Top 100 Games of All-Time: #55

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Release Date: July 22, 2004

Platform Played On: GameCube/Wii?

2018 Placement: #37 (-18)

 

What It Is:

The GameCube sequel to Paper Mario from the N64. It follows roughly the same outline: you play as Paper Mario and gather party members as you progress through chapters of the game and explore different paper worlds. The turn-based RPG combat system is simplified so that the attack and defense numbers are easily digestible instead of numbers in the meaningless thousands. You can only have one party member assisting Mario in each battle and each helper brings different skills to the table.

There’s also tons to do in the overworld as you walk around between battles as Mario gains more paper-related skills as you progress, along with your partners having overworld abilities that can unlock new areas and secrets. The game also contains typical humor associated with Mario RPGs and has a lot of funny moments. It’s a meaty, lengthy RPG that turns into one of the best Mario spinoffs in existence.

Why It’s Important To Me:

As I stated in the Superstar Saga entry, I bounced off the original Paper Mario due to not liking the aesthetic and having a kneejerk young person reaction to the style change from Super Mario RPG. I wanted SMRPG 2, not whatever this paper abomination was. By the time Thousand Year Door rolled around, though, I had matured and grown up a little and decided to give the game a try.

Now I don’t remember exactly how I played it. I never owned a Gamecube, but my freshman year college roommate did. So I think what happened was he owned it, and over the course of freshman year at some point I gave the RPG a try and fell in love with it. However, I do have my own copy now and may have gotten it and played it on my Wii? I honestly don’t remember, time gets fuzzy. But from Rawk Hawk’s theme (and really everything about Rawk Hawk’s chapter) to the witty humor of the fresh buddies in the Mario universe, I was enraptured by the game whenever I did play it. It catapulted towards the top of my favorite RPGs of all-time and I honestly got mad at myself for judging the first Paper Mario the way I did in the first place.

My Strongest Memory:

For some reason, Magnus von Grapple is one of my strongest memories in this game. His theme is something that just pops into my head randomly for no reason. Maybe it’s because it’s delightfully robotic and has a weird cadence to it, but I really enjoyed battling him every time he showed up in the game. Him and Rawk Hawk are the two enemies I can immediately conjure when thinking about Thousand Year Door. Music strikes again.

But the character I have strongest feelings towards is Vivian. She is probably one of my all-time favorite Mario characters, even if she is just a one-off for Thousand Year Door. In all versions of the game except the English one, Vivian is depicted as a transgender woman. I, of course, consider her canonically trans regardless and she was my favorite party member even before I discovered other translations. I won’t deny that a big part of why I regard Thousand Year Door so highly is because of Vivian.

Why It’s #55:

As I do a lot of these write-ups I really get the urge to play all these games again because they mean so much to me. Just talking about Thousand Year Door, Vivian, and all the other moments of the game is making me antsy to play this again. Even though I don’t have a Gamecube or Wii to even play it on, I still own my hard copy of Thousand Year Door because that’s how much this game means to me. It’s a great RPG regardless, but there’s a lot that’s extra special about it to me.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #56

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Release Date: May 10, 2016

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #51 (-5)

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What It Is:

The finale of Nathan Drake’s journey and Naughty Dog’s first entry on the PS4 hardware. It’s an action-packed romp that utilizes the PS4’s power perfectly for an epic conclusion of Drake’s story. It brings back all the typical crazy action setpieces that are expected in Uncharted but also has a more grounded, slower take on the sometimes over-done “one last ride” trope of action heroes.

While it doesn’t stray too far from the third-person shooter with mild platforming formula established in all the previous Uncharted games, it does add a bit of an open world flair to some of the sections. A few specific areas give you more wide open spaces to explore, and the battle arenas often give you more options than just “start shooting and take cover when health gets low.” A grapple rope, stealth mechanics, and better encounter design make the combat arenas feel less restrictive and more free flowing. The story and acting is also one of the best in the series, although the decision to give Drake a brother we’d never heard of before in this final game is still a bit of question mark.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Look, if you visited my website before its revamping this past February, you know that the above image was the header image for this blog basically since its inception. I love the Uncharted series because it gives me that Indiana Jones pulp adventure vibe that not many games can replicate. Solving historical puzzles to find hidden treasure while taking part in globe-trotting action is exactly the kind of dumb fun that I enjoy reading, watching, and playing so of course the Uncharted series would be right up my alley.

