SIGINT's Favorite Games

Favorites can be tough to pin down for me, especially in video games where standards seem to evolve faster than any other medium. Games that I once considered a true favorite no longer make the cut as I revisit them over time, some newer ones make a splash immediately and may eventually fall back down, and some even bubble up to the surface as I find they linger in my mind long after completion.

Here's my latest list of 20 favorites, a good amount that gives some variety without getting too long and unwieldy. Looking forward to seeing what from the new generation makes the cut!

(I will finish the writeups for the rest of the games at some point...)

List items

  • My first game was an RPG, my favorite game growing up was almost always some RPG or another, and my last game will probably be an RPG. It's just the genre that I end up loving most often. Disco Elysium was the first game in a long time that really felt like it redefined what an RPG could be for me. There is no combat system in this game, the core feature of pretty much every single other one I've played. In its place, you're building a character's personality and psyche from the ground up after an amnesia-inducing night. Instead of fighting, you're engaging in verbal duels, and instead of abilities, the aspects of your persona and mind that you choose to develop join you and speak their mind to you too. It's such a fascinating setup that I think it could be amazing with literally any story. Luckily, this game also has an unforgettable story of its own, full of humor, politics, mystery, emotion, and turns I never saw coming. A game that I can't imagine being any better.

  • Before the above game took its spot, Bloodborne was one of the longest-running holders of the title. This was one of those mind-blowingly good gaming experiences that hits on so many levels that all you can do is bow down. The world of Yharnam is easily one of the most compelling ever put out on any game, full of insane surprises but even interesting at first glance. The combat is so fast and furious, with so many inspired mechanical choices keeping it aggressive and exciting. I can't really say much about the game without just devolving into "wow this aspect is amazing, this aspect is also amazing, this too" so I'll leave it at that and leave the mysteries to be uncovered for those lucky people who haven't played it yet.

  • This is sort of a cliché choice for "favorite game" at this point after decades of it being hailed by a slowly shrinking but passionate base of players as the best ever. Almost all of the Zelda games are great, so many wonder if this game's acclaim in 2021 is simply down to nostalgia. It's definitely a factor, but nostalgia doesn't often just exist for its own sake. I think there's a good reason this game in particular has captured the hearts of so many for nearly 25 years, and I've slowly raised it back up my personal list for that reason. Beneath the aging gameplay and graphics, it's the music, story, characters, puzzles, secrets, towns, enemies, gear, even things like the map, that all have such character and charm to them. I can't remember many games that create such a mood and atmosphere, bright in Link's youth and almost terrifyingly oppressive in his adulthood. Years later it's just as intriguing and exciting watching it all play out and exploring the corners of this world.

  • It's easy to forget what a massively acclaimed game that MGSV was upon release. I still feel just as strongly about it now as I and those critics did when it came out years ago. The evolution in gameplay from previous Metal Gear titles to this one is just remarkable, maintaining most of the funny gameplay quirks of previous entries while delivering an incredibly tight and sandboxy stealth action experience. Other games like Hitman (2016) have done an admirable job, but I never enjoyed it more than in this game. The ambitious story was infamously left unfinished mid-development, but I loved uncovering its secrets and surprises all the same. A very quirky, wild ride that I will never forget.

  • Breath of the Wild simply does not have a lot of what made Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past, Majora's Mask, or The Wind Waker beloved to so many. Its focus on emergent gameplay and physics over authored dungeons and story alienated not only a lot of Zelda fans, but even a lot of open world game fans in general, who were frustrated by a seeming lack of "things to do" in its world. On the other hand, I, and the majority of people it would seem, found this to be much *more* exciting than any other open world game. It has such a sense of genuine discovery and surprise; most other open world games now feel so scripted and static in comparison. Everything in this game just makes such logical sense that you can play with its rules in really novel ways and have a great time, and I loved the little isolated shrines offering challenges throughout the world. If the sequel is able to improve on this with more long-form dungeons and a fuller, more varied world and presentation, it may be the best game ever.

  • I love games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Undertale that present themselves as something normal on the surface, but actually end up being something so weird and creative that I can't help but just smile the whole time. This was one of those games, an open-world action RPG one minute, a twin-stick shooter the other, then a side-scroller, then a text adventure... Yoko Taro always knows when to turn left instead of right to keep you on your toes. It probably wouldn't work if it didn't have such an interesting story tying it all together, with philosophy references competing for screentime with anime androids and some kind of weird robot cult. So much spectacle, odd stuff, and excitement in this game, totally a game for me.

