I wanted to make sure that nostalgia didn't play into this list too much, and after compiling my final list, I was delighted to see that I have games ranging from as early as 1991 to as recent as 2016, so I feel like I've got a solid mishmash of both genres and eras of gaming.
What should I do if I don't see my favorite game on your list?
Shut up about it. Seriously, though, I had periods of time in my life (specifically the PSone/N64 era) where I didn't play many video games. I've also never been a huge JRPG fan, though that is changing as time goes on. With that said, you won't see classic, beloved titles like Final Fantasy VII or The Legend of Zelda series making the cut. I've done my best to find time to play games that I missed out on as I've gotten older, and while I've enjoyed them a great deal, not having played them in their heyday is a detriment to how I feel about them today.
Without further ado, let's get to my Top 10 Video Games of All-Time!
10. Stardew Valley
What's really unique about Stardew is that each time I return to it, I focus on completely different aspects of the game. When I first began playing, I just wanted to understand the farming aspects. Simple enough. Then I got really into restoring the community center. Then I focused on relationships with the townsfolk. Then I actually finished what would be considered the "story." Then I caught every fish, and so on, and so on. I had put about 75 hours into Stardew Valley before I even began getting into crafting items.
That's what's so amazing about what seems like such a simple game, there's so much to do that you may miss major aspects of the game without realizing it. When I inevitably return to my farm, who knows where it might lead.
9. The Simpsons: Hit & Run
There are so many minor references to the show that casual viewers would miss. I wind up playing Hit & Run once every few years, and I still discover new little Easter eggs that I missed on my previous trips through Springfield. Speaking of Springfield, I really love the way the city is set up. Rather than having one, sprawling open-world like Grand Theft Auto, the town is broken up into three smaller areas and I think that really helps with the overall pace of the game. The areas are big enough to feel significant, but small enough to remember where everything is.
8. Picross 3D
When Luke Roberts and I did our Top 10 Nintendo Games episode of the Error Machine Podcast, I fought harder to get Picross 3D on that list than I did any other game. In case you were wondering, Picross 3D is the 8th best video game that Nintendo has ever made. While I absolutely loved Picross 3D Round 2, I didn't get nearly as sucked in by it, and it never became an every day kind of game for me like the original did.
7. The Last of Us
I grew to love Joel and Ellie despite not liking either one of them very much in the beginning. As the two of them begin to warm to one another, so too does the player begin to warm to them. I loved the original take on the post-apocalyptic story where only society had fallen into disrepair while vegetation continued to flourish and overtake its surroundings.
6. Super Mario Galaxy
Seriously, though, Super Mario Galaxy was the reason I had to have a Nintendo Wii. If you ask me, Galaxy is the pinnacle of 3D platforming. Like many Mario games, the challenge comes not in beating the game, but in completing it. Acquiring all 120 stars and unlocking Luigi makes the game feel new again, as Luigi plays much differently than his older brother.
As much as I've loved every 3D Mario game before and since, Super Mario Galaxy hits all the right notes for me and is the reason I still own a Nintendo Wii.
5. Borderlands 2
There are better shooters, better open-world games, better western RPGs, better loot games, games with better writing, games with better characters, but Borderlands 2 is the perfect amalgamation of all of those things. There's something extremely addicting about picking up new guns, shields, class mods and grenades and equipping your character to your play style. What's even better is that regardless of how you play, it still works as an amazing co-op experience. My wife is more meticulous and I'm more of a Leroy Jenkins.
The game can be snagged for very cheap, and what's even better is that the season pass doubles the size of the game and provides some excellent content.
4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The one thing that SotN has working in its favor is that I don't have nostalgia for it. I didn't play the game for the first time until almost 10 years after its initial launch. Now I buy it every time it's re-released. Yes, I will be buying the PS4 version of SotN and Rondo of Blood this October, so don't ask. Every year around Halloween I get the hankering to play it again, and I've played it at least once every year since my first time through.
We're all well aware of the big twist halfway through. The inverted castle is a brilliant way to double the size of the game you're playing without actually doubling the size of the game on the disc. Additionally, the inverted castle features completely new enemies and bosses, and entering new, inverted areas is disorienting, somehow making it feel like a fresh section of the game to explore.
The combat is simple enough for anyone to jump right in, with spells that can take a little practice to nail down but well worth the increased damage they'll induce. If there's anything wrong with the game, it's the difficulty. By the time you reach Dracula you're so overpowered that you can barely call it a fight. Outside of the early hours and a couple of boss fights, the game presents little challenge. When that's the only complaint I can levy against a game, you know it's a winner.
3. Metal Gear Solid
Not only was my hype level at an all-time high, but this was also one of the few times where the game met and exceeded my hype. I did extra chores around the house for weeks to convince my mom to stop at the mall on her way home to pick the game up for me on release day. I made it to the battle with Gray Fox before calling it a night, and Metal Gear Solid had already done things that I didn't know video games were capable of.
Much of what seems silly about MGS was revolutionary at the time. Hiding under the bed or using ketchup to make it seem like you had committed suicide in order to escape your holding cell? That blew my mind! Breaking the fourth wall by using the back of the game's CD case to find Meryl's Codec frequency? Genius! And of course we can't forget the battle with Psycho Mantis, which remains one of the most groundbreaking moments in gaming history.
2. Resident Evil 4
When you go back and try to play some old favorites, sometimes you're amazed at the kind of things you were able to look past. RE4's camera controls is one of those things for me. Using the right analog stick only allows you to glance left and right but snaps back to center when you remove your thumb. It wasn't until the (highly underrated) sequel that the series finally gave the player free camera control. This isn't a popular opinion, but Resident Evil 5 plays much better than its predecessor.
One of the many aspects of Resident Evil 4 that makes it so great is the way I can't tell if the game is being self-aware with how campy it is or not. Did they purposefully write Leon S. Kennedy to be as big of a dork as he is? Are his terrible one-liners supposed to be funny or did the writers know that they were terrible? Is Saddler really as small-time as we're led to believe? Were the ganados actually going to Bingo? I don't know!
The game was innovative in many ways, but most of all in the new, over-the-shoulder perspective that has become the standard for third-person games. While I criticized the camera for not giving you full control, it does make for a more tense experience by forcing you to use the quick turnaround and possibly coming face-to-face with another abomination.
Resident Evil 4 may not have aged as well as I expected it to, but it's still a landmark game and one of the best of all-time.
1. Super Mario WorldI've already tried, but I'll try again.
Some might say that it's cliche to have an early Mario game as my favorite of all-time, but no game before or since captured my imagination the way World did. To me, it's the zenith of 2D platforming. Gaming is subjective, so there's no way to quantify what a perfect video game would be, but Super Mario World is still the closest thing to perfect that I've found. The only real gripe I have is the level "Tubular," which is several times harder than any other level in the game. But that gripe is a small one, as I believe it's the only level that relies more heavily on trial and error than platforming skill.
Newcomer Yoshi went on to become a Nintendo mainstay and star in great games of his own, but this was his debut and he is more than just an animal companion, he is crucial to the entire experience. Having the different colors of Yoshi (or using the standard Yoshi and slurping up the different color Koopas) presents you with the ability to fly, shoot fire, or stomp, making combat and traversal much more versatile. Let's also not forget that certain secret exits can only be reached if you have Yoshi in tow.
The Koopalings were given more personality, and I personally find the fortresses to be much more fun than the airships of SMB3. Bowser's castle requires you to choose 2 of 8 different mini-levels before encountering the King of the Koopas, promoting multiple playthroughs. Bowser and his clowncopter make for an excellent final battle, which is proceeded by the kiss from Princess Peach that Mario worked for for so long.
There isn't a lot more that I can say about Super Mario World, and anything that I could say would be something you probably already know. It's an all-time classic and still just as fun to play today as it was in 1991, which is why it stands as my single favorite video game ever.
Thanks for reading,
Here's other stuff I do and where you can find it.
Error Machine Podcast
Error Machine YouTube Channel