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.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #20

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Release Date: October 13, 2009

Platform Played On: PS3

2018 Placement: #18 (-2)


What It Is:

A third-person action shooter that arguably put the franchise on the map, Uncharted 2 is Nathan Drake’s second adventure from Naughty Dog. The first Uncharted did fine, but came out in the first year of the PS3’s life and didn’t set the world on fire. When Uncharted 2 came out, though, the gaming world went wild. It took the established formula and cranked it up to 11, letting you play through some crazy setpieces that up until this point would likely have been relegated to cut scenes in an action game. From taking on a helicopter on a train, to shooting enemies while a building falls down around you, it was a masterpiece of game design and an important indicator of where games could be going in the future.

Nathan Drake is an Indiana Jones-esque adventurer who goes on Indiana Jones-esque adventures, complete with having to take on a tank with only a gun. In Among Thieves, Drake is searching for the city of Shambhala and the treasure it may hold. The game is mostly shooting at things, but is complimented by the multitude of character interactions: his grizzled yet horny mentor Sully, his rival Flynn, and of course the introduction of Chloe, a femme fatale that switches sides so many times it’s impossible to trust her. It is all put together in an action-packed pulpy package that was absolutely impressive on the PS3.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I love Indiana Jones, and more importantly I love pulp action about lost cities and weird moments in history. I love when stories revolve around weird, unexplained things from a thousand years ago and people have to hunt through conspiracies and ancient puzzles to open tombs that lead to a dagger that opens another tomb. I live for that shit.

And that’s what Uncharted 2 is at its core. It’s a playable Indiana Jones action game. While Drake’s Fortune didn’t wow me when I played through it, Among Thieves grabbed me from the outset with its in media res opening. Why is Drake shot and left for dead in a train hanging from a cliff? More importantly, why do they make us replay it halfway through the game. Ahem. Anyway. I’ve gone over a lot of the generalities in my previous Uncharted 4 entry. Specifically Uncharted 2 was the game that made me sit up and go “I’m following this franchise to the end of its road.” It was the first game that really made me feel like I was in the action movies that I love so much and not just watching the fun in cut scenes.

My Strongest Memory:

If I had written this entry a year ago like I’d planned to, the text in this box would be very different. But within the last year I actually went back and played Uncharted 2 for the first time in a while and I was surprised at how little emotion it evoked when I replayed it. I still enjoyed it (for the most part) but certain sequences that blew me away the first time I now found grating. I remembered the helicopter set piece on the train making me giddy with joy the first time around at how cool it was. But ten years later, I was more annoyed at the helicopter’s bullet tracking and how much I died to it.

And maybe that’s just a function of re-experiencing something, especially a video game. I don’t remember how often I died the first time I fought the helicopter on my initial playthrough: I just remember the exhilaration of the action and how awesome it was to actually be getting to play through this myself. But coming back around to it, I don’t have any exhilaration: just relief that I can move on to the next section once it’s done. And it’s weird that’s my strongest memory of Uncharted 2 now: that maybe my memory isn’t as reliable as I thought. (Who thought you’d get waxing philosophical on an Uncharted 2 entry, eh?)

Why It’s #20:

Honestly, even though I’m reconsidering my opinion on Uncharted 2 after a replay, it’s still a game that delivers an experience like no other game. Not many games lean into the pulp action hero the way Naughty Dog did Nathan Drake. I still think they’re better at lighter action fare than broody apocalypse sad dad stories, but that’s just me. The characters of U2 are still the best in the series, it’s still an important game to me, and it was still a revelation the first time I played it. Would it be #20 on an updated list? I dunno, come back to me in 2025, I guess.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #21

Rockin’ Kats

Release Date: September 1991

Platform Played On: NES

2018 Placement: #21 (=)


What It Is:

A lesser known platformer from the late NES days, Rockin’ Kats is a somewhat straightforward NES game with a unique format: each stage is presented as an episode from a TV show. The plot of each “episode” is the same: you are Willy, a jazzy cat with a punch gun, and Mugsy, a mafia gangster bulldog, kidnaps Jill your girlfriend and you have to get her back. You can tackle the four episodes of the game in any order: from an amusement park to the Wild West, each episode has its own unique flavor. There’s also a “shopping channel” where you can go and buy upgrades for Willy to use in the stages with money earned from a “bonus channel” where you can wager money to get more money or extra lives.

