Although there are surefire truths to many of the questions we raise, there are still countless relative ones, and some of them are far too difficult to answer in a straightforward manner. It’s a walk in the park for us to find suitable responses to inquiries such as what your favorite season is, who’s the most famous video game character, or why pizza is a divine, unparalleled food. Now, figuring out who would win if Superman and the Hulk fought to the death, whether what happened at the end of The Last of Us was right or wrong, or if you’d rather listen to Kidz Bop or IceJJFish for the rest of your life against your volition? Those are merely three conundrums.
Gamers suffer from this dilemma, too. We struggle with issues of all kinds, like which games we should purchase among myriad of enticing titles each year, how the issue of representation should be handled in the game industry, and – of course – which Pokémon we should put on our team in each new installment of the series. Though there’s one question that’s a different beast. It’s that sentence we dread and sigh over when we hear it, seeking to dodge around with multiple answers when there can only be one. It’s perhaps the gravest thing anyone could ask you, and all of us rarely have the audacity to pose it more than once to our gaming comrades.
“What is your favorite video game?”
Ugh. Whenever I’m asked this, I never answer by calling out a single game. You’re either going to get 3-5 out of me that happen to come to mind or just one that I secretly pick from random so you’ll be satisfied with my response. Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic about this. Heck, you may be able to confidently proclaim what your most beloved game is faster than I can say “dodongos.” However, as I’ve discovered through the general observation of countless gamers and my friends, the majority of people don’t feel like quantifying their library of games and picking a sole game they love above all the rest. It’s uncomfortable and tough to do.
In fact, after taking over 160 games into consideration that I’ve played, picking only 10 out of 40+ contenders through a slow process of elimination, and putting those 10 in order, I really know why people don’t want to choose their favorite game…let alone the other nine! I’m still not satisfied with what I’m leaving out and what order my selections are in, and I’m sure I’ll be anxious to add, remove, and change several things by the end of this year. But that’s not going to happen. I have my list of fairly diverse games that I’ve had the most fun with and/or been impacted by over the stages of my life. This criterion means leaving a few legendary games off (which pains me to say the least), but I’m sticking with it.
Having just turned 20, is there not a better time to write something of this magnitude anyway? I’ve been gaming since I was around 5 years old, so it’s high time to “carpe diem” by taking a look at the games I seem to love the most and why. It’s been a hard, rewarding, and introspective task, so allow me to present my 10 favorite games.
10. Burnout: Revenge
Developer: Criterion Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox
Release Date: Sep. 13, 2005
Those who know me might find this surprising, but I used to love racing games. I played a few Burnout titles, a lot of NASCAR games, LEGO Racers 1 and 2, and Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing. I haven’t been interested in returning to the genre for years, but NASCAR: Rumble and Burnout: Revenge are ageless racing games that I’d still play today. I suppose I’m a fan of the more arcade-y stuff in the genre, which is something that hasn’t gotten much attention lately compared to the push toward realism. Anyway, the two games I’ve mentioned were practically neck and neck for this spot, but Revenge pulled ahead for several reasons.
The game has a great selection of music tracks (I’d play Helicopter by Bloc Party all day, every day), an impressive visuals with detailed car damage and destruction, adrenaline pumping, car handling gameplay, and a meaty array of modes. The single-player is an addictive, continent-spanning tour where you have to prove yourself with various challenges before moving on to other events. For example, you try to earn gold medals in Road Rage by crashing into as many racers as possible before time runs out; in Crash Mode, you attempt to strategically crash your vehicle into a pivotal point of a congested traffic area to cause as much damage as possible; then there’s participating in the grands prix, which put all of your racing skills and dirty revenge tactics to the test in chaotic beelines to the finish on the hills of California to the streets of Rome.
What Revenge did different from Burnout 3: Takedown was add more modes and satisfaction to the titular takedowns you can perform on racers who have already taken you out, giving you extra incentive to focus on obliterating rivals in skillful or even creative manners. It’s “revenge,” you see? You could even humorously ram oncoming traffic to some degree and use those cars as projectiles to wipe out racers ahead of you. It might seem horrifying to find such blissful joy in the vehicular slaughter present in Revenge, but hey, with expertly crafted, diverse locations to race in, dozens of sleek cars to unlock, and multiplayer, what’s not to love?
Too bad I corrupted my only save file. Haunts me to this day. *cries in corner*
9. Star Wars: Battlefront II
Genre: First/Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Platforms: PC, PS2, Xbox, PSP
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2005
There’s no doubt this is one of the games I’ve devoted the most time to. With around 300 hours in Pokémon Diamond, around 350+ hours in Modern Warfare 2 (don’t care if it was broken. Fun memories there.), and somewhere near 80 hours with titles like Kingdom Hearts 2 or Super Smash Bros. Brawl, that’s saying something. Though looking back at Battlefront II, I can’t say it has aged wonderfully. The gunplay is kind of stiff and shallow, some of the maps aren’t designed well, and the missions can become repetitive. But years ago, I saw nothing wrong with it. I poured at least 150 hours into the game despite its flaws, and I adored every second.
I guess it was just the general concept that appealed to me. The campaign covers the story of a group of clone troopers (the 501stlegion or “Vader’s Fist”) from one of their insightful perspectives from the events of Episode II to Episode V. You explore plenty of planets and fight for control over checkpoints with all kinds of weaponry and vehicles, choose from several diverse classes of infantry to play as (including iconic Jedi, bounty hunters, etc.), and can even participate in space combat. The campaign shows you the ropes excellently, and then you have to fend for yourself in the Galactic Conquest mode or multiplayer, where you must vie for control over the Star Wars universe by conquering celestial bodies from Tatooine to Polis Massa.
There was simply an empowerment and exhilaration that Battlefront II provided that I adored back then. You may play as the typical soldiers 90 percent of the time, but you feel like a strategic commander overseeing a military power that invades or protects territories at your whim. Also, you feel fully contributory to the war effort and experience the thrilling tension of warfare by taking the forefront with an Imperial Shocktrooper, seizing checkpoints by surprise with a Bothan Spy, or supporting and repairing the line of defense with a Separatist Engineer Droid. I’ll never forget the day I single-handedly wiped out over 40 Rebels on Hoth after all my Stormtroopers had collapsed into the thick snow…then pressing on with the Empire’s wrath to snuff out the last of the Rebel scum. For some reason, it felt like an epic war story personalized by my actions, which is only one of others I could recall.
While land battle is great, nothing prepared me for the thrill of space combat. This part of the game utilizes great controls to pilot the multiple factions’ ships, so getting into dogfights is always a good time. In addition, there’s nothing more satisfying than destroying all the primary functions of the enemy’s main ship from the outside with a barrage of fire or sabotaging it by invading its bay, fighting your way through hordes of soldiers to end a battle skillfully and quickly. Anyway, Battlefront 2 was effectively the best Star Wars game I could’ve asked for back then. Now DICE has the opportunity to expand and improve on the brilliant blueprint Pandemic unwittingly laid out for the future.
8. Call of Duty: World at War
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii
Release Date: Nov. 11, 2008
I’m going to get flack for this one. Thou shalt retreat from this article, dissenting naysayers!
I think Call of Duty as a whole receives unfair criticism and hatred from too many gamers. Sure, it could certainly do more to improve in the way of narrative, multiplayer innovation (i.e. risky experimentation to shake things up, if you will), compelling side content…you get the idea. My friends and I may have played everything we could in Call of Duty 4 up to Black Ops every week for several years, but after Modern Warfare 3, we only play Nazi Zombies or a little multiplayer once a month or so just to have something going on while chatting. I’m hoping Advanced Warfare will change that, but I’m not too optimistic that any CoD will ever hold my attention for more than two months if things keep going the way they are.
Regardless, you cannot objectively say that the games aren’t designed well. The gunplay has never ceased to remain exceptional; the graphical fidelity has kept up well enough with the times despite the use of an old engine; the campaign stories are bombastic yet entertaining romps through chaotic warfare; the multiplayer has been – for the most part – thoroughly well designed that has and should inspire developers who create multiplayer shooters (Black Ops as the best example, anyone?), and the audio as a whole has always contributed to making the games more immersive. So why pick sorry, old World at War, which most people regard as one of the least appealing CoD games?
