Stress on the term favourite. I haven’t played nearly enough video games to objectively assess which games are the best ever made, but hopefully I’ve played enough to make this list an enjoyable read. After all, I bloody love video games. These are the first 5 in the 20… in reverse order… fordrama. Pictures are clickable for larger versions.
#20 – Road Rash (Sega Genesis, 1991)
I’m certain that the developers of Road Rash realized about three quarters of the way through making this game that they’d made a huge mistake. Racing games on the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis) were all rolling horizons and stock backgrounds with your car locked in the centre of the screen while the road and trees moved around it. Horrible. I’d rather go out on my bicycle (which, for any video game, means a shameful failure). So the guys at EA changed it into an awesome violent-illegal-street-races game. They added a combat element (always a winner), allowing you to smash the biker next to you with baseball bats, crowbars, nunchaku, chains, and cattle prods until they fell off. If you fell off you had to run back to your bike, taking care not to get hit by traffic. Also there were cops, and if they caught you you had to pay a fine. And if you crashed you had to pay for repairs. And if you couldn’t pay you fucking died. I never even owned this game I just cried at my dad to make his mates lend it to us. I’ve only played it a few, precious times.
#19 – WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role (Sony PlayStation, 2000)
Remember “Attitude”? Yeah. This came out around that time. When wrestling was good. Back when Mick Foley would get thrown off the top of a steel cage on fire through tables onto pins up a ladder and repeat until he was nothing more than a punctured bag of flesh and blood wrapped in a torn shirt, psycho-mask and that adorable smile. Smackdown KYR wasn’t the perfect fighting game, or even the perfect wrestling game, but I spent endless school nights performing finisher after finisher and breaking all the rules of Sports Entertainment (Why did The Rock always have that jump-swing DDT in his moveset?).
A German suplex to Rikishi? Yeah, right, Benoit. You murdering fuck.
The Hell in a Cell was all about the sacred Chokeslam-through-the-roof-onto-the-mat-and-pin combo, but you’d always end up leg-sweeping him through it. Piss. The Create-A-Wrestler feature really picked up for this version too, allowing me to make the charismatic CannonBall King (CBK), one half of the ASDA Boyz.
#18 – Destruction Derby (Sony PlayStation, 1995)
Pure carnage. The bowl is serious man.
So, another one of those off-racing titles where instead of competing to win, me and a friend would turn the car around and drive backwards around the track looking to cause a sick accident. Everyone’s done this, whether it’s an F1 game, or Burnout or whatever. I promise you, your most sinister aspirations on the racetrack have never been so perversely rewarded as they are in Destruction Derby. From what I remember the damage engine was ahead of its time, which only further satisfied our appetite for total chaos. My most cherished memories are of The Bowl, a circle of 20 cars smashing into one another, where a particularly sweet collision would earn you points and a 50ft launch into the air. “Your radiator’s blown! … You’ve wrecked your car!”
#17 – Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC, 2002)
This gets into the top 20 off the strength of the level where you get to play through the D-Day Launch Operation Overlord Suicide Mission. Spielberg helped with the game (though Wikipedia thinks he “created” it. Did he bollocks.) which explains why at various points during the game you’ll feel like you’re playing Saving Private Ryan. I remember being blown away by how well they pulled off the D-Day level, even if it is just a like-for-like, first-person rendering of the scene in the movie.
Explosive WWII bullets!
It’d probably feel a bit scripted now, as I’m sure each AI character is programmed to die at a certain point, but play it once and it’s terrifying, electrifying and death-defying. For a pure sweat-inducing, anxious and unforgettable 20 minutes on the PC, MOHAA was always close at hand.
#16 - Torin’s Passage (PC, 1995)
Yeah you're going to have to navigate this situation. Good luck.
Torin’s Passage is one of the many point-and-click adventure games of the 1990s that I cherish to the point of tearful nostalgia. Torin’s parents are kidnapped by a mystical green-toothed man in a dark cloak, and you soon find out they’ve been taken to a woman named Lycentia, a super sorceress from the “Lands Below”. With the help of his purple shape-shifting cat-like creature Boogle, who comes in handy for a number of the game’s puzzles (most of which are easy), Torin leaves home hoping to find a way down to the Lands Below. From there, you advance Torin through 5 levels down to the centre of the planet, hoping to find his parents.
This is the structure. Destination centre of the planet.
The second level, Escarpa, sees Torin enter the home of The Fatheads, a family eternally locked in a televised sitcom, dropping obnoxious one-liners and catchphrases met with repetitive canned laughter. In Escarpa, Torin has to find 9 puzzle pieces to access the next world on his journey down to the centre of the planet. As he descends, using Boogle as a makeshift net to catch shrimp to trade for a key and other such delightfully obscure activities, things get stranger and stranger from world to world. Eventually you’re persuading a giant talking sunflower to dig a trapped policeman out of a marsh using honey… though I’m not sure I’m remembering that right. You get the idea.