BEST OF THE BEST:
The TOP 50 Console Video Games
Part I

Updated April 22, 2016

Introduction

The one question I get asked more than any other is "what is the best video game of all time?" It inspired me to assemble this list of Top 50 games.

But how do you even qualify what's "best"? Most fun? Most play value? Most groundbreaking or influential?

This is my criteria: If I could only have 50 of the games in my collection, which ones would I keep? I made a concerted effort to span consoles, generations, and genres.

To level the playing field I also excluded the following types of games from consideration: Home brews, computer games (Atari XE/Commodore), emulated arcade games (Namco Classics), and portable games.


#50 Soul Calibur

Dreamcast (1999)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2006/1/18

Top 50 Remarks: While others have come and gone, this 3D fighter has stood the test of time with excellent playability and gorgeous graphics.

screenshotOne of the system's original "launch" titles, this one-on-one fighter is regarded by many to be the greatest Dreamcast game of all time. It's difficult to argue. Although technically a sequel to the excellent Soul Blade (Playstation, 1998), Soul Calibur's level of graphic detail, fluid animation, and rich gameplay eclipsed all that came before it. It's an absolute work of art, and to this day I'm still blown away by its magnificent backdrops and responsive controls. The ten-fighter roster contains some memorable characters including Ivy the sexy vixen, the blindfolded freak Voldo, the ninja assassin Taki, and the hulking Nightmare with his "winking" sword. Each character possesses a distinct weapon and fighting style. Calibur's gameplay is remarkably deep, incorporating a guard move, "soul charges", throws, side-steps, and eight-way directional movement. The battles are quite a spectacle. It's possible to knock a fighter out of the "ring" for an easy victory, but that's pretty rare. I find it amusing how you can continue to whack away at an opponent after he's been defeated. It's also a great opportunity to talk trash, like "How (whack!) many (whap!) times (kapow!) have I told you (bam!) to take out (thunk!) that (thwack!) damn (bap!) trash! (bonk!)" Soul Calibur's lush backgrounds appear almost photo-realistic, and a high quality orchestrated soundtrack contributes to the game's epic scope. If there's one thing that's annoying about this game, it's the idiotic dialogue. "Ivy was seriously wounded, but the soul still burns!" What the [expletive] does that mean exactly? Soul Calibur features brief load times, an assortment of unlockable items, and a number of playing modes. I especially enjoy "Mission Battle", which spices up the action with diverse objectives for each round. Soul Calibur is a truly a great fighter that's managed to withstand the test of time. It may be old, but the soul still burns! Whatever that means!


#49 Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Xbox 360 (2012)
Grade: B+
Reviewed: 2012/12/22

Top 50 Remarks: Quite possibly the high water mark for the Call of Duty series, offers an immersive campaign mode and superb local multiplayer that wasn't forced to take a backseat to online.

screenshotLike the original game, Black Ops 2 weaves a convoluted storyline that's played out over a series of diverse stages. You begin on a battlefield in Angola, where I was instantly reminded how hard it can be to tell the good guys from the bad. As with most recent Call of Duty titles, the game doesn't shy away from exposing the player to the horrors of war. There are some gruesome scenes, but in fairness, the game offers you the option to skip them. The missions are uneven in quality, but Black Ops 2 has its share of white-knuckle scenarios. When you're rescuing a fellow soldier and need to carry him through hostile territory, you'll be holding the controller like a vice grip. The gunfights are hectic but satisfying thanks to the pinpoint-targeting system. There's no shortage of ammo, and it seems like every weapon you pick up is better than the last. The load times are negligible, and frequent checkpoints ensure you won't have to retread too much ground after that lone sniper bullet takes you out. The game's risk-reward dynamic often comes into play as you must decide whether to systematically weed out enemies or make a mad dash for your destination. The variety of locations and missions is pretty spectacular. In one stage you jump off a cliff and glide in a wing-suit down onto some temple ruins during a raging thunderstorm. In another you're avoiding helicopter-like "drones" at night in a flooded city with buses floating down the streets. Real footage, photographs, and historical figures (including Manuel Noriega) add weight to the storyline, but the game often veers into Hollywood territory. The Afghanistan stage borrows liberally from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and some technology looks like it was borrowed from a Terminator movie. The game's more dramatic scenes are heavily scripted, so it's hard to tell if you're actually in control. An unwelcome new addition is the "strike force" missions which attempt to add a real-time strategy element. I found these confusing and unnecessary. Despite the polished look, I did encounter a nasty bug that forced me to restart one mission. In general I found Black Ops 2 less intriguing than the first. Still, the disc is jam-packed with features including a coop action, split-screen free-for-alls, and a bonus zombie mode. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 may be a drama queen, but there's a heck of a lot of content here for shooting fans.


#48 Excite Truck

Wii (2006)
Grade: A-
Reviewed: 2007/5/12

Top 50 Remarks: I think we all took this for granted as a Wii launch title, but looking back this game is just amazing. Excite Bots could be listed here in its place, but I prefer the arcade simplicity of Excite Truck.

screenshotIt would be difficult to find a more entertaining off-road racer than Excite Truck. MotorStorm (Playstation 3, 2007) comes to mind, but while that game looks substantially better than Excite Truck, when it comes to fun, there is no comparison. Easy to play and visually over-the-top, Excite Truck races are blindingly fast with a half-way-out-of-control flavor that's quite thrilling. There are plenty of natural ramps, and the degree of "air" you can catch is unprecedented. One remarkable feature is the ability of certain icons to reshape the geography, morphing low roads into rivers, and hills into mountains. It looks absolutely stunning, especially the first time you witness it. Steering is performed by tilting the controller, which feels surprisingly natural once you get the hang of it. The directional pad is used to activate your turbo boost, and using too much at a time will overheat your engine. You'll want to use your turbo sparingly, except when in water, where your car can't overheat! You also earn stars in each race by executing power slides, catching big air, flying through rings, and other stunts. Excite Truck's graphics are modest - even pixelated at times - but the smooth frame rate and the impressive distance you can see ahead (especially when high in the air) makes the lack of detail practically irrelevant. Unlike Motor Storm, the load times are brief and the races are reasonably short. The single player mode rewards you with a steady stream of unlockables, and the split-screen is fantastic, even without the option of CPU opponents. In terms of audio, I opted to turn down the frenetic guitar music, but it certainly fits with the spirit of the game. Living up to its name, Excite Truck is easy to pick up but hard to put down. For new Wii owners this is pretty much a "must have".


#47 Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds

Playstation 3 (2008)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2008/5/26

Top 50 Remarks: A fast-moving golf game that puts fun first.

screenshotThis is simply the best golf game I have ever played in my life. The graphics are gorgeous, the control is perfect, and the action moves along at a brisk pace. What else could you want? Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds makes those Tiger Woods games look like crap! The game takes a few minutes to "install" initially (typical for a PS3 game), but this minimizes the load times, so it's well worth it. Hot Shot's anime style has changed little over the years, but it has become more polished. Not only do the courses look more attractive than those in Tiger Woods, but they even look more realistic! The grass actually looks like grass, believe it or not! The likeable cast of characters are less freaky than those in previous Hot Shots games, and include a few cuties. Some critics complain that the series needs to "evolve" more, but that would be a huge mistake. The game's three-press swing meter is still the best there is. It's intuitive, responsive, and incredibly fun. I love how you can apply some serious backspin that literally burns up the green! Hot Shots does offer a new "advanced shot" control option to appease sourpuss critics, which drops the meter in favor of hitting buttons in time with your players' movements. That totally sucks, so stick with the traditional style. Out of Bound's presentation is first rate, with inviting scenery, exciting camera angles, and pleasant background music. The golfer reactions are somewhat repetitive, but you can always bypass those. One thing that annoyed me about this and other Hot Shots games is the fact that there are only two golfers and one course available at first. That stinks, but I have to admit that unlocking stuff (via the "challenge mode") is a labor of love. Each challenge is a short match (usually 9 holes). Some challenges incorporate special conditions, but they don't go overboard with the gimmicks. After playing Hot Shots Out of Bounds, you'll want to throw all of your other golf games in the garbage. Out of bounds? Nah, this is right on target.


#46 Panzer Dragoon Saga

Saturn (1998)
Grade: A-
Reviewed: 2013/10/1

Top 50 Remarks: Legendary RPG that got the most out of the Saturn console.

screenshotReleased at the tail end of the Saturn lifecycle, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the most celebrated RPGs of all time. The sheer artistry of this game cannot be understated. Its exotic rhythms, melancholy themes, and surreal landscapes come together for a sublime experience. Sprawling over four discs, Saga is magnificent in scope. You are a young dragon-rider named Edge (pronounced "Ed-gee" by other characters) caught up in a chaotic world of warring factions, rampaging monsters, a mysterious girl, and an all-powerful tower. The Saturn is hardly a paragon of 3D prowess but Panzer Dragoon Saga squeezes every bit of performance out of the system. Your dragon glides with fluid grace under the power of the 3D controller. The landscapes are gorgeous. The Forbidden Zone features snowflakes falling gently on moonlit waves, and the majestic sunken ruins of Uru will be instantly recognizable to fans of the Panzer Dragoon shooting games. Even the more pixelated scenery has a poetic charm. Exploration is fun and I love the idea of blasting rotating stones to reveal items. Battles occur while flying, which adds a new dimension to combat. Skirmishes play out in semi-real time, and positioning yourself relative to your foe(s) is critical. Attacks are fully animated and the camera swings around to capture the carnage. Your primary weapon is a barrage of lock-on lasers, but you can also concentrate a powerful gun on weak points. Your dragon provides magical "berzerker" attacks, and you can even "morph" your dragon to emphasize attack, defense, agility, and spirituality. There are plenty of options and an intuitive user interface makes it fun to experiment. Weaker enemies include swarming bugs, mutant dandelions, or armless creatures that skip across the water. Larger foes tend to be massive airships - often with monsters infused into them. It's satisfying to watch huge chunks of these vessels break away as you wear them down. Saga's intriguing storyline is conveyed via full-motion video segments that were state of the art for their time. The dialogue is Japanese with English subtitles, and the exotic musical score (with occasional vocals) is mesmerizing. The save point distribution is pretty good, the difficulty is fair, and the game runs about 20 hours. My only serious gripe is the maze-like designs of several areas. I found it hard to enjoy the game while languishing in these multilayered networks of uninteresting tunnels and elevators with labels like "B3F North" and "Tower 15F West". Otherwise Panzer Dragoon Saga is one epic fantasy that hits on all cylinders. Like nothing I've ever played, this is a special kind of game that I won't soon forget.


#45 Crash Team Racing

Playstation (1999)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2000/1/15

Top 50 Remarks: A highly underrated kart racer in that distinctive Bandicoot style.

screenshotRealistic racing games are fine, but when it comes to multi-player fun, you can't beat a good kart game. Kart racers have been with us since Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo, 1992), but the Playstation didn't get its first one until Crash Team Racing (CTR). Fortunately, CTR was well worth the wait, effectively blowing all of its competitors out of the water (including Mario Kart 64)! CTR's comical characters were introduced in the first three Crash games and serve as a nicely diverse set of drivers. The tracks may look rougher than those Mario Kart 64, but these are far more interesting and imaginative. The backgrounds are clearly inspired from past Crash games, incorporating locales like jungles, snowy ridges, ancient temples, and massive sewers. Each track features ramps, shortcuts, and ample powerups. In terms of control, Naughty Dog has succeeded where others have failed. Your kart is easy to control, so instead of struggling to stay on the track, you can concentrate on the racing instead. Naughty Dog also recognized that jumping ramps is fun, so they reward players who catch "big air" with a speed boost when they land. CTR's play modes includes adventure, arcade, versus, time trial, and battle. The addicting adventure mode challenges the solo player to beat each track and collect special items, unlocking new racers and tracks in the process. The versus mode allows up to four players go head-to-head via split-screen, and it's a blast. CTR's frame rate remains consistently smooth, even with four players. The battle mode is just okay, but with so many racers buzzing around the open playing field, it's hard to target anyone in particular. Overall, CTR is an awesome title, one that should go down as one of the best kart racers of all time.


