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 (found at the bottom).
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!
#80 – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
When Final Fantasy XII launched on the PS2 back in 2006, it was everything I didn’t want in a game from my favorite RPG series. While I loved Final Fantasy X’s traditional turn-based combat and introduction to voice-overs (which is admittedly bad by modern standards), I felt burned by XI’s shift to the MMO space. Here was a series I’d loved for years that moved away from the single-player, story-driven model to a subscription-based MMO that my garbage PC couldn’t run. And then Final Fantasy XII ended up feeling like a single-player MMO.
I was an angry, young twenty-something who was very set in his ways.
Last year we received an HD remaster of Final Fantasy XII called The Zodiac Age, which streamlined a lot of the uninteresting (to me) license board stuff in favor of a more traditional class-based growth system. This, in addition to being more open-minded in my thirties, resulted in a complete change of heart. I ended up loving Final Fantasy XII the 2nd time around, appreciating its ensemble cast, world design, and combat far more than I did in 2006. The story certainly has its complications and lulls, but man, what a game.
#79 – Metal Gear Solid
I remember playing the demo for Metal Gear Solid and being blown away by its stealthy action and cinematic storytelling. When it released in September of 1998, it was the game that made me go out and buy Sony’s new Dual Analog controller so I could experience it properly. I’m not sure how well it’s aged, but I have plenty of fond memories playing and replaying the game over the years following its release — Psycho Mantis detecting my Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Suikoden saves on my memory card, finally discovering the codec literally on the back of the game case, and all of the game’s now-iconic boss battles were all stand-out moments.
My interest in the series waned during its fourth entry, mainly since I was late to the PS3 party as a 360 guy, but I still hold the first three games in high regard.
#78 – Left 4 Dead
There’s not a multiplayer game on the Xbox 360 that I played more than Left 4 Dead. It’s a four-player co-op shooter where teamwork is paramount as you mow down hordes of zombies and other monsters while making your way to the next safe house. It’s gory and fast-paced, and few things proved to be as terrifying as a formerly-crying Witch now running a train on your teammates.
One of the more interesting aspects of Left 4 Dead was how it incorporated PVP into an otherwise PVE game, by letting other players control the special monsters that spawned within your levels. Using the Boomer to spite bile and attract large swarms of zombies to a group of players, or wrangling in a straggler with the Smoker’s long tongue added another layer of enjoyment to an already incredible multiplayer experience.
#77 – Excitebike
Excitebike is a game that isn’t very remarkable by today’s standards, but it was one of the few cartridges I owned for the NES growing up. Needless to say, I spent countless hours creating tracks and racing against the A.I. opponents after a long school day.
#76 – Soul Calibur
Perhaps the most impressive game in the Sega Dreamcast’s launch lineup was the 3D fighter Soul Calibur, and it played as good as it looked. It had a great roster of characters and proved to be the perfect game whenever I had friends over. I had a pretty mean Astaroth!
My favorite Soul Calibur memory actually occurred during the midnight launch of the PlayStation 2, where a friend and I camped out at a local Wal-mart with 100 other people (in the freezing ass cold) for 11 hours. We were 3rd and 4th in line and the folks next to us brought a small TV and a Dreamcast to help pass the time. How did we manage to play in the parking lot, you ask? By illegally unplugging Wal-Mart’s Coke machine. We ended up playing tons of Soul Calibur and UFC, and one of the guys even had pizza delivered to the line. Definitely one of my favorite gaming memories.
#75 – Seaman
I never had a Tamagotchi growing up, but I did have Seaman for the Sega Dreamcast. This virtual pet sim tasked you with maintaining an aquatic tank and caring for a bunch of little tadpole creatures that eventually murdered a mollusk before eating one another and growing human faces. It ran on the Dreamcast’s internal clock, so every day I’d turn on my console, clean the tank, adjust the water temperature, and feed my little dudes. Some would talk to you, asking questions that you could answer using a microphone that plugged into the VMU slot on the controller. It was… weird. But awesome.
Tragedy struck at the end of my playthrough, though. I was down to my last two creatures when the game asked me to drop in a cricket for one of them. Said Seaman would survive and the other was supposed to starve to death. However, both of them ignored the tasty cricket and died shortly after. I was left with nothing. My mom still teases me about my outburst.
#74 – Axiom Verge
I’m currently burnt out on the metroidvania genre, but Axiom Verge is certainly one of my favorites to release since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It was my 2nd favorite game the year it released, narrowly being edged out by Undertale.
Axiom Verge is, as I mentioned, a metroidvania that wears its inspiration on its sleeve. You explore an alien world, collect new weapons, power-ups, and abilities, all while battling giant bosses and being serenaded by a phenomenal soundtrack. The most impressive aspect, though, is the fact that the game was entirely created by one person: Tom Happ. It’s the best Metroid since Super Metroid and readily available on all major platforms, so if you haven’t gotten around to it yet then I highly recommend doing so.
#73 – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
What was initially pitched as a Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei cross-over didn’t quite nail that feel, but it definitely turned out to be one of the finest JRPGs I’ve played in a while. It has the style of a Persona game while also being heavily steeped in Japanese idol culture. You and your team enter dungeons that appear throughout the city and take part in a wonderful turn-based battle system that focuses on swapping characters and exploiting enemy weaknesses in order to chain attacks together.
I really wanted the game to delve more into the Fire Emblem connection since they were relegated to Persona-style character devices. Regardless, it’s a lighthearted affair that I thoroughly enjoyed and one that most folks no doubt missed out on because it was stranded on the Wii U. Here’s hoping it makes its way to Switch at some point because it really deserves more attention.
#72 – Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Simon’s Quest doesn’t hold up very well, but it was such a far departure from the original game that it intrigued me for years after its released. I was really into the weird, unique sequels, like Simon’s Quest and Super Mario Bros. 2 for that reason alone. Instead of linear stage-based levels, Simon’s Quest dropped the player in the middle of an open world with towns, caves, castles, and monsters. There was even a day and night cycle with their own unique NPCs and monsters, which proved to be quite challenging (in addition to some poor translation issues).
I’ll admit that Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was the best of the original trilogy, but I have a lot more nostalgia for Simon’s Quest. A friend and I spent a lot of time making maps, collecting Dracula’s body parts, and finally making our way to the big bad evil’s lair. What an underwhelming final encounter, though.
#71 – Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia is a fantastic turn-based JRPG that initially released on the Sega Dreamcast and was eventually made better on the Nintendo Gamecube. The story is rad and cute, and the cast equally so. I haven’t played it in quite some time, but I still hold it in high regard when it comes to the pantheon of JRPG releases. Hopefully Sega brings it back at some point, be it a sequel or HD release.
Thanks for reading! My Top 100 Favorite Games of ALL TIME series will continue soon with #70-#61.
Current lists available: