The TOP 50 Console Video Games
Part I

Updated Feb 9, 2020


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 Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds

Playstation 3 (Sony 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.

#49 Panzer Dragoon Saga

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

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

screenshotReleased near 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.

#48 Shark! Shark!

Intellivision (Mattel 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.

#47 Virtua Tennis

Dreamcast (Sega 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 released 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 multiplayer games of all time.

#46 Asteroids

Atari 7800 (Atari 1987)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2017/12/8

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.

screenshotAs good as the original Asteroids arcade game was, this is even better. Guess it shouldn't come as a surprise considering Atari had already released the game for several different systems. The graphics aren't as sharp as the original vector graphics, but they do offer more eye candy. Not only do the asteroids appear three-dimensional, they are spinning on their axis! Those white ones look like miniature Death Stars.

The shooting action is frantic and the controls are dead on. Thrusting around between criss-crossing asteroids is both death-defying and exhilarating. Should you find yourself between a rock and a hard place you can activate hyperspace, but keep in mind destruction upon re-entry is possible. The game lets you fire rapidly, but repeatedly tapping buttons on the Atari 7800 controller can be a recipe for pain.

Fortunately Asteroids also supports Atari 2600 controllers so you can pull out your favorite joystick and go to town. Did I mention the game has two-player simultaneous mode? You can compete against a friend, or better yet team up, sharing the same score. The programmers covered all the bases, making this the ultimate Asteroids for all-time.

#45 Marvel Vs. Capcom 2

Dreamcast (Capcom 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 Spider-Man, 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.

#44 Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast

Xbox (Sega 2006)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2019/8/17

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

screenshotOutrun 2 (Xbox, 2003) was an exhilarating ride and Outrun 2: Coast to Coast builds on its promise. To the untrained eye both games appear to be the same, featuring bright graphics, simple controls, and breathtaking exotic locations. Outrun 2006 however offers a slew of new features like slipstreams, rivals, and new stages. The difficulty is far more reasonable and a wide selection of shiny cars are available. I find it amusing how the CGI-rendered intro actually looks far worse than the in-game graphics. What's the point?

Coast-to-Coast mode offers mission-based challenges like your girlfriend instructing you to ram others cars or dribble a giant beach ball down the road. That's fine but I'll take the old-fashioned arcade mode any day of the week. It's all about reaching the finish line before time expires and things get seriously intense as those last few seconds tick down. Reaching checkpoints adds time to the clock which provide a temporary sense of relief.

Outrun 2006's sense of speed is quite thrilling thanks to steep hills, long curves, and ample straightaways. I could actually feel my stomach drop when I plunged into the waterfall stage. Tracks branch frequently so you're likely to see something new with each play. The eye candy is off-the-charts and the Las Vegas stage is mind-blowing. Certain locations appear slightly grainy but that may have been intentional to simulate fog or mist.

The effortless controls make it fun to initiate a power slide, and you can keep it going for quite a while without slowing down. The new slipstream feature spices things up by providing a speed boost whenever you line up directly behind another racer. Outrun 2006 shines in the audio department, providing updated renditions of old favorites like Passing Breeze or Splash Wave.

The interface is a confusing maze of endless variations, many of which are not explained. Still, it feels like an embarrassment of riches. Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast bridged the gap between the primitive graphics of the past and the boring realism of the present, hitting a sweet spot that's oh-so-easy on the eyes.

#43 Axiom Verge

Nintendo Switch (Badlands Games 2017)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2018/4/7

Top 50 Remarks: This Metroid-style platformer is positively electric, working up to a big finish.

screenshotI tend to hop from one game to the next but Axiom Verge became an instant obsession. I still can't get over how finely-crafted and inventive this sci-fi platformer is. Though clearly inspired by Metroid, Axiom Verge manages to out-Metroid every Metroid game ever made. Its gorgeously-pixelated 16-bit graphics employ limited color schemes for dramatic effect with stages composed of granular blocks. Its superb 2D gameplay is enhanced by a mind-bending story and pulse-pounding musical score.

