My Favorite Video Games

Think of this list as my personal video game “Hall of Fame.” While there are certainly dozens, if not hundreds of games absent from this list that mean a great deal to me, its exclusivity showcases the ones that have had the biggest impact on me personally. The goal of this list is nothing more than to share the games that have played the biggest role in defining my particular gaming tastes, and express what it is that I love about video games the most. Hopefully anyone who reads this comes away with a good sense of just that, and finds it a fun read as well.

Also, check out my companion list to this, which covers my Favorite Video Game Soundtracks.

Finally, games are listed in chronological order of original US release date, not by preference.

Gaming Memories Blog

I'm writing a blog series for this list of my favorite games, titled "Gaming Memories." The goal is to write a more thoughtful entry for each game on this list, where I can devote more than a few sentences exploring its impact. I have included the links to each game's respective blog under the spoiler tag below. Expand it to find them!

Blog entries are listed here in the order they were written, not in any order of preference.

  1. Burnout Paradise - July 22, 2018
  2. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars - September 2, 2018
  3. Freedom Fighters - September 19, 2018
  4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - October 28, 2018
  5. Elite Beat Agents - December 7, 2018
  6. Final Fantasy VII - January 20, 2019
  7. Sid Meier's Civilization IV - March 7, 2019
  8. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest - April 18, 2019

List items

  • This was the first game I ever had to my name. As such, it holds a special place in my heart, and it helps that it’s such a great game on its own merits. The scope and variety of the world completely captured my young imagination, and the precise controls and inventive level design were just stellar. Super Mario World was my formal entry to video games, and is still a blast to play today.

  • A Link to the Past was the ultimate adventure for a young kid. The world was super captivating, and the dungeon and item designs were fantastic. This was also one of the first games that made me realize how engrossing and ambitious video games could be. At their best video games can send you on the grandest of adventures, and this game did that as well as any.

  • I’ll never get tired of singing the praises of Super Metroid’s incredible atmosphere and near perfect world design. The art style, the music, the item and enemy designs; everything came together perfectly to create such an immersive, well-playing game. I’ve probably played through this game more times than any other, and I'd willingly do it all over again.

  • Final Fantasy VI had some of my favorite characters and some of the best writing of any game I’ve ever played. It managed to create a relatable world that I genuinely wanted to save, which led to one of the few video game narratives I’ve been seriously invested in. It didn’t hurt that the game had some fantastic RPG mechanics, or that you could suplex a train.

  • I love all three SNES Donkey Kong Country games, but the second was the series' high point. It was a combination of the controls feeling tighter and the levels containing more variety, both mechanically and aesthetically. And while I know I’m a sucker for a good video game soundtrack, I’ll be damned if this game didn’t have one of the best video game soundtracks ever made.

  • Super Mario RPG combined the best of Mario and Square RPGs with a perfect blend of charm and execution, and I'm not sure any game feeds my nostalgia more than this. The world, the characters, the music, the combat; it’s all embedded in my blood. This game was the perfect coda to my childhood, and there’s probably no better summary of my gaming youth than this.

  • Nothing proved that 3D was the way of the future for video games like Super Mario 64. Stepping into its fully realized 3D world for the first time was surreal, and that it still managed to offer the quality play experience that you would expect from the series was just incredible. It combined 3D visuals with 3D gameplay in a way that changed my perception of the medium forever.

  • GoldenEye 007 introduced me to the FPS with style. I got immediately sucked into the multiplayer, and I liked the campaign even more. The weapons felt great, the level design was stellar, and the arcade style structure that varied mission objectives between difficulties was amazing. I couldn’t get enough of this game for years, and loved every minute of it.

  • Final Fantasy VII took the gaming world by storm, and I was no exception. Nothing I had ever experienced was on the scope or scale of this masterpiece, as its presentation was heads and shoulders above what games were doing at the time. Yet I remember it most for its countless hard-hitting moments, many of which rank among my most memorable gaming moments.

  • I was in complete awe the first time I saw StarCraft in action. The universe it introduced was at once mesmerizing and chilling, but even more impressive was the perfectly balanced gameplay. It offered such a large, exciting variety of equally viable units and strategies to experiment with, setting a standard for competitive multiplayer that games still struggle to match.

  • Pokemon created such a fun and fantastical world that was super easy to jump in and explore. Catching all those crazy creatures was surprisingly compelling, and that’s exactly what my brother and I did. We joined forces to catch all 150 of them, and the process was even more enjoyable due to the fact that the game was a surprisingly deep and well-made RPG.

  • Ocarina of Time was the rare game that managed to be both innovative and polished. It not only defined new standards for 3D action games that are still used today, but also executed everything it set out to do with aplomb. The world, the presentation, the items, the combat, the music, and most of all the dungeon design; everything was brilliant. It's one of the only games of such scope that I would call "perfect", and it deserves all the praise it gets.

  • The Second Story came out during the height of my JRPG fever, and offered a ton of great mechanics that distinguished it from the rest of the genre. A fast and furious combat system, a deep and rewarding skills system, and some truly fantastic side content were the highlights. Beating the Cave of Trials remains one of my most memorable gaming feats to this day.

  • Despite living in the shadow of its predecessor, Final Fantasy VIII more than held its own. I enjoyed the game’s junction and battle systems, but what really did it for me were its world, music, and characters. I really connected with this game in a way that’s hard to describe, and it contains one of the only love stories I’ve ever enjoyed. That’s saying something.

  • The original Age of Empires introduced me to the RTS, and The Age of Kings perfected its formula with aplomb. A smooth tech tree, polished interface, and a host of awesome units paved the way for an engaging strategy game that had a lot of legs. Teaming up for a friendly "comp stomp" against the game's surprisingly competent AI was particularly delightful.

  • Perfect Dark offered everything I want in a FPS. Its wide variety of guns all had that “kick” to them that made them feel powerful, and had tons of functionality. The levels were incredibly well-designed, offering multiple paths and varying objectives. Most of all, it had countless customizable multiplayer options. You could play this game forever, and I practically did.

  • I got completely lost in Chrono Cross’ world. It began with its super relaxing aesthetic; the art style was gorgeous, and the beautiful soundtrack remains one of my all-time favorites. Yet there was also some real substance to both the combat and the surprisingly complex narrative. Everything about this game came together perfectly for me, and left a pretty deep impression.

  • Rogue Leader took the brilliant template of its predecessor and expanded it tenfold. New hardware powered its unparalleled visuals and audio, allowing for dozens of great missions whose variety was outclassed only by their sheer scope and ambition. The controls were also super responsive, and the fun arcade structure had me chasing medals for years.

  • There was something magical about the idea of taking Nintendo’s most recognized mascots and pitting them against each other in a fight to the death. Yet it only worked because Super Smash Bros. Melee also happened to be a highly competent fighting game on its own merits. It was a total blast, and you couldn’t ask for a better self-tribute from the big N than this.

  • No other game has immersed me as comprehensively as Metroid Prime did. The gorgeous art style and moody soundtrack contributed to an incredibly atmospheric world that was so exciting to explore. Then the way that exploration was rewarded via highly meticulous world design, fantastic items, and awesome boss encounters just put it over the top. Metroid Prime represents my gaming values as well as any game I've played, and I hold it very dear.

  • The Wind Waker remains one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. It backed up its colorful visuals with expressive character animations and a fantastic soundtrack to create a pleasant world that I never got tired of spending time in. The classic Zelda formula also still functioned as advertised, and the resulting game was both technically and artistically brilliant.

  • KOTOR was one of the first games I played that effectively explored the idea of player choice. It did such a great job of enabling me to make choices that felt genuinely meaningful in the context of its large cast of relatable characters and well-told story. The D&D inspired gameplay was the perfect framework for this setup too, and that late game plot twist was amazing.

  • I’m still not sure any game has pulled off squad mechanics as well as Freedom Fighters did. The level design was also fantastic, and the way completing objectives in one level directly affected others was a brilliant twist that really brought this game to life. To top it all off, this game’s soundtrack was just incredible, and remains one of my absolute favorites.

