I know that this may seem like an attention whore of a blog, but I always wonder what people think the best games are. I donít mean their favorites, I mean the best. My favorite movie is 2001: A Space Odyssey
. The best movie, in my opinion, is Citizen Kane
. Thereís a clear and present difference and I want to see how my list of the best games of all time matches up with yours, my lovely readerís.
10. A Link to the Past
Oh A Link to the Past
. What can I say about you? When the original Legend of Zelda
came out, it was a big deal that it had a giant open world. After the not-so-successful-yet-still-fantastic-sort-of-action-rpg-game The Legend of Zelda II
, the series continued with A Link to the Past
. To prove they meant business, not only did they give the player a gigantic open world to play around with; they gave the player two.
A Link to the Past
took everything great about the original Legend of Zelda
and simply made it all better. It had more complex and interesting dungeons. The heart pieces were well hidden. It was visually marvel for the SNESís capability and it truly cemented the Zelda
formula you all love to hate.
I promised you that there is a difference between favorite and best. My putting Braid
on this list definitely straddles the line between the two.
In its own right, Braid
is everything you could hope for in a video game. It features a beautiful, painful story told quite naturally through a few paragraphs. It features some of the most beautiful art in a video game (from David Hellman [check out his webcomic A Lesson is Learned
]). It features a soundtrack filled entirely with tasteful classical music that never seems to loop. It features a brilliantly addictive mechanic in which you hold down shift to reverse time. These five elements arenít what makes Braid
the ninth greatest game of all time though. What makes John Blowís masterpiece the game that it is, is that all five of these elements have meaning to them.
If I were to compare Braid
to a novel, it would most certainly be James Joyceís Ulysses
. Itís a sprawling epic about a few people that has so many themes that it would take a literature professor to explain what they all are. Is Braid
about the atomic bomb? (the phrase ďand now we are all sons of bitchesĒ appears in the game and in one level when you press down it drops a ring that slows down time) Is it simply about regret? (the climax would point towards this theme) Perhaps itís about how time ruins everything and all we want to do is go back. Or perhaps John Blow just wanted to make a fun game (haha...haÖ). Either way, itís impossible to say that Braid
isnít a masterpiece and thatís what makes it more than just another indie game.
Not much to say here aside from how beautiful a concept Tetris
is. It seems so natural now: several shapes (each made of exactly four blocks) are used to form complete rows. You use the six blocks to make a complete row in order to get points. As we all know, forming a Tetris (four rows at once) gives you the most points. Add into the mix the genius of T-spins and youíve got yourself the eighth greatest game ever made. Who wouldíve thought that a simple, Russian, 1984 game would become one of the most played games to this day?
Time for me to defend myself again. Bioshock
is a great example of how a game can add up to more than the sum of its parts. Bioshock
features a great atmosphere that is created by many elements coming together flawlessly. Take into account the great lighting (not so dark that you canít see anything but just right enough for the game to have squinting at times), the unbelievably brilliant script, the subtle music and the perfectly nuanced voice acting and youíve got yourself one amazing world.
What puts Bioshock
above and beyond System Shock 2
is that Bioshock
features some of the greatest moments in videogame history. ďWould you kindlyĒ and ďa man chooses, a slave obeysĒ are already a part of popular culture. I bet everyone who played Bioshock
remembers the first time they step foot on the bathysphere. ďIs a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?Ē Gives me chills every time.
Those memorable scenes are laced together with what may be the greatest way to tell a story in videogames. Audio-diaries are sheer brilliance. You find out as much of the story as you want to find out and you have to work to find them. Like a painting or a great symphony, Bioshockís
story is made of hundreds of tiny strokes. Each one adding a little bit more until you look at it as a whole and see just how beautiful and perfect it is.