The mechanics of the platforming are also fun: Willy’s punch gun can be used to grab onto platforms and swing around. You use momentum to fling Willy across pits or grab onto another platform, adding a different kind of traversal to a simple NES platformer. You can also use the punch gun to bounce on enemies and the ground to gain height, and if you hold down punch you can grab projectiles with the gun as well. All together it makes for a more complex mechanical system than you might expect from an older game.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Every gaming enthusiast has that *one* game that’s special to them that is seemingly random. This is that one for me. I originally rented Rockin’ Kats from Blockbuster (hah!) and fell in love with the game so much that I ended up asking my parents to get it for me. Thankfully they did, and I went back to this game as much as I played Mega Man games for single player entertainment. I loved the mechanics of Willy’s travel, and the punch gun was such a unique weapon with its different upgrades that it is still one of my favorite weapons in any game.

I was so enamored by the setup of the game, I thought for *sure* there had to be an actual show it was based off of, too. Of course, this was before the internet so I couldn’t just Google whether it existed or not. For a while I hunted Saturday morning cartoons hoping to find the mythical Rockin’ Kats TV show but alas, it did not exist. Still, this is probably the game that left the most impact on me and didn’t end up being a big franchise or hit indie game.

My Strongest Memory:

When I was a kid my family would take week-long vacations to visit my grandparents over summer or winter break. I would dutifully pack up my NES and bring it with me and set it up on my grandpa’s TV in the main living room. I still can see the setup of the living room, where I would be sitting on the carpeted floor a little too close to the television while the adults maneuvered around me.

While I have plenty of memories of my grandpa’s, one of the games I associate the strongest with that place is Rockin’ Kats because it was there that I beat it for the first time. I remember getting super excited finally unlocking the fifth and final episode and actually getting all the way to Mugsy. I remember trying to explain my excitement to my teenage cousin who absolutely did not care this seven year old was at the final boss of a video game but she pretended to be excited with me anyway. This game will always have a special place in my heart not just because of its content, but how it also drums up memories of a favorite place in my childhood.

Why It’s #21:

It’s just outside the top 20 because we’re getting into the games that I think are just phenomenal. This used to be a top 10 game of mine but so many things have come out that I can’t justify keeping it further up propped up by nostalgia alone. Everything from here on out is important to me. One of my friends once said (paraphrased) “I want to see your top games because nobody else is gonna talk about Rockin’ Kats” so I hope they’re happy with this entry. Sorry for taking so long to get this out, life is busy.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #22

Final Fantasy Tactics

Release Date: January 28, 1998

Platform Played On: PS1

2018 Placement: #13 (-9)


What It Is:

The game that put tactical/strategy RPGs on the map for a lot of people, Final Fantasy Tactics was Squaresoft’s foray into a different style of RPG with their tent-pole series name. It brought in some typical Final Fantasy ideas like job classes and summons and the like but instead you found yourself in a grid-based combat scenario where positioning was just as important as attacking.

The main character is Ramza and the backdrop is a political nightmare in Ivalice. The story is deep and involves a lot of warring parties, along with the eventual typical god that wants to destroy everything showing up by the end. Ramza fights against his own family and his best friend in an intriguing drama that has so many layers it’s hard to follow if you’re expecting a light and breezy JRPG. The later War of the Lions remake helped with the translation to make it a little easier, though. Also, Cloud shows up if you do all the complicated stuff to unlock him. So yay!

