Alien (1979, Scott) The best horror film of all time. Reasons listed below…
Evil Dead II (1987, Raimi) The funniest and most inventive horror film ever made. Almost a cartoon. Raimi throws every filmmaking trick in the book and turns what could have been a corny or unoriginal haunted cabin story into an exuberant and excessive tornado of a movie. It’s a work of pure horror ID. And has any other horror protagonist gone through as much as Bruce Campbell?
The Thing (1982, Carpenter) Carpenter is a master. It’s becoming more and more clear that his films, like the great work of Hitchcock, are more than b-movies or thrillers or horror or sci-fi. The best remake ever made by the best horror director ever.
The Host (2007, Bong) Funny, sad, scary. The best and most politically minded art house horror film ever made. This movie elevates the horror genre.
Let the Right One In (2008, Alfredson) Speaking of elevating the horror genre. This teen vampire film broke new ground. The best film of 2008.
Day of the Dead (1985, Romero) Night and Dawn are seminal classics. Day is the film where Romero got everything right. The plot, the politics and the horror all converge to create the best zombie movie of all time.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, Coppola) Not a Coppola fan but I got to hand it to him for this one. I feel his Dracula is better than his Godfather films. His gorgeous picture book technique here is one of the most innovative things to come out of the 90s. In fact, it’s one of the first true 90s movies ever made. Meaning very self aware, very postmodern and very good. His interpretation of the Dracula myth is visionary and way ahead of its time. So good that as big of an influence Dracula the story had on Dracula the movie, the movie in turn has influenced Dracula itself. Frankenstein, The Mummy, Van Helsing, The Wolfman etc., many movies since Dracula have tried to recapture a classic movie monster but all have failed. The character of Dracula was never even that scary (or sexy) before this movie and he has never been that scary since it. Therefore, to me, this is Dracula. Finally, Gary Oldman’s depiction of the Count stands as the best movie monster performance ever and that’s saying something.
The Exorcist (1973, Friedkin) We all started to look at horror differently after The Exorcist. Here is a movie that ruined my childhood yet, when watched today, I can’t exactly say it’s scary. It is, however, still really good. Almost a textbook horror movie.
Videodrome (1983, Cronenberg) A postmodern horror movie from Cronenberg that finds horror in the digital era we live in. This movie was very prescient in the way it examined our relationship with television, the media and, in an indirect way, the Internet itself. Cronenberg captured the scary notion that we are merging with technology and that’s scarier than almost any monster.
Demon Night: Tales from the Cript (1995, Dickerson) Characters are trapped in a boarded up house as evil tries to get in. That’s been done in countless movies ranging from Assault on Precinct 13 to From Dusk Till Dawn. But never like this. A modern b-movie in the best sense of the word. I am not ashamed to write that “Demon Night” is good enough to warrant a top ten spot. The film has the structure of a Western but is horror all the way. Goofy but intense.
28 Weeks Later (2007, Fresnadillo) “Weeks,” not “Days.” This is a perfect modern zombie story. Give us a “Months!!!!”
Antichrist (2009, von Trier) Too soon to tell exactly how good it is but it will always be scary. One of the best films of the decade, sure, but one of the best horror? Is it even horror! I’m still not sure and that’s why Antichrist is so unique.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Polanski) A timeless horror movie that gets better the more you watch and think about it. Only Polanski could have made this movie. It’s slow progression is pitch perfect. It’s subtleties are
Re-Animator (1985, Gordon) Sadly, this is only good film based on a Lovecraft story. And, yes, it’s good.
The Ninth Gate (2000, Polanski) Another Polanski movie! This is one of my favorites. It got a bad rap because people expected a big scary showdown with the Devil but it;s smarter than that. More of a hard boiled detective story than anything else. Party Tip: every time Johnny Depp is seen with a drink or cigarette, take a shot or puff yourself… best drinking game ever, or worst.
Thirst (2009, Park) The most true vampire movie ever made. Another art house horror movie makes the list. The film holds no punches (or bites).
Shaun of the Dead (2004, Wright) 2004 is officially the best year for zombie movies ever.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974, De Palma) Phantom of the Opera + horror + musical + De Palma. What’s not to love? One of my all time favorite movies. I’m amazed the film hasn’t attracted a following!
Jacob’s Ladder (1990, Lyne) Forget Six Sense, this Adrian Lyne movie has best horror movie twist ever.
Blade II (2002, Del Toro) So much more than a franchise sequel. I don’t think Westley Snipes or New Line knew what they were doing when they hired Guillermo Del Toro to continue the successful vampire series. Time has been kind to Blade II. When I first saw it I expected techno Blade and was put off by the film’s more Gothic, Lovecraftian approach. I gave it a grumpy B- for that very reason but just months later got addicted to the DVD. Unlike the first Blade that was never a fun as the first time you saw it, multiple, multiple (and I mean multiple) viewings have taught me the errors of my way. Despite the number in its title (usually a bad sign for a horror movie) Blade II is a truly original product that stands on its own legs. Not only did Del Toro take Blade to the next level but he also basically rewrote the horror handbook. The way he envisioned vampires as more insect or animal than human is one of the best and scariest interpretations to date. This is the work of one of the greatest horror auteurs.
Event Horizon (1997, Anderson) One of the best sci-fi horror movies since the original Alien. So effective in what it does that many people’s first impulse is revolution and rejection.
The Last Man on Earth Omega Man, the remake, is better (and one of my favorite movies of all time) but “Last Man” is more horror or at least more true to its horror roots. As for “I Am Legend”… well, it’s a great movie all the way up till it’s botched ending. Vincent Price, though, is a one-of-a-kind horror movie icon and this is his best film because he plays it so real rather than campy.
Land of the Dead (2006, Romero) Romero’s re-entry into studo movies was met with mixed results. First, the study dumped it. Second, it made no money. Third, Romero fans didn’t even love it. Well everyone (except for Romero) was wrong. The movie is a brilliant examination of social classes and the breakdown of society. Never have zombies been more relatable. The most underrated Romero movie ever and a candidate for one of the most underrated horror films of all time.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994, Craven) Way better than his old Nightmare. As Craven films go, NM is Scream before there was a Scream. Of course it slipped through the cracks. It is still there, however, in the dark waiting to be rediscovered. This inventive horror reappropriate stars the actress from the first “Nightmare,” Heather Langenkamp, playing the actress from the first “Nightmare” being chased by none other than Robert England’s classic Freddy character. The film’s meditation of the nature of horror and myth making is jaw droppingly insightful for a slasher horror film. Wes Craven’s even in it playing Wes Craven, a director haunted by his own Freddy creation! Sooooo meta. Soooo ahead of its time. And soooo scary!
Slither(2007, Gunn) Yet another underrated gem makes the list. A rare film that remembers that horror films are also allowed to be fun. What’s not to love about Nathan Fillion playing a rural cop in a slug from outer space movie?
Shadow of the Vampire (2001, Merhige) A sloppy movie but a brilliant one. The kind of throwback that I wish got made more. Part silent movie, part classic monster movie, but all modern in it’s postmodern aesthetics. Also, there’s Williem Dafoe hamming it up in a vampire role for the (new)ages.
