Favorite Games of All-Time

These are my favorite video games of all time. They are not necessarily the best games ever made (I would argue some of them are great, particularly the ones at the top) but I had the most fun playing them and they have stuck with me through the years.  My first console was a PS1 I got when I was 6 or so (I played some older PC games) and I couldn't really tell a good game from a bad one until the PS2/Xbox era, so I apologize to the older folks out there who might gnash their teeth when they read my list. There are a lot of Star Trek and Star Wars games on my list. I love those franchises. Whoever owns the ST license these days can basically sucker me into buying any crap they put out. Pretty much the same with Lucasarts and SW. 
 
In the case of series I consider the series as deserving of one entry unless I feel I enjoyed the games in a series to different degrees or they had different merits worth considering on their own. 
 
This list is a work in progress.

List items

  • Perhaps not the best game ever made, but without a doubt my favorite. When it comes right down to it, the best games have addicting and satisfying gameplay, well-written characters and an engaging storyline. KOTOR has all of the above in spades. I vividly remember the mind-blowing primary plot twist which completely changed the way I looked at the game and raised my expectations for the stories of all future games to unrealistic heights. I remember sinking hours upon hours into well-written dialog trees with engaging characters. I remember finishing the game as a light-side character only to immediately start the game as a dark-side character to see how the quests, character interactions, gameplay, and plot would change. I wasn't ever disappointed. Since then I've finished the game maybe a dozen times (including once recently) and not only does it hold up each time, but each time I discover some new detail of the world that Bioware so lovingly created. KOTOR is a breathtaking game. It is a true masterpiece and a game against which I judge all others, not so much as to what they can be as to how they can make me feel.

  • Red Dead Redemption does the best job of any game I have ever played in realizing a time and a place. The Old(ish) West is not an easy setting to pull off in a game. As a literary and cinematic trope The Old West has not only a very specific cast of characters, set of tools, and melange of storylines, but a very specific feeling. It's a feeling of loneliness, a feeling of man brushing up against the edges of untamed wilderness, and a feeling of a place which is often unjust and sometimes cruel. RDR captures this feeling in a visceral way both when you are immersed in the game'ss deep and twisting storyline, and when you are on your own exploring or engaging in one of the games many side-activities. The things that happen to John Marston and the other wonderful characters Rockstar has created are rarely fair or under your control, but they are grimly believable. In this way, RDR is a work of realism in the truest literary sense, comparable as much to Thomas Hardy as Sam Peckinpah. The plot grabbed me and never let go until I had seen its brilliant ending-within-an-ending. The characters work within the carefully crafted western setting while maintaining Rockstar's trademark humor, realism, and relatability. Vitally, RDR also works as a game. Riding horses, so vital to the western setting, never felt so good. Shooting is serviceable, and the variety is endless. You are always doing new things and learning new ways to take down those who oppose you. RDR is a masterpiece and perhaps a better game overall than my #1 but I just didn't enjoy it quite as much. I sincerely hope that future game developers take its craftsmanship and artistry to heart.

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is unlike any game I have ever played in its scope and variety. As a work of fiction, the only apt comparison would be to an ancient epic like Homer's Odyssey. CJ, like Odysseus, is tossed from place to place and forced to deal with ever more fantastical situations and characters often beyond his control before his triumphant return home. As a game, GTA: SA wasn't always the most fun to play. No mission checkpoints, frustrating controls and no semblance of a cover system led to many a frustrating mission retry. The graphics weren't the best even for the era. These flaws can be forgiven, however, when you are given an entire state complete with three fully realized and very different cities as well as huge amount of the countryside to explore and take on a variety of missions and challenges. San Andreas's scope has not yet been equaled even on modern consoles (RDR comes close). It is the greatest game of its era and I think has a legitimate argument as one of the greatest of all time.

