Top 100 Games of All-Time: #73

Kingdom Hearts II

Release Date: March 28, 2006 (NA)

Platform Played On: PS2

2018 Placement: #57 (-16)

Demyx

What It Is:

Before Kingdom Hearts as a franchise became an absolute convoluted mess that makes everyone who tries to explain it sounds like a conspiracy theorist, it was only a slightly confusing mess that made everyone who tried to explain it sound like a conspiracy theorist. When Kingdom Hearts II hit shelves, there were only two games in the franchise and so far the story was pretty straightforward. Organization XIII was introduced in the Chain of Memories spinoff and became the main villain group of the full sequel. It still focused a lot on Disney and bringing those worlds to video game life. But it also started the trend of “okay what the hell is going on in these games.”

At its core, Kingdom Hearts II is an action-RPG headlined by Sora, Donald, and Goofy. The basics are not super complex and the AI can be a bit wonky (fucking HEAL ME DONALD) but when you get to the high-level combat (especially the Data fights in the Final Mix version) it can be actually pretty punishing. KHII introduces new things like Drive Forms to make the battles a little more fun, but honestly why everyone played this was because of the multitudes of Disney worlds. And it had that in spades as well – from Lion King to Aladdin to Hercules, it has most of the worlds of the strongest 90s Disney movies.

Why It’s Important to Me:

I have a very specific thing that always appeals to me when it’s a thing. Namely a numbered villain group where each member has their own unique weapon/trait that makes them stand out. The Four Fiends from Final Fantasy IV. The Seven Deadly Sins. The Four Horsemen. The Forsaken (from Wheel of Time). The Sinister Six. The Chosen from XCOM 2. Or maybe one bad guy for each of the twelve Zodiac symbols. Or maybe using tarot card symbols. Bonus points if they’re revealed slowly and you build anticipation as to what their specialty is and maybe one of them has been under your noses the whole time. I don’t know why I love this trope but I do and I won’t apologize for it.

Organization XIII is probably my favorite iteration of this type of group and a big part of why I love this game so much. Each member of Organization XIII has their own personality, along with a unique weapon, style, and color (mostly). From Luxord the Gambler of Fate to Xaldin the Whirlwind Lancer, each one has an element and weapon they use when you fight them and they are some of the best and most memorable battles in any ARPG, in my humble opinion. Yes, a lot of people love Kingdom Hearts because of Disney, but honestly I’m there for Organization XIII and that’s all there is to it. I was excited to explore Disney worlds, but I can’t say I wasn’t more interested in finding out which Organization member was behind the Heartless debacle in each world.

My Strongest Memory:

Motherfucking Demyx, the Melodious Nocturne. He’s one of my favorite video game characters of all-time and I love him to death. He’s not a fighter, he’s a musician, and he’s super lazy and doesn’t actually want to do any battling or scheming. How he got into Organization XIII is anybody’s guess (seriously, I’m sure they explain it in one of the many future KH spinoffs that convoluted the story further but I’m not gonna unravel that thread) but he was instantly my favorite of all the characters.

I can immediately picture the battle where you fight him in Hollow Bastion, in fact the entire Hollow Bastion sequence in the mid-game of KH2 is probably my favorite setpiece of the entire series. It’s where the meme-famous “they fucking killed Goofy” scene comes from and everything about that section is just perfect. But I distinctly remember the Demyx fight and how much I just loved his intro. I can hear “Dance water dance!” in my head almost pitch-perfect. Here, take a look if you want to watch it yourself. Demyx is just the best (and it includes the famous Goofy dies scene as well for your amusement).

Why It’s #73:

I love Organization XIII so much I have several art pieces of Demyx, Axel, and Xemnas that I put up on my wall (when I have wall space to have them). Kingdom Hearts II will forever be my favorite KH game simply because it has the best, simplest, easiest mix of ARPG fun, cool explorable Disney worlds, and the best iteration of Organization XIII (especially all their Data fights in Final Mix). However, let’s be real, the game is overall dragged down a little simply because of the absolute nonsensical turns it’s taken (and how Disney sort of ruined the Disney worlds with a tighter oversight in KH3). Still, in a bubble, KHII is an awesome game well worth the time to play it.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #74

Worms Armageddon

Release Date: June 24, 1999 (NA)

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #69 (-5) (nice)

398910

What It Is:

Imagine utter chaos distilled into a game about worms with guns. That’s Worms Armageddon. There have been many different iterations of Worms since, but Armageddon in my eyes is still the peak of the series. From the Banana Bomb to the Concrete Donkey to the Super Sheep, it has all the best classic weapons with the greatest worm-based multiplayer of all-time.

