It’s the final countdown! We’re down to our top 25 video games ever created in the history of everything ever. No doubt there will be controversial opinions aplenty as we approach the coveted number 1 spot. If you’ve not been following the list so far, you can catch up with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 right here. Without further ado, let’s get on with the show!
25. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
When Jason Rubin sat down to make a second sequel to Crash Bandicoot, I’m guessing his thought process went something like this: “We really need to put in some scientists dressed up as knights and wizards and things of this nature. Also, there has to be a tiger that Coco can ride. And would somebody put a goddamn bazooka in that bandicoot’s hands!?” All of these things and more were implemented to make Warped the best Crash of them all.
No longer were levels limited by space, but could be situated within various time periods and far-distant locales including the medieval era, futuristic city scrapes and Arabian market towns. These, as well as some fantastic boss battles involving mutant tigers and dingo/crocodile monsters with flamethrowers, made Crash 3 a more varied and bonkers experience than what had come before. There were more crystals to find, more boxes to spin at, and more crazy Australian antics than you could shake a didgeridoo at.
– Scott Russell
24. The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
“Well, no shit.” Yeah, we know. Ocarina of Time is quite possibly one of the most boring picks for a top 100 list, but there’s a reason it’s so prevalent in these debates. It not only came about during a time where video games were making the leap from 2D to 3D, but it did so with bags of style.
Ocarina of Time wasn’t just the first of the Zelda series either. In fact, it came as a successor to one of the most beloved titles on the SNES, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. That’s a tough act to follow, but Ocarina of Time managed to improve upon the visuals, soundtrack, storytelling, gameplay and overall atmosphere. The concept of time travel also wasn’t new to video games (*cough* Chrono Trigger *cough*) but Nintendo had us really pulling for the kid from Kakariko from the second he made the choice to skip a large part of his childhood in order to rescue Hyrule.
The dramatic act of pulling out the Master Sword and turning into an adult was only half the emotional battle though as Link went back into the Hyrule market only to find ReDeads had overrun the helpless town and the world he once knew, had been destroyed. It’s powerful moments like this that give Ocarina of Time its real lasting power, and this game is full of them from start to finish. An engaging combat system, satisfying items, intricate puzzles and nail-biting boss battles were just icing on the layer cake of incredible that came to be called The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When you want to play one of the most well-rounded gaming experiences ever created, this is the title you go to.
23. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Thematically, Vice City is the strongest entry in the Grand Theft Auto franchise by a country mile. While San Andreas and GTA V may depict Western California rather well, their scattershot approach has never quite matched up to the more focused approach of Vice City. The game is essentially a retelling of Scarface, featuring a distinctive 80’s neon backdrop to it’s cacophony of crime families, crooked lawyers, drug lords and huge mobile phones.
Coming hot on the heels of GTA III (which proved to be a major stepping stone in 3D open world games), Vice City lifted the previous game wholesale, but gave the city itself an appealing facelift that sets the scene beautifully. It also provided a wonderfully (in)appropriate soundtrack of memorable 80’s classics, which add a level of absurdity to your crimes. One of my most memorable moments includes mowing down a Colombian gang in an ice cream truck while Video Killed The Radio Star gleefully blasted out of my stereo. This emergent humour makes the likes of Saint’s Row’s comedy seem forced (bad choice of word given the abundance of dildos in that game).
All in all, Vice City is a perfect improvement on it’s predecessor. It has all of the hallmarks of any classic GTA experience, but couples that with the only story in the series that is worth a damn.
22. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a fantasy epic made of differences. It can be distanced from the dragons and warlocks of standard folktale fare by a number of noticeable traits. Costumes and armour are distinctively Renaissance in their style, despite a Medieval architectural design holding up the castles and homesteads throughout the land; women are allowed upon the stage, as well as holding respected positions in both governmental and magic circles; science is a topic talked of in modern terms, with theories on genes and bacteria providing bold yet interesting anachronisms. Characters are also modern in their conception and, much like those of Game of Thrones, share personal issues that are far-removed from the game’s archaic setting. Each story is instantly relatable and impeccably told.
The Bloody Baron’s side quest is a much touted example of this personal depth, but the larger tale circulating Geralt of Rivia, the game’s titular Witcher and protagonist, is just as profoundly moving. Instead of solely focusing on the danger of an otherworldly force, Geralt’s story is one of private turmoil, in which his adopted daughter Ciri goes missing, while also being stalked by a group of heavy-metal monsters known as the Wild Hunt. He claws desperately towards each piece of evidence regarding her whereabouts with a determination of spirit, and will stand at nothing to retrieve her life intact. The loss of a loved one, living or dead, is a central thematic concern in almost every real-world or fictive narrative, past present and no doubt future. Player empathy is a central concern of The Witcher 3, as miscarriages, filial death and mental illness are presented in an all-too-real light.
