Top 100 Games of All-Time: #4

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Release Date: October 2, 1997

Platform Played On: PS1

2018 Placement: #6 (+2)


What It Is:

The game that basically put the genre of “Metroidvania” on the map, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the first of the Castlevania games to break away from the standard level progression and instead give you a giant Dracula’s Castle to explore freely (sort of). You play as Alucard, the half-vampire son of Dracula, who is investigating the return of Dracula’s Castle after his defeat by Richter Belmont in the previous game. While Alucard had been a supporting character in Castlevania III, the plot of Symphony of the Night is all his own.

This game introduces a lot of features that became standard in later Castlevania games – from full equipment (instead of just a whip and secondary weapons) and RPG stats to the interconnected map, Symphony of the Night became a blueprint for success despite initial sales being not great in the West. It also has one of the biggest surprise second halves in gaming history, as when you get to the top of Dracula’s Castle you discover Richter Belmont is the “villain” and “final boss.” Except once a special item is acquired, you find out he’s being manipulated by a wizard named Shaft (Shaft!) and there’s a whole ENTIRE SECOND UPSIDE-DOWN CASTLE TO EXPLORE and the map completion goes from 100% to 200% on your save file. The game goes from big to massive and it’s phenomenal.

Why It’s Important To Me:

This game sealed in the Metroidvania-style gameplay as one of my favorite genres. Coming off Super Metroid on the SNES, playing Symphony of the Night was a delight. Not only were there plenty of unique abilities, items, weapons, etc. to find scattered in nooks and crannies in the castle, but then you got an entire SECOND castle to fine MORE abilities, items, weapons, and so on. Like the previous entry, as a kid I just fucking loved a second map that was a twisted version of the first. Symphony of the Night’s upside-down castle is probably one of the more poorly designed map extensions if I’m honest – it’s literally just the main map but upside-down and with harder enemies, which makes traversal a little weird and awkward in some cases. But the sheer joy I experienced when I first got to the second castle and having that much more game to play was unparalleled.

It also has some great tunes that stick in your head (of course): the Colosseum theme is probably my favorite banger from the entire soundtrack. And then there’s the Clock Tower that just drops heavy metal guitar on you out of nowhere. The boss theme is incredible and gives crazy energy to every boss encounter. And the main Dracula’s Castle theme is another earworm that is perfect for Alucard’s introduction in the game. The game is just stellar from gameplay to music to boss fights to everything, what more can I say?

My Strongest Memory:

“Why don’t I press it and SEE?” Throughout the game you can acquire familiars, and one of them is the devil familiar. There’s this one area in the game that is only accessible by a switch you can’t possible reach – but if you equip the devil familiar he will press it for you. However it is paired with an incredible voice line reading that buried into my brain at a young age and refuses to leave. It is just unmatched in the voice acting department. I don’t remember Dracula’s voice, but I do remember that stupid little devil familiar.

The other strongest memory is actually a more recent one – the game was rereleased alongside Rondo of Blood as a collection within the last few years. I immediately got it and started playing through in on the PS4. Playing this game really, truly, felt like going home. I knew the map, the bosses, where all the items were, how to progress to the second castle – all of it was second nature to me. It was relaxing and nostalgic and peaceful and just pure joy and happiness. But the funniest part was that I was playing it and apparently regressed even further to a child-like state because my girlfriend pointed out I was so absorbed that I had been talking to myself/the television for the entire time I was playing it. Thankfully she thought it was cute – but arguing with myself/the television while playing a video game is a pasttime of a younger self and that was how strong this game was to me.

Why It’s #4:

Recency bias. Yeah, when I made this list I’d played the rerelease relatively recently. That’s why it jumped to #4 over Tetris Attack and Link to the Past this time around. But honestly, Symphony of the Night is another perfect game to me. Despite its flaws, despite the awful, garbage, no-good very-bad boss design of Galamoth (who, to be fair, is optional), this game is still just 200% the best Metroidvania. Nothing since, not even other Castlevanias, has come close. After all, none of them have an upside-down castle, and really that’s the key ingredient here.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #5

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Release Date: April 13, 1992

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #4 (-1)

Screenshot 2022-07-11 203447

What It Is:

Link’s big transition from 8-bit to 16-bit, A Link to the Past was Link’s return to the top-down exploration vibe of the original game after Zelda 2’s sidescrolling departure. Like the original game, there is a large overworld to explore with many interesting characters, but you get a little bit more direction this time around. The wizard Agahnim has taken over Hyrule Castle so Link is tasked to find three pendants which will allow him to draw the fabled Master Sword and stop Agahnim.