Why It’s Important To Me:

This game was the one that got me into strategy RPGs as a genre. Final Fantasy Tactics was so good I ate up whatever I could on the Playstation after playing through it for the first time. Even though I was young and a lot of the story and themes passed over my head when I initially played, boy was it cool to climb up on top of a roof and fling a stone at an unsuspecting enemy. And boy did you do a lot of that before you got to the cool classes.

Everything about this game ended up being classic, from the tactical battle layer to the job system to the sprite work to the musical themes. The story is absolutely one for the ages as the dual tragedies of Ramza and Delita and how they intertwine over the course of the game is just fantastic. This game sat in my top 10 for a long, long time and paved the way for many other of my favorites within the genre. Even today, FFT is what I use as a baseline when deciding whether a new SRPG is worth it. The customizable jobs and cool characters will always live on in my heart as what every game in this genre should aspire to be.

My Strongest Memory:

Well, I’ll first take the obvious one: the Wiegraf/Elmdor back-to-back fight. Yes, it’s the one everyone remembers and for good reason. It’s balls hard. First you duel Wiegraf by yourself as Ramza, then you fight his Lucavi transformation, and then you end up on the roof after finding Elmdor and his two minions. The fight themselves are tough, to the point that it’s possible for Elmdor to make you lose the fight before you even have a chance to move your characters if you haven’t leveled up or are just plain unlucky. It’s a hell of a sequence but also so satisfying every time you make that hurdle in subsequent playthroughs.

But my other strongest memory is the character of Mustadio. For whatever reason, he just oozed coolness to me as a kid. He brings a gun to a knife fight and he’s just so damn awesome about it. His introduction where he jumps on the wall to get away from his pursuers is burned into my brain even though it’s fairly simple in both nature and dialogue. He’s always been my favorite, and now two decades on as I’m playing FFXIV I picked up the Machinist class for my character in Mustadio’s honor. He’ll always be one of my faves.

Why It’s #22:

If I was making an influential game list or even games that influenced my own taste, FFT would be a top 10 and probably even top 5. Even if it’s dropped to just outside the top 20, it still hangs out at the top of my lists and will always do so because of how much I adore the game and how easily I can fall back into “maybe I should play the entirety of FFT again” fugue states. If only it was rereleased on a current generation platform and made even easier to play. Hmmmm.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #23

Dark Souls

Release Date: October 4, 2011

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: #17 (-6)


What It Is:

It’s the Dark Souls of video games.

Why It’s Important To Me:

It took me several tries for Dark Souls to click. I played Demon’s Souls and thought it was fun, but fine. It didn’t blow me away. Then when I played Dark Souls for the first time I petered out around Anor Londo and set it aside in favor of Arkham City, which released around the same time. And then at some point I decided to return to it and the Ornstein & Smough boss fight just made everything fall together like Benoit Blanc solving the mysterious donut hole inside the donut. Suddenly…I got it.

I beat Dark Souls, I replayed Dark Souls, I made a character that I simply used as a summoning buddy to help people with Ornstein & Smough over and over again. Like many people, I fell in love with the Souls style of gameplay and it became one of my favorite genres. I’m not a huge high fantasy person but I love the apocalyptic dark fantasy world of Lordran. All the miserable characters (and one lovely onion knight) are just fantastic.

And I still insist that part of the reason I like Dark Souls so much is how similar its encounter philosophy is to Mega Man. Dark Souls is not more difficult than any other game – it’s all about pattern recognition and remembering enemy placement. Bosses have movesets that you just have to learn to avoid and get your hits in. (And when you beat bosses you get their souls/weapons, just like Mega Man!) Once you know where everything is and weakness the game becomes a dance of executing proper responses. Yes, quicker reflexes do help and yes you will die figuring out where the enemies are, but it’s difficulty has been overhyped and the fact that difficulty always is associated with these games is a disservice. Okay, off my Souls soapbox now.

