You’re now aware of my hatred towards the CDi Zelda titles, so why not spend this spooky Halloween browsing the third part of my 100 Legendary Games series? Perhaps you’ll spot a couple horror titles in there, or maybe you’ll find my exclusion of such innovative titles as Irritating Stick horrifying.
If by chance you’re new to this series, I decided to put 100 game cartridges and CDs in a pot and boil them, while inhaling their intoxicating fumes. These fumes allowed me to “accurately” rank these 100 titles in order from worst to best.
If you don’t see some of your favorite titles on this list, like say, Oblivion or Valkyria Chronicles, there’s a good chance that I haven’t played them. I only included games that I’ve beaten or achieved 90% or greater completion, so if you don’t see your favorite title, now you know why. Before delving into this list full of gaming chronic, you might want to check out Part One and Part Two.
I hope you enjoy the third entry of my 100 Legendary Games series!
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Platform: Nintendo 64
Ocarina of Time is often picked as the best Zelda title and for good reason. It was one of the first games to give us a massive world, it had spectacular dungeons, and it redefined 3D combat. This groundbreaking title came with a few disappointments, but it was still an epic adventure that I’ll never forget.
Title: Dead Space
Platform: Xbox 360
Survival Horror games changed significantly since the release of Resident Evil 4, but EA somehow put the horror back in this genre while making its game control like a dream. Besides delivering excellent controls, Dead Space featured nearly unrivaled sound, incredible visuals, and an impressive gameplay engine inspired by Resident Evil 4, Metroid Prime, Gears of War, and Bioshock. What more could a gamer ask for?
Title: Resident Evil 4
Even though Dead Space one-upped Resident Evil 4 in many ways, Resident Evil 4 was a fabulous title that not only showed people what the Gamecube was capable of — it delivered an immersive Survival Horror experience that felt unlike anything that had come before. Instead of featuring zombies, RE4 included Spaniards infested by parasites that acted far more intelligent than their undead brethren. This change in enemy types wouldn’t have meant anything if Capcom didn’t do away with archaic controls and gameplay elements that plagued previous titles in the series, so fortunately, they began with a clean slate. And to top off RE4’s impressive gameplay overhaul, it came with a series of spectacular bosses that few video games could match.
Title: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
More often than not, it feels like sequels retread familiar ground, so I was taken by surprise with Naughty Dog’s second Uncharted. Among Thieves made significant control advancements, it allowed players to partake in what would normally be cut-scenes, it delivered incredible environmental variety (along with some of the most spectacular visuals to ever grace a video game), and most importantly, it delivered a thrilling adventure that Hollywood movies could only dream of.
Title: Beyond Good & Evil
It’s a shame that I originally passed over Beyond Good & Evil, because when I played this underrated title in 2009, it delivered one of the best original video game experiences I’ve had in years. How did it accomplish this? Through its gameplay that is completely intertwined with its story. You won’t find yourself solving trivial puzzles here; instead, every action you take is a part of showing the true colors of a corrupt media organization who portrays itself as benevolent. You’ll rarely find an adventure title with as much gameplay variety as Beyond Good & Evil that feels so polished. Did I mention that this is also one of the only video games to feature a respectable female protagonist?
Title: Mass Effect
Platform: Xbox 360
Anyone who’s played Bioware’s console RPGs will immediately understand the gameplay conventions found in Mass Effect, but they won’t realize that this is the best Star Trek video game until they complete it. Okay, so it isn’t really Star Trek, but as with previous Bioware titles, it features a wonderful storyline that allows the player to make decisions. What’s new in Mass Effect are the first-person shooter-like controls and excellent facial animations. Oh yeah, and the girl-on-girl action and “thrilling” elevator rides.
Title: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
This is sure to increase the amount of death threats I receive tenfold, but I loved The Wind Waker. The first revealed screenshot may have made me curse Nintendo, but when I saw the cartoony visuals in action, I ate my words. The Wind Waker may not have been the most original Zelda, but the beautiful cel-shaded visuals, excellent soundtrack, and spectacular finale make this one of my favorite Zelda titles.
Title: God of War II
When I heard that David Jaffe wouldn’t be helming God of War II, I feared the worst. Despite being somewhat of a cocky bastard, he’s a creative visionary that provided one of the most stunning games of the PS2 generation. Well, imagine my surprise then when God of War II ended up being just as spectacular as the original. It didn’t feel quite as fresh, but God of War II is still one of the best action games in existence. How could I have a problem with its thrilling Greek Mythology-inspired tale and its wonderful voice acting and sound design? Here’s hoping that the third God of War can deliver an equally rich experience.
Suikoden always looked a bit dated visually, but it was notable for telling an epic tale that was drastically different than that of its RPG contemporaries. While most RPGs focused on a group of adventurers embarking on a world spanning quest, Suikoden focused on a civil war occurring within one particular region.
