It’s finally that time! The official Joey V’s Top 50 Video Games of All Time list has commenced!
Maybe it’s not that exciting, but I’m pretty excited to have it finally starting. Writing up a little something about each and every game is very time consuming, but really rewarding. Definitely nice to go back and remember why you liked these games and why the are on your list.
Before we begin, here’s a few tidbits you should know about my history with video games. It makes a really big difference in what is and is not on the list.
First console I played as a very young child was an Atari. This was back when I lived in California
Console I spent the most time with as a child was the NES.
After the NES, I didn’t buy a new console until the Gamecube. Yeah you heard me, there was like a roughly a 12 year hiatus in me buying consoles.
I had an original Game Boy but that was it in terms of handhelds.
Because of this, I played a lot of games on Personal Computer.
I had the ability to play games on my Dad’s old Windows 3 PC, but I only did that for a select few games.
The first computer that I got, was a Macintosh. This both limited my selections, and also helped shape the list.
I played some PS1 / Nintendo 64 games at a friend’s house in high school, but it was infrequent.
I had a Ps2 in college thanks to Katie, my roommate Mikey had an XBOX, and I had the Gamecube.
Of latest generation consoles, I have XBOX 360, PS3, PC, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Gamecube, PS2.
If you have any other questions about how this list got formed, please leave a comment down below, catch me on Twitter, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested to see what everyone thinks about this list and would love a chance to talk it over.
Let’s be clear; Predator is not a good game. It doesn’t even make sense. It falls into the trap that many licensed NES games had where the developers decided to make a generic platformer that had nothing to do with the actual property. So while a game based on the classic Predator movie should have been amazing, this game never quite lived up to that.
In this game you play as Major Dutch Schaefer as you attempt to defeat an alien known as the Predator, who has already gone and killed your entire squad. That may sound somewhat similar to the movie, but that’s where the similarities end. You start the game with no weapons, only your fists. You can punch enemies while standing, but not while crouching. Your character is wearing a bright pink jump suit instead of military gear. For some reason there are mutant scorpions, sentient rocks, and blobs that all want to do you harm in this completely ludicrous version of whatever random South American country this is supposed to take place in.
After you have done a few of the standard platformer levels, there are levels that are simply dubbed “Big Mode.” For this, you actually have a decent looking representation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but man is the rest of the mode bad. The screen just moves to the right at a constant pace, while you shoot bubbles that may or may not give your gun new properties. Some of them include shooting faster, or acting as a screen clear. At the end of this level you fight the Predator who will spawn in one of three predetermined points. You shoot him, and he disappears and reappears at another point. You do this until he “dies.”
OK so why is this obviously terrible game on my list? I didn’t get a lot of video games as a kid, so I had to really cherish the ones I had. Cherish, and also play the shit out of them because I wasn’t going to get another one for a very long time. While the format for the game doesn’t make any sense given the movie it is based off of, it was a competent enough game. After playing it for awhile, I was actually able to get to the last level and actually beat the game without Game Genie, which is pretty remarkable for the time and my age.
The biggest reason this is on the list? The soundtrack is amazing. For some reason, even though the majority of this game is utter crap, the music is some of the best music I have ever heard from any NES era game. You can go listen to the full soundtrack over on the Videogame Music Preservation Foundation Wiki but I have linked the main theme down below. Fantastic work, and it’s that music that gives me fond memories of my childhood and earns it a spot on the list.
#49 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Publisher: Ultra Games
When the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES game is brought up, the only thing that most people can remember is electric seaweed. Yeah … that was a pain in the ass.
But as I said above with Predator, I had to really play my games a lot because how infrequently I got new games. The great thing about the Turtles game was that it had a lot of content for you to go through. Five different levels with numerous amounts of buildings that you needed to explore to get through these levels. Add on top of that, the ability to switch between any of the four turtles at any time, made for a really cool game!