The maturity of its stories are both comparable and contrasting to the presentation of its lands. Both areas of darkness and glowing beauty can be found throughout each of the game’s stunning locales: the sprawling city of Novigrad and its surrounding farmland, the swamps and dark woods of Velen and the snowy, mountainous peaks of Skellige. Novigrad’s bustle and grandeur is antithetical to the corpse-strewn battlegrounds to the south, contrasting further to the stunning vistas of the isles to the southwest. The beauty and variety of these landscapes is dwarfed by their size. Hours can be spent searching for hidden depth amongst Velen’s unsettling bogs, while countless towns have realistic ecosystems of work and toil.
The breadth of the features on show here are too limitless to list, but on top of its heartbreaking stories, awful vistas, and paramount size, are contextually rich zones of death and destruction, difficult yet satisfying combat, wonderful card games of skill, numerous quests, hunts and treasure-finding missions and a protagonist that throws out wit, candid thoughts and emotion at every turn. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an outstanding achievement for gaming, and successfully delivers a unique, fantasy experience that I shall not soon forget.
– Scott Russell
21. BioShock Infinite
“Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.”
After the original BioShock melted the minds of nonplussed gamers everywhere, expectations for Irrational Games’ 2013 follow up were through the roof. Ken Levine and his team faced a horde of fans who expected nothing less than for their collective minds to be melted between time and space. In many ways, Levine and co. faced insurmountable odds; someone was bound to be pissed. Admirably, Levine did the only thing he could: deliver a sequel that was far grander in presentation and premise than what had come before.
BioShock Infinite presents an incredible story coloured by an exceptional cast of characters. There will be mind-bending shenanigans, there will be layers, and you can bet the Eiffel Tower that there will be one huge, unforgettable twist. Irrational Games delivered all of this in Infinite. The endeavours of Comstock, Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth are stooped in all kinds of history, philosophy and tragedy. This is a world filled with enough complex relationships to drown in. What waits for you at the finish line is the kind of ending which will leave you parked on your arse, jaw open.
BioShock Infinite is a dash of colour in a grey-sludge-bucket full of copycat military shooters. Between vigors, grappling hooks and portals from parallel universes, you’ll find plenty of fun toys to spice up your standard FPS-fare. Add a pretty, sometimes profound world to explore in-between, and near-enough every second of BioShock Infinite is incessantly compelling.
– Harry Bowers
20. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
While the first Uncharted established a character set of pilfering rapscallions, its settings, action and suspense were perhaps a tad too repetitive and archetypal. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, altered this framework considerably in a superior tale of travel, bonanza and pathos. The jungles of South America were replaced by a deluge of beautiful locations, including a Turkish museum of antiquity, the streets of a war-ravaged city, and a mountainous region of Nepal, topped with deep pockets of gorgeously fluffy snow and shining ice. Not only were the environments more varied, but Drake’s adventure through them was made more dynamic and exciting in a number of remarkable set pieces. The world around the protagonist was one that crumbled under his unfortunate presence as train cars were ripped apart by helicopter-fire, and as ancient shrines cracked and fell into destruction. Among Thieves moved with exceptional pace and thrill.
It was also conceived as a much darker tale than the original title. While quips and fun still abound throughout Drake’s Nepalese adventure, suspense is built upon time and time again through the threat of death and defeat. The opening, which is one of the most iconic scenes in gaming, shows our hero trapped within a train car perilously overhanging a high cliff while gravely injured; “That’s my blood, that’s a lot of my blood.” This, along with other moments of harrowing intent, produce a greater sensation of emotional resonance, that makes you care more about the life of each primary character as a result. Grand explosions may be a more obvious conduit for death, but it is these subtle instances of fatality that are able to create such an unsettling amount of pity.
– Scott Russell
19. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
During the era of mascot-based platformers, two very distinct schools of thought emerged. You were either in the Mario camp; a group of people who enjoyed fat, hairy men in dungarees, or you were in the Sonic camp; the kids who liked cool sneakers and chillidogs. As a child, I was firmly in love with Sega’s blue blur and his distinct 90’s attitude that was so appealing at the time.
