Two and a half years ago now, I was compelled by the top ten lists that GameFAQs often runs to make a list of my own. Since it was just going to be the one, I decided to make it high stakes, and made it a list of my top ten games of all my gaming time. The creation and ordering of the list I made actually presented me with a lot of difficulty – if you try this yourself, you may well feel it too. To compress years of video gaming into 10 stand out titles that could be called the ‘best’ is no mean feat.
The finished product, my list, was an accomplishment I was quite proud of once I’d finished it, and recently I located it again on the blog where I originally posted it, where it is still visible (at http://myheartagramromance.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!5AC15658CAF96A90!657.entry). I found it quite interesting that some of the things I had discussed in my list were slightly different now, approximately two and a half years later. Also, now I was able to observe that the rose-tint of nostalgia had affected me somewhat in my choices. As it was then, I decided to make a new list, an update in leiu of the old one. Once again, it has wracked my very heart and soul, but I have completed it. So here are my top ten games of allllll time.
10. Final Fantasy IX (PS1)
The reasons I supplied for the inclusion of this game in my original list still stand; an adventure epic in scale, but not afraid to be closer to the roots of its franchise than more recent games. At the time, Final Fantasy 7 & 8 had introduced a new technologically-based fantasy world, and though it had defined the RPG genre for the time, I’d never been particularly interested in them. FF9, however, refocused on the fantasy aspect of the games, with black mages, monkey-tailed humans.. and well, I don’t know. Save the first few acts of FF8, Final Fantasy IX remains still the only game in the series I have dedicated time to, so I don’t really know how to compare them. I’ve attempted later games in the series, and come away thoroughly bemused (particularly FF12 and the battle with the dreaded Rogue Tomato).. so when it comes to RPGs, it’s only FF9 for me.
Well, there is one other, but I’ll get to that later..
9. Super Mario World (SNES) / Dynasty Warriors 5 (PS2)
This initially made me shudder, but I’ve come to terms with it since then. The number 9 position in this list is shared by two games, because I can’t decide between them and had no desire to bump FF9 off the bottom. As it is, both games, though vastly different, have affected me in the same way – predominantly, socially. SMW is a 1-player platformer, but myself, Jun and Daniel have made it a meme of sorts that it’s the game we complete. Every now and then, we come up against it again, and we complete it, because it’s just what we do. The fact that it’s a very good game certainly helps, but somehow it’s moved beyond that for us.
Dynasty Warriors 5 have similar social value. A few years ago we played it religiously, not just for the breezy hack and slash gameplay, but for the challenges of the harder modes, the unlocking of special weapons for all the characters, and the fulfilment of the conditions to unlock all the really cool special items, which then made the hack and slash even more fun. Also, on harder modes, the battles would tend to unfold more like real wars do, as opposed to having overpowered officers running in and killing everything. Recently, we’ve started DW5 over again, and it still has all the same attractions as before, which, for a game with a fairly simple concept, is quite impressive.
Something of an entry from leftfield, N stands out on this list as not belonging on a console, due to being a flash game. Not a break-time-at-work short and sweet style of flash game, though; N is possibly the most in-depth, lengthy and epic flash game there is. As a ninja with no weaponry other than your impressive agility, you must navigate 500 individual courses filled with things that will make you dead.. under a time limit as well. I enjoy this game because it’s a challenge, up to the point where it might even be considered masochistic to play in the later levels. But the controls are fluid and it’s undeniably fun to throw your ninja around.. even willingly to his death, which activates the remarkable ragdoll physics engine for some fun times.
I’ve completed N twice, the second time after a computer crash robbed me of my saved data. These days I just watch sped-up replays and awe at how good some of the stuff I somehow pulled off was, feeling consistantly bemused by how I ever managed it. There was an N+ released on DS, but it was dull in comparison to the flash games’ high-octane thrills. Good times.