What made this quest special was that you played as a renegade son of the Emperor’s highest ranking general. You begin your quest by serving the Scarlet Moon Empire, but once you understand that the empire has changed, you betray you father and join up with a liberation movement. Initially, you serve this movement by carrying out important errands, but eventually you rise to the top and have the opportunity to recruit 108 characters and build your own castle. I’ll never forget this mature RPG that made me feel as if I could influence the outcome of a nation’s future.
Title: Suikoden V
As with every Suikoden title, Suikoden V was overlooked, even though it returned to the series’ roots. It’s a shame, because this game’s politically charged narrative is one of the most exciting video game tales I’ve experienced since Suikoden II. It’s not as unique as the second game in the series, but its refined gameplay, interesting storyline, and excellent soundtrack made Suikoden V feel like the first true Suikoden since Suikoden II.
Title: Silent Hill
I ignored the Silent Hill series for over a decade, so I was quite surprised that this Survival Horror title made such an impression on me. Not only is it one of the scariest games I’ve ever played — it’s actually playable today due to its lack of tank controls. This incredibly atmospheric title also features competent voice acting (a rarity on the PSOne), and one of the most interesting video game tales I’ve ever experienced. So many questions are left unanswered, but you know a game has done something right when it causes you to think about its story after you’ve completed the game.
Title: Grand Theft Auto 4
Platform: Xbox 360
I’ve always wanted to like the Grand Theft Auto series, but I just couldn’t get into Grand Theft Auto III and its two successors. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the open-ended gameplay — I just couldn’t stick with any of them for long due to their lack of a compelling storyline. Grand Theft Auto IV bucked this trend by providing a cast of memorable characters and a believable world. Sure, there were plot holes and the gameplay got repetitive at times, but I loved playing as the Eastern European immigrant, Niko Bellic who is one of my favorite contemporary video game characters.
Platform: Super NES (UK Version)
I first played this lost Super Nintendo classic during summer 2009 after discovering it on Youtube, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting RPGs I’d played in years. This third part of the action-RPG series that includes Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia never made it to North America. It’s a shame that Terranigma remains unreleased, because its unique premise that involves a dualistic world and the creation and death of species really made an impression on me. Without a doubt, Terranigma is the most mysterious game I’ve ever played, and that alone makes it deserving of its position on this list.
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Quite a few Zelda fans were disappointed with Twilight Princess, because of the “Been there, done that” feeling it emitted, but I was quite impressed with this Wii launch title. Even though Twilight Princess wasn’t the biggest evolution in the Zelda series, it managed to be my idealized version of Ocarina of Time. I’d always wanted to ride my horse through realistic forests, battle soldiers on horseback with swords and arrows, and play a Zelda without blurry textures, and Twilight Princess was the first Zelda to meet these expectations. It also introduced some creative new tools, Wiimote aiming, and one of my favorite Zelda soundtracks. Twilight Princess’ lack of 480p widescreen support was disappointing, but at least I finally got my hands on the version of Ocarina of Time I’d always wanted.
Title: Eternal Sonata
Platform: Xbox 360
I never understood why this musical RPG received so much hate. Eternal Sonata introduced an innovative (and fun) combat system, it provided a unique premise that paralleled events that occurred during the life of a famous composer, and it included stunning visuals and music. As someone who enjoys history, I appreciated learning about the life of Chopin through in-game history tidbits featured alongside many of his famous musical compositions. I also admired the way elements of his life were integrated into the storyline. Some of the game’s characters could have been better developed, but regardless, I found this tale full of philosophical concepts and environmental themes quite interesting. Despite Eternal Sonata’s poor voice acting, the game managed to charm me.
Title: World of Goo
It’s rare when a title that comes out of nowhere impresses me, but World of Goo was one of those. This $15 WiiWare game secured its position as my favorite Wii release of 2008 not just because of the Wii’s lack of quality software, but because of its innovative physics-based puzzle gameplay that was part of a well-rounded package. Throughout the entire experience, designing structures to tackle the levels’ obstacles never got old, and it didn’t hurt that World of Goo also had charming visuals and music. World of Goo is easily my favorite puzzle game, so I hope to see more indie games of this caliber in the future.
Title: God of War
Anyone who’s played God of War knows that this title needs no explaining. It features one of the most badass characters to ever grace a video game, threesomes, monstrous bosses, and superb level design. If God of War was judged in RPG terms, it’d be a level 99 warrior equipped with the best uber gear. It’s that good.
Title: Metal Gear Solid 4
Say what you will about the Metal Gear Solid series’ lengthy cut-scenes, but there’s no doubt that they look spectacular. MGS4 was often lambasted for including “far more” cut-scenes than the rest of the series, but that really isn’t true — unless you count the lengthy ending. Regardless of whether or not you think that cut-scenes belong in a video game, it’s hard to argue with MGS4’s modern warfare storyline involving private military corporations. Also notable is the fact that this was the first MGS game to feature simplified controls and great camera angles, so players no longer had to wrestle with dated gameplay elements. I’m grateful for this, because it allowed me to have a pain-free experience with the best Metal Gear adventure since the original.