#44 Shark! Shark!

Intellivision (1982)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2002/6/9

Top 50 Remarks: Highly original fish-eat-fish game is crazy fun with two players.

screenshotSharks have fascinated me since my childhood. I'd pretty much buy any game with "shark" in the title; so one with "shark" mentioned twice (with exclamation points no less) is clearly a "must have". Over time this underrated game has become one of my all-time favorites. Perfect to play on a hot summer day, the action takes place in the cool blue depths of the ocean, where you control a tiny yellow fish. Other fish of all shapes, colors, and sizes swim across the screen as crabs and lobsters creep through the swaying seaweed below. Your goal is to consume other fish of lesser or equal size, which gradually increases the size of your fish. Ominous tones indicate the approach of the large, menacing shark. He's an intimidating adversary, but he can be defeated. If you nip at his tail enough times, he will eventually die and sink to the ocean floor. But don't toy with him - the shark will turn and snap you up in a heartbeat! As your fish grows bigger and more powerful, you become a larger target for other creatures like jellyfish and seahorses. Other fish will also eat each other, and shellfish even jump up to grab low-swimming fish. It's a challenge to grow your fish to full size, and after you die you return to your original size. The game is enormously fun and addicting, thanks to intuitive controls that allow you to dash ahead or stop on a dime. Audio effects include realistic bubble sounds and harmonized music. Shark! Shark! is a killer game, and it even features a two-player simultaneous mode.



#43 Virtua Tennis

Dreamcast (2000)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2000/8/16

Top 50 Remarks: One of the greatest sports titles of all time, Virtua Tennis has a pick-up-and-play quality modern sports titles lack.

screenshotJust when you thought Sega Sports was running out of steam, they release the first great Tennis game in AGES. And when I say ages, I'm not exaggerating! You can go all the way back to Activision's 1982 Tennis game for the last truly fun Tennis title. What's even more surprising is how simple Virtua Tennis is to play; there are only two buttons: shot and lob! The key to this game is positioning, and it's amazing how much control you have over your hits. You control the aim, strength, and can even apply spin! As you would expect from the Dreamcast, the graphics are smooth and life-like. You can choose between eight actual tennis players (all men). From a distance they look great, but close ups reveal faces that resemble Frankenstein with Chewbacca teeth. The background graphics and sound are fine but you won't notice them because they take a backseat to the outstanding gameplay. There are several modes, including 4-player doubles matches and a tournament mode which is full of fun mini-games. Here's something you might not notice: when you're playing the game, check out your VMU screen. You can watch the game on the VMU also!! It may not be practical, but it looks amazing! No question about it: Virtua Tennis IS the best tennis video game EVER, and easily one of the most thrilling multi-player games of all time.



#42 Asteroids

Atari 7800 (1987)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2004/5/2

Top 50 Remarks: Asteroids was a timeless arcade game to begin with, but this home version incorporates colorful visuals and a raucous two-player simultaneous mode.

screenshotThe ill-fated Atari 7800 system did not have many original titles, but it did provide some definitive versions of classic arcade games. This outstanding version of Asteroids ranks second-to-none, with enhanced graphics and fantastic two-player simultaneous modes. Like the original Asteroids, this version is relentlessly challenging and madly addictive. The action is a bit faster than the arcade game, and your cannon seems to have slightly better range. The colorful, rotating asteroids appear to have depth, and you can even see their craters. The UFOs are similarly detailed. In addition to the four skill levels, you can play some intense two-player simultaneous competitive OR cooperative modes. These alone are worth the price of admission. Asteroids should be standard issue for all Atari 7800 owners.



#41 Marvel Vs. Capcom 2

Dreamcast (2000)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2011/3/13

Top 50 Remarks: Manic 2D fighting pushed to the extreme with a massive roster, fantastic eye candy, and plenty of modes.

screenshotGamers couldn't get enough of the first Marvel Vs. Capcom, and this sequel blows the roof off with an unheard-of 56-character roster! Only 24 are available from the outset, but even that is an impressive number. Returning from the first game are favorites like Spiderman, Hulk, Wolverine, Chun Li, and Morrigan. Newcomers included are Jill Valentine (Resident Evil), Servbots (Mega Man), Akuma (Street Fighter 2), and Cable (Marvel). Has there ever been a hotter chick in a fighting game than Psylocke? That girl is stacked! I don't care much for shape-shifting types like Anakaris the mummy or Amingo the flexible cactus, but I guess that just comes with the territory. I've never even heard of oddball characters like the pirate chick Ruby Heart, the monkey girl Sonson, or the kid in the mech (T. Bonne). MvC2's matches are as chaotic as ever, and this time the contests are three-on-three. You only control one fighter at a time, but you can swap them out at will, or call upon them to administer timely "assists". The new format pushes the limits but adds more strategy as you strategically rest characters to recuperate their strength. The controls have been streamlined to perfection. Now there are only two punch and two kick buttons, leaving two buttons for calling in partners. As in the first game, the screen scrolls up as the characters battle in mid-air, and there are some absolutely outrageous special attacks. Iron Man has the biggest gun ever (where does he keep that thing?), and Ruby Heart's pirate ship practically consumes the entire screen as it plows into its helpless victim. The backdrops are now rendered in high-resolution 3D polygons, and while I still prefer the 2D illustrated look, there's something to be said for those smooth graphics. MvC2 is loaded with extra features including an auto-save and an option to view your high scores. Between matches you see where your current score falls in the rankings, and it's exciting to move up the chart. You'll gradually earn points to unlock new characters, stages, and outfits. This is one game that just keeps on giving. With tremendous replay value and ridiculous arcade gameplay, Marvel Vs Capcom 2 is one of the best fighters I've played on any system - much less the Dreamcast.


