Top 100 Games: Honorable Mentions

This entry is a bit of a bonus edition, as I wanted to highlight 5 games that have released since I started posting the top 100 list back in 2021 that would likely have a place on the list. Since it’s unlikely I’ll do a list like this in its entirety again (at least any time soon) and it’s been a year and a half of MORE GAMES for me, I wanted to specifically talk about a few games in quick succession before the top 10. These are not in any particular order.

So here we go!

HM #1

Persona 5 Strikers

Release Date: February 23, 2021

Platform Played On: PS4


What It Is:

A full-on sequel to Persona 5, but instead of another 90-hour JRPG, it’s a 40-50 hour musou-infused ARPG. The story is a continuation of the original game, picking up four months later as Joker returns for summer vacation to hang out with the Phantom Thieves again. They end up having to re-enter the Metaverse as they go on a road trip that’s part vacation, part saving the world. Koei Tecmo takes their patented musou gameplay and makes it uniquely Persona because you have to balance enemy weaknesses with your party’s attacks. The bosses end up being more strategy than just hack-and-slash and it turns into one of the best ARPGs I’ve ever played.

Why It Would Make The Top 100:

I love Persona 5 and this game just took the energy from the first game and kept it going. The story is engaging, all the main cast return and it just turns into a bonus round of getting to see some of my favorite characters in their element and interact with each other. The first game has a lot of great interactions, but the full cast is drip-fed throughout the whole game so you don’t get to see them all just hang out with each other much. Strikers is wonderful because you start the game with everybody together; there’s no slow “getting the band back together” phase. It’s just 100% good times from the start and I wish more sequels did that.

Also the music kicks ass and rivals the original: just listen to Loving Wonderland, the first Jail music and Daredevil.

HM #2

Elden Ring

Release Date: February 25, 2022

Platform Played On: PS5


What It Is:

If you’ve been living under a rock since 2022 started (and really, who could blame you), Elden Ring is From Software’s latest entry. Taking the Souls gameplay they perfected and expanding on it greatly, Elden Ring is a grand open world that contains the challenge many players have come to expect from From. It’s another dark fantasy entry with sorceries, miracles, and blood magic. The sheer amount of weapons, armor, spells, summons, etc. let you play the game pretty much any way you want to. Co-oping with friends has never been easier and while the game can be punishing, it also ends up being one of the most accessible games for new players to date.

Why It Would Make The Top 100:

I’m one trophy away from the Platinum on this game. It would be my first From Platinum, and all I need to do is beat the game one more time. I’ll do it eventually, but the fact that I went through and beat the game twice already just says something about how engaging this game is. I spent over 100 hours on a single character and tried many, many different playstyles. The world is super engaging and every time you think you’ve seen everything, you find a new cave/dungeon/something to explore. When I played it the first night, me and two friends pulled off what felt like a Wild West heist on a big cart being pulled by a giant troll and escorted by a large number of enemies. The wonder this game produced is one of the highlights of gaming for me. Go anywhere, kill anything.

HM #3

Final Fantasy XIV

Release Date: August 24, 2013

Platform Played On: PC


What It Is:

The followup to Final Fantasy XI, the initial release of the MMO Final Fantasy XIV was dreadful. But in one of the greatest comeback stories in gaming, A Realm Reborn was born from the ashes of the initial attempt and over the course of a decade ended up dropping one of the strongest stories in video games. The game is an MMO-ass MMO in its gameplay, but the main story and its characters are done so well that even I, a noted not-fan of MMOs, managed to play through 500 hours of content and enjoyed myself immensely. There’s something to do for everyone – from hard tactical endgame content to designing your own house, from helping new players to RPing with friends, the FFXIV community is huge and anyone can have a good time with it.

Why It Would Make The Top 100:

I spent 6 months and 500+ hours playing FFXIV. I don’t think I’ve been enraptured by any other single game for as long a time. I love the trial and raid gameplay – dungeons are great too. Endwalker, the most recent expansion, concluded a decade-long arc and was one of the most moving stories I’ve ever experienced – it touched on nihilism and the meaning of an individual’s life. I laughed, I cried, I did other cliche things. Final Fantasy XIV happened to me at the exact moment in time it needed to. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time to dedicate so much of my time to a single game ever again, but from July 2021 until December 2021, I was neck-deep in FFXIV and wouldn’t change a thing about it.