  • Fire Emblem was the perfect blend of strategy and RPG. The tactical turn based battles were highly engaging, and character customization gave you tons of options. The storytelling was also phenomenal, and the fact that character deaths were permanent was a great design choice that made it easy to get attached to every one of the game’s many lovable characters.

  • Pure action doesn’t get any better than Ninja Gaiden. The controls and animations were so responsive and fluid that simply pulling off moves was incredibly rewarding. There was also a lot of depth to the weapons and combos available, and it was all expertly serviced by a challenging, larger-than-life adventure that pitted you against some awesome, memorable foes.

  • Resident Evil 4 had me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of its lengthy, spectacular campaign. The suffocating atmosphere, sharp gunplay, and relentless enemies combined to produce a thrilling ride I’ll never forget. The huge array of upgrades and extras kept me coming back for more, and I got really deep into the excellent Mercenaries minigame.

  • God of War’s raw, barbaric portrayal of mythological Greece was so absurd and over-the-top that I couldn’t help but get absorbed in Kratos’ quest for vengeance. The fantastic combat, surprisingly well-told story, and unparalleled audiovisual display made for a brilliant action game that’s quality was outdone only by its sheer ridiculousness. I loved every moment of it.

  • Dual Strike did such a marvelous job at walking that fine line between accessibility and depth. A colorful aesthetic, catchy soundtrack, and straightforward mechanics made it easy to quickly jump into what turned out to be a highly nuanced strategy game. That there was so much quality content to support it ensured that I spent over a hundred hours with this gem.

  • Writing your own version of history never got old in Civilization IV. There was something inspiring about constantly making decisions to guide the flow of human history, and the game’s incredibly well-designed mechanics made that process both interesting and rewarding. Throw in pleasant visuals and a soothing soundtrack, and it was all too easy to play just one more turn.

  • The Elder Scrolls games are an explorer’s dream, and Oblivion was no exception. Cyrodiil was a vast, varied, and beautiful land that I never got tired of travelling, as almost every corner of the world held something worth seeing. I also got really into abusing the game’s broken leveling system to make an all powerful character that could do literally everything at once.

  • No rhythm game has hooked me like Elite Beat Agents did. The simple touch controls were unbelievably responsive and satisfying, and I couldn’t put the game down until I had perfected every single song. The game’s quirky style was so charming, and the songs and scenarios were absolutely hilarious. I can’t imagine the genre being much better than this. Agents are go!

  • Gameplay and narrative rarely serve each other as well as they did in BioShock. Exploring Rapture’s meticulously designed hallways simultaneously benefited its solid action, customizable weapons and powers, highly engaging story (containing one of gaming’s great plot twists), and fantastic characters. It's the rare game that was equally satisfying on all fronts.

  • Super Mario Galaxy completely blew me away. By playing fast and loose with the laws of gravity it provided a creative and fresh take on 3D platformers while simultaneously raising the bar for variety and level design. It played as well as any game ever had, and contained one of my favorite video game soundtracks, which further helped cement its place at the top of its genre.

  • The Burnout series proved that I could like driving games, and Paradise proved that I could love them. The car handling was simply perfect, which made driving around the game’s expansive city a total blast. I took pleasure in learning its ins and outs while partaking in the game’s countless, varied events, and the sense of speed and extravagant crashes were incredible.

  • Everything about The World Ends With You clicked with me in a way that games rarely do. What initially looked like the biggest collection of tired JRPG cliches possible turned out to be an entirely fresh, exciting take on the genre. The setting, the characters, the writing, the soundtrack, the combat; everything came together just right, creating a unique and special game.

  • When it comes to shooters, there’s simply no substitute for stellar gunplay. Dead Space’s shooting felt spot on, and got put to great use via well-designed environments, fantastic weapons and upgrades, and exciting, relentless enemies. The game’s presentation was also off the charts, leading to a thick atmosphere and level of immersion that games rarely match.

  • Arkham Asylum provided the best of everything. The way it combined fantastic action, rewarding exploration, and some of gaming’s best stealth mechanics was just mesmerizing. It glued these three seemingly disparate ideas together with some amazing level design and sublime pacing, creating a beautiful whole that was equally engaging for each of its varied parts.

