We did it, y’all! My top 100 games. Thank you all so much for being with me through this journey! I started this list just for myself – to think about all the games I’d loved growing up – so I was very pleasantly surprised to see how well received it was. All the great feedback in the comments really helped excite me more and more to release a new 10 games each day. We haven’t been without disagreement along the way, and I won’t get through today’s cliche set of games without some scars, but it’s been a heck of a ride.
- Games 100-91
- Games 90-81
- Games 80-71
- Games 70-61
- Games 60-51
- Games 50-41
- Games 40-31
- Games 30-21
- Games 20-11
10. Diablo 2 (PC)
This game is probably pretty close to the top of my list in terms of “number of hours invested.” It was and still is the perfect Diablo game. Almost everything that was good about the original was taken and amped up to an entirely different level. The improvements to the interface and gameplay mechanics were staggering. The sheer breadth of the world that Blizzard created in this game was stunning. There was so much to do, so much to explore, and so many different ways to play. I was never someone who necessarily went for the end game grinds (ie, endless Baal or Mephisto runs) – but I just loved playing through it over and over again with new characters. There may not be another game that exists which has more replay value than this one. The only weakness it has, in my mind, is that it wasn’t quite as dark and moody as the first one. Diablo I was way creepier. But, in all honestly, that’s not really that much of a negative. This could very well be Blizzard’s finest game – and if it weren’t for #5, it would be.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (GameBoy)
“What?!?! He put Link’s Awakening higher than Link to the Past?! The outrage! Link’s Awakening just takes a lot of elements from Link to the Past and puts them on Game Boy! How could he put a spin-off game higher than the original that MADE all its elements good to begin with?!” Because it’s an AMAZING game, that’s why! Every bit of praise I had to give to Link to the Past applies to this game, too. It takes all the elements of Link to the Past and then DOES THEM BETTER. I dare say the puzzles are more fun, the world is more lively, and the characters more interesting. I loved exploring every single piece of this world. In fact, I was so desperate to find everything that I even called Nintendo’s old help line a few times (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I never owned this game when I was a kid – but every week I would rent it from the video store, just PRAYING that my file was still there when I checked the game out. It almost always was, and I was able to complete everything in the game this way. Multiple times.
8. Banjo-Kazooie (N64)
Arguably the best game on N64. Certainly one of the best 3D platformers ever conceived. This game is very similar to Super Mario 64, but is filled with so much more heart, character, and action. There is more to collect and see and do. The world is filled with interesting creatures, friends, and enemies. The soundtrack is brilliant and catchy. There are so many ways to move and fight and explore in this game – all opened up by the incredibly quirky and unique combination of bear and bird. There’s a lot less down time in this game than in SM64, and the levels and hub area are just so big and filled with life that you WANT to explore them. I can’t even begin to pick a favorite level in this stage because they’re all so good and memorable. The controls are tight, the graphics are bright, and Gruntilda is out to give you a fright…. ok I’ll stop. This might be Rare’s best work. Well, except for…
7. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)
Quite possibly the greatest platforming game ever made. It’s an almost perfect game. The art and music are wonderful, making it quite an immersive environment. The level and enemy variety and design are excellent. The controls are super tight, and the sheer number of ways you can move and maneuver through the game are wonderful and exciting. The collectibles are rewarding and motivating. It takes everything that made Donkey Kong Country fun and then raises it to the nth degree. I have played this game more than probably any other game on this list, and I am better at this game than almost any other game on this list – (in fact, it’s not a huge stretch to say that I’m one of the top DKC2 players in the world – at least of players active at the moment of this post). Speed running this game is pretty much the only thing I do on the internet. All of that considered, and this will always be one of my favorite games of all time. (If you haven’t watched any of my videos yet, THIS is the one that you really should watch.)
6. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Wow. I can’t believe I have this game sixth. That’s almost a crime against humanity. I’ve said it for a lot of my top 25 and I’ll say it again here – you really can’t go wrong with having this as number one – whether in an “all time” or “best FF” ranking. I put it sixth, though, because I just enjoy the games higher than it a little bit more. Despite that, I still have tremendously fond memories of this game. I love the way the game doesn’t really have a main character, and instead follows a group of ragtag characters in what is one of the best story setups in all of games. It’s a bit cliché, to be sure – I mean you can only re-tell Star Wars so many ways – but it’s still wonderful and the characters do so much to bring it to life. I think the game drops off a bit in the second half. The World of Ruin is quite fun, but it basically turns into a bunch of side quests without advancing the plot any more. The game also has debatably the best soundtrack in video game history. The battle system is good, although not the best, and the character growth system’s use of Espers to provide stat boosts is somewhat forgettable. But each character has different ways to become pretty powerful, and there are good reasons to get attached to each of them. This game is a masterpiece in almost every way.