HM #4

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge

Release Date: June 16, 2022

Platform Played On: PS5/Switch


What It Is:

Developed by Tribute Games, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is an homage to the 80s television show as well as the classic beat ’em ups from the 80s and 90s. It sticks mostly to the beat ’em up staples, but modernizes the gameplay enough to not make it feel old and unnatural to play now. The animation is fantastic and the game is 16 episodes in length, making it long enough to be enjoyable but never overstaying its welcome. With 7 total characters to play as and pretty much every major character from the TV show showing up either as a boss or NPC/collectible, it’s a perfect Ninja Turtle nostalgia trip.

Why It Would Make The Top 100:

Considering both Manhattan Project and Turtles in Time made the original list, Shredder’s Revenge is a no-brainer. It has great music and perfect references. From backgrounds that reference older games to bosses having the same animations for certain attacks, it’s clearly a love letter to anyone who enjoyed those games in the past. And I’m one of those people. I’ve played it through twice already – once solo and once with a couple friends – and it’s still not old. It’s pure Ninja Turtle goodness in the year 2022 and honestly I can’t believe we got this game and it was executed so perfectly. Well done, I’m happy.

HM #5

Triangle Strategy

Release Date: March 4, 2022

Platform Played On: Switch


What It Is:

The follow-up to Octopath Traveler (both in creative team and weird naming convention), Triangle Strategy is an SPRG with tactical battles and an interesting political story. While the battles play out similarly to games like Final Fantasy Tactics and such, the story plays out with Game of Thrones-esque webs of intrigue. Your characters have opinions, and while you can convince them to change their mind with the right information, when it comes down to important decisions the characters make them instead of you. It’s a neat mechanic that makes the story that plays out feel a little more personal on top of the strategic battles.

Why It Would Make The Top 100:

I’m always looking to find the high that the original Final Fantasy Tactics gave me with tactical battles, and Triangle Strategy is the closest it’s come. Each character has their own special skills and abilities, so choosing who you bring into each battle has weight. Balancing your typical mages and healers with other unique support type games makes the gameplay more engaging. One of my favorite characters to use was a trap master, and setting up traps that would send enemies flying was an endless source of entertainment. On top of all that, the actual story is fantastic and while the game ends up very text-heavy following all the factions, I was never bored and never lost interest.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #11

Fallout: New Vegas

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #33 (+22)


What It Is:

The non-numbered follow-up to Fallout 3, New Vegas is published by Bethesda (who made 3) but is actually written by Obsidian, a studio founded by the creators of the original Fallout and Fallout 2. It uses the same first-person system established in 3: V.A.T.S. will stop time and allow you to target specific parts of enemies, or you can play it as a direct shooter.

The world of New Vegas is your oyster: you are the Courier, an unfortunate victim who gets shot in the head by the smooth-talking Benny. But that’s just the beginning of the story, as you’re left for dead but manage to hang on and recover to go on a quest of roaring revenge. Along your trip to New Vegas to find Benny, you encounter many different factions and characters who populate the world and you can choose to help them or ignore them completely.

There are also extensive stats, perks, and skills that make role-playing in this game an immersive experience. From upping your Speech, to focusing on Guns, to getting your brain on with Science, each stat gives you unique ways to solve problems and make each runthrough of the game your own. You can clear objectives through negotiation and pacifism, or you can just shoot everyone and loot what you need from their corpses.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Yet another game in the 1000/1000 Achievement/Platinum Trophy club, New Vegas sunk its hooks into me early. While I never felt like Fallout 3 was that great a game, New Vegas was an absolute masterpiece. Alongside Alan Wake, it was one of the first games I enthusiastically bought all the DLC for. The extent of role-playing you can do and how different your approaches can be to every situation make every playthrough unique. There are four major factions to align with and four different endings you can achieve, and it was a blast for me to play through all of them. Very rarely do I choose to beat a game multiple times in succession, but New Vegas got me.

The characters in New Vegas jump off the screen. Benny is slimy from the jump, and finally getting to interact with him after a long revenge hunt is a highlight of the game. Companions like Veronica and Boone have their own histories and give solid commentary as they accompany you on your journey. And the main quest isn’t the only enjoyable aspect: the game itself is filled to the brim with interesting side quests like finding the overgrown Vault 22 or investigating the isolationist Boomers who are holed up in an Air Force Base. Every character is intriguing and it’s one of the few open-world narrative games that kept me entertained and interested in all the plot points. I never felt like I was ready for the game to be over and had to mainline the story to the end.

My Strongest Memory:

While the main game is amazing, surprisingly enough my two strongest memories are of two DLCs. The first, Dead Money, takes place in a forgotten casino that has been enveloped by a toxic cloud. You go there in search of the casino’s lost treasure and it was the first time I played a game’s DLC and went “yeah, this deserves to be DLC.” The casino is so atmospheric, and you’re dropped into the scenario without any of your gear and an explosive collar around your neck. It’s such a great set-up for a side story. While the actual episode ends with more of a whimper than a bang, the overall experience of exploring the Sierra Madre was seared into my brain.

