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Shaun's Top 100 Video Games of All-Time (2016 Edition) 10-1

{GAMING}

Shaun's Top 100 Video Games of All-Time (2016 Edition) 10-1

Shaun Cordingley

Here we are folks, the finale of my Top 100 Video Games of All-Time: the Top 10. I have really enjoyed making this list, revisiting, and re-thinking about all of these games from my past, and I very much look forward to revisiting this in the future when I have experienced some of the great looking games that are coming (or finally catch up on all the games that I have piled up in my backlog today...)

Thank you all for joining me through this as I would not do it without you...unless this is your first article in the Top 100, in which case....here are the others, so you can catch up: 

100-91
90-81
80-71
70-61
60-51
50-41
40-31
30-21
20-11

Well...here we are then: 



10) Bioshock

Bioshock was such a wonderful gaming experience that was made all the better/worse for me at the time of it's release (2007), because it was only available on XB360 (which I never would have, as I don't like the XB controllers) and Windows (my computer at the time would not run Bioshock). Waiting that extra year, and hearing about how amazing and atmospheric the game was, when I finally got my hands on it on PS3 (a year later), I was not disappointed. 

The Ayn Rand inspired underwater dystopian city of Rapture was amazing--it is easily one of my favourite game settings of all time--the intensely immersive story, the shooting combined with genetic powers (fueled by ADAM) felt fun, but it is the characters and the plot that kept me hooked. While simple, the morality system when dealing with the Little Sisters added a nice layering overtop of what was one of the best FPS's (with RPG and even Stealth elements) that I have every played. 
That first interaction with the now iconic Big Daddy, to the wonderfully written twist (my God, that twist), Bioshock snuggles comfortably into my Top 10. 

9) Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 was my first introduction to the Mass Effect series when it came to PS3 (again, no XBoxes here), and I was instantly swept in. This game, with it's massive over-arching story, but allowing me to feel like I'm at the start of something (rather than coming in to the middle) was wonderful. The third-person cover-shooting mechanics were solid, and the gameplay overall was solid, but the story of Mass Effect 2 is what swept me in.
Taking command of a starship as Commander Shepard in the 22nd Century wherein humanity is at war with an insectoid species known as The Collectors, and you are forced to work on creating, and unifying a diverse team of operatives in order to undertake what is essentially a suicide mission against the enemy. 

What was wonderful was that no moment felt wasted, or like it was filler; I could spend hours just harvesting resources from planets so I could construct upgrades, and that felt just as enjoyable as going on "Loyalty" missions (essentially personal missions for each member of your team to help them feel more comfortable/stable/wanted/needed on your team), or even the 'main story' missions. The galaxy felt alive, the decisions you made as the player (from small choices, to how your Shepard was reacting to a situation on a moral scale, to what missions you did) felt like they had real impact on the game, and thanks to that, Mass Effect 2 felt like my story. 

Plus, my Commander Shepard looked a bit like an albino African-American John Waters, and he was the best. 

8) Red Dead Redemption

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a big fan of westerns (even though I've even been in one....), there are a few I like, but I'm never really going out of my way to watch them.
Perhaps it has something to do with my being allergic to hay.

Anyway, Red Dead Redemption is an exception that that rule. Hell, if I could count Redemption as my favourite western anything I probably would, but fact of the matter is, the game is almost entirely a movie reference...and I love it. 
Made by Rockstar Games, and largely similar to their other major franchise (Grand Theft Auto) Redemption revolves around John Marston, an ex-outlaw trying to go straight, but who is blackmailed by the government (they kidnap his wife and son) to head out and kill the old members of his gang. The game is gorgeous, the open-world (with dynamically generated music) was great, and there's just something so wonderful about the game as a whole, that it was the purest of escapes. The shooting felt great, the side missions were interesting, and as with all Rockstar games, the characters were wonderfully realized. 

I cannot wait for the just announced sequel

7) Age of Empires II

I love learning about history, and when a friend told me about Age of Empires II, it was a game that I just needed to have in my life...and when I did, I was not disappointed. Age of Empires II (and all of it's expansions) was my Real-Time Strategy game of choice set in the Medieval Era, the game was all about harvesting resources in order to build your settlement/army in order to protect yourself (by which I mean, conquer all the other jerks around you). I played this game for ages (zing), both in terms of going through the various, historically based stories (Barbarossa and Genghis Khan being my favourites), or just setting up a random map and playing it. 

I took a pile of history courses at the University (originally attempting to do a double major before I got screwed over--long story), and I can think of more than one occasion where things that I learned while playing Age of Empires II actually came to help me out in courses. The fact that it was also one of the funnest PC games I ever had, combined with the fact that I got to learn about stuff that I love made Age of Empires II one of my favourite games. 

