I like how you distinguished your favorites of the top games from the rest.
Here’s my list. The top 3 are set in stone, the top 10 approximately reflect my feelings, and the rest aren’t ordered in any way other than when they popped into my mind – which I suppose is also a bit telling.
Ultima 3 - My favorite game of all time. Blew open the possibilities of video games. Even now it has an admirably compact design, a haunting, stately quality, and superb music.
World of Warcraft - The most addictive game I’ve ever played, by an order of magnitude. For me it was never better than in the early levels of the vanilla days – so wide open, so much possibility. Questing in Loch Modan, getting a mail that your stack of leather sold for 20 silver, stopping to listen to the music. You can never go back.
Half-Life - Hard to overstate the impact this had in early 1999 to someone with little experience of shooters. Favorite memory: crawling through airducts in ‘We’ve Got Hostiles,’ flashlight illuminating the duct walls, fearing the inevitable headcrab.
M.U.L.E. - Rivals Atari 2600 Warlords as the best ‘all at one machine’ multiplayer game of all time. The auction mechanic is absolutely brilliant. Plus, you can hunt the wumpus!
Civilization 2 - The Civ game that most exemplifies the series to me. While playing it years ago I had a sort of epiphany. The hugeness and complexity, the interleaving systems, of a civilization, struck me with immense force. The epiphany is gone – only the memory of it remains – but to me it’s the classic example of how games can provide experiences that render the ‘is it art?’ question/justification utterly beside the point.
Baldur’s Gate II - Still probably gets my vote for ‘best single player CRPG ever.’ I love the score. The vastness of it. The huge setpiece battles. The first really terrifying depiction of a dragon in a videogame. The way, when you think you’re barreling toward the conclusion, you suddenly get a whole new Underdark to play in, chock full of nooks and crannies. This is the apotheosis of Dungeons and Dragons videogamedom.
Unreal Tournament (1999) - The speed, the slickness, the music, the level layouts, the taunts, the narrator. It’s all just perfect. Deck16 botmatches are still my shortest path to a complete submersion of consciousness.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! – Certainly one of the best 8-bit games ever made. There’s just so much going on. It’s not a strategy game, it’s not an action game, and it’s not an RPG, but it transcends and contains all three. It points the way toward a kind of pan-genre game design that has still only imperfectly and intermittently been explored.
Tetris - Perfect and timeless. Nothing else to say about this one.
Warlords - Couch multiplayer doesn’t get much better than this. 4 paddles, 3 buddies, and Warlords add up to one of the great gaming experiences.
Ultima 4 - A massive leap in scale over Ultima 3. The sheer hugeness of the landscapes, and the variety of the town designs, stand out in my memory.
Ultima 5 - A watershed in CRPGs for its introduction of NPC schedules and day/night schedules. Probably the greatest ‘living world’ seen in games up to that point.
Thief - Dripping with atmosphere. I come back to it a lot, although the core gameplay loop (stand in place waiting for guards to walk by) often taxes my patience.
Hearthstone - I’ve played a number of digital CCGs but Hearthstone got its hooks into me the most. Partly the vast player base, partly the patented Blizzard polish, partly the chance to revisit – however glancingly – good old Azeroth. It’s entertained me more than most games I’ve played, and it didn’t cost me a dime.
Unreal - One of those games I come back to again, and again, and again. Gameplay is decent, but the atmosphere is just unparalleled. Nyleve’s Falls probably has fewer polygons in it than the average creature in a modern shooter, but that sense of vast openness and discovery is still there.
Age of Empires II - Might be my favorite RTS of all time. Loved those longbowmen, and the trebuchet’s awesome power.
Bejeweled Twist - This Bejeweled side-quel deserved to do better than it actually did. The core mechanic was lots of fun, and the legendary Mega Fruit Bonus is one of the great endorphin drops in game rewards.
Elite - Utterly original. Nothing like it had been seen before. Games like Star Raiders weakly pointed the way, but Elite managed to cram a whole universe into 64k.
Grim Dawn - My favorite action RPG. Fantastic graphics, lots of variety in various classes and builds, plenty of cool loot. Over 300 hours played on my Steam account.
Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls games are still the best for a full-3D, ‘you are there’ wander through a meticulously realized fantasy world. Like every Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim gets endlessly picked apart for its flaws, but it’s a fine update of the good old formula to 2011.
Oblivion - The reliance on Oblivion-gate sequences to move the story forward was a flaw, and the problems with the interface and the rubber-banding have been addressed plenty of times. Still, wandering Cyrodiil in 2006, the great spire of the Imperial City off in the distance, was always a treat. Also some great side quests, including one where you go inside a painting. I’ll always love the game-breaking Chameleon Suit.
Morrowind - The older this gets, the better it seems. Perhaps it’s the Elder Scrolls’s last hurrah as a ‘dare to be weird’ fantasy franchise. Vvardenfell is one of the great game settings, and the landscape – from the swamps of Seyda Neen to the Telvanni mushroom cities to the lush southern coastal region – is impressive in both its variety and its subtle transitions. I love that the mod scene has kept this one pretty.
The Magic Candle - My favorite non-Ultima CRPG from the C64 era. Loved the lopsided humor, the Grandma Moses art, the fact that you can drop off a party member to get a real job and make some extra money. Everything about the design screamed attention to detail.
Archon - The strategic map isn’t that interesting when you think about it, but the whiteknuckle piece-vs-piece encounters made up for it. Basilisk vs. Unicorn. Unicorn vs. Sorceress. Shapeshifter vs. anything.
The Way of the Exploding Fist - It’s not just that this was a solid karate fighter in the ‘Karate Champ’ mold. It’s that it had a beautifully tranquil atmosphere, aided by Neil Brennan’s superb music. You wanted to walk into the screen and be there.
Rome: Total War - Mere months before descending into the abyss of World of Warcraft, I played this one to monstrous excess. Wailing women. Phalanxes walking into hails of arrows and slowly dying off. Egyptian soldiers wearing 1000-year-anachronistic head dresses. All ridiculous, all awesome. My first into to the Creative Assembly style of strategy game, and the only one that’s really grabbed me.
Knights of the Old Republic - When BioWare could do no wrong. It has the same bifurcated morality that people often criticize from this developer, but executed with such verve and panache. On completing as Light Side, I immediately rolled a new character to play through again as Dark Side. What you can do to Mission’s Wookiee buddy still gives me chills. Also, HK-47 is a superb character.
Divine Divinity - A lovely merging of ARPG mechanics and ‘real’ RPG depth. Totally hooked me when it came out, despite the weak final act.
Portal - Pretty much a perfect game. Just as long as it needs to be given the core gameplay. Maybe the best-written game ever, though its sequel gives it a run for the money. GlaDOS is easily in the top 10 game villains of all time. Plus, of course, the song.
Adventure Construction Set - Of all the game-making software I dabbled in, this is the one I was most drawn into. Staggering ambition for 1984, though some of the core mechanics (like the lousy combat system) dragged it down. Also, the pack-in game, Rivers of Light, seems strikingly original compared to much CRPG fare of the day. A game based on the Epic of Gilgamesh? Wild.
Soul Calibur - Pretty much single-handedly justified my Dreamcast purchase. Just a flat gorgeous game with wonderful gameplay.
