Top 10 Best Games of All Time
Video games have come a long way over the years. Looking at the detailed, rich, expansive, games of today like Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s crazy to think Pong was cutting edge less than five decades back. From virtual ping pong in the seventies to exploring and conquering enormous open worlds now, the industry has produced some unforgettable titles. Video games are an artform, they can tell stories that deeply move you, they can scare you half to death, or make you giggle with childlike excitement. I remember the feeling of pure joy when I picked up my very first console, an NES, after saving my allowance and birthday money for months. Now, over three decades later, video games are still taking me on grand adventures. With so many amazing games out there choosing a top ten seemed like an impossible task. I chose 4 main criteria to rank games. most improtantly how fun the is game to play, how innovative or groundbreaking it was, the emotional impact of the game, and the cultural impact it left.
You can’t make a list of all-time greats and not show respect to Tetris. It may seem outdated and boring, but there’s no denying Tetris left its mark on the gaming world. I know you’ve heard of it, I’d bet 75% of you have played it, even your grandma that calls any game a Nintendo knows Tetris. It has generations of fans and people are still making games based off the simple concept of falling blocks. A great game for relaxing and unwinding, Tetris has proven it deserves its place among the greats by withstanding the test of time. Video games don’t need to be complicated, they need to be fun, and Tetris, in all its simplicity definitely is. This game certainly deserves a spot in the top ten.
9. Mega Man X
The Blue Bomber is an icon. The Mega Man franchise, which started as a platformer renowned for its difficulty, now boasts over 130 titles. The games follow a simple formula, defeat a boss and get their signature move. The original Mega Man series from the NES features some amazing games, managing to balance brutal difficulty with seriously fun levels and bosses. The series took a leap when it transitioned to the SNES. X’s graphics were a huge upgrade from its 8-bit predecessors and stylized enough to still be cool all these years later. New gameplay features elevate this title into the top ten. The ability to wall grab, upgrade armor, and dash are great additions to the run and gun legend. I love Mega Man X. The game is simply well made, thoughtful level design prompts players to discover new features organically. It never insults your intelligence and it never holds your hand. This classic platformer is full of hidden rooms, clever secrets, and challenging foes. Sky high replay value, simplicity, and a great balance of fun and difficulty makes it a must play.
8. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The latest installment in the Legend of Zelda series is incredible. Link is back and better than ever in Breath of the Wild. This game features a truly massive open world with so much to explore. The graphics are beautiful and detailed. The truly unique environments and ecosystems are nestled in breathtaking scenery. I have always appreciated that your brain has always been as important as your sword in Zelda games. In this iteration, for the first time, the player gets to decide that balance. Scattered throughout Hyrule are “shrines,” that hold either a puzzle or a combat trial, for a modest reward. Shrines can be tackled in any order or even avoided all together. If you’re a swordsman, you’re welcome to stick to combat shrines or avoid them altogether. More of a scholar? Solve whatever shrines you encounter and earn the advantage of extra hearts in battle. In this installment swords, shields, and even bows must be scavenged from the environment and don’t last forever. You can buy, earn, or even find armor that offers unique buffs. Link is so fun to control in this game. You can reflect shots back at opponents, backflip to avoid sword slashes, even lift objects with your mind and use them to crush unsuspecting monsters below. The game can be played in any order, you can dive in deep and spend hours on fun side quests, or stay focused and head directly to the final battle after finishing the 4 temples. If you like absolute freedom and limitless options in your games pick up this game. Breath of the Wild carries on a tradition of absolute excellence that we have come to expect from this franchise.
7. The Last of Us
The last of us is simply brilliant. It grabs your attention fast and doesn’t let go. A mysterious outbreak renders the infected hyper-aggressive and hostile. As the protagonist, Joel, tries to escape an infected neighbor, his daughter is accidentally shot by soldiers attempting to contain the outbreak. She dies in his arms; this gut punch sets the tone for the emotional roller coaster that is The Last of Us. The story resumes years later. Now an accomplished smuggler, Joel is contracted to transport a teen girl, Ellie, who may be the key to curing the plague, out of the quarantine zone to a research facility. The gameplay is fun and challenging and manages to never devolve into a cumbersome escort mission. Ellie actively helps in fights, instead of constantly needing rescued. A vast array of items that can be used to fight, from guns to bats to Molotov cocktails. There are many unique and creative ways to approach a fight. The artwork in the game is beautiful. Between many changes of scenery, switching control back and forth from Joel to Ellie, and unique combat situations, the game stays fresh and engaging and never feels repetitive. The Last of Us is immersive, delivers some massive emotional hits, and asks hard ethical questions. A top-notch story of redemption, and an unforgettable ending that makes you proud and ashamed at the same time earn this game a top ten selection.
