Top 10 Games is a new, semi-regular series that hopes to offer a bit of insight into the twisted minds of Goomba Stomp’s writers, editors, and podcasters by allowing them to tell you about their all time favorite games, and why they love them to such an unhealthy degree.
Video games have been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching my father play them constantly, and that instilled a love for the hobby within me. Since I could pick up a controller and comprehend colors on a screen I’ve been feeding this habit, and whether I’m a better man for it is yet to be seen. While my top 10 list isn’t filled with classics like Final Fantasy VII or Symphony of the Night, it is a love letter to the games that not only defined who I am as a gamer, but also how I enjoy entertainment content and writing for the site.
10) Red Dead Redemption
It’s a well-known fact that the developers at Rockstar pride themselves on fantastic storytelling. The Grand Theft Auto series has some of the most memorable characters and story arcs in video game history, but somehow, they never really appealed to me. With Red Dead Redemption, I got a douse of those fantastic qualities in a genre I adore. No game prior or since has nailed the look and feel of a Western like Red Dead, and this is the cornerstone of what makes the game great.
Everything from the gritty and mature depiction of the frontier to the adored anti-hero John Marston tugged at my heartstrings and gave me a world that I constantly want to revisit. What’s more, the online multiplayer in Red Dead was revolutionary and addictive, acting as an ever-present part of my daily routine for a solid year. Red Dead was my first foray into a Rockstar game, and I couldn’t have been more in love with my experience.
Bungie’s next big title after Halo had no reason to be as successful as it is. The vanilla launch of Destiny offered players a lackluster story with little reason to play endgame content. I remember being tired of replaying the same missions and strikes over and over, even with the first two pieces of DLC content. Then, just when I was about to give up on the game entirely, my best friend got me into his clan. Once I found that sense of community, I never looked back. My weekends were filled with hours or raiding, PvP matches, and general fun and excitement as I found everything I’d been missing in Destiny.
Add to that a stellar new story with the Taken King DLC, and a revised loot system, and Destiny quickly became my go-to game. Above all else, I value the friendships I’ve made and truly breathtaking moments I experienced like beating the Vault of Glass for the first time, or getting a new exotic weapon or long sought-after armor piece. Destiny did what any great game should do, it gave me a reason to keep coming back.
8) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
I’ve always been a fan of big dumb adventure movies. I grew up on films like Big Trouble in Little China, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Romancing the Stone. It was a combination of the daring protagonist, exotic locations, dangerous threats, and fun tone that endeared them to my heart. With Uncharted 2, I found all of this and more, as Naughty Dog delivered a globe-trotting, tomb-raiding shooter with genuine characters and a strong story.
I was already a fan of the first Uncharted, so revisiting Nathan Drake’s adventures and his ever-developing story was something I looked forward to. Add to this better graphics, more gameplay options, and even bigger set pieces, and Uncharted 2 captivated me wholeheartedly. I’d never been so eager to finish a game only to want to play it again just for the same experience.
7) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
It goes without saying that I’m a massive fantasy nerd. I’ve played D&D for as long as I can remember, and gorged myself on the works of Tolkien and Robert Jordan since I was 12. Naturally, a game like Oblivion would appeal to me on multiple levels. Its high fantasy setting, coupled with its grand plot and myriad of diverse characters made it a breeding ground for my imagination. Exploring the vast landscape of Cyridil and taking on quests for valiant knights, shady assassins, and politically ambitious rulers gave me the same sense of joy and wonder that I felt when reading fantasy classics.
I found myself more attached to the side quests rather than the main story of Oblivion, as I felt that my character’s trait and motives got to shine more fully in the scenarios without predetermined endings. While a clear majority of gamers will cite Skyrim as the definitive Elder Scrolls experience, I found the world of Oblivion much more intriguing and fantastical than the icy bleakness of its northern counterpart. Plus, any game that puts Sean Bean in a major role will always win out for me.
6) Persona 3
Nothing quite captivates me the way a fantastic RPG does (as evidenced by the latter half of this list). Persona 3, while not the strongest in the Persona series, remains my favorite. It was my first foray into JRPGs and helped define my gaming life for years to come. I relished the insane amount of detail that went into managing your high school social life, studying for classes, and fighting demons in an increasingly challenging dungeon system. Every character in Persona feels believable and genuine, which adds to the already rock-solid plot.
I found myself captivated by the quieter aspects of Persona 3, like going to the mall with friends or helping an elderly couple at a bookstore. While the main plot was entertaining, it was the small side objectives that defined who your character was in regard to your friends that really stuck with me. I found myself wishing that my high school experience had been as exciting as what I was playing in Persona, and that to me is a sign of a fantastic game.
5) Dark Souls III
To say that I’m a fan of the Souls franchise is a bit of an understatement. I was practically glued to my PS3 and PS4 whenever a new Souls game came out, and I poured countless hours into perfecting my characters stats, finding most of the weapons and armor, and beating every boss. While I was originally going to slot the first Dark Souls into this list, I found myself having more of an attachment to the final entry in the series. Everything about Dark Souls III just feels right, from the updated combat mechanics to the level design and boss fights. I never felt like I had the upper hand in any situation, and the difficulty, while brutal, was never unfair.
