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Let me begin this article with a confession: I went Gollum all over Game Informer’s Top 200 list. No, this has nothing to do with my lobbying for The Lord of the Rings video games, nor does it tie in with New Zealand’s Gollum attenuatus (also known as the slender smooth-hound catshark). Rather, when compiling my personal Top 200 list, I argued with myself vehemently just like Gollum did with himself in The Lord of the Rings movies. A strong internal statement like, “Hands down, Link to the Past is my number one game of all time. It turned me into a gamer,” would be interrupted with “No, stupid. Your favorite game is Final Fantasy III. It made you cry so much that your mom ran downstairs to see if you were hurt.” Needless to say, assembling this list was an exhaustive task. Like all of you, I agree and disagree with the list that ran in Game Informer’s 200th issue. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t even know if I agree with my own Top 10 list. Whenever I look at it, a new argument pops into my head, prompting me to want to reorder it, or throw in another game. So, as of the time of this writing, this is my Top 10 Games of All Time list.
10. Street Fighter IIBack when the arcade scene was booming, I was that *** bag who would hold down a Street Fighter II machine for hours on end. I played the living hell out of this game, perhaps so extensively that the joystick deformed my left hand’s index finger. Long before Call of Duty stole my life, this was the competitive game I devoted most of my time to. The diversity between characters and skill required to master each of them completely changed the way I approached games. For those wanting to know, my fighter of choice is Ryu.
9. Mega Man 2I finished this game six times, with my final run through being completed without losing a life. All eight of this game’s worlds are beautifully designed, and are capped off with some of the series’ best boss fights. Capcom has yet to top Wood Man.
8. Final Fantasy VIIMy introduction to Final Fantasy VII was through the Japanese version. Andy and I played all the way through it, and since neither of us could read Japanese, we ended up making our own story for it. I applaud our efforts, but the actual story is better than anything we came up with. To this day, if I had to pick my favorite video game protagonist and antagonist, I’d say Cloud and Sephiroth. Both characters are fully fleshed out, and the chemistry between them is beautifully conveyed. And the story is just a small piece of what makes this game so memorable. The summon attacks (Knights of the Round, anyone?), supporting cast, upgradeable weapons, and attention to detail on every screen, right down to the smallest of objects, made this the defining game of the PlayStation era. Here’s hoping Final Fantasy XIII will be held in the same light.
7. Chrono TriggerNo random battles! I remember thinking “this design is the future of RPGs. There’s no going back after this.” To that point, more role-playing developers should play Chrono Trigger. I just played through it again earlier this year, and it hasn’t lost any of its charm…although my love of Frog didn’t carry over. Most people remember this JRPG for its excellent time traveling story, and the fact that it offers a dozen different endings. For me, the combat is king. The depth and balance achieved in both play styles is truly remarkable. Why Square hasn’t continued this series in its classic form is a question that baffles me to this day.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of TimeI may be in the minority here, but I feel Link’s transition to 3D fared better than Mario’s. Don’t get me wrong, Mario 64 is an amazing game, but in my book it doesn’t come close to touching the adventure that unfolds in Ocarina of Time. I know a lot of people never want to see this game’s Water Temple again, but I loved it. All of the puzzles, whether they dealt with the iron boots (like the Water Temple) or the bow and arrow, are creative leaps for the series that often make you sit back to take a moment to problem solve. The move to 3D also gave Link’s combat prowess a shot of adrenaline that still holds up well today. From the inventive dungeon designs to an epic clash against Ganon, I’m fairly certain I can walk you through every step of this game based on memory alone. It’s one of those games that I’ll never forget.5. Grand Theft Auto: San AndreasDetermining which Grand Theft Auto I like the most seems to change by the minute. Grand Theft Auto 4 offers the series’ best gameplay and story. On the other hand, I really got a kick out of being a pimp in Vice City. But, if I base my pick on the memories that stick with me most, almost all of them come from San Andreas. Believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve taken part in a 20-minute police chase that concludes with a harrowing airplane escape capped off with a parachute descent onto your house’s front steps.4. Super MetroidThe fact that Shadow Complex seems like a throwback to a forgotten age of video games drives me nuts. How did this genre die off? No game captures world exploration better than Super Metroid. I analyzed the hell out of every pixel in that game with the hopes of finding a hidden chamber or an upgrade. The boss fights rocked (although the last battle was far too easy), and Samus’ arsenal of weapons and gadgets remains my favorite in all of gaming. All games need scanners! 3. Super Mario Bros.Yes, I enjoy the original Mario more than Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Argue with me if you want, but I feel this game’s level designs are still the best in the series. And for whatever reason, I still get goose bumps whenever I see someone make the invisible block appear in level 1-1.
2. Final Fantasy III (later renamed VI)As mentioned in the intro, this game made me cry a river. And…it was during the opera scene. Laugh all you want, but that moment changed video games for me. They were no longer just about gameplay. I looked to them to tell stories. I looked to them to deliver characters I would care about. Storytelling has evolved, but no game has topped the experience I had with Final Fantasy III.
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the PastI’m not going to detail why I love this game. Just know that it is the pinnacle of video game design and iteration. Instead, I’m going to leave you with a threat: If you have not played this game, the greatest game of our time, turn off your computer, and download it to your Wii’s virtual console, or better yet, go retro and buy a SNES and a copy on Ebay. Play it to completion, and then come back here to discuss it. And I’m not kidding, I’m viewing this act as my greatest contribution to the world.
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