One of the greatest and most celebrated JRPGs of all time. Sadly, I was never able to play this pirate-quest of a game until recently when Konami released it on the PSN. I was blown away. I can’t believe that a game that came out in 1998 (best.year.ever?) was able to effect me as much as it did in 2015. It has everything a great RPG needs: a big story, expansive exploration, and OODLES of characters. We’re talking roughly 70 playable characters here. I’m was upset when my 40 hour adventure came to a close. If you haven’t played it, buy it on PSN.
79. God of War (2005)
For the love of all things holy, violent, and angry, God of War is an action-gamer’s dream. GOW built upon what games like Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden (2004) gave us and revamped the entire genre. This game was incredibly cinematic and told a story in which the protagonist was not a hero. He was an angry man with a vendetta against the gods. The combat is great and the visuals are stunning. God of War also employs a liberal amount of Quick Time Events, which established a new method of delivering cinematic combat. Easily one of the greatest action games ever.
78. Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Sega does what Nintendon’t. If you grew up in the 1990s you chose one side: Genesis or SNES. While I was an SNES kid, I was lucky enough to have a Genesis and my own copy of Sonic The Hedgehog. Sonic was better than Mario at one thing, speed! His first game was feverishly fast, and expanded upon the “walk to the right” notion of platformers. Sonic’s games were about speed and employed a strangely vertical level design. Sonic’s first video game is a landmark for platformers and should hold a special place in all of our hearts! Eat my dust!
77. Dance Dance Revolution (1998)
No matter how many Guitar Heroes or Rock Bands come out, DDR will always be THE rhythm game for me. Dance Dance Revolution represents the end of the arcade era. The last great bastion of smelly gamers playing video games in public. It’s perfect in its essence. DDR is hard to start, difficult to master, but it pushes you to be better. DDR is also one of the few games that could also count as a workout. The Revolution was one of my first experiences with real exercise, so I will always feel indebted to Konami. DDR is a great deal of fun, even if it makes you look like a doofus.
76. Soul Calibur (1999)
Sega’s Dreamcast is an underrated gem. Soul Calibur is one of the reasons that made this system a MUST BUY back in 1999. Every great console should launch with a great fighting game and the DC had no shortage of great fighting games at launch. Soul Calibur is not only a great fighting game, but it represents the pinnacle of 3D fighting. Few fighting games match it’s fluidity and expansiveness have made it a landmark moment for fighting games.
75. Earthbound (1994)
I unfortunately did not play Earthbound in the 1990s. I was forced to wait until I could get it on Nintendo’s Virtual Console to play it. I’m upset that I didn’t experience it as a kid, because it definitely is a game that would speak to a pre-teen and his friends. Earthbound is an addictive and fun JRPG that hits all the classic Nintendo story beats. There’s a strange-yet-captivating plot about aliens and stars kids with exceptional powers. What makes Earthbound so great is its ability to tell a fun and lighthearted story that isn’t afraid of necessary weight. It’s an enchanting game, and its weird story and funky music make it a perfect package. A MUST for any JRPG fan.
74. Ninja Gaiden (NES) (1988)
The greatest ninja series of all of them has wonderful beginnings. Ninja Gaiden is one of my favorite classic games, as it hits all the necessary points: it’s challenging, it’s got great 8-bit visuals, and it’s just full of Ninjas. Ninja Gaiden was one of the first games that used cinematic “cut-scenes” to great storytelling effect. Ninja Gaiden is simple in its execution but such a memorable action game. It spawned a collection of sequels and helped to create the action genre. It may be a bit underappreciated and lost in a sea of great action games, but Gaiden fans know where it’s at! They’re also probably insane…because these games are tortuously difficult.
73. Castlevania (1986)
From one classic action series to another. Castlevania was a playable version of our favorite vampire flicks. Simon Belmont and his family have been responsible for some of the best action games ever made. Castlevania kicked the series off with one of the most difficultly fun games I have played. It’s iconic, from it’s memorable theme, to the sound Simon makes when he gets hurt. Castlevania is also heavily responsible for its own genre that would show up in the late 1990s. While some of the newer games put this one to shame, it’s nice to see where it started off.
72. Shinobi (1987)
Arcade games need to be quick, simple, and hard. Shinobi is all three. While it is the lesser of the great ninja series, Sega’s first arcade game is undeniably classic. It’s a quick play, but memorable in every aspect. Joe Musashi’s first arcade adventure is easily one of my favorite games. It’s so simplistic but unforgiving that it has brought me back time and time again to test my might!
71. Jet Set (Grind) Radio (2000)
What a wacky, beautiful experience the Sega Dreamcast was. It’s games like Jet Set Radio that made the DC so offbeat and great. JSR is a wacky hybrid of action game and sports game. It’s very hard to place exactly what Jet Set Radio is, but it’s a bit of video game rebellion. It shot right out of the late 1990s X-TREME phase and gave us something uniquely Japanese and insane. Jet Set Radio is a bit of a time capsule now, but it’s a special game that values design and aesthetics over being a smash hit. It’s seen a few re-releases so go play it!