FTL - Scratches that itch for a tiny little universe with tiny little spacemen and tiny little spaceships. I want to unlock it into a more freeform gameworld, but I never get tired of seeing my little dudes walk around to and from their various stations. The atmospheric system alone is a delight – nothing like flooding a section of the ship with vacuum to put out a fire or suffocate an enemy boarding party.
Pitfall 2 - An astonishing achievement on Atari 2600 hardware. A big, beautiful game with a soaring musical score. I came agonizingly close to a perfect score, marking this as one of my better gaming achievements. It’s also sort of my 2600 swan song – the Commodore 64 was about to take over.
H.E.R.O. - The core mechanics are so fun. The light tap to nudge left or right onto a ledge, the pitch-perfect responsiveness on the interplay of your rotor blades and gravity. Once you’ve learned the levels, cruising through them creates a great sense of flow.
Rogue - The version I played was on the Amiga in the late 1980s. I never beat it but I played it innumerable times. There’s just something so fascinating about that tiny ASCII or ASCII-esque world that blossoms on your monitor, unique and fresh each time.
Temple of Apshai Trilogy - A fun, slick update of Epyx’s classic Temple of Apshai dungeon crawler and its expansions. Fighting giant fruit (including a killer tomato) in Upper Reaches of Apshai was always a hoot.
Telengard - For the grey misty cubes. For the song that the ancient throne plays. For the unique feeling of being chased by a Level 87 Vampire while hauling 1,005,325 gold pieces. For the elf that likes your body and heals you.
Paradroid - The only knock against this is the lack of unique graphics for the various droid types. But it’s a superb game, creating a powerful atmosphere of a huge, isolated spacecraft overrun by renegade robots. I loved how you could access little computer consoles, look at maps, and read up on the various droid types.
Jedi Knight - Maybe my favorite single-player shooter after Half Life. The vertiginous vastness of the level designs has never been topped, although Jedi Outcast came close.
Demon Attack - The 2600’s color capabilities are used to their fullest extent in the weird, glowy color-cycling used here on the aliens. Great sound effects, great background music, great Whooshy animations as the enemies entered at the beginning of the stage. For my money, the best Space Invaders clone on the 2600.
Avernum 2 - My praise might apply to many Avernum games, but this is the one I played to completion. Immense, absorbing, with a great combat system. One of the best meat-and-potatoes CRPG experiences I’ve had.
Phantasie – Lacking the graphical elegance of the Ultimas, but something about Phantasie stuck out for me. The dungeons weren’t just abstract mazes but had real-world referents – abandoned forts and the like, I think. The weird tactical combat system earned points for novelty. This was one of the rare ‘80s CRPGs that felt neither like an Ultima clone nor like a Wizardry clone.
Faery Tale Adventure – My family bought this game before we had an Amiga to play it on. The days before our Amiga 500 arrived I used to stare at the screenshots on the back of the box, overcome with longing. In practice, the game wasn’t that great. Terrible combat system, not much content to fill up its vast overland world. But the graphics were gorgeous at the time and the music was first-rate. Flying on a swan at night, listening to David Joiner’s haunting music, is a memory that’s stayed with me.
Journey (Infocom) – Actually the only Infocom game I ever managed to beat. Though the purist in me objects to the introduction of graphics to their line of adventures, I really liked this one. There’s a painterly quality to the images that nicely distills the Tolkienian clichés into something almost elemental.
Arkanoid – I played holy hell out of this on the Amiga. A really cool iteration on top of the core Breakout design. You can shoot the bricks! You can shoot the bricks!!
Tapper – I achieved nigh-total mastery of the C64 port of Tapper when I was a kid. It was a point of pride for me. Such a kick when you get to the alien level.
Bruce Lee – An odd little platformer, but made much more fun by the ability to have friends sub in as two antagonists (Sumo and Ninja). Way too short, but it’s stuck with me.
Mancopter – Okay, the endless-button-pressing mechanic is sadistic in its design. But the intense, driving music helped to create a manic atmosphere that made this one of the more addicting (and rage-inducing) titles of its time.
Trolls and Tribulations – One of the first C64 platformers I played. Not so very great; the slidely joystick feel was a long way from the precision of a Super Mario Bros. But the classical soundtrack was great, and it was a big, roomy game with a certain feeling of exploration.
Darkest Dungeon – Because of the narrator. Because of the rare introduction of a truly fresh mechanic (the sanity stuff) to the CRPG toolbox. Because of the Jester’s “Finale” animation. All that said, I burned out long before actually being able to make a run at the titular Darkest Dungeon.
Gothic 2 – So much of this game has faded out of my memory except for my conviction upon completion that it was one of the best CRPGs ever. It took Gothic’s offbeat playstyle and expanded into something bigger, more epic. I loved it, yet I don’t well remember it. Odd.
Dragon Age – Frustratingly, I lost the save file perhaps 2/3 of the way into completing this. So I may never beat it. But I appreciated the time and attention that went into the lore and backstory. I also enjoyed the large suite of available spells and the multiple solutions to various miniquests. No Baldur’s Gate II, but a solid entry in that vein.
Enduro – Probably the first truly epic videogame I ever played. The feeling of sunrise toward the end of the course, after the fog and snow and darkness, was wonderful.
Frogs and Flies – Wonderfully mellow head-to-head action on the 2600. I love the slow fade to nighttime (made possible by the 2600’s large color palette), and the little firefly that drags the ‘Game Over’ sign at the end.
Rings of Zilfin – I barely remember this except that the combat was a weird arcadey little side-perspective minigame where your little dude sort of ran up to the monster and hit it, and then ran back. It’s emblematic to me of the avalanche of CRPG titles that SSI was pumping out in the mid-80s. An early title by Ali “The Magic Candle” Atabek. It definitely brought the weird and whimsy.
Speedball – Besides the fact that the music is completely awesome, this game just looked gorgeous on the Amiga and had a great ‘80s Brit-cyber-yobbo-bruiser vibe. Others preferred its sequel, but this is the one that hooked me.
Bejeweled – One of the only casual-game concepts that can be compared to the sublime Tetris. I played this a lot around 2000, but gradually came to dislike the original ‘no more moves’ fail-state. I now prefer either Blitz mode or the spinoff, Bejeweled Twist.
Alien Isolation – Often annoying to play, this game nevertheless is fantastically, stupendously atmospheric. It’s by far – by far – the best re-entry to the Alien universe that’s been made in any medium since 1986. Well, maybe that’s unfair to David Fincher. But, tough!
Age of Mythology – Ensemble tries for the Starcraft-style “3 unique races” RTS design. Never grabbed me as Age of Kings did, but I had plenty an engaging multiplayer match with it.
Frontier: Elite II – Quite possibly the most ambitious game I have ever played. I confess I didn’t play it anywhere near as much as either Elite or Elite: Dangerous. But it strikes me as in some ways greater than either. You start on Mars. Mars is moving. The sun is moving. The planets are moving. You can take off and point at a planet and go straight there uninterruptedly. Just mind-blowing, trebly so given the year of its release.
Half Life 2 – Great graphics, great physics, Ravenholme, fantastic atmosphere. It’s not as good as its predecessor, but as almost no game is, I don’t hold that against this very fine sequel.
Rune – Melee games don’t come along too often, so you cherish them when they do. The gameplay got a bit monotonous, and I’ll always love Old Man Murray’s brilliant takedown. But there’s some great atmosphere here, from the ancient ruins to the spooky Hel locations and the frozen caves.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – Maybe the best writing I’ve ever seen in a CRPG. It was that goddamn good. I never quite beat it, though.
