That’s right folks, it’s time for an ever popular Top 10 list, the staple diet of bloggers who have nothing to write about.
I’m going to go through what I consider to personally be, to me, the Top 10 games of all time. Before I get started I want to make clear the emphasis on the words “personal” and “to me” – I have no doubt everyone who reads this will disagree with it completely, but that’s ok; these games are what I consider to have been the most memorable or most influential games during my lifetime, it’s personal to me. For the record, it wasn’t easy creating this list, there’s a lot of great games that haven’t been included due to my artificial limitation of only being able to have ten things on the list, but anyway;
A few ground rules; firstly, I will only include series of games instead of individual ones, unless otherwise stated, so the list isn’t made up entirely of Sonic and GTA games. I may call out a specific game in the franchise, but broadly speaking, that game will represent the series it comes from. Secondly, the ordering of this list is roughly from “worst to best” – but there is no worst here, these games are all fantastic and their ordering shouldn’t have too much stock put into it.
Anyway, groundwork out of the way, lets crack on with the list!
10: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
In a blatant disregard to the rules I just laid out above, this entry does specifically refer to this game in particular, and not the entire Mario franchise. The rest of the Mario games are fantastic as well, but I don’t really have an affinity for them, with this and Mario Kart 64 being the golden exceptions.
Why? It’s hard to say really. Super Mario 64 was the flagship Mario game on the new N64 console, and Mario’s first foray into the world of true 3D platforming. This is where it gets interesting, because, unlike my favourite little blue hedgehog, the pesky Italian plumber took the transition from 2D to 3D in his stride. I mean, he knocked it right out of the park. If anything, Mario is better in 3D then it ever was in the old NES days. Mario’s slow paced platforming style actually lends itself perfectly to the N64. The sound, graphics, level design, are all perfect.
The approach to gameplay was interesting; everyone’s least favourite victim, Princess Peachstool or whatever her name is, gets herself kidnapped once again, and Bowser takes over her castle. During our adventure through the various paintings in the castle, which inexplicably warp us to different worlds, Mario is tasked with collecting golden stars hidden throughout the levels, with different challenges having to be completed to collect enough of these stars to unlock other parts of the castle.
I have to admit I’ve never actually completed this game, as truly shocking as that is. I’ve got very, very far in it, and I’ve played those first X number of levels hundreds of times, but for some reason I just never managed to see it through to the end. I really don’t understand why, and it’s something I intend to remedy one day. Infact, if I ever do a completes series or a live stream, this is the first order of business. We’re going to finish this one together!
9: Driver (Playstation)
This might seem like a slightly odd choice to some, as the Driver series has never been widely regarded from Driver 2 onwards, but the original game for the Playstation was the most exciting thing I had ever seen in my life. It was amazing.
I remember very vividly the first time I got to try this game, with a 60 second demo on a PS1 demo disk. The demo consisted of a cop car chase where you had to evade capture for 60 seconds. Just trying to see how far we could get before the timer ran out was hilarious but frustrating fun; we had contests to see just who could get themselves the farthest. The map was so huge, and that tantalising 60 seconds, just trying to see that little bit more of the map before the game came out, was just crazy fun.
You see, we’d never seen anything like this before. An open world sandbox game, in full 3D? Sure, we had the likes of Grand Theft Auto to provide us with open world sandbox goodness from a 2D top-down perspective, and we had the likes of Gran Turismo for 3D driving round a track, but this was a wonderful blend of both of these thrown together. It seems hard to believe but back then, we had never thought this possible. Just a few years earlier we considered the Mega Drive the pinnacle of gaming technology…
The game wasn’t just set in one city, either, it had Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, all fully realised in, what was at the time, glorious three dimensions. Even Grand Theft Auto only had three cities in it, of roughly the same dimensions, and the level of detail didn’t even approach this. Fully 3D modelled pedestrians, sitting down outside cafes, for example, this was just mind-blowing. The only downside was you could never leave your car…
While the Driver series unfortunately never repeated it’s initial glory, I truly believe this game lit a fire under DMA (Rockstar) and was the pre-cursor to the open world sandbox games we have today, like GTA V, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire.
