Welcome to my favorite games page! Here I’ve detailed the 30 games I love the most, split into two camps. The top 15 are Absolutes, games that I truly treasure and will never ever part with (if I can avoid it). Imagine them as my selections for a desert island scenario. The next 15 I consider Alternates. I adore them a lot too, but not quite as much as the Top 15. I’ve explained in depth why I fell in love with the Absolutes and touch on why I like the Alternates. Below all that is a small list of Contending games that are close to cracking the Alternate list, my favorite games by system, and my favorite games by publisher. There may be some spoilers ahead! The Absolute, Alternate and Contender lists are in alphabetical order.
Note – Wouldn’t you know it, now I’m going to need to add The Last Story into this mess. XD
THE FIFTEEN ABSOLUTES
Beyond Good & Evil (Gamecube, UBI Soft)
The Game – In this Zelda-like action-adventure game, you control Jade, a reporter, who tries to uncover the secrets of the alien invasion attempting to take over her planet of Hillys.
The Impact – UBI Soft pretty much had my interest from the intro, with its unique news report explaining the problem the player would face. Quickly creating suspense with an alien attack on Jade’s lighthouse, Jade has to protect herself and her adopted children, whose parents were taken by the DOMZ (aka aliens). With no credits to defend themselves via the energy generator powering the shield, Jade is forced to stand against the menace alone. Jade’s combat abilities are excellent and smooth, and watching her weave around and smack things is a treat. Suddenly, the DOMZ ambush her, and it’s clear some sort of connection exists between Jade and the DOMZ given the oddity of the interrogation. As all seems lost, her uncle Pey’j, a pig-human hybrid, pummels the DOMZ captor and tosses Jade her Dai-Jo staff. With Pey’j cooperating with you, this early boss fight ends quickly and pleasurably, and I was completely invested into this game’s world and its heroine. The remainder of the game builds upon this excellent foundation, and further replays have committed it to be one of the most vital games I’ve experienced.
The Fondness – Michel Ancel’s vision with this game is just brilliant. Jade is an incredibly endearing protagonist, and her cohorts Pey’j and Double-H provide ample opportunities for the game’s strong writing to come forth. It looks amazing for its generation, features solid controls, has compelling dungeons to explore, and offers plucky gamers plenty of rewards for exploring it fully. It also packs a punch with its plot, one of the finest in our medium. With plenty of parallels to our own world, Beyond Good & Evil is an essential part of my gaming psyche, and I highly recommend it.
Port Differences – Gamecube vs. PS3 Store
The PS3 HD update improves the texturing and models of the game, making the look much sharper than it was before. There are more graphical glitches though; I’ve noticed one glaring one traveling around Hillys by the first dungeon, as there’s suddenly a gaping tear in the sky behind the mountain housing it. A few others have popped up, too. The lipsync is also off in the cinematics, which may be jarring to some. The credits are much longer now, too, thanks to adding the HD dev team and UBI Soft’s current marketing staff. On the upside, there’s a brief collection of concept art to look at, plus the game has a fairly robust digital manual explaining its control and mechanics.
It’s probably easier to download the HD game over finding a used disc, as the game flopped pretty badly in retail upon release, so I don’t know how easily you can track it down. Either way, the game itself is a treat.
Chrono Trigger (SNES/DS, Square-Enix)
The Game – In this RPG, you step into the shoes of silent protagonist Crono, and through him guide his allies against several menaces throughout different times, culminating in a climatic showdown against the harbinger of chaos, the alien Lavos.
The Impact – As Crono encountered more and more new faces and became further entrenched in each time zone’s problems, the narrative overpowered me. I needed to see what happened next. I got more than I bargained for. Crono’s sacrifice and his friend’s attempts to bring him back definitely stand as one of gaming’s shining moments in my eyes. That is when the impact hit, because I distinctly recall being awestruck with how a mute hero could embody so much with no words…and out of nowhere, too!
The Fondness – Chrono Trigger combined the brightest minds from Square and Enix at that time, and their united talent created a solid, well-built game engine that rose well above the standards of the 16-bit era in terms of characterization, storyline and emotional pull. Charming graphics and a beautifully realized musical score build upon the excellent gameplay and narrative to just stun gamers with its quality.
Port Differences – SNES vs. PS1 vs. DS
Let’s get the bad one out of the way first: skip the PS1 rev at all costs. Load times are atrociously long. The bonuses don’t make up for it, and you’ll wonder why I’m praising the game so much if you play this version. Bypass!
