These are my personal top ten games of all time. This is based on a variety of things such as playability, overall enjoyment and most importantly nostalgia.
*Disclaimer* – These are my personal favorites and will change as time goes on. When a game changes, I’ll make an update and note what has changed.
January 2015 – First draft the list
March 2015 – Updated and published the list
#10: Pin-Bot – Pinball / Pinball Arcade PS4
The original Pin-Bot pinball machine is one that I played frequently as a kid in arcades. I was always able to score decently and I enjoyed the transforming landscape and conquering music that played as you shot around the play field. While there are many people the prefer the sequel, Bride of Pin-Bot, I always enjoyed the original better.
In 2014, I had the honor of getting inducted into what I call the “Video Game Hall of Fame” for publishing my gaming book Hidden Treasures. The event was in Ottumwa, Iowa aka the Video Game Capital of the World and was hosted by the legendary Walter Day. At this event there was a lone pinball machine, Pin-Bot! As the day went on, I frequently went and played a few rounds. A couple other people there noticed me doing this and started to join me throughout the day. One such instance had me playing with legendary world record gamers Lonnie McDonald and Steven Sanders, of King of Kong fame! This event, combined with my childhood memories, is what has boosted Pin-Bot to one of my top games of all time.
#9: Donkey Kong – Arcade
The original Donkey Kong arcade machine is something that will always have a special place in my heart. I remember playing this in the arcade as a kid and always wanted to put in one more quarter, thinking I would eventually get to the end. Of course nowadays we all know I would have likely never gotten to that kill screen, nor would I have been satisfied if I did. To this day though, I still fire up the original DK on a weekly basis for a few rounds. While I’m not at the level of a Billy Mitchell, I have been progressively getting more and more proficient and can do respectable runs.
#8: Super Metroid – SNES
Super Metroid is a game that I actually never really played growing up. I never really connected with the first game, although I loved the second and for some reason I never even rented the SNES sequel. Many years later I played Super Metroid and I was blown away! This music is masterful, the controls precise and the exploration is second to none! The boss battles are all intense and really drew me in, keeping me playing through the finish.
#7: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – PS1 / PSP
Symphony of the Night is simply a masterpiece. It is so good that the term Metroidvania was coined from its existence. The music is legendary and the controls are perfection. Being able to get new items, weapons and abilities makes this one of the most fun action games I have ever played to date.
What I truly love about this game is the leveling up and exploration factors. In games I always enjoy it when enemies that previously gave me trouble can be dealt with easily, through progression through the game. I usually will take the time at the beginning to make myself just powerful enough so I am always at an advantage. This allows me to have a feeling of power and makes it really fun to play. Exploring this game is fun, not only by finding new areas, but also because the game keeps track of how much of the castle(s) you have found. Obsessive compulsion for the win!
#6: Super Mario 3D World – Wii U
Another newer game that has slowly crept its way up on my list. Super Mario 3D World is really what a 3D Mario game should be. It intelligently allows for you to have free reign on a level while still giving you a sense of urgency. This is due to the expert level design and intelligent controls. There are multiple powerups, just like I want from my Mario games and they all come with creative uses in levels that really show that Nintendo is the master of their craft.
If that was all there was to Super Mario 3D World, it would still be a favorite game of mine. However, by adding in 4 player cooperative play it has become one of my all time favorite games. Unlike the New Super Mario Bros series where each player is counterproductive, 3D World seems like it was made with all four players in mind. This means that you really can work together effectively in order to traverse each stage and it doesn’t involve multiple deaths keeping the experience fresh and fun each time you play it.
#5: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – 3DS
The simple fact that A Link Between Worlds is a spiritual successor to my #1 game of all time should make it no surprise that it has crept up on my top ten. However I did not expect it to be up this high on my list so quickly! There is something about the world from A Link to the Past that immediately had me connect with this game. The remixed music brings me to my childhood and the updated graphics really show the care that Nintendo puts into their games.
I really loved that you got to rent, and eventually buy, major items right near the beginning of the game. This drove home that you really could tackle this game however you wanted to. Of course I had to make Link as powerful as I could as quickly as possible and I ended up farming for rupees early on so I could buy every item. While this made the game a bit easier in my eyes, it was extremely satisfying. After I beat the game for the first time what appeared before me but a Hard Mode! It’s like the creators read my mind.
#4: Final Fantasy III (VI) – SNES / GBA / PS1
As time goes on Final Fantasy III, or VI for every other system, has climbed higher and higher on my list and has knocked the previous Final Fantasy VII out of contention. It’s mostly because, unlike Final Fantasy VII, part VI holds up much better for me. This is due to a multitude of things from the simplistic, yet deep, nature of the gameplay to even the nostalgic feeling I get from the Super Nintendo compared to the original Playstation. Final Fantasy VI also has one of my favorite main antagonists of all time in the ominous Kefka with his evil laugh; the true master of manipulation!
The other thing that Final Fantasy VI had going for it is the very diverse character roster. Never before in a role playing game was I able to connect with so many characters in a single story. I remember the first time I played through this game I went at it from a normal RPG perspective. I had my favorite four party members and they had maxed out levels to the point of badassery. So I go to the final area and what do I find but a three way split where I need three separate parties of four members! I was shocked and it really showed me how important it was for me to play with each and every character of the roster.
#3: Double Dragon II – NES
This one might come as a shocker to some being so high up on my list, but Double Dragon II has the ultimate nostalgia for me. The attack controls in Double Dragon II are so amazing that they are extremely difficult to effectively explain. The main thing is that when you hit an enemy with a super move such as the hurricane kick or the fabled flying knee, it really has an amazing force behind it. Add in satisfying sound effects and an awesome musical score to bring about the ultimate action experience.
The nostalgia that I feel for Double Dragon II continues to grow and grow. This is mostly due to the many times I have gotten together with my brother from another mother, and co-host of the VGBS gaming podcast, Kyle “Grumble Grumble” Gilbert. We have both mastered this game to the point that multiple times we have performed drunken no death runs that have shattered the cooperative world record. Flying knee juggling insanity for the win! Having one master of a game is great, however having two individuals of equal skill in a game as satisfying as Double Dragon II is something that I might never experience again.
#2: Super Mario Bros 3 – NES
By far my favorite Super Mario Bros title, it should not be a surprise that Mario 3 is on my list. It took what everyone loved in the original Super Mario Bros and turned it up to 11! The addition of a overworld map and multiple power-ups only breached the surface on what set the 3rd main installment of the series above the rest. This game did everything right and no platform game since then has topped it in my book.
I actually remember the first time I rented this game was also the same day I saw The Wizard, which was basically the ultimate unveiling for Super Mario Bros 3. Knowing where the warp whistles were only added to the enjoyment I had with the game that weekend. Needless to say, I immediately bought the game with my allowance and the rest is history!
#1: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – SNES
If there is any game that will probably never change as my favorite of all time, it’s A Link to the Past. I have played this masterpiece a million times and continue to do so annually to this day. There is something about the open exploration combined with an amazing ambiance that continues to draw me in.
To this day I still remember the first time I heard the Death Mountain theme in the Dark World. For some reason that is when I knew this game was something special. Progressing through the game and bring Link to ultimate Hylian mastery has never been so fun or satisfying.
There ya have it, my top games of all time. What do you think of my list? Let me know in the comments and I’d love to hear what you have to say!