Jedi Outcast – Almost as good as its predecessor, Jedi Knight. Better force-power implementation, not-quite-as-good level design. Gave me some moments of shooter bliss and was my 2002 GOTY.
Ultima 2 – Ultima III’s mean little brother. This game was a bitch to get into. The instruction manual hints that you need random objects like ‘brass buttons’ to get on a sailing ship, but being teh piratz we didn’t realize that, so it was just trial and error. Just getting your character to a point of not being in constant danger of instant death was an accomplishment. Then there’s the fun ‘kitchen sink’ design with all the planets, weird humor, time zones, etc. Garriott really just having a lark before he disciplined himself for the magnificent Ultima III, his first true masterpiece.
Questron – Probably the best Ultima clone. Loved the gambling. Loved the little iterations beyond Ultima design, like how guards in hostile towns would remember they didn’t like you for a time after you left. Loved how the game hits you with a whole second continent when you think you’re nearing the end. Also, one of the best endings ever. The kind of reward you should get when you save the goddamn kingdom.
Legacy of the Ancients – Solid entry in the Questron lineage. Beautiful graphics, cool ‘museum’ concept, lovely pop-off roofs. I liked this one a lot, though I don’t remember it well.
Seven Cities of Gold – One of the several early C64 games (Maze Master being another) that made me realize the transition from 2600 to 8-bit computing was a massive game changer. A whole continent! Generated randomly! Endless exploration! I never quite knew what win-condition there was, if any, or what to do but wander and amass gold; but that was more than enough at the time.
Heart of Africa – I really enjoyed this much-tighter Seven Cities sequel. It was tailored to shorter play sessions and had a very clear win condition, which might count as ‘dumbing down.’ The depiction of ‘darkest Africa’ is probably not altogether politically correct nowadays, though to be fair the game tries to evoke a 19th-century colonialist perspective. Lovely opening tune by Dave Warhol, too – faux-Raiders pomp at its best.
Populous – I played holy heck out of this game when it came out, and certain moments of Midnight Oil’s album ‘Diesel and Dust’ make me think of it because that’s what I was usually listening to. But the design in retrospect has always seemed odd to me. You’re a god with all these powers, but you spend most of the time landscaping.
Card Hunter – I dove straight into the first campaign for this. Lots of fun, great evocation of D&D nerdstalgia.
Shadow of the Beast – That I beat this game is a point of gamer pride for me. Amazing music. Amazing graphics. Yes, the number of layers of parallax was actually an advertising bullet point. Hugely hyped game. Not great gameplay. But I still got my money’s worth. (Actually paid for this one – or, more precisely, my dad did.)
Montezuma’s Revenge – One of my favorite early platformers. Some of the bloopy synth sounds remind me of Steve Miller’s ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ (or vice versa). The kind of weird, half-unhinged design that you saw a lot in the 8-bit days.
Gothic – I preferred its sequel, but I liked Gothic’s offbeat take on a fantasy world and its darker, more European vibe. Really, a proto-Witcher in terms of its “mature adults” style. My favorite thing about this game is how it didn’t put any cap on summons, so I was able to literally raise an army of skeletons to help me in the final boss battle. That they didn’t actually help much only slightly diminishes the memory.
Starcraft 2 – I actually tried to get good at this. Made it to Silver for my trouble. I could never dream of competing with serious RTS players. But it’s a super-solid, super-slick product, per Blizzard usual.
Space Rogue – I loved, loved, this game’s combination of Ultima-style RPG and Elite-style space sim at the time. It’s a short game and not super ambitious, but really kind of an underappreciated gem.
Maze Master – The first real CRPG I ever played. One of the very early games we got on the C64. A simple, straight Wizardry-style first-person dungeon crawler. Nothing special about it except for the time and circumstances in which I encountered it. I was taking steps into a larger world.
Ms. Pac-Man – Better than its predecessor in practically every way. I rocked at Ms. Pac-Man when it was one of the retro items at a Street Fighter II-dominated arcade circa 1992, and was saddened to learn it was a doctored machine in which your character’s speed had been increased to make it easier.
Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon – Maybe my favorite Cinemaware title. Fantastic graphics and music. The ‘raindrop’ musical theme on the map screen is really wonderful. Like most Cinemaware games, a bit of a mish-mash – mini-games stuck together by cutscense and a fancy paint job. But in those early Amiga days, it scratched the itch for graphical/audio bliss.
Starfleet 1 – Basically a commercial clone of the old Star Trek mainframe game. I played this thing ad nauseum. I loved the feel of stopping at a starbase. Diverting power to shields. Trying to spot the flickering cloaked Zaldron. Even FTL, much as I love it, doesn’t quite capture what this captured.
Zork – I sucked at Zork as a kid and I still do. I don’t want to look at walkthroughs because I don’t want to see this vast mysterious universe reduced to a page and a half of decision-tree choices. Maybe someday I will really try to beat it.
Mail Order Monsters – Though the ‘build your own monster’ metagame didn’t work quite as well, I think, as it was intended to, this is still a nice creative offering from Archon’s Paul Reiche III.
Star Control – I missed my window to play Star Control II, which everyone raves about. (I’ll try it at some point, but it’s always tough to go back.) This is the Star Control game I played to death. Me and my brother had some extremely intense head-to-head matches. Arilou vs. Ur-Quan Dreadnought. Oh yeah.
Robotron 2084 – Probably the apotheosis of Golden Age arcade game design. Sheer insanity. Utterly gorgeous. I suck at it; I love it.
Mr. Do – I loved how much more fast-paced this was than Dig-Dug. Also loved that little ball-boomerang thing you could throw. There was a Mr. Do machine at the ‘Cumberland Farms’ convenience store down the block from our house in Great Barrington, MA circa 1984. I played it a lot.
Adventure – Played it plenty. Was thrilled to attend Warren Robinett’s GDC postmortem and write an article about it for Yahoo. Loved the duck-dragons. Even did the whole thing with the dot and the secret room, though that was from a walkthrough posted in some issue of Electronic Games or some book of the time.
Dan Dare – Great visual style in this mid-80s British C64 entry. Not great gameplay – too much joystick wiggling to the combat. But fun to explore; a good example of ‘comic book come to life’ design. Inspired me to buy a Dan Dare comic compilation a couple of years later. I’d love to see a proper Dan Dare movie some day.
The Bard’s Tale – This was the big, heavily hyped mid-80s Wizardry-esque dungeon crawler for 8-bit gamers. I played it a lot; I don’t think I ever beat it. But it was absolutely “the hottest game” in my family for a couple of weeks.
Age of Empires – None of the subsequent Ensemble RTS’s has the weird, almost languid atmosphere of this initial entry. When I first played it I didn’t really understand what an RTS was supposed to be – I saw it more as a real-time ‘Civilization’ and got lost in the farming and fishing and all that. Loved the trireme battles, and the priest-wars. Wo lo lo!
Lode Runner – Still one of the great platformer designs. A completely different direction from where Super Mario would take much of the genre. No jumping, but lots of possibilities with the ‘dig’ mechanic. Also one of the first games to bundle with a level editor, which was lots of fun in its own right.
Rastan – Not great gameplay at all. But magnificent atmosphere. Those statues in the far parallax distance are just gobsmacking. Great music. I pumped more than a few quarters into this one just to goggle at its first few screens.
