#35 Sonic Adventure 2
Chosen by: Voodoo Groove, Rhete, Crono Maniac
Voodoo Groove - I'm sitting here, with this game, Sonic Adventure 2, very close to the top (bottom? whichever is closer to 1) of my personal list. It doesn't make sense, but somehow putting it anywhere else doesn't feel right. I played the ever-loving SHIT out of this game on the Sega Dreamcast, and then did it all over again for its rerelease on the Gamecube. The Sonic and Shadow levels are good, though not much better than they were in the first Sonic Adventure. Knuckles gameplay became slower and less fun. Tails became a nerfed E-102. But there's something about this game. The music is, like, seriously fucking sweet. I spent probably hundreds of hour raising chao. I practiced speedrunning levels. I started playing guitar because Sonic's brand of not-punk punk rock got me into actual punk rock. Why did this game affect me so? Why do I love this flawed beast that is Sonic Adventure 2?...
Rhete - The Sonic stages in this game sure are great. Shame about the rest huh?
Crono Maniac - What people miss from the Adventure games is the sincerity. Sonic Adventure 2 is a really dumb videogame, but it believes so wholeheartedly in itself and its vision that it's hard not to like it.
Chosen by: Bpwner, Zeloz, Dr. No
Bpwner - "Like, Panzer Dragoon... but, you're in a computer... and your shots are in time to the music... duuuuuuuuuuuude." I'm not sure how the actual pitch for Rez went, but that's what it feels like to play it. I guess your avatar's evolution is supposed to symbolize the raver's rapturous fusion with the electronic god head, just like the PS2 version's Trance Vibrator accessory is supposed to simulate getting groped on the dance floor by an overly friendly molly-dropper, or whatever you kids these days call them.
Zeloz - A rail shooter that just shakes one to the soul in it's presentation. The interplay between sound effects, music, and gameplay is masterful, and rather unique. This is easily my favorite of Sega's arcade-y, Dreamcast output from the late 90s/early 00s.
Dr. No - Rez was interesting in that it was a fairly trippy experience despite being a rail shooter. Normally I don't play too many on rail shooters but this one was pretty fun to play through overall. I'll always be fond of Stage 5's stage music.
#33 Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
Chosen by: Bpwner, Voodoo Groove, Rhete
Bpwner - You want a fucking party game? Here's your fucking party game. With 50+ characters, there's something here for everyone to enjoy, until you get that one friend in the joint who follows tourney strats and just uses Storm or Cable and takes things way to seriously. It was kind of a staple at high school (and later college) parties, and when the vanilla game got too boring for us, someone would always pop in their custom soundtrack ISO with Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. Oh, the Dreamcast and its shoddy copy protection, what a time to have lived through.
Voodoo Groove - Prepare to hear me wax nostalgic. In my youth I went on a family trip to Disney World and spent most of the week in the arcade playing this game. It became the first ever home console fighting game I ever owned, singlehandedly affecting my taste in games about as much as Pokemon Red and Sonic the Hedgehog did. I actually remember the day I learned how to do a quarter-circle forward motion, in training mode with Tron Bonne. It has a ton of awesome characters, it isn't balanced at all, people that play it are NUTS, and I love it. P.S. The soundtrack rules, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Rhete - It's a fighting game where you can play as Tron Bonne, what's not to love? I played the absolute hell out of this game single player, only one time ever seeing an arcade cabinet in the wild. I waited for the person playing it to get a hit away from losing to the CPU before jumping in, but then decimated him with my team of little girls, Sakura, Tron Bonne, and B.B. Hood. Good times!
#32 Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, Bpwner, jetstorm4
Pixel Crusher - One of the games that made me fall in love for JRPGs. It's quite unique in the many ways I can still remember.
Bpwner - This is the only game I played in the short-lived Shadow Hearts franchise, but boy, was it ever a thing to experience. What seems like a bog-standard JRPG on paper (and even fools you into thinking it's going to be such in the game's prologue mission) ends up being the most ridiculous experience that has no right to play it as straight as it does. The laundry list of weird shit you see or do in this game is kind of an in-joke between JRPG fans, but as badly acted and animated as some of the more emotional plot points are, they're made even or hilarious in light of the fact that just a few minutes ago you were collecting gay porn in order to get upgraded outfits for a little girl marionette that the weird old dude in your party uses as a weapon.
jetstorm4 - Such a crazy, over the top RPG. Shadow Hearts Covenant takes the JRPG tropes at their zaniest and plays the entire thing straight. What you get is a heartfelt story about a man who has gone through way too much suffering in his life finally picking up the pieces. Has one of the best casts of a JRPG that I can think of.
#31 Silent Hill 3
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Vanor Orion, Crono Maniac
Pauncho Smith - Silent Hill 3 occupies a bit of a weird space in the series. It isn't considered as groundbreaking as the first two Silent Hills, nor does it try to shake things up in the way that many of the later games in the series did (or attempted to do, sometimes with less than stellar results). Silent Hill 3 does play like a combination of the first two games, mixing the blood & rust motifs and cult themes of the first game, and the polished look, feel, and presentation of the second. The mood is a bit different this time around, as we shift from James' oppressive tale of guilt and inner turmoil, to Heather's quest to uncover her true past while trying to survive wave after wave of wretched "monsters" ("They look like monsters to you?").
I like Heather. She's not some macho SWAT team member or even a video game vixen, she's just a sassy teenager who drops some deliciously sarcastic lines in the face all the madness. And there WILL be madness, as this game goes all out the horror. The monsters are bigger and more numerous than in previous games, and you're forced to travel through some truly grotesque locations (hi there hospital mirror room, dead horse carousel, and the entire final area). The game gets legitimately challenging, especially towards the end, when every last blood-stained square inch of dwelling is patrolled by a monster of some kind, and you're down to the last couple of handgun clips and healing items. This might not be the most well-regarded entry in the series, but it's the one that left the biggest impression on me.
