I’m not sure what motivated me to make this list, but a contributing factor was probably my own personal interest. I was genuinely interested in seeing what I’d put. I had a good idea of what the first three or four were going to be, but after that, I honestly wasn’t sure how the cards would eventually be dealt. I’m 30 years old and have been playing video games since the early 90s, so there was a pretty big sample size from which I could pick.
As it was, I’ve enjoyed the process of narrowing them down, and it was the anticipation of this enjoyment that ultimately led me to do it. Will this list always be the same? Probably not. I’ve found my tastes and preferences have changed over the years, and I have no doubt that they’ll change again as I continue to age. However, right now in February 2018, these are my Top Twenty Favourite Video Games.
And that’s all they are, by the way, my own personal favourites. This isn’t supposed to be an objective list, and it’s based heavily on my own narrow preferences. As a general rule, I prefer platformers and sports games, so expect quite a few of those to feature. I have no real love for turn-based combat or Japanese RPGs, so Final Fantasy fans, I’m warning you in advance that you won’t see a single FF game on here. I’m not saying they’re bad games, I’m just saying they’re not my own personal cup of tea.
Put. Down. The Pitchforks.
And with that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s start the list, shall we?
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo Entertainment System)
This was the game that started my lifelong love of video games, so it seems only apt that it be the game that also starts off this list. I’d briefly played a ZX Spectrum before discovering this Nintendo classic, but Super Mario Bros. turned video games from an interest into an obsession. Playing on my cousin’s NES console, I was instantly entranced by the action on the screen.
I think in some ways SMB is the perfect video game. It’s both accessible and challenging in equal measure. If you’re of a beginner or intermediate level, then you may struggle in the latter stages, but the challenge won’t be so severe that you won’t want to persevere. If you’re an expert, then you’ll want to keep playing until you can beat it as thoroughly and efficiently as you can.
Regardless of your own personal ability, Super Mario Bros. always gives you a reason to come back to it. The graphics may be blocky, and the sound may not be CD quality, but those features also retain a timeless charm to them. Super Mario Bros. is sublime, a truly revolutionary game that rescued the American console scene and laid the table for Nintendo to achieve worldwide success with the Super Nintendo later on.
It’s a bonafide classic, and I love it!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis)
I think I’ll steal from myself here.
“Sonic 2 is a genuine masterpiece. It’s fiendishly difficult at points, but it’s always possible to overcome harrowing sections with practice and a keen eye for detail. The graphics are bright, vibrant and still immensely delightful even after 22 years. The gameplay is finely tuned, and with multiple ways to complete each stage, there’s plenty of replay value for the completionists among you. On top of that, there’s a versus mode included where players race each other to see who can finish the level quicker and special bonus stages where you can attempt to collect enough rings to earn a prestigious Chaos Emerald. Get all of the Emeralds and you can unleash Super Sonic upon the game world and watch enemies cower before you.
Sonic 2 also benefits from having one of the best musical scores I’ve ever heard. Chemical Zone is some serious boom bass freaky beats (I assume that’s “street” for “jolly good tune”?), and I’m yet to find anyone, be they man, woman or beast, that isn’t susceptible to getting their boogie on when they hear it. Sonic 2 is just so well put together and so beautifully done that it would take something akin to a heart of stone for a video game enthusiast not to appreciate it.”
I know many tend to class Sonic 3 as the best game of the series from the Mega Drive era, but I just never really took to it like I did with the second one. Maybe this is because my fondest memories of Sonic 2 come from me playing it alongside friends, whilst Sonic 3 was a more solitary experience when I finally devoted some time to it? Regardless, to me Sonic 2 is by far the best Sonic game, and I loved the chance to play Chemical Zone again all these years later in Sonic Mania.
Total Extreme Wrestling 2007 (PC)
There have been games where you run theme parks, hospitals, football clubs and even entire cities, so it only made sense that someone would eventually make a game where you run a wrestling company. The “wrestling promoter sim” was a far more crowded genre 20 years ago than it is today, with many people having a bash at it.