  • Mass Effect 2 delivers on the promise of the first game in a big way. I wasn't in love with the plot. They did a better job with the "setting the scene" plot of ME1. The Collectors and Cerberus, while well designed, didn't really do it for me. What this game does better than really any game out there is marrying great squad shooter gameplay to the finest character interaction out there. Interruptions (while unfortunately weighted toward Renegade) make conversations more natural and cinematic. The characters are well written and relatable. The loyalty missions could have easily felt like a chore necessary to get the best outcomes for the start of ME3. Instead, they feel like great opportunities to flesh out the wonderfully written party members in ME2. As I mentioned before, the gameplay is great. Each class feels distinct and is worth a playthrough. The game is streamlined in its side quests and its much maligned mining and progression. It's a lot of fun to play, but sometimes I wish it was more of an RPG like its predecessor. Hopefully, ME3 can find a good balance between streamlined gameplay and the complexity of Bioware's RPG roots.

  • I add the Lost and the Damned and Ballad of Gay Tony to GTA IV for this ranking.

  • Also Rome III

  • World at War is a good FPS. The Pacific theater and the Russian breakout campaign hadn't been covered much in the WWII shooter market. The tone of this title is also much darker and more intense than most COD titles, allowing it to stand out. The gameplay is kept fresh enough the make the campaign fun, and the game even has a weak sort of morality system. Where this game really shines, though is in its multiplayer modes. The normal online team deathmatch is the standard great COD fare, but Nazi Zombies is something else entirely. Being holed up in a building while waves of zombies try to break in and attack you and some of your friends is wonderfully tense and a lot of fun.

  • Rome: Total War is another title I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, great deep turn-based strategy gameplay and equally great real-time strategic battles. On the other hand, games take dozens of hours to win, and even on low difficulty settings the game is unforgiving. Maybe I'm just bad at strategy games. That's also a possibility.

  • A pretty good game and a decent use of the Star Trek license. Controlling ships from the franchise from a well modeled Galaxy or Sovereign bridge was a new angle for a Star Trek game and it works out well in BC. Unfortunately, the story isn't that strong, there's an "original" race as the primary enemy and missions get unreasonably hard toward the end. Still a good bit of fun though.

  • I only ever bought the 2004 and 2009 iterations of this franchise, the first on the PS2, the second on the Wii. 2004 had good minigames, and 2009 had good controls and was something to play on the Wii. Madden is a good bit of fun but I always had more fun with the NCAA franchise. Something just feels better about it, and I have more of an affinity for the college game anyway.

  • This ranking is for the Earth/Park/Copter and of course the original City Sim games as well as Sim City 2000. I remember playing Earth and City on a 1980's Mac (maybe an SE). The city-building (and Earth-building) gameplay is undeniably addictive. Copter, Park and 2000 weren't as good, but still a fair bit of fun.

  • I picked up this 360 launch title at the same time I got my 360 (long since red-ringed). I remember being dazzled by the graphics, particularly in the garage, and the cool light adjustment effects coming out of tunnels. Gameplay-wise, PGR inhabits a weird world in between simulation and arcade racer. The controls feel more simulation but you have to drift around corners to earn "kudos," the game's currency. It's a formula that's a good bit of fun. Having Geometry Wars 2 in the garage doesn't hurt either.

  • This game is a good example of using a license well but not making a very good game to go along with it. They used proper ship designs and alien races and even got voicework from the captains of several Star Trek series. The game itself though doesn't control very well (I played it on 360) and the missions are unduly difficult. A shame, because this could have been a really great game. As it is, it's good for a bit of fun for Star Trek fans.

  • Oh the memories of Jedi Power Battles. Most of them involve getting angry at my brother for taking too many of the points and or power-ups while we were playing the game's coop mode (which inexplicably doesn't pool either one) but still a fun action game which very loosely (perhaps to its credit) follows the events of Episode I.

  • I had Two Towers on the PS2 and Return of the King on the Xbox. Both were capable Hack-n-Slash action games with RPG elements to them. The more dudes you killed, the more moves you learned and the more powerful weapons you got. The formula has a nice feeling of progression and is a good bit of fun. Not to mention each game had multiple characters and sometimes multiple paths. They didn't feel massively different, but I still appreciated the variation.

  • COD:MW2 is a strange game to me. I'm not big on online multiplayer, undeniably this game's biggest draw. On top of that, the single-player campaign's storyline is straight-up insane. They took all of the cool Tom Clancy-type realistic political elements of the original MW, and put them on acid. What they also did though, is make a very solid FPS mechanically and put on a show in terms of level design. The sense of unease you get from every single direction while pursuing a target through a favela is something that will stick with me for a very long time. MW2 is an undeniably great FPS, but all of the elements just don't come together for me the way they need to.

