#10 Mortal Kombat
Anyone that has been to an arcade before has most likely seen this gem. Mortal Kombat has been a staple in the fighting circle since 1992 when it released. Mortal Kombat would quickly earn the title “Most Controversial Game of 1993”, bringing blood and gore to a market already saturated by the much-less violent Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat was a quickly a success and remains a top fighting game today.
Mortal Kombat will always be a favorite for me, so much so that I named my son after the Thunder-God himself, Raiden! It’s one of the earliest childhood memories I have of gaming. My mother started me young in gaming and with possibly the most inappropriate game for a 5 year old to play at the time. I am 100% grateful that she did. My mother spent many hours destroying me with Sonya Blade and creating the competitive mentality that I still maintain today. Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Raiden quickly became early childhood heroes for me. I remember fighting with my two step-brothers and shouting “Get Over Here!” and flinging my invisible Kunai at them as if I was the great yellow ninja himself. The original Mortal Kombat is the earliest part of my gaming childhood and continues to be a gaming series that I embrace today.
#9 Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite is probably the most underrated game that I have played. It wasn’t a game that got a lot of talk among my friends, and I seemed to be the only one talking about it. I always felt like this game has been well deserving of its spot here in my Top 10.
Bioshock Infinite delivers on so many levels for me it was hard to not put this higher on my list. The game play is similar to previous Bioshock games, using a first person view to give the gamer the reigns of a new main protagonist, Booker. Bioshock Infinite boasts new abilities and weapons from the previous games. The enemies feel new and exciting and will overwhelm you if you are not careful. The Skyrails, essentially ziplines, created some exciting high speed combat moments as I went from rail to rail shooting enemies and performing stealth kills from above.
The story that Bioshock Infinite brings is one of my favorites to date. It delivers one of the best build-ups that I have played in games in many years. While I won’t go into detail of the story out of fear of spoiling it for those who have not played the game, Bioshock Infinite offers players with an awesome plot setup, that quickly turns into multiple and parallel timelines that create a beautiful and complex narrative all the same. It’s a game that almost urges you to make multiple playthroughs to understand it all. All of the small details that the game laid out in my path made me want to learn every piece of the story that I could.
The relationship that develops between Booker and Elizabeth added to the overall beauty of the story. The twist at the end made it all that much better. If this game flew under your radar like it did so many others, pick it up. It is worth the play.
#8 Assassins Creed
Anyone that has known me for any amount of time knew this would end up in my Top 10. I love history. I love action. So what happens when you pair historically-based stories and a war between Assassins and Templars? You get one of the coolest takes on an action-based cinematic games ever created.
I think the greatest thing about Assassins Creed was that it never just felt like another action game to me. In many ways it was like taking control of your favorite movie character and doing all the awesome things that they get to do. Altair was the perfect character for that role. He was silent in many ways, not questioning much, allowing you to create the questions in your head. That alone allows you to feel like you are in control in almost every way. You think for Altair, you plan his next move, which allowed the game to feel so much less linear. On top of that, AC gives you a huge playground to enjoy. The large, immersive areas are ready for you to explore. You can climb almost anything. You can attempt to jump across anything. The combat was refreshing and the graphics beautiful, especially for such a large world. Even the frustrating moments of the game, such as trying to perform a leap of faith and Altair deciding to jump the wrong way resulting in my death, ended up being some of the best parts about the game.
#7 Pokemon Blue
When I started making this list, I knew that Pokemon had to end up here somewhere. I thought the hard part would be picking which one of the many Pokémon titles would be here. I decided to just choose the game where the best of my Pokémon memories lie, Pokémon Blue Version.
Aside from Everquest and World of Warcraft, I don’t think I have spent so much time grinding in a game before. Before learning how to do the rare candy glitch, I spent so many hours grinding my Blastoise and Pidgeot to 100 (and all the others in my main group). I literally wanted to be the best. All of my friends had Pokémon. We were trading cards, playing the video games and talking smack about each other’s Pokémon daily. One of my best friends, Jordan, was like the real life version of the rival. My Blastoise had to be better than any Pokémon that he brought to the table (it always was too).
Pokémon will always have a space in my gaming collection. It created my love for collecting everything in a game. Even now I still play the new ones and still love them like Blue. One thing remains true however, the original 151 will always be the best of the Pokémon world!
#6 The Legend of Dragoon
Whipsmack! Volcano! The Legend of Dragoon had so many good things going for it that I am constantly surprised by the amount of people that had no clue that this game even existed.
The Legend of Dragoon has one of the most unique combat systems that I played with during the PS1 era. It was your standard turn-based RPG at the time with a neat twist. When you attacked, you were given visual ques, essentially quick-time events, that allowed you to string together attacks to create a stronger combo that was just as visually appealing as it was powerful. Each character had their own set of combos to master which made the game feel unique all the time.
On top of the unique combat system, The Legend of Dragoon had a great story and characters that were easy to get attached too (Lavitz!). Earning the ability for each of the main characters to be able to harness the power of their respective Dragons felt like an incredible accomplishment. This is a game that I still replay from time to time that makes me long for the glory days of turn-based RPGS.
#5 Banjo Kazooie
We made it! We are in the Top 5 of my Top 10 and what better way to start it than Banjo Kazooie?
Banjo Kazooie has some of my favorite characters in video games. The whimsical pairing of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird was genius to me. It doesn’t make sense, and then it makes sense at the same time. They have become an iconic paring in gaming, even today. The banter that occurs between them and other characters in the game creates some of my favorite light comedy moments in gaming. The music, composed by Grant Kirkhope (this guy did Goldeneye 007 as well!), gave each level its own unique feel and identity. Levels were both fun and challenging, especially if you wanted to collect everything in them like I did. Banjo felt full and alive at all times.
