Owl should get off his lazy perch and do a decked out list first, as it is I can do a brief descriptions in less than 50 words.
1. Chrono Trigger
- A damn near perfect combination of Final Fantasy's epic adventure with Dragon Quest's simplicity. A distillation of everything the JRPG genre inspired, streamlined and polished to a sheen. Da best, nigga
2. Resident Evil 4
- Development hell left a game with so many ideas, Mikami had no choice to put in EVERYTHING. Resident Evil 4 is a relentless procession of fun. A game stuffed to bursting with form mutating ideas, onion peel area secrets, and unending alarm.
3. Half-Life 2 and its episodes -
Gabe Newell said to his team the only way to follow up the original Half-Life was to, quite simply, make the greatest PC game ever. When experiencing the equivalent of the world's greatest cinematic thrill rides stitched together in one 20+ hour experience, he's got a pretty good argument that they succeeded. Special shoutouts to the incredible sound design, that persist even when you pause the game for maximum atmosphere and immersion.
4. Donkey Kong Country 2
- has the greatest secrets in platformer history, and has got to be in the running for most improved sequel to a game that came out just the year prior.
5. Viewtiful Joe
- Hot pink super-sentai cinema infused with hardcore Nintendo game design. The clever combination of Speed-Up/Slow-Down/Zoom make players feel like Hollywood's biggest hero, inc. audience approving applause.
6. Bayonetta 1/2
- Playing Bayonetta is like sex in video game form. Its like dodging a tight bullet pattern in DoDonPanchi, its like parrying your opponent's super and quickly counting with your own in Third Strike, its like the first time you ran away from the whale in Sonic Adventure's Emerald Coast, its like playing Virtua Cop with both handguns.
7. Ninja Gaiden Black
- What the sequels miss when they pile on bombast and bluster is NGB was an Action-ADVENTURE. That meant backtracking and interaction with the world that made it seem more than linear hallways filled with bad guys. That meant a bit of light puzzle solving and Temple of Doom-esque booby trap navigation. You do it right, it keeps the pacing varied and makes the visceral ninja combat stand out.
8. Star Fox 64
- A breathless sequence of Saturday matinee scenarios: dogfights and asteroid belts, giant mothership invasions and a train raid that plays like a bombastic sci-fi western, complete with a conductor with a southern drawl. Endlessly replayable, endlessly quotable, simultaneously breezy and breathtaking.
9. Metal Slug X/3
- Both titles sit in a similar place in my head, a place that makes me burst into superlatives about their peerless cartoon sprite animations, its well-balanced power-up system, its charming sense of humor among the gung-ho warfare. Metal Slug X took the original formula to its logical end point, and then Metal Slug 3 goes WELL past that, including a climax to end all climaxes.
- id Software's music influence goes beyond its heavy metal album cover aesthetic and ripped-off tunes. Doom isn't about aiming, its about the dance between you and its various projectiles and enemy types. Its weapons and demons each with a specific and clear purpose, the best maps mixed and matched for maximum rhythm.
11. Sonic 3 and Knuckles
- Sonic 1 was the invention, Sonic 2 the escalation, Sonic 3(and Knuckles) the conclusion of a strange mix of speed and platforming. Sega's mastery of their hardware allowed for huge playspaces, and the Michael Jackson influence on the soundtrack is very appreciated.
12. Street Fighter 4
- A hardcore revival, its still great-lookin' style and on the surface simplicity hide a groundswell of depth that has kept the game's competitive drive going strong over half a decade later. Beef aint shit at it, tho
13. Rayman Origins
- Practically any second of this game can be paused and framed on your wall, its so gorgeous. Michel Ancel's prequel is Sonic for a new generation, its fluid speed giving way to an addictive collect-a-thon. The game literally oooohs with delight when you discover one of its many secrets.
14. Team Fortress 2
- Flashy and complex, but its Pixar aesthetic keeps its action accessible and clean. Its wonderful characters have very specific roles, and its good-natured humor encourages cooperation and camaraderie.
15. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- Soooooo easy to break, but there are few more pleasurable experiences than wandering through its Gothic interiors and corridors. Builds up so much good will, you hardly care that its flipped castle idea is more cute than clever.
16. The Last of Us
- Naughty Dog's most successful marriage of action game design with more cinematic ambitions. Created with a level of nuance and maturity rare in today's AAA thrill rides, creating a world of believable characters and motivations to make its bursts of violence palpable. Its terse screenplay may be its greatest asset; character say more with one line and a body expression than an entire Kojima monologue can muster.
17. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
- Treasure must have known they'd never get to make a sequel to this, so they put in every rail shooter idea you could possibly think of. The third stage alone is an absolute marvel in level design, smoothly moving from robot commando factories to Death Star trench runs, turret defense systems and 1-on-1 jetpack sword duels, before ending with a boss that's like fighting Tetris itself.