Vanor Orion - This game....this is hands down my favorite game in the series. This game scared me the most. It's also technically one of the most impressive videogames I've ever played, even by today's standards it still holds up VERY well. I also really like Heather as a protagonist. She starts the game off with a nightmare and it's all downhill from there. Going through a possessed mall, a fucking creepy sewer and subway system, an apartment from Hell, before even going to Silent Hill proper. And then when you think it can't get any worse....it does. Probably the most technically impressive feat in this game and one I've rarely seen any other game really replicate is the idea of organic architecture, bleeding walls, and just the sheer level of detail in every room in the game, even if it doesn't seem to serve a purpose for anything, it just fucks with your head. The story itself is another reason why I love this game, as I gradually got further in, I began realizing that this game was bringing up plot threads from the original game, until it became crystal clear that this game was a proper sequel to the original Silent Hill. Some people don't care for this, but I do, because as a huge fan of Babylon 5 I LOVE it when a series has continuity. Hitting the reset button every installment is fucking irritating and has the potential of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The little hidden nods to the prior game were really nice if you had a SH2 save on your memory card, something that I wish more games did. Or I should say, more MODERN games did. While I think SH2 is being sold online for RIDICULOUS prices, you can still get the PC version of SH3 for a reasonable amount the last time I checked, so definitely give it a shot if you haven't, it's hands down one of the best horror games ever made.
Crono Maniac - There's something inscrutable about Silent Hill 3. It's less inventive and affecting than its predecessors, but I don't have my head wrapped around it in quite the same way as with those games. It's the only one of the bunch that gave me nightmares, and that kinda scares me even now.
Maybe it's 'cause it's the hardest of the three. Or the stirring intro. Or the protagonist that isn't a milquetoast white dude. Or "they look like monsters to you?"
Silent Hill 3's predecessors are laser-focused, that's what makes them masterpieces. But in a way, 3's lack of precision makes it more mysterious and ethereal than those games. For that, the game is important to me.
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, jetstorm4, Dr. No
Pauncho Smith - For my money, this was the best Legend of Zelda game that ever came out on a Sony console. This was the game that I wanted Wind Waker to be (no tedious sailing voyages to be found here). The cel-shaded watercolor graphics are stunning, and the sense of scope that the game provides is simply vast. Roaming the Japanese folklore-inflected world is a pure joy, as you're uncovering secrets, running into all sorts of quirky characters, and using your powers to restore the world to its former pristine beauty. Each Guardian Tree revival results in the landscape being flushed by a tidal wave of color, which never ceases to be exhilarating. It's a nice way to squeeze in an environmental message in there without being too on the nose about it (you're also feeding hungry animals in exchange for stat-raising "Praise").
The main gimmick of the game, the Celestial Brush, is an avenue for so much in Okami. You use it to restore life to the flora and fauna on the map, solve puzzles in the game's numerous dungeons, and perform a wide range of devastating attacks on enemies in the heat of battle. Okami contains some of the 6th Generation's most memorable boss fights (although two bosses in particular are annoyingly reused multiple times over the course of the game), and vanquishing them provides relief and satisfaction in equal measure. The only real critique of the game is that it's maybe a little too long (clocked in close to 70 hours on my completed save file), and perhaps knocking off 15-20 hours wouldn't have hurt the game at all. Regardless, Okami still stands up as beautiful and unforgettable experience.
jetstorm4 - A fantastic adventure game along the lines of a Legend of Zelda. This is what I wanted from Twilight Princess- funny how it also has you play as a dog. Okami is a beautiful looking game that is reminiscent of watercolor Japanese art. The game has some clever puzzles and challenges involving brush techniques- using the Celestial Brush to slash, create bombs, and affect the environment. It's a good time especially if you want something different than a Zelda game for an adventure kick.
Dr. No - Okami was a graphical treat. It played as beautifully as it looked, and while some people will deride it as a Zelda clone, it's one of the finest clones out there because of its style and nicely done gimmick.
#29 Resident Evil
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Vanor Orion, Rhete
Pauncho Smith - I had never gotten around to playing the original Resident Evil, so I missed out on all the hokey FMV cut scenes and the so-awful-it's-amazing acting performances. I can't help but feel the this remake is the game that Capcom probably wanted to pump out the first time around, but had to deal with the reality of technical limitations. They certainly made the most of their mulligan, and the end result is a tense, unsettling, gorgeous-looking game. While I imagine some might have missed the goofier aspects of the original, that doesn't take away from the fact that this is the most fully-realized classic Resident Evil experience that's out there.
There is nowhere to hide in this game. Zombies will pursue you from room to room. Said zombies will also pull the nasty trick of mutating into faster, angrier "Crimson Heads", which likely scared the absolute shit out of folks who thought they knew what they were in for with this game. You had better hope that you got in a lucky headshot, or still have some kerosene and a lighter on hand, or you're in for a rather unpleasant time. I also find that there's a sort of elegance to this game, not only in how it looks, but how everything is paced and presented. Pure class wrapped up in one undead, bullet-riddled anxiety-inducing package.
Vanor Orion - This game was a remake done right. They don't change the very beginning up much, or the very end...but everything else in between got changed up A LOT. New parts of the Mansion were added, Lisa's disturbing ass and the whole Trevor family subplot which just makes shit even more creepy than it already was, new puzzles, and with the addition of Crimson Heads, a lethal new enemy to scare the shit out of you that wasn't in the original game. Factor in the absolutely jaw-dropping backgrounds and the beautiful character models (Jill's jugs jiggle jubilantly...) along with the fact that the graphical makeover also made the game MUCH more atmospheric and scary than it already was, and you have an old game that was literally made new again even for people that could play the original in their sleep.
Rhete - Quite literally this is the game that got me to buy a GameCube. I had to have it! It didn't disappoint either, a fantastic, scary as hell remake of the original Resident Evil. Just thinking about the crimson heads, or the Lisa Trevor arc sends shivers up my spine.
#28 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, Polly, Crono Maniac
Pixel Crusher - Unlike most who prefer Snake Eater, I always adored this particular entry in the series. I had absolutely nothing against Raiden and this is where Kojima began the series' never ending staircase of WTF moments.
Polly - This may very well be Kojima's masterpiece. While many may prefer the emotion and style presented with Metal Gear Solid 3, Metal Gear Solid 2 goes absolutely nuts with what it's trying to tell the player. Not the preachy bullshit that makes up this game's hour-long ending sequence, but what the game, its mechanics, and design decisions are saying directly to the player.