The second, Old World Blues, is one of the best DLCs of all-time. You’re abducted to the Big Empty, where you are experimented on by a group called the Think Tank. The story goes wild places and I don’t really want to spoil it if you haven’t ever played this DLC before, but it was yet another feather in the New Vegas cap. The fact that two expansions to New Vegas were not only worthy additions, but nearly surpassed the main game, is a testament to the strength of Obsidian’s writing.

Why It’s #11:

Fallout: New Vegas is a game that I already regarded highly, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I loved it. HBomberguy’s excellent video essay helped rekindle my love for the game, along with a recent replay I did on PC. It’s a top tier video game and the best WRPG I’ve ever played: it executes the idea of an open-world role-playing game to perfection.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #12

Super Mario RPG

Release Date: May 13, 1996

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #10 (-2)


What It Is:

Square Enix and Nintendo teamed up to bring Mario into his first RPG. While Mario had previously been featured in sports games, racing games, and also got his Ph.D. as a doctor, this was the first real foray into narrative-based non-platforming that the silent plumber enjoyed. Alongside a cast of (mostly) unknowns, it was a new look at the Mushroom Kingdom that captured the imagination of many, many Mario fans and turned them to a new genre for the first time.

The game itself is fairly standard as JRPGs go, although it did introduce and pioneer the “timed hits” mechanic that is featured in a lot of RPGs now: do more damage by hitting the button again right as you attack the enemy. It made you a more active participant in the turn-based battle system, and also allowed for fun combos with Mario like jumping on a target’s head multiple times if you timed it correctly. It doesn’t get too complex with the mechanics, instead running with a beginner RPG vibe that is entirely appropriate for Nintendo’s main character.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Like many others, this was a formative RPG for me. I can’t remember if it was my first (it was either this or Earthbound) but if it wasn’t the first, it was one of the first. I mean, what Nintendo kid wouldn’t be excited to explore the Mushroom Kingdom in a more narrative-based story instead of platforming? This game definitely solidified the JRPG as one of my favorite genres of all-time and pushed me to get into the “more mature” JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger.

The music was fantastic, of course: Smithy’s First Battle still pops into my head randomly with no warning 25 years later. The big boss battle music is a bop, too. And both Booster’s Tower songs (one and two) are fantastic, and one of them actually led to one of my favorite video game remixes of all-time (and may have actually jump-started my love for techno/trance music back in the day).

Some of the villains are my favorite Mario villains as well: Mack the Knife (a pun I wouldn’t get until years later), Bowyer (instead of Bowser, haha!), Jonathan Jones, the Axem Rangers, and the aforementioned Booster: all of these are great characters that I consider Mario staples in my head, even though they only appeared in this game.

My Strongest Memory:

The first time I made it all the way around the world, finally got back to Bowser’s Castle and was able to take on the big-ass sword that had fallen into the castle and ruined the world, only to discover it wasn’t Smithy and was instead some punk named Exor?! I was flabbergasted! Now, I don’t know if I just had poor reading comprehension at that age or what, but I was gearing myself up for a final battle with Smithy the Sword, only to discover there was an entire last dungeon before I got to see the real Smithy and take him on. It was such a shock I still remember it to this day.

The other strongest memory was taking on the secret boss, Culex. I knew of Final Fantasy at that point, but fighting Culex made me realize that hey, maybe I should get into this Final Fantasy JRPG stuff. This art style is so cool and the music rocks. And the rest was history.

Why It’s #12:

Despite all the later RPGs – the Mario & Luigi series, Paper Mario, so on and so forth, Super Mario RPG still stands out as a completely unique experience that was never revisited. It’s the best narrative game that includes our favorite plumber and the fact that it never got a true sequel and its system was never iterated on again (despite the Mario & Luigi series getting close) is one of my biggest disappointments. It remains a perfect testament to what can happen if known quantities are allowed to take a risk and branch out into new genres.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #13

Day of the Tentacle

Release Date: June 25, 1993

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #12 (-1)


What It Is:

The sequel to Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle is another point-and-click adventure that follows the adventures of Bernard (from the first game), Laverne, and Hoagie (two new characters) as they attempt to save the world from a super intelligent Purple Tentacle. Unlike Maniac Mansion, which had multiple characters that could change how any given playthrough was solved, Day of the Tentacle is a more straightforward adventure – well, as straightforward as three people trapped in three different time periods using a Port-a-John to flush each other puzzle solutions can be.