And while it seems like the Master Sword will be the culmination of your efforts in this game, it’s actually only the conclusion to the first act. Upon defeating Agahnim, Link is drawn into the Dark World and must rescue the seven Maidens who have been sealed away in crystals. A second, warped map and seven more dungeons, each with their own complexities, await the hero and man, let me tell you, young me loved surprise remixed/altered maps. (This is going to be a theme in every game from here to #2, just you wait.)

Why It’s Important To Me:

Every gaming person has a favorite Zelda game. For some it’s the first game in the franchise they played. For others it’s Breath of the Wild. As I write this Tears of the Kingdom is about to become a bunch more’s favorite. This one is mine simply because I think it’s perfect. It has the perfect amount of dungeons and the perfect amount of items that have the perfect amount of usefulness. The exploration between each of the two maps is perfectly spaced, all the bosses use the special weapons of their dungeons perfectly. The story and characters are perfectly executed with not being too strong to overpower the thrill of adventure and discovery, but not completely absent.

I dunno, it’s hard to describe this game in any other way. Ocarina of Time duplicated its dual world strategy in 3D, but for some reason it just didn’t have a huge effect on me like it did most others in my gaming generation. I felt like the items were more unique and fun to acquire in Link to the Past. I’ve played this enough that I have a lot of the map memorized like Link’s Awakening, but not fully so every time I play I still have to do a little bit of thinking and remembering. It’s long enough that I feel excited to play it again but never overwhelmed. I can’t ever get sick of this game.

My Strongest Memory:

Back in the 90s there was this magazine called Nintendo Power, and I was an avid subscriber. One of the things the monthly magazine had was a comic that semi-followed the story of Link to the Past. I loved following that little comic monthly and was doubly excited when I did stuff in the game that was also in the comic. You can read the comic in its entirety here if you’re curious (bless you, Internet!).

Other than the memory of the comic, my strongest memory is definitely the Thieves’ Town dungeon – the fourth dungeon of the Dark World. In the dungeon you find a surprisingly empty boss chamber and one of the Maidens you’re supposed to rescue chained up inside a cell deeper in the dungeon. After bombing a higher floor and allowing sunlight into the boss chamber, you can lead the Maiden into the light only for it to reveal Blind the Thief – the dungeon’s boss and a minion of Ganon. Unlike most of the other bosses in the game which are monsters or otherwise uncommunicative and just sort of attack Link regardless, Blind the Thief having a small personality and trying to trick Link always stuck out to me as one of my favorite bosses/enemies of the entire series. Figuring out how to reveal the fake Maiden’s true identity was one of the highlights of my first playthrough of this game and I’ll always rank Thieves’ Town highly in terms of Zelda dungeons because of it.

Why It’s #5:

Like I previously stated for Tetris Attack, this game is interchangeable in the #4-#6 spots. It will always be my favorite Zelda game and I don’t think the childlike wonder of discovering the Dark World for the first time can ever be replicated as a cynical adult now, no matter how fun the gameplay is. No other game has ever reached the highs of finding useful tools/weapons and then being able to use them in fun/useful ways across a vast open world – too much of big, open world gaming is highly directed nowadays. Give me the variety of a staff that creates blocks, a rod that shoots ice, and a medallion that makes earthquakes and I’m a happy camper. Also a hookshot. There must be a hookshot.

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #6

Tetris Attack

Release Date: August 11, 1996

Platform Played On: SNES

2018 Placement: #5 (-1)


What It Is:

A match-3-ish competitive puzzle game released many years before Bejeweled, Tetris Attack is a game where you have to switch around and match shapes to clear out your area which then sends large blocks to your opponent’s side to mess with them. The larger the combo when you match, the bigger the headache for your opponent. Released in Japan as Panel de Pon with fairy characters, the game was renamed Tetris Attack and redone with characters from Yoshi’s Island for Western audiences (despite the game not being similar to Tetris at all aside from the timed puzzle nature). I personally like the revision – the Yoshi’s Island characters gave the game much more personality to me.

It’s a pretty straightforward type of game – there’s a campaign mode where you fight each character before making your way through Bowser’s henchmen before taking on the big turtle himself. But the real fun from the game comes from the local play and demolishing your friends over and over no matter how hard they try to beat you.


Why It’s Important To Me:

This was one of the first (if not the first) head-to-head multiplayer games that I enjoyed playing against my friends. Generally, I’m not a huge competition-based gamer as is evidenced by most of my top 100 list being solo games or games where you play co-op/working with your friends. But I was a Tetris Attack savant when I was younger. I was unbeatable. Friends tried and most gave up eventually and wouldn’t play with me anymore because it was not fun for them. And that’s okay. I still loved the game.

There is also, of course, the music. God, the music in this game is just incredible. Probably top 10 favorite soundtracks if I’m being honest with myself – yes it holds up against stuff like Persona 5 and Final Fantasy 7, I’m that serious about it. I think my #1 favorite track is the ice world theme for Bumpty. Then there’s Gargantuan Blargg’s theme in the lava world. And the theme for the main Bowser minions is also rockin’. Then of course every stage theme has a frantic escalation when your blocks reach critical mass where the music cranks up to 11. My personal favorite is the change from Poochy’s regular theme to his critical theme – it goes from this nice, peaceful, chill vibe to holy shit my world is burning. It’s fantastic.

My Strongest Memory:

So aside from all the good times I had smushing my friends into paste while playing this game, there was one particular memory of mine that has never left my brain. One day, me and my friend were playing a versus match on the Bowser stage and the Koopa King’s music was playing. Another friend of ours arrived and as he entered the room, he heard the music playing and immediately said “What IS this, field day at the old folks’ home?”

Me and my friend burst out laughing and I have not been able to remove that description of the music from my brain no matter how hard I’ve tried. It became a minor inside joke whenever this game was played and while it’s likely faded from all my other friends’ minds at this point, this memory and the game are forever intertwined to me. I literally cannot think about Tetris Attack without reflexively thinking about field day at the old folks’ home.

Why It’s #6:

So games #4-#6 of my top 100 are basically in an ever-rotating order. At any given time any of these three could be #6 or #4. The dice rolled on this one being #6 because it’s been the longest since I’ve played it. Tetris Attack is my favorite puzzle game and my favorite competitive multiplayer game – partly because I was so good at it and mostly because of the music. Yes, the original Tetris also has legendary music but to a young me this game’s themes were on another level. It also helped that I loved Super Mario World 2 as well so all the random enemies getting extra characterization in this game didn’t hurt. I will never not preach the good word of Panel de Tetris Attack.

Atma’s Gameplay – April 3, 2023

So I was about to write some thoughts about games I’ve been playing in a tweet on Twitter, and I realized that Twitter has become a complete shitshow. Why am I using my hard-earned time and creative thought on a website that is currently a trash fire burning in a dumpster on fire that is in another dumpster that is also on fire, when I could write a thing on my own website? I pay for this website! Why don’t I use it more frequently?

Anyway, this is going to be pretty freeform. I’m going to try to get back into the habit of writing on here regularly, so this has no format, no structure, no real cohesive point. I’m just putting thoughts to paper (or digital screen, in this case) and sending them out into the world like little baby birds. Go free, my young thoughts, and eat a worm.

Continue reading “Atma’s Gameplay – April 3, 2023”

Top 100 Games of All-Time: #10

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Release Date: April 10, 2020

Platform Played On: PS4

2018 Placement: N/A


What It Is:

Of all the games that people have clamored for a remake, Final Fantasy 7 is probably the one that has gotten the most (or at least the loudest) support. The game itself is stuck in early polygon-era models, but since it captured the hearts of many and also had several later spinoffs (and a movie sequel) with better graphics there was a lot of hoping for an HD upgrade to the story.

People finally got their wish in 2020 as the Final Fantasy 7 Remake finally came out. It had the updated graphics everyone asked for, along with an all-new action RPG system that used elements of the original game. Because the project was so big, Remake only told the story of Midgar, the opening city of the game. For comparison’s sake, this 40 hour game was about 4 hours of the original game and was only a small portion of the first disc. The city of Midgar is brought to life even more than before with side characters being expanded upon and entire new areas and enemies to fight, along with old enemies being refashioned into bosses and characters that don’t show up until later in the game making much earlier appearances (here’s looking at you, Sephiroth).

But it wasn’t just the original game’s story with a shiny coat of paint and a different battle system. As the game progresses, things get weirder and start deviating from the original story. And before you know it, you release you aren’t just playing a remake: you’re playing an entirely new game. And it’s awesome.

Why It’s Important To Me:

When I sat down and started playing FF7 Remake, I knew I liked FF7 a lot. But I didn’t realize how much these characters and this game had influenced me until my emotions started running rampant as I played through this. I tore through this game as the COVID pandemic was starting its tear through everyone’s lives, and falling back into the comfortable, updated nostalgia of this game was just perfect timing.

And then the story beats went in an entirely different direction than I was expecting. It blew me away to the point that I ended up loving this game even more than the original. It does something with storytelling that can’t be replicated in any other medium as far as I’m concerned. It took something familiar, something beloved, something that people had been clamoring for, and built upon it and gave something nobody asked for. It was amazing. I’d never played anything like it and I haven’t played anything like it since.

My Strongest Memory:

To stay (heavy) spoiler-free: the set up of the Air Buster showdown. In the original game, the Air Buster is simply the second boss. It has a mechanic that you have to hit it from behind to do more damage but it’s otherwise fairly unremarkable. But the game takes your expectation and turns a pretty standard boss into an awesome setpiece. There’s so much build-up – fans of the game know what’s coming but the game ratchets up tension as you basically see it be built to attack you as you progress through the chapter. If you’re smart, you can disable some of its parts to make the eventual fight easier. And then the fight itself is just balls-to-the-wall action fun. You couldn’t ask for a better execution.

And then, of course, the remixed music. They took the original legendary soundtrack and just made it better in every way. The battle theme gets so many different variations: from the Airbuster version to a gym version. There’s even new songs for new bosses that kick ass. And there’s a remix of one of my favorite video games songs of all time, Crazy Motorcycle, that nearly tops off the game as it’s played towards the end of the Midgar section in the original game. I was looking forward to hearing the remix the entire time I played and man, finally getting to hear it did not disappoint.

Why It’s #10:

This is the last game on this list that wasn’t on the 2018 list. When I originally made the list in 2021, I was a little worried that recency bias was making me overvalue FF7 Remake. But the stupid smile I got while thinking about this game and listening to the music again as I wrote this entry just washed away any doubts. This is a fantastic game, and while it’s hard to replicate 20+ years of nostalgia wrapped into a surprisingly perfect package, if it does apply to you this game will hit your feelings hard and I definitely think it’s worthy of being in the top 10.

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: #28

Disco Elysium

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Platform Played On: PC

2018 Placement: Unranked


What It Is:

Imagine a role-playing game where your main party members were the emotions inside your head. Instead of a full party of adventuring heroes, you’ve got a full party in your brain. And boy is it a rager. In Disco Elysium, you’re a detective who partied so hard he gave himself complete amnesia in the middle of solving a case. The decisions you make in this RPG influence what this cop becomes – you can be a hobo cop or a communist or a complete asshole, it’s all up to how you respond to conversations.

The game plays out a lot like a tabletop RPG where there is constant background dice rolls based on the stats/emotions you’ve invested in. If you pass a check, you’ll hear a voice or get some sort of success. If you fail a check, 80% of the time the game won’t even tell you there was a check to pass. There’s also barely any combat in the game, and combat scenarios don’t play out as actual action mechanics – they go by the same rolls as everything else. It’s very much a reading and thinking game that has amazing story and lore that grips you from the beginning.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I wrote an entire review on why I enjoyed Disco Elysium so much, and I still think it’s one of my best pieces of game writing so you should probably just read that instead of me trying to repeat myself. It’s very good, I love it very much.

My Strongest Memory:

I talk about my favorite memory in my review – a very non-descript side case where you talk a spouse through their partner’s accidental death. It was poignant and emotional in all the right ways.

But the other highlight for me was towards the conclusion of the main case. There is a climax at the end of one of the days where you end up in a standoff between several people that are all armed. And it’s a climax in the true sense of the word – everything you’ve accomplished since the beginning of the game weighs in on how the interaction goes. It can go well or it can go poorly. And because it’s a culmination of decisions and actions (or inaction) you’ve taken throughout the game, it’s not a “save scum and restart” kind of moment if things go sideways. Yes you might be able to redo and get a lucky roll, but some of the rolls will fail no matter what if your stats/emotions haven’t been lifted high enough. It adds tension and meaning to a climactic confrontation that is a lot of times missing in other video games and plays out so well.

Why It’s #28:

Another game that I worried had recency bias, and yet I still think about it nearly two years later. I’m excited to play it again and feel confident I will actually complete it a second time (something that doesn’t happen as often with more recent games due to them getting longer and longer) because it’s just that good and unique. If you’re a fan of RPGs in any way and like reading novels, Disco Elysium is a game for you.