Banjo Kazooie has always stood as more than just a nostalgic symbol to me. It was a game that blended each of its elements so well and got almost everything right (except not letting me get the Ice Key). This success of this amazing game led to the spawning of its great successor, Banjo Tooie, a worthy game in itself.
Oh boy. If we were making a list of the games that have taken the most time away from my normal life, Everquest would be number one. In 1999, my parents got their first computer. It wasn’t long after that we were all playing Everquest and fighting over the computer. There were never enough hours in the day for Everquest.
Everquest had the greatest gaming community I have ever experienced. You couldn’t just use an auction tool to buy new gear or sell things. You couldn’t use a modern day dungeon finder to find people to group with. You had to have real conversations and socialize. The game required you to be social to progress. Most areas were to hard to fight in without a group. This led to everyone helping each other.
Everquest created a huge sense of accomplishment for me as the player. I remember getting killed by a skeleton mob at level one and being frustrated about it. Death in this game was a punishment, you lost experience and had to go find your body just to get your gear back. I would eventually come back a few levels later with my trusty Fine Steel Short Sword and wipe out all the skeletons in the area just for revenge. It felt good to have progressed. Each level was harder than the next and took a lot of time to level.
Everquest had everything I love about MMOs. Community, progression and challenge are the forefront of Everquest. Even now, Everquest remains alive and continues to generate new content. I can still log on and play my characters from 1999 and relieve all of the nostalgia that the game brings back.
#3 Final Fantasy IX
Sorry Final Fantasy 7 fans, Final Fantasy IX is the greatest of the FF series in my opinion. The music, the cinematics, and the character development are some of the greatest in JRPG history.
Final Fantasy IX delivers as an emotional powerhouse. There are not many games out there today that take the time to develop each main character that you interact with. By the end of the game, I felt like I honestly knew each character and their lives. From Vivi wanting to find purpose to Zidane’s road to becoming a hero, each character felt unique and alive. I wanted them to succeed. I wanted them to achieve greatness. The game gave me every avenue to become emotionally attached to this group of unique characters.
The subtle love story is well written and plays itself out in the end. The smug antagonist Kuja, is one of my favorite badguys in gaming (and his dragon is awesome). The Overworld map is huge and hides a ton of secrets for those willing to look. Final Fantasy IX has always been a top 3 game for me since the day I first played it. I still have my black label Final Fantasy IX sitting on my display shelf in all of its original glory.
#2 Chrono Cross
My favorite JRPG of all time. Chrono Cross is a game that continues to wind up in my yearly playlist. I always get asked why I consider Chrono Cross to be better then its predecessor, Chrono Trigger. The simple answer is, I don’t. They are two different games to me. Chrono Trigger is widely considered by so many to be one of the greatest games of all time. However, Chrono Cross elevated everything I loved about Chrono Trigger.
The complex timeline of Chrono Cross creates one of the most satisfying stories I have played through. Parallel timelines create an interesting dynamic to character development as you switch back and forth between timelines. In one timeline, Serge (the main character) is dead, and the other he is alive. This changes how the story is played out and how the characters react to you on both sides of multiverse.
Chrono Cross also boast 45 different playable characters. Each character is unique, having their own dialect and character development. Decisions that you made throughout the game would affect the different characters that you could obtain. This allowed multiple playthroughs to feel new and exciting for me.
The music in Chrono Cross is the best part about the game though. If you have not listened to “Time’s Scar” in the Chrono Cross soundtrack, follow this link. Every song plays perfectly to the moment or atmosphere that you are experiencing.
In many ways, Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy IX were the pinnacle of JRPGs for me. I highly doubt I will ever see a remastered version of Chrono Cross, and I am perfectly okay with that.
#1 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. My favorite game of all time.
When I first played OOT, I remember spending hours in the first area alone, confused on where to go because the great big jerk Mido wouldn’t let me through to the next area. This was my first challenge. My first puzzle. When I finally found the Kokiri Sword, the sense of accomplishment I felt was amazing. I had overcome the great rolling ball and the mini maze that protected the elusive sword. I had won!
Looking back though, I realize how small scale that puzzle was. It is almost silly to think about how excited I was. Yet, that’s why this game is my number one game. Those small moments felt like huge moments to me. Those moments pulled me in.
I moved on. Next was the Great Deku Tree, whom was unlike anything I had seen before. Even though I was young, I could tell how sad and somber he was. The music playing in the background of that scene pulled me deeper as I learned about the history of Hyrule and the threat that it faced from the menace Ganondorf.
Hyrule itself was a massive world. There was almost too many places for my young mind to go to. But I had to see it all. Running across that field for the first time and not making it to the drawbridge in time would quickly turn into a moment of fear for me. Stalchild’s attacked in what felt like swarms. I was fighting to live another day. When day time came and the sun burned away the remaining skeletons, I felt like I had accomplished something huge once again.
Legend of Zelda: OOT was all of my favorite storybooks being played out in front of me. Fear, happiness, triumph, loss, pain, joy, Ocarina of Time has it all. It was no mere hack and slash game. It made you the silent hero. You were Link saving Hyrule and Princess Zelda. You had a whole world to explore, people to meet, and a super villain to defeat.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time cemented itself in history as one of the greatest games of all time. In my opinion, it is the greatest game of all time.