There are a few games that missed this list, some better than others, but honorable mention goes out to:
- Mega Man
- Tony Hawk
- Ratchet & Clank
- Gears Of War
- God Of War
- Tomb Raider
With those out of the way, let’s start with number eight!
#8: Castlevania (1987 – Present)
This series has been quiet as of late. With just two titles issued in the past half-decade, it’s safe to say we’re in a lull. However, from 2001 until 2008, we saw about ten solid Castlevania games, and this is after the classic trio and subsequent rejuvenation with Symphony Of The Night. And what spectacular titles those are! The first game was a great start, the second a stumble that at the time I loved and memorized and the third was the pinnacle of platforming back in ’89. SotN remains in my top-whatever list of games, and the music alone can transport me back to ’97 and where I was in my life.
The handheld titles that followed each trumped the last and some of those I played more than once. I even liked Lords of Shadow and its handheld quasi-sequel. Last year’s second installment was quite the opposite. I hated that one. Some rather dismal Castlevania games aside, there are easily a dozen top-notch games to replay as we wait
for another renaissance of Dracula and the Belmont clan!
#7: Zelda (1987 – Present)
Everybody knows Zelda, Link and of the rich history of games relating to them. The problem with Zelda is that moving backwards, I can’t say love any recent titles other than 2013’s 3DS game and maybe the Minish Cap from 2004. I wasn’t a fan of the GC or Wii titles and I never played Majora’s Mask. So, two portable games since 1998? It should go without saying that I’m excited about this year’s Wii U game.
Of course the original, the SNES game and Ocarina were all perfect 10s. I didn’t get an NES until around when the SNES came out, but I remember playing the first Zelda game, completing the second quest…bombing every single inch of the map in order to find the last dungeon’s location. A Link To The Past? Ocarina Of Time? Nothing needs to be said about those titles. But while I love me some Zelda, the series hasn’t wowed me in quite a while, thus putting it at a shockingly-low number seven on this list.
#6: Uncharted (2007 – 2016) (R.I.P.)
I played the demo for the first game and wasn’t impressed. But upon playing the full game, I realized that Naughty Dog had crafted a special 3rd-person shooter that coupled solid gameplay with excellent storytelling and likable characters. I obtained three platinum trophies in 2011. Uncharted, Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. I liked the games that much. And the portable game was surprisingly-fun as well. There’s not much to be said about this franchise that hasn’t been mulled over by countless others. I don’t quite know if UC4 can possibly live up to its predecessors and it’s rather sad the series will be done after part 4. Will it still be as memorable a decade from now when other developers are making the umpteenth version of the same game? *shrug*. But Nathan Drake sure had a good run!
#5: DoDonPachi (1995 – 2012)(R.I.P.?)
Some series tout diversity but with shmups, it’s not quite so easy to discern. The outsider would recognize no true difference between Daifukkatsu and Sai-Dai-Ou-Jou. In fact, their names alone might confuse. However, to the dedicated player, those two titles are night-and-day different. While I can pass on Don Pachi, DDP and three of its four sequels are the pinnacle of the genre. Cave supported the scene until its dying breath and even put out a remarkable home port to make the goodbye ever bittersweet. And while DFK and SDOJ were fun and amazing titles, DOJ remains the best shmup ever made. The recent surprise IOS release (Ichimen Banchou) may breathe hope into the franchise, but I won’t hold my breath. DDP is that good.
#4: Resident Evil (1996 – Present)
Some franchises have a handful of main games, but not RE. We have 1-6, which I’ve played all but the third. There are the Revelations games, Zero, the Chronicles and Gun Survivor games, etc. and this doesn’t include remakes, movies, CG movies and remasters of 1, 4, 0 and 2 coming up.
Therefore, with a pool of so many games, surely there will be some great ones, right? Obviously but the good games are damn good. I positively loved going through the HD remaster of RE1. I played through RE4 on no fewer than four consoles (GC, PS2, Wii, PS3). RE5 I platinumed on the PS3 and also beat on the Xbox360. RE6 was bloated, but the good in that game was quality. Too bad there was so much excess.
The remaster of 2002’s RE0 is an entertaining romp (it’s so strange to think that 2002 is 14 years ago. It’s a classic era in a sense.) With the re-make of RE2 and the inevitable RE7 on the horizon, I don’t see a shortage any time soon. I liked the survival horror of the first games and the action-based nature of the recent ones. Despite a number of iffy titles, the diversity and sheer quality of the great games lands this at #4 on my list.
Street Fighter (1987 – Present)
I played SF in the arcade, then later as Fighting Street on the TurboDuo in the late ’80s.
I vividly remember seeing SFII for the first time at the mall arcade on Long Island in ’92.
I recall SFIII (and sucking at it) but still giving it a go while at some flea market down in Florida in ’99.
SFZ was my favorite; I played the first in the mall in Albany, then SFZ2 at the same mall mentioned earlier on Long Island. (’95-’96) I imported SFZ3 from Japan the day it was released.
SFEX was shipped to me, along with the cool Chun-Li shirt, and I played it incessantly while my girlfriend was in Florida in October of ’98.
I really could go on and on, as every entry is special and so very unique, all while retaining the necessary familiarity. My story continues with the Vs. series, spin-offs, SFIV, web sites I’ve run, countless art books and the like. And this isn’t even discussing the gameplay. It set the standard with SFII, it reinvigorated the scene with SFIV and I’ll be a day-one purchaser of SFV when it ships next month, more than 25 years after I started playing this series. It is the king, its characters iconic, its music memorable and it’s easily in my top-three favorite franchises ever. Not a question. The real downside is that I’m not particularly good at it. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it for most of my life. And as I write this (before SFV is released), I’m not entirely sure this doesn’t belong at #2 on this list…..
#2: Metal Gear Solid (1998 – 2015)(R.I.P.)
I’m eschewing the first Metal Gear games as I never played them and it’s only truly when MGS shipped in ’98 that the series became so iconic. And here’s the thing: MGS, MGS2, MGS3, MGS4, MGS:PW and MGSV are almost all so totally different from one another. Each has a unique purpose, statement, gameplay innovation or take on stealth that makes no one better than another. It’s also worthy of note that other than MGS2 and MGS3 both being PS2 games, every title appeared on a different generation of hardware. Kojima always wanted to do more and more and finally with MGSV, he accomplished his goals and ended his involvement in the series.
And for a person who isn’t the greatest at stealth games, this series brought me across 50 years of a convoluted history and kept me compelled to keep playing, despite my lackluster ability. Having gone back to replay some titles, I was no less amazed on subsequent playthroughs. MGS4 was my GotY in 2008, MGS5 in 2014. They were emotional and fun, powerful and silly. Kojima’s attention to detail cannot be overstated. Masterpiece after masterpiece, any new MGS sans Kojima will be lacking that special touch. Thus, 1998 – 2015, and #2 on this list.
#1: Super Mario Bros. (1985 – Present)
If the grandeur of MGS cannot be overstated, then surely Mario can be. Everyone knows of him, and every game gets great scores. However, this is no conspiracy. While the golden years of gaming had a long string of amazing Mario games, even recent years have been consistently excellent. I once ranked the Mario games stopping around 2008 but the newer titles stand up with those others. As Super Mario Bros. 3 still sits atop the best-games-ever list, there are easily another half-dozen games featuring the plumber on the top 25. From the Galaxy games to the New SMB titles to the 3D World games…Shigeru Miyamoto has produced the single greatest series in gaming history with one of the most iconic characters in all of media. No new Mario games will come out in 2015, but whenever a new title comes out, I will be in line to get it. Why? The one-word review of Mario and the reason it’s the greatest ever? Fun. I could continue with ingenious and tricky and comment about replayability but the end result is a fun game each time (well, I hated Sunshine) and the noble title of: