It’s that time of the year, when everybody turns to reflection on the past and looks to the future, after sufficient amounts of existential dread for the present. I’ve noticed a few lists of all-time favorite video games popping up and thought I’d try my hand at it.
Ranking all-time favorite anything over a lifetime can be a challenging and daunting task, or so I thought. It turns out I was able to identify my top 25 and order them without too much effort. I had a clear top ten in mind and then another 16 or so that I was fond of that had a place clearly below that. I’m pretty confident with the rankings and I don’t THINK I left anything obvious out that I’m going to kick myself for later.
A few guidelines I set for myself:
- I actually beat the game. I’ve started and not finished way too many things. This way I can remark on the whole experience.
- Only one game per series/franchise. Otherwise there would be way too many Marios and Megamans on here.
By the way, my pal Jimbo over at The Arbitrarium has his own all-time Top 25 list going that I recommend you also check out. But enough about that! This is my list and it’s time to get started!
25. ROCKET LEAGUE
Developed by Psyonix | 2015 | PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
The game where you play soccer with remote controlled cars exploded in popularity when it arrived on the scene as a “free” PSN Plus game, and has enjoyed continued growth over the past year and a half thanks to additional system ports, a healthy player base, and fairly frequent updates to maps and game modes.
It’s a game that for all intents and purposes is an online multiplayer-only game, which I usually don’t spend much time with due to generally being terrible at most competitive things, but it’s easy to give Rocket League a pass and jump in. It might be because the games are only set for five minutes, barring overtime, so it’s not a frustrating amount of time “wasted” to a lost match and getting yelled at by internet strangers (looking at you, League of Legends). Speaking of angry, anonymous teammates, all communication is done through a set of predefined text phrases that are all pretty generic, like “Nice job!” or “@%#!” or “Thanks!”. So if you want to yell at somebody you have to put it much more effort, which I think has decreased the vitriol and increased the fun of the competition.
One of my fondest memories of the game was playing with two of my friends over PSN during a tied-up game destined for sudden death. At the literal last second of the game, one of my pals made a clutch shot on the goal, breaking the tie and winning it for us. The resulting screaming and cheering from each of us was enough to wake up his newborn son, which got him in some trouble, but I’m sure his wife understood.
24. KINGDOM HEARTS 2
Developed by Square-Enix | 2005 | PS2
When the first Kingdom Hearts hit the scene in 2002, most people (myself included) were skeptical that you could mix colorful Disney characters and the moody, distinctive Square-Enix heroes and get anything that wasn’t a total trainwreck. Somehow they pulled it off, and the two companies’ franchises came together in a fun action RPG that managed to have an original, compelling (albeit batshit crazy) story full of the old Disney worlds and video games from my childhood. Kingdom Hearts 2 came along a few years later, and really leaned into the formula, bringing even more of everything, and stands out as my favorite of the franchise.
I think another reason why I like Kingdom Hearts 2 and the series as a whole is that it was something my whole group of close friends from high school and college were interested in. By the time the second game came out, most of them were all back home while I was still in college working on my graduate degree. Even though our day-to-day activities were starting to fall out of sync, we had this game that in common that we were still able to share our experiences with.
Now where the hell is Kingdom Hearts 3??
23. ASSASSIN’S CREED 2
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal | 2009 | PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Sure, Assassin’s Creed is practically a yearly series of questionable quality now, but back in 2009, that wasn’t the case. We had received the first Assassin’s Creed a couple of years prior, which was a strong first entry for the series that showed a lot of promise for historically-based sneakings and killings. Assassin’s Creed 2 lived up to a lot of that promise, introducing us to my new favorite assassin, Ezio Auditore da Firenze.
This was also before the “present day” storyline that has run throughout the series had started to wear out its welcome, so at the time it remained interesting and I wanted to know what the deal with the Evil Google company and the assassins and templars were.
I’m probably biased here, but I loved the Italian venues in the game, and it is my favorite setting from the series. Running around Florence, Venice, and Tuscany during the Renaissance was exactly as I remembered it in our family trip back to Italy, except I didn’t run on rooftops as much.
Developed by Vigil Games (now Gunfire Games) | 2010 | PS3, Xbox One, PC
The presentation and gameplay were top-notch. The art style was pretty unique, though looked pretty inspired by World of Warcraft characters. The action was fast and fun, like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta but you didn’t need robot-like reflexes to actually succeed.
The story, loosely based on the story of four horsemen of the apocalypse, is kind of silly, but good enough to keep you going. Your horseman, War, has been framed for bringing about the apocalypse, so basically a bunch of angels and demons are out having a donnybrook in the real world but set aside their differences whenever you appear to try to kick your ass. Fortunately, you are well equipped for violence – war just isn’t your middle name, it IS your name! Naturally your dude is angry about being framed for this and getting attacked all the time, and his anger is well voiced by one of my favorite voice actors, Liam O’Brien (as heard in: most games with a cool villain or angry anti-hero).
All things considered, Darksiders was basically a classic Zelda game. You travel a fairly large overworld map finding dungeons that have some kind of plot device inside that you are interested in. Inside these dungeons is an item that you can use and plenty of puzzles that are centered around this item. You can increase your life and magic bars and even ride a horse! Makes sense, given your occupation.
Oh, there’s also an item that IS the damn portal gun. I’m not lying. They call it something else but come on guys, you aren’t fooling anybody!
21. BIOSHOCK INFINITE
Developed by 2K Games | 2013 | Xbox 360, PS3, PC
I liked the original Bioshock, but I wasn’t too crazy about it. I didn’t even play the second one. I liked the atmosphere of the underwater city of Rapture, but the constant worry of glass breaking and drowning was not appreciated, even though this never actually happened. The gameplay was pretty good though, so I paid attention to the third in the series, Bioshock Infinite.
This time the improbable city lies not in the sea, but in the clouds! Already the threat of drowning was a distant memory. Here was a new, giant, colorful city of Colombia to explore, as you scrounge for weapons and ammo in drawers and eat food from the garbage to recover health. Your task is to find a girl named Elizabeth and get her out of the city, to “wipe away the debt”. What debt, you ask? I’m not going to tell you, why don’t you play it for yourself?
(See what I did there?)
For most of the game you are traversing Colombia with Elizabeth, which would probably be a real drag of an escort mission in any other game, but not so in Bioshock Infinite. Elizabeth can more than take care of herself, and the game lets you know that. In battle she’ll help out by throwing you needed items and more garbage food. When exploring, Booker (you) and Elizabeth will banter about what’s going on around them which is a nice touch. Great voice acting from Troy Baker (as heard in every game released) and Courtnee Draper really enhance the experience make these characters likeable.
Unfortunately, Infinite seems to be the end of the series. There were a couple of story DLCs for this game that were pretty good that tied it to the first game, but that was the end of it. I hope one day I can look back at this post and be wrong.