This is my second-favorite of the series – I really do think the encounter design is the best of the bunch and it has some of the best new characters (and my favorite villain). The set pieces are great and the different locations are jaw-dropping. This game was the first one where I truly just dove into photography mode and had a blast. After Uncharted 4 I wanted every game to have a photo mode so I could be snapping action shots or photographing beautiful in-game vistas. It’s just a great package and a well-done finale for characters I got really attached to over the four games.

My Strongest Memory:

I tried to go into this as blind as possible: I made the mistake of digesting every single piece of pre-release media that came out for Uncharted 3, which made playing the actual game a bit of a disappointment as I already knew all the big action setpieces. So I was waiting to be blown away by whatever crazy stunts were in store that I didn’t know about.

What ended up happening was a game that was a lot more focused on the story and the characters of Uncharted and less about the blockbuster sequences. Sure there was plenty of action gameplay (and an awesome car chase that was probably my favorite sequence of the game) but what really got to me was the cut scenes and what happened in between all the action. I found myself genuinely upset as I got through the ending and the credits rolled, knowing this was 90% likely to be the last game I got to spend with Nathan, Elena, and the crew. This game brought to the surface feelings I didn’t realize I had towards the Uncharted series, and I’m thankful for it existing.

Why It’s #56:

Uncharted 4 is a masterpiece of a pulp action game. It’s not depressing or trying to be cinema like Naughty Dog’s TLOU games. It’s a fun romp with enjoyable characters that I like spending time with. It makes me smile every time I watch this fan-made Uncharted/MI6 mash-up trailer. It might not stick with you if you don’t have as strong feelings about the rest of the series, but I give it twenty thumbs up.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #57

Mega Man 4

Release Date: January 1992 (NA)

Platform Played On: NES

2018 Placement: #70 (+13)

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What It Is:

The fourth game in the Mega Man series.

Oh, you want more?

Well first, it’s the game that introduces an iconic staple of the Mega Man franchise: the charge buster. That’s right, this is the first game to include a charge shot as one of Mega Man’s abilities. It’s also the first game to introduce the idea that maybe it’s not Dr. Wily behind all the bad stuff this time! Your enemy initially is Dr. Cossack and the eight robots are under his command – until, of course, you find out that Dr. Wily was actually behind all the bad stuff the whole time. It plays like any other typical Mega Man platformer – you run and shoot and try not to die from evilly placed enemies. And you get some weird-ass powers from some weird-ass Robot Masters: from the much-made-fun-of Toad Man to the oddly named Dust Man, it’s a very eclectic line-up of baddies.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I originally had this game much lower on the list, but after careful consideration I realized just how important this game was. It was the first Mega Man game that I owned and really was the game that got me into the franchise in the first place. And since Mega Man is one of my favorite franchises it holds a special place in the Mega Man pantheon for me. It has some great music: Dive Man’s theme rocks and so does Skull Man’s. I can also hear the Dr. Cossack Stage 1 theme in my nightmares. And finally, the Wily Machine music is absolutely the most bad-ass 10 second loop in existence. The music + the actual final fight makes it probably my favorite final boss in the entire Mega Man series.

I played this game a lot because it was my first Mega Man, and also preferred it to 5 and 6 (which I owned before 3). There’s just something comfort food about it to me. Despite it not being my favorite Mega Man game, it is one that I’ve probably replayed the most by quantity surprisingly. It feels the best: having the slide and the charge buster is optimal Mega Man performance in my opinion. It also just has the great nostalgia feeling of being my first.

My Strongest Memory:

Skull Man was the first Robot Master I ever defeated. I can still remember my glee at succeeding the first time as a kid and putting Skull Man in a dumpster. But that’s not my strongest memory.

Back in the days of Mega Man, you had to enter passwords to continue your progress. And one of the sticking points is that once you got to the endgame, you couldn’t password into the final stage. You’d always start from the first stage of Dr. Wily’s castle. Or, in the case of MM4, Dr. Cossack’s castle. So you basically had to run through both Dr. Cossack AND Dr. Wily’s castle in one sitting, otherwise you’d lose your progress and have to start over.