Above all else Dark Souls III gave me a fitting challenge and a surprisingly varied narrative with four different endings, each with their own questlines to complete beforehand. Standout characters like Anri and the Fire Keeper offer faint glimmers of hope in such a dark world, while returning faces like Andre the blacksmith and the Crestfallen Warrior bring back some of the same emotions I have tied to the first Dark Souls. Furthermore, areas from Dark Souls like Anor Londo and the Kiln of the First Flame are brought back for III, but in new and vastly different forms to offer players a new experience.
Every boss in Dark Souls III is beautifully designed, and while some were much easier than others, they all left me in awe with their stunning move sets, armor, and weapons. Dark Souls III was the perfect way to end a series that’s near and dear to my heart, and captivated me enough to keep me coming back over a year later.
4) Mass Effect 2
Along with my near obsession with the realm of fantasy is a boundless love for science fiction. Exploring distant planets, grand space battles, and exotic alien creatures always excited me both on the screen and on paper. This is what initially drew me to the Mass Effect series. Its space opera story took me across the galaxy as Commander Shepard, assembling a crew of multi-species badasses to combat the many threats poised against the Alliance. Developer Bioware is known for crafting marvelous stories, and this series is no exception.
What sets Mass Effect 2 apart from the other three games in the series is its plot and character development. The threat faced in this second installment feels more grounded and personal to Shepard and his crew, and the 11+ crew members you must recruit each have deep, emotional back stories. I’ve never been more attached to a group of characters more so than to the crew of the Normandy, and I felt a genuine sense of loss if one of them died at a certain point in the story.
From a technical standpoint, Mass Effect 2 feels like the happy medium of the original trilogy. It fixed many of the uncomfortable controls from the first game, but wasn’t so bogged down with extra features and multiplayer like the third game. Three fantastic expansions as well as star-studded voice acting from both the original cast and superstar Martin Sheen also helped to elevate Mass Effect 2 above both its predecessor and sequel. It’s the quintessential Mass Effect experience, and I found myself grinning the entire way through.
3) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
In tandem with my love for sci-fi comes a love for Star Wars. I grew up watching the original trilogy with my father, and embraced the main characters and the philosophy attached to understanding the Force. I’d always desperately wished to explore that world in a grander sense, and create my own epic adventures among the stars. I got that exact opportunity with KOTOR, another staple Bioware title. Set thousands of years before the original trilogy, Bioware was free to tell whatever Star Wars story they wanted without being shackled to the Skywalker saga.
What I got was a highly detailed story about the rise of a new Sith empire, the origins of the Jedi code, and more light sabers than you can throw a blaster at. I felt like my character and his companions were having a meaningful impact on the galaxy, as we planet-hopped between systems and solved problems both big and small. Revisiting planets from the movies like Tatooine was spectacular, especially when I got to see how they existed generations before I first saw them. As with most Bioware games, the writing and world-building are fantastic in KOTOR, and the major twist of the game has gone down in video game history as one of the best out there.
Deciding between this masterpiece of a game and my #1 pick was harder than I thought it would be. Bioshock means too much to me not only from a gaming perspective, but also as a facet of my life. Exploring the fractured underwater ruins of Rapture showed me what phenomenal storytelling can look like in video games as well as any other form of entertainment. Inspired by the works of Ayn Rand and her Atlas Shrugged novels, the twisted version of a 1940’s underwater society gone horribly wrong is still prevalent today, and stands as a benchmark for modern storytelling.
I was amazed that a first-person shooter could have as much depth and emotional weight as Bioshock did, and the choices my character had to make throughout the story, as well as his major revelations at the hands of the game’s most interesting character Andrew Ryan, inspired me for years. Once a year I revisit the world of Rapture and wrap myself in the mystery and wonder it brings with it. Every playthough feels new and exciting, and I look forward to my time with Bioshock in eager anticipation.
Let’s get one thing clear, I’m in love with Bloodborne. No other game has stuck with me as much as From Software’s PS4 exclusive Souls game. Let’s start with the basics: I love anything inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and this game is practically one of his novels. Combat is fresh and addicting, but still feels on par with the mechanics in other Souls games.
The story is more evident than in other Souls games, but still requires the player to delve deep into item descriptions and character dialogue. Speaking of characters, every optional quest line feels as if it could be the main plot, with multiple phases and character arcs that genuinely shocked me. Including the DLC, Bloodborne boasts four optional areas chock full of new and terrifyingly dangerous enemies, as well as some of the most memorable bosses in the series.
Like most players, I’m playing a Souls game for the boss fights, and Bloodborne does not disappoint. Including the optional and dungeon bosses, there are forty-three monstrosities the player can fight through, and you can bet that I tackled every one. I devoted so much of my time to this game that I missed several big releases over the past two years, and I’m not even that upset about it. Bloodborne is essentially my perfect game, it has everything I could want and need from a video game, and stands as the benchmark upon which I judge all other gaming experiences I’ve had.
Honorable mentions: Jade Empire, Divinity: Original Sin 2, God of War 2, Age of Empires 2 (noticing a trend here?), The Last of Us, Journey, Hyper Light Drifter, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Mech Assault, Full Auto (look it up its fantastic), Resident Evil VII, Wii Sports, Mario Kart 64, and Metroid Fusion.