Top 10 Video Games
written by: SAH
I've been seeing a fair number of "top 10" lists for video games recently. Many of them focus on a particular console or genre of gaming. But others, like the one below, focus on the lifespan of the gamer compiling the list.
This is not a list of the top 10 best games of all time. This is a list of the top 10 most personally impactful games I'm played in my lifetime.
I put a fair amount of thought into the list, trying to isolate the games that have consumed the most hours, expanded my understanding of gaming, or provided the biggest emotional impact. I'm sure I'll think of other games I should have mentioned, but here they are, my top 10, along with my reasons for choosing each; plus a few runners-up that I just couldn't let go without mention.
#10 - Contra (Nintendo / NES)
Up Up, Down Down, Left Right, Left Right, B A, Start: And with that I was off and running with 30 lives of pixilated runnin' and gunnin'; jumping, dodging and weapon upgrading my way through level after glorious level. I spent hours and hours playing this game with my brother and friends. We beat it numerous times (at least a couple without the code). There were lots of fun Nintendo games, but this is the one whose cartridge we shook, smacked and blew on the most, in hopes of one more run through the terrorist/alien-infested jungle.
#9 - Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (PlayStation)
I am a ninja. Not since I'd been a little kid stalking other kids in the dark yards and dim alleys of my boyhood neighborhood had I felt so much like a ninja. The sequels to this game sucked, and this game had its problems, but with poison rice and a grappling hook, this is still my favorite. Honestly, the closest thing to this I've played since is maybe Batman: Arkham Asylum. If Rocksteady made a Tenchu game, I would buy it.
#8 - The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (PlayStation 2)
In much the same way that Tenchu made me feel like a ninja, Ultimate Destruction made me feel like the Hulk. It was a fun game, it was challenging, it had a good progression of powers and, it combined open world destruction with missions and a plot that was so good it's nearly the same as the one used in 2008's The Incredible Hulk movie. I liked being able to bring down buildings, swing wrecking balls, and choose to save, stomp or punt puny humans. But most of the time hulk just smash.
#7 - Burnout 3: Takedown (PlayStation 2)
I have enjoyed many racing games over the years, so this was a hard choice. I chose Takedown because of the pure joy and adrenaline that comes with performing the namesake move. The vehicular destruction and sense of speed in this game was awe-inspiring (and OHH!, and AWHH! -inspiring) to me and my friends. As gaming started its path toward single-player isolation, this remained a great in-room communal gaming experience.
#6 - Journey (PlayStation 3 / PSN)
This game is so new, it's hard to say if the impact will last, but it's also hard to imagine that it won't. It only took about two hours to play, but it was an amazing, engaging, beautiful, and emotional two hours. The environments in Journey are fantastic in a classic sense. The music and sound design is genius : an overused term I know, but I can't think of another game that merges the sound with the environment and action with as great an impact. And the classic Joseph Campbell-inspired plot, along with an utterly unique take on multiplayer and a wholly satisfying (dare I say spiritual) conclusion makes this one of my favorite games.
#5 - Little Big Planet 2 (PlayStation 3)
This game pretty much redefined what a game on the PS3 could be. It combines classic platforming elements with whimsy and a level building system that imaginative gamers the world over continue to use to create fantastic and unique levels to play. It is family-friendly, community-friendly, co-operative, and fun in a pure sense. A gamer could play this game and no other and never run out of new things to see and do. That is truly impressive. I picked LBP2 over the original because it improved on their original concept in almost every way.
#4 - GTA: San Andreas (PlayStation 2)
While GTA3 was my first real jump into the open-world genre, and I've played hundreds of hours of all of the GTA titles since, San Andreas remains my favorite. I loved the giant world. I loved the story/gangland takeover mechanic. I loved the soundtrack. And I loved that it never took itself too seriously. The GTA formula is starting to wear thin (and they have got some real competition in the "fun" arena with titles like Saint's Row 3), but this remains one of my favorite games.
#3 - Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2)
Similar to Journey in emotional resonance, Shadow was a game that caught me off guard, sucked me in, compelled me forward (even when the motivations of the character started to be questioned) and ultimately paid off with an impactful, if somewhat ambiguous ending. While you spend hours exploring a nearly empty world, ridding it of giant the wondrous colossi, you cannot shake the feeling that you, a tiny boy, are the enemy, and your selfishness may bring the world to its knees. It's a beautiful game, with great level design and impactful gameplay whose influence is still rippling through the gaming waters.
