Next to last post until this list is wrapped up. Well, at least until I get to the spinoff lists, but I’ll sit on that one for a while. As usual, get to the rest of the blog posts in the series by clicking the Top 300 Games tag. I should note that at this point in the list, it’s extremely difficult to differentiate between games and make up my mind about whether or not one of them should be ahead of another.
20: Thief 2: The Metal Age (PC) – Garrett, the ultimate gaming antihero, returns in this, the best sneak ‘em up of all time. Karras is a really creepy bad guy and on the way to the end you go through the most inspiring levels I’ve ever seen in a sneak ‘em up. Every single level is fantastic; the first warm-up mansion, the harbor, the bank, fleeing from your house, getting to know the mechanists and then the pagans, etc. It’s all set up so well.
19: Mega Man 3 (NES) – Among a lot of Mega Man fans, there’s a divide between those who regard MM3 as the best in the series and then you have those who give that honor to MM2. I’m one of the latter, but holy shit is MM3 close. I still remember firing it up for the first time and trying out Gemini Man because he seemed to be the coolest boss on the startup screen. Rush joined the gang and was a good addition. Facing the MM2 bosses was also an interesting curve ball.
18: Half-Life (PC) – Even though the first game is missing the gravity gun, the impact of playing it hit me more than playing the sequel. I still remember battling headcrabbed scientists, trying to get to the surface of the Black Mesa research center and then there are soldiers there and they … shoot at ME! It was such a cruel twist. People like to rag on the game for the Xen levels at the end, but I didn’t have any problems with them. The expansions are interesting too, especially Blue Shift. I’m still waiting for the mod called Black Mesa, which is a conversion of the entire Half-Life game to the Source engine used in Half-Life 2.
17: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC) – When I first played this game, I thought it was much more mature than anything I’d ever played. I think I’ve played through it four or five times and I still love the narrative and detail, but most of all I love the perfect action. The TV shows you can catch throughout the game are complete genius. I thought I would be annoyed by the change in Max’s appearance since the first game, but it actually worked really well. The romance with Mona Sax was perfect and the environments, the city of New York, it’s still like one of the characters in the game. I’m dreading the release of Max Payne 3, because it seems the new developers have dropped all the good aspects of the first two games.
16: Mass Effect (Xbox 360) – I fairly recently replayed this one, because I had only played it once and I wanted a second character to import into Mass Effect 2, one that was the complete opposite of my first character. My first character was a male good guy who had a romantic relationship with the soldier Ashley Williams. I saved the council at the end because I’m such a philanthropist. My second character was a female, evil, lesbian asshole who didn’t give a shit about the council and also saved that almost extinct murderous insect race. I figured that I will play through ME2 at least twice, so why not make it interesting? Mass Effect has its flaws, to be sure, but it’s the general impression that’s so lasting and thorough. Even though the battles can be a bit stilted, that’s easily overshadowed by the fantastic cinematic feel of the entire game. The inventory sucks? Fuck it, just sell everything. I love the whole story and the world just pulls you in. I also read the two books and they put some of the things in the game in wonderful perspective.
15: Final Fantasy VI Advance (Gameboy Advance) – This is a game that could just as easily be in the top three as in spot #15. One of the greatest RPGs ever and I’m actually glad that I didn’t get to play this one properly until I was a grown-up. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated it as much in my early teens. Kefka is the most evil bad guy ever and the whole ensemble of heroes is fleshed out A LOT. The storytelling in this game pulls no punches even though it’s just a 16 bit game. You care about those small sprites. I’ve been thinking about who are my favorites, but the longer I got into the game, the more I got to know each character and the harder it was to pick a favorite. Still, Celes and Locke has a special place in my heart. And Terra of course… and Cyan! See, it’s impossible to pick just one or two! And we can’t mention this game without bringing up Nobuo Uematsu’s excellent music. Quite possibly the best game soundtrack ever in my opinion.
14: Fallout 3 (Xbox 360) – The expectations I had for this game were so high, I don’t think I’d ever had them that high for anything. Apart from a few small details, this game lived up to them and was a slam dunk and a home run at the same time. What I missed the most was the witty writing from the first two games. The action was awesome, the blend between turn-based and real-time battles was perfect, atmosphere and settings were great, and the list goes on. At this time I haven’t even touched the five DLC episodes, but that’s coming and with them, this one might rise.
