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I’ve done a lot of Top 10 lists. A sampling: Love Triangles, Pawns, Anti-Heroes, Masterminds, Female Protagonists, Robots, Launch Lineups, Introductory Sequences, Licensed Games, Impractical Mega Man Bosses, Casts of Characters, Ways To Replenish Your Health, Cities, Worst Video Game Jobs, Hallucinations,Cannon Fodder Enemies, Rising Studios, Intense Gameplay Sequences, Games As Art , Least Charismatic Characters Ever, XBLA Games, Weapons, Gaming Food Groups, Games That Changed The Industry Forever, Best Things About Skyrim, and Things We’ve All Done. For the last couple of years, most of them have come from my site, Leviathyn. Before that I wrote for a site called Game Breakers for a little over a year, doing one Top 10 a week. And of course, a lot of them have come from my Game Informer blog.
When you count in the Top 25 Games of 2011, Top 25 RPGs (with help from fellow Leviathyn writers Ron and Cassidee) and The The Top 50 Games of All Time, Parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five, yeah, I’ve done a lot of lists.
But this one is special.
I always try to keep my personal feelings out of a list as much as possible, and focus on what I think would be the best objective fit for my topic. This is my 100th blog though, and if I want to get a little personal, well, I deserve it. In that spirit, I’ve decided to list in sequential fashion my Top 10 favorite games of all time, and believe me, besides the Top 50, this was the hardest list I have ever done. It took forever to whittle my list down to the final spots, and I was still left with twelve games for the longest time. I really considered a three-way tie, but I made the tough choice, and The Walking Dead and Harvest Moon had to go. It…wasn’t easy.
So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Favorite Games Of All Time.
10. Final Fantasy VII: The first time I played Final Fantasy VII was a revelation for me. I’ve been a Final Fantasy fan since the original on NES, and after drooling over the commercials, I couldn’t wait to experience the seventh iteration of the series. It didn’t disappoint. From the moment I stepped onto that train platform, I was completely in love. Cloud and Co. stole my heart, not to mention a buttload of my time. Multiple playthroughs have lead to maxed out timers, and I still get goosebumps every time I think about descending that crystal staircase towards the fateful showdown between Aeris and Sephiroth. However, my most recent playthrough (about two years ago) was my most successful. I finally got every materia, every enemy skill and beat both Weapons. And it felt oh so good. It may be a trendy choice, but this game changed my life, and I don’t feel the least bit ashamed of its presence here.
9. NCAA Football Series: There is a very good chance that I have put more hours into the NCAA Football series than all my other games combined. I can clearly remember playing through dynasties with the Ken Dorsey-lead Miami Hurricanes in NCAA 2002, no simulations of course because I was 16 and a man. In fact, me and two friends had a sleepover and I pulled one of the three complete video game all-nighters I’ve ever done (the other two being Breath of Fire 2 and another title on this list). Since then, there is really no telling how many games I’ve played (winning more than my fair share along the way…I got skillz), and the recent legal troubles surrounding the series have my worried my time may be coming to an end. Regardless, I would be remiss if I didn’t have this up here. Oh…and in case you’re wondering, go Hogs!
8. Nobunaga’s Ambition 2: Lord of Darkness: Probably the least known game on my list, it nonetheless remains one of my favorites. Released on the SNES, Lord of Darkness is a strategy game set in feudal Japan that tasks you with gaining control of the rest of the country. Split into a ton of regions, it could actually be played with up to nine people on one console. That, my friend, is couch coop. The strategies within the game were impressively deep: you could spend your turns improving your economy, building fields of rice, forming or breaking alliances with diplomacy, threats, marriage proposals or spying. If that failed, you could always try to forcibly take some new lands, a fact the computer was all too aware of as well. Natural disasters would periodically sweep through the land, and wandering peddlers, engineers and philosophers are always stopping by to sell you on something. The in-depth general loyalty system was always exciting to manage, and for all the dozens of hours I’ve put into this game, I doubt I ever got more than 25% of the map under my control at any time. Looking back, I have no idea how I understood that game as a kid.
7. BioShock: Remember earlier how I was talking about pulling an all nighter? This is the other title. BioShock wasn’t really on my radar when my roommate picked it up for my birthday, but you better believe it was when I stopped playing it for the first time….ten hours later. Yep, I played through the entire game in my first sitting with it. From the second I stepped into the lighthouse, I knew this game was going to be unlike anything I had ever played before. I just thought it was perfect: the gunplay was serviceable, the weapons and plasmids were fun, I loved the upgrade and picture systems and of course the story was incredibly engrossing. I loved the feeling of slowly turning Rapture from an enemy to an ally, and was consumed with tracking down every Power to the People machine. After beating, I passed out from sheer exhaustion, woke up and started playing through it on hard. Rarely has a game so completely absorbed me as BioShock did.
