Top 50 games of all-time...

I made this with the qualifier that if it's a game in a series, I could only choose one. This meant no Super Mario World, no Burnout: Paradise, no Hitman: Blood Money, etc. as much as I would have otherwise included them, but it would have gotten a little redundant to feature three Forza Horizon games, so I had to make some hard choices. On to the list!

List items

  • Everything about this speaks to me. It can be played as a tactical stealth game, or you can throw an exploding baseball at a target's face in front of dozens of witnesses. It is as serious or as dumb as you want to make it, and it's a blast either way. Pulling the marionette strings on a giant sandbox of NPCs is amazing. Never has a game rewarded creativity more. It can hold your hand to some scripted moments, you can piece them together on your own, or you can create your own greatness. The dialogue and voicework is hilarious and self-aware, and there is so much depth to each map with easter eggs everywhere. I've dumped countless hours in HITMAN and still feel like I'm just scratching the surface. It is the best game.

  • Goldeneye proved that you could do a console FPS, but Halo: CE proved that you could do a console FPS extremely well. Do I even really need to make the case here? This game somehow still plays better than most shooters, and thanks to various graphical refreshes over the years, visually still works as well despite its age. Honestly, if the original game had never existed, you could release the visually updated version now and it would still become a classic. It's that good and holds up that well. I fire up the campaign often to this day. I look forward to the MCC's impending PC release so it can find some new or renewed love there. This is a perfect video game, and I have a hard time not putting it atop my list.

  • Bond movies have always been fairly cool, but licensed games have mostly been trash. I still have a soft spot for Bond in general and Goldeneye as a movie, but some of it is cringe-inducing now. The game Goldeneye, though? Fucking excellent. It was the first game that proved an FPS could work on a console. Yeah, the N64 controller is a bit shit, but we made it work. I wholly rejected the PC crowd shitting on Goldeneye and still do. I'm glad you liked Quake. I liked Goldeneye. It's a graphical nightmare now, and Dan's Die Another Friday series proved that not all of the gameplay holds up, but it was incredible at the time for both its campaign and multiplayer and completely deserves its place among the annals of gaming history. I will die on that hill.

  • All respect to Mario 1 & 2 and The Legend of Zelda, but this is peak NES and peak Mario. It had fun and key powerups, puzzles, secrets, and was an incredibly tight platformer with enough difficulty to challenge me and keep me coming back to it over and over again as a kid. This game was a moment, and it probably deserves a lot of credit for video games garnering mainstream acceptance. It seemed like overnight the world went from only the nerdy kids playing games to you being some weirdo if you weren't playing Mario 3. There wasn't too much of a stigma left after this came out. Culturally, it thus commands a high spot on the list, and the substance of the game is obviously still there as well.

  • This may end up climbing higher on the list. All of the Forza Horizon games are fantastic, but this one is the best, thanks to the addition of seasons and how incredible it looks and plays in 4K HDR. This is far beyond what I thought consoles were capable of in terms of overall visual quality and scope. They've achieved perfection with this game and I literally have no idea how they could improve it. You can go as deep down the gearhead tuning rabbit hole as you want, you can create liveries to your heart's delight, or you can hop in some supercar and just hit some sick jumps. It's fun no matter how you play it, and it's my go-to game when I need to unwind and cruise. Five fucking stars.

  • This is a game that was so good that my non-video game-playing father would kick us off the Nintendo to play it, reminding us when we protested that he was the one who bought the Nintendo. I'm not sure he's played a game since, but The Legend of Zelda was undeniable. It featured a high level of difficulty, a varied and interesting world, arcane/complex dungeons, and secrets galore. It's an adventure in the truest and best sense, and its nostalgia still hits me hard. I'm not sure how many times I've played through it, but it's enough to have memorized the long list of bombable areas, how to navigate dungeons, etc. That says enough for its quality right there.