I played Age of Empires III a bit (as well as Age of Mythology, which was also fun, but got completely ruined by the Titans expansion), but nothing ever recaptured the magic of playing in the Medieval era. 

6) Super Mario Bros. 3

There was a time when this was all Nintendo needed to sell people on one of their video games....

Super Mario Bros. 3 was probably the pinnacle of my gaming collection when I was playing on the NES, and was an easy purchase decision when it popped onto the Wii Virtual Console. This is a game that took everything I liked about Super Mario Bros. and put it into a new, fun packaged that tightened up the platforming, jazzed up the art style (I still love the way 3 looks to this day), and put an "overworld" map in that allowed you to pick what levels you wanted to do (well...to a point, as you did eventually have to work your way toward fighting one of Bowser's offspring on a crazy flying ship)

I loved plugging around in Mario 3, trying to find secrets, figuring out easier ways to do things, getting the BEST POWER-UP EVER in the boot (the raccoon tail with flight was amazing, but I still remember my mind being blown by being able to stomp on the porcupines...well that and the first instance of 'ground pound' when using the Tanooki suit....this was also well before the internet was...anything....so we would all hang out at recess (when not doing whatever insane kids game we were doing) and talk about where we got to, how we beat stuff, where the whistles were; Mario 3 was a "water-cooler" game for a significant number of weeks...
The powerups, combined with the art, the addictive music, and the pitch-perfect gameplay makes Super Mario Bros. 3 one of my favourite games, that just misses on the Top 5. 



5) Roller Coaster Tycoon

My fifth favourite game of all-time has got to be Roller Coaster Tycoon (the first one, which I do include Corkscrew Follies and Loopy Landscapes exapansions), and while I do love the first three games, I always go back to the first one. The game is essentially a construction/amusement park management sim, wherein you run different amusement parks, each with different goals, landscapes, available rides/shops, and different challenges. I loved this game to no end, and would spend hours upon hours constructing the perfect roller coasters, and then unleashing them on the world. My favourite was one that I built when I was still in High School at an Egyptian themed park that I called "Osiris" that was one of those 'you're suspended underneath the rail' coasters that while it was running, would different cars worth of people would corkscrew over each other, or next to each other (peeling off into loops).
I didn't have to look that up--I literally remember that. 

I was also one of the people who actually played it "properly"--I had some friends who did enjoy building roller coasters to crash them, but I never saw the point in that, when compared with making a truly amazing one....and then the game added the giant foam cowboy hat stand and I was hooked for yet another month...

I still love this game, and I do wrangle my computer's into running it on occasion...plus I am intrigued by the most recent Roller Coaster Tycoon release (that came out just this past November), but I know my computer can't run it...so maybe someday...

4) Borderlands 2

I. Love. Borderlands, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading...well let's be honest, since the start of this week with the Top 50. The art style, the "Sci-fi/Mad Max" setting, the amazingly fun, and streamlined FPS/RPG gameplay, the loot-grinding, the characters, the story...all of the expansions....Mr. Torgue and Tiny Tina are two of my favourite characters in any video game ever (thanks in large part to the DLC boosting the time I've spent with them), and I cannot see that changing any time soon. 

Anyone reading this spots a dope Mr. Torgue or Tiny Tina t-shirt, let me know; I've yet to find anything I really like.

I think what elevated Borderlands 2 over the original was the fact that the four playable characters from the first one were all still involved in the game, which meant I had a connection to the story through the piles of hours I had already spent (and I cared about them more than I do regular NPC's because of it), and the antagonist in 2 is one of the best in any game: Handsome Jack. Jack is funny, annoying, smart, manipulative, and at the end of the day, actually sees himself as the hero, and the player as a raging psychopath who is fighting against progress. 

I mean you could never see my face, as I play the snipers in these games, and Zer0 has his mask etc....but he supposes rage...

I hope against hope that after the...mistake that was Battleborn, that Gearbox Studios is heading back into the Borderlands world and is going to deliver me a third game someday soon, because I will be first in line. Well..digital line. 

3) Final Fantasy VI

My favourite RPG of all-time, my favourite old-school game of all-time, and honestly, until I made this list right now, it was always my answer when someone asked me what my favourite video game of all-time was (although #3 is nothing to sneeze at) is Final Fantasy VI (which thanks to the weirdness of localization, was also known as Final Fantasy III in North America, until later...). 

I love FInal Fantasy VI; that active-time battle stystem (as established in IV), the overworld/town/dungeon/battle setup, the "powerful attack substitutions" (think Limit Breaks, or Desperation Attacks), the amazing steampunk setting, pushing the series beyond the standard fantasy setting of almost all RPGs of the time, the amazing, and emotional story (which I don't want to spoil for you, in case you haven't played it, but the world literally ends at one point), and the multiple-choice feeling to scenarios that made the characters and the plot matter more to me as I went through it.