Nosferatu (1922, Murnau) Tied with the above. Watch the above back to back with “Nosferatu” for a great night.
Screamers (1995, Duguay) If you thought Saw as bad, check out Screamers. As bleak as 90s cult sci-fi horror hybrid get. This film will never be liked but I feel it’s a classic in multiple genres.
Don’t Look Now (1973, Roeg) There’s nothing quite like 70s horror movies because most of them are so much more than just horror. They start with story, then characters, then horror. Some of the best horror films of the last ten years follow that formula to great success if not box office receipts. I’m a huge Nick Roeg fan and this is one of his best.
Army of Darkness: Evil Dead (1992, Raimi) If there was any subtility in Raimi’s first two Dead movies then they were thrown out the cabin window. This film is insane. It’s like back to the future with a shotgun! I love it.
Halloween (1978, Carpenter) Most people would put this undeniable classic higher. I’m even a die hard Carpenter fan but not so much a hard core fan of the Halloween movies. There’s something about silent, hulking killers with magical abilities to show up and kill anyone at very specific times that annoy me. Still though, an undeniable classic that deserves a place on any list of the best horror movies.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006, Aja) This movie has not gotten the credit it deserves and it pisses me off. People are always bitching that not good horror films are made, let alone good horror remakes. This has both covered. But once again I think people get confused by horror. The more effective it is the more disturbing it is. People get confused.
Drag Me to Hell (2009, Raimi) It was such a joy to see Raimi return to his Evil Dead days with a crazy, gypsy curse horror film. Hell, it was a joy just to see him make anything halfway good movie after those horrible Spider-Man movies. I have a feeling this film will develop quite the following in the years to come.
MST3K’s Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) I’m picking Manos but really any MST3K movie would do. By mocking horror it also celebrates it. A very modern approach, I know, but one that really gets people like me who enjoy bad movies. I can’t say enough good things about MST3K.
Cemetery Man (1994, Soavi) A brilliantly unique interpretation of zombie movies. Funny as hell too.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000, Kawajiri) Not many know this but some of the best horror stories ever told are Anime movies or TV shows. This sequel is a good place to start.
Dawn of the Dead (2004, Snyder) Zach Snyder’s hyper violent remake is better than Romero’s version. I said it!
May (2002, Mckee) A fantastic and classic indie cult horror movie that’s like “Welcome to the Dollhouse” meets “Frankenstine.”
Dressed to Kill (1980, De Palma) Sex, blood and psychology. Slasher horror De Palma style.
Deep Red (1975, Argento) Have to admit, this one grew on me. It is Argento’s best and most focused effort that doesn’t compromise the fun stuff we like about his other movies.
Quarntine/[rec] (2008) Another truly unique approach to the zombie genre. Blair Witch with Zombies! Come on, that’s genus. The Mexican [rec] is received with much more regarded but I’m just as big of a fan of the American version. Here’s an idea: see both!
In the Mouth of Madness (1994, Carpenter) This self aware, Lovecraftian horror film, about a horror writer, is one of the most overlooked horror films in the history of the genre.
Hostel II (2008, Roth) People really dislike this film and I don’t know why because from a filmmaking and storytelling standpoint is really well made.
The Birds (1963, Hitchcock) Evil birds? WTF? Sharks, yeah; lions, sure; alligators, okay; insects even. But birds???!!! It works! This is the more true to form horror film Alfred Hitchcock ever made. Here is a film that really should not have worked if you only looked at it on paper but it’s Hitchcock. He could make a film about killer sheep work. Wait, someone did that already. The film was the original Jaws in that it took a pedestrian thing we see every day and not only made a good good horror subject out of it but changed the way we looked at it. I’m not sure if birds were scary before this film but they were after. Finally, I love that the film takes an almost apocalyptic turn. The final image is Hitchcock meats Jung. Translation: run!
Lord of Illusions (1992, Barker) A horror magic mystery movie staring the guy from Quantim Leap. Not many people know about this film. And those people suck.
Eyes Without a Face (1960, Franju) Not just an 80s song but a vivid and haunting black and white French movie about a crazy surgeon that kidnaps women and literally takes their face off. Puts Face/Off to shame. Sure, he has his reasons but this movie is notable in that it takes slasher tropes (many of which it invented) and transplants it (pun intended) in a eerily realistic setting. The horror is not something you laugh at from a distance. You feel it. Nothing else like it.
American Werewolf in London The most interesting thing about this hybrid horror film is that it’s funny and it’s not that it’s scary (though it has both in spades) but, rather, how much heart it has. The journey of the main character David Kessler and his now dead friend Jack Goodman has a way of staying with you. Tip: see this movie with an audience.
Interview with the Vampire (1994, Jordan) I grew up on this film and soon after became a huge (and pathetic) fan of Anne Rice. That the film does not hold up well but it came at a time, post-slasher pre-Scream, when horror was critically dead. I don’t usually say this but I would love to see a remake.
Martin (1973, Romero) This loser vampire story (an awkward kid likes to drink blood… uh, that’s it) is most unique non-horror approach to the genre I have ever seen. Only Romero would make a vampire movie like this. P.S., the film is not a sitcom starring Martin Lawrence.
What Lies Beneath (2000, Zemeckis) I hated this affected ghost movie when I first saw it. I am now a huge fan. The movie reminded me of something I had long forgotten: that Zemeckis was once a great filmmaker.
The Ring (2002, Verbinski) I saw this movie opening night and was floored. None of us every could have imagined that a film from the guy that did Mouse Hunt would not only be really good but one of the best and most well regarded horror movies of the decade. And it’s a remake! Why oh why did they have to make a Ring 2?
28 Days Later (2002, Boyle)–would be in the top twenty if it weren’t for the abysmal last act set in a military base. What a way to ruin a potential classic.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996, Rodriguez) It’s quality is debatable. All I know is that I grew up on this pulpy crime/monster movie from Tarentino and Rodriguez. It has a lot of sentimental value. This is ironically a better Rodriguez grindhouse movie than his half of Grindhouse.
Cronos (1996, del Toro) Vampires and Del Toro didn’t start with Blade. Like Martin and Let the Right One In, Cronos is one of the most original type of vampire we’ve ever seen.
The Fly (1986, Cronenberg) Another Cronenberg film. It’s hard to imagine horror without this filmmaker. I would love to see Cronenberg revisit this genre.
The Prophecy (1995, Widen)–Christopher Walken as an evil angel, Eric Stoltz as a good angel, Elias Koteas as the hero and Viggo Mortensen as Satan. God, how I love the 90s!!!
Susperia (1977, Argento) I miss horror films like this. In a strange way it’s very innocent. Also, beautiful. Horror films these days are all about atmosphere. This film is full of color.
Night of the Living Dead (1968, Romero) Saw this so many years later that much of it’s impact has been lost. It’s still a singular horror title and if this list was about the most important horror films ever made it would be near the top.