8: Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Well, back where it all started, Alex Kidd in Miracle World. This was the first game I ever played, as it was built into the first games console I ever had, the Sega Master System. I can remember spending hours upon hours with my Dad, trying to get to the end of this game, and finding it mesmerising.
Alex Kidd was Sega’s attempt to create a mascot to rival Mario. By trying to copy Mario’s gameplay style and looks, however, was where Alex Kidd fell down flat on his arse. It looks like a knock-off of the Mario games, despite being somewhat original and very competently made. This game is, on reflection as an adult, unbelievably difficult. You’re given just 3 lives, and once you loose them, that’s it, you’re right back to the start, regardless of how far you’ve gone. The cheap enemy placement and dodgy collision detection really doesn’t help with this, you can quite quickly and cheaply loose all three lives, Therefore you really need to be on your toes to progress in this game.
The two things I’ll remember most about this game was the games of Rock, Paper, Scissors for the first three boss battles, and the castle level, which was really fucking scary to me as a child. The music from that level still sends chills down my spine.
7: Fallout 3
This was a bit of a weird one for me. I remember first getting Fallout 3 for the Xbox 360, many years ago, and having no idea what to do with it. The tutorial levels were easy enough, but once I got out of Vault 101, I found myself wondering, what do I do next?
I know, it’s a fucking dumb reaction, but this was the first role-playing open world game I’d ever played. It was up to me what happened next! This game was like a revelation of how games could be. It was the first game I’d ever played where I felt like I was truly shaping the story of the game, and not just following a bunch of pre-determined plots. This wasn’t the first game to be like this, of course, Fallout had 2 previous instalments, albeit in isometric 2D, and The Elder Scrolls had been doing it for years and years, but to me, it was like, holy shit this game is so good.
The intense mystery around the setting of the game was just so rich, too. The entire mystery of Vault-Tec and the vault experiments, the great war, and the various shady dealings that were undertaken by the US Government and corporations prior the great war, make this post-apocalyptic Washington DC a surprisingly interesting place to explore.
And the great thing about this game? There are so many places to explore, and so many different outcomes and variations to the storyline based upon your actions, that you can just play it again, and again, and again, and you’ll see and hear something new every time.
6: The Mystical Ninja Starring Goeman
Another odd choice, but this game is just filled with happy childhood memories for me. I remember spending so much time playing this, quite frankly, bizarre Japanese game and just being mesmerised by the brilliant music, bizarre storyline, and wonderful platforming action.
Infact, this game is so hard to describe in words, you should watch this video I made about it instead;
Is it someone new?
Bioshock was the first time I had ever played a First Person Shooter on a console, the Xbox 360. I remember flicking through the Xbox Live store looking for demos to try out, when I stumbled upon the demo for this game. I was hooked from the very first second I saw Rapture from the window of that bathysphere.
My word, what a brilliant concept. Bioshock is set in the underwater city of Rapture, built by everyone’s favourite maniacal genius, Andrew Ryan. Intended to be an underwater utopia, Rapture soon took a turn for the worst when it’s scientists discovered a substance known as Adam. Simply put, Adam could be developed into various Plasmids, which gave the user super powers, such as the ability to shoot lightning from their fingertips, set something or someone on fire, or summon a frenzied swarm of killer bees, y’know, if that’s your cup of tea.
Sounds good, except for one thing. These Plasmids had a bit of an unfortunate side effect. Like most injectable drugs, they turned everyone a little bit batshit. The player, who has just survived a plane crash in the Atlantic ocean, discovers the decomposing remains of this once great city, only to find himself trapped down there with nothing but Splicers for company.
The plot twists and turns in this game create more questions than it answers, and over the course of the following two games, especially Bioshock Infinite, things just continue to get more and more interesting. But for scoring ten points on story, atmosphere, level design and gameplay, Bioshock is by far one of the best games I’ve ever played.