As for the other two, the DS version I’d consider definitive, thanks to the PS1 goodies jumping over without the nasty load screens and a bevy of additional DS exclusive content like monster training and a couple bonus dungeons…that can be completely ignored if you wish! That’s a nice perk. The Super NES original is perfectly acceptable, too, though, if the extras don’t interest you at all. Worth playing either way!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3, Square-Enix/Eidos Monteral)
The Game – As Adam Jensen, ex-cop and current security head at augmentation firm Sarif Industries, you will need to track down the terrorist group who stormed into the Sarif labs and killed your ex-girlfriend and her colleagues. Stealth, gunplay, hacking and communication all play massive roles in this game, and the player can choose how they want to best proceed by enhancing particular skill sets through augmentation.
The Impact – Games are magical things. Some win your heart from the very first moment. Sometimes it takes a major plot point or a stunning boss fight to impress. Other times, it’s simply a gradual thing. Deus Ex is a classic example of the gradual approach. The fun factor increased exponentially the deeper I plunged into the game’s narrative. As the game took me to new locales and threw trickier mechanics at me, I was relishing every challenge with zeal. By the end, I was enthralled.
The Fondness – As one of the newest games on my list, it’ll be some time before I can truly reminiscence and say something substantial here. I can say that I have not had more joy spring forth from a PS3 game than from Deus Ex, though. I was going to replay it again right off the bat, but I think I’ll let it sink into my conscience some more.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS, Nintendo/Square-Enix/Level-5/Armor Project)
The Game – One of the forefathers of Japanese RPG design evolved ever so slightly for the ninth installment, enabling the player to create custom heroes to save the world from an unknown evil. Adopting specific classes, mixing and matching class attributes to make unique characters tailored to one’s own desires, and then sending them out into a massive realm full of intrigue…this is Dragon Quest at its finest (and most individualized)!
The Impact – Once you reach the Abbey, class changing becomes an option for your motley crew, and this is where I fell in love. Grabbing skills from other classes to improve your character’s moveset is a brilliant stroke of gameplay and strategy, and I have loved every moment of tweeking the synergy of my team to maximize its potential (and match up to the Black Blood heroes they mimic). The battle engine aids a lot in this joy, as it’s a delight to wallop foes with your cast.
The Fondness – I love the kookiness that prevails in Dragon Quest’s worlds. It doesn’t take every moment super seriously, and I adore it for that. While DQV and VIII top this game in character development and storyline, DQIX hit all of the right customization buttons for me. Having such freedom to create millions of potential characters is a treat, and having them look how you want them to is a huge plus. Of course, the versatile combat engine with its endless medley of move combinations per character is also a big plus! This game is great to just go quest in.
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, Bethesda Software)
The Game – In this openworld western RPG, you create a custom character and then throw them into the realm of Morrowind to explore, battle, learn and interact with its populace, bestiary and environments. The ultimate goal is to defeat the sinister Dagoth Ur’s plot to conquer Morrowind and eventually the world, but thanks to Morrowind’s sandbox nature, that goal can be completely ignored!
The Impact – Wow, it’s difficult to remember the exact moment of awe with Morrowind. It probably was when I realized how enormous the isle was, and that I could conceivably walk every inch of it. Exploring my Black Blood characters Delton, Karah, Nicole and Kryst has also been immensely rewarding.
The Fondness - Despite Skyrim being a beautiful medley of Morrowind and Oblivion design philosophies (and being the best game I’ve played that is omitted from my list due to its shoddy PS3 version), I continue to have a very strong emotional attachment to Morrowind. I neglected giving it a place in the Absolutes until very recently, and it’s deserved the spot for years. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in this game, and if the bug hits me again I just know I could add dozens more without hesitation. When I get the 360 Skyrim, Morrowind’s status may be questioned, but until then, I will still consider this the finest Elder Scrolls game.
Fire Emblem (GBA, Nintendo/Intelligent Systems)
The Game – A strategy RPG with three storylines to pursue: Lyn’s initial quest that helps establish understanding of the mechanics, Eliwood’s tale that serves as the main quest, and Hector’s advanced retelling of Eliwood’s heroics. The first of the long-running series to make it overseas.
The Impact – The well-written cast won me over, right when Lyn first makes her appearance (in case you’ve ever wondered why I like her so much). Protecting your party from the hordes of bandits, misguided soldiers and husks of humanity becomes so much more critical when you like them. Thus, I was eager to minimize the slaughter of my troops and maximize their experience on the battlefield, developing my favorites into incredibly awesome advanced classes that truly felt like they were powerful warriors. Let’s be honest, here, though. Fire Emblem is not for everyone. It’s absolutely brutal at times. It takes no remorse on a weak hero or heroine and it will make it a goal to kill them quickly and efficiently, and you will never have them back unless you start the mission over. Sometimes that’s a loss of a hour or two of gameplay! It’s a humbling moment, to be sure. If you can accept that caveat, though, Fire Emblem’s strategy is brilliance in motion.
The Fondness – I’ve played Sacred Stones, Fire of Radiance and Shadow Dragon following this, and they just haven’t resonated with me quite the same as Fire Emblem has. I can remember moments of pure bliss playing this. It challenges your mind to devise the best methods of cutting through maps. It’s well balanced, it’s riveting, and it makes you put everything into conquering it. I had to make the difficult decision between this and Ogre Battle 64 to put into the Absolutes, and as much as I love both, I think I find the punishment of FE’s gameplay to be the crucial edge. I feel like I’m fighting right alongside these characters, and that’s the greatest compliment I can give it.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS, Nintendo/CiNG)
The Game – As Kyle Hyde, an ex-cop on the hunt for his rogue ex-partner, this adventure game has Hyde spending a night at a remote hotel which brings revelations to his investigation…and to the other people inside its rooms as well.
The Impact – Hotel Dusk is among the finest written games ever made and localized. Hyde’s thoughts read like an ideal hard-boiled novel, and CiNG’s incredible art direction helps sell the concept. I was taken in instantly. Luckily, the entire game did not disappoint.
The Fondness – I’ve played Dusk three times total now, and despite the plot’s familiarity, I just adore how well written and animated everything is. A dynamic and interesting cast surround Hyde, and he’s also able to take on some excellently designed puzzles that take full advantage of the DS hardware. Despite the occasional “what the hell do I do now?” moment, I really do love Hotel Dusk.
The Last Story (Wii, Nintendo/Mistwalker/XSEED)
The Game –
The Impact –
The Fondness –
Mega Man 3 (NES, Capcom)
The Game – Mega Man’s third action title pits him against more Robot Masters, a mysterious new figure named Breakman, and the game absolutely does not end with Dr. Wily being the villain. …I’m joking. Luckily, Mega Man has learned how to slide and has gained a new ally in Rush, his transforming robotic dog that aids him via contraptions like a submarine or jet sled.
The Impact – As the second oldest game in my Top 10 (and the oldest I’ve played closest to when it came out…does that make any sense? Bionic Commando was played much more recently), I can thank this game for making me discover what impact means. Certainly Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and Legend of Zelda left a tangible mark, but Mega Man 3 was the first game I truly obsessed over. I created strategy guides, deciphered the password screen, and replayed it over and over to experiment with the weapons and for speed-runs. Mega Man 3 made me begin to love Capcom and arguably gaming in general.
The Fondness – As years march on by, I can still revisit Mega Man 3 and return to the glory days of my youth. I can march my way right on through with little problem, remember every single enemy weakness, and enjoy the hell out of it. And that’s perfect fondness in my book.
Portal (PC, Valve)
The Games – A puzzle game dressed up in FPS clothes. As Chell, the silent heroine, you utilize portals to defeat the tests thrown at you by GLaDOS, all the while reveling in the twisted AI’s snarky insults.
The Impact – The brain bending and sudden epiphanies Portal provides floored me. Nothing has quite tingled my noggin the way this series has, and I’m not sure anything will recapture that blissful feeling. The design is impeccable.
The Fondness – Between top-notch writing, voice work and level design, the world of Aperture Science is beautifully realized in both games. I must admit that the first features a fresh, trailblazing feeling that the sequel lacks, which makes me prefer the original. GLaDOS also steals the show with her antagonistic barbs, merging with tight gameplay that rewards the player infinitely. Marvelous stuff.
Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition (Wii, Capcom)
The Game – This survival horror/action title reunites gamers with Resident Evil 2′s Leon S. Kennedy, who is on a rescue mission to save the President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, from an occult infected by the parasitic Las Plagas, and its commander, Osmund Saddler.
