Christopher Koep’s Top 10 Games of All Time
Games, at least in my opinion, are the most diverse form of artwork created. They offer experiences that you command that range between informative and enlightening, to crude and enjoyable on the most basic of levels (some games manage to balance both of these feelings). With this list, I chose not to necessarily pick just the games I enjoyed most (those feelings fluctuate to a point where I wouldn’t be comfortable picking solely ten entries), instead I’ve chosen ten games that have impacted me or been a part of my life in a meaningful way. These are the games that have profoundly changed me, that I’ve found myself hopelessly addicted to, some that have ignited passions and friendships, and some that I’ve grown up with to this day. These are my current top ten games of all time, in no particular order.
The most recent entry on the list to release, DragonBall FighterZ combines two of my favorite things: competitive fighting games and DBZ. While not the first DragonBall game by a longshot, FighterZ is the first highly competitive fighting game based on the brand to garner critical and consumer praise. Arc System Works’ developed DBFZ with both casual and competitive play in mind (a far cry from the button bashers of past DBZ games), combining things like delayed hyper combos and complicated combos with simple inputs and two auto combo systems to help new players learn systems and mechanics. This culminates in a fighting system that feels wonderful to play and to watch, as FighterZ became the most entered and highest viewed game in EVO history this year. However, ASW’s polish does not just extend to it’s fighting system but its graphical beauty and attention to detail as well. Everything is on display for DBZ fans, from series staples like the Kamehameha and Death Ball, to character specific dialogue and special match endings that reference or recreate scenes from the beloved anime. FighterZ was the first game I competed in (save for one highschool Smash 4 tournament), and it’s easily one of the games I often enjoy playing the most. Between the tight controls, the fun characters, the simple to pick up, hard to master systems, all of it feels like what I would want out of a hardcore fighting game based on the series I watched weekday afternoons on Toonami over a decade ago.
Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition
Dante’s Awakening is often considered the peak of Devil May Cry. Tight controls, varying enemies dispersed throughout interesting levels which reward you mastering stylish combos with awesome new weapons for you to do more of said stylish combos. Rinse and repeat with bosses that are some of the most difficult in character action history, whilst still being a joy to fight. This is Devil May Cry 3. Take this experience, add in new modes, costumes, and an entirely new character with systems and weapons of his own and now you have Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition. Indeed, SE is chock full of content, content that is not given but earned. The beauty of DMC 3 is that it never holds your hand, for better and worse. While being the most difficult in the series, the game asks you to treat every encounter as a learning experience. Learn enemy attack types, combos, your different styles, weapon properties, and the space you’re fighting in to look the coolest and therefore be the best. If your armory of swords and guns weren’t enough, you also have a total of six “styles” by the end of the game that offer various spins on your combat and strategy. Gunslinger prefers staying at a distance and using your firepower whereas Royal Guard is all about defense and looking for that all important opening to parry your opponent and begin doing damage. All this with a story backdrop that while not being groundbreaking, still offers a cinematic tale of family and power that is both intriguing and comically outlandish in certain sections. Devil May Cry 3’s purpose is to make you think you’re the cool guy, just to beat you down due to your own hubris. All so that you may rise, knowing a little more and being closer to actually being that cool guy. Also, I bought the game about seven times as of this writing (and I would gladly buy it an eight if it gets ported to Switch).
Burnout 2: Point of Impact
Though it may show its age graphically, the GameCube racer Burnout 2: Point of Impact is one of my favorite racing games of all time. Every time I sit down to play it I become entranced as I drift through turns and boost on straightaways. There’s a nice variety of tracks that range from busy San Francisco streets at sunset, to foggy roads on snow capped mountains. Burnout 2 also offers modes such as pursuit, time trial, and the now synonymous crash to break up bouts of pure racing. Burnout 2 encapsulates the arcade racer perfectly to me.