So there I was: an elementary school kid, having finally beaten Dr. Cossack’s castle for the very first time. In fact, I’d made it all the way to the Dr. Wily Stage 2 boss. My parents called me to do something so I paused the game and went to do whatever chores I needed to do. When I came back, I had discovered that my dad had UNPLUGGED THE NES because he was VACUUMING and need the plug. I think that was the most furious I’d ever been with my parents (I was a good kid) and I was so upset that my run to Dr. Wily had been ruined by a vacuum cleaner.

It still haunts me to this day.

Why It’s #57:

Look, it’s not the highest regarded Mega Man by the public, but it’s special to me. Every time I tried putting it lower on the list I looked at some of the games above it and went “no, I like this one more” or “this means more to me.” I just have a strong connection to the game that made me fall in love with the Blue Bomber. It’s not the flashiest or the one that gets the most music remixes, but it is a damn quality game and one that I will always champion.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #58

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

Release Date: October 23, 2007

Platform Played On: PS3

2018 Placement: #50 (-8)

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What It Is:

If you press me, I’d probably say that Ratchet & Clank is my favorite PS2 era series. The only thing that comes close is the PS2 era of GTA games. Tools of Destruction is the first game of the series on the PS3 and it was everything I wanted in a PS2 to PS3 upgrade of the series. Up Your Arsenal and Deadlocked had done different things with the franchise that I felt were to its detriment (UYA tried to add multiplayer, Deadlocked removed the planet-hopping exploration and focused more on combat) but Tools of Destruction was a return to form.

Ratchet & Clank games are 3-D platformer shooters about the two titular characters and every game mixes crazy weaponry with fun platforming and occasional spaceship battles. Sometimes you control the two separately – and while most people think Crack in Time has the best Clank gameplay, I really like the manipulating of Zoni that is his main signature in this game. Tools of Destruction also adds Raritanium upgrades to weapons, giving weapons additional oomph. They also bring back the Grind Boots in this version, and the grind rails make up some of my favorite set pieces when I play R&C games.

Why It’s Important To Me:

There were several different PS2 era “mascot” platformers – Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper – but I only played R&C and stuck with the franchise. I’ve owned every R&C game except the mobile ones – even the co-op focused All 4 One – and the characters and gameplay just hold a very special place in my heart. Most people say Crack in Time is the best of the PS3 games but I’ve always preferred Tools of Destruction just because of how good it felt to have a “classic” R&C game that got back to its roots.

It introduces R&C staples like the Groovitron and Mr. Zurkon, two of the greatest devices in the history of the franchise. It also has some of my favorite weapons including the Buzz Blades, the Tornado Launcher, and the Negotiator. I also love the Shock Ravager, but in terms of R&C whips I prefer the Plasma Whip of Up Your Arsenal (the one thing I prefer from that game). All in all it’s a blast of a game and the sum of its parts makes it one of the best in the franchise, in my opinion.

My Strongest Memory:

I really enjoy “on rails” platforming gameplay. In the Donkey Kong Country series, my favorite levels are the mine cart/roller coaster/etc. levels where you have to time your jumps to  jump between tracks or over pits, etc. Ratchet & Clank’s grind rail sections activate the same pleasure centers in my brain, so after them not being present in Up Your Arsenal and Deadlocked I was super excited to have them back in this game. I cannot overstate my giddiness when the first grind rail setpiece on Kerwan happened. Simply bringing them back may be a large reason why I hold this game in such high regard.

It’s been a long time since I played Tools of Destruction so I don’t remember much about the specific plot (other than the Zoni and it setting up Crack in Time) unfortunately. But I do still hold the gameplay and weapons/devices in high regard in comparison to other entries in the series.

Why It’s #58:

It’s a Ratchet & Clank game, so it represents a beloved series for me. It deserves a higher spot even if my memory of it is fuzzy. I guess I need to pull my PS3 out from storage and replay this again. Or maybe an HD Rerelease of Tools of Destruction and Crack in Time on the PS5? Insomniac are you listening? Do it!