#2 - Twisted Metal 2 (PlayStation)
There are a handful of games for the original PlayStation that helped secure my fanboy loyalty, and this was one of them. CoryQ and I played endless hours of this game. I beat it with every character more than once, and the fun of car combat has not been eclipsed since. Paris is still my favorite level.
#1 - Red Dead Redemption (PlayStation 3)
It's very hard to pick a number one, but this game was great on every level. It's story is so good I've actually become more interested in Westerns as a genre in general. The gameplay can be as tranquil as sitting on your horse and watching the sun go down, or as intense as defending a train from waves of bandits. The inclusion of Jose Gonzalez's "Far Away" was a surprise and hit me like a truck... or, I guess, a train. The characters are great. The story is fantastic. The open world is truly open (well, eventually). And the expansion packs they released for the game included Undead Redemption, the best zombie game I think I've played. You become a heroic gunslinger of the wild west, and that is a playtime fantasy older than gunslinging or the west. I can think of games I've perhaps played more, and games that were arguably more continuously "fun," but I can't think of another that has been so satisfying on every front. So, it was a surprise to me, but Red Dead Redemption is my favorite game... so far.
Centipede (Atari 2600) - I really do like the simple fun of trying to blast a wriggling insect to bits. My grandpa got this game, along with others, for me and my brother and we played it a lot.
Pac-Man (Atari 2600) - While I realize this is not the "best" version of this game, my brother, grandfather and I played a lot of it, and it holds up a foundational pillar in my gaming life.
Excitebike (Nintendo) - You could make your own tracks. This was mind blowing. Simple racing fun.
Life Force (Nintendo) - There are many arguably better games of this genre, but I loved this game, I beat this game, and I still think the idea of flying a spaceship out to battle aliens with increasing firepower is a fun game idea.
Killer Instinct (Super Nintendo) - I liked this more than Mortal Kombat. I also once hit CoryQ with a combo so big he set his controller down, went to get a soda and came back just as his character hit the ground.
Destruction Derby (PlayStation) - This was the game that got CoryQ and I to each buy PlayStations. It was a game we played in lieu of seeing the American West.
Tomb Raider (PlayStation) - Boobs. Also, it has a T-rex. Indiana Jones as a woman in hot pants. Works for me. And clearly I'm not alone.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (PlayStation) - I always wanted to be better at skateboarding than I was. This made that possible.
War of the Monsters (PlayStation 2) - Completely underappreciated. This was Rampage as it should have been: giant 50s-style monsters and music in a city-leveling battle for dominance. There have been a handful of other games like this, but never any as fun.
God of War (PlayStation 2) - Epic. Brutal. Fantastic. The sequels might be better, but this one set the over-the-top tone early and was a thrill to play from beginning to end.
SSX Tricky (PlayStation 2) - I do enjoy the new PS3 game, but I don't think it is as fun in the pure rush-down-the-mountain-grabbing-big-air kind of way that Tricky was.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PlayStation 2) - Honestly, I love the entire series. The characters, gameplay, comedy, design, all top notch. But this one's my favorite so far.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PlayStation 3) - I have played so many hundreds of hours of shooters, I figured I should at least mention one. I like the environmental destruction of the Battlefield series over the Call of Duty series, but as much as I love the tactics, endless unpredictability and general fun of the games, none of them have the emotional element required to make the top 10. (Borderlands was also a fantastic game and I'm really looking forward to the sequel.)
Plants vs. Zombie (PS3/iOS) - My second favorite zombie game. Between the PS3 and iPad, I've played through it maybe a dozen times I think and it's always a lot of fun. Colorful, clever and creative. Now where the zombiebrain is PvZ2?
Super Scribblenauts (Nintendo DS/iOS) - I literally bought a Nintendo DS just to play this game and it's predecessor. A game where you solve puzzles by typing in anything you can think of which is then generated into the gameworld? Amazing. The game has some limitations and some game mechanics issues (not sure we even need the main character), but I absolutely love the concept.
There are dozens of other games I've enjoyed over the years, and video games are quickly becoming my favorite form of entertainment (mostly replacing TV), but these are the ones that jump out from memory, whose worlds I can see in my head, and whose impact is as great as that of the greatest examples of any other form of entertainment.
Close your browser. Pick up a controller.
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