Here are my top 3 favorite games of all time. Again, this is a very difficult list to narrow down; all three of these games could be interchangeable in terms of ranking. My recommendation: play them all!
#3 – The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Released back in 2002, Morrowind is an open world action-RPG made by Bethesda Softworks, for PC and the original Xbox. It’s difficult to describe the attachment I have to this game without getting melodramatic. I’d like to take another post to describe just why I love this game so freaking much, but I’ll try to summarize here.
I originally picked up Morrowind 10 or so years ago in my teen years on Xbox (my Uncle gave me his old xbox along with Morrowind). I always loved the idea of Open-world games and RPG was one of my favorite genres. The way the game was advertised as being “do whatever you want, go wherever you want” was such a neat idea to me. The game did not disappoint. You truly can play as whoever you want, and do almost anything in an absolutely massive play area. After booting up the game and created a new character, the first thing I did with my baby level 1 character is go across the street, barge into some woman’s home, and murder her. And so I obtained my first home.
For those familiar with the Elder Scrolls formula (perhaps having played Skyrim or Oblivion), Morrowind serves as the foundation for much of that formula. That being said, Morrowind was a bit more “hardcore” than later titles in the series. A more classic class and skill structure, little to no hand-holding such as quest markers, and zero level scaling of enemies. This meant that as level 1 character you might walk into a tomb and get destroyed by high-level enemies. Effectively some parts of the map (as well as the two expansions, Tribunal and Bloodmoon) are cut off from you until you are high enough level (unless you want to die). Nevertheless, the absence of level scaling creates a inspiring feeling of progression and gaining power. At the beginning of the game, you start off as a peasant who can be easily killed by a crab. By the end of the game, you kill gods without a sweat and destroy everything you touch. It feels great.
Morrowind today can be difficult to go back and play with very clunky graphics (PC mods help) and an ancient combat system (the combat uses dice rolls in the background which means, especially at earlier levels, you can continually miss attacks even if it appears as though you are hitting your enemy). Nevertheless, it’s worth fighting through some of the dated aspects of the game to experience the incredible lore and story, massive open world (even by today’s standards), immersive role-playing, and a feeling of freedom that no game I have ever played has matched. The next game in my list comes pretty close though…
#2 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about how amazing the latest iteration in the Zelda franchise is. Uprooting Zelda convention at every turn, Breath of the Wild is the best game I’ve played in the modern era. Nintendo took my two favorite elements in all of gaming – Zelda and the open world genre – and combined them into a masterpiece of freedom, exploration, and adventure.
Zelda features a huge open world, the first true open world Zelda game, and gives the freedom to explore it at your leisure, almost immediately at the beginning of the game. I loved looking under every nook and cranny, discovering shrines, Koroks, and a variety of interesting locations. On top of giving you the necessary means to traverse the wonderful land of Hyrule, such as the ability to climb any surface and paraglide around the map, BotW re-did the zelda combat system.
Combat is more dynamic with the ability to wield (and break) a variety of weapons, as well as being able to use the environment itself as a weapon; like throwing metal containers at enemies or blowing them off the edge of a cliff with a leaf. These two elements of discovery and a fun combat system gives BotW an incredibly solid foundation. Even now, after sinking over 150 hours into the game, I sometimes pop it open to just run to some new section of the map I’ve yet to explore or to progress in the game’s Master Mode. It’s just fun.
BotW is actually the closest game I have played to Morrowind in terms of discovery, freedom, and feel. This is despite the fact that they are very different games. Having that ability to see something cool in the distance, traverse your way there, and find something notable is ever present in BotW. Additionally, the supporting elements of the game, such as the passive but excellent musical score, and the level of detail in the world design, really flesh out the game’s theme of exploring a beautiful but broken land.
Breath of the Wild may be a masterpiece, but it’s not perfect. Small things, such as the weapon durability system being a bit too overbearing or rain ruining your day, are not too bothersome. The two most troubling issues are a weak story and subpar dungeons (besides the incredible Hyrule Castle) for the Zelda franchise. These two weak points, however, don’t significantly diminish the game and still have their bright moments. The scary thing is that if BotW’s sequel addresses these minor blemishes, the game could be even better. Maybe the unquestioned best-ever. In any case, BotW stands as an incredible achievement in gaming and reinforces once again that Nintendo is the greatest game developer history.
#1 – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Was there any real doubt? OoT stands at the top of many best-of-all-time lists and for good reason. The progenitor of the action-adventure genre, Zelda’s first foray into 3D stands as a true masterpiece of game design. Though future entries in the series expanded the Zelda formula in interesting ways, Ocarina of Time attempted to make essentially a 3D version of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and they succeeded. Considering LttP is considered perhaps the finest 2D game ever made (up there with Super Metroid/Super Mario World), that’s a badge of honor.
OoT laid the groundwork for the future of 3D action games with an innovative lock-on system and a large 3D world, for the time. Additionally, the dungeons in the game were incredibly fun puzzle-and-adventure boxes that often presented a solid challenge. The story and time-traveling mechanics of the game made a nice twist, but OoT was great in that it gave you a lot of freedom for a game made in 1998. Ocarina of Time may be considered a “linear” adventure by modern standards, but the game still gives you many choices and freedoms.
Using Breath of the Wild and other more modern Zelda games like Twilight Princess as comparisons, the Zelda formula has definitely advanced since 1998. The combat in OoT doesn’t hold up quite as well today, being a bit simplistic. Again, the world is not quite as grand in scope compared to say, BotW. Nevertheless, the game is still a joy to play, even today, especially playing on the excellent 3DS remake.
Ocarina of Time laid the foundation for nearly all 3D action games in the future, and stands the test of time as an epic adventure that, even excluding nostalgic fondness, can without much argument be considered the G.O.A.T. And for me, it is.
Thanks for reading about my top 10 favorite games of all time! I’d like to perhaps write more detailed retrospectives on some of these games in the future, and make other, similar lists. Tell me in the comments how you feel about my list – is it much different than yours, any controversial picks? We all have different, valid, opinions, and I’d like to hear yours. Thanks again!