Baldur’s Gate – Not as good as its sequel, but still good. Besides kicking off Bioware’s amazing run of late’90s-early-‘00s CRPGs, and the now-legendary Infinity Engine, it caught the feeling of being on the low end of the D&D level scale, when a party of hobgoblins could easily take you apart. I only wish the combat design didn’t privilege ranged weapons so much, and that the game didn’t incentivize you to use fog-of-war creep cheese to start battles.
Fallout 4 – I put 100 hours into this, so I must have liked it. I flinch like a beaten dog whenever I bring up anything Bethesda makes because the chorus of “it sucks unless you mod it to high heaven” is likely to overwhelm me. I didn’t much go for the story. And I could take or leave the base-building stuff. But the vast number of places to explore, the infinite scavenger-hunting potential, and the insanity of some of the battles (especially with super mutants) grabbed me.
Sword Coast Legends – Unlike Pillars of Eternity or Dragon Age, I actually managed to complete this one. It feels like the red-headed stepchild of D&D CRPGs, but I thought its core campaign was quite nice and it just felt like a warm bath of dragony dungeon-ness.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein – I replayed a lot of levels in this early-oughts shooter. The church level was really pretty gorgeous at the time. I also like the airfield level and the zombie/catacombs stuff. In retrospect it’s not a great shooter, I suppose, but it’s a good one and it was a fine showcase for the latest PC I’d built.
Rise of Nations – I still haven’t plumbed all the possibilities of sheer interface efficiency in this number-crunching extravaganza of a historical RTS. But I played the hell out of it and you gotta respect the design. I just somehow felt this game wasn’t made for me. It was made for smarter people. Mr. Robot people.
Rock Band – It’s odd how quickly the music-game bubble burst. But this was just great fun – a high point in living-room multiplayer.
Forbidden Forest – Paul Norman, of Cosmi fame, lets his freak frag fly in this wonderfully weird-ass action title. The design anticipates Shadow of the Colossus in essentially just being a succession of boss battles. The graphics are cruddily terrific with the big ungainly hero sprite and the parallax scrolling (dubbed, with carnival-barker instinct, “OmniDimension 4D” by Norman). The music is classic. And your character does a little boogie dance after every victory. What games could be before they took themselves remotely seriously.
Delta – Stavros Fasoulas’s masterpiece, a high point of mid-80s C64 aesthetics. One of Rob Hubbard’s best soundtracks combined with gorgeous alien sprites and a ridiculously tight “no random elements” gameplay model. I’ve never made it far in this game but I still dust it off from time to time.
Battle Squadron - Great vertical SHMUP on the Amiga. Probably downright quaint by today’s standards of the genre, but it looked great at the time and its high score theme is one of the great chiptunes.
Awesome, I love when this thread gets bumped! If I were elected Pope of Qt3, I’d make entries in this thread mandatory for every poster. But that would probably suck all the fun out of it.
Anyway, cool that you wrote a bit for each entry. I’ll need to go through them in more detail, you’ve got a few I don’t recognize.
I got to entry 11 and thought to myself, “wait, you didn’t write a blurb for each entry, did you?!” Well done.
Writing the blurbs turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the exercise!
You know, I just might need to do that for my list. Probably take me a year but you can consider me inspired.
My list is console heavy as I didn’t get a computer until way late in the scheme of things. I started off with games I loved and played so much I played them to death or games that had the most influence on my gaming history, followed by games I liked a lot, in no particular order, descending into games I mostly just remember playing. I could spend the rest of the day rearranging the order, but here it is:
- World of Warcraft (PC): Has to be #1 - my first online game. I started playing a few month before the first expansion - such a new experience, wandering around, playing with other people. I was such a noob, knew nothing about stats and rotations and DPS - no pressure to “win”. It was an experience that I’ll never get to experience again.
- Legend of Zelda - Link to the Past (SNES): Everyone’s favourite Zelda game. Amiright?
- Super Mario Brothers 3 (NES): This felt like a gift from Nintendo just before the release of the SNES. Unbelievably great graphics. Arguably the best Mario game in the series.
- Halo - Combat Evolved (Xbox): I loved this game so much. I may even dig this out tonight and play it again.
- Silent Hill 2 (PS2): Loved the ending music. Probably my favourite survival horror game.
- Ico (PS2): My favourite PlayStation game. Such a sweet story. My husband used to get vertigo if he watched me play.
- Fire Emblem (GBA): Sword beats axe beats lance with permadeath to up the ante. My favourite turn based strategy series.
- Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivian (PC): My first open world type -untold hours searching out every cave and every quest.
- Space Armada (Intellivision): My introduction to console gaming as a 17 year old girl - back when it was almost true that girls didn’t pay video games (and probably where the addiction started).
- Deus Ex (PS2): A classic of its type, installed several time on PC since.
- Portal (Xbox): Someone else said this is a perfect game! I agree.
- Mario Bros. (NES): Just imagine a game where you got 3 lives. When you died 3 times, you started over from the beginning. Talk about replay value!
- System Shock 2 (PC): My first FPS with mouse and keyboard. I was so nervous I accidently threw my weapon on the ground whenever a monster got near me throughout the game. I don’t think I finished it. A Steam version sits un-played in my backlog.
- Myst II - Riven (PS1): This was the first game I bought for my brand new PS1 because I didn’t have a computer and wanted to try Myst. I couldn’t believe a video game could look so beautiful.
- Half Life (PS2): Another game I couldn’t wait to play. Didn’t disappoint. Well, except the last level. I’ve played through on PC a few times since and never bother with the last level.
- Fire Emblem (3DS): Did I say I love this series. They are all the same game pretty much, but still…
- Advance Wars – GBA: Fire Emblem with guns.
- Yoshi’s Island (SNES): My mom played this when she was in her 60’s and was so pleased with herself that she “won”. She only managed to get through the first level. Now I.m approaching my 60’s… that’s so weird to think of.
- Katamary Damacy (PS2): So this king gets drunk and loses everything in the universe. Your mission as the prince is to retrieve it all. Who thinks up this stuff?
- Tetris (NES): A classic. Bet I’d be terrible at it now though.
- Tetris 2 (NES): Its Tetris, but with a difference (in a good way).
- Alice - Madness Returns (PC): I hear we may get a 3rd installment - here’s hoping!
- Magic the Gathering 2014 (PC): My first introduction to Magic the Gathering. I still play with far-away friends regularly.
- Minecraft (PC): Perfect when it was just a building game but I logged in a while ago and starved to death. Not fun anymore.
- Metal Gear Solid (PS1): Snaaaaaake!
- Half Life 2 (PC): What the hell was that ending about?
- Bioshock (X360): Great atmosphere, great start to the series.
- Fallout 3 (PC): Oblivion, many years later.
- Animal Crossing - DS: Cute game with no ending - just keep helping your neighbours and paying your mortgage.
- Tomb Raider - 2013 (PC): One of the instances where the reboot is more fun than the original.
- Rift (PC): Has to be here - way too many hours in it and still playing.
- The Walking Dead - Telltale (PC): Story driven games don’t usually affect me, but this one made me cry at the end.
- Machinarium (PC): Delightful point and click puzzle game with the sweetest characters.
- Silent Hill (PS1): So much atmosphere. Played this before online hints were everywhere and nobody I knew played video games - I had to figure EVERYTHING out myself.
