With all the really, really good stuff I’ve been playing lately it seems high time to expand my top twenty games list into a top twenty-five one.
Except I’m not going to do that. Instead I’m just gonna make a separate top ten list that sits in contradiction of the other one. Yes, this is still a completely objective process of ranking the stuff I’ve played, why do you ask?
1.Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Betcha didn’t see this one coming!
Even though FFVIII wasn’t even mentioned on the previous list, if we’re being brutally honest a good argument could be made for putting it at the top: the amount of hours I’ve put into it over the years, the amount of knowledge I hold regarding its complex mechanics, and my gooey nostalgia for it all indicate a deep and perhaps not entirely rational love of it.
Sure, the core gameplay is derpy and broken in hundreds of ways, but this is the only RPG that becomes completely plastic in my hands: if I learn the Card ability I can turn random battles into wild Pokemon fights; if I learn Enc-None I can switch off those battles and get everything I need from playing Triple-Triad, etc. And sure, the story is a hot mess featuring one of the dumbest plot twists ever, but its got an interesting world peopled with some of my favourite Final Fantasy characters. I even think popular punching-bags like Squall get a bit of a bad rap. And the soundtrack is probably Nobuo Uematsu’s best work.
Unfortunately I’ve yet to give the thing a proper writeup on here…
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
Genre: Military Action
Again, I’ve dumped a lot of time into this silly, lurid cold war fantasy (and fantasy is indeed the key word here, inasmuch as it features a villain with lightning superpowers and a guy who can control bees, among other things). And, again, it’s an example of game design that allows the player to get away with almost anything. And, also again, I really should give it a write-up to describe all my complex feelings about it.
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2013)
Genre: Action RPG
I finally have a nonlinear game that doesn’t take 60+ hours to beat. And it’s a Zelda game, to boot. More than that, it’s the platonic ideal of all the things I love about the franchise. And if you turn the stereoscopic 3D on, it looks like you’re staring at an adorable little diorama.
4. Suikoden II (1999)
At the end of the 20th century I was too busy drooling over FFVIII’s graphics to notice the release of the greatest JRPG ever made. Almost two decades later I made my amends. It may rise higher as time goes on. Since I’ve been yapping a lot about this game lately, I’ll leave it at that.
5. Mega Man 3 (1990)
Inasmuch as video games boil down to jumping and shooting, Mega Man 2 remains the definitive essay in the art-form. But Mega Man 3 is more fun to play in the long run.
6. Final Fantasy IX (2000)
The one that manages to provoke the fuzziest feelings in me. FFIX comes about as close as you can get to a definitive example of what a classic Final Fantasy is supposed to be like. And, in a sense, it’s the last classic FF to be released. To be sure, X and XII were both pretty great in their own right, but modern FF really is a different beast.
7. Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Genre: Survival Horror
If FFIX fills me with fuzzy feelings, SH2 fills me with devastating ones. It’s still the scariest thing I’ve ever played, and a great example of how to do classy horror from a series that otherwise is pretty shlocky.
8. Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2
Speaking of classy, DDS managed to somehow take a story about cannibal demons and turn it into something compelling. I’ve had a very rocky relationship with the MegaTen franchise: few franchises manage to take a lot of stuff that I love and hold it in tension with a lot of stuff I loathe, and it just drives me up a wall. DDS isn’t an easy game to recommend on account of its unrelenting weirdness and difficulty, but it’s the one where most of the stuff I love has risen to the top.
9. Super Metroid (1994)
In terms of sheer replays, this game should be on the top. But I think I’ve actually played it a little too much, and some of its shine has worn off for me.
10. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
Genre: Stealth Action
It may have entirely been an exercise in master-class trolling, but it’s still a heck of a ride. Some of the long speeches towards the end were actually pretty prescient in light of where social media is nowadays.
(Whoops) 11. Chrono Cross (1999)
Chrono Trigger is, without a doubt, the superior game. In fact, I’d hesitate to even describe Chrono Cross as a good game without adding some qualifications. In spite of that, I’ve spend more time with CC than I have with its predecessor, so I should be honest. If CC is a bad game, then it’s one that I’d describe as interestingly bad. With the exception of its stunningly beautiful visuals and music, everything about CC is a hot mess. But it’s an interesting, Philip K. Dick-esque mess about parallel realities, body swapping, dinosaurs and undead clowns.
I will forever be the defender of derpy JRPGs.