Yeah, I know, it’s been a while since my last blog. I’ve had a few ideas rolling around my head, but those are going to take some time and research. But I thought I’d do something a little easier: my all-time favorite games. Yeah, I know not very original, sue me! But I thought I’d get a few things out of the way.
10 Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (Xbox 360/PS3-delisted)
Do you remember getting a game in a store as a kid and having that excruciatingly long ride home in anticipation? Well imagine being on a trip, buying the game in Pensacola, Florida, and having to wait till you got back to Cincinnati, Ohio? Well that was my experience with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the Dreamcast. When I finally did get home to play it, it was a glorious experience like none other.
MvC2 was special because it was the first time I was able to see what could be done with a 2D fighter without the confines of the previous generation. The PS1 couldn’t even handle 2 vs. 2, but the Dreamcast was able to give us 3 vs. 3. Not only that but was able to do this with beautiful 3D backgrounds without any slowdown. The roster is easily the best in the series with 56 fighters, and while the action is chaotic, it’s controllable. I suppose I could cite the lack of balance, but I feel like that’s part of the charm at this point. It plays just as well today as it did 17 years ago.
9 Tetris Attack (Pokemon Puzzle Leage-N64)
I have a soft spot for puzzle games like this. Not that I’m particularly good at them, but they check all the right boxes. They’re fast, require thought, strategy, dexterity, have endless depth and replicability, and are great experiences for both single and multiplayer.
Tetris may be legendary (I consider it the greatest game ever made) but Tetris Attack has a level of control that I don’t find in other puzzle games. See, in most puzzle games you have to deal with the pieces as they’re given to you, but in Tetris Attack you control your own playing field. You move the blocks around freely, you raise the stack from the bottom, and you stop the clock with your combos. Granted there is speed to which the game moves on its own, but by the time you grasp the basics, you’ll be doing these things without even a thought. Watching two skilled players battle it out is a sight to behold.
I recommend getting Pokemon Puzzle League because of all the modes (3D mode is amazing!) but Planet Puzzle League (DS) is a worthy contender. It has touch controls which dramatically changes how the game plays. Unfortunately, Nintendo hasn’t offered us a new version in some time.
8 Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
From the instant I purchased a PS1, I wanted Final Fantasy VII. I actually jumped the gun because I bought it before I bought a memory card, as a result I’ve played the opening sequence far more than I’d like to admit.
What can I say about this game that hasn’t already been said? The story is nothing short of incredible, I don’t know of any other RPG that has such a memorable cast of characters. The battle system is fairly straightforward: each character has a weapon, armor and accessory, and you can put materia into the first two and level them up to gain greater magic and abilities.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m far from an avid RPG fan, but this one stuck with me. I felt like it was a journey that I had to take. I had to see the end of the Shinra company, I had to see who this Sephiroth was, and who Cloud was as a character. It’s probably not the best RPG ever made, but it will always be special. Oh, and as a side note, I almost never finish games, especially not RPG’s but I’ve beaten this one multiple times. I played it last year and still find it’s aged rather gracefully; looking forward to the remake.
7 Metroid Prime (Gamecube)
I have a confession to make: I never really liked Metroid until I played Metroid Prime. I mean, looking back I can see the quality of the original trilogy, but Metroid Prime was the game that turned me to a fan of the series.
What made the game shine was not that took what made the original games so great and put it into 3D, but that it did it so gracefully. At first the community was vehemently opposed to the idea of Metroid being in first person, but once they realized what this accomplished they changed their tune. Not only did it take the camera completely out of the picture (a real issue with third person games back then) but it made combat more intuitive, it allowed puzzled to flourish in 3D, and above all else, made the game totally immersive. To this day I use it as the gold standard for immersive gameplay. The reason I give it such high praise is that it showed that all sorts of games could successfully be done in first person, something the rest of the industry didn’t realize until the next generation.
As far as the port is concerned, the Wii version does have widescreen support and allows for looking and aiming at the same time (something the Gamecube version sorely lacks) I personally find the motion controls cumbersome. Warts and all, I’ll stick with the original release.
6 Diablo II (PC)
I adored the original Diablo on PS1. I spent hours with my warrior tracking down loot, so when Diablo II came out I was obviously chomping at the bit to be able to play the game. I thought for sure it would get ported to a console, but it never did. I actually didn’t get a PC capable of properly running it till 2005.
When I finally did get to play it, I didn’t immediately grasp all the new systems. Things like stamina, retrieving your body after you die, and the skill tree were all pretty foreign to me. I eventually figured it all out (the included strategy guide in the battle chest helped). Once I started though, I couldn’t stop. Ultimately, it did what all sequels should do: make a bigger, better version of the original game and fix all the issues that held it back. Compared to Diablo 1, Diablo II is massive. I remember being floored at how big the first act was, it was almost as big as the first game in its entirety.
To this day I can boot up Diablo II and have a blast. Of all the games I have on this list, I feel like I have covered the least amount of content. I haven’t touched half of the classes and never could beat it past the base difficulty. (I keep forgetting to back up my saves). But this is one of those desert island games, and in my humble opinion, the best dungeon crawler ever made.
5 Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3DS)
Much like Metroid Prime, Ocarina of Time was the game to transition a 2D series into 3D, and once again did so masterfully while retaining what made the games special in the first place.