In Worms Armageddon you have a team of anywhere from 4-8 worms and you’re fighting against other teams of worms on a highly destructible map. There’s a given turn order and on each worm’s turn they have a limited amount of time to navigate around the map and do as much damage as possible to other worms. You have to make your attacks good ones, hoping to take out the other teams before they get around to taking you out. Sometimes using the map is to your advantage as worms can’t swim and there’s ever-present water lurking at the bottom of the level. It’s a wild party game that’s just an absolute blast to play with friends.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Growing up I spent a lot more time playing local multiplayer than online multiplayer because I grew up with 56k internet. Worms was a college favorite for hot-seat multiplayer where we would all crowd around one PC and take turns moving our worms while having a blast. I remember sitting at HarveyZ’s computer my senior year of college with three or four of us taking turns in wormy destruction. I also remember he had an affinity for ninja ropes (and being bad at actually swinging with them, sending his own worms to their doom about as many times as he was successful with them).

Worms Armageddon specifically has a place in my heart because of the nostalgia for those good college times where we all got together and just shot the shit while shooting bazookas. Especially during the pandemic, I miss the camaraderie of local multiplayer and the excitement from getting a particularly grand banana bomb explosion and taking out several opponents. I’ve tried to rekindle the magic with other Worms games but it’s just not the same over the internet. Sitting together is the optimal way to play this game and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Strongest Memory:

I don’t have a specific one associated with this game, just the fond memories of playing it with friends. When I think of this game I can immediately picture the layout of my college senior year apartment and the corner the computer was in that we played this on. That the kitchen was to our left along with a table where all our snacks were within easy reach. I remember that table spent the majority of the year having a Heroscape map built on it as we would regularly rearrange the tiles and have epic battles in that when we weren’t playing Worms or Smash or other games.

I can hear HarveyZ shouting “Nooooooo!” as his worm missed the ninja rope jump and landed in the water with a bloop. I can remember that I named one of my worms “Umlaut” because I liked that word. It’s just one of those games that sparks real, tactile memories even if I don’t have a specific moment that I can instantly recall.

Why It’s #74:

This is one of those remarkable “personal connection” games that I will always have a soft spot for. Mechanically it’s still the best Worms in my opinion and has the best assortment of weapons. Sometimes simplicity just works. I don’t fault them for trying new things and expanding the Worms genre, but man you just can’t top this one. And while I love it and it brings me joy every time I think about it, it’s also just the multiplayer. I don’t think I’d ever play a Worms game without the specific friends I played Worms with growing up. And I’m okay with that.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #75

Tales From The Borderlands

Release Date: November 25, 2014 (Ep. 1) – October 20, 2015 (Ep. 5)

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #59 (-16)

14114219235_67762c8e9f_k

What It Is:

It’s another Telltale game in the same style that they got famous for. A mostly choice-oriented dialogue-based game with some action quick-time events and a few puzzles scattered throughout. And like most of their games it’s expanding on someone else’s franchise. This time, however, it’s based in the video game world of Borderlands instead of a movie/book/comic property. And let me tell you, Telltale knocks it out of the park with this one.

The big sticking point with the Borderlands franchise for a lot of people isn’t its setting, it’s everything else. From the slightly-too-meme-y humor to the fact that it’s made by Gearbox (whose CEO is Randy Pitchford, a strange case all by himself), there are a lot of reasons that some people don’t like the franchise. Telltale takes the Borderlands universe to its utmost and tells the best story yet, using new and old characters while doing it. It keeps the same tone but puts a new twist on the humor and it ended up being not only Telltale’s best work, but the best game associated with Borderlands and a testament to letting developers make different genre games in established universes.