  • The sheer amount of time I put into this game keeps it high on my list. It's an all-time classic racing game, and in a world where the Forza games don't exist, it's the best racing game ever made. It looked mind-blowing at the time, and played well to boot. It was also a very deep game with a huge roster of cars and tracks, along with a quality soundtrack. I remember rigging intricate rubber band systems on my controller to run endurance races that were exactly that. I was playing it even when I wasn't playing it. It had the first loot box I can recall, with your car and its color as a prize reward at the end of a long race series or endurance race being a HUGE fucking moment that would make or break you. I 100%ed this game and got every car I wanted in every color I wanted, and that's something.

  • Koopa Troopa Beach is kart racing perfected. There is enough skill, bullshit, and rubber-banding in this game to make it a great time even to this day. Seriously, some friends and I still pop some beers and fire this shit up every now and then, and it's still fun as hell. I guess they've made technically "better" Mario Karts since, but this one best captures the simplistic fun, IMO. I can't even count all of the photo finishes we've had due to well-fired green shells, bullshit lightnings, unavoidable bananas, etc. No game has precipitated more yells and laughter for my friends and I. It is taken both way too seriously and not seriously at all by us at the same time, and it's the goddamn best.

  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is a truly great stealth game, and it cracks my top ten based on finally showing up on Xbox One backwards compatibility. Parts of it show their age, but it's still really good. Moreover, one thing that is sadly lost to time, but will always be remembered fondly in my mind, is the Spies v. Mercs multiplayer. I can't even really describe it adequately to people who didn't experience it. It was an amazing, but unfortunately brief time in which voice chat/online gaming was still new enough that people hadn't considered being awful to each other yet. You could co-op multiplayer with some rando, if one of you died, the other cheered you on instead of quitting out, and even the guys you were playing against would talk about how fun it was regardless of W or L afterwards. Consistently. I swear to God this happened, and it was a magical time. Best multiplayer experience ever.

  • OG Titanfall is an underappreciated gem. What that game did to somewhat revitalize an FPS genre that was becoming increasingly stale should not be forgotten. It absolutely nailed mobility, a development which many games since have tried to imitate, but few have successfully duplicated. Additionally, the smart pistol and the stalker/chase gameplay style it encouraged was among my favorite multiplayer experiences ever. It replaces Rainbow Six 3 because I feel it did more for the genre. I was happy to see Titanfall 2 receive some critical/gamer acclaim, despite not being a sales darling from EA making a classically dumbass EA decision. I will continue to hope that they make a Titanfall 3 with a continuation of Titanfall 2's surprisingly great campaign and bring back the smart pistol from OG Titanfall.

  • I loved this game once up on a time and still remember it very fondly. There was a time I might have even considered it in my all-time top three games. However, Rockstar's style and humor isn't aging particularly well, and I'm probably letting my disappointment with its sequel unfairly taint the original a bit, but still, I find myself with less of the love I once had for it

  • This era of Tom Clancy games (along with the aforementioned Splinter Cell) was truly awesome. Let's call it "Classic Clance" for fun. Rainbow Six 3 is where the series hit a nice peak of being more than the very dry tactics-based early Rainbow Six games, while still maintaining a degree of realism. I loved that your character wasn't a damn tank who could take 30 bullets. If you got shot, you were donezo. My clan was 4th in the world at this at one point. We took it very seriously because it was such a damn great shooter.

  • There are probably quite a few who would understandably argue for CoD 4 as the best of the series, and I'd agree that the campaign in it was slightly better than Modern Warfare 2, but MW2 is where the series' multiplayer peaked. They hadn't yet gone in the wildly unrealistic twitch shooter direction they have since, and the maps in this game were better than any other game in the series that I've played. I miss this style of CoD, and it's not an accident that the team behind it who are now at Respawn are still making great video games while the CoD series has dipped significantly in quality.

  • This game doesn't get enough love. People seemed to like it, but I don't ever see it on these sorts of lists and that makes me sad. No one has done destructibility better, and the remaster proved that the game still holds up far better than you might expect. I also have some real love for the original, and a weird soft spot for II, but Guerrilla is the best of the series and a damn fine game.

