Joseph’s Top 10 Games of All Time
If I were ranking my top ten video game franchises of all time, this list would’ve been a whole lot easier to write. But having to judge games individually makes things a whole lot more difficult. In order to make my list as well-rounded as possible, I enforced a self-imposed rule that I won’t put two games of the same series on my list. I decided to do this because there are just too many great games out there that I want to recognize that I’d hate to leave a franchise completely off my list just to fit another Persona or Zelda game onto it.
Now, let me also remind you this list is really a mixture of the games that helped shape my life as a gamer and those that I just had a lot of fun playing. What this list is not is a definitive list of the best games of all-time.
Well, I think that is enough of a preface. Onto the list!
10. Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 was the first video game I ever played, so I was impossible for me not to find a spot for it in my top ten. Despite most of my reasons for ranking it being nostalgia influenced, no matter your opinion of the game, you must acknowledge Super Mario 64 for popularizing the transition of platformers into 3D. Though it has aged, for its time the game was a graphical marvel and Peach’s Castle was truly a sight to behold and awesome place to explore. I have a lot of great memories playing Super Mario 64, and without them I might not even be writing this list about video games.
Bloodborne isn’t the first FromSoftware game I played nor is it even officially part of the same franchise I’m about to name, but it was the game that finally made me understand what is so special the Souls franchise. The Victorian Gothic setting of Bloodborne seems like something straight out of a classic horror novel, and mixing it with the brutally, challenging gameplay and grotesquely designed foes just seems like a matchmade in heaven – ironic as that may be. Streamlining many of the trifling mechanics that I found with past FromSoftware games and offering a more fast-paced and offensive friendly combat, Bloodborne isn’t just the best game for beginners who want to become acquainted with FromSoftware’s work, but it’s also their best game period.
8. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Developer Naughty Dog have perfected the craft of blurring the lines between cinematics and gameplay, and you can see their work evolve through the course of the Uncharted series. Taking you to some stunningly designed locales, spectacular set-piece moments are in abundance, getting bigger and better with each passing title, while adequate bouts of gunplay and platforming fill the gaps in-between. Naughty Dog’s superb writing is also on display throughout; the characters are developed in interesting and believable ways, and the banter they share is some of the best around. James Bond-esque villains and supernatural plot twists help the treasure hunting storylines mosey along and deliver an experience that is both humorous and tense. I love each of the Uncharted games equally (except for A Thief’s End, I didn’t care for that one as much as the rest), but since I’m being forced to choose just one, I have to go with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. For various reasons, of course.
7. Dark Cloud
Dark Cloud is the epitome of nostalgia for me. My brother and I spent hours upon hours as kids playing this PlayStation 2 era JRPG. As a result, everything, from the dungeons, the towns, the characters, the music, and enemies, have been permanently etched into my brain. The continuous dungeon crawling is fine on its own, with its unique weapon leveling system replacing the typical character-driven one, but the added bonus of the game’s city-building mechanics is what brings everything together. Making your way through the dungeons, rescuing citizens, and collecting pieces of the town, which you can then use to rebuild it anyway you want, is an addicting gameplay loop that few games can touch. And while the combat is simple, the boss fights are brutal affairs that can have you facing off against a colossal beast or a vengeful spirit.
Its story is a harrowing tale, and while the characters are without voices (and seeing how terrible Dark Cloud II’s choice in actors was, this truly is a blessing) the game’s underrated soundtrack does the speaking in their stead; including a wide range of tracks that consist of somber melodies and uplifting symphonies.
6. Dragon Age: Origins
Making good use of its subtitle, Dragon Age: Origins featured several different openings pending on what kind of character you created when you started your adventure. Human noble? Mage? Dwarf? Elf? All of them have different origin stories, though no matter how your story started, they all end up converging into a singular tale that it is full of difficult choices with wide-ranging outcomes. Party members can abandon you or even turn their blades on you, likewise they may fall in love or form a unbreaking bond with you that they will always stand behind your actions. Your story may end with your character going down in the flames of glory, or possibly with them as the king. In Dragon Age: Origins the possibilities were seemingly endless.
5. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
You can’t have a top ten list of best video games without placing a Legend of Zelda game on it. Ocarina of Time may not be my personal favorite, but it is the first one I played to completion and unquestionable the most deserving of the recognition. Much in the same way I gave props to Super Mario 64, one reason I decided to choose Ocarina of Time was because of the way it shepherded the franchise’s jump to 3D. Though that is not the only reason; Ocarina of Time introduced the formula that almost every console Zelda game up to Breath of the Wild has followed, and features some of the franchise’s most memorable moments, dungeons, items, and boss fights. Not to mention it has aged phenomenally since it original 1998 release date.
4. Kingdom Hearts II
Final Fantasy and Disney are two things no one knew they wanted together until they did, and the birthchild of these two things, Kingdom Hearts, has become one of my favorite video game franchises of all-time; visiting Disney-inspired worlds, interacting with Final Fantasy characters in new environments, throwing myself into the complex storylines, listening to awesome music, and combating Heartless in high-octane affairs are just some of the things that make these games so special. Kingdom Hearts II, though, is the one that stands out head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Correcting the level design and camera issues that plagued the original, Kingdom Hearts II details Sora and friends fight against my favorite group of villains of all-time, Organization XIII. The scope, cinematic moments, and boss fights of Kingdom Hearts II are on an entirely different scale from the rest of the games in the series, which is just another reason it’s undoubtedly my favorite.
3. Fire Emblem Awakening
Tactical strategy games have a way of drawing me in and making me obsess over them like no other video game genre around. There just must be something that taps into my inner military general instincts that causes me to lose myself and sink so many hours into playing them. Fire Emblem Awakening, though, took it even further than being a simple addiction – it practically engulfed my life. Being the first Fire Emblem game, I ever played, I wasn’t expecting much coming into it, however, the effect was almost immediate. I found myself glued to my 3DS for hours on end. When I wasn’t playing, you better believe I was thinking about the game and counting down in my head when I could get back to it.
The way that Fire Emblem Awakening forces you to make strategic decisions not only on the battlefield, but also off it, is pure mastery. Building relationships between your soldiers strengthens their abilities when fighting together, and being able to marry them off to breed super-soldiers is an absurd idea that somehow works to perfection. It’s not like these characters are faceless grunts either, all of them well-defined personalities that are fleshed out past their involvement in the plot through bonding conversations that range from silly and sweet to gut wrenchingly heartfelt. Sometimes I found myself more invested in these side stories than the central conflict, which isn’t a knock against the story as it is a strong tale fitting of the game’s magnitude. Awakening makes you care about your soldiers so much so that it intensifies the stakes by challenging you to bring you A game to ever battle, because if someone falls they are lost forever due to the inclusion of permadeath.
After finishing Awakening, I have gone back to play some of the older Fire Emblem games while also picking up each new entry that has released, but none of them, new or old, have impacted me in the way that Awakening did the first time I played it.
2. Batman: Arkham Asylum
I have always been a fan of Batman, but Arkham Asylum awakened a love for the character that had been dormant since my childhood. While some frown upon it for not featuring the sprawling open-worlds of its sequels, I believe Arkham Asylum’s is better for it. Playing as Batman trapped inside the unsettling and claustrophobic halls of Arkham Asylum, a place that’s constantly referenced in Batman lore yet seldom seen, and cut off from the outside world results in a more focused, personal journey. I loved wondering what was going to be awaiting me around every corner and which villain from Batman’s rouge gallery was going to appear next; developer Rocksteady’s takes on Scarecrow and Riddler are easily the most terrifying I’ve ever seen in a non-comic medium. The game’s implantation of Easter eggs felt more natural than later games, and Mark Hamill shined as Joker, whose shtick had yet to become as stale it later would.
The gameplay was no slouch either. The freeflow combat may have been in its infancy yet was still as fun as ever, while the stealth segments were surprisingly well executed and a great change of pace. The boss fights were a bit repetitive, though the game’s detective mode was well implemented. Arkham Asylum’s truly was the first to make me feel like I was the Dark Knight himself.
1. Persona 4
A lot of people complain about Person 4’s slow opening, and I agree – it is slow, but that’s also why I find it so engaging. For those of you who don’t know, the game takes place in the fictional town of Inaba, Japan and centers on a young high-school aged protagonist who has been sent to spend the year with his uncle and cousin. Okay, sounds generic, right? But as the game slowly builds the story and setting and introduces the characters, I found myself thoroughly immersed in the world, almost as if I really was the new guy in an unfamiliar place. I didn’t even notice the game was holding back on the gameplay mechanics. In fact, once the combat finally shows up at the four-hour mark, I was like “Oh, right, I totally forgot this was a turn-based RPG!”
One main reason for me getting so quickly engrossed in the story and world is the characters. At first glance they all seem pretty cliché and fall into expected anime archetype roles, but they also are instantly likeable and the more I learned about them the deeper they become. In fact, Persona 4’s cast is without doubt one of the most memorable group of characters I’ve gotten to meet in any medium. For a game whose story relies on the stereotypical storytelling trope of strength in friendship, Persona 4 does a fantastic job in showing you these relationships grow and flourish through group bonding events and more personal one-on-one moments. Unlike other JRPG’s where it feels forced or shallow, the friendship between the cast comes off genuine and believable, and left me with an honest-to-goodness connection to these characters and had me invested in their fears, hopes, and dreams.
Once the game finally, truly opens up after about ten hours, it precedes to manage to straddle the line between being high school social simulator and dungeon crawler perfectly, while also tying both sections of the game together. Living the easy of a life a fictional teenager, by hanging out with your friends, going to movies, and participating in afterschool activities, contributes to building social links, which in return give you benefits that will you help you strengthen yourself on the battlefield. I really enjoyed these social-sim moments not only because they allowed me to spend more time with these awesome characters, but because it gave me insight into aspects of Japanese culture I didn’t even care to spend time thinking about before. It was almost like I was going on a mini-virtual fieldtrip to rural Japan every time I played the game.