The environments feature a lot of familiar elements like steam vents, rolling boulders, and toxic pools, but don't let that fool you. The creativity in this game is off the charts, with monsters, items, and weapons like you've never imagined. Case in point is the "address disruptor" gun which actually allows you to create graphical glitches in the game for your own benefit!

And once you think you have Axiom Verge figured out, you're just getting started. Like a good Zelda adventure once you acquire a new ability you'll want to comb over old locations to make new discoveries. Backtracking has never been so satisfying. A handy map is at your fingertips and the save points are perfectly placed.

The audio is striking, from the crisp tapping of your drone scurrying around to the Defender-like electronic noise when you find a new weapon. Static in the music adds to the atmosphere of isolation, but some people might wonder if there's something wrong with their sound system.

Axiom Verge was developed over five years by a single man. And when you consider Tom Happ even created its otherworldly soundtrack, this is an astounding accomplishment. My one complaint has more to do with the Nintendo Switch controller. A game like this demands a directional pad which you won't find on a Joycon. Double-tapping is so awkward I found myself accidentally changing weapons! Once I switched to a Pro Controller, it was like night and day. Axiom Verge isn't a Metroid clone - it's a Metroid killer! This is one of the best games I've ever played - hands down.

#42 Resident Evil

Playstation (Capcom 1996)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2004/10/25

Top 50 Remarks: The great grandaddy of the survival horror genre still stands as one of the best.

screenshotWith apologies to Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil (RE) is the grandfather of survival horror games. Brilliantly conceived, this third-person adventure stands the test of time as one of the scariest games ever. The dark storyline of biological experimentation gone wrong takes place in a mysterious mansion crawling with mutated creatures that can jump out at any time.

Crooked camera angles are used for dramatic effect, and beautifully-illustrated graphics boast amazing detail. Giant spiders scuttle convincingly and zombies stagger with amazing, motion-captured realism. The game is violent and gory by nature, with plenty of gratuitous blood and flying body parts. But what makes RE truly great is how it effectively builds atmosphere and tension. The scene with dogs bursting through the windows has got to rank up there as one of the greatest scares in video game history.

Despite the high quality presentation however, RE's poorly-translated dialogue is laughable, and the stilted voice acting has a "so bad it's good" quality. Although deliberately paced, the gameplay is fun and engaging despite its stiff controls. Turning around is slow, and your limited carrying capacity is aggravating.

RE also features a "live action" video intro which is largely an artifact of the early 90's gaming scene. It doesn't mesh with the game's polygon graphics at all, and looks completely out of place. Interestingly, this footage was censored to omit a shot of a severed arm (included in the Japanese version), much to the consternation of American gamers. Resident Evil remains a landmark game, and horror fans owe it to themselves to play through this at least once.

#41 Boom Blox

Wii (Electronic Arts 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 side steps 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.

#40 Metal Gear Solid

Playstation (Konami 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 a 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 heroes 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.

#39 Sega Rally Championship

Saturn (Sega 1996)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2008/4/30

Top 50 Remarks: Fast, smooth, and easy to play, this is one arcade racer that's hard to dislike.

screenshotIt took a while for Sega to release a top-of-the-line racer for the Saturn (Daytona was considered a disappointment), but all of the pieces fell nicely into place with this one. As the premiere racing game for the system, Sega Rally offers fantastic off-road driving action with smooth visuals and sublime controls. The finely detailed vehicles lean into turns, execute power slides with ease, and kick up mud realistically.

The three tracks (desert, forest, and mountain) aren't spectacular, but offer bright, attractive scenery with minimal pop-up. The silky-smooth frame rate really helps you get into a groove, and the jazzy soundtrack isn't bad either. You can view the action from behind your car, or try the more difficult first-person angle. Helpful voice and arrow cues alert you to upcoming turns and hazards. Like any good off-road racer, the key is executing controlled power slides over slippery terrain. Careening around corners half-way out of control is exhilarating, and banging into other cars is all part of the fun.

