My Top 10 Video Games of All Time

Retro NES add

Recently IGN have been running a series of great articles in which different editors list out their personal favorite games of all time. As a proud gamer who’s been playing since the original NES (I don’t like to brag, but I am a “Duck Hunt” legend. Kneel before me!), I thought I’d get in on this and write up my top ten favorite games of all time. Now, I’m not necessarily contesting that these ten are the greatest games ever made (even though they are), and while I’ve played MANY incredible games over the years, these are the games that have most impacted my gaming life.

Alright nerds, let’s jump in…

10. MEGA MAN 2 – NES

Mega Man 2

This was the first game I ever rented from the late, great Blockbuster Video and my first experience with the Blue Bomber. From the start, Mega Man 2 was radically different in that it let you choose which level you wanted to start on, and then you could play the other levels in any order you liked. That was revolutionary! Additionally, the level design ruled! Each robot master (“Wood Man” was my favorite, BTW), had a level designed around their characteristics, so even though the purpose was the same in each (fight your way to the fortress, fight the evil robot, rinse and repeat), it never felt stale. Finally, I’m fond of Megan Man 2 because it was my first “rage quit” in gaming. After defeating all eight of the robot masters and finally making it to the evil Dr. Wily’s fortress,  you’re forced to fight all eight bosses AGAIN! As a kid I never caught on that each robot is particularly weak to the weapon of one of the others, which is why I failed and my controller ended up embedded in the wall.

9. Mortal Kombat 2 – SNES

Mortal Kombat 2

These days I don’t particularly love fighting games, but growing up in the Street Fighter 2 era, they were my jam! While it was a close “fight” between this and SF 2 (get it? Because they’re both fighting ga…never mind…), MK 2 earned its place on my list. The original Mortal Kombat was popular due to the controversy around its violence and fatalities, yet it wasn’t that great of a game. But they pulled out all the stops for part two and delivered a game that devoured many hours of my junior high life. I saved up allowance FOREVER to buy this game. It was a big day when I finally got to walk into Circuit City (RIP) with a brown lunch bag full of money, plop it down on a counter and point to MK 2.

MK 2 was everything a sequel should be – bigger, better mechanics, and a fresh experience. The roster grew with fighters that were unique in both look and play style (but I only ever played as Scorpion because he’s the best). Story wise, I was hooked by the “Empire Strikes Back” turn compared to the first one, in that our heroes are one step away from being crushed by the emperor Shao Khan and the forces of Outworld. I also loved how MK 2 hid numerous secrets and easter eggs, which in a pre-internet era made solving these riddles quite the adventure. And yes, they had stepped it up with the fatalities as well. They were inventive, gory and in some cases, frustratingly hard to pull off. I bought the strategy guide that contained each character’s move list and studied that thing religiously! All in all, a great game and my favorite fighter ever.

8. Super Mario Bros. 2 – NES

Super_Mario_Bros_2

I was pretty young when this game came out, yet I remember it being my first memory of a game’s release being an event! You couldn’t escape the promotions declaring that a new Mario adventure was coming out. I loved the original Super Mario Bros and like any kid with an NES, I played the crap out of that game. What was so cool about part 2 though was how different it was from the original and how it all worked to provide a seriously entertaining game.

For the first time, you could choose one of four characters to play as including Princess Peach, and each had a slightly different ability (Luigi was always my go to). Gone were the Goombas and turtles, replaced with those weird mask wearing little guys and a giant frog king instead of Bowser as the “big bad.” Also gone were the power up mushrooms and stars. Instead, you could now pull items from the ground such as turnips. That’s right, your weapon of choice in this game was a stinkin’ turnip!  The level design was different as well, going vertical in most cases, meaning you had to climb up to finish many levels. And this was the first time on the NES that I noticed an improvement in graphics from one game to the next.

