So here we are. It’s time to start the largest list undertaking I’ve ever done. 100 games. My personal favorites – this is not the most influential or the best made or anything like that. These are just my opinions on my favorite games. I’ve decided from 100-51 I’ll be doing them in ten-game bursts, from then we’ll see. So without further ado, let’s start with #100:
100. The Unholy War
We’re going to start off the countdown with a lesser known, niche title that I was a fan of growing up. The Unholy War is one of those mid-tier game creations which died out as games became more expensive. It was still a part of the ugly, polygonal 3D generation but was also unique enough that it stuck in my mind as a potential candidate for my top 100 list. I felt I had to include it because, well, I’d be very surprised if it ended up on any other top 100.
The Unholy War is a game about two factions vying for control of a planet: The Teknos vs. the Arcane. Machines vs. organics, basically. The gameplay has two parts. The first is a strategic layer which plays out similar to most tactic games. There’s a board full of hexes, and you create and move your units around to try and kill your opponent’s units – and eventually their base. But when you have a unit attack another unit, it starts the second part of gameplay – you move to a fully 3D battlefield where the two units face off in real-time. Each unit has different special abilities and health, and there are favorable and unfavorable matchups between the two factions. There is also a special versus mode where you could forego the strategic layer and just have one long real-time battle. You and your friend can create a tag team of units, you face off, and whoever has the last unit standing in their team wins.
The units are weird, but in that amazing weird kind of way. There’s a guy piloting a flying motorcycle that can drop bombs on his opponents, but his weakness is he has to land to recharge his abilities. There’s a machine with razorblades for hands. A sentient tank with arms. There’s a monster that looks like a blue Zergling and a flying angel lady with a staff. It’s crazy, it’s insane, and it was really fun. It’s one of those random purchases I made as a kid that stuck with me nearly two decades later. I can still envision the dudecycle dropping bombs on his enemies. It’s not a perfect game and doesn’t have a lot of depth to it, but when I did play it I had fun. And that’s really what matters.
99. Earthworm Jim
Platforms: SNES, Genesis, PC, GBA
If The Unholy War is just a weird game, Earthworm Jim is certifiably insane. You play as the titular character, Jim, an earthworm who has a super suit and a gun and wants to save Princess What’s-Her-Name from Queen Slug-For-A-Butt (not her full name). You fight enemies like Psycrow, Major Mucus, and Evil the Cat. It’s basically some six-year old’s fever dream thrown onto paper and it splurted out into a game. It’s irreverent, it’s funny, it’s a complete product of the 90s. They even made a TV show. And yes, I know the creator is a turdbucket but this game is still one of my favorites from when I grew up.
The game itself is crazy hard. It’s an old-school platformer where the layout of the level can be tricky to follow – I’ve gotten lost in some levels with a map handy. You can swing around by using Jim himself as a whip. The enemies are unforgiving and some of the bosses can get insanely difficult. But the game’s wacky sense of humor never goes away. In the first level you use a refrigerator to launch a cow into the stratosphere – and as a wonderful brick joke the cow doesn’t land until you beat the game. The second level is simply called “What the Heck?” and it takes place in Heck, a place run by the aforementioned Evil the Cat. And anyone that’s played the game can instantly recall Jim yelling “WHOOOOAAAA NELLY!” while racing Psycrow on a giant rocket.
Earthworm Jim is a classic game in the kind of way that The Room or Rocky Horror Picture Show became a classic movie. You look at the whole thing from a bird’s-eye view and think “what in the heck were they smoking, and can I get some legally now in Colorado or California?” It’s a game made entirely for the 90s Nickelodeon generation of kids – its weird, off-beat humor comes from the same place as Rocko’s Modern Life, or AAAHHH! Real Monsters, or Courage the Cowardly Dog (which I know isn’t Nickelodeon). And I’ll be the first to admit I’m a 90s kid, which means this game definitely gets a place on my list.
98. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
When I wrote my honorable mentions article for this, I mentioned I was considering a few Switch games for my list. Super Mario Odyssey was one, and here is the other. Keeping with the theme so far of unbelievably crazy games, this is one of the craziest mashups I’ve seen in years. Mario’s world gets mashed together with the weird, Minion-like Rabbids of Ubisoft (but they came before Minions) – but you’re going to give them all guns and the gameplay is in the vein of XCOM strategy? This game had absolutely no right to be made, it makes no sense and by all rights it should have been awful.
But it’s not, and I love it.
The game has the weird, quirky humor that comes with all Rabbid games. There are four main characters from the Mario universe: Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi – and then Rabbid versions of each. Rabbid Luigi is child-like and runs around in an oversized sweater. Rabbid Peach is vain and takes selfies everywhere. Rabbid Mario idolizes Mario and wants to be the manliest man. And Rabbid Yoshi is certifiably insane. Each Rabbid has just as much personality as their counterparts (if not more) and that makes all the cut-scenes involving them entertaining. In fact it makes the moment-to-moment gameplay entertaining as well – watching Rabbid Luigi dash excitedly at an enemy puts a smile on my face.
It’s a game that, like the previous two games, embraces its weirdness and just goes for it. But on top of that, its gameplay is a riff off of the XCOM gameplay where you need to hide behind cover and make sure you don’t get caught out of position or you’re dead in the water. The story mode ramps up the difficulty as you progress, making managing every character very important as you only ever get 3 on the battlefield at a time. It also has a challenge mode and a co-op mode for extra gameplay after you beat the story.
I don’t know who at Ubisoft had the waking nightmare to come up with this, and I don’t know who at Nintendo gave the okay for this to happen – but I’d like to shake both their hands for letting an amazing game get made. This is a modern game that uses the “anything goes” approach of my #99 and #100 games, and I’m all for more of it.
97. Final Fantasy Tactics A2
I love tactics games. They’re probably one of my favorite genres of game overall as they can really suck me in. I love the strategic mindset of thinking about the best position to put units and what’s the best way to tackle a certain battle. I wish I could tell you all the ins and outs of why Final Fantasy Tactics A2 ticked all my boxes and why I put 80+ hours into the game doing all of its sidequests and missions. But the fact of the matter is…I don’t remember this game that well. In fact, I hardly remember anything at all about the story or the characters. I remember vague sprites of moogles and bangaa and different jobs and classes and fun battles…but most of the game is a blur, which is weird since I clocked in a ton of time on it back in the day – it was my go-to DS game for a long while.
So why is it on my list if I can’t remember anything meaningful? Well, first of all as I said I put a lot of time into it when I did play it. And I definitely remember having fun with it and enjoying the time – as I said I’m a sucker for tactics games. I also don’t remember anything bad – while it’s easy to remember faults and critiques, I don’t remember anything I didn’t like about the game either. The story wasn’t particularly engaging, obviously, but the job system and actual gameplay was interesting enough to keep me suckered into the game. When I thought about DS games, this was the first one to pop into my head despite me not remembering anything specific about it – just a general, nostalgic feeling of happiness involving the game.
I thought about refreshing my memory and reading up on A2 so I could act like I knew everything about this game for my write-up. But I think this is a good (and nice and early) example of the fact that some things you enjoy are just a feeling. You may not remember specific parts about it, but you can say “yeah, that was good, I enjoyed it.” Perhaps it was probably the polish of the gameplay that kept me addicted to A2 when I played it years ago. Honestly, it’s a game I’d love to find the time to replay so I can rediscover just why I liked it so much. I’d definitely recommend it to other people looking for good tactics games. So why shouldn’t it be part of my top 100? Maybe when I replay it, it will jump a bunch of spots. Who knows! But for now, this is where a game that stuck with me despite the details being fuzzy goes.
96. Binary Domain
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
Binary Domain is a third-person sci-fi shooter set in a world where there are androids that look like and can pass for human. There are also androids that do not pass for human. The story itself is full of the typical twists and turns of a sci-fi android story. Are they close enough to human? Should we respect their rights or are they robots? It will make you think if you’ve never seen Blade Runner, and may still make you think if you have seen it.
It’s also a fun game where you get to shoot and destroy giant robots in epic boss battles that make no sense.
The one in particular that always sticks with me happens about two-thirds of the way through the game. You’re escaping in a truck with your squad and all of a sudden a robot the size of a six-story building on wheels is following you and trying to kill you via missiles, guns, and by just running you over with its giant wheels. What follows is a crazy on-rails shoot-out that is just pure, dumb fun carnage. It’s the type of sequence that only exists in action video games because nobody in their right mind would think it could go in a movie – aside from Michael Bay.