  • There's always the debate about whether this, Takedown, or Paradise is the best Burnout game. All are great in their own ways, but I lean Revenge because it looks/plays better than Takedown (yes, I'm team traffic check), and Paradise doesn't have the crash mode, which was arguably the best part of the entire series. Maybe Road Rage. Burnout games were great.

  • I've enjoyed most of the GTA games for one reason or another, but this is the one I remember the most fondly. It was ambitious as hell for the time. Not all of the gameplay holds up, such as having mechanics like needing to eat and exercise to keep your CJ going, but the scope of the game and San Andreas itself was impressive. Also, the story is arguably the best of the series. Blazing down the highway in the countryside on a chopper while Freebird played was excellent.

  • Rocket League is one of the few unique multiplayer experiences in recent memory. It's both approachable and rewards high-level play, which is a tough thing to pull off. From a tactical standpoint, you can actually employ some real-world sports concepts like a basketball three-man weave and the spacing and counterattacking of soccer. Sadly, there's a real problem of people quitting out the second a goal is scored, but the game itself is great.

  • There are some very good AC games, but this is the best in my book. Jesper Kyd's soundtrack is terrific, and that combined with some beautiful environments made for an experience of awe and wonder. As cheesy as it sounds, I visited Italy later on and the trip was legitimately enhanced because I actually knew some of the landmarks and history. I didn't fistfight any popes while there, though.

  • This was one of the best arcade games of all-time, and I had the surprisingly solid N64 port at the house. I'm not saying I can take Jeff in NFL Blitz, but I'm very good at NFL Blitz and can defend the rollout pass/run option on Da Bomb that most people run in that game. Jeff, challenge extended.

  • Some of the tone and 'tude in this is very of its time, but this game is still great. Conceptually, the "deck of cards" structure of assassination was really cool, as was calling in airstrikes. The factions hearken back to Grand Theft Auto 2 as well. It always got hectic trying to take a target alive amidst chaos, and it was good fun.

  • In addition to being one of the prettiest games on the OG Xbox, this was a really solid racing game and gave proper treatment to rally racing. The physics were great, and the terrain mattered. Ice racing and tearing ass through the Australian Outback with Audioslave blaring from my Xbox playlist is an awesome gaming memory for me. I wish this would come to backwards compatibility.

  • I've never been a huge fan of this series, but the reboot that preceded this was good, and this game took that a step further. For a while there during its timed exclusivity period, people seemed to actively ignore the game to flip the bird to Xbox, but Rise of the Tomb Raider is still one of the best-looking games this generation, and was a stunner even on the base Xbox One. It eventually found some acclaim, but perhaps not enough. The gameplay was mostly solid, and it delivered in terms of both the "tombs" and general adventure. The story eventually got a little dumb and ridiculous, but I really liked this game overall.

  • These games were great, despite being unrealistic as all hell. Once you maxed out your character and got good at the systems, you could post some truly ridiculous rounds, but getting double eagles is fun. There was also an amazing character creator through which I made my golfer look identical to actual me, which was neat. Spinning the ball around in mid-air was very silly and consistently enjoyable, and the presentation made everything more cinematic and cool. My college buddy and I spent a ton of time playing this for good reason.

  • This game's story is so much better than it has any right to be. They turned a previously cartoonish BJ into a fairly endearing character, and the campaign features both some poignant and difficult moments. Stylistically, the dystopian alternate future is fittingly creepy, and it's a very tight shooter in terms of controls. My lone criticism of it is ammo scarcity even on the lower difficulties limiting the moments where you go full-on ridiculous badass with double shotguns, but this is a very good video game.

  • This is my favorite Need for Speed game. In addition to being a surprisingly good-looking and controlling PS2 game, it is hilariously over-the-top in all the best ways. There's nothing like blazing through a redwood forest with a police helicopter trying to drop flaming barrels on you. Also, the locations had some shortcuts and sick jumps everywhere with some appropriately great/dumb cinematic slowdown. NFS: Hot Pursuit 2 is bombastic as all hell, but it features a boatload of cool cars and locations to make it fun to simply race as well. This game is a blast.

