Dunking on My Own Top 20 From 2008

On January 5th, 2008, I posted a top 20 in a "top 100" games thread created by our own Gibby. I was 12 at the time and had probably played fewer games in total than I finish in a year nowadays, so as you might imagine, my top 20 was scraping the bottom of the barrel of games I'd played and includes some... interesting choices. Now that 13 years have passed and 12 year old me is stuck in 2008 and will never find out about this post, it's time to make fun of how bad that list was.

20. Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (PC, 2002)

Chris Sawyer's second theme parking building game was the first game on my list and, surprisingly, actually a respectable choice for this position. RCT2 was the last good theme park builder until 2018's Parkitect, which made my most recent top 100 at #46. Considering that Parkitect is effectively a minor modernization of RCT2, that means it's spiritually still in my top 100, and that's something most of these games don't even get remotely close to.

19. Arena Wars (PC, Tri Synergy/Ascaron, 2004)

This RTS from a developer and publisher no one has ever heard of was my first experience with the genre, and apparently also the first game ever to use the .NET framework. That's cool. It works a bit like the multiplayer from Total War in that you have a pool of points you can use to buy units and you never need to worry about constructing buildings or resources. Unlike TW, you get your points back when a unit dies and can immediately reallocate them to something else. It only had a half dozen units, but they all had rock-paper-scissors interactions with each other and the game received somewhat favorable reviews from critics. I don't think many people would've considered it a top 20 candidate even at release, but it was at least a respectable beginner's RTS.

Fun fact: Tri Synergy would go on to release Limbo of the Lost. If you've heard of that, it's because it stole resources from Oblivion and many other games.

18. Contra (Arcade, Konami, 1987)

I have hardly ever played any of Contra, so I'm really not sure what it was doing here at #18. I played a good bit of Contra III on Wii Virtual Console, but that might have been slightly later in life and, at any rate, I specifically cited "arcade" on the 2008 list. What was I thinking back then? I probably read some other list that said Contra was a classic and went "I've played that!" and gave it #18. Great standards, me.

17. The Legend of Zelda (NES, Nintendo, 1986)

Continuing the pattern of games that probably only made this list because other people told me they were good, here's one that I've only ever played through the first dungeon. Apparently 2008 me thought that was good enough to be the 17th best game ever. And yet not good enough to want to find the second dungeon. Quite an indictment of the state of gaming.

16. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA, Nintendo, 2005)

The first game on this list that actually did make my more recent top 100, and also, at #42, the highest ranked. Even back then, I liked it enough to have finished it 100% and done multiple challenge runs, but I had only started playing 3D games in the last two years in 2008, and I was convinced that they were inherently better than 2D. That, and probably also the fact that other people weren't telling me MC was good, kept it down at #16.

15. Mario Kart 64 and Mario Kart: Double Dash (N64, Nintendo, 1997, and GCN, Nintendo, 2003)

Eagle-eyed readers might notice that two games can't both be #15, but 2008 me was not bothered by a list of the top 20 games that was actually 21 games. MK64 is a game modern me actively dislikes, but back then I'd probably only played it for the first time in the last month or so and was more fascinated by the new tracks than I was bothered by the ridiculous rubber banding.

Double Dash was #52 on my recent list and is one of the only two games I've ever cared to play enough to be able to post respectable speedrun times. It's the only racing game in my current 100, but back then it wasn't even the best one in the top 20. Why? 2008 was before I'd developed the motor skills to play it well, and the All-Cup Tour was still an arduous grind instead of a fun challenge. This list came at the trough of my enjoyment of the game.

14. Super Mario 64 (N64, Nintendo, 1996)

The other N64 game I'd just played for the first time and immediately tossed on my top 20 because other people like it. Unlike MK64, I do think SM64 is a good game, although it did not come close to making my recent list. I've also never finished it, and probably only had 30 starts when I made the 2008 list. I sure liked including games I'd hardly played back then.

13. Need for Speed: Carbon (GCN, EA, 2006)

This game made the list because street racing was COOL back then, and that naturally meant that my current favorite street racing game had to be one of the best ever. It's a semi-open world game with a few relatively unique modes and an inane story. It was completely outdone by Burnout Paradise not long after it came out, but neither game was anywhere near my top 100.

12. Star Wars: Battlefront II (PS2, Pandemic/LucasArts, 2005)

Just about the only 3D shooter I'd played at this point, which was good enough for #12 in combination with its Star Wars theme. It's actually a pretty fun game with a good amount of variety if you can look past the unbelievably bad AI that can cause you to lose a match even when you get 100 kills without dying. It's good dumb fun.

11. The House of the Dead 4 (Arcade, Wow/Sega, 2004)

This is here, I think, because light gun games were also COOL and I'd spent a trip to Dave & Buster's getting all the way through this game with a friend in summer 2007. It's... fine. Like most arcade games, there's a lot of unfair quarter munching going on, and it's got all of the terrible writing and acting this series is known for. I doubt it'd make the top 500 today, but hey, 2008 me liked light guns. I can't fault the logic.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (GCN, Nintendo, 2003)

I specified the GCN back then version because I hadn't played it on N64. I think I'd probably just gotten the game and had barely played any of it, but that was enough to be the 10th best game ever because the guy at Gamestop told me it was his favorite, and he wouldn't lie to me.

Anyone who has ever heard me talk about OoT will know that I don't like it much. I probably came to that opinion within a year of posting the 2008 list, which makes it somewhat hilarious that OoT spent over a decade as the #10 game on the only top games ever list I'd ever posted online.

9. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (GBA, Nintendo, 2002)

This should actually have referred to the 2002 GBA release, but 2008 me didn't specify for reasons that are deeply unclear. aLttP came in at #81 on my top 100, which makes it my second favorite Zelda after MC. I definitely liked MC more even in 2008, but aLttP got the nod for best 2D Zelda because other people like it more. And after all, what's more important on your personal top 20 games than what other people think? Great priorities, 2008 me.

8. Super Mario Bros. (NES, Nintendo, 1985)

You can probably guess without me telling you that SMB is another one that made the list because it was a "good opinion" to have it in your top 10. I probably hadn't played it beyond World 4-4 at this point, and while I definitely thought it was a good game and still do, I also can't think of any justification for putting it ahead of half the games that have already come up on this ancient top 20. I like SMB, but I've never loved it.

7. Sin & Punishment (Wii, Treasure/Nintendo, 2007)

I had probably just finished playing through this at the time of writing and had hardly understood the story at all, which naturally meant that it was deep and meaningful, especially since other people who had never played the original Japanese release told me it was good. Also, it had robots with swords, and that's COOL. I don't have much of an opinion on this game today, because I hardly remember it. It's probably fine.

6. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, Nintendo, 1990)

The last game that made the list because of other people. I had played something like the first three worlds at the time of writing and never actually made it much beyond that. I liked that it had more of an exploratory feel than SMB1 and there was a vague sense of being able to "capture" the map from Bowser, and since it was a classic game that serious gamers should have in their top 10, that made it #6. I don't make the rules of my own list.

5. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN, Nintendo, 2003)

My number 5 game was #83 on my top 100, which made it both the only 3D Zelda on that list and higher than any of the four games that are still left from 2008. It's behind them because, even though I'd played almost all of WW at this point and was as in love with the OST then as I am now, I was also scared shitless of ReDeads and couldn't finish the game for fear of encountering more. That automatically made it less good than some other games I liked that didn't have ReDeads, so it got #5.

4. Super Smash Bros. Melee (GCN, Nintendo, 2001)

I loved Melee precisely until Brawl came out with more content and ruined my feel for SSBM's physics. Now I won't go back to it both because I like later games better and because everyone who still plays Melee has plays no items Final Destination and I only like SSB for silly fun. SSBM has aged fine in isolation, but it's just not what I want to play anymore. Still, it was a good pick for 2008 me.

3. Civilization III (PC, Firaxis/Infogrames, 2001)

Even though Civ IV was out by 2008, this was probably my peak of playing Civ III. I don't know if I'd touched IV at this point, but it would've barely run on my computer if I had, so III was the One And Only 4X to me. I'll never know how much of this game I played because trackers weren't around back then, but there's a solid chance I spent more time with it than with any other game ever.

So another good choice for 2008 me, but still not a game I'd suggest to anyone today. It's been completely outdone by later 4X games, especially within the Civilization series, and it has win conditions that are unacceptably grindy.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, Nintendo, 2006)

This just barely missed out on my top 100 after I discovered in a 2018 replay that I don't like it as much as I thought I did. The motion controls are more often frustrating than fun, and it turned out that I'd made up a lot of the game's character building in my head.

But 2008 me just saw cool bosses and a new and exciting control scheme. Plus it was all brown and mature, which in 2008 meant it was better.

1. Metal Arms: Glitch in the System (GCN, Swingin' Ape Studios/Vivendi, 2003)

I had to say "just about the only 3D shooter" on Battlefront II because this game also existed. It has great level variety and some really creative weapons, but it also has a very early 2000s sense of humor and the console shooter mechanics have come a long way since 2003. There's no aim assist here and checkpoints can be brutal.

Having said all that, I still think it's quite good. It missed out on the top 100 even more barely than TP, coming in around #110. It's really strange that 2008 me was okay with putting an obscure shooter nobody played at #1 but also obviously rounded out the list with games that were only there because they were popular, but the mind of a 12 year old is mysterious.

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