The Impact – It didn’t take long! As Leon tries to infiltrate the Ganado Village early on in the game, the ensuing chaos of being surrounded by what felt like dozens of villagers (and a chainsaw maniac!) and having to survive their onslaught grabbed my attention and the game refused to let me go. Also…Grace and I spent many of our early days experiencing the thrills of this game…so it sort of helped us bond.
The Fondness – I’ve replayed RE4 at least seven times, if not more than that. Grace has probably done the same. We really do like this game. I’ve bought it three times for three different platforms. We’ve raced through alternate versions. I’ve unlocked nearly everything. I bought the RE soundtrack box (alas, unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a bootleg! XD ) for the music to this game. I have Iron Maiden, Ada Wong and Verdugo figures. It’s without a doubt Capcom’s finest hour and among the most precious games to me.
Port Differences – Gamecube vs. PS2 vs. Wii
If you have a Wii, that’s the best choice for you. The Wii controls are nigh perfect, all of the PS2 bonuses are included (and bumped up graphically), and I’ve had the most pleasure with it over the others. The Gamecube original is the second best; despite missing the PS2 Separate Ways, I think it looks and plays much better. The PS2 port is the weakest visually, to the point that it detracts from the game itself. It’s also more glitchy and its extra content is locked away. I can’t really vouch for the HD port for the PS3 and 360, as I have no desire to try out those.
Shin Megami Tenshi: Persona 4 (PS2, Atlus)
The Game – This RPG/social sim casts you as a new kid in a small Japanese city high school, one that’s getting rocked with bizarre murder cases. With your classmates, you decide to investigate the crimes, but discover that the killer utilizes an alternate world to do their dirty work. Helping your allies conquer their innermost demons, developing relationships and combining the various Personas you find are also part of the game.
The Impact – Atlus had me on the ropes with the franchise following Persona 3′s sad, sad ending that left me in emotional duress; I wasted 80+ hours in order to have my avatar die? However, I really did enjoy my time with the game up to that point, so I decided to give the sequel a proper playthrough. Obviously that was a wise choice! Quickly I was entangled in the game’s narrative, loving the new characters and relishing the revamped gameplay. The overall vibe of the game was so drastically different from P3, and magically I preferred the rural setting and the creative choices Atlus made in making this game feel unique from its predecessor. I suppose I could say that the impact came right from the very beginning, once you got into school and met Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko. The bond was immediate from there.
The Fondness – After the disappointment of P3′s conclusion, I can say that I have no reservations of Persona 4′s. In fact, it was very touching and real. The entire game has a lot of reality wrapped up with its craziness and fiction. Excellent characterization and interactions between the cast, compelling dungeons with a ton more variety, and the complete overhaul of the battle engine that polishes it to a fine sheen…I really enjoyed my time with P4.
Skies of Arcadia Legends (Gamecube/Dreamcast, Sega/Overworks)
The Game – A sky-faring RPG starring Vyse, Aika and Fina, Blue Rogue pirates who attempt to prevent the Valuan Empire from kidnapping Fina and capturing the Moonstones that could revive the monstrous Gigas in order to dominate the world of Arcadia.
The Impact – Vyse, Aika and Fina are so full of charisma and optimism it caught me by surprise. Most games lack such happy protagonists, preferring to wallow in despair and turmoil. It was so refreshing to have plucky heroes at my command. I’m pretty sure that that aspect impressed me early on and made me want to see their quest to the end. There’s plenty of awesome moments in Skies, but the endearing cast got me before the ride even started.
The Fondness – If I could have more Skies of Arcadia merch, I would. I’d love to have the Japanese SE that came with an art book and other goodies, but I’m not too keen on ordering stuff overseas yet. But the skies Vyse and his friends live in is a very compelling one, with plenty to search out as you sail. Building your own base is a nice perk, too. With two great ways to battle, a stunning musical score and some ingenious character designs, I am devoted to this game more than most.
Port Differences – Dreamcast vs. Gamecube
The Dreamcast original is a huge game in its own right. The Gamecube port adds in extra content like several new sidequests, new battle options, and decreases the frequency of random battles a minute amount. However, the VMU minigames in the Dreamcast game are obviously out (the items you would earn that way are in the GC port and can be won after defeating one of the game’s new bounties), and some feel that the music was compromised in the port, although I’ve not noticed a huge difference. The DC original also had a manufacturing defect that affected some shipments; the second disc got a thin layer of plastic stuck to it that causes it to skip during key points in the plot. It’s fixable (dip the disc quickly into hot water and then remove), but I was not thrilled about dunking my favorite game into a pot of boiling water. :p I’d lean toward the Gamecube port for Piastol and the new bounties, but both are great.