Black Ops has the most well designed multiplayer (like I said) and story, MW2’s goofy multiplayer was the most fun for me (don’t judge), and CoD4 is simply memorable due to its revolutionary, exciting debut, but WaW comes out on top for several reasons. The gritty and exhilarating campaign missions have great lead characters (Reznov and Roebuck), incredible intro cutscenes that serve as great history lessons (to some degree, of course), and good portrayals of the nastier sides of and camaraderie among soldiers in WW2. The dreary, war ravaged, cleverly crafted environments in the story and multiplayer expertly capture the horrors and battlefields of that time as well, and what lends to that is the audio. The surprisingly eerie, eclectic soundtrack draws inspiration and borrows instruments/vocals from classic Russian and Japanese music, and the sound effects are pleasingly authentic.
I could continue by saying that the multiplayer is just as exciting and immersive as CoD4’s multiplayer was (even more so with the WW2 settings, tanks, and gore) and that the addictive Nazi Zombies mode and its subsequent DLC haven’t grown too stale, but I should stop here. Treyarch outdid itself by improving on Infinity Ward’s CoD4 with one of the best WW2 games ever made. It’s unfortunate that most people don’t agree with me on that.
7. Batman: Arkham City
Genre: Action-Adventure/Open World
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2011
I originally intended to put Resident Evil 4 here. Before that, Dead Space 2…ha, and before that, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. As you can see, the struggle to pick only one was heartbreaking (as all these games were supposed to be on my list), but I didn’t want to put all of these on here since they’re generally similar to a certain third-person shooter below. So, in typical fashion, Batman fought his more-than-worthy contenders and won seventh place with Arkham City.
While I personally enjoyed how Batman, Alfred, the Joker, and other characters are written and portrayed more in Arkham Origins, there’s no denying that Rocksteady took a massive step forward from its work on Arkham Asylum and brought everything to the table with the sequel. There are a couple of neat side quests and secrets in Asylum, with the Riddler’s challenges being the best. But here, all of it’s meatier and more meaningful, infused with mysterious characters, compelling side stories, and new obstacles to overcome. The combat (and stealth) sections in Asylum make sense, work smoothly, and have perfect “easy to learn, hard to master” controls, which have inspired developers like Monolith Productions and Ubisoft Montreal. City tightens this formula with deeper fluidity and complexity, making way for the wider use of Batman’s old and new gadgets during combat. He can perform a wider set of moves – like taking down more than one enemy at once or throwing projectiles back at foes – and boss fights feel more natural and creative in design.
Whereas players have to walk, run, and use the grappling gun in Asylum, City provides a far better open world that Batman can quickly traverse by gliding over buildings and streets, increasing the desire to explore and discover what the game has on offer. Also, the plot progression and bold storytelling make it have a tale that twists, turns, and engrosses you in a race against time that ends with one of the gutsiest moves I’ve seen in any Batman story. Asylum seemed more relaxed and straightforward with its narrative, whereas Rocksteady keeps you guessing and on your toes with City. And how about the phenomenal voice acting by the likes of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy and the brooding, strong music?
In many ways, Asylum is to City as what Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is to Uncharted 2. No one thought the sequels would be much better, but the developers blew everyone out of the water by pulling tricks out of their sleeves no one imagined possible. In short, you feel like you are the Dark Knight in City, and that’s an amazing feat to accomplish on Rocksteady’s part.
6. Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!
Genre: Action-Adventure/3D Platformer
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: Nov. 2, 1999
I heap praise upon the holy trinity of Spyro the Dragon games whenever they’re brought up. Although some might cry foul with my love for the games being due to blind nostalgia, I replayed the first one and wrote a 5000-word critical essay on it for one of my college professors to see if it holds up today (with fanboyism as far aside as possible). I thought for sure I’d end up ruining that nostalgia, but instead rediscovered the game’s plethora of pros and – thank goodness – few flaws. I gained a greater understanding for why Spyro the Dragon is regarded by many as a classic 3D platformer with its fantastically fantastical worlds, simple controls with superb camera design, and clever nuances in how all the levels are tailored to satisfy both younger and older audiences in the way of challenges and whatnot. While Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon is an excellent game in that you can play as different characters and do weird stuff like skateboard, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage is solely focused on Spyro, and it is a darn fine game in its design and, well, charm.
The rock solid platforming carries over from the first game with minor but welcome adjustments and tweaks, such as how the camera adjusts more quickly and the addition of a button that allows Spyro to fly a bit higher and farther. This comes in handy all the time during gameplay, which caused me to tense up and lean forward every time when trying to jump/fly to distant platforms as a kid, hoping I would just barely make it. Boss fights are significantly improved and a neat array of side challenges can be found, ranging from fetch quests to running contests and full-fledged flying missions to hockey (yes, more sports :P). There’s an unbelievable quantity of content to dig into, and while younger players can complete the game without doing a large portion of it, those who are completionists will be tested and have fun, rest assured.
If the locales of the first game were great, Spyro 2’s are jaw dropping in their aesthetic craftsmanship (for PS1, you got to admit Insomniac must have pushed the hardware). The hub worlds are themed around seasons like Summer Forest and Autumn Plains, each containing at least a dozen portals that lead to small places where you discover/win orbs, find gems, etc. I couldn’t possibly list all the locations, which keep the game interesting at all times since there isn’t much backtracking.
The game’s scope, vibrant color, art style, and smooth animation are but a few attributes that prevent it from aging visually (something that PS1 classics like Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, or Metal Gear Solid – which I’ve played – can’t claim to the same effect). The game has that classic Insomniac Games humor, silly voice actors, and an instantly recognizable, splendid, percussion-driven score by Stewart Copeland. Overall, every area of the game’s design contributes to creating an irreverent sort of fantasy adventure filled to the brim with imagination, and I won’t ever forget spending oodles of time having an absolute blast with the dragon and his dragonfly. Eww, I’m being sentimental!
But in all seriousness, I love Spyro 2. My passion for it is admittedly ridiculous, but that’s okay. However, it’s not the best game I’ve played. It had a huge influence on me and in what types of games I enjoy today, but I’ve had to take a step back and evaluate how much I truly like it. The game was originally going to be numero uno, but that would’ve been lazy. This is where it probably should be.
5. Pokémon SoulSilver
Developer: Game Freak, Inc.
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Release Date: Mar. 14, 2010
There’s a world out there to make your mark in. Take this little creature with you, train and love it well, and you will go places you never dreamt possible.
That’s what Pokémon is about when you boil it down, and it’s a fantasy I’m sure most of us conceived as kids in different ways. What would it be like to have total independence and set out on a fantastic adventure where everything goes well when you are the hero? It’s not very realistic, of course, but it’s an endlessly appealing concept. Pokémon offers that with its focus on training creatures you come to form attachments to and the grand journeys you take across regions. The franchise has yet to falter despite its reluctance to change too much, but that doesn’t stop SoulSilver from winning this spot.
I loved the story elements and battles more in FireRed (the rival fight remains my favorite), the nostalgia of playing Diamond, and the gorgeous visuals and tweaks made to the 3DS games. Why SoulSiliver? I’m guessing that playing Crystal as my first Pokémon game plays a part since it was quite identical to the original Silver, but there are a couple of grounds for this. One, it’s got all of the great things expected of a Pokémon title like catchy music, simple (and complex, depending on how you look at it) yet addictive RPG gameplay, a wonderful sense of progression, and more. But the main points SoulSilver has going for it are that you trek across both Johto and Kanto, creating the deepest and most satisfying post-games out of all the Pokémon titles (Black and White 2 come close though). Your Pokémon can follow you and – by interacting with them – your bond increases, which was an awesome feature that hasn’t returned since then, and there’s a fun minigame unique to this and HeartGold called the Pokéathelon. In addition, the host of environments is shockingly gorgeous (a small step up from Diamond/Pearl) with the help of the Nintendo DS’s technology, further accentuating Johto’s layout and locations as being among the best out of all the regions.
I could get into all the minor tweaks and aspects that make SoulSilver my Pokémon game of choice, but I’ll avoid that. It’s simply a classic Pokémon title with a substantial, more modern upgrade I’d recommend anyone to play first in this charming franchise.
4. The Last of Us
Genre: Action/Survival/Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platforms: PS4, PS3
Release Date: June 14, 2013
Few games have affected me like The Last of Us has. Building on its expertise from crafting third-person shooters with the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog had the know-how to develop one of the most critically acclaimed games in history. The developer deserves all of it, even if it’s “mainstream” to say that.
Of all the criticism leveled toward the game, I find Philip Kollar’s review to be the best in effectively covering all the popular complaints. Obviously, he’s entitled to his opinions, but I can hardly relate to his experience. He describes the gunplay as annoyingly challenging and unexciting. However, I find the shaky, more realistic gameplay to be a thrill that demands my attention and focus. It is, as Kollar said, something you should try to avoid by being stealthy. And while silently taking out enemies from behind and using the environment to your advantage results in tense, memorable sections, the loud encounters always feel right within the game’s world. I also never noticed or agree that it blatantly has the “traditional trappings of third-person shooters,” as I believe Naughty Dog’s level design integrates naturally with the post-apocalyptic locales in the game. And though the AI behaves strangely and breaks immersion at points, it was understandable; it never bothered me enough to warrant points off.
He’d probably agree more with me on these points though. The characters are unbelievably genuine and well written, with the obvious duo of Joel and Ellie shinning the most with the best acting any video game has been graced with so far. Seeing them in such a dark, bleak story that captures beautiful glimmers of their humanity and life is a rich, emotional experience all the way up to the gutsy, poignant ending, which made me deeply reflect on and consider rethinking a major aspect of my moral beliefs. The sound design is drop-dead perfect, Gustavo Santaolalla’s songs fit like a glove with the atmosphere and story’s high points, the multiplayer is shockingly solid, being an exhilarating addition to the library of shooter multiplayer modes, and…what am I doing? I’m just rehashing what I wrote in one of my personal favorite reviews. Go check it out to understand why I had to go with the general consensus of the public that this, right here, is the PS3’s finest exclusive and one of the greatest games of this last console generation. And if you have a PS4 and don’t have The Last of Us, please do yourself a favor and buy the Remastered edition. It’s a steal; there’s no way you’ll regret it.
3. Assassin’s Creed II
Genre: Action-Adventure/Open World/Stealth
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2009
Nearly everyone agrees that the first Assassin’s Creed is the weakest entry in the series, and that’s understandable. What began as a Prince of Persia game where you escort and protect the titular prince (when he was a child) as his bodyguard assassin turned into an alternate history game incorporating open world design, stealth mechanics, and parkour gameplay. The final project was a repetitious, slightly unpolished conglomeration of good ideas, but what it had was pure potential. When I played it, I knew the possibilities were absolutely limitless as to where Ubisoft could take this fledgling IP. That was in 2007, and seven years later, AC is one of the best selling and most popular game franchises on the market. Who does the publisher have to thank for this? Their Montreal division, which created – in my opinion – the AC to end all AC games: Assassin’s Creed II.
The first one’s above average, Brotherhood’s just a step behind II, Revelations was fine, III was a borefest (sorry), and I’m not sure about Black Flag yet since I haven’t played it. But when II came out in 2009…wow, it blew the socks off of everyone and me. It not only improved on every aspect of what made the first one great, but also corrected all of its faults and brought so much more to make the experience incredibly memorable. The parkour was tweaked and improved for smoother, quicker traversal; the locations of Florence, Venice, Monteriggioni, Romagna, and Tuscany burst open with dozens of interesting kinds of side quests to do, ranging from races with free-runners to completing assassination contracts and looting the tombs of ancient Assassins to a sort of metagame where you accrue currency by repairing Italian businesses and your main hub. There are brain-twisting puzzles to unlock by finding special glyphs, which eventually reveal a shocking, special clip called The Truth, and the combat and options to execute stealthy strategies are deepened with the addition of new equipment (dual hidden blades, smoke bombs, etc.) and moves (hidden assassinations, disarming opponents, etc.).