#40 Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast

Xbox (2006)
Grade: A-
Reviewed: 2009/7/21

Top 50 Remarks: Preserved the arcade sensibility of the original Outrun while infusing the visuals with fantastic 3D scenery.

screenshotLike its Playstation 2 cousin (which is practically identical), this racer will absolutely thrill arcade fans. Not only is Outrun 2006 easy to play, but the eye candy is off the charts! Its breathtaking tracks wind through sunny beach resorts, rocky South American ruins, and gorgeous national parks. There's even a Las Vegas stage that will blow your mind. There are plenty of play modes, but you really can't beat the old-fashioned "Outrun" mode where it's all about reaching the finish line before time expires. Coast to Coast conveys a potent sense of speed with its steep hills, long curves, and ample straightaways. Since the tracks branch, each time you play you can view a different set of scenery. It's great fun to tap the brake to initiate a controlled power slide on a long turn, and you can keep it going for quite a while without slowing down. A cool new "slip stream" element provides a speed boost whenever you line up behind another racer. Outrun 2006 is a smooth ride, but things can get intense as you near the end of a section with those final few seconds ticking down. Passing the checkpoint adds more time to the clock, which usually provide a sense of relief. Outrun 2006 shines in the audio department, providing updated renditions of classic Outrun tunes like Splash Wave, Magical Sound Shower, and Passing Breeze. It's a shame there's no split-screen mode - multiplayer is available on-line only. Another annoyance is Coast to Coast's confusing menu system that makes you sift through tons of modes - few of which are explained anywhere. Compared to the PS2 edition of Coast to Coast, the graphics are slightly grainy, but the ability to use an Xbox controller (with those big triggers) gives this one an edge in the control department. You really can't go wrong with any version of Outrun 2006, which perfectly combines old-school gameplay with state of the art graphics.


#39 House of the Dead 2

Dreamcast (1999)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2006/11/13

Top 50 Remarks: The consummate light gun adventure, blasting monsters has never felt so satisfying.

screenshotI don't tend to be very opinionated (HA!), but I firmly believe House of the Dead 2 (HOTD2) is the greatest light gun game ever conceived. It's pure adrenaline as you blast the limbs off hideous undead while exploring a gothic-looking city inspired by Venice. You can't control your movement directly, but your path branches based on the innocent civilians you save (or don't save). The shooting action is nonstop mayhem. Depending on where you shoot a zombie, an arm may fly off, a huge hole could be blown in his chest, or his head could be blown clean off. HOTD2 exudes all the cheesiness of a low budget horror flick, complete with pathetic cardboard acting and hilarious dialogue. I absolutely relish lines like "Don't come! Don't come!" "James, go and stop the confusion in the city", and of course the classic "Suffer like G did?" Power-ups and bonus items are revealed by destroying barrels and other containers, so keep an eye out. I play HOTD2 with friends every Halloween, and we're still discovering new areas and hidden goodies. Grotesque bosses include a headless knight, a hydra, and a "bleeding heart" lizard. The ultimate boss is a white guy decked out in a suit and tie. Yes, he's your worst nightmare - a Republican! In addition to the arcade mode, there's an "original" mode that lets you employ items you've collected in previous missions. An extensive option menu allows you adjust the number of continues, difficulty, and controller configuration. A normal controller can be used, but I'd highly recommend a light gun. Two people can play cooperatively, or better yet, one player can go solo holding two guns! Quirky, action-packed, and loaded with unintentional humor, House of the Dead 2 provides the most satisfying light gun shooting action I've experienced. NOTE: Dreamcast light guns don't tend to be very accurate, but it helps to crank up the contrast and brightness of your TV.


#39 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Wii U (2014)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2014/4/12

Top 50 Remarks: Like all the previous Donkey Kong Country games rolled into one, Tropical Freeze offers simple 2D fun and beautiful of 3D graphics.

screenshotNintendo has released several excellent platformers for the Wii U, but Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze takes the cake! I was instantly struck by the sharpness of the graphics. Donkey Kong's fur looks so soft! Then I realized this was the first time I've played a Donkey Kong Country game in high definition! Unlike what the ill-conceived title might imply (bad Nintendo, bad!), the stages are not limited to snow and ice. In fact, most take place in warm locations like lazy island lagoons and African-style savannahs. You'll explore Alice in Wonderland-inspired giant fruit stages and quaint European villages with windmills and bells. In the opening stage you'll spot a frozen island in the distance, which is a forshadowing device used in many old-school games like Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Genesis, 1989). The stage designs are incredibly inventive, and some of the visual effects will catch you off guard. It's fun to watch a big Viking ship run aground or witness a huge beanstalk spring forth from the earth. In one undersea stage the background illuminates to expose a giant octopus! The minecart stages are literally rollercoaster rides - especially with their swinging vantage points. My favorite takes you through a working sawmill. As if dodging spinning blades aren't enough, you'll get dumped into the water below the mill as a thunderstorm rages in the background. It's just an amazing sequence to behold. Observant gamers will also notice subtle details like penguins armed with fish bone "spears", man-eating plants that drool, and baboons that stick out their tongue to goad you. Excellent controls complement the classic 2D gameplay. I love how slapping the ground breaks through weak floors, and pulling handles triggers all sorts of surprises. Don't be afraid of the water because Kong can swim just like Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis, 1992). He can also carry a second character on his back like Diddy, Dixie, or Cranky. These imbue Kong with additional abilities like hovering or bouncing like a pogo stick. The difficulty can be pretty steep at times, especially when you're hopping between crumbling platforms or running for your life while making split-second decisions. Easing the difficulty are balloons you can purchase to provide extra lives or save you from falling or drowning. Tropical Freeze doesn't make use of the control pad, but it's not necessary so I'm glad Nintendo didn't force the issue. The game has tremendous replay value, considering all the coins, letters, and puzzle pieces hidden in each stage. A two-player co-op mode is also included. Heck, there's even a color manual! Granted, there's not much to it but in 2014 we take what we can get. The more I played Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, the more it dawned on me that this could be the best platformer I've ever played. If you're still on the fence about the Wii U, that should be food for thought.