13: Duke Nukem 3D (PC) – I think you could say pretty safely that this game is what got me so heavily into the FPS genre and it also got me to appreciate the fun of multiplayer. You see, when a bunch of other people were praising Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64, saying how awesome it was in slow four player split screen multiplayer with worthless controls and boring, bland settings, I was playing with eight others, each of us on our own screen, killing each other in colorful and detailed settings at a fast pace and with incredibly fun weapons. This game had it all and I replayed the single player part of the game last year on XBLA for the 360. With the news that Duke is finally coming back, I don’t really care how good or bad that game is. This one is the grandfather of FPS games for me and it still holds up today.
12: Counter-Strike (PC) – I could have included this with the Half-Life spot, but I’ve spent so much time playing this that I view it as an entirely separate experience. Counter-Strike. CS. I guess I’m referring to the old-school version here and not the one that was released along with Half-Life 2, with the upgraded Source engine. At first when I started playing this I didn’t really like the constant interruptions of new rounds and I didn’t like that I could only carry one rifle and one pistol. That you ran faster when holding the knife was so ridiculous that I didn’t even know where to begin. But then I started liking it and I got really good at it. I didn’t play with a clan or anything like that, but I played consistently with the same people at a few servers, so we got to know each other pretty well and could play together as a team. I was pretty good with most weapons, so it wasn’t like I went AWP sniper rifle all the time, although that was pretty fun. I liked to vary my play style to keep the opponents on their toes. My favorite map was cs_office because I always dominated that one by listening to the enemies while sneaking around the corridors.
11: Quake 2 (PC) – Quake 2 is the game I was probably the best at at one point. I knew for a fact that I was among the top 30 in Sweden when it came to free for all deathmatch. Several different server stats made that a sure thing. I was simply good at the game and even though I didn’t work on becoming better, the insane amounts of time I spent on the game probably helped make me even better. When we played local multiplayer I could take on everyone else at the LAN, 8-10 people, in CTF and still come out on top. A friend of mine was the same when it came to StarCraft, but Quake 2 was MY game. Online, I liked to play the regular DM maps, but there was a special server that ran only one map over and over. It was a secret map in the single player part of the game and it was called Space. What made this map special was that the gravity was very low, so when you jumped, you flew across the big rooms and this made it a wonderful place to use the railgun, my favorite weapon in the game. I had a lot of fun on that server.
The next post will have the final top ten. After that I’ll get it up as a separate part of the blog and update it with a few games I’ve played since I started making the list.
Time for some Sunday gaming goodness, getting this list down to 21. As usual, check out the Top 300 Games tag to look at older posts. Let’s go!
30: Soul Calibur 2 (GameCube) – We used to play endless matches in SC2 and this is my favorite beat ‘em up of all time. What we did, usually we were four or five people playing together, was that we played a team game where we chose eight characters on each “side” and then we took turns playing until all eight on one side were defeated. I also plowed through the single player part of the game, which was more of a series of different challenges that you had to go through. Looking at the stats, I played about 1200 games with the character Yunsung. Link was a bit overpowered because he was the only one with long distance weapons, but if you just sidestepped, that was all taken care of. The extremely buxom girls in the game were… well, they had extremely large and bouncy boobs, so much so that it just became comical more than anything else. They’ve only gotten bigger in every sequel since then.
29: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC) – Whenever I think about this game, I think about atmosphere and a beautiful world to play in. The story is okay and the side quests are really good at times, but what kept me playing was the world I was playing in. It got me hooked from minute one with the beautiful music and the beautiful setting. Beautiful is really getting a lot of mileage here, but the game is truly beautiful in almost every single way. The only not-so-great part of it is the dialogue. The people look weird and there is a huge shortage of voice actors, so most of the people sound the same. It’s also a bit silly that in order to level up your athletics skill, you go around jumping constantly whenever you walk from one town to another. But all in all this is one of the best RPGs out there and I had so much fun with it.
