I’m really tired today – I was planning to write up something else for my post today, but my brain is just not braining properly. So instead I’m just going to go ahead and hit the next 10 on my top 100 games of all-time since it’s already prepared with only minimal work to do and I’ll put out a full article tomorrow. Without further ado, here’s #80-71!
Platforms: PC, SNES, PSX, Mobile
So if I was making a most influential games list, Doom would almost assuredly be in the top 5. While Wolfenstein 3D is usually considered the grandfather of all first-person shooters, Doom is the cooler great-uncle that gave you beer when your parents weren’t looking. For a long time in the ’90s other studios attempted to imitate Doom, but not many lived up to the sheer kinetic adrenaline rush the original game provided. From the first moment of the first level when the chords of At Doom’s Gate kick in, you’re pumped and ready to kill some demons as Doomguy.
My experience with the game was not as extensive as some of my friends. I never got into the Doom modding community (of which there are thousands of modded levels at this point) but I loved the original game a ton. I played the crap out of my shareware copy that only had the first episode, and eventually later got to play the whole thing. The game itself was all about killing demons and figuring out a way out of the level. Nothing more, nothing less. Pulling out the chainsaw to tear through some soldiers or imps was always satisfying, and no gun in gaming history has more notoriety than the BFG.
What makes the game worth it to me is despite it being nearly 25 years old now, it still holds up with its frenetic action and intricate map design. In 2016, John Romero (the original game designer) released a new Doom map. That’s right, twenty years later the game still has enough relevance for not only the original creator to design a new level for it, but fans jumped right in to play it no questions asked. Doom is a classic game that everyone needs to play just to understand how certain games and genres involved. It’s a great game that’s withstood the test of time, and while I’ve never been a dedicated PC gamer, this is one game from my PC I’ll always love.
79. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I’ve always been a bigger fan of the top-down 2D Legend of Zelda games instead of the 3D Legend of Zeldas. While a lot of people fawn over Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker, my heart has always been in a different place. A Link Between Worlds was a sequel that, after mediocre entries in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, restored my faith that top-down Legend of Zelda could still exist and evolve alongside the 3D entries.
A Link Between Worlds uses many of the typical Zelda tropes, but it also introduces some new mechanics that allow the game to be more open world (and some might say even set a blueprint of sorts of Breath of the Wild to exist in the future). Instead of the items you get being tied to dungeons like in most other Legend of Zelda games, there is a shop you can rent the items from. It allows you to tackle the world in any order you choose but at a price – if you die all your rented items are returned to the shop. This can eventually be prevented by buying the items outright, though, allowing a measure of progress to the game. You also gain an ability to turn into a 2D painting and walk on walls, which add an interesting dynamic to the puzzles of the world.
Like its predecessor, Link to the Past, there are two different worlds to explore: Hyrule and Lorule. There are multiple dungeons and fun bosses to fight against, along with a few neat story twists that shake the Legend of Zelda mold a little. It’s not a perfect game by any means, but it is super fun and an enjoyable experience that returns the series to its roots of exploration and freedom. It’s a good entry that is often overlooked, but it’s one Zelda game I hold in pretty high regard.
78. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
If you grew up in the 1990s and were a fan of the point-and-click adventure genre, you were likely in one of two camps: a Sierra kid or a LucasArts kid. Me, I was one of the latter. Consequently, I ended up playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis many, many, maaaaany times as a kid (screw following the fez guy, what a jerk). Somehow, despite decades of popularity, this still remains the only, truly “good” Indiana Jones game. Maybe it’s because other games tried to make themselves action-adventures but this game instead focused on the puzzles and the humor of Indiana Jones.
In this game, Indy is pulled into a search for the fabled Atlantis (as evident by the title). He ends up on a globe-trotting adventure as per usual trying to figure out puzzles and outwit Nazis. The story is actually pretty compelling for an early game, with references to Plato and the lost metal orichalcum featuring heavily in the plot. And there’s a woman that Indiana woos as well.
It’s one of the harder point-and-click adventure games in the LucasArts series – my younger self had quite a bit of difficulty completing it – as sometimes the direction of what you have to do is unclear. Overall, though, it gains points for being a fun, faithful Indiana Jones adaptation that functions better as a continuation on his adventures than Crystal Skull ever did. But it’s also one of those games you’re either going to love or hate – if you’re into this genre it’ll be a blast, but there’s nothing in it that makes it stand out to a person not familiar with point-and-click adventures. Just an overall solid game that has always stuck in mind due to me spending a lot of time figuring out its puzzles as a kid.