That was until you tried to play the game. Overall, TMNT was just really hard. The combat wasn’t bad, but the platforming that was asked of you was some of the most fiendish that I have seen during my years. All of the turtles had a very high jump animation and that made it very difficult trying to land on a single block, which the game designers asked you to do with alarming frequency. In addition to that though, the second level was just maddening to play and it’s where most gamers immediately threw the game away.
Doing an underwater swimming level, where you had to disarm around eight bombs in under two minutes twenty seconds, while having to avoid electric seaweed that was absolutely everywhere, just proved to be too much. Then on top of all that, even if / when you got through all of that, you had the issue of losing specific turtles. If a turtle lost all of their health, you wouldn’t be able to use them again, unless you found a specific building on a level where you could get the chance to save them.
Yeah, this game was hard.
Yet I was able to consistently get to level 4 after a good deal of time with this game, and while the difficulty was intense, I feel like they also did a good job of capturing the spirit of the series. Each turtle had their own strengths with the different weapons, pizza gave you all of your health back, you got to use cool gadgets and the turtle van, and the music was great as well. It was also one of the few games that I was better at than my brother and brother-in-law. Between the three of us, we definitely learned a lot of tricks on how to get far in this game.
In the end, I had to use a Game Genie to beat this game, but man was it fun to see how close I could get on my own. Writing this just makes me want to play it all over again, and see if my many years of experience would help me out. That and I know I could do way better than this dude down below.
#48 – Rune
System: Personal Computer
Developer: Human Head Studios
Publisher: Gathering of Developers
My high school days were easily my favorite and best era of playing video games. As we go along this list, you’ll see me mention many games for the PC that I played. This was back in the day when I was using an iMac for all of my gaming needs. Yeah you read that right, I played on a Macintosh. It definitely wasn’t as easy to be an Apple person as it is presently, but like anything else in life, I made it work.
Rune was one of the games that I played a lot during that late 90′s early 2000′s era. It was a third-person perspective game, built on the Unreal engine, that was all melee weapons and no guns. You used a combination of swords, maces, hammers, axes and shields in order to dispatch your foes. All of the weapons had a different speed associated with them, and as you progressed through the game, the weapons got bigger and more damaging. Each weapon also had a unique rune ability, hence the game’s name, that would allow you to do different things in battle. You could dual wield, or go sword and shield, or better yet hold out for the ultimate Tier 4 and 5 weapons that were two-handed behemoths. Obviously, I went dual wield or two-handed. =)
Add in that your main character was a viking, caught up in impending Ragnarok, and working on behalf of the other Norse Gods trying to prevent Loki from taking over the world. On top of all that, the engine allowed for enemy dismemberment, and then you would pick up those limbs and use them in combat, or just throw them at enemies. Finally, the multiplayer for the game was stellar, leading me to have a lot of sleepless night vying for supremacy.
The multiplayer aspect actually requires a bit more praise right now. While many people had the Internet by 2000, there wasn’t this widespread of high speed connections. Most of the multiplayer games that I played, especially ones that used the Unreal engine, came down to who had Cable, DSL or ISDN lines. Whoever did, easily trounced us mere mortals that were using 56K. Yet Rune for some reason, had really great netcode, and allowed for a balanced match that usually would result in the better player winning. This is simply remarkable, considering that the game has to account for hitboxes, player movement, weapon speed, weapon damage, and the sheer number of players being 8-32. It took an already good game, and made it even more memorable, and is one of the key reasons that Rune has to be on this list.
The game is now on Steam so you should go check it out!
#47 – Darksiders
System: XBOX 360
Developer: Vigil Games
I want to be completely clear about something right now. I am not a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda. I think that the series is fine, and there have definitely been a few games that I’ve played to completion and enjoyed, but as a whole the entire franchise just doesn’t do it for me. I love the world and the act of exploring, but the combat was always a chore and after awhile I grew bored of the art style. So when I heard that someone had gone out and made a Zelda game but given it a darker tone and God of War-esqe combat system, I was very interested.