Plus, and this is for anyone who has played it: the opera scene

Now, why did this game slip? Honestly, because it has been so long since I have played it, and there's really no part of me that is thinking of playing it again--I loved it, I always will love it, but I could see it continue to fall a little bit, especially as the PS4 is rounding into form (and there's always a chance a new RPG will sweep me off my feet). 

However, Final Fantasy VI is one of the best SNES games (where I played it) of all-time, and will probably always be my favourite Final Fantasy, if not JRPG.

2) The Last of Us

I have spoken about The Last of Us on numerous occasions on The Guys From {PODCAST}, so long-time listeners will have to forgive me a bit. 

Naughty Dog's The Last of Us is the best story in a game I have ever experienced; I literally could not sleep when I was first playing the game, because I could not stop thinking about the story, the characters, the world, and just...man...everything about The Last of Us. The game is a brilliant and beautiful combination of action-adventure (stealth) with survival horror, set in a world that is ravaged by people who have become cannibalistic monsters thanks to mutated Cordyceps

The gameplay is perfect, the story is brilliantly paced, the monsters are creepy as hell, the other humans are...at times OK, but as with most post-apocalyptic fiction, many are terrible as well. The crafting system was excellently streamlined, and created impetus for me to want to explore every nook and cranny in this game. 

I cried (more than once), I laughed (on occasion) and I, as soon as I finished, took a chair out t my balcony with a beer in hand, and just thought about things for a couple of hours, enjoying the breeze and the sunshine. I have never had a gaming experience like that before, and while I never went back to experience it again (for my playthrough was my story), I also loved learning more about Ellie (one of the main characters) in the stand-alone expansion Left Behind, and I (like practically everyone else in PlayStation land) am very ready for The Last of Us: Part II even though I know I won't see it for years yet...I will be taking a 3-4 day weekend (if I can) to play it as soon as it appears on my system. 

Available on both PS3 and PS4, if you have said systems and you've never played The Last of Us (and you're cool with a horror game), you owe it to yourself to at least try it; it is one of the best games ever made, and just barely misses out on claiming my top spot. 

1) Civilization IV

Frankly, I am not too surprised that Civilization IV usurped Final Fantasy VI at the top of my list because it is a wonder of a game, but here are my specific reasons as to why it is my #1 Game of all-time: 

  • I have played this game more than I have played any other game, ever...and I still think about going back (even with newer versions out...fully admitting that I cannot run VI so that will have to wait until I have a computer that'll play it) and playing this version of Civilization. 
  • This is the best Turn-Based Strategy game of all-time as far as I'm concerned, and that's thanks in large part to the sweeping design that, while it can be a nightmare to learn, once you grok it, it, IV suddenly transforms into an intense, multi-layered experience, especially when learning to operate and construct unit stacks (something that V removed, much to my disappointment)
  • The variety of civilizations (especially with all the expansions) that allowed me to play the game in so many different ways ON TOP OF all of the different ways you could play the game at a base level. 
  • The history of it: akin to Age of Empires II, I learned tonnes of little bits of history about historical figures, technology, military etc. from Civilization IV, 
  • The occasionally silly, but always amazing combinations of things you could do: I nuked Paris as Montezuma once, I also once won a game thanks to my diplomatic standing as Alexander the Great Jewish Pope. 
  • The music & sound--that opening song ("Baba Yetu" - Christopher Tin) was so good that I used to just watch the opening cinematic on loop for a while, until I could preorder Tin's debut album (with the song featured), which also got me a piece of signed sheet music from a man who became one of my favourite composers. 
  • it's Fun. This is one of those games that I would think "oh hey, I have a couple hours", and I would start a new game, look up, and see that it's 7 hours later and I probably need sleep and/or food, but it has that perfect "one more turn" feeling to it, where there is always something *fun* to do. 

Honestly, all of those combine into something really quite special--no other game has helped me discover a new composer, entertained me, helped me remember history, and helped me relax all at the same time the way Civilization IV did/does. I'm not even much of a PC gamer anymore, but there's always a few times a year when I will pull CIV out and play a full game or two. 

Oh and in case you're wondering: I'm a Mansa Musa guy first and foremost, but I will play them all. 



There we have it! 

Thank you so much for checking out my Top 100 Video Games of All-Time series! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. 
I can imagine that I will probably do another one of these down the road, as I will continue to play games as long as I can, because to be honest, there's really nothing that helps me wind down from a day, or helps my brain unwind like a video game. 

We should be back next week with a more "regular" schedule, by which I mean, it's going to be a rocky re-entry (as I am totally on vacation right now), but keep your eyes to our Social Media for when new stuff comes out!

Oh, and feel free to call me out on your favourites not showing up, or that I'm crazy for such-and-such a reason in the comments below, or on twitter. 

Have a Happy New Year!

-S (@Shauncord