Game Informer's Top 100 Games Of All Time (Circa Issue 100)
It’s hard to believe, but Game Informer has just printed its 200th issue. Back in August 2001, when we hit the 100th issue milestone, we wrangled up a list of the top 100 games of all time. We’re doing a similar list for number 200 (with twice as many slots), but we thought it would be fun for our readers to check out the last big list. You’ll notice some familiar favorites, a few games that have been forgotten over the years and plenty of argument fuel. Be sure to look out for issue 200, too. It’ll be hitting mailboxes and newsstands in the next few days.
100. Ape Escape
True originality comes along very rarely in video games. Ape Escape has innovation coming out of its monkey pores. Its inventive use of the Dual Shock controller made this already astounding game even better. And what's not to love? Great gameplay, tons of gadgets, challenge galore, and, best of all, getting to club and net monkeys. A PlayStation 2 sequel has recently surfaced, and nothing could more excite platformer fans who had the pleasure of the first.
99. The House of the Dead 2
This sequel took the already insane action of undead hordes relentlessly coming at you to a more intense, more gory level. Shooters don't come any more hectic than House of the Dead 2. With head shots a requirement and innocents to save, the only way to describe the action is frantic. The arcade version came to Dreamcast in perfect form. Unfortunately, without an equally perfect gun accessory, it lost something in translation, but not enough to keep it off this list.
In a game that revolutionized multiplayer head-to-head action, StarCraft packed a large graphical punch as well as a means to an end. If you thought you could talk the talk and walk the walk better than everyone else, you could find out via BattleNet. Aside from the endless replay value, the single-player campaigns were engrossing and amazingly diverse. Mastering the strengths of each race took time, cunning, and patience. StarCraft remains one of the most popular strategy games
97. Mortal Kombat II
Characters in Mortal Kombat II risked having their arms ripped off, their bodies bitten in half, and their heads eaten – all in spectacular fountains of blood. Hmm…wonder what all the controversy was about? Whether its entertainment comes more from the gameplay or the gore galore is debatable. The only thing for sure is MK II delivered a fatality to people's wallets in the arcade and in the home.
96. Tetris Attack
Why this SNES game has Tetris in its name we have no idea. What we do know is that Tetris Attack is one of the most addictive puzzle games ever created. The premise is to match like-colored blocks by moving them on the grid with your cursor. When they match up they disappear, and drop on your opponent. Bigger combos drop bigger blocks, and thus the madness begins. This game can also be found on Game Boy and on N64 as Pokémon Puzzle Challenge and Pokémon Puzzle League, respectively.
95. NBA 2K1
Not content to just leave well enough alone, Visual Concepts took the best next-gen b-ball title and made it better. Sure, online play is always gonna turn some heads, but how about wowing the masses with a great Franchise mode, new post-up moves, and some gritty street courts? All this happened without backing down an inch from its tight, realistic gameplay. 2K1 cemented Visual Concepts' status as a rising sports star to be reckoned with.
94. Phantasy Star
Everyone has heard of Phantasy Star, yet it seems as though hardly anyone knows how the series got its start. A full year before Enix changed the face of RPGs with the NES title Dragon Warrior, Sega had already released the graphically superior Phantasy Star. With animated battle sequences, still-frame cutscenes, and zoom-ins for character interaction, Phantasy Star was ahead of its time, and many of its elements are still used within today’s RPGs.
93. Ninja Gaiden
It would be a long, arduous journey for Ryu Hayabusa, but gamers were there every step of the way. Being an early user of cinematic cutscenes, this 8-bit side-scroller found fans glued to their seats to see where the plot would take them, not to mention the action. Although the third installment of the title was weaker than the first two, Ryu would later be enshrined in Tecmo's Dead or Alive fighting hall of fame.
92. Cool Boarders 2
UEP Systems’ Cool Boarders series introduced a hungry gaming nation to extreme sports on the PlayStation and the world would never be the same. Cool Boarders 2, the high point of the series, is a difficult game that challenges the gamer to reach snowboarding Zen in order to tackle its monster hills and jumps. It may not be as sophisticated as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but there would be no Tony Hawk without Cool Boarders.
91. Mario’s Picross
The premise of cross referencing numbers to locate pixels that you must uncover to create a picture sounds about as entertaining as pulling your eyebrows out with tweezers, but in the case of Mario’s Picross, it’s pure genius. Many of the staff members here at Game Informer have defeated this game many times over, but its brain-busting puzzles keep us coming back again and again. Plus, Mario’s Picross will make the backhoe live forever in gaming history.
90. Super Bomberman
What can we say? This game is the bomb! Magazine and game development houses across the globe have all missed a deadline or two to Super Bomberman’s charm. Certainly, the one-player adventure has its moments, but the true way to experience Super Bomberman is with three of your friends in multiplayer Battle Mode. It may look cute and happy, but multiplayer Bomberman is nothing but brutal and bloody because, once you start talking smack, the hours just disappear.
89. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Building on the vaunted Baldur’s legacy, this sequel was constructed with exquisite detail and careful attention to every conceivable facet of gameplay. Quickly becoming a critical darling, BGII found its way into hundreds of thousands of homes across the world. Blending multiplayer abilities with engrossing plot lines and eye-popping graphics, this title had many fans screaming for more as they finished their 200-plus hour foray into the Forgotten Realms.
88. Road Rash
There have been many motorcycle racing games over the years, but not until Road Rash did they feature the ability to beat the tar out of your opponents. Like the movie Death Race 2000, the goal of Road Rash is to win any way you can. The thrill of kicking your opponents off their bikes is almost as good as zinging through traffic at mach speeds, but there’s nothing better than getting both rushes in the same game.
87. Hot Shots Golf
Sports titles usually err on the side of being too simple or too complicated, but PS-X's Hot Shots Golf straddled the line with charm to spare. Even though the cartoony look prompted GI to cry, "Not a Golf Sim," Hot Shots proved to give even veteran golfers fits on its courses. Replay depth was added with hidden characters and courses, and its lack of intimidation would pave the way for titles like Cyber Tiger and Mario Golf.
