And here we are again! I return with the next ten items on my top 100 games list. I’m starting to gush more so the entries are getting a little longer. But I know you’re not here to listen to me babble. When I looked back at my other articles, I realized that in every post for my top 100 list, I’ve said “without further ado” to lead into the next ten. So why break from tradition?
Without further ado, here’s #70-61!
70. Mega Man 4
Platforms: NES, PSX, PC
We’re starting off this week’s group of ten with a personal favorite of mine. Some games become favorites because of how much you enjoy the story, or how much you enjoy the gameplay, or how much you enjoy the music. And some games become favorites simply because they’re one of the first games you ever played. That is Mega Man 4 to me. This was the first Mega Man game I ever played, and it was also probably in one of the first ten video games I ever played ever. I got my own Nintendo right around when this game first came out, and so it was one of the first games my parents bought me (after Super Mario Bros and Ghostbusters 2 – yeah, that’s right, Ghostbusters 2 was one of the first games I ever played too – and no, it’s not on this list).
Now don’t get me wrong, Mega Man 4 is a pretty darn good game by itself. It’s the first Mega Man game to introduce the charge feature (which confused me when I later played earlier games as a kid) and it was also the first game to introduce the “oh, it’s not Dr. Wily behind everything oh wait yes it is” story beat that every future Mega Man game had. And being the fourth in the series, they were starting to get more creative in their bosses – Ring Man, anyone? Skull Man holds the prestigious position of being the first Mega Man boss I ever defeated – yes, that is something I still clearly remember.
I also clearly remember finally getting passed the Dr. Cossack levels as a kid and was on the second Wily stage boss when I had to pause the game to do some chore for my parents. When I came back, I had discovered my dad had unplugged the console to vaccuum and I’d lost my progress. It was doubly bad because the passwords you got for the endgame of Mega Man 4 would place you at the start of Dr. Cossack’s castle, not Dr. Wily’s. I was so upset with my father that day. Hey, kid priorities, right?
All in all, this is another game that I have fond memories attached to more than actually being impressed with the design of the game itself. It was my first Mega Man game, and since I went on to become a huge Mega Man fan it would be pretty obvious that the one that started it all would show up on my list. So here’s to Mega Man 4, the game that launched me into loving Mega Man.
69. Worms Armageddon
Platforms: PSX, N64, PC
When I was growing up, I played a slightly well-known DOS game called Scorched Earth. In it, players controlled little pixelated tanks and had to adjust power and trajectory of their weapons to hit the other players’ tanks while taking into account wind and terrain. You could get come crazy power-up and weapons like MIRVs and Napalm. It was a very fun hot-seat strategy game where my friends and I would sit around the computer and take turns trying to get the perfect shot lined up to take out somebody else’s tank.
Worms Armageddon is, in my opinion, the best iteration of that type of game. The Worms series has gone on for a long time and there have been maaaany, maaaaany sequels after Armageddon – but I still not only have the best memories associated with Worms Armageddon but also I think it plays the best. You can have up to teams of 8 worms per player, there are many customization options regarding matches as well as weapons, and the weapon selection is probably one of the best in all the games. There’s nothing more satisfying than nailing a Super Sheep shot – but there’s also nothing more hilarious than your own Banana Bomb backfiring on you.
In college we would crowd around my roommate’s computer taking turns trying to position our worms to get the most strategic positioning. We would try to get creative with moving around the map by pulling out the ninja rope and then die laughing as somebody’s worm would sail into the abyss because they missed a swing or got caught on some weird geometry we couldn’t see. At one point many years later I brought out my PC and hooked it up to my big flat-screen TV in the middle of our main room just so we could all pass around the keyboard and mouse and play Worms Armageddon again. It’s one of those games that didn’t ever age and all the sequels have just been attempts at recreating the magic of a wonderfully perfect game.
Not only is this a well-made game, but as is a requirement I have a lot of wonderful memories associated with it. We would always come up with weird and funny names for our Worms and some of us would have themes. The only name I remember of my staple names was Umlaut (because why wouldn’t you name a worm Umlaut?) but it’s a game that I always had a blast playing, and not only that it’s a game I can easily boot up again even now to get a round of it going with my friends (if I can corral them into the same room). It’s an all-time great for sure.
68. Shovel Knight
Platforms: 3DS, Switch, PS3, PS4, XBO, PC
I’ve talked a little about the Mega Man series already, which is good because the main reason Shovel Knight is on this list is how it’s basically the best homage to that series in existence. It’s also a game that exists thanks to the Kickstarter craze of the early 2010s and a great example of how Kickstarter can end up funding great things. The premise of the game is simple. You’re a knight. You have a shovel. You’re fighting other knights to eventually get to the villainous Enchantress. You can dig and jump on your shovel like a pogo stick. It’s deceptively simple and charming and really, really fun.