18. Time Crisis 2
- A 15 minute John Woo gun fight, made with a huge blockbuster budget. I played this thing so much, I figured out all the ways to link enemies together into combos, the best places to milk bosses, and how to wait til the laaaast second to dodge the laser from the final boss.
19. Super Mario Galaxy 2
- Somehow even better than the first one, a colorful celebration that never seems to run out of fun new things to throw at the player. Whoever came up with the Cloud Suit needs a raise and blowjob.
20. Halo 2/3
- Like Metal Slug before it, sits in a similar place in my head. Halo 2 for its simple and satisfying multiplayer, which looks all the more exciting in a world of unbalanced instant gratification modern shooters, and Halo 3 for its highly replyable campaign, filled with sharp encounter design and wonderful production values.
21. Streets of Rage Remake
- A fanmade creation that combines all of Sega's classic beat'em'up trilogy ideas into one glorious package. Filled with all sorts of level ideas and enemy types, with a huge roster of varied characters to select through, this love letter to 16-Bit pop action has the depth to match anything in the genre.
22. God of War 2
- A perfectly paced Greek odyssey, God of War 2 shines like a diamond no matter how many times you've seen its QTEs or felt the controller rumble in your hand as you spin the Blades of Chaos. Like Ninja Gaiden Black, it combines spectacular violence with a hyperactive Zelda progression filled with puzzles, platforming, backtracking, and secrets.
23. Super Smash Bros Melee
- An accessible fan-service brawler with a huge room for depth if you're looking for it. Satisfies hardcore and casuals alike, a blend that I fear may never again be replicated. So brilliant, it feels more and more like an accident every day removed from its heyday.
24. F-Zero GX
- Sega's Afterburner success translated into an arcade racer. Insane speeds through a comic book sci-fi universe, F-Zero GX ask, no, flat out DEMANDS your finest twitch reflexes and video game mastery. Its so goddamn fun that you're willing to endure the crash and burn.
25. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
- The latest entry and totally random spot, but you'll hear me talk about this more when GOTY discussions start up. In short: the game is good, breh
so that's 25, I'll do the other 25 later.
edit: and by later I mean damn now
26. The Wonderful 101
- Like the Viewtiful Joe sequel I know in my heart I'll never get but always wanted. Marries VJ's style to Okami's drawing skills, with the side chick of Pikmin's multitasking little people management. Stuffs an entire season of super-sentai into positively huuuuge game, constantly introducing new challenges right up into its epic final encounter, ending with the greatest QTE in video game history.
27. Bionic Commando ReArmed
- A classy remake of Capcom's NES gem. A platformer with no jump button, Rad Spencer takes on nazis with a mechanical grappling hook arm with a real learning curve, but is damn satisfying to pull consecutive swings in a row. Amazing soundtrack.
Huge props to the game being M-Rated simply because they decided to show Hitler's head exploding in slow motion gory detail.
28. Portal 2
- The original was essentially perfect little gem, the kind of thing that's 90% tutorial and has a Kubrickian detached sterility, but became everyone's favorite anyway. The sequel is bigger, its jokes broader, its characterization more drawn out, its puzzles more complex. Its so damn funny, with level design so clever, it makes YOU feel cool and smart for playing it. Its about as good as an unnecessary sequel could possibly be, and that's before getting into fantastic co-op segment.
29. Mass Effect 2
- A space soap opera that ditches the original's epic narrative drive for a more character-driven story. You become so invested in their various quirks and personalities, you don't want to lose a single one of them in the game's intense final Suicide Mission. Hell, I did once, so I started the game over again to get him back. Fuck that, Thane is my dude.
30. Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
- All hail Bowser! The Koopa King finally gets his much-needed spotlight, after regularly being the best character in the Mario RPG franchise. Some of the best spritework I've ever seen, too.
- Cave's Tsuneki Ikeda thought that if his competitor arcade companies were gonna have dozens of bullets on screen at once, then his game was gonna have HUNDREDS. DoDonPachi is like flying through a goddamn asteroid field, ducking and weaving between bullet patterns and hammering the attack button for dear life. Even on your 100th playthrough, its stages are entirely fair yet nerve-wrecking. The perfect arcade game.
32. Dynamite Headdy
- Another one I love for its invention in level design for such a short little hour long game, with a charming and wacky Japanese puppet show aesthetic and catchy tunes.
33. Left 4 Dead 2
- The ultimate co-op game. Valve/Black Turtle's John Carpenter horror movie perils punishes lone wolves and bad teammates, and the sadistic director's random enemy generation keeps locales feeling fresh and unpredictable no matter how sure you think your team is. Special mention once again must go out to Valve's peerless sound design, intelligently informing players where enemies are, who they are, and how the pacing of the encounter is gonna play out.
- OutRun2 is not a racing game, its a DRIVING game. Its about the simple pleasure of driving at high speeds through picturesque Americana in a fancy Ferrari and a hot blonde in the passenger seat. Clear blue skies and jazzy tunes
, smooth drifts and cheers of adulation. Such a chill game.
35. Yoshi's Island
- Stupidly easy until you figure out its really an incredible lookin collectathon where the challenge comes from figuring out the nuances of its clever level design. Its mechanics and presentation more well suited to its playful sense of discovery than SMW's bland keyhunts.
36. Grim Fandango
- Funny. Just really fuckin' funny, with a cool noir sensibility
37. Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations
- Funny. Just really fuckin' funny, with a cool n-wait.
38. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal/Crack in Time
-Two of the best games of their respective generations. Anthropomorphic explosion of mayhem that vaguely pretends to be a platformer from time to time.
- Addition through subtraction. Thatgamecompany streamlines gaming into its most basic point of getting from point A to point B, crafting a sublime sensory experience that, in its most exuberant moments, not afraid to admit actually moved me to tears, fam. A simple idea done exceedingly well.
40. Contra 4
- A hardcore revival of 80s action movie ideas and comic book exaggeration, buff commandos ninja flipping on the side of a rocket while fighting a giant robot. The Duel Screens works a lot better than it had any right to.
41. Mega Man 9
- Could have put several Mega Man games here, but I went with 9 for its collection of Robot Master weaponry. Quite simply, its the best the classic series has ever seen, interesting and useful, but never MM2 Metal Blade useful where you say fuck you to everything else. Dastardly levels, godlike music, pixel perfect controls, ya know the damn deal.
42. Super Mario 3D World
- a colorful collection of platforming levels bursting at the seams with creativity and polish, backed by tight controls and clean, crisp visuals. Looking back at the many stage tropes and ideas it tackles, there's no better evidence of Mario's status as the perennial gaming icon, able to slip into so many roles and feel perfectly natural.
43. Gears of War 3
- Epic Games' cover-based pop-and-shoot smash hit reaches its zenith here with its most fluid controls, its most balanced set of weaponry, its dedicated servers for netcode, its great set of multiplayer maps, and Epic's finest usage of their Unreal Engine 3 on the presentation front. Played this thing with friends pretty every Friday/Saturday night through 2012.
44. Unreal Tournament 2004
- Like the last entry, Epic's bombastic macho comic book ultra violence is backed by controls that feel immediately good, weapons that are creative and thrillingly tactile, and a sense of humor/self-awareness that has to come from a company named Epic Games.
45. Metroid: Zero Mission
- Another remake of a NES classic, but this time one I just didn't think was much good at all, sorry Metroid fans. Tight controls and speedy momentum make exploring the planet depths an absolute joy. Shame about that tacked-on stealth section at the end there, damn those animations tho right
46. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
- It taught me my hatred of owls
47. Crazy Taxi
- YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH DAY AFTER DAY YOUR HOME LIFE'S A WRECK THE POWERS THAT BE JUST BREATHE DOWN YOUR NECK YOU GET NO RESPECT YOU GET RELIEF YOU GOTTA SPEAK UP AND YELL OUT YOUR PIECE
SO BREAK OFF YOUR RULES BACK OFF YOUR JIVE CUZ I'M SICK OF NOT LIVING TO STAY ALIVE LEAVE ME ALONE I'M NOT ASKING A LOT I JUST DON'T WNAT TO BE CONTROLLED THAT'S ALL I WAAAAAAAAAAN ALL I WAAAAAANT
48. Strider 2
- One of the best controlling action games around, a slick ninja action platformer that's easy to credit feed but difficult to S-A rank if you aint a scrub
49. Batman: Arkham City
- Finally, a game that lets me live my childhood fantasy of flying over Gotham, diving down into a group of thugs, then swiftly taking them out in style like an absolute badass. An escalation of Asylum's Metroidvania structure, but the same level of polish that went into its many systems and art direction, but now with a bigger world and better combat. Keep your Zeldas and Metal Gear Solids, Arkham Knight is my most anticipated game of 2015.
50. Pac-Man: Championship Edition
(DX)- I included DX in parenthesis, because although I love its train of ghosts(there's few greater feels than eating one of those), I feel the original five minute incarnation is just about perfect. A smart reinvention of an arcade classic by the original designer, techno beat and club colors wash over the dynamically shifting stages. High scores are earned through a mix of pattern memorization and twitch reflex adaptation. Addictive, like a bunch of tasty empty calories. Pop video games at their finest, disposable and yet indispensable.