Now we get to the good stuff. Some of the games that show up today could very easily be the top of someone’s list, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all! They’re not all perfect, and I’m still throwing a bit of my own nostalgia at this thing, but this is when I start to get really excited about the list. I’ve got a few more playthroughs of games in lieu of screenshots this time – the Mega Man games are my first and only runs, so they’re not that good. But I’ve put quite a bit of work into the DKC trilogy, and it starts to show in these videos. When (if?) DKC2 makes an appearance, that one will be even better.
30. Diablo (PC)
One of the most memorable games I’ve played. Heck, for the longest time I was AFRAID to play this game because I knew how creepy it was. But I couldn’t get over how intrigued I was by it – between the little bit I’d seen at my friend’s house and the ads in other Blizzard games – I just had to get the game. Boy, was I glad I did. The gameplay was great (even though it feels quite dated, these days), from the extremely satisfying hack-and-slash mechanics to the randomly generated dungeons and items that led to a different experience every time. And it was HARD. There were plenty of times where you’d run into a pack of enemies that would wipe you out in seconds. But the best thing about this game was the ATMOSPHERE. I honestly almost threw up the first time I saw the Butcher’s room. (I almost used his room as my screenshot above, but then just looking at pictures of it made me almost gag again. If you haven’t seen it, and are feeling brave, google “diablo butcher’s room”…) The Hell area of this game remains one of the most horrifying things I’ve seen in a video game to date. The other two Diablo games have not even come CLOSE to matching the spookiness of this game. Matt Uelmen’s music was absolutely perfect to capture the moody and ambient feel of the game – and that Tristram theme… So. Good.
29. Metal Gear Solid (PS1)
A truly cinematic experience. So many things about this game were a revolution. The gameplay being oriented around stealth and puzzle solving instead of combat was a novel idea and absolutely perfectly executed. The story was like watching a blockbuster spy movie. What started out as a fairly simple mission turned into something where the fate of the world was at stake. The cutscenes did a lot to really drive this game forward – once you started, it was hard to put down! When you did have to get into a battle, though, the game was still really fun. There were a lot of really interesting boss fights in this game – Psycho Mantis and Sniper Wolf were particularly memorable, not to mention the final boss itself. The only other MGS game I played was 2, which I also really enjoyed. I’ve heard only good things about the rest of the series, as well
28. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble (SNES)
This is the weakest entry in the classic DKC series. And it’s still a great game! In a lot of ways, it’s like an expansion pack to DKC2. Most of the game’s mechanics are the same, but this game is MUCH larger. The levels themselves are longer and there’s a whole extra world. The difficulty curve in this game is also pretty unforgiving. Once you hit world 6, it just gets CRAZY hard compared to the rest of the game. The levels are also a ton of fun. This game marks a return of the factory and snow level styles from the original DKC, and they are most welcome. The bosses are pretty quirky in this game – probably not quite as good as they are in the other two games in the series. The exception, of course, is the excellent final boss. This game has a lot of stages with gimmicks that keep things mixed up. There’s a level where you have to keep a fish fed or it will eat you, a level where lightning is constantly trying to hit you, a level with reversed controls, and even a bonus stage where you take control of a fire-ball shooting cannon. There are, however, a lot more frustrating levels in this game than in the others. Low G Labyrinth, in particular, is a terrible stage in almost every way. Kong-Fused Cliffs is pretty bad too. So all in all, the good things about this game make it really good, but it has some low points that are pretty low. Kiddy is Kiddy Kong may be fat, but he’s still awesome.
27. Mega Man 2 (NES)
I’m not sure why so many people rate it as the best Mega Man game. It’s very, very good – don’t get me wrong – but I just don’t think it’s quite as fun as the three I have higher than it on this list. While it has some of the best music in the series, nothing else about it is really the best. Yes, the levels are a ton of fun and a significant improvement over the first Mega Man. Yes, the game is super challenging and has a ton of replay value. But the robot masters and levels aren’t the most interesting in the series. I think the additions of sliding and the charge shot in later entries really help them surpass this one – not to mention how much better Rush is than the items. Sorry – I’ve spent most of this blurb talking about why other games are better – but this really is a worthy holder of such a high spot in the rankings. It’s an insanely fun game, I just can’t buy into the hype.
26. Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen (SNES)
This game was such an enigma when I first played it. It had a very distinctly “Warcraft” vibe to me at first – with moving units all around a map – so I got sucked in. It’s really a strategy game more than it is a tactical game – the battles are conducted completely randomly, within some constraints – so it’s all about knowing what your groups can do and where to deploy them. The lore of the game was deep and vibrant – the world you entered really felt like it had a history. I love the way that every little decision you made affected the game – your reputation could increase or decrease based on your actions, and so could your character’s good/evil alignment. Which units you used to liberate cities would determine how well they received you, which would in turn impact whether other characters would join you. The game was just so huge and had so many different ways to play. Not only did it have 12 different ending (I’m pretty sure I only ever saw 2 or 3 of them) – but the story over the course of the game would change based on how you had played up to that point. A character who might join you in one play through would be your mortal enemy in another. I had the strategy guide for this game, and I very clearly remember sitting down, looking at the maps, and figuring out where and how I would deploy my different party members. A LOT. Few game worlds have caused me to immerse myself in them as much as this one did.
