30. Persona 5 (Atlus, 2017)-
Many RPGs attempt to get you to bond with a huge cast of characters and most of them end up being hit or miss. Persona 5 on the other hand has one of the most likeable crews of teammates from top to bottom in any game. I’m a sucker for any turn-based RPG and Persona 5 is the best one we’ve gotten this decade. The combat has a hypnotic rhythm to it as the excellent soundtrack and flashy animations are constantly playing. But honestly, it was the day-to-day life sim elements that really hooked me. Turns out, I like being a high schooler in Japan. If you want to play a good dungeon crawler, Persona 5 is a damn good place to start, as this is one of those games that was an instant classic upon release. I haven’t played Royale yet, but I look forward to experiencing even more of this incredible game.
29. Valkyria Chronicles (Sega, 2008)-
Valkyria Chronicles is a Strategy game that really reminds me of a classic PS2 era JRPG. When you think of big budget RPGs, you immediately think of high fantasy, or Steampunk settings. Even in the realm of other genres, there are so few games set in the World War I era compared World War II or modern day that I think it’s refreshing to have a game set in a fantasized version of WW I. The colorful cell shaded graphics, energetic and fun characters and overall presentation of this game are great, but what really makes it stand out is the unique take on the SRPG formula. You move each unit individually on a grid as you normally would, but you get to manually aim and execute attacks. Because of this, I think even people who wouldn’t normally play a turn-based RPG will be more open to engaging with it. Valkyria Chronicles is hands down the best RPG that Sega has ever made.
28. Final Fantasy Tactics (Squaresoft, 1997)-
Speaking of fantastic Strategy games, Final Fantasy Tactics is easily one of the best spinoffs from a major franchise ever. I could go on and on about how polished the job system is, or how amazing the cast of characters is, or how Ivalice is one of the best worlds that a Final Fantasy game has ever been set in. But all of that would just be preaching to the choir because anybody who’s played this will know how great this game is, so instead, I will just write a limerick.
There once was a company named Square
For their best franchises they no longer did care
The Tomb Raider reboot was a tragedy
They don’t make turn-based Final Fantasies
Make a new Tactics game you pricks
Until then you’re dead to me.
27. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, 1998)-
More so than any game on this list, Ocarina of Time is a true classic in every sense of the word. Very few games can claim to not only be as iconic as OOT, but also as influencial. Taking the base they created with A Link to the Past, Nintendo turned their attention to the realm of 3D, and just like with Mario, they stuck the landing the first time. Even going back at an older age with no nostalgia attached to the game, it really holds up as being an amazing adventure. So much of this is due to Koji Kondo’s masterpiece of a musical score, but what makes OOT so special is how it tells its story through visuals and gameplay. The brilliantly used time travel mechanic is a perfect example of this. As kid Link, the world is full of color, joyful and bustling with life, but the moment that you turn into adult Link, you just immediately know from the change in visuals and atmosphere that the world is fucked up now. There’s so many amazing easter eggs, secrets and hidden things to find, it’s honestly astonishingly impressive how fully realized of a world this game has despite coming out when most developers were still figuring out how movement in 3D space worked. The dungeons have since been surpassed in quality and creativity by a lot of other games in the franchise, but they still all have a unique atmosphere about them, especially the Shadow Temple and the infamous Water Temple. This game truly stands tall as a towering achievement in action-adventure games and should not be missed by any self-respecting gamer.
26. Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo, 2007)-
Space is almost always the final escalation for any franchise, but with Mario, it actually meant scaling back his freedom. Galaxy has much more restricted movement mechanics and less open-ended level design compared to 64 and Sunshine, but where it makes up for that is having hundreds upon hundreds of unique ideas. Lesser games would crumble under the weight of even half the ideas Super Mario Galaxy effortlessly presents, yet it never dwells on any one thing for too long, and even when it reuses mechanics, it repackages them in a new and interesting way. The atmosphere of this game is extraordinary, as once again, Koji Kondo’s remarkable orchestral music steals the show. If you can soar through space while hearing the triumphant New Egg Galaxy music in the background without feeling emotional, then stop playing video games because you are dead inside.
25. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Ubisoft, 2003)-
The Prince of Persia series’ first attempt at 3D went over about as well as a Jewish joke at the Nurnberg trials, but when Ubisoft was given a crack at it on the Gamecube, they learned from the mistakes of its predecessor and said “Well if there’s going to be tons of unfair, cheap instant death traps and ridiculously hard platforming, then why not give the player the ability to avoid the frustrations these things by having a time rewinding ability?” It’s amazing how such a simple mechanic can be so much fun as it fits perfectly with the franchise’s signature parkour platforming. But I think Sands of Time’s biggest achievement is the fact that Ubisoft managed to write a whole story where the main characters actually talk like normal human beings. The chemistry between the Prince and Farah is amazing and charming, and Farah herself is one of the best female characters in the medium. The combat is repetitive and a bit boring, but that can be forgiven seeing as the rest of the game is almost perfect.
24. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo, 2006)-
I hesitate to say that Twilight Princess is a better version of Ocarina of Time, because that is reductive to both games. Twilight Princess is like an updated version of OOT for a new generation. Twilight Princess has the best dungeons in the entire franchise, with people mostly arguing about which is the best in the series between just the ones in this game (Even though it’s obviously Arbiter’s Grounds.) This is the closest we’ll ever get to a “cinematic” Zelda game with the sword duel on the bridge of Elden being one of the most memorable moments in the franchise’s illustrious history. It’s just a given that the music in the game is fucking amazing, but I also love the art style and aesthetic of Twilight Princess, even if the whole light/dark world motif has been done to death. I also think Midna is one of the best helper characters in the entire franchise, and wolf Link is a cool change of pace. Twilight Princess isn’t perfect, but I think it’s the Zelda game I have the most emotional connection to, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
23. Rayman Origins (Ubisoft, 2011)-
Rayman Origins is a beautifully animated, charming and fun 2D platformer with some of the best level design ever in a video game. After years of being relegated to the awful Rabbids games, Rayman finally made a victorious and triumphant comeback with Origins. The Ubiart engine is the perfect animation style to use for a game about Rayman’s goofy and funny friends. The levels are so creative and interesting, Gourmand Land where the entire level is made out of food is still one of my favorite worlds in any video game. The music is great, and it was just nice after years and years of ultra-serious brown and gray military shooters to have a fun, lighthearted game like Origins. But the real reason I hold Rayman Origins so highly is because of the personal meaning to me. I didn’t play many games from around 2008 to 2012, and having just moved across the country to a new state, I felt a bit out of sorts. Not only did this game get me back into playing video games, but it also provided a lot of fun in my life when I was feeling a bit down, so Rayman Origins will always hold a distinct place in my memory.
22. Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft, 1997)-
I don’t need to explain why Final Fantasy VII is one of the most beloved video games of all time. So much of this revolutionary title has been ingrained not just in the minds of fans, but in the medium’s entire collective consciousness. Even if you haven’t actually played the game, you basically know all the story beats because they’re just that monolithic. Sephiroth is arguably the most iconic villain in any game ever, and how he is introduced is a masterclass in how to build up an antagonist. The soundtrack is fucking perfection, and Final Fantasy VII is just such a complete and content-rich game that you wonder how it was even possible in a time when most developers were struggling just to model 3D characters without it turning into a Lovecraftian abomination. Obviously, the characters are special and the story’s environmentalist message makes it memorable, but for somebody who has zero nostalgia for the game, even I was able to form great memories with it. My first time beating Emerald and Ruby WEAPONS after hours and hours of trying with my uncle is still one of my greatest gaming victories.
21. Portal (Valve, 2007)-
There is no such thing as a perfect video game, but Portal makes a case for that statement being false. This modern classic puzzle game is so devoid of flaws and fat that it’s hard to really point to something and count it as a negative. The simple idea of having a gun that shoots two portals that you can go in and out of seems like it would get boring quickly, but Portal never lingers on any ideas too long, thus making for constantly fresh uses of the game’s very simple premise. It’s only as long as it needs to be, yet it doesn’t feel too short. On top of this, Portal has a very charming story with a very dark and sarcastic sense of humor, but it never comes at the expense of the gameplay. Glados is one of the most beloved and memorable villains in a game and for good reason, so much so that her lines have become essential parts of meme and internet culture. Portal is a title that I think everybody should experience at least once, even if you aren’t into puzzle games.