It’s no coincidence that this is the highest ranked Sonic game on our list. Sonic 2 was a total evolution of the first game and nearly every component is perfectly pitched. The game provides a great sense of travelling at speed without losing control, most of which is down to smart level design that includes loops, ramps and springs that send Sonic hurtling through each stage. It has an eye-catching cartoony design that really pops, coupled with incredible animation work. Combine this with the iconic music that showed Sonic Team at the top of their game (personal highlights include Chemical Plant and Mystic Cave) and you have an experience that is just begging to played through in it’s entirety. Sonic 2 showed off the capabilities of the Mega Drive and was instrumental in the console’s success.
As time has passed, Sonic’s star has faded into near obscurity, but there’s no denying that Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is the quintessential Sonic experience. Before the later games got too bogged down in “Sonic Lore” (a term which makes bile well up at the back of my throat) and additional characters that add nothing to the experience, Sonic 2 represents the pinnacle of the series. It’s a well that Sega is desperate to return to, but it’s a well that ran dry long ago.
18. Super Mario 64
Super Mario’s jump from 2D sidescrolling adventures to a massive, immersive 3D world isn’t without its imperfections, but seeing gaming’s most recognizable hero make the transition was a stunning reminder of just how much video games are capable of.
Super Mario 64 is the first game I remember just wasting massive amounts of time on. And I don’t mean that I simply played it a lot, which I certainly did. What I mean is that I spent hours upon hours just exploring the bright and colourful castle grounds, perfecting jumping techniques, learning how to swim with unmatched speed, and trying to awkwardly wall-jump my way up to the top of the castle. When a platformer offers that much entertainment outside of its actual levels, you know it’s a great game.
Super Mario 64 has a comparatively low number of levels when considering its predecessors, but each level was large and challenging, and required multiple playthroughs to complete. Sure, the camera is frustrating, and the game has more glitches than a pre-alpha demo, but it’s impossible to deny the greatness of Super Mario 64, and its long-lasting legacy.
– JD Schmidt
17. Burnout 3: Takedown
Burnout 3 takes the honour of being the highest racing game on our list, and for good reason. The game is the pinnacle of the series, taking the high-octane arcade action of its predecessors and dialling it up as high as it will go.
Developers Criterion focused on providing gratuitous crash sequences, understanding our basic human need to stop and stare at car pile ups on the motorway. In fact, crashing is one of the best strategic maneuvers you can make in Burnout 3. If you send an opponent spiraling into oncoming traffic, you’ll be rewarded with an extension on your boost meter. Winning a race can often be synonymous with causing the most traffic collisions and driving recklessly.
However, Crash mode is one of the most inspired modes in a racing game. Here, players plough their vehicle straight into an intersection or moving traffic with the intention of causing as much mayhem and destruction as possible. The total cost of your pile up will be calculated, with the player who causes the most damage being the winner. In this regard, no other racing game offers such a basic level of enjoyment as Burnout 3.
16. Red Dead Redemption
Western settings have been popping up in games as far back as the Atari 7800, but always in that cheesy, overdone B-movie style. Rockstar certainly brought the signature humour and larger-than-life characters of Grand Theft Auto to Red Dead Redemption, but in the process, they created something much more real. In this world of toothless treasure hunters and top-hat-wearing snake oil salesmen, they’ve managed to create an experience that feels surprisingly human.
A large part of this is the world itself. Open-world games have been offering increasingly large maps to play around in, but often these come at the expense of meaningful content to fill them. While Red Dead Redemption’s world certainly has plenty of side content to keep you busy, what’s more impressive is how alive the world feels when you’re doing nothing at all. At a glance, the desert is largely flat and featureless, and yet once you’ve played for a few hours you can tell what part of the world you’re in simply by the colour of the dirt and the shape of the landscape. When you see an odd shape on the horizon, or an animal trail leading off the beaten path, even if there’s no practical reason to check it out, you want to.
Being set in 1911, in the decline of the Old West, is another way Red Dead Redemption sets itself apart from classic spaghetti Westerns (while being a love letter to them at the same time). Civilisation has reached the farthest frontiers, and the Federal government is making life difficult for those used to living on their own terms, rancher and bandit alike. The world has changed, and left no place for the classic Western Hero to hang his hat.
Protagonist John Marston may be a good man deep down, but he is far from the classic Western hero who saunters into town to fix other people’s problems for low pay and fuzzy feelings. John helps others, sure, but mostly because he needs something from them, and each only has a few chances to deliver on their promise before John puts a hole in their head. Marston is a former outlaw press ganged into service by government officials holding his wife and son hostage until he kills or captures his old gang. While the Grand Theft Auto series have often tried to present worlds where there are no good guys on either side of the law, here it rings true. The only innocent folks are those caught in the crossfire.