Why It’s Important to Me:

With Telltale games, I always waited until the entire season of episodes was released before diving in. And I basically binged Tales of the Borderlands because the story kept me glued to my screen for the entire game. The characters and humor are fantastic, the plot twists are excellent, and the game itself is just worth every positive adjective you can come up with.

It’s a game I hold in high regard because it’s not a “game”-heavy game but still keeps me entertained and involved. Most of the decisions are dialogue-based and the choices it makes you make are some of the best of Telltale’s work. While the story itself is more on rails than Batman: Enemy Within, the execution of the plot and seeing the results of your decisions is still world-class. And this game came off the heels of Borderlands 2 when I was at my most interested in Borderlands so seeing fantastic writing in a universe I adored just make me swell up with pride and tears.

My Strongest Memory:

The Borderlands franchise is known for having awesome song introductions for each of their games – the first starts with Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked, for example. Tales from the Borderlands keeps up this trend for each of their five episodes and let me tell you, the intros for both chapters 3 and 4 not only have awesome songs that were immediately added to my playlist after hearing them, but were also intros that kept me hooked and I watched from start to finish even though they were credit sequences. Here’s the chapter 3 intro – just watch it – and look how it not only gives you easy characterizations of all the main characters as well as being entertaining on top of a jam.

I’ll also include the chapter 4 intro, but be warned, it has a song that goes under the classification of “song you can’t help but sing emphatically with your fist clenched towards the sky.” You know the kind of songs I’m talking about. So I remember both of these intros very fondly. But in addition, something happens shortly after the episode 4 intro where I was absolutely blown away that they had the balls to do it in a spin-off game. I won’t spoil it here but it was one of the most shocking moments in the entire Borderlands franchise and that’s saying something.

Why It’s #75:

It’s been a while since I played this but whenever I think about this game I get a dumb smile on my face. And I can instantly hear both “The Pieces of the People We Love” and “To The Top” and see the intros in my mind. It’s a weird comfort game that I would enjoy playing again with people so they can witness the story. It’s hilariously stupid at times and utterly heartfelt at other times. Just a perfect mix for a narrative-focused game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sing “To The Top” again with my fist clenched in the air.

 

 

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #76

God of War

Release Date: April 20, 2018

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: Unranked

gow_09

What It Is:

God of War was a series that took the video game universe by storm when the first game released on PS2. It’s a setpiece-filled action romp with tons of combos and cool weapons. I remember being utterly blown away and wowed by the hydra battle, which is basically the intro boss so there was so much more to come after it. However, as the series progressed the protagonist Kratos became more and more of an asshole, to the point that he was one of the most irredeemable figures in gaming because all he did was be angry and violent and murder in his quest for vengeance. God of War became not fun because the character was not remotely likeable or interesting anymore.

Queue the reboot in 2018 where Kratos is now older, wiser, and a father hiding out in Norse country. The character is the same and you can tell the rage is still there, but time has passed and suddenly he’s a worthwhile protagonist again mostly due to his relationship with his son, Atreus. Armed with the Leviathan Axe, one of the coolest weapons in all of gaming, you set out on a trek filled with action and adventure to spread Kratos’ recently deceased wife’s ashes – a very “small” story compared to the previous iterations of “kill God” as the main plot.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I’m a huge fan of mythology (Greek in particular) so the original God of War was one of my favorite games for a long time (before my distaste for Kratos as a character mildly ruined the series). I was so excited to see Greek myths and characters in 3D action. And while mythology has gotten a little more widespread in games now, I still have a special place in my heart for this series. This version moves on from Greek and started interweaving Norse mythology, which was pretty sparse in video games before this.

But really there’s so many things to love about this game: the story is top-tier and the interactions between Kratos and Atreus over 20 hours of gameplay are just phenomenal. The Leviathan Axe just feels amazing to use: it’s so satisfying to throw and recall and all of its attacks feel like a natural, fluid extension of Kratos. The game’s cinematography is also gorgeous: the entire game taking place in one long one-shot camera take which, while not as hard to do in a game as a movie, still makes the cinematic presentation of the game second to none. But most importantly: it took a character that everyone thought had nowhere else to go and gave him more depth that anyone thought possible. It’s just a damn fine video game that raises the bar both mechanically and artistically.