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #59

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Release Date: November 17, 2003

Platform Played On: GBA

2018 Placement: #45 (-14)

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What It Is:

After the wild success of Super Mario RPG on the SNES, Nintendo followed it up by going down two split paths, neither of which were anything like SMRPG. The first was the Paper Mario path, which debuted on the N64. The second was the Mario & Luigi path, done by the now defunct AlphaDream studio, for the Game Boy Advance. In the Mario & Luigi series, instead of a full RPG party you just play as the titular brothers. And while the combat is turn-based it requires your full attention as you’ve got to get timing down on both the attacks you use as well as defending from the enemies. The result is a unique and very fun battle system that keeps you engaged with the battles as you level up and progress through the story.

Superstar Saga is the first of the Mario & Luigi RPG series and it is still, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. It has Nintendo-brand humor and capitalizes on now-established tropes like Luigi is a fraidy-cat to deliver some great laughs. Bowser gets amnesia, there’s a new villain and a new land called Beanbean Kingdom, and it’s all one big fun romp that is executed very well in both the writing and the gameplay department.

Why It’s Important To Me:

So I kinda stole this game. I borrowed the Superstar Saga cartridge for my GBA to play it from a friend, towards the end of a semester of college. My intention was to give it back after the summer break once I’d beaten the game. And I just sort of…never did. It wasn’t an intentional stealing, I just forgot to give it back because time passed and my friend never asked for it back and suddenly it’s 20 years later and I still have that GBA cartridge somewhere because I still really love replaying this game.

Oops.

But it’s so much fun, and after not really liking the Paper Mario aesthetic I was jazzed to get another Mario RPG that felt more like my jam. The music is fantastic (as usual for games I love) and the combination of abilities in battles AND abilities that help you navigate the overworld really scratched the itch of what I was looking for in a Mario RPG. And while the remake has very nice 3D models, the original has some gorgeous sprite work that I still enjoy.

My Strongest Memory:

Rookie & Popple. Popple’s theme still rocks the house and is probably up there in my top 10 favorite RPG battle themes of all time (no joke). Popple’s theme also led me to one of my favorite video game remixers because I was searching for remixes of the theme (and there were very few) but DJ The S’s remix is top-tier (as are many of his others). Rookie is, of course, amnesiac Bowser and the dynamic between the incompetent thief Popple bossing around a heavyweight like Bowser is hilarious.

I also love this game because it was the first game to bring back the Koopalings since Super Mario World. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Koopalings and they’re probably my favorite Mario characters (hearken back to my number villain love I explained in Kingdom Hearts 2 – it’s kinda based on that) so seeing them show up again here was a delight, as I didn’t yet know that Nintendo would be dropping the Koopalings in everything once the Wii generation came around.

Why It’s #59:

It’s Mario. And Luigi. And they’re in an RPG. With great music, great humor and great battles. What more could you ask for?

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #60

Psychonauts

Release Date: April 19, 2005

Platform Played On: PS2

2018 Placement: #41 (-19)

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What It Is:

A platformer from the creative mind of Tim Schafer and others from the old LucasArts point-and-click adventure team and the first game from the Double Fine studio. At the time it was exciting and filled me with a sense of joy and wonder because writing and humor I’d enjoyed in a different genre was coming to another genre I had a total fondness for.

Psychonauts is very much a platformer that encompasses all the standards of early 3D platforming: there’s a hub world you run around in where you can talk to other students, and there are “worlds” you enter by jumping into people’s psyches to see what’s going on inside their head. You unlock cool psychic powers like pyrokinesis and levitation and use them to navigate the worlds of the mind. It has weird and wacky energy and is definitely a very niche kind of game, but it’s a good niche.

Why It’s Important To Me:

It just is, okay?

In all seriousness, Psychonauts was just a damn fun, creative game that was a new IP from the people who vacated LucasArts when their point-and-click video game making days were over. That was enough for me to be on board from the beginning, but then the world of Psychonauts itself was as charming as it was over-the-top. Going into the minds of different teachers/people to figure out what was happening was a fun concept and each world was very unique, taking on a different style from other platformers at the time and not just doing “fire world” “water world” etc. It also plays with cool concepts like the “censors” who are in people’s minds to keep things like hallucinations and Raz (the protagonist) out.

My Strongest Memory:

The Milkman Conspiracy is an all-time great level, where you enter the mind of a security guard who is a conspiracy theorist and end up in a warped suburban neighborhood patrolled by G-Men. It’s such a wonderful level that explores mental illness from a different perspective. There are winks and nods to big conspiracies and a playfulness to the overall theme, but it’s the stand-out level of the entire game and the one I still remember 15 years later.