28: Halo 2 (Xbox) – The game that got FPS multiplayer going on consoles. I played this two years ago or something on my Xbox 360, so I missed out on its release, but I really like the story part of the game and the time I’ve spent with it in local multiplayer has been a lot of fun too. The narrative in the single player story is interesting in how you switch between playing Master Chief and the Arbiter, giving you a better understanding of the enemy from the first game. I co-oped my way through it a couple of times and I think it’s interesting that they included a song by Breaking Benjamin at the end of the game. That felt like a gamble that, if it had paid off, we would see a lot of popular music in more games today, as opposed to just being the soundtrack in sports titles.
27: NHL 94 (SNES) – There was one pretty essential feature missing in this game that was added in later versions and that’s the season function. I promptly started playing my own season where I drew up a schedule on paper and counted goals and assists for all of my players. Most of the times I’ve played a season in the NHL games, I’ve played with the Detroit Red Wings since that’s my favorite team. Same thing here. Steve Yzerman ended up with something like 268 goals and 480 points in 84 games. As a reference for you normal people who aren’t complete hockey nuts like me, the most a player has ever scored in the real NHL is 215 points by the best player ever, Wayne Gretzky. In later years, me and my best friend have taken to playing Detroit vs Pittsburgh (his favorite team) in an endless stream of games. We’re so even and it’s a blast in every game. The games usually end up something like 9-8 to one of us.
26: Super Mario All Stars (SNES) – You can call this my cop out pick of the list because it’s a collection and I’ve been really really torn on where it should end up. We’ve pretty much all of us spent considerable amount of time with the Mario games, especially 1 and 3, but I don’t know… to me there’s something missing. I always preferred Mega Man to Super Mario back in the day if I could have my pick. Regardless, this is a collection of games that is almost second to none. SMB1 is THE video game, in my eyes the one that started it all (or restarted it all, if you started with Pong and those oldies). SMB2 is the black sheep of the family, but it’s still fun. SMB3 is one of the most impressive evolutions of a game series ever and then you have SMB The Lost Levels, which I’ve never actually finished. I will probably go back to it just to finish it one day, probably as both Mario and Luigi, but until then, it’ll have to remain that “too damn hard!” game I never managed to beat.
25: Resident Evil Remake (GameCube) – As good as RE4 and 5 are, they don’t hold a candle to the original game. It was the first game I got for the GameCube and today it’s the only one I haven’t wanted to sell. It is beautiful and sooooo damn creepy with atmosphere so thick you can slice through it with a knife. It’s a testament to some games really benefitting from remakes and it makes you think about how other games could be remade.
24: NHL 10 (Xbox 360) – At the time of writing this, it is four days until NHL 11 is released here in Sweden. I’m getting it on release and I’m trading in this sucker. Since I got it, I’ve played countless games, most of them online. It is THE hockey game to play and I hope that the next one takes it a step further. My friends and I have had endless fun playing together in the couch against random people on Xbox Live. The Be a Pro feature was fun at first but it didn’t hold up for long, especially when you started playing online. The center Thomas Johansson with the jersey number 36 was drafted by the Washington Capitals and quickly rose through the ranks, won the rookie of the year trophy and all that jazz. Then I stopped playing and forgot about that feature as soon as online matches caught my eye and I never looked back. At the end of summer my nephew was trashtalking about how he could beat me and I told him that he had no chance whatsoever. Finally we sat down and 12 straight wins (with a combined score of 80-23 or something like that) for me later, he wasn’t so cocky anymore. That was fun.
23: Half-Life 2 (PC) – I feel that this game is insanely overrated, much like Portal. Yeah, both are part of The Orange Box, but I felt there was such a difference between them, so I kept them as separate picks. I include in this pick, however, the “Episodes”. Writing this now, we are still waiting for Episode 3, so the story is not entirely finished, but it’s been years since Episode 2 was released, so fuck it. This game kept the narrative style from the first game and used more engaging supporting characters to tell a deeper story in HL2, for better or worse. Sure, Alyx Vance is a good female game character, but all too often I felt that she was leading me by the hand every step of the way. The pacing is one of the best things about this game and that’s an underrated thing. But the real star of the show is a weapon, just like in Portal. The Gravity Gun made this game what it is. Along with a solid set of vehicles and intriguing set pieces, the story has gotten deeper and deeper for every part, ending with a heartwrenching loss at the end of Episode 2. How it all ends in Episode 3 will be very interesting.