4: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I was hooked on Role Playing Action games after trying Fallout 3 and it’s sequel, Fallout: New Vegas. So, when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released by Bethesda, I figured, why not?
I’d never played any Elder Scrolls game before, and I now intend to go back and visit them. The only problem is, these games are just so vast that they just never seem to end. When I embarked upon my journey across Skyrim, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
Lets put it this way; I started my current save game on the Xbox 360 on the 14th of June 2012. I’ve still not completed the game.
Sure, I’ve not played it for hours on end every single day, but I’ve been playing it fairly regularly for a good few hours a week, and I’m still on the same adventure. Still with the same character. I’m actually getting quite near to completing most of the quests now, so that is quite sad, but just like Fallout 3, the story of the game is determined by you, so I can just start it all over again and have an entirely different adventure!
But you see, one of the unique things about Skyrim is that it never really ends. Thanks to something called the Radiant AI, the game constantly generates random quests and adventures for you to partake in, meaning the game literally does go on forever. I mean sure, these quests are never going to be particularly heavy on story, it’s mostly retrieve Item A from Dungeon B or Kill Person A and report to Person Z, but my erratic use of the alphabet aside, this is a really nice touch.
Skyrim is what Fallout 3 was but on a much grander scale. The scale, depth, atmosphere and setting of this game is just spot on. I don’t think I have ever felt so immersed in a game ever before.
3: Grand Theft Auto
Now this one is definitely a mention for the whole series, which has yet, in my opinion to deliver a game which didn’t live up to it’s hype, but lets go back to the beginning;
Grand Theft Auto was another game I discovered via the wonderful Playstation demo discs. Parental guidance lacking, GTA’s free-roaming, politically incorrect sandbox environment instantly became a hit around the schoolyard before the game was even released. I can’t say I have ever played the first two Grand Theft Auto games the way the developers intended, the mission system was somewhat broken, as was the gameplay, and failed to hold my interest for very long. To this day, I can’t play GTA or GTA 2 the way it should be played. Hell, I didn’t even know it had FMV cutscenes until very recently.
But where Grand Theft Auto fell down on gameplay and story, it made up for it with the sheer hilarious fun that could be had simply by dicking about. Running over pedestrians, rallying cars around, trying to run over the marching Hare Krishnas, or just going on all-out rampages, followed by the obligatory cop chase and fight for survival, just made this game hilarious free-roaming fun. It was liberating, to be honest.
Grand Theft Auto III, on the other hand, for the Playstation 2, really brought the series to a new level. Now fully realised in wonderful 3D graphics, this was all the wanton destruction and violence that we had come to love of Grand Theft Auto, but suddenly, the storyline and missions seemed to be more interesting than simply arsing around. I like to think this is partly due to growing up a little bit, but there’s a definite marked improvement in gameplay, storytelling and mission structure that really pushed this game over the top.
The series has never looked back, with Vice City, San Andreas, GTA IV and now GTA V all continuing to improve and evolve the genre, along with side-games such as Vice City Stories and China Town Wars for handheld consoles.
2: Sonic The Hedgehog
Well, it had to come at some point, right?
You might be wondering why this isn’t number one on my list, and I’ve had a hard time wrestling with that, but ultimately, the downfalls of the Sonic series do kinda outweigh it’s positives, unfortunately. But my God, what positives.
The first Sonic game I ever played was Sonic The Hedgehog 8 Bit, for the Sega Master System. Unlike it’s bigger Mega Drive brother, this game featured limited sound and graphics, and only contained some of the same levels (Green Hill, Labyrinth and Scrap Brain) – albeit with new level layouts. It also introduced it’s own level gimmicks, such as Bridge, Jungle, and Sky Base. In many ways, that only served to make it all the more impressive in my eyes. The Mega Drive version is often applauded for it’s ability to stretch the Sega Mega Drive to the limit with speed, graphics, gameplay and power. Imagine trying to do this on an older, 8 bit console?
