I have been a hardcore gamer almost my entire life. Some of my earliest memories involve playing on my mother’s Atari 2600. I’ve found games I like from every genre and every era. Yes, I have even played the first-gen Pong consoles. Having such a long history with the hobby, I feel the time has come to name my all-time favorite games. As I’ve been playing for 35 years, this list will be a Top 35.
Before I begin, I want to make a few points very clear. Firstly, this list is based entirely on my own personal opinions. This isn’t a list of the greatest games ever, just my personal favorites and it was incredibly difficult to narrow the list down to 35. If you disagree with some of my picks, send me a tweet or write your own list. Secondly, as I do with all of my assorted countdowns, I am only allowing one game per franchise. If I didn’t, there’d be too many titles in too few franchises on the list, and who’d want to read something like that? Finally, for multi-platform releases, I would only note a specific platform if there are significant differences.
Well, ready the tomatoes for throwing. It’s time to start.
35 – Dead Rising (Xbox 360)
Dead Rising is the most straight-up fun I’ve had with a zombie game. Even though I haven’t actually completed the story once yet, I had too much fun just exploring the Willamette Mall and finding new weapons to try on the zombie hordes. Also, I can’t help but laugh when a serious cutscene comes up while Frank West is wearing a dress. Even though the combo weapons are fun to use in the sequels, I just have the most fun with the first.
34 – Sid Meyer’s Civilization V (PC)
I’ve always enjoyed empire-building sims, and Sid Meyer’s Civilization V is one of the best of the bunch. The fact that the game can be tailored to any mood I’m in makes it the perfect game for just about any time. Being able to win through means other than armed conflict is an added bonus. If a game is so enjoyable that I’m actively jerry-rigging my under-powered laptop to play it, you know you have a winner.
33 – Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)
I’d always enjoyed the Forza series, but I had my doubts when I heard about the open-world Forza Horizon games, the second of those washed any doubts away. I got a kick out of roaming looking for everything, and the races are some of the most exciting in the whole franchise. The moment I outraced a jet, I was hooked.
32 – Yakuza 0 (PlayStation 4)
It may seem cheap putting so recent a game on this list, but I can’t help it. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Yakuza franchise, and Yakuza 0 is the pinnacle of it. The battles are always awesome, and the goofy side stories get me busting up almost every time. I’ve lost count how many hours I blew just doing the karaoke minigame. This spot could go to any game in the franchise, but I can’t deny that the newest one is the best.
31 – Wing Commander 4: The Price of Freedom (PlayStation)
Flight games are one of my favorite genres, and Wing Commander 4 is my favorite in the genre. The battles are varied and exciting, and the story kept me hooked. It felt as epic as Star Wars, fitting since the character I was controlling was played by Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill. Talk about a total geek-out!
30 – Breath of Fire 3 (Playstation, PSP)
The Breath of Fire series was one of the first RPG series I got into, and the third barely beats the first for my favorite. The story of a kid growing into his dragon powers and searching for his family kept me interested the whole way. I enjoyed the battles and exploration much more than most turn-based RPGs, and I lost way too much time with the fishing mini-game. Now if only Capcom will bring this series back…
29 – Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
This is actually my favorite dungeon crawler, even more than the Diablo games. With hundreds of dungeons spread across hundreds of square miles of open-world, I could explore forever with just one of the characters. Add in light and dark story options and THOUSANDS of sub-quests, and I swear my 360 will die before I could finish everything in this game!
28 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis/MegaDrive)
Regrettably, I have played almost all of the Sonic games, even a large number of the bad ones. The second game is the reason I gave Sonic all those chances. Sonic 2 has the best level design of the whole series to fit any mood I’m in, whether I want to race through or explore thoroughly. In fact, the Casino Night stages are the most fun I had with ANY platformer.
27 – Wild Arms (PlayStation)
It was a tough choice between Wild Arms and Final Fantasy 7 for my favorite Playstation RPG. While Final Fantasy 7 was certainly an epic I enjoyed going through, I just preferred Wild Arms. I love the fantasy-meets-Wild West setting, and the levels encourage exploration thanks to the characters’ abilities. Even though Alter Code F expanded on the original in great ways, I still prefer the original.
26 – The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
I’ve loved the Elder Scrolls series since I first played Morrowind on the Xbox, and Oblivion is my favorite even over Skyrim. Cyrodiil was cool to explore, and the battle mechanics were engaging. I actually prefer being tied to a character class over the open classes of Skyrim since it forces you to play a role. Also, the trips in the realm of Oblivion are some of the most harrowing experiences I ever had in an RPG.
25 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox)
It was tough picking between this one and 2X on the Xbox. I chose the third Tony Hawk game for three reasons. Firstly, the stages were the most fun to fiddle around in, especially the foundry. Second, the revert made super long combos easier and more rewarding. Finally, I love the expanded customization options. I think I spent days making custom skateparks and days more playing HORSE with friends.
24 – Serious Sam (Xbox)
My favorite first-person shooters are the ones that are the craziest, and Serious Sam definitely qualifies for that. Bowling with cannonballs gets me cracking up from the absurdity of it. Meanwhile, the headless kamikazes get my pulse racing even faster than the Flood in the Halo games. Even more than the sequels, the first Serious Sam is pure shooting bliss.
23 – Blast Corps (Nintendo 64)
I’ve always enjoyed puzzle games, but I get tired of endless Tetris and BeJeweled clones. Blast Corps is the most unique puzzle game I’d ever played, and it was the game that made me buy an N64. It may seem like a mindless action game, but making effective use of the vehicles in each level gets my brain firing up in the best way. Honestly, what’s more fun than a puzzle game that involves mech suits, construction vehicles, explosives, and building demolition?
22 – Tropico 4 (Xbox 360)
I’ve always enjoyed building sims, and Tropico 4 is my favorite. There are endless options for building my own tropical paradise without the needless bloat that Tropico 5 added. I’ve played it as a benevolent governor, as a murderous tyrant, and every way in between, and I’ve had a blast every time.
21 – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (Super Nintendo)
The Donkey Kong Country games are all a hoot, but the second one is my favorite. Diddy and Dixie’s unique abilities make exploring levels over again more rewarding. That’s a major plus since the second one has the best level design in the whole series, especially the bramble stages. The game can get sadistically hard, but I feel accomplished with every stage I get through.
20 – Raiden Fighters Aces (Xbox 360)
The Raiden series has always been my favorite series when it comes to arcade shooters, very challenging but more fair than many Japanese bullet-hell shooters. The Raiden Fighters subseries was even better since each game provided more diverse levels and a bunch of ships with unique power-ups to play with. Since Aces gathers all three of the Raiden Fighters games into one package, it is one of the best shooter packages I’ve ever bought.
19 – Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PlayStation)
The original Crash Bandicoot trilogy was pure platforming joy, much better than the games not made by Naughty Dog, and the second is my favorite. Even though the first is prettier and the third has more diverse gameplay, the second has the best level-design and the tightest gameplay. The second one is the Crash game I always end up coming back to.
18 – Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, Super Nintendo)
If I only played one Mario game for the rest of my life, this would be it. With the most creative levels and power-ups of the whole franchise, Mario 3 is a game I can play forever. I especially love the “Giant” world. I prefer the version on the Super Nintendo since I can at least save my progress on that one.
17 – Resident Evil (PlayStation, Saturn)
Resident Evil is an awesome horror adventure game; there’s no disputing that. I’ve beaten the game multiple times with both characters and would happily load it up again. However, the original Resident Evil holds a special significance to me since this game got me interested in horror films as well. A whole genre that I dismissed when I was a kid was opened up to me, and I thank Resident Evil for that.
16 – Culdcept Saga (Xbox 360)
Unlike a lot of collectible card games turned digital, Culdcept took advantage of the medium. Effectively combining Magic with Monopoly, it provided one of the greatest strategy experiences I had ever played. Culdcept Saga took everything that was awesome about the prior games, added split-element creatures, tons of unique boards, and even online play! I don’t play online a lot, but Culdcept Saga is one I would always make time for.
15 – Metal Gear Solid (PlayStation)
How could a game that maxes out at 15 hours be epic? Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid found a way. The story is beyond awesome, the characters are unforgettable, and the action set-pieces kick ten types of ass! I love how there are so many ways to get through each area. I could play it over and over and STILL find new ways to play.
14 – Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins (PlayStation)
Looking at my Twitter handle, of course a Tenchu game has to be on the list. With the exception of the Wii game, they’re all pretty good with the second one as my favorite. Tenchu 2 has better missions and isn’t as frustrating as the first. Then there is the mission editor. I filled a half-dozen PS1 memory cards with missions that I created. It’s the most fun I had creating, even more than with the Tony Hawk games, the TimeSplitters games, and even RPG Maker.
13 – Bookworm (DS)
I play a lot of Scrabble and a lot of BeJeweled. Of course, a puzzle game that combines the two is heaven for me. Bookworm is my favorite puzzle game. Not only is it addictive in the way all PopCap games are, it also gave my vocabulary a workout, a great thing for a writer. Even though all the versions of Bookworm are good, I prefer the DS version due to the additional content, the perfect touch controls, and the fact that I could play it anywhere.