Crono Maniac - An End of Evangelion-level recontextualization of its predecessors, and a middle finger to their more close-minded fans. Birthed an entire generation of people Thinking Really Hard About Videogames.
#27 Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Chosen by: Carmichael Micaalus, Polly, Crono Maniac
Crono Maniac - Perfect and holistic. As self-assured in its design as games like Ikaruga and Tetris. One of the best games I've ever played, and one of my favorite stories.
(I haven't played any of the other Breath of Fire games, but seeing as their fans tend to hate Dragon Quarter I probably never will wholly out of spite.)
Carmichael Micaalus - One of my favorite PS2 games, and the last of the Breath of Fire series to be released. It was completely different from the rest of the BoF games, which earned it a lot of flack. In all honesty, it probably should have been a new series, but that's neither here nor there. A dark story with limited inventory, saves, steps, and a slew of other things meant you needed to pay attention to survive. Getting jumped in a random encounter could easily wipe you if you didn't keep your wits about you. While that style of play normally isn't my jam, it was still a fun game.
Polly - This is one I nearly missed out on, but thanks to our resident nice guy, John Thyer, I was able to play through this marvelous little underrated gem. Breath of Fire V threw everything people knew and loved about the RPG formula and the series as a whole right out the window without fear. It's a confidence you just don't see in AAA development these days. The end result is an RPG that was way ahead of its time and, in a way, predicted many trends in game mechanics that are commonplace today. Add that to a very well told story and you've got yourself an RPG you shouldn't miss out on. Even if you only try it and dislike it, I'm certain you'll at least see why Dragon Quarter is a pretty special game.
#26 Killer 7
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Pixel Crusher, Vanor Orion, Freezing Inferno
Pauncho Smith - This vulgar, incomprehensible mindfuck of a game remains as polarizing today as it was upon its initial release. Fans of the Suda51 opus praise the eye-catching art design, pulsating soundtrack, and complex story. Detractors took aim the repetitive gameplay, the movement restrictions placed on the player (the game effectively handles like a rail shooter), and........the complex story. What starts out as a tale of an assassination squad hired by the US Government to neutralize a terrorist organization, devolves into a mishmash of plot threads that include, but are not limited to: US-Japanese relations, religious cults, child trafficking for black market organ harvesting, cosplayers with machine guns, homicidal sentai characters, and much, much more.
In my view, Killer 7 really holds up better as something that is to be experienced, rather than played. Granted, it is fun to blow away Heaven Smiles while your character spits out one of a number of rather crude one liners. But on the whole, gameplay takes a backseat; it's just little more than a vehicle to transport you from one incoherent, fucked-up scene to the next. If that's the mindset you go into Killer 7 with, then things will likely be a bit more palatable for you. If you want a bit more substance in your gameplay, well, that's what you have No More Heroes for.
Pixel Crusher - Suda51 is a crazy man with a crazy mind full of crazy ideas and this crazy game of his is what served as his introduction to me. In essence, Killer7 is a third-person rail-shooter with a wacky plot full of mind-screwing moments and weird cast of characters in an awesome way.
Vanor Orion - It's been a while since I last played this, but damn is it hard to forget. This game was so balls-to-the-wall batshit insane and random....but yet at the same time, not. Lost inside of this cacaphony of crazy events, there IS a fucking coherent story happening. Only several chapters are truly dedicated to the overall story of the Killer 7 while several focus on a few of them resolving past wrongs (such as Dan Smith and Curtis Blackburn). The game has a very unique and incredible cel-shaded art style that gave itto this daya very distinct look. Probably the only thing that surpasses the art is the sound design and music, as both work in concert with the visuals to create very memorable setpieces.
The gameplay itself is pretty simplistic, and is clearly just there to add to the weird and surreal nature of the game and its story. While the game definitely has some WTF goofy parts, there is some VERY disturbing and unsettling shit that happens in this game, either on screen, or heavily inferred in the game itself that makes Seven look like a day at Disneyland. Probably the thing that best sums up the game is the part where you watch Andrei Almeida getting off while a concert stadium blows up behind him. Oh yeah, and the voice acting is fucking superb, and may be the best in any video game I've ever heard, bar none.
Freezing Inferno - This game is just weird. Weird as all fuck. Then again, what Suda51 game isn't? I dig how hyper-stylised it is, and the Heaven's Smiles are especially creepy. A nice change of pace for Nintendo during the Gamecube days, but then again I wasn't playing Gamecube during the Gamecube days except for multiplayer stuff at people's houses. Killer 7 wasn't until later, and I'm glad I snagged it for like 5 bucks.
#25 Jet Set Radio
Chosen by: Bpwner, jetstorm4, Voodoo Groove, Rhete
Bpwner - The Dreamcast had a reputation as "that console with the really quirky games." So in an era of Tony Hawks and Dave Mirras with their 360-fakie-watermelon-slap-your-grandma-upside-the-head-with-a-bologna-shove-it-nose-grinds, here comes this weird cel shaded thing where you spraypaint stuff to hip-hop music in a stylized vision of futuristic Japan (or as the locals call it, simply "Japan"). Parts of it haven't aged well, indeed a lot of the skating mechanics used to navigate through the levels make it feel like a janky and inertial platformer, but Jet Set Radio has to be given kudos for taking the kinds of risks that no one else did, which was the modus operandi of some of Sega's more memorable Dreamcast titles. Something more intangible that it represents is a window into a space that's alien from your own, all you had to do to escape your high school existence in a superrural (because suburban is too much of a compliment) Georgia town was plunk down your part-time job money an this wacky game from Japan and let it transport you to the neon funky fresh future.
jetstorm4 - A long time ago, if you told me I would love a game about graffiti, roller skates, marking territory, and running from the fuzz, I would have called you crazy. Nonetheless, here we are. Jet Grind Radio (as I know it) is a fun, arcade like game that gets me pumped every time I play it. Wanting to tag everything I get my hands on (It's a good thing I read the warning at the game's beginning huh?). The soundtrack is gorgeous.