22: The Legend of Zelda (NES) – Link’s first adventure was awesome and it was also responsible for me looking up a word in the dictionary for the first time in my then short life. There’s a cave where an old man says something about a secret and a peninsula. I was seven or eight years old English wasn’t my first language, so peninsula was pure gibberish for me. Getting it translated didn’t help in making sense of the damn clue, but I finished the game anyway. One of the all-time classics. Not a lot more to say here, actually. Just give it a go if you haven’t already.
21: Mario Kart Double Dash (GameCube) – Another couch multiplayer favorite for the GameCube. We never tried connecting several GameCubes, although with hindsight I think we should’ve given it a shot. Then again, hindsight is always 20/20 and we still had loads of fun with this game. I never fell in love with the SNES or N64 versions and the Wii and DS versions are lackluster in comparison IMO. This is it when it comes to kart action. All the tracks are a lot of fun and the side games are also a really entertaining and that’s what this is supposed to be about. Pure goddamn fun.
Now I’m down to the top 20. From now on it’s nothing but slam dunks all the way to the top.
Climbing closer to the top of the list, with this one we get down to 31, leaving us with the last tenth. No more chitchat. Check out the older posts in the blog series by clicking the Top 300 Games tag.
40: Halo 3 ODST (Xbox 360) – Bungie took the narrative of the Halo series to new and exciting places with ODST, which worked really well considering the group we followed instead of just Master Chief or the Arbiter. I loved the moody setting of ODST and it was, as is usually the case with Halo games, great fun to play in co-op. The casting of the voice actors was perfect and having a bunch of Serenity actors was a stroke of genius. The soundtrack also featured different music compared to the “regular” Halo games and that was also spot on. The downside was that it was pretty short and you couldn’t play Firefight online through matchmaking. I didn’t really play it that much locally anyway, but it was a nice addition.
39: Blade Runner (PC) – Voxels again! Well, some of it. Apparently the characters were made with voxels so they could be more detailed, or something like that. At the time of its release, it looked awesome and I think I finished it three or four times. You get different endings depending on what decisions you make and what people you talk to. This whole game is all about powerful narrative and even though you should have Blade Runner the movie in your repertoire – and that helps a lot to understand the game – it’s not needed to fully get the game. What really got to me about the game back when I first played it was also that it’s a point and click adventure, but not really. You don’t get a thousand weird inventory items and there are a bunch of other unconventional things about it, but it’s still a point and click affair. Masterfully done too, I might add.
38: Life Force (NES) – This is shoot ‘em up at its best in my opinion. The controls are perfect, the music is perfect, the feel of the game is perfect and the length of the game is just right. Add the Konami code to the mix and you have 8 bit perfection as far as spaceships go. There’s not really a lot more to say here.
37: Fallout (PC) – I remember getting the Swedish PC Gamer magazine one day and on the demo disc that came with every issue, there was a preview copy of Fallout. It was a small town that wasn’t included in the full game and you basically went in there guns blazing. I’ve shot countless guys with burst mode in the Fallout games, but I still remember that first time I shot a leather-clad punk with the SMG and he staggered for a bit while falling to pieces. It blew me away and, although I had already fallen in love with the setting and atmosphere, I was completely floored by that display of balls to the wall violence. The game may look dated today, but I still think it holds up today. The story kept you on your toes throughout the entire game and there are few games that pull off the moral gray areas of all the actors and factions.
36: Mega Man X (SNES) – The only Mega Man game I’ve really played on the SNES. I tried X3, but that felt way too muddled with peripheral stuff which took away from the core gameplay. That doesn’t hold true for X1 though, because Capcom hit the nail on the head with that one. It’s a very good balance of story, bosses, skill development and music. You can play the game from beginning to end and still miss a huge amount of extra stuff that you can get if you revisit the levels at different times. I kind of miss Dr. Wily as the villain, because Sigma feels a bit too serious for a Mega Man game.