7. Fallout 3 (PS3)
Another new entry, and one that, if you know of this game, you most likely won’t be surprised to see. Fallout 3 is one of the most renowned games of the current console generation, due to the size, scope and scale of it. I don’t have much to say about it other than that I enjoyed it so much I went through the entire game twice in a row, and it didn’t get old, despite the fact that I made more or less the same moral decisions both times. And the downloadable content hasn’t even been released yet; many more fun times await.
6. Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii)
Another somewhat controversial entry in my list is the latest incarnation of the Super Smash Bros franchise, replaced Melee from my original list. There’s often debate over which of these two games is the better, with Melee being cited as the more balanced, professional game, and Brawl being bigger and brighter, but infinitely more retarded. There’s certainly valid argument for this; Brawl introduced a much more excessive level of randomness to battling, to the point where it’s often quite easy to believe that the game is actually taking steps against you. The upshot of that is that brawling with friends now doesn’t always go the same way. Before it was always Dr. Mario or Sheik or Falco winning, OP characters played by OP players. The madness of Brawl makes it much fairer for all, and though it was thoroughly frustrating at first, I think we’ve all adapted to it now, and Brawl has become our ultimate party game. Whereas it was all seriousness with Melee, with Brawl, anything could and always does happen, so we just take it easy.
It still pangs me a little deep inside that they didn’t bring back the good doctor. At least Mewtwo, similarly MIA, was replaced somewhat by Lucario. Poor doc was just tossed into the void.
5. GTA San Andreas (PS2/PC)
In my original list, the Grand Theft Auto presence was filled by Vice City, which, at the time, despite not being the highest-tech GTA game, was my favourite. Since then, we’ve been treated (or spoilt) by GTA4 on our shiny next-gen consoles, and it’s all good. For a given value of good, anyway. Whilst 4 was a huge step forward in terms of creating a virtual world, it sacrificed a lot of the madcap action that made previous GTAs so fun in favour of gritty realism. And, whilst it told a better story, it was also a less fun one. I’ve gone more in-depth with GTA4’s flaws elsewhere, so I’ll leave that for now, but the upshot of it was that when I, on a whim, got San Andreas for PC and played through it again, I was blown away by the sheer awesome. The scale of the land (close to par with Fallout 3 if that game had been using last-gen technology), the epic of the story, the sheer ridiculous amount of fun stuff to do.. All things that GTA4 lacked, and yet these are things that made GTA famous. Now, I’d put Vice City and GTA4 about level, but for me San Andreas is the Grand Theft Auto king.
4. Pokemon Firered/Emerald (GBA)
Anyone who knows me should not be terrible surprised by the presence of the Pokemon franchise on my list – indeed, it made it onto my last one, albeit in an uninformed manner, since at that point Crystal version was the pinnacle of my pocket monstering, and its inclusion on saidl list was borne almost entirely out of nostalgia. Well, a lot has happened since then, and I’ve spent a lot of time with newer incarnations of the Pokemon franchise, most of it good. Why, then, have I gone for the GBA games instead of the DS games, on which I have spent many hundreds more hours?
Well, it’s because of the ‘most’. The DS games, Pearl and Platinum, lack the innocence that was Pokemon’s charm when it first began. Initially, in those first few games, it was all about the epic adventure to become the master, but then, starting with Crystal, funnily enough, Game Freak began to include post-game stuff of a much more serious note; the various battle towers and frontiers that plague the games these days. And though an interesting challenge, as these facilities require knowledge and skill, they’re not fun, as they come hand in hand with frustration and failure. With the two Pokemon GBA games I own, the only thing I’ve experienced is fun. Firered was just Red version all over again, albeit with prettier graphics and some new stuff; a fun-filled nostalgia trip with nothing to rape you at the end of the game other than a stronger Elite Four. Emerald was more epic in scale, and just as fun, since although it did contain a Battle Frontier, it was one I wilfully ignored due to the already established presence of a more recent one. So, although Platinum is probably my best game and almost definitely has my best team, Firered and Emerald tie for the pinnacle of the Pokemon franchise in relation to me.
