"Shadow of the Colossus is one of those rare games that deftly mixes the trends of post-modern game design and classic exploration. Set in a land of beautiful vistas and desolate deserts, the nameless protagonist, known only as Wander, is set on a journey to resurrect a woman. Why he does so is left entirely to the player's imagination, and whether it is for repentance, love, or guilt is a matter of the player's own life experiences and motivations. The eponymous colossi, meanwhile, invoke an equally large range of emotional responses - awe in the sight of the majestic beasts, rage at their tenacity to survive, and horror at the prospect of the extinction of these unique, powerful beings. Kow Otani's plaintive string arrangements and bombastic horns are just as vital in creating a sense of danger and adventure in this simple tale of a man driven to change his world, in ways both large and small. Fumito Ueda created a masterpiece with Shadow of the Colossus, and he did so by allowing the player to discover the truth that is present in all games - that we are driven by the tasks placed before us - and to subvert that reality to instill a greater impact than any overwrought dialogue tree or lengthy exposition has ever accomplished." -- Written by ilario7886
"A game that raises more questions than answers them. What happened to the woman? Is she dead or merely sleeping? Why do you have to kill those beasts? Who speaks to you? Who built the structures in this land, and who made the colossi? The feeling of being completely isolated and helpless in a foreign, desert place, with the life of someone so important to you to make you fight twelve hulking beasts so ancient and powerful depending only on you. It's not a story-driven game as much as instinct and guesswork-driven. And that's what makes it so great. (Not to mention that it's the best-looking PS2 game in my opinion.)" -- Written by UD4
"Contra introduced the world to the Spread Gun, one of gaming's most memorable weapons; and it also popularized the Konami Code, which has since been paid homage to by countless video games, bands and websites (even Facebook!). Really, the game is well worth playing for those two reasons alone - amazingly, though, it's just as addictive as it was influential. A masterpiece of 8-bit game design, Contra has stayed remarkably fresh over the years. The terrific level designs, excellent soundtrack and impressive visuals have helped it withstand the test of time; the primary factor, though, has to be the game's ability to provide a die-hard challenge while staying completely fair. Unlike numerous other games from the time period, you won't get screwed over by unresponsive controls or poor programming while playing Contra: the sense of challenge is completely legitimate, and it's kept gamers around the world coming back again and again. Well over 20 years after its original release, this is still one of the most entertaining games available for any platform." -- Written by TheCodeIsBosco
"Forget the immortal Konami code for a minute, mute the unforgettable music, and even ignore the iconic spread gun; Contra is still an action game that every company wants to emulate to this day. Contra epitomized "pick up and play" gaming with controls so responsive and mechanics so simple that players were rarely ever stuck or frustrated. When your lives hit 0, you would swear revenge and hit Continue. Why? With snipers aiming at your head, drones charging toward you, and bosses the size of the screen, you always had something to shoot at. And with a wide range of weapons from auto-machine guns to blazing lasers, two people could dive into danger each armed with something different. Now when you add an addictive soundtrack, the chaotic spread gun, and the feeling of immortality you get with 30 lives, don't you feel like grabbing a friend and saving the world?" -- Written by Zoqfotpik
"Coming off the disappointment of The Adventures of Link, the third game in the long-running Zelda franchise was given a daunting set of tasks. It was the game that was to sustain the SNES between the opening salvo of Super Mario World and the upcoming Super Metroid. It was meant to reclaim the legacy of the original Zelda, while further expanding the template for the series to live on for years to come. That it accomplished these goals and did so while practically rewriting the handbook of the action-adventure genre is nothing short of miraculous. There is no shortage of memorable moments in the game - the opening in the midst of a downpour that continues through the torch-lit halls of Hyrule Castle, the first grotesque journey into the Dark World, the first glimpse of the Master Sword sitting in a lonely pedestal, the defeat of the wizard Agahnim, the traversal of the labyrinthine Eastern Ruins, climbing the peaks of Death Mountain, and countless more. Among all of this is one of gaming's most famous scores, an intricate overworld that perfectly blends depth and distance, then does it a second time, and Link's most interesting and varied arsenal. A Link to the Past is one of those games that does everything right, and makes it look easy in the process." -- Written by ilario7886