  • There was a time when the Madden games were actually good. This was the sweet spot of the game being more full-featured than some of the older ones, while not being quite as much of a buggy, unapproachable sim as it has since become. The training camp mini-game mode was extremely fun in this. The running back one where the game reduced the moving parts and broke it down to blocking dummies and you trying to evade a few defenders was a blast, and I spent way too much time with it.

  • Kudos to this for being one of the few good, semi-realistic arcade racing games. Yes, I made a pun. The kudos system has since become a part of some other racing games like the Forza series, but it was a novel idea that set this one a bit apart. There were some events like the cone challenges that were extremely challenging and rewarding, and I gleefully banged my head on that brick wall.

  • I like exploring neat environments, and this game does a great job of scratching that itch. Seeing new worlds and their weird creatures continues to be fun, and the game's story and universe are intriguing enough to keep you coming back. The game has some issues with excessive grind and generally sub-par controls, but there's far more to like than dislike here and there are precious few games that offer a more zen experience the way this game does when it's at its best

  • I wasn't that much of a PC gamer growing up, but this and Wolfenstein 3D were undeniable. It was reasonably scary as a kid and is intense/hectic in the right ways, and it of course made a huge mark on gaming in general. The sound effects are burned into my brain. Also, the soundtrack still rips.

  • I miss these games, but somewhere along the way, athletes decided that a free education apparently is worthless and demanded to be paid for their likeness instead. Not that the NCAA or EA aren't awful organizations that were profiting off of them, but a free education and being treated like gods on campus thanks to this same system wasn't nothing, either. These were good games, but they got sadly lost in that shuffle. The '10 version was about where they peaked.

  • There are a few games like F-Zero are Cruis'n USA that could be put in this category, but this is still my favorite "one of those". You had to simultaneously battle turrets, other vehicles, mines, and your own fuel. There were cars you could shoot and explode, while others were invincible. It got tense very quickly. A plane would drop you the occasional power-up that was often difficult to get, but it was never easy. It was all worth it to finish a stage and get that sweet music, though.

  • SSX 3 is very 2000s in the best and worst ways. As a game, it's probably the best of the skate/snowboard games, and it appealed to me in ways the Tony Hawk's of the gaming world never did. This one in particular had some of the best tracks, and I had a damn good time doing some asinine tricks and finding all the shortcuts.

  • This game had quite possibly the greatest demo of all-time. I don't feel like enough people talk about it, but it was basically Descent on steroids. As far as space combat games go, this was among the best ever made, IMO. The demo gave you almost the entire game, and I played it over and over, strafing installations and shooting ships out of the sky.

  • Soccer games have since become overly complex and far less enjoyable as they've tried to add a new mechanic every year. I know that people who are way into soccer appreciate that, but I miss the simplicity of FIFA games of this era. I used to take one of the best teams and pit them against one of the worst teams, attempting only shots from midfield. This was in no way how you're supposed to play soccer or even a video game form of soccer, but it was amusing to me nonetheless.

  • I know, it's the game that fans of the Souls series hate on, but it's totally fine. Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed Vinny's Dark Souls playthrough, I picked this up and put some serious time in it. I almost wiped out the entirety of the map since you can permadeath enemies, but eventually burned out near the end. Someday I'll finish it, but it's a good game. I just need to be in the mood for it.

  • This is another game I greatly enjoyed, but never finished for whatever reason. Still, you could make a pretty decent argument that this is the best GTA game. The combat is good, the world is awesome, and the story is actually pretty solid. There are also open-world hijinks aplenty, and the Definitive Edition still holds up very well from a graphics standpoint.

  • I found this game to be very refreshing. Post-Titanfall, it seemed like every FPS had an arms race in terms of "fast-paced mobility", and the Call of Duty series in particular went hard in that direction to where it plays like Quake, so the deliberate pace of Battlefield 1 was very welcome for me. It didn't hurt that this game is damn gorgeous, as is Battlefield V. Moreover, the War Stories made for a surprisingly quality campaign. EA doesn't do much right, but these games are still very good.

