Top 100 Games of All-Time: #13

Day of the Tentacle

Release Date: June 25, 1993

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #12 (-1)

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What It Is:

The sequel to Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle is another point-and-click adventure that follows the adventures of Bernard (from the first game), Laverne, and Hoagie (two new characters) as they attempt to save the world from a super intelligent Purple Tentacle. Unlike Maniac Mansion, which had multiple characters that could change how any given playthrough was solved, Day of the Tentacle is a more straightforward adventure – well, as straightforward as three people trapped in three different time periods using a Port-a-John to flush each other puzzle solutions can be.

It’s filled with irreverent humor, stupid puns, and bad jokes, but the overall game is the best point-and-click adventure of the LucasArts golden age. From finding a way to get George Washington to chop down a lemon tree, to dressing a mummy so it’ll win a beauty contest, to figuring out how to get fake barf off the ceiling (and more importantly what you’d even need that for later), the puzzles in this game make you think really hard about what you have at your disposal while never really getting to the “oh, well I GUESS that makes sense as an interaction” territory that some of the more complicated point-and-click adventures have.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Point-and-click adventures were my favorite genre of game growing up. Sam and Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle, The Dig, and Day of the Tentacle were pretty much the main games I played on my PC. The later revitalization of the genre missed the mark, either making the puzzles too complex or not complex enough. But Day of the Tentacle hit a particular sweet spot. All the main characters are engaging: I can still exactly hear Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie’s voices in my head as they tell me what I can and can’t do with items. And all the supporting characters are fantastic too: from Green and Purple Tentacle to Weird Ed Edison to Benjamin Franklin, each character is funny and a blast to interact with.

This is by far my favorite of the entire genre. It has callbacks to Maniac Mansion (the poor hamster) as well as standing enough on its own that it’s worthwhile to play – I’d never played the original game before I played this for the first time, and yet it was instantly a favorite. I played this through enough times that when the Remastered version came out I was able to Platinum it fairly easily without a guide. It’s one of those games that will always be ingrained in my memory as a classic of the medium, even if the genre itself has warped and changed in the nearly 30 years since it released.

My Strongest Memory:

At some point in the game as Bernard, you find Nurse Edna sitting in a rolling chair in the security room. You can push the chair, but she grabs onto a statue and keeps herself from being flung completely out of the room. Now the solution to this puzzle isn’t super hard, but as a kid, for some reason the solution evaded me for a long while as I played the game. I can still remember the glee I got when Edna finally went spinning out of the room and crashing down the stairs after I solved it.

As Bernard says: “You know what they say: if you want to save the world, you have to push a few old ladies down the stairs.”

There’s also the rivalry between Bernard and Oozo the Clown, the absolute rockin’ banger that Green Tentacle plays in his room (and you can hear throughout the entire house as Bernard), and just…Laverne in her entirety. This game was endlessly quotable by my friends and I definitely give it credit for shaping a chunk of my sense of humor at an early age.

Why It’s #13:

It’s a classic. It will always be a classic. I sadly don’t dip into the genre itself as much anymore due to losing my patience for complicated puzzles – as a kid when you only have a limited supply of games it’s either solve the puzzle or do homework. Day of the Tentacle comes as naturally to me now to the point that it’s like redoing a crossword that’s already filled in. But I love it all the same and it will always rank high in my heart.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #14

Final Fantasy VII

Release Date: September 7, 1997

Platform Played On: PS1

2018 Placement: #30 (+16)

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What It Is:

Final Fantasy VII was what some might consider the flagship title of the original Sony Playstation. Final Fantasy, a popular series that had carried the Super Nintendo, moving to Sony was a big deal at the time. Not only that, but the 3D graphics and FMV sequences of FF7 were mindblowing at the time. It really showed off what three CDs could do compared to a cartridge.

A basic JRPG at heart, Final Fantasy 7 puts you in the driver’s seat of Cloud, an ex-SOLDIER who joins up with Avalanche to commit some eco-terrorism in protest of capitalism. It’s a much more prescient story intro several decades later, but eventually the story’s scope moves from fighting the man to saving the world from a giant meteor. You collect materia to make your characters stronger and it ends up being one of the best systems Square Enix ever made in a Final Fantasy game for leveling. Also, there’s this guy named Sephiroth, but I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, he’s a pretty niche villain.

Why It’s Important To Me:

This was a formative game to my young mind: the first ever novel series I started creating at the ripe age of 12 basically had Cloud and Sephiroth expies as the protagonist and villain. Even when the story got confusing as all hell, the fact remained that this game left an impression on me. The jump to 3D graphics and Square’s use of FMVs just made my imagination run wild as I played through this game. I’d always wanted to be a novelist, ever since I won a writing competition at age 5, but Final Fantasy 7 was the first game to inspire me enough that a full-fledged novel series sprouted from my head like Athena after Zeus went on a bender.

And, of course, the music was yet another piece of the puzzle. From Still More Fighting to Crazy Motorcycle, from Jenova’s theme to the often replayed One-Winged Angel, every track of this game was rockin’. I even taught myself how to play the City of the Ancients’ theme on the piano by ear because that theme kept itself embedded in my brain long after I’d finished the game.

My Strongest Memory:

Up until Final Fantasy 7’s release, I was a Nintendo kid. In the Nintendo vs. Sega fan wars, I was always a die-hard defender of the Nintendo. Sega was the villain. When Sony came into the picture I held fast to my beliefs and hated them with as much vitriol as I could muster because Nintendo would always be the one true gaming company.

And then I went to my neighbor’s house and played through the introduction sequence in Sector 7 in Final Fantasy 7. I can still remember sitting cross-legged in the game room they had just finished adding to the house, completely enraptured by what I was playing. I didn’t want to leave or stop playing because it was so awesome.

I immediately started saving my money so I could buy a Playstation and play the entire thing. I was so enamored with the graphics, the music, the characters, everything. I’d gotten a paper route earlier just to buy a Nintendo 64, and now I was going to funnel that cash into a second system because I needed to play this RPG to its finish. And I’m glad I did because it was absolutely worth it.

Why It’s #14:

I undervalued Final Fantasy 7 the last time I made a list, but Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s release made me realize just how important FF7 is to me and my personal history with gaming. This game made me fall in love with gaming all over again and is probably what propelled me into gaming being a permanent hobby in my life. I think last time I tried to put it lower because it’s such an obvious choice and is well regarded by the entire community, so I wanted to be a little more unique and downplay my love of it. But it’s a classic for a reason. This is a damn good game.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #15

Undertale

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #26 (+11)

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What It Is:

If you’ve been on the internet yet under a rock for the past seven years, I guess I can explain Undertale to you. Created by Toby Fox, Undertale is an RPG that subverts and upends the genre completely. You play as a child that wakes up in a world of monsters, and how you choose to interact with the world plays a big part in how the game ends.

The mechanics of battle are straightforward: you can fight monsters and kill them, or you can use actions to find ways to show them mercy and befriend them/let them live. You’re placed in bullet hell-esque scenarios and each monster has a few unique ways of attacking you. Your job is to move your heart around and dodge the attacks.

But the heart of the game (heh) isn’t just in the mechanics: it’s in the characters, the music, the humor, the setting. It took the internet by storm upon release and is in the running for one of the most successful indie games of all time. Characters like Sans, Undyne, and more have entered the gaming world’s lexicon for better or for worse due to how popular the characters and game have become.

Why It’s Important To Me:

It’s rare that a game makes me cry. I’m not trying to be tough or anything, but as a whole the gaming medium doesn’t often hit my emotional center the way TV, movies, or books do.

That being said, Undertale can make me tear up just thinking about it, and I definitely teared up and full on cried at multiple points during the game.

Just listening to Battle Against A True Hero will make me tear up if it comes up on a playlist. I get shivers and full on emotional thinking about the context of the battle it plays during. Undertale (the song) is another tearjerker, as a very important (and sad) plot point is revealed while it plays and the music Toby Fox crafted to go along with the scene is note perfect. The melancholy I feel listening to it makes it so it can’t just be on a playlist. Asgore’s theme is another emotional one, again due to the circumstances of the battle. No other game manages to hit my emotions the way Undertale did: it combines the power of music with the power of story and characters in a way that few other games manage.

Also I’m not gonna forget Megalovania. Of course I have to mention it: it’s not as emotional to me, but it’s still a banger of a tune.

My Strongest Memory:

Can I say the whole game?

I’m trying to be as vague as possible in this write-up because I think Undertale is one of those games that you have to experience yourself. Knowing what’s going on before you go into it will probably lessen the emotional impact. But the entire game is just one big fond memory for me. Drifting off with Napstablook, the snail race (Thundersnail!!!), Lesser Dog (and Greater Dog!), every single piece of this game is worth remembering.

Why It’s #15:

Undertale is a triumphant achievement, not just because of its amazing story and music, but because it was done by basically one guy. He had a few people help with art and other things, but this is an indie-ass indie game. And it’s probably one of the most popular games of the last ten years. It goes to show that great games can come from anywhere and any person, as long as they have the heart.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #16

Bloodborne

Release Date: March 24, 2015

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #15 (-1)

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What It Is:

A brief detour from the Souls series, Bloodborne is a PS4 exclusive that Miyazaki was working on while another From Software team did Dark Souls 2. It takes the Souls formula and puts a different spin on it: instead of dark fantasy, you are deposited in a Victorian-esque world where beasts run amok, only for it to pivot to cosmic horror about halfway through the game.

Instead of magic and swords and shields ruling the day, you are given a gun and a trick weapon. Each trick weapon has two different setups that you can switch between at any time, even in the middle of combos. From the Threaded Cane (a cane that turns into a bladed whip) to Ludwig’s Holy Blade (a longsword that is sheathed in a greatsword) to the Blade of Mercy (a short sword that can be split into dual blades), the trick weapons offer a bevy of styles for how you want to approach the hunt. And the gun isn’t used for damage: instead Bloodborne builds off a unique parry mechanic where firing your gun at the right time will open up the enemy to a counterattack for massive damage.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I’ve never been a huge fantasy fan. I’ve always leaned more towards the sci-fi genre and outside of a few particular series (Wheel of Time being the main one) I’ve always generally not been interested in high fantasy. When I do dabble, it tends to be dark fantasy like Dark Souls or a mix of fantasy and sci-fi ideas (like Final Fantasy). Bloodborne’s Victorian gothic setting that transcends into eldritch weirdness is a backdrop that we rarely get in AAA games and it just oozes style that hasn’t been replicated yet for me.

The trick weapons are my favorite Soulslike iteration on weaponry, and while not all of them are useful their designs are fantastic and I love how smoothly they transition and how well they work within the world built by Miyazaki. The gun-parry mechanic is the only time I’ve ever really gotten parrying down (sorry Sekiro) and its uniqueness makes it stand out to me as fun and engaging in a way a simple shield or sword does not. And the bosses in this game have some of the best designs of any From software game. The simple yet otherworldly look of Rom, the terrifying Lovecraftian design of Ebrietas, and the hauntingly sad transformation of Father Gasciogne from man into beast: all of it is just top-tier visual design that is backed by the best gameplay From has to offer.

My Strongest Memory:

When the Old Hunters DLC came out, my character was on New Game+. I didn’t want to start a new character just to play through to get to the DLC, so I powered through to the point where I could access it and went from there. It was slightly harder than intended for a first run (New Game+ will do that) but I managed it – all the way to the last boss of the DLC, Orphan of Kos.

And there I was stuck.

I had to leave and come back to it, and because summoning isn’t as reliable in Bloodborne as it is in other Souls games, I ended up having to take on Orphan of Kos solo. It took me many, many hours. Cumulatively it’s probably the most time I’ve spent on any singular boss in any game. But by God I DID IT. I memorized his moves and I beat that sorry ass orphan one-on-one. To this day, the relief I felt when I got the final blow has been unmatched. I shouted. I jumped. I shared it with anyone who would listen. But I beat that fucker without any help on NG+ difficulty and while that may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, I will wear that victory with pride because of how much time and effort I put into learning that battle.

Why It’s #16:

As I said in #17, Bloodborne and Persona 5 are locked in an infinite battle: my deep love of traditional JRPGs versus my newfound love of the Souls ARPG format. Bloodborne is the peak of the genre for me (yes, even with Elden Ring entering the fray) and, like Persona 5, is at the top of its class when I consider “modern” gaming (i.e. games I’ve played within the last decade that aren’t also tinged by nostalgia as a kid). The setting, the lore, the weapons, even the shitty-ass Arcane spells. I love all of it, and it will always have a place among my favorites.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #17

Persona 5

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #16 (-1)

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What It Is:

The fifth entry in the SMT spinoff series, Persona 5 is a slice-of-life game combined with RPG action and the relentless march of oppressive adults ruining the world for the younger generation. You play as Joker, a silent protagonist who moves to a suburb of Tokyo and stays with a guardian for a year, being punished for a crime he committed in his actual hometown. Along the way he makes friends with a bunch of other high schoolers, investigates the hearts of evil adults and makes them repent their ways, and blackmails his teacher into becoming his maid.