Voodoo Groove - Stylish and fun, though I prefer the soundtrack and faster pace of the sequel a little more. I do like the spraypainting minigame when tagging compared to the constant spray-and-go of its successor, at least on the big canvases. I think this game is a good representative of the nature of the Dreamcast; innovative, arcade-y and ostentatiously radical, but ultimately overlooked.
Rhete - Still the most stylish game in existence. One of the greatest soundtracks ever, cool as hell characters, innovative cel shading, and controls and difficulty that will have you screaming at the TV.
#24 Kingdom Hearts
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, jetstorm4, Freezing Inferno, Zeloz
Zeloz - This game was quite the gut-punch for me, in a variety of ways. I wasn't expecting the game to be so affecting when I first played 13 years ago, and I wasn't expecting to love it even more after having played its more polished, but comparatively cluttered and soulless successors. Even now, when composing my personal list of Gen 6 favorites, I hadn't expected to rate this one so highly. Thinking back, though, I can't say any other game this generation has stuck with me in the same way. This game was a revelation for me, a small, simplified glimpse into the world of JRPGs that my older brother seemed to be so enamored with. It became pretty clear, after renting it a second time to see the game to its conclusion, that I was also enamored.
Pixel Crusher - An unlikely crossover that combined Final Fantasy's melodrama with Disney's magical worlds. Gameplay-wise, it hasn't aged that well, but rest of the game more than makes up for it, specially considering on how dumb the sequels can get in terms of difficulty and anime bullshit, despite boasting better combat.
jetstorm4 - While the second game holds more weight with most, I prefer the simplicity of Kingdom Hearts. Before the series became bogged down with action commands, people in black cloaks, and (hilariously) serious story beats, Kingdom Hearts was an answer to the question: "What if Sephiroth and Whinne the Pooh were in the same universe?" Still a special game for me (although you should probably just play the PS3 version).
Freezing Inferno - I had fun with it. I haven't played the twelve billion sequels and spin-offs so let's judge it for what it is. Gonzo fanfiction that plays decently well. There's lots of cool Disney worlds and also insufferable ones (MONSTRO) but all in all it's a decent lil action RPG that, as near as I can tell, isn't too far up its own ass just yet. Maybe a little but that's okay.
#23 Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Pixel Crusher, Polly, Dr. No
Pauncho Smith - So let me get this straight, you're telling me that there's an M-rated psychological horror-themed game, which includes allusions to Lovecraftian elder gods, all sorts of 4th-wall breaking mind games, and it's published by NINTENDO? This was something I had to see to believe, and happily, it didn't disappoint. Starting out in a (relatively, by horror game standards) quaint Rhode Island mansion, you get your hands on a creepy-ass book (Tome of Eternal Darkness) and are pulled into a conflict between ancient gods, which spans the globe over the course of centuries. You take control of a dozen characters, each with their own abilities and back-stories. It is through their experiences that you slowly unravel the mystery behind the horrors you face.
Setting and plot aside, the major feature that Eternal Darkness brought to the table was the "Sanity Meter" mechanic. Each time you encounter an enemy or take damage, your sanity decreases. This initially results in some minor effects like a tilted camera angle, or chimes and whispers playing in the background. Lose even more sanity, and you'll be subject to primal screaming, blood dripping from walls, characters spontaneously exploding, the game even threatens to erase your save file! Eternal Darkness took delight in fucking with the player, and it's odd to me that similar types of mechanics didn't show up too much in other games. Perhaps it's a hard act to follow, especially since Eternal Darkness did it all so well.
Pixel Crusher - One of the best uses of Cthulhu mythos ever. A fine game filled with many unexpected gameplay twists, the best melee combat ever executed in the genre and an immersive atmosphere that many of the horror games of today fail to get right. To quote from Noah Antwiler: "God I love this game! I'd have sex with it if my dick fitted in the disc".
Polly - This game is nothing what I expected when I picked it up back in the day. I'd somehow managed to remain completely unspoiled on all the fun tricks and plot twists this game has in store for anyone daring to pick up the controller and play. Many have tried, but there's still nothing quite like Eternal Darkness in the survival horror/adventure genre.
Dr. No - Eternal Darkness was a game I was really hyped for and it did really a good job of being creepy without being completely in your face about it. The sanity effects were quite unique and I really wish other horror games had studied and used this mechanic more often along with the rest of the game playing damn well. I really wish SK had made more of these type of games honestly.
#22 Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, jetstorm4, Freezing Inferno, Dr. No
Pixel Crusher - Despite of all the grind it carries, the game is as enjoyable as one would come to expect from any installment of Square-Enix's classic world of sword and sorcery that doesn't start with final and end in fantasy.
jetstorm4 - Here's a game I sunk hours into upon release. My uncle picked the game up on a whim, but wasn't too impressed with it so he lent it to me. I sunk everything into this game. The world, story, characters, and humor all spoke to me at the time of it's release. It was a step up in difficulty from what I was playing at the time as well. Definitely a game that prepared me for future RPGs I would come to love.
... maybe I should give that copy back to him...
Freezing Inferno - Dragon Quest has always prided itself on being a reliable little series that gives people exactly the right kind of old-timey RPG they desire. Whereas 1, 3, and 5 are decidedly pure, 8 takes the approach of being pure but also being really goddamn beautiful? It looks pretty, and now that they're actually able to use Sugiyama's orchestral music, it has a flourish to it. Definitely a game that leaves an impression.
Dr. No - Every so often I fell into a bit of a slump whenever JRPGs are concerned back in this generation. This game felt like the old school JRPGs of past generations, it had a long spiraling adventure with really excellent music. The characters were also quite enduring as well, they were quite fun to play with. Sometimes just going back to the basics was refreshing enough for it to be a new experience for me personally.
#21 Touhou Eiyashou ~ Imperishable Night
Chosen by: Polly, Zeloz, Rhete, Crono Maniac
Polly - HERE! HAVE ALL THE BULLETS AND LASERS AND BUNNY RABBITS STEALING THE MOON BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW! I fuckin' love this game. It was the most refined Touhou game of the time and it's still amazing.
Zeloz - Without a doubt, my favorite of the pre-Subterranean Animism Touhous, and it has some of the same traits that made that later game such a fun ride. It's a game that starts off meandering, but nicely ramps up things by the third stage, when the "race against time" theme ZUN conveys to the player really makes itself apparent through the music and intensifying enemy patterns. This feeling doesn't let up until the final, seemingly unwinnable fight against Kaguya and her "5 Impossible Requests" (if you take her route, though Eirin's a cool fight, too). A solid main game and the spell card practice mode (a good way to quickly jump into the game's juicy bits) make this an essential entry in the Touhou franchise.
Rhete - I could write a novel about how much I love this game. It not only got me into Touhou but back into shmups in general. Imperishable Night also jam packed with content, with 4 playable teams, 8 solo characters, two different stage 4 bosses, two different stage 6s, last words, and spell practice mode (which is practically an entire game itself). There's also the Extra stage, which was the first one in the series I managed to beat, after weeks of practice.
Crono Maniac - No other shmups craft bullet patterns as expressive and lovely as the Touhou games', and Imperishable Night is one of the best of the bunch. A favorite set-piece early on is during the second boss fight, when the lights turn off and you can only see in a small circle around your character. The game is full of amazing touches like that, right up to its last moments.
#20 Silent Hill 2
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Pixel Crusher, Vanor Orion, Crono Maniac
Pauncho Smith - The super-sad game for super-sad people. Despite technically falling into the "Survival Horror" genre, Silent Hill 2 really doesn't go for scares in the same way its contemporaries do. Granted, there are still all sorts of freaky, vaguely-sexual creatures running around every decrepit street corner and building, but the emphasis here is on creating tension through mood and atmosphere, which the game has in spades. You're constantly on edge, especially since you're hearing enemies long before they're within your field of vision (gotta love that draw distance-hiding fog). Your fellow actual humans do little to alleviate the situation, as their personal histories are just as sordid and sorrowful as James Sunderland's.
And really, that's what makes Silent Hill 2 what it is; the personal stories. Each character is carrying some kind of guilt or trauma that is warping their worlds into an unfathomable hell. You are witness to the slow disintegration of James and the others, as they are gradually crushed by the weight of their respective pasts. Guilt and punishment are recurring themes and the game does everything it can to reinforce them, via dialogue, memos you read, locations you visit, to messages scrawled on the wall that lament the fact that James hasn't died already. It's not my favorite Silent Hill, but it sure as hell the most effective at what it set out to do.
Pixel Crusher - A fascinating game with a memorable story and cast that make it stand out and deservingly so as one of the pinnacles,if not the pinnacle, of horror gaming.
Vanor Orion - While this game isn't a direct sequel to the original, it does expand greatly on the lore and background of Silent Hill, as we explore parts of the town we were not privy to in the original game. James gets a letter from his dead wife telling him she's waiting for him back in Silent Hill...OR IS SHE? This game has a really damn good story, but only because the rest of the game does such a good job of making you think more about it AFTER the fact. Another great and scary thing about this game is that while it isn't exactly open-ended, you have enough free reign to backtrack and explore that it is genuinely unsettling when you return to certain places only to find that things have changed (like the writing at Bar Neely's), which leads one to wonder what else may have changed as events have unfolded within the game, exciting the imagination further...something that was almost totally lost on the post Team Silent games. While this isn't my favorite in the series, it's still a damn great horror game, and absolutely deserves the praise it gets.
Crono Maniac - This game was the first time I seriously engaged with subtext and what a story has to say. It's a beautiful experience, one that still resonates with me deeply.
#19 God Hand
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, Pixel Crusher, Vanor Orion, Dr. No
Pauncho Smith - Looking back at its initial release, God Hand was a true anomaly. It was a beat-em--up (a genre that was all but dead at the time), and was in three dimensions (go ahead, try coming up with a list of 10 really good 3D beat-em-ups, I'll be waiting). It was also Clover Studios' follow-up to the acclaimed and gorgeous Okami, and God Hand was decidedly NOT a graphical and artistic showcase. What God Hand ended up being was brutally hard, aggressively goofy and irreverent game that simultaneously went over everyone's head and under everyone's radar. An absolutely scathing IGN review at the time didn't help matters much, but the game's reputation has thankfully recovered in recent years and is considered one of the best hidden gems the PS2 had to offer.
From the lowliest henchman to the most intimidating boss, your adversaries constantly keep you on your toes with their sheer numbers and brute force. Fortunately, you're no slouch in the face-punching department either, and can pull off all sorts of mind-bending punches, kicks, strikes, dodges, and some hilariously devastating special attacks (Dragon Kicking someone into orbit never gets old). The characters you fight are gloriously insane, from the obese, cigar-chomping Mexican-Buddhist fighter Elvis, to a wrestling mask-wearing gorilla, to the ever diminutive (and ever obnoxious) Mad Midget Five. God Hand certainly straddles the line of good taste (with perhaps Mr. Gold and Mr. Silver being the most likely to stoke ire), but it's never serious, and you're always in on the joke. If you can make it past the steep learning curve, then this is one you'll grow to love.
Pixel Crusher - A love-letter (parody?) to Fist of the North Star by Resident Evil's very own Shinji Mikami.
Vanor Orion - This game wastes no time getting to the point. You go into a bad part of town...which is pretty much every town in this game that you go to, and you start beating the unholy hell out of anybody that looks at you wrong with your roided out God Arm. I don't think I've played a game where beating the shit out of somebody was so satisfying save maybe for Yakuza. Mash that Circle button and knee that asshole's skull a hundred times! Mash Circle and barrage that lard ass's jelly rolls with your fists! Mash that Circle button and give that dominatrix a lot better than she gave you! In between your mission to kick the shit out of every bad guy and gay demon on Earth, you can unwind at the local casino and gamble your life savings away at Poker or Blackjack, or go risk it all on a round of Chihuahua racing. Buy new awesome moves like the Pimp Hand or Pay Up NOW! Also, the most awesome credits theme in gaming history.
Dr. No - God Hand was a weird as hell game when I played through it, but I always recognized the charm that it showed off. The game allowed you to make your own move set and allowed you to go through a variety of stages. To me, this was Clover Games' best game because they decided to go balls to the wall with how much camp was in this game.
