This is where I think the list really starts to shine. I don’t think I have a problem with any game that made it into the top 50. This still isn’t the official part of the list, though — that starts tomorrow with our pick for the 25th best game of all-time. We go one-by-one through the rest of January from that point on.
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 35th best game of all-time, okay? Please?
Out of 167,429 video games ever made, these were among the 50 best:
50) Portal 2 (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: Multiply everything you loved about the original by about 10, and then throw in a more compelling story, sharper writing, new puzzle mechanics, and great new characters. Portal 2 is the love letter to fans they were hoping for.
Dave: They were actually able to turn this one into a full game. Wheatley is one of the most original, funniest characters created, and this game almost made me feel bad for GLaDOS…almost.
Chris: It had co-op, so obviously I loved it. I think the original has a little bit more charm, but the puzzles and potatoes were better in the sequel. Can’t help but wonder how good Portal 3 will be — OH WAIT IT’S VALVE THAT’LL NEVER HAPPEN.
49) Goldeneye 007 (N64)
Chris: A rare movie-to-game success and one of the first console multiplayer FPSs. But if you pick Oddjob or use the Golden Gun, you’re dead to me.
Shaun: Almost single-handedly revolutionized console multiplayer. Don’t tell Chris that Oddjob was my homeboy. I also screen-watched like a bitch.
Dave: An Oddjob screenwatcher needs to be shot, preferably with the RCP 90. I always hated FPSs, but I’ll still play this game to this day; one of the classics.
48) Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64)
Shaun: I mean, a lewd, foul-mouthed squirrel making potty jokes. What’s not to love!?!?!…you caught me, I didn’t play this either, but it remains one of the most talked-about classics from the N64.
Dave: I constantly remember denying children trying to purchase this game when I was an employee at a video game store. They wanted the foul mouthed, hungover squirrel and I can’t blame them. Too bad they weren’t old enough for it.
Chris: Once again, we’ve proved that Dave is a killjoy. This game is another example of Rare at its peak, before they vanished off the face of the earth.
47) Super Mario Land 2 (GB)
Chris: Underrated and oft-forgotten, but one of Mario’s strongest adventures and the debut of Wario to boot.
Dave: I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a side scroller Mario game, and this game makes me wish I had a GameBoy.
Shaun: Why in the f*** is Mario flying on the moon? Whatever. Tragedy of the battery-dying kind prevented me from killing Wario in this superb handheld entry, and it’s haunted me ever since…
46) Perfect Dark (N64)
Shaun: A spiritual successor to Goldeneye, I actually think it one-upped it in almost every category, with tighter mechanics and a better story. Too bad Perfect Dark Zero killed Joanna Dark dead…
Chris: But she was so cool with that streak of alternate color in her hair! Perfect Dark was great, and PD Zero was an example of why sometimes, franchises just need to stand pat.
Dave: In this, “What have you done for me lately?” society that we live in, it’s sad to think that all anyone remembers is a big fat Zero.
45) Super Mario World (SNES)
Chris: The perfect 2-D platformer. Multiple level paths, clean graphics, the introduction of Yoshi in a main Mario title and the hypest castle music.
Shaun: So hype. Everything in this game screams originality. My favorite thing? Giant Bullet Bills that still die when you stomp on them.
Dave: This is really the game of options. After finishing the first world, you can beat the game in about 3 more levels and skip the rest of the hardship. The true genius in this game is the multiple level endings that take you to all different worlds and different treasures. And who doesn’t love Yoshi?
44) Metroid Prime (GC)
Shaun: So maybe calling it the Citizen Kane of gaming was a little onerous, but damn if it isn’t one of the most atmospheric games I’ve ever played. A must-have in any collection.
Chris: Remember when people were worried about Metroid being outsourced to Retro Studios? A decade later, everyone wants them back. This game really does boil down to one word: atmosphere.
43) Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS2)
Chris: I’m sure if I cared more about Raiden, I’d like this game. I don’t claim to be an MGS expert, though, so my opinion is probably wrong. 30-minute cutscenes for everyone!
