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The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

 

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It’s difficult to forget that “all time,” as video games are concerned, isn’t a very long time at all. This fact poses something of a unique list-making challenge: How do you size up, let alone rank numerically, the history of a medium still more or less in its infancy? How, for instance, do you compare the limited efficiencies of an 8-bit side-scroller to the gleaming HD vistas of a next-gen open world? How do you survey everything that video games are capable of, every idiosyncratic way they’ve been shaped and contorted, and come up with a list that accommodates all of it? How do you account for outmoded styles or formats, or obsolete technologies, or milestones beginning to show their age? The evolutionary considerations alone are staggering. Consider the extremes: How do you compare Portal to Pong?

Well, it may be that this sort of flattening of historical perspective is impossible, at least without serious concessions to personal conviction, but in any case, those of us who contributed to this list felt it in our collective best interest not to tip the scales in favor of honoring the past. We wanted to exalt those games we each felt are most exemplary of the medium’s virtues, whether they be richly emotional narrative experiences or invigorating bouts of tactile fun. It stands to reason that as this medium enters early maturity it will reach new heights of artistry and sophistication. The landmarks and breakthroughs of gaming history—those prototypal games whose influence continues to loom over contemporary mechanics and design—are the shoulders on which every modern developer sits, forever stretching up to something new. In other words, video games keep getting better. Calum Marsh

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

100

Worms Armageddon (1999)

The feeling inspired most intensely by Worms Armageddon, oddly but irresistibly, is helplessness—the sensation that, as a friend locks you in the sights of a bazooka, you can't do anything about it. Chaos reigns: Grenades remain in thrall to the mercurial whims of the wind, ping-pong wildly, as you seize up waiting to see that last, unpredictable bounce. These are death matches in which you're about as likely to shoot your enemy as you are to shoot yourself, though with mechanics so precisely engineered that the only blame for your mistakes belongs to yourself. It was maddening. But futility proved fun.  Marsh

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

99

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (1995)

Phantasy Star has its fans, a great many of whom jumped on when the series went MMO, but it's never been a franchise uttered in the same breath as Square Enix's best and Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium releasing hot on the heels of Final Fantasy VI didn't help. The irony is that Sega's magnum RPG opus does pretty much everything Final Fantasy would offer in the years that followed way ahead of the curve: combo spells, manga-inspired cutscenes, space travel, multiple vehicles to play around in, and the best, delightfully earnest storytelling the genre has to offer. This is the system's quietly ignored masterpiece.  Justin Clark

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

98

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2005)

The genius of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is derived from a single word: “Objection.” The game imbued that modest exclamation with the power to make or break a legal case entire, invoked like a coup de grace to bring a 10-hour mystery to its final, satisfying close. A handheld judicial comedy composed largely of text and 2D animation, Phoenix Wright is clearly a video game apart, beloved as much for its formal audacity as for its almost novelistic density as a work of detective fiction. Gather clues. Build a case. And prepare for a culminating moment of glory: a chance to yell “Objection!”  Marsh

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

97

Wild Arms (1996)

Back in the olde days of the PlayStation, developers seemed a lot more willing to make reckless gambles, but it led to brilliant oddball titles like Wild Arms, which combined western themes with science-fiction machinations. The game freewheeled it from the start, allowing players to choose the order in which they'd play through the initial three scenarios, and never looked back. By settling on a small cast (going up against some very large stakes), the game allowed for a depth of character development that was missed in other, more well-known titles, to the extent that even swapping between heroes (each had their own set of puzzle-solving tools) felt like reacquainting oneself with an old friend. Whether playing a guitar to summon a monstrous golem or using the power glove to disrupt a satellite's transmission, they just don't make bizarre, wild games like this anymore.  Aaron Riccio

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

96

Pokémon Gold and Silver (2000)

Superior in almost every way to their predecessors, Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced a number of significant advancements that have since become staples in modern Pokémon installments. The real-time clock system, which allowed for certain Pokémon to make their appearances at specific hours of the day, was a landmark element that had gamers waking up in the dead of the night to acquire rare critters. Pokémon item-holding, berries, the Pokégear, defeated trainer rematches, shiny Pokémon, breeding, and the Dark and Steel types were also first seen in Gold and Silver. To boot, Gold and Silver arguably boast the best starting trio, protagonist, and expansion edition (Pokémon Crystal) this fabled franchise has yet to deliver.  Mike LeChevallier

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

95

Dead Space (2008)

Resident Evil 4 in space, or a video-game version of Event Horizon. That's Dead Space in a nutshell, but that also doesn't do the game's fierce commitment to the horror element of survival horror nearly enough justice. This is a game not above setting up creatures to jump from behind vents and corners, or leaving the player low on ammo, but it's in watching the Artifact drive the USG Ishimura's crew into violent insanity, the game's Kubrickian use of the cold silence and zero gravity of space, and the dozens of visceral ways Isaac Clarke can die that raise this game far above its lackluster peers.  Clark

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

94

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (2005)

The most appealing feature of Advance Wars: Dual Strike is also its most superfluous: Those gloriously, singularly animated battle sequences, which hurl your tiny armies into split-screen combat for a two-second rapid-fire skirmish. It's an entirely unnecessary design element—a quirky bit of ornamentation that visualizes the damage calculations chattering away behind the scenes. And yet it's precisely what elevates the game from distinguished real-time strategy to something altogether new. Precisely calibrated mechanics are a solid foundation. Advance Wars delivers something more: a burst of aesthetic splendor and an inspired flourish of design.  Marsh

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

93

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (1992)

In its halcyon days, the side-scrolling beam-'em-up genre produced a number of standout games that could have easily landed on this list, but Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time stands as the king of its kind for a variety of reasons. It effortlessly defined the comic book-reading, pizza-eating, cartoon-watching, slang-spouting, arcade-inhabiting zeitgeist by using the then mega-popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a faceplate for what's perhaps one of the most addicting cooperative multiplayer experiences in video-game history. Teaming up with three friends as the titular reptilian foursome and mowing down waves of Foot Soldiers and various mutated hostiles, all set to composer Kôzô Nakamura's consummate 16-bit score, is a riotous routine that never stales.  LeChevallier

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

92

Fallout 3 (2008)

The idea of walking around a nuclear wasteland in 2077 is as much of a fantasy as anything else in a modern role-playing games, but the attention to details lavished by Betheseda upon their devastated, mutant-overrun version of Washington D.C. made Fallout 3 feel all too real. That's because the game allowed you to literally choose your own adventure. Because if you didn't feel like exploring the various ruined landmarks, subways, and museums that loosely connected the main plot, you could simply scavenge the surrounding, fully rendered areas, stumbling over old military bunkers and warehouses in the mountains, or picking through suburban homes, supplying your own grim stories and making your own brand of morality.  Riccio

The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

91

Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)

Halo is about an intergalactic war between humans and aliens, interrupted with the discovery of an ancient, sinister planet-sized artifact: an enormous ringworld, with continents and oceans like Earth, that stretches into an enormous loop. One can see everything continuing way off into the distance, then look up to the sky to see the ring reach up into the heavens. This dazzling vision defied the limits of previous first-person shooters, set across uniquely huge landscapes that could be freely traversed, and utilized vehicles as well as firearms, both for travel and as armaments. Its addictive gameplay is accentuated by its intriguing sci-fi narrative, wherein the player's interaction with the technology of an ancient species inadvertently instigates the end of all life.  Ryan Aston

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