- Resident Evil 6 (PC): This wasn’t all that well received but I liked this it. Memorable for the loading screen logo which, as my co op partner pointed out, looks like someone fellating a giraffe. Can’t unsee that.
- Chronicles of Riddick (Xbox): Way better than the movie!
- Dead Rising (X360): Making weapons out of anything and killing hoards of zombies in ridiculous outfits - who cares about the story!
- Spy Hunter (PS2): chickens!
- Prince of Persia - Sands of Time (PS2): Still one of the best mechanics to restart after you die.
- Pyschonauts (PS2): So much fun except for the meat circus.
- Indigo Prophecy (Xbox): Great game kinda ruined by the last quarter.
- Einhander (PS1): My favourite shooter of all time.
- Hot Shots Golf (PS1): Where I learned why you need more than one club.
- Spyro the Dragon (PS1): Loving games like this when you are an adult is kind of embarrassing. But look, cute dragons!
- Portal 2 (PC): Such great commentary. Worth a replay just for that alone.
- Deus Ex - Invisible War (PC): Everyone had the highest of hopes. There wasn’t a chance it could live up to that.
- Resident Evil (PS1): It’s the first one. It has to be here.
- Dead Island (PC):** Silly zombie killing madness, fun to play co op.**
- Borderlands (PC): Funny dialogue, great for co op.
- Candy Crush (Android): Sadly, too many hours on this to leave it off.
- Far Cry 3 (PC): Never finished solo, but a great co op game.
- Planescape Torment (PC): I know this is beloved by all, but it just an ok game for me. I only included it because I’ve reinstalled it so many times to try to figure out why people think its so great.
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega): Spinney legs and rings, what’s not to love.
- Devil May Cry (PS2): Button masher with the corniest story.
- Amnesia (PC): Damn, this game made me tense. Why do we play games that make us feel life that?
- Dark Souls (PC): YOU DIED
- Eternal Darkness (GC): Best “made you jump” ever.
- Dino Crisis (PS1): Dinosaurs!
- Bioshock Infinite (PC): uhh… I’ve run out… I don’t know how you managed all of them Gordon_Cameron!
- Dying Light (PC)
- Civilization II (PC)
- The Room (PC)
- Fallout 4 (PC)
- Viva Piñata (Xbox)
- Dishonored (PC)
- God of War (PS2)
- Star Wars KOTOR (PS2)
- Alan Wake (PC)
- Perfect Dark (N64)
- Goldeneye (N64)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC)
- Resident Evil 5 (PC)
- Left for Dead (PC)
- Zelda - A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
- **Resident Evil Nemesis (PS1) **
- Grim Fandango (PC)
- Harvest Moon (PS2)
- Super Mario World (SNES)
- Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim (PC)
- F.E.A.R 3 (PC)
- Dead Space 3 (PC)
- Okami (PS2)
- Legend of Zelda - Links Awakening (GB)
- Beyond Good and Evil (Xbox)
- Tomb Raider (PS1)
- Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
- Ape Escape (PS1)
- Limbo (PC)
- Don’t Starve
- Metroid (NES)
- Parasite Eve (PS1)
- Res (PS1)
- Kingdom of Amalur (PC)
- Balders Gate - Dark Alliance (PS2)
- Ecco the Dolphin (Sega)
- Morrowind (PC)
- Divinity (PC)
- Tekken (PS1)
- Lord of the Rings Online (PC)
- Metro (PC)
Awesome, thanks for the list!
Whoa they made a game of this? Oh hi Mark!
I started my list the last time this thread was bumped, but lost interest. @divedivedive’s challenge in the introduction thread inspired me to finish it over the weekend. I wrote comments for each entry. Comments riddled with typos, inaccuracies, and run-on sentences I’m sure, but comments none the less. Mostly, I’m into strategy games and RPGs, but also enjoy platformers, sports games, and am always down for weird indie titles. I like board games too—the dry German ones mostly—but that’s a different topic.
- Civilization series [PC] – I guess I would lean IV if I must, but V had some nice quality of life improvements and I spent untold hours with II as a kid. I have not quite embraced VI, but I recall being slow to take to IV and V too.
- Out of the Park Baseball series [PC] – I can lose myself absolutely in this series. The customization options are what do it for me.
- XCOM series [PC] – The original had a horror element that the reboots don’t, or at least not to the same degree, but there’s no way I’m going back to the original now. The strategic layer in the new ones is so much more manageable and interesting, though I wish they would go with a hex grid for the tactical bits.
- Imperialism II [PC] – I love how board gamey it is. Maybe the best designed video game I’ve ever played—every system fits so neatly together. It’s still functional after all these years, with crisp 2D graphics, a sensible UI, and a fierce AI.
- Deus Ex [PC] – So here’s the thing. Deus Ex was a landmark game for me (cliché, I know). It changed my perspective for what I wanted from games, especially ones with a narrative and a quasi-open world. Trouble is, I have not played Deus Ex in years and have little faith that it has aged well. Until that replay, it sits at five.
- VVVVVV [PC] – Perfect mix of insane difficulty and joyous gameplay that keeps me smiling no matter how many times I die—and my deaths are frequent. I come back to it about once a year.
- Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines [PC] – Sure, it goes off the rails at times, but it does so many things so well I forgive it. The haunted hotel is probably the best level / quest I have ever played; tellingly, it did not have any combat.
- Super Smash Bros. series [Nintendo] – I love the simplicity of Smash Bros., from its sumo-esque combat to its control scheme. In fact, I wish more fighting games would take up a standardized control scheme for all characters. Instead of having to memorize combos for each fighter, you pretty much know all the moves for everyone immediately. The GameCube version is the one I spent the most time with and its character roster feels more balanced than the Wii version (no cheesy metal knight). Anxiously awaiting the Switch version.
- Sid Meier’s Pirates! [PC] – The remake. Nothing quite like sailing around a cartoony Caribbean as a pirate, or trader, or privateer. Big world to explore, lots to do, fun mini-games (I liked the dancing just fine, thank you very much).
- The Witcher 3 [PC] – Not sure what to say about this one. Massive open-world, good writing and characters, memorable set pieces. It’s great, but then everyone already knows that.
- Mario Kart series [Nintendo] – I have more fond memories with multiplayer on the N64 (which had some killer tracks) and GameCube versions, but might have spent most of my time with the series on the DS. These days, I’m loving the Switch version, even if I’m not too keen on seeing some of the newer characters zooming around tracks with Mario and Luigi.
- Desert Golfing [iPhone] – Minimalistic golf game. No menus, no high scores, no fail screen. . . just golfing through the jagged peaks and valleys of the endless desert.
- Super Mario Odyssey [Switch] – Some levels feel underdeveloped and I question the placement of the fabulous New Donk City in the middle of the game (nowhere to go but down from there), but otherwise it is among the most fun I’ve had playing a game in ages.
- Rez HD [Xbox 360] – Missed it on the Dreamcast but found the HD remake on the 360 to be stunning.
- Tennis Elbow [PC] – Indie tennis game that feels like actual tennis with a career mode that follows the real ATP and WTA tours. Badly in need of a sequel, but easily modable.
- Audiosurf [PC] – Music-based game centered around collecting blocks (or avoiding them) on a procedurally-generated track based on the song you have selected. Spent lots of hours on this, but never played the sequel.