Both the high-octane action sequences and the characters are really what make this a memorable game. From the hilarious Big Bo, your partner for the majority of the game, to the sarcastic French robot Cain, to Faye the mysterious love interest who also kicks everyone’s butt – everyone that is a part of your squad sticks with you. There’s also a consequence system where decisions you make determine whether your squadmates trust you or not. It’s a high energy game made by a Japanese company trying to mimic Western games in both aesthetic and gameplay – and it works. Play this game while drinking a Monster energy drink and then crush it on your forehead as you beat a boss. And then maybe wax philosophical when the caffeine wears off.
95. Ratchet & Clank
The original Ratchet & Clank was released in 2002 and I became a huge fan of it. I bought every game released in the series from PS2 onwards. And then on PS4, Insomniac Games did something interesting. They did a remake of the original game. It’s not just an upscaling graphics remake either – it was a full-blown from-the-ground-up restoration where they kept the same general story but tweaked certain parts and added new characters. They remade levels and added new weapons. Now they did this to tie in with the Ratchet & Clank movie that was released (which was a retelling of the original game’s story in movie format) but it ended up being a very interesting experience. Games don’t normally get the same kind of remake treatment that movies or TV shows do.
At its core, Ratchet & Clank is a 3D platformer-shooter. It has crazy weapons and lots of enemies and is just a blast to play. And while I enjoyed this game, the original Ratchet & Clank is pretty rough now. After many iterations, Insomniac has perfected what works and what doesn’t in R&C games. The first game had a lot of features missing that the PS4 remake now adds in to make life much easier. Yes, the game looks prettier too, but the gameplay feels so much better. All of the boss battles are more interesting now as well. And the story beats they changed flesh out the world a lot more. All of the humor and fun from the series is still there – but they kept the essence of the first game and just made it better.
While I was playing this, I was hit with nostalgia as I remembered plot points from when I played the original fifteen years ago. And after beating this version, I wanted to go back and replay the original just to see how much they kept the same and what they changed. Playing both back-to-back would be a very weird but enlightening experience. But aside from forced movie cut-scenes that were added into the game, I’d say this game is just overall better than its first form. Not that its first form was bad, but if you want the Ratchet & Clank story – this is the superior version and well worth your time.
94. Ghost Trick
Platforms: DS, Mobile
Ghost Trick is a very unique game. You play as a guy who just died and you don’t remember who you are or why you were murdered. So as a ghost you have a certain amount of time to figure out the answers to those questions before you pass on. It plays out as a series of puzzles where you can possess objects and manipulate the environment to change what happens and prevent more people from dying. You hop around in time to figure out the mystery surrounding your death. On top of all that, there is an adorable dog named Missile that is your companion for a good chunk of the game and if he doesn’t steal your heart you have no soul.
This game makes my top 100 because I’ve always enjoyed the puzzles that came with point-and-click adventure games. While a lot of games nowadays have resorted to combat as the primary gameplay element, adventure games were just five-to-ten-hour-long brainteasers where you had to put together the right way to use everything at your disposal. Ghost Trick ends up fitting in with that old school adventure game philosophy. Yes, you’re solving a murder mystery, but the puzzles engage your brain and the story and dialogue are both witty and keep you coming back for more.
It was sort of a surprise to me how much I enjoyed this game. I picked it up at the tail end of the DS life cycle and it sat on my shelf for a year or two before I actually got around to playing it. But when I did it grabbed me and pulled at me until I completed it. It’s a great addition to the adventure/puzzle genre and a wonderful experience – if you like puzzler games with story and heart this is a game you don’t want to miss.
93. Batman: Arkham City
Platforms: 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
The Arkham games as a whole are probably the best superhero games on the market. Batman’s Rogues Gallery is also probably my favorite assortment of villains (next to Spiderman’s) so the fact that the games pulled a bunch of villains from Batman’s history is another plus in favor of the Arkham games. The combat system they devised feels good and is one of the best melee combat systems in the history of gaming, and the Metroidvania style progression of acquiring different tools for Batman to use just fits the mythology.
Arkham City is my favorite of all the Arkham games because it strikes the perfect balance of everything. Arkham Asylum was good, but the world was small and the bosses weren’t memorable despite facing off with Poison Ivy and the Joker himself. The Scarecrow sections were the legit best part. Arkham Knight went too far in the open world direction and while introducing the Batmobile was interesting, it made too much of the game dependent on it and detracted from the overall experience. Arkham Origins was good (and the only other game from the series that was considered for this list) but in the end it was simply Arkham City Part 2 and used similar ideas without really doing anything to improve or differentiate itself from its predecessor.
But Arkham City is the Baby Bear game to my Goldilocks – it does everything juuuuust right. There’s enough of an open world to keep you pulled in and intrigued, but doesn’t go overboard (outside of the Riddler puzzles which downright flood the game). All of the sidequests are meaningful and have you facing off with interesting villains and antagonists from Batman’s history. It also has one of my favorite boss battles of all time against Mr. Freeze – a boss that adapts to how you attack him so you have to continually change your strategy and use every item in Batman’s arsenal to take him down. It also has a very fun twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming at all and made the climax even more interesting.
If you want to be Batman – this is the game to play.
92. Lost Vikings
Platforms: SNES, Genesis, GBA, PC
Erik, Baleog, and Olaf – three vikings torn from their homeland and thrown through time and space where they have to navigate dinosaurs, factories, and weird candy clown worlds. Nowadays if this was pitched it would probably be a co-op melee adventure with skill trees. Instead, this early 90s game is a unique and fun puzzle platformer. Each viking has a particular set of skills – Erik is the mobile one who can jump and dash, Baleog is the fighter who has a sword and bow and arrow and is the only one who can kill enemies, and Olaf can track his daughter and kill anyone who gets in his way…no, wait, I got confused there. Olaf has a shield that can block attacks and also functions as a hang glider so he can fall from greater heights.
The game is a fun puzzle because you can only control one Viking at a time, leaving the other two defenseless if you leave them in the wrong spot. It leaves you trying to figure out just how to get all three Vikings through a switch-operated door, or how to get them all safely down to the bottom of a really long pit (because falling from a great height would kill off Erik and Baleog). It’s also humorous – the vikings will banter at the beginning and end of each level, Olaf’s pants will fall down if he doesn’t do anything for a while…ah, good times. It’s also surprisingly gruesome – each world finds crazy and unique ways to kill off your Vikings if you aren’t paying attention. The most awful way that stuck with me is in the previously mentioned candy world, where you can use a helium pump to inflate the Vikings and float them up to reach new areas. Of course, spikes litter the level and if you touch one with an inflated Viking they pop like a balloon. It was pretty terrifying for a young child.
Lost Vikings also allows co-op between two players, which in the past led to lots of griefing between me and my friends. What’s the point of co-op if you can’t intentionally kill off the person you’re playing with for fun, right? There would be lots of times where someone would “accidentaly” change Olaf’s shield positioning at just the wrong time…oh, how we’d laugh. This game made a lot of good memories – both from figuring out levels together in co-op to the joy of being able to beat a world single-handedly by yourself. It is another weird game with an interesting and unique premise that is just plain fun.
91. Darkwing Duck
Everyone remembers the Disney shows like Duck Tales, Talespin, and the Rescue Rangers. But my personal favorite of the Disney Afternoon brand was Darkwing Duck. More importantly, the game that came along with it stuck with me more than the Duck Tales or Rescue Ranger games. In this game you play as the titular Darkwing Duck and you have to save the world from the evil-doers that are plaguing it. The game plays out in almost a Mega Man fashion – you can select which boss you want to fight, and from there each boss has their own level you have to navigate before ending in a showdown with said villain.
There are six villains in the game – Quackerjack (Darkwing Duck’s take on the Joker), Wolfduck, Liquidator, Moliarty (he’s a villainous mole – this was a pun I didn’t get until years later when I learned about Sherlock Holmes), Megavolt, and Bushroot. Once defeating all of them, you face off against Steelbeak, the leader of F.O.W.L. – an homage to Blofeld and SPECTRE from James Bond – as the final boss. All you have along the way are your trusty gas gun which can be modified with different types of gasses you find along the way and a cape that can deflect some bullets.
It’s a very simple, licensed game that turned out to be pretty fun. It is hard – just like most games of the NES era, but it’s also a manageable hard. It has great musical themes for all the levels and each of the boss battles are unique in some way. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel for a game of that time frame, but it’s a solid experience that I enjoy replaying every now and then.
So that’s it for the first ten games on my top 100 list. See you next week with ten more!