There are so many reasons why Red Dead Redemption is one of the greatest games of all time, but the one that matters most is that it makes you care. You want to ride out into the grassy highlands of Hennigan’s Stead and watch the sun rise over the horizon. You feel sad when your faithful steed gets taken down by a savage cougar, followed by a frantic rage as you take your revenge before the big cat comes back for seconds. And as much fun as this adventure is, you want John to be reunited with his family, because if anyone has earned a second chance at life, it’s him.
– Owen Atkinson
15. Portal 2
In the wake of Portal and the tidal wave of memes that game produced (companion cubes, cakes, thinking with portals, the list goes on), a sequel was almost inevitable. But how do you follow up one of the most beloved puzzle games ever created? Somehow, Valve found a way to make it work and, in many cases, managed to improve upon the original.
For starters, the expanded voice cast is exemplary. JK Simmons puts in a great performance as Cave Johnson, as does Ellen McLain’s reprised role of GLaDOS, but it’s Stephen Merchant as Wheatley that really steals the show. Wheatley nervously guides the player through their first shaky steps, starting out as something of a bumbling imbecile through to his maniacal takeover of the Aperture Science facility, where he remains a bumbling imbecile, but a powerful one. Valve’s exemplary character writing came into play here, giving Portal 2 a clear, expanded story.
In terms of the story, there are so many memorable moments in this game. Between GLaDOS being powered by a potato battery, opening a portal to the moon and everything in between, Portal 2 leaned into the dark, absurdist humour that we’d expected, but managed to ditch the memes and forge a separate personality for itself.
Not only that, but Portal 2 was still a great puzzle game at heart. The addition of the various gels, along with a co-op mode that had players solving puzzles in tandem; these were intelligent additions that prevented the game from becoming a run-of-the-mill sequel. Portal 2 managed to exceed expectations in nearly every area, and considering how high those expectations were to begin with, that’s a considerable feat.
14. God Of War III
Be honest, how many games can you name with a cooler premise than God of War III? This is a game about methodically eviscerating the gods of Olympus. As Kratos, you are quite literally on a one-man mission to forever pulverize that dastardly smirk off of Zeus’ wrinkled face. The tutorial culminates with you victoriously holding the severed head of Poseidon aloft in your hand – and even that is one of the game’s tamer moments.
God of War III is a game of truly epic proportions. Every moment teeters upon the highest of stakes and grandest spectacle. You will fight goliaths and you will take down gods. You will even canoodle with Aphrodite. The culmination of this epic trilogy is a dizzying torrent of blood, gore and mythology. It is a classicist’s bloody, wet nightmare, and it’s just about one of the most consistently memorable games we have ever played.
Presentation isn’t the only thing we adore about God of War III, A slick set of controls ensures that all of this feels effortless. Those looking for a challenge will find plenty of reasons to stick around once they crank the difficulty up.
The franchise’s third outing is better looking, more epic, more ambitious and more accessible than what came before. It is, in our minds, the signature stroke of what a God of War game should be. If you want to talk about must-plays, this is one of them.
– Harry Bowers
13. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots
The ending of Metal Gear Solid 4, and the apparent closing of Solid Snake’s saga, may have been an immensely melodramatic affair, but those final scenes, for me, are what makes this game an epic masterpiece. Everything is tied up beautifully, a seemingly impossible feat considering the ridiculous complications that are so central to the series’ plot.
Every character is given time to present their closing position. Otacon is overcome with catharsis due to the deep emotional scars left upon him from the loss of his life’s loves; Sunny is allowed to bask in a newfound world outside of an airplane; Raiden is able to regain his humanity, as well as his family; Meryl puts aside the tribulations of her past and forgives her father; Drebin shares an emotional soliloquy that evokes his freedom and the dissolution of the war economy.
Sadness and joy are rife throughout, as well as the inescapable feeling of despair when awaiting to witness the fate of Solid Snake. The final scene not only provides an emotional farewell to our grizzled hero, but also harkens back to the finale of Metal Gear Solid 3, as Snake salutes at a graveside, only to be confronted by Big Boss. The ending is a poignant celebration of both characters, as they have succeeded in obtaining liberty, despite their frailty, in a post-war world.
Before The Phantom Pain, and after in my opinion, this was Hideo Kojima’s most powerful and absolute achievement.
– Scott Russell
12. Gears Of War
Gears of War epitomises everything about a classic video game. It was a hit back in 2006, it lives on today through the Gears of War Ultimate Edition and, as a franchise, subsequent iterations are available through the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility functionality.
This game ticked a lot of the right boxes. I like to think that its shallow plot line was an advantage to keeping the player focused on the present rather than the past – the only thing that mattered to all the COGs in Sera at the time. By the time darkness fell on the city, the danger of overbearing Locust and their unsightly allies was enough to stir unease and downright fear in my younger self.
Gears of War has always been the creepiest game in the franchise and did a stupendous job of angling itself as the only legitimate horror game of the series, too. The plot may have taken a back seat, but the amount of action, teamwork and satisfaction required to overcome the Locust threat solidified its success.
As a strong title back then, and still strong to this day, Gears of War is definitely a must-play.
– Hayden Waugh
Some of the best games ever created boast the description “simple.” What’s not to like about a simple game? They are some of the easiest to control, to understand and most of all they just speak straight to your soul without saying a word.
In this title fittingly called Journey, a cloaked wanderer must make their way to a shadowy figure in the distance. Although it’s quite easy to pick up and play, Journey has us asking “why” from start to finish and leaves it up to the player to figure out an answer that satisfies their curiosity. So many questions spring to mind after witnessing sight after magical sight. One moment you’re sliding down sand dunes, only to climb a snowy ascent the next. The game’s locations are saturated in glowing color and each appear as if they were constructed right out of a child’s dreams.
These magical vistas are the exclamation points at the end of every sentence in this journey’s story and by the time the last thought has been scribbled out and the game is over, you’re not sure what to make of the tale you’ve told. Or the tale that has been told to you. All you know is that you’re sure to play it at least 10 more times, and that titles like this have proven without a shadow of a doubt that video games can be art. At first glance this may be the simple game you’d seen in let’s plays, but as you stare (trust us, you will) longer you’ll realize just how deep it really is.
10. Final Fantasy VII
Alright, hands up; who cried at the end of disc 1? I didn’t because my tear ducts were removed in an unfortunate knife-fighting incident, but there’s no doubt that Final Fantasy VII had at least one emotional moment that caused gamers to dampen their controllers.
While Final Fantasy VII is often looked back on with a mixture of nostalgic, hyperbolic praise or derision from Final Fantasy VI fans, it’s difficult to argue with the impact that this game had. Releasing at a time when console gaming was starting to break into the mainstream with the popularity of the original PlayStation, Final Fantasy VII was the first JRPG that many people had ever played. This set a base expectation for a generation of players that all other JRPGs have had to live up to.
Given this timing, it’s understandable that is fondly remembered, but that does a disservice to the elements that Final Fantasy VII got right. It combined breathtaking FMV sequences with gorgeously rendered backgrounds (even if Square had to compromise on the character models). It also featured a memorable opening, combined with a narrative that maintains itself over many hours and 3 CD’s worth of playtime. The story tackled darker themes than it’s predecessors such as environmentalism, terrorism, life and death, and also went places with psychology that didn’t become apparent until the late game. Over the course of 50-80 hours (depending on how much of a completionist you are), Final Fantasy VII successfully creates a cast of characters and a world that resonates the player and is empathetic. This is punctuated by Nobuo Uematsu’s score that holds up to this day, and is often performed live to sold out stadiums.
The materia system proves to a flexible and fairly simple system for a JRPG, while allowing for a decent level of customisation and depth. It’s possible to beat the game without coupling Knights Of The Round with Quadra Summon, but the possibilities are there if you’re willing to give it attention.
All in all, everything about Final Fantasy VII combines into an absolute classic. It has some rough edges by today’s standards, but the quirks are all a part of the charm. With a remake due out soon, a whole new generation will get to experience this all over again, and hopfeully, the remake will stand up to Square’s behemoth.
9. Assassin’s Creed II
There was, and is, certainly something very special about Assassin’s Creed II. It was a game that altered so many undesirable elements from its predecessor, while still adhering to its basic and intriguing formula. It removed the repetitive missions and replaced them with story-centric tasks; it made combat and movement more fluid; and it removed the monotone protagonist in favour of the more impassioned figure, Ezio. It created a cinematic experience that hinged on action, suspense, romance and revenge.
You travelled with Ezio through a large span of his life, from his birth and into the beginning of his middle age. This gave you a chance to love him for the charming, passionate and extremely likeable individual that he truly was, although it was clear from the start that cheekiness was his forte: “Your sister seemed quite satisfied with the ‘handling’ I gave her earlier.” Empathy was easily felt when Ezio lost all to the Pazzi conspirators; it provided a wonderful, yet harrowing, motivation to succeed gracefully in avenging his family’s, in addition to the Templar threat that preyed on his homeland.
As well as our romantic champion, the story was also riddled with other interesting heroes and villains, most of whom were taken directly from history. Leonardo da Vinci was on hand as your friend and inventor, aiding in your quest with a handful of helpful devices – including an improved hidden blade that spared one of Ezio’s precious digits (poor Altair). The assassination targets were kept distinct from one another through their cruel and dictatorial actions. For example, Francesco de’ Pazzi was quick to brutality, Jacapo de’ Pazzi was pragmatic yet cowardly, and Carlo Grimaldi was cunningly ruthless. The attributes of the Templars made killing them satisfactory, as Ezio fulfilled his personal, and dutiful, vendetta against tyranny.
The Italian cities present, Florence and Venice, were as huge as they were detailed; more attention had been given to noticeable landmarks, such as the Basilica di San Marco or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore; the flourishing artistic atmosphere of the Renaissance was clearly marked. A number of smaller towns were also available for exploration, which gave a contrast to the cities in their rural design. An Italian world had been created, one that correctly differed from the tumultuous Middle Ages with an altogether more sophisticated society.
Assassin’s Creed II was certainly something special. I will reiterate those words again and again if necessary. Its improvements on the first game’s story, characters, gameplay, and aesthetic still make it the greatest Assassin’s Creed, and I welcome any challengers that think they can knock Ezio off his eagle-white throne: a difficult and highly forlorn task.
– Scott Russell
8. Chrono Trigger
A katana-wielding silent protagonist, a medieval frog and a futuristic robot with a theme song reminiscent of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” come together to time travel and defeat an apocalyptic alien parasite. That alone has me sold! It just so happens that crisp visuals, a masterful soundtrack and art direction from Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama are also part of the incredible JRPG package that is Chrono Trigger.
There are many reasons this title earns this spot on such a huge list of games, but the most prominent reason is the immense amount of heart and soul poured into character development, and a story with more than 10 different endings – a feat still impressive by today’s standards. Each party member is given special attention and by the time the game ends, you’re really pulling for the rag tag group of heroes with a passion many other games are simply unable to pull out of a player.
Combat is also a glowing achievement with a large variety of gratifying combo attacks possible upon mixing two to three party members abilities. This gives the player a reason to level each character equally as some of the best logic-defying combo attacks leave you in a state of shock, grinning like an idiot. It’s because of this and an incredibly long list of other positives that Chrono Trigger has garnered the devoted praise of countless players and earned itself a spot as one of the best games of all time. Plus, did I mention the Rick Astley robot?
“Would you kindly?”. Those three words are a sure way to stop me from doing anything anyone ever asks me to do. Bioshock remains a very powerful game; one that showed us what a story-driven FPS could do.
The underwater city of Rapture is incredibly alluring. Its tale envelops us with its crushed ideals, crushed inhabitants, and, most importantly, its delusional leader, the antagonist, Andrew Ryan. The city was built by Ryan with the purpose of being void of the political agendas of the world, and thus free to break limitations. It was a noble task, and it leaves you with pity for the man, but its instantly clear that this is a failed project.
As Rapture crumbles, it’s denizens become as twisted as the supporting beams holding the city up against the pressures of the sea. Andrew Ryan initially treats you with hostility and paranoia. The plastic surgeon, Steinman, has surpassed the idea of perfection and focuses on creating inhumane faces. The artist, Sander Cohen, has grown tired of paint and clay; now humans are his tools for art. Bibles are imported into Rapture, everyone’s addicted to drugs, and the beautiful glass corridors are shattering. It feels as though we’re in a society that’s rapidly becoming submerged. Recordings tell us of what once was, and what will never be. For once the water gets in, it’s near-impossible to get out.
Exploring the bereft society is both horrific and fascinating (just ask our own Dallin Schmidtless). Corridors and rooms are claustrophobic, and filled with a range of psychopaths. You can arm yourself with a variety of guns and powers—found in the form of a drug-like chemical. The abilities themselves add tremendous fun to the title; lighting foes on fire, swarming them with bees, or electrifying them in water, are just a few options to consider. Though taking down the lumbering behemoth Big Daddies makes shrewd strategies necessary.
Bioshock genuinely surprised me with its brilliance. The guns, powers, graphics, music, and sound design are all outstanding. But it’s the story alone makes the venture essential. The developers would go on to make the excellent Bioshock Infinite, but, for many, nothing will ever truly match the claustrophobic beauty of Rapture.
