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 to see 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 upon which I could pick from.
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 get back to the list, shall we?
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Multiple Platforms)
To be honest, Vice City could be a thoroughly awful game, and it would probably still be in the running based on the soundtrack alone. Despite being a 90s kid, I’ve always loved the synthesised sounds of the 80s. I’m not sure what it is about 80s music that tickles my fancy so thoroughly, but I have a mountainous collection of tracks from that era that I am always eager to listen to.
Thankfully, Vice City combines the 5 star soundtrack with entertaining gameplay and a game world that truly feels alive. Even the oldest games in the series do an excellent job of making the cities your homicidal criminal inhabits feel like real places with real people going about their sordid lives, but Vice City does it better than most.
Whether it was visiting the Malibu club and watching clubbers dance the night away or cruising along the roads as the sun slowly sunk into the horizon, Vice City has a rich atmosphere from the minute you boot it up all the way to the final climactic shootout, which borrows liberally from Scarface.
Along with the setting of Vice City being richly atmospheric, Tommy Vercetti is additionally one of the more memorable “protagonists” in GTA history. I put quotation marks because I don’t think you can call most of the main characters in the GTA series protagonists in the traditional sense, with most of them being despicable pieces of work that you wouldn’t want to hang around with.
That being said, Tommy is certainly one of the more interesting despicable pieces of work to spend a game with, and his relationship with Lance Vance actually threatens to make him seem somewhat human for a bit. Ultimately, Tommy is a bit of a git, but he’s a git that gets things done, which means playing as him is never dull, even if it can be somewhat morally challenging.
Street Fighter II Turbo (Multiple Platforms)
God, I loved Street Fighter II. It must have been the bane of my parents’ existence. If we passed any arcade that had it (arcades, remember them?), I would immediately beg them to let me play it. They’d normally say no, of course, but that didn’t stop me from asking. Every. Single. Time.
I don’t think it’s going to be possible for me to get across to you just how bloody much I loved this game. I was Street Fighter mad in the early 90s and, due to the fact that arcades were far more prominent during that time period, I was normally only a Spinning Star Kick away from stumbling upon a cabinet that contained the magisterial fighting opera.
You may now be asking, “Hey Mike, what gives? We thought you were going to wax lyrical about Street Fighter II Turbo, how come you’re devoting so much time to the original?”
Well, the answer is pretty simple. I wanted you to get some idea of how much I loved the original SFII because, believe it or not, I CHUFFING LOVE TURBO EVEN MORE!!!
I wouldn’t just go to bed with Street Fighter II Turbo, I’d mow its lawn, cook its dinner and tickle its nipples if it wanted me to. It is quite simply one of my all-time favourite games, and I can’t imagine how bleak and miserable my already tortured existence would have been if I hadn’t had the sheer unbridled luck of sharing the same plane of existence as this cracking video game. I still remember the shock and awe I had when I saw it in an arcade and realised that, not only had the original roster had their moves tweaked and been given wicked new togs, but you could now play as the 3 sub-bosses from the original game AND the big bad himself, M. (I like to think the “M” is for Montague) Bison! (Oh, and I know that in the East his name is different, but I’m a filthy Britannic mess, and he’s Bison over here, so that’s the name I’m going with).
Younger readers may roll their eyes at the idea that a mere 4 new characters caused me to practically wet myself, but look at it this way: The original SFII had a roster of 8 characters, so Capcom had essentially added an additional 50% on top of the original roster! For 1992, that was Earth-shattering stuff and blew my tiny little mind.
This game is almost certainly my favourite fighting game ever!
WWF No Mercy (Nintendo 64)
Some may be surprised to see this game so low down the list, but there are actually two wrestling games I enjoy more than No Mercy. That being said, No Mercy is an utterly fantastic game that I’ve sunk numerous hours into over the years. If you love wrestling, then chances are you’ll already have played and loved this game. Even if you don’t like wrestling, No Mercy is such a good game that you’ll probably still glean a fair amount of pleasure from playing it.
No Mercy boasts superlative gameplay, an impressive creation suite, an engrossing story mode with branching paths and one of the most balanced rosters you’ll find. You’ve got your big hitters in Undertaker and Kane, your skilled technicians in Kurt Angle and Dean Malenko, and your big fat lads looking to squish poor unassuming folk in the doughy form of Viscera and Mark Henry. If you want speed, brawling, striking, grappling or power wrestling, then there’ll be someone on this roster for you.
This era of WWF/E was so great, owing to the expert storyboarding of writer Chris Kreski and the fantastic in-ring action from one of the most loaded rosters in company history, and WWF No Mercy captures that brilliantly. A must-have if you own an N64.
Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo)
If I may be permitted to borrow from my Project Gotham article:
“I’ll level with you, I don’t find cars interesting. Like, at all. As a big sports fan, I was used to seeing people’s eyes glaze over when I would talk about Everton’s recent results or how close The Ashes Series currently was, but I never really understood how those people felt. That was until I was locked in a confined space with a car nut and had to hear them wax lyrical about how the new Subaru Skyline Viper had a plutonium grade engine with seventy million break horse cart power and ambergris encased wheels.
I just cannot find cars interesting. To me, they exist only to transport me to work, the football, the shops and the occasional brothel. They are for parents to take screaming little terrors with sticky fingers to their place of education/containment, thus bringing the roads to a veritable land lock just at the same time I happen to want to nip out to Subway for a Chicken and Bacon on Honey Oat.”
So as you can probably glean from that, straight-laced and worthy driving simulators do little for me. When it comes to racing games, I want them to be accessible, playable and, above all else, fun. Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo ticks all of those boxes.
I remember thinking it incredibly strange when I heard that the pugnacious plumber was getting his own racing game, but I was also incredibly intrigued to play it. When I finally did get to play it, I was quickly hooked on the addictive gameplay, and that was before I’d had a go on the excellent multiplayer mode with friends.
I think we should all take a moment to think about how amazing it was that this game is as good as it is. I mean, it’s a kart racing game featuring characters from the Mario franchise. Imagine someone pitching that to you if you had no comprehension of the series already? You’d probably think that they’d lost their mind!
But no, Nintendo found a way to make this bizarre idea work, and it’s led to many successful sequels. However, in my personal opinion, the best one of the lot is the one that started it all. Mario Kart isn’t as nuanced as Gran Turismo, but it’s about a thousand times more fun, and that’s what matters to me.
FIFA 11 (Multiple Platforms)
Football has always been a treacherous love in my life, at one moment making me feel like a king whilst another making me want to buy a new toaster from Dixon’s before running a nice warm bath. However, there was a period of my life where I just wasn’t as dedicated to it as I used to be. I think my life had just got bogged down with other commitments. There’d been this band I was in, then wrestling, then University, then a job that made me work weekends and just everything else on top.
I’d still make sure I was up to date with the results, and I remember the jubilation I felt when Everton reached the FA Cup Final in 2009, but for a while there I just didn’t feel part of the football world. It was something going on in the background that didn’t feel tangible anymore.
Then I bought FIFA 11.
This game marked not only my full-fledged return to the FIFA franchise after a near ten-year love affair with PES (the World Cup games aside), but it also marked the period when I really got my act together with regards to my football again. No more watching the odd match on telly and just reading the results in the paper. No, no, that wasn’t enough for me anymore. Sky “Super Sunday” became required viewing again, and as soon as I was financially able to do so, I bought a season ticket and claimed a piece of Goodison Park for my own.
FIFA 11 was the game that made FIFA fun for me again. I’d sunk some decent time into PES 2009, but I hadn’t bothered to buy the next one. As much as the gameplay was still enjoyable, I’d just grown weary of having to play as “Merseyside Blue” in the “English League”. I wanted to play as Everton in The Premiership. I wanted the actual real kits and player names. I wasn’t prepared to buy a game just for the licenses though, the game itself actually had to be good.
The 2010 World Cup game had given me enough grounds to hope that this would be the case, so I took the gamble and bought FIFA 11. I didn’t regret it. The gameplay had finally been refined to something that I could enjoy. It felt fluid and accessible while not being overly simplistic and arcadey at the same time. That’s not an easy combination to achieve, but this game manages it and does it with aplomb.
On top of that, you can manage your team in Career Mode, and it was the closest a game had ever come to genuinely representing the flow of a season to me. Master League, despite what others may say, had always just felt like a series of matches. Career Mode in FIFA 11 felt like you were in a living, breathing Premier League season. Player forms would dip and improve, and the whole experience in general just felt more realistic.
FIFA 11 not only provided an excellent gameplay experience, but it combined it with the real teams, players and competitions before giving it all the well-honed and polished FIFA presentation to go with it all as the cherry on top. I love it for being a great game, but I also love it for giving me the impetus to get my act together and start going the match again.
That’ll do us for now; I’ll see you all next week for 10-6.
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