I know you’ve been waiting…so without further ado, here’s #90-81 of my top 100 games!
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
When Bulletstorm was released there was a minor controversy surrounding it – a controversy started by Fox News, of course. They ran a story titled “Is this the worst game in the world?” and complained about the main element of the game – Skill Shots where you’re rewarded with more points by how creative you are with killing your foes. The Fox News controversy relied on a psychologist who tried (and failed) to link violent video games to sexual aggression and rape. However, unlike previous video game controversies, the one for this game ended up as just a blip on everyone’s radar because the game didn’t sell particularly well.
Which is a shame, because the game is fantastic.
Now I’m not going to lie. The game is crass, crude, disgusting and many other adjectives. The Skill Shots you earn for killing enemies have names like “Gag Reflex, Gang Bang, Drilldo, and Rear Entry.” The main character’s speech is littered with curses every other word – and sometimes they make no sense. Even after release, the Polish creators of the game admitted they may have gone a little too far with the language, but they were trying to imitate American cursing and what-not (or so they say) and ended up going overboard. Bulletstorm is by no means a family-friendly game.
But it’s also a very fun and stylish game if all of that doesn’t offend your sensibilities. The weapons you have are creative and not the typical shotgun/assault rifle/grenade combinations. You also have a whip which allows for most of the fun Skill Shots – of which there are a multitude. It really shakes up the typical first-person shooter system because you’re always looking for new ways to defeat your opponents – it’s very hard to get bored with all the options at your disposal in this game. If you’re looking for a unique shooter and can stand a lot of foul language, I highly recommend Bulletstorm.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC
The original N is a free Flash game that myself and my college friends played for hours on end on our separate computers back in the mid-2000s. Several of us competed to see who could beat the hardest levels in the game where you played as a ninja and had to collect gold while avoiding obstacles. All you can do is run and jump, using the game’s floaty physics to avoid lasers, missiles, and all sorts of other booby traps. A few years later, N+ was released as a paid version on a few consoles and it was more of the same. And then came N++ which is the best iteration of all the Ns. It’s fair to say that a little bit of the nostalgia of the original game is tied up in my love for this one, but it also stands well on its own as the perfect execution of the original game’s design.
At its heart, N++ is a bare-bones platformer. The aesthetic is super simple, but as you progress in the game you can unlock different color variants to the game which can make it brighter or weirder should you desire. The game also has an almost-soothing electronic soundtrack that pulses in the background while you complete your ninja escapades. Unlike the original N, which was single player only, N++ supports both a co-op and competitive multiplayer which allows my friends and I to compete as ninjas for that elusive gold.
There isn’t a story, there isn’t any humor, there’s just you and your platforming skills as a ninja. The levels are short and usually simple in design, but complex in execution. It’s a game that can be almost relaxing to play – until you get to the harder later levels and every movement has to be perfect – otherwise you’re dead and have to start over. N++’s simplicity is its greatest asset – it’s a game for people who like testing their skills with platformers. And since I love platformers, I love N++.
88. The Suffering
Platforms: PS2, XBX, PC
I’m not a huge fan of horror games – you won’t find a lot on this list. And truth be told, The Suffering is barely a horror game. It’s much more of an action game with horror elements. It released a year before Resident Evil 4 took the world by storm – and I daresay if it had released after it might have done better and been more widely known since RE4 got people to be more accepting of the idea of an action horror game, as opposed to the more traditional survival horror.
But The Suffering has been one of my favorite lesser-known games for a long time and is one of my favorite overall horror games. In the game you play as Torque, a death row inmate who has to escape a prison island as supernatural events start happening around him. Unlike survival horror games, ammo is always plentiful and you never feel overwhelmed. You’re the monster to be scared of most of the time when it comes to enemies and combat. But the disturbing events that happen on the island are what push the game into the horror genre – after all the location of a prison island is just ripe for horrific stories. The enemies you face are also linked to different ways people have died at the prison – one in particular is a bloated monstrosity that is the result of slave traders who drowned their slaves on the island instead of freeing them.