  • What a mediocre game and a terrible use of the Star Trek license. But for some reason I find hard to discern, this game is a lot of fun to me. The turn-based strategy is about as bare-bones simple and utterly lazy as you can get, but this framework and the simple arcade shooter battles with a Star Trek skin over everything is enough to allow me to have a good bit of fun with this admittedly budget title.

  • The original Age of Empires was the first RTS game I remember playing. I remember getting slowly addicted to the delicate balance of resource management and offense even with AOE I's simple interface. I also remember cheating. The game's cheats utterly broke the game, but I loved them all the dame.

  • Oh what mixed feelings I have about this game. On the one hand I had a good bit of fun with it. On the other hand I now realize that it is a merely decent platformer, even for the era. I appreciated playing as different members of the Kong family who all bring a different play-style to the game. In the end, though, it all comes down to level design and DK64's wasn't that great. I now wish I had known what a Super Mario 64 was then.

  • I have no idea how I accidentally bought this game back in the day, but I'm sure glad I did. Jade Cocoon is a Pokemon-like JRPG. You capture "minions" which have different elemental abilities and use them to fight other minion. The unique mechanic in Jade Cocoon was the ability to combine minions in thousands of different combinations. This mechanic, the environments, and the crazy JRPG story made this game memorable and fun.

  • TFU amounts to a sort of God of War clone in the Star Wars universe. Sounds like a good time right? Well, yes and no. The game and its enemies feel kind of cheap for one thing. Also, for a game called "The Force Unleashed," neither your lightsaber strikes nor your force powers feel like they have any, well, force behind them. The best reason to play TFU is to see more of the Star Wars universe and experience the creative fiction that was written for the title. If you love SW, it's a lot of fun.

  • I remember renting this game from Blockbuster and beating it. Lots of things have changed in the nine years since this game came out, including the FPS genre. Frontline was little more than a corridor shooting gallery. You ran down a corridor, shot Nazis peeking around the corners of said corridor rinsed and repeated. The game design would be unacceptable these days, but in 2002? It was a lot of fun. Along with Halo (a vastly superior game), the MOH series also showed that you could have a fun FPS experience on a console.

  • VR Baseball 97 belongs in this slot too (couldn't find it on the site) but I had fun with both games. Both are passable baseball sims and had some sort of career mode which was mildly enjoyable but the real fun to be had in each game was in home run derby mode. Triple Play had ridiculous environments for you to affect and destroy with monster home runs. VR's HR derby mode was just plain addictive and fun.

  • Throw in Wii Sports Resort at this spot as well. Both of these titles at their core are showcases of what the Wii (or Motionplus) is capable of. Unfortunately, it can be argued that this potential wasn't fully realized but these titles are hopeful. Gems like tennis, sword-fighting, bowling, and frisbee dog/golf are great to play with others regardless of their skill at "traditional" games.

  • This is the installment of Splinter Cell in which the franchise went off the rails a bit. Graphically, it does benefit from the power of the current console generation, but from the moment you popped the disc in you felt like there were better Splinter Cell experiences to be had. The JBA base missions were horrible, and the JBA/NSA loyalty mechanic, while perhaps a good idea on paper, was executed poorly. Still, the fundamental gameplay of Splinter Cell is relentlessly fun and the cruise ship level is a memorable one.

  • This series always felt like the redheaded stepchild of some of EA's bigger sports franchises. They never seemed to invest much into it and now have abandoned it completely. Still, when I was a bigger college basketball fan I had a good deal of fun with this franchise on the PS1/PS2, no matter how grating Dick Vitale's dumb commentary got.

  • They don't make games like this anymore. Descent was a shooter in 3D space in which you were clearing out crazy mining robots from space mines for a shady and possibly double-crossing space company. You needed to get keys to access further areas Doom style. At the end of each level you had to get the red key, blow up the reactor (which shot at you) and find the exit before the mine blew up. It was easy to get disoriented, so a good memory was almost necessary to beat levels. I would love for somebody to make a more modern version of this game.

