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.
Let’s dive in!
#100: Friday the 13th (NES)
Often the subject of many “worst games of all time” conversations, I happen to have a ton of nostalgia for this oddball take on the classic horror film series. Why is Jason purple and blue? Why is his mother’s head floating around inside of a cave? Who cares.
You get to pick between six different camp counselors with varying speeds and jump heights, and when one dies you can switch to one of the others. Most of the game is spent on the 2D plane, navigating Camp Crystal Lake and the surrounding areas, collecting weapons, and saving the children from Bad Grape Jason. There’s even a really bad take on Punch-out if you happen to encounter Jason inside of cabins.
Sure, the game kinda sucks, but it’s super charming and has great music. It’s still a game I pick up and play at least once a year.
#99: Lost Odyssey
One of the Xbox 360’s light dusting of RPGs, Lost Odyssey is a fantastic turn-based romp that takes place amidst a magic-industrial revolution. You play as Kaim, an immortal warrior slowly regaining his lost memories — many of which are super depressing.
I had a great time with this multi-disc adventure, despite some frequent pacing issues. The writing was at its best during the text-heavy memory segments and combat was always enjoyable, but what elevated the experience was Nobuo Uematsu’s superb soundtrack. Lost Odyssey is about what you’d expect from Hironobu Sakaguchi, Nobuo Uematsu, and the creative team behind The Legend of Dragoon, Phantom Dust, and Shadow Hearts, and easily stands atop its Xbox 360 RPG brethren.
#98: Pocket Fighter
So what if Capcom just reused the same chibi character models from Puzzle Fighter and threw them into a half-baked fighting game — Pocket Fighter was awesome! Featuring a dozen characters from the Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth universes, Pocket Fighter was an adorably dumbed-down experience whose fun was mostly fueled by its fanservice. Somehow it worked.
My friends and I mainly used it as a palate cleanser between bouts of Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Tekken 3, and sometimes that’s just good enough.
#97: Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
The sequel to the vampiric Zelda-like, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, follows one of the original game’s two possible endings 1,500 years later and places us in control of new hero Raziel; Kain’s vampire lieutenant, whom he promptly executes. Raziel is then resurrected as a Wraith and an instrument of revenge on behalf of the Elder Gods. Blood Omen was a top-down RPG, but Soul Reaver’s new hero got a drastic overhaul in a new 3D, platform-heavy adventure. Raziel can jump, glide, and impale enemies with objects in the environment, and the overall gameplay certainly felt more refined than its predecessor.
I have more nostalgia for Blood Omen since it was one of the first games I obsessively played on my hot new PlayStation back in the day, but man, Soul Reaver was about as perfect a sequel as I could have asked for.
Serving as Harmonix’s major debut in 2001, Frequency was a rhythm game that felt heavily rooted in the arcade classic Tempest. Here you scale the walls of an 8-sided tunnel with each section containing a piece of the chosen track, broken down into categories like drums, synth, bass, and vocals. As you match the button prompts of one track, you can immediately jump to another, with the goal of rebuilding a song piece by piece.
Featuring songs by No Doubt, The Crystal Method, Fear Factory, and Powerman 5000, Frequency had a little something for everybody. It was the game that introduced me to one of my current favorite bands, Freezepop, with the track “Science Genius Girl.” I actually have my copy of Frequency displayed here on my office desk, autographed by all three members.
Nier is a game that I anticipated ranking higher here on my top 100 favorite games list, but while I adored the story and its wonderful music, I didn’t have the best time actually playing it. Combat is passable and kind of got in the way at times, but Nier is a prime example of a strong “6 out of 10” game whose strong points far outweighed any of its shortcomings. This truly is one of the best games most people never played.
It’s an action RPG full of hope and heartbreak, with the titular Nier in search of a cure for his daughter’s terminal illness — the Black Sprawl. Along with the talking book Weiss, the foul-mouthed Kaine, and the cursed, masked Emil, Nier battles menacing Shades with interesting narrative beats around every turn. It’s worth noting that it has one of the absolute worst fishing mini-games in history, but hey, you can’t win ’em all!
Microids’ 2002 steampunk fantasy point-and-click adventure follows American lawyer Kate Walker as she arrives in a remote French village to oversee the takeover of a renowned toy factory on behalf of her firm. Unfortunately, Kate arrives in the middle of the former owner’s funeral and the factory has just been inherited by the newly deceased’s mentally disabled brother. It’s an incredible tale that spans parts of Europe and Russia while also giving players a glimpse into Kate’s personal struggles back in the States. I also have a crapton of nostalgia for late-90s pre-rendered backdrops.
When I reviewed the game last year, I called it “…one of the best point-and-click adventure games I’ve ever played — maybe even the best.” I still stand by that statement.
#93: Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology
This time-traveling 2010 JRPG always kept me guessing and the recent Perfect Chronology re-release gave me an excuse to pick up my 3DS in 2018. Featuring the developmental chops of (some of) Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei team, Radiant Historia will have you learning from your mistakes, traveling through time, and manipulating the fate of the world. The fantasy steampunk setting is great, the strategy grid/turn-based hybrid combat system was admirable (though admittedly affected the pacing), and the story’s twists and turns always dangled the perfect carrot for just “one more hour” when I could barely keep my eyes open.
#92: Darkstalkers 3
The final true sequel in the horror-themed Darkstalkers fighting series released back in 1998 and remains one of my most-played fighters on the original PlayStation. I still think Darkstalkers 3 has some of Capcom’s best character sprites and animations, from cat girls and succubi to werewolves and guitar-shredding skeleton bros. It is, in my opinion, the most criminally overlooked Capcom fighter of all time — having been buried under the likes of King of Fighters 98 (the best entry in the series), Street Fighter Alpha 3, Marvel vs. Capcom, Guilty Gear, Bushido Blade 2, Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers, and Tekken 3.
1998 certainly was a great year for fighting game fans like myself, but oversaturation didn’t do Capcom any favors and Darkstalkers 3 failed to meet sales expectations.
#91: Until Dawn
Early footage of Until Dawn was concerning, but the finished product was one of 2015’s biggest surprises. Heavily influenced by campy horror films from the 80s and 90s, like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and April Fool’s Day, Until Dawn is a modern take on the tried and true point-and-click adventure. Set one year after the unfortunate death of a close friend, a group of dopey college kids agrees to return to their usual stomping grounds in rural western Canada to resume their annual winter get-together. Shit eventually hits the fan, though, when a masked psychopath shows up, looking to pick them off one at a time.
Until Dawn has a wonderfully, appropriately, and professionally acted ensemble cast, shifting control between them at regular intervals. Dialogue replies, quick-time event failures, and other choices can have dire consequences, often leading to character deaths at the hands of someone (or something). It’s consistently intense and unpredictable, and I also had a blast digging deeper into the area’s local legends via found documentation. There are so many different ways things can go south, making Until Dawn as much fun to play as it is to watch others experience, just to see how differently their decisions play out.
Thanks for reading! My Top 100 Favorite Games of ALL TIME series will continue soon with #90-#81.
Current lists available: