Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Top 15 Favorite Video Games of All Time (2012)

I had a difficult time numbering these, but ultimately the numbers don't matter too much aside from the top two or three. I also limited my choices to one game per series for this list. This list is also, of course, open to change in the future.

Here are my top fifteen favorite video games of all time!

15.) Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow: I adore the Castlevania series and if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Dawn of Sorrow for the Nintendo DS. Simply put, this game is a perfection of the “Metroidvania” formula pioneered by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It has a huge castle to explore, my favorite magic and equipment system in the series, epic bosses and enemies, a great soundtrack as always, and is just overall the most perfect Castlevania game I can think of.

14.) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Subsistence version): The jungle environment in this game makes for some really exciting stealth scenarios and I love the survival and camouflage mechanics. The game also gives the player the freedom to explore and tackle situations in different ways. The story of The Boss and Naked Snake is quite touching as well. This game is simply the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Metal Gear game. So fun in fact, that I played through it once on a borrowed copy and then went out and bought my own copy and played through it again.

13.) Metroid Prime: Metroid Prime built on the atmospheric game design first established in games like the excellent Super Metroid and delivered a gorgeous 3D alien world to explore. The environments in this game are astounding. I’ll never forget the first time I stepped out into the gorgeous, snowy landscape of the Phendrana Drifts and watched the ice flows drift by to that peaceful music.

12.) Kirby’s Dream Land 2: This is a choice born mainly out of nostalgia, but Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is also a great platformer. This game is one of my childhood favorites and it captured my imagination when I was younger. I even wrote a short story for school partly inspired by this game. I played this game for hours and hours and had so much fun exploring every secret of Dream Land with Kirby and his friends.

11.) Okami: Everything about Okami is wonderful. The fantasy Japanese world is full of memorable locations and characters, the game’s visuals look like a classic Japanese painting come to life, the gameplay is fluid and fun, and the Celestial Brush (which allows the player the turn the world into a canvas and paint objects into reality in order to solve puzzles) is still one of the most unique and interesting gameplay mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game. “Masterpiece” just seems so appropriate a word when referring to this work of art.

10.) Half-Life 2: Something that a lot of my favorite video games have in common is a captivating atmosphere. Half-Life 2 features a brilliant, layered world that combines atmosphere and excellent sound design to draw the player in. It also doesn’t hurt that every single part of this game is engaging. Each stage in the game delivers something new and exciting for the player to experience. I haven’t played the game in years but still remember sections like the creepy Ravenholm, exploring empty seaside cottages, building bridges out of junk with the gravity gun to avoid creatures dwelling under the sand, and hiding from gigantic tripods trying to hunt me down. Half-Life 2 is simply a perfectly designed game, featuring a brilliant narrative that is unfolded through gameplay, a rich world full of secrets to discover, and pitch-perfect gameplay. It is a game that melds story, gameplay, world and art design into one unforgettable package.

9.) Shenmue: The word “realism” gets tossed around a lot when it comes to talking about the latest, greatest video games, but when Shemue was released gamers had never seen such a living, breathing world that felt so real before. It might seem trivial to some, but it was just so cool to me that every drawer could be opened, every object picked up, and that every character could be spoken to. Little things like going into a shop and examining packets of noodles are so fun to me in this game. I have a love of Japanese culture and Shenmue catered to this love as well as provided a rich world to explore, experience, and live in.

8.) Silent Hill 2: I remember watching my brother play Silent Hill 2. The dark, cramped apartment building in the game with its creepy ambient noises and twisted mannequin monsters freaked me out so much I had to leave his room and avoided the game afterwards. A long time passed before I finally played this masterpiece for myself and not only was my trip to Silent Hill a truly freaky one, but one with a potent human story lying underneath. This game still has the best-written and most-detailed story I’ve ever seen in a video game to date. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to praise the depth and richness of this experience enough. Play it, damnit!

7.) Shadow of the Colossus: I’ve never played any other game as epic, melancholic, and maybe even as beautiful as Shadow of the Colossus. This is a story about a boy and his horse, and their lonely journey to slay sixteen gigantic beasts in order to fulfill a wish: to bring a loved one back to life. Shadow of the Colossus involves a minimalist narrative that sweeps the player into a lonely world and forces them to question their own actions, which they are forced to carry out if they wish to complete the game. It also probably has the most epic boss encounters in any game ever.

6.) Chrono Trigger: Chrono Trigger is a true masterpiece in every sense of the world. It combines simple yet deep gameplay, wonderful music, a gorgeous and imaginative world and a thrilling story with memorable characters into one fantastic adventure. Play Chrono Trigger and you’ll be stunned by just how whole and complete the game is. Travelling through time to several different eras in the lifespan of a planet was and still is a revolutionary and amazing concept. Characters like Frog and Robo will always have a special place in my heart. And did I mention this game (along with its sequel, Chrono Cross) has my favorite soundtrack in all of gaming?

5.) Golden Sun: The Lost Age: Another masterful RPG, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is pretty much my ideal RPG: a giant, gorgeous world to freely explore, a simple and fun battle system with epic summons and magic spells, an engaging story, a great soundtrack; like Chrono Trigger, Golden Sun is just the whole package. This game’s world design is incredible and I loved exploring every area the world had to offer, both optional and mandatory ones. I really can’t say much else, except that this would be my favorite RPG of all time if not for one other game which appears a little higher on this list.

4.) Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles: This awkwardly named game is the true Sonic the Hedgehog 3 that is born when Sonic 3 is attached to Sonic and Knuckles. Sonic the Hedgehog is a massive part of my childhood and will forever have a huge place in my heart and soul. Sonic 3 and Knuckles is my favorite Sonic game; it’s the most complete and perfect Sonic experience there is. Superb and imaginative level design, a fantastic soundtrack, and perfect platforming gameplay make for one incredible game and an integral part of my gaming career. I play through this game at least once a year.

3.) Super Mario Bros. 3: Mario 3 is a masterwork and my favorite platformer of all time. Tons of awesome power-ups, crazily imaginative world and level designs and an unforgettable soundtrack; this game has it all. I really can’t put my love for Mario 3 into truly effective words: it’s just a perfect gaming experience and I’ve played though it time and time again. It is the quintessential Mario experience.

2.) Skies of Arcadia (Legends version): My favorite RPG of all time, Skies of Arcadia is not simply a video game, but a true adventure. I have so many memories of endlessly exploring the sky both above and below the clouds and across numerous floating islands and continents. An engrossing story, endearing characters, beautiful music, and those big, open skies to explore…everything just so perfectly captures that sense of adventure and wonder that the human soul craves. An unforgettable masterpiece.

1.) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask: Here we are. My favorite video game of all time. It’s a game about healing. Throughout the game, Link heals and helps many people. And healing is precisely what this game does for me, and what video games as a whole do for me. They heal my soul. They cheer me up when I’m sad, they keep me company when I’m lonely, they stir my imagination, they challenge my mind, and they make me happy to be alive. I’ve gotten to know many video games over the years and one has always stood out among the rest. Call it powerful nostalgia or call it what you will, but Majora’s Mask is simply the reason I play video games. A touching story, layered and blissful gameplay, an unforgettable world and countless endearing scenarios all meld into the experience that is closest to my soul among all of video games.

3 comments:

  1. Im actually surprised and wouldnt have guessed a couple of these. Figured a metal gear would be higher, and sonic and knuckles lower/ non existent. And golden sun over chrono trigger surprises me also. MAN2? when you going to play xenogears? no FF 6 love? Good write up with some unexpected choices!

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    1. Sonic is my childhood, man! Of course it's on here! Golden Sun and Chrono Trigger are basically tied, but I had to pick one over the other. Games like Man 2 and FF6 are close and definitely favorites. I was going to do top 20 but had too difficult a time picking the other five.

      Xenogears is still the best game I've never played!

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