Of course, it wasn’t long before I was hooked with Sonic. There was a boom of fantastic games featuring the blue blur around that time, including Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (8 Bit), Sonic Chaos, and finally, when I was finally allowed to have a Sega Mega Drive, the sheer wonder and amazement of the works of art that are Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Mega Drive revolutionised, for me, what video games were all about.
I say works of art, and I do mean it, these games are true works of art, as are many video games since, but I find it hard to say that about anything that came before.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the Sega Mega Drive really was the peak of the series, in my eyes. The ability to tell such an epic and intricate story, without using a single word of text on screen, a single line of dialogue, well, it’s just mind-blowing really, isn’t it?
The series was never the same since. Sonic Adventure for the Sega Dreamcast was a weird one for me, while I look back on it now with a sense of nostalgia combined with a new-found love for the game, at the time, I resented this transition in Sonic to reliance on cutscenes, dialogue, extra characters and weirdly realistic settings.
Now, of course, I’ve come full circle, and appreciate the Sonic games for what they are. Sonic Adventure and Adventure 2 are now some of my favourite games of the series, as are recent titles like Sonic Colours, Sonic Unleashed and hell, I even have a guilty pleasure for Sonic 06, a little.
But as a whole, this series is essentially what defines me as a gamer, I can’t imagine my life without it.
1: Half-Life 2
This game is simply the gold standard in First Person Shooters.
It’s the main reason I fell in love with FPS games, and really took the genre to the next level. It was more like a movie than a video game, and it changed the way I saw video games as a medium forever.
I remember getting my boxed copy of Half Life 2 for Christmas, I want to say around 2003-4. To date, the only First Person Shooter I had any interest in was Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force (a game I found VERY hard to leave off this list, infact, had it not been for a misprint on the CD key for the game, I’d never have found FileFront, became FileTrekker, and met all the people I’ve met as a consequence!) – so when I first looked at the box, I was a little perplexed. What is this game? Will I even enjoy it? I hadn’t even played the first game…
First and foremost, the PC I had at the time was, even by the standards of the time, a pile of shit. It was a Compaq Presario and had a Pentium 4 processor running at 1.4Ghz, a mighty 256mb of memory, and although it had an internal nVidia graphics card, I can’t remember what it was and, regardless, it wasn’t that great.
So imagine my surprise when Half Life 2 ran on it. Perfectly.
It’s kinda hard to describe just how much of a step up this game was compared to games gone by. If you had a machine that could run Half Life 1, it would run Half Life 2, but now you had high quality environments, realistic water, an amazing physics engine, and motion captured movement, even mouth movement that synchronised with the dialogue, it really was a step up above anything I had ever played before.
But not only did it make me drop my jaw in awe visually, it was backed up with what was one of the most in-depth and fully realised storylines in a video game to-date. All my earlier mentions, Bioshock, Fallout, Skyrim, they all start right here. This game paved the way and showed how a video game could be just as good as, if not better, than a movie, in terms of the quality of story.
The AI was something revolutionary too. Elizabeth from Bioshock directly takes influence from Alyx Vance from this game; She was the first AI character that, while not perfect, was not a hindrance either, she felt like a true companion, who actually assisted the player (especially in the DLC Episodes). It was hard not to feel an emotional attachment to her, and in turn, the other characters in the game. It was an interesting dynamic, with Alyx essentially doing the talking for the player in order to progress the story.
The reason for this was Half Life 2’s interesting approach to telling a story. Rather than breaking the player out of the immersion by introducing cut scenes or having dialogue spoken on the behalf of the player, you never loose control of the character. You never leave the first person view, and you never hear Gordon speak. You are Gordon Freeman.
This lead to a level of immersion that I had never felt before, and really re-ignited my passion for First Person Shooters and gaming in general.
So, what did you think of the list? Shit huh? Sound off in the comments and let me know!