70. Chrono Cross (1999)
Chrono Cross is not nearly as popular as its predecessor, Chrono Trigger. However, despite how much people love to downplay Cross, I can’t help but love it. What’s great about Chrono Cross is that it wasn’t trying to live up to Trigger. It created its own world with new and strange places to visit. While it is filled with homages to Chrono and friends, it’s its own story. I respect that. It still feels as though it COULD be the same world though. It’s a very unique experience. It also easily has one of the best video game soundtracks around. It’s a wonderfully moody and atmospheric experience, a beautiful game.
69. Dragon Quest VIII (2004)
Some RPGs just get it right, Dragon Quest VIII is one of them. Where JRPGs started to get tired in the early 2000s Dragon Quest VIII did the impossible by making a game that felt so old, feel so compelling. Its strengths lie in its visualization and presentation, music, and characters. Akira Toriyama’s artwork also speaks for itself as DQVIII is one of the most perfectly designed games I’ve ever played. It’s strange, Dragon Quest VIII is so vivid in my memory, even though it’s not incredibly original. I gather it’s because story, characters, and scale should reign supreme. Dragon Quest VIII is close to perfect.
68. Donkey Kong (1981)
Donkey Kong may be the most important arcade game I’ve ever played. It gave us Mario, Donkey Kong, and put Nintendo on the map in terms of video games. It’s simple and impossible, but its cultural significance cements in place among all the greats. The story behind the players reaching for its top score is something out of fiction, and has solidified Donkey Kong as an important patch in the fabric of entertainment culture. It’s a simple game about a plumber trying to save his girlfriend, but that’s all we needed. DK is iconic both as a game and as a character. It’s a history lesson wrapped up in pink scaffolding and blue ladders.
67. Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
Super Smash Bros. for the N64 was special when it came out in 1999. However, in 2001 Nintendo perfected the formula to give us a fighting game that has more than withstood the test of time. Competitive Smash players are still playing Melee to this day, as it was successfully brought back in to EVO (the international fighting game championships) a few years back. Melee is a timeless romp of a fighting game. Nintendo has continued to try to match its excellence, but nothing has been able to hold a candle to Melee. I wonder if players are going to play Super Smash Bros. Melee for another 15 years, I hope they will.
66. TMNT: Turtles in Time (1991)
This was one of the first games I had for the SNES. Turtles in Time is a perfect brawler. The Ninja Turtles are now a timeless franchise, and Turtles In Time is their shining moment in video gaming. Not only is it one of the few games that’s better on the console than the arcade, this time travel adventure is paced perfectly and feels great! Even playing Turtles in Time today feels just as good as it did in 1991. COWABUNGA!
65. World of Warcraft (2004)
There were MMOs before World of Warcraft, but WoW is THE MMO. While I’m a fan of ridiculous fantasy, I’ve never enjoyed MMO games. World of Warcraft was able to take a few years of my life, despite my lack of interest in online gaming. WoW is a perfectly designed world with miles upon virtual miles to explore. It’s HUGE! For a game that is over 10 years old, World of Warcraft still wows me when I log in. Everything from the music, to the environments, to the characters are just breathtaking. WoW also has a perfect sense of humor, which adds some much needed levity in a genre that is ultimately too serious.
64. Skies of Arcadia (2000)
The short life of the Sega Dreamcast gave us some amazing games. Skies of Arcadia is one of the pure expansive JRPGs on the console. There are very few “pirate” games out there and Skies of Arcadia has you command a league of pirates to save the world. Skies of Arcadia is a bit tough, but any JRPG gamer should play this game. It promotes exploration and while it has a story, it still feels fairly non-linear. Skies of Arcadia was the perfect RPG to send the Dreamcast off.
63. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
The last GTA of the PS2 generation wasn’t the best, but it was an achievement. What makes SA stand out is its sheer size. The jump from GTA III to Vice City showed how expansive this series could be, but San Andreas gave us a massive state, with 3 cities! Add RPG elements and a gang management system and you have a game that’s more than just another sandbox. Whenever I want to play a GTA game, San Andreas is often the game I sit down to play.
62. Secret of Mana (1993)
What a cool complement to the Final Fantasy series. While Final Fantasy was bogged down in turn-based combat, Secret of Mana gave us a unique take on the action RPG. Secret of Mana’s strange combat system is its best quality. It also felt like a real adventure, the world around you felt dangerous and you felt small. Sometimes the best games are the games that make you feel like you’re up against something powerful. Secret of Mana is a uniquely large and long game that just represents everything good about the SNES. It also has a terrific soundtrack…I may be listening to it now….
61. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992)
Sonic 2 built upon everything Sonic the Hedgehog gave us. Released during Sonic’s rise to stardom, Sonic 2 represents a real positive step for the series. It looked better, sounded better, and felt better. Sonic 2 shows Sega’s growth at making a great platformer. Sonic 2 still feels very fresh today, and it’s the easiest Sonic game to just jump in an play. It also introduced us to Tails, the greatest video game sidekick of all time!
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for 60-41!