I’ve been working on a project for a little while now and while I’m not 100% ready to start on the full scope of it yet, I’m going to go ahead and talk about it now for multiple reasons. One – just to gear myself up into this massive undertaking and by putting it out in public I’ll create some momentum. Two – because nothing else is really jumping out at me to talk about video game wise right at this moment. And three, because I love ranking things.
I’m working on my top 100 video games of all time.
It was a hard decision. First my thought process was to go through every game I’d ever played for every console I’d ever played and just list out all the ones that I thought were top 100 worthy. If I had to think about it too hard or couldn’t remember playing them, they were obviously out because I shouldn’t have to refresh my memory about an all-time favorite game. Just as a bonus, I ended up with 148 games on this list – two were late additions because of my recent Switch acquisition, so my first runthrough only had 146. From there, I went through the entire list of 146 and pulled out all the games I thought were top 10 material – this section had 21 games, so I had a de facto top 20 plus one outlier. And that’s basically how I organized my list. I would group them – pulling out what I thought belonged in the top 50 after that, then top 70, and then finally rounding out the top 100. After that, I organized each group into favorite to least favorite order and then combined all the groups into a handy top 100 list. Once all of the ordering had been completed I let the list sit for a little bit and then came back to it – now I’m in the process of slight adjustments after stepping away from it all for a bit and figuring out where everything falls.
Now I want to be clear – this is a list of my own personal opinion. It’s not a “most influential” list or anything like that. These are just the games that I enjoy the most. Yes, some of my choices are going to be fueled by nostalgia. There’s nothing wrong with that. How fondly you remember a game can entirely be because of the circumstances around the game over simply the game itself. I’m okay with that. I don’t consider myself the end-all, be-all authority on video games – I am also perfectly fine with people disagreeing with my rankings.
My plan is to divide the list up into sections – probably 5 games a piece until I get to around the top 20; then maybe I’ll do larger write-ups with only 2 per article, with the top 5 getting an article a piece. I don’t know yet; I’m still tweaking around with the format.
Also, as an important note: I have not played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild yet. It will not be appearing on this list in any form. I know some people are worshiping that game as the best game of all time, but sorry. I have it; I haven’t felt the urge to play it.
What I am going to do with this article, though, is briefly touch on five games that ended up “honorable mentions” – these five games are games that I initially chose for the top 100 but ended up getting squeezed out due to other games. They’re in no particular order and I’m only going to talk about them briefly – but I both felt like sharing these as a teaser for the overall project as well as wanting to highlight them since I did select them out of the original group of 146 as worthy of top 100. So here’s five games that are almost top 100 of all-time worthy, but not quite.
Platforms: PS2, XBox, PC, Mobile
Max Payne is a third-person shooter where the titular character is a typical noir protagonist. He’s lost his wife and kid due to crime so now he’s undercover and single-handedly waging war on the criminal element. It sounds trite in my quick description, but the story is actually very well done. Max is snappy with dry wit in his inner monologues. Some of the game’s scenes are presented in graphic novel-esque panels, adding to the feel of a gritty noir story. The world itself is oppressive and Max is always getting a raw deal so he becomes a very compelling protagonist to play as over the course of the game.
But the most important thing about Max Payne is the gameplay hook. It was released a little while after The Matrix had taken the world by storm. So the main hook is, of course, bullet time. The game plays pretty much like a stereotypical third-person shooter of the time, except you can slow down time at will during combat to make cool shots as you’re jumping through the air between cover options. While slow-mo and neat combat tricks have almost become the norm now, at the time this was pretty neat and revolutionary. And pretty freaking fun.
If the game was solely built around just bullet time, it could have faded into the past as a relic of the post-Matrix boom. But Max Payne still holds up as a decent game overall due to the story and noir elements. In fact, apparently the game has been released for iOS and Android devices – I don’t know how you’d play the game with a touchscreen, but if you are interested in finding out, you can find it on the App store. I recommend giving it a try in some capacity if you’ve never played it – either on PC or another way – it’s a good game, but just shy of top honors.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within
Platforms: PS3, 360, Vita, PC, Mobile
In the 90s, XCOM was a cult strategy game that was semi-popular and semi-well known due to just how hard and unforgiving the game was. You commanded a squad of soldiers who were fighting off an alien menace – each level was procedurally generated and random, so sometimes the aliens could be out hiding in the darkness, or sometimes they would start right next to your ship, shoot a rocket into the ship and kill all your soldiers before the mission even started. That’s XCOM, baby.
