1. Dark Cloud 2
Dark Cloud 2 is my comfort food in video game form. It is the game I go and play when I’m feeling down or sick. It’s the game I play almost every year without fail. If there was an HD remaster for the game, I would be the first to buy it. The first Dark Cloud game is great, but it doesn’t hit that perfect mark for me because its systems are very clunky, its combat is slow, and its weapons have too many stats. Dark Cloud 2 fixes all of these issues by making combat more fluid, streamlining all of the menus, increasing complexity of the georama elements, and decreasing complexity of the weapon upgrade system.
Dark Cloud 2 is the best Playstation 2 game out there and is the first answer I will always have when someone asks what game should get a proper sequel.
2. Persona 4
Persona 4 is an interesting entry on this list. I have never completed a JRPG outside the Persona series. I hate JRPGs. I don’t like a lot of the narrative tropes. I don’t enjoy the gameplay. I don’t like a lot of the characters. I’ve tried many JRPGs across many series and still haven’t found one I liked… Except for Persona games.
Persona 4 beats out Persona 3 because of its improved characters and dungeon mechanics, but also beats out Persona 5 for sticking the landing on its story. The game is a great balance between the smooth, super stylish Persona 5 and the grounded, slow burn of Persona 3.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
“See that mountain on the horizon? You can go there.”
This promise has been in the gaming lexicon for a long time. Back in 1980, the mountain was a volcano in the background of tank battling game Battlezone, and the idea of going there was just a rumor, not actually true. In more recent times the mountains were there and could be reached, but they were often barren masses of blocky terrain and blurry textures, meant to be hidden by rocks, trees, grass and distance, almost as if the promise of the mountains was a bluff.
Read the full review here
4. Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime was the first game to really show me I had an itch for exploration that I didn’t know I had. The atmosphere, music, and gameplay all made me excited to open every door into a new area. The Metroid Prime series saw its best release as the Trilogy version for Wii (and later on wii U as a download title) and those controls made a great game even better.
Metroid Prime was my second or third Metroid game, but it was certainly the most influential to me. If it hadn’t been for Metroid Prime I don’t think I would’ve sought out gaming experiences that allowed me to explore new and alien places nearly as much.
5. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley, like Persona 4, got me into a genre I didn’t like. I never enjoyed Harvest Moon games, but Stardew Valley got its hooks in me hard. The game is such a pleasure to me to play that I am looking forward to playing it again in multiplayer co-op when that comes out, even though I’ve beaten the game twice already.
Everything about Stardew Valley is enjoyable to me. From the exploration of the mines to growing crops or fishing, the game finds a way to make every interaction with it pleasant and enjoyable. The music and art direction is superb, as are the characters.
Banjo Tooie does collect-a-thon in ways that almost no other collect-a-thon platformer did before or after. The game revolves around collecting jiggies, jinjos, and even Cheato pages just like Banjo Kazooie, but instead of all of the levels being siloed off into their own little areas, the game bridges those levels together and makes them interact in interesting ways. The Spaceship in Jolly Roger’s Lagoon flies up and over the icy side of Halfire Peaks before leaving and offers a new thing to do there for Banjo and Kazooie. The train from glitter Gulch Mine takes the bear and bird all over the island as they open train stations.
This open and interconnected nature was the best lesson Collect-a-thon games could have learned and it seems they’ve forgotten it all over again, which is a real shame.
7. Super Mario 64
When I looked at making a top 10, There was no way gaming’s biggest mascot couldn’t be in it somewhere. The Mario games have always been a wholesome corner of an industry that is in a huge rush to grow up. As the first 3D game I ever played, Super Mario 64 guided me into a whole new era of gaming without trying to be edgy or cool. Nintendo’s style of presenting new ideas with familiar characters and a bright, positive outlook started much earlier than this game, but this is when I realized that this is why I love Nintendo so much.
8. Sonic Mania
Sonic Mania is something that I had been waiting for since I first played Sonic 3 in the mid 90's. The gameplay of Sonic had always interested me. It was an interesting marriage between fast movement in some sections and precise platforming in others. Sonic mania is the first game since Sonic 3 to really capture that feeling for me. The zones feel unique and interesting, the music is fantastic, and the improvements and additions to the formula feel not only fun, but like they were the next natural step in Sonic development before Sega and Sonic Team decided to go 3D.
9. Dark Souls
When I was first pitched on Dark Souls as a super hard game, I wanted nothing to do with it. Eventually, though, I found out that the game being difficult isn’t really the ends, but is rather the means to justify the world and the narrative themes that are all throughout the game. It’s hard for me to put into words exactly why I like Dark Souls so much, but I think it’s mostly because the game’s difficulty is mostly there to make the player better at the game, not to punish them for trying. Each new enemy is a new skill the player needs to master to complete the game.
10. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
If Majora’s Mask is the first clockwork world I’ve played in, Skyrim is certainly the most elaborate. The game may not have the story hooks that Oblivion’s side content does, but it certainly does have systems that are much easier to interact with and that make more sense. Add to this the immense number of mods available for the game and you have a true winner.