  • I’m not sure the world was ready for Demon’s Souls, yet venturing into the great unknown was a big part of what made this game so memorable. It also had thick atmosphere, satisfying combat, intricate customization options, and a demanding nature that led to countless unforgettable moments, providing a genuine sense of accomplishment that games rarely deliver.

  • Mass Effect 2 introduced one of the largest casts of memorable characters out there, and even better was the way it let you interact with those characters in meaningful ways. It pushed the boundaries of interactive storytelling in every possible direction, and that it didn’t give up what makes video games great in the process is nothing short of miraculous.

  • StarCraft II set a new standard for what competitive gaming could be. It took the delicate balance that defined its predecessor, and embedded it in a slick leagues and ladders system that provided tons of useful, rewarding feedback. That made it easy to jump in and improve your game, and the campaign itself did a great job continuing a surprisingly engaging story.

  • Civilization V somehow managed to make an already popular and complex strategy game infinitely more accessible without losing any of its trademark depth. It also gave the series’ previously tedious combat a welcome overhaul, and its two incredible expansions really pushed it over the top to create one of the most dynamically compelling strategy games I’ve ever played.

  • Bastion was the little game that could, proving that a small downloadable could be as captivating as anything out there. Between the explosive combat, fun weapons and items, and majestic presentation (easily one of my favorite video game soundtracks), everything felt just right. I got completely absorbed in every aspect of this technical and artistic masterpiece.

  • The crazy thing about Dark Souls was that it managed to be even bigger and bolder than its predecessor. This was a gamer’s game: the intricate customization options, the hard-hitting combat, the wonderfully designed and atmospheric world, and the demanding but rewarding challenge were all brilliant, and combined to produce one of gaming’s grandest adventures.

  • XCOM combined strategic base planning and tactical turn based missions in a way that was completely mesmerizing. It expertly walked that fine line between two sides of one of my favorite genres to create a highly refreshing, exciting, and challenging blend. Not to mention how permanent soldier deaths made it easy to get attached to each and every member of your squad.

  • Persona 4 Golden took the series’ special blend of high school drama and RPG dungeon crawling to new heights. Combat and customization options were greatly improved, and navigating your daily routine was as rewarding as ever. But it was the game’s fun style, catchy music, lovable characters, and sharp writing that really cemented it as such a memorable journey.

  • Axiom Verge stands with the best exploration-focused games I’ve played. It took the essence of what makes such games great, and implemented it in a way that felt fresh, yet equally compelling. I was captivated by its meticulously designed world and all of its inventive items and secrets, and the striking visuals and moody soundtrack only added to the game’s awesome atmosphere.

  • The Witness was the rare game that stayed in my psyche long after I put it down. This gorgeous island was chock-full of brilliant puzzles to solve at your own pace, but more importantly, it was detailed and mysterious in a way that urged you to notice and question everything. Games just don’t do that anymore, which made for a contemplative journey I’m still thinking about.

  • I never thought I could like a first-person shooter this much, but Doom raised the bar across the board. The unparalleled feel of its action, the countless smart design touches, the endlessly entertaining presentation, the rippin' soundtrack; it was the rare game where every single facet felt well-considered and well-executed. Video games have no business being this good.

  • Hollow Knight managed to combine simplicity and intense attention to detail in a way that created one of the most ambitious, varied, and surprising worlds I've ever explored. It felt alive in a way that most simply don't, and finding your own way through proved to be a personal and impactful experience. Its combat was equally great, and its style and music tied it all together.

  • Breath of the Wild was a bold wake-up call for open world games, and deftly focused the entire experience around exploring its vast, gorgeous, and magical world. So many smart design decisions came together to reward the player's curiosity every step of the way, and its artistic side was equally breathtaking. Not many games have been able to generate wonder quite like this.

  • Into the Breach was a revelation. It took the best aspects of strategy, puzzle, and run-based games, and boiled them down to what mattered most. Every single turn presented tons of clear information that was fascinating to think through, and the larger structure created an endless series of the most engaging puzzles around. I’m not sure I’ve played a more pure and elegant game.