I love Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest now that I’m an adult, but I wasn’t even aware of their existence on the NES until much later on.
It’s the game that introduced me to engaging narratives, actual endings, colorful characters with their own backstories, turn-based combat, and the beautiful music of Nobuo Uematsu. It also happens to be one of the rare RPGs I’ve played through multiple times.
There’s really nothing I can say about Chrono Trigger that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times before, but like many other great SNES RPGs, like Lufia, Breath of Fire, Earthbound, and Final Fantasy IV & VI, it holds up incredibly well and should be required playing for anyone interested in dipping their feet into the genre for the very first time.
3. World of Warcraft (PC)
I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with WoW since its pre-expansion years (affectionately referred to by fans as the “vanilla” era), but there’s not a single game on the planet that I’ve put as many hours in to. It doesn’t even come close.
I’ve been everything from a lowly noob to a guild leader, leading 25-man raids in end-game content, to being antisocial and opting for randomized matchmaking instead. I’ve played on multiple servers, made and lost a lot of friendships, and became more emotionally attached to the world of Azeroth than the one outside of my own window. The game has also gotten me through some rough times, acting as comfort food whenever I just needed an escape.
Hell, I even met my girlfriend in a random WoW dungeon while healing on my Resto Shaman, and we’ve been together since 2010!
World of Warcraft is a game that I’ve quit on multiple occasions, swearing never to return. It’s tough to fathom paying a subscription fee in this day and age, but I always seem to crawl back whenever my girlfriend and our mutual WoW friends want to jump back in for more crazy adventures.
When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s still far from boring. I’m pretty sure I’ve invested thousands and thousands of hours over the years, so it just feels right giving World of Warcraft such a high spot on my list. Shout out to my fellow Warlocks, Shadow Priests, and Moonkin!
2. Metroid (NES)
I rarely, if ever, know which game I prefer on any given day: Metroid or The Legend of Zelda? I always joke around, saying that I’ve never really been able to choose one over the other, so much so that I actually have a tattoo of a Zelda triforce being drained by a little alien Metroid.
Even writing this, I’m having a hard time coming to terms with putting Metroid in the #2 slot.
I loved getting lost while exploring the labyrinthine planet, filled with strange creatures and memorable music. I remember scribbling notes and drawing maps, writing down the wrong passwords and having to start over. And I’ll never forget spending an entire summer sitting in my parents’ recliner with my old friend Paul, glued to our awful wooden floor-model television until we could barely keep our eyes open.
While Super Mario Bros. may have introduced me to video games as a 5-year old brat, I owe my lifelong obsession to both The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. This series has a lot of special games that I hold in high regard, particularly Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion, and while those arguably provide superior experiences, it’s the original NES version that’ll always remain my favorite.
But I think, deep down, I love The Legend of Zelda just a little bit more.
1. The Legend of Zelda (NES)
Like Metroid, The Legend of Zelda series is full of amazing titles that could easily end up on any other “best of” list. Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, Majora’s Mask, all of them are fantastic and I still find myself revisiting them to this day. However, since I can only choose one for the purpose of this list, I’ll always go for the NES classic that captured my imagination unlike any other.
I was introduced to the game by my babysitter, who was a housewife that obsessively played it while her husband worked. She’d beat it, then beat the master quest, then beat it all over again ad nauseam. I was so enthralled that a game could be this open, this alive and breathing. It got to the point where I’d fake sick just so I could stay home from school and watch her play, then go home and hum the overworld theme in my bed until I fell asleep.
I begged my parents for The Legend of Zelda, and on Easter morning the year after its release, I woke up to find that beautiful golden box in place of the usual candy basket. Why they chose to give me a video game for Easter, I’ll never know. But they’ll never know or understand how important this moment was and how it’d impact the rest of my life. And neither will my old babysitter, for that matter.
Over the last 36 years of my life, I’ve played a lot of video games. A lot. And narrowing it down to 10 of my favorites was a challenging task.
I began jotting down a list of games I loved, adjusting their order as they came to me. There were plenty of games I thought would easily crack the list, like Axiom Verge, ICO, Undertale, Resident Evil 4, Fatal Frame 2, Dragon Age: Origins, BioShock, SOMA, Skyrim, Dragon’s Dogma, and WWF No Mercy, but as I reconsidered where everything landed in numerical order, things just didn’t turn out that way.
But here we are. My top 10 favorite games of all time. It’s done. Well, it’s done… for now. As I said, ask me this question again and I’ll probably give you a slightly different answer.
What about you folks? What are your 10 favorites? Feel free to share your list down in the comments, or drop a link to a similar post you’ve done in the past. I’d love to see what makes you tick as a gamer.