Darksiders delivered on that promise and surprised me with just how much fun I was having. Vigil Studios who developed the game made it abundantly clear what kind of games they enjoyed and took inspiration from. They made it so clear, that some of the game bordered on just being a reskinned version of many different games. There was the obvious Zelda and God of War connections, but there were also nods to Gears of War, and even Portal. One would think that the entire game would implode on itself but the developers did a fantastic job of towing the line between paying homage to these inspirations and not just ripping them off.
A lot of the reason why Darksiders shows up as high as it does, is because of the subject matter being used. I am a huge fan of Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno, so any stories that have to deal with Angels, Demons, Heaven, Hell, and the struggle between those factions, has automatically got my full attention. The idea to make the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse this neutral force that was charged with keeping the balance between Angel, Demon and Mankind was simple yet novel. Playing through the game as the horseman War, slowly unraveling the conspiracy that had ruined the Earth, was not the best story ever, but it was accurate. It was something that you could believe coming out of one of those old religious stories, and spoke to the jealously and hatred that some Angels could feel towards Mankind.
Even though it was a more modern game, and despite the fact that it initially felt weird to put it on the Top 50, I just couldn’t remove it in the end. Darksiders is a very worthy game to be here, and maybe someday we’ll get that Four Player Co-Op game so that everyone can play a different Horsemen.
#46 – Donkey Kong Jr.
System: Arcade / Nintendo Entertainment System
I was a kid, growing up in the age of NES. Because of this, I actually wasn’t that good at proper arcade games. Arcade games were designed to make sure that you lost a bunch of money and kept pumping in quarters. Since my parents thought that was a waste of money, I didn’t exactly get a ton of quarters to go off an play. I was lucky if I got a dollar, and five dollars? Shit I don’t think that happened once. It’s one of the biggest reasons I never got good at fighting games.
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that I never got good at Donkey Kong. I know it’s a classic arcade game, and with all the attention that the King of Kong documentary brought to it, it has this really cult classic status. All of that being considered though, I’m just terrible at it. I’m lucky if I can get past the first screen.
Donkey Kong Jr. on the other hand? I fucking rock at that game. I don’t know what it is, but something about this game clicked with me. I got one of those Donkey Kong packs for the NES when I first got the console, and it came with both games. While my brother and brother-in-law would relive their childhood playing Donkey Kong, I spent all of my time playing Junior.
The game has a lot going on in it like the original Donkey Kong, but it seems a lot less random. In it, you play as DK Jr., trying to save your dad DK from the evil Mario. Yeah you heard me! You climb up jungle vines and chains, in an effort to platform around the level, collect fruit, and avoid getting hit by animals and Mario’s traps. All of the creatures in the game have a very reliable pattern, a lot less random than the barrels of DK. It also had some nuance to it, like the ability to climb faster if you shimmied up two chains instead of one. While you would go faster, you opened yourself up to getting killed from traps coming down one or both chains.
Great strategy elements, less random bullshit, and colorful graphics made this a definite winner for me.
#45 – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
System: Playstation 3
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
I threw my hat into the ring with XBOX 360 and Wii early in that particular console generation. The price of the Playstation 3 deterred me, along with the fact that there just wasn’t any console exclusives that wowed me, at least not initially. Once I heard and saw Uncharted 2: Among Thieves though, that all changed. I soon became obsessed with trying to get a PS3 so that I could play this game. Sure, I eventually used it for things like Heavy Rain, inFamous, and Demon Souls, but those were things that I could initially live without. The hype around Uncharted 2 had me chomping at the bit to play.
Much to my delight and surprise, the game didn’t disappoint me in the slightest.Uncharted 2 had the best parts of the Indiana Jonesfilms, and the Tomb Raider video games. You were globe trotting around as Nathan Drake, taking part in wild cinematic that rivaled action movies, and the combat / exploration was really fun. I end up judging a lot of games based on how much sleep I lose, or how long I go between talking to my wife Katie. When I started playing Uncharted 2, I had to finish the entire thing as quickly as possible, because it was just so engaging. I think Katie had to bribe me to get my hands off the controller at one point that initial weekend.
