The Best Games Ever Made

[Section Under Construction!]

I often revisit this list in my head, with certain titles bouncing in and out of it and others perpetual mainstays. Crafting an actual hierarchy is difficult, however, as the inevitable question of placement in that list muddies the waters.

Instead of allowing that to delay the creation of this catalogue, I’ve decided to just dive in and do it. Rather than rely on one game appearing above another, I have opted to list them in tiers for easier dividing lines. Repeat series entries aren’t counted but they are noted. Enough ado, let’s get to the list! This builds off of concepts I posted nearly a decade ago.

#18: Rez Infinite (2001/2016)

Why It Belongs Here:
I love Rez and it’s certainly in my top-100 list. I realize it’s niche-ness. I never got into The Witcher 3 despite so many people absolutely adoring that title. But while Rez scratched a specific and unique itch, it wasn’t until 2016’s Rez Infinite came out and only after I played it nearly five years later in early 2021 when the game truly jumped into my top 20. VR is where this game ought to have always been. Playing it with the PSVR transformed the game into the vision Tetsuya Mizuguchi assuredly originally had. The pulsing rhythms felt more alive with such an immersive view, locking onto targets wasn’t cumbersomely-tied to analogue sticks and headphones turned up high merge the visual and aural experiences into one phenomenal blend.

The game is packed with extras and the Area X addition, one I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did, was an utterly-amazing take on the whole concept. While Rez is an excellent game, Rez Infinite is the only way to play it and VR pushes this into top-20 territory.

What’s Holding It Back?:
Again, it is a specific genre: on-rails shooter + music title presented almost entirely with wireframe visuals. It’s not an every-day experience – but damn, when it works, it really works. That means on a good day, this probably resides a bit higher up on the list then #18.

#17: Demon’s Tilt (2019)

Why It Belongs Here:
This game is spectacular. It’s fun, high-score runs are challenging and every game is a little different. Getting Wizard Mode is thrilling and intense and it’s rarely unfair. The visuals were initially somewhat off-putting for me, but they swiftly grew on me and I positively love it now.

What’s Holding It Back?:
While it bounced Devil’s Crush from this list, a pinball game can only ever be just that. It’s a high-score affair that, while able to stand the test of time, will never offer more than a one-sitting experience.

#16: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)

Why It Belongs Here:
The Hawk games are inherently tied with my life: with college, with my websites, with my career. But the first THPS was a magical brew of skateboarding (my youth) and videogames (also my youth). Everyone knows how important this game is, but even today, those two-minute runs are as fun and addictive as they were in 2000.
What’s Holding It Back?:
I wonder if my nostalgia muddies my opinion of this game. But while the base game is dated, the updated THPS 1+2 brings it into modern times. There’s little wrong with this title.

#15: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! (1987)

Why It Belongs Here:
This isn’t really a sports game despite its title and presentation. It’s a puzzle game demanding memorization and specific timing. It was a staple of my youth and of those around me, and it remains as fun and easy to drop into today as it did in the ’80s. Silly character design, memorable music and millisecond timing make this one worth revisiting, though even with any former glory, beating Tyson himself will require a hell of a lot of new practice!!!

What’s Holding It Back?:
As timeless as it may be, it’s a shallow game and like Demon’s Tilt above, shines best in short bursts. The simplicity is part of its grandeur, but while it may eke out a spot on this list, it’s relegated to the lowest tier.

#14: Mushihimesama Futari (2006)

Why It Belongs Here:
CAVE is my favorite shmup developer and while DoDonPachi sits higher on this list, their other titles are fantastic in their own rights. None are as powerful as the second Mushihimesama, which offers so much variety and gameplay options. The soundtrack is great, the title is fun and replay value is infinite. It helps that it looks so phenomenal.
What’s Holding It Back?:
I suppose shmups struggle with that long-lasting impact. I can’t find any faults in this one.

#13: Ys: Books I & II (1989?)

Why It Belongs Here:
What’s Holding It Back?:
With so much going for it, Ys is one of those games that’s been on my ‘best-of’ lists forever. However, it is mired in the shortcomings of its era and some elements just feel dated. My last run-through of the original left me lost and running in circles. Now, to be fair, I’m horrendous at directions in real life and can get lost by spinning around thrice whilst blindfolded. Ultimately though, some elements are there to unnaturally prolong the experience: dead-ends, cryptic clues and 25 floors of Darm Tower. The aforementioned last run was aided by a FAQ even after having played the game numerous times! It’s OK though – in light of all the newer advancements, this game still looks, plays and, most-importantly, sounds great.

See Also:
I loved Ys III back in the day, but its remake Ys: The Oath In Felghana very well may be the best in the series. If only that pesky nostalgia didn’t muddy my opinion of the originals! Remakes of Ys I & II vary, with some being rather good and I also liked Origins. Man, there are a lot of Ys games!

#12: God Of War (2018)

Why It Belongs Here:
Honestly, nobody thought the franchise’s reboot could ever live up to its roots, but the re-envisioning had the rare ability to take the best parts of what we loved (the sheer power of Kratos) and expand upon it with a story worth caring about. Millions of people weren’t fathers when the originals came out now were – making the journey to the top of the mountain more than just a videogame trope. It mimicked life in so many ways for so many of us. And none of this speaks of the awesome Viking lore (my favorite), the impact of fights, the cool puzzles, rewarding nature of upgrades and off-the-beaten-path awesomeness of finding chests, dragons or battling Valkyries. In short, God Of War makes its highly-acclaimed predecessors seem shallow and represents just about everything I love about games.

What’s Holding It Back?:
The format of this list seems good on paper – but then I hit this title and I can’t think of any reason why it’s not higher up. If “it represents everything I love about games”, how is it tier one? I don’t know, man. This game is fucking awesome.

#11: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (2008>

Why It Belongs Here:
This game is a masterpiece of design and presentation. It offers almost unlimited options of weapons, approach and gameplay angles. The story, while convoluted, fits perfectly in the series canon and tied up so many storylines, it was a wonderful ending to the series (well, until a fifth game came around). It was one of the most poignant and powerful tales ever told and despite its stupid-long cut scenes, the entire experience was top notch and writing this only makes me want to play it again.

What’s Holding It Back?:
It’s not the best Metal Gear, but, honestly, several could be in my top-20 list. It’s unfortunately locked on my PS3 – and those cut scenes are really absurd. Honestly, just skipping the top-10 means very little can be wrong and perhaps its existence being locked to aging hardware is one of the few issues I can find with MGS4!

Tier Two: The Top 10

#10: Resident Evil 5 (2009)

Why It Belongs Here:
Is RE5 the best RE game ever? Probably not. 1 and 4 both are considered better, the digression into action game was offputting to so many and even the remakes of 2 or 3 are widely praised as superior. However, I don’t care. I’ve been with the franchise since its inception (RE1 on the PS1) and I pumped more hours into RE5 than any other. Platinum on the PS3, beat again on the Xbox30 (one trophy shy of 100% there too), bought again on the PS4. To me, it is the perfect blend of old-school horror and guns-blazing action. Speedruns are fun. Co-op was a blast. Collecting everything was just the right balance of grind and entertainment. Playing with a friend only makes the whole thing better. I’ve beaten this at least nine times and never once grew bored of it.

What’s Holding It Back?:

Oftentimes the negatives people cite about RE5 (and subsequently RE6, though IMO that has some rather beefy downsides on top of this) merely have to do with its place in the franchise’s history. As an action title, and thus, not a survival-horror game, RE5 is damn awesome. There are some slower moments, but oftentimes these are offset by Sheva and your dialogue with her. On the other hand, this title carries over the ludicrousness and absurdity found in prior entries. If you ask me, that’s where the game’s flaws shine

Wow.

#9: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Why It Belongs Here:
172 hours. In 2020, nearly a decade after it initially launched, I spent one-hundred-seventy-two hours playing this game.

A large part of how games appear on people’s lists is that individual’s story. For me, the setting is a draw: the swords, magic and dragons. The Viking-era world. Love it! Playing it on the PS3 wasn’t perfect and while I beat it, and quite liked it, I left far more unfinished than completed. 8 years later, I opted to jump back in during the Covid-19 quarantine and it was then, on the PS4, that I truly fell in love. I could put the game in rest mode and not have to reboot every time I played. The bugs of the PS3 were gone, all the DLC was included and years of Wikis existed to help me out. I cannot count the number of hours I put into this game and, as I write this, I’m nowhere near ‘done’. I still haven’t had that burn-out sensation many games offer. While that’s likely attributed to lockdown boredom, who cares? The exploration, diversity in missions, wonder of discovery and incremental power-ups make me yearn to return again and again (and again!) and if that doesn’t qualify for this list, then nothing does.

What’s Holding It Back?:
Riddled with bugs, this title

#8: DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou (2002)

Why It Belongs Here:
It’s brutal, frenetic and outrageously difficult. It’s the sequel to one of the most influential shmups ever and remains the best the genre has ever offered. Chaining the first stage was one of my greatest gaming accomplishments. Dai-Ou-Jou represents everything I love about these games. It’s got a monumental risk-versus-reward system which can be enjoyed by the elite and the commoner alike. I played the PS2 game aplenty and the franchise is hands-down the most phenomenal of its kind.

What’s Holding It Back?:
As we get closer to the top, the downsides become fewer. DOJ’s soundtrack isn’t as good as DDP’s. That difficulty is a turn-off for some. Ummm…this game is friggin’ spectacular.

#7: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

Why It Belongs Here:
There’s little actually new here. After Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, the story of Uncharted is a mix of modern Hollywood and these titles. It’s not even the first Uncharted game! However, it takes all of those things and boils it down to a wonderful, action-packed, killer game. The acting, sound design, gameplay…it’s all superb and enjoyable and even after multiple playthroughs, it still delights. Sure, it’s not the first, but it’s the best of what it does.

What’s Holding It Back?:
The puzzles may not have aged the most gracefully and some parts are finnicky and imperfect. I suppose the game is a little formulaic, but that’s part of the charm IMO. Dunno – top 7 oughtn’t have many negatives!

#6: Portal 2 (2011)

Why It Belongs Here:
This is the ultimate puzzle game which is part action. It’s hilarious and compelling and no matter how many times I go back, I still marvel at the challenges and brilliance of the design. The writing is spectacular and the ending is marvelous. I simply love this title and it’s unlike anything else I ever played.
What’s Holding It Back?:
That there is an action-puzzle game just missing out on being top 5 is remarkable. This game may not be for everyone, but there’s very little I could nitpick about.

Tier Three: The Top 5

#5: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

Why It Belongs Here:
Metal Gear Solid really changed my view of videogames but its sequel disappointed me tremendously. While I didn’t jump on board with MGS3 when it launched – thanks to GTA3’s madness – four years later I did embark upon the voyage (just before MGSIV’s release) and it vaulted the sequel into being one of the greatest games ever. Several years ago, I wrote about MGS3’s bad-assitude. Hideo Kojima created some of the strongest characters in any narrative in gaming history. The 1960s setting, twists and turns and finale battle are some of the most memorable moments

What’s Holding It Back?:

The controls. It’s simply the most-cumbersome part of the entire experience. Unlike Metal Gear Solid V – which features the silkiest-smoothest gameplay perhaps ever, this is dated and awkward. I have no shame in saying I played this on easy mode (twice: once on the PS2 and again on the PS3)

#4: Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night (1997)

Why It Belongs Here:
I was a huge Castlevania fan dating back to the original. I didn’t own the game at the time but my friend did, and I played both of its sequels in the coming years. While its 16-bit successors didn’t capture my interest, Symphony Of The Night sounded great on paper. Still 2D, more adventure-oriented, light RPG elements and a new hero: the son of Dracula himself. [more to come]

What’s Holding It Back?:Though I’ve beaten this game at least a half a dozen times, every time I return I get frustrated by certain things. The balance, getting stuck in a few sections, etc.

#3: Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha (1996)

Why It Belongs Here:
What’s Holding It Back?:

#2: Super Mario Bros. 3 (1989?)

Why It Belongs Here:
What’s Holding It Back?:

#1 Bloodborne (2015)

Why It Belongs Here:
What’s Holding It Back?:

  1. Rez Infinite
  2. Demon’s Tilt
  3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
  4. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
  5. Mushihimesama Futari
  6. Ys: Books I & II
  7. God Of War (2018)
  8. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots
  9. Resident Evil 5
  10. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  11. DoDonPachi: Dai-Ou-Jou
  12. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  13. Portal 2
  14. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
  15. Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
  16. Street Fighter Zero 2 Alpha
  17. Super Mario Bros. 3
  18. Bloodborne