#37 Boom Blox

Wii (2008)
Grade: A-
Reviewed: 2008/8/15

Top 50 Remarks: An innovative party game that perfectly leveraged the strengths of the Wii.

screenshotThis innovative title was designed by Steven Spielberg, and I have to admit it's absolutely ingenious. Boom Blox is best described in three words: "Jenga in reverse". Each screen consists of one or more structures composed of blocks. But instead of gently removing blocks, you toss balls at the structure in an attempt to knock away blocks, or better yet, destabilize the whole pile. Especially if you're a guy, the idea of knocking down large stacks of anything has a certain primeval appeal - it's the essence of fun! Boom Blox sidesteps being judged on its graphics by adopting a simplistic, cartoonish style. To throw, you lock onto your target (via the pointer), and then hurl the ball with a throwing motion. Spicing up the action are special blocks that can explode, vanish, or set off chain reactions. There are dozens of intriguing game variations, including some with point values printed on the side of each block. Boom Blox is absolutely gangbusters when played against one or more friends. As you take turns targeting the teetering structure, there's a sense of excitement, strategy, and anticipation. The suspense really builds as you hope the player before you doesn't notice the devastating shot you've lined up in your mind. You may have a sore arm the next day, but you'll still want a rematch. My friends gave Boom Blox a solid "A" for the multiplayer action, but I found the single player modes less compelling. These offer a more puzzle-oriented experience as you try to take down structures in the fewest possible throws. It's only mildly addicting, and the "goodies" you unlock are mainly just items for use in the "create mode". The create mode is a powerful editor that lets you construct your own stages, but most gamers will only tinker with it briefly. Solo play doesn't do this game justice, but if you have one or more friends on hand, Boom Blox may be the ultimate Wii experience.


#36 Metal Gear Solid

Playstation (1998)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 1999/7/15

Top 50 Remarks: A cinematic masterpiece that would make stealth a staple in action games for years to come.

screenshotMetal Gear Solid is billed as a game of "Tactical Espionage Action", where you play the role of a spy infiltrating a terrorist base. This highly-acclaimed game effectively combines realistic gameplay and first-rate graphics with a captivating storyline. The result is rich, immersive gaming experience that's riveting from beginning to end. Metal Gear's controls are super responsive, which is critical since you'll need to sneak around a multitude of enemy guards. Unlike most games, avoiding conflict is just as satisfying (and usually more rewarding) than engaging in battle. A wide variety of weapons and unconventional gadgets are at your disposal, and you'll interact with a number of memorable heros and villains. Although very challenging, Metal Gear Solid finds clever ways to help you along, eliminating the frustration associated with other adventure games like Tomb Raider 3. A triumph of style and originality, Metal Gear Solid may quite possibly be the best Playstation game of all time.



#35 Gran Turismo 5 XL Edition

Playstation 3 (2010)
Grade: B-
Reviewed: 2013/6/22

Top 50 Remarks: Despite its extraordinary depth and realism, Gran Turismo 5 also catered to the instant gratification crowd.

screenshotGran Turismo 5 has a long, sordid history. A "Prologue" edition was released in 2007 to tide fans over until the developers could incorporate damage modeling. The full-blown edition wasn't released until 2010, and it still didn't have the damage modeling. When popped in this disc I was informed that the game requires a "2200 MB partition" which took 20 minutes to create. My patience was rewarded with a spectacular video walking the cars through all facets of their assembly process. I was then prompted if I wanted to load the entire 8 GB game to the hard disk, along with the ominous warning "it will take a while". I declined since my hard disk was pretty full. Wouldn't you know, it prompts me about that every time I play? The game has frequent loads, but nothing extreme. Gran Turismo 5 (GT5) is made by car aficionados for car aficionados. Visually it looks exquisite with glossy menu tiles, sexy car images, and smooth screen transitions. Jazzy piano music conveys a sense of sophistication and class. GT5 has so much content you could pretty much play it for the rest of your life. The arcade mode is tempting, but the proper way to enjoy this game is to work your way through GT mode. The menu presents you with a mosaic of panels with options like "A-Spec events", Dealerships, Tuning Shop, Car Maintenance, License Test, etc. You can forgo those tedious "license challenges" (thank goodness), and the beginner-level races aren't bad, offering a diverse set of courses that wind their way through urban and country locations. The normal tracks are a little boring, but the offroad tracks feature gorgeous mountain views and snow-scapes. The curvy tracks demand precision driving, although the "guide line" helps a lot. In addition to conventional races, B-spec challenges let you watch the race while advising a driver with commands. It's not something I would have asked for, but it's kind of interesting. Like all GT games, half the fun is buying and upgrading cars. Many GT events aren't available unless you have the right type of car, and collecting cars is time consuming. Even my friend Brent who loves this game admits there is some grinding involved. I can appreciate the elegance of Gran Turismo 5, but only car nuts will savor all it has to offer. If cars are your thing feel free to bump up the grade by a letter.


