Top 20 Games

A list of my 20 favorite video games!

The games in this list mean a lot to me in many different ways. Some of the games distracted me during difficult times of my life while others spurred my imagination and challenged me. But all of these games offered enjoyment, entertainment, and resulted in lasting memories. For some of the games I have decided to share a memory or some thoughts regarding my experiences with them and sometimes where I was at personally when I played. Video games have been, and continue to be, an influential aspect of my life, and I would like to share that.

20: Until Dawn
Until Dawn simply offers a fun horror experience where you dictate who lives and dies. The game is intentionally cheesy in a good 80’s horror film way and surprisingly works. I rapidly developed love/hate relationships with several of the characters and played through several times to manipulate certain relationships and to keep everyone alive in spite of the would be killer. If you’re interested in directing the outcome of a game, this one could be for you.

19: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Similar to Far Cry 3, Skyrim is another game I played on PC that renewed my passion for PC gaming. While I was admittedly late to the party in regards to playing Skyrim, that did not temper my excitement and enjoyment for the game when I finally did get to play it. I won’t debate the difference between Skyrim and Oblivion (plenty of others have already done so sufficiently) but in some ways I enjoyed Skyrim slightly more and slightly less than Oblivion. Skyrim made some much needed improvements (hello caves) while presenting a vast and moody open-world. I spent many hours absorbing the gorgeous countryside and history of this fantasy world.

18: Fallout 4
Fallout 4 is my first and only Fallout game. I had very few expectations going into this game other than expecting it to be awesome which it was. Fallout 4, while weak on story and some character development, shoves you into a gritty world where radiation is a threat and what remains of humanity is even deadlier. For me, the journey through Boston and all my stops along the way was far more important and impressive than the story’s conclusion. Fallout 4 is the kind of game where you sit down to play for an hour and then look up to see that half the day has passed you by.

17: Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)
Dark Forces released for the PC and then for the PlayStation in 1996, but I’m not sure when I first had access to it. If I remember correctly, I originally played this game at my cousin’s before eventually picking it up at a yard sale for my own laptop. The mercenary Kyle Katarn is still one of my favorite Star Wars characters. My love for Star Wars certainly contributed to why I enjoyed this game and the later entries in the series, but it was also a fun first-person shooter. In fact, Dark Forces might have been my very first first-person shooter.

16: RollerCoaster Tycoon Gold
RollerCoaster Tycoon is a classic. Developed by Chris Sawyer Productions, the gold edition released a few years after the original title and stole many hours of my life. The first RollerCoaster game is a standard in the simulation and management genres for a reason. RollerCoaster Tycoon presents various park scenarios, a sandbox mode, and plenty of room for creativity. From budgeting and managing employees to ensuring your guests are happy, RCT is flexible enough for hours of play and entertained many 90s children. From The Sims to Minecraft and Civilization 6, my early interest in sandbox games and simulators is ongoing, and I have RollerCoaster Tycoon to thank for that.

15: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Where do I start? Mechanically, graphically, and just generally speaking, MGSV is an excellent game. Here’s what I love: it runs well on console, the game looks good, the maps are sizeable, the world is realistic, the weather is somewhat dynamic, the gunplay is solid, and I like the selection of companions and that they are not pointless (I’ll try to hold back my disappointment regarding one of said companions being stolen away…). HOWEVER, what the heck happened to the story? What is the story? Just to be clear, this was my first time playing a Metal Gear game, and I know about the whole debacle between Kojima and Konami, but that’s hardly an excuse for a half-baked story. Regardless of the story issues, MGSV is solid (heh) in nearly every other regard.

14: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
was a buggy game, but it sure was a fun rpg. Star Wars + rpg? I’m not sure I have to say much more. In typical BioWare style, the game combined class options, combat, dialogue choices/plot decisions, and various maps into a mostly cohesive whole. This is probably one of the earliest rpgs I played on PC and one that certainly shaped my knowledge of the genre.

13: Tomb Raider (2013)
Tomb Raider is a solid game with one of the best female protagonists around. I absolutely love the reimaging of Lara Croft who is, now more than ever, presented as a fully realized character. She’s strong and emotional, uncertain and assertive, physical and at times weak. Lara represents the paradox of humanity. Too much? Okay, I’ll move on. But seriously, Tomb Raider successfully reinvigorated a franchise starring a powerful female protagonist.

12: Assassin’s Creed Origins
Despite my past criticisms of Ubisoft, I can’t deny that they’re learning how to make a world come alive. It’s been a slow progression (and one that’s been tainted by franchise fatigue), but Assassin’s Creed is getting to the point where the quality of the story matches the quality of the mechanics and the game world. I particularly enjoyed this story because of the setting, the combat, and the protagonist. They did such a great job fashioning a world that felt like ancient Egypt that I easily committed to getting platinum. After 75 hours of play, I am happy to say that the franchise is back on track.

11: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
BotW has brought me back over to Nintendo’s side, in a sense. It’s certainly the reason I invested in a Switch! It’s a solid enough game—I enjoyed the open world, the combat, and the music. But there’s one major thing holding me back from ranking this game higher: story.

