This is where the list starts to get real. Things get serious. Lines get drawn. Feelings get hurt. The top 100 starts today with the first 25 games. 25 more will post tomorrow, and we start going one by one through the official top 25 on Sunday.
NOTE: Our list was created with the top 25 in mind, so while we used those rankings to go all the way through #100, this isn’t really a top 100 list. There are some strange choices in here because if an individual put a game in his or her top 25, it almost always had enough points to make the group’s top 100. So keep that in mind before you kill us because Superman 64 happened to end up as the 95th best game of all-time, okay? Please?
Without further ado, here are the games that made it in by the skin of their teeth:
100) TMNT: Turtles in Time (ARC/SNES)
Shaun: I used to be addicted to the Arcade Turtles — along with three different forms of methamphetamine — and this was their finest moment.
Dave: I don’t think I ever got farther than level 3 on this game, and yet I still would rank it higher than a lot of games on this list.
Chris: This is where I have to admit that I never really liked the Turtles, so I haven’t played any of their games (except their other arcade title). Oh well.
99) Snake (MOB)
Chris: There’s a badger badger joke here somewhere. If only I could think of it. MUSHROOM MUSHROOM? No, that’s not it.
Shaun: I mean…if this was a list of “best ways to cure insomnia,” I feel like Snake would be right at home. Along with “read a boring book” and “just try closing your eyes.”
Dave: Hey, the late ‘90s were a dark, dark time in mobile gaming. Just roll with it. That snake was HUNGRY!
98) Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (ARC/PS2/DC)
Shaun: Fast and fluid, MvC2 was responsible for many lost hours…and more than one broken controller.
Chris: I spent a ton of quarters on this game at the arcade. MvC2 manages to be great despite its horrible imbalance in character tiers.
Dave: I remember seeing a used copy of this game retail for about $75. It’s the first and only game I have ever seen appreciate in value…it totally blew my mind. And yet I’d still never buy it.
97) Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (PC)
Chris: Dark Forces II: Electric Boogaloo? That’s a game I might play.
Shaun: So is that all it takes? You throw “Jedi” and a roman numeral “II” in the title and you can make At The Buzzer’s top 100?
Dave: Who voted for this? I love the fact that Chris puts “Electric Boogaloo” after every sequel. It’s the little things, ya know?
96) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (GBC)
Shaun: The first Zelda I ever played, this title helped me fall in love with the franchise’s characters, gameplay, and lore. It also features what might be the best song in the entire series. Never forget the Ballad of the Wind Fish.
Chris: I have a hard time supporting games that end up playing the “it’s all a dream” card. I’m looking at you, Super Mario Bros. 2. Link’s Awakening is awfully endearing, though.
Dave: Get it? It’s all a dream, so he awoke!…to an awful game. I’m just kidding; it’s probably a really good game, but I had no Game Boy growing up.
95) Neverwinter Nights (PC)
Chris: I’ve always meant to give this game a shot, as it’s one of BioWare’s early successes. Now that I’ve actually tried a little bit of D&D, maybe the time is right.
Dave: Ahhh Neverwinter, just like where I live in sunny Phoenix. Can you tell I never played it?
Shaun: Almost makes me care enough to try PC gaming.
94) Metroid (NES)
Shaun: Hard. Hard hard hard. But very fun, and it nailed the isolated ambiance from the get-go.
Chris: WHOA MAN, CHECK OUT THAT PIXELATED BIKINI. This game sets the stage for one of the best series ever, and it’s tough as nails because there’s no map and barely any saving. Not much bad to say about it.
Dave: I always enjoyed how incredibly hard these old games were. Kids today complain about when their guy gets shot, only to have him respawn in the same spot. Imagine having to start the game from the beginning EVERY TIME.
93) Gunbound (PC)
Chris: jajajajajajajaja — sorry. Let’s just call this what it is: MMO Worms. Still, it’s a surprisingly deep system and it’s free, which is a great price point.
Dave: I think I saw Chris play this one once. There were worms and guns, and I was really confused. How is this on the top 100?