Er, wait…uh, moving on.

Persona 5 is the high point of the franchise: it removes the randomized dungeon crawling in favor of specially crafted dungeons with a heist theme. The day-to-day gameplay has you managing your calendar as you want to increase your Social Links to both unlock more story and improve the stats of your character. You can hang out with friends, eat burgers, study, and do all sorts of different things in-between saving the world from the nasty adults. No other RPG really balances the social life and RPG dungeon battle gameplay the way the Persona series does, and Persona 5 nails all those aspects out of the park.

Why It’s Important To Me:

You play an RPG for nearly 100 hours and you really get to know and love the characters involved. By the time I wrapped up Persona 5’s ending I felt sad that this was the end of my journey with this particular group of students. Each character: Ryuji, Ann, Morgana, Makoto, and more, all of them fit together so nicely and the way the characters play off of each other is fantastic and ends up being one of the best RPG casts in the history of gaming. And the fact that Persona 5 ditches the random dungeons and incomplete control of your party just makes the actual dungeon gameplay part of the game the best of the series.

The theme is also the best of the Persona games (in my opinion): each character having a thief Persona and each dungeon basically being a heist to steal a person’s heart is a fantastic concept that’s executed to perfection. There are some hiccups: the aforementioned blackmailing of the teacher and very brief appearances by some homophobic side characters are low points in the game. But if you take the 90+ hours of content overall and compare it to the few bumps in the game, it’s a very well done RPG that is worth playing to completion.

My Strongest Memory:

You really think me, the person who has ranted and raved about soundtracks up and down this top 100 list, wouldn’t talk about the Persona 5 OST? Yeah, c’mon, like that was going to happen. I imported this 3-disc OST from Japan and it became a main staple for my car rides to work almost immediately (that is, when I actually had to drive to work). Almost all the strong memories I have of particular moments in this game are because of the awesome soundtrack.

Fighting Kamoshida for the first time and hearing Blooming Villain start its crescendo in his boss introduction. The first time Life Will Change kicks in with lyrics in a dungeon. Entering the fifth dungeon and hearing its hard-ass weird-ass rock theme blasting from my speakers. And, of course, when you get to the penultimate clash and Rivers In the Desert starts playing. I literally sat up and was on the edge of my seat as that theme was the cherry on top of how awesome that fight was. The Persona 5 OST is a top 5 gaming OST of all-time, you can’t change my mind (or steal my heart).

Why It’s #17:

Persona 5 is in an ultimate and neverending showdown with #16 on the list (which will be coming soon). I flip back and forth on which one is ranked higher as my enjoyment of both of these games is about equal. Whenever I make one of these lists, these two games will always be next to each other because Persona 5 is the peak of modern JRPGs for me, while the next game is the peak of another genre and depending on my mood, one genre will currently be outranking the other. While I can’t wait to see what they do with Persona 6, it’s going to be very hard for it to outclass 5 for me simply due to how much I adore the cast and music. And no, I haven’t played Royal yet. It’s on my to-do list, okay?

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #18

Alan Wake

Release Date: May 14, 2010

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #20 (+2)

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What It Is:

Originally envisioned as a Twin Peaks-style open-world mystery, Alan Wake ended up being a horror-adjacent, fairly linear action game. As the titular protagonist, you fight an entity known only as The Dark Presence that invades the town of Bright Falls. Alan Wake is a novelist who visits Bright Falls with his wife after dealing with writer’s block for two years. When his wife is dragged into a lake by mysterious shadows, Alan has to go find her. Along the way he combats Taken (shadow monsters created by the Dark Presence) and discovers pages to a novel he supposedly wrote but has no memory of.

