Brandon’s Top 10 Favorite Games, Part 1

(See Part 2)

Hello! Given that Game Informer recently released its top 300 games list, as well as IGN updating their top 100 list recently, I thought a good way to kick off this blog would be to do a (shorter) Greatest Games of All Time list as well.

As a quick introduction, I’ve been an avid gamer since childhood, growing up with the N64 and Gamecube, and eventually breaking out of the Nintendo bubble with an Xbox. Getting older I sunk a lot of time into the Xbox 360 and Wii, and also got into some PC gaming. Now I primarily play on my Switch and Xbox One.

As a result of my gaming history, there are many great games I have not had the chance to play – this includes many Sony-exclusive games (the only Sony console we ever had was a PS1 for a short time) and several old games. Thankfully, due to the many remakes and re-releases on platforms such as the Virtual Console I’ve had the opportunity to play many of the classics from the NES and SNES days.

In any case, please bear in mind the following list is purely personal preference. This is not intended to be an objective analysis of the top 10 games ever made. Instead, what follows are the 10 games that I personally have received the most enjoyment playing and remember the most fondly. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t feel my recommendations are purely based on nostalgia or emotion. I believe these games are top of their class and provide incredible experiences – they did for me at least. But I would be lying if nostalgia did not play some role :).

Given that I love all of these games, several choices were quite difficult to make. Many of these games could easily swap positions. With my brother also planning on writing up a top 10 list, the stark differences between our preferences should make for an interesting observation as well. My preferred series and genres will surely come to light with this list.

That being said, let’s get this show on the road…

10. 

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

windwaker
(image taken from the Wii U remake)

#10 was a tough call – I’ll probably have to do a top 20 at some point to list all of the other games I wanted to fit in here too! But in my opinion, the Windwaker is fully worthy of the spot. This was the first Zelda game that was newly released after I first really started getting into video games (though I was still in grade school at that time). Thus, I have a lot of memories playing this game.

I don’t plan on going into too much of a summary of the games on this list – I assume that a general gaming audience will be familiar with the basics of most of these games. TWW follows the standard Zelda formula – visit dungeons, collect assorted artifacts, fight Ganon – but with a number of twists. The world was perhaps Nintendo’s largest at the time, featuring a large sea and a number of islands to visit.

Although today, critics often complain about the emptiness of the sea, the slowness of the sailing, and a second half that kind of drags on, I didn’t mind these inconveniences so much. TWW was a significant change of pace from the N64 Zelda titles. The game opens up significantly in the second half, allowing you to sail from island to island at your leisure. Interesting sidequests and acquirable items gave TWW uniqueness, not to mention the art style.

The cartoonish cel-shaded look of the game was criticized at launch by fans who wanted to see a more realistic depiction of Link on the Gamecube. However, the art style is now largely considered a great boon of the game. The game’s graphics have aged quite well, even when playing the original and not the 2013 Wii U remake. The game may look even better than its 2006 sequel, Twilight Princess, which features a more realistic design. It also introduced a very charming, and often comedic aspect to characters and events in the game. The charm of TWW is perhaps one if its most memorable aspects for me.

TWW doesn’t fit the bill of a typical “open world” title today but back in 2002, it was close enough. It introduced me to the enticing scope of large worlds to discover and explore. The dungeons in the game were not my favorite in the Zelda series, but I didn’t grow a true appreciation for most “good” Zelda dungeons until I was quite a bit older. At the time, dungeons were often chores to work through rather than puzzles to unravel for me. I need to go back and play through this one again to get a better read on the dungeons at this point.

Overall, the game was a worthy entry in the Zelda series. The characters, story, and art style were enticing and entertaining. The combat and dungeons were serviceable and the large scope of the game’s world was a great attraction to me.

Foreshadowing: This will not be the last Zelda game you see on this list.

9.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

obv2

I picked up this gem in 2010 by happenstance, and I am very happy I did. The Wii MotionPlus attachment had just recently come out, and I really wanted to give it a shot with a new game… so I went to GameStop and dropped $60 on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010. Which is a fine game in its own right. While I was there however, I noticed Oblivion: Game of the Year edition available in the used section for $20 (for PC). Having extensively played the prequel, Morrowind (which may or may not also be on this list), I grabbed Oblivion.

Well, I ended up spending maybe a grand total of 10 hours playing Tiger Woods and over 250 hours on Oblivion. Great value!