It’s filled with irreverent humor, stupid puns, and bad jokes, but the overall game is the best point-and-click adventure of the LucasArts golden age. From finding a way to get George Washington to chop down a lemon tree, to dressing a mummy so it’ll win a beauty contest, to figuring out how to get fake barf off the ceiling (and more importantly what you’d even need that for later), the puzzles in this game make you think really hard about what you have at your disposal while never really getting to the “oh, well I GUESS that makes sense as an interaction” territory that some of the more complicated point-and-click adventures have.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Point-and-click adventures were my favorite genre of game growing up. Sam and Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle, The Dig, and Day of the Tentacle were pretty much the main games I played on my PC. The later revitalization of the genre missed the mark, either making the puzzles too complex or not complex enough. But Day of the Tentacle hit a particular sweet spot. All the main characters are engaging: I can still exactly hear Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie’s voices in my head as they tell me what I can and can’t do with items. And all the supporting characters are fantastic too: from Green and Purple Tentacle to Weird Ed Edison to Benjamin Franklin, each character is funny and a blast to interact with.

This is by far my favorite of the entire genre. It has callbacks to Maniac Mansion (the poor hamster) as well as standing enough on its own that it’s worthwhile to play – I’d never played the original game before I played this for the first time, and yet it was instantly a favorite. I played this through enough times that when the Remastered version came out I was able to Platinum it fairly easily without a guide. It’s one of those games that will always be ingrained in my memory as a classic of the medium, even if the genre itself has warped and changed in the nearly 30 years since it released.

My Strongest Memory:

At some point in the game as Bernard, you find Nurse Edna sitting in a rolling chair in the security room. You can push the chair, but she grabs onto a statue and keeps herself from being flung completely out of the room. Now the solution to this puzzle isn’t super hard, but as a kid, for some reason the solution evaded me for a long while as I played the game. I can still remember the glee I got when Edna finally went spinning out of the room and crashing down the stairs after I solved it.

As Bernard says: “You know what they say: if you want to save the world, you have to push a few old ladies down the stairs.”

There’s also the rivalry between Bernard and Oozo the Clown, the absolute rockin’ banger that Green Tentacle plays in his room (and you can hear throughout the entire house as Bernard), and just…Laverne in her entirety. This game was endlessly quotable by my friends and I definitely give it credit for shaping a chunk of my sense of humor at an early age.

Why It’s #13:

It’s a classic. It will always be a classic. I sadly don’t dip into the genre itself as much anymore due to losing my patience for complicated puzzles – as a kid when you only have a limited supply of games it’s either solve the puzzle or do homework. Day of the Tentacle comes as naturally to me now to the point that it’s like redoing a crossword that’s already filled in. But I love it all the same and it will always rank high in my heart.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #14

Final Fantasy VII

Release Date: September 7, 1997

Platform Played On: PS1

2018 Placement: #30 (+16)

Screenshot 2021-12-20 003019

What It Is:

Final Fantasy VII was what some might consider the flagship title of the original Sony Playstation. Final Fantasy, a popular series that had carried the Super Nintendo, moving to Sony was a big deal at the time. Not only that, but the 3D graphics and FMV sequences of FF7 were mindblowing at the time. It really showed off what three CDs could do compared to a cartridge.

A basic JRPG at heart, Final Fantasy 7 puts you in the driver’s seat of Cloud, an ex-SOLDIER who joins up with Avalanche to commit some eco-terrorism in protest of capitalism. It’s a much more prescient story intro several decades later, but eventually the story’s scope moves from fighting the man to saving the world from a giant meteor. You collect materia to make your characters stronger and it ends up being one of the best systems Square Enix ever made in a Final Fantasy game for leveling. Also, there’s this guy named Sephiroth, but I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, he’s a pretty niche villain.

Why It’s Important To Me:

This was a formative game to my young mind: the first ever novel series I started creating at the ripe age of 12 basically had Cloud and Sephiroth expies as the protagonist and villain. Even when the story got confusing as all hell, the fact remained that this game left an impression on me. The jump to 3D graphics and Square’s use of FMVs just made my imagination run wild as I played through this game. I’d always wanted to be a novelist, ever since I won a writing competition at age 5, but Final Fantasy 7 was the first game to inspire me enough that a full-fledged novel series sprouted from my head like Athena after Zeus went on a bender.