The game also has a morality system – depending on choices you make over the course of the game you can get three different endings that tell the story of why Torque is on death row. It’s a fun game that I played in the dark at night with friends and was sufficiently creeped out by it. You get to kill bad guys and maybe become an even badder guy in the process depending on your choices. It’s a solid horror-ish entry that has always stuck with me and one I recommend if you’ve never played it and are a casual fan of horror games.
87. Mario Kart: Double Dash
Going from horror to Mario Kart might be a bit of a mood whiplash, but there will be plenty more of it as we get further down the list. Now everyone has their favorite Mario Kart. Perhaps it’s Mario Kart 64, the first real 3D entry with 3D tracks. Or maybe it’s Mario Kart Wii with the motion controls for driving. I could definitely see Mario Kart 8 as people’s favorites due to the polish and sheer amount of characters and tracks available.
But my personal favorite Mario Kart has always been the Double Dash iteration simply because its main hook separates it from all the other Kart games. Unlike the rest of the series, you get to choose two characters as your drivers instead of just one. Now all the characters come in sets – Mario and Luigi, Bowser and Bowser Jr., Yoshi and Birdo, etc. – and each set gets a special, unique item they can pick up from the track boxes in addition to the regular red shells and what-not. You can mix-and-match which characters you want (which alters your weight depending on who you pick) and can switch between them as you drive. It also allows people who like Mario Kart (but don’t like the driving part) to play as the item user in multiplayer and not have to worry about driving.
Everything else about the game is typical Mario Kart – fun, unique tracks based on the Mario world, rubber-banding AI that gets frustrating at higher levels, yelling and laughing with friends in the multiplayer mode. It’s polished just like any other Nintendo Mario Kart title. But the unique aspect of dual characters is yet to be revisited by Nintendo, but is still by far my favorite mechanic introduced in their Kart games. And that’s why Double Dash is sitting on my list as my Mario Kart entry.
P.S. Screw blue shells.
86. Fire Emblem: Awakening
I have a love-hate relationship with the Fire Emblem series. What I love about it: all the unique characters in each iteration, the (sometimes) interesting map design, and the tactical and strategical gameplay revolving around both positioning units correctly as well as managing the rock-paper-scissors effectiveness of the weapons. What I hate about it: the game is played with permadeath for your units, so if you lose a unit they’re gone for good – and my obsessive-compulsiveness regarding keeping every unit alive can make me spend hours replaying one map until I beat it perfectly.
Now I realize that last one is on me and not the game series, but it has led to a common occurrence when I play Fire Emblem games – I often don’t complete them. After hours and hours of replaying levels to get it perfect, I will often lose interest or another game will take my attention away. But I didn’t have that problem with Awakening. It kept my attention from beginning to end and I was able to finish it (after putting well over 80 hours into it, which seems to be a recurring theme with me and strategy games).
Awakening is probably most famous for adding a relationship element to the game which wasn’t in previous iterations – getting a male and female character to the highest relationship rank allows you to recruit their kid into your party through time travel machinations. Their kid will then have stats and abilities handed down from their parents, which makes for fun discussion wars between min-maxers and shippers depending on how you want to approach the game. I’ll admit that the pairing and finding of children did add to my enjoyment of the game – but they took it too far in the next game trying to replicate Awakening’s success. This game did it correctly, having just the right amount of units to not make all the pairings tedious.
Overall, I’d say Fire Emblem: Awakening is not only a great game in the Fire Emblem franchise, but it’s also probably one of the best games to use as an introduction to the strategy game genre. It has a Casual mode which eliminates the permadeath feature that plagues me and could limit others’ enjoyment. It’s well-designed and deserves all of the praise it got when it reinvigorated the Fire Emblem franchise.