Each of the enemy knights (the Order of No Quarter) also have their own personalities, much like the bosses of Mega Man games. They even do the boss rush at the end of the game, but in a hilarious way: you drop in all the bosses eating dinner and have to duel all of them one-on-one as the others watch while eating. And then Yacht Club Games went a step further – thanks to Kickstarter stretch goals three of the knights have their own campaigns that play completely different from the main game, including the adorable Plague Knight. There’s nearly endless content for this game and the humor and style of the game is so on point that it’s very hard to put down.
Part of why I love this game is it’s such a loving and creative homage to the early games of my childhood that I have fond nostalgia for. But it doesn’t just play on that nostalgia – it’s a very good game in its own right and never falls too hard on trying to recreate the old days. It has stellar music (as usual) and the final boss fight is amazing. In fact all the fights with the Order of No Quarter are amazing. They’ve even added a co-op mode that I’ll end up double-dipping on getting the game for. It’s a modern game with retro sensibilities and touches all my buttons (no pun intended). Every time I see Shovel Knight there’s a little smile on my face because of his design.
Good game. Good knight.
67. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Platforms: PS2, XBOX, 360, PS3, PC, Mobile
A lot of people will argue about which GTA is the best. Some say it’s GTA3 because it started the open world trend single-handedly and was one of the best pure fun sandbox games ever made. I won’t disagree about it’s influence, but it’s not my favorite. Others will say it’s Vice City because of the 80s aesthetic and soundtrack and how it took everything from 3 and made it better. I won’t disagree that its soundtrack is killer, but it’s not my favorite. Some will say it’s GTA 4 and they’re wrong.
In my not-that-humble opinion, San Andreas was the pinnacle of the Grand Theft Auto series by far. It’s very 90s – the game takes place in 1992 and has a very 90s soundtrack. You play as CJ, a young black man protagonist – and this game came out in 2004, when there were very few black protagonists at all. You start out in a gang and work your way up the ladder. Samuel L. Jackson voices a dirty cop. David Cross voices a guy that gives you probably the most infamous GTA mission of all time due to how freaking hard it is to fly a stupid RC plane. There’s a very interesting plot that takes CJ all over San Andreas (a fictional representation of the California/Nevada area). All of that is well and good.
But what makes this game great is the sheer sandbox potential it has. There are planes, trains, and automobiles. You can basically do whatever you want, go wherever you want, explore and have fun or explore and cause havoc. There are three different cities with three distinct feels that you can create mayhem in, along with all the country roads and hills in between them that are ripe for fleeing the cops through. The pure scope of the game wasn’t matched for a very, very long time.
My friends and I played the GTA games to death, but we especially killed San Andreas. GTA is a great multiplayer singleplayer game, where instead of doing any sort of story missions we would just run around and cause as much trouble as we possibly could and then when we died, we’d hand off the controller to the next person and see how long they would survive. It was a game where you could make your own fun and never had to follow the game’s rules, but it still impressed with its scripted story sequences. Grand Theft Auto is a titan in the games industry for a reason, and San Andreas was peak GTA with all the great times I had growing up playing it.
66. Borderlands 2
Platforms: PS3, 360, PC
Have you ever had your friends call you up panicking and laughing at the same time, telling you that you needed to get online right away and join their game because they were stuck and couldn’t figure out how to get out of a house they were trapped in? It happened to me and the game it happened in was Borderlands 2.
This game is good. It has fun, interesting characters. It builds on the world established in Borderlands and adds depth to the characters from the first game. It introduces a wonderful villain that is one of the top ten best video game villains of all-time, I’d say. It has slightly more interesting boss battles. It has humor in spades. And, of course, it gives you lots and lots of guns which means lots and lots of options to kill people. But what elevates the game from good to great is the co-op mode. Sharing in the experience and humor of the game is what made this game leave a lasting impression on me. I played this by myself and with friends and it was an absolute ball getting up to some crazy stuff as we progressed through the story.
It’s a well-designed game because each of the four main characters have very unique and diverse playstyles. If you like magic and elemental stuff (like me), you can play as Maya the Siren. If you’re more of a straight shooter you can be Axton the Commando, or if you like stealth you can be Zer0 the Assassin. Then there is Salvador the Gunzerker, who is like a bezerker but with guns. Pretty self explanatory. Each character brings their own unique abilities to the squad and they also all have unique personalities and backstories as to why they got into this mess in the first place.
And while the characters and gunplay and world are all great, again, it’s the co-op mode that makes this game wonderful. It’s not a game that’s meant to be played by yourself – you have to sit down and cause mischief together with your friends. I made some great memories playing this game online with my squad of friends laughing and having a ball. Even when they called me to get me online specifically to rescue them from a building that they could have easily gotten out of themselves. The things I do for friends in video games.