Super Mario 64 (N64, Nintendo)
The Game – Mario platforming in three dimensions!
The Impact – I can still envision the glee that I felt discovering Mario’s first 3D jaunt back on Christmas Day, 1996. I was blown away by how fluid Mario controlled, how the seemingly simple polygonal worlds floored my imagination, how fun it was to explore and uncover all 120 stars. This game had me at the start.
The Fondness - Super Mario 64 holds up the best out of the N64 lineup as far as I’m concerned. The gameplay is still excellent and incredibly responsive, the worlds are simple but fun playgrounds, and it’s loaded with plenty of charm and enough Mario throwbacks to keep me happy. Later 3D Marios are trying to get away from what made Mario 64 work so well, and while Galaxy 2 comes close to matching it quality-wise, nothing has taken away Mario 64′s crown as the best in the series both in 3D and as a whole to me.
Super Metroid (Super NES, Nintendo)
The Game – This non-linear action game throws Samus Aran back into the caverns of Zebes to recover a stolen baby Metroid taken by her old nemesis Ridley. In the midst of exploring this familiar place, she uncovers many new sections and new foes, culminating in a final battle with a reinvigorated Mother Brain.
The Impact – Nintendo pulled out all the stops with Samus’ third adventure, and once you land on Zebes, the game leads you to the starting point of the first Metroid, as well as plunging you back into the ruins of Tourian, as well. As you jog past all of the locales and ignite player memories, the eerie silence leaves an uneasy feeling on you. However, the tranquility lasts only for a moment, as the Space Pirates begin to infest the place as Samus returns through it. Super Metroid keeps up the homages to the older NES game as you progress through it, but continues to manipulate the player’s expectations. Running into a smaller Kraid before engaging the true one, for example. Or the Chozo statue coming to life after retrieving the item it held. The game is almost constantly delivering impact.
The Fondness – Super Metroid is the definitive 2D experience for me. It does so much right within its flat boundaries that very few games can compare to it. It tells a decent story with very little narration, creates a believable world packed with secrets, and controls very well. Not many games can match the bliss that is Super Metroid.
THE FIFTEEN ALTERNATES
Ace Attorney series (DS, Capcom)
I love the characterization in the Ace Attorney games. Some of gaming’s finest come from this series. The writing is also sharp, although occasional typos ruin the mood. However, despite the textual errors, these two factors make the franchise one of my most loved. For the Absolutes, I had to choose between this and Hotel Dusk. XD Dusk manages to be tighter in its writing, plus it has more diverse gameplay, so I had to side with Kyle Hyde. Still adore these games, though.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3, Eidos/Warner Bros. Interactive/Rocksteady)
Rocksteady’s first Batman game is the best licensed game I’ve ever played (it’s the only one on my list!). The atmosphere, characterization and casting all work together to create a mostly appropriate nod to the depth of this comic book’s legend. Mood alone does not a good game make, though; Rocksteady made sure to build a compelling medley of gameplay concepts around the license, best reflecting how Batman would operate in particular situations. Top-notch stealth, engaging combat, and plenty of detective work unite to make this the definitive Batman game. The Metroid-style progression doesn’t hurt, either!
Bionic Commando (NES, Capcom)
Bionic Commando embodies how 2D action games ought to feel. It takes a big risk by stripping out the jumping convention for a bionic arm swinging mechanic. After some time playing around the arm suddenly clicks and platforming becomes immensely special. The shooting parts are also fun, with a bevy of guns and a leveling-up aspect to hit points that helps Radd survive more than a stray bullet. It’s a tough game to get into at first, but it’s really rewarding to try to understand its nuances.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA, Konami)
Castlevania and Metroid design philosophies mixed together have made me a happy gamer, judging by two non-linear ‘Vanias being on my list. Aria of Sorrow was the first that enamored me, and although it’s not in my Absolute list anymore, it’s still a wonderful game. Soma Cruz’s soul gathering for spells and bonuses is a nice change-up from Symphony, and the castle is well laid out and not too large. Soma controls really well, too; better than Alucard in some ways. All and all, a great handheld experience.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, Konami)
Symphony of the Night is a beautifully rendered game, with the best visuals and (arguably…I do love Portrait of Ruin’s soundtrack) audio in the whole franchise. Alucard has some great animation and his moveset is huge, with a lot of player experimentation to fully enjoy using him. Excellent boss fights add to the joy. Sadly, the localization was butchered, with terrible voice work and a so-so plot, which hurts it enough for me to not call it essential. Needing to equip healing items also is silly. Beyond that, though, I am very impressed with Symphony.
Dead Space 2 (PS3, EA/Visceral Games)
Dead Space is a very good rival to Resident Evil 4, aping a lot of what made that game so good yet piling on enough of its own quirks to make the experience feel fresh. The Kinesis and Statis options add a lot to the overall gameplay quality, and protagonist Isaac’s arsenal of modified mining gear is well implemented and is a joy to use. Add in some excellent Silent Hill-esque atmosphere, creepy-as-all-hell enemies and responsive controls and I’m jolly. While the first game had a few issues holding it back (the turret segments and the abuse of the “go fix this Isaac or we’re doomed!” plot device, Dead Space 2 rectifies both of those issues, improves pretty much everything, and delivers some of the finest voice acting work in the industry.
Elevator Action Returns (Arcade, Taito)
The pure arcade experience is something I do enjoy, and Elevator Action Returns is the epitome of that school of design. It takes the original game’s ideas and completely innovates them into something extraordinary. Fluid animation, responsive controls, and incredible levels combine together to make this my favorite arcade game of all time…that’s not a fighting game, at least!
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64, Nintendo)
Ocarina of Time was once high up in my Absolutes, but I don’t think time has been as kind to it as Super Mario 64. 3D games age differently than 2D ones, and I think they do so more awkwardly. Many of the pioneering mechanics Zelda brought to the table have been polished over the years by later games in the series and by other developers, and going back…it can be a little hard to shake off the modernness I’ve become accustomed to. With that being said, I can still reflect and embrace the strides Ocarina made and how important of a game it is to me. It is a fantastic game with a great world to poke around in, puzzling dungeons and clever bosses to engage, and one of my favorite final moments in a game ever with Ganon. So while it no longer wows me like it once did, I can remember the impact it left and can appreciate it for what it has done for my gaming career. And it’s still a good game, too.
Metroid Prime (Gamecube, Nintendo/Retro Studios)
Retro Studios took on the herculean task of taking a beloved series and converting it into 3D while maintaining its roots…and succeeded. Samus is a dream to control in Prime, and despite the perspective switch, she still feels like she did in the 2D games. The world is great, too, despite being a little too predictable (lava and ice worlds? Check that off the level trope list!). The sequels spun off a little too far from what made Prime work so well, but luckily I can always revisit Tallon IV and relish Samus’ second finest adventure.
M.U.L.E. (Commodore 64, Electronic Arts/Ozark Softscape)
M.U.L.E. is an astounding game when you consider how old it is. It’s packed full of statistical calculations determining your character’s crop, store prices and overall health of the colony, all of which you have to consider as you plunge into it. It’s a game of competition and cooperation; being too much of an asshole will doom the entire project, but niceties alone will end up screwing you over, too, so it’s a fascinating balancing act to play. M.U.L.E. is well ahead of its time, and I’m glad to have had the time to appreciate it in my youth. Planet M.U.L.E. is a solid substitute, but I prefer the C64 rev.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber (N64, Atlus/Quest)
Ogre Battle takes a more “hands-off” approach with its gameplay, putting gamers into the commander’s chair and strategically sending out unit teams to fight for them. Quest ingeniously made what sounds unappealing in text here into some gripping gaming goodness, and managing your army is an incredible delight. The plot is more sophisticated than most, and the characters are quite likable, too, both of which are pluses. Worth a look.
Red Dead Redemption (PS3, Rockstar/Rockstar San Diego)
This game is everything Grand Theft Auto should have been. The solid gameplay doesn’t frustrate much, the characters are well-written and you develop feelings toward several of them (good or bad), the missions maintain a freshness throughout, and wandering around the wilderness doesn’t get old. It’s a massive game with plenty of rewards for persistent players, and it does the sandbox concept right. Beautiful work, Rockstar.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2, Sony/Sucker Punch)
Sly 2 is a game I continually argue about in my head about its importance to me. It’s been here before, and now it’s back! I cherish the characters in the Sly Cooper world; Sly, Bentley, Murray, Demitri and Carmelita are all awesome, and Neyla is a sensational villain that weasels her way into the climax beautifully. The gameplay is perfectly split up among Sly, Bentley and Murray, who are all distinct enough to stand out on their own AND are not annoying to play as, making each mission a joy. It controls very well, looks great and has a slick style that I like; I’m dumbfounded why I have debated its placement!
