Reading through and disagreeing with large amounts of IGN’s Top 100, I was inspired to come up with my top ten games ever. IGN’s is one of the better lists I’ve seen (infinitely better than their abysmal readers’ list where people apparently couldn’t remember beyond six months ago), but anything like this is hugely subjective so nobody’s going to agree completely.
Making a list like this is always something that I always find very difficult. You have to come up with an initial list and then whittle it down to ten before you can then arrange them into an order of preferences, and inevitably you find games that you’d dearly love to give this little bit of recognition to, but I guess you have to break some eggs. Halo, Skies of Arcadia, Call of Duty, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (the glorious multiplayer component, at least) are all deserving but ultimately had to be trimmed.
Anyway, without further ado…
- Super Metroid (SNES) – Simply my favourite game ever, without a doubt. It’s a massive game with a ton of stuff to find and it still looks great today when you see the enormous, screen-filling bosses like Kraid, drawn beautifully in detailed and vivid sprites. More than that it’s simply fun to play, whether for a quick blast or a long session spent exploring the planet’s nooks and crannies. As good as subsequent titles like Fusion and the 3D Prime series have been, I doubt that they’ll ever recapture the synergy that this game has going inside that little cart.
- Shenmue (Dreamcast) – A lot of people hate this game, some didn’t think it was anything special, but there are still few games that have such a passionate community clamouring for some resolution to the series and reminiscing about good times spent playing it. I’m a card-carrying member of this community and enjoy few things more than exploring Yu Suzuki’s wonderful recreation of 1980s Japan. There are now better looking games but I can’t think of any that have such a sense of place and atmosphere, brought to life in some beautiful artistry and a stunningly evocative soundtrack. Now give us Shenmue III…please?
- Tetris DX (Game Boy Color) – Tetris is as ubiquitous to most gamers as a controller and Tetris DX, the Game Boy Color’s big draw, is the best version ever made. It didn’t make the mistake that subsequent versions have made by overcomplicating the near-perfect Tetris formula. The splash of colour and inobtrusive animation added some welcome visual sparkle (aided by the sharp screen of the GBC) and the inertia was tweaked until it could almost be played on reflex. It didn’t have that iconic music from the original, but I can forgive that when this game still keeps me going back and gives my GBA SP more playtime than my DS.
- Chrono Trigger (SNES) – This one is one of the staples of most “best game ever” lists and when playing it it’s easy to see why. Akira Toriyama’s designs are translated into some gorgeous artwork and some of the most recognisable themes around, but underneath this is a game that seamlessly mixes the best of Square’s turn-based RPGs and the likes of Zelda to create something unique. It might lose steam towards the end but repeat plays never get old.
- Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) – Who doesn’t have this in their list? Link made the transition to 3D better than anyone could have hoped for in a game that even today transcends its technical limits into an adventure that few can come close to. Probably Miyamoto’s most cinematic game, and frequently awe-inspiring.
- Grand Theft Auto III (Xbox) – Probably the most influential title in a very long time, GTA3 shattered boundaries that most games considered insurmountable with an engrossing jump into the world of organised crime. The newer GTA games may have added more and be technically better, but they don’t match the first time you played this one and realised that you had a whole city to run around and raise hell in. I chose the Xbox one simply because of the tweaks and improvements over the PS2 version.
- GoldenEye (Nintendo 64) – Probably the most influential FPS since Doom, it brought first-person gunplay into the living room and made it such a popular genre that it still won’t leave. Not only that, it proved that a movie adaption didn’t have to be a piece of crap that relied solely on its name to sell. Countless hours were spent playing and replaying the missions with new tasks and easter eggs to find on each difficulty and then, of course, that multiplayer mode. Is there anyone who didn’t love getting a group of friends together and cutting them down with a spray from the RCP-90? As Oddjob?
- Counter-Strike (PC) – The fact that people still play this game religiously in its various guises should be some proof of just how much staying power it has. While Counter-Strike Source adds all kind of graphical hoo-ha I still prefer the tightly tweaked gameplay of the older CS1.6/Condition Zero. It took me weeks to get over the Everest-size learning curve but once you know the maps and the idiosyncrasies of the gameplay it becomes a game of skill where you know that the guy who keeps killing you is a better player that you’re going to have to work to beat. That, or he’s a cheating little bastard.
- Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation) – One of the first “true” RPGs that I played, it wasn’t until fairly recently that a real love for FFVII really clicked with me. I never felt it was as much of a technical feat as it was hailed as at the time, but it still managed to bring to our consoles one of the best storylines in any medium coupled with classic RPG gameplay. It can be convoluted and hard to follow in places but everyone who plays it remembers those iconic moments – Sephiroth disappearing into the fires of Nibelheim, the escape from Midgar, and, of course, Aeris…
- Street Fighter II Turbo (Arcade) – Fighting games have become exponentially more technically accomplished over the years but with very few exceptions the basic gameplay has barely moved at all beyond the cardinal rules that Capcom set down in Street Fighter II. Add in some extra speed and the ability to play as the bosses, and you get a near perfect example of the genre. It’s infinitely playable and exists to be mastered, with new combos and strategies to learn for all of the distinctive combatants. The gameplay has a balance between simplicity and complexity that allows for a continual learning curve that carries across all of the countless editions that I’ve bought over the years.
Well there you go. Some might be surprising, some not so, but those are my favourite games that I’ve ever played. I’ll be interested to hear any feedback that you might have because it took a bloody long time to put together.