3. Spore (PC)
A new entry at such a high point in the list must mean it’s something good, and so it’s oddly fitting that said entry is the most ambitious and far-reaching game.. possibly ever. As a grand-scale journey through life, the universe and everything, Spore is a joy to play each time. Offering condensed versions of various genres in its initial stages – namely RPG-grind-adventuring and real-time-strategy, both genres of gaming that I’ve never really gotten into outside of this, the gameplay is varied but always enjoyable, all leading up to the point where you enter space, and behold the vastness of the games’ internal universe. Although there’s not really that much to do with all the space, the approach you take towards these familiar activities will differ every time depending on how your race of creature evolved; it has for me, in any case, and though I once argued that there was no real need to replay the Space stage more than once, I have now ‘completed’ it – that is to say, spent a large amount of time with it, six times. So I guess I can eat my hat.
I haven’t really done it justice here – I’m only now mentioning the creature creators, which can do some really cool stuff once you get the hang of them, but to actually do this game justice is quite tricky. Note that it’s not without its flaws, but for me, the scale of it overwhelms them. If I’ve ever looked up at the stars one night and wished I could travel to them, chances are within a few hours I’ll be playing Spore.
2. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GC)
This is what I said at the end of what I wrote for the original Paper Mario, which occupied the number 2 position in my previous list:
“Never have I played a better RPG (though I plan to get the Gamecube sequel, so who knows what might happen next).”
Well, since then, I purchased said sequel, and I can quite happily say that in terms of quality, it makes the original look like a 90’s arcade game. TTYD is the Empire Strikes Back of the Paper Mario series; it builds on the engine that was already established, the visual style, the still relatively unique approach to RPGing, the surprisingly (for Mario) anarchic sense of humour, but does it all so much better. Also, since the first game retrod the traditional Mario tale of Bowser kidnapping the Princess, the sequel is free from such shackles and as such can tell a deeper, darker, funnier and even crazier tale.
Compare; the main hub of Paper Mario was Toad Town, a fairly pleasant little town .. but not really all that interesting. The main hub of TTYD is Rogueport, a busy but dodgy seaside town, full of seedy characters, thieves and thugs – all of whom are represented by traditional Mario characters. Piantas, the floppy gormless inhabitants of Delphino Island in Mario Sunshine, run a mafia in this game. A mafia! Then there’s the chef character – previously a charming little lady, the new chef constantly berates Mario and calls him clumsy because he breaks her contact lens early in the game.
In terms of set pieces, this game also beats most others out there. The world’s most high-tech supercomputer falls in love with Princess Peach, Mario battles the main antagonists’ super-pimped battleship by calling in a favour from a sulking pirate ghost and borrowing his ship, a ghost steals Mario’s identity leaving you in control of his shadow, until you can recover the missing letter to spell the ghost’s name, Mario is shot to the moon by a giant cannon powered by Bob-ombs..
I could talk about this game all day. But I won’t, as there’s one more to go yet.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64/Wii)
Majora’s Mask was my number one two and a half years ago, and it still is now. In fact, this new list was actually inspired by a recent playthrough of this game. With three days until the moon crashed down and killed everyone, as Link I was working my way through the adventure once more, healing the sad souls of the lost Gorons and Zoras of Termina, reunting families and enjoying myself, yet also being saddened as I skipped through time and my work was undone, but it wasn’t until I reunited Kafei and Anju, the objective of which being the games largest side-quest, and I waited for their finale in a deserted Clock Town, with the moon literally right overhead and mere hours until oblivion, with terrifically haunting music playing and minor earthquakes serving as a reminder of what was to come.. it was only then that I realised once more how fucking phenomenal the atmosphere this game creates is. Fallout 3 might win for the most realised game world, Pokemon claims the prize for most time spent with a game, and Paper Mario 2 might be the most entertaining entrant on my list, but nothing tops Majora’s Mask. It’s just too good.