Oblivion, like most Elder Scrolls titles, focuses on action role-playing in a large open world. Oblivion made many enhancements to the series following Morrowind that change the game significantly. It introduced Quest Markers that guided you to the next step in a quest, fast travel to ease travel times, as well as some simplified role-playing mechanics. It also presented an improved combat system, and a neat innovation called Radiant AI. Radiant AI essentially gave every NPC in the game daily and weekly schedules to follow, from eating and sleeping, to going to work, taking vacations, and more. It gave Oblivion’s world a wonderful sense of immersion, even if sometimes the NPCs did the dumbest things. Just do a quick search on Youtube for “oblivion dumb NPCs” and you’ll find some hilarious things that have occurred as a result of Radiant AI.

In my opinion Oblivion is the greatest “high fantasy” RPG ever made. Given that you can customize your race, class, equipment, skills, magical abilities, faction, and on and on, it provided unparalleled customization and an immersive feeling of role-playing. With a solid main quest line and some of the best faction quests in all of open-world RPGs (try the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild factions), Oblivion provides an absurd amount of content, even today. Both the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles expansions are worthy additions (especially Shivering) and the game is further buoyed (on PC) by the extensive range of mods created for it.

Modding Oblivion was one of the most fun things I can ever recall doing related to a video game. Enhancing the graphics, fixing bugs, improving menu and inventory management systems, and adding loads of new content were all things mods provided. Although Oblivion’s graphics have certainly aged today, the game can be brought pretty close (and often exceeding) its sequel Skyrim with the right graphics mods applied. Oblivion is a fantastic game in its own right, but mods bring it to a whole new level.

8.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

melee

Melee is my favorite multiplayer game of all time. I love every game in the Super Smash Bros. series, but Melee takes the top for me. It was the game I played the most in my teenage years, constantly playing with friends week after week. My brothers and I formed intense rivalries over the game that continue today. The time of hype leading up to its sequel, Brawl, was the most intensely I’ve anticipated a game ever, all due to Melee’s greatness.

The combination of familiar Nintendo mascots and the deep, non-traditional fighting mechanics make the game satisfying match after match. Why Melee over Brawl and Smash 4? Brawl is very close to me – it’d certainly be in my top 25 list. Brawl had a better cast of fighters and a better story mode (the Subspace Emissary) that I enjoyed, along with a decent online mode. All that said, the faster and more technical mechanics in Melee in my opinion are superior to Brawl’s. However, I still really enjoy Brawl and don’t think it deserves the hate it gets from the Smash community.

As for Smash 4, unfortunately I never had a Wii U and so didn’t get to sink the time into Smash 4 I would have liked. I had the 3DS version and played my brother’s Wii U version but I didn’t get as much time as I did with Melee and Brawl. I really enjoy Smash 4 as well and I’m looking forward to Smash on the Switch later this year.

One reason Melee has had a resurgence in my mind lately in terms of my favorite games is due to a renewed interest in the pro Melee scene. The professionals are unbelievable at the game and top Melee matches are extremely entertaining. Learning some of the more advanced moves, like wavedashing, L-canceling, character combos, and more give the game depth that rewards practice. I can destroy my brother in Melee as a result (but usually get beat in Smash 4, to be fair).

Let me just say this… MELEE HD! Do it Nintendo! Please?

7.

Chrono Trigger

chrono

I know I called Oblivion my favorite “high fantasy” RPG but I sort of half-lied. Chrono Trigger I guess could be considered “high-fantasy”… in any case Chrono Trigger is a fantastic JRPG. There’s not much to be said that hasn’t already been said about this great game. Plus, the game is now widely available on Steam, mobile, and the DS as a well-done remake. If you haven’t played it you should!

I have never been the biggest fan of traditional JRPGs, due to some of their tedious aspects like grinding, random battles, and often extreme difficult spikes towards the end. I did deeply enjoy Final Fantasy IV and I’m currently playing through FFVI on and off on the SNES classic, to be fair. Nevertheless, Chrono Trigger combines the best elements of JRPGs and more action-oriented titles. Rarely is grinding a necessity in the game, and the action-oriented/still mostly turn based battle system prevents things from grinding to a halt. I also like that enemy encounters are not strictly random but instead determined locationally, a pet peeve of mine in JRPGs (Tales of Symphonia, another RPG fave of mine, also eschews purely random battles for location-based battles – enemies can be seen on the overworld map).

The story itself is great, the characters are great, the battles are challenging but rewarding, and the music and artwork are wonderful. I could listen to “Yearnings of Wind” forever. The game is also long and provides great replay value through it’s new game + system. Crono for Smash 2018!

My entries for spots 1-6 are coming in future blog posts – I hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to comment regarding any of the games I mentioned here!

Signing Off,
Brandon

(See Part 2)

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