Street Fighter Alpha 3 (DC, Capcom)
Alpha 3 is the fighting game that taught me what I know about 2D fighters. It’s the one I feel most attached to after all of the subsequent years. The cast is rich, the gameplay tight and incredibly fun, and it has the best overall “Fighter” feel that I need in order to really get riled up. I like the genre a lot, but few have really triggered the fondness quite like SFA3.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, Nintendo)
Mario and Luigi’s final NES platformer remains his greatest 2D game in my view, despite New Super Mario Bros. Wii giving it a good run for its money. The diversity of Mario’s new power-ups, the wide breadth of stage offerings, and the overall quality of the controls and level design make Mario 3 the one to beat to this very day…and very few platform games can do it.
Games that I also like a lot, but not quite enough to call them essential:
A Boy and His Blob (Wii, Majesco/Wayforward)
Batman: Arkham City (PS3, Warner Bros. Int./Rocksteady)
Body Harvest (N64, Midway/DMA Design)
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS, Square-Enix/Arte Piazza)
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of a Cursed King (PS2, Square-Enix/Level 5)
Kirby’s Adventure (NES, Nintendo/HAL Labs)
Legend of Zelda (NES, Nintendo)
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Gamecube, Nintendo)
Okami (PS2, Capcom/Clover Studios)
Tales of Symphonia (GC, Namco Bandai)
Here’s my favorite 10 games per system. If there’s a link above the list, I’ve explained my choices for that console. There’s still some systems I need to play more to get a better feel for what I like the most, or just get around to writing. XD I’d also like to revamp a lot of these articles, so expect some changes in the future.
Mega Man 3, Bionic Commando, Super Mario Bros. 3, Legend of Zelda, Kirby’s Adventure, Contra, Mega Man 2, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (incomplete), Batman, StarTropics
Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Secret of Mana (incomplete), Kirby Super Star (incomplete), U.N. Squadron (incomplete), Final Fantasy III (incomplete), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (incomplete), Gradius III (incomplete), Demon’s Crest (incomplete)
Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Ogre Battle 64, Body Harvest, Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, International Superstar Soccer 98, Resident Evil 2, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Banjo-Kazooie
Skies of Arcadia Legends, Beyond Good & Evil, Metroid Prime, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Tales of Symphonia, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO, Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Wii – Needs Revision
Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition, The Last Story, A Boy & His Blob, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles (incomplete), Super Mario Galaxy 2, Muramasa: The Demon Blade (incomplete), Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Dead Space Extraction, Little King’s Story (incomplete)
Fire Emblem, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Metroid Zero Mission, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, River City Ransom EX, Donkey Kong, Astro Boy: Omega Factor, Breath of Fire II (incomplete), Street Fighter Alpha 3, Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Dragon Quest IX, Ace Attorney series (Apollo Justice is my favorite), Dragon Quest V (incomplete), Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Monster Tale, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Dragon Quest IV (incomplete), N+, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (incomplete)
Skies of Arcadia, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Soul Calibur, Sega Swirl, Marvel Vs. Capcom, Project Justice, Jet Grind Radio, Last Blade II, Worms: Armageddon
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Silent Hill…and I need to play more to add to the list. XD
Persona 4, Sly 2, Okami, Dragon Quest VIII, Psychonauts, Burnout Revenge, Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill 2, King of Fighters XI (incomplete), SOCOM 3: US Navy Seals
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Red Read Redemption (incomplete), Dead Space 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City, Portal 2, Bioshock, Rayman Origins, Uncharted 2, Dead Space
Portal, Morrowind, M.U.L.E., Deus Ex, Age of Mythology, Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Sam & Max Season 1, Agent USA, The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight, Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Here’s my ten favorite games by publisher. To break up the monotony of lists, I’ve done some images to represent the games, although I don’t think it’ll be hard to figure out.
Square-Enix (includes Eidos and Taito titles)
SNK Playmore (work in progress)
More to come…