65. Hitman: Blood Money
Platforms: PS2, XBX, 360, PC
The premises of the Hitman games are simple: you’re Agent 47 and you’re hired to kill people. That’s it. A few games tried to make a more over-arcing story but 47’s backstory has been rebooted and retconned so many times I’m not even sure what’s considered the canon interpretation anymore. But the story doesn’t really matter because the game is all about figuring out inventive ways to kill people. The Hitman series itself has gone through many iterations – from linear stealth missions & assassinations to sandbox gameplay to episodic updates.
The best iteration, though, was Blood Money by far. It introduced the best sandbox gameplay of the series where you were dropped into a large area with your targets in mind and then you’re sent to work. You can bring in whatever equipment you want – from his iconic twin Silverballer pistols to a sniper rifle in a suitcase to fiber wire for up close and personal kills. You can knock people out and take their clothes to disguise yourself and make it easier for you to slip into position for your hits. The game also introduces contextual kills that can look like accidents – a dropped chandelier here, an accidental gas explosion there – and nobody will even know you were there. Each mission is ranked from Silent Assassin (never seen and only kill the targets) to Mass Murderer (your cover is blown and basically just go to town killing innocents along with your targets).
Much like GTA: San Andreas, this game is another great multiplayer singleplayer experience. It easily lends itself to switching off between players each time you fail a mission, allowing us to switch back and forth and try out different ways to sneak around the map. We could also easily set up our own personal challenges by trying to go for Silent Assassin by only using the fiber wire, or trying to murder every single person in a particular map without dying. My favorite level of the Hitman series is in this game – you travel to the suburbs to kill someone in witness protection (if I remember correctly) and basically get free reign in an unassuming cul-de-sac. I remember spending a good half hour killing people and dragging them to a conveniently placed garbage truck that, well, eliminates all evidence of a body.
Hitman: Blood Money is one of those games that I love because the only limit to what you can do is your imagination. Once you’re dropped in a level, there are all sorts of creative ways to complete your mission. While the game will guide you in certain directions, you’re free to tackle your problem in a multitude of ways and it was always fun playing with friends and seeing how they would solve the puzzle of murdering a target. It’s a wonderful game with a simple premise and while bloody, it’s still bloody fun.
64. Age of Mythology
I’m a mythology nerd, so it’s no surprise that the Real-Time Strategy game that hooked me the most was Age of Mythology. I’m not a huge fan of RTS – the games often require a level of micromanagement and thinking on your feel that I just can’t keep up with at harder difficulties or against human players who can adapt a lot quicker. But Age of Mythology was a game that I played a ton of in college because I had several friends who also owned the game, so we would team up to fight computer opponents or do 2 vs. 2 battles against each other, or sometimes giant free-for-alls.
I’m not sure I would have had as much interest in it as I did if it wasn’t based on mythological creatures and races. Having the choice of Greek vs. Egyptian vs. Norse (vs Titans in an expansion) basically hit all the right buttons for me to the point that I was willingly sucked into the game by my friends. I didn’t dabble much in the single-player – in fact I hardly remember the main campaign at all. What I do remember are the fun times on my freshman college hall my friends and I had as we would yell at each other when one person did a sneak attack or whatever.
One of my friends had the awful habit of sneaking a flying creature into a lone corner of the map trying to get second place because we couldn’t find his last unit to wipe him out completely. So the person who wiped him out scouring the map to find him while the rest of us were laughing because we could see where he was, and he’d never admit defeat until his last unit was gone. It was little memories like that in this game which bonded me to my freshman college friends – friends that I still have to this day.
So once again, this isn’t just a game to me. It’s a vessel of memories that brought me closer with my friends. A few years ago during a blizzard, my group of friends booted up the HD remake of the game and played a multiplayer match to relive old times since none of us could leave our houses. It was awesome and felt both nostalgic and new and I still had fun. This game will be timeless to me simply because of the memories attached to it, and that’s why it lands on my list.
63. Mega Man 9
Platforms: Wii, PS3, 360, PC, Mobile
If last week’s theme was Doom, this week’s theme seems to be Mega Man – two of my favorite Mega Man games plus a Mega Man game homage. Definitely not done intentionally – just how the list ended up shaking out. Mega Man 9 was a long-awaited return to the 2D sprite-based sidescroller of old. After updating to higher graphics and semi-3D with Mega Man X7 and X8, Mega Man 9 was a surprise that demade the game and returned to the pixelated sprite graphics of the NES. It was a welcome refresh to the Mega Man games and everyone was excited for it.
On top of that, it’s actually a very well made game. The bosses are unique and fun (and also includes the first female robot master boss in the Mega Man series) and the levels are well designed. Some are easier to master than others, but it still brings the core fun of the old Mega Man games. The soundtrack is also stellar after several disappointing entries in soundtracks.