12 – Outlaw Golf 2 (PlayStation 2, Xbox)
As I mentioned when I reviewed 100Ft. Robot Golf, I absolutely love golf games of all kinds, and Outlaw Golf 2 is my all-time favorite. The courses are goofy and challenging, the characters are enjoyably vulgar stereotypes, and the commentary by the always hilarious Dave Attell gets me busting up even now. Beyond that, it has some of the strongest mechanics of any golf game I’d ever played. (For more information, keep an eye out for my review as part of the Defunct Games Golf Club: Round 2 coming soon!)
11 – Super Metroid (Super Nintendo)
What can I say about Super Metroid that hasn’t already been said over the last 25 years? Planet Zebes is a joy to explore, and the creepy atmosphere is hypnotic. I love how the boss fights play like puzzles to solve rather than just oversized targets in a shooting gallery. I think the only thing that surprises anyone is that there are ten games I prefer over it.
10 – Pinball Arcade (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
I love pinball, both digital and the real thing. Pinball Arcade is the perfect marriage of the two. I can’t imagine the real tables getting recreated any better in how they look or how they feel. Also, the Achievements/Trophies are some of the most rewarding I’ve earned due to how challenging the goals to get.
9 – Rock Band 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii)
Rock Band 3 is the pinnacle of music games as far as I’m concerned. Adding the keyboards and vocal harmonies hit the right notes with me (pun intended) since the singing and keyboard parts are my favorites. Beyond that, the career mode and customization options are the best in all music games, even better than Rock Band 4.
8 – Silent Hill (PlayStation)
Horror games don’t get much better than this. Even with the outdated graphics, the atmosphere is peerless, and I can name numerous moments that still creep me out even now. Further, I enjoy just exploring the town and seeing all the references to classic Americana and classic horror. Even though I enjoy all the Silent Hill games, the first trip is the one that sticks with me the most.
7 – Chrono Trigger (Super Nintendo, PlayStation, DS)
The first RPG I ever played is still my favorite game in the genre. All the characters are memorable, the time-travel mechanics are brilliantly realized, the music is gorgeous, and the battle system with its combo attacks is genius. At a count, I’ve reached eight of the twelve endings and look forward to seeing the rest.
6 – Doom 2: Hell on Earth (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Doom 2 is first-person shooter perfection as far as I’m concerned. The stages play like puzzles rather than just arenas, and the monsters can get outright terrifying. I still have nightmares about running into Cyberdemons. Not only that, the challenge is just right; it doesn’t get as infuriating as Final Doom or say as easy as Doom 3. I’m always ready to take this trip back to Hell.
5 – Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
I don’t normally play competitively, but I make a special exception for Tekken. I’ve loved the series since I played the first in a Memphis arcade in 1995; I’ve even won a couple of local tournaments. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the best the series had gotten so far. It has all the characters I could possibly want, and the tag mechanics have been tightened since the first Tag Tournament. My niece and I even enjoy playing the Arcade mode in co-op. I don’t know how Tekken 7 can set the bar higher, but I’m excited to find out!
4 – Mega Man X (Super Nintendo)
Mega Man 2 was one of the first NES games I played, and I’ve loved the series ever since. However, no Mega Man tops the first 16-bit game. The stages are a joy to explore, especially after upgrading X. The boss fights are challenging without being infuriating. Plus I can’t forget the music; the tune from Storm Eagle’s stage was my ringtone for the longest time. The final battle with Sigma is actually chilling. This is one Mega Man game I’ll always return to.
3 – You Don’t Know Jack! (PlayStation)
The You Don’t Know Jack! games are my picks for the best trivia games, the best party games, and the funniest games ever, and the two-disc PS1 iteration tops them all, even topping the version in The Jackbox Party Pack. The questions are well-written, the bonus modes are a blast, and the host Cookie got me cracking up too many times to count! If I wanted to break my own rules, I’d put the whole YDKJ! franchise in this spot.
2 – River Raid (Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Intellivision, ColecoVision)
It may seem weird to put an Atari 2600 game this high, but River Raid deserves it. It was the first game I reviewed on Defunct Games for a reason: it’s a game I will never grow bored with. The shooting is challenging and addicting; blasting through each new bridge provides more joy than any newer bullet-hell shooter. Hey, Activision, rather than trying to revive Pitfall again, how about bringing back this?
1 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation, Saturn, Xbox 360)
If there is one game I would happily play until I can’t hold a controller anymore, this is it. Everything Super Metroid did, Symphony of the Night did better. The exploration is an endless joy, especially getting rewarded with the inverted castle. The huge number of weapons and special powers means combat never gets boring. The visuals are some of the most breath-taking ever drawn. And the music? Well is the fact that I bought the soundtrack enough praise? I’ve beaten this game every way that it’s possible to beat it, and I’d still come back for more. Even though most of the picks on this were hard choices, choosing number one was a no-brainer.
Disagree? Have an idea for a countdown? Send me a Tweet!