It’s a very engaging mystery plot and is combined with a unique twist on survival action. Each Taken is shrouded in darkness, and Alan must use light to eliminate the shadows before using a typical pistol or shotgun to eliminate the threat. This turns a flare gun into a mighty weapon and adds a neat rhythm to the gameplay: aim your flashlight at the enemy first before switching to your pistol. Rinse and repeat, and occasionally throw a flash grenade to eliminate groups. Having to manage your battery life on top of ammo adds another wrinkle to your supply management. Also I just have to add: the sound effects for pointing your flashlight and removing the shadow are super, super satisfying.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I loved the idea of a novelist caught up in a weird, spooky town and having to deal with supernatural weird shit. Back when it was initially revealed in its early open world concept, I was all in. I followed the game and its changed and was still excited by the horror-adjacent gameplay. It was the game that got me to buy an XBox 360 because I wanted to play it so bad.

The fact that it delivered on my hype was just a cherry on top. I beat it fairly quickly, and it might have also been the first game I ever bought DLC for as I purchased and played through both DLC chapters as well. I also got the standalone American Nightmare game a few years later. When Alan Wake showed up in Control I nearly jumped out of my chair, and the Alan Wake 2 announcement is probably my most hyped upcoming game if I’m honest with myself.

Everything about the game was just perfect. The thoughtful yet fast pace of the action when taking on the Taken. The humor delivered in addition to the spookiness. It was just SCP enough for me to be delighted, back before I knew what SCP was and realized that was the kind of horror I enjoyed. It’s also refreshing that it ended up more linear than open world after a decade of games turning everything into open world romps.

My Strongest Memory:

Before the Ashtray Maze, there was the Old Gods of Asgard concert in Alan Wake. The setpiece of being on a concert stage as tons of Taken try to ambush you while heavy metal plays in the background is unforgettable. Spotlights, pyrotechnics, and more go off and help you defeat the shadows of the Taken as they assault your position. It’s a fantastic interlude amongst the more subtle psychological thriller vibes the rest of the game gives off.

Also, I can never forget the image of Barry, Alan’s manager, covering himself in Christmas lights to ward away the Dark Presence. Barry is the main source of humor in the game, and the first time he trotted out decking his halls I laughed so hard. It was just an unbelievably goofy image: the stoic, dadly-dressed Alan Wake side-by-side with a guy just covered in Christmas lights. I loved it.

Why It’s #18:

You never forget games that compel you to buy a whole system. Over time Alan Wake grew to be an important franchise to me, not even just because of the cliffhanger ending that I’ve waited for a decade to be resolved. It just encapsulates the kind of horror-ish game I love: spooky adjacent but not outright blood and gore fests with jump scares. I can’t wait for a proper sequel and what Remedy can cook up for Alan with this generation’s capabilities.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #19

Bioshock Infinite

Release Date: March 26, 2013

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #9 (-10)

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What It Is:

The third game in the first-person shooter Bioshock series, Infinite steps away from Rapture and instead flies to the clouds in the city of Columbia. You play as Booker DeWitt in 1912, a man sent to Columbia to find a girl and bring her back to New York unharmed. The intro is a very confusing boat ride which leads to a foreboding lighthouse, which leads to a very uncomfortable city of American exceptionalism and politically religious fervor. The game starts mysterious and unsettling and just gets moreso as you continue forward: the atmosphere of the city sometimes feels incongruous with the frenetic action of the enemy encounters.

The shooting gameplay copies the popular first-person shooter mechanics of the time: you can only carry two guns at a time (a mechanic that is still stupidly artificially limiting). But the game also adds Vigors (instead of Plasmids) that allow you to combo with your guns by doing things like electrocuting enemies or blasting them with a murder of crows. It also adds the Skyhook, making some battles with enemies a lot more frantic and mobile, letting you traverse across multiple islands as enemies are bouncing around trying to kill you. It ends up being my favorite iteration of the Bioshock gameplay despite its flaws due to the increasing mobility.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Bioshock Infinite is a hard game to talk about nowadays. When it came out in 2013, it was seen as a subversive take on American heroism. The political climate has changed drastically since its release, and the game’s stance ending on a “both sides are bad” note has turned public favor against it. I can’t say any of the criticisms of the game’s plot and message are wrong; in fact the people who dunk on this game are mostly right about their interpretations.

But honestly I still love the game.