This Mega Man game doesn’t have any particular memories associated with it – it’s just a freaking good game. After years of getting disillusioned with Capcom’s treatment of the Mega Man franchise and assuming its best days were behind it, they came through with a masterpiece of the game that restored my faith in what they could do. (Of course now it’s been 10 years since this and no good Mega Man games have come out since, so my faith was restored only for hope to be dashed again, but whatever.) I even attempted speed runs and no death runs with this game – something I’d never really taken the time to do in other Mega Man games regardless of how much I enjoyed them. It’s a good, engaging game from one of my favorite series and that’s all she wrote.
62. Enter the Gungeon
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, Switch
Enter the Gungeon is a very unique game. It’s a mix between a twin-stick shooter, a roguelike, and a bullet hell shooter. Three different components that shouldn’t really work, but amazingly it does and is highly addictive. There are only five levels to the Gungeon, but those levels get very hard very quickly and never take prisoners. I’ve put plenty of hours into the game but have only made it to the fifth level a handful of times – and I’ve never beaten it. That doesn’t stop me from considering this one of my favorite games.
The game is just so addictive once you get the hang of the gameplay loop. Each level has one of several bosses that you might fight at the end, and each boss is pattern-based with their attacks so if you’re good at dodging a hail of bullets while keeping your aim on the target they become easier and easier with each progression. The Gungeon is also littered with different guns you can get with all sorts of status effects to make your life easier. Lots of the guns are clever references to popular guns in fiction – you can get the gun from Looper, or a gun that’s similar to a lightsaber, or even the proton pack from the Ghostbusters. You can flip tables to block incoming enemy fire and duck, dodge, and weave your way around the constant stream of bullets coming your way. The game controls like a dream and that’s important because the action gets pretty crazy the further you go into the Gungeon.
It also allows for co-op which led to some pretty fun times with my friends. It’s also a game that always makes you feel like you’re learning and getting better. Once you recognize enemy patterns it becomes easier to dodge them and survive longer. Completing enough bosses and levels allows you to unlock even more guns that are more powerful, and finding other travelers lost in the gungeon will either open up new shops or give you other advantages while you explore. It’s a very rewarding gameplay loop that has kept me addicted and the fact that it’s a small game from a small company who is still adding updates to the game only adds to my love for it.
If you haven’t heard of this game, it’s a game I highly recommend giving a shot or two – no pun intended. Go forth and get your gun on, I promise you’ll have fun.
61. Dead Space
Platforms: PS3, 360, PC
As I said in an earlier entry, I’m not a huge fan of horror games. But Dead Space is one of those unique experiences that is part terrifying and part exhilirating. The two sequels made the gameplay more action-y than survival horror, but the first is the highlight of the series because it blends action and horror at the perfect level. You’re exploring the spaceship Ishimura as Isaac Clarke, an engineer who finds himself a little over his head as awful monsters have infested the ship on every level. The game’s atmosphere is oppressive and scary as well which just adds to the terror.
What makes Dead Space unique is its approach to weapons and how you use them. Isaac, an engineer, doesn’t carry around shotguns and rocket launchers. Instead he uses engineer and mining tools like a Plasma Cutter or the Line Gun to defend himself from the monsters in the Ishimura. And instead of the typical zombie solution of always aiming for the head, instead the necromorph enemies need to be dismembered to be killed. So you find yourself aiming to chop off arms and legs instead of aiming for tricky head shots, which changes how you approach battles and adds a unique twist to your survival.
This is a game that stuck with me, not necessarily because of story twists (although there are several and they’re good if not obvious) but because of the gameplay and the atmosphere. The Ishimura is one of those game locations that you remember because of how carefully you end up exploring each section. From the med bay to the bridge, each section has its own dangers lurking around each corner. And when you have to go explore in zero gravity you tense up even more since it becomes harder to defend yourself. Dead Space does such a great job of immersion that every corner feels like it has some new terror hiding behind it. But it’s not just horror – once you get your tools upgraded some of the battles end up making you feel like a hero in an action movie. It just feels so satisfying to fire off repeated shots and chop off limbs left and right as a swarm of enemies attacks you.
Dead Space is a great game that could have turned into a wonderful series – however the IP was mismanaged by Electronic Arts and ended up shelved after the third game performed poorly. It’s a shame because survival horror in space has never been as much fun as this game.
And we’re done with another ten. Next week we’ll be halfway done with the list and very close to the top 50!
In terms of format, I’ve settled on continuing to do 10 per post through #21. For #20-#6, I’ll be doing five games per post to talk about my top 20 a little more in depth. The top 5 will probably then get three posts, with #5 & #4 in one, #3 and #2 in another, and my #1 game getting its own article to top off the list. See you all next week!