The story! It’s a perfectly structured revenge tale with great character development from the main protagonist, Ezio, and side characters like Leonardo da Vinci and Ezio’s mother and sister. It has a wonderful pace marked by moments of appropriate tension, sadness, and humor. Lastly, there’s a whole strangeness and secrecy surrounding aspects of the narrative through and through, which eventually finishes with the most unexpected, mind-blowing video game ending I’ve seen. The whole thing is just gripping from start to finish, which remains on top of the AC games to date for me.
It seems as though Ubisoft’s developers won’t pull a stunt like Montreal did with this game for a while (Unity has a big chance though), but if you want the definition of taking a sequel to the next level and beyond with innovation in tow, look up Assassin’s Creed II in the meantime.
2. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Genre: Action RPG
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Jan. 9, 2010
I desired ever so much to put Kingdom Hearts II in this slot. It was the only one in the series that I nearly completed with 100% (got the Ultima Keyblade and beat Sephiroth) and have an intense nostalgia for in regard to its satisfying continuation of Sora’s tale, music, and…well, everything else. Pushing those feelings aside, I’ve gone with Birth by Sleep instead.
The story tells the journey of three, young Keyblade wielders that will come to shape – for better or worse – the worlds they’re training to protect. They are Ventus, Terra, and Aqua. These individuals are the best of friends and each possess varying strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits that make them a joy to watch as the plot unfolds. By the game being uniquely structured into three 15-hour campaigns that show each side of the overarching story – weaving their tales together in a meticulous fashion – you see them change in ways I can’t begin to describe in a single paragraph. They’re a trio of friends that go through the best and hardest of times; you can’t help being emotionally drawn into their friendship. By the end, you’ll also be surprised by the great storytelling on the Disney side of things and reeling at how intricately the foundation is laid for the rest of the KH lore here, as this is an origin story of sorts.
The music is just…man, among my favorite collection of songs in all of video games. Yoko Shimomura knocks it out of the park with the themes for our heroes, the boss fights, and even the menu songs. Although other KH titles harbor other favorites of mine, Birth by Sleep nevertheless has an epic score for the ages. The cast of voice actors is surprisingly high profile here, too, with celebrities like Mark Hamill, Leonard Nimoy, and Willa Holland (Thea Queen in the TV show “Arrow”). These stars and returning voice actors do their best work here with a commendable outpouring of emotion.
KH had a solid formula for its combat-oriented gameplay and RPG elements from the beginning. Birth by Sleep streamlined, tweaked, and improved on everything about and involving it to make the game the most fun and rewarding one in the series. Yet some of my favorite mechanics and systems didn’t return to future installments in lieu of other mechanics, sadly enough (like Dream Drop Distance). Shotlocks were minor attacks that activate special moves, and their power is determined by how effectively you use them. They also give you several seconds to gather your thoughts, which I really appreciated since every KH is so fast-paced. Command Styles consist of a host of different and sometimes unique powers the heroes can activate by utilizing certain attacks (physical hits, magic, etc.) for a brief moment of more powerful combos and stats, each topped with an epic finishing move. D-Lists can provide you with side characters’ (like Stitch or Maleficent) varying powers; you can mix commands together to yield surprising new ones, which was great fun and instigated me to experiment and see what I could create each time; playing as Terra, Aqua, and Ventus mixed up my playing style after each of their campaigns to keep things fresh…yes, the game has a lot going for it.
I have a special place for Birth by Sleep’s phenomenal game design and heartfelt story and characters. It’s the only PSP game I’ve played, and I pity the fool who hasn’t been unfortunate enough to not experience this resplendent masterpiece. And now with an HD version coming out this December with the Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMIX, you have no excuse!