#34 Crazy Taxi

Dreamcast (2000)
Grade: A-
Reviewed: 2010/5/22

Top 50 Remarks: The arrival of Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast was a watershed moment where console games surpassed their arcade cousins.

screenshotFirst impressions mean a lot, and the first time I played Crazy Taxi the words "Best video game ever" ran through my mind. Few games are as instantly enjoyable as "Mad Cab", as my friend Scott insists on calling it. You play a San Francisco cabbie trying to earn as much money as possible before a timer runs out. Upon picking up a customer, an arrow at the top of the screen guides you to your destination as you speed through town like a complete maniac. You'll weave through traffic, jump ramps, plow through hot dog stands, and send pedestrians running for cover. Bonus "tips" are earned for being extra reckless - a concept adopted by many subsequent games (Burnout being one of them). Sideswiping cars won't even slow you down; in fact, it often causes you to accelerate! Must be a Toyota! There's an exhilarating sense of freedom as you drive over sidewalks, through hilly parks, on the beach, and even underwater! The fast action, crisp controls, and bright arcade graphics make Crazy Taxi a thrill ride from start to finish. The basic controls are simple, but the drift controls are more complicated than they need to be. Also, after picking up a passenger it's very easy to peel wheels as precious seconds tick down. You'll find yourself driving the same basic routes over and over, although an alternate mode is included that mixes things up a bit. The scenery is so detailed that you'll want to cruise around just for the sake of sightseeing. The traffic is variable and there are a lot of pedestrians milling around. Adding realism are actual stores and restaurants like Levi's Original Jeans and Pizza Hut. The six kick-ass tunes from The Offspring and Bad Religion will pump your adrenaline, but they become tiresome after a while. Scott and I recently revisited Crazy Taxi after I discovered that our high scores (recorded to the VMU) were over ten years old! And wouldn't you know this game is still every bit as fun as it once was! This is a timeless classic, and if you're looking for a good summertime game, Crazy Taxi is the embodiment of summer fun.


#33 Mortal Kombat X

Playstation 4 (2015)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2015/5/12

Top 50 Remarks: The culmination of a legendary fighting franchise, this edition tosses in everything but the kitchen sink.

screenshotAt long last I've discovered the first great game of this generation (not counting the Wii U). Mortal Kombat X builds upon the solid foundation established by the previous Mortal Kombat (Xbox 360, 2011). The character models look fantastic and the stages are works of art. The gameplay is practically flawless. There are many sophisticated moves to master yet any fighting fan can pick up a controller and have fun immediately. I love the ability to interact with the environments, whether it's vaulting off a nearby rock or hurling a discarded shield at your opponent. Crowd-pleasing X-ray attacks let you savor each bone snap and skull crush. The gruesome fatalities are sure to bring a smile to your face, and the "easy fatalities" are genius. The level of violence is so over the top you can't take it seriously. Mortal Kombat X remains true to its roots, maintaining the same basic gameplay, mythology, visual style, and tongue-in-cheek tone. Veteran characters like Johnny Cage, Sonya, Jax, and Liu Kang have aged and now sport gray hair and wrinkles. Some of their grown children are new characters, like Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs. I love the new additions. Kotal Khan looks like a hulking Aztec king and Erron Black is a Wild West-inspired gunslinger. D'vorah is a twitchy insect woman and Takeda is a ninja with a bladed whip. Ferra/Torr is a "combination" character consisting of a Leatherface behemoth with a kid riding on his back. It looks hilarious when the kid gets knocked off and quickly scrambles to get back on. Older characters have been reimagined, including a creepy floating Ermac and a far more repulsive Reptile. Most fighting franchises are intent on getting players online (*cough*Capcom) but Mortal Kombat X respects its offline fans. The story mode nicely ties together all the characters while filling in some of their history. The classic tower modes are back in force, including a new "test your might" tower that's sure to give you carpal tunnel. The Krypt is now far more than a place to unlock goodies, but a full adventure in of itself! The game records your complete off-line history including character usage, records, and high scores. Expertly designed and amazing to behold, Mortal Kombat X sets the new standard for excellence in fighting games.


#32 Chrono Trigger

Super Nintendo (1995)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2005/10/18

Top 50 Remarks: You can't have a serious discussion about the greatest RPGs of all time without uttering the words Chrono Trigger.

screenshotWhenever I have conversations about RPGs, it never fails that someone will mention, "You know what was a great game? Chrono Trigger." Many fans of the genre even consider it to be the best RPG of all time! The story revolves around Crono, a swordsman (circa 1000 AD) with wild red hair and a diverse set of friends. Together they embark on an exciting quest through time. Crono's ultimate goal is to prevent the end of the world in the year 1999 at the hands of an evil, magical entity named Lavos. Throughout your quest, choices you make in the past affect the future. As a result, the game has an astounding 13 possible endings! Chrono Trigger is a classic 2D, turn-based RPG. The sprites and backgrounds are clean and bright, as if lifted from a cell-shaded animation. The musical score is catchy and effectively conveys mood. Chrono Trigger's gameplay is fantastic. You can have three characters in your party at any given time, and Akira Toriyama (character designer for Dragonball and Dragon Warrior) lends his pen to create a truly memorable cast. As your party runs down a hallway and encounters a monster, the battle menus scroll in and the fight takes place on the same screen. Armed to the teeth, your characters have two types of special moves: magic spells, and "tech" attacks. It's innovative how tech attacks can be combined, so up to three characters can contribute to one massive monster hurting! I haven't seen this done in any RPG since. The story is a work of art, and obviously a lot of thought went into the various subplots and determining how events affect each outcome. Throw in some fun mini-games, a bunch of enjoyable side quests, and some pop culture references, and you have one of the most enjoyable RPGs ever made.