The PS3 and the CELL processor had some issues, in that it was really difficult to program and optimize for. Uncharted 2 really showed just what the system was capable of, and developer Naughty Dog really wanted to prove that. The graphics were top notch, probably some of the best I have ever seen, and all of the environments were lush and expansive. You could see for miles once you climbed a mountain, and you climbed a lot of stuff. The traversal was not too hard to do, and was really satisfying. You always felt like you had complete control over what Nathan was doing, whether that was running, jumping, climbing, or dodging a helicopter.
The story for the game takes a weird, mystical turn, which can be jarring at first but you eventually get over it. Let’s not forget that it was Indiana Jones that showed us that the Ark of the Covenant was real, there really was a holy grail, and that voodoo worked. Since Uncharted was taking it’s cues from that, the fact that there were a weird, mystical group of blue Yeti’s, and explosive blue gel that could turn you superhuman, doesn’t really sound bad.
Add on top of that, that Uncharted was the only good multiplayer on the entire Playstation Network, and it had fun co-op, and you have a game that may be newish, but still needs to be on this list.
#44 – Star Wars: Dark Forces
System: Personal Computer
A Star Wars first person shooter? You damn right I’m interested! This was such a brilliant idea, and one that they ultimately ran into the ground. That seems appropriate given the current state of the franchise. Maybe that means JJ Abrams will come in and reboot the Dark Forces & Jedi Knight games.
Actually, that’s not a terrible idea.
Dark Forces came out when I was really starting to get into the entire Star Wars universe and mythology. I had also just recently got my first Macintosh computer, so it was all sorts of good things lining up at the absolute best time. Building on the success of games like Doom, and Marathon, Dark Forces was a really good looking FPS, and had good controls. To be fair, this was back in the time period where you couldn’t and didn’t need to aim up or down, just shoot forward for pretty much everything. Keyboard and Mouse wasn’t a thing, if you wanted to look around you used the Page Up and Page Down buttons. Seriously.
Obviously the game had the Star Wars name so that helped it out immediately, but the game as a whole was just refreshing and different from what was currently out. Doom was lots of red and brown, Marathon was lots of grey and green. To come into a FPS that had a real sense of color, style and the ability to tell a good story, was something that wasn’t really done well. You played as rebel agent Kyle Katarn, trying to uncover a dangerous new project that the Empire is attempting to finish. During the story, you will go to Nar Shadda to fight some bounty hunters, an Imperial prison and archives, and even infiltrate a Super Star Destroyer.
I must have played through this game twenty different times. At some point I was trying to go through it the fastest way possible. It had so many cool secrets and easter eggs that it just kept me coming back. Shit, I kinda want to play it right now. In fact, I just might!
#43 – Halo: Combat Evolved
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Without Googling, can you remember where Halo was first announced? Give it a thought, I’ll wait.
Having some trouble trying to figure it out? Are you guessing something standard like E3 or something like that?
Well it was announced at the 1999 Macworld Expo convention in New York City. Yes, really. What’s even crazier, is that I was there for the reveal. This was back in the day when I was a hardcore Macintosh computer user. Since Bungie originally started off as a Mac game developer, I was heavily invested in what games they were making.
I remember seeing the trailer for Halo and losing my mind. I then remember going over to the Bungie booth to talk to co-founder Jason Jones about all the things they had planned for their new franchise. After all of that, I played some local multiplayer for the game Oni, and then got first place in my Myth 2: Soulblighter tournament bracket. Suffice to say, I have fond memories of Halo, even if the end product is nothing like the game that we were first promised. Despite the huge changes that Halo undertook to become an XBOX console launch title, I still thoroughly enjoyed the game.