“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt” is an iconic line that echoes in my head. Songbird as an antagonist is still one of my favorite steampunk enemy designs. The sequence where you find Elizabeth and escape from her tower with Songbird after you is in the top 5 tensest action scenes to me and it still puts my heart in its throat when the fantastic score plays. Combining Bucking Bronco with Undertow and sending enemies flying out into the sky to their doom never gets old; and using Vigors while shooting around on the Skyhook just feels good. The artistic design behind the Vigors is also top tier for me: I have an Undertow bottle sitting on the shelf behind me as I type this and I have two pillows with Undertow and Shock Jockey designs on my couch.

I understand its politics are not great after a decade of reflection. But I still love the game.

My Strongest Memory:

In 2013 I wasn’t as invested in gaming on the internet as I am now. I visited forums but hadn’t really jumped headfirst into gaming media (i.e., I wasn’t on Twitter until 2017). As such, I was able to play Bioshock Infinite almost completely unspoiled. I was also unemployed when I played it. Not that it really matters in the context of the memory, but I do remember binging the game and finishing it at 2 AM and just sitting there with my thoughts as the ending played.

I remember being blown away by the ending and just not being sure how to feel. At the time I may have thought it was the greatest ending to any video game ever and probably said so somewhere. While I don’t have that opinion anymore, the game’s turn still resonates with me and I wouldn’t say it’s a bad ending. It might be a little too self-congratulating in the way a Whedon or Moffat show masturbates over how clever it is. But I still can’t forget that initial feeling I had when I completed it for the first time and thinking “Yeah, this will always be one of my favorite games of all-time.”

Why It’s #19:

I think inevitably it will become harder and harder for me to rank this game high on my list as the political climate changes more and more rapidly. But removing the political messaging and stance of the game’s plot, everything else about this game I will always be in love with. It is another one of the games that is in my 1000/1000 achievements club and I’ll always have an inexplicable fondness for it.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #20

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Release Date: October 13, 2009

Platform Played On: PS3

2018 Placement: #18 (-2)

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What It Is:

A third-person action shooter that arguably put the franchise on the map, Uncharted 2 is Nathan Drake’s second adventure from Naughty Dog. The first Uncharted did fine, but came out in the first year of the PS3’s life and didn’t set the world on fire. When Uncharted 2 came out, though, the gaming world went wild. It took the established formula and cranked it up to 11, letting you play through some crazy setpieces that up until this point would likely have been relegated to cut scenes in an action game. From taking on a helicopter on a train, to shooting enemies while a building falls down around you, it was a masterpiece of game design and an important indicator of where games could be going in the future.

Nathan Drake is an Indiana Jones-esque adventurer who goes on Indiana Jones-esque adventures, complete with having to take on a tank with only a gun. In Among Thieves, Drake is searching for the city of Shambhala and the treasure it may hold. The game is mostly shooting at things, but is complimented by the multitude of character interactions: his grizzled yet horny mentor Sully, his rival Flynn, and of course the introduction of Chloe, a femme fatale that switches sides so many times it’s impossible to trust her. It is all put together in an action-packed pulpy package that was absolutely impressive on the PS3.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I love Indiana Jones, and more importantly I love pulp action about lost cities and weird moments in history. I love when stories revolve around weird, unexplained things from a thousand years ago and people have to hunt through conspiracies and ancient puzzles to open tombs that lead to a dagger that opens another tomb. I live for that shit.

And that’s what Uncharted 2 is at its core. It’s a playable Indiana Jones action game. While Drake’s Fortune didn’t wow me when I played through it, Among Thieves grabbed me from the outset with its in media res opening. Why is Drake shot and left for dead in a train hanging from a cliff? More importantly, why do they make us replay it halfway through the game. Ahem. Anyway. I’ve gone over a lot of the generalities in my previous Uncharted 4 entry. Specifically Uncharted 2 was the game that made me sit up and go “I’m following this franchise to the end of its road.” It was the first game that really made me feel like I was in the action movies that I love so much and not just watching the fun in cut scenes.

My Strongest Memory:

If I had written this entry a year ago like I’d planned to, the text in this box would be very different. But within the last year I actually went back and played Uncharted 2 for the first time in a while and I was surprised at how little emotion it evoked when I replayed it. I still enjoyed it (for the most part) but certain sequences that blew me away the first time I now found grating. I remembered the helicopter set piece on the train making me giddy with joy the first time around at how cool it was. But ten years later, I was more annoyed at the helicopter’s bullet tracking and how much I died to it.

And maybe that’s just a function of re-experiencing something, especially a video game. I don’t remember how often I died the first time I fought the helicopter on my initial playthrough: I just remember the exhilaration of the action and how awesome it was to actually be getting to play through this myself. But coming back around to it, I don’t have any exhilaration: just relief that I can move on to the next section once it’s done. And it’s weird that’s my strongest memory of Uncharted 2 now: that maybe my memory isn’t as reliable as I thought. (Who thought you’d get waxing philosophical on an Uncharted 2 entry, eh?)

Why It’s #20:

Honestly, even though I’m reconsidering my opinion on Uncharted 2 after a replay, it’s still a game that delivers an experience like no other game. Not many games lean into the pulp action hero the way Naughty Dog did Nathan Drake. I still think they’re better at lighter action fare than broody apocalypse sad dad stories, but that’s just me. The characters of U2 are still the best in the series, it’s still an important game to me, and it was still a revelation the first time I played it. Would it be #20 on an updated list? I dunno, come back to me in 2025, I guess.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #21

Rockin’ Kats

Release Date: September 1991

Platform Played On: NES

2018 Placement: #21 (=)

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What It Is:

A lesser known platformer from the late NES days, Rockin’ Kats is a somewhat straightforward NES game with a unique format: each stage is presented as an episode from a TV show. The plot of each “episode” is the same: you are Willy, a jazzy cat with a punch gun, and Mugsy, a mafia gangster bulldog, kidnaps Jill your girlfriend and you have to get her back. You can tackle the four episodes of the game in any order: from an amusement park to the Wild West, each episode has its own unique flavor. There’s also a “shopping channel” where you can go and buy upgrades for Willy to use in the stages with money earned from a “bonus channel” where you can wager money to get more money or extra lives.

The mechanics of the platforming are also fun: Willy’s punch gun can be used to grab onto platforms and swing around. You use momentum to fling Willy across pits or grab onto another platform, adding a different kind of traversal to a simple NES platformer. You can also use the punch gun to bounce on enemies and the ground to gain height, and if you hold down punch you can grab projectiles with the gun as well. All together it makes for a more complex mechanical system than you might expect from an older game.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Every gaming enthusiast has that *one* game that’s special to them that is seemingly random. This is that one for me. I originally rented Rockin’ Kats from Blockbuster (hah!) and fell in love with the game so much that I ended up asking my parents to get it for me. Thankfully they did, and I went back to this game as much as I played Mega Man games for single player entertainment. I loved the mechanics of Willy’s travel, and the punch gun was such a unique weapon with its different upgrades that it is still one of my favorite weapons in any game.

I was so enamored by the setup of the game, I thought for *sure* there had to be an actual show it was based off of, too. Of course, this was before the internet so I couldn’t just Google whether it existed or not. For a while I hunted Saturday morning cartoons hoping to find the mythical Rockin’ Kats TV show but alas, it did not exist. Still, this is probably the game that left the most impact on me and didn’t end up being a big franchise or hit indie game.

My Strongest Memory:

When I was a kid my family would take week-long vacations to visit my grandparents over summer or winter break. I would dutifully pack up my NES and bring it with me and set it up on my grandpa’s TV in the main living room. I still can see the setup of the living room, where I would be sitting on the carpeted floor a little too close to the television while the adults maneuvered around me.

While I have plenty of memories of my grandpa’s, one of the games I associate the strongest with that place is Rockin’ Kats because it was there that I beat it for the first time. I remember getting super excited finally unlocking the fifth and final episode and actually getting all the way to Mugsy. I remember trying to explain my excitement to my teenage cousin who absolutely did not care this seven year old was at the final boss of a video game but she pretended to be excited with me anyway. This game will always have a special place in my heart not just because of its content, but how it also drums up memories of a favorite place in my childhood.

Why It’s #21:

It’s just outside the top 20 because we’re getting into the games that I think are just phenomenal. This used to be a top 10 game of mine but so many things have come out that I can’t justify keeping it further up propped up by nostalgia alone. Everything from here on out is important to me. One of my friends once said (paraphrased) “I want to see your top games because nobody else is gonna talk about Rockin’ Kats” so I hope they’re happy with this entry. Sorry for taking so long to get this out, life is busy.