Part 1 of my favorite games of all time can be found here. Thanks to everyone for the kind comments so far!
ESPN NFL 2K5
This is the only sports title on my greatest games list. The fact that Madden now dominates the virtual football market is a travesty, because ESPN NFL 2K5 was the true cream of the crop. The tie to ESPN results in some stellar presentation, complete with a SportsCenter feature hosted by Chris Berman (though it should be noted that I hate Chris Berman). But the real reason this game makes my list is because it was a blast to play - there's just something about the mechanics in 2K5 that appeals to me more than any Madden I've ever played. I do remember throwing a lot of interceptions though... well, maybe I was just bad at the game. That's always a possibility.
Final Fantasy VI
This one brings back some fond childhood memories. I recall going to my friend Danny's house to play this since I did not own Final Fantasy VI (that would later change). We'd switch back and forth and give each other tips as we played through to the end, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had with a video game. FFVI made another lasting impact on me when I was older and I played the GBA version. It was then that I first realized what an incredible game it actually is, in terms of storytelling, character development, and overall design. Now when anyone asks me about my favorite Final Fantasy game, I always answer Final Fantasy VI.
Final Fantasy VII
It seems like Final Fantasy VII receives more backlash with each passing year. Maybe it doesn't hold up as well as I'd like to think, but every time I remember the game I have a smile on my face. The narrative's epic scope really astounded me when I first played it, and I always found most of the characters interesting and compelling (but I'll admit Cloud is pretty lame). I also remember my brother playing it before me, and he printed out an entire walkthrough in case he got stuck. That took up a lot of paper and ink... boy was my dad angry!
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII stands as one of the more divisive titles in the storied RPG franchise. I admit I have my fair share of problems with it - I'm not a big fan of the jumping storylines between Squall and Laguna (that should tell you which of the first two Godfather movies I prefer), and I fall into the "drawing spells is kinda dumb" camp. But I liked the junction system, I liked most of the characters, and I thought the romance between Squall and Rinoa was interesting (perhaps that was the young romantic in me slowly coming into fruition). Like FFVII, I'm not sure how well this holds up since I haven't played it in a while. But I choose to look back on it fondly and not worry about that.
God of War
The violence and brutality in God of War acted as a cathartic experience for both Kratos and myself. A stupid smile would be plastered across my face every time I'd juggle enemies in the air with Kratos' blades until they became a bloody mess (that sounds awful out of context...). The combat in God of War carefully toed the line between button-mashy and combo-focused, which made each playthrough rewarding and fun. Having played the game again recently, I can say the narrative doesn't hold up as well as I'd like it to. But the game solidified Kratos as a trademark videogame character, for better or worse. The protagonist's revenge-fueled desires got a bit tedious by the third game, but I was totally on board back in 2005.
By this point it's no surprise that I like RPGs, but the ones featured in this list so far are more popular than Golden Sun. Imagine if Golden Sun had come out during the SNES days – we'd probably be talking about it as a classic. But let's not linger on that too much, because plenty of people love Golden Sun, myself included. It's definitely the game I spent the most time playing on my GBA, and for good reason. I always look at narrative/characters as the real soul and essence of an RPG, and Golden Sun excelled in both those departments. Outside of that, it took some creative risks with the Djinn summoning system and the inclusion of psyenergy abilities to solve in-game puzzles. These unique elements went a long way in establishing Golden Sun as a title that didn't simply rehash worn out JRPG tropes. Man, now I just want to go load this up on my DS...
The main reason Goldeneye 007 makes my list is because it strengthened the bond between myself and my brother. When I was growing up, our central link was a mutual love of video games, and boy did we love playing Goldeneye 007 together. Countless hours were spent playing split-screen games against each other, and to this day they stand out as some of my fondest gaming memories. It helped that the game itself was a well-crafted console FPS (definitely a rarity back then), but again, the memories are what stand out most. My brother doesn't play video games as much as he used to, but any time I bring this game up, we both can't help but laugh and think back on those good times.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
I'm a fan of the entire Grand Theft Auto series, so deciding on my favorite game is a tough choice. But I have to go with San Andreas, largely because its game world has arguably the most personality. Dan Houser and the rest of the Rockstar writing team are some of the best in the business, and that really comes through when I consider all the charismatic characters that populate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The game also nails its early 90s California setting, complete with one of my favorite videogame soundtracks.
Fun isn't necessarily the most important part of any video game, but don't tell Guitar Hero that. Holy crap did I love playing this game when it first came out (after that too, but the first week or so was pure bliss). I don't know how to play any instruments and that probably won't change any time soon, so Guitar Hero was my portal into the guitar world. Eventually I became really good at the game, and I'd boastfully demonstrate my skills to friends and family. Even my dad enjoyed playing this game every now and then, which is noteworthy since he plays practically no video games.