  • The original Trials game. Not really, but Excitebike was simple and fun. The track creator was a fairly novel idea at the time as well. This is another game where all of the sounds are burned into my brain, and many of them are more annoying than I noticed as a kid, probably because I was too busy taking sick jumps and trying to set the best times.

  • This is a game that won't register for most, and I get that. However, Criterion's lone foray into the FPS world was a good one. This game was terrific from a production standpoint. Friend of the site Chris Tilton and Michael Giacchino's score was awesome, and all of the visual and sound effects were very visceral. The game's story was virtually nonexistent, but it didn't matter. It was one of the first games to feature destructible cover, and when everything came together with orchestral music blaring while walls around you disintegrated from gunfire and everything was loud and exploding, it was an experience few have matched.

  • As a single-player campaign, this game leaves a lot to be desired. However, my experience with this was largely co-op shenanigans, and it was some of the most fun I've had in all of my video gaming. There is a great deal of dumb shit you can do in their sandbox, and it led to so much hilarity for my buddy and I that I can't leave it off of this list.

  • I know, I know. Tecmo Bowl was most people's football go-to on the NES, and we'll get to it, but I preferred this game. The top-down view was better for actual gaming, and the game had decent-sized playbooks. The game's lone failing was that running your QB was almost a guaranteed fumble, but that they factored in fatigue was impressive.

  • I had my fun with the games like 1942, but this one was my favorite top-down shooter. Much like Terminal Velocity, the shareware version was amazing. Also, the music and near-future aesthetic were rad as hell. Seriously, go look up that soundtrack. It rules. Actually, just go play this game if you haven't.

  • People like Bubble Bobble, and Bubble Bobble is fine, but Snow Brothers was better than Bubble Bobble in every way. The music was better, the gameplay was better, and the boss fights were better. My brother and I loved this game growing up and played the ever-loving hell out of it. We were the Snow Brothers.

  • Trials is aptly named, because these games will absolutely try your patience. I don't care how calm you are, you'll want to throw your controller at times playing these, but it's almost as rewarding to conquer that damn track or obstacle you can't get past. The game is both very simple and incredibly difficult due to the precision and touch it requires. It demands perfection of you and you mostly want to just defeat it out of spite, but anything that elicits that kind of emotion deserves a spot on the list.

  • This was another great shareware game I played. I remember it was bundled with an awesome Gravis Joystick I bought, and even though a joystick probably wasn't even the best way to play a platformer like Commander Keen, that sure as hell didn't stop me from doing it. I liked that this game had some light puzzle elements as well.

  • Tecmo Super Bowl was a good and fun game, but it would inevitably become an interception-fest if you even tried to pass much, given that the opponent had a constant 25% chance of guessing the correct play.

    That wasn't great from a competitive standpoint, but good times were had with this game nonetheless. Bo Jackson forever.

  • I don't think this was very appreciated even in its time, but I loved this damn game. It was somewhat of a hybrid of Defender and Toobin', both of which were good games in their own right. You were a speedboat that was getting attacked by other boats, having to dispose of mines, save people, etc. It was a fast-paced and fairly intense game that wasn't very easy, but was still very fun.

  • This game belongs somewhat in the category of Trials in terms of difficulty/frustration. It was a driving game in which you played a stuntman driving in action scenes of movies. It was not very hard to just "pass" every scene, but it was incredibly difficult to 100% every scene as I did. You can actually get punished for doing too well in this game and screwing up the timing, and there's an asshole director yelling at you in condescending fashion the whole time. I threw and shattered a PS2 controller because of this game, so again, it's fairly impressive that it was this challenging.

  • I'm not typically big on baseball games in general, but this one gets it right. It's simplistic and arcadey, yet also fairly difficult to master. Super Mega Baseball is also the right kind of dumb, with some very good/silly player names and the occasional pitcher getting flattened by a line-drive. This came free with Xbox Live Games with Gold one month, and I'm glad I picked it up because I ended up putting way more time in it than I expected to.

  • The zapper was cool as shit as a kid and felt like mind-blowing technology. This was a very simple yet entertaining game. I would hazard a guess that everyone my age who had a NES shot at the virtual dog at least once. It was a rite of passage.