10: Harvest Moon
From the moment I started Harvest Moon, I fell in love. I used to dream about this game. My addiction, for lack of a better word, was that bad as a child. It sounds a bit funny to say that now; after all, Harvest Moon is fairly simple in its design, but it still managed to capture my attention. When I first played it at my cousin’s house, I didn’t know that video games could be different—they didn’t all have to be combat-based or otherwise action-packed. I could be a farmer in a video game repairing a farm?? My little mind was blown. Harvest Moon, a game I was never able to complete in a satisfying way due to my lack of immediate access, was my introduction to simulation RPGs. This interest culminated years later in many many hours being sunk into Stardew Valley when it first released. Nostalgia is a powerful force.

09: Super Mario World: Super Mario Bros. 4
I can’t talk about my childhood and video games without mentioning gaming’s iconic brothers. While Super Mario World is a 2D platformer, it gave me a lot of gaming knowledge that contributes to my overall interests and expectations as a gamer. It taught me about game maps, levels, combat, boss fights, and to think about strategies for play.

08: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
The fourth installment of this franchise is what finally sold me on the idea of being a stealthy assassin. I loved the locations, sailing the high seas, plundering as a pirate, and chasing shanties down. Pirates!!

07: Far Cry 3
Before Far Cry 3, I was never a big fan of first-person shooters. I’m more of a single-player girl and do not particularly enjoy the stereotypical online fps players. I discovered Far Cry 3 through my favorite YouTuber at the time, TheRadBrad, and could not wait to play the game. The only problem was that at that time I only had a poor laptop for school. I had wanted a gaming rig for awhile and Far Cry 3 only added to my motivation for saving up. Eventually I bought my dream PC and installed my first game: Far Cry 3. I love Far Cry 3 because of the tropical setting, the open world, and the fact that it is primarily a single-player game. The story and characters are kind of meh, but the mechanics, guns, and challenges are quite fun!

06: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Similar to Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is a memorable connection of mine to classic gaming. I don’t need to talk it up too much, but it was my first Zelda game and another introduction to RPGs. I loved the sense of adventure, the dungeons, and the switching between the overworld where players start and the Dark World. Thinking about it now, I have the urge to find a copy and reenter that world.

05: Stardew Valley
Much like Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley captures the part of me that, as a gamer, longs for relaxing and low-pressure scenarios to lose myself in. The game is as charming as it is mesmerizing. I never would have thought that planning for a harvest of blueberries would be so compelling.

04: Horizon Zero Dawn
HZD captures everything that I hope for in rpgs. Aloy is an interesting and unique protagonist, the world is original, intriguing, and calls for exploration, the combat is both fun and satisfying, and there’s enough lore to satisfy players. The game began with enough urgency to thrust me into the action, and its overall design carried me through til the end without fatigue. In fact, when I was done with the main story, I desperately desired more content.

03: Persona 5
Persona 5
is the most flawless video game I have ever played. No exaggeration. So much of this game is well-executed: the cohesive story, the music, the animations, the combat (which is both complex yet accessible), the characters, and the world. The culmination of these elements results in a title that will easily occupy many hours of your time. During the bulk of my play through, I found myself thinking about Persona 5 constantly. From the turn-based combat to the social interactions, the game is simply captivating.

02: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
I so badly want to place The Witcher 3 at #1 but something is holding me back. I am not sure I can identify what that something is, but I think it has to do with the nostalgia I have for Oblivion. Anywho, W3 is a superb example of an open-world rpg. The world and its stories unfold beautifully around Geralt. I love the dynamic weather, the music, the balance between magic and swordplay, the characters, and the story. W3 offers such a rich experience I recommend any rpg fan give it a go. The people at CD Projekt clearly put their passion into this game and it shows in nearly every element of the Northern Kingdoms. There is plenty of praise for W3 and I cannot say enough to do it justice. Without a doubt 10/10.

01: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Where to begin? I played Oblivion during a time of my life when I was uncertain about a lot of big life stuff. I was attending college, uncertain about my major and future when I walked into Wal-Mart one afternoon and meandered through the video game aisle. Almost immediately Oblivion Game of the Year Edition jumped out at me, and I read the blurb on the back of the box. It was onsale for something like $20 and I figured “why not?” Soon it was installed on my laptop and I was immersed in a deep fantasy world full of history, intrigue, and danger. I even remember sitting in my car waiting between classes traversing the country-side on my steed. Oblivion not only sold me on the Elder Scrolls as a franchise but it made me a fan of Bethesda and opened doors to other fantasy and open-world games over time like The Witcher 3. I don’t feel the need to sell Oblivion simply because so many others have written about it and presented their own rankings of The Elder Scrolls games. For me, Oblivion will always stand out as one of the best open-world experiences of my gaming adventures.

Honorable Mention:

The Last of Us
The only reason I have placed The Last of Us in the honorable mention spot is because I have never completed the game. Sad, I know. I started playing tLoU in the middle of one of my semesters during graduate school so that’s my excuse for not completing it. If it wasn’t for that, tLoU would comfortably place in my top five. While I have not completed the game, I have watched several complete play throughs of the game. tLoU is an emotional and human experience that many games attempt but fail to achieve. Its level of quality places it on a very short list.