Shaun: Because shut up Dave. Chris and Nick had some sort of love affair with this game. Let’s just leave it at that…
92) Half-Life 2 (PC)
Shaun: The gravity gun, non-linear approach, and dynamic story helped completely reshape the FPS landscape. Plus Alyx is hot. Like Tifa.
Chris: Tifa’s breasts are the size of Alyx’s head. Which is to say I like Alyx better because she could actually be a real woman. HL2’s a great game — too bad the ATB folks aren’t PC gamers. It might have ranked higher otherwise.
Dave: Come on Chris, why do you have to be all “realistic” with video games? FREE TIFA’S BREASTS!!!…oh wait.
91) Condemned: Criminal Origins (360/PC)
Dave: I used to think the only games worth anything in the horror genre were Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but Condemned changed that. Ethan’s descent into madness following his investigation of crime scenes is quite the trip.
Chris: I felt bad for Ethan while I watched him descend into madness. I mean, cutting off a finger? That’s harsh. JASON! JASON! JASON! JASON! JASON! JASON! JASON! JAS–oh, wrong Ethan.
Shaun: They nailed tension and horror, and presented it in a way that I’m not sure was done before. And then the sequel, enjoying the success of the series, turned it into an absurd action game. NOW WHERE HAVE I HEARD THIS BEFORE?
90) Beetle Adventure Racing (N64)
Shaun: Are we joking now? Is this a joke? Or, like, a test to see if I’m paying attention?
Chris: You see, Shaun, sometimes beetles race, and when they do, it’s the ultimate adventure. So it actually makes a lot of sense.
Dave: Is this Beedle…like from Wind Waker? THHHHAAANNNKKK YOUUUUUUUUUU.
89) Rock Band 2 (360/PS3)
Chris: I love the Rock Band series, but this wasn’t one of my votes. RB2 did refine the already solid experience in 1. I think 3 is the definitive version, though.
Dave: The new drum peripherals allowed you to not drive people crazy with the hitting sounds; this, along with a better “career” mode, made this Rock Band my favorite. Also, I never bought Rock Band 3.
Shaun: Like all good fads, it spread like crazy and died just as fast, but damn if it wasn’t fun. Brushing the cobwebs off your old plastic instruments every once in awhile and giving it another go brings back some good memories.
88) Lost Odyssey (360)
Shaun: The game’s fun combat and interesting story are actually outshined by its professional level writing and fleshed-out side stories.
Chris: Loved the battle system, the music and the memories. Hated that the mortal characters were essentially useless, and the pacing was a little stilted. Still a game I really liked.
Dave: Yeah, I liked the Iliad more. I think.
87) Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
Chris: You see this game, and you wonder what the hell happened to Rare. This (along with Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, etc.) was the middle of a huge heyday, and now they’re dead. Fun fact: This sold the second-most copies of any SNES game.
Dave: A side scroller with cartoonish characters and remarkably fun levels. Then they went and created Donkey Konga…why???
Shaun: Once upon a time, before they secretly murdered their top developers, Rare was my favorite gaming company, and the SNES Donkey Kong series was a large reason why.
86) NBA 2K12 (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: Robust create-a-player options and faithful player animations make this the closest I’ll ever get to playing in the NBA.
Chris: Honestly, I feel like 2K11 did the most to revolutionize video game basketball (with its creative use of Jordan), but each subsequent game has been even better. So I’m torn.
Dave: I finally feel as frustrated playing video game basketball as I do playing real basketball. And I can’t be happier about it.
85) Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2)
Chris: Not that GTA 1 and 2 weren’t solid, but 3 is where the series explodes. Carjacking old women and running over prostitutes was just more fun in 3-D.
Dave: Real voices and an open world experience turned Grand Theft Auto from a fun little game to the cultural phenomenon that it is.
Shaun: Gaming’s boom in popularity — and in mainstream media — was thanks to Rockstar’s groundbreaking sequel. So good it spawned a deluge of sequels that, save for maybe the Saints Row titles, have not even come close.