#18 Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening
Chosen by: Voodoo Groove, Vanor Orion, Polly, Dr. No
Voodoo Groove - Still the standard by which I measure character action games. It has the best array of weapons in a DMC game (tri-nunchaku. Seriously, more games need nunchaku) and on top of that a style system that encourages experimentation and replayability. Difficult, but rewarding and so smooth. Dante's badass persona is so hard to take seriously because he's basically a bishie ninja turtle and that makes him all the more enjoyable.
Vanor Orion - This game had one of the best trailers in gaming history. It HAD to be awesome because the game before this was such a fucking massive let down it was impossible to articulate by any method known to humans. This game wasn't just a sequel, or a prequel, it was an apology AND a love letter to the fans of the original game who got burned by the second game being a blase forgettable mess. It's also worth pointing out that both this and MGS3 came out around the same time, and both were prequels, and both were, unlike the Star Wars prequel, REALLY great.
You play as a younger Dante, a more brash and arrogant badass who hadn't yet tempered himself into the suave, nonchalant death machine that we would eventually play as in the first game. This game wastes no time letting you know that it's giving you both barrels of awesome by opening the first stage with a jaw-dropping cutscene full of over-the-top insane action, and follows that up by letting you DO THAT SHIT in the first stage. The various Styles this game introduced make it fucking awesome in that you can play however you want, and look like a badass at the same time. Wanna ride on a hapless badguy while shooting your guns everywhere? Pick Gunslinger. Wanna run on walls like this is The Matrix and warp around like Nightcrawler? Pick Trickster. Then you bring back some awesome and entertaining villains who make up some very awesome boss fights, some of which culminates with you earning awesome new weapons like talking dual swords and a fucking succubus that turns to a lightning guitar. Speaking of which, this game also has one of the BEST soundtracks in any video game ever. Everything about this game is fucking awesome and the gameplay itself being so damned satisfying was just the cherry on this sundae. Hands down not just one of the best action games on the PS2, but one of the best in the genre, period.
Polly - This game made me its bitch over and over and over, and I kept coming back because I KNEW I had what it took to overcome the monstrous challenges this game can throw at you. The depth of this game's mechanics are still absolutely impressive today, and I can't think of an action game that's really come close to it and managed to also be as accessible as DMC3.
Dr. No - DMC3 is perhaps my favorite example of when players and developers can work together to make a game that will rock the house. After the 2nd DMC almost killed off the DMC series, the 3rd was made from input from veteran players and devs that were listening to these suggestions. The result was a game that has one of the best action game combat systems of all time as you can literally make any kind of combo you want to make. Combine that with a return to form with Dante giving out the usual smack talk to bosses and you got yourself a damn great game that was made by the players, for the players.
#17 Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
Chosen by: Bpwner, jetstorm4, Vanor Orion, Dr. No
jetstorm4 - Here it is, the big one for me. A post-appocalyptic setting, Pokemon-esque demon collecting and fusing, an easy to learn but difficult to master battle system, and a rocking soundtrack? It has everything I love. Nocturne is structured much like an epic poem: it focuses more on the journey through this world rather than developing the main characters. While the characters do have revelations near the end, creating the SMT alignments, it's less focused on, especially if you go for the True Demon Ending, as that has it's own revelations. SMT Nocturne remains to me my favorite RPG on the PS2 and my favorite game on the system.
Bpwner - I spent about 90 hours on Persona 3, and while I was generally positive on the demon fusion and the combat, I found the story lacking in some areas and the dating sim aspect padded things out just a wee bit too much. I picked up Nocturne not too long after, and quickly realized that THIS was the experience I had wanted out of Persona 3. An oppressive atmosphere and plotline that I don't think I've seen a single game within or outside of the SMT franchise quite match, the fun and exploitable Press Turn combat system, fine-grained customization over your main character's abilities, and all the demon fusions we know and love. Make no mistake though, this game is a tough son of a bitch, and even if you've got the back-and-forth of buffs and debuffs down to a science in some of the more bullpoopy boss fights, there's just so much crap to miss in this game that I can't imagine the kind of person who has the time on their hands to see all of the game's multiple endings without the benefit of a guide.
Vanor Orion - Okay, I fucking cheated. I had that bible-thick strategy guide for this game. I used it. Although it was mainly to help get 100% completion and all the Magatama BECAUSE FUCK THAT STUPID BLOCK PUZZLE SHIT. This game's plot is very sparse and minimalistic. At the same time a lot of stuff is conveyed visually and in metaphor. I remember someone saying once that descending deeper into the Labyrinth of Amala was symbolic of being tempted by the Fruit of Knowledge....which considering who is waiting for you at the fucking bottom of that place, isn't a difficult conclusion to arrive at.
This game isn't perfect. It has it's issues. But I have to admit that this might be one of my favorite MegaTen games I've played. The soundtrack grew on me after awhile, and now it's one of my favorites, bar none. And quite frankly, there's nothing more badass than becoming a part man, part demon, and being able to summon the minions of hell to your side to kick ass. I'm quite frankly amazed that nobody's ever tried to make a movie or TV show out of this stuff yet.
Dr. No - SMT3 is one of the best RPGs on the PS2, not only was it a nice change from most RPGs in that the normal strategies from most RPGs didn't work as well in it such as debuffs being actually important during boss battles, it also had a really nice design and soundtrack. The story itself was one of the most interesting compared to most other RPGs as the world was already destroyed but it's up to you to shape how the new world will be.
#16 Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Chosen by: Pauncho Smith, jetstorm4, Voodoo Groove, Polly, Freezing Inferno
Pauncho Smith - At this point, I figure that if I'm never going to get a proper follow-up to Super Mario RPG, the least Nintendo could give me was a Mario game with a professional wrestling storyline in it (you know me too well Nintendo, you know me too well). Thousand-Year Door doesn't deviate too much from its N64 predecessor, maintaining the vibrant presentation, the puzzle-platforming-themed dungeons, and the fantastic writing, which can be downright hilarious at spots. Basically, everything that worked previously has been expanded upon and refined here.
