Same Sky
All Worlds Share the Same Sky…

Top 15 Favorite Games/Series

So those of you who want to know what my most favorite games are get your wish today. Bear in mind that this is my personal list. There’s some rules set in place, however, to make things simple:

I’m only including one game per series. By series, I’m talking gameplay-wise. If I feel the gameplay is different enough, it counts as a different series to me.
Also, consider any game in the series present is also up there, but for the sake of simplifying things, I only picked my most favorite.

I went with 15 because I felt it was more inclusive than just 10.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Hands down, my current favorite game of all time. Loved Smash on the 64, and Melee did everything I could have hoped for and more — Brawl looks to do the same and I’m sure it will easily claim its place as my new most favorite game ever soon enough.

Melee took the idea of bashing favorite franchises (and some oddballs) together in one delicious soup and spiced it all up with some sweet, sweet gameplay. While not wholly balanced to the trained eye (here’s hoping Brawl will remedy that), the concept of Smash Bros. was bold and unique — fighters don’t have health but use platforming skills and must stay on a playing field? Brilliantly original, and it took off. Throw in a wealth of gameplay modes to top off an infinitely replayable multiplayer mode and you’ve got yourself a good value, indeed.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Something about the Mario RPGs always caught my interest. The SNES original brought me into the genre, Paper Mario captured my delight with its simple yet spot-on battle system, Mario + Luigi spun it in a new and bizarre direction (it’s sequel was also pretty good but not as memorable) and the sequel to Paper Mario simply gave me everything I could have asked for.

Excellent writing helped make the world Mario lives in come to life like no other. Characters that looks cartoony felt real in their casual struggles that we all face, and the entire game expanded all of the ideas in the first and refined them to a sheen. If you missed out on this, GET IT because it’s one of the Gamecube’s glimmering gems.

Yoshi’s Island

A classic SNES title that, in my opinion, has yet to be topped in the 2D platforming field, Yoshi’s Island went in a new direction with the Mario franchise — a new protagonist, new mechanics, and a completely new world brimming with personality and EXPERT level design. You can bet I’ll be downloading this one ASAP when Nintendo gets it up. A true classic in every sense, loaded with timeless art design, stellar boss battles, challenge in all the right places, and superb gameplay design, this is one any Nintendo gamer should experience at one point or another.

Resident Evil 4

Who would’ve thought that such a crappy series could turn around the way RE4 did? I was fed up with the flaws of the RE series up to high heaven, and then 4 came along and made a believer out of me. Its production values were astounding for the day, with the best console graphics there were at the time it released. Dazzling action sequences that required precision and speed helped to spice up the creepy world it presented. it was beautiful to look at, had perfect ambiance, clever gameplay design (this one put “press buttons during cutscenes” on the map), and was LENGTHY for how good it was. And even when you beat it, you had extra modes/weapons to play with (even more on the PS2/Wii version). ANy action fan can appreciate a game as solid as this — it was a little ahead of its time.

Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask / Wind Waker

While I love the Zeldas, I tend to like the 3D ones more than the 2D (though Phantom Hourglass is certainly up there for me). Ocarina of Time is, ironically, my least favorite. Yes, yes, go cry in a corner…Now, then, I truly delighted with Wind Waker. No other game up until that point (and in many ways, since) delivered the sheer sense of exploration and a wide open world ripe for the seeing. Many hated the boat rides, but I found them relaxing and entertaining in their own sense, not to mention the gameplay was smooth and refined in comparison to OoT. The world was massive, the art design was as timeless and beautiful as the series has ever been, and everything just clicked together.

Majora’s Mask is equally good in my eyes but in a more concentrated way. Wind Waker aimed for scope, and Majora’s Mask aimed for complexity. Its time-traveling mechanic has yet to be seen in a game sense. Yes, Link could transform, which was excellently done, but it was the fact that the game was so story-focused and character-driven that sold me. Your actions would affect the lives of the characters around you, resulting in chain reactions. Many character had precise schedules they would follow over the course of the 3 days if you let them. And there were many small touches that left me beaming, such as the way you went game over. (“It seems you’ve met a terrible fate” being your restart point, which is where the game proper also begins — brilliant!) It’s a shame the game sold so poorly, as it was truly ahead of its time, literally. No Zelda game has provided such a sense of urgency and despair in the way this one did, and it was excellently done considering the limitations of the hardware.

Super Metroid

While I love the Metroid Prime games, especially the first and third (the 3rd is still in my mind the best Wii game I have experienced, though I’m sure Galaxy will change that soon enough) and felt they were superb examples of how to reboot a series and do it right (probably the best example I’ve ever seen), Super Metroid is what stands out most in my mind in the series. I still view this title as the most perfect 2D action/adventure created. It stuns me every time I pick it up — the detail in artistic direction, the excellent atmosphere, the way everything was planned out so well…It’s easily one of the best games ever made from a design standpoint, if you ask me.

Super Mario Bros. 3

It’s hard to pick one single Mario platformer, as I love them all. Yes, I even loved Sunshine, though I will admit it’s almost my least favorites (Mario Bros. 2 actually takes that spot). If I had to pick one, though, it’d be Super Mario Bros. 3. The look, the feel, the level design, the enemies, the whole package…Out of all of the 2D Marios, it somehow feels the most genuine to me. Hard to explain, of course, but it just felt like Mario perfection to me. Easily my favorite game growing up.

Final Fantasy XII

While I may be in the minority, FFXII has to be my favorite entry in the illustrious RPG series that is synonymous with video games. Yes, I loved seven, I liked ten (and oddly enough, liked X-2 more, at least gameplay-wise) found one to be a pleasure, and have enjoyed what bits and pieces I’ve played of all the rest, but XII was the only to truly suck me in and slap my in the face with its excellently crafted world. Ivalice felt very real and well-thought-out, a true fantasy world that got all the points right — its brand of asian/european fantasy was a perfect fit for me, with characters I loved and adored (even if they weren’t developed as much as I would’ve liked). The story was bold, focusing more on exposing a world than a band of heroes, and it served its job very well. Lastly, and perhaps more to its credit than even its superb art design, music, and story, was its gameplay. FFXII did away with everything I hated about the series and added stuff I didn’t even know I wanted. Battles and exploration were smooth and made sense — no random battle nonsense. Abolities and weapons felt well earned, strategy was king in order to win the harder fights…And fights flowed like no other RPG while still keep strategy at the helm rather than button-mashing. You were always on your toes. I doubt I’ll be forgetting this one any time soon, as it is my favorite RPG asides from the Mario-branded ones.

Kingdom Hearts

I loved what Smash Bros. did, and I was intrigued at how Kingdom Hearts took the idea further. The action-RPG gameplay was fun, if at times a bit simple. The second in the series refined the gameplay even more, while the first maintained a certain atmosphere and story that I somehow prefer, but I feel these two games really should be complimented as a pair. They’ve got beautiful graphics, great sound, solid gameplay, and a unique concept that is surprisingly charming.

Shadow of the Colossus

You have to hand it to a game that throws itself out on the line and decides to strike the industry with a bold concept. Shadow of the Colossus was more an epic experience that no gamer should miss out than a true “game.” Yes, it has all of the trappings of a game, but it’s clear when you pick it up that atmosphere, subtle storytelling, and sublime boss encounters were what this baby aimed for, and damn, did it succeed. The fights were more cinematic that most anything else I’ve encountered to date, and the experience as a whole was simply jaw-dropping. I was floored — it tugged at my mind and heart in ways no other game has.

Chrono Cross / Chrono Trigger

While I may be a heretic, I enjoyed the PS1 Chrono game more than SNES. While I think the two are different animals with similar atmosphere and themes, I happen to like the PS1 game more. Its presentation was unlike anything I had seen at the time, with stunning graphics and an EXCELLENT soundtrack that I still feel to this day is the single best soundtrack in a video game (its quality, variety, and scope is just astonishing). The combat system was good enough, with some interesting ideas, but it was really more just the entire experience as a whole that sold me.

Chrono Trigger did roughly the same thing on the SNES and left a lasting impact on the industry with its excellently told story and well-thought design. Time travel actually worked the way you would think it would, and the presentation was, as with Chrono Cross, sublime for its hardware.

God of War II

God of War was a kick in the pants as I was sprawled on the ground, gasping for air after Resident Evil 4. It grabbed me by the balls and showed me the power of originality in a game while also delivering a hardcore challenge at times through a wonderfully fluid combat system. The alternate Greek mythology sold me, and the way it was blended into the gameplay was excellent. The second title went all the way to deliver everything I enjoyed in the first with evolved difficulty, presentation, narrative, and gameplay.

Odin Sphere

This shining jewel for the PS2 took me by surprise with its old school approach. The most beautiful 2D game I’ve ever seen, Odin Sphere boasted very smoothly animated characters and stunning backgrounds. The story was intriguing, based on a popular opera, the characters were charming, and the gameplay was fun, if at times a little too difficult for its own good. While not as perfect a game as many on this list, Odin Sphere is another game that is here because as an experience, it drew me in and begged me to play more.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3/Knuckles

Sonic has seen better days (and he’s about to get one in February that keep him in the minds of gamers in a positive light for years to come), but his old platformers on the Genesis were the originals and the best. Sonic 2 is a fan favorite, but I prefer Sonic 3, especially if I can cheat and combine it with Sonic and Knuckles (which is what the two games physically did). This game was refined and had polished level design, catching visuals, and memorable music. When I think of Sonic, I think of Sonic 3 first and foremost. One of the crowning achievements of the era, if you ask me.

Pokemon Silver / Pokemon Stadium 2

I don’t know about you, but Pokemon was a series that shaped my gaming self growing up, and the most memorable was easily Silver. That sequel played everything right, with a world twice as large, 100 more creatures, lots of new features, and even a realtime day/night cycle and days of the week! The strategy was still there, the drive to “catch ’em all” was there, and the social crux of Pokemon was at its peak for me right then. Stadium 2 was the perfect arena to put all of my hard work to the test, offering up tons of difficult challenges that put my teams to work. Winning a Pokemon battle with strategy when the odds are stacked against you is satisfying, and I greatly respect this franchise for what it did for kids all over — taught them to enjoy their hobbies with others! Pokemon encouraged and in some ways FORCED social interaction, something kids these days NEED. It gets a lot of flak for not changing in recent years, but that doesn’t make it any less GOOD.

There you have it. Not all of the games I love, to be sure (there’s still Megaman, Mario Kart, Soul Calibur, Rez…etc.) but if I had to choose the ones that I’ve enjoyed as a whole the most, the ones that have had the most influence in shaping me into the gamer I am today, it’d have to be these ones.

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