5. Starcraft (PC)
No PC game is better than this one, and I dare say no PC game ever will be better than this one. It had absolutely everything. As much as I loved Warcraft I & II, this game completely smashed everything they did so well and took it to an entirely different level. The plot was incredibly engaging – the characters were super well realized. And then there’s the gameplay itself – beyond excellent. Unit control was precise and intuitive. For the three races to play so extremely differently and yet so similarly was a mark of brilliant and unrivaled game design. The Brood War expansion just took everything that was great about the original and elevated it to yet another level. These were characters that you loved and characters that you loved to hate. Even Blizzard themselves haven’t been fully able to recreate the magic of this game in Starcraft II. I even get the shivers right now when thinking about all the time I spent playing this game. It was one of the most magical gaming experiences I’ve ever had, or ever will have.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64)
The best game in one of the best game franchises – Majora’s Mask has everything you could want in a Zelda game. It has tons of items, lots to explore, huge dungeons, an expansive world, and interesting characters. It takes the engine that made Ocarina of Time such an engaging game and makes it better in almost every way (similar to how I feel about Link’s Awakening compared to Link to the Past). The Deku, Goron, and Zora masks open up such amazing movement and combat possibilities – not to mention types of puzzles to solve. The mini games are fun, interesting, and rewarding. The story, while not the greatest, feels like a bunch of miniature stories put together, and it’s amazing how attached you can get to the loveable characters in such a short time. I love almost everything about this game.
3. Super Metroid (SNES)
The more I play this game, the more convinced I am of its place among the greatest games ever made. Not just from its sheer fun factor – but almost everything about the game design is perfect. No other game that I know of with so little random content has such tremendous replay value. The game is perfect for any level of play. The level design introduces new players slowly and encourages exploration. But the sheer number of movement capabilities the developers put in (sometimes unintentionally) give it dozens or hundreds of alternative ways to move through the game. The slowly escalating challenge, sense of mystery, perfectly ambient soundtrack, and memorable locations make this one of the greatest games ever made. As a kid, this atmosphere captured my imagination like none other, and while playing on a playground would picture myself exploring the depths of Zebes. This is the game that got me into speed running, and I still think it is the most challenging and impressive speed run out there. I could easily be argued into making this number one.
2. Final Fantasy IX (PS1)
This is the best Final Fantasy game. Why it isn’t number one I will explain shortly, but nearly everything about this game is perfect. The characters are interesting and the world is immersive. There is tons to collect, see, and do. The story and villain are engaging. The music is beyond beautiful. It is the perfect hybrid of old and new, and represents the pinnacle of quality in the FF series. The only weakness is that battle load time and speed is too slow, but once you get into the game, you tend to forget about it. Wonderful mini-games, tons to collect, and the Excalibur II Perfect Game run is among the greatest challenges in all of gaming. The only reason it’s not number one is…
1. Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
…because no game will ever capture my heart the way Final Fantasy VII did. This was the first game that had me play it continuously for weeks on end, taking breaks only to sleep, eat, and help my mom vacuum the stairs. I stayed up well past midnight playing this when I was young enough that this wasn’t a common thing for me to do – in fact it was probably the first game that kept me up like that. It is not perfect – the characters are too similar to each other in battle, most of the spells aren’t useful, the graphics don’t hold up, the music is badly encoded, and there are some monotonous/useless mini games. But despite all of that, this game is the single most immersive and engaging experience I have ever had. The characters and the story captivated me from the beginning. The music itself is unbelievable and emotionally evocative, even despite the technical flaws. Even though some mini games aren’t great, as a whole they are incredibly fun and the rewards are fantastic. And they’re true SIDE quests – things that you pause your adventure and go out of your way to do. Collecting every materia in the game and leveling them up to have a perfect set is very rewarding and satisfying. I explored every stinking corner of this world, talked to every NPC, and tried to do everything it was possible to do. I’m a completionist in all games, but few games have made me WANT to enjoy them as much as this one. A timeless villain, significant plot twists, lively and engaging characters, a beautiful and diverse world, and the single most memorable and enjoyable experience I’ve ever had with a video game make this a clear number one and my all-time favorite.
Note: There have been two pretty big recent announcements with this game. As I mentioned above, I’m pretty excited about Cloud joining the Smash roster. Not to get him in the game, but because I’ll get an amiibo (and MAYBe some day a Chocobo amiibo. As for the HD remake… well… I’m cautiously optimistic. The best thing about it is that we’ll finally get a fully orchestrated soundtrack, which this game strongly deserves. I hope they do a good job with it, but, even if the game bombs, they can’t take this version away from us. But if they do it right…
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.