6. Half Life
For Half Life
, I donít necessarily mean the first game. The series as a whole (including Portal
, Team Fortress 2
) are perfect examples of expanding the genre of the First Person Shooter. Even though I feel like everyone here is tired of seeing Half Life
on every best games list and of hearing people describe whatís great about them, Iíll give it a shot. With Half Life
, we saw how cutting out the cut-scenes can make a game flow perfectly. With Portal
, we saw how platforming and puzzling works with using a gun instead of exploring and clicking *cough cough Myst
*. With Half Life 2
, we learned how make us feel the fear and solitude of Gordon Freeman without him even speaking.
There has never been a sequence in video game history that has made me feel more helpless than the early segments of Half Life 2: Episode 2
(no I havenít played Metal Gear Solid 4
yet so this famous hallway scene isnít in the running). Youíre in the tunnel system formed by a species of insects with larva and full grown species all around you. The larva can stick onto you and the only easy way to kill the grown species is to get them into the water. On top of this, there are creatures called barnacles who hang on the ceiling. Their tongues are hanging down like ropes. If you walk into them, you get pulled up. Unless you kill it before you reach the top, getting caught means certain death. To top all of this off, you only have the gravity gun and another gun with very little ammo. Most people donít concentrate on this section of the Half Life
series but that only shows how great the series is as a whole. Itís made up entirely of sequences like this.
The Half Life
series is an accomplishment in just about every way aside from one glaring flaw; many find the series to be a bit laborious. I personally have no idea what people are talking about yet I donít think it would be fair to ignore such comments.
5. Mario Series
Why yes, it is ridiculous to count the whole series as one game. However, with games like Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario 64 and Super Mario World
, itís hard to break them up. The five of them are among the most loved games in the history of videogames. What makes these games so great, you ask? The simplicity of the mechanics and the complexity of the levels. Take a look at any, literally any, level in Super Mario Galaxy
and try not to marvel at how intricate, beautiful and charming it is. Take a look at the first fifteen seconds of Super Mario Bros
. Those fifteen seconds are a work of genius. Without even noticing it, you learned what your enemies are, how to defeat them, what power-ups there are, how to get points and how your health system works. Name another game that teaches you everything you need to know about it in the first fifteen seconds (other than Pong
Roger Ebert once said that Citizen Kane
may be the best movie of all time, but Casablanca
is certainly more loved. To me, the Mario
series is similar to Casablanca
; itís nearly perfect in every single way but is just short of being the greatest of all time.
4. Metal Gear Solid
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT PLAYED ANY OF METAL GEAR SOLID 4. I thought that that sentence deserved all capitals. You probably disagree with me.
The greatest game of the Metal Gear Solid
series would have to be Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
. I have never seen a game use cutscenes in the way that MGS 2
does. It tells a political parable that surpasses all stories in video games before it. What story-driven games come to mind when I ask you to name a game before 2001? Games with stories about small boys saving the world (many of them are fantastic) and stories about princesses being in other castles (those are equally as fantastic). When you look at a list of the greatest of anything, you have to look at it in two ways; how it was then and how it is now. Metal Gear Solid 2
hit the world like a lightning bolt. There was no game that featured such a vulnerable, flawed character like Solid Snake. People praise Uncharted
for introducing a new type of protagonist. Rewind 10 years before Uncharted
and you get 1998ís Metal Gear Solid
featuring a character so intelligent that he can get into a building without alerting anyone yet so stupid that he doesnít realize that heís literally killing people when he walks up to them.
3. Chrono Trigger
is hands down the single most loved game in the history of the world. I have never (ever) heard anyone say anything remotely bad about this gem of a game. Chrono Trigger
tells a great story about a small boy saving the world. Yes, I just said that MGS
did a better job with the story, but Chrono Trigger
isnít going for greatness in the same way that MGS
is this huge, gigantic game about serious issues and serious people. Chrono Trigger
is a game about being fun. Along with having very subtle humor, the game introduces the most overused JRPG clichťs of all time. You time travel, you play as a small boy who unwillingly has to save the world, you meet new friends along the way yet still keep the old, everyone loves each other aside from the villain et cetera. However, one thing Iíve only seen in Chrono Trigger
that Iím waiting to see somewhere else, is that you can go to the final boss at any time in the game. Wouldnít Final Fantasy X
(whose plot is almost identical to Chrono Trigger
ís) be much more interesting if you could choose to fight Sin whenever you wanted to? Wouldnít it also make a lot more sense?