My Strongest Memory:

There are two: the first is meeting Jormungandr for the first time. Yes, it was in all the trailers and advertising material for the game but it was still such an impressive and wondrous moment to boat out onto the lake and have the giant world serpent rumble up and speak in a deep, untranslatable language. Just dwarfing Kratos and Atreus. I think that was when I was truly wowed by the game’s presentation and thought “oh this is going to be amazing, isn’t it?”

The second one is when the Blades of Chaos make their return. Kratos’ signature weapon from the first three games don’t appear until the second half of the game and the entire sequence leading up to him acquiring them again is just absolutely fantastic dramatic storytelling. It’s a moment that doesn’t exist without the previous God of War games that turned Kratos into a vile scourge. The game uses the distaste people had for Kratos’ actions so well in showing his development and change between the last time we saw him and now. It’s powerful and a testament that video game characters can be allowed growth if developers and writers don’t want to just iterate and make the same game over and over again.

Why It’s #76:

Again, we’re getting into the territory where every game I talk about I’m going to have nothing but glowing things to say. God of War is a masterpiece of video game storytelling and direction. It’s in the running for the overall best game of the last generation of consoles just by sheer quality. So why is it #76 and not #1? Well, it’s missing the personal connection for me. Playing God of War is like watching an Oscar-winning film, appreciating the cinematography and acting, and going “yeah, I get why that won awards.” But it’s missing the connection of the movies I’ve watched 50 times because they’re my comfort food, or trigger other memories in my life. That’s all.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #77

Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations

Release Date: October 23, 2007 (NA)

Platform Played On: DS

2018 Placement: #83 (+6)

godot-coffee-quote

What It Is:

The third in the Ace Attorney series and the end of the original Phoenix Wright trilogy, Trials & Tribulations is (in my humble opinion) the best game of the entire series. It has the best rival prosecutor (Godot), the second best villain (*spoiler*), and the best overall story arc through all five cases of the game. It runs as a perfect conclusion to the original trilogy because it has a very personal, satisfying case as its finale that really hits home. While it never quite hits the high of taking down Gant in the first game, it is by far the most solid overall entry of the series and extremely worthwhile.

If you’re not familiar with the Ace Attorney games, it’s a mostly visual novel style game where the actual gameplay is divided into two sections: investigation and court room battles. Investigations are similar to point-and-click adventures where you go around collecting evidence – but don’t worry, the game won’t let you miss any. You’ll always have whatever you’re supposed to going into the courtroom, where you use evidence to prove or disprove statements by witnesses until you corner the guilty party (to awesome, intense music). The satisfaction of nailing a villain to the wall with evidence is second-to-none in these games.

Why It’s Important To Me:

While Phoenix Wright is not a pure visual novel, I do credit the series as being my gateway drug to those types of games. Playing the Ace Attorney games on my DS back in the day was a thrill a minute. I would often accidentally stay up super late because a case was hitting a climax and I wanted to finish it out. Much like a good book where I just have to keep reading so I can see how the story ends, the Phoenix Wright cases pull you in and then amp you up with fantastic music as you unravel each villain’s story.

Trials and Tribulations I had the most emotional reaction to because of the final case. I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t played it, but at a certain point you realize where the case is going and you hate it, but it’s also so goddamn compelling and Phoenix’s ultimate pursuit of the truth is infectious. This entire game is the gameplay of Phoenix Wright at its peak. Not too over-done, not too complicated. Just enough puzzles to make you really think about the evidence you have and how you’re supposed to take people down. And the humor is top-notch on top of it.

My Strongest Memory:

“Why don’t we go for the unlimited penalty?”

The final case of this game from top to bottom…is so good. The perfect story, the perfect villain, the perfect murderer, the perfect musical cues. I still get chills thinking about the final face-off. I’m not going to say anymore or spoil it if you haven’t played, but…it’s so worth it.