86. Tomb Raider
Sometimes it takes a woman's touch. Where Indiana Jones or Prince of Persia failed to make huge video game inroads, Lara Croft's English accent and twin guns made gamers and nonplayers alike a captive audience. Peel off the pretty layers, however, and you had a title with brain-busting puzzles, platforming, quick gunplay, plus plot twists and turns. Even though many thought even a sequel was a game too many, the movie starring Angelina Jolie means Lara is bigger than ever.
85. NFL 2K1
Sega returned with the Dreamcast, and provided stiff competition to EA's Madden series in only its first year out (NFL 2K). One installment later and Visual Concepts’ franchise got even more game by becoming the first football title to go online. Growing in other ways, 2K1 made its running game more accessible, and the series itself was the first to introduce populated sidelines. NFL 2K1 has stamped “Sega” on the sport and paved the way for a solid franchise.
84. RC Pro Am
A classic in every respect, Rare’s RC Pro Am combined racing with power-ups, weapons, and an item collection system that allowed you to graduate to a higher vehicle class. This release continues to amuse and amaze with its fast-paced action and less-is-more graphics. Thirteen years is a long time for a game to hold its own, and this is one of the few that has done so. As fun to play now as the day it was released, RC Pro Am is a must-have for any NES owner.
83. Kid Icarus
Pit's journey through Angel Land to save Palutena from Medusa became a backwards/forwards, up/down platforming adventure that captivated and frustrated. Particularly since you only had one life per stage, and the Eggplant Wizard could cause fits. The side rooms where you could shop, heal, power-up, and pick up treasure provided plenty of action away from the fray. Some even were inspired enough to play through multiple times to get the different Medusa images at the end of this NES classic.
Graphically a generation behind, with gameplay that isn't a shocker, Suikoden's originality puts it ahead of much of the RPG pack. While playing, gamers recruit over 100 characters to their army, who will in turn move into and expand the castle that's used as a base. Discovering new combat moves through organization of your party is one of the best time killers in RPG history. Suikoden, and its equally excellent sequel, deserve a look from PlayStation owners who think they've seen it all.
81. Age of Empires
Microsoft certainly wasn't the first to release a resource-based real-time strategy title, but it struck a chord with gamers with the release of its loosely historically-based Age of Empires. Part WarCraft and part SimCity, players select a civilization, then advance them from cavemen to castle builders. Of course, neighboring cultures eventually clash with one another, and thanks to Age's flawless eight-player interface, war is a welcome treat.
80. The Sims
After years of trying to shepherd your constituents into high-class apartment buildings and sky-scraping office complexes, Maxis unleashed a world where you control the life of a Sim citizen. From what kind of job they had to who their friends were, you played God. Raising a family, throwing a party, or getting into fights were only a few of the things you could arrange for your virtual family. The Sims opened up a torrent of mods downloadable through the web, and with its quirky originality, became a best-selling title almost overnight.
79. Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling was the first wrestling game for the NES, and it captured the imaginations of the burgeoning home console crowd. Featuring six playable characters, each with his own special move, this title sold like gangbusters and ultimately led the way for the wrestling game explosion still in full force today. True fans of this classic title can hum the music that played during the matches; if you’re one of them, you’re doing it right now. This console veteran has passed the test of time with flying colors.
78. Panzer Dragoon Saga
One of the last games released for Sega Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga is a gaming gem that too many missed out on. A rival of Final Fantasy in terms of combining cinematics with gameplay, Panzer Dragoon Saga is an RPG unlike many in its field. Its story, gameplay, and combat interface are completely original. Reportedly, only 6,000 copies of the game were manufactured for the US market. If more could have sampled it, its following would be huge.
77. Secret of Mana
A beautiful game in its own right, Secret of Mana is actually an important release in Square Soft’s history. Other than a few Game Boy titles, this really is the first time Square ventured outside the Final Fantasy realm and explored what else the RPG genre has to offer. Secret of Mana’s stimulating, real-time gameplay and breathtaking settings came together to create a near Zelda killer – a feat no developer has even come close to achieving.
76. Dr. Mario
How the simple concept of dropping colored pills into a bottle to eradicate viruses turned into a game phenomenon we have no idea, but Dr. Mario is a hit through and through. Maybe it’s the frantic pace, or the cute little Mario in a doctor’s suit – we really have no clue. Dr. Mario has been released on almost every Nintendo platform, and you can expect it to reappear again and again in the future. Do we think this will stop people from buying it? No way. This is the one time going to the doctor is fun.
75. Double Dragon
It has a gang that steals your girlfriend, and you and a buddy get to beat the tar out of everyone together. Is it any wonder why it’s so appealing? This side-scrolling beat-em-up is still being imitated today, but it's hard to top the original fun of jump kicking a whip-wielding woman in the face. Plus, the ending where the two characters fight each other to see who gets the girl has to be one of the most pleasant surprises in gaming.
74. Soul Calibur
It was good in the arcade. It was perfect on the Dreamcast. Not only did Soul Calibur look and play better on Sega's little white box, it contained hundreds of extras to give it a replay value few fighters could match. The expectations placed on fighting games were elevated the instant Soul Calibur saw release on Dreamcast, and it's this plateau that other developers are still struggling to reach two years after the fact.
73. Twisted Metal 2
Not that the first game doesn’t deserve adulation as well, we chose Twisted Metal 2 because this is the title where it all came together and blew everybody’s socks clear off. The choice of vehicles, control schematic, environmental interaction, and sheer magnitude of destruction combine to forge an irresistible package. If not for Gran Turismo, this would be Sony’s number one franchise. Surprisingly, even today, Twisted Metal 2 looks great, and proves to be just as addictive.
