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My Favorite Games That I Can't Stop Replaying

Do you like videogames? Hey, great, so do I! And part of the reason I have such a big backlog of new, unplayed games is because I spend a lot of time replaying games I've already beaten - it's like re-reading a good book, or re-watching your favorite movie.

If I was trapped in a world without new games, as long as I had what was on this list, I think I'd do just fine.

So, in no particular order...

List items

  • The last great SNES platformer, Yoshi's Island let the Super NES go out with a bang. Timeless art style, air-tight gameplay, some of the best boss encounters in any game ever made, and just the right amount of levels. All 2D platformers are held to the standards set in Yoshi's Island.

  • I can't quite describe what makes this game so incredible without sounding like some kind of weirdo. With the bongos, this game almost becomes some sort of stress relief - and combined with its dynamic music system and joyous style, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat always puts me in a great mood.

  • When I played Chrono Trigger, I was new to JRPGs, so I had no idea that this was actually the ultimate team-up game -- between Squaresoft's "Final Fantasy" team and Enix's "Dragon Quest" team. The end result is one of the greatest JRPGs of all time, besting even modern games more than twenty years later, with a cool premise, strong characters, and a story that is quick, succinct, and just deep enough to feel rewarding. And, oh my gosh, that soundtrack. I could gush about this game forever.

  • Donkey Kong Country brought the SNES back from the brink of irrelevance because it's just that good. The basic concept is really just "hey what if there was more Super Mario World but now it's monkeys," but it's the little details Rare imbued in to the gameplay that make it stand out. Levels in this game just have a *flow* to them that's hard to describe without seeing it in action, where everything is timed perfectly for speed running.

  • The three Donkey Kong Country games still represent the best use of pre-rendered graphics in any games ever made. Of the trilogy, DKC2 stands above and beyond, improving on everything from the original DKC, with more variety, more levels, and the best soundtrack out of the three games.

  • A game that will always be installed on any computer I will ever own, and will never, ever, ever be uninstalled for any reason whatsoever. In an era where first person shooters were still ripping off games like DooM and Quake, Half-Life showed depth and a cinematic presentation that is still unmatched by most modern games even today.

  • Half-Life 2 was almost as revolutionary as the original game - almost. Setting new standards for animation and storytelling, it ended up being a fantastic game in its own right. But, while I love Half-Life 2 to pieces, I do find myself occasionally missing some of the more dynamic, chaotic elements of the first Half-Life. But, man, HL2 is still pretty good, too.

  • I had no appreciation for the Castlevania franchise until I played Symphony of the Night. Most of my prior experiences were with the ultra-difficult Castlevania III on the NES, and Konami's reputation for ultra-difficult games scared me away from the rest of the series -- until Symphony. Now I'm a Castlevania fanboy. What strikes me is just how big this game is; nearly two decades later and I'm still finding new things hidden inside these walls.

  • Going from the SNES's d-pad to the Nintendo 64's analog stick was like having to re-learn how to walk again in the best possible way. There is no feeling quite like knowing you mastered Super Mario 64. It set the standard for movement in 3D, and few games - even games Nintendo themselves have produced in the genre - have come close to matching Super Mario 64's scope and innovation.

  • Technically, this goes out to "Sonic 3 & Knuckles". When combined with Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles transforms in to the biggest Sonic the Hedgehog game ever made - 14 levels with three playable characters, each having vastly different ways of experiencing the game. Me and my friends spent an entire summer playing nothing but Sonic 3 & Knuckles exclusively, finding every secret in the game. For that, I will never forget it.

  • A wonderful sequel to Sega's break-out hit, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hones in on and improves nearly every aspect of the original Sonic to deliver a much tighter, much more appealing game.

  • Every 8-bit and 16-bit pure Mario game worth paying attention to on a single cartridge. I mean, it can't actually get any better than that, can it? I don't know if it can.

  • The largest, most ridiculous Grand Theft Auto game set in an era that really spoke to me in terms of nostalgia. San Andreas takes place in the time period I remember growing up, so even though the game starts out about a street thug gang-banger returning to the hood and ends with that same character practically being James Bond, it touches on a lot of subjects between those two points that really connects to a lot of the people, places and things I remember from my adolescence. A snapshot of the mid-90's, to me.

  • Suddenly, halfway through the game, it dawned on me: I love Rayman 2. The dynamic music, the funny gibberish language, the hand-painted aesthetic, the amazing level design... I could go on. The Rayman franchise peaked at The Great Escape, for me -- Rayman 3 and the Rabbids hold no special place in my heart quite like Rayman 2 does, which marries a sense of wonder and mystery with beautiful art direction and fun gameplay. Steer clear of the PS2 version, though. And the DS version. And the 3DS version. And the N64 version. And the PS1 version. Look, I played this on a Dreamcast, so that's what I'm talking about.

  • Rearmed transcends the original Bionic Commando NES game to create something that can instantly appeal to anyone, regardless of how familiar they are with Rad Spencer's original mission to save Super Joe. Visually stunning, with inventive level design, a challenging difficulty, and tongue-in-cheek dialog, Rearmed is a game that should not be missed.

