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Video games have had a very rich and expansive history, from the old quarter munching arcade cabinets to the golden age of indie games we’re currently in. While it’s hard to pick just ten games as the best games of all time, some games have withstood the test of time and still remain beloved classics despite being generations old. Here are the top ten games that should be on every gamer’s bucket list, in no particular order.
The original Bioshock, which relatively new compared to a lot of games to come on this list, was revolutionary even for a game making it’s debut in the PS3/Xbox360 generation. Taking a lot of design cues and acting almost as a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, Bioshock has you exploring the underwater city of Rapture, what once was hailed to be a utopia now overrun by its now insane and horrifically deformed residents. While the moral choice system implemented where you can either save or harvest the little sisters is a bit heavy handed and has very little impact by today’s standards, the atmosphere is where the game really shines. It gives the perfect blend of action and horror, providing just enough resources to get by comfortably on normal difficulties if you pick your battles, while making every shot count when cranking things up a notch, making the dark and sunken corridors all the more daunting as you wonder what lurks around the corner.
9. Super Mario All-Stars
Okay so this one might be cheating a bit, but the first four Mario games are at least must tries. Nintendo’s flagship franchise played a huge role in pulling the video game industry out of the massive hole that so many copies of E.T. on the Atari 2600 were dumped into, it would be a crime not to put at least one on the list. If I had to recommend just one, I’d have to go with either Mario 3 or Mario World, but they’re all worth a try if you’ve somehow missed out on these gaming classics.
8. Megaman 2
While some aspects of the second installment of the Blue Bomber’s adventures haven’t aged spectacularly (I’m looking at you Boobeam Trap), overall the gameplay is still just as solid, and difficult, as it was back in the glory days of the NES. While the difficulty might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly offers a great old school challenge for gamers looking for something that’s not afraid to kick you to the curb a few times before you learn the best approach to tackling the platforming obstacles ahead. One of the first tough but fair games, it’s widely considered one of if not the best Megaman game in existence.
7. Super Metroid
Arguably the best of the 2D Metroid titles, there’s something about Super Metroid that never gets old. Thanks to a hand full of exploits, the game lends itself to a variety of playstyles. You can explore this classic game blind and the way it was intended, or you can start using sequence breaks and aiming for speed running the game once you learn the lay of the land, or doing minimum percentage runs, where you get the fewest necessary items possible. Wile first time players might get a bit lost until they learn what to look for, exploring the expansive planet Zebes and uncovering all of its secrets is where most of the fun lies anyway.
Myst is a bit of an odd one, in that most people either absolutely love the game, or despise it. Considering the nature of the game though, it’s not surprising the game can be so polarizing. In Myst, you explore a series of worlds in search of pages, following the instructions of two brothers who have been imprisoned in books. The game is a point and click adventure using FMV clips and still images to portray beautify yet somewhat abstract and sometimes slightly unnerving atmospheres as you solve incredibly cryptic puzzles, and when I say incredibly cryptic, it’s no exaggeration. These puzzles are the reason the game is as polarizing as it is. I barely made any progress when I first played the game when I was young, but the scenery and immersive world at my fingertips to explore and experiment with alone left a lasting impression. While it might not be a game you’ll enjoy playing to completion, or even finish, it’s worth experiencing just for the sake of it.
5. Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid is for many the start of the Metal Gear franchise. While there were a few Metal Gear games for the MSX and NES, Metal Gear Solid is what truly perfected the formula and threw the series into the limelight. With an emphasis on stealth, but enough leeway in terms of its combat to recover from a few slip ups, MGS offers tense yet forgiving gameplay that allows a variety of options to any given encounter. While the gameplay is solid, lets face it, the complex and over the top story combined with incredible fourth wall breaking moments like having to look on the back of the actual disk case to solve a puzzle is what the series is truly famous for, and these moments only get better and better as the series goes on, well, up until MGS4 anyway. While the series has gone a bit downhill now that Hideo Kojima is no longer at the reins, the original Metal Gear Solid remains a classic must play, especially for those just getting into the series.
4. Final Fantasy 7
While not my personal favorite of the Final Fantasy series (that honor will forever go to the 6th installment), Final Fantasy 7 undoubtedly revolutionized the franchise and gave it the breath of fresh air it needed, as well as making waves among the community as the first 3D Final Fantasy game. Fully embracing the futuristic aspects of the setting only touched upon in the steampunk setting of Final Fantasy 6, Final Fantasy 7 does away with the traditional medieval fantasy tropes and plunges the player into an almost futuristic setting, pairing the new setting with one of the most complex and somewhat convoluted plotlines in the series. While I’m a bit too fond of the older 2D style Final Fantasy games, I can certainly appreciate the leaps and bounds 7 made for the series, and is definitely a must play for any RPG fan.
3. Chrono Trigger
Yes, another Square/Enix (or Squaresoft at the time) title makes the list. Chrono Trigger did for RPGs in the 2D era what Final Fantasy 7 did at the start of the 3D era. With up to about 12 endings (depending on which version or remake you play), Chrono Trigger offers a thrilling story where your party of would be heroes travels through a handful of time periods to save the world from its eventual destruction, even visiting the post-apocalyptic wasteland more than a handful of times throughout the story. A perfect blend of fantasy and science fiction, Chrono Trigger offers a variety branching story paths and a multitude of side quests, along with those endings to provide hours upon hours of replay value.
2. Silent Hill 2
One of the best surreal horror experiences, Silent Hill 2 takes a unique approach to horror. While most horror games today focus on jump scares and cheap tricks to get a fleeting yet powerful reaction out of the player, Silent Hill rarely uses any of those techniques. The closest thing to a jump scare the game had was an odd and loud audio cue here or there that was more unnerving than anything else. Silent Hill doesn’t attempt to scare, it’s main goal is to unnerve the player, through the use of symbols, dimly lit areas, fixed camera angles, and creating an environment and monsters that are horrific and alien (especially in the other world sections), but just familiar enough to make a mental association regarding what the player experiences there. This approach does make sense, as Silent Hill does shape itself and morph to fit the psyche of the main character in most games in the franchise. Silent Hill 2 is definitely a must play for any horror fan, especially those like myself who absolutely hate those pesky jump scares. Just try to stay away from the HD remake version if you can, that one’s scary for a ton of other reasons, like performance issues and somehow having worse fog effects and draw distance than the original.
1. Deadly Premonition
Deadly Premonition is… special. This game made the list for a different reason than all the rest on this list. It didn’t do anything revolutionary. While the story was interesting, it wasn’t anything groundbreaking, and the gameplay is… passable at best. Deadly Premonition is a must play because its one of those games that’s just so bad, where the voice acting and graphics are always off kilter and just absurd enough where you can never really take things seriously. It’s the penultimate ‘so bad its good’ kind of game, and can be one of the most entertaining experiences because of it.
Here’s also a relevant post about top 10 video games.