35: Dead Space (Xbox 360) – Dead Space is the reason I got myself a surround sound system and that game alone was worth paying for it. The sound plays such a big part in this horror game and the developers have created a very living and believable world. When I played the game, I also watched the tie-in animated movie, which only built on the experience. The game stands on its own more than well enough though, so don’t think that it’s needed to watch that movie. Whenever I think of Dead Space there’s one word that pops up in my head more than any other and that word is “visceral”. You FEEL this game when you play it. You are practically right there in that world and even though most of the scares are of the cheap “BOO!” variety, the main scare factor of the game is the general atmosphere and creepy feeling of solitude.
34: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) – I didn’t have an Xbox back when this was released and at the time I was playing what I considered to be better games on the PC. You CAN’T play an FPS with a console controller, I said. Then when the PC port was released a few years later, it was fun and all, but I still didn’t see what was so groundbreaking. After that I’ve played through it again on my Xbox 360 (backwards compatibility for the win) and that time something happened. I saw how this game made it possible to play FPS games on consoles, thanks to its perfect controls. It just worked. I also started paying attention to the story, something I hadn’t done when I played the PC version, and even though it’s cliche and all, it really got me hooked.
33: Liero (PC) – The original Worms got some Finnish (I think) guy thinking “wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to play this in real-time instead of waiting your turn?” and Liero was the result. And it was awesome. My friends and I played this A LOT, sitting two people in front of one computer, because network multiplayer wasn’t possible. We came up with a version that we called Action Liero, based on the Action mods for a few FPS games. We took down the health of the worms to 10% and severely restricted the weapons. We played it so much that we were able to fly across the screen at incredible speeds and still hit our targets the majority of the time. It was like a ballet of tiny worm violence.
32: Max Payne (PC) – Yeah, yeah, he looks constantly constipated. I know. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s one of the most action-packed games ever. The comic book narrative combined with the dark voice-overs are perfect and James McCaffrey has the perfect voice. Why he wasn’t cast in the movie instead of Marky Mark Wahlberg is a complete joke. There still isn’t a game series that’s done the bullet time effect in a better way.
31: Rainbow Six Vegas (Xbox 360) – This game is some of the most fun I’ve had and the atmosphere is everywhere in this one too, both when you play solo or cooperatively. Perfect controls for a tactical shooter and even though it would be nice to have the skill point system from the sequel, I like this game more because of the environments and the story. I can’t wait for the next part in the franchise.
Well, that’s it for this post. As usual, comments are appreciated.
We’re down to the last five parts of this list. Or rather, the first part of this list. If you remember the prelude post in this series, I mentioned that I have a few other lists coming as well and that they’re related to this one. As always, check out the tag Top 300 Games to go look at the older posts in the series. Let’s get this one started!
50: Duck Tales (NES) – Capcom has produced some of the most wonderful games ever and they had such a hot streak going way back on the NES. Most people associate them with the Mega Man series and that’s all well and good, but you just can’t forget the other great games. Duck Tales is one of them and it’s my favorite Disney game. It’s one of those perfect platformers. Everything about it is fantastic, especially the music. Listen to this song and tell me it’s not awesome!
49: Mega Man (NES) – I think this was one of my first NES games and it took me several years to actually finish it. Why? Because it’s damn hard and damn unforgiving for a seven-year-old. It’s no frills Mega Man. No E tanks, no sliding, no Rush and no passwords. It’s pure Mega Man and with this concept, great things were to come… more on that later on in this list, though. Mega Man is one of those games that has stood the test of time and you can pick it up just like that today and be awestruck by the pixel perfection and awesome music. The Mega Man series has the best platform controls ever in any game.
48: MechWarrior 3 (PC) – Now we’re talking the best MechWarrior game that I’ve ever played. This is, in my opinion, the epitome of what a BattleTech game should be. The Mechs feel heavy to control, not as arcadey as in MechWarrior Vengeance, and the story is about kicking the clans’ asses, which has always been the best storyline in the BattleTech universe. It also follows the proper rules for building mechs and the briefings before each mission are the best I’ve come across in any BattleTech game. But most of all, the controls are just right. The feel is just “there”.