  • The very definition of "short and sweet." At only 7 levels and maybe 90 minutes in length, NiGHTS is the sort of game you can beat in a single sitting, but if you let its arcade-style gameplay hook you, you'll instantly be coming back for faster times, bigger scores and better grades.

  • A genius idea: Rather than make one giant Kirby game, HAL Laboratories opted to make four or five much smaller, completely different Kirby games and then put them all on one cartridge. It's absolutely brilliant, and Super Star has been the high water mark for all Kirby games to follow.

  • Games that use dreamscapes as their backdrop have always fascinated me, and Klonoa is no different. Great level design, great music, great characters, great mechanics... Door to Phantomile is at once warm, inviting, and heart-wrenching. Don't miss it.

  • One of those games you can't really say a whole lot about because everything's already been said about it. A Link to the Past is simply a fantastic game, and a great example as to how the Zelda franchise came to be treated with such reverence.

  • What's better than a good Legend of Zelda game? A good Legend of Zelda game that you can play anywhere, at any time. Link's Awakening is up there with any of the console Zelda games in terms of depth and ingenuity -- but the added ability of being portable takes it to the next level.

  • Like Link's Awakening, Mario Land 2 is a great game made all the better due to its portability. Its physics are a little wonky by modern standards, but it doesn't take much adjustment to get used to them and the game's weird sense of humor (which would later transfer to the Wario games) makes it still worth playing.

  • Earthbound is a game that looks at gaming conventions and spits in their eyes. There are no evil wizards here, no mystical fantasy world, no teen angst, no cutting edge graphics or a sweeping cinematic soundtrack. Instead, Earthbound is a surprisingly emotional, heartwarming, funny game about contemporary children trying to save the world. Decades later, that still makes it unique.

  • A Mario RPG seemed like an odd thing, at first. But, with some creative exploration of the world and characters and a turn-based battle system that favored more active elements, Seven Stars began a long line of ingenious RPGs.

  • Look, okay, I'm one of *those* people. One of those "the original 151 Pokemon are still the best" types. As a franchise, Pokemon was very slow to evolve, and as a result, the first one remains my favorite.

  • A taste of the future - Sonic Rush is a slick, stylish game that can best be described as "Sonic plus SSX plus Jet Set Radio". Only marred by a frustrating learning curve.

  • Everything great from the original Sonic Rush, but more polished and not as frustrating.

  • The last Star Fox game that mattered, Star Fox 64 is the ultimate 3D rail shooter, as far as I've ever had a chance to play. With so many branching pathways and so many cool scenes, Star Fox 64 still holds up as an extremely fun game, even today.

  • The king of online shooters. Talk about racist 14 year olds and AWP snipers all you want, but Counter-Strike is still an incredibly addictive game, and the multiplayer shooter I always fall back on when I'm sick of everything else.

  • The first (and practically only) online RPG I ever actually gave a crap about, I still occasionally get the itch to run Forest with my buddies, trying to hunt down the ever elusive "Al Rappy" enemy.

  • A game that doesn't get the respect it deserves. Many people brush Tails Adventure off as a bad, slow Sonic game, when, infact, it's a game styled more after Metroid than anything else. Long before Symphony of the Night officially made me open my heart to the "Metroidvania" genre, Tails Adventure was one of the few games like this on the Game Gear, and is better than people give it credit for.

  • The FPS that really solidified the genre on consoles, and a really good one - if flawed. Halo's AI, personality and simplicity breathe life into its world.

  • Mega Man goes 3D! Though Mega Man Legends 1 laid strong groundwork, the sequel is where those concepts really shine (also thanks in part to better controls). A terrific game.

  • Back when "Darker, edgier" versions of existing things were still cool, Mega Man X revitalized the NES Mega Man games for the 16-bit generation with air-tight, immaculately constructed game design.

  • All the concepts pioneered in the original Mega Man X are reinvented in Mega Man X4, with redesigned graphics and a mode where you play as Mega Man X's long-time mentor, Zero.

  • Like a prototype for Sonic Rush, Sonic Advance 2 ramps classic Sonic's speed and abilities to the next level - and ramps up the frustrating difficulty with it.

  • Like the original Jet Set Radio, distilled down into an even more stylish half-sequel, half-remake. It's unfortunate that the soundtrack isn't quite as catchy as the original game's, however, but the improvements to control are undeniable.

  • My Mom was always big in to Tetris and various other puzzle games, but they never really grabbed me - until Puzzle Fighter. I became so obsessed with Puzzle Fighter that at one point I could beat the game on the fastest speed at the hardest difficulty. None of my friends could touch me.

  • Games don't need to be long to be great - and Portal is just long enough to present some deviously amazing puzzles with a great sense of humor, to boot.

  • Mario Kart with online multiplayer. It really doesn't get much better than that. Well, it can, obviously, because Mario Kart DS's online implementation leaves a lot to be desired. But, as far as I'm concerned, this is the best Mario Kart game ever made.

  • Open world games are a great concept - and Ultimate Destruction makes the concept even better, by putting you in the shoes of one of the most powerful super heroes. The real magic of the game is Hulk's sense of mobility and agility, as he deftly scales buildings and goes barreling down city streets, helpless pedestrians running in terror. This is a game about the power to do anything and go anywhere in ways other open world games had a hard time managing.