My Strongest Memory:

The first time I beat Ornstein & Smough was exhilarating, obviously. But nothing compares to the pure emotion you feel when Sif starts limping towards the end of that fight. I feel so bad every time I have to face the Great Grey Wolf, especially if I’ve done the DLC section already and met Sif as a little pup. It’s such a great fight that stirs sympathy without any dialogue whatsoever.

Also fuck the Anor Londo archers. That section still plagues my nightmares.

Why It’s #23:

Like it or not, Dark Souls changed the face of gaming – both actual games and the discourse surrounding difficulty and accessibility. It’s a landmark accomplishment that is both wondrous and flawed. And I think that makes it one of the best games in the Soulslike genre because its design isn’t perfect. Instead, these flaws give the game character and a reason to come back to it to see what kind of nonsense you can get up to with a new build. It’s fantastic, it’s sometimes frustrating, and it’s definitely deserving of a spot near the top.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #24

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Release Date: December 7, 2018

Platform Played On: Switch

2018 Placement: #11 (-13)/Unranked


What It Is:

The ultimate compilation of Nintendo/fighting game/video game characters, Super Smash Bros has always been a series that fans have enjoyed to both speculate on and play. Every new release has adding growing tensions in what constitutes a believable new fighter, as later entries started scraping the bottom of the barrel for iconic Nintendo main-stays. Ultimate is the latest (and greatest) entry in the fighting game franchise, sporting a whopping 81 fighters from many different series as I write this and promising to finish its roster whenever the 82nd, final fighter is revealed.

Super Smash Bros is a fighting game and a party game all wrapped up into one that can be taken as seriously or as fun as one wants. If you want to play with all items on, go for it. If you want to play 1v1 no items, Fox only Final Destination, also go for it! The options in the game are so customizable that you can turn off and on individual items, choose CPU skill level, and train your Amiibo fighters. You have three different versions of every stage along with tons and tons of music so you can play whatever tracks you like to your heart’s content. “Everyone is here” is no lie in Super Smash Bros Ultimate’s case – it’s such a comprehensive roster that there’s definitely something for everyone.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Super Smash Bros Melee was the game of choice for my college group. While others grew up on Halo or Counterstrike, we were maining Yoshi and Ganondorf. And so the Smash Bros series has always kept an eternal spot both in my heart and also my top 100 games of all time. I’ll never be able to rid myself of the nostalgia of the 4-person brawls that occurred in my freshman dorm room as my roommate had the Gamecube and we all gathered in what we dubbed the “Lounge of Luxury” to snack and play Smash into the wee hours of the morning.

While I haven’t played Ultimate nearly as much as Melee, I also can’t justify to myself having more than one Smash Bros game on this list. Especially because the roster is so huge and all-encompassing in Ultimate that I don’t have the urge to play any of the previous games. It has every character that’s ever appeared, almost all the good stages, and enough of a single-player experience to keep me satisfied. Sorry, I’m not a Melee purist.

Ultimate is basically the culmination of two decades worth of Smash love. It carries all the weight of all my enjoyment of the original, Melee, Brawl, and the 3DS & Wii U versions. You can consider this an entry for the whole series OR just for Ultimate. Either way, it’s the one I’ll always be playing when I say I feel like playing Smash and I love it.

My Strongest Memory:

For Smash in general? Probably back in the Melee days when I started fucking people up with characters they thought were jokes. Both Yoshi and Jigglypuff got bad raps until I started practicing with them and then my friends learned to fear both of them. The absolute horror my friends get in their eyes when I pick Jigglypuff, even to this day, still brings me delight.

For Smash Ultimate specifically? It has to be the reveal trailer that Joker from Persona 5 was going to be the first DLC fighter. Yeah, it’s not an actual in-game moment. But I think the hype that trailer introduced is the best expression of the Smash Bros fandom and encapsulates the hype that new fighters bring to the table. The pure reaction of joy from everyone when that trailer dropped was just cathartic. It really blew the doors open on what characters were “deserving” of a spot and made speculation a free-for-all.

Why It’s #24:

I think if we were still in my college days, Smash would sit comfortable in the top 10, maybe even top 5. But two decades later and my friend group are all adults with lives outside 3 AM Smash tournaments. Playing it online doesn’t have the same feeling as sitting around on the floor, looking up at a CRT and laughing as we gang up on the one guy who always cheesed as Marth. Every time I get to gather my friends together and play Smash I cherish it, but most of the time it’s a big nostalgia burrito. When I do get to bite into it, I’m happy. Does this metaphor make any sense? Who cares. Minecraft Steve’s in Smash Bros, nothing has to make sense.


Top 100 Games of All-Time: #25

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Release Date: October 4, 1995

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #22 (-3)


What It Is:

A sequel to Super Mario World that nobody, absolutely nobody, expected. Instead of yet another platformer where Mario and Luigi are the stars and you jump around collecting Fire Flower and Star power-ups, you get to play as Yoshis escorting a Baby Mario to safety. You turn into trains and helicopters, you shoot eggs at bad guys, and your health is measured in the seconds Baby Mario is knocked off your back every time you get hit. Also, it’s art design is a very unique, child-like hand drawn style that makes it visually distinct from all the previous Mario games (and most of the ones since, too).

The general gameplay is the same – go through individual levels in bigger worlds, and each world has a mini-boss and final boss. Yoshi plays the same way they did in Super Mario World, but their swallowing enemies whole schtick converts them into eggs for throwing at other enemies! Some levels have cool gimmicks, some levels have annoying gimmicks, but the game as a whole is a surprising masterpiece that, once you get used to the different art style, is an amazing spin on the Mario platformer formula.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I think this was the first game that taught me to not judge a book by its cover or a game by its graphics. I remember, as a ten year old snob, getting absolutely annoyed at the child-like drawing style of this game. I loved Super Mario World and the sprite work of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games, what was this weird kiddie crayon shit? I was flabbergasted at the choice and nearly wrote the entire game off simply because of the art direction.

But I didn’t and I’m so glad that I didn’t let myself fall down the art snobbery rabbit hole. The bosses in this game are some of my favorites across all games. Something I’ve never told anyone, but in my head I designed a sci-fi action movie script that has absolutely nothing to do with Yoshi’s Island, but the action sequences themselves are all based off of bosses from Yoshi’s Island. This game has inspired me to no end in terms of creativity due to how creative all the levels and enemy encounters are.

My Strongest Memory:

The final boss. Oh my god, it is absolutely my favorite Mario-related final boss and probably one of my top 5 favorite final bosses of all-time. It starts out with Baby Bowser (NOT Bowser Jr.) throwing a temper tantrum and kicking Kamek to the curb, then getting jealous of Baby Mario riding Yoshi and trying to jump on Yoshi’s back to take his place. (When he’s successful, he has the best shit-eating grin you’ve ever seen.) It’s a great first stage of a boss, especially because how you fight back against him is a context clue given by what happens when Baby Bowser misses his attacks. It’s so good.

But then. BUT THEN. When the first stage is over, Kamek comes back in and pulls a Rita Repulsa (which is what Kamek does for all the bosses in the game) and makes Baby Bowser grow. And the second stage of the fight is against fucking Kaiju Baby Bowser with the most epic Mario final boss theme in existence. Seeing giant-ass Baby Bowser slowly rise out of the background to the intro is a fucking moment, let me tell you. Goddamn I think that could have been the hypest video game moment a ten year old could ask for and it still gives me chills. If you don’t believe me: just watch this. God, it’s SO GOOD.