The Shining (1980, Kubrick) Love the hell out of Kubrick but this is his most overrated film. Still, average Kubrick is better than most people’s best. Kubrick’s filmmaking sensibilities made him perfectly suited for this kind of movie. So much so that I don’t think he even meant this film to be so creepy and scary.
Zombie (1979, Fulci) The first truly great European Zombie movie.
Night of the Creeps (1986, Dekker) Another great and funny movie where aliens use parasites to turn people into zombies. The other is Slither. Like peanut butter and chocolate, aliens and zombies make for an unusually good combination.
Dead Alive (1992, Jackson) This couldn’t be a horror list if there were not a Peter Jackson movie on it.
Exorcist III(1990, Blatty)–underrated and unfortunately criticized horror sequel. It also contains the most scary and well shot horror scene of all time. One word: hallway)
Parana 3D (2010, Aja) You either get it or you don’t.
Saw (2004, Wan) Saw is not a franchise I like. So why am I so excited about every new Saw movie? The answer is in this first movie which started it all. Like it or not, it’s a very original movie. So original that each successive Saw movie has failed to add anything to the formula. Is it a modern horror classic? You bet. When was the last time a horror movie got all the way up to #7? I list it here because it’s so influential. And because Carey Elwes is so cool
The best horror film of all time is Alien (1979, Scott)–Horror begins and ends with “Alien” as far as I’m concerned. I am a sci-fi guy and Ridley Scott’s was THE guy to take that genre and plant his alien seed, seamlessly crossbreeding it with true and claustrophobic horror. The resulting ingestion period spit out not just the best piece of horror ever seen but one of the best examples of the cinema experience period. The post-“2001,” post “Star Wars” story and visuals expanded the outer reaches of science fiction and did something no science fiction film ever did: make space feel real and intimate as a crew of blue collar space, uh, people encounter an alien… not so much monster but parasite. It’s hard to say what works “best” about the film. For my money it’s the “Psycho” switch–a third of the way into this film when Tom Skerritt, the only “name” actor in the film next to Harry Dean Stanton when it was made, was killed we were left without a stable center and that make the film feel up for grabs. Enter Sigourney Weaver, the unlikely and at the time unknown star. Along the years and after fighting and endless hoard of these creatures her motto could be “I’ve known you for so long that I don’t know anything else” and I would say the same thing about this flawless film because I can’t think of horror without first thinking of “Alien.”
Note: Though they exhibit horror elements sci-fi action movies like “Aliens” or “They Live” or “Predator” are not, by my random and arbituary definition, horror first and foremost. There’s a lot of close-calls in this genre. For instance, are “Mulholland Dr.,” and “Eraserhead” horror? Is “Antichrist” really horror? Is “Jaws” horror? How about “Death Proof?” “Hellboy?” has monsters, but does it have horror? And finally, do serial killer movies where nothing supernatural is technically going on, such as “Psycho,” belong more to the horror or the thriller genre–unless its a killer movie like “Dressed to Kill” where the reality is heightened to a point of un-reality, I would say the latter but I this is totally the eye of the beholder so you can call bullshit on me but please don’t because I love you.
Best Horror Performances
Gary Oldman, Dracula
Williem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead series
Sigourney Weaver, Alien series
Klaus Kinski, Nosferatu
John Cusack, 1408
Ray Parks as Fast Draw Earl McGraw at the beginning of From Dusk Till Dawn. Every second is flawless. And who would have thought that McGraw would go to be in three more Tarentino films (both Kill Bills as well as Grindhouse)
Jeff Goldblum in The Fly
Kare Hedebrant and Linda Leandersson, Let the Right one In.
Vincent Pryce in anything
Linda Blair in The Exorcist
Worst Horror Films of All Time:
Friday the 13th Take your pick. Jason is a boring and blunt “monster” that elicits no interest or dread. The plots are recycled and the characters he slashes are not worth the slashing–I liked Freddy vs. Jason though.
I Know What You Did Last Summer–a film about Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs… and not much else.
The Exorcist 2: The Heretic
Alone in the Dark–I heart to hate Uwe Boll
Van Helsing–soulless in every sense of the word. Universal did a disservice to their classic horror properties by whoring it out to Steven Summers (he who also ruined The Mummy).
Any horror film with “In Space” in the title. “Jason X: IN SPACE,” “Hellraiser: IN SPACE,” and of course “Leprechaun: IN SPACE… In the Hood.”
When a Stranger Calls–the most boring horror film of all time. ring. hello. silence. WHO IS IT! WHHHHOOOOOOOOO! That’s about it. The End. You suck!
Rocky Horror Picture Show–I don’t get it.
One Missed Call
The Hills Have Eyes 2
Any movie with “Chucky”–I hate Chucky.
Day of the Dead (remake)
Any “Crow” movie that is not the first “Crow”
Halloween III through Halloween H20
Haloween 2–The Rob Zombie version. Hume, come to think of it, the original was not that good either so, why not, lets make it both versions!
When considering the last decade I decided to begin my (admitadley tardy) Best of the 2000s lists with video games for the very simple reason that it’s hard to make a case for any medium showing as much innovation (technically as well as in terms of storytelling technique) and growth as that of the video game industry. Unlike almost any established art form, this booming digital medium, still dismissed by many, continues to evolve in the most unexpected yet enjoyable ways. Ways that push technology, social interactions and aesthetic possibilities. We’re in the middle of a golden era and unlike almost any other medium games are able to interact with us, challenge us, entertain us and even brings us together. Games transcend nations, ideologies and even physcial space because we can play with anyone, anywhere and, as a bonus, be called names by a ten-year-old in Arkansas. The aesthetics of a game is usually matched by one’s enjoyment of it and that, for some reason, bothers many “intellectuals” who would argue that a gorilla mashing crayons on a piece of paper is art before a game is. Games are not only art in their own right but an art form, by the way, that is more relevant than actual art and one that easily makes more money than the art of film. The bottom line is that last ten years would have gone by a lot slower for me if it were not for these amazing list of exceptional titles…
Deus Ex (2000, PC)
Persona 3: FES (2007, PS2)
Shadow of the Colossus (2005, PS2)
Ninja Gaiden (2004, Xbox)
Metal Gear Sold 3: Snake Eater Substanance (2006, PS2)
Portal (2007, PC)
Final Fantasy XII (2006, PS2)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009, PS3)
Fallout 3 (2007, PC)
Half-Life 2 (2007, Orange Box version + HL Episodes)
Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2 (2002, PC)
Perfect Dark (2000, N64)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004, PS2)
Resident Evil 4 (2005, Gamecube/PS2)
Valkyrie Chronicles (2008, PS3)
ICO (2001, PS2)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic(2003, Xbox)
God of War (2005, PS2)
Halo: Combat Evolved (2001, Xbox)
Advance Wars (2001, Gameboy Advance)
Red Faction: Guerilla (2009, PS3)
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within (2004, PS2)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2001, DS)
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (2009, PS3)
Splinter Cell (2002, Xbox)
Metal Gear Solid 4 (2008, PS3)
Scribblenauts (2009, DS)
Super Mario Galaxy(2007, Wii)
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003, Game Boy Advance)
Persona 4 (2008, PS2)
Deus Ex 2: Invisible War (2003, Xbox)
Chrono Cross (2000, PS1)
Final Fantasy IX (2000, PSone)
Uncharted 2: Among Thiefs (2009, PS3)
Assassin’s Creed (2007, PS3)
Metal Gear Sold 2: Sons of Liberty (2001, PS2)
Psi Ops (2004, PS2)
Boom Bloxx (2007, Wii)
Dead Space (2008, PS3)
Grand Theft Auto III (2001, PS2)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003, PS2/Xbox)
Ghost Recon (2004, PC)
Kingdom Hearts 2 (2006, PS2)
Katamari Damacy (2004, PS2)
Bioshock (2007, Xbox 360)
Gabriel Knight 3 (2000, PC)
Final Fantasy X (2001, PS2)
Smash Brothers Brawl(2008, Wii)
Stubbs the Zombie (2005, Xbox)
Red Faction (2001, PS2)
Crysis (2007, PC)
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007, DS)
Resistance 2 (2008, PS3)
Shenmue 2 (2002, Xbox)
Odin Sphere (2007, PS2)
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (2007, DS)
Dead Rising (2006, Xbox360)
Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (2002, PC)
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (2005, Xb0x)
Halo 2 (2004, Xbox)
Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix (2002, PC)
New Super Mario Brothers (2006, DS)
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2000, PC)
Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare (2007, PS3/Xbox360)
Spider-Man (2000, Playstation)
Medal of Honor: Underground (2000, Playstation)
The World Ends With You (2008, DS)
Wii Sports (2006, Wii)
Zone of the Enders (2001, PS2)
Siphon Filter 2(2000, Playstation)
Planet Puzzle League (2007, DS)
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (2003, PS2)
Assassian’s Creed II (2009, PS3)
Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay(2004, Xbox)
God War 2 (2007, PS2)
Counterstrike (2000, PC)
Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (PS2)
Beyond Good and Evil (2003, PS2)
Crimson Skies(2000, Xbox)
Silent Hill 2 (2000, PlayStation)
Jet Set Radio Future(2002, Xbox)
Sins of a Solar Empire (2008, PC)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002, PS2)
Panzer Dragon Orta (2004, Xbox)
Civilization III (2001, PC)
Metal Gear Solid(2001, Gameboy)
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000, Nintendo 64)
Advance Wars: Dual Strike (2005, DS)
Fight Night 2004 (duh)
Okami (2006, PS2)
Skies of Arcadia (2000, Dreamcast)
Little Big Planet (2007, PS3)
Sim City 3000 (2000, PC)
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath (2005, Xbox)
Patapon 2 (2008, PSP)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000, Playstation)
Psychonauts (2005, PS2)
Godhand (2006, PS2)
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (2007, DS)
Most Shocking/Amazing/Awesome/WTF/Best Video Game Moments… (spoilerish, obviousley…)
Solid Snake “dies” after the first level of Metal Gear 2. Feeling: What?!
Choosing to blow up Megaton City in Fallout 3. From a safe distance you watch as a mushroom cloud forms and devours a thriving city full of (mostly) good people. “I almost wish there was another nuke we could detonate” you are told. To say “you lost Karma” is an understatement. So evil. So fun. Feeling: Dayyymmmmmm!
The first true player choice in Deus Ex. Less than half way through the game the “terrorist” you’ve been hunting tells you that you’ve been working for the bad guys all along. Woops! Do you kill the NSF leader or trust him and let him live? Doing either changes everything. These days that kind of moral/idelogical choice is not earth shattering but it was in 2000. So much so that it not only opened the game up but changed (or maybe added) the notion of free will in all video games. Feeling: Woah.
Killing the last Colossus in Shadow of the Colossus and feeling like a huge dick. Then going “hey, dude with horns from Ico!” What a game!Feeling: Awwwww man.
After a short and blistering love affair in Portal, the companion cube (literally a box with a heart on it) is tragically incinerated. This moment is not only touching but funny and a great statement on emotions in video games. Feeling: Heartbroken.
Paying for his sins Kratos literally fights himself at the end of God of War. A lot of himself. It’s like that scene in the Matrix where Neo fights hundreds of Agent Smith’s only a lot cooler. Feeling: ARGH.
I. Am. Darth. Revan. Star War: Knights of the Old Republic. Feeling: Evil.
The sad ending of Persona 3 set on top of a school building. Thinking about it still makes me sad. The ending of Final Fantasy Xis also very sad though Tidus (ah-hahahahahaha) is a bit more annoying. It was still one of the most memorable FF endings of all time. Feeling: depression(esp after playing the respective Persona epilogue The Answer and the entirity of FFX-2).
Old man Snake fights old man Oscolot on top of a Metal Gear hundreds of feet in the air at the end of Metal Gear 4. Turns out Ocelot was a quadruple agent and all the bad stuff he did was, um, not so bad? Maybe. I think. I don’t know. Still, for someone who has followed Metal Gear all these years, the many codas in MGS4 is emotionally very powerful. Shirtless old men trading punches has never been so awesome. And that’s before the end-end. Feeling: nostalgia.
Gordon grabs the Gravity gun in Half-Life 2. In that instance the first person shooter genre becomes fun for the first time in history. Feeling: magnetic.
Beating Ninja Gaiden. Feels soooooo good. You’ve now earned the right to be called a ninja. Feeling: Bad ass.
Grand Theft Auto III opens up. You can go anywhere and do anything. Games have not been the same since. Feeling: Free.
The most memorable video game line of the decade: “Would You kindly.” Bioshock is so full of iconic moments I could also include the feelings that evoked when you first visit Rapture and the shocking fate of Andrew Ryan. Feeling: like I’m not myself (because I’m not)
Coming up with something completely random in Scribblenauts. And it shows up! Feeling: Creative.
Playing as the covenant (bad guy) soldier Arbiter in Halo 2. That moment never gets enough credit. Feeling: alien.
The nuke goes off in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The American heroes die. Feeling: Wow.
After many levels of cool but a bit on the dull side laser blasting you finally get a light saber in Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2. For the first time feel first hand how cool it is to wield a light saber. Add force powers and you have an unstoppable Jedi. Kyle, you ARE the man. Life feels complete now. Feeling: Unstoppable.
Trashing a large building in Red Faction Gurilla. It crumbles and, no matter how many times you do this, feels so good. Except… you’re in the building when that happens. Feeling: Woops.
Entering V.A.T.S… landing a headshot, watching head explode. Fallout 3. Feeling: the same feeling I get when popped a pimple.
The moment when the Assassian’s Creed series becomes full on sci-fi at the end of part 2. Feeling: Confused.
Batman looses it in Arkham Asylum. Damn you, Scarecrow! Feeling: out of it.
Snake vs. The End in Metal Gear Solid 3. Best sniper scene ever. And don’t you dare kill him a few levels before. Feeling: old!