This was the second game I’ve ever purchased on release and I’ve never regretted it, to me it stands as the example of why Nintendo stubbornly stuck with cartridges and why I love the N64. A game like this would never have been possible on the PS1 hardware. The N64 could run these (at the time) large 3D environments with all these enemies and intractable objects. The lack of load times made this feel like a living breathing world. This was the first time I felt like I was playing a grand adventure where I could go where I wanted, I could spend hours doing side quests, or explore the cleverly designed dungeons.
Back then we didn’t get games on a regular basis, so we had to be careful where we spent our money. There aren’t many games on the N64 that I could recommend for someone to get if they could only pick one, but Ocarina certainly fits that bill.
In terms of the port, the 3DS version is a really nice upgrade. The controls feel a bit more responsive, and the upgrade in graphics make it easier on the eyes.
4 Street Fighter II (HD Remix 360/PS3)
I can’t remember the first time I’ve played it, but the fact that I’ve been playing it ever since is a testament to its quality. Street Fighter II, in my opinion, it’s the greatest fighting game ever made. Much like other games on this list, it hits all the right notes: memorable cast of characters, responsive controls, deep yet accessible gameplay, fantastic music, but above all else, it’s just plain fun to play.
The impact of Street Fighter is seen even today: we have the motley crue of characters, the quarter circle movements, the 6 button layout, the overly cheap final boss, slightly updated versions, individual character endings, and even the combo system come from Street Fighter. Sure, not all fighters use these tropes, but most modern fighters use at least one.
While I am aware there is a newer version of this on the Switch, I have yet to play it. So it may be better, I just can’t recommend something without playing it.
3 Banjo Kazooie (Rare Replay-Xbox One)
Back in 1998, I was just getting into the N64 I had got for Christmas the previous year (if you want to read about that) so I decided I was going to subscribe to Nintendo Power. The first issue I got had Banjo Kazooie on the cover and a small article about it. Needless to say I was hyped, hyped enough to bug my mom to drive me out to Best Buy so I could preorder my first game. The preorder came with an N64 T-shirt and the soundtrack (neither of which I still have, sigh). I still use that as the gold standard for preorder bonuses too.
But enough history, the game itself was and still is amazing. It took everything I loved about Mario 64 and refined it to a tee. The graphics were much better, the controls were tighter, the worlds and objectives were much better designed, pacing was improved, and the music STILL makes me smile. In fact, the game as a whole has a feel to it that no other game can properly replicate.
The fact that games like this have largely fallen out of popularity used to really upset me, but I can see the tide turning as of late with Ratchet and Clank (PS4) Yooka Laylee, and Mario Odyssey. It’s good to see the impact the original Banjo Kazooie left on me was not unique.
2 Diddy Kong Racing (N64)
If you’ve ready my story of the N64, you know that was a pretty special Christmas for me. It was the first console in which I felt I earned myself. But the game that my parents got for me was Diddy Kong Racing. At the time I didn’t know what game I was going to be getting with the system, hell, I had never even heard of the game at the time.
This was the first kart racer I had ever played. I don’t remember being particularly blown away the first time I played it (I was actually more frustrated that I couldn’t hook up my console to my bedroom TV that lacked composite ports). Over time I started to get into it and that’s because of two words: adventure mode. Basically, you start off on an island and complete races to unlock other parts of the island with other races. Sounds pretty straightforward but they do a lot with it. One of the best things about the game are the silver coin challenges, you have to collect 8 silver coins on the track and win the race, and they start getting BRUTAL. I just adored that trial and error gameplay. I could go on about the hovercrafts and planes but this is already getting to be too long.
Unfortunately, the only real kart racer in town today is Mario Kart. Only Sonic and All Stars Racing comes close as we’ve gotten in the last few years. While there is a DS port of Diddy Kong Racing that has more content, I find the poor controls and tacked on touch screen stuff detract more than it adds. Stick to the original.
1 Super Mario 64 (N64)
I know, I’ve already written about this game before. So I’ll tread lightly. Mario 64 is THE game that got me into gaming. The first time I saw it I knew it was something special and is THE reason I so desperately wanted an N64 back in 8th grade.
To this day, Mario (the platformer) is my favorite series of gaming, and the transition to 3D blew my mind back in 1996. But unlike Metroid and Zelda, Mario 64 presented a different kind of game in 3D than it did in 2D. No longer was it about moving left to right, it was about exploring without a clock, finding where to go instead of the challenge being to get there. I guess this could be considered the first “3D open world: game, at least the first one I can think of.
To this day, I don’t feel like we’ve ever gotten a proper sequel. Mario Sunshine just feels too different to me (despite having many similarities), the Galaxy games have the right feel but are too linear. Mario Odyssey however, has me excited. I don’t have a Switch yet, but when I get one, that will be the first game I buy for it.
If you play Super Mario 64 today, play the original (or the virtual console version), the DS version is in the same boat as Diddy Kong, more content but the controls hider it (just not to the same degree).
So there it is, Sonic’s top 10 games of all time. I do want to do want to eventually tackle the next 10 games as I find them to be less about how they impacted me as a kid, and more about what they did gameplay wise that made them stand out. If nothing else, they will be more surprising.