And, of course, the music was yet another piece of the puzzle. From Still More Fighting to Crazy Motorcycle, from Jenova’s theme to the often replayed One-Winged Angel, every track of this game was rockin’. I even taught myself how to play the City of the Ancients’ theme on the piano by ear because that theme kept itself embedded in my brain long after I’d finished the game.

My Strongest Memory:

Up until Final Fantasy 7’s release, I was a Nintendo kid. In the Nintendo vs. Sega fan wars, I was always a die-hard defender of the Nintendo. Sega was the villain. When Sony came into the picture I held fast to my beliefs and hated them with as much vitriol as I could muster because Nintendo would always be the one true gaming company.

And then I went to my neighbor’s house and played through the introduction sequence in Sector 7 in Final Fantasy 7. I can still remember sitting cross-legged in the game room they had just finished adding to the house, completely enraptured by what I was playing. I didn’t want to leave or stop playing because it was so awesome.

I immediately started saving my money so I could buy a Playstation and play the entire thing. I was so enamored with the graphics, the music, the characters, everything. I’d gotten a paper route earlier just to buy a Nintendo 64, and now I was going to funnel that cash into a second system because I needed to play this RPG to its finish. And I’m glad I did because it was absolutely worth it.

Why It’s #14:

I undervalued Final Fantasy 7 the last time I made a list, but Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s release made me realize just how important FF7 is to me and my personal history with gaming. This game made me fall in love with gaming all over again and is probably what propelled me into gaming being a permanent hobby in my life. I think last time I tried to put it lower because it’s such an obvious choice and is well regarded by the entire community, so I wanted to be a little more unique and downplay my love of it. But it’s a classic for a reason. This is a damn good game.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #15


Release Date: September 15, 2015

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: #26 (+11)

Screenshot 2021-12-20 002650

What It Is:

If you’ve been on the internet yet under a rock for the past seven years, I guess I can explain Undertale to you. Created by Toby Fox, Undertale is an RPG that subverts and upends the genre completely. You play as a child that wakes up in a world of monsters, and how you choose to interact with the world plays a big part in how the game ends.

The mechanics of battle are straightforward: you can fight monsters and kill them, or you can use actions to find ways to show them mercy and befriend them/let them live. You’re placed in bullet hell-esque scenarios and each monster has a few unique ways of attacking you. Your job is to move your heart around and dodge the attacks.

But the heart of the game (heh) isn’t just in the mechanics: it’s in the characters, the music, the humor, the setting. It took the internet by storm upon release and is in the running for one of the most successful indie games of all time. Characters like Sans, Undyne, and more have entered the gaming world’s lexicon for better or for worse due to how popular the characters and game have become.

Why It’s Important To Me:

It’s rare that a game makes me cry. I’m not trying to be tough or anything, but as a whole the gaming medium doesn’t often hit my emotional center the way TV, movies, or books do.

That being said, Undertale can make me tear up just thinking about it, and I definitely teared up and full on cried at multiple points during the game.

Just listening to Battle Against A True Hero will make me tear up if it comes up on a playlist. I get shivers and full on emotional thinking about the context of the battle it plays during. Undertale (the song) is another tearjerker, as a very important (and sad) plot point is revealed while it plays and the music Toby Fox crafted to go along with the scene is note perfect. The melancholy I feel listening to it makes it so it can’t just be on a playlist. Asgore’s theme is another emotional one, again due to the circumstances of the battle. No other game manages to hit my emotions the way Undertale did: it combines the power of music with the power of story and characters in a way that few other games manage.

Also I’m not gonna forget Megalovania. Of course I have to mention it: it’s not as emotional to me, but it’s still a banger of a tune.

My Strongest Memory:

Can I say the whole game?

I’m trying to be as vague as possible in this write-up because I think Undertale is one of those games that you have to experience yourself. Knowing what’s going on before you go into it will probably lessen the emotional impact. But the entire game is just one big fond memory for me. Drifting off with Napstablook, the snail race (Thundersnail!!!), Lesser Dog (and Greater Dog!), every single piece of this game is worth remembering.

Why It’s #15:

Undertale is a triumphant achievement, not just because of its amazing story and music, but because it was done by basically one guy. He had a few people help with art and other things, but this is an indie-ass indie game. And it’s probably one of the most popular games of the last ten years. It goes to show that great games can come from anywhere and any person, as long as they have the heart.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #16


Release Date: March 24, 2015

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #15 (-1)


What It Is:

A brief detour from the Souls series, Bloodborne is a PS4 exclusive that Miyazaki was working on while another From Software team did Dark Souls 2. It takes the Souls formula and puts a different spin on it: instead of dark fantasy, you are deposited in a Victorian-esque world where beasts run amok, only for it to pivot to cosmic horror about halfway through the game.

