This list will bring about some controversy. One reason is because there is a great bit of repetition within series here, and another is because some people just think these games are cliche or they suck. Too bad, because I love them, so here they are, along with a little reason why.
10 ) Doom & Doom II: Hell on Earth (PC, 1993 & 1994) – You really shouldn’t need any explanation on this, but seeing as the rest of this list hasn’t made this one self-explanatory, I’ll put it to you this way: these games invented and simultaneously perfected the shooter genre of games. And they paved a very early path for other games to come out in their wake. Whatever you do, though, don’t play Doom III. It sucked.
9 ) Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (Xbox, 2005) – If you read my Splinter Cell: Conviction review, you might be wondering why this is on the list if Conviction isn’t. SImply put, I have more fond memories of Chaos Theory than I do of Conviction. Truth be told, the entire series brought up my childhood, along with the rest of these games, but this one is one that I’ve played over and over again, and with good reason. I even managed to somehow forget about the abomination that was the 3DS version of this game. Yuck.
8 ) Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox, 2002) – I never played the earlier games in the Jet Grind Radio franchise, but I didn’t need to: this game hooked me. I remember pacing nervously with my four dollars in my pocket at Blockbuster, wondering if I should rent the game, going back multiple times, picking it up, putting it back down, and picking it up again. I went in and out of that store three or four times in a two-week period before renting it, which in turn lead to buying it, which then further lead to falling in love. It was my first foray into cel-shaded graphics, and I loved it. The art style was cool, and the music was out of this world. So much so that I found the official Japanese soundtracks on eBay and bought them a few years later. I still listen to them today.
7 ) Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996) – The first major game release that happened on the Nintendo 64 was, of course, Super Mario 64. This game proved that beloved franchises can make the 2D-to-3D jump, and Nintendo managed to pull this off again a couple of years later with Zelda, but this one really showed off the prowess of the Nintendo 64 as a launch title. It pretty much solidified its place in the gaming space among competition from Sony and the looming Dreamcast, and somehow managed to pack a TON of gaming content into one little cartridge. This was a Mario game that took hours upon hours to complete, which is why it is on this list.
6 ) Super Mario World (SNES, 1990) – This is a Mario game that many people have probably forgotten, but I remember having a lot of fun growing up to this game and, probably more bizarrely, its sounds. There were iconic tunes that would play when you completed a level, found a secret, or discovered a new area. It was the first game I remember to have sound that sounded incredible, with echoes, vibrations, and beautiful medleys, yet somehow it managed to keep its childlike charm. Super Mario World is a fantastic game for a few reasons, but most of all because it took the Mario franchise in a new direction with great new quests and areas, and really let the strength of the character shine. It was probably the first in the series to really give Mario many different hats and that formula seems to be serving the game well nowadays, so Nintendo clearly did something right here as well.
5 ) Halo 3: ODST & Halo: Reach (Xbox 360, 2010 & 2011) – Halo games are my staple. I’m a total Zelda nut (I’ve got the Triforce tattooed squarely on my wrist), but my next tattoo is actually going to be something Halo-related. I’m not sure if it will be a Pelican, or the UNSC logo, or what, but clearly, I’ve been hooked. Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach are tied because they’re both fantastic games for different reasons. I’m a very story-driven person. I like to feel what people feel and put myself in their shoes if there is any emotion in them at all. And that’s exactly what ODST did. For the first time in a Halo game, I emoted in a way that I hadn’t in a Halo game before. Halo: Reach lives up to the epic storyline of Halo as a series, not to mention the fact that I have sunk probably two or three hundred hours into the game’s online portion and not even climbed through half the ranks yet.
4 ) GoldenEye 007 (Nintendo 64, 1997) – This was the poster child for console shooters. And clearly I love shooters, so this had to be here, right? Actually, this was again a game that brought me right back into my childhood and I loved it for being what it was: a fantastic reason to get together with friends, crowd around the television, and hope that you got to the rocket launcher before anyone else. ‘Nuff said.
3 ) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64, 1998) – I know, I know: why isn’t this game number one on the list? Well, there are a ton of great games, and there just aren’t enough spots on this list! Either way, this one is a classic, and with good reason. I’ve played through it at least a half dozen times on the 3DS alone, and beat it probably three times on the Nintendo 64 back in the day. It is a genuine gem in video gaming and should be (and will be if Nintendo keeps re-releasing it) appreciated for many more years to come.
2 ) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo Wii, 2011) – This game is by far my favourite of the last decade, and since it came out a decade and a week after our number one spot, I can officially say that with conviction. Skyward Sword, if you remember, is absolutely the best Zelda game ever made, for a ton of reasons (click the link if you haven’t figure out yet that all the links lead to our reviews), not the least of which is the feeling of excitement and exploration that overcomes you when you play it. This is, without a doubt, a phenomenal game, and needs to be experienced. It is beautiful and horrifying, mature and childlike, and plays like a symphony. So what beats it?
1 ) Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, 2001) – Really, was there any question? This game reignited my love of video gaming after it wore off between Ocarina of Time and the next gen consoles, which was of course, about three full years. Since the release of Halo, I have had multiple copies of each game in the series, some signed, some collectors editions, all ridiculously fantastic. This game was actually the first that I really completed by myself, and it was quite an accomplishment. It is a game that I continue to go back to even today, especially with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition. It is one of my favourite games and will forever continue to be. Bungie, you will be missed as the caretakers of Halo, so let’s put our faith in 343 Industries and hope they govern the Halo universe with care from here on out.
So there you have it – our top ten games of all time. Of course, there wasn’t enough room to fit them all, so I made a handy smaller list of our honourable mentions below. Be sure to take a look.
You’ll notice a common theme in many of the descriptions of my favourite games: they have one version or another than just plain sucked. And that’s okay. Sometimes, you have to know what sucks to know what’s great. And other times, well, let’s just say that not every game developer gets it right all the time, okay? The point is that when you find a game you love, even if its sequel isn’t quite as good, don’t lose faith. Halo 3 sold even more copies than Halo 2 did for a reason. Because Halo 2 sucking didn’t mean the franchise wasn’t still more than alive.
Another common theme is that all of these games, with the exception of two, were largely released within the 1990s and early 2000s. That’s not because I favour the classics, but rather because it is hard to top the experiences we have as children. And simply put, these games were fantastic. I’m not sure why I feel the need to justify these, but everything from the designs to the audio to the stories in these games was just fantastic, and somehow, they hold up and still continue to be, decades later.
Ridiculously Fantastic Honourable Mentions: Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Gold, Grand Theft Auto IV, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Paper Mario, Killer Instinct, Strider Returns, Lemmings, Command and Conquer: Generals, and Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins.