One of my favorite sayings, one that my dad taught me at a young age, is “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and everybody thinks the other guys stinks*.” While I find this to be absolutely true, I also find other people’s opinions to be fascinating. That is due partly to the fact that I will literally argue with anybody about anything, so when somebody offers up their opinion, I am all over them like a fat kid on cake. But it is also due to the fact that I love hearing different sides to the same story; I love the way other people’s opinions get me to rethink and reevaluate my own. I think this is true for most people; that’s why there are so many “Top 10” lists out there. You literally can find a Top 10 list for everything; Top 10 People of All Time, Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries, Top 10 Assholes, Top 10 Colleges. You can even find a Top 10 Top 10 Lists if you look hard enough.
But around here at the Po Life ain’t nobody got time for a Top 10 list, which is why we do the Friday Five. This week I bring to you, “The Top 5 Video Games of All Time.” Yes, this list has been done to death in a multitude of different fashions because, duh, the internet LOVES lists and the internet LOVES video games. But you know what? Those other lists are some shit. I looked at three different lists today and they all had the original Super Mario Brothers as the best game of all time. Are you kidding me!? Yes it was revolutionary and yes it helped save the video game industry and yes it may very well be the most influential game of all time, but the best? Shame you video game mass media; you’re better than that.
That is where the little guy (me) comes in. I have been playing video games since as long as I can remember and consider myself pretty well versed in the subject. Some of my earliest memories involve me watching my brother play Megaman 2 on the original NES while I tried to memorize the levels. Video games have literally been a backbone of my upbringing and have been a constant throughout my entire life. I am perfect for a list like this because I don’t have any sponsors, I don’t have any hidden agenda, and I am not afraid to take some risks with my list. I know you’re thinking, “Joey, you write for a blog that gets 100 views a day, I wouldn’t exactly call your work risky.” Well thank you very much ever-present fake reader, who I often invoke because I am a terribly lazy writer, you are correct. But I have made this list up in my mind in so many different iterations, constantly adjusting the list as time goes on and the more games I play. So suck it.
As for how I put together the list, I am judging my favorite games based on some nebulous criteria that are hard to really quantify: how many times have I played it? Does the game still hold up today? How immersed into the game do I get? How much FUN did I have playing the game?
So feel free to judge, comment on, commend, insult, or hate on my list. Hopefully it will get you thinking about what your favorite games are too. In descending order:
You don’t know how long I deliberated on the #5 spot on my list. I went back and forth between this and StarCraft 2 for a day before finally landing on the Plumber instead of Jim Raynor for one reason: I have significantly more fun playing Super Mario RPG than I do playing StarCraft 2. SC 2 is the best Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game of all time and I have played it about as much as I have played anything. But it is too frustrating and often leaves me angry as opposed to happy after a play session. So that leaves me my main man Mario.
I consider Super Mario RPG to be the greatest turn based “JRPG” of all time for several reasons. It takes most the annoying issues with traditional JRPG games and eliminates or mitigates them. Hate random encounters every two seconds? The only way to enter into a battle in Mario RPG is to run into a bad guy on screen. Hate grinding? The game progresses at such a pace that grinding is unnecessary. Hate androgynous, anime style characters that are completely un-relatable? Mario RPG’s cast of characters is filled with ones we all (mostly) know and love: Mario, Princess Peach, Bowser, Toadstool. The whole crew is back, with some awesome new characters (Geno, anyone?).
It starts off as a typical Mario game; Bowser kidnaps the princess and it’s your job to save her. However, that tried and true mechanic soon gets turned on its head as you realize who is really behind all the chaos in the world. You even get to have Bowser AND Princess Peach as playable characters in your party. But what makes this game truly special is its charm, wit, combat system, and amount of content packed into the game. There are so many side quests that you have to discover for yourself (the game doesn’t call them out explicitly for you), that it takes multiple playthroughs to see and get through them all. The detail and love that went into this game truly shines throughout the whole experience. It was made by Square Enix and Nintendo back in the good ol’ days when they still worked together, so you know the production quality is superb. I recently played and beat Super Mario RPG in the last year and loved every second of it. It completely engrossed me for the 10th time. That’s the making of a great game.
Diablo ruins lives. This isn’t opinion or conjecture; it is a fact of life. I can’t tell you how many hours of sleep I lost playing this game or how many times I refused to go out with my friends on a Friday night because I just wanted to get one more Baal run in, praying that this time a Shako would drop and I would have quick enough hands to pick it up. I’ve had girlfriends yell at me for playing too much and friends seriously worry about my mental health because all I could talk about was what I traded my last SoJ for.
What makes Diablo 2 so great is that it gives you a sense of constant gratification while pushing you to search for more. Doing hell Mephisto runs over and over and over is like getting a slow drip of morphine every 5 minutes. It leaves you feeling just good enough that you want some more before the feeling runs out. No game has captured the collective imagination of the Po Life bloggers as much as Diablo 2. What we call, “Bringing it Back” is really just us dusting off our old CD keys and giving the game another go. And it always ends up the same way.
Elijah emails all of us asking if we want to bring it back. Cliff immediately jumps on board with a Barb, Merkyl is hesitant but gets sucked in by the lure of his MF Sorcerer, McCannon tries to resist but eventually starts a trap Assasin that he abandons at level 25, Bart gets all giddy and makes an Amazon, and I vehemently resist as long as possible. Then, I eventually get sucked in and start playing right as everybody starts getting bored with it. I grind up to level 85, gear up my Druid with elite gear, and take on the game’s final bosses by myself. Then I realize that everybody quit playing months ago and I haven’t seen my friends, or sunlight, in the same span of time.
Diablo 2 undoubtedly ruins lives, but it is one of the greatest video games ever.
The Mass Effect series is a perfect match for me as a gamer. It basically is a Star Wars Action Role Playing Game set in the best video game universe of all time with sexy blue aliens. Within it is a detailed morality system, interesting and complex characters, an amazing breadth of content, choices that actually matter, and a storyline that you can connect with. At one point in time this would have gone at the top of my list. I don’t know if some of the luster has rubbed off on it because I haven’t played it in a couple years or that Mass Effect 3** has somehow lessened the experience for me. But regardless, Mass Effect 2 is a masterpiece of a game.
The space saga that unfolds in Mass Effect 2 is some of the greatest storytelling in video game history. The story centers around Commander Shepard as he pulls together a specialized crew specifically designed to save the galaxy from impending doom. The game never takes its foot off the pedal as you rush to save world from the Reapers, who are hell bent on destroying all organic life and thus completing the cycle they were designed to finish. The amazing thing about Mass Effect 2 is that while you always have a sense of the larger war being waged around you, the story is very intimate and personal. You make connections with every crew member by taking part in their ‘loyalty’ mission. As I learned a little bit about them and their past, I found myself legitimately caring about all of the characters. You form relationships, bonds, and sexual encounters that you generally care about, something that few other games are able to accomplish. I didn’t want to save the world just so I could say I beat the game, I wanted to save the world because I cared about the people that inhabited it.
The game also features some of the best graphics to date, a world that feels like it is actually inhabited, and smooth, effortless gameplay that adds to the whole experience. While the game isn’t perfect, it is completely engrossing and memorable. From the moment I picked up the game, I couldn’t put it down again until all of my friends were safe and the galaxy saved. Except for Mordin. RIP buddy; you will never be forgotten.
When you read lists about the greatest games of all time you often find Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time listed as not only the best Zelda of all time, but it is usually is listed as the greatest game of all time as well. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Ocarina of Time and it barely missed making this list. But the best Zelda game of all time is A Link to the Past and I don’t think there is much question about it.
If you haven’t played this game, immediately stop what you are doing and go play it. Right now. I am dead serious. A Link to the Past has everything a great Zelda game should have: a grand adventure of a small boy from humble beginnings, hidden rooms and treasures, interesting puzzles, sharp game play, charm, the master sword, heart containers, great music, and fun boss battles. It also had the first “Parallel World,” known as the Dark World, in all of the Zelda games. This was as mind blowing for me as the first time I experienced a woman. It also set a precedent for several future Zelda games, including Ocarina. This may not seem crazy to us know, but in 1991 when the game was released, it was pretty much unheard of.
McCannon claims he has beaten this game more times than he has any other game and is a self-proclaimed Link to the Past master. I personally have beaten the game on several occasions, including once in the last year, and I loved every second of it. This is the type of game that is truly ageless; we both will be able to pick it up in ten years and enjoy the experience just as much as we did the first time we played. Do yourself a favor and play this game as soon as possible. There isn’t much else that needs to be said.
It is hard for me to put into words the experience of playing BioShock for the first time. I strongly believe that the first 30 minutes of this game are an absolute masterpiece in every sense. I don’t mean a masterpiece of a video game, but a masterpiece of art and storytelling. I remember playing the demo for the first time, which consisted of the first 30 minutes of the game, and becoming absolutely mesmerized.
“They told me, ‘Son, you’re special. You were born to do great things.’ You know what? They were right.”
You are on a plane, looking through your wallet at old pictures and puffing on a cigarette. Without warning, there is major turbulence. The plane crashes into the middle of the ocean in the black of the night. You struggle to reach the surface of the water as you are pulled in twenty different directions. You resist the urge to breathe underwater, straining with every fiber in your body to reach the surface in order to fill your lungs with the sting of oxygen.
Suddenly, fire. You see the airframe of the plane tumble through the water, descending into the depths of the ocean, lost to the world forever. You immediately come to the realization that there are no other survivors. It’s just you. You see a light house in the distance, your one beacon of humanity and your sole hope for survival. As you step into the light house the door closes behind you. Standing in front of you is a giant statue of a man holding a banner that reads, “NO GODS OR KINGS. ONLY MAN.”
You find an elevator, climb in, and are immediately submerged under water. Here, in your elevator-submarine, you are introduced to Andrew Ryan, the founder behind an underwater utopia named Rapture. You are immediately introduced to the cityscape and the main theme of Rapture through this short clip; individualism and its consequences.
As your journey in the submarine ends, you are thrown immediately into the violent and tortuous nature of Rapture as you witness a murder in the flickering lights of this underwater city. The murderer turns to you as you are still enclosed in your submarine, temporarily safe from the horror around you. He looks to you and says in more of a shriek than anything, “Is it someone new? AHHH!” At this point you are intensely aware of one thing; something is seriously wrong with this city.
I don’t want to spoil anything else in the game because nothing I can put together will do justice to the experience that is BioShock. No game has lasted with me longer, haunted me more, or engrossed me as much. I recommend that you play this game as soon as possible and without hesitation. You won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up. But remember one thing; a man chooses, a slave obeys.
Honorable Mentions: Zelda: Ocarina of Time, StarCraft 2, Tales of Symphonia, MegaMan 2, Mario 64, Donkey Kong 2, Goldeneye, Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Super Mario World, and Super Mario Brothers 3.
*I apologize to anybody out there who is sans asshole who I have offended.
**I loved Mass Effect 3, but it didn’t quite draw me in like Mass Effect 2 did.