When I grew up, I never owned F-Zero myself. Instead, it was one of two games that I looked forward to playing when I visited a particular friend’s house (the other being Street Fighter II). I don’t know why I never asked for it until I acquired it years later when it was available on Virtual Console. But regardless of why, I love this game. At the time it used crazy “Mode 7” graphics to emulate an almost 3D race track, but I didn’t care about that. What I cared about when I played it was the cool looking cars and the awesome music that blasted as I passed cars left and right on my way to victory.
The futuristic racing of F-Zero will always have a soft spot in my heart, primarily due to its musical themes. Music often goes a long way to leave an impression on me in video games – and as we get further down this list I will be talking about soundtracks more and more. The music tracks for Mute City and Big Blue are very well-known and often remixed, but even tracks like Fire Field and Red Canyon had awesome melodies that got your blood pumping while you were racing. And that made the more minimilastic audio tracks like Death Wind (where you can hear the wind blowing as your race) stand out as well.
Part of why I love racing games in general is because of how easy it is to get into a groove once you start racing. And good music playing when you hit that groove just magnifies the experience ten-fold. I could talk about the different track designs and how the game ramps up in difficulty as you clear each cup, or how sleekly designed the futuristic cars are despite being in 16-bit graphics. But honestly all that pales in comparison to why I truly love this game – the music that inspired me to race on these tracks over and over again.
84. Grand Theft Auto V
Platforms: PS3, PS4, 360, XBO, PC
The GTA series is a staple among video game players. GTA 3 is a landmark game that basically changed the way games were designed. So it’s no surprise that at least one (and maybe more!) Grand Theft Auto game would surface on my list. GTAV was an absolute blast to play. It diverged from the usual formula and gave you three different protagonists to play as: Michael, a middle-aged, upper-class white guy in witness protection with his wife and two kids; Franklin, a young black guy who is just trying to make ends meet; and then there’s Trevor, a crazy, homicidal guy who basically doesn’t care about anything and likes to blow things up.
The plot is crazy – filled with heists (a new mechanic for GTA V) and epic car chases that fit the GTA franchise. Everything that can go wrong for the protagonists does, but then things start going right, too. In the typical GTA fashion the world is open for you to explore in your plane/train/automobile and you can wreak havoc on pedestrians if you want, or you can go base-jump off the highest building in San Andreas. There’s always something to do in this game – and if for some reason you get tired of the single-player, you can hop into the new multiplayer mode GTA Online and cause havoc and plan heists with friends.
GTA V is gluttony provided in a modern game. You can do whatever you want in its open world and create all sorts of scenarios yourself, or you can follow the main plot and get just as much fun out of all the twists and turns. Each of the three main characters are fun to control and they play off each other (and the other supporting characters) in a very entertaining, riotous way that is befitting of the GTA series. If you aren’t one an owner of one of the 80 million copies of this game that have been shipped – what are you waiting for? Go forth and cause some destruction!
83. Ace Attorney: Trials & Tribulations
Platforms: GBA, DS, Wii, Mobile
The Ace Attorney series is a very unique game series from the get-go. You play as an attorney (Phoenix Wright in the early games, Apollo Justice in later ones) and the gameplay shifts between investigating a crime scene and using evidence you find to take down suspects/figure out the case in the courtroom. The investigations play out like a point-and-click adventure where you pick up and notate evidence, while the courtroom is a back-and-forth between you and the witness/prosecutor/suspect using said evidence to either confirm or contradict statements. There’s also some weird supernatural voodoo involving a dead mentor and stuff because why not.
What makes the games so satisfying are their story beats along with just how great it feels to nail some of the slimeballs to the wall with the correct evidence. When you hear the Cornered theme start playing, you’re in for some of the hypest moments in gaming. Trials and Tribulations is the third game in the series – and in my opinion it’s the best one. While the best case across all the games (in my opinion) is case 5 of the original game’s DS rerelease, the overall quality of the cases and story in Trials and Tribulations elevates it beyond all the other games in the series.