Dave: Come on Chris! Everyone wants the movie-going experience in their games! 30 MINUTE CUTSCENES FOREVER!
Shaun: The game is bold, in both its replacement of a main character and its plot’s unapologetic complexity. A strong, trippy third act helps it transcend to one of gaming’s most memorable experiences.
42) Alice: Madness Returns (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: It’s like Mario, but with a lunatic, knife-throwing protagonist! I…that’s not true. I never played it, what do you want from me? It does look pretty, so there’s that. Chris? A little help?
Chris: I haven’t played it either, but I’ve seen plenty of it, and it seems solid. Tough for me to judge without putting time in myself. I’m not sure I can justify #42.
Dave: Someone had to be on some pretty heavy stuff to mess with Alice in Wonderland this badly. Kinda changes the meaning of the “Mad Hatter” doesn’t it?
41) The Legend of Zelda (NES)
Chris: An unforgiving classic that set the stage for gaming’s best franchise. It’s dangerous to go alone — without help from a map or GameFAQs.
Shaun: It created an entire genre and revolutionized gaming, but it throws a major wrench into my dual timeline theory…
Dave: This game was so far ahead of its time for 1986 that I still will pop this in occasionally. The ability to save your game was big enough, but having an entire second, harder quest? It was like having two games in one.
40) Tetris (NES/GB/ARC)
Shaun: Tetris. I used to own at Tetris. Ask anyone. More importantly, the music in this game — damn. So good.
Dave: I have sunk so many hours into Tetris that I see shapes falling when I close my eyes sometimes. I also thought that “The Nutcracker” ripped off Tetris with “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” when I first heard it.
Chris: I mean, there’s not much more to say about Tetris at this point. The fact that it’s still relevant three decades later speaks volumes.
39) Pokemon Gold/Silver (GBC)
Chris: Maybe the most beloved game in the series, and with good reason: 16 badges, familiar stomping grounds, and battling Red on a snowy mountain.
Shaun: This game sucked 300 hours of my life down the drain, but when I devastated Red’s Pikachu with my Espeon’s psychic attack to the face, it was all worth it.
Dave: Haha you guys are nerds! (JK you guys make Pokemon sound so fun!)
38) The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (360/PS3/PC)
Shaun: Not even game-breaking bugs and a lackluster main storyline could prevent Skyrim from setting the bar for the Elder Scrolls saga.
Dave: Another game I would love to get into if I had more time. This is truly a game you can lose yourself in one of those, “It’s dark outside, is is morning or night?” marathon sessions.
Chris: Skyrim might be the most engrossing game of all-time, despite its flaws. The leveling and quest systems keep you coming back to do just one more thing. Shame that like other Bethesda offerings, the ending is awful.
37) Pokemon Black/White (DS)
Chris: A rebirth for the franchise even though it plays things safe; having an entire world full of brand-new monsters was an excellent choice.
Shaun: I mean, I’ve long since given up on trying to catch them all (curse you, Ruby/Sapphire — you broke me), but BW made me care about Pokemon again.
Dave: Can you guys explain the difference? Pretty Please?
36) Final Fantasy Tactics (PS)
Shaun: I can’t tell you how many hours I sunk into this addictive game. With endearing characters and a story teeming with political intrigue, its only criticism is the “too easy” ending that fails to really test your powerhouse team.
Dave: No game should ever be criticized for being too easy, as long as it’s a good story and fun game play, it’s a good game.
Chris: Other strategy RPG series have been at it for a while with some success (like Disgaea), but this might be the definitive experience. Ramza’s a beast.
35) Mario Kart: Double Dash (GC)
Chris: Familiar Mario Kart mechanics with frantic cooperative play? Sold!
Shaun: Racing with Baby versions of Nintendo icons? Sold!…on killing myself. But at the end of the day, this might be the most technically solid and varied racer in the series.
Dave: Co-op!! While that aspect is fun, the courses made this the best. Want to race around an oval for 7 laps? Baby Park it is.
34) Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)
Shaun: I think it says something when you deliver an experience as elevated, mature, and polished as GTA IV, but all anyone wants is more San Andreas. The best GTA, bar none.