The epic final battle in Resident Evil 5. Not a great game but, damn, it sure did feel good to kill Wesker over and over and over and then drop him into a volcano just to make sure…. only to kill him again. Feeling: victory dance.
Shooting a bad guy in the head over and over in Soldier of Fortune 2. Nasty stuff. Feeling: overkill.
Aliens finally show up about half way through the FPS Crysis and proceed to kick you ass. Suddenly, killing Koreans isn’t as fun as it once was. Feeling: scared.
World of Warcraft–People paid a fee to play this game?! Every month?! Really?! Wait, they’re are still paying to play it?! I tried it for free when I got the game for free and I still feel like I got ripped off.
Gears of War 1 and 2–“Grrr, aww shit.” Gems like that are spoken by squatty, square, filthy stupid characters fighting stupid enemies in a stupid apocalypse that we’ve seen a dozen times before in a dozon better games. Gears of War 2 is better than 1 but by such a small margin that it’s still belongs this high.
Grand Theft Auto 4–Because getting constant texts to go for drinks is really fun in an open world game. This joyless, pretentious, overly dramatic but actually very shallow mess is one of the biggest let downs of the decade. It shouldn’t even be allowed to be called a GTA game. Oh, but what do I know, it’s only the highest ranked ranked game on Metacritic. All video game critics should lose their jobs.
Guitar Hero and Rock Band–The music video game trend is almost worse than the reality TV show trend.
The Sims–Go to work, come home, eat, and cry at your lack of friends. This isn’t a game it’s real life and we all know how much that sucks!
Facebook Games Like Farmville–Why must people punish themselves with such tripe? Free does not mean fun!
Wii Play–With 30 million copies sold this non-game is the highest selling console “game” of all time! If it didn’t come with a controller it still might have sold well. Personally, if it was packed with a brick of gold I still wouldn’t buy it.
Resident Evil 5–This game is so bad it’s actually the best way to kill off zombies… or maybe just zombie game franchises.
Zelda: Twilight Princess–Not only is this a glorified Gamecube game but it’s a glorified Gamecube game that’s not fun. Wind Waker was a lot more fun and original.
Nintendogs–I’m grateful that other video game companies, you know, the ones that make real games, didn’t look at the success of crappy cash-in Nintendo titles like Nintendogs or Wii Play and give up.
Ratchet and Clank (series)–There’s hardly a RaC game I didn’t try to force myself to play and enjoy. And… it just wasn’t happening. I just can’t get into these games.
Left 4 Dead–I will never understand people who think this title is better than Dead Rising.
Devil May Cry 1 and 2–3 and 4 were actually better.
Elder Scrolls series
Grand Turismo 3
Recycled EA Sports Games (to all those into buying a new Madden game for ten years in a row, you spent $600 for the privlage buying the same game every year)
Tomb Raider games
Metroid Prime series
Notes on Some of the Best Games (in no specific ordr):
Deus Ex (PC) This game pretty much defined the decade that was to come. Open levels that can be approached in almost any way you want, freedom of choice, dynamic game play, mods, RPG stats with all the action of a first person shooter, huge levels with brilliant designs and a cyberpunk neo-noir story so engaging that it easily matches the best novels and movies in the same genre. For its time it was perfect. Deus Ex may look dated now (that’s what kept it from ranking higher on others best of the decade lists) but it’s still a blast to play and, if you can believe it, still yet to be surpassed in terms of innovation and totality of vision. You can thank Warren Spector for that (god knows I have). This game brought out the nerd in me like no other except for perhaps Metal Gear Solid. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or just a sad thing but, either way, playing Deus Ex ranks up their in my fondest memories of the the last several years.
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) Those who knew this game was special, like REALLY special, should take this moment to pat ourselves on our collective backs for supporting SotC when it came out. I am proud (and annoy people every chance I get to declare) that it was my GOTY in 2005 because it stands apart from most games released last decade. I would say all games if it weren’t for Ico and it is no coincidence that the same people made both games. Critics at the time really lets us down by dismissing this monster hunting fantasy as something good but not great. Sure, everyone in the press liked it but also keep in mind that Halo 2 got most GOTY awards that year and try not to puke in your mouth. The upside is that, like most classics that are ahead of their time, WAY AHEAD, history is being very kind to Shadow as is reflected in almost everyone’s best of the decade list. The game evokes mystery, grandeur and otherworldliness without ever seeming to try to hard. Its existence is somehow pure. Which is not to deny its darkness and rich moral ambiguities. With a story about a boy on a quest to save a girl (it’s thatsimple!) the game has a timeless feel. It is open world yet not cluttered with side quests or superfluous stories. There’s you. There’s a sword. There’s a monster. And there’s the (empty) promise of victory. This is, in fact, the most streamlined game ever made.
Persona 3: FES and Persona 4 (PS2) Gotta love JRPGs. Never heard of em’? That’s probably because America stopped caring about quirky, only-in-Japan worlds where the magic and the weird collide in a glorous mess of WTFness. Sure there’s the giant Final Fantasy franchise that, until XIII reared its ugly head, was not a total joke, but in the last ten years JRPGs have made way for the more blunt shoot first/ask (menu driven) questions later. I love American RPGs like Fallout and Mass Effect as well but at the same time I have trouble calling them true RPGs BECAUSE YOU SPEND ALL YOUR TIME SHOOTING IN FIRST OR THIRD PERSON. Thankfully this decade saw one of the most original and innovative RPGS of all time, a Final Fantasy killer if ever there was one. Persona 3 didn’t climb up to my number 2 spot randomly. It’s a perfect role playing game that beautifully blends intense dungeon-crawling with real life social situations like dating, cooking and studying for exams, something very few RPGs have done successfully (if at all) before. The monsters and save-the-world story is the stuff classic JRPG mythos but it’s the human qualities that tug at your heart and make the more identifiable than every other wacked out, crazy haired game in the same genre. The grand debate is not how good this series has become (anyone who’s played knows as much) but rather which is better, 3 or 4. Many say 4, citing improvements in the dungeon and battle system department. I admire that game for rolling a tight mystery story into a tighter RPG genre but Persona 3 will always be my favorite. The new portable version for the PSP lets you play as a female protagonist. And, yes, that includes going out on dates with dudes.
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) I must have played through this game more than any other on the list. In fact, I’m playing it right now! And it’s still kicking my ass! The perverted genus Tomonobu Itagaki’s Gaiden is something of an obsession and now that the obsession is over I can be more objective. It’s not the best game ever but that’s the worst thing I could say about it. The central fighting mechanic is flawless to this day and has yet to be improved upon (and that includes Ninja Gaiden II). It has that classic, always fun presentation that that fighting games like Final Fight and Double Dragon possess. This game is nothing less than the stuff of blood soaked dreams. Also, thanks to Ninja Gaiden nerds finally got to know, and I mean really know, what it’s like being a ninja. And, you know what, it’s awesome!
Metal Gear Sold 2, 3 and 4 (PS2/PS3) My favorite franchise of all time is HideoKojuma’s Metal Gear. It helped define the 8bit era and made an even bigger impact on modern gaming. This game pretty much changed the way stories were told and integrated with gameplay. It would be hard to live in a world without Snake. With three big Kojima-canonized releases and a few handheld gems (Metal Gear Solid for the OG Gameboy is a lost classic!) the 00s were kind to this franchise. The third Metal Gear, Snake Eater, is a game that, when it came out, was respected by all. It is now loved. The second is a game I personally enjoyed the hell out of until I realized, with a childlike sense of abandonment, that Snake was not coming back. That’s like James Bond ditching a Bond movie. How odd is it that the best selling Metal Game of all time is the Snake-less number 2 (7 million copies sold!). Underneath the initial shock and horror of, well, Raiden, and his weird trip into VR land is actually a very good title; one of the most self contained and high energy games in the series with a meta twist that people are still talking about. Its bad reputation is understandable but not quite fair if you play it objectively. Come to think of it, Metal Gear 3 also did not feature the same “Snake” we grew up with. The Snake we know/knew and love/loved was actually a clone all along and you play as his big daddy, um, also called Snake so it technically isa Snake game. Getting to play as the eventual big bad of the series provides a lot of dramatic tension, more so perhaps than watching Anakin before he turned into Vader. The game is full of classic Metal Gear storytelling and set pieces epic beyond what words can describe; the sniper fight, showdown with the coolest Metal Gear ever and bittersweet big(ger) boss dual set in a field of flowers are all pivotal Metal Gear moments. As an origin story you couldn’t ask for or even imagine anything better than what Kojima and co. came up with. On top of that, Snake Eater: Substance is revolutionary. The updated and dare I say perfected version of an already great game is the better way to play because it included a much needed third person view rather than that clunky top-down POV that has its place in the past but thankfully not the future of the series. Snake Eater is a perfect game in every way right down to the near-RPG customization. Well, maybe not totally perfect, the title really could use some work. A lot of work actually. Oh, yeah, as for the Metal Gear 4 movie game: it not only put the PS3 on the map but feels like the perfect “ending” to a perfect series.
Orange Box (Half-Life 2, Half Life Episodes, Team Fortress 2 and Portal) Sure I played the first Half-Life in the 90s but I didn’t realize how brilliant, innovative and versatile the Half-Life universe could be until I found myself lost in all of these game after buying the Orange Box at Amoeba for like ten dollars. Dollar for dollar that’s the best video game deal of all time or at least a tie with Super Mario All Stars for the SNES. HL2 set a new standard for sequels, then for expansions (which were not only like full games but better than most full games), then for multi player games (I play Team Fortress 2 more than I do CODMW2) and, oh nothing, a fps puzzle solving game called Portal managed to be one of the best games ever made (my #1 of 2007). And that was just a bonus game! As with Deus Ex, the test of a truly great game is how well it holds up ten or so years later. Well, I’m still playing all these games so, yeah, it holds up.
Final Fantasy XII (PS2) Where’s the hate coming from? This game, set in the world of Final Fantasy Tactics, easily became the best FF game since VIII and, why not, lets just call it one of the best RPGsof all time. Yet its not a popular Final Fantasy game. IX and X have hardcore fans (mostly kids and girls) while XII have a small group of people who sheepishly say they prefer this game. People who worship X are like aliens to me but at least X is playable. The most recent FF, XIII is a unholy and joyless mess that required the player to do little else than press forward and tap the x button every once in a while while watching hours of annoying cinemas with characters that are hard to like (except for Lightening). In comparison, XII contains a living, breathing, fully realized and NON-LINEAR world that brings the world to life in a way no other Final Fantasy game has. It’s characters, story, graphics, open world maps, fast battles and maps are all top notch and yet to be surpassed by any role playing game. This is one of those cases where the styles of American and Japanese games combine into a perfect synthesis. When I look to XIII I see the death of the franchise. When I look back at XII I see hope.
God of War (PS2) An American action game so good even the Japanese guy who made Devil May Cry/Bayonetta had to say, yeah, it’s pretty much perfect. It’s only flaw is that it popularized quick time events and spawned the tiresome God of War 3. Kratos’ anger may feel like a parody these days but it was never edgier than with the first game came out. Here was a protagonist that, by the end of the series, you could argue is the ultimate antagonist and that not so subtle turn is something few games are brave or skilled enough to pull off.
ICO (PS2) A horned freak and a tall majestic beauty walk around. That’s the game! Icocame at a time when the PS2 had absolutley nothing going for it and video games in general were a stagnting medium. So many fond memories, and so much haunting beauty as the two explore labyrinthian structures that are void of all life except for menicing shadows. Nobody captures the surreal feeling of traversing a ruined city better than Team Ico. Something horrible must have happened in the world of Shadow of the Colossus and Ico and while we may never know what, we also may never want to. And who could have guessed that one of the all time best games ever made expects you hold a girl’s hand for the majority of your playtime. Yup, this game taught many virgin nerds what it would be like to have a girlfriend except no girl could ever match up to Yoruda. But that’s another facit of this game’s beauty. In a way ICO is about the vast differences betwene men and women who, although speaking incompatable languages and life goals, are able to bond on a spiritual level. Team Ico have the market cornered on unique gameplay, undefinible sadness and stunning yet isolated environments that draw you in and keep you away at the same time.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andres (PS2) My favorite open world game of all time (until Red Faction Guerrilla and Just Cause 2 came along). It may just be the apex of the genre (popularized in the 00s) in terms of size, writing and sheer amount of things you can do. There’s so much you could actually call GTA:SA a RPG and not be laughed out of the room. One prominent feature emerged from this game: fun. That San Andres retains its sense of wonder and silliness is also why it’s so dear to me. I will never forget grabbing some fried chicken, getting myself fat, strapping on a Jet pack to good old PJ and flying my way to a version of San Francisco to kick it in one of the awesome houses I just bought. GTAIV was, in every way possible, a step down from the very simple and very ambitious sense of wonder that San Andreas (and to a slightly lesser degree Vice City and the original GTAIII) offers.
Perfect Dark (N64) A game I might argue is better than Goldeneye. I mean let’s be honest, Goldeneye didn’t have aliens.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2 (PC) The best Star Wars game ever made. No easy task considering how important the Tie Fighter and X-Wing games are to me and, you know, video game history. The key to success is simple but not so simple that it’s easy to recapture. Basically, has any Star Wars game before or since had such perfect or satisfying light saber controls? No. I’ve never had so much fun being a Jedi and don’t get me started on Forced Unleashed a game where being a Jedi feels like a job. The level design, story and weapons are a blast no pun intended. Star Wars games are almost always fun (yeah, even Force Unleashed) but this one stands above them all and proceeds to force lift, choke and throw them to the side.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) Beats Symphony of the Night and Castlevania II for the NES to become best Castlevania game ever made! And it’s hard to believe Aria achieves that honor on a teeny tiny Gameboy screen and without the use of a whip!