Instead of magic and swords and shields ruling the day, you are given a gun and a trick weapon. Each trick weapon has two different setups that you can switch between at any time, even in the middle of combos. From the Threaded Cane (a cane that turns into a bladed whip) to Ludwig’s Holy Blade (a longsword that is sheathed in a greatsword) to the Blade of Mercy (a short sword that can be split into dual blades), the trick weapons offer a bevy of styles for how you want to approach the hunt. And the gun isn’t used for damage: instead Bloodborne builds off a unique parry mechanic where firing your gun at the right time will open up the enemy to a counterattack for massive damage.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I’ve never been a huge fantasy fan. I’ve always leaned more towards the sci-fi genre and outside of a few particular series (Wheel of Time being the main one) I’ve always generally not been interested in high fantasy. When I do dabble, it tends to be dark fantasy like Dark Souls or a mix of fantasy and sci-fi ideas (like Final Fantasy). Bloodborne’s Victorian gothic setting that transcends into eldritch weirdness is a backdrop that we rarely get in AAA games and it just oozes style that hasn’t been replicated yet for me.

The trick weapons are my favorite Soulslike iteration on weaponry, and while not all of them are useful their designs are fantastic and I love how smoothly they transition and how well they work within the world built by Miyazaki. The gun-parry mechanic is the only time I’ve ever really gotten parrying down (sorry Sekiro) and its uniqueness makes it stand out to me as fun and engaging in a way a simple shield or sword does not. And the bosses in this game have some of the best designs of any From software game. The simple yet otherworldly look of Rom, the terrifying Lovecraftian design of Ebrietas, and the hauntingly sad transformation of Father Gasciogne from man into beast: all of it is just top-tier visual design that is backed by the best gameplay From has to offer.

My Strongest Memory:

When the Old Hunters DLC came out, my character was on New Game+. I didn’t want to start a new character just to play through to get to the DLC, so I powered through to the point where I could access it and went from there. It was slightly harder than intended for a first run (New Game+ will do that) but I managed it – all the way to the last boss of the DLC, Orphan of Kos.

And there I was stuck.

I had to leave and come back to it, and because summoning isn’t as reliable in Bloodborne as it is in other Souls games, I ended up having to take on Orphan of Kos solo. It took me many, many hours. Cumulatively it’s probably the most time I’ve spent on any singular boss in any game. But by God I DID IT. I memorized his moves and I beat that sorry ass orphan one-on-one. To this day, the relief I felt when I got the final blow has been unmatched. I shouted. I jumped. I shared it with anyone who would listen. But I beat that fucker without any help on NG+ difficulty and while that may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, I will wear that victory with pride because of how much time and effort I put into learning that battle.

Why It’s #16:

As I said in #17, Bloodborne and Persona 5 are locked in an infinite battle: my deep love of traditional JRPGs versus my newfound love of the Souls ARPG format. Bloodborne is the peak of the genre for me (yes, even with Elden Ring entering the fray) and, like Persona 5, is at the top of its class when I consider “modern” gaming (i.e. games I’ve played within the last decade that aren’t also tinged by nostalgia as a kid). The setting, the lore, the weapons, even the shitty-ass Arcane spells. I love all of it, and it will always have a place among my favorites.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #17

Persona 5

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: #16 (-1)


What It Is:

The fifth entry in the SMT spinoff series, Persona 5 is a slice-of-life game combined with RPG action and the relentless march of oppressive adults ruining the world for the younger generation. You play as Joker, a silent protagonist who moves to a suburb of Tokyo and stays with a guardian for a year, being punished for a crime he committed in his actual hometown. Along the way he makes friends with a bunch of other high schoolers, investigates the hearts of evil adults and makes them repent their ways, and blackmails his teacher into becoming his maid.

Er, wait…uh, moving on.

Persona 5 is the high point of the franchise: it removes the randomized dungeon crawling in favor of specially crafted dungeons with a heist theme. The day-to-day gameplay has you managing your calendar as you want to increase your Social Links to both unlock more story and improve the stats of your character. You can hang out with friends, eat burgers, study, and do all sorts of different things in-between saving the world from the nasty adults. No other RPG really balances the social life and RPG dungeon battle gameplay the way the Persona series does, and Persona 5 nails all those aspects out of the park.