Out of all the pretenders though, one man stood aloft as the undisputed grapple king, and that was Adam Ryland with the game “Extreme Warfare Revenge”. Originally released as freeware, EWR was so successful that Ryland decided to evolve the series even further with the advent of “Total Extreme Warfare” (the “Warfare” would later be changed to “Wrestling” to help with confusion in the market place).
Ryland is still making TEW games even to this day, but I personally think they have become overly complicated now, with so much going on that it often feels overwhelming. For me, TEW 2007 was the perfect mix of simplicity and complexity, and I spent literally days on end playing it during my University years. I remember starting a WWE save file that started in February 2007 that went on for over three in-universe years before my computer stopped working.
For those uninitiated, TEW places you in the role of either the promoter or head of creative direction for a wrestling company. Your job is to book the shows, decide who wins or loses and just generally get to grips with the day to day running of the promotion. What I love about TEW 2007 is that it feels like it exists in a vibrant wrestling world. Rival companies will run shows, and you’ll be able to keep up with the results and financial returns. It genuinely does feel like the world you inhabit is alive, and it’s incredibly easy to get engrossed.
Just how Championship Manager: Season 01/02 is often considered the best mix of playability and complexity by its fans, I believe TEW 2007 is similar for its series.
Tekken 3 (PlayStation)
I’m not sure if what I’m about to write is going to be controversial or not, but I’m going to write it anyway. Tekken 3 is without question my favourite game in the Tekken series. To me, the third iteration of Namco’s famed fighting opera provides the most balanced gameplay, the most enjoyable mini-games and the most varied roster over any of its younger or elder siblings.
Graphically, the game shows its age somewhat, but there are still plenty of rich colours and bright effects that are easy still to a modern eye. Overall, the game has a very strong ambience that protrudes throughout, and it really knows how to build an atmosphere.
I still regularly return to it, even to this day. It’s just so immensely fun to play, and it is also another game that I think gets the balance just right between playability and complexity. Tekken 3 is a game that an expert can master to an exceedingly high level with hard work and practice, but it’s also one that a novice can get to get to grips with following some patience and perseverance.
It’s a game that just screams the latter 90s PlayStation era for me. By this point, the PlayStation was in full swing and was conquering the world of popular culture. Tekken 3, Tomb Raider III and Metal Gear Solid were almost SONY’s glorious and overzealous post goal celebration. The hard work had already been done to establish the system, and now they were just rubbing it in.
Assassin’s Creed II (Multiple Platforms)
I’ve had a mixed relationship with the Assassin’s Creed series. I’ve gone through phases of loving it and other moments where I couldn’t care less about it. Out of all the chapters in the ongoing saga of Assassins Vs Templars though, I’d have to say that the second one would be my favourite, mainly because I connected more with its protagonist than I did with any of the other games’ protagonists.
Ezio Auditore is not a character without his flaws, but it is those flaws that make him a very fallible and human character. Ezio doesn’t start out as a lethal assassin but instead a young man still trying to find his way in the world. Tragedy and circumstance completely blow his life to smithereens, and you’re left to help him pick up the pieces.
The usual annoyances that exist with Creed games (such as running up unclimbable walls when you’re trying to get away from an angry group of guards) are all present here, and I wouldn’t even begin to say that the gameplay is perfect. However, I found the story so gripping and the characters so engaging that I was still completely hooked.
Even my dad, who has never had any time for video games, got so engrossed by the story that he began to watch me play it whilst giving such helpful advice as, “Oh, you’ve been stabbed there, I don’t think you wanted that to happen, did you?”. He spent most of the time gawping at the scenery, which is very impressive considering this was a seventh gen release.
Real places in Italy are lovingly and painstakingly recreated, and the game on the whole has a powerful atmosphere throughout. And if we’re being honest, how could a game set in Italy not be good? If you haven’t been to Italy, then I strongly suggest going at some point. You probably won’t see anything as exciting as a hooded assassin killing a slew of guards before diving off a huge building into a bale of hay, but you’ll be able to console yourself by sitting in a beautiful town square with a gelato on the go.
That’s the first five down, I’ll be back next week with 15-11.
Thanks for reading
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave