This is a living, breathing list. This is by no means set in stone. My top 5 tend to change as I change as a person. So this list only shows the games that I call my favorite at the current moment.
This list is no particular order
Favorite Games of All Time
If someone ever says “Video games are not art” I always point them towards Mario games, particularly this one.
The one word I associate with this videogame is charm. The aesthetic in Mario Kart 8 is so perfectly realized. Everything from the course design, to the music, to the environments create a charming atmosphere that is friendly, that is welcoming, and at the same time surprisingly deep.
I appreciate Mario Kart 8 not trying to mask it’s rubber-banding mechanic like so many games do. Mario Kart 8 embraces the mechanic by by giving better items to people closer to last place. What at first seems unfair quickly becomes a point of strategy and a natural way of keeping the races action packed. Hanging out near the middle of the pack for the majority of the race, and making your mad dash to first place on the last lap always leads to exciting games and split second victories.
Once you get matched up with more experienced racers, you really get a ‘small fish in a big pond’ feeling. You must nail every turn, every drift, grab every item to have a competitive chance. One mistake can spell the difference between first place and last place. Mario Kart can get unexpectedly technical once you get to the higher levels of play. As a competitive gamer, I can appreciate that. It is Mario Kart 8’s elegance of design that leads to a game that is pleasant and friendly on face value, but packs a deeper gratifying experience for those who invest the time.
Playing DOTA is like playing chess but all the pieces move at the same time; you only control one piece; and the rest are controlled by angry, drunk people who yell profanities at you in foreign languages.
DOTA matches are chaotic, manic, and stressful but have lead to some of the most memorable gaming memories I have. The high you get from this game is something unlike any other video game I have ever played.
There is a deep feeling of gratification tied to DOTA. It comes from personal skill and reflexes combined with teamwork and coordination. You must work with four other teammates to make split second decisions in order to lead your team to victory. The building tension before an important team fight leads to a climax of 2 teams attempting to out-fight, out-maneuver, and out-think each other. Knowing that you are personally responsible for a successful team fight, or reaching an objective, or winning the match is a feeling unparalleled by anything in interactive media.
At it’s worst, DOTA will make you question your own existence and why you’ve spent ungodly amount of time on a video game. But at it’s best, DOTA will make you feel like a rockstar. Walking away from an exciting match while the adrenaline slowly tapers off is quite the feeling.
Unfortunately DOTA is plagued with a toxic community, archaic game design, and a ridiculous learning curve. But that is just part of the charm and appeal of the game. For those who invest the time, DOTA becomes immensely satisfying and dangerously addictive.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Foreword: I put Wrath of Lich King because that the expansion that I was most invested in and played most.
World of Warcraft brings back a lot of memories. It reminds me of a certain moment of my life and reminds me of the person I used to be. It reminds me of a certain group of friends I don’t see around anymore. It puts me back in time where my responsibilities were minimal, and concerns trivial.
World of Warcraft is a fantastic game. Not only for its graphics, art design, and music. Not only for its content, story, and gameplay. Not even for it being one of the most influential games of all time.
What makes World of Warcraft so great, is it being so deeply ingrained in social interaction. The way World of Warcraft is designed encourages and rewards talking to, coordinating with and competing against other players.
But this game is a lot deeper than you might originally believe. With careful calculation and coordination, me and a small group of others were able to control the server economy of ore, herbs, and jewels. We held a monopoly on certain goods and had people around the clock maintaining competitive prices. We would bully out our competition and learned the quickest and most efficient routes for collecting large amounts of resources efficiently.
It’s quite a feeling opening up the auction house to only see goods that you control on the market. But without careful maintenance, you can very quickly lose your grasp, and competition will sweep it up.
That is only one of the many different ways you can play this game. Depending on where you personally put your priorities, the experience you get from the game will be drastically different. Personally, my enduring memories come from the interactions I had in the guild I was a founding member of.