  • This game came out in 95 ahead of the 1996 Olympics. Laughably bad soccer simulation by today's standards. The only way to win the ball was by a slide tackle, for example. But it still managed to be fun in its day. The sarcastic British announcer was also pretty hilarious.

  • An educational adventure game. It wasn't terribly complex but it had a good variety of different environments. Puzzles weren't always 100% obvious either, and it managed to teach you a bit of history if you were patient.

  • This barely qualifies as a game. Basically you have a resource allotment which you spend outfitting and staffing ever better ships from the Star Trek universe which you then send out on missions you have little to no control over. A fun way to spend a couple of afternoons if you're a Star Trek fan like me.

  • This game is so damn Japanese. Hard? Check. Anime storytelling and a weird story? Check and check. I love the Trauma Center gameplay of surgery simulation in all kinds of weird and varied situations, but progressing can be needlessly difficult. I just want to see all the cool and insane stuff and sometimes the game holds you back from that.

  • This game (I hope I picked the right one from the list) was a PS1 arcade-style naval combat game. My brother and I had a lot of fun picking different ships, which all played differently and had different primary and secondary fires, and trying to blast each other apart.

  • I appreciated the complexity and unit variety that Empire Earth had to offer but I just didn't get into it as much as the AOE series which is higher on my list. Had that weird gamey Civilization-esque problem where a galleon can take down a battleship and a bunch of knights can kill a tank.

  • I had two games in the Spyro franchise, the original PS1 release and the GBA game Season of Fire. Both games are capable if forgettable platformers in terms of the all important factor in a platformer, level-design. I did enjoy the games gliding mechanic though. There was fun to be had here.

  • A fun and unique puzzle game. I think it would translate well to handhelds or iOS devices these days. As a little dude you had to find a way through a phalanx of huge ever advancing cubes by marking squares and detonating them. If you detonated a green cube it could remove the cubes around them but if you detonated a black cube a row of the floor would fall off giving you less room to work with. The puzzles got more and more complex. I would probably appreciate it a lot more if I were to play it now.

  • This is another game I had when I was really too young to appreciate it. It's a fun space sim (developers, please make these games again!). What sets it apart from other games of the era though, is its branching gameplay. If you played well you could skip entire star systems and finish the game much quicker and with a better ending. If you failed, it didn't necessarily mean game over, just that you would have to play more levels and wouldn't get the best ending.

  • I had this game for the Xbox and never finished it, hence the low rating on my list. Despite that, I respected what the game was trying to do and the game's scale which was more fully realized by its successor.

  • This ranking applies to all games in the Oregon Trail series from the 70's or 80's version I played in school to the 3rd edition. Though the graphics change, the addictive and vaguely educational core gameplay does not. Like many others of my generation I fondly remember wasting hours of computer time in schools shooting bears and dying of dysentery.

  • The game itself isn't great but this title uses its Looney Tunes license well. I remember the environments and characters being varied and spread across the entirety of the Looney Tunes property. For that reason, I had a good bit of fun with this game when I was a kid.

  • A very difficult Civil War strategy game. It does a good job with historically accurate battles, settings and nice period artwork and music. The actual hex-grid gameplay is very hard across a campaign because damage to your forces is persistent. You might be tempted to throw all your forces at the enemy in an unelegant way in the first battle, but that will make the subsequent battles impossible to win. A good game and one I would have had a bit more fun with if I were better at strategy games.

  • Not as good as the Rogue Squadron games of old but a passable space sim type game I remember having a good bit of fun with. I wish they still made games like this except better.

  • As vanilla a platformer on the PS1 as you can get with as vanilla a protagonist as you can think of. Still like vanilla ice cream the gameplay is conceptually comfortable. I had fun with it.

  • This is also not a very good game. It had some different ideas. Bounty hunting in the SW universe as Jango Fett sounds great on paper but is implemented poorly. Environments are bland and gameplay is not fun. Still I had some fun with it. I give it points for that and the concept.

  • This is a bad game. I freely admit that. Seriously, go look it up on Youtube. Looks horrible right? It was, but I somehow had a lot of fun playing it when I was a kid. More a testament to my fondness for the SW universe than anything else.