6. Metal Gear Solid
From the game’s initial moments where you first see Solid Snake infiltrating the Shadow Moses complex, you knew that this was not a run-of-the-mill experience. The symphonic, CD-quality opening theme, along with the rolling credits, immediately set a cinematic aesthetic that was revolutionary in its day. The original Metal Gear Solid basically set the template for gaming’s love affair with cinema, moving the medium forward towards more complicated plots and choreographed action.
The game’s director and main driving force Hideo Kojima is known nowadays as something of an auteur. This reputation was garnered from Metal Gear Solid, where Kojima managed to spin a yarn that covered all sorts of topics and themes, from nuclear proliferation and the human cost of war, to genetics and creating a legacy for the future. These are topics that hadn’t really been tackled previously, and even now, although these themes crop up in other games, they are rarely ever given the spotlight that they are here.
Fortunately, Metal Gear Solid coupled it’s compelling narrative with a truly remarkable gameplay experience. The stealth genre was still in it’s infancy, but Metal Gear Solid worked out some very elegant solutions to navigating around a 3D environment undetected. The abilities to attract and divert guards by knocking on walls, crawling through grates, breaking line of sight and sticking to the shadows were all an alternative to getting in a firefight with your enemies (and were, in most cases, preferable). The enemy AI responds to your actions superbly by tracking your footprints through the snow, calling for backup, and they can even see your cold breath from round a corner, causing you to rethink your approach on the fly.
The most memorable parts of the game remain the boss battles. MGS presents an enigmatic rogue’s gallery that you have to defeat in combat, from the menacing heft of Vulcan Raven, the silver-tongued Revolver Ocelot, the mysterious Cyborg Ninja and the mentally-scarring Psycho Mantis, these bosses require very different strategies to defeat, changing up the gameplay nicely.
While all the games in the Metal Gear series have something special to offer, Metal Gear Solid is the realisation and standardisation that the later games rely heavily upon, making it one of the best of the series and one of our favourite games ever released.
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Have you ever wanted to blow someone away with the power of your voice? If so, put down that X Factor application form, because Skyrim offers you the chance to do just that without an embarrassing TV spectacle. With the simple words “Fus Ro Dah”, your Dragonborn character can send enemies flying to their deaths, but that’s not the only improvement that the fifth entry in the venerated Elder Scrolls series provides.
While Oblivion was set in the cosmopolitan heartland of the continent and featured a whole range of temperate ecosystems, Skyrim is set in the frozen north where the Nords call home. Much of Skyrim appears bleak yet beautiful from its craggy, snow-capped peaks to its starched farmlands. Skyrim’s setting is all-encompassing in a fashion that Morrowind almost achieved, which helps to draw the player in deeper than ever before. Considering the size of the map, there is plenty of optional side content that helps to keep the frozen wastes from being too barren. Most of it is more varied than the cookie-cutter caves and dungeons that were littered around Oblivion, making Skyrim more immersive than it’s predecessors. There’s an evident sense of refinement here that cuts through almost every aspect.
With the previous success of Oblivion on consoles (especially the Xbox 360), Skyrim goes a step further with a controller-friendly menu and upgrade tree. Some PC users may not approve, but Skyrim is an amazing experience on whichever platform you choose to play.
4. Shadow Of The Colossus
Emotionally, Shadow of the Colossus is strewn with both beauty and sorrow. Its land mass is a vast, almost vacuum-like, purgatory in which great beasts made of rock and moss live in placidity. The game’s protagonist, Wander, is tasked with slaughtering these creatures to resurrect his lost love, and as you ride on a horse named Argo towards each of their dens, a sense of dense melancholy and fear, but also excitement, tints your hunt.
Wander’s targets, although deadly, are simply animals. And while Shadow of the Colossus’ deft use of sixteen boss battles may create scenarios of necessary and contextual gameplay, it is the message of such conflicts that truly stands out. The cruelty of man, and the destruction of nature as well as death and rebirth and everything in between are touched on in this poignant, desolate classic.
– Scott Russell
3. Pokémon Red and Blue
It’s super effective! Pokémon Red and Green took Japan by storm twenty years ago, and once its domination of the East was complete, Pokémon then conquered the rest of the world with Pokémon Red and Blue for the original Game Boy.
What can you even say about a game as culturally significant and memorable and Pokémon Red and Blue? The franchise single-handedly made the Game Boy a thing again, years after the handheld console’s release, and caused an incurable case of Pokémania the entire world over. Even to this day, despite its dated apperance and gameplay, Red/Blue is still one of the greatest turn-based RPGs out there, perhaps the greatest of all-time. How long did you spend trying to catch them all? For many, there is no greater satisfaction in gaming than a complete Pokédex with all 151 original Pokémon. Very few games have the kind of replayability that Pokémon Red and Blue have.