Why It’s Important To Me:

You play an RPG for nearly 100 hours and you really get to know and love the characters involved. By the time I wrapped up Persona 5’s ending I felt sad that this was the end of my journey with this particular group of students. Each character: Ryuji, Ann, Morgana, Makoto, and more, all of them fit together so nicely and the way the characters play off of each other is fantastic and ends up being one of the best RPG casts in the history of gaming. And the fact that Persona 5 ditches the random dungeons and incomplete control of your party just makes the actual dungeon gameplay part of the game the best of the series.

The theme is also the best of the Persona games (in my opinion): each character having a thief Persona and each dungeon basically being a heist to steal a person’s heart is a fantastic concept that’s executed to perfection. There are some hiccups: the aforementioned blackmailing of the teacher and very brief appearances by some homophobic side characters are low points in the game. But if you take the 90+ hours of content overall and compare it to the few bumps in the game, it’s a very well done RPG that is worth playing to completion.

My Strongest Memory:

You really think me, the person who has ranted and raved about soundtracks up and down this top 100 list, wouldn’t talk about the Persona 5 OST? Yeah, c’mon, like that was going to happen. I imported this 3-disc OST from Japan and it became a main staple for my car rides to work almost immediately (that is, when I actually had to drive to work). Almost all the strong memories I have of particular moments in this game are because of the awesome soundtrack.

Fighting Kamoshida for the first time and hearing Blooming Villain start its crescendo in his boss introduction. The first time Life Will Change kicks in with lyrics in a dungeon. Entering the fifth dungeon and hearing its hard-ass weird-ass rock theme blasting from my speakers. And, of course, when you get to the penultimate clash and Rivers In the Desert starts playing. I literally sat up and was on the edge of my seat as that theme was the cherry on top of how awesome that fight was. The Persona 5 OST is a top 5 gaming OST of all-time, you can’t change my mind (or steal my heart).

Why It’s #17:

Persona 5 is in an ultimate and neverending showdown with #16 on the list (which will be coming soon). I flip back and forth on which one is ranked higher as my enjoyment of both of these games is about equal. Whenever I make one of these lists, these two games will always be next to each other because Persona 5 is the peak of modern JRPGs for me, while the next game is the peak of another genre and depending on my mood, one genre will currently be outranking the other. While I can’t wait to see what they do with Persona 6, it’s going to be very hard for it to outclass 5 for me simply due to how much I adore the cast and music. And no, I haven’t played Royal yet. It’s on my to-do list, okay?

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #18

Alan Wake

Release Date: May 14, 2010

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #20 (+2)


What It Is:

Originally envisioned as a Twin Peaks-style open-world mystery, Alan Wake ended up being a horror-adjacent, fairly linear action game. As the titular protagonist, you fight an entity known only as The Dark Presence that invades the town of Bright Falls. Alan Wake is a novelist who visits Bright Falls with his wife after dealing with writer’s block for two years. When his wife is dragged into a lake by mysterious shadows, Alan has to go find her. Along the way he combats Taken (shadow monsters created by the Dark Presence) and discovers pages to a novel he supposedly wrote but has no memory of.

It’s a very engaging mystery plot and is combined with a unique twist on survival action. Each Taken is shrouded in darkness, and Alan must use light to eliminate the shadows before using a typical pistol or shotgun to eliminate the threat. This turns a flare gun into a mighty weapon and adds a neat rhythm to the gameplay: aim your flashlight at the enemy first before switching to your pistol. Rinse and repeat, and occasionally throw a flash grenade to eliminate groups. Having to manage your battery life on top of ammo adds another wrinkle to your supply management. Also I just have to add: the sound effects for pointing your flashlight and removing the shadow are super, super satisfying.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I loved the idea of a novelist caught up in a weird, spooky town and having to deal with supernatural weird shit. Back when it was initially revealed in its early open world concept, I was all in. I followed the game and its changed and was still excited by the horror-adjacent gameplay. It was the game that got me to buy an XBox 360 because I wanted to play it so bad.

The fact that it delivered on my hype was just a cherry on top. I beat it fairly quickly, and it might have also been the first game I ever bought DLC for as I purchased and played through both DLC chapters as well. I also got the standalone American Nightmare game a few years later. When Alan Wake showed up in Control I nearly jumped out of my chair, and the Alan Wake 2 announcement is probably my most hyped upcoming game if I’m honest with myself.

Everything about the game was just perfect. The thoughtful yet fast pace of the action when taking on the Taken. The humor delivered in addition to the spookiness. It was just SCP enough for me to be delighted, back before I knew what SCP was and realized that was the kind of horror I enjoyed. It’s also refreshing that it ended up more linear than open world after a decade of games turning everything into open world romps.