Why it’s #77:

It’s great, it’s amazing, it’s a top notch visual novel w/ detective gameplay. The music is glorious, the story and characters are engaging and wonderful. Honestly I will always speak high praise for the Phoenix Wright series and tell everyone that it’s a great starting point for these sorts of games since they keep you involved with what’s going on with the puzzles and not just a passive party. Anyway, Trials & Tribulations is a top-notch game and if you haven’t played it yet and have any interest in puzzles & visual novels, you really should.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #78

Dead Space 2

Release Date: January 25, 2011

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: Unranked

necromorph babies

What It Is:

The follow-up to the sci-fi action horror success story of Dead Space, it reduces a little bit of the horror in favor of a little more of the action. Isaac Clarke can’t shake those nasty necromorphs as they start attacking again and our favorite space engineer has to tear them all limb from limb from limb from limb. Dead Space was always a unique franchise due to the engineering-style weapons Isaac was equipped with and how the targets were arms and legs and heads instead of just headshots – eliminating all the necromorph’s appendages was the ultimate goal to pacify them.

Dead Space 2 turns everything from the first game up to 11. More kinds of necromorphs, cool weapons to disassemble them with, and new characters to question the motives of as things get spookier and spookier. Isaac also gets a voice in this one – after being a silent protagonist in the first game, the character of Isaac gains a personality through actually being able to talk and react to what is going on around him. The Dead Space series also included the diegetic health/status bar on the back of Isaac’s suit, removing the need for a screen-clogging HUD which helped keep the action and horror front and center.

Why It’s Important To Me:

In 2018 I had Dead Space on this list as one of my favorite games. Between then and now, though, I’ve consulted the tea leaves and realized that of the three main games in the series, 2 is the one I most want to go back and play. The first game is a less action-heavy, slow-burn survival horror in space that a lot of horror fans probably enjoy the most. But for me, a person who likes action-oriented horror games (see my earlier entry on The Suffering), Dead Space 2 fits the niche I’m looking for quite nicely.

I personally think it builds on what Dead Space built and makes it into a perfect style of game (for me). I love the tension of the necromorphs and the creepy atmosphere that they create. I like that you have to watch your ammo but you’re not ever completely tapped out if you keep your wits about you. I like the variety of weapons and having to choose which ones work best against certain necromorphs. And while the setting of the first game was claustrophobic and tight, the slightly more open Sprawl gives a bigger sense of exploration and world-building to the game’s universe. This was peak horror video game to me (and a shame they threw it all away in 3.)

My Strongest Memory:

While I just said the setting of this one was one of its strong points, my favorite memory from the game is the section where you end up going back and exploring the Ishimura – the ship you were trapped on in the first game. During the events of DS2 it’s revealed that the Ishimura is currently docked within the Sprawl and you need to traverse through it. It’s not only a nice throwback and nod to the first game, but the setting itself creates an extremely creepy yet familiar atmosphere.

The coolest part about the entire setpiece is how it’s a master class in building suspense. You go into the Ishimura expecting shit to go down and for necromorphs to start attacking you. But they don’t – at least not right away. And as you explore familiar areas from the first game you keep thinking “okay, THIS is where they’re going to attack me.” But they don’t. It takes so much time of walking around a completely empty ship that you eventually start having doubts: maybe there isn’t going to be any enemies? Maybe this really is a calm respite? And then, finally, when you’re just starting to question whether this chapter is actually going to have any enemies: that’s when the necromorphs attack in full force. It’s fantastic.

Why It’s #78:

I love Dead Space 2. The only reason it’s not higher is because my copy is locked away on my XBox 360 and I don’t have it at my current apartment. I’ve been craving a replay of this game since before COVID and just never got around to pulling it out and hooking it up for a playthrough. Maybe I’ll just bite the bullet and get it on Steam one of these days. Anyway – I’m sure it would be higher (although how much higher, I don’t know) if I’d played it more recently. Instead it sits right here at #78 where I can justify my hype-but-generally-vague memories of it.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #79

Enter The Gungeon

Release Date: April 5, 2016

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #62 (-17)

beholster

What It Is:

Take bullet hell, smash it together with a roguelite, and slap a humorous, gun pun-filled coat of paint over top of it and you’ve got yourself Enter the Gungeon. You’re given four characters to choose from, each with their own gun-running abilities to help you navigate the Gungeon. Armed with a gun and a dodge roll, you aim to tackle all five floors and beat the final boss so you can acquire the Gun That Can Kill The Past. From the Fightsaber to the Gunbow, from the Origuni to the Excaliber – you are given an endless variety of guns and gun-related pop culture references that can make or break any given run.