The characters are also top-notch in this game. The rival prosecutor, Godot, is my favorite of all the protagonist’s rivals (sorry Edgeworth) just because of how cool and over-the-top he is. The villain that ties most of the cases together is also one of the best in all of the games and I won’t spoil anything, but whew is it exhilarating to take them down. This game is the culmination of an awesome trilogy of games and is worth every moment spent navigating and figuring out just whodunnit. If you’re up for a mystery and enjoy a good story-driven puzzle game, don’t miss this one.
82. Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark is Rare’s follow-up to their hit FPS Goldeneye, but without being tied down to a movie or specific licensed world. That meant they could go balls-to-the-wall with their ideas and just make a shooter that was as crazy as possible. A laptop that’s also a gun? Sure. Alien weapons that are shiny and blue and you reload by shoving a blue ball in them? Absolutely. It’s weird and fun and amazing all wrapped into one.
The best part of the game is it refines everything from Goldeneye and just makes it all better. The multiplayer modes have much more depth and many more options – from choosing what music will play to adding bots and choosing the difficulty of the bots. My favorite memory of this game is when me and my friends would play “Assassinate the President” – all of us would be on one team (the assassins) and then the other team would consist of two computer bots – one set at the absolute dumbest level (the president) and one set at the absolute smartest and most ruthless level (his secret service agent). It became a chaotic, laughter-filled escapade as we would all be dying like crazy to the secret service agent while trying to find the president, to the point that it almost became a horror game due to how brutally efficient the CPU was at finding and exterminating us over and over.
Now the single player mode itself was fun, don’t get me wrong. It also expanded on Goldeneye’s ideas and improved upon them. But the reason this game is on this list is because of how me and my friends absolutely exhausted the multiplayer of this game. We fought each other, we fought bots, we teamed up with bots against each other, we invented all sorts of our own mini-games within the game…it was fantastic. It’s a game that will always be special in my heart because of the good times that were had huddled around my Nintendo 64 console.
81. Final Fantasy XII
I’m not a fan of MMORPGs. In fact, I can confidently say there won’t be any MMORPGs on this entire list. And the reason for it is because I don’t find the combat fun. I like being involved and many MMORPGs are about watching your character auto-attack while managing cooldowns when you get into combat, and that just isn’t entertaining to me. So when I say that Final Fantasy XII has MMORPG-like combat, it’s not a good thing. And yet despite that, this game is solidly in my top 100. Why? I’m glad you asked!
First, the story and characters are phenomenal. Balthier is one of the best (if not outright the best) Final Fantasy protagonists of all-time. Sure Vaan and Penelo are kind of tacked on. But Balthier, Fran, Ashe, and Basch more than make up for it. The story is also centered around political maneuvering and a war between countries instead of an impending world disaster as well, which makes for a more unique and engaging story. Second, the grid leveling up system is one of my favorite designed system across most JRPGs – and it’s made even better with a unique job system in the Zodiac Age rerelease/remaster.
Finally, the game puts an interesting twist on the MMORPG combat. The game’s Gambit system functions almost as its own programming language. By acquiring the right Gambits, you can essentially make all your characters function autonomously while fighting enemies. Yes, it can dull the combat down to just watching – but you have the option to turn Gambits off for the player you’re controlling, which I do to keep myself involved in combat. Still, the Gambit system adds an interesting, almost problem-solving, layer to the game which I find entertaining. When you get into combat and suddenly one of your party members starts casting the wrong spells or using up all your extra items, you have to go into the menu system and “debug” your character. That may sound like work to a lot of people, but it actually kept me engaged from start to finish.
This is another RPG that I’ve put 80+ hours into before I finished it – and despite the combat being a mixed bag for me, I highly recommend it. I mean, of course I recommend it – it’s on my top 100. And as a final side-note: definitely try the Zodiac Age remastered version. It adds a lot of quality-of-life improvements that make it hard to go back to the original. It’s definitely worth your time.
So that’s 10 more of my list. Twenty down, eighty to go. Hope you enjoyed, and I’ll see you next week!