What is there to say about Doom at this point? ID’s second large success after Wolfenstein 3D, Doom went on to expand the First-Person Shooter genre in ways that can still be felt today. The sense of progression from finding a new powerful weapon or encountering a new enemy type just as deadly as said weapon, the shift in level design that increasingly becomes more maze-like, the heavy drums and metal guitar rifts as you speed through. Every asset and tool of Doom was used to make you feel both empowered and terrified in your journey through Hell and back. I spent hours playing Doom in high school, both in and out of class. I’ve blasted the forces of Hell across four entries, and am eagerly looking forward to Doom Eternal, the sequel to ID’s 2016 soft reboot. Oh, and those times in high school were back in 2013 with the release of BFG edition onward. Whether it be on console, or through unblocked game sites in computer class, there was always a shotgun and a panel waiting to help me blow some free time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
The Super Nintendo was home to a plethora of licensed titles that ranged from forgettable to must haves for the cartridge-based console. One such necessity is Turtles in Time. The beat em up based on the 90s cartoon is not only filled with bright, colorful sprite art that is a joy to look at to this day, but also fun combat, a catchy OST, and a fun cast of characters and enemies to play and fight against. Time travel is used well, taking you from the bustling streets of New York to prehistoric times and pirate ships before facing off against the menacing shredder. The biggest drawback however is lack of 4 player support, which keeps the beat em up from being perfect. Even so, many an afternoon were spent defending the big apple from the Foot Clan with the disciples of splinter, and the OST is still a joy to listen to.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Big Boss’ origin story is one rife with internal and external conflict, confronted by his mentor’s betrayal, and those that would set to ignite the globe in a third world war of nuclear proportions, he finds himself alone in the jungle and must use all the tools at his disposal to bring her to justice and save the world. As bombastic as the Metal Gear Solid franchise becomes at time, I’ve always thought it to be a character study on the differing ideologies present during global conflict, the goals of those individuals, and the means they’re willing to go to achieve them. In my opinion, none of these stories are better explored than in this tale of Big Boss. The jungle lends itself to diverse environments such as mountains and rivers. Combat balances between stealth and gunplay, catering to multiple play styles. With one of the more grounded plots in the franchise while still retaining the MGS charm and cinematic appeal, Snake Eater acts as both a nice entry point for newcomers and a satisfying addition for veteran fans. If I’m sill in a dream, I certainly don’t want to wake up.
Mortal Kombat was the first fighting game I played. I grew up with a Super Nintendo, one that had MK nonetheless and there was something magical about it. Even without the blood and gore, Mortal Kombat was graphically impressive, using its digitized sprite actors and martial arts inspired backgrounds. As time went on I grew more and more drawn to the ultra-violent martial arts franchise, playing everything from Shaolin Monks on the PS2 to Unchained on the PSP. Certainly, as MK aged its place in popular culture grew more engrained, with references and cameos, leading up to the guest characters we see in current Netherrealm titles, like Hellboy and the Predator. While timelines may get rebooted, and characters come and go, the spirit of Mortal Kombat will always live on in the beating hearts that had just been ripped out of its players.
Street Fighter 3: Third Strike
Widely regarded as one of the greatest fighting games ever made, Third Strike came from humble beginnings. The third entry in a sort of soft reboot franchise, much of the cast of Street Fighter 3 lacked the franchise mainstays from Street Fighter 2, sporting only Ryu, Ken, Akuma, and Chun Li. The remaining roster was filled with strange newcomers such as Necro, Q, and Twelve. This led to the first two entries in Street Fighter 3 being financial flops for Capcom, but rather than scrap that direction for the series, the team decided to refine gameplay and design to the legendary polish that Third Strike is now praised for, nearly two decades after its initial arcade release. To be honest, it took some time for me to understand Third Strike. Owning the Street Fighter 15th anniversary collection on PS2 as a much younger player, I became impatient and frustrated, shelving the title. It wasn’t until I began watching YouTube videos of Third Strike gameplay that I realized how much enjoyment the game had to offer. I picked up the Online Edition, and soon saw what others found so special. The parry mechanic that balanced high risk, with equally high reward, a roster filled with interesting and unique characters, a delightfully soft house/jazz soundtrack and character & stage designs that were a feast for the eyes. Though as much as Third Strike did for me, more could be said about what it did the global FGC with one simple video. EVO moment 37 (also known as “The Daigo Parry”) has over three million collective views across multiple YouTube channels in the twelve plus years since it was first uploaded. The elation of the crowd, the technical play, and the pure polish on display from Capcom make Third Strike a standout entry in a momentous franchise.
Super Smash Bros. 4
Smash 4 is often the go to party videogame for many gatherings, doubling as a competitive fighting game to many fans. It is this double life that keeps the franchise so successful, and why Smash 4 specifically takes a spot on my list. I’ve played countless hours on both the 3DS and Wii U versions, whether fighting against CPU opponents or my friends. This has led to many in-jokes between us, and an appreciation for the community that plays the game competitively. Speaking of the community, the Smash fanbase (at least what I’ve encountered locally) is extremely kind to new players, often willing to offer advice and support where needed. Everyone seems genuinely happy to compete and watch others, and it’s this feeling of joy that is befitting of the Nintendo’s crossover fighter. Competitive Smash is defined by its creativity, both in the combos that players create, to the rebellious thinking and push in spite of Nintendo’s initial lack of support that first launched these games into the competitive spectrum, and that is a thing of beauty unlike anything I’ve seen in a fighting game.
Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden by all accounts should have been a game I hated upon my first playthrough. I’m not one for turn based RPGs (especially grindy ones), the Highschool aesthetic is done to death in anime and fiction, and the game’s length should have left me bored and reaching for whatever fighting game was on hand at the time. In fact, it was these very ideas that got me to put down Persona 4 Golden, at the local game store and about a week later choose its fighting game spinoff Persona 4: Arena instead. Thankfully, Arena sucked me in to its world to where I wound up picking up the Golden remaster on the Vita just to see more of the characters. In hindsight it was probably one of the best decisions of my life. I picked up the game at a crucial point in my life where I was transferring high schools myself. A point where socializing was nearly nonexistent, and I was making the conscientious choice to find the path best navigated alone. For those of you unfamiliar, Persona 4 Golden is a vita remaster of the PS2 JRPG Persona 4, in which you play as a high school student who just transferred into the rural town of Inaba. At the same time as this transfer murders begin taking place and you learn you and your friends have the ability to enter an alternate dimension inside TVs. This dimension is inhabited by physical manifestations of each character’s inner struggle, ranging from co-dependent friendships, to gender stereotypes and public perception vs. reality. Each character goes through their own arc within dungeons, with the ability to continue those arcs during downtime. These “Social links” allow the player to learn more about various characters they encounter (mainly the main party, with a few side characters), and helping them deal with their struggles. The benefit being that you gain the ability to craft stronger Personas to aid you in battle (Personas being the physical manifestation of an accepted shadow).
I could turn Persona 4 Golden into its own separate article five times over if I wanted, but for the sake of this list I’ll try and wrap up my thoughts on the game here: Persona 4 Golden from A to Z is a life changing experience for me. From the characters, to the soundtrack that I often listened to throughout my years in high school (and even on occasion now, years after graduation), and the rich cutscene animations. While the game is not perfect, it doesn’t need to be. Golden is the reason why I’m here, writing these articles. Why I made the friends I did, and why I keep moving forward.
It was difficult narrowing the list to ten. There are so many games I dedicated hours of my life to, played with friends, or thought about in greater detail after setting down the controller. These ten represent a facet of me in some way, whether it be the frantic action of FighterZ and Third Strike, to the personal growth gained from Golden, these are the ten games that define me, Christopher Koep. Thank you for reading.