My wife Kelly and I have an agreement: Saturday is game day. She games. I game. Everyone that ventures into my house on this hallowed day is expected to pick up a controller (or at least flail arms and legs on Kinect). Most Saturdays I scan my library for titles I haven't finished yet. Hot new games usually get the red carpet treatment. Role-playing games from generations gone by also stand out. I don't often go back to revisit games I've already completed. That changed last Saturday. I was feeling nostalgic, but didn't want to go through the bother of digging through boxes to find my NES or Genesis components. Instead, I decided to replay a modern game. The debate of which game to play weighed heavily on my mind. I started mentally organizing the games I enjoyed most from this generation. Before long, my living room floor was covered in game boxes. My wife commented that I was having a Beautiful Mind-like moment. My madness resulted in the creation of this list.

My selection process centers specifically on games that resonate with me personally rather than what I think will have the longest lasting impact on the industry. You probably won't agree with my game order, but human nature is to criticize lists. Feel free to offer commentary on what you think (and potentially your own Top 25) in the comments section below.

I apologize for the huge amount of text. In addition to my current thoughts on games, I've included official Game Informer reviews for any games I scored.

25  LOST ODYSSEY

Developer
Mistwalker Publisher Microsoft Release February 12, 2008

I often call Lost Odyssey the “best Final Fantasy of this generation.” When Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy’s creator, left Square Enix to form Mistwalker, he apparently took the Final Fantasy blueprint with him. If I ever got around to alphabetizing all of the games in my library, I would slide Lost Odyssey right between Final Fantasy X and XII. The storytelling, character development, world navigation, monster design, and combat system hark back to Sakaguchi’s time at Square and the direction he took with the Final Fantasy franchise.

Looking back at this game, I don’t just see it as a great JRPG, it stands strong as a story. The game’s protagonist Kaim is one of the most interesting and conflicted characters in any game. Sakguchi and his team did a phenomenal job of slowly revealing who this character is and why you should care about him.

I was hoping Lost Odyssey would become an ongoing series, but with four years since its release, and only moderate sales recorded, it seems like this may be the last we see of it.

My review: Lost Odyssey is Mistwalker’s answer to Final Fantasy. More accurately, it is Mistwalker’s answer to Final Fantasy X. Unmistakable similarities can be seen throughout the entire game, from the tech-infused fantasy art style to the strategic flow of combat. Hironobu Sakaguchi may have left Square, but his enthusiasm for making Final Fantasy is still running hot through his veins. Whether you view this game as derivative or see it as the ultimate fan service, it’s impossible to ignore this heartfelt story. It’s wondrously contemplative, and backed by strong character performances. The cinematography is also breathtaking, but surprisingly, some of the most emotional moments come from pages of text. While the combat system could be entered into the dictionary as the definition of cookie-cutter RPG, I did get some kicks out of the composite magic system and reflex-based ring attacks. It also offers a nice variety of monsters and a handful of great boss fights. World exploration is as linear as can be, but the sights are simply stunning and the interactivity you have with your surroundings can be quite fun. In the end, Lost Odyssey won’t change your perception of RPGs, but rather remind you of why you love them. – 8.75 out of 10

24  HALO: REACH

Developer
Bungie Publisher Microsoft Release September 14, 2010

I’m not the biggest Halo fan. Truthfully, I kind of suck at its multiplayer – although I do love playing it – and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what this series’ story is about. All I know is that little jawa-like aliens have teamed up with gorillas with hammers to destroy the universe. I’m guessing I am missing some of the major plot points, but at the same time, am pretty close to summarizing Master Chief’s exploits.

Halo: Reach is my favorite entry into the series. I had a blast playing through the campaign cooperatively with friends, and for the first time in my Halo playing, understood the story and felt an emotional attachment to its characters. Dan, Tim, and I played through the game in one sitting, and I ventured back to play it again by myself.

Looking back at it, the elements that stands out the most are the enemy encounters and the epic scale attached to most of them. I felt like I was engaged in a sprawling war, and not just pockets of enemies along a linear path.

I didn’t get the chance to review this game for Game Informer, but had I been given the opportunity I'd give it 9.25 out of 10...or 9 sticky grenades on a gorilla's back.

23  GEOMETRY WARS: RETRO EVOLVED 2

Developer
Bizarre Creations Publisher Microsoft Release July 30, 2008

So far, it would appear my entire list is comprised of Microsoft published titles. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is the only downloadable game making my Top 25, and I probably shouldn’t include it since I strongly believe that my vision got worse during the two months that I was obsessed with it.

I find I do not blink while playing this difficult shooter. Most matches end with me rubbing my eyes and looking around my game room dazed. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game so intensely and with such a desire to climb the leaderboards. Mind you, none of my scores even come close to cracking the top 1,000.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2’s design couldn't be better. The controls are precise, and the crazed combat escalates at a perfect pace. I did find myself screaming at the TV that the developers should be shot for the inclusion of the green enemies, but it was a comment made out of frustration and all is forgiven now.

Again, I didn’t get the chance to review this one for the magazine, but I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10...or 70/80 vision.