#31 God of War 2

Playstation 2 (2007)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2007/4/16

Top 50 Remarks: This amazing adventure introduced hack-and-slash action to a whole new generation.

screenshotGod of War 2 is, without a doubt, the greatest game to ever grace the Playstation 2 console. The only question is, does anything else even come close? I thought the first God of War game was outstanding in every way, and yet God of War 2 (GoW2) totally blows it out of the water. Any doubts to its greatness are cast asunder in the very first stage, in which Kratos faces off against an animated Colossus of Rhodes. Not only does this extended, jaw-dropping battle take a number of dramatic turns, but it climaxes within the monster itself. GoW2's sense of size and scale rivals Shadow of the Colossus (Sony, 2005), with awe-inspiring camera angles and vertigo-inducing heights. The Greek mythology that characterizes the series not only provides magnificent locations and larger-than-life characters, but an epic storyline as well. This time Kratos is seeking revenge after being betrayed by Zeus, and the only way he can achieve this is to travel back in time. Like the first game, GoW2 doesn't bore you with tedious tutorials, but tosses you right into the frying pan while chiming in with short prompts that let you get a handle on the controls. Fantastic locations include snowy mountainsides, utopian islands, and a mysterious temple that rises from a swamp. There's no camera control in the game (none is needed), yet there are times when you'd like to just gawk at your surroundings. But GoW2's breakneck pace won't let you enjoy the scenery. The hand-to-hand combat is bloody and satisfying, with magical attacks that let you shoot rapid-fire projectiles, and awesome new weapons like the oversized barbarian hammer. New mechanics let you climb up walls, grapple, and kick huge blocks into place with ease. Special sequences prompt you to quickly hit specific buttons to execute exciting chains of events. But above it all, God of War 2 is just plain fun. The stage designs make it clear what needs to be done next, and the cinematography is unsurpassed. Time flies when you become sucked into GoW2, and a 15-minute play session can easily turn into two hours. This is one of those "I'll be up to bed in a minute honey" games if there ever was one. The only technical flaw I could detect was some slight waviness in the graphics, but I'll chalk that up to the game pushing the hardware to the brink. And if Sony is trying to impress me by tossing in a bonus DVD with trailers and behind the scenes documentaries, well, it's working! They could have included it in some overpriced "premium edition", but thank goodness they didn't. The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 may have the best technical specifications, but the Playstation 2 has the best game: God of War 2.


#30 Halo 2

Xbox (2004)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2005/1/30

Top 50 Remarks: The wildly popular first-person franchise became a legitimate phenomenon with this outstanding sequel.

screenshotLike the original Halo, this sequel offers extremely polished and highly immersive first-person shooting action. Surprisingly, Halo 2's graphics look pretty much the same, causing many to wonder why this game took three years to produce. The first stage is pure deja-vu as you blast aliens infiltrating a space station. As you progress through the game however, the scope expands to reveal fantastic new environments including a majestic city with towering skyscrapers. Halo 2's battlegrounds are more varied and less repetitive than its predecessor, and I often had to pause just to gawk at the scenery. Halo 2's weapons are more balanced, and most are equipped with scopes. Wielding a gun in each hand is a blast, but it does sacrifice your ability to toss grenades. There are numerous opportunities to commandeer vehicles, and it's surprisingly easy to jump onto an enemy's ride and kick him off. With the jeep-like Warthogs, you have the option of being the driver, passenger, or gunner. Personally I prefer letting a CPU-controlled soldier drive me around as I man the turret. It's also possible to exchange weapons with non-player fellow foot soldiers. Unlike the first Halo, you can save at any time, and regular checkpoints ensure you won't have to retrace long stretches. The highly-touted enemy AI is impressive, and is most apparent in the advanced stages. Enemies are especially skillful at avoiding grenades. Halo 2 packs plenty of surprises, including a sequence where you take down a massive, spider-shaped killing machine, or when you play the role of an alien character called "the Arbiter". I personally found the Arbiter stages to be a bit confusing, since it's hard to tell who you're supposed to shoot (both sides are aliens). As fans would expect, Halo 2's audio is outstanding, with intelligent voice samples and a soaring musical score than sometimes borders on operatic. Unfortunately, the dialogue is often hard to make out over the loud music. On the downside, although I love the split-screen modes, some weapons take up too much screen real estate, and like the first Halo, it can be hard to determine where to go at times. The game also contains extensive on-line support. All in all, Halo 2 is everything it's advertised to be - a furiously entertaining shooter that squeezes every last bit of power out of the Xbox.


#29 Tomb Raider

Xbox 360 (2013)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2013/3/27

Top 50 Remarks: Tomb Raider has always long been a staple adventure franchise, and this "prequel" is nearly flawless.

screenshotI was very skeptical about this new Tomb Raider "reboot", which covers Lara Croft's very first adventure when she looked like Jennifer Lawrence. She's a new breed of hero that's mistake-prone and emotional, yet courageous and resourceful. The new, non-sexualized Lara has a sense of humility that makes her more relatable - and likeable. The game may be a "coming of age" story but it never feels melodramatic or heavy-handed. Tomb Raider expertly weaves a compelling narrative with pulse-pounding action sequences. Lara and several fellow explorers find themselves shipwrecked on a stormy island with tropical forests, soaring cliffs, ancient temples, ship graveyards, and watery caves. Tomb Raider's controls have been honed to perfection over the years, and now it seems they have it down to a science. It feels quite effortless as you leap between burning rooftops, swiftly dodge enemy attacks, and latch onto walls with your axe. And no, you won't plummet to your death just because you released a button! Lara reacts naturally to situations, holding up her arms to shield herself from wind, contorting her body to squeeze through crevasses, and feeling her way along the edge of a cliff. There are zip-lines all over the place, and they are a heck of a lot of fun to ride. During shootouts you can quickly toggle between a pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and bow. For my money there's no more effective (or satisfying) weapon than a flaming arrow, which causes your enemies to burn in agony. Did I mention the game was really violent? Flaming arrows can also trigger explosions and rope arrows are used to pull down wooden structures. The stealth sequences are handled with restraint, and even scavenging for items is fun. Normally I have a few complaints about the camera, but I didn't even notice it in this game! The people who put this together were really on top of their game. Frequent auto-saves and transparent loads create a seamless experience that never takes you out of the moment. Like the Uncharted series, Tomb Raider serves up a generous share of edge-of-your-seat quick-action scenes that will leave you breathless. Building on the lessons of all its predecessors, Tomb Raider is a masterpiece that gives this franchise a new lease on life.


#28 Silent Hill

Playstation (2000)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2004/10/11

Top 50 Remarks: Silent Hill is survival horror that taps into your deepest, darkest fears. The less you see, the scarier it is.

screenshotSilent Hill begins by flashing a disclaimer about the game's graphic violence and disturbing scenes. It's certainly warranted, because this survival horror classic sends chills down my spine and makes my blood run cold. If Resident Evil is the Night of the Living Dead of video games, then Silent Hill is the Exorcist. The opening cinematic depicts a car crash, followed by a father's desperate search for his daughter in a nearby deserted town. With moody lighting and amazing audio, Silent Hill creates the most intense atmosphere I've ever experienced in a video game. You view your character from behind (like Tomb Raider), and the camera swings around to capture the most dramatic viewing angles. The creatures you encounter are weird and unsettling, and the line between fantasy and reality is constantly blurred as you navigate a surreal, ever-changing world. For much of the game you explore pitch-dark rooms with the help of a flashlight, and your limited visibility really adds to the tension. But the scariest aspect of Silent Hill is its eerie sound effects that increase in volume as danger approaches, heightening your sense of paranoia. The tension can reach unbearable proportions, making it difficult to play the game alone or with the lights out. There are plenty of "find the key" puzzles, but they tend to be more thought-provoking than frustrating. I found myself slowly drawn into the game even as I became more and more anxious. Silent Hill is a legitimate classic, and perhaps the most terrifying video game ever made.



#27 Road Rash

Genesis (1991)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2003/5/10

Top 50 Remarks: Its reckless gameplay and a high-octane soundtrack is guaranteed to get your blood pumping.

screenshotThis classic motorcycle game succeeds on so many levels. It's a no-holds-barred cross-country racing game where abusing other racers is part of the fun. I remember when I first bought this game my friends couldn't get enough of it. My buddy John liked it so much that he used it in one of his college film projects. He videotaped parts of the game and spliced it with some cheesy clips of him riding his motorcycle - it was awful! My girlfriend (and future wife) also got a kick out of this game, and it's one of the few she'll still play today. The rolling hills and scaling scenery effectively convey the feeling of speeding down the open road, and you can even catch air on some of the big hills. There are five tracks, but since the scenery is sparse, they all look pretty much the same. What makes Road Rash such a trip is the perfect combination of racing and combat. When you pull along side other racers, you can punch and kick them off of their bike, and they fight back too! The best part is when you snatch a club from one guy, and then systematically beat the living crap out of everybody else. It's surprisingly easy to maneuver and maintain your position alongside opponents. Fighting while trying to avoid oncoming traffic can be quite a rush, but there's more. A cop on a motorcycle will try to run you off the road, but no, you can't beat him up (although everybody tries). After a motorcycle wrecks, the driver goes flying, but he's not out of the race yet! He'll automatically run back to his bike, which is often lying in the middle of the road. As you can guess, each oncoming motorcycle tries to run him over. And I can't forget the incredible music. These hard-edged, high-energy tunes are the best I've heard in a Genesis game - they REALLY get your adrenaline flowing. After each race you win cash to upgrade your bike or buy a new one, and you can save your place using a huge, hard-to-read password. Road Rash is a true classic that stands the test of time.


#26 ESPN NFL 2K5

Xbox (2004)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2010/12/19

Top 50 Remarks: I would say EA's Madden series is still struggling to meet the standard set by this monumental football title, but are they ever trying anymore?

screenshotBefore the "dark times" of EA's sordid monopoly, Sega produced some amazing football games. NFL 2K5 is quite possibly the best football title ever produced, and certainly the most ambitious. Each contest begins with a fully rendered Chris Berman at the anchor desk introducing the upcoming match-up. You're also treated to camera shots of enthusiastic fans filing into the stadium. NFL 2K games have always boasted cutting-edge graphics, but 2K5 raised the bar even further with players that remove their helmets and jaw-dropping television graphics. Even the cheerleaders were given a makeover. 2K5's gameplay is rock solid, offering balanced passing and running attacks. The controls are responsive and the action moves at a brisk pace. It's a little heavy on the turnovers by default, but you can dial that down via the sliders on the option screens. The playbooks are loaded with fun gadget plays including flea-flickers, halfback passes, and fake reverses. One small issue is how on defense it can be a little hard to pick out the blitz plays. Brief cut-scenes show coaches ranting on the sidelines, chain measurements, and dejected fans. The commentators are very spirited and often joke around with each other. I can't say enough good things about the replay system, which puts all the others to shame. Not only are its controls intuitive, but the analog triggers let you adjust the speed of playback with pinpoint precision. The coach's challenge system is terrific as well, with close calls correctly handled "from the booth" when less than two minutes remain. The half-time and post-game highlight shows are accurate and entertaining. Chris Berman provides a comprehensive recap of all the big plays while referring to players by their comical nicknames. These highlights are animated footage - not still images! I also love how the "ticker" at the bottom of the screen displays various game statistics. And just when you thought things couldn't get any better, at the end of each game a fully-rendered Suzy Kolber interviews the star player on the field! Sega pulled out all the stops with 2K5, and priced it at a mere $20 - undercutting Madden by $30. Once Electronic Arts realized they couldn't compete fairly, they contrived an exclusivity deal with the NFL that effectively put the 2K franchise out of business. It was a slap in the face for football fans, because NFL 2K5 is better than anything EA has ever done - and probably ever will do.


Proceed to Best of the Best Part II