72. Robotron: 2084
With wave after wave of screens filled with enemies, mines, and flying missiles, Robotron: 2084 had more action than one joystick could handle. Using the left stick to move, and the right to fire, players are put in charge of rescuing the remaining members of humanity from the Robotrons. With only a millisecond break given between waves, Robotron is the pinnacle of relentless arcade action, where dying actually provides a pleasant respite.
These wisecracking goofballs are the innovators of cool. After all, they did teach kids a number of valuable lessons. For instance, use teamwork whenever possible. Make fun of your elders at any given chance. And always, no matter what, save the damsel in distress. In all seriousness, you really won’t find a platformer with better level layouts, secrets, and character maneuvers. Really, who better to stand at Mario’s side than these two highly animated and well-voiced morons?
Hello Sailors! Featuring neither graphics nor sound, the Zork series managed to captivate the early PC crowd with its world of text adventure. By typing in a verb and a noun, players went from standing next to a white house, to exploring a vast underground dungeon. The game that begat multiuser dungeons, which in turn begat the massively multiplayer games of today, Zork is still as fun and frustrating as ever. Kill Thief.
69. Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Few franchise sequels keep garnering the praise that Resident Evil does. First appearing on the Dreamcast, Code: Veronica showed that the equation of Umbrella zombies + puzzles still amounted to making the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up. This next-gen debut of the series still clung to its prerendered background origins, but kept improving itself nevertheless.
68. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Using Ocarina of Time's engine was no mistake for Miyamoto on one of the last great games for the N64. Majora's combat, control scheme, and the Ocarina itself may have been throwbacks (although its new uses weren't), but the game's daily countdown to destruction created a tension that was unique and very exciting. Utilizing 24 masks, Link was able to call upon different abilities to defeat difficult foes in a land complete with rich textures.
67. Ghouls 'N Ghosts
An improvement of the Ghosts 'N Goblins formula, Ghouls 'N Ghosts added on to the tale of Arthur's exploits against demonic forces with more power-ups, curses, and the ability to throw lances up and down. Furthering this great game's legend was a fantastic port of the arcade version to Sega Genesis, which was one of the console's first must-have titles. Ghouls 'N Ghosts didn't do anything extraordinary, but it did everything right, and that is what makes it great.
66. Bionic Commando
This 1988 NES action game was never as popular as Nintendo’s Mario and Zelda titles, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t as fun. In this quirky release, the protagonist was unable to jump, but instead had to use a bionic arm to navigate about the levels. The thrill of swinging from bars and brandishing numerous weapons made Bionic Commando an action game legend that has had gamers begging for a sequel for over ten years. A version has come for Game Boy Color, but the legions of fans still wait for a true sequel.
65. Donkey Kong Country 2
Rare has made some amazing games over the years, and Donkey Kong Country 2 on SNES still stands as one of its best. This follow-up to the smash hit Donkey Kong Country features better graphics, more perilous action/platforming, and introduces Dixie Kong along with a great cast of other creatures you can play. Even the most hardened action/platform players will find themselves going bananas over DKC2.
Storming arcades in 1985, Gauntlet was addictive enough to bring four complete strangers together for one divine gaming purpose. This Atari dungeon crawler starred a quartet of heroes who battled endless minions while collecting treasure, food, and magic. Massive in scope, the game featured dozens of levels. Gauntlet's speech was some of the best for its time, and would dish out both advice and commentary (“Warrior needs food…”). Games like Diablo and Phantasy Star Online can call Gauntlet "daddy."
63. Baseball Stars
Even without the MLB and MLBPA licenses, Baseball Stars simply crushed every other NES baseball release. The smooth fielding controls allowed players to complete amazing plays like diving for grounders and climbing the fence to rob a homer. The batter/pitcher interface really couldn’t have been delivered much better. For sim junkies, this was one of the first games to offer seasonal stat tracking, roster management, and player alterations.
Sid Meier put his stamp on the strategy gaming world with the release of Civilization. As a pioneering title in the empire-building genre, Civ enthralled gamers from sea to shining sea and spawned a flood of sequels. With Civ III on its way to shelves soon, a look back on this groundbreaking release is sure to bring a rush of nostalgia, and a nod of respect to a game that broke the mold by making a new one.
61. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Everyone knows that this is the most challenging and finely polished Sonic The Hedgehog title. Not one to fall victim to the sophomore jinx, Sega did everything in its power to ensure gamers the time of their lives. Along with a more diverse selection of levels, Sega inserted a nifty two-player mode, additional super-charged moves, and even went so far as to give Sonic a sidekick – Tails.
60. Donkey Kong
When Shigeru Miyamoto designed Donkey Kong for the arcades, little did he know that he was creating a company mascot in the process. Mario first appears in this game, attempting to rescue Pauline (whatever happened to her?) from another soon-to-be Nintendo icon, Donkey Kong. Not only was it madly popular in the arcades, a superior home version put ColecoVision on the map. Traces of this classic platformer still appear in games today, paying tribute to the brilliance of its design.
59. Tekken 2
Is it just us, or are second titles in fighting franchises always the best? Tekken 2 supports this theory by taking the much-loved control of the first, then diversifying it with a higher number of characters, better animation, and unbelievably varied moves. Tekken 2 was well worth the asking price of a couple quarters in the arcade, and the extremely faithful PlayStation translation is still one of the best fighting games on the system.
58. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
A smaller screen size and a lack of color doesn’t impair Link’s first handheld venture in the slightest. Link’s Awakening lives up to the high standards set by the SNES game, and is, in a sense, the perfect sequel and yet another instant classic from the brilliant mind of Shigeru Miyamoto. All the gadgets and harrowing puzzles from the previous installments are dispersed throughout, and amazingly, the quest is just as vast.
Classic games never die, they only get better…or at least they did in the case of Arkanoid. The basic Breakout premise was given a decade of video game advancement, and the result was something that made its inspiration seem archaic in comparison. Bouncing a ball against bricks became all the more exciting with power-ups to collect, enemies to blast, and multiple levels to explore. Will there ever be a game that does to Arkanoid what it did to Breakout? Maybe, but it seems impossible.