But I’m not talking about that XCOM. I’m talking about Firaxis’ reboot of the franchise that came out a few years ago. I played this game and I loved it. It is a deep strategy game in both combat and at the macro world view where you have to manage your base and resources. You can customize each character so they can have their own stories and adventures – and it hits so much harder because when they die in the game they’re gone for good. No resurrections or extra lives – your best soldier takes a stray laser to the face and explodes into fine mist? Well, that’s too bad. It’s difficult, but unlike the original XCOM it never feels unfairly difficult.
I love the new XCOM series. I struggled with how to represent this because the base game is called XCOM: Enemy Unknown. On PC, Enemy Within was an expansion that added to the base game, but they released it as a separate game on consoles. So it’s tricky, but I included it as all one game since Enemy Within basically just adds a new class and a few enemies and tweaks to the game. It’s also only getting an honorable mention because, well, its full sequel that came out in 2016 is just soooooooo much better. Yes, I guess I’m spoiling one of the games to come – XCOM 2 will be in my top 100 and I’ll have a lot to say about it. That doesn’t mean this game isn’t any good – it is a great game on its own. But personally, I would never choose to play it again after playing XCOM 2…and to me, that’s why I can’t justify a top 100 placement for this.
Super Mario Odyssey
I debated whether I wanted to even include any of the Switch games I played on this list because I only got my Switch a month ago and I feel like such fresh experiences I might be unfairly biased against or for. But I’ve included several 2017 on my overall top 100 list without any problems, so eventually I decided to give the Switch games a fair shake as well. I also finished the main story of Super Mario Odyssey so it’s not like I’m giving a game I’ve only half-beaten a spot.
Of course, I eventually decided Odyssey was good, but not quite good enough to even have a spot. I have already detailed my general feelings about Odyssey here in a previous post, so I won’t really talk about it at length again here. But it is a well-polished, fun 3D platformer that feels refreshing. I liked playing it a lot, but I don’t quite have the urge to play it much more after beating it. Worth the Switch purchase? Definitely. Top 100 material? Ehhhh, maybe in a few years when I’ve had more time to mull it over.
Until Dawn is a very unqiue game. The plot of the game is you’re in control of 8 college-ish age characters who go up to a creepy cabin in the mountains for the weekend. Of course, horror ensues and you are in control of all eight of them as you fight to survive the night, and your choices end up determining who lives and who dies. It’s a very neat experience but you have to keep in mind a lot of the “action” is simply QTEs or making quick decisions. I personally played it with a group of friends where we shouted at the screen and made decisions as a group – we completed the whole game in one night, staying up until dawn to finish it.
The whole experience was memorable to me and this is the first case of a game standing out not just because of what happens in the game, but because of the situation surrounding me playing. While it’s fun, if I had played this by myself over the course of a week or two I would have enjoyed it, but it probably would have never been considered as a possible top 100 contender. Instead, the group activity of a blind playthrough has ever cemented this game in my mind as a fun experience that I can talk about for ages. If you’ve never played it, I highly recommend going in blind with a group of people and having an entertaining horror movie-esque experience.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Platforms: Wii, 3DS, Wii U
The Donkey Kong Country series for the Super Nintendo was one of my favorite platformer franchises as a kid growing up. The franchise died after the 3D boom and the majority of gaming companies abandoned 2D sidescrolling platformers. Then around the Wii era, 2D platforming boomed again through indie titles and other companies realizing you can still make non-3D games with new technology.
Retro Studios, after their success with the Metroid Prime series, ended up revitalizing the Donkey Kong Country franchise with DKCR, bringing it back for the Wii in 2010. And it is a phenomenal game. It feels good as a platformer (although the waggle roll was a bad decision eventually rectified in later versions) and brings back a lot of good memories. But the reason this is an honorable mention instead of further up the list is because it relies too much on memory. Most of the music is remixed tracks from the original games. The enemies are bland and have no personality. Most of the game feels like an homage to the SNES Donkey Kong Country games instead of its own thing.
I’m not saying the game is bad. The level design is polished and it’s fun to try and speed run levels or collect all the things. But after getting over the fact that an intense craving for a new DKC had been satiated, the game itself was just…good. Not great, or memorable in any way – I couldn’t tell you a boss or enemy or specific level from that game. But I enjoyed it at the time because it was a new DKC at the time. So that’s why it gets a nice little ol’ mention right here.
So there you have it. Those are my honorable mentions and a bit of a taste as to what you’ll get with each game in the top 100. I’m not sure when I’ll officially start my top 100 – once I am happy with the overall list and don’t feel the need to tweak it anymore, and after I have the final format down. Maybe I’ll start it before the end of the year, but more likely I feel it’ll be a 2018 project. We’ll see.
Thanks for reading.