I find that this game gets so many of the little things right. The Glitz Pit promoter tells you what to do in all of your matches (like an actual wrestling booker), and you have to avoid backstage sabotage (just like in an actual wrestling angle). It's also quite humorous to see how flirty Mario's female teammate seem to get with him (Goombella offers a quick peck, while Madame Flurrie and Ms. Mowz are a bit more aggressive). Also, Bowser talks to Peach posters, just like the fucking weeaboo freak show that he is.
jetstorm4 - A sequel superior to the original in every way possible. Of the JRPGs I pick, it has one of the best ideas for combat- stage shows where appealing to the audience grants bonuses. Bosses even eat the spectators sometimes! One of the best paced stories of any Mario game as well (although I prefer Super Paper Mario for story, that's another list though).
Voodoo Groove - Still waiting on Nintendo to make another good Paper Mario game. Come on, guys! But I digress. Thousand-Year Door is the perfect Mario RPG. It's cute, the dialogue is funny (if ever so voluminous at times), the battles are consistently fun, and I've always loved the series' levelling and badge systems. There's a wide array of charming characters, enough that almost everyone is likeable, and the game as a whole is just pleasant. It doesn't have the huge nostalgic effect on me like some of the other games on my list, but its honestly an incredibly well put-together game. It's not easy to say how they could've done it better.
Polly - Yeah, it's basically the original Paper Mario again, but way, waaay better and with so much more charm. This is the game where I feel Nintendo's localization team really developed their style and it's a pleasant style that persists in all their releases today.
Freezing Inferno - The best Paper Mario has ever been, so says someone who has only beaten this Paper Mario. I mean, Paper Mario's gone all odd and different lately. This is classic, though. Refined and lovely, with all sorts of cool shit and cool partners. Vivian is best girl. Bobbery is best bomb. Is best bomb a thing? IT IS NOW!
Chosen by: jetstorm4, Polly, Rhete, Crono Maniac
jetstorm4 - The shoot 'em up that not only got me into other shoot 'em ups, but remains to be my favorite of them. If you've never played Ikaruga, it's a game where you control a ship that can switch colors- polarities- that
will absorb shots of the same color. As a Treasure game goes- it starts simple with a mechanic, and builds as the game continues, forcing you to switch polarities fast and dodge white bullets as you absorb the black and
vice versa. While short, it's worth playing multiple times to get the best score. It's also fun with a friend.
Polly - Ikaruga is almost more of a puzzle game than it is a shooter, which has left the shmup community torn on the game since its release. Not only are the polarity changing and scoring system fun to interact with, but Ikaruga is also ridiculously gorgeous in every sense of the word.
Rhete - The legendary polarity switching shmup by Treasure that literally everyone seems to know even if they can't name a single other shmup. Getting a good chain in this, while basically memorization, feels so damn good. The soundtrack is also great, and the final level is just pure elegance.
Crono Maniac - Ikaruga made me realize that "video-gamey" games could still tell layered, resonant stories. It's a twenty minute long shmup with no text outside of chapter titles (at least in the GameCube version), with razor-sharp level design and the smartest approach to shooting in the genre. It also serves as a lovely little reincarnation allegory that only gets more moving the more you stew on it. It's an eternal videogame.
#14 Cave Story
Chosen by: Polly, Freezing Inferno, Zeloz, Rhete, Crono Maniac
Polly - You can keep your boring old, watered down Symphony of the Night rehashes. I'll be over here playing the infinitely superior game.
Freezing Inferno - It's like if a one-man band created a fuckin' symphony. Cave Story is just... wow. Holy shit, it's just the best. I don't think anyone quite knew what to make of it back in the day, and it getting all sorts of official releases later down the line is excellent news because now it's more accessible. It's just a game you gotta play if you dig like... Super Metroid and Undertale. I guess.
Zeloz - I've heard this game described as being like Super Metroid or Post-Symphony Castlevania, but I'm convinced it's got more in common with Mega Man Zero 1, occasionally with the messy and craggy level design of Metroid II. With both being some of my favorite games ever, Cave Story is an obvious shoe-in for me. And that's not even touching on the surprisingly emotional aspects of the narrative, or how it seems like every character in the game has a clearly defined personality and ambition. And it hides its depth and complexity underneath a thin faux-retro veneer, accomplishing way more than many later games adopting the same style.
Rhete - A masterpiece of game design, story, and music all coming together to form a nearly flawless experience. The final level when going for the true ending is hard as hell pushes the player to the absolute limit, and is incredibly satisfying to finally overcome.
Crono Maniac - For whatever reason, whenever I think of Cave Story I think of that first climb up the island's outer wall. Maybe it's the loaded choice that comes right before it. Or the subtle revelation about the nature of the game's setting. Let's face it, it's probably the song.
#13 Phantasy Star Online
Chosen by: jetstorm4, Polly, Zeloz, Rhete, Dr. No
Polly - The bottom line is that if it wasn't for this game, this community may very well not exist. The people I met, the experiences I had, and lasting bonds that were created thanks to endless hours playing this game are something I hold very dear. Oh, and the game's pretty fun too.
Episode 1 & 2 is a more refined and fleshed out take on the Dreamcast's most ambitious game. Episode 1 & 2 is just a very smart and pretty well thought out upgrade to a game that needed just a little more time in the oven, and the time it got for the GameCube and Xbox release paid off.
Rhete - The game that changed everything. Online multiplayer wasn't a thing before this game, PSO felt like the future, because it was. Insanely addictive gameplay that I still find myself going back to every couple of years with friends. PSO is timeless.
Dr. No - Without this game, I probably wouldn't be here! PSO was a great game for its time and it still stands up to a certain degree even today. The most enduring thing about PSO was its tagline of "You're not the only hero" which was a representation of the community in PSO was from all around the world, and while it's a shame that Sega today no longer cares about the international side of the PS community, I will always remember PSO for what it had brought to the table and what it did for online gaming in general. This game was also my gateway into just interacting with online communities in general.
jetstorm4 - My experience with PSO mostly comes from the Gamecube version, but this is for the whole thing, as I've sunk time into the Dreamcast version as well. While not what we think of Online RPG today- PSO is a really fun game to sink time into- a dungeon crawler where you go in with people and get loot, equip better weapons, and get back in there for more loot. While I prefer the classic Phantasy Star more, PSO is still a fantastic experience. Playing on SMPSBB servers now is still some of the best time.
