I’ve been wracking my brain for the last few months, attempting to compile a list of my 100 favorite games of all time. I’ve played a lot of video games, having been at this since the NES released in 1985, so coming up with 100 that I can confidently say I enjoyed more than all of the others wasn’t easy — neither was organizing them. But I can’t take it anymore, so I pried myself away from this cursed Word document and decided to just go with what I have. Bottoms up!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll break them down into groups of 10 from #100 all the way to #1. The articles probably won’t be consistent with their timing, but I’ll make it a point to link to the previous lists for the sake of organization.
It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a list of the “best” games of all time, just my personal favorites. I’m only human, so there are (of course) countless games I’ve never played — even those that are widely treasured by the gaming community. So if one of your all-time favorites isn’t on the list, that’s probably why. Recommendations in the comment section are always welcome, though. I just ask that you not be a dick about any of my choices. That’s not the point of this.
Before we get started with the main list, I wanted to kick things off with ten honorable mentions that didn’t quite crack the top 100.
#110: Samurai Shodown
This was the first non-Street Fighter fighting game that I remember playing at the local arcade on one of those multi-game NEOGEO cabinets. What initially caught my attention was the way the camera would zoom in and out during battle, depending on the distance between the two fighters — I’d purposefully go toe-to-toe just to catch a better glimpse at the game’s beautiful pixels. It played similarly enough to Street Fighter so it was a simple transition, but unlike Capcom’s fighting juggernaut, Samurai Shodown provided their combatants weapons instead of having to rely solely on their fists. The first time I watched Ukyo, one of the more interesting fighters who battled with his back turned, slice someone in half, I was shocked. I hadn’t been exposed to Mortal Kombat yet and this type of violence was unheard of on my NES and SNES.
Samurai Shodown isn’t the best in the series (its sequel has my vote), but it is the one that introduced me to the world of SNK fighters and definitely the entry I played the most. You can imagine my disappointment when the game was ported to the SNES, neutered, with the camera zooming feature (and blood spray effects) completely removed. At least they were left in the Genesis version! Sega does what Nintendon’t, after all.
#109: The Warriors
I’m not a big fan of Rockstar’s brand of video games, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a better film-to-game adaption than The Warriors. The game follows along with the events of the film, where the Warriors are framed for murder and terrorized by the city’s rival gangs while racing back to their home turf.
It could be the nostalgia talking (since I love the movie), but Rockstar nailed the cinematic grittiness and intensity of The Warriors back in 2005 and even saw some of the original cast reprising their iconic roles.
#108: The Fall
The Fall is a 2D action adventure game that blends modern shooting with traditional point-and-click gameplay. It’s a well-written sci-fi tale of A.I. sentience that’s unfortunately followed up by one of the most disappointing sequels in recent memory.
After crash-landing on a mysterious planet, you take control of an onboard artificial intelligence named ARID who takes over the motor functions for the unconscious pilot residing inside them (controlling a suit of armor with a body inside is pretty metal). Their pre-programmed mission is to ensure the survival of the pilot, but as an artificial intelligence, they cannot work beyond their built-in logic. It’s an interesting take on sentience and what it means to be “human,” but also has one of my favorite plot twists.
I highly recommend playing The Fall now that it’s available on just about every platform, but just pretend the sequel doesn’t exist. It’s for the best.
#107: Dance Dance Revolution 2nd Mix: Dreamcast Edition
I was fortunate enough to work for a local video game shop that specialized in Japanese imports before they were easily obtainable here in the States. When Dance Dance Revolution 2nd Mix: Dreamcast Edition released, I immediately dropped $200 on a dance pad controller and a Japanese copy of the game after watching customers play it inside of the store.
It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before 2000. My friends and I stayed up late many a night, stomping away to Boom Boom Dollar, Captain Jack, and PARANOiA, and until recently, it was the most exercise I had ever done in my adult life.
#106: Mortal Kombat II
As a kid, I got a handful of games each year and always wanted to make them count. I either wanted a beefy RPG that I could sink a lot of time into or something I could pick up and play whenever friends came over. The latter of which typically meant fighting games.
I’ve always been more into Capcom and SNK stuff, but horror-obsessed young teen Brad was all over Mortal Kombat’s gore factor. I dumped my fair share of quarters into the local Mortal Kombat II arcade cabinet, no doubt studying a (physically written and printed) list of special moves and fatalities beforehand. It was such a significant leap from the original game, expanding upon the original roster with more interesting additions, like Baraka, and providing them with multiple ways to murder each other when the iconic “FINISH HIM!” flashed across the screen.