6. Super Mario World
Good old Mario, the first ambassador for video games. The flagship Nintendo character has starred in hit after hit, from tennis to kart racing to hand-to-hand combat. By now it’s safe to say that if Mario is in it, it’s a quality game. This SNES cornerstone was an absolute phenomenon. This is the game that introduced the beloved Yoshi to the world. Clearing the gate at the end of every level was a blast and a great new mechanic. Many levels also had an alternate “lock and key” ending that would open up a seperate path on the map sometimes revealing secrets or shortcuts. Super Mario World made excellent use of the hardware upgrades of the SNES. The graphics were mind blowing at the time and even now it doesn’t look dated. This was the first game I ever remember that allowed you to go back and replay cleared stages. There were secrets everywhere it seemed, fake walls, hidden rooms, false pits, it felt like there was something new to find every time I replayed a level. If you had an SNES, you played Super Mario World. This game is fun, surprising, unique, but Mario’s secret sauce has been and always will be cohesiveness. This game has a personality, the music, artwork, sound effects, all harmonize and strengthen the end product. Each detail works together to enrich the game, everything seems purposeful and nothing seems out of place.
5. Resident Evil 4
It would be difficult to overstate the impact the Resident Evil series has made in the world of video games. The fourth installment is an absolute standout in a franchise full of highlights. This game manages to keep you on the edge of your seat all the way through. You play as Leon Kennedy, a special agent sent into a sparsely populated corner of the Spanish countryside. Your mission; retrieve the U.S. president’s kidnapped daughter. You soon discover that you’re in no ordinary village. The residents have been infected by “Las Plagas,” a parasite that effectively makes them zombies. As Leon battles his way through the hostile environment, he meets several mysterious characters that seem like allies, but who can be trusted? This game switches some things up from previous installments. It doesn’t lean as heavily on puzzle-based elements as previous installments. The change, which is lamented by some, helps with pacing, and it doesn’t completely abandon the mechanic. This game is a bit more of a shooter that the games that came before it. Those survival horror tendencies Resident Evil helped popularize are still there, but it doesn’t leave the player quite as helpless as past games. The blend of survival horror and up-tempo action really hits a sweet spot for me. You can’t unload your gun recklessly toward every enemy, but you don’t have to tuck tail and run very often either. The over the shoulder camera differentiates it from the loads of first-person shooters out there, and close-quarters-combat options help mix things up too. The dark, tense, atmosphere is supported by genuinely creepy audio and unsettling artwork. The game is a masterpiece of horror. With unforgettable monsters to battle, scarce resources, and constant tension, it evokes a sense a dread from start to finish.
4. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If you were trying to determine the most epic adventure in gaming, you’d be flat wrong not to include Ocarina of Time in the conversation. Once upon a time the N64 ruled the virtual world. It was an awkward, yet critically important time for gaming. While graphics made the awkward transition from shaded 2d art to the as yet crude but promising world of polygons, many games from that time period look laughably dated. Some 3d sequels appear amateurish next to their 16-bit counterparts, who benefitted from time tested art techniques. This period of growing pains was absolutely necessary for the gaming industry though, because the transition from 2d to 3d wasn’t just graphics, it was adding an entire dimension to gameplay too. Ocarina of Time managed to not only avoid the awkward graphics so many of its peers suffered from, it also pioneered many features that became staples in 3d gameplay. They made a game that was comfortable and felt natural to control but also delivered a dense, rich game that still holds up today.
Ocarina of Time faced the herculean task of living up to the insane expectations of the beloved franchise while having to drastically change gameplay by adding a third dimension. Somehow, they not only pulled it off, but they delivered what many consider to be the best game of all time. Going back and forth through time to advance the story and solve puzzles felt like brand new fresh challenge. Playing as young Link and adult Link keeps things fresh and adds an extra dimension to the game. It feels like a classic Zelda game with exciting dungeons and tough boss battles, while graciously adding a third dimension that felt fully realized and fleshed out. It was never gimmicky, it wasn’t 3d for the novelty of 3d. The creators had a vision and they executed it with precision. I’m of the opinion that 3d games would not have become the norm nearly as quickly without this absolute beauty of a game.
Everyone I know who has played BioShock remembers the first time they laid eyes on Rapture. The beautiful underwater city, built by eccentric Billionaire and Ayn Rand enthusiast Andrew Ryan, is an absolute treat to explore. Something went horribly wrong though, and the city erupted into chaos, as utopias always seem to do. Roughly twenty years after it was founded, you stumble upon Rapture when your plane crashes into the ocean. After swimming to a tiny bit of rock above the waves, you find an elevator that takes you further down than you ever imagined. As you descend into the city you discover the remaining inhabitants, now disfigured, violent addicts, are less than welcoming.