84) Red Dead Redemption (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: Like the best Western characters, Redemption is tragic, complex, and lovably flawed. This “GTA with horses” is also the best game Rockstar has ever made, in my humble opinion.
Chris: Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of Westerns, but I loved the transition from sprawling city to sprawling wildlands. John Marston’s probably the best protagonist in a Rockstar game.
Dave: Go ahead Chris, make my day. CJ from San Andreas would like to have a word about this whole “Best Protagonist” thing.
83) Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (N64/PC)
Dave: I love Star Wars, but not because of the space ships. I’m amazed at how you can just slap a brand name on a game and then it sells.
Chris: I mean, you get to be Luke Skywalker and fly around the galaxy in your ship. It’s a solid base. I’m just not a big enough Star Wars fan to care.
Shaun: Rogue Squadron didn’t sell simply because of its brand name; it’s a very competent flight simulator (I use that term loosely). The sequel is far better in every way, but getting to take the helm for some of the Star Wars lore’s biggest battles is undeniably cool.
82) Diablo 2 (PC)
Dave: My roommate in college saw his life sucked away by Diablo 2. This was World of Warcraft before WoW was an option. A real life sucker.
Chris: My memory of this game will always be two math teachers at my high school playing this while we were taking tests. It was an early lesson that life isn’t always fair.
Shaun: Two things I know about this game. One: It appears to be some sort of sequel to a game called “Diablo.” Two: You don’t pronounce it “DIE-ablo.” I learned something today.
81) Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Shaun: Perfected puzzle gaming on the DS. While I wish more of the puzzles actually had some sort of plot context (you walked in this door. That reminds me of a puzzle!), it’s hard to deny the puzzles’ quality and variety.
Dave: Hey, a dead body! Here’s a puzzle with matchsticks! The loosely based plot just held a great puzzle game together that was mind-numbingly awesome.
Chris: A great game that I haven’t had a chance to dive into yet. I feel like I’m going to hate that kid, though. Just a hunch.
80) Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (GEN)
Shaun: Back in the days when Sonic was all about speed. And fun. It’s weird — it’s almost like those two are connected somehow…
Dave: Again, side scrollers are simple. How did the Sonic Team mess it up? The addition of Tails just made this one of the best. The levels are huge and you can take your time, or blow through them at warp speed. Your choice.
Chris: Sonic 3 refined the Sonic/Tails dynamic, but I think 2 is a better game in just about every other way. Great level design. Too bad they threw it all away.
79) Jedi Knight II: Outcast (PC)
Chris: Personally, I would have voted for Jedi Knight II: Outkast. Can you imagine it? Can you?
Dave: HEY YA! the Jedi Knight: Outkast and his padawan Ludicrous. That game might be #1.
Shaun: Oh yeah…I remember that one time…that Jedi…he was so outcast. More so than the first time, I would say.
78) Batman: Arkham Asylum (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: It’s like superhero BioShock. The best superhero game ever made.
Dave: Nananananananananana BATMAN!
Chris: Yes, Dave. Rocksteady nailed this: it captures the mood and ambiance perfectly. It’s everything that a Batman game should be. And the sequel might be even better.
77) WarCraft 3 (PC)
Chris: Look, I had a computer with a 100 MB hard drive when this came out. You read that correctly. So this wasn’t an option even if I had been interested.
Dave: I think I just have always preferred a science fiction game over medieval fantasy. I enjoy a good RTS, but never WarCraft.
Shaun: So like…this is before it became a World of WarCraft? Is this just a country of WarCraft at this point? Why is the “C” capitalized mid-word? I have so many questions.
76) Assassin’s Creed (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: Although its subsequent sequels executed the series’ ambitions far better (ZING), the success and introduction by the original made it possible.
Chris: A clever concept and a solid game, but never a series I’ve been all that interested in. I do like the idea of making people fight by throwing money to them from rooftops, though.
Dave: Nice pun there Shaun. I have always wanted to get into this series, mostly because I’m a history buff, even if it’s distorted.