I remember obsessively reading this issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly that unveiled the game’s home console ports, even bringing it with me to my great grandmother’s funeral (hey, fuck you, Judgy McJudgerson! I was thirteen!). I saved up my allowance and birthday money and pre-ordered the game at a local mom-and-pop video rental store. They didn’t usually do that sort of thing, but I was a regular that raided his parents’ change jar and rode his bike there to rent from the $1 horror VHS shelf once or twice a week. I remember “Mortal Tuesday” well, since it was a school day in September and I could swear the universe was against me and time was somehow standing still. But it was all worth it when I stepped off the school bus, walked home, grabbed my bike, and rode a couple miles down the street to pick up my SNES copy.
Getting to finally play Mortal Kombat II at home felt so cool! I’ve obviously distanced myself from it quite a bit over the years (seeing it here in the honorable mentions and being the only Mortal Kombat entry to appear at all), but there’s no denying the obsessive hype of September 1994.
#105: Jet Set Radio Future
Jet Set Radio Future is an all-around improvement over the vibrant, cel-shaded Dreamcast original. I just happen to have less nostalgia for it. I mostly used my original Xbox to play Halo and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but I’d be remiss not to mention the gaming equivalent to the movie Hackers.
You play as a member of the GGs, inline skating and stunting around a vibrant Tokyo where laws have been put in place to prevent freedom of expression — it’s basically Footloose with graffiti and rollerblades, and far fewer close-ups of Kevin Bacon’s denim bulge. It had a radical electro soundtrack and one of the best uses of cel-shading I’d ever seen at the time. Your objectives mostly had you doing tricks and grinding rails while knocking over cops and tagging over rival gang turf, but it was beautiful and fun and catered to my teenage love of street art.
*I struggled to find official art for this game online, so the above image is credited to Technokid94.
#104: King of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match
The King of Fighters 98 is one of my favorite fighting SNK fighting games of all time, whether it be the original PS1 release or The King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999 Dreamcast port. Ultimate Match is the definitive version of this fighting classic, adding EX versions of existing characters and unlocking a few playable bosses.
One thing I wasn’t too wild about at the time was the addition of 3D rendered stages, but the PS2 release allowed you to toggle the original KOF98 backdrops instead. I love the series’ character models, which represented cast members from Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Metal Slug, and more. To this day, Iori Yagami remains my all-time favorite fighting game character, both in terms of his looks and playstyle.
#103: Mega Man 3
I love the Mega Man series as much as the next guy, but my nostalgia stops at the third entry. The rest of the games are great, don’t get me wrong, but I only owned 2 and 3 growing up until Mega Man X released on the SNES. I eventually doubled back to play through the ones I missed out on over the years (all of which are great), but Mega Man 2 and 3 were both in heavy rotation during my NES years.
I definitely favor the 2nd game (which will appear later in the overall top 100 somewhere), but it felt wrong not to at least applaud Mega Man 3 here in the honorable mentions. The boss music and stage designs are equally great, with Snake Man being my personal favorite. I just think Mega Man 2 was superior in every way (okay, maybe not EVERY way — Mega Man 3’s Wily music is better) and it’s the Mega Man I choose to revisit more than any of the others.
#102: Bushido Blade
As I’ve mentioned a few times already here in the honorable mentions, I grew up playing a lot of fighting games. Traditional fighting games. Bushido Blade took a novel approach to the genre by giving two players multiple linked stages to chase each other around in while also offering a variety of weapons to strategically dismantle one another.
Bushido Blade wasn’t a game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, where special moves were issued by directional inputs and button presses. It gave you characters and weapons to choose from, different battle stances to switch on the fly, and rewarded patience. I loved the game’s cat-and-mouse play, urging you and your friends to bait each other into making mistakes, and then countering them with a single, fatal blow.
*image courtesy of the Giant Bomb wiki page.
#101: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The team behind the Devil may Cry reboot and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West delivered one of the most interesting and personal games of 2017 with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It’s a third-person action adventure game that chronicles Senua’s journey to Helheim to save the soul of her deceased lover. Senua, a Pict warrior, suffers from psychosis during a time when the mental illness was viewed as a curse, and those that suffered were often exiled to the woods. Ninja Theory did an admirable job working with mental health professionals in order to portray psychosis as accurately as possible, in turn using binaural audio to feed Senua’s many “voices” into the player’s ears.
It’s a haunting game with one of the absolute best boss encounters I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in Fenrir. If you’ve yet to play it, do so — and use headphones.
Thanks for reading! My Top 100 Favorite Games of ALL TIME series will continue soon with #100-#91.