It’s fast-paced and requires you to keep track of enemies and their attacks coming from all directions. The bosses get extremely complicated and crank up the reflex testing to 11. And yet because it’s a roguelite, each time you make it a little further you can add more guns and items to your arsenal, making the next run a little bit easier and a little bit smoother. And once you’ve gotten down the patterns of all the enemy and boss attacks, the game becomes a fun little dance as you navigate the treacherous Gungeon.

Just don’t ask me, I never got good at it.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Enter the Gungeon was the game that finally got the roguelike genre to click for me. I’d previously played other games – Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy as examples – but I still never really got the genre. But Gungeon bridged the gap for me and helped me understand how incremental progress was a feature in roguelites, not a bug. I’m not even a bullet hell type of person to begin with – it was just the game’s artstyle and gun humor that got me addicted in the first place.

It also has an extremely chaotic but fun co-op mode that I’ve played multiple times with friends. We aren’t very good and it usually ends up with us failing hilariously but it was great to experience nonetheless. A lot of roguelites focus on the single-player experience so this was nice to be able to jump into with a buddy. I also bought a copy of the Ammonomicon (the game’s in-game codex turned into an actual physical book) and have a little Bulletkin plushy on my shelf in my office. Sometimes you just fall in love with a game’s style even if it’s not normally your cup of tea, and Enter the Gungeon was like that for me.

My Strongest Memory:

I wish I could say beating it for the first time or some success story like that was my strongest memory. But I haven’t even beaten this game once (I should go back and try again sometime). I have gotten to the last world, but still have yet to reach the final boss. That doesn’t make me enjoy the trials of the game any less, though.

No, my strongest memory has to be the time I co-op’d this with HarveyZ. It was actually the first Let’s Play I ever published on my YouTube channel: see here. (You can also see proof in this video of how Not-A-Gamer Harvey was before I got to him. Also years of audio editing makes these videos hurt my ears.) It’s a nice memory because it was my start into attempting to create Let’s Plays and content for the internet – even though it wasn’t successful it led to a year of encapsulating wonderful memories playing games with all my friends.

Why It’s #79:

This game is unique because I haven’t beaten it but it still is important to me and I consider it a great game. I wish I was better at it and need to hone my skills, but it doesn’t take away from the magic of the game. It’s also great to watch runs by streamers online who are better at it than me. So Enter The Gungeon has earned itself a decent spot on my list but it can’t compete with greats that I have actually completed.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #80

Wii Sports

Release Date: November 19, 2006

Platform Played On: Wii

2018 Placement: #72 (-8)

wiisports

What It Is:

Anyone who was even tangentially related to a gamer in the late 2000s knows what Wii Sports is. The game that got everyone off their ass and waggling a Wiimote. The scourge of televisions, lamps, and other breakable objects before the wrist strap was included. Bowling, tennis, baseball, boxing, and golf – all packaged with simple motion controls that were followed by adorable Miis you could model after yourselves.

It was the pack-in game that defined a generation and everyone (including Nintendo) tried to recapture this lightning in a bottle to various degrees of success – from Sony’s Move to Microsoft’s Kinect, everyone wanted in on motion controls thanks to friends and families who’d never touched a game in their life got interested in bowling a perfect game with their Wiimotes. It brought people together under the same roof in a way gaming hasn’t really seen since due to the increase in online gaming and streaming overtaking local gameplay.

Its simplistic nature was what grabbed everyone – and the fact that it was hella fun.

Why It’s Important To Me:

My parents and family were never truly into video games like I was. I would occasionally play Mario Bros or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a cousin, or my dad would specifically play two games with me on the NES: Side Pocket and RBI Baseball 3, iterations on things he enjoyed in real life – pool and baseball. But for the majority of my life I was the gamer and had friends who were gamers, but that was it.