77. Super Meat Boy
Platforms: 360, PC, PS4, Switch
So Super Meat Boy is a bit of a quandary for me when listing my favorite games. The game itself is fantastic – it’s a tight platformer (and if you haven’t noticed, I love platformers – especially in 2D) that is made up of simple yet challenging levels. You move fast as the little pile of meat with legs, and you’re expected to die. In fact, the game expects you to die many, many times because once you beat a level you get a montage of all your tries dying alongside the one try where you completed it. Some of the levels get so insanely difficult that it may or may not drive you mad – but for a long time my proudest achievement in video gaming was sticking through and completing the three secret “Kid” levels – based on I Wanna Be The Guy, a torturous hell of a game.
Here’s my problem. Around the time that Super Meat Boy was getting updated and rereleased for new systems (I originally played it on the XBox 360) the creator (Edmund McMillen) had a falling out with Danny Baranowsky (the composer of the music). Danny Baranowsky is one of my favorite video game composers and the soundtrack for the original Super Meat Boy was phenomenal. However, because of the falling out between him and McMillen, they had to record new tracks for the game since he wouldn’t give them the rights to re-use the music he composed. And the new tracks (aside from one or two) are noticeably inferior.
Part of the reason I was able to try again and again and again on the hardest levels in this game was because I had Baranowsky’s soundtrack inspiring me to keep at it. Now if the music doesn’t matter to you, the newer versions are just as good as the original version. But to me, obviously, the music matters. I love this game, I love Baranowsky’s soundtrack, and I listen to the Battle of Lil’ Slugger to pump myself up routinely. Also Carmeaty Burana is not only a fantastic track but a delicious play on words.
If you like a challenge and love platformers, you owe it to yourself to give Super Meat Boy a try. If you love music, you owe it to yourself to get Baranowsky’s original soundtrack. Don’t sleep on either.
Platforms: PS3, 360, PC, Mobile
Bioshock, like Doom, is one of those games that would hit high on my personal most influential list. But while Doom served as a blueprint for all future first-person shooters, Bioshock created a storytelling blueprint for not just future shooters, but all future games. I love the Bioshock universe. Rapture is a well-crafted city that begs to be explored, and part of that is because of how they chose to tell the story in the game. You, as Jack, show up in a city that’s fallen into disrepair. As you explore, you find audio logs explaining just what has happened and how the glorious city of Rapture has become such a horrible place. It is a simplistic way of story-telling that keeps you engaged and immersed in the world, and it’s no wonder that the style of story has become very common since Bioshock released.
It’s not just the storytelling that makes this a fantastic game, though. The actual gameplay of fighting off splicers and managing your abilities is also sublime. While advancements in the sequels make it a little hard to go back to the original, it’s still terrifying to go up against Big Daddies. They’ve become an iconic enemy for a reason – every encounter with them gets your heart pounding. It’s a game that requires you to plan out your assault ahead of time, but things can still go wrong in an instant requiring you to think on your feet just as much. My personal favorite moment happens once you’ve progressed somewhat far in the game – I was playing the game with a friend and we came across a section where splicers were mimicking statue. We crossed a large open area with nothing, then turned around just to double-check…
…AND THERE WAS A SPLICER RIGHT ON TOP OF US. We both screamed. It was the scariest thing that’s ever happened in a video game to me and sticks out as an outstanding moment thanks to the gameplay and atmosphere of Rapture.
On top of all this, Bioshock has probably one of the most well-known twists in gaming. About two-thirds of the way through the game, something happens that turns the entire game on its head. It’s astounding and unbelievable and while some games have gotten close, no other game has really replicated the same feeling as when I hit the twist for the first time. The best part of it is it’s a twist that uniquely uses the gaming format and it’s one that’s so integrated into the game’s story and gameplay that it’s nearly impossible to see coming until it actually happens. And the execution of the twist is perfect – I could write an essay on just the twist itself, not including the rest of the game.
This is a game that needs to be played by anyone who even has a remote interest in video games. There aren’t many other experiences like it. There are a few missteps – the final boss, for example, is ridiculous and the low point of the game – which keep it from being in my personal top 10 of all-time and drop it down to here. But don’t get me wrong – Bioshock is up there as the best example as to why video games can be art and deserves its spot in the top 100.
75. Shadow of the Colossus
Platforms: PS2, PS3
Shadow of the Colossus is a game that goes against nearly all of the modern day design philosophies. It stood out in 2005 when it was first released and it stands out even more today. There’s not much voice acting and the plot is scarce. The world is semi-open, but you don’t get a whole lot for exploring – there are only two “collectibles” which increase your health and stamina bar and both are completely unnecessary to complete the game if you so desire. All the game is about is one simple premise – you’re traveling out into the world to find sixteen colossi and kill them to save your girlfriend. That’s it. You ride a horse, you find the colossi, and then you kill them. There aren’t other enemies either, it’s just you versus a colossus sixteen different times.