25. Mega Man 4 (NES)
This is the first Mega Man game I ever played. When I first turned it on, I had no idea what to do. I chose “Pharaoh Man” because I had learned about Egypt in Sunday School. I thought I was going to play AS Pharaoh Man – I didn’t realize I was choosing my opponent. Then when the level started this little blue guy plopped down onto a platform in the middle of quicksand… and I had no idea where to go! Thus began my journey into the beautiful, amazing, wonderful world of Mega Man. MM4 is most noteworthy for introducing the charge shot and for its high level of difficulty. This game probably stirs up some of my fondest Mega Man memories. Now that I’ve played through the whole thing several times, I really do love everything about it. Each of the Robot Masters holds a special place in my heart, and just thinking about any of their levels really tugs at the old heart strings. Given that I’m completely irrational in this whole list, that’s sufficient for me to place this game so high. (Also it’s awesome.)
24. Final Fantasy IV (SNES/DS/iOS)
Now we start getting to greatness. Final Fantasy IV would be the top game on many people’s list, and I wouldn’t blame them. I never was able to play through this as a kid, and didn’t get around until I got the iPhone version. I was hooked and ended up playing it all the way through three times. Great characters, great story, excellent music, and just a lot of fun! In my opinion, Cecil is the greatest of all the Final Fantasy heroes. I only give it a few knocks because the battles are a bit grindy, a lot of spells and abilities aren’t very useful, and there is little to no character customization. But for a game to hold up this well after so many years and be worthy of so many remakes makes this a worthy addition to the top 25, and I could easily be convinced to place it higher. The sequel, FFIV: The After Years, isn’t as good, but is a fun follow up, and that only serves to make this game greater.
23. Goldeneye 007 (N64)
Remember everything I said earlier about not being that fond of FPS games? Well, forget all that. Goldeneye 007 had everything that I look for in a great game. I played this game so much that I still blame it for my inability to play modern FPS games (which oftentimes use two analog sticks – I’m so stuck in the left stick to move, C-buttons to strafe paradigm that I’m completely useless in modern games). My proudest moment was when I got a 1:38 on Facility 00 Agent to unlock the invincibility cheat. My saddest moment came in college, when a friend managed to unlock the Silver PP7 cheat (Train on 00 Agent – the only cheat I hadn’t unlocked) on his first try. It should be clear by now that I played everything about this game over and over and over again. The levels were extremely well designed and a ton of fun. The challenges for unlocking the aforementioned cheat codes added a ton of replay value and difficulty to the game. And all this goes without even mentioning the multiplayer mode, which was one of the most entertaining things you could do with friends from the mid-90s on. Lastly, this game is responsible for introducing me (and an entire generation) to the Bond franchise, and Goldeneye remains my favorite film in the series to date.
22. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
I’ll never forget the special VHS tape that came with my Nintendo Power subscription back in 1994. It introduced a game that was about to come out for Super Nintendo – a game that would have more of an impact on my life than I ever could have anticipated at the time. From the time I first popped in that cassette (and learned about the first bonus in Snow Barrel Blast) I was hooked. Everything about this game was cool. From the character design to the in game graphics. From the gameplay to the music. When I finally got my hands on a copy (rented, of course, as almost all my games were back then) I played this thing into the ground. Using my trusty Nintendo Power guide, I was able to get 101% completion. But it was HARD to do so! Those barrel sections were a nightmare, the autoscrollers were crazy difficult, and don’t get me STARTED on Platform Perils. But the game did it all with heart and excellent controls, and it remains one of the best games ever made to this day. As most of you know, I speed run this series now. The all stages speed run of this game might be my favorite speed category of all. It’s just so FAST and so FUN! Diddy is a boss.
21. Mega Man X (SNES)
SUCH a great game. Of all the Super Nintendo games I owned, this might have been the one I played the most. I loved the action, the collectibles, the characters, the challenge…. everything!!! It takes everything about classic Mega Man and then adds a level of dynamism to it. Everything is faster, bigger, and more intense. The way X would gradually power up throughout the game added a totally new twist on the genre, and a welcome one at that! Though later X games are probably better than this one, this one was just such a significant milestone in my gaming life that it would be a crime to put it any lower than this.
Tomorrow we can all be thankful for game 20,
Super Mario RPG
Reminder: I’ve considered things like gameplay, replay value, timelessness, story, unique qualities, cultural impact, personal impact, and overall just how much fun a game is. Except for the times when I don’t consider them at all. I may even think a lower-rated game is “better” than one higher than it, or even more fun. Ultimately, the criteria are entirely my own. I make the decisions, I make the ratings, and I don’t claim to be either fair or logical in any of this.