And then there was the fateful day in 2007 when I brought a Wii home and introduced Wii Sports to my family. My dad nearly broke the TV because he wouldn’t wear the wrist strap, but he was addicted to bowling and golf on the Wii. And when I visited my extended family, every aunt, uncle, and cousin wanted to make a Mii of themselves and participate in bowling or baseball or whatever game they felt like playing.

That doesn’t even take into account the amount of times me and my friends played this together, getting into drunken boxing matches at 3 in the morning or drunken golfing at 3 in the morning…there was a lot of drunken Wii Sports, let me tell you.

My Strongest Memory:

It’s all one big blurry motion controlled haze. There were too many joyous times messing around in the game to single out just one. There was a running contest between two friends where they would challenge each other to boxing and/or golf every time the option to play Wii Sports was given. There were the many, many attempts to throw a perfect game in bowling (and to figure out how to put just the right amount of spin on it).

But honestly how I felt about it was how it brought everyone into my sphere – even people who didn’t play games with me before. Wii Sports was the last time I played video games with my dad and the only time my mom got involved (other than Wii Fit, which doesn’t count as a game) in gaming. It was such a community building game that was unique and the perfect game for the perfect time.

Why It’s #80:

Since we’ve all been caught in a pandemic for a year and craving human contact, the spectre of Wii Sports really hangs over me right now. I’d give anything to bust out my Wii U (since I gave away my Wii), hook up the ol’ Wiimotes, have some friends over and do a good old-fashioned bowling tournament. There was just a sense of joy and camaraderie (and exercise!) that even community games like Jackbox and Among Us can’t quite replicate now. I miss those goofy Miis and those goofy times.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #81

Age of Mythology

Release Date: October 30, 2002

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #64 (-17)

Age-of-Mythology-The-Titans-Download-For-Free

What It Is:

A real-time strategy game made by the same people who created Age of Empires, but instead of civilizations with normal troops its different mythological pantheons with mythological troops. Greek vs. Egyptian vs. Norse (vs. Atlanteans in the expansion) leads to a pretty fun real-time brawl against computers and friends. Each race has different gods to choose from which extend into a tree of choices for powers. From harnessing Fimbulwinter to summoning the trees of the Hesperides, it’s a venerable cornucopia of mythological references wrapped up in a strategical package.

The game offers a single-player campaign through the mythologies much like Starcraft, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, and other RTSes from the same era. It’s also been updated for modern computers now and supports online multiplayer with your buddies if you’re into that. It’s a solid RTS that is sometimes overlooked in favor of the larger, heavy-hitters in the genre. And the Titans expansion adds a really neat fourth race and a cool mechanic with the Titans, giving each race a monstrous unit they can summon once to deal heaps of damage.

Why It’s Important To Me:

When I think of video games that defined my college experience, there are a few that come readily to mind and Age of Mythology is one of them. There were plenty of days my freshman year where a group of four of us would get together and play over the school’s network in either a 4-player brawl or a co-op match against computers.

Now the thing is, I’m not good at real-time strategy games. I’ve never been able to micromanage effectively or build efficiently. Every time I think I’ve got a good start, a computer will run in with an army three times the size of mine, or one of my friends will do the same, and I’d get flattened or be playing from behind the whole time. It got to the point where we had agreements to not seriously attack each other before a certain phase just to guarantee we all got to play and have fun, instead of knocking everyone out at the beginning and the game ending too fast. It was one of the several games I bonded with my freshman hallmates on and the friends I made were more important than the fact that it was in a genre I generally didn’t care for.

I’m also a huge mythology nut, so the subject matter made it way more appealing as well.

My Strongest Memory:

I remember we were all cheap college kids and we got around having all of us spend money by sharing one original Age of Mythology disc and each just getting the Titans expansion. That way we could all use the expansion disc but not have to worry about also buying the base game. It was an integral part of broke student gaming during the early 2000s PC era.

I remember one of my friends refused to lose outright, and would often send one unit to the corner of the map as he was getting massacred just so he could say he got second place once everyone else got wiped out. (I’m looking at you HarveyZ.) I also remember learning about the Greek hero Bellerophon through this game which would eventually lead me to naming all my smartphones a version of “Bellerophone” b/c I name all my electronics after different mythological heroes or creatures.

There isn’t one particular standout memory, but it does carry a fun nostalgia.

Why It’s #81:

Age of Mythology exists in the weird space of being a game in a genre I don’t particular care for, but still having strong emotional associations. It’s a tug-o-war between my brain and heart as to where I place it every time. Plus I just love all the different mythologies represented in one game like this. I don’t actually know where an RTS aficionado would rank it in terms of gameplay compared to other RTSes, but I do know it’s my favorite and the only one I really tolerate at all. I haven’t played this in years (despite having the remastered version sitting on my computer if my friends ever want to play it again) but would gladly summon some Atlanteans to mine gold if anybody asked.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #82

Perfect Dark

Release Date: May 22, 2000

Platform Played On: N64

2018 Placement: #82 (=)

25192

What It Is:

Rare’s follow-up to the legendarily successful Goldeneye, Perfect Dark is a first-person shooter that puts you in the shoes of Joanna Dark. A completely original story that has her fight against a corporation called DataDyne against a backdrop of alien conspiracies and war. It’s a mechanically sound shooter that adds a bunch of cool weaponry to your arsenal – from my personal favorite Laptop Gun to the Callisto NTG (a funky alien machine gun) all the weapons are creative and fun to wield.

It also offers a truly amazing multiplayer mode that has loads of options for customization, with up to four players able to play locally – a must in the N64 days. So not only was the campaign very strong, but it gave you the ability to make your own fun which felt like it was only limited to our imagination at the time. In addition, it allowed you to make profiles which would save your data and statistics which was positively enthralling to the nerd side of me.

Why It’s Important To Me:

While I’m a little hazy on the entire plot of the campaign, that’s not why the game is particularly important to me. This is a game me and my friends played just as much (if not more than) Goldeneye when I had parties and sleepovers and get-togethers and everything else I did in high school instead of having sex. I had so much fun messing around in the multiplayer modes with my friends and building bonds and memories through this game that it has to have a place on my top 100.

There’s also…wait for it…alright you guessed it, the music. While the soundtrack isn’t entirely bangers, there are two stand-out tracks that I still remember to this day and will jam out to every now and then: the Pelagic 2 and the DataDyne Extraction. (If you give those a listen, please stick around to the end of them to also hear the intense/”oh shit action is happening” remixes that played organically in game.) Both of these songs were also turned into amazing remixes by Strike911 on OCRemix, unfortunately I can’t find them online anywhere but thankfully I still have them on my computer/phone. (Streaming music is bad kids, remember to keep actual copies of things you want to always be able to listen to!)

My Strongest Memory:

In the aforementioned multiplayer mode, you could set the AI to many different difficulty modes. The dumbest setting was “MeatSim” – basically a walking target who can’t hit the broadside of the barn. The hardest setting was “DarkSim” – they’re the opposite, insanely good and will hunt you to the ends of the earth. And they don’t miss.

My friends and I came up with a game in multiplayer we liked to call “Kill The President.” We (usually a group of 3 or 4) played against two AI – one MeatSim (the President, a dumbfuck) and one DarkSim (his Secret Service bodyguard, fantastic at his job and probably underpaid, we love him).  Our objective was to get enough kills on the “President” while avoiding his bodyguard who would absolutely murder us on sight if he found us. It was the absolute highlight of all the dumb games we invented while playing Perfect Dark. It was a laugh riot combined with the existential dread of a horror movie. We screamed in terror, shouted plans and then altered them on the fly as they went to shit, and just in general had an absolute blast with the game.

Why It’s #82:

Perfect Dark is a solid game from my teenage years. My high school multiplayer experience was basically Perfect Dark and Super Smash Bros. It’s another game that will likely always get an inclusion on any top 100 list I ever make and where it lands will be dependent on how I feel at the time. If this one and the 2018 list are any indication, it’s got a perfect spot carved out just for it at #82.