  • This is the hardest game I've ever played, and it is very in your face about that fact. But there's something interesting about it. I've played games that are less hard than this that I quit out of frustration, so why did I stick with this one? Well, some of it is the trust earned by developer From Software over a decade of making good-to-great challenging games beloved by millions, but it's not just that. It turns out, that beyond the challenge that dominates all discourse about this game, it's actually just an extremely fun action title with great encounter design, fun grappling traversal, and a deeply memorable take on a historical Japanese fantasy setting. Exploring around in this game, free of most of the deep RPG trappings of its cousin, the Dark Souls series, is just a blast. Everything feels focused toward one thing, mastery of the combat through timing, learning enemy patterns, and patience. But the story is clearer and more tangible than ever in From Soft's library, the deep lore is there, it really just nails it on all fronts. Certainly one of the best action games ever made, frustration and all.

  • 999 is a convoluted game with branching timelines full of crazy conspiracy-level plot threads, the wildest pseudoscience stuff, ridiculous anime characters, disturbing horror scenes, and a ton of reading. When you write it all out like that, it kind of sounds like a nightmare, but it may be the greatest "page-turner" in gaming history and one of the more interesting puzzle experiences you can find.

  • I have always been intrigued by the Final Fantasy series, but it took me a while to find that game that would suck me into it. That game, against all odds, after bouncing off a few other entries ended up being Final Fantasy XIII, released when I was 14 (perfect timing). Since then I've been blessed with 4 others that I prefer to that one, one which appears later in this list, as well as FFVIII Remastered, FFXV (yes, I know), and this, the first chapter in the remake of the legendary FFVII. As much as I love those other games, they each have some major thing or things that I don't like. Not so with this entry, which delivered my favorite combat in any JRPG, a hybrid of menu-based and action that was tons of fun; the best visuals in any JRPG, period, that were just breathtaking at times; one of my favorite casts of characters in any game, who exceeded my wildest expectations; and a story that I found fascinating, fun, and perfectly paced throughout. I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

  • Dark Souls 1 is a legendary game now, and it will still be a legendary game decades from now. It's an immersive, mysterious beast that starts out feeling impenetrable before revealing that it actually is possible to "get good" and have an amazing time clearing out its many challenges and uncovering its secrets. The branching, interconnected world and all the weirdness within it are really captivating. Not everything about this game has aged well, and some things were already bad when it came out. But there's no denying that there's something really special going on in this game and that of all games I've played it was one of the most enjoyable, satisfying, and yes, maybe a little painful.

  • I love basically everything about this game. I don't think you can make a much better game in the sort of "prestige TV-esque giant open world game" style. It didn't need the best combat ever, or the best mission design ever (though yes, those things would help). It just has this incredible story and cast of characters, this detailed and beautiful world, this extra level of interactivity and realism that made it pretty well near the most immersive third-person game I've ever played. I could not stop thinking about it while playing and can only hope that Rockstar will ever match it again.

  • Gone Home was not the first game labeled as a "walking simulator," but it reached a level of acclaim that forced the gaming community to really reckon with what counts as a "game" versus just interactive fiction. That discourse got me interested in the game, but it seems silly now with nearly a decade of games in a similar vein expanding on the scope and interactivity that it offered. This one, though, is the walking sim I always think back to. It's amazing what it does with so little, creating a moody, horror-lite atmosphere through pure suggestion, telling a layered emotional tale of returning to a home that you no longer recognize, and tackling LGBT issues in a bold way before most games would touch them. There's a real sense of place and flavor in Gone Home's environmental storytelling that makes it tough to forget.

  • With cues seemingly taken from the classic Rez, Sayonara Wild Hearts uses simple, accessible, largely on-rails gameplay to center its immersive audiovisual experience. I have rarely seen a game look this amazing, with art direction that's to die for and legitimately the only video game soundtrack ever made that I listen to on a regular basis. That soundtrack is propelled by a set of brilliant electro-pop songs as well as a few instrumental tracks that each get their own level, allowing the game to play out like an album itself. Each level has its hook, like riding a deer through a crowded forest, zipping a car around city streets, or even floating inside a VR headset. There's so much personality and creativity on display that I just can't get enough of it. Oh yeah, and of course, it's incredibly fun to play at almost all times.

  • Mario Kart 8 may be the one single Switch game that truly can bring any group of people together. It's a really brilliant game that I would love to feature on a list like this. With people with a bit more gaming experience around, though, there's one party game that is a tier above for me. Super Smash Bros. for WiiU got me and my friends through many college nights, and this version is even bigger and better in every way. It's the ultimate party fighting experience, so much more accessible than most other fighting games, so packed with beloved characters and stages and music. It's just unbeatable. I'm sure they will make more Smash Bros games, but this one and its immediate predecessor will always be beloved games for me for all those memories and great times playing over the years.