Dave: This game shows that Grand Theft Auto isn’t all about evil people and murder. A likeable protagonist and the best soundtrack of the series make this the best GTA bar none.
Chris: Bar none bar none bar none. This is my favorite GTA, and probably the best. I think the success of this game is why I was so disappointed in IV — it just felt lifeless in comparison.
33) Super Metroid (SNES)
Chris: Somehow, over the years, this game has become underrated. Prime might have it beat on ambiance, but otherwise, Super is the best in the series.
Shaun: Best in the series? Pff. Someone’s forgetting Metroid Pinball. Seriously, though, what is there to say about a game as genre-defining and iconic as Super Metroid?
Dave: What else is there to say? Samus is a girl!!!! Ahhhhhh!
32) Golden Sun (GBA)
Shaun: It’s a classic RPG adventure, and pursuit of the various Djinni made it Pokemon before Pokemon…if you ignore that Pokemon came out first.
Chris: I’m not sure Golden Sun really revolutionized anything, but it was an extremely solid RPG on a portable system. Probably Motoi Sakuraba’s best soundtrack, too.
Dave: I really wish I knew as much about this stuff as you guys. I was severely deprived as a child.
31) Street Fighter IV (360/PS3/PC)
Chris: Revitalized an entire genre after a half decade of futility; after its expansions, SFIV has become the most balanced fighting game ever.
Shaun: So good it makes me almost want to play 2D fighters. And I hate 2D fighters. Congratulations.
Dave: BUTTON COMBOS! LEARN THEM!
30) Final Fantasy VII (PS)
Shaun: Yeah, I give it a lot of flak for its sometimes silly plot and more frequently silly antagonist, but it sort of brought RPG gaming to the forefront in the U.S. Plus, Tifa’s hot. Amirite? Who’s with me?
Dave: Tifa brought many a young boy to manhood in the final cutscene, and another confusing plot still is easily forgotten by some awesome chocobo races. Amirite?
Chris: You’re both wrong, and if I find out you’re responsible for giving this overrated hunk of garbage this many points, I’m going to make you watch Knights of the Round for hours. YOU KNOW, LIKE EVERY TIME YOU USED IT.
29: Left 4 Dead (360/PC)
Chris: The definitive zombie game because of its thorough cooperative mechanics and required teamwork. And Zoey.
Shaun: Required teamwork being key; lone wolves get their throats ripped out pretty quickly. Having to rely on your (hopefully) capable teammates makes L4D one of the most visceral co-op experiences out there.
Dave: Zombies, blow ‘em to hell. Let’s work together!!!
28) Final Fantasy X (PS2)
Shaun: Wakka’s annoying as hell and I didn’t actually realize Lulu was a party member and not some groupy stripper until halfway through, but the combat mechanics and grid leveling system were pretty addictive.
Dave: Now this is what a Final Fantasy should be. Strong battle mechanic (that actually incorporates everyone) and a great, easy system of customization of each character. A confusing plot is easily forgotten in the best gameplay of the series.
Chris: There’s a lot of things I like about this game (especially the battle system and Sphere Grid) and a decent amount that I don’t (I’m looking at you, Blitzball and Wakka!). The good definitely outweighs the bad, however.
27) Kingdom Hearts (PS2)
Chris: Ah, back when the plot was simple and the Disney worlds mattered. One of the greatest mash-ups of all-time.
Shaun: The foundation for one of the best (and weirdest) RPG franchises of all-time still holds up today…if you forget about the miserable Gummi ship mechanic.
Dave: Initial thoughts when I heard about this game? “What are they thinking?” But they were able to pull it off with nearly perfect marks. I love Disney and I love Final Fantasy. Perfect.
26) Tales of Symphonia (GC)
Shaun: One of the only RPGs to be released on the Gamecube; at least it was a solid one. May it rest in peace.
Chris: It was pretty much this and Skies of Arcadia. Symphonia brought Tales into 3-D, though, which was the beginning of the series’ evolution into the best battle system anywhere.
Dave: I gave this one a shot, I really did. I liked the characters, and the angel wings were cool, but for some reason I was never roped in to the plot.