It was surprising and refreshing to have a good First-Person Shooter on a console system, and the storyline of Halo was epic and well told. While it was annoying that you had to completely back-track through all of the levels, the game’s Co-Op mode led to my dorm room suite playing a lot of Halo and constantly cursing at each other. Even if the game had been utter garbage, I would have looked back on it fondly because of all the excitement that preceded it. Yet in the end, the game was great, and helped spawn a ton of sequels and a fantastic universe.
It may not be the best game in the series, but it’s definitely one of my all-time favorites.
#42 – Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
System: Personal Computer
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Let me be completely honest with you here. I have played Alpha Centauri one time all the way to completion. In addition, I’m going to tell you that I have only played the game TWICE ever. I only double clicked on the desktop shortcut twice in my entire life.
Before you get angry at me for putting this game on the list, I should also admit one last thing. The first time I played the game, I played it for 28 hours straight and beat it. I took a few pee breaks, went out to the kitchen maybe three times to get a new 2-Liter bottle of soda, didn’t eat, nor did I talk to my parents for that entire duration. I was that fanatical about the game.
Oh, and the second time I played it, I tried it out as a different faction, and got bitch slapped about two hours into the game. I immediately stopped playing it after that because I only wanted to focus on my first and greatest time playing Alpha Centauri.
This was the spiritual successor of the Civilization games, and one that was much easier for me to get into. It was a turn-based game where your job was to build new cities, research interested technology, and help grow your country to become the strongest in the world. Unlike the Civilization games, Alpha Centauri took place on a distant planet, far from Earth. You played as one of many factions that had different strengths and weaknesses, and tried to destroy the other factions, or make peace with them.
Oh who am I kidding, your job was to completely overthrow each and every other faction in the game. If you didn’t backstab them, they would backstab you.
I enjoyed Civ II, but something about the game just didn’t click with me. It’s impossible to put my finger on why I didn’t like that game as much as some of my other friend’s, but I think it was a bunch of tiny pet peeves. I didn’t like that the map layout didn’t look like our own world, disliked how quickly other civilizations (including your own) could have a tremendous technological advantage, and hated when Gandi would invade my country. I mean what the fuck, he was supposed to be nonviolent!
Alpha Centauri had pretty much the same gameplay, but because of the setting difference, it felt completely refreshing. The world map not being recognizable was fine because we were on an alien planet. All of the factions were made up, so while they had tendencies, they didn’t spit in the face of well established historical figures. Finally, the new technology that the developers came up with was the right blend of weird science fiction, but also things that seemed plausible.
Oh yeah, and the planet had mind worms. Huge worms like in Dune but they were also psonic. Have I mentioned how much I liked psonics? Have I mentioned how awesome it was when I was able to grow my own mind worms and have them fight off my enemies? Yeah that happened, and is one of the many fond memories that I will have of that 28 hour game I played.
#41 – Kangaroo
System: Arcade / Atari 800
Developer: Sun Electronics
I think that Kangaroo for the Atari 800 is the very first game that I ever played. I must have been three or four years old, still living in California, and my brother had bought the game system for himself. If I remember the story correctly, my brother brought over the Atari so that I had something to do while I was stuck in the house with the chicken pox. Maybe that wasn’t it, but it seems like a logical thing. It’s very possible that the only things I can remember from my young California days are playing Kangaroo, the Thundercats cartoon, and having the chicken pox. Since that’s all I can remember, I may have just put all of that together as one event and now that’s my canonical take on the situation. Who knows.
Anyways, Kangaroo was a fun little platformer, done in the style of Donkey Kong. You played a mama kangaroo with boxing gloves, who has to climb up ladders, ring bells, gather furit, and punch monkeys in an effort to save your baby joey. I mean what’s not to love?
The game may have been my first ever, and thankfully it wasn’t too hard. I mean, it was obviously hard, but it had a lot less random elements to it. Everything had a distinct pattern, unlike something like Donkey Kong that had the random barrel movement. The graphics of Kangaroo were just fine, in that you could easily tell what was what, but it was the solid gameplay and great sound design that made the game a hit for me.