6. Final Fantasy Tactics: If Nobunaga’s Ambition unearthed my passion for strategy games, Final Fantasy Tactics polished it to a fine sheen. I was obviously a huge fan of Final Fantasy already, but something about Tactics really struck a cord with me. While there are a ton of memorable moments from that game: getting Cloud, using Orlandu for the first time, Delita’s defection and the murder of Ophelia, nothing stands out to me more than the fight with Wiegraf. Not because of any incredible dialogue or shocking story moment, but because it remains the most frustrating game experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. If you come in unprepared for this fight, it is basically impossible, and the worst part is a prompted auto-save right before it removes the chance to quit and grind if you can’t beat him. I didn’t exactly have the Internet advantage we have today then *shiver*, so the only advantage I had was experience. Lot’s of it, because I probably played that fight 100 times over the course of over a year before finally figuring out a strategy that worked. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as happy in my life as I was when I finally beat Wiegraf.
5. Turok: Rage Wars: This is the only Turok game I have ever played, but that’s okay, because there is no way any of them could be better than this one in my eyes. For my money, this was the best multiplayer game on the N64, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark be damned. The best feature of the game was the weapon selections. There were three types of ammo: bullet, energy and explosive. Out of a fairly large pool of well-balanced weapons, you could pick two bullet, two energy and one explosive weapon to bring with you each fight, and there was a random powerup that constantly spawned that could provide anything from superspeed, to health-absorbing bullets to massive damage (which made your opponent explode in a pool of gore). A diverse cast of characters, a couple of which eschewed weapons for a dedicated melee attack (Raptor FTW!) was a blast to play with, and many more could be unlocked by playing the campaign. Speaking of the campaign, it was a little weird, being nothing more than a collection of bot multiplayer matches, but even though it had absolutely no story, it is seriously some of the most fun I’ve had with a FPS campaign. I’ve always thought it was criminal this game didn’t get more attention than it did.
4. Mass Effect 2: I’m always embarrased when it comes to my first experience with Mass Effect. I saw it sitting on my local game rental place (remember those?) for so long, and despite the rave reviews and admittedly cool-sounding box, I never picked it up. Well, my friend left his gamecase at my house one day, and Mass Effect was in there. I popped it in, and my life was never the same again. I adored that game, and to this day it’s the game I’ve probably played front-to-back more than any other title (seven, at last count). When I found out you could import your character into the sequel, I of course couldn’t wait to try it out. I knew the idea was cool, but I had no idea how mind-blowing it would be. Carrying over all my decisions from the first one was just so incredible, but ME2 would still probably be on this list even without that. I loved every minute of that game, but it was the explosive finale that really cemented its legacy in my mind. Few game moments have given me more pause than the first time I had to decide who was going into the vents.
3. Braid: I am, and always have been, a sucker for puzzle games. Titles like Limbo, Fez and Portal were all given consideration for the list, but the only one that made it, the best of them in my opinion, is Braid. Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece had it all: beautiful art, a memorable soundtrack, top-notch gameplay and a thought-provoking narrative. The puzzle designs are nothing short of devious, with more than one stumping me for an inordinate amount of time (looking at you, Fickle Companion). Every time I start it, I’m captivated anew by the amazing visual and audio experience, and I can’t remember being as downright stunned by an ending like I was when I beat Braid. The clincher came when I discovered there was a secret ending. I almost found one of the secret stars by myself, but after looking them up and seeing the hidden ending, my appreciation for the game went to a completely new level.
2. Final Fantasy VI: If you checked out any of the lists above, you may have noticed that, despite my best efforts, sometimes favoritism rears it ugly head. A number of these games wormed their way into various lists, but none so much perhaps as Final Fantasy VI, most notably in the Top 50 Games of All Time. It’s up there at the very top, somewhere….definitely in the top 10….OK, it’s number one. Sue me. But I stand by my choice there, and I stand by its place here. Even now, years after experiencing it, I am still in awe of the scope and ambition of this masterpiece. So many moments from this game figuratively blew my little brain the first time I played them: the Opera scene, the destruction of the world, reacquiring Cyan, trying to save Cid, the death of General Leo, the Ghost Train, the three scenarios, getting an Economizer for the first time…I could go on for a while. Final Fantasy VI probably did more to solidify me current taste in gaming than any other title, and as far as my personal favorite games go, it falls short to only one title.
1. Secret of Mana: Never have I been so enamored with a game as I am with Secret of Mana. To me, it is just the perfect game. On the technical side, its systems are marvelous. The leveling system isn’t particularly deep, but the fact that you can level up yourself, each weapon and each magic type, for each character, was just incredible to me. Combat was years a head of its time, eschewing the standard turn-based system for intense, real-time combat. There was even a magic wheel not unlike what you can see in current titles like Mass Effect 3. The expansive world was a joy to explore, especially once you got your “airship”, AKA dragon. Riding Flammie in glorious Mode 7 never got old, and to top it all off you could play it with up to two other people with a multitap. I’ve blogged about my experiences with this game before, but I’ll be honest, I never get tired of talking about it. It wasn’t an easy choice, but Secret of Mana takes the top spot as my favorite game ever.
Well, there it is. I’ve bared my soul and talked about something extremely personal to me: my favorite games. If you’ve got the time, I would love to hear what yours are. But most importantly, I want to thank everybody for listening to my ramblings for 100 blogs now. GIO is like a second home to me, so here’s to you all, and to 100 more!