I’ve come to read articles since about how this was originally meant to be released as a different game entirely and the Mario characters were inserted in at the last minute (which probably explains the “it was all a dream” ending), but regardless of how we got it, I love that SMB 2 took a risk in being radically different. And in my humble (yet correct) opinion, it paid off.

7. WWF NO MERCY – N64

WWF No Mercy

As a huge wrestling fan growing up, I had often imagined being in the ring myself and winning the WWF championship. This is the game that let me live out that childhood dream because of its “create a character” feature. Sure, many wrestling games since have given you that option and while they’ve been entertaining, none have made me smile quite like No Mercy did during the countless hours I put into this game. It was pretty cool to see a blocky, polygon version of myself staring down a 1990s Rock. I smelled what he was cooking…then hit him with a steel chair!

And I didn’t just create myself in this game. I made all my friends! No Mercy basically let me create my own personalized WWF with everyone I knew and I lOVED that! It was so much fun giving friends a hook for a hand, tutus, and unnecessary scars as their wrestling attire. I loved working out the entrance music and moves for each character. In fact, creating the characters was much more fun to me than the actual game play (which was fun too)! Oh, and not only did I live out my dream of being the WWF champion, but my guy soon found himself the wielder of every championship belt this game had to offer. Like many games from the N64, if you look it up today No Mercy’s graphics do not hold up at all, but I’d play it again in a heart beat!

6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – N64

Ocarina of time

This game absolutely blew my mind! As a huge fan of “A Link to the Past,” I eagerly anticipated Link’s first foray into the 3D world. I excitedly went to Target with a pocket full of birthday money, got my copy of Ocarina and then proceeded to cut off the outside world for a number of months as I got sucked into this game. Ocarina was huge and I loved exploring Hyrule while riding on a horse (you are a majestic beast Epona). This was one of the first games where I didn’t rush to get to the main quest because I enjoyed exploring my surroundings. True to form for Zelda, the dungeon crawling was incredible. The different temples were enormous, each with a different look, feel, and puzzles. And they were tough! Some more so than others – I’m not the only one who rage quit that stupid water temple right? Plus, the time travel mechanic with the Master Sword, which allowed you to play as both young and older Link was awesome! Bottom line, this game was EPIC.

This may sound odd, but something I loved about this game was the instruction manual. The first half read like a historical excavation recounting the history of the different Zeldas and Links. I had never thought of the different games/Links being separate heroes and it blew the mythology wide open for me. Any entry in the Zelda series had always been a game I looked forward to, but this was the one that made me a life long raving fan.

5. GEARS OF WAR 2 – XBOX 360

Gears 2

I really enjoyed the original. I mean, how can you NOT enjoy a game where your primary weapon is a gun WITH a giant chainsaw? The single player story hooked me in; I liked the premise and the characters. Additionally, the online multiplayer was fun, however since I was late to the Gears party there wasn’t much of an online community left to play with. Still, I was excited for another installment. Gears 2 was bigger, badder, and I absolutely loved it! The first game was all about a small group of soldier’s survival. The second expanded to be all out warfare to prevent human extinction at the hands of the Locust. The universe got much bigger, the screen was maxing out the amount of enemies it could throw at you, and bosses got bigger and creepier. At one point you get swallowed by a giant sea snake thing and have to fight your way out from the inside. That’s dumb action movie awesome!

While I did enjoy the single player, what puts Gears 2 on this list is the online component. I’m not a Call of Duty guy. I like Halo well enough, but I’m not over the top in love with it. Gears 2 is the game where I fell in love with online multiplayer. I had a squad of three other friends and there was a calendar year where we played together almost every night. Gears had your standard collection of game modes such as: deathmatch, capture the flag, last man standing, etc. And while these modes provided a lot of entertainment, one thing that set Gears 2 apart from everything else at the time was “Horde Mode.” Four players would try to survive thirty waves of enemies that got annoyingly harder to kill the farther you made it. Many games have copied that model since, but few have come close to how incredibly fun it was in Gears. One of the friends in my squad bought us all actual COG Tags off of Amazon, and I wear mine proudly to this day.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game – NES

TMNT 2

For a long time this was my favorite game to play at my local arcade. I pumped a ton of quarters into that cursed machine in hopes of finally defeating Shredder – and I did eventually accomplished that. I know I know, I’m awesome.

I was very excited when this was released on the NES (especially since the first “Turtles” games was rather lame), but for whatever reason my video store never had it in stock. Finally, late one Friday night my father surprised me by bringing it home and I lost my mind! It was the first time I had an “arcade experience” in my very own living room. Sure, the graphics were a lesser quality but I didn’t care! There it was – the actual arcade game in my living room. The burning building, the mousers in the sewers, the surfing level, Krang and the Technodrome…it was all there! You picked your favorite turtle (Donatello all the way) and fought your way through the game just like you would in an actual arcade. And without having to feed it more quarters when you died. It doesn’t get much better than that!

3. GoldenEye – N64

Goldeneye

Two summers. I spent two entire summers playing this game with my friends. Sure, we ate and used the bathroom every so often, but the bulk of those summers were spent playing the License to Kill mode and banning anyone from being Oddjob because he was too short to be chopped by an unarmed player. GoldenEye was my first “Killer App,” , meaning a game you buy a system for. I had many incredible experiences with my N64, but I bought it so I could play GoldenEye. There had been many games before that you played with your friends, but GoldenEye was the foundation of what became the First Person Shooter/Competitive Multiplayer experience. Remember, GoldenEye came out in the Stone Age, before consoles had online capabilities. Yet every shooter since then has pretty much modeled itself after GoldenEye’s multiplayer.

Back then, playing “online” meant cramming all your friends (and a few strangers) into a living room or bedroom and passing the controllers to your right controllers when you lost. I know that GoldenEye had a single player and I’m fairly sure I played it, but I can’t really tell you anything about it because my experience and love for this game is all from the multiplayer experience. GoldenEye comes from a gaming era long gone now, but without it we wouldn’t have the FPS landscape we have today. Thank you Pierce Brosnan!

2. Bioshock – Xbox 360

bioshock-360

If you have never played this game, please stop reading this post IMMEDIATELY, proceed to you local store and buy this game. You’re welcome nerds! This was the first game I bought for my 360. It had just been released and I knew nothing about it other than it was getting rave reviews. I popped it in and within the first ten minutes I knew Bioshock was going to be one of my favorite games of all time. It wasn’t because of the game play (which is great, BTW), but I ADORE Bioshock because of its story. Bioshock takes place in an alternate 1960 where an Ayn Rand acolyte named Andrew Ryan has done the impossible – built an underwater city named Rapture where “no gods or kings, only man” is the creed. As Jack, the silent protagonist, you find yourself in Rapture piecing together the mysteries and tragedies the city hides, as well as trying to discover what has caused Ryan’s utopia to spiral into decay.

Bioshock excels at environment. Rapture is the main character and exploring the city is simultaneously awe inspiring and creepy beyond belief. Rapture is a beautiful 1950s art deco vision of a technologically advanced future where human empowerment and eugenics is the law of the land, but comes with a terrible price. The citizens you meet have been driven insane by the gene-altering drug known as “Adam” and giant behemoths clad in undersea diver suits called “Big Daddys” roam the streets protecting wraith like “Little Sisters” who collect “Adam” from the blood of the corpses that litter the street. Not exactly a “sunshine and rainbows” experience, but it was great, none the less. Bioshock was a game I didn’t want to see end, mainly because I didn’t want to say goodbye to Rapture. I took my time exploring every nook and cranny because there was a story hidden in even the smallest corners.

Finally, I love this game because of Andrew Ryan. He communicates with you throughout the game via radio and is one of the most fleshed out and nuanced characters I’ve ever experienced in any game. You learn about the passions and ideals that drove him to build Rapture and as the game progresses, Ryan becomes one of the few villains that causes you to wonder, “what if he’s actually right about all this?” The story takes numerous unexpected twists and turns and had me audibly exclaiming “holy crap” multiple times. My wife doesn’t like video games in the least, but she was sucked in by Ryan and his city and enjoyed watching me play Bioshock. In short, it’s a gaming masterpiece!

1. Final Fantasy 3 – SNES

FF3

I have a deep love for the older Final Fantasy series. Many of those FF games are my favorite gaming experiences of all time. For this list however, I didn’t want a single series to dominate, so I decided to select just one. Initially, I expected FF 7 to take my top spot. It’s a legendary game that has hardly any equals in my eyes (and I’m currently replaying it on my Vita) Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as incredible as 7 is, I wouldn’t be into the Final Fantasy series at all, or role playing games in general if it wasn’t for Final Fantasy 3. It was a game changer for me in so many ways and I wouldn’t have enjoyed 7 (or 10, or 12) in the way that I did without it. I had never played an RPG before (this was before Zelda and Chrono Trigger for me) and didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. FF 3 wasn’t simply a game, it was an immersive experience.

Never before had I played a game with so many characters, each with a distinct personality and move set. In fact, this was the first time I played a game where I could miss recruiting certain characters entirely if I didn’t actively search for them. Again, in a pre-internet world, secrets such as these were a welcome challenge! Never before had I experienced an open world game. I remember my first time on the world map. I knew what city I was supposed to travel to, but I remember thinking, “Wait…I can go anywhere if I want to? Cool!” Never before had I experienced the “game over fake out.” You hit a point in FF 3 where you’re sure you’ve just completed the game, only for the game to go, “psych” and have everything fall apart, thus opening up an entire second half that’s even cooler than the first. Never before had I fallen in love with a game’s music. SNES music was done on simple “midi” players, yet what they got out of it for FF 3 was spectacular and still one of my favorite gaming soundtracks ever. The opera house sequence and the final battle against Kefka being two of my favorite tracks. Never before had I experienced a game that made the experience personal. FF 3 offered a very simply mechanic that isn’t around anymore in most modern games due to voice acting – you could rename each of the hero characters. Meaning, I was a character in the game. My friends were characters in the game. That made me emotionally invested in how the story progressed. That simple name change made the defeats harder and the celebrations sweeter.

And finally, I had been gaming for years before FF 3, but the game’s ending was the first time I experienced an ending that was both moving and “worth it” compared to all the time I had put in. Including the last boss fight, FF 3’s ending is almost half an hour and gives you an epilogue for each character. Check it out for yourself, it’s pretty epic:

There you have it, my top ten games of all time. Now I want to hear from you – what are your favorite games of all time? Upset that I left NintenDOGS off the list? SOUND OFF in the comments below!

This has been a NERD ALERT!

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12 thoughts on “My Top 10 Video Games of All Time

  1. Maybe it’s sentimentality, because it’s the first video game I ever played, but the SNES Star Fox was one of the best games ever, I think!

    Also, Sonic is a notable omission. Any Sega title, for that matter!

    Mario 64 was another important early 3D game! Super Smash Bros. might deserve a nod, too.

    That being said, TMNT was my go to arcade game whenever I got the chance! Glad it made the cut 🙂

    Like

    • Hey Ryan! What’s interesting to me about the Sega thing is that I grew up as a Sega kid. I LOVED my Genesis and played everything from Altered Beast, to Sonic to my personal favorite – Mutant League Football. Yet in reflecting on my favorite games of all time, nothing from Sega jumped out to me AT ALL. I found it weird at first too, but then in thinking about what did make the cut, I personally don’t feel anything Sega released was to the level of the games I did choose. But again, that was just my experience.

      I feel the same way about Star Fox. I really enjoyed my time with the SNES game (it was a big day when I figured out how to get to that black hole), but for me (again, just my personal opinion), I don’t ever find myself clamoring for another Star Fox experience. Now if they did a crazy awesome Next Gen Star Fox experience, then I think I’d change my attitude towards it.

      Thanks for interacting in the comments!

      Like

  2. Final Fantasy 6 made me emotionally invested in the game, more than any other game has. FF7 though…

    I also love the RE and SH saga (resident evil and silent hill), The Legend of Zelda and the second call of duty (the newest starting from the one after the 4th game are crap).

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    • Hey Luis! Believe me…the choice between FF 6 and 7 was VERY difficult. But I completely understand the tension you’re feeling in choosing one or the other. I felt “all the feels” with Aerith, so again, this was a tough choice for me. 😀

      I agree with you in regards to Resident Evil. I’ve enjoyed those games and I’m in the minority that has still enjoyed them even after they’ve become more of a summer action movie than a survival horror game. Given how the 6th one “underperformed,” I’m interested to see where Capcom decided to take the series for next gen.

      Thanks for interacting!

      Like

  3. If you loved Bioshock I, then if you have not played Infinite you are missing out. I never thought I could love a “love”. It might replace your Bioshock I choice

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    • Hey Zac! I’m with you – LOVED LOVED LOVED Infinite. Really enjoyed exploring Columbia and especially Booker and Elizabeth. Yet, there was something truly special about Rapture and Andrew Ryan for me, and that’s why the original is on the list. Infinite is a favorite of mine though.

      Thanks for interacting in the comments!

      Like

  4. Great list Dre. For me I prefer SF over MK and Super Mario 3 over 2. Your list is spot on though especially your top 3. I recently started replaying FF3 on my tablet via emulator. ❤ Sabin and his SF moves. Bioshock is flawless, and I remember many nights in the garage 4 way dancing goldeneye & smackdown. No love for Star Wars knights of the old republic? That game blew my mind. Great read bud!

    Ps- chronotrigger

    Like

    • Hey Chris! Ready for a gaming confession? I’ve never played “Knights of the Old Republic.” Can we still be friends? 😀 I’ve heard great things, but I didn’t have an original XBOX (I know it’s on iPads, but I can’t stand playing a full blown game on a touch screen).

      Dude…ChronoTrigger is amazing!

      Like

      • It’s all good my friend nobody’s perfect. 😉 I feel you on the tablet/touch screen rpg experience (going through that now with the new shadowrun) I would recommend playing it and steam is the best way to do that now (you can get it for under 10 bucks not including special weekend promo). I can’t stress the story and customization that Bioware RPGs afford. I could lump Mass effect into those as they are essentially the same type of game, but anything Star Wars is > all. Gonna read your star wars 7 article next. Oh and I forgot Portal Portal Portal Portal Portal Portal Portal Portal Portal.

        PS- PORTAL!!!!!

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  5. I’ll line up and promote your genius for Ocarina, but only if I can whine about Navi. Anytime my wife wants to annoy me, or get me off my butt to go do something, she starts chanting a “Hey! Listen” in a squeeky voice over and over until she gets what she’s after.

    As much as I want to argue with you over FFIII vs VII, I kind of feel like the love for VII has grown greater the more time has passed. I think I’m still so in love with VII because they’ve continued to invest in VII in little (and some big) ways since. I mean, Advent Children?! Yeah, more eye-candy than you can shake a remote at. Come watch it on bluray on a 65″ flatscreen with 7.1 and even though nothing makes any sense (unless you’re a Yoshinori Kitase/Nobuo Uematsu fanboy) – it’s still captivating. If you love the original, it transports you like nothing else. If they had invested in III like that, I think that I’d be just as nerdnuts about it.

    Fun post.

    Like

    • I really liked Advent Children and the FFVII set of characters are ones I’d like to have more adventures with (much more so than the characters from 13 that seem to be getting all the sequels), but I would rather have PLAYED Advent Children rather than watch it.

      Although because III (and still to an extent, VII) hasn’t had any further investment since the game, that also means they haven’t been able to add anything that sucks to the mythology and I am thankful for that.

      Thanks for interacting in the comments!

      Like

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