It’s basically sixteen awesome boss battles. One long boss rush. It’s heaven for some gamers and hell for others.
Every colossus is impressive, and what you do to defeat each colossus is even more impressive. There’s a giant bird that swoops down at you and you have to jump onto its wings to find a weak point to stab, which leads to you soaring through the air while holding on for dear life. Another colossus you have to trick into attacking you, so you can run up its sword and start climbing its body because it’s just so darn large. One of my favorites is the colossus that burrows through the earth so you have to shoots arrows at it while it chases you as you ride your horse.
There’s plenty of down-time when you’re traveling the world looking for your next colossus to fight. But nothing about the game is routine or boring. Every colossus fight is epic in its own way, and no two colossi go down the same way either. They’re all creative and make you think, despite the game having very simple mechanics. More importantly, the game is getting a remaster on the PS4 in a few weeks which you bet your butt I’m going to be buying. I can’t wait to play this game over again with a shiny new coat of paint on it – it looked hauntingly gorgeous before and it looks even better now.
Shadow of the Colossus speaks to me because I love boss battles, and it had exactly the right amount of them along with the right difficulty. The last colossus nearly made me put a controller through a window, but it was worth it to finally beat it. If you haven’t played it, get ready to enjoy it for the first time in a few weeks because the PS4 version is gonna rock. And if you can’t wait that long…play the PS2 version because it still holds up.
74. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC
I’m a casual fan of South Park. I don’t watch episodes religiously, but every now and then I will pop one on and laugh, or watch an old episode that’s a favorite. I know most of the major kids (not just the main four, either) and I still enjoy Trey and Matt’s sense of humor even as they’ve grown older. But more importantly, one of my favorite sets of episodes was the Coon & Friends trilogy of episodes during season 14. The South Park kids’ superhero identities were wacky and fun – from Stan being Toolshed (he has his dad’s power tools) to Kenny being Mysterion (and having the only actual superpower because he can’t ever die) it’s a riot of three episodes that ends with them facing off against Cthulhu.
So imagine my joy when they announced the sequel to Stick of Truth would shuck the fantasy playtime of the first game in favor of the superheroes. Not only did I get another great South Park game written by Matt and Trey, but they were using some of my favorite episodes as inspiration. It went through development hell for a while and got delayed several times, but it was finally released this past October and the game didn’t let me down at all.
First, the gameplay is right up my alley. They shuck the typical turn-based RPG combat of the first game for a more strategic grid-based SRPG combat style. More importantly, there aren’t levels in the typical way – instead you earn artifacts and equipment which boost your stats as well as the stats of the other kids in your team. This way you can mix and match any of the South Park kids into your team at any time and none are disadvantaged by level. It allows for you to use a whole boatload of characters as you progress through the game, and also makes it possible to have giant brawls later on.
The humor in the game is on point, too – rarely do video games make me laugh out loud but The Fractured But Whole had me rolling at several points with its typical irreverent humor. It’s not family-friendly in the slightest and takes several jabs at certain aspects of video games as well (one example that’s gotten a lot of attention is the difficulty slider changing your skin color). If you don’t like South Park, you probably won’t like this game based on its game merits alone, but for me this was the perfect blend of humor, fun, and actual gameplay. I may not ever play Stick of Truth again, but I’ll definitely be coming back to The Fractured But Whole.
73. Mega Man X
Platforms: SNES, PC, Mobile
When the Mega Man series migrated to 16-bit, Capcom decided with the upgrade to technology they’d introduce a new character to follow-up the original Mega Man. And X was born, along with Zero who became a fan favorite despite dying in the first game (he always comes back). Mega Man X brought all the platforming, shoot-’em’-up fun from the original games and added a whole bunch of new moves. X had much more mobility than Mega Man, which meant way crazier stages and a whole lot of fun with the bosses. It’s a tightly designed game that improves upon the formula, but more importantly it’s one of the pinnacles of game design. If you’ve never watched Egoraptor’s Sequelitis on Mega Man & Mega Man X, I highly recommend it because he goes through a lot of reasons why I not only love the game, but why it’s one of the best designed games of all time – the intro level by itself is a masterclass in teaching new players how to play the game.
Oh, and don’t forget the music. Mega Man X has one of those classic soundtracks that never gets old. Storm Eagle, Armored Armadillo, and Spark Mandrill’s theme are the cream of the crop – as is evidenced by the plethora of remixes you can find of them. And you all know how much I love the music in games. Man, when Zero’s theme first kicks in after you fight Vile for the first time – it gives me chills. The drum beats that kick off the boss theme and get your adrenaline racing as you face off with Storm Eagle dive-bombing you or Sting Chameleon swinging around on his tongue. And then the heart-pounding Sigma battle theme when you fight him for the first time, followed by an epic, slow, grandiose theme as you fight his final form.
