* In what may be the easiest & most positive list I've compiled, 25 great video games, for me, is almost entirely inclusive. In plain English, having never been a "gamer" myself, I'm not too familiar with many video games, but the ones I took the time to become familiar with, I hold dear to my heart. Those games - all of them - might actually total 25.
+ The views expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect the views of some of its readers, most video game enthusiasts, people over 30, girls in school that didn't talk to me or Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
# "All time" is exceptionally finite. In this case, I'd say 1978-1994. Unlike movies, music & TV, I don't hold any grudges against the falloff in the quality of video games - if there was one. I never met a video game I didn't like, until I did. And that was that - nothing to get hung about.
The heyday of NES had some funny hiccups (Hydlide, Baseball, and every movie tie-in from '86 to '91) arcade games were not always enthralling, and computers still haven't exactly improved on chess and solitaire. But in that time - the time I played - the fad/technology (especially home systems) were still young. Brand new, actually. That may be why, suddenly and sharply, video games became part of youth culture, like bicycles or cartoons (maybe because, in some ways, it combined those two things). They made a movie about it for Christ's sake.
I hit a wall with Nintendo 64. I didn't like the controllers, I didn't like graphics, I didn't like the games, the end. It's because of this that I've always been able to use the Zelda games as a barometer: after the first 3 (Gameboy excluded) I tuned out. Out of it all. (as a side note, I never bothered with Sega, which was just Pepsi to us Coke kids). And so, because of this, for me, video games will always be in the same bubble as The California Raisins, Ren & Stimpy, and Milli Vanilli. A very specific time & place, not just for me, but for the culture, never really progressing in terms of relevance or quality, and never exceeding 16 bits.
Of the dozens of games accused of ripping off Zelda (mostly because they were) this one could be the largest offender. So much so that it only helps it.
A colorful but convoluted game in which you hardly ever know which way is up, let alone any kind of objective.
A scavenger hunt premise with graphics a little better than Pong.
It may be disorienting and unfulfilling, but I've always been aesthetically drawn to the two already-famous stars of Mad Magazine.
Never has a movie so richly deserved a game adaptation, and the transition is smooth and accurate. The game is populated by every major creature from the movie - both as enemies and as bosses - and gameplay is adequately difficult without being frustrating.
Basically Tetris 2 with the Mario label on it - which isn't a bad thing.
Just as addictive as all the puzzle games, and just like the decade of arcade games before it, more intense than any of the stuff made today.
A combination of geometry and timing; like playing billiards in a minefield.
And, like Spy vs. Spy, I'm attracted to the old spherical bombs with the fuse.
Geometry, timing, strategy, anticipation, problem solving, trial and error.
The original brainiac game; like playing chess in a minefield.
Basically a low-impact Pac-Man with Looney Tunes characters.
And as I write that and read it back, I myself fully understand its appeal.
The original ballbuster. More sci-fi than the comic book and cartoon combined, and harder than most video games at the time (I still haven't beaten it).
Good music, but amazing sound design that's smudged into my brain forever.
I like flying games. Not that this is one, but I think it's the vibe of perpetual forward motion that I dig.
Also, the warm sunny 8 bit apple pie neighborhood setting was how my idealistic, Norman Rockwell brain filtered the world at that time.
I love marbles. And I love madness.
It's that draw to spheres again. Whether on an arcade joystick or NES controller. No other game demanded as much physical stamina, which is probably why it's so fun. (We at Bennett Media never advocate substance abuse, but this game is interesting with alcohol).
As pure as the old arcade games: no story, no hero, no end. Gaming dada.
It now roams free in the same arena as Go Fish and checkers. Thanks, ELORG!
For us youths not involved in actual street fights, kicking Abobo's ass was all the gang cred we needed.
Plus, a rare feature in video games: you acquired moves rather than weapons.
Lighter and softer than part 1 - more closely resembling the cartoon - and still pretty tricky.
What made it better & more fun than the first (and a lotta other games) was the two player feature; both players working together, twice the turtle power.
The most notorious Zelda wannabe, perhaps because it's the best. Morbid, confusing, and difficult, it's also fast-paced, engrossing, and has great music.
Kind of a cult game, & I'm part of the cult. I have a tattoo of the first boss, and our retro game Tumblr, Naju, is named and designed for it.
The one game I would search for in every arcade.
The absolute best point-and-shoot game, it's like a Michael Mann movie that actually predates Heat by several years.
The best 'vs.' game on the market.
I became a proficient fighter as each and every one of the racially diverse stereotypes.
Kick back with some Dunkaroos and a Mondo while you play the greatest flying game of all time.
It created a believable sci-fi universe that encapsulated the 1990s with its Lawnmower Man graphics and repetitive electronica.
Less of a game & more of a time-consuming project. The never ending parts never as great as the illusive whole.
Anyone who's a fan of Sim-anyhting knows what I'm talking about.
Also, excellent music.
Mario's personal welcome to "Nintendo, Part 2" lives up to its overwhelming expectations.
An explosion of color and intrigue, it's completely accessible in its breezy gameplay and brand familiarity, and still manages to be fresh and challenging.
DK gets the makeover he deserves (and the one Pac-Man never got).
Like Super Mario World, challenging in a fun way.
And like every single game on this list, really, it's all about the music.
The Top 5. Here's where the pattern starts.
What can I say about this one that hasn't already been said a few times before? It single-handedly personified and launched the entire concept of the home console: an adventure that can be figured out & whittled down over a period of time far exceeding any single trip to the arcade. With its hidden treasures and secret passages, it appeals to the child in all of us (especially if you were/are one).
And that opening logo with the title theme: it's on par with those first few frames of a Star Wars movie.
The last great game for the original 8 bit system, it pushed the boundaries of what the original box was capable of. More enemies, worlds, colors and music than any game before it, it is the true swan song of the original Mario.
Who would've thought those ears and that tail would work, let alone become iconic?
Supposedly the black sheep of the franchise, it's scarier and harder than the other Zelda games I've played -- I actually beat it for the first time about 4 years ago.
The enemies genuinely seem more sinister and malicious, and it definitely doubles up on the 'secret stuff' after the first one.
The sword on the cover of the original box is tattooed on the back of my neck.
My favorite Mario game, and the most exciting "part 2" of anything (even Batman Returns).
I was hurt to learn only a few years back that the entire game was a direct and intentional plagiarism of Doki Doki Panic (the music, the enemies, everything I loved about it). But we worked it out & before long we were talking again & spending evenings together.
Speaking of patterns: Birdo is tattooed on my right arm. And if anyone's interested, I always play as Princess Toadstool.
With a name that punny, how can it not be the best?
10x more exciting and engrossing than the Zeldas before it, and from the ones I've 'sampled,' more aesthetically pleasing and less impenetrable than the ones following. Up until this point, Zelda games were layered labors of love with an ensemble of characters and creatures that could help you or slay you (in fact, these remained the hallmarks of the franchise). This was the first one to utilize this device to its fullest capacity -- the game playing out in a linear three-act narrative that's not over till it's over. After 3 intense levels (& that friggin' Moon Pearl) we're introduced to 8 more, and then Gannon. Not to mention all the 'secret stuff' in between.
Of all my video game victories, I never felt as truly accomplished as the first time I beat this one (with the 50/50 help of my cousin, who I'm sure feels the same). While every game tried to create some "world" with its own backstory (Zelda I and II included) this one was the most captivating. Even the ever-disappointing 'credit sequence' that every game casually and carelessly rewarded our efforts with is elevated in this one with its amazing music score. Nowadays I can hop on YouTube or wherever to hear it, but it always sounds better after beating it.
So, once in a while, I do. With the original, 16 bit cartridge. Just gotta blow in it first.