My Top 35 Games of All Time!

IGN's been doing a favorites feature for their major staff members this year, and I felt like it would be fun to reflect and do my own list. You know what surprises me the most? I had far, FAR more Xbox 360 games on the initial list than any other console. I guess that's what happens when a long, varied console generation also happens to be the one that I find myself with the most game-buying money. Tied for second and third place were the SNES and the GameCube, and it was honestly hard to cut many games from the initial list I made. And interesting note: pretty much every game on this list has a killer soundtrack! I guess that's something that really makes or breaks a game for me, huh?

So I have an arbitrary number of 35. I wanted to do 25 at first but I just had too many games that were precious to me and I didn't want to cut. There's a lot of Zelda and Mario games but hey...it's my stinking list and I can do what I want! So strap in and get ready for the ultimate top-whatever list to date!

List items

  • I have written about this game and gushed about it to no end. It takes me to my ultimate happy place and has a serious emotional connection to me that makes it much more significant than just another Mario game. That the sequel was equally (or even more) awesome is astounding to me. Nintendo really struck gold with this concept, and they're a part of the small handful of games that keep me from saying the Wii was a complete wash.

  • It's the only completely perfect (for the time) game in existence. It did all the right things at the right time and it still captivates me.

  • DARK SOULS IS MY LIFE

  • Just to prove that they could, Nintendo did something dramatically different from Ocarina of Time. Idiots and drooling fanboys hated it. I think it's one of the most well-realized game worlds in existence, with an extremely cohesive audiovisual style that's almost unmatched anywhere, especially to this scale. Also, it's loads of fun.

  • It's a perfect example of respecting and teaching the player without having to spell everything out, and it's also an awesome evolution of the old NES games. Tight controls, an amazing soundtrack, great boss fights, a reasonable difficulty level...this game has it all.

  • It's absurdly good. The gore factor made it a guilty pleasure for me at first. I just think it's an incredible action game with loads of variety, tension, genuine terror, and fantastic atmosphere.

  • Pokémon was my late childhood. Seriously, the first games came out when I was close to ten years old and they sucked me in. They were such magical games back then, especially with the way they managed to build such a rich, huge world on decade-old hardware. I love Red/Blue but I put significantly more time into Silver, so that's what gets the pick here.

  • The only multiplayer game I've consistently played and gotten great at. The series is a staple for my old friend group, and I sort of long for those days. Brawl is technically better, but Melee has a better tone and frantic pace.

  • I'm still shocked that this sequel was able to make my opinion of the first game take a complete 180. I hated the first one, but in order to impact the story of the second one and see everything it had to offer I ended up playing through it a few more times to import characters to Mass Effect 2. This game has it all - great characters, an action-packed story, amazing visuals, tight gameplay, variety, length...it's incredible.

  • So. Funny story. Or several. Bear with me here. My first exposure to the Persona series was when I watched the Persona 4 Endurance Run in its entirety here on the site. I grew quite attached to the characters and the music, the humor and the tone. When I got a PS3, I saw this game for sale on the download store for ten bucks, and I figured that's a reasonable price for a super-long RPG that I'd want to check out. I felt like there was no way I'd like this game as much as I had loved Persona 4, but the unique darker feel and the pervasive melancholy and fear that sets this game apart made it a completely different beast.

    Around 30 hours in, my save file got corrupted by a somewhat-common bug. I was fairly devastated, because I invested a lot in the game and had limited time since I was in college. It really took the wind out of my sails for a while, but I just couldn't stop thinking about Persona 3! So I ended up returning to it, and I carefully backed my saves up every time I was done, and I got through to the very end.

    I've scarcely played a JRPG quite this nuanced, well-written and engrossing. Some of the monotony inherent in this genre actually works to the story's benefit, since the characters feel the slog and get worn down over the course of the narrative too. By the wearying final battle and the epilogue sequences, you've really bonded with these people and felt their plight firsthand. I really, really enjoyed it and it's one of my favorite games ever at this point. Felt no need to play The Answer, though.

    Also, Persona 4 is really, really great. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

  • Man. MAN. What a game.