Why It’s #25:

Look, Mario is a staple in most gamers’ lives. Even if you were a Sega kid growing up, you knew who Mario was and probably played some game that Mario was in. There’s a reason these games became platformer classics. And I don’t care what anybody else says, Super Mario World 2 is the pinnacle of the 2D Mario platformers. It has substance AND style that makes it stand out from all the rest. Thanks Yoshi, you rock.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #26


Release Date: September 17, 2020

Platform Played On: Switch

2018 Placement: Unranked


What It Is:

Supergiant’s foray into the roguelike genre, Hades is an action brawler where you play as Zagreus and try to escape your father, the lord of Hell. Supergiant’s art style is very distinctive and it makes Hades into a beautiful game where you fight against all sorts of mythical monsters and demons as you try to escape to the overworld. You have a choice between six different legendary weapons and you’re gifted boons by the gods on Olympus that change your play style significantly, so every run you make towards the top will go a bit differently.

What Hades adds to the roguelike genre is meaningful story. The repetition of live, die, go again in roguelikes is not often accompanied by much plot or explanation as to why you’re just doing it over and over again. Zagreus “dying” and respawning in the central location of Hades is weaved into the actual narrative. Each time you return to the base of operations, you can have new conversations with the characters hanging about. But they’re not always there, giving the world of Hades a living, breathing feeling like they aren’t just NPCs waiting around to spout out the next bit of dialogue for you. And every time you die you get just a bit stronger and gain a bit more knowledge of how to progress further, which adds more characters to the roster of interesting people to talk to.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I love roguelikes, but I don’t complete non-deck building roguelikes a lot. I’ve beaten Dead Cells once, Binding of Isaac two or three times, I’ve gotten to the final level of Enter the Gungeon, and others like Rogue Legacy I didn’t even get that far. But Hades was a game that just grabbed me and didn’t let go. I think I’ve said it before during this countdown, but I’m a huge mythology nerd and Greek mythology is one of my favorites. So hearing dialogue from Poseidon and Aphrodite, seeing Zagreus interact with Orpheus and Eurydice, getting to pet Cerberus as much as I wanted; all of it was just a straight shot of happy chemicals into my brain.

The setting was what hooked me, and the gameplay was the line and sinker. Every time I finished a run in Hades, my immediate thought was (and still is) “just one more time.” Grabbing a different weapon and hoping for a new, cooler boon combination was always a dangling carrot to get me to start another run immediately. Every time I unlocked a cool new play style and began to rip through my foes was pure serotonin. I’ve beaten this game 26 times (out of a total of 87 escape attempts) on my Switch, and I’ve already put in 10+ attempts on the PS5 now as I work my way up to being strong enough to smack daddy Hades around again. It’s so compelling and scratches an itch all other action-based roguelikes almost scratched, but not quite.

My Strongest Memory:

The first time beating Hades, of course. There’s a moment in the battle when the TRUE final boss theme kicks in (and all players who have gotten this far know what I’m talking about) and by GOD that was such a cool, musical moment. It literally sent chills down my spine and adrenaline coursing through my veins. I don’t think I’ve had anywhere close to a “okay, HERE WE GO THIS IS IT LET’S DO THIS” moment in any video game since.

Then there’s the time you get the “final” ending and the song that plays during the credits sequence and how beautiful it is.

Of course there’s also the first time I got to the Hydra and Zagreus called her “Lernie” and the name changed on her health bar, which made me die laughing.

There’s the absolute bro-ness of Asterius and the absolute dipshittery of Theseus.

Every moment in this game is so well-crafted that I could talk about them all, honestly.

Why It’s #26:

The third game in the trilogy of “not sure if recency bias” in the lower 20s, I can once again assure you that it was not recency bias in the slightest. Picking up the game last week for my PS5 and jumping back in again (from the beginning with a fresh start) was like coming home. Yeah, I’m experiencing the same story beats a second time, but the beauty of the roguelike genre is that every run still feels good even if you’re seeing the story for a second time. There’s no boring 3-hour tutorial I have to wade through. It’s just back to boons and kicking ass and being a little horny for all the characters. What, you’d think I’d make it through an entire entry on Hades and not mention how hot all the gods are? Psh. Who do you think I am?