I always find the most memorable stories come from games that provide a high level of player agency and player interaction. I still remember talking with our guild leader Kordic and his soft-spoken wife in ventrilo. I remember recruiting new members and seeing our guild prosper. I remember our original tank, Schwoopy, and his unorthodox ways of running the guild. I remember our druid healer that would panic during stressful encounters. I would talk to my guild members on a daily basis, and work together to accomplish certain tasks. I made friends with these people and would look forward to talking to them as much as I look forward to seeing my local friends.
If you ask any player who got reasonably invested in World of Warcraft, they will all have their own memorable stories and experiences. And that’s the real charm of World of Warcraft. The events you experience are very human. Triumph and disaster; loyalty and betrayal; teamwork and communication.
I will never be as invested in World of Warcraft as I was back in 2008, but I will never forget the experiences I had in this video game.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1
Ask any gamer from the 90s about Tony Hawk, and I guarantee they will be able to hum the tune of Goldfinger’s Superman without a moment’s hesitation.
This is the game that shaped and sculpted my sensibilities and interests as a kid. It sparked my interest in rock music, particularly punk rock. It introduced me to an entire world of competitive gaming. I would spend hours playing solo trying to maximise my score on different maps. I would find the best combo chains and repeat them over and over again until they became second nature to me.
This game struck a perfect balance of arcade-feel and depth of gameplay. Anyone would be able to pick up the controller and within minutes know what to do and how to do it. But the more time you invest, the smaller nuances you would pick up. Trying to maximize your score and nail the most efficient line becomes addictive and insanely competitive.
I remember spending hours scavenging strategy guides for tips and tricks that would make me a better gamer. This was one of the first games that enticed me to be good at it. I wanted a higher score. In fact, I needed it.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater definitely affected my priorities when it comes to video games. Tight gameplay, a solid unifying aesthetic with a high skill ceiling. I tended to gravitate towards these types of games, and I still do.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect is the fundamental story game of the past generation. I have always been a gamer that prioritizes gameplay over story. So putting up a Mass Effect game in my top 5 is testament to how impactful this game was for me. It offered a rich and detailed world with memorable characters and deep backstory and lore. I remember digging through the in game encyclopedia (something I never do) and reading each entry to get a better sense of what the universe is like.
Mass Effect is a good sci-fi movie transformed into a video game. With well written characters and an engaging story, I found myself getting invested and trying my best to finish the game with my entire party intact.
A device used in the Mass Effect games that was unique at the time was carrying over save files. So depending on the decisions and choices you made in the original game, it would affect and change what you would experience in the sequels. How it all panned out at the end of Mass Effect 3 is a conversation for a different time, but the idea of having an epic trilogy specifically tailored to the decisions you make is very appealing to me.
I chose to put Mass Effect 2 instead of 1 or 3 is because I found the story and pacing expertly put together. After introducing and setting up the universe in Mass Effect 1, they were able to explore the universe and characters a lot more. I like the idea of scouring the galaxy for the finest soldiers, scientists and engineers for a highly dangerous and sensitive mission that will spell the fate of the entire universe. By the end of Mass Effect 2, you have an entire ship of the smartest, the most specialized and most dangerous specialists in the universe. You feel like the commander of a ‘Space’ Seal Team 6. The game does a good job of showing you the gravity of the situation at hand, and how important it is for you to do your job properly.
Each character you recruit onto the Normandy has their own loyalty mission. By helping them complete any unfinished business they have, you get a sense of how well written these characters are. They are flawed, troubled and worried. And by strengthening the bond between them and your character, you genuinely get attached to some. I remember making a few decisions based on who I prefer the company of more.
Mass Effect 2 is a game that I will never forget.
This is the first video game I ever purchased. I played an immense amount of the demo version that came with my Playstation. This game sparked my interest in competitive gaming.
Final Fantasy 8
This was the first story game I truly invested in. Proved to me that video games can be a lot more than just gameplay..
There’s something about this game that just grabs me. The elegance of design, the simple mechanics, the innovative story. Maybe I’m still in the ‘honeymoon’ stage of this game, but this game is definitely something very special.