1. Uncharted 4: Thief’s End
Really I love the whole series equally. I play through all of them every other year or so, but U4 really deeply affected me. The game play was amazing but these characters are just so strong. Nolan North is like the Olivier & Brando of video games. And what I appreciated the most about 4 was how Naughty Dog loved on the fans so much and really let us say goodbye to these people. It meant a lot to me to be able to explore the Drake home and meet their daughter. All the details from messy beds to Nate’s nerf gun. This series feels real to me in a way no other game has. And it’s got nothing to do with graphics. Real immersion is about detail, care, and character. Thank you naughty dog. You bring joy into this world.
2. Batman: Arkham Knight (as well as Asylum & City)
I think the Arkham universe is one of the best adaptations of Batman period. It benefits from Hamil and Conroy but more than that it just understands who and what Batman is. There are no false notes. I read somewhere that that City was the high point and Knight was just about the wheels but that’s beyond stupid. If BAK has a flaw it’s that there’s no usable Batwing. Batman cannot fly or teleport and whereas Iron Man simulates heroics with armor the bat has what every Knight needs: a steed. The Long Ranger isn’t the Lone Ranger without Silver and the Bat isn’t really the Bat without his mobile. But even more than just getting Batman right BAK got gaming right. In terms of playability this game puts all others to shame. You can just mess around for hours. Spider-Man 2 gave us that over a decade ago for the first time and in many ways the open worlding superhero fun to be had there is still better but whereas elements of SM2 were amazing BAK is possibly in the top ten most perfectly designed games period. It’s like Ocarina of Time for Batman.
3. Super Metroid (I like this whole series very much but SM is by far the best)
This is probably the greatest game ever designed. It is flawless. It teaches you to play it with no words or directions. It is essentially a sand box. It invented speed running because while the creators intended sequence breaking they did not realize that the wall jump and shine spark would allow you to basically move about the map freely. Real genius is bore out by something’s actual use not necessarily its intended use. Additionally this game is still beautiful and has yet to be surpassed by any other Metroidvania game because developers since then have lacked the courage to give players a game and just let go. They feel the need to tell stories with words and simulate immersion with gimmicks instead of gameplay. Super Metroid is the pinnacle of classic game design because the developers believed in their art and gave us simply the purest game ever made.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (similar to SM while I like the series in general this is easily the best entry, with A Link to the Past a close second)
There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said elsewhere, this game is just fantastic. Epona was to Link what the Batmobile was to BAK. This game is epic, fun, often imitated but never replicated. It has a strange grace, realism, and patience that grounds it’s fantasy world perfectly. Really it’s charming. It casts a spell over you that won’t let go…I’m still under it.
5. Shadow Complex
This game is as close as we will probably ever come to a second Super Metroid. It’s flaws are exactly the things I pointed out above, it has SM’s bones without its heart. It lacks the courage. But those tiny flaws are easily overlooked by the pure joy of playing this game. It is the best Metroidvania since Super Metroid and might be the best game of the 21st century so far…
6. Metal Gear Solid
When this game came out…it’s hard to explain what happened to the gaming world. It’s honestly not much of a game, especially today, but the thing that made MGS so amazing was the voice acting, characters, story, atmosphere, and style. There had never been something like this before and really nothing since has had the same earth shattering impact. The gameplay is fine. It’s simple and addictive, with awesome boss battles. The sneak factor is a bit low since the AI is so weak but that’s exactly what makes this game great: it makes you feel paranoid and badass all at the same time. It’s not a hard game but you feel like you’re working very hard because the atmosphere is so thick. You feel like you’re sneaking even when you aren’t. But really this game is about Solid Snake, one of the greatest characters in gaming. It’s Snake from beginning to end. And Snake is awesome. The twists and turns are great, the little innovative things like the code on the back of the jewel case or having your memory card read, are all great. But in the end it’s Solid Snake that makes this game.
7. Super Smash Bros (all of em)
This is the best multiplayer game ever. It’s easy enough for everyone to get into and varied enough so you never get bored. I don’t even have a favorite but the 64 version is easily the one I’ve played the most.
8. Chrono Trigger
There’s no game like this game. It’s unique in every way from the graphics to the story to the combat and the music. But really this game is about moments. Especially the small ones between characters. There are twists and turns, multiple endings, but in the end it’s just fun. Most JRPGs try too hard to be great, this game is amazing without even trying.
9. X-Com: Enemy Unknown
I came to this series very late, but better late than never. I never liked strategy or turn based games very much. And honestly I still don’t. But I love this game. It is remarkably addictive and yet it’s easy to drop it and come back. No other game has ever aided my productivity like this game! Often when I saw a game is addictive that’s a bad thing but this game draws in and let’s go very easily. It’s really like playing a solitaire board game more than a video game.
10. Shadow of the Colossus
This game is so strange. There isn’t much game here at all. Yet you feel so engaged. It’s beautiful and mysterious. It’s sad and heroic. It’s art. It’s great. It’s an emotional adventure.