And, without further ado, here is the second part of the list. I hope you enjoy it at least as much as the first!
Again, credit for the inspiration goes to user Azuarc from GameFAQs.
26. Final Fantasy VII (SquareSoft, PlayStation, 1997)
Why Final Fantasy? A Top 5 game franchise in terms of popularity, while Dragon Quest started the genre, Final Fantasy was the one that made it big for JRPGs outside of Japan.
Why Final Fantasy VII? …and it was exactly this game that contributed the most to that. A heavy contender for the title of “Best Game of All Time,” Final Fantasy VII took the world by storm in 1997, showing the capabilities of the PlayStation and how emphasis on cinematic storytelling could completely change the way games were perceived. As a game, it had it all – great battle system, limitless options for character growth through Materia, a multitude of fun mini-games, great music and visuals (even if Lego-like non-battle character models look funny today). But it was the story that was truly one-of-a-kind, especially for the time. Covering subjects few games had dared to explore until then, with a memorable cast whose members meshed together well, it would become a dear part of personal gaming history for most who had the chance to play it.
27. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, PlayStation, 1997)
Why Castlevania? One of Konami’s key franchises, Castlevania is legendary for many reasons. The first titles were NES classics, offering levels of difficulty rather typical for the console, but more memorable today simply because they were among the big titles on it. After the 16-bit gems came the “Metroidvania” games (called that way because the exploration resembles Super Metroid) on PlayStation and handhelds. And finally, the 3D takes on Castlevania are still not held in very high regard… It is rather unfortunate and has reduced the series in the eyes of gamers nowadays, but the classics will never be forgotten.
Why Symphony of the Night? Symphony of the Night was one of the key PS1 titles. It succeeded so much because it kept the 2D Castlevania style, but also added the aforementioned element of exploration, as well as character development with leveling, stats, various equipment, etc. And Alucard, the main character, was really badass. The voice acting, while often listed among the worst examples in gaming, still had much charm, not to mention plenty of memorable quotes (the dialogue between Richter and Dracula being of course a cult favourite).
28. Gran Turismo (Polyphony Digital, PlayStation, 1997)
Why Gran Turismo? Driving simulators were hardly something new in the PS1 era, but a new series was going to take the realism in the genre to new levels – that series was Gran Turismo. The franchise continues to improve for a third console generation now, with Polyphony Digital always managing to refine things further, even if the latest, fifth installment was not met with nearly as much critical acclaim as earlier ones.
Why the original? While that number was outdone by later, PS2 entries in the series, Gran Turismo’s 11+ million sales did a lot to help establish the total domination of the first PlayStation on the market. While still a very good game itself, it laid the foundation that the series would develop on in the future. The graphics were impressive for the time, considering the limitations of the hardware – a tradition that the franchise has vigorously kept up with.
29. StarCraft (Blizzard Entertainment, PC, 1998)
Why StarCraft? While Dune II defined the basics of the RTS genre, StarCraft was the game that launched it to unbelievable heights. Telling a captivating story of space warfare between three races, StarCraft also provided balance between those races never seen before (or even since!). It’s easy to pick up, but difficult and deep game to master, with broad, strategic thinking required just as much as fast clicking and micromanagement. It’s no wonder StarCraft is practically a national sport in South Korea. The sequel (or rather, the third of it that has come out so far) was not met with nearly as much acclaim despite being a very solid game itself… And that can also be blamed on the almost impossible standard the original set.
30. The King of Fighters ’98: The Slugfest (SNK, Arcade, 1998)
Why The King of Fighters? The King of Fighters was the first series that was entirely based on team-based matches in the fighting game genre. It’s also considered SNK’s magnum opus by many gamers, and that is a company that has made tens of other 2D fighting games (the best company in the genre, in my opinion, which is a lot, considering the heavy competition). Offering an impressive volume and variety of characters to play with, many of them picked up from various earlier SNK franchises, the majority having distinct and interesting, if basic personalities, there is really no series like KoF.
Why ’98? While not the personal favourite of mine (I much prefer the uninterrupted by separate rounds pace of 2003), ’98 is perhaps the most beloved, and almost certainly the most played among fans of the series. The gameplay was further refined in comparison to earlier games, reaching a high standard that even some of the later entries remained far from.