  • Discovered it after playing more recent Metroid games. It's one of my favorite SNES games now. It just does atmosphere and exploration so dang well, and I feel like I approach it very differently every time I replay it. Stinking fantastic.

  • The game is super funny, has great, sharp visuals, and features my favorite RPG battle system ever. The fact that you can (theoretically) dodge every attack in the game makes the battles frantic and stressful...in a good way.

    And man is it funny too. Props to the localization team at Nintendo of America.

  • Taking an imperfect, decent platformer (Donkey Kong Country) and morphing it into a fully-featured Super Nintendo masterpiece? This is the game that made Rare one of my favorite developers of the mid to late 90's. It has loads of character, tough bonus levels and tons of secrets to uncover. Add to that impressive visual design, a kick-butt soundtrack, and the best DK character ever (Dixie Kong) and you've got yourself a real winner.

  • The first FF I ever played, and still my favorite for its moody, unorthodox story, interesting characters, and excellent music. It has a really neat tone that's not really done in any other games in the series. Love it or hate it, this game is interesting! And I love it!

  • The game that introduced me to Japanese roleplaying games. It features quirky characters, great villains, fun twists on old Mario tropes, and a great battle system courtesy of the 16-bit JRPG masters at Squaresoft. I also love the pseudo-polygonal weird isometric appearance of this game. And that soundtrack.

  • This game is better than Mario 64 in every conceivable way, alright guys? Just deal with it.

  • The first Metroid game I owned, and a truly slick GBA game all told. I really like the pacing, the ambience, the music, the story and narration, the controls...it's a bit short, but that's a Metroid game for you. I've played it to completion a bunch of times, and can easily beat it in under two hours now.

    Man what a great game.

  • The perfect way to turn a Super Nintendo classic (Super Metroid) into an immersive, freaky and completely enthralling first-person experience. This game was completely mind-blowing when it came out for so many reasons...it's easy to see why it got so many rave reviews. I love it. It earns its place on this list handily.

  • I love the battle system, the characters, the time traveling, the music...this game's the best 16-bit JRPG out there for sure. I paid $70 for the game back in 2008 and it was well worth it.

  • Starting this game makes chills run up my spine. The music is SO GOOD and the bosses are cool and the way the game makes you beat all the Mega Man 2 bosses too and play through super-hard remixed levels...geez, this is the best Mega Man game this side of Mega Man X, huh?

  • I was afraid of the SNES Final Fantasy games because the only one I had ever played was that awful, misguided "Mystic Quest" game. How relieved I was to find that Final Fantasy III (as it was known) is possibly the best game in the series with a colorful, varied and interesting cast of characters, a killer soundtrack, and a truly nasty villain. The super-frequent random battles are a bit of a buzzkill when everything else is so good, so I think I prefer Chrono Trigger and Mario RPG overall. But man. Could not have been more surprised by how good this game was.

  • This game kept me busy during road trips and piano lessons for a long time. It was one of only a couple of decent games I had on the ol' Game Boy and it sure is great. It's got a very unique feel and structure to it, sort of like a blend between the aimless nature of the NES original and the more story-driven Link to the Past. I like it a lot. Definitely an important portable game from my childhood, especially in the pre-Pokémon days.

  • This game filled eight-year-old me with so much giddy joy that it can't help but be included here. The SNES game was interesting, but the enormous replay value of this game, and its campy spoken dialogue, and the sheer variety of the different planets and routes, just made the N64 game so much more magical and fun to me.

  • What a weird game. I truly loved it too. That new 3DS game is pretty rad as well. Never have I consistently wanted to play a game every day for so long like I did with Animal Crossing. Long live Metéo!

  • It's cool. I like it. Pink hair is so rad.

    I especially love that in a sea of 16-bit wannabes on the SNES and Genesis, nothing could ever quite get the Zelda style right.

  • It strikes me as kind of odd that the only DS game I really, really have to put on here is one that benefits very little from the unique DS features but, hey...Mario Kart DS is the bomb. It had the distinction of being the first one that was legitimately fun to play alone, and that was helped by the excellent track design and mission modes. It also featured wireless local multiplayer and a (kind of messed up) online mode, which made it easier than the GBA game to play with friends. Seriously my favorite game in the series, which is extra weird because it's a series that thrives on local multiplayer.