Zeloz - Considering how there probably wouldn't be a SocksMakePeopleSexy or a Gen 6 list if not for this game, guess it's kinda important maybe? xD
My only interaction with this game was with a fanmade PC Ver.2 client, very briefly playing on the SCHTHACK server. But I'll give it kudos for not being an MMO with a completely vapid macro-hotkey bullshit fighting system. It plays kind of like something I'd want to play on a console! Which is fitting, since it is an MMO designed specifically for consoles! I also love the look of the game, a sort of visual design that's still really evocative of the late-90s/early 00s. The music makes for some easy listening, too.
#12 Sonic Adventure
Chosen by: Pixel Crusher, jetstorm4, Voodoo Groove, Zeloz, Rhete, Crono Maniac
Pixel Crusher - Most people could argue that this game hasn't aged well and that it began the beloved mascot's downward spiral into mediocrity. Camera problems aside, I think it still holds up well.
jetstorm4 - I can't avoid this one. I love Sonic Adventure. I don't care if it's actually bad (because there are parts that are), I still pull this game out and give it a play through every once in a while. It's also special as it was the game that introduced me to the world of importing- as I played it before it came to the US when my uncle imported it.
Voodoo Groove - Do I need to defend myself? I feel like I need to defend myself. I personally think that Sonic controls really well in this game, better than any other 3D Sonic title. In fact, I wish they did more with the "adventure stages" so you could navigate more large, open areas with Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Heck, barring Big the Cat, playing as the side characters is actually fun. Besides the often poor camera and occasional glitches, many of the Sonic and Tails levels have cool designs and are awesome to tear through. No doubt nostalgia plays a factor in my love for this game, but I think once you dig a bit this game has some good fun to offer.
Zeloz - God, this game is a mess. But I can't bring myself to hate it. I just can't. As sloppily put-together as this game seems, with its troublesome camera, occasionally lethal level geometry, and odd physics, some quality about it I can't elegantly put to words kept me from dropping the game entirely before playing everyone's routes. Perhaps it was just the novelty of watching time progress on a dopey little island from six different perspectives. Maybe it was because the game felt like an honest effort to translate Sonic's kinetic gameplay to a 3D space, even when other games were still struggling with doing the same. It could even just be because of the fantastic soundtrack. Sonic Adventure may not be a "good" game, but it's endearing and memorable, and honestly a bit lovable.
Rhete - Let's be honest, Sonic Adventure is... kind of rough. But it's a super endearing, charming sort of bad. The part where you play it is eh, but I love the story and how all the character arcs intermingle with each other, the music, especially the main character themes, It all comes together in a really clever way that ends up being far greater than it has any right to be.
Crono Maniac - Sonic 2 pushed the limits of what the first game's conceptual framework was capable of, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles shoved them as far as they could possibly go. After the three Genesis games there was nothing left for the series to say, not without drastically reinventing itself. So, after largely taking the Saturn era off, that's exactly what it did.
Can a game succeed solely on the strengths of its holistic vision, its artistic conscience, its open heart? How much can it resonate when all its individual pieces are assembled so clumsily? A lot as it turns out, at least for me. Sonic Adventure is a mess, but a precise mess, and it's a story I'm glad to have experienced.
#11 Skies of Arcadia
Chosen by: Bpwner, jetstorm4, Carmichael Micaalus, Polly, Rhete, Dr. No
Bpwner - Until I saw a preview for Skies of Arcadia on Planet Dreamcast, the only two JRPGs that existed as far as I was concerned were Phantasy Star IV and Shining Force 2. Anime sky pirates is a novel enough concept to at least garner a cursory glance, but when I got my hands on the game proper, it blew away the kinds of hang-ups I had that had kept me from getting into other genre entries like your Final Fantasies or your Chrono Triggers. The main combat system of Skies is nothing special, but the world it presents is so rich with treasures and discoveries to be found, endearing characters, and just great MOMENTS that etch it into my memory alongside some of the most definitive gaming experiences of my youth. I still love how the boss battle music changes based on how well you're doing, the feeling of satisfaction when you unleash the Moonstone cannon on a fucker, the goofy smile that seeing the crew members you've recruited throughout the game executing a summon attack evokes. I was even hooked enough to play that stupid VMU minigame in order to farm extra items and crystals to feed to Cupil. This one hasn't had the repeat plays that PSIV did, I did play through it once more in college, and it was every bit as good as I remembered.
jetstorm4 - My favorite Dreamcast RPG- Skies of Arcadia is a massive game when it opens up. A fantastic world of islands floating in the sky, air pirates, and a fun cast of characters. Skies of Arcadia delivers in every aspect I look for in an RPG- especially a fun battle system not just with characters, but with Sky Pirate Ships! I hear the Gamecube version is good too, but I have little experience with it. Besides, you'll miss out on an excellent feature the Dreamcast version has- telling you when a random encounter is about to happen when the disc starts loading (kidding!)!
Carmichael Micaalus - I don't remember much aside from Belle. No, jokes aside, a pretty neat game with pirates and airships! It had a lot of problems, like unreliable rezzing, and really bad random encounter rates, but the base building and story were fun times all around. Prrrobably should get around to trying to finish it, really!
Rhete - I wish more games had unique settings like this. I don't remember much about this game, but I do remember being obsessed with the idea of SKY PIRATES for months afterwards. It's just so cool!
Dr. No - SoA is one of my favorite RPGs ever, I really loved the theme of exploration that was constantly present through the game. One of the other things I genuinely enjoyed about SoA was that the cast felt very nicely written in combination with the story. Vyse for example was a great example of a hero who was fearlessly optimistic without being completely obnoxious. I also enjoyed the ship battles and the combat system in general, I really wish that Sega would give this game a chance again.
Polly - The fact that this game hasn't seen a re-release on modern consoles or PC is a damn shame. Between this and Grandia II, it's a toss-up as to which is the better RPG.