They all want “ADAM,” a mysterious substance that grants the user special abilities, such as telekinesis or the ability to conjure lightning or fire but comes with debilitating side effects. Switching from wrenches, to guns, to these special abilities makes the combat fun and give endless combinations to play with. Things go from beautiful to terrifying in the blink of an eye. The highly stylized, 1940’s decadence, and optimism on which Rapture was founded, starkly contrasts with the depraved, slithering, inhumane society that remains. This establishes a strong aesthetic and cohesive atmosphere. The game features alternate endings based on player choices. The iconic “Big Daddies” are the image most associated with the game, but it’s the “Little Sisters” that haunt you after playing. Great quotes, good battles, moral dilemmas, and unforgettable twists make sure BioShock sticks with you long after you finish.
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Hideo Kojima just knows how to make video games. Playing through the original Metal Gear Solid was the first time I remember feeling like I was controlling the lead in a movie. It was more than taking down enemies to reach your goal, it was a rich and incredibly detailed story. Metal Gear Solid redefined what a video game could be in my mind. It required thinking outside the box in order to beat bosses, including plugging into the player 2 controller port in one boss battle. The game wasn’t just forcing players to be creative, it was taking risks to give a truly unique gaming experience. The sequel, Sons of Liberty, although still a very good game, received mixed reviews and left some fans disappointed.
Kojima responded with Snake Eater, a prequel to Metal Gear Solid, and one of the best video games of all time. You can’t solve your problems in Metal Gear games by firing off tons of bullets. In fact, when infiltrating a building, an empty magazine in your hand can be far more useful than a full one in your gun. Your enemies aren’t going to win any Nobel Prizes, but they are certainly more intelligent than most guards you find in games. For instance, they would notice if their comrades weren’t manning their post anymore, they would follow unexplained footprints you left in the mud, even overturn a box that had moved a foot since their last patrol. You must be deliberate, cunning, and use everything at your disposal to infiltrate your targets. You can use camouflage to hide in plain sight, wait in an air vent for a patrol to pass by, you can even distract guards with strategically placed reading material.
By forcing you to avoid firefights, and actually giving you the tools to be creative, every group of soldiers you slip past feels like a victory. There are tons of standout moments, Big Boss meeting Revolver Ocelot, the infamous sniper battle, the river of souls, and the devastating final fight. This is a Metal Gear title which, if you know anything about gaming, means you know the story is well done and thoroughly engaging. It genuinely feels like a movie, but one that lets you control action sequences. The cut-scenes are long, detailed, and surprisingly still hold up. Of all the Metal Gear titles, this one probably has the most straightforward and least confusing plot of the series. The final battle and end scene are absolutely heartbreaking, and visually stunning. I was shell-shocked for days after my first play through. This game sets the perfect foundation for what I consider the unrivaled pinnacle of gaming, Kojima’s Metal Gear series. I had a very hard time not putting this at number one. Every gamer should play Snake Eater at least once.
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
This was my first video game love. Mario Bros. 3 completely changed the landscape of platformers. The original Mario Bros. set the bar. Mario Bros. 2, though undeniably weird, was still very solid. The Mario Bros. 2 released in Japan was thought to be too difficult for American audiences, so Nintendo took a totally unrelated game, reskinned it with Mario characters, polished it a bit and shipped it off to America. Was this the new the direction of the franchise? Was each Mario game going to be a one off since the first two were so different? What Nintendo delivered was a game that rewrote the rulebook of platformers. In the first Mario you could jump on heads and throw fireballs. In the next game we used enemies and vegetables as projectiles. This version of Mario was a whole different animal.
Now our favorite plumber could fly, dispatch enemies with a flick of his tail, even make himself slow down as he descended. That’s what I learned on the very first level, from just one new power-up, I hadn’t even scratched the surface and I was already amazed. This game was unbelievable. It was insane, games within a game? Yeah, lots of them. An inventory slot to save items for later was a godsend. There’s a Frog suit, a suit that blocks fireballs and lets you throw hammers, you could even turn into a statue for a few seconds in one costume. The game has quirks too, an airship full of coins will appear if you satisfy some weird timing conditions, an opportunistic player can harvest up to 99 1-ups with a well-timed and placed shell kick, you can even hop around in a giant green boot, it was unlike anything anyone had ever played.
There were 8 distinctly themed worlds that were all unique and creative and clever. The soundtrack is incredible, I still catch myself humming tunes from that game. The game is tight and responsive. Even though they went way outside the box and broke so many conventions it never feels gimmicky, or like it tries too hard. Every new feature and ability seem organic and natural. Above all this game is just plain fun. That’s why we play, right? It’s no exaggeration when I say I’ve beaten this game over 50 times now (thanks, warp whistles!) Even so, it’s the game I’ll fire up when I finish writing for the night. 30 years ago, this game left me speechless, and still after all this time I want to keep playing it. Why? Because I know I’ll have fun. I may know every nook and cranny of that world, but it never feels boring, it feels like home. I don’t think I can ask more of a game than that. Maybe someday another game may top the