Batman: Arkham Asylum This ip, the Metal Gear of Batman games, is a beaconof hope for big franchise titles. They don’t necessarley all have to suck. They can be thoughtful, tell good stories and full of action. Batman is one of the most enjoyable open world adventures, fighting games, and detective games ever made. It’s also the best game of 2009, one of the ten best of the decade and flat out the best Comic Book game ever made as well. Oh, and it’s easily the best Batman game!
Gabriel Knight 3 (PC) Yes, it’s very sad that point and click adventure are basically dead. But Gabriel Knight 3, full of atmosphere, culture and mind bending puzzles, should have been the game that ushered this floundering genre into a new era of open world puzzle games. Alas, it did not and America is doomed to play first person shooters for another ten years.
Kingdom Hearts 2 (PS2) Disney + Final Fantasy seems like an obvious video game pairing now but who could have ever imagined that this totally random East meets West collision of beloved franchises would work. Not only did it succeed at being a good game in its own right but it didn’t alienate either fanbase. Personally I would love a KH game that’s a little more Final Fantasy than Disney (like, how about traveling to some cool Final Fantasy worlds? wouldn’t you love to see Sora and co. take a trip to Midgar or Ivalice?) but that’s a superficial criticism of a very good game. The series has the stuff to last for years. As good as the first KH game was, 2 boasted a deeper and more emotionally involving story. Sorry, but Roxas > Sora.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and Sands of Time (PS2) The first rekindled my… our… love of platforming. It did a masterful job of blending Ico type aesthetics and level design (games as art, blah blah blah) with more mainstream action. The ability to rewind time in a modern three dimensional setting is so good and so intuitive to the game play style that I’m amazed it was never done so well before or after for that matter (and, yes, I’ve played the overrated Braid). Ah, but it did succeed after. Just once though and for the second PoP. Warrior Within did all that the first did an added a darker tone, a cool metal soundtrack and a flawless through-line that has your hero being chased by an unstoppable m0nster, Resident Evil 2-style, for the entire game! I cannot, for the life of me figure out why fans hate the second PoP so much.
Okami (PS2) Okami does what Zelda has been afraid or unwilling or unable to do for years. Innovate. I may not love it like I love Zelda but I appriciate the ways it elevates the action-adventure genre. Quite beautiful as well.
Halo (Xbox) For better or worse (usually better) this is the most iconic game of the decade. I must admit that while multiplayer is fun I never got into it like everyone else. The sequels are also fun but never captured the “wow” of the first. Who can forget tearing ass with a Warthog at the end of the game?
Advance Wars (GBA) It’s the only Gameboy Advance game I still play to this day.
Splinter Cell (Playstation) Poor, poor Gabe Logan. He’ll never be as cool as Snake. Even the salt and peppa haired geezer Sam Fisher can run laps around him. Ah, yes, but neither can tazer a dude from miles away and hold the voltage until they burst into flames. And then keep holding it. Good times! That there is the best unintended weapon bug in history. I hope that one day they make the stealth action video game version of “The Expendables” but even then Gabe might not even make the list. Poor, poor Gabe.
Fallout 3 (PC) Ranked number 1 the year it came out. After logging over 200 hours into this beast I still play it. Only New Vegas will put it to rest. Part action, part first person shooter and all fun, Fallout 3 proves that the apocalypse genre in the video game medium is as good if not better in a lot of ways than its cinematic and literary counterparts. And it does so with a great range of humor, drama, action, and storytelling. Shooting wasteland mutants has never been so fun (espically when you do so in the game’s esquisit combat V.A.T.S. mode) but it has also never been so personal. This is not a game we played but a game we entered. It is complete in almost every way. Almost–the only chink in this amazing game’s armor is the persistent and often game ending glitches. Even the beyond lame non-ending that we were initially stuck with was corrected in the expansion games and included on the uber addicting GOTY edition. Fact is, very few games could match the feeling you got when you first left the underground vault at the begining of the game. The world you enter is literally blinding and once you regain your sight and senses the things you see make you wish you were blind again. But you’re stuck here and you better make good use of the time you’re given. Oh, and I sure did.
Chrono Cross (PSone) One of the best role playing game of all time hampered by the sad fact that it follows/is slightly worse than/has nothing to do with an even better role playing game, Chrono Trigger. If Chrono Cross was called, I don’t know, Infinite Unknown Galaxy of Resonance or some other JRPG-ish title, more people would have respected this game.
Resident Evil 4 (PS2) I’m still trying to forget RE5. The upside to 5’s near parody levels of suckyness is that it actually does a lot to prove how great 4 is. It’s basically the same… except it’s not. It’s soooo not. 4 is, in my opinion, the first fully realized, fully playable and fully/finally fun Resident Evil game to date. Uh, sadly it’s also the last in the sense that Konami could not replicate or refine what 4 did and may never be able to. Either way, it was fun while it lasted.
Wii Sports (Wii) Included because it’s a benchmark title that offered players a new way of playing with themselves at home (hehe). Also included because bowling with the Wiimotes is so damn satisfying. This game joins the ranks of Super Mario, Sonic and Super Mario World to prove that it pays to bundle a really fun game with a system. I’m not sure why so many companies (I’m talking to you Microsoft and Sony) fail to realize this. When the game first came out dear friend got so into Wii Sports that she smashed my new high def television with a full contact tennis swipe. It was almost worth it.
Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox) I don’t like Fable. I don’t like Jade Empire. And I don’t even like KOTOR’s sorry excuse for a patched together sequel. In other words, Xbox role playing games are hit or miss. Star Wars however is a hit. So is Mass Effect. Both are set in space and proved that traveling the cosmos and encountering alien races (before destroying them in most cases) is perfectly suited for the role playing genre. Both games revolutionized what you could do (which is a lot) in American role playing games but also expanded the realms of gritty and epic sci-fi storytelling. By blending combat with sophisticated dialogue trees and experience building these games proved that menus are from a long, long time ago in a country (er, Japan) far away. JRPGs are still superior but if this trend keeps up I’m not so sure I’ll be able to say that ten years from now.
Scribblenauts (DS) The most innovative game of the decade. There, I said it. Scribblenauts does this in such a simple and fun way that it’s easy to miss how revolutionary it actually is. By using anything in your imagination to solve puzzles the game (and its vast lexicon) never fails to amaze. Due to the amount of things WE bring to this game it’s one of the most obvious go-to desert island games ever made. The game’s only major flaw (other than wonky controls) is the imagination of the person playing it.
Dead Space (PS3) This monsters in space survival horror game has the potential to be the Resident Evil of the next decade. Given how bad Resident Evil 5 is, that predictions almost guaranteed. The torch has been passed and I’m okay with that. Haunted space ships are the new haunted houses! Bring on part two!
Boom Bloxx (Wii) How sad is it that the best use of the immensely popular Wii motion control system occurred in Boom Bloxx in which all you basically do is throw balls at blocks. Not as sad as it sound because doing so feels so good… and, oh why not, works exactly as it should which is not always the case with a Wii game. What’s sad however is it, as sporty, get your friends together titles go, the gimmicky (yet always fun) Wii Sports and basic (yet never fun) Wii Play sold about a billion more copies. This game used strategy and finesse, those just treat you like kids.
Uncharted 1 and 2 (PS3) The adventure genre was lacking in the cinemas (sigh, Indy 4) but thankfully received a new golden age in video games. The Uncharted series offers a perfect blend of adventure, puzzle solving and combat that surpasses anything seen in testosterone shooting games like Gears of War, games that are all and only about combat. The Uncharted games go the extra step with great scripts, funny dialogue and a lovable lead character so awesome that video game people actually know Nolan North’s name. This game series, like Drake, effortlessly manages to walk a dangerous tightrope of realism and fantasy. When it tips too far into one the other creeps in much to our delight. And does so without the giant inflatable boobs and dual wielding guns of Tomb Raider.
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) Galaxy proves that having fun requires no age limit. And, really, does a game always need to be more than just fun?Among “gamers,” it’s heresy to say so but Mario was one of the few games of the decade to be fun with no qualifiers, no story, no gimmicks. Just. Sure it’s kind of sad how few new ideas Nintendo really has if you think about it (mute Mario retro games, mute Link retro games, mute Donky Kong, mute Samus etc.) but this game reminded me of Mario 64 in that it re-revolutionized the use of 3D space, only Galaxy perfects the promises made by Mario 64. There are really no limitations in this 3D Mario adventure. It’s also proves that the Wii maybe doesn’t suck that hard. Well… it still does but it made owning the system (almost) worth it and it gave us a chance to wipe some of that dust off our systems.
Deus Ex 2: Invisible War (Xbox) People poo-pooed the hell out of this sequel and that breaks my heart. Yes, it’s disappointing in many ways (it’s smaller, simpler and more gun heavy than the first due to the limitations of the Xbox) but its biggest flaw is that it was following in the genetically modded silent footsteps one of the greatest games ever made. That’s the trend of a lot of games on this list by the way. In a perfect world this game could be played beyond the hype, the legacy and the baggage of the franchise name. Give it a chance, it’s better than just about any other fps. Due early next year, Deus Ex 3 can’t come soon enough.
Katamari Damacy (PS2) That game where you roll a bunch of crap into a ball. Start with everyday household items like paper clips, end with planets. The more junk you attach to your big ball of sticky fun the more you progress. And there’s even a story, er, or something like a story–you’re a prince trying to bring order to the cosmos. It makes no sense but does so while rolling a giant ball of cars, mice, traffic cones, shrubs and people down the street. Only the Japanese could make a game this crazy, this addicting and this innovative. After this game video game companies, from all countries, started to allow developers, both indie and corporate, to break the mold and experiment more with the form of the medium.
Assassin’s Creed (PS3) Gets enormous love for being a historical video game and fun at the same time. Not many games take chances this big but the chance paid off and turned into a whole franchise. If stealth action during the crusades can sell maybe anything can? Assassin’s Creed trusts gamers to enjoy a game world that’s set in space or Liberty City. But even in that respect it does not fall back on anything predictable because it throws a whole side game/story involving virtual reality and recovered DNA memory. That’s the kind of crazy usually reserved for Japanese games.
Panzer Dragon Orta (Xbox) One of the most beautiful and ambitious and sadly unfulfilled series of all time, Panzer Dragon is good and dead at this point but, still, this action-y version of Dragon is one hellava way to go out. It was also one of the first original Xbox games that proved the system was capable of more than just shooting and racing. Because this game lets you both! On a dragon! Sweet!
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) This puzzle centric series is bringing back “smart” point and click adventures with style. And by “style” I mean an awesome tophat.
Splinter Cell (Xbox) I still remember when this game came out. I, of course, was a total Metal Gear-head who scoffing at what I thought would be just another Clancy military deal. But I was secretly checking it out from the corner of my eye. Of course I finally cracked and bought the big ugly black block known as the Xbox, a system I went on to love almost as much as that old PS2 thanks in large part to this series. Skipping past Halo I honed in on Splinter Cell and after many hours of sneaking around with a giant gun in tow (just in case I F-up, which I always did) I realized how it was possible to love both Metal Gear and Splinter Cell for completely different reasons–stealth realism vs stealth fantasy. Chaos Theory, the third Cell, is clearly the better title (it is also the moment the series peaked because it has not been good since–blah on Double Agent and Conviction) but it this is one of those cases where I can’t forget the first time experience of crouching in the shadows with just the three dots of my night vision showing from behind the back of some poor sap I’m about to close the lights on.
Psi Ops (PS2) This is as good as any game to end my rambling thoughts on. In a very quiet and unnoticed way this third person cult shooter influenced, in part (or maybe just in my head), lot of big games in the years since. The lift and zapping powers of InFamous, the force powers of Star Wars: Forced Unleashed and all that psi object lifting of Dead Space. Ops, in turn, owes a lot to Jedi Knight II and that’s a good game to build on. Like a Jedi living in a non Jedi world this game gives you super psychic abilities and lets you loose in a fertile battleground full of dummy soldiers that you can abuse with your mind, platforming sections where you have direct control over the platforms(!), cool bosses, full on mind control and straight up shooting. Ops will never get the credit it deserves but to me it’s proof that not every great game is an obviously a great game.
and because I got nothing better to do… Best Games of the 1990s
Metal Gear Solid (PSone)
X-Com: UFO Defense (PC)
Final Fantasy VIII (PSone)
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Street Fighter 2 (Arcade/SNES)
Sim City 2000 (PC)
Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Grim Fandango (PC)
Super Punch Out!! (SNES)
Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo 64)
Crusader: No Regret/Remorse (PC)
Final Fantasy VII (PSone)
Gabriel Knight (PC)
Space Megaforce (SNES)
Super Mario All Stars (SNES)
King’s Quest VI (PC)
NBA Jam (Arcade/SNES)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
Super Mario Brothers 3 (NES)
Final Fantasy VI (called FF III in U.S.)
Star Wars: Tie Fighter (PC)
Tetris Attack (SNES)
Dune II (PC)
Super Metroid (SNES)
Yoshi’s Island (SNES)
NHL 93 (Genesis only!)
Command and Conquer (PC)
TMNT 4: Turtles in Time (SNES)
Metal Warriors (SNES)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
Worms 2 (PC)
System Shock 2 (PC)
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (PC)
Contra III (SNES)
Pilotwings 64 (Nintendo 64)
Secret of Mana (SNES)
Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSone)
Gunstar Heroes (Genesis)
Star Fox (SNES)
Space Quest V (PC)
Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Sninobi 3 (Genesis)
Out of this World (Sega CD)
Road Rash 2 (Genesis)
Panzer Dragon (Saturn–yes I owned a Saturn)
Streets of Rage II (Genesis)
Super Mario RPG (SNES)
Mortal Kombat II (Arcade)
Final Fantasy V (II in U.S.)
Crash Team Racing (PSone)
Command and Conquer Red Alert (PC)
Resident Evil (PSone)
Civilization II (PC)
Twisted Metal (PSone)
Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
StarOcean: Second Story (Playstation)
Jungle and/or Desert Strike (Genesis)
World of Illusion Starring Mickey and Donald (Genesis)