- Super Mario World [SNES] – Yoshi was a nifty addition and the game world felt massive to me (still does). I played it a few years back and it’s still wonderful.
- Race 07 [PC] – Long-in-the-tooth racing game that I have not found a suitable replacement for.
- Tetris [PC] – The most agreeable game ever made, but while normally that would be something of an insult, in Tetris’ case it’s because it’s basically perfect.
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild [Switch] – I cannot believe I like a Zelda game this much. I dislike the way level-scaling works in it and generally think there are too many enemies roaming about. So, yes, it has serious some flaws, but I’ve had so much fun simply being in its world. From mundane stuff like fishing and hiking mountains, to the fantastical like shooting a massive, dragon’s horn to get shards to upgrade my armor.
- Mario 64 [DS] – It gave a greater sense of exploration than any Mario game I had played prior or since. I loved roaming the castle for new paintings and secrets and it was all as charming as ever. The DS version is what really made me fall in love with it.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura [PC] – It took me years to get into this game, but the stellar worldbuilding made it worth the effort. Like Deus Ex, I’m docking it a few positions because I’m not sure how well it holds up. I last played it about five years back and I doubt a slightly older me can tolerate it these days.
- Pokémon: LeafGreen [Gameboy Advance] – Catching Pokémon must be one of the most influential game mechanics of the last 20 years. Maybe the Gold/Silver remake is better, but that one might be too long. If I’m replaying a Pokémon game, it’s going to be this one, which is much tighter is focus. The story is mercifully light, but it captures that exhilarating feeling of striking out on your own as a teen away from your parents and exploring a wide world of caverns, ghost towers, dilapidated power plants, and safari parks.
- Murder Dog IV: Trial of the Murder Dog [PC] – You play as the Murder Dog—the “terror of the bourgeois state”—standing trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity in a simple point-and-click adventure game with multiple endings. The writing is cheeky and superb.
- Tecmo Bowl [NES] / Tecmo Super Bowl [SNES] – I have better memories of playing Tecmo Bowl (the original with only 12 teams, super short quarters, and where if you threw a pass into coverage it was almost always intercepted) for the NES multiplayer than any other edition, but I recognize the SNES version is more polished and is the one I would most want to play right now.
- Final Fantasy Tactics [PS1] – I used to like this one more back in the day but replaying it a few years ago revealed some glaring flaws, most notably the fact that the story battles did not scale to level and were therefore processional in nature (excepting that super-annoying one where you must protect someone who immediately runs into the fray). That said, the systems are great fun to play around with, mixing and matching skills from different classes.
- Heroes of Might and Magic III [PC] – The doom stacks can be a problem and the AI can’t handle certain victory conditions, but I’ve probably logged hundreds of hours with it and find it holds up okay as of a few years ago.
- College Hoops 2K8 [Xbox 360] – 2K Sports’ evergreen basketball gameplay at the college level. Its soundtrack of underground hip hop and roster of 100s of teams made it connect to me more than any of their NBA games did.
- The Curious Expedition [PC] – Exploration-centric rogue-like. Push-your-luck while managing sanity and supplies. Great in short bursts.
- Massive Chalice [PC] – Turn-based tactical combat with a strategic layer involving breeding generations of future soldiers. I think it lasts maybe 50 years (in game time) too long, but there are enough variations of the items and the enemies to keep me engaged through most of it.
- Space Funeral [PC] – JRPG deconstruction. Intentionally ugly art, overly-easy gameplay (a commentary on the genre I reckon), adept worldbuilding, and a great soundtrack give it a winning aesthetic that more than justifies spending the hour or two it takes to beat it.
- Bandit Kings of Ancient China [NES] – Had great fun rolling for your main hero and recruiting others to your cause, hunting bears, building up your province and military, slowly expanding until you can take out the evil Gao Qiu (heaven knows that weak-ass emperor is not up to the challenge). Probably had the best KOEI soundtrack too, but I remember all of them had some top-rate 8-bit bangers.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II [PC] – Same gameplay as the first, but with better characters and a less generic story whose beats I actually remember (I mean the first had that twist, but what else?).
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series [PS2] – Lots of people go for 2, but 3 had improved graphics, controls, and, frankly, better skate zones than 2 (suburbia, the airport, the cruise ship, must I go on?). I’m dumbfounded as to how this series got so bad with its new iterations.
- Fire Emblem: Awakening [3DS] – Supplanted Path of Radiance as my favorite Fire Emblem, despite its silly story involving time traveling future children. There’s a subdued elegance to the Fire Emblem series’ design. It is pure math that is easily understood (damage = atk - def, double attack if spd difference is 5 or greater) so nothing is obscured from your decision-making process.
- Victoria II [PC] – The best Paradox game. It seems you have less control, but that’s the point: managing mass politics to balance your citizen’s desires with your vision for your nation state.
- Alpha Protocol [PC] – Deeply flawed spy-themed RPG with choices that seem to have actual consequences on how your story plays out. I love hearing about how differently other people’s games played out from mine.
- Persona 4 [PS2] – I never thought I could like a JRPG again, but this one proved me wrong. I hated its anime tendencies, but I found something enthralling about a Japanese high school student simulator where you balance your school and social life with fighting monsters and unraveling a mystery on the side.
- l’Abbaye des Morts [PC] – Platforming throwback recalling games on a system I never owned, less you think it’s here via mere nostalgia. Unique setting (you play a Cathar monk hiding out in a cursed abbey from the Inquisition) and tight controls make it a favorite.
- Nobunaga’s Ambition [SNES] – Japanese daimyo strategy game. The combat was simple but effective—turn-based on a hex grid with different unit types. It saddened me to learn that the newer version of the game abandoned this in favor of real-time combat, which I’m sure invites negative comparisons to Total War: Shogun 2.
- Katamari Damacy [PS2] – I love how Zen Buddhism (or is it nihilism?) informs the game design. Has maybe my favorite video game story ever: your father, the King of the Universe, goes on a bender and loses all the stars from the night sky and tasks you with replacing them.
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl [PC] – It made me feel like I was inhabiting an actual world rather than levels of a video game. Yes, it was brutal, but it fit the aesthetic of the game so well. In my mind, it’s the most punishing, oppressive game there is. I’ve played more difficult games—at least I could beat this one—but the atmosphere coupled with the gameplay challenges puts it over the top.
- Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim [PC] – Despite my preferring certain aspects of Oblivion, Skyrim’s got too many other improvements to not list it as my favorite Elder Scrolls game.
- Mass Effect 2 [PC] – My favorite of the series, with the most interesting cast of characters and the best quest progression and level designs. The suicide mission thing was kind of dumb—not a single person died on mine—but then the Mass Effect series never could stick its landing.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 [PC] – My go-to D&D game largely since it uses the 3.5 edition rules rather than the janky second edition of the Infinity Engine days.
- Darkest Dungeon [PC] – It overstays its welcome after 20 hours or so, but what hours those are!
- NBA Jam [SNES/Genesis] – For the iconic announcer phrases and tight gameplay.
- Valkyria Chronicles [PC] – A turn-based tactics game where you activate a unit and then move them in real-time wherein the game becomes more of third-person shooter. The story is awful, which is fine—it’s a video game and to be expected—until its silly superpowered magic girls start crashing the actual gameplay and I lose interest. Up until then, it is awesome and innovative.
- Minecraft [PC] – I don’t know that I will ever go back to it but playing this in the early days was quite the experience.
