Writing a top five list of anything is almost a near-impossible task, especially when it comes to video games. Some of my favorite games of all time have been iterated on and improved on numerous occasions whether they be in simple updates or full-fledged sequels. I often find myself second-guessing my top five as I love too much of what there is to experience in this incredible industry. However, the following five are what I deem to be my favorite and most enjoyable video games I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.
5. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
What can possibly be said about Metal Gear Solid 3 that has not already been uttered numerous times? From the insane, over-the-top, and deep story that could only come from the genius mind of Hideo Kojima, to the always catchy “Snake Eater Theme” sung by Cynthia Harrell, every facet of this gem screams instant masterpiece. Not only do some (including myself) regard it as the best in the entire series, but this one sits close to my heart as it was the first instance I introduced myself to the Metal Gear universe. I remember being utterly enamored with its charm and the way Kojima and team play with your preconceptions of what a video game should be (the boss fight with The End being one such moment, in which you could leave your game off for a week only to come back to your save and realize the man had died from old age). And don’t even get me started on that ladder climb later in the game. True emotion right there.
I have a confession to make. At the start of this generation, I had never played Dark Souls. I knew of it sure, and that was what scared me the most. I was afraid of its punishing difficulty and how everyone talked about it like it was going to make me cry and send me running back to my “baby” games.
In comes PlayStation 4 exclusive, Bloodborne. Before purchasing, I watched one gameplay video and was instantly intrigued. I didn’t care that the game was a sort of Dark Souls spin-off and would likely rip my sanity to shreds, I needed to unearth every little secret this game was hiding. I NEEDED to know what in God’s name was going on and who the Hunters were and why they hunted grotesque monsters straight out of a Lovecraftian novel. From the start, the eerie Victorian London atmosphere pulled me in and never let its grasp go for a second. Around every corner, almost literally, was a surprise. Crazy madmen in gun-toting wheelchairs, screaming women with torches, and behemoth bosses threatened to take me down with reckless abandon. They did, hundreds of times over, and I loved every second of it.
Very few games have given me that “just thirty more minutes” itch and Bloodborne delivered that in spades.
3. Super Mario Galaxy 2
Back in 2007, the original Super Mario Galaxy was floating around this area of my top five. Using the Wii Remote and nunchuk to control Mario’s jumps, flips, and dives through space in search of stars was nothing short of gaming bliss. The charming and whimsical soundtrack quickly sky-rocketed to the top of my all-time favorites and I was instantly in love.
Then 2010 rolled around, and with it came Super Mario Galaxy 2. Nintendo hadn’t done something like this with the Mario series since the NES days and I was shocked. How could Miyamoto and team improve on what I already considered perfection? Somehow they pulled it off, and thus emerged a tighter playing, more difficult Super Mario Galaxy. Each level was platforming bliss and even the introduction of Yoshi brought with it engaging and challenging segments. For me, it is peak 3D Mario platforming. And that throwback galaxy from Super Mario 64? Pure nostalgia.
Speaking of challenging: The Perfect Run. A level I will never forget.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
From the minute I booted up the menu screen of Naughty Dog’s final Nathan Drake adventure, right up to the jam-packed and emotional finale, I was floored. No game to that point had made me care so much for its characters and it’s all thanks to Naughty Dog’s exceptional attention to detail. The graphics and animation have no equal and the quality of the actors’ performances was like nothing I had ever witnessed. Pair all of this with a gripping story that funneled you along from set piece to set piece, while still leaving the characters with moments of quiet introspection and you’re left with a brilliantly paced game.
I also cannot forget to leave out how great it feels to use the grappling hook. What a wonderful way to traverse an environment.
1. Red Dead Redemption
To me, every game on this list is a masterpiece. However, one stands head and shoulders above the rest and that is Rockstar’s seminal work: Red Dead Redemption. This was the game to really make me feel like video games were going somewhere, that they could truly rival film as an art form. John Marston’s journey from cowboy to a father, is an action-packed and thought-provoking one as you take on the Wild West’s inhabitants, be they human or animal. The insane amount of detail Rockstar has put into the desert and surrounding mountains and woods is second to none and it really says something that a 2010 Xbox 360 and PS3 game looks better than some releases in 2017. The graphics, lighting, and animation still hold up to this day and are a beauty to behold. I recommend everyone give this game a shot as to me, it is the Citizen Kane of video games: a true spectacle to behold.
Plus, who doesn’t love lassoing criminals and riding back into town with them on horseback? That’s the cowboy life right there.