I am so thankful for all of these games. We’re really getting into stuff that has played a huge role in my life, now. Some really significant jRPGs, the introduction of the Zelda series, and the best games from Mario and Mega Man. I’m sure I’ll get some disagreement on some of these points, but these next two days’ worth of games is pretty much the reason I’ve been excited about this list all along.
- Games 100-91
- Games 90-81
- Games 80-71
- Games 70-61
- Games 60-51
- Games 50-41
- Games 40-31
- Games 30-21
20. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
I owe so much to Mario RPG. That first moment when I got to play it at a friend’s house had me instantly hooked. I very distinctly remember trying to chase Croco around to get Mallow’s coin back (actually, now that I think of it, his basement is where I first saw Star Wars, too….). Everything about the game was so vibrant – so full of life. The colors were bright, the music was endearing, and the characters were charming. It introduced me to the concept of turn-based battles, abilities, and item use. It was filled with challenge and intrigue, and getting it as a gift made my birthday in 1996 the best ever (until 1997, when I got my N64…). I recently played through the game again with my four year old son, and he was absolutely taken with the game. He loved the story, the characters, and the battles just as much as I had. I’ve since started playing through FF4 with him as well – so the fact that this game has been a gateway to RPGs and fantasy for two generations in my family now speaks to how wonderful and timeless it truly is.
19. Breath of Fire 2 (SNES)
If Mario RPG was the first jRPG I played, then this was the first real jRPG I played. I really, really liked this game. In fact, for the longest time, I think I liked it more than Final Fantasy 6. I loved the world and the characters. I loved the combat. I absolutely loved the story. As a young kid, this game was super challenging, but super rewarding at the same time. I instantly recognized the formula from Mario RPG when I first played this, and the way the game started – with a mysterious dragon, the sudden disappearance of your family, and the threat of an unseen demon – grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. It just felt like a world that had more going on than met the eye, and this sense of mystery and foreboding really encourages the player to explore and grow. Some parts of this game were extremely challenging – but every bit of it as deep or memorable as any other RPG I’ve since played. This game is very high on my list as a candidate for my first Let’s Play of a game that I wouldn’t be doing blind.
18. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
Given that this game is widely considered by many to be the greatest ever (so not much really needs to be said about it), I’ll start with the negatives. It’s just not as good a game as people remember. It’s rather slow paced, and the combat is not that deep. The story is pretty good, but the characters aren’t very well fleshed out. The dialogue moves very slowly as well. It’s a huge world – but a lot of that world is just pretty empty. Hyrule field is one of the most disappointing areas in the Zelda games I’ve played. Nothing really happens there and there just isn’t that much to do in the area. It’s just big for big’s sake. And its biggest and most glaring weakness is the absence of the classic Zelda theme. Going for 100% completion in the game oftentimes devolves into tedium. It’s surpassed in every way by its sequel, Majora’s Mask, and fails to live up to its predecessors. Now – despite all that – there’s a reason that the first Zelda game on the list shows up in the top 20. This is an excellent series, and this is a fantastic game. I just had to start out a little more critical because I feel this game is so overhyped. But this was probably the most anticipated game of my life. I remember how much time I spent reading about and building my excitement for it as a 13-year old – and then the time I finally got to try out a little bit of it in an Electronics Boutique at the mall. I’ll never forget that moment when I first saw that they had the game on display. I played this game to its absolute max, and have several times since. It is a ton of fun, I just feel that people look back on it through rose-colored glasses. (Of course, given how much my own nostalgia is responsible for this entire list, that’s hardly a fair criticism for me to make…)
17. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
I can’t believe I didn’t play this until I was an adult. What a wonderful, beautiful game. The graphics, the music, the story, the battle system – everything is just an absolute delight in this game. The characters are pretty simple, but they’re really loveable – Frog and Robo, in particular. The story is pretty basic, yet is unforgettable. And the music is absolutely magnificent. This may be the best battle system in any jRPG – the only weakness might be that the techs aren’t a little more useful – and even that doesn’t apply in all cases. There really is nothing negative that I can say about this game. It’s only at 17 because the games above it on this list have meant more to me – in fact, it’s so good that it managed to jump above several other games that meant more to me, as well.
16. Mega Man 5 (NES)
This game might be the most fun of the entire Mega Man series. The colors are vibrant, the controls are tight, the enemies are interesting, and the levels are insanely fun. In fact, just writing this blurb and remembering the game caused me to bump it up a few slots in the ranking! I absolutely adore everything about this game. Do you guys remember The Magic School Bus books? Well, in 2nd grade we had to make up our own adventure in that style, and the story I wrote was that we rode the bus into Mega Man 5. It isn’t perfect, sure. A few weapons are pretty useless (lookin’ at you, Power Stone and Charge Kick), and the Proto Man/Dark Man stages are a pretty big difficulty spike. But that doesn’t take away from the package as a whole, for me. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I like it so much, but there’s just something about how it “feels.” It’s probably the sheer diversity of the levels and robot masters. Or maybe it’s how powerful you feel when a super-charged mega buster blasts through a whole row of enemies. Maybe it’s the catchy and quirky soundtrack. Is it the introduction of Beat and how he added a completion element to the game? Whatever it is, this game beyond excellent and is insanely fun.
15. Super Mario World (SNES) && 14. Super Mario Bros 3 (NES) && 13. Super Mario 64 (N64)
I’m describing these three together because they are the defining games for their respective systems. You can’t think of SNES, NES, or N64 without thinking about these games. There’s no need to describe what made any of them special in detail because they’re so iconic and well known. It’s very, very difficult for me to separate them or figure out which one I like better. They are everything that a Mario game should be, and all the games that came afterwards are just trying to recapture the magic that they provided. Each of them is unique from each other, but all succeed introducing new elements and features that would ultimately become Mario staples. And when it comes to sheer fun factor there are few games that can compete with any of them – even to this day.
12. Mega Man 3 (NES)
It was hard to pick my favorite Mega Man game. I’ve gone back and forth between 3, 4, and 5 more times than I can count. Which game I give the nod for top spot too will oftentimes depend on my mood. But more often than not, I come back to Mega Man 3. I think this game has the best combination of challenge, accessibility, and creativity. The slide mechanic introduced in this game opens up a ton of interesting possibilities in movement and level design. The robot masters are all fun and memorable, and the music is fantastic (an OCRemix of the Title theme has been my cell phone ring for years). The Doc Robot fights, which bring back bosses from Mega Man 2, are an awesome addition. There just really aren’t a lot of weaknesses in this game – it’s so fun! 4 and 5 probably pull on the nostalgia strings a touch more for me – but if I were only allowed to play one Mega Man for the rest of my life, it would be this one.
11. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Having this game rated higher than Ocarina of Time seems to be a pretty common thing in a lot of people’s lists. It’s also one of the great internet debates of our time – and perhaps of all time. Link to the Past is, without question, one of the greatest games ever made. As with most of the games in my top 25 or so, I could have no complaints with someone else putting this at number one. This is an excellent, excellent, game in almost every way. It’s so fun. The puzzles are great, the items are great, the world is great, the music is great… it’s completely beautiful and still holds up to this day. If I had to criticize something… it’s maybe that some of the items aren’t always useful? Pretty minor nit. The fact that I have this at number 11 is almost an outrage. It’s that good of a game, and should really just go to show you how I highly feel about the 10 that come after this.
Now for a sneak peak of number 10 you get…
…nothing! You’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out!
Any guesses as to what the top 10 will be?
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.