- Advance Wars: Dual Strike [DS] – Until Awakening, I gave this long-abandoned series’ best moment the edge over its favored sibling Fire Emblem, I suppose because I prefer strategy games to JRPGs. I still might prefer it to Awakening, but I haven’t played it in so long and Awakening is so good that I assume not.
- EverQuest [PC] – This is the only MMORPG I ever got into. I don’t think I could stomach its grind now, but it gave me some fantastic gaming memories.
- Mini-Metro [PC] – Hectic as it gets, this is one of my favorite ‘chill-out’ games. I adore its score and minimalist art design.
- Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion [PC] – My first Elder Scrolls game, so it has a special place in my heart. I prefer the more generic setting to Skyrim’s since it had more variety. It had more memorable side-quests too and the magic system in Oblivion is way better than Skyrim’s. However, the Oblivion Gates were repetitive and harder to avoid than Skyrim’s dragons.
- Virtua Tennis series [various] – It never had the most robust career mode or the most reasonable player roster, but it’s actual gameplay was pure arcade bliss. I reckon 4 on the Xbox 360 was my favorite of the series, but I played the PS2 one constantly.
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance [Gamecube] – Something about the level design makes this Fire Emblem standout from most of the rest, even if the main character becomes too godlike toward the endgame.
- Uncharted Waters [NES] – I enjoyed reading about Age of Sail explorers when I was a kid, so imagine how psyched I was to learn that my father had a game that let me pretend to be Vasco da Gama.
- Oxenfree [PC] – Charming ghost-adventure game with believable dialogue and lots of choices. I play it around every Halloween since it gets ghost stories so right.
- Realistic Summer Sports Simulator [PC] – The best party game.
- Galactic Civilizations II [PC] – Space 4x. Always seemed very balanced across the board to me, but I maybe I just suck at it.
- Disgaea 5 [Switch] – Bonkers tactical JRPG. Over-the-top story and characters (but in a good, self-aware way), the ability to grind near infinitely (I think level 9999 is the max, not that I’ll ever get there), with a deep-as-you-want-it-to-be combat system. I dislike some of the character animations (the cutesy, half-naked anime girls), but if a game does 100 different things, it’s going to have some flaws.
- The Sims [PC] – Another game where I assume the sequels improved upon the original, but I never got around to them, but this one was life-consuming on release (and for years after).
- Plants vs. Zombies [iPhone] –Tall-Nut is my favorite, stoically sacrificing itself so that its squishy brethren might live.
- Madden NFL series [PS2] – This is for the games from the PS2 generation. 2004 added the expanded franchise mode and had the game-breaking Michael Vick with the ability to control his lead blockers as he ran (which is fun, but not sporting). But, I have better memories playing 2003 against my friends and brother and it felt more balanced, so it’s probably my favorite.
- Links 2004 [PC] – I mean, it’s just golf but Links did golf so well.
- Night in the Woods [PC] – A college-dropout returns home to her economically distressed mining town. While she’s stuck in a prolonged adolescence, all her old friends are growing up and soon to leave her behind, her hometown is on the brink of collapse, there’s a possible murderer running amok, and her parents are about to lose their house in part because they took out a predatory mortgage to finance that education she pissed away. All the characters are animals, so it’s super cute ya’ll (I suppose “yinz” would be more setting appropriate).
- Europa Universalis III [PC] – I have several objections to this game’s take on history, but I still played 100s of hours of it and prefer III to the feature-creep nightmare (and even more problematic take on history) that is EUIV.
- SimCity 2000 [PC] – Like the first game, with expanded options. Better than the sequels, because it knew when to stop adding stuff.
- Age of Empires II: Age of Kings [PC] – My favorite RTS, featuring lots of factions with unique units and play styles.
- FreeCell [PC] – How many hours have I whittled away playing this I wonder?
- World Soccer Winning Eleven series [PS2] – Like with Madden, this is for the entire Winning Eleven series during the PS2 generation. The gameplay was fluid to the point of near perfection. I wish more sports games would embrace Winning Eleven’s concept of players developing at different rates during career mode. In Winning Eleven, some players peak early but decline quickly as they age, others develop slowly but improve well into their 30s. I do not know if I’ve ever seen this mechanic used anywhere else.
- Rome: Total War [PC] – I played this one more than any of the series. I’ve enjoyed some of the others, but none of them ever stuck with me like Rome.
- Peggle [iPhone] – Aiming marbles and watching what happened when I shot it was an oddly satisfying experiencing that I have a hard time putting into words, though I’m sure my fellow Peggle PhDs understand.
- Portal [PC] – Great puzzler with the famous gravity gun. Assumed the sequel was more of the same and never got around to it.
- Dragon Age: Origins [PC] – The first and still my favorite of the Dragon Age series. I don’t have much to add other than note how awful its romance minigame was.
- Sid Meier’s SimGolf [PC] – Featured an interesting balancing mechanic where you had to create an interesting, challenging course without making it too difficult because your members would become frustrated and leave your club if you did.
- Unreal Tournament 2004 [PC] – Loved its crazy weapon arsenal (link gun 4ever) and fun map selection.
- Grand Theft Auto 3 [PS2] – The freedom blew my mind back in the day. I should probably get around to playing 5.
- Masq [PC] – Early choose-your-own adventure narrative game where you’re a fashion designer who gets framed for your partner’s murder. Seem to recall it being a big deal back in the day and I had never played anything like it before, though something in its genre must have eclipsed it by now.
- Solium Infernum [PC] – A game I like more than I’ve been able to play. Multiplayer is the way to go, but I’ve never been huge on PBEM. That said, when I have managed to finish a multiplayer game, it’s always been sublime. Inviting a host of angels to rampage across the board is probably my favorite dick move in all of gaming. But what I would really like is a stream-lined board game adaptation.
- Donkey Kong Country [SNES] – Donkey Kong is one of my favorite Nintendo characters. Not quite on par with Super Mario World, but DK Country has an edge when it comes to score and water levels. It still looks great visually.
- Quadriga [PC] – Tense turn-based chariot racing management game.
- Super Hexagon [iPhone] – Quick playing, tactile action game that has you avoiding bars by moving a triangle in a circular motion around a hexagon.
- Jamestown [PC] – Ludicrous bullet-hell set in colonial times, except Jamestown is a British colony on Mars rather than in Virginia, and you must protect it from the Spanish as well as assorted Martian creatures.
- Mario Tennis [N64] – Had many great times playing this one with my family. Boo and his dominating serve on a grass court was my go-to.
- Roller Coaster Tycoon [PC] – I liked roller coasters as a kid and being able to play a SimCity game where I got to design them was like a dream come true.
- The Binding of Isaac [PC] – Love how grotesque it is. Can’t play it after eating though.
- The Witcher 2 [PC] –This was very impressive before Witcher 3 came out and eclipsed it, especially considering how lukewarm the first game left me.
- Counter-Strike Source [PC] – Great level design. I only wish I were better at it.
- King’s Bounty: The Legend [PC] – HOMM-like, but with you acting as a hero rather than a ruler. Great until you run out of units to replenish your forces and must start grinding and waiting around for a new month.
- Inside a Star-filled Sky [PC]– I have a conceptual interest in infinite art projects, so this retro-action game hits a sweet spot for me.
- Hotline Miami [PC] – Hyper-violent action puzzle game.