56. Tempest 2000
Tempest in the arcades is a thing of beauty. The dial controller made it one of the more unique experiences in gaming history, and a shooter that was not only difficult, but addicting. In 1996, Atari released an updated version of Tempest for its Jaguar home console called Tempest 2000 that not only captured the spirit of the original, but took it to a whole new level. Featuring pumping house music, new moves, extra boards, and classic Tempest gameplay, Tempest 2000 is a shooter like no other.
55. Chrono Cross
If ever there were a threat to the Final Fantasy Empire, it would be the Chrono series. The latest chapter, Chrono Cross, far surpasses anything ever attempted in an FF game. Playing the numbers game much like Konami’s Suikoden, this dynamic adventure includes over 40 playable characters and two gigantic quests, yet never loses a step in delivering a deeply moving story. The complex combat system and dynamic look are considered to be the most spectacular Square has ever envisioned.
54. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins showed the gaming world that it takes more than just dark clothes and pointy throwing objects to make it as a ninja. Forcing players to learn and utilize stealth techniques to not only excel, but merely survive, Tenchu is a challenging, nerve-wracking game that leaves you screaming in frustration, then crawling back for more. Here's hoping that the silent throat-slitting will continue on PlayStation 2.
53. Metal Gear
The depth of Hideo Kojima's first-ever game ensured that hero Solid Snake's mission into Outer Heaven would not be the last of Metal Gear. Both its revolutionary stealth aspects and dramatic plot turns via another cool aspect, Snake's Codec, made this NES title a huge step above other gun-toters of the time (although it debuted on the Japan-only MSX system). Kojima's vision has thankfully tempered unnecessary sequels and only heightened our anticipation for more.
52. Lode Runner
Appearing first on the Apple ][E, Lode Runner wasn't a platformer, didn't have a proper maze, and was levels above any simple shoot 'em up title. With only two abilities, digging or climbing, you had to make your way through over 100 boards – some with mind-boggling configurations. Featuring set traps and loads of strategy, yet imbued with a fast pace, Lode Runner was a true challenge in the early era of games
51. Ridge Racer
Before Gran Turismo forever changed the racing genre, Ridge Racer was the definitive speedster. As one of the first PlayStation games released, its texturing hasn’t withstood the test of time, but its gameplay has. Famous for its unique powerslide steering, Ridge Racer was essentially the first racing game to push players to perfect the controls, master the courses, and complete perfect runs. While it only offered one course, it proved to be more than enough to keep gamers hooked.
50. Virtua Tennis
The game that made Yevgeny a household name! Mr. Kafelnikov and co. made tennis the new rock n' roll, and helped bolster Dreamcast's impressive sports lineup. Although Virtua Tennis didn't feature any female players (something rectified in the sequel), nobody had a problem with the drop shots, quick hardcourt stops, and minigames of this arcade port. Tennis hasn't been a strong video game sport, but VT has certainly helped it make the leap.
49. Half-Life: Counter-Strike
As the explosion of online multiplayer annihilation continues and mutates, one has stood head and shoulders above the rest of the pack – Half-Life: Counter-Strike. With incredible realism, plus an enviable blend of gameplay and graphics, this title quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. While companies are still playing catch up to this gargantuan hit, an equal has yet to be made. There’s just nothing better than picking off some lame camper from 100 yards with a sniper rifle.
This early NES title set up the classic confrontation between Dracula and the Belmont family. As well as many action/platform elements that became standards in the industry, this first in the series introduced us to the whip-wielding gameplay that's carried the title through countless sequels. Perhaps the formula was too amazing for its own good, however, since no Castlevania game has ever succeeded in the 3D realm.
Dots, ducks, and bats were all it took to fire imaginations in the early days of home consoles and start the first video game RPG. Atari's 2600 was host to this simple quest to return the Enchanted Chalice to the golden castle. Along the way, however, you'd have to locate and protect items (from being taken by that *** bat), slay duck-billed dragons, and even find the Magic Dot. This was the first Easter Egg, or hidden surprise, which simply read, "Created by William Robinett."
46. Super Mario World
Mario already had the patent on 8-bit gaming, so it was only natural that this Super Nintendo pack-in title ruled the 16-bit platform roost from the word go. The plumbers received help in the form of Yoshi, a dino companion whose taste for Koopas resulted in special powers. Mario World had 96 stages, many with multiple endings. It may not have deviated much from the precedent set by Mario Bros. 3, but it definitely perfected the formula.
45. Final Fantasy Tactics
So many things can be said about this PlayStation game. On its own, it’s an amazing strategy title, but when you add in the Final Fantasy universe it goes off the scale. With enemies that adjust to your experience levels, and different skills that each member of your party can learn, there is so much game here you can literally play for over 200 hours and not even be close to maxing out all your characters’ abilities. Simply amazing.
If there ever was a time when motocross didn't suffer from a social stigma, it was in 1985, when Excitebike came out for the NES. Instead, kids everywhere reveled in the game's mix of cool track obstacles and slight strategy (turbo too much and you'll be wasting valuable seconds on the side of the track as your bike cools down). In fact, Excitebike virtually introduced the sports standard of creating your own track. The game was so highly thought of that it was included in Excitebike 64 some 15 years later.
43. Final Fantasy IX
Rather than continue its foray into sci-fi, Square Soft decided to take a step back with the last PlayStation installment of its venerable Final Fantasy series. The results couldn't have been grander. The main meat of the game is arguably the best of the PlayStation lot, and the sidequests and minigames give players more than they bargained for. A wonderful cap to an amazing series, Final Fantasy IX is a game that will be fondly remembered by all who play it.
42. Star Wars: X-Wing
X-Wing allowed Star Wars fans to finally jump in the cockpit of a Rebel Alliance fighter and have a dogfight with the Empire. The game (and its numerous expansions and sequels) features a borderline flight sim interface atop well-defined graphics that move at an appropriately blazing speed. The later addition of multiplayer finalized this masterpiece of space warfare that still holds up incredibly well in today's PC scene.