My Strongest Memory:

Before the Ashtray Maze, there was the Old Gods of Asgard concert in Alan Wake. The setpiece of being on a concert stage as tons of Taken try to ambush you while heavy metal plays in the background is unforgettable. Spotlights, pyrotechnics, and more go off and help you defeat the shadows of the Taken as they assault your position. It’s a fantastic interlude amongst the more subtle psychological thriller vibes the rest of the game gives off.

Also, I can never forget the image of Barry, Alan’s manager, covering himself in Christmas lights to ward away the Dark Presence. Barry is the main source of humor in the game, and the first time he trotted out decking his halls I laughed so hard. It was just an unbelievably goofy image: the stoic, dadly-dressed Alan Wake side-by-side with a guy just covered in Christmas lights. I loved it.

Why It’s #18:

You never forget games that compel you to buy a whole system. Over time Alan Wake grew to be an important franchise to me, not even just because of the cliffhanger ending that I’ve waited for a decade to be resolved. It just encapsulates the kind of horror-ish game I love: spooky adjacent but not outright blood and gore fests with jump scares. I can’t wait for a proper sequel and what Remedy can cook up for Alan with this generation’s capabilities.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #19

Bioshock Infinite

Release Date: March 26, 2013

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #9 (-10)


What It Is:

The third game in the first-person shooter Bioshock series, Infinite steps away from Rapture and instead flies to the clouds in the city of Columbia. You play as Booker DeWitt in 1912, a man sent to Columbia to find a girl and bring her back to New York unharmed. The intro is a very confusing boat ride which leads to a foreboding lighthouse, which leads to a very uncomfortable city of American exceptionalism and politically religious fervor. The game starts mysterious and unsettling and just gets moreso as you continue forward: the atmosphere of the city sometimes feels incongruous with the frenetic action of the enemy encounters.

The shooting gameplay copies the popular first-person shooter mechanics of the time: you can only carry two guns at a time (a mechanic that is still stupidly artificially limiting). But the game also adds Vigors (instead of Plasmids) that allow you to combo with your guns by doing things like electrocuting enemies or blasting them with a murder of crows. It also adds the Skyhook, making some battles with enemies a lot more frantic and mobile, letting you traverse across multiple islands as enemies are bouncing around trying to kill you. It ends up being my favorite iteration of the Bioshock gameplay despite its flaws due to the increasing mobility.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Bioshock Infinite is a hard game to talk about nowadays. When it came out in 2013, it was seen as a subversive take on American heroism. The political climate has changed drastically since its release, and the game’s stance ending on a “both sides are bad” note has turned public favor against it. I can’t say any of the criticisms of the game’s plot and message are wrong; in fact the people who dunk on this game are mostly right about their interpretations.

But honestly I still love the game.

“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt” is an iconic line that echoes in my head. Songbird as an antagonist is still one of my favorite steampunk enemy designs. The sequence where you find Elizabeth and escape from her tower with Songbird after you is in the top 5 tensest action scenes to me and it still puts my heart in its throat when the fantastic score plays. Combining Bucking Bronco with Undertow and sending enemies flying out into the sky to their doom never gets old; and using Vigors while shooting around on the Skyhook just feels good. The artistic design behind the Vigors is also top tier for me: I have an Undertow bottle sitting on the shelf behind me as I type this and I have two pillows with Undertow and Shock Jockey designs on my couch.

I understand its politics are not great after a decade of reflection. But I still love the game.

My Strongest Memory:

In 2013 I wasn’t as invested in gaming on the internet as I am now. I visited forums but hadn’t really jumped headfirst into gaming media (i.e., I wasn’t on Twitter until 2017). As such, I was able to play Bioshock Infinite almost completely unspoiled. I was also unemployed when I played it. Not that it really matters in the context of the memory, but I do remember binging the game and finishing it at 2 AM and just sitting there with my thoughts as the ending played.

I remember being blown away by the ending and just not being sure how to feel. At the time I may have thought it was the greatest ending to any video game ever and probably said so somewhere. While I don’t have that opinion anymore, the game’s turn still resonates with me and I wouldn’t say it’s a bad ending. It might be a little too self-congratulating in the way a Whedon or Moffat show masturbates over how clever it is. But I still can’t forget that initial feeling I had when I completed it for the first time and thinking “Yeah, this will always be one of my favorite games of all-time.”

Why It’s #19:

I think inevitably it will become harder and harder for me to rank this game high on my list as the political climate changes more and more rapidly. But removing the political messaging and stance of the game’s plot, everything else about this game I will always be in love with. It is another one of the games that is in my 1000/1000 achievements club and I’ll always have an inexplicable fondness for it.