Of course, I also remember Meat Circus as one of the all-time worst final levels in gaming as well. Fuck Meat Circus.

Why It’s #60:

This game has had such a lasting impression on me that it hangs out in the top 100 even though I haven’t played it in many years. It came out at a time where I missed point-and-click adventures and got excited seeing something new and different from the team of people I’d enjoyed many games from previously. I took to the overall theme and world-building instantly and it became a classic in my mind, proven by it slowly gaining a following over time. I eagerly anticipate the sequel.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #61

Darksiders

Release Date: January 5, 2010

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #52 (-9)

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What It Is:

At first glance, Darksiders is a gritty, dark, washed out action game where you play as War, a dour Horseman of the Apocalypse. If you only look at the surface of it, it really encompasses the tendencies of the late 2000s/early 2010s to make everything gritty and grimdark. But underneath the exterior is a well-developed, fun adventure that follows the Legend of Zelda format of multiple dungeons where you get new abilities that help you navigate that dungeon and the expansive rest of the world.

War is a fun, but perhaps a little straight-laced, protagonist who is framed for kicking off the apocalypse a little too early. After being imprisoned for a century, he is given a chance to clear his name and returns to Earth while being watched by the Joker, er, I mean, the Watcher who is voiced by Mark Hamill. The plot ramps up and gets actually intriguing as War goes through the forces of both Heaven and Hell to figure out who is responsible for setting him up.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I was initially hesitant to get into Darksiders because I’m a huge “fan” of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as a concept. And in this game they rename two of the four horsemen Fury and Strife because they didn’t think Pestilence/Conquest and Famine would fit well in an action game. I turned up my nose at this for a long while, but after people starting saying how good the game actually was and how it executed the Zelda formula really well I decided to dip my toe into it.

And I’m glad I did because Darksiders is a fantastic action game and I love what they do with the horsemen in this universe. It helped me realize how much I love the standard Zelda formula as well, as seeing it being put to use in a different setting was really, really refreshing. I figured out it wasn’t the actual format that was stale, it was just the setting of it being Hyrule every time that wore me down. They also play with the grimdark aspect of the aesthetic and it doesn’t bring the game down in any way. I liked this game so much it was the first game I ever got 1000/1000 achievement score on my 360.

My Strongest Memory:

The strongest, best example of this game coming out in late 2000s/early 2010s and being peak 2010 in its identity is that the last dungeon’s item is…a portal gun. It doesn’t even try to hide it – right down to the portals it creates being orange and blue, it’s a shameless ripoff/homage/whatever you want to call it.

The dungeon is still fun, although it lasts a little long. But it is definitely the thing I remember the most about the game because of how flabbergasted I was in its inclusion. Because it’s the final dungeon of the game, it’s almost like the developers went “hey, Portal’s gotten really popular let’s add a portal dungeon here at the end of the game but don’t really do anything else with it in the rest of the world. It’ll be a hit!” That’s probably not exactly what happened, but it definitely feels like it!

Why It’s #61:

Darksiders is proof that other games can apply story and use the Zelda game format and be successful. Unfortunately the Darksiders license is tied up with THQ Nordic (a company I don’t like due to them hosting an interview on a horrible website) and each sequel has strayed further and further from the Zelda format. Still, the first is an absolutely wonderful game worth playing through even if there’s been three games since and they still haven’t addressed the cliffhanger in this one’s ending. NO I’M NOT BITTER.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #62

Fallout 2

Release Date: October 29, 1998

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #54 (-8)

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What It Is:

The sequel to the original irreverent RPG by Black Isle, Fallout 2 is a wonderful apocalyptical satire in turn-based, CRPG format. Before the apocalypse was chic in video games, the two Fallout games set the standard for having fun in the aftermath of the world nuking itself. From Super Mutants to the Brotherhood of Steel to ghouls to power armor, there are so many classically “Fallout” things that were established in these games.

The story of Fallout 2 is you are sent out from your village to find a “GECK” – Garden of Eden Creation Kit – to revitalize the village and keep it from dying out. Throughout your journey to find it you come across many strange characters and stories you can choose to either be a part of or ignore completely. You can customize your character and roleplay any way you want to, from being a fast-talker to someone who sneaks and steals, or a low-intelligence gunslinger who just blasts everyone on sight. It’s a true “RPG” in the sense you can play it however you want to and the game accommodates you. It’s a blast.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I was a firm console gamer for a large portion of my life growing up and only gravitated to the PC for the specific genre of point-and-click adventures (and Doom). It wasn’t until high school, where my friend gave me a bunch of “completely” “legal” “bought” “copies” of PC games that I tried out other games that I’d never even thought of playing before. It took me a while to get around to Fallout 2 because I tried it and was turned off by the start of the game (the visuals and starting dungeon were very not indicative of the rest of the game) so I shelved it for a while.

I came back to it later and actually gave it a chance past the starting area and my life was changed. It was the first CRPG that really grabbed me and enraptured me. I loved the in-depth customization and how I could play my character however I wanted. I loved the humor of the game. I loved the different weapons and how you could approach combat in many kinds of ways. This was the game that made gaming on my PC really “click” for me and I dove headfirst into expanding my horizons after this.

My Strongest Memory:

There’s a story I tell very often about Fallout 2. One weekend morning I got up around 10 AM and after breakfast went over to my PC, intending to play a little bit of the game as I was in the midst of my campaign and the game fully had its hooks in me. Next thing I knew, it was 10 PM at night and I’d played Fallout 2 straight for 12 hours. I didn’t eat, I didn’t move from my chair, I probably went to the bathroom but the entire day was just a fog of Fallout.

Ironically after that day I never touched Fallout 2 again because I was worried about my health and gaming addiction and knew I couldn’t fall down that sort of rabbit hole ever again. But that’s how good this game was to me and how well the universe pulls you in. Just remember moderation, kids.

Why It’s #62:

Fallout 2 is a classic CRPG that’s a great place to start if you haven’t played any of those kinds of games. It has some of the best humor writing in all of gaming and the customization is off the charts. I think it’s a great example of the timelessness of the RPG format and even though I got a little “too” into it, I still revere it as a high quality game and have fond memories of the antics I got up to. Maybe one day I’ll be brave and return to it with a little more self-control.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #63

Final Fantasy IX

Release Date: November 13, 2000 (NA)

Platform Played On: PS1

2018 Placement: #36 (-27)

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What It Is:

From FF6 to FF8, the Final Fantasy series got progressively further from the “fantasy” aspect. FF8 especially  double-downed on a nearly all human world that went to space and in some ways leaned more science fiction than fantasy. FF9 was a “return to form” at the time, with a beautiful fantasy world with crazy-looking characters of all shapes and sizes. It dropped the unique systems of FF7 and FF8 for a much simpler leveling up/item system and in general was very well received because it just “felt” more like the SNES Final Fantasies in presentation.

It’s a JRPG-ass JRPG, with everything you would expect from one. A love story between the main male and female protagonists, a secondary protagonist that is actually the best character in the game (Vivi the black mage), and an out of nowhere final boss that is kind of like a god but doesn’t actually have anything to do with the rest of the game. It also does a lot of quality of life improvements, like shortening summons so they don’t take two minutes of your life every time you summon one. It doesn’t really reinvent the wheel, but it does provide a very solid, fantastical turn-based RPG experience.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I grew up on Final Fantasy, but had mixed feelings about FF8 due to its Draw system spiking the worst obsessive-compulsive tendencies in me. FF9 being a more “classic” Final Fantasy (lol thinking about that 20 years later) was really refreshing and I just loved diving into the world. The system of weapons teaching you abilities was a really cool riff on the job system. The characters also had wonderful interactions. Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, and Vivi are a solid starting four who all are very unique and very endearing (aside from Zidane being a bit of a sexist pig).

It also has awesome music (as most Final Fantasies do) – the boss music is one of my favorites of all the FF games due to how its structure makes the actual battle feel a lot more impactful. FF9 is one of those games that, again, doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or crazy innovative but just nails every aspect of the genre to give a very memorable and lasting experience. From the story to the characters to the world-building to the music, each part of the foundation makes up a 100% great game. And what can I say, I’m a huge Final Fantasy nerd so that just makes it get even more points in my book.

My Strongest Memory:

Okay there’s two: the first is the most well known complain of the game: fucking Necron. The penultimate final boss is perfect – the character is a longstanding rival with the main party throughout the entire game so the fight has weight and emotion behind it. Then after you beat him, suddenly you’re in the presence of this motherfucker and he’s like “I’m a god, I’ve decided everyone should die” or some shit and then you fight him for no reason. Literally an ass-pull of a boss with little to no foreshadowing. It’s such an absurd end to the game, to the point that it wraps around from bad to outright hilarious.

The second is one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters of all-time: Beatrix. She’s the honorable knight who serves one of the main villains and is just absolutely a badass. Every time you fight her, she destroys you without mercy. And then for the brief period of the game where she joins as a guest in your party, she absolutely wrecks enemies. I love her so much. She also has two of the best musical themes of the entire game, nay all of Final Fantasy: her base theme and her battle theme. Beatrix rules.

Why It’s #63:

Back at the beginning of the countdown I said the top 3 Final Fantasies weren’t even in question. This is #3 of the best mainline Final Fantasies and there’s nothing you can say that would change my mind. Quirky, fun characters, a stellar soundtrack, and all the things I’ve said multiple times already in this entry to the point I’ve started repeating myself just to make a point. If you want to play a “classic” “fantasy” “video game” this is a great place to start because it has everything and is also great for newer people to the genre.

 

 

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #64

Left 4 Dead 2

Release Date: November 17, 2009

Platform Played On: XBox 360, PC

2018 Placement: #55 (-9)

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What It Is:

Before The Walking Dead made zombies appear everywhere, there was Left 4 Dead: a 4-player co-op shooter where you took on hordes of zombies (and occasionally specialized ones like Hunters or Tanks) with friends as you cleared different scenarios. It was a story-light experience focused on quips between the four main characters and enjoying a co-op romp against AI zombies. Left 4 Dead 2 is the sequel that improves the quality of life of the game and the one I spent a ton of time playing with friends.

Each campaign is divided into several chapters where you have to fight from one safe room to the next, pursued by hordes of zombies while arming yourself with whatever you come across. From rifles to pipe bombs that attract zombie attention, you must fight your way through just a mass of zombies in locales ranging from a mall to a circus. Mechanically it’s just you shooting AI zombies and occasionally rescuing your teammates from a Boomer who threatens to explode all over them. It’s fun. The game’s “AI Director” also makes it so no two runs through the same campaign are ever exactly alike as well.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I think I had no less than three different friend groups I played these campaigns religiously with on both 360 and PC. I’m not normally one for repeated content and playing the same thing over and over but let me tell you, I played the shit out of these campaigns. I even played them on the hardest difficulties with my friends as we tried to survive against the rampaging hordes (which is something I hardly EVER do unless I’m chasing a trophy). It was just that enjoyable of an experience. Also for a long time my Steam avatar was a headless Coach that had happened when the game glitched out on me.

This game was the first game that truly cemented “online co-op with friends” as an actual fun mode for video games for me. It’s fairly obvious to most people who know me that I tend to fall on the single-player side of things as games are my escape and I love getting lost in stories. I never got into MMOs and really resisted online play for a while until Left 4 Dead 2 came around and broke down my barriers due to how much enjoyment I got out of the game.

My Strongest Memory:

There are countless memories. My friends trolling on purpose by jumping out windows to make their characters yell “Help!” and having the AI characters follow them because the AI is dumb. My friends trolling by not getting on the boat and derping around as Tanks came running in during the finale, only to die to the Tank so they didn’t actually escape. Actually, I think a lot of my memories of this game are of my friends trolling while I tried to play it seriously. Hm.

We also spent a lot of time chasing the achievement of surviving all campaigns on Expert mode, both on 360 and Steam. The achievement eluded me until the end (or at least when I stopped playing regularly) but it was still a fun, hair-raising time. I got most of the others achievements on 360, though!

Why It’s #64:

Like I said, I spent a LOT of time playing this co-op with friends. It was an absolute joyful experience clicking zombie heads, both with a controller and a mouse. It opened up a new world of how co-op could be fun and make me laugh while being social with my friends. And it still holds up today as a great game that can be repeatedly played over and over and still have a fun time with it. It’s worth it to play even if you’re sick of zombies at this point.