Looking at it today, Pitfall! seems like a repetitive platformer. Back in 1982, however, there was nothing like it. As Pitfall Harry, players tried to traverse across 255 hazardous screens with only a jump button to aid them in their quest to collect all the gold in under 20 minutes. A revolution in gameplay, graphics, and sound (can you hear the Tarzan yell while reading this?), Pitfall! closed down the Atari 2600, but opened the doors for hordes of platformers to come.
40. Final Fantasy II
Super Nintendo was a great system for fans of RPGs. This Square classic started the genre's explosion on the 16-bit console, and did so in style. It also begot many of the series' staples, such as Chocobos, vehicles, and party configuration. The story was original, and deviated from the simple "villain snags princess" fare we'd been spoon-fed in so many role-playing games before. Cecil's inner struggle made him more than just a chivalrous knight, and gave the game personality.
39. Pokémon Red/Blue
The game that made Nintendo billions of dollars, caused kids to froth at the mouth, and drove parents nuts. Say what you will of Pokémon, there's no denying that it is the best role-playing game on Game Boy. Once you start, you can't stop, and it's clear why it's so popular. It’s easy to hate the hype; it’s hard to hate the game. Hopefully, Pokémon will be remembered for both its good and bad sides.
38. Tecmo Bowl
Tecmo Bowl featured less plays than the 'ball played in your backyard, but it was the first to spawn trash-talking sessions between friends. Sure, the game wasn't ruled by football strategy, but it gave you rowdy, infectious fun that the sport deserved. Beyond that, it started to make football look action-packed, beyond Xs and Os or blocky figures. Those were the days when Lawrence Taylor and Phil McKonkey were kings, and you wouldn't want it any other way.
37. Dragon Warrior
Even though The Legend of Zelda did more to introduce gamers to the idea of role-playing games, and even though other Japanese RPGs found their way to the States before it, Dragon Warrior still holds a place in the hearts of many as the first RPG they ever played. Probably more influential on the console RPG scene than any other game, Dragon Warrior isn't perfect, but it is fun. Have you killed a slime lately?
36. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
A game so great it could only be defeated by its own sequel. Although part 2 is definitely superior to the original, there's still plenty to love about the first Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It introduced a control scheme that implants itself into your subconscious. The Warehouse level is still one of our favorites. Plus, the soundtrack has yet to be topped. Pro Skater has inspired many clones, but they all have yet to defeat this ambassador of kickyourassator.
35. Super Mario Kart
This racer with a focus on fun spawned more crummy imitators than Elvis, but you can't blame Mario Kart. It's only natural for companies to try to capitalize on one of the best multiplayer games ever. All your favorites from the Mario universe are here, racing for place and battling for bragging rights. SNES' Mode 7 scaling revolutionized the way racing games looked, and Kart's weapons added a new dimension to play. Not even the 64-bit update can compete with this originator.
34. Resident Evil 2
The first introduced us to the concept of survival horror, but Resident Evil 2 honed the formula to a fine edge. The graphics got a serious upgrade, plus players were given more gore and weapons and the opportunity to play two different characters. Fear is a difficult emotion to evoke in a game, and Resident Evil 2 is guaranteed to put a shudder in your spine. Best of all, after the game is done, it can be played again with a different story. The horror…The horror…
The online multiplayer RPG phenomenon started with a little-known game called Meridian 59 from 3DO in 1996, which was then improved upon by Ultima Online, and eventually perfected by EverQuest from Verant Interactive. In this persistent online fantasy world, thousands of players must work together to defeat dragons, slay giants, and explore the lands of Norrath. Through expansion packs and patches, new areas are opened, and even various things change over time to keep the game new and fresh to its legions of players.
32. Mega Man 2
No, we didn’t roll a die to determine which Mega Man we would insert into the Top 100. Even if you played the first adventure, you can’t help but feel completely overwhelmed by part two. Along with a tremendous musical score, Capcom ironed out the difficulty, added vehicles, and most importantly, made the boss encounters as exciting and nerve-wracking as they could possibly be. This standard was refined in dozens of sequels and offshoots, but Mega Man 2 still reigns supreme.
Although there were plenty of other sim games for PC before its debut, SimCity's micromanagement features offerred something for fans to drool over, and over, and over. Not only that, but this game served as a template for sims of other topics (whether it be building railroads, theme parks, etc.) and was at the forefront of an explosion in the genre in the late ‘80s. Who'd a thunk that your average Joe/Jane would give two turds about zoning or city planning before SimCity?
30. Super Mario Bros. 2
With the absence of Shigeru Miyamoto, what was originally titled Yumekojo Doki Doki Panic in Japan became Super Mario Bros. 2. This awkward-looking platformer instantly turned into a beloved staple of the Super Mario franchise. Taking on the persona of your favorite characters from the original Nintendo offering, Mario 2 allowed you to capitalize on their strengths to help you overcome the diverse level types. Toad has never looked better.
29. Super Metroid
The first Metroid on NES certainly deserves props for pioneering the series, but Super Metroid on SNES is its pinnacle. To many of the Game Informer staff, Super Metroid and Metroid easily make the top ten, but since we let the readers in on this list, Super Metroid slid down a bit. Best described as an RPG with no talk and all action, Metroid is an adventure like no other. Fans all across the world wait patiently for the next installment in the series on GameCube, but until that shows what it’s got, Super Metroid is still king (errr…queen).
28. Command & Conquer
1995 witnessed the birth of a revolution in the real-time strategy genre. With the release of C&C, gamers were able to play through an entire campaign as one contingent, then turn around and play an entirely different storyline through the eyes of those who were once your enemy. Multiplayer capabilities made for even more replay value. Westwood was able to produce extremely successful sequels to this game, but the original stands as a testament to a tried and true gameplay formula.
