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.
Before we get into the list, it’s worth stating that this is my personal list of my favorite games. This doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’re the greatest games ever made (although a few of them are), they’re simply my personal favorite. That being said, feel free to let me know how terrible this list is on twitter.
10) Xenoblade Chronicles
My full list may not accurately represent this, but I love JRPGs. I have been playing them ever since I was a kid, with the first one being the remake of Final Fantasy l and ll for the GBA. This also happens to be the game I played most recently on my list as well; even though I owned it at launch, I never got around to actually playing it past the introduction. My buddies at Goomba Stomp convinced me to give it another try, and I’m so happy I took the plunge.
Xenoblade Chronicles is without a doubt the best JRPG I have ever played. This game gets all the major things right when it comes to this genre; a lovable cast of characters, a deep and engaging battle system, and a sense of progression and adventure that pushes the player to try new things. The story may take a while to get rolling, but once it does, it takes you on an epic and emotional journey that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The game is also absolutely massive, containing giant landscapes with hundreds of side quests to find and complete. Xenoblade has set the new standard for me in terms of RPGs, and I’m hoping the sequel will do the same.
9) Red Steel
“What? Red Steel? But that game is terrible!” Yes, you’re correct! Red Steel is an awful game that’s filled to the brim with glitches and bugs. It has a half-baked multiplayer mode consisting of only four stages along with a fairly forgettable single player campaign. So why is it on this list? Simply put, I have never had more fun with a local multiplayer shooter than I have had with Red Steel. My friends and I would play deathmatch against each other for hours anytime we got the chance, and to date it’s the only Wii game I have kept since launch day. The glitches actually ended up making the game hilarious, as we were able to replicate the glitches and use them to our advantage.
The controls, while broken, eventually became second nature to us. We adapted to the silly mechanics and design decisions and created a unique experience out of it. There was no anger, frustration, or contempt when we played. It was always an exceedingly good time because of how bad (good?) it was. Any other game in those circumstances would have been dropped in a matter of minutes, but Red Steel just seemed to strike a chord with me and my friend group. Would I recommend the game to anyone else? Of course not. It’s terrible.
8) Pokemon Ruby
While I played through both generations one and two, it wasn’t until Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire that I became obsessed. Pokemania had completely taken its of me after spending a few weeks with this game, with summer days being spent outside with my friends battling and trading. Generation three came along with all sorts of new pokemon to catch and areas to explore. I still think Hoenn is one of the most well designed regions to this day, especially with weather becoming an integral game mechanic.
Deeper battle mechanics were also introduced this time around that would go on to become staples of the franchise, like the physical/special split. Energy-based attacks were now relegated to a separate stat called Special Attack, with the Special Defense stat made to defend against it. Additions like these made the leap from Silver/Gold to Ruby/Sapphire feel enormous, especially since the game was running on beefier hardware. At the time, I had more friends than ever playing Pokemon with me, which undoubtedly helped me enjoy the game more.
7) Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
It’s not often that I play games for their story, as I’ve always been more of a person that enjoys excellent gameplay mechanics over a focus on narrative. However, the Professor Layton series is an exception to this rule, as I quickly found myself becoming obsessed with its quirky cast of characters after only a few hours with the first game. It’s a game based around solving a series of smaller puzzles in order to unravel the story’s larger mystery, with cut scenes and dialogue sprinkled throughout.
What makes these games so special is that it was the first time I had played a game primarily for its plot. I wanted nothing more than to get to the next cut scene to see how Layton and the gang would handle the situation. The puzzles were fantastic as well, with some of them taking me days to solve. Unwound Future is the last game in the original trilogy, and it’s on my list simply because it has the best narrative. The gameplay doesn’t really change too much throughout the series, but it’s the title’s narrative that really pushed the boundaries of what I could expect from games on an emotional level.
If you had asked me to make a list of features that would make up my dream video game, it would pretty much be Cuphead. Gorgeous art style? Check. A focus on controls and precise gameplay? Check. Larger-than-life boss battles? You get the idea. Cuphead is the debut game from newly formed indie team Studio MDHR. It features side scrolling run-and-gun gameplay similar to Contra, however most of the player’s time will be spent in boss battles rather than platforming stages. Oh, and the whole game has been painstakingly drawn to look identical to a 1930s cartoon.
Games this unique come around once in a blue moon, especially ones with this much quality. The boss designs are incredible, the controls are perfect, and the difficulty will please even the most hardcore fans of the genre. It’s a dream come true for retro game fans like myself. It’s the first game I have ever loved enough to get every single achievement for (which in this case, was no small feat). Cuphead is one of the easiest recommendations on my list for PC and Xbox players, especially if you have someone to play it with.
5) Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 was the game that started my obsession with Nintendo and games in general. I had played quite a few games before I was given a Nintendo 64, however none of them had the same effect that this one did. As a kid, I was absolutely blown away by the amount of freedom the game gave the player. I remember spending hours just running around the castle and seeing what I could do/find. 5 year old Zack never imagined that games could be this massive, and I quickly became addicted to the experience.
The game holds up remarkably well today due to how incredible it feels to control Mario. Everything feels so precise and intuitive, especially compared to the competition. Dividing the game’s challenges into stars that had to be collected in each stage was a genius formula that would go on to return in games like Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Odyssey. It’s also one of the most important video games ever made, as it demonstrated how incredible 3D gaming could really be.
4) Wario Ware Inc: Mega Microgames!/Twisted
I honestly could not choose between these two games, as they are both incredible for their own reasons, so both of them get the number 4 spot. The Wario Ware series has always been one of my favorites, and almost every entry in the franchise has something fun to offer. The concept of playing a series of lightning fast micro-games in quick succession works amazingly, especially on a handheld like the GBA. It feels unlike anything else I have ever played and remains the most addictive gaming experience I’ve had so far.
Wario Ware Inc: Mega Microgames was the first in the series and did an excellent job in setting the foundation for future entries. It also introduced a plethora of new characters like Jimmy T. and 9 Volt that each had their own distinct personalities and gameplay gimmicks. The microgames introduced here are still some of the best the series has to offer in terms of both gameplay and aesthetics. However, Wario Ware Twisted took this formula and cranked things up to 11. It adds gyroscopic control to a new set of microgames, and while that may seem awful at first, it controls beautifully. Since each game only lasts a few seconds, there’s never any need for complicated or precise movements. It’s easily one of the best uses of motion controls I’ve ever seen, even by today’s standards.
3) Resident Evil 4
I know this game is probably on a million other Top 10 lists, but it’s there for a reason. Resident Evil 4 is the best third person shooter/horror game ever made, and is just as fun to play today as it was in 2005. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes this game so special, as there are so many elements that work together to create an overall incredible experience. For starters, the visuals for the time were absolutely groundbreaking on consoles. Character models and environments had an impressive amount of detail that hadn’t been seen yet on the GameCube. The gameplay was also much more fast-paced than past entries, requiring the player to deal with hordes of enemies and bosses that took hundreds of bullets to kill. It was head and shoulders above anything else that was out at the time.
Resident Evil 4 strikes the perfect balance between making the player feel powerful and powerless. Acquiring new weapons that allow the player to decimate a crowd of ganados makes you feel like a badass, however enemies like the regenerator can also be placed in crowded rooms to take you down a few notches. It has the best pacing of any single player game I’ve ever played, the game never manages to feel like a chore or as though it’s moving along much too quickly. It’s a shame that Capcom hasn’t been able to capture this magic a second time, as it’s easily the best game they’ve ever had a hand in making.
2) Super Mario Galaxy
I firmly believe that Super Mario Galaxy is the greatest video game ever made. So why isn’t it number 1? Well this is a list of my favorite games, so I’m not basing everything off of pure quality (*cough* Red Steel *cough*). It’s no secret that Nintendo is my favorite game developer, and it’s games like this that keep me obsessed. Super Mario Galaxy is the gaming industry’s greatest achievement and remains the culmination of Nintendo’s game design principles. It represents the evolution of gaming’s most iconic character while maintaining everything that made him special in the first place.
No game feels more like an extension of yourself than this one. Mario feels like a dream to control just as he did in Super Mario 64, however the new space themed setting adds an unbelievable amount of variety to the levels. The game is constantly pushing the player’s expectations to new heights after introducing more and more gameplay mechanics to the scene. One stage has Mario scaling a giant robot whereas another has him hurtling through silent space. Oh, and the soundtrack might be the best of all time. It’s a euphoric experience that literally anyone can find something to smile about.
1) Warioland 4
Wario Land 4 is a very special video game that I hope everyone gets the chance to play at some point. But wait, isn’t it just a fairly standard platformer like the other entries in the franchise? Well, no, not exactly. Wario Land 4 is just… different. There’s something unexplainable about it in that it just oozes surrealism. The environments all feel like a weird dreamscape, especially on levels like Toy Block Tower and Pinball Zone. It has a completely unique aesthetic and mood that has yet to be replicated by any other title, even when played today.
It’s also incredibly solid in terms of mechanics. Each level can be explored in a (mostly) non-linear fashion. Diamonds, gems, and even soundtrack CDs are hidden throughout each stage, some of which are required in order to move on. Highly skilled players can move Wario at some pretty ridiculous speeds using his charge mechanic, which was new to the franchise with this outing. Wario’s transformations also play an integral role in traversing each stage, with each of them feeling different enough to keep the game interesting.
All in all, Wario Land 4 is greater than the sum of its parts. I almost can’t explain exactly why it’s my favorite game ever, it just is. Play it. Trust me. Hopefully you can have the same experience that I continue to have with it to this day.