1. Super Mario Galaxy
Genre: Action/3D Platformer
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2007
What, you didn’t think a Nintendo game would be number one after all these Playstation titles? That it would be my favorite game after playing dozens and dozens of them since the age of 5? Not only that, but also one of the pinnacle games I think many developers should look to for inspiration and – for lack of a better term – awesomeness? Yep. I guess you could say Super Mario Galaxy is that game.
I never once considered SMG to be here, but after thinking about why I love it, it’s not so surprising. I love New Super Mario Bros. DS, the Mario & Luigi series, Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D Land and World, Super Mario Galaxy 2, you name it. I’ve played many of the modern Mario games (I came in late to the Nintendo scene), and the ones mentioned here are all lovely and fun in their own special ways, but even though SMG’s sequel improved with new gameplay features and debatably better levels, I can’t break free from the alluring gravity of the original, which I played to the end with 100% as both Mario and Luigi.
Does much need to be said about the gameplay? Nintendo didn’t do anything fancy with the motion controls, but stuck to a sensible and perfect control scheme that feels natural, especially when it came to something as simple as flicking the Wii remote to do a spin attack. Jumping and leaping forward or backward, collecting star bits, “dragging” Mario through zero G with Pull Stars, moving Mario around, and ground pounding always responded accurately and flow well with each other during intense boss fights, challenging platforming sections, and whatnot. The difficulties posed by the dozens of different planets’ levels and tasks (like time-based races or navigating an area with a special power-up) consist of being from easy to agonizing, creating a balanced array of levels that offer entertainment for the casual and hardcore player alike.
The planets are not only creative in their level design, but also in their aesthetical charm and diversity. Each location presents you with new wonders, creatures (either friendly or antagonistic), secrets, and powers to encounter, which is why I felt incentivized to explore every nook and cranny of each planet, sometimes to ponder how on earth Nintendo was able to fit this game’s vast scope and detail on the Wii. Anyway, I mentioned “powers,” and what I mean by that are the peculiar Mushrooms that Mario uses. One grants him a bee suit that allows him to briefly fly or climb certain walls; another turns him into a Boo, giving him the ability to float and go through specific areas with a shake of the Wii remote, etc. These are bizarre to be sure, but split up the usual platforming with interesting sections to keep the gameplay interesting, akin to other activities and surprises the game has in store.
The clichéd tale of “Mario saves Peach from Bowser” is present, but I can’t help but think this variation on the story stands out from the rest. Yes, the Mario & Luigi games or Super Mario RPG have more complex plots and greater dialogue, but there’s an appealing flair and epic vibe to SMG that – for some stupid reason – I didn’t catch with its sequel, and I think the chief reason for this was that I had played no Mario game like SMG before. It has a uniqueness and power to it that few games possess. I mean, the game made me tear up for a moment near the ending. It helps that a full-blown orchestra plays the charming, upbeat, and spine-chilling music, too, and I think another contributing factor is the mysterious Rosalina. Her sad backstory, strong yet gentle personality, and authority over and love for the Lumas make her one of my favorite characters in the Mario franchise. Oh, and her spaceship is sweet, which I loved roaming around during downtime.
The stakes are higher in this thrilling, planet-hopping adventure, and with seamless platforming, awe-inspiring environments and graphical fidelity, joyful music, and a surprisingly intriguing yet thin narrative, this is a game for the ages that I can find little to no fault with in my 70+ hours of playing it. This is what you call an instant classic of galactic proportions. Or, in other words, this is my favorite video game.
Well, I can say that this is bar none the longest article I’ve composed (and I was originally going to include my favorite Indie game, Bastion, as a little bonus, but dropped that for obvious reasons :P). But you know what, this only makes sense. If I’m trying to describe why these games are so good that they knocked out others I’ll regret for not including, I better make sure I have good grounds for adding all 10 games that are here. After more than a full day’s time (24+ hours) of trying to put this together, I think I’ve accomplished the task well enough. I hope you enjoyed reading this rather lengthy post, and please leave a comment below. What do you think about my choices? Are they stupid or simply smashing? What are your favorite games? Which one stands above the rest? Let me know, and thank you for stopping by to read my work.