- Ikaruga [Xbox 360] – Hard, bullet-hell from Treasure with a color-swapping gimmick. Can be great fun with a partner, assuming your skill levels are comparable.
- Castlevania Symphony of the Night [PC] – I’d rather play as a whip-happy Belmont than the son of Dracula, but Symphony’s level design is more interesting than the other Castlevania’s.
- Braid [PC] – Satisfying puzzle-platformer with a time rewind mechanic.
- Vangers [PC] – The less you know about Vangers going in the better. It’s kind of a driving game, but also, it kind of isn’t and classifying it as such does a disservice to how weird it is.
- Battle for Wesnoth [PC] – Free PC tactics game. It’s mostly good, but eventually runs into a problem of scale in most campaigns where I’m managing far too many individual units for my taste.
- Bushido Blade [PS1] – Sword fighting game with one-hit kills. Fun, Fast, and brutal.
- Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale [PC] – Worth a slot here for the concept alone—you manage an item shop in an RPG, with heroes coming in to buy and sell goods before embarking on an adventure. I was bummed by its required dungeon-crawling bits (going on your own adventures is a betrayal of the celebration of the mundane at the game’s heart), but the gameplay in those segments is solid so I can’t complain too much.
- Tempest [Arcade] – My favorite classic arcade game. I’m sure the Jeff Minter redesigns are better, but I don’t think I’ve ever owned the right console for them.
- Half-Life [PC] – Great level-design. I mostly remember the elevator part with the face huggers in pursuit. I doubt it holds up too well though. Unfortunately, I never finished the sequel. One of my top video game shames up there with not playing BioShock.
Even though you have Sid Meier’s Sim Golf too low, I love this list, Dissensus. Some real deep cuts here (l’Abbaye des Morts!). As is my tradition, I have to ask about a game I have never heard of before: Bandit Kings of Ancient China.
I played Nobunaga on the NES. How is Bandit Kings similar/different? Is it the same basic engine that they used for NA and Romance?
Bandit Kings is like Nobunaga’s Ambition in many respects (my memories of Romance are hazy, so I won’t comment on it). I’m almost positive it’s the same engine. Like NA, you develop your province by training/recruiting troops, improving your fields and towns, stuff like that. The combat is also pretty much the same, with the exception that you can have more units in a battle (up to 20 I think) and each is controlled by a different named hero character. Two things set it apart. First, the heroes. During your turn, you have the option to try and recruit a hero to your cause, they join depending on how strong your provinces are (better characters require you be stronger). You must have a hero to lead a unit in battle and to manage your other provinces, so they’re important. Second, it’s basically a co-op game. You and the other players are trying to free the emperor from the influence of an evil minister, who is the de facto ruler of China. All the imperial provinces are in the center of the map, and the PCs start in provinces on the edges. You can fight each other, but that’s usually counter-productive (certain regions can get cramped though). The minister’s armies are strong with some of the best heroes, so it helps to have other players attacking different flanks.
Edit: The combat in Bandit Kings is probably deeper. I’m thinking that terrain has much more of an effect than in the other Koei games. For example, your hero has to have a certain skill to cross rivers successfully (otherwise the current can move them farther than you want) and you can set fires in forests to burn the enemy or create a buffer between you and them.
A lot of those Koei games have a gimmick that distinguish themselves from each other, and Bandit Kings’ was the concept of uniting the bandits to kick the evil guy’s ass, like @Dissensus said. Sort of the concept that may have inspired Microprose’s Colonization.
Kick ass post, Dissensus. You’ve got a bunch of stuff that I already recognize as classics in there, plus some that I know but haven’t really played, and then a couple I’ve never heard of. Nice mix.
Makes me want to seek out a copy of the DS version, which I never played. I had it on N64 way back in the day, but never beat it. I tended to just wander around and look at stuff, I remember how blown away I was by early 3D games like this and Tomb Raider.
I like your write up here, it’s almost more interesting to me to hear defenses of flawed games. It’s easy to love something like The Witcher 3 or The Last of Us or whatever. It’s the games that strive so hard and almost make it that seem to have a little more personality to me.
Been meaning to pick this one up for a while, need to bump this one up the list.
Anyway, nice one! Thanks for sharing your list, I mean it when I say each one is a revelation.
Thank you for ranking Massive Chalice ahead of Darkest Dungeon.
I can’t think of 100 games I’ve played after limiting most series to just one entry. Obviously I included some where they were either important experiences to me or the series changed substantially. So here is today’s list:
- The Blackwell Series
a. The Blackwell Epiphany
b. Blackwell Convergence
c. Blackwell Unbound
d. The Blackwell Legacy
e. Blackwell Deception
- Deus Ex
- Alpha Protocol
- Fallout 3
- Civilization IV
- No One Lives Forever: A Spy in HARM’s Way
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- Betrayal at Krondor
- World of Warcraft (original release)
- XCOM 2
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- Alpha Centauri
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Medieval: Total War
- Caesar III
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- Baldur’s Gate
- Heroes of Might & Magic 2
- Planescape: Torment
- Railroad Tycoon 3
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
- The Sims 3
- Sim City 4
- Might & Magic 7
- Panzer General
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Crusader Kings 2
- The Marvelous Miss Take
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Port Royale 2
- Batman: Arkham City
- Evil Genius
- Battlezone (arcade)
- The Witcher
- Conquest of the New World
- Warcraft 3
- Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures
- Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego (Apple IIe)
- Taipan (Apple IIe)
- The Stanley Parable
- Spy Hunter (arcade)
- Papers, Please
- Robotron 2084 (arcade)
- Missle Command (arcade)
- Dragon Age: Origins
- Cossacks (the first one)
- Karateka (Apple IIe)
- Ancient Art of War (Macintosh)
- Euro Truck Simulator 2
- Ladybug (Coco 2)
- Beneath a Steel Sky
- Tradewinds 2 (Android)
- Combat (Atari)
- Pitfall (Atari)
- Doom (1993)
- Angry Birds (Android)
- Republic: The Revolution
- A Raven Monologue
- Defender (arcade)
- Lure of the Temptress
I’d be ok with a top 67 personally, to me it’s just good that people post the games that shaped their lives. Actually if we want to roll that whole “four games that made you” game into this thread too, whatever gets people sharing I’m all for it.
Now then: wow, you really dig the Blackwell games! Which is cool, I’m a fan too, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know if they’d even crack my top ten point and click games list. Can you elaborate on why you like them so much?
I went back and read my list, it needs severe changes. Sometime this year.
Half the things on there make me think I was on something illegal. Needs fixing.
Hey, Shimarenda, great list. (I mean, I bounced hard off Deus Ex, but I can definitely get the appeal if it works for you!) I love that you have Taipan on your list!
Also fascinated by this:
I have had this game in my backlog for a long time, and always loved the look of it. Why should I play it?
Wallace and Gromit have a video game? When did this happen? Why was I not informed?
Very good call. I was just saying the other day in another thread how this was the most reliable game for me whenever I went to the arcade.
By the way, I love the mix of old and new on your list. Having Fallout 3 up there so high, and then also having HOMM2 (the best of the series!) so high. And NOLF. And then also XCOM2, which just came out.
This one is perplexing though. This is your favorite space sim? One that you control with mouse and keyboard. I’m sorry, we can’t be friends anymore.
It’s Telltale, and pretty good! I was going to say I think you can still get it, but looks like I am wrong -