Mega Man X also introduces one of the greatest gaming mysteries of all-time as well: what the heck is a Kuwanger?
This is another classic game in every sense of the word. It’s a game I’ve played so many times that I know it like the back of my hand – where all the heart tanks are, which bosses are weak to which abilities, and how to get the secret special Hadoken move. If you’re surprised at how much I’m gushing over a game that’s only #73, you better strap in because we’re just getting started. I’m going to be going crazy with later games. Anyway, that’s Mega Man X. Like every other game on my list, you should play it.
72. Wii Sports
Yup, that’s right. The pack-in demo game that came with the Wii is appearing on my favorite games of all-time. What can I say about this game that hasn’t already been said a million times over? It was the perfect title to include with the Wii because it was the perfect title to get everyone involved in playing it, even if they weren’t into video games. My friends and I would hold golf, bowling, and boxing tournaments in college, we’d face off in baseball and laugh as our friends ended up in the outfield playing with us. I even got my dad to get up off the couch and play bowling and tennis. And yes, he was the one in the family that didn’t pay attention to the strap warning and almost put a Wiimote through our TV.
This game was a phenomenon all by itself. If the Wii had only existed as a Wii Sports machine and nothing else, it still might have had the same popularity. And it was deserved. I had more fun times with my friends and family because of this game than I can count. I can remember it being two in the morning and my friends participating in drunk boxing against each other. Or my young eight year old cousins competing against their grandmother in bowling. It brought people around me together and into the video game sphere more than anything else had.
And that’s why this game is important to me. I love video games, but it’s hard to get people to participate in my enthusiasm when they don’t really play them. Wii Sports was the way I got my dad to play video games with me – something I’d only ever done once before with a random pool game called Side Pocket for the NES. Wii Sports got all my friends in college into the same room laughing and having fun. And it got us into the same room after we’d graduated college, too. It’s a game that’s always going to be special in my heart – not because of great graphics, or a compelling story, or even tight gameplay.
It’s a game that brought me closer to people I cared about, and for that it’s a top 100 game for sure.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC, Switch
This week’s list starts and ends with Doom it looks like. They’re two different games separated by 23 years, but both are included on here for the same reason: they’re adrenaline-fueled, action-packed, non-stop fun first-person shooters. Only one did it with minimal graphics and computing power back in the 90s, and one did it with all the raw power of modern technology.
While the original Doom launched the first-person shooter, Doom 2016 brought the frenetic pace and kill-or-be-killed atmosphere back into the mainstream. After Bioshock and Call of Duty, the first-person shooter genre started to heavily favor single-player campaigns that were either story-centric or linear, and often gave way to more focus on the multiplayer aspects. Cover mechanics and regenerating health became the norm and we went from having an arsenal at our disposal to only being able to carry two weapons at a time. A craving for the pulse-pounding action of yesteryear was starting to brew, and then Doom 2016 came out and scratched that itch for a lot of people, including me.
Now don’t get me wrong – I love story and slower-paced adventures too, but sometimes you just want to feel like you’re an unstoppable force. Rip and tear until it’s done. Doom 2016 gives you all that feeling and more. Slowing down and stopping to think is actually a detriment in this game – once the battle music starts going, you better be sprinting around the battlefield or else you’re going to die real quick. All sorts of demons and beasties are coming for your head, but you have the weapons and ability to deny them what they’re searching for. This is a game about gunplay and combat and it feels so, so good. Your mobility never feels sluggish and the aiming is spot-on. There’s over-the-top graphic melee kills, there’s blood and guts and gore and exploding demons and…of course…the BFG.
The philosophy of the game can be summed up in one short cutscene. Another character is trying to explain to Doomguy how careful he needs to be with a piece of equipment…only for the Doomguy to just pull the equipment out forcefully and completely ruin what the other character was trying to keep whole. That’s this game. You’re not here for a story or to play politics or choose paragon or renegade. You’re here to kill demons and you do so with the huge array of insanely powerful weapons at your disposal. It’s fun and frenetic. In one battle you can feel like nothing can touch you, and then in the very next battle you may just barely scrape through by the skin of your teeth. And both feel amazing. Doom 2016 is a wild ride that I didn’t want to get off of once I finally started it. Play it, love it, and murder all those demons.
And there you have it. #80-71 are in the books. We’re almost a third done! This section had a lot of “classic” games that are some of my all-time favorites. I think next week we’re going to get a few more that have my own personal reasons as to why they’re my favorites. See you then!