  • Absolutely one of my favorite games in years, especially surprising given my increased ambivalence towards the direction of the Zelda series as a whole. Absolutely stellar, top to bottom.

  • Jeff is dead wrong: Yoshi's Island is awesome. There's loads of variety, it looks great, it's super hard to get everything and has lots of secrets, it has amazing boss battles, the music is catchy...it's better than Super Mario World. Though they're so different that the comparison is weird. This game is packed with extremely memorable moments that stick out to me so much, like becoming Super Baby Mario, or being eaten by a frog, or skiing through a level...boy, the crumminess of all the sequels and spin-offs really depresses me sometimes because this game is something neat.

  • When I heard that the WarioWare team made a zany, ludicrous rhythm mini-game collection, I thought it was a dream come true. But since my only exposure was the flawed DS game (frustrating controls and not as charming as the Japan-only GBA game), I was sorely disappointed by what I got.

    Then Rhythm Heaven Fever came out for the Wii.

    HOLY CRAP WHY IS THIS NOT #1 ON THIS LIST. There's a game where you high five monkeys that make up a watch face! There's another where you kick away basketballs and footballs so they don't spoil your double date with weasels! And how about the one where a bunch of bowtie-wearing pig things present a business plan at a board meeting by spinning in office chairs? And another with adorable baby seals rolling to the command of a drill sergeant! Then there's that wrestling interview. OH, THAT WRESTLING INTERVIEW.

    This game is the best thing in existence, but that's kind of unfair to the other more fleshed-out games on here so I guess it'll just sit here. This is a real achievement for humanity as a whole and it's a bit too much to handle sometimes.

  • This game (and the series as a whole) is very tailored to me and my absurd sense of humor and attention deficit tendencies. The insane characters and themes, the creativity of the microgames, and the breakneck pace that everything is thrown at you make this game undeniably infectious. I may like the GBA sequel Twisted better, but the original is the most noteworthy.

  • I didn't anticipate loving this game so thoroughly...but I ended up getting 100% completion and all the Xbox achievements. To me what makes this game so good is that it shows an understanding of the concept of proper challenge and fairness by not punishing you for having to retry levels over and over again. It just instantly respawns you and the music never stops. It's that flow and tight pacing that keeps the game from being overly frustrating, and the difficulty level is great for someone like me that usually finds platformers too easy.

  • Rayman Origins was a bit of an uneven experience for me, one that I adored for the slick, awesome graphics and the bizarre and hilarious soundtrack but felt frustrated by the weird difficulty spikes and uneven level design. Rayman Legends remedies all of my problems with Origins, and it has these GREAT music-themed levels that are very unique and the real shining achievement. That "Castle Rock" stage based on Black Betty by Ram Jam? I BOUGHT THE GAME FOR THAT LEVEL. The rest of the game is amazing and jam-packed with creative, challenging and fun level design. Plus, it has a ton of remixed levels from Origins. It's seriously the perfect package. The Wii U version is pretty different from the Xbox 360 version though. I think I might enjoy the purer, faster experience on the 360, even though the touch-based levels are quaint at least.

    Still, it's one of my favorite games now. Seriously tailor-made for me in all the right ways.

  • Rock Band elevated the Guitar Hero concept to its logical conclusion, Rock Band 2 polished it, and Rock Band 3 added all kinds of new features and tweaks. I have a giant setlist of amazing songs, a personalized band that I love, and I have most of the achievements in this insane game. I was underwhelmed by the implementation of the keyboard (as an experienced pianist...I guess that was to be expected) but the core game is so good it's hard to hold anything against it. RIP, instrument-based rhythm games. You had a great run. What a send-off Rock Band 3 is.

  • Gears is my favorite shooter series, one I could legitimately get into and hold my own online to some degree. I love all three of them, but for me the insanity of the campaign and the Horde mode in Gears 2 really puts it on top for me. You travel through the inside of a giant worm and chop your way through with your chainsaws. A giant worm! It's amazing. Great co-op, locally or online.