27. Madden NFL 2001
Nothing more than new rosters? Not quite. Madden 2001 was not only the prerequisite, but the defining game for the PS2. Collecting cards, slick graphics, and fast player movements were enough to excite fans something fierce, even if there were features from previous editions missing. Real-time, TV-style presentation between plays brought a drama found only on the field itself, and could even make playing the Falcons fun.
26. Crash Bandicoot: Warped
The first Crash is too hard, the second Crash is too easy, but Crash 3 is just right. Packed with lots of wacky vehicles, amazingly fun time trials, and all the fantastic action/platforming that you have come to expect from the series, this game really is the ultimate Crash title. Definitely one any player would want in their library.
It isn't pretty, even by Atari 2600 standards, but Warlords was the original trash-talking four-player combat game, and it's still the best. The goal of the game is simple: maneuver your shield so the ball destroys other players' walls while protecting your own. With a paddle in everyone's hand, however, Warlords quickly transforms from a simple Pong/Breakout hybrid into a nerve-wracking fight to the finish. Fast and visceral, Warlords is as addicting now as it was 20 years ago.
24. Sonic The Hedgehog
We don't know how the Sega Genesis would have fared without a mascot. All we do know is that after Sonic The Hedgehog became the pack-in cartridge for Genesis, Sega soon controlled the majority of the early '90s console market. Sonic perfectly showcased the Genesis' vivid graphics and processing speed. It was also a fun and inventive platformer. Sonic's adventures have since taken him into the 3D realm, but his 2D incarnations are still the most fondly remembered.
23. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Bringing the series back to its isometric roots and expanding on the world of Hyrule, the first SNES Zelda is a graphical breakthrough and one of the most clever games to date. After the mediocre NES release, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, no one really knew where Nintendo would take this series next. Rather than continuing its experiments, Nintendo stayed true to the original, and formed the gameplay foundation for all forthcoming Zelda titles to follow.
22. Street Fighter II
One-on-one fighting games didn't hit big-time until this masterpiece showed up in arcades. Capcom's flagship fighter let you pick from a group of World Warriors (instead of one default character), each with his or her own special techniques. Turbo upped the speed ante, and the Super Nintendo received near-perfect ports. It's impossible to measure the massive influence that Street Fighter II had on the fighting game genre as a whole. Ryu be praised.
21. Gran Turismo
Video game racing is as old as the hills, but it wasn’t until '98 that Gran Turismo offered the complete package. GT delivered in graphics, gameplay, and depth like none before. The latter aspect was seen in the Reference Manual, which detailed cars' specs and told you how it all works on the track. The game offered more than just real courses and cars. Players were bowled over by the all-encompassing sim experience, from buying Racing Stabilizers to correct entry angles for turns.
20. NHLPA 93
Blood flowed red on the ice when you were injured, and that was just one of the perks of playing the first NHL title developed by EA itself. From here on out the publisher would be known for keeping on top of yearly rosters, and it started with NHLPA 93 (even if it meant that official team logos had to be axed from the year before). Stats also played a bigger role in 93, with even the tracking of the crowd's decibel level possible. Saveable line changes brought more strategy than before, although NHLPA 93 was still an intense experience out on the ice. The game's speed flows, and helped mark hockey as one of the best multiplayer sports on consoles for years to come.
Namco took one of its good games, Galaxian, and added the strategic option of allowing ships to be captured, then rescued for a double dose of firepower, danger, and fun. Twenty years later, Galaga is still the best there is in the shooter arena. Galaga was also one of the first games to introduce the idea of a safe, yet frustrating, bonus round in the form of the Challenge Stage. The fear of getting trapped in a corner by shots, the agony of accidentally shooting your own ship and receiving a measly 1,000 points as compensation, and the thrill of scoring perfectly on a Challenge Stage have not been tempered by time, and the pull of a Galaga upright is still an undeniable force for any quarters in your pocket.
18. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
When this game hit the PlayStation in 1997, Konami's Castlevania series was already a well-respected and long-standing franchise. Still, nobody expected the mastery that Symphony of the Night embodied. Expertly sticking to its 2D roots, this game showed unparalleled artistry in both appearance and sound. The gothic mood was shown in every echoing organ note and stained-glass backdrop. Everything about Symphony was massive. Bosses were colossal, the map was huge, and the list of weapons and items was staggering. The gameplay borrowed a bit from Metroid, with the acquisition of powers to reach new areas. Beat the “end boss,” and you find out you've only fought half the battle. Using PlayStation's technology with old-school gameplay resulted in a masterpiece that may be one of the last two-dimensional gaming icons.
17. Metal Gear Solid
Snake's gaming return was one of the most hyped-up events in video game history. For months, tidbits of info leaked out on this Hideo Kojima opus, and the collective gaming world was foaming at the mouth to play this marvel. When it released in 1998, it didn't disappoint. The immersive storytelling of Kojima unfolded the deep, involved plot of special agent Solid Snake and his quest to destroy the Metal Gear weapon. Beautiful, real-time cutscenes were used to convey the emotion of the mission, and multiple gameplay styles had Snake doing everything from rappelling down a building to leisurely taking photos. Deviating from your objectives was encouraged, and showed off the game's amazing detail. Just remember kids: tobacco is wacko, if you're a teen.
16. GoldenEye 007
Most movie-to-game translations don’t fare well, and early on, it appeared as though Rareware’s take on James Bond would never see the light of day. After investing several years into development, Rare worked wonders with this explosive license, pushed the N64 to its limit, and shocked everyone who picked up the controller. With the classic James Bond soundtrack setting the tone, Rare revolutionized this genre with mission-based levels, stealth and sniping, limb-specific hit zones, and a massive multiplayer campaign. No matter how you approached this game, countless hours of your life were lost. The curve between the difficulty levels couldn’t have offered up a more challenging or rewarding experience. After a hard day of writing, a good portion of our days come to a close with the staff blowing the stuffing out of each other. If only Nintendo could have held onto the Bond license. If only…
15. Chrono Trigger
Square is best known for Final Fantasy, and for good reason. After all, four FF titles made this very list. Square isn't a one-trick pony, though, and the company made many other great RPGs, such as Secret of Mana, Xenogears, and Vagrant Story. Of all those, however, Chrono Trigger on SNES is king of the hill. The time traveling enabled lots of room for exploration, and brought forth some truly interesting characters, all created by Dragon Ball's Toriyama. What other game would have a party consisting of a medieval frog, a futuristic robot, and an Amazon? These partners in quest could team up for dazzling combo attacks. The actions you picked affected the way the story unfolded, leading up to 15 different endings. You could even recruit the main bad guy. Chrono Trigger is the stuff legends are made of.
14. Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!
At the peak of his profession and popularity, Mike Tyson appeared in Nintendo's Punch Out!! Based on the arcade game, players took the part of the underdog, Little Mac, in his quest to become heavyweight champ. Some matches were total jokes (Glass Joe), some required paced pugilism (Bald Bull), and others were like deducing a puzzle (King Hippo). The hard road to higher ranking would eventually lead you to a face-off with Mike Tyson that was as impossible as defeating him in real life. The one thing Mike Tyson couldn't defeat, however, was controversy, and charges of violence soon put his career in a downward spiral. Nintendo removed Tyson's name from Punch Out!! and replaced his character with Mr. Dream. Ever since, boxing hasn't had a champion as well-received as Tyson, and consoles haven't had a boxing game as beloved as Punch Out!!
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start – the classic Konami code that launched a thousand lives and made one of its first appearances with this mainly side-scrolling shoot-fest (two levels were in a third-person 3D). Two dudes, temporary power-ups, plenty of weapons, and awesome bosses whipped NES owners into a frenzy and became trademarks of the series. It's not that any one aspect of Contra was revolutionary, other than that it all added up to unshakable fun, despite being a difficult game to conquer. This success would see the series on to several incarnations, including ones for the PlayStation, but the simple magic of the 8- and 16-bit editions wasn't to be duplicated.
12. Super Mario 64
As a well-established icon in the two-dimensional world, Mario faced his toughest hurdle – transferring his platforming fundamentals into the unexplored third dimension. With Shigeru Miyamoto holding his hand the entire way, Mario made the leap – a leap that would go on to alter the face of gaming as we know it. As Miyamoto so boldly embarked into uncharted territory, he remained loyal to the series and implemented as many classic elements as he could. The soundtrack, gameplay direction, and wacky cast of characters delivered the classic sensation gamers so highly demanded. The transformation to 3D allowed Miyamoto to expand upon his award-winning formula. With the sheer size of the environments came the need to explore and study the surroundings. This was one small step for Mario, yet one giant leap for mankind.
11. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Untouchable was a good way to describe this game when it released. Nothing had been done like it before, and we sat in quiet awe as we traveled the land of Hyrule in ways we never thought possible. Utilizing a 3D engine to power Link’s new adventure, Miyamoto showed us all why he is still considered the reigning super-heavyweight champion of video game creators. The epic story of Link’s battle against Ganondorf through time to save the Princess enthralled us for weeks on end. The graphics amazed, the controls were gorgeous, and the unveiling of Z-targeting had fans in a lather. Incorporating elements from previous Zelda offerings, Ocarina struck the perfect balance between old-school institutions and radical new ideas. From minigames to intricate puzzles and enormous environments, Ocarina of Time represents a benchmark in gaming history.
10. Final Fantasy VII
In 1997, the RPG faithful took a collective gasp in wonderment as Square Soft unleashed its newest opus, Final Fantasy VII, on the PlayStation. Few would argue that the series’ pent-up graphical potential was finally allowed to come to fruition in this gorgeously rendered universe. Taking the role of Cloud, you joined Avalanche – a group fighting against the evil Shinra Corporation. Shinra has devised a way to suck life energy out of the planet and use it to control the universe. Summon attacks were unleashed on opponents, which were as beautiful to look at as they were devastating to their targets. Final Fantasy VII’s effortless gameplay, luxuriously vast plot lines, numerous sidequests, minigames, and a virtual mountain of items to discover kept many of us up far past more sensible bedtimes.
9. Ms. Pac-Man
Around a year after Pac-Man had taken the world by storm, Namco and Midway released the female counterpart that would eventually outlast and outsell the original. Ms. Pac-Man had it all over her hubby. The game had multiple mazes, food that marched about the screen rather than remaining stationary, and ghosts that couldn't be fooled by any pattern. Ms. Pac-Man went on to become the best-selling arcade game of all time, and versions of the game have appeared on virtually every home console since the Atari 2600. Due to continuing popularity, Ms. Pac-Man cabinets can still be found in abundance across the American landscape. If anyone questions this masterful maze chase's place in the top ten of all time, it still costs but 25 cents to find out the truth.
8. Super Mario Bros. 3
In this legendary release, Mr. Miyamoto took the reigns of the Mario series once again and made the world stand up and take notice. Wildly successful doesn’t begin to describe the impact this game had on the video game landscape. With sales well in excess of 7 million copies worldwide, gamers reveled in the title’s enormous levels and multitudinous secrets. Drawing inspiration from Super Mario Bros., this third installment captured the light-hearted exploration which permeated the first, while at the same time inserting gameplay elements that delighted young and old alike. With the addition of different power-ups and suits for players to find and use, Mario took on forms never before seen. Not only has this release stood the test of time with iron-clad gameplay and eye-popping graphics, it has continued to capture the imaginations of fans around the planet. Super Mario Bros. 3 is truly one of the finest pieces of entertainment software ever released.
7. Final Fantasy III
Of all the Final Fantasy games ever made, FFIII was the best. That's quite a statement, considering how good each and every installment has been. Released in Japan as Final Fantasy VI, this Super Nintendo RPG rewrote the book on what a role-playing game should be. Where developers once took a lackadaisical approach to graphics, FFIII had some of the sharpest visuals ever seen on a 16-bit system. The music was second to none, as well. But the play, that’s where it shined brightest. Everything gameplay-wise in this title just clicked. Espers taught your characters magic. Each party member had his or her own distinct personality. Relics would enhance attributes. Hours could be spent gaining new items in the arena. No other game in the series can topple Final Fantasy III, and likewise neither can any other RPG.
Masterminded by Gumpei Yokoi of Game Boy fame, Metroid is an epic like no other. As one of the first Nintendo Entertainment System games to use a password to save your progress (along with another great game that made this list, Kid Icarus), Metroid offered a long and challenging adventure. The game’s star was the bounty hunter Samus Aran, who was hired by the Federation to uncover the secrets of a mysterious new bio weapon, code-named Metroid, on the Planet Zebes. It turns out that the planet is a complex labyrinth of passages and puzzles that challenges Samus to uncover new weapons and moves to unveil all of Planet Zebes’ secrets. While Metroid is pure action, the story unfolds before the player much like an RPG as you delve deeper into Zebes and confront its menacing bosses. Of course, there isn’t a Metroid player in the world who wasn’t amazed by this game’s ending, where the true identity of Samus is unveiled (and to say it is a jaw-dropper would be an understatement). Metroid is pure gaming genius at its finest, because you don’t play it, you experience it.
Lately it seems Doom will be best remembered in infamy, which is a shame since this groundbreaking title deserves to be recollected in a much better light. The contributions Doom has made to the video game world are legion. It busted the first-person shooter genre wide open. It proved shareware and game demos could be a viable marketing tool. It showed how visceral the online head-to-head experience could be. It opened the doors for player-created game expansions. Perhaps more important than all these landmarks, however, is the fact that Doom is just plain fun. No matter what system it’s running on, exploring, finding secrets, and killing everything in sight within the smooth first-person engine is as fresh now as when Doom was first introduced. Why not download a shareware copy in your spare time to see just how well the game has aged, and just how much other games have borrowed from this classic?
4. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
From nowhere, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater made skateboarding arguably more popular than standards like football. None thought that a more addictive drug could be distilled for the sequel, but that's exactly what we got. Wringing the PS-X for all it’s worth, more detailed skaters, attributes, and create-a-park/skater features were just a few of the additions. Taking already perfect controls, Tony 2 allowed you to configure your tricks to your liking by either changing the button mapping or purchasing from a huge list of moves and specials. Replay wasn't a luxury, it was mandatory – not just to unlock new characters, but to find every gap and rack up points every which way. The Hawk series has created a rush of replicas and made a mold for extreme sports in general. The sheer evolution from number one to two has rivals still wallowing in the dust – even though it's almost two years and a few consoles after the fact. Not just the greatest sports game ever, but a modern classic for the ages.
Created in 1985 by Russian mathematician Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris is the world’s best-selling and best-known puzzler. While working as a programmer in the field of speech recognition and artificial intelligence at the Computer Center of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Pajitov often programmed games to test various equipment. In the case of Tetris, he decided to create a program that simulated the traditional puzzle game Pentomino (a game that requires you to fit 12 differently shaped pieces formed out of five squares into a box). “When I wrote the program for rotation of pieces and I saw how it worked, poomph! I knew it would be great in real time,” Pajitnov remembers. Soon Pajitnov realized that the 12-5 combination was too much, so he reduced the number to 7 pieces formed out of 4 squares, and Tetris was born. Soon the game was spreading all over Moscow just by word of mouth, and in time, across the globe. Today, Tetris can be played on handhelds, PCs, and console machines, and you can bet it will be a part of gaming until the end of time.
2. Super Mario Bros.
Video games were resurrected with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, and Mario was the voodoo high priest. This game was included with the NES, so the millions of people who bought the console were immediately down with the plumber. Children would gather at their friend's house after school and play it religiously. Parents would wait for their kids to go to sleep so they could take on the role of the pot-bellied Italian, who is still the most recognizable face in video games. Unlike previous platformers, which featured a handful of levels each on a single screen, the entire Mushroom Kingdom spanned 32 massive stages. Mario kicked turtles on land, dodged squid underwater, and squashed Goomba underground, all with flawless control. Coin collecting and secret searching added an element of replay that was foreign to games at that point. Everyone knows about the hidden 1-up in the first stage, or the warp zone to World 4. Everyone also knows that Super Mario Bros. is the crown jewel of platform games, and Mario is king.
1. The Legend of Zelda
It was wrapped in gold when released, and now it's earned the gold amongst its peers. Running neck-and-neck with Super Mario Bros. during most of the voting process, it was only toward the end of the tallying that The Legend of Zelda came out on top as the best game of all time. All things considered, we are lucky to have been pleasured with its presence at all. Nintendo was worried about how an American audience would respond to this very different game, and when you think about it, the trepidation was justified. At the time, the most successful games in the States had been linear action titles providing instant gratification. The Legend of Zelda was a free-roaming title with strange game mechanics. It took hours to learn, and so much time to finish the cartridge had to have an internal battery to allow for game saves. It didn't take long for Nintendo to find that the US was indeed ready to experience an adventure like Zelda. So ready, in fact, that over a million copies of the cartridge were sold within six months of its 1987 release. To music that no one can forget, players take the role of Link, and guide him on his quest to find the pieces of the Tri-Force, defeat the evil Ganon, and rescue the princess Zelda. On this unforgettable adventure, one travels an incredibly huge overworld, explores nine labyrinthine dungeons, earns new weapons, and discovers secret areas aplenty. Gameplay alone made Zelda addicting, but the way Miyamoto structured the world caused people to play it ravenously. You could see items and new areas on the edge of the screen, yet you could not get to them. Obtaining access to these things drove interest in the game from high to obsessive. Most pleasantly surprising of all, once the game is beaten, an entirely different and more difficult quest opens up. The Legend of Zelda is the ubiquitous experience of video games – it's not a question of if you've played it, but how much. Perfect in every conceivable way, it is well-deserving of the top honor amongst the greats.