It’s difficult to think of any other video game that has spawned the number of spin-offs and related media that Pokémon has. Multiple, long-running television shows, dozens upon dozens of video game sequels both within and outside of the main series, a trading card game, and mountains of other collectible merchandise are just some of the Pokémon-related properties we can thank the original Game Boy games for, and that isn’t even getting into the weird stuff, like Pikachu condoms.
– JD Schmidt
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
As evidenced by the previous entries on our list, we’re big fans of the Metal Gear Solid series here at Power Up Gaming. Snake Eater is the highest charting entry for the series on our list for a multitude of reasons, not least of all being that it has the best story of the bunch.
Set during the Cold War, Naked Snake is dropped into the Russian wilderness to recover a Soviet scientist who is working on a nuclear-equipped tank. So far so simple, but shortly afterwards Naked Snake’s mentor and war hero The Boss defects to the Soviet Union, taking her cobra unit with her. After narrowly surviving an encounter with The Boss, Naked Snake is given the daunting task of taking out the cobras, Colonel Volgin (an electrified sadist) and his former teacher. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, but ultimately this is a story of Snake’s ascension from rookie to the legend that is Big Boss.
There are references throughout to Naked Snake’s rise in the face adversity (who can forget the ladder sequence?), leading up to the point where he eventually surpasses his mentor. To say much more would veer into spoiler territory, but the game wraps up in an emotional crescendo that paves the way for everything else that happens in the rest of the series. More importantly, it was a stripped back story from that of the convoluted MGS2: Sons Of Liberty, so moving the series back to the Cold War was a smart move in that regard.
Snake Eater also introduced some revolutionary gameplay systems. There is the camouflage index which allows you to change your camo and facepaint to help you blend in with your surroundings. Then there’s a healing system which involves digging bullets out of yourself with a knife and stitching up wounds. Combined with the mechanisms through which you have to capture, kill and eat the local fauna and flora stave off starvation, and you have a game that presents itself as a survival story against the odds.
If that wasn’t enough, top it all off with a crazy amount of secrets, memorable boss battles from start to finish, and a theme song that is better than any James Bond theme, and you are left with something truly special. All of this adds up to make an outstanding entry in the MGS franchise and an exceptional achievement in it’s own right.
1. The Last Of Us
The Last of Us is a good few things. There is nothing quite like it in the video game industry, which makes it all the more surprising that it is about as close to perfect as a AAA game can be. It is the cohesion of a handful of stellar working pieces. It is a giant leech upon your soul that can make you despise all of humanity for a hot second. And yet, it still manages to be oddly beautiful.
The Last of Us is a timeless parable of moral decay. There is perhaps no video game duo that feels more real than Ellie and Joel. Watching their desperate, 13 hour scramble for survival play out is at times genuinely painful, but all of it feels so worth it. A desperate urge to protect Ellie at all costs pervades the entire game. Watching her and Joel’s relationship blossom under the most dire of circumstances is The Last of Us’ true triumph.
The Last of Us is an exemplary exercise in heart-nailed-to-the-cross tension. Every kill is a triumph. Every item you stumble across is a life saver. Every second is a fight to survive against all the odds. Every moment speaks to the grimy, unyielding world which Ellie and Joel have learnt to subsist in. Though it isn’t the most complicated of affairs, there are few interactive experiences more engrossing.
Every piece of this package is soaked in quality. The performances of Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker are the stuff Oscars are made for. At the time, no one knew that the Playstation 3’s tired old hardware could be pushed that far. The mechanics are impeccable. All of it means that The Last of Us is a joy to look at, play, feel and absorb. The diligent team at Naughty Dog crafted a soft, welcoming cloud for you to teeter upon as you bask in Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley’s beautiful, tormented imaginations.
Even that name – The Last of Us – has an air of faint perfection to it. It is an apt testament to just about everything The Last of Us stands for. If you haven’t played it yet, drop everything. Drop your groceries, drop your wife, drop your baby; this is the one you can’t afford to sleep on.
– Harry Bowers
And there you have it, 100 of the best games ever created, ranked and rated for your viewing pleasure. We hope you’ve enjoyed this feature, and we hope that the Chinese burns, gouged eyes and broken bones that we’ve inflicted on each other while fighting for our favourites, has all been worth it.
No doubt you have your own opinions about the order of our list, or the games that didn’t make the cut. Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section, and thank you for reading.