31. Metal Gear Solid (Konami, PlayStation, 1998)
Why Metal Gear Solid? Kojima’s series is one of the biggest achievements of gaming as a form of art (not to mention my personal favourite). Having become a real saga spanning several generations in recent years, Metal Gear showed its incredible potential already with the first, and especially with the second 8-bit games, which didn’t have the hardware at their disposal, but had the so much more important writer and game designer’s vision.
Why the original? Another one of the titles that made the PS1 such a hit, the game to make the transition into 3D, and thus the first game to carry the “Solid” suffix after “Metal Gear” in the series, Metal Gear Solid was the other title, alongside Final Fantasy VII, that steered gaming on the path of more cinematic storytelling, taking hints from movies. It offered gamers an experience unlike any before and it’s still the most beloved in the series even today. Fun fact: It is unbelievable how much Metal Gear Solid is like Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. The story and time period are different, of course, the game is in 3D, but pretty much everything you could do in Metal Gear Solid, you could already do in Metal Gear 2, just in a 2D environment. So I do recommend that earlier Kojima gem, now easy to play on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (particularly, on the Metal Gear Solid 3 menu).
32. Dance Dance Revolution (Konami, Arcade, 1998)
Why Dance Dance Revolution? Games are usually associated with sitting comfortably on your couch (or in front of your PC monitor) while playing. Dance Dance Revolution changed that. A very fun game coupled with nice physical exercise, what more could you ask for in today’s era of office desk work? Quick thinking and movement coordination are required to do well, although the more advanced levels (which I can never clear) require you to pretty much learn the moves by heart. DDR is so addictive thanks to its simple concept and, of course, the fact that you have fun, dancing (as arbitrarily as that word can be used in this context) to some nice music. Other rhythm game series like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have become huge since, but DDR was the one that paved the way.
Why the original? It was the one that introduced the concept which later entries in the series have merely tweaked and refined.
33. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, Nintendo 64, 1998)
Why The Legend of Zelda? Zelda is the most popular Nintendo franchise after Mario and Pokemon and it’s served as an example in the action-adventure genre already since the very first game in 1987. Its following is particularly large on the internet, and every next installment, especially console ones, is hyped and anticipated like very few other games (in this aspect, it certainly outdoes every other Nitnendo franchise, even the aforementioned Mario and Pokemon).
Why Ocarina of Time? Ocarina of Time is another heavy contender for the “Best Game of All Time” title, and it was a given it would appear on this list. It lets the player practically play through a fairy tale where the hero must save his land from the villain, overcoming many obstacles, meeting friendly creatures and using the various tools at his disposal to proceed forward. Despite the simplicity of the story, it has a very clean level design, intuitive gameplay mechanics which make it accessible to pretty much everyone, and epic boss battles. This has made it extremely popular, a fact that’s even more impressive when you consider that the system it originally released on wasn’t dominant on the market.
34. The Sims (Maxis, PC, 2000)
Why The Sims? Emulating your everyday life in a game… Isn’t that brilliant? I don’t know, I’ve never been big on The Sims, but I have to admit it’s made its mark in the industry, not to mention drawing quite a few girls into a predominantly male hobby. After the success of SimCity, Will Wright decided to drill down further with the simulation and thus The Sims was born. Starting with limited resources, you furnish your house and then navigate your sims through their daily home activities, from eating to conceiving children.
Why the original? After the original, the franchise has been largely milked with tons of expansions for each release. No reason to pick any later game.
35. Diablo II (Blizzard Entertainment, PC, 2000)
Why Diablo? Yet another high quality series by Blizzard, Diablo is distinctive with its point-and-click action WRPG gameplay in a unique dark fantasy setting. The plot is simple enough, The Lord of Terror Diablo must be destroyed s0 the world can be saved, but the gameplay offers variety and customisation not seen in many other games. From the very beginning, the player must select a class for the main character (3 in the original, 5 in the second game), and each class offers unique abilities, changing the way the game is to be played drastically.
Why Diablo II? The choice here is easy – while the original Diablo was solid, the second installment, with its heavy focus on online multiplayer, quickly became one of the most played games in the world, and still is even to this day, just a couple of weeks before Diablo III’s release!
36. Half-Life: Counter-Strike (Valve, PC, 2000)
Why Counter-Strike? Counter-Strike is a mod of the original Half-Life, and it is the game that made playing FPS online really big. Unlike the deathmatch modes seen in the likes of Quake, it is based on teamplay, with the Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists going at it until either all members of one of the teams are killed, or the level objective for the relevant side has been achieved, which marks the end of the round. There is also a monetary system, allowing the player to buy weapons and equipment in order to increase chances of victory. Counter-Strike’s popularity was really massive during its peak years when it was by far the most played online FPS, and it received a full remake with the Source engine (used in Half-Life 2) in 2004, called Counter-Strike: Source.
37. Grand Theft Auto III (DMA Design (Rockstar North), PlayStation 2, 2001)
Why Grand Theft Auto? One of the most popular franchises in gaming, GTA gives the player freedom to do as he pleases in a modern-day city. Jacking cars, shooting pedestrians, running from cops, doing wet work for the mafia or just flying airplanes around… And if you ever get really bored, you could go ahead and actually beat the game. GTA is the ultimate sandbox series and its main entries’ sales are invariably in the 10+ million zone.
Why Grand Theft Auto III? It was the first game in the series that went 3D and, while it’s been outdone in sales by some later entries, it still remains a favourite to many fans. Perhaps one factor contributing to that is that, unlike later GTA games, its protagonist is silent – a draw for many gamers that I’ll likely never understand.
38. Halo: Combat Evolved (Bungie, Xbox, 2001)
Why Halo? In 2001, Microsoft made a bold move, entering the home console market with the Xbox. And there just had to be a franchise to carry the console and win over a part of gamers who would then stay loyal to the Xbox brand. That franchise was Halo, and soon after, the first thing that would come to a gamer’s mind when thinking of “Xbox” would be “console first-person shooters” – and that is still the case today. While I couldn’t ever replace the mouse+keyboard combo with dual analog sticks on a controller, many people didn’t have such a problem, and FPS console gaming really took off.
Why the original? Not a very hard choice here, either – it was the game that started the saga and introduced Master Chief to the world. According to many, it is also the best game in the series, despite all the refinements later entries offered. Its story is also held in very high regard compared to most other FPS games.
39. Super Smash Bros. Melee (HAL Laboratory, GameCube, 2001)
Why Super Smash Bros.? A party fighter gathering all the Nintendo stars together in one game – it sounds like a fanboy’s dream and it is! So much that Sony have recently decided to do their own take on it. Smash Bros. offers unique, fast-paced gameplay and is widely considered one of the best game series to play together competitively with friends. Commands are easy and intuitive, special moves don’t require complex d-pad/button combinations like in traditional fighting games. All that contributes to the series’ massive appeal.
Why Melee? The original on the Nintendo 64 is basic in comparison and by no means a contender, and Brawl, while prettier and with a much more attractive cast (including Solid Snake and Sonic), made the game slower and more casual-friendly, much to the distaste of the people who had invested the most time and effort into Melee. The GameCube installment in the series simply has the best gameplay, even if the advanced techniques are based on what are practically glitches that were fixed in Brawl.
40. Kingdom Hearts (SquareSoft, PlayStation 2, 2002)
Why Kingdom Hearts? There were a few notable things children of the 80s (and not only, of course) grew up with, and Disney was certainly one of them. And those who were also gamers? They had likely played a Final Fantasy game or five. Kingdom Hearts brings the two universes together to much fan delight. It was a revolutionary, ambitious project, with many things to be considered, but the two sides saw it to success. While juvenile on the surface (I mean, it’s a little kid wielding a key blade in a party with Donald Duck and Goofy), Kingdom Hearts does explore some darker themes and, while impossible to compare to deep stories like Xenogears or Final Fantasy VII, it certainly cannot be called “shallow,” either. It is an action RPG series that many would call a button masher, but the mechanics work well enough to make it enjoyable overall.
Why the original? Again, like in many instances above on the list, the main reason is that it was the game that introduced the concept. The fanbase is rather split about whether the original or the second game is better, the handheld installments have also been solid overall, and the anticipation for Kingdom Hearts 3 is great. But the first game is the one that made the Disney & Square mix a reality, and thus much more likely to be remembered a couple of decades from now.
41. Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games, PlayStation 2, 2002)
Why Ratchet & Clank? Ratchet & Clank is Sony’s most famous take on the 3D platformer genre. Instead of trying to be like the others, this series goes on its own path, putting heavy emphasis on shooting resulting in a neat shooter-platformer combo with a unique feel. It is known for excellent level design and controls. Ratchet & Clank also offers something largely lost in today’s high-budget games – exceptional humour presented by a great cast.
Why the original? Some of the later entries have received higher critical acclaim, but the original is a solid game in its own right, with the distinct advantage of having introduced and started the adventures of the two loveable heroes.
42. Ninja Gaiden (Team Ninja, Xbox, 2004)
Why Ninja Gaiden? Ninja Gaiden is a rather odd series. After hitting the NES with three classic games in the late 80s and early 90s, and the arcade with a different, but also fun entry, it disappeared from the map altogether… Only to reemerge on the Xbox with an absolute hit and one of the must-plays on the system, and to keep going strong from there on, even now that Itagaki has left Tecmo.
Why Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)? A lot of fans would say that one of the original NES games should have been here, instead, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. I picked the Xbox title because not only it revived a series that had not seen a new release for over a decade, it also reminded gamers what difficulty – an art a bit forgotten since the 16-bit days, really meant. Ninja Gaiden is also a very beautiful game that really pushed the Xbox to its limits, it is bloody and gruesome, it requires great skill, as already mentioned, and there are many techniques and weapons to master. It really makes you feel like a ninja, it’s exhilarating. The 2004 Ninja Gaiden solidified Tomonobu Itagaki as one of the very best game designers in my eyes.
43. Half-Life 2 (Valve, PC, 2004)
Why Half-Life? You knew Valve’s flagship franchise was also going to appear here, what with it being one of the top FPS series in the industry, constantly pushing the industry forward. The first Half-Life was a total hit, and the second one followed suit. Then came the episodes… And now we’re in the era of the big wait. Half-Life 2 Episode 3 or even Half-Life 3 on a brand new engine? Valve like to make April Fools jokes about them, apparently, but refuse to announce anything on the matter until they’re absolutely sure of what’s going to happen.
Why Half-Life 2? The second installment in the series used the new Source engine, which was really revolutionary for its time, and is incredibly impressive even today, with Portal 2 being the latest big hit using it. Half-Life 2 combined the shooting segments with puzzles and various distractions such as the boat level. Physics and interacting with the environment were a big part of what made Half-Life 2 so impressive, and there were also some really atmospheric levels, hitting home with most players. What else can I say but that we are really looking forward to finally reaching the series’ conclusion.
44. World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment, PC, 2004)
Why World of Warcraft? With over 10 million subscribers actually paying monthly fees, World of Warcraft is totally dominating the MMO market, with all the attempts to bring it down so far having failed miserably. While far from the first MMORPG, World of Warcraft changed the genre forever in 2004, having found just the right balance in gameplay, challenge, loyal supporters and the ability to keep itself fresh (not without the help of several expansions). Many games since have taken hints from it since. Many have tried to challenge it, even Bethesda announced an online take on The Elder Scrolls recently, but it is quite clear that WoW will stay on top at least until WoW2 comes out.
45. Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, GameCube, 2005)
Why Resident Evil? The survival horror genre has its followers, but it’s never been particularly big. The Resident Evil franchise has always been the most popular in the genre, partly due to the gameplay, partly due to the fascinating story and impressive characters. Since the fourth game, the series is not so much survival horror anymore as it is third-person shooter, but that has only been helpful in the big picture.
Why Resident Evil 4? While the fourth game took the series in a completely different direction, focusing on action-packed gameplay rather than fear and atmosphere, and thus alienating many fans of the earlier titles, it also reached levels of success unthinkable before. Both the critical and fan acclaim were massive, the game sold heaps and also got re-releases in the seventh generation. It was just extremely well made, it offered a solid adventure with many frantic moments. It also introduced “The Mercenaries,” an incredibly fun mode that’s almost like its own game within a game.
46. God of War (Sony Santa Monica, PlayStation 2, 2005)
Why God of War? An epic video game series based on Greek mythology… Does more really need to be said? Rage, blood, destruction, endless combos to annihilate the weak. The Greek gods are there, some friendly, some simply out to kill you. You battle mythical creatures and finish them off in spectacular ways. God of War truly represents the bliss of destroying your enemies like very few other games.
Why the original? It introduced the angry anti-hero Kratos to the world and started his story… Some fans prefer some of the later entries, but the original, like with many earlier entries on the list, was the one that felt incredibly fresh and inspired.
47. Portal (Valve, PC, 2007)
Why Portal? One of, if not the best new franchise in gaming, Portal earns its spot here with its exceptional first-person puzzle gameplay based on an incredibly unique concept. Combined with its slightly dark, but very entertaining humour, mostly thanks to the unforgettable GLaDOS, Portal turned out to be a winning formula that captured many gamers’ hearts.
Why the original? Yes, it was short. Yes, it was rather easy (the main game, at least). But the original Portal had that feeling of incredible novelty, it was truly one of the finest, most beautifully executed new ideas in gaming in the last decade. As a friend of mine put it when I complained that the puzzles in the second Portal’s single-player mode were too easy, “you’re thinking with Portals now, that’s why they’re so easy!” And as good as the second game is, it was the first game that made us think with Portals.
48. Team Fortress 2 (Valve, PC, 2007)
Why Team Fortress? Team Fortress cannot be called very powerful as a franchise – the first game had its fans, but it was never that huge. The second one, however…
Why Team Fortress 2? Class-based, team-based gameplay was back in a cartoonish style, with the different classes having distinct personalities that Valve made a lot of effort to build, including the famous “Meet the …” movies. Fans were sold, especially given that the game was really solid, with great balance between the classes, offering players the chance to pick a favourite to specialise with instead of having one or two classes dominating the field (it was the case at times, but patches were frequent enough to take care of the problems). Then it became a hat simulator. Then it became free-to-play and everyone was overjoyed! If you haven’t given it a shot, do so. It’s amazing for some quick fun after work.
49. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog, PS3, 2009)
Why Uncharted? A franchise that was introduced in the seventh generation and quickly became a massive hit, Uncharted combined exploration, platforming and shooting in the story of an adventurer resulting in one of the biggest hits on the PS3. Known for its absolutely stunning graphics and production values making it look and feel a lot like a movie, Uncharted does not offer any less in the gameplay department, either, with the few flaws in the original having been fixed in the later games.
Why Uncharted 2? The original was a solid start, but the second game truly shone, winning several “Game of the Year” and countless other awards. Gameplay was considerably improved from the original, the graphics were prettier, and it even introduced multi-player, with both competitive and cooperative modes, which drew even more people in. The third game tried really hard, but failed to reach the standard set by Among Thieves, neither with critics, nor with fans.
50. Mass Effect 2 (BioWare, PC/Xbox 360, 2010)
Why Mass Effect? Another series born in the seventh generation, Mass Effect is a space saga on a scale easily rivaling Star Wars, with a vast, developed universe, inhabited by many species. It is practically gaming’s answer to Star Wars, Star Trek and the like, and an answer that is not weaker at all. It is a combination between WRPG and third-person shooter, very solid in the latter part, but easily even more impressive in the former, particularly with how much each and every choice you make in the game influences not only the events until the end of it, but also until the end of the whole series!
Why Mass Effect 2? While I prefer the original by a long shot because it was just more of an RPG and less of a shooter, I can’t help admitting that Mass Effect 2’s more streamlined gameplay and overall polish made it an even bigger hit among gamers. It may have limited character stats development options, but it was prettier, less glitchy, it expanded interaction within the party greatly (both between you and your party members and between the members themselves), and improved greatly on the side missions. The third game should have been the glorious conclusion, but it apparently disappointed most fans… So Mass Effect 2 is bound to remain the fan favourite and the one you should know about.
That’s it, the Top 50 games I feel every gamer should know about. There are some very notable exclusions like the Call of Duty and The Elder Scrolls series, and maybe I’ll get some criticism for that, but I felt first-person gameplay was represented well enough and, after all, all such lists are subjective to some extent (even if I was aiming for a decent level of objectivity with this one).
What did you feel was missing? What did you think shouldn’t have been here? Let everyone know in the comments! 🙂