"It was so great to see Zelda return to its roots. Zelda 2 was a great game, but the original Zelda had a perfect mix of adventure and action elements that was mindblowing at the time. There were so many secrets to discover, and you had a great variety of items, all with their own uses. Most of the games that people call “Zelda-like” are just top-down action games with no adventure elements to speak of. Aside from Startropics, there wasn’t a single NES game that even came close to capturing Zelda’s gameplay. But with the SNES entry, Zelda gave us all the elements from the first game and more. Plus, they gave us an even bigger game world to explore, with bigger and badder monsters, all of it done in beautiful 16-bit artwork." -- Written by action52
"Few games are able to achieve the level of elegance of Ikaruga. Its simple mechanics are in perfect harmony, and it's one of those games that best epitomizes the ideal of "easy to play, hard to master". While many other shooters offer lots of powerups and weaponry, the stark simplicity of Ikaruga is part of what makes it so attractive. And it's one of those rare shooters that can appeal to both hardcore and beginner players at the same time. In the end, that's the highest praise such a game can be given." -- Written by Cinder6
"Ikaruga is a shooter that can be complete without firing a single shot. It is also a game where you can choose to mindlessly destroy everything in your path on your way to victory but the beauty of it, what makes it special takes place in between those two extremes. As one grows accustomed to the game and its polarity system one begins to see patterns emerging from the chaos as what was once your enemies transforms from obstacles in your path into objects existing to be chained together as your score climbs ever higher. The genius is that it is all optional. If a section is too difficult to chain just blast them all or pass by without firing, if one cannot chain them all then simply chain the ones one can. Through this one can in essence determine their own difficulty curve, switching from survival to competence to perhaps even mastery and back all in the course of a single run, the end result being a 25 minute game one can pour hundreds of hours into." -- Written by justin delible
"There's a tendency, with series, to list the first game as the exemplar of the best traits of the whole. While the first Mega Man laid out the basic template for the series, it wasn't until the sequel that the series came into its own. Capcom came to the same conclusion as Nintendo at this time - that high mobility augments, not trivializes, platforming - and explored it via Mega Man's powers (which became his trademark companion, Rush, in the sequel). The Robot Master powers are also more elaborate, with abilities such as time stopping and close shields, allowing for complex and interesting combat. Because of these additions to Mega Man's arsenal, Mega Man 2 can expand its challenges without returning to the crushing difficulty of the first; whereas Mega Man 1 relied on death traps and attrition, the sequel explores how Mega Man's powers interact with the environment (e.g., using a shield to pass a gauntlet, or opening an alternate route with bombs). The themes developed in Mega Man 2 still resonate in game design today, and helped push action games away from arcade styles and towards more cohesive experiences." -- Written by DariusTriplet
"If the original Mega Man was the raw concept and style, then Mega Man 2 would be the refined framework, expelled out and molded into a game whose legacy would live on for decades. Few series of games have the history, endurance, and quite honestly the sheer numbers of the Mega Man franchise. Throughout it all Mega Man 2 is most often looked to as the defining entry – a game whose identity, style, and experience is most commonly identified with the series as a whole. The levels and powers present in this entry are frequently looked back at and either reimagined or entirely reused in future games, a true testament to the quality of design and the legacy it has created. Pure action platforming at its finest, Mega Man 2 provides the player with a fast paced, action packed slew of levels with a soundtrack that is equally as memorable as the game itself. The Blue Bomber has stood as one of the most iconic characters in gaming history – something that, without this game, simply would not have been possible." -- Written by Zerox12
"By now, almost everyone who intends to play Chrono Trigger already has. Classic in style and mechanics, Chrono Trigger nonetheless offers much that many modern RPGs lack: synergy between characters in the form of dual and triple techs, a large and diverse cast of playable characters, over a dozen different endings, and more. Even the ability to name any of your party members is something of a novelty these days. In the end, not much can be said for Chrono Trigger that hasn’t already been said. Its memorable cast, music, battle system, and storyline all come together to make one of the great RPG classics—not only one of the top SNES games, but one of the top games. Period." -- Written by Cinder6
"The phrase "Ahead of its time" tends to get thrown around anytime something of quality is mentioned, and often undeservedly. Chrono Trigger is not one of those cases. While short by today's standards, Chrono Trigger succeeds in creating a tightly engrossing experience from start to finish, leaving the player wholly satisfied while still yearning for more. Chrono Trigger stands tall as a game that has brought to the genre a multitude of advances all in one small, highly polished package. No JRPG before and few since have managed to join so many new or uncommon features into one package and make it work well. With a varied cast of characters, a polished graphical experience, innovative battle environment, multiple endings, a plethora of sidequests, and a soundtrack for the ages, Chrono Trigger rests today as a shining example of quality not only beyond its time, but beyond compare within its genre. So many memories, so many hours spent, and not a single regret." -- Written by Zerox12
"While I could argue that Star Control II is one of the best games in existence because of its fast 1-on-1 overhead combat with scaled zooming, gorgeous detailed hand-drawn portraits, or detailed universe of over 500 solar systems to explore; the main reason I like it is because it's got a cosmos-covering caper brimming with witty one-liners; it is, simply put, one of the most enjoyable games you will ever read. New players can download the re-titled Ur-Quan Masters on modern systems (Wii, PSP, etc.) and experience what I did in the 90s: the thrill of planetary hunting, the wisdom from uncovering ancient lore, getting grifted by crazy cosmic conmen, and falling in love with 30+ intertwined races as you decide to play diplomat or jerk. Except now when you flip the auto-pilot switch, you don't have to listen to the amazing digitized soundtrack through integrated speakers. (Music from internal speakers was miraculous back then!)" -- Written by Zoqfotpk
"It's interesting that, as the sequel to what was mostly a straight up action game, it isn't really the action that makes Star Control 2 so noteworthy (Not that the action isn't worthwhile). Rather it's the fact that from what little backstory the original game provided, SC2's creators were able to come up with an incredibly elaborate universe, full of the most varied and interesting creatures you're likely to find in any game. And what's amazing is that, you have complete free reign to explore the entire galaxy at will, to meet and interact with these creatures, and yet the story still works. In fact, the story, and what's more, the characterization of the various races, is just phenomenal. And this is coming from someone who doesn't usually care about that sort of stuff in his games. From the suicidal tendencies of the Shofixti, to the cowardice of the Spathi; From the the enigma of the Ariloulaaleelay, to the sheer bizarreness of the Orzs; From the "humor" of the Umgah to the horror of the Kohr-Ah; This game has the best writing of any game I've ever played, hands down. Including the single best "villain speech" in the history of video gaming IMHO." -- Written by CJones
"Super Metroid stands, to this day, as the finest example of level design in video games. Instead of going the route of most games (and, sadly, one that the series succumbed to) and signposting/enforcing the player's path, the world of Zebes instead subtly suggests a path via environment and allows the player to discover the world for themself. There are few red keys that open red doors; Super Metroid prefers to show the player an insurmountable obstacle now, and allow them to return later with more powers - or perhaps more creativity/daring to try a new approach. With a bit of thought, Samus can use her abilities to outmanuever, outthink, and perhaps outlast the challenges facing her in the depths of Zebes. No NPCs dictating a path, no scripted events closing off areas, no invisible walls limiting choices. A badly designed game world would shatter without such mechanics, but a masterfully crafted one like Super Metroid's thrives in its freedom. The game has a plot and antagonists, but ultimately, it is about Samus versus Zebes - a conflict more engaging than any sprawling epic we have seen since." -- Written by DariusTriplet
"Super Metroid, I think, will forever remain a classic, not only for accommodating two opposite ways of playing games, but for excelling so much at each of them. In one camp, we have the completionists, who traverse the gorgeous 16 bit world to find goodies hidden away in every nook and cranny, and always, ALWAYS make time to save the three Etecoons and Dachola. Opposite them are the speedrunners, who are presented with an extensive multi-directional set of obstacles to overcome in the quickest, most technically impressive route possible. Each of these groups have their merits (although I’d say the edge goes to the latter considering the multiple game endings), and both can take full advantage of Samus’ already impressive moveset, exploiting wall jumps, bomb jumps and shinesparks to overcome challenges in a variety of unintended ways. With so many ways to achieve sequence breaks, it’s perhaps a bit odd to think that one of this game’s greatest strengths is in its programming flaws; however it’s arguable that those flaws are what opened the game up to almost infinite replay value, all the while remaining true to the game’s original challenge at heart." -- Written by BlueGunstarHero
"Even as a fan, I was surprised to see Ultima IV do so well. There's no denying that the game was revolutionary in its time, but is it still great now? Well... more than you might think. It's still a breath of fresh air in some ways. Rather than killing some big evil dude and saving the world yet again, you're on a quest for spiritual knowledge and growth. Instead of a few arbitrary "decisions" between the main story and a tacked on "evil" story, you develop morality with lots of little actions. You're constantly making ethical choices, and I think it makes you more conscious of it--even when you play other RPGs afterwards. The interface is very outdated, and the gameplay may seem simple by today's standards, but it still has a lot to offer. Once you get past the interface and understand the game world, it's actually a lot of fun. And it's available (legally) for free, so you've got nothing to lose!" -- Written by action52
"While Quest of the Avatar was the fourth installment of the Ultima series, and was itself the start of a trilogy within the saga, the experiences one has within Ultima IV remains conceptually unique, not just to the Ultima universe, but to a larger portion of the industry as a whole. Typically in videogames, a player’s drive to progress is often linked to an opposing threat. For the world of Ultima, such motivation can be seen prior (Triad of Evil), and following (Lord Blackthorn and beyond), however no such motivation is found within Ultima IV (…don’t worry, you’ll fight plenty of friends and foes alike during the course of the game). Instead, your motivation is the furthering of your own enlightenment, as you seek out the eight virtues of the world, each revolving around the principles of Truth, Love, and Courage. This, coupled with its reflective method of class selection, choice, and consequence throughout, turns Ultima IV into a very personal journey, that becomes as much about the player as it is about the land of Britannia, making it as relevant today as it was upon release. It’s also a blast to play; just beware how you might perceive Humility." -- Written by BlueGunstarHero
"Deus Ex: When you mention it, someone is going to reinstall it. That quote defines what most of the gaming community thinks about this game. In a single word, excellent. One could discourse about this game for hours, but I'll focus more on why I love it. You can balance stealth and aggressiveness as much as you want to, not to mention the quantity of non-linear areas in it. If you think about a way to tackle a mission, you (probably) can do it. Even climbing walls is possible with glitches. As dated as it may look, as boring as it may be before you get enough skillpoints to aim a gun like a man, as overdone as the FPS RPGs are done by now... Check it out. There is a reason why so much people love it, and its impossible to describe in words." -- Written by UD4
"I wish I could play Deus Ex for the first time again, so I could play through a second, third, and fourth time. It’s like a fine wine - it gets better with each play-through (that's the analogy, right?) Deus Ex provides something no other game has managed: true ownership of your playing style. It does not define a route for stealth characters, or hackers, or run-n-gunners - it lets you pick and expand a toolset, gives you a level, and sets you free. Want to confront Maggie by sneaking in her basement, exploring the secret lab, and breaking in? Sure. Or you can go through the front door, or make your way across Hong Kong's roofs and crash through her ceiling. None of these approaches dictate a playing style - they're merely options that can accommodate rockets or blackjacks. There’s a sense of history and realism that exceeds the game’s scope; it presents an intriguing, multifaceted and non-binary story. I once found an email from a (now-dead) guard’s daughter. Deus Ex forces you to consider your morals and doesn’t provide an artificial “good-evil” scale. Everything about Deus Ex is left to be determined. That’s why it’s the best game of all time." -- Written by Master Yogurt
Method: From the beginning, the Classic Gaming board took more ownership of this list project than other boards. The board created a discussion topic for the list and actually went in-depth with lobbying for certain games and discussing the merits of others. My methods for past boards have been simple in an effort to ensure participation, but given how seriously Classic Gaming took the project, I altered the methods a bit to their liking.
First, the board was solicited for a list of nominees. Each user was allowed to submit up to ten games for the nominations list. The purpose of the nominations list was two-fold: first of all, to give users a chance to nominate games they would like to write for if they won (nominators were given 'first dibs' on write-ups), and secondly, to have a public list of potential games. The second is to guard against a voter suggesting a game late that many previous voters would've voted for had they thought of it.
Then, the games (335 total) were entered in a large week-long poll. Users were allowed to vote for up to four games. As was the case with four of the boards in this batch, one round was not sufficient to get a list of 'finalists', and thus, an intermediate round of voting was conducted where users could vote for two additional games besides their initial votes.
Then, the top vote-getters from that round (51 total) were entered into a final poll, where users were allowed to vote for up to three games. For Classic Gaming, at their request, prioritized voting was used: users could specify which game was their 1st choice, 2nd choice and 3rd choice, and points were awarded accordingly: three points for each first-place vote, two points for each second-place vote, one point for each first-place vote, and one point for each first-round vote.
With that, the Top 12 games were announced and write-ups were solicited. However, with Classic Gaming, so many users were interested in writing that instead of one user per game, two write-ups per game were accepted.
Full Results: 51 total games made the final voting round. They are, in finishing order:
Baldur's Gate II, X-Com: UFO Defense, Castlevania: SotN, Tetris, Doom, Lunar: The Silver Star, Radiant Silvergun, Streets of Rage 2, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Viewtiful Joe, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, Grand Theft Auto 3, Master of Magic, Metroid Prime, Rome: Total War, Fallout, Grim Fandango, Sonic 3 and Knuckles, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Earthbound, Planescape: Torment, Resident Evil 4, Shining Force 2, Mega Man 3, Max Payne, Cave Story, Civilization II, No More Heroes, The Dig, Terranigma, Tie Fighter, The Guardian Legend, Day of the Tentacle, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Fire Emblem, The Legend of Dragoon
DDJ's Brief Analysis: I was definitely struck the moment I started the polls on Classic Gaming at how interested the board was in the project. Even though the board was smaller than most others, it received as many votes and nominations as the huge social boards. The need for an intermediate voting round on Classic Gaming wasn't due to inactivty, but due to variety: 100 games received at least one first-round vote, but only 20 received multiple votes. For the list itself, the board's classic slant is clearly very apparent: games like Ultima IV, Star Control 2 and Ikaruga barely warrant a mention on other boards. Perhaps most notably, with this list, no game has made every single list in this process. EVERYBODY PANIC's list was the first one not to include Chrono Trigger, leaving Ocarina of Time as the only consensus choice: and Ocarina of Time is conspicuously absent from Classic Gaming's list. This game also marks the eighth consecutive different first-place game: Final Fantasy VII, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Planescape: Torment, Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Tales of Symphonia, Psychonauts and Deus Ex. I also must say thank you to Master Yogurt for helping organize these write-ups, especially since Classic Gaming's organization was so different than other boards.
List by DDJ (01/11/2011)
Discuss this list and others on the Top 10 Lists board.
Have your own Top 10 in mind? Create and submit your own Top 10 List today.