47: Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC) – Probably the most shat upon game sequel in history. DXIW is almost universally laughed at and considered a shitty game. It’s not a shitty game at all. It just happened to have to live up to the expectations set by the first game, which just happens to be one of the best games ever. I loved the atmosphere in DXIW and I loved the futuristic setting of it. It worked a lot of things from the first game into the story, but still managed to introduce enough interesting new angles. I thought it was a shame that it got a bit “consolified” as far as the detail writing got. I missed the in-depth books and newspapers that were strewn around the first game.
46: Super Mario World (SNES) – Once upon a time I finished this game and I finished it the proper way, by finding all the hidden exits. Then my nephew came along and started playing this game one day when I wasn’t at home. I came home later and went up to my room. He was so proud that he had finished a few levels on his own, since he was just five years old or something. He didn’t understand that he had erased my play file with the finished game. I got furious back then. Now I just laugh about it. Super Mario World is an excellent game and Yoshi was the perfect addition to the Super Mario series. It’s hard to find words to describe the Mario games. They’ve always been there and they’ve always been among the top games of every Nintendo console, simply because they are so good. Every little mechanic works perfectly and I can’t imagine SMW in any other way.
45: Rainbow Six 2: Rogue Spear (PC) – The first game introduced the concept of tactical shooting to the PC. The sequel perfected that concept as far as I’m concerned. The storytelling was a lot better, the planning worked a lot better, there were more useful weapons, the AI had been improved and so on and so forth. It was an improvement in every single conceivable way. Some of the most tense moments I’ve ever had while gaming was during the sneaking missions in this game, especially one where you infiltrated a huge mansion.
44: Worms & Reinforcements United (PC) – I like the Worms games, but I’ve never really felt at home with all the different cartoony versions. Why? This one. This is the original and it was perfect. If you aimed somewhere, that aim was accurate. I never got that feeling in the cartoony Worms games. Also, this game was the inspiration for one of the games higher up on this list. But all in all, this is simple, pure, destructive fun.
43: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (Xbox 360) – Puzzle Quest came from nowhere and stole sooooo many hours from me, but I loved every minute of it. It was such unexpected fun! The hammy setting and story worked perfectly and I really didn’t expect Bejeweled to work so well and in such an engaging way as a combat mechanic. Pure genius! The only downside was that the music, while being very good, got old really fast because you heard the same tunes over and over and over…
42: Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360) – Here we have RE4 and 5 in rapid succession. It’s a close call, but RE5 gets the short end of the stick. I like it over RE4 in some ways though. The characters, first and foremost. I’ve always loved Chris, Jill and Wesker over Leon and as far as new characters go, Sheva kicks the president’s daughter’s ass any day of the week and don’t even get me started on that bizarro Napoleon dude from RE4. There’s also one huuuuuuuge thing for which I love RE5 more than RE4 and that’s co-operative play. My best friend and I are both big RE fans and we played our way through this game together, something that was a complete blast. HOWEVER! This game, Resident Evil 5, is COMPLETE AND UTTER SHIT if you play alone and have to rely on the AI to control Sheva. The African setting is pretty “meh” most of the time and the most exciting parts for me were the industrial and high tech settings. The boat was an awesome last level.
41: Resident Evil 4 (GameCube) – The reason why RE4 ends up ahead of RE5 is because when it was released it was revolutionary and you didn’t see it coming. The first time I came across that insane bad guy wielding a goddamn chainsaw, I almost shit my pants. I’d read about it, but it couldn’t prepare me for it. I panicked and tried to take a stand inside a house, only to be overrun and finally decapitated by said chainsaw. Lovely! On one hand the game felt like a natural continuation of the Resident Evil franchise, but on the other hand it didn’t feel like Resident Evil anymore. Sure, it still had somewhat gimped controls, but you didn’t fight zombies anymore (and anyone calling them, or the enemies in RE5 for that matter, zombies is a clueless idiot who needs to be shot) and there were too many of them. RE4′s depiction of Spanish villagers is laughably silly. I keep imagining this redneck American who knows nothing about anything but Texarkana, plays RE4 and then actually thinks that Spain is some underdeveloped shithole of a country, full of decrepit villages and dark castles. Typical Japanese game development. But it’s so much fun and tense!
That’s it for this post. Tune in tomorrow! Same bat time, same bat channel! Okay, maybe not tomorrow, but in a day or three. We’re getting down to 31 in that one! Let me know what you think so far in the comments.