The greatness of Chrono Trigger
also resides in the memorability of the characters. After playing for 15, 25, 50 hours, itís Frog, Ayla, Robo and a few others who you remember the most. Each character has their own advantages and each one can be used in the final fight. I played the game with Crono, Marle and Ayla as my main party while my friend used Magus, Robo and Lucca as his main three (I donít understand how that worked, but he worked it out). The characters are so complex and each can be used well to beat Chrono Trigger
While Iím on the subject of Chrono Trigger
by the way, I would like to point out how shocked I am that many people have not played Chrono Trigger
before. As you can see above, I find the game to be nothing less than a masterpiece and whole-heartedly recommend the game.
2. The Ocarina of Time
I know. I put Mario Series
as one game and gave the Zelda Series
two games. Quite simply, Ocarina of Time
and A Link to the Past
are so wonderful in their own separate ways that it would be a sin to lump them together.
Ocarina of Time
is the second greatest game ever made for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, there is no other game with an appeal as broad as Ocarina of Time
. Ocarina of Time
is nothing less than perfection for a five year old and for an eighty year old. It features a story simple enough for a child to understand yet the game is so open and beautiful in every sense of the world that even the elderly could enjoy it. Secondly, I am yet to hear an original score as beautiful as that of Ocarina of Time. Thirdly, the level design is so varied and groundbreaking that itís impossible to imagine how the mind of Koizumi (who made Wind Waker
and Super Mario Galaxy
(!) also) could think of it. Torches serve as a weapon and a key in this game. Bombs are both as well.
One thing about Ocarina of Time
that is often overlooked, is how the lock on system works. Try to think about a game before Ocarina of Time
that features a lock on system. Give up yet? Thatís because there werenít any. Ocarina of Time
invented the lock on system. Think about how big of an achievement that is and then continue on to read what number one isÖ
1. Shadow of the Colossus
Here it is. The greatest game of all time is Team Icoís six hour giant (no pun intended) Shadow of the Colossus
. Shadow of the Colossus
embodies everything great about games right now. Thereís an ambiguous story of a boy killing Colossi in order to save a woman. Is that his girlfriend? Is that his mother? My favorite theory is that he, Wanderer, killed the woman in a sacrifice and now regrets his decision. No matter which theory you choose, youíre in for one of the most beautifully simple games ever told.
As Rev. Anthony famously pointed out in his first c-blog, at one point, one of the colossi doesnít attack you. You, as Wanderer, have to initiate the fight. The colossus is just flying over a lake. Itís up to you to kill it. It means you no harm. Did this make you feel uncomfortable or did you just plow through the fight? Either way, itís your game, your story, your experience.
Did you go out into the world and try to get maximum health and grip? Or did you find it counterproductive to work so hard to get a power-up that you donít really need? Once again, itís your own experience.
Did you feel angry during the games finale? Did you feel disappointed? Did you feel regret for killing the colossi? Did you feel that it was worth the effort? Itís all up to you. No one else can make you feel a certain way.
What makes Shadow of the Colossus
the greatest game ever and the perfect example of games as art is that it embodies everything great about games. It has a message that you personally must decide what it is. It has a journey that you must personally go through. This is a game that does what every game wishes it could do. It takes its messages and character struggles and reflects them back onto the gamer. Bioshock
does this to a certain degree in its climax where you confront Mr. Ryan but it has never been done to the same magnitude as in Shadow of the Colossus.
Thanks for staying with me. That was a long blog post. I hope someone read the whole thing through. I totally understand getting TL;DR's for this one btw. read