  • Like Shinobi 3 meets Bionic Commando. Like the Ninja that stars in the game, "Ninja Five-O" deftly slipped under the radar relatively undetected; which is a crying shame, because it was one of the few Gameboy Advance games that did not rely on a license and opted to go with something totally new and original. Finding a copy nowadays can be pretty tricky (or pretty expensive!)

  • Why don't they make racing games like this anymore? Beetle Adventure Racing straddles the line between more cartoony racing games like Mario Kart and realistic simulation racers like Gran Turismo. The end result is real-world Volkswagen cars driving around some of the largest, most over-the-top imaginative circuits in the history of racing games.

  • A racing game with lots of great personality and tons of nostalgic charm. I miss games like this.

  • Though rapidly showing its age more and more as the years go by, there is still a subsequent amount of charm left in the original Sonic Adventure that has been lost in most 3D Sonics game to follow it.

  • Though lacking a lot of the original Sonic Adventure's "heart", Sonic Adventure 2, in some respects, is a tighter, more polished game - though not necessarily a better one.

  • The first real attempt to retool Sonic for 3D since Sonic Adventure set the standard, Sonic Unleashed is far from perfect - but it gets a B for effort.

  • A cutesy Adventure/Exploration game with a lot of personality, Tomba eschews typical platformer trappings while still firmly remaining within the "Metroidvania" genre of games.

  • Burnout never really "clicked" with me until Paradise, and the game deserves additional praise for making an open-world racing game that doesn't bore me to tears after an hour. Burnout Paradise is a fast & furious rush.

  • The "other" futuristic racing franchise from the developer that birthed "WipeOut", Rollcage allows you to drive along ceilings and half-pipes in ultra-fast offroad vehicles. Though it takes some finesse to drive these cars, mastering the game's learning curve is more than worth it.

  • There is no finer 16-bit Ninja action than Shinobi III. The depth given to moving Joe Mushashi around in 2D is unmatched.

  • The only fighting game I ever really managed to get halfway decent at.

  • In the twilight of the Sega Genesis, Vectorman was intended to be Sega's answer to Donkey Kong Country. Though it wasn't quite that revitalizing for the platform, the original Vectorman still stands as a fantastic shooter that really pushes the Genesis hardware as hard as it can go.

  • An home port that manages to be better than its Arcade ancestor in nearly every sense of the word, Turtles in Time is one of the greatest games ever produced in the beat-'em-up genre.

  • I love Tetris Attack, and Poker Smash is a better, if not the best version of Tetris Attack. Besides Puzzle Fighter, this is the only other puzzle game I truly care about.

  • Okay, so the game's only 45 minutes long. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for with style. More style than most games. Parappa the Rapper is a game that, once you play it, you will always remember it.

  • The Super Nintendo version of Jurassic Park was an unexpected treat: Almost more like an adventure game, Jurassic Park on the SNES was divided up between top-down exploration segments and tense indoor first-person shooter levels. For what it was, the game had a remarkable amount of depth - only let down by the complete inability to save your progress (for a game that could take upwards of 5-7 hours to complete).

  • The fact that this game was made borderlines on some kind of miracle. Valve fires on all cylinders, with the absolute perfect marriage of gameplay, character development, and humor.

  • Whether you want to rip through a stage at 100mph or take it easy, Sonic Generations has a little something for everybody to enjoy. This is the real deal, folks. No human-on-hedgehog kissing, no overly-serious plot, no werehogs, no fishing. Just blue hedgehogs and brightly colored environments as far as the eye can see. May the Sonic cycle never darken this doorstep ever again.

  • Bayonetta pushed me to my absolute limit. It's one of those extremely rare games that can be punishingly difficult in a way that drives you to play better. Bayonetta is completely absurd, barely makes any sense, and openly basks in these facts with nary a hint of shame.

  • For the longest time, I didn't actually like Left 4 Dead, and that's namely because the game has a limited appeal when all you're doing is playing the game's vanilla "campaign" mode. It's not until you've got a full server of 8 flesh and blood human beings (preferably friends) all trying to kill each other in Versus Mode that Left 4 Dead really starts to "make sense". Valve may advertise the game's singleplayer and co-op game modes, but those are like trying to play Rock Band 3 without a plastic guitar: functional, but entirely missing the point. There is absolutely nothing else like this game on the market.

  • With Quake, iD Software chose to just make "Doom, but now with polygons". Duke Nukem 3D went in a different direction - keeping the sprites, but filling the world with a level of detail and interactivity Quake could never hope to match. Still one of the best shooters of its type.

  • It feels a little unfair to put Minecraft on this list, because by itself it is a game I could probably play literally forever. Whenever I do break down and play Minecraft, I fall down a hole where entire days vanish in what feels like seconds.

  • It took me 140 hours to beat Breath of the Wild and that's not a complaint. It is neither a complaint that after I finished the game, I still kept playing it for another 40+ hours. Breath of the Wild is the essence of open world games perfected.