Title: Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime may not have used dual-analog control, but it was a spectacular reimagining of Super Metroid in 3D. I actually prefer it to that legendary title, due to the game’s highly immersive nature. Metroid Prime’s jaw dropping visuals, haunting soundtrack, and pure exploration not only made it one of my favorite Gamecube titles — it made it my favorite first-person single-player experience, period.
Title: Final Fantasy VIII
This Final Fantasy gets a lot of hate (even from series fans), which is unfortunate, because it was an incredibly ambitious title that aimed to evolve the series. For once, characters were actually realistically proportioned, and you could always see all of your party members on-screen. Final Fantasy VIII was also notable for featuring seamless gameplay to cut-scene transitions, and sometimes you could even control your character while in an FMV scene. The team behind Final Fantasy VIII also made the ballsy decision of doing away with armor, MP, and battle-earned money. Instead, you equipped magic and summoned monsters, and gained money by increasing your rank as a mercenary. Not all of the gameplay changes were great, but at least Square tried something new.
Title: Lunar 2 Eternal Blue
This underappreciated RPG performed an amazing feat — it managed to be an original (and compelling) character-driven RPG while providing enough nostalgic elements to appease fans of the first Lunar. The cast may not have been as memorable as the loveable crew of the original Lunar, but the surprise return of one of gaming’s greatest villains, and the addition of a Dark God with one of the most impressive “bad guy” voices I’ve ever heard in a video game make this a charming adventure. As with the first Lunar, Eternal Blue featured a wonderful soundtrack that covered a range of emotions, but it was also special for providing a darker storyline that presented the dangers that can result from the creation of powerful religious institutions.
Platform: Super NES
It’s been ages since I’ve played Earthbound, so I can’t remember its quirky dialogue by heart, but I recall it gripping me with its setting that was a far cry from the fantasy and sci-fi trappings of most of its contemporaries. Earthbound wasn’t the first RPG to provide a Japanese take on ’60s era America (its Japan-only NES prequel had that honor), but it’s certainly the best. When you can beat up street thugs, insane retro hippies, and taxi drivers with baseball bats and bottle rockets, and wolf down hamburgers and ride a bicycle, you know you’ve got a great game. I just hope I wasn’t the only one who painted my town blue because of the Happy Happy Cult.
Title: Secret of Evermore
Platform: Super NES
As with Mystic Quest, I’m once again, risking death at the hands of RPG fans. Secret of Evermore is an excellent action-RPG that I’d much rather play than Secret of Mana’s Japan-only successor. Why is it special? Evermore allowed a small town American boy and his dog to travel into a world created by eccentric scientists.
This world created by four individuals was divided into four different zones that each mirrored eras that Earth dwellers would recognize. One was a pre-historic period, another was a Egyptian/Greek/Roman hybrid, a third was similar to medieval Europe, and the final was a futuristic period. This quest was unbelievably atmospheric with some of the best sound design I’d seen on the 16-bit systems, and it had a much darker tone than most RPGs of that era. What’s even more astonishing is the fact that Evermore was the only Square title developed by an American team.
Title: Mother 3
Platform: GBA (Japan only)
Unlike Earthbound, this Mother title isn’t just about childhood and humor. A tragic event occurs early in the adventure that changes everything — it transforms a small happy town with a sense of community into a place only concerned with the pursuit of money. Even though Mother 3’s plot has some serious elements including death and a discussion of capitalism, it still manages to retain the Mother series’ signature humor. The battle system may feel a bit archaic, but this GBA title is one of the best RPGs released in recent years that is definitely worth a purchase if it ever comes to America.
Title: Final Fantasy V
Platform: Playstation (original: Super Famicom)
Us unfortunate Americans may have received Final Fantasy V late, but those of us weaned on the early Final Fantasies didn’t care that we were playing a seven year-old game in 1999. The story may have been a bit simplistic, but with characters like Gilgamesh that provided comic relief, the end of the crystals, and a superb battle system, Final Fantasy V managed to win our hearts. Someday, I’d love to go on this multiple world spanning quest a third time if I can ever find the time.
Title: Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid introduced one of my favorite video game characters, it featured an interesting narrative complemented by great voice acting, and it included innovative stealth-action gameplay. Not only did Metal Gear Solid get nearly everything right — it also was one of the first video games that didn’t glorify warfare.
Many movies and games portray war as a simple “good versus evil” affair, and rarely examine the ramifications of killing someone, but Metal Gear Solid does just that while providing a compelling gameplay experience. Even during actual gameplay, the player is encouraged to fight as few enemies as possible, so clearly, this non-violent atmosphere pervades the entire game. The camera and controls may feel a bit clumsy today, but this stylish stealth-action game still managed to impress me during my fourth play-through in 2009.