Playing modes include practice, championship, two-player split screen, and time attack. The game automatically saves your best times, which enhances the replay value. You can customize your car and even compete against "ghosts" from previous runs. As a well-balanced blend of driving realism and arcade fun, Sega Rally Championship is arguably the best Saturn game of all time.

#38 Crazy Taxi

Dreamcast (Sega 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.

#37 Mortal Kombat X

Playstation 4 (Warner Bros. 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 also 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 and 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.

#36 Chrono Trigger

Super Nintendo (Square 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.

#35 God of War 2

Playstation 2 (Sony 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 mountain sides, 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.

#34 Halo 2

Xbox (Microsoft 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 that 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.

#33 Tomb Raider

Xbox 360 (Square Enix 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.

#32 Silent Hill

Playstation (Konami 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 no joke, because this game will make your blood run cold. If Resident Evil is the Night of the Living Dead of video games, then Silent Hill is the Exorcist! The opening cutscene depicts a car crash followed by a father's desperate search for his daughter in a nearby deserted town. With moody lighting and spooky audio, Silent Hill creates the most intense atmosphere I've ever experienced in any video game.

You view your character from the back (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 ratchets up the tension.

But the scariest aspect of Silent Hill is its eerie white noise sound effects that increase in volume as danger approaches. The tension can reach unbearable proportions, making it difficult to play the game alone or with the lights out. I thought I was going to cry at one point! There are plenty of "find the key" puzzles but they tend to be more thought-provoking than frustrating. I found myself slowly sucked into the game despite my growing anxiety. Silent Hill may just be the best horror video game ever made.

#31 Road Rash

Genesis (Electronic Arts 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 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 alongside 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 say enough about 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.

#30 ESPN NFL 2K5

Xbox (Sega 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.

#29 Vandal Hearts

Playstation (Konami 1997)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 1999/7/15

Top 50 Remarks: A perfectly-balanced strategic adventure that had me hooked from beginning to end.

screenshotI don't play a lot of RPG/strategy titles, but Vandal Hearts won me over in a big way. This is truly one of my all-time favorites. You control a band of warriors caught up in an intricate storyline far too complex to explain here. The basic gameplay consists of a series of turn-based battles. You individually tell your warriors what to do, and then sit back and watch the action unfold. Vandal Hearts is surprisingly gory, with each kill causing a geyser of blood to spring forth. The battlefields range from rolling meadows to claustrophobic dungeons, and each requires a different strategy. Warriors range from powerful knights to frail magic users, and some of the spells you cast trigger amazing visual effects. The story line is absolutely enthralling, and the thought-provoking gameplay will have you hooked until the very end. Every Playstation fan needs this title in their collection.

#28 Snatcher

Sega CD (Konami 1994)
Grade: A
Reviewed: 2002/3/12

Top 50 Remarks: Oozing with an electric atmosphere, Snatcher is a futuristic adventure with style to burn.

screenshotThis outstanding graphic adventure is one of the best games I've ever played on my Sega CD. It's set in a futuristic city where nocturnal "Snatchers" murder people and assume their identities. You are a detective with amnesia whose mission is to locate and destroy the source of the Snatchers. While the game is dark, serious, and intense, the tongue-in-cheek dialog occasionally borders on hilarious. A good example is when the hero reveals, "Since my girlfriend has amnesia too, there's not much there to base a relationship on."

Tools at your disposal include a robot companion, a computer database, a videophone, and a "turbocycle" to get you around town. The intriguing storyline borrows heavily from movies like Blade Runner and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The game screen consists of a partially animated graphic above a menu of text options. Dramatic music, distinctive sound effects, and outstanding comic book-style graphics really immerse you in this mysterious world.

The text option menus, which are often several layers deep, allow you to look, investigate, move, talk, ask, use, and show possessions. There are always plenty of options available at any given time, but since they are limited, you're not likely to get stuck in any one place for too long. The menus are easy to navigate, the load time is practically non-existent, and you can save your place to memory at any time.

While Snatcher is mostly an adventure, there is an occasional shooting sequence that requires quick reflexes. Although Konami's Justifier light gun is supported, a normal controller is actually easier to use in these stages. Snatcher is like a good book that you can't put down. The graphics and sound are above average, but it's the thrilling storyline that makes it a classic.

#27 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Playstation 3 (Sony 2009)
Grade: A+
Reviewed: 2009/12/20

Top 50 Remarks: The Uncharted series tried to top Tomb Raider's brand of third-person adventure, and succeeded.

screenshotMany critics failed to recognize the greatness of the first Uncharted, but now I see they've all jumped on the bandwagon. Better late than never boys! No question about it, Among Thieves is an exotic adventure that hones the Tomb Raider formula to perfection. This time our hero Nathan Drake (hey, isn't that Nick Lachey?) is on the trail of Marco Polo's lost expedition in search of a mythical stone in the Himalayan Mountains. At any given time, you can expect Nathan to have a shapely chick - or two - at his side, and who's complaining?

Uncharted 2 has a substantial initial load time, but once the action kicks in, disk access is undetectable. The game's diverse environments include a war-torn city, a dense jungle, a Turkish museum, icy mountain passages, and a snowy monastery. There are elaborate tombs with immense statues, gears, and pulleys. The scenery is astonishing, and there were many times when I wanted to stop and look around but couldn't due to the breakneck pace of the game! Cleverly-designed stages constrain your movements without having you feel constrained. The city stages offer breathtaking views and realistic details like pigeons that flutter away as you approach. The jaw-dropping "shootout-on-the-train" stage defies description - it's incredible!

Uncharted 2's gameplay offers an ideal combination of stealth, exploration, climbing, puzzles, pulse-pounding chases, and chaotic shootouts. The controls are supremely forgiving. Nathan will automatically grasp ledges while falling and reach out to indicate if the next ledge is close enough to leap to. The ability to fire a gun while hanging from any ledge adds a whole new dimension to shoot-outs. You can save your progress at any time, and frequent checkpoints ensure you'll never have to repeat long stretches.

Among Thieves places a heavy emphasis on the story, with frequent cut-scenes that initially give you the feeling of being strung along. That would be a liability in most games, but Uncharted 2's cinematics are a real treat. Yes, they latch onto every action movie cliche you've ever seen, but it's all in good fun. The likeable characters are rendered with subtle facial expressions, and the voice acting is fantastic. Whoever wrote this dialogue is brilliant! I love it! The characters consistently toss out genuinely funny one-liners, and the profanity is thankfully restrained.

Last but not least, the triumphant orchestrated musical score is momentous - worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. The game clocks in at about 11 hours, and while many adventures pad their playing time with repetitive, time-consuming tasks, Uncharted 2 has zero filler. Among Thieves is so grand and well produced that pointing out minor glitches like awkward camera angles or stuttering animations seems almost petty. When it comes to making a playable video game, the Naughty Dog development team really "gets it", and with Uncharted 2 they've delivered one for the ages.

#26 Dr. Mario 64

Nintendo 64 (Nintendo 2001)
Grade: A-
Reviewed: 2001/6/2

Top 50 Remarks: This long-running puzzle franchise has more depth, longevity, and multiplayer fun than even the original puzzle king, Tetris. My friends are not thrilled with this decision. Even the cats are giving me the cold shoulder.

screenshotIt's hard to be critical of a game you can't stop playing. Dr. Mario 64 is so addicting, I think I could make a full time job out of playing this! The graphics are simple, the music is so-so, and the sound effects are annoying, but tight controls and engrossing gameplay more than make up for these deficiencies. Dr. Mario is the type of game that appeals to men and women of all ages, and its four-player mode makes it an ideal party game.

The gameplay is a variation of Tetris where you need to strategically place multi-colored "pills" to eliminate "viruses". It's the same Dr. Mario that's been released on the SNES (and NES), but this one contains more options and playing modes. If you enjoy puzzle games and you haven't tried Dr. Mario yet, you need to pick this up in a hurry. For the record, this is one of my wife's favorite video games of all time.

Proceed to Top 50 Console Video Games Part II