We talked about making top 100 lists in the Discord a few weeks ago, and after putting entirely too much effort into mine, I'm finally ready. First, a bit about how I made this list:
My candidates for the top 100 were all ~800 games I've ever finished plus a handful that I haven't, or that can't be finished, but which I was sure deserved to be on here anyway. Games that I'm still playing, such as Yakuza: Like a Dragon, were not part of the ranking even if I expect them to be pretty high on a later list.
I used https://www.allourideas.org/ to generate a ranking based on pairwise votes, culled duplicates, and reduced each game to only it's best version (so, for example, only one version Link's Awakening could be on here, if any), and then after three rounds of voting and culling the end of the list, I had a ranking. The final version is almost exactly what I got out of that voting - I manually ordered the top 6 because I know what those are, and I also moved a few games that I thought it got egregiously wrong around. Otherwise, this is exactly the order that site generated.
Lastly, remember that being #100 out of 800 is really good and that there are many hundreds more games that didn't even make that initial list. The separation on this list is how phenomenal these games are, not whether or not I love them.
With that out of the way, let's get to the first 10:
(oh, and all headers will be formatted Number: Title (Dev/Publisher unless identical, system I played on, year of release)
#100: Octopath Traveler (Square Enix, Nintendo Switch, 2019)
Octopath Traveler is in large part a refinement of systems Square first experimented with in Bravely Default. Battles still revolve around jobs and saving action points for mega turns, but jobs are much more interesting now and the bosses really ask you to make the most of your saved up AP. It's one of the best examples of the classic "make big numbers happen" style of JRPG, and you get to do that while looking at beautiful backgrounds and listening to some of the best music that's ever been in a game. It's unfortunate that all 8 characters can't be Tressa, but one of them is, and that's more than any other game can claim.
#99: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda, PC, 2006)
Alright, let's not kid ourselves. Oblivion looks like ass. The textures are muddy, the character creator spits out a monster no matter what you do, and every conversation zooms to within an inch of the NPC's face. So why is it here? Because despite all that, it has a world that's an absolute joy to explore and enough systems and quests packed in to make the place feel alive. The And Then There Was One mission you do as part of The Dark Brotherhood is brilliant, and The Shivering Isles expansion is a madcap Alice in Wonderland-esque experience we haven't had again since. Yeah, it's ugly, and yeah, other games have done a lot of this better in the last 15 years, but none of that takes away from how fun Oblivion still is to play.
#98: Summon Night: Swordcraft Story (Flight-Plan/Banpresto, GBA, 2003)
Swordcraft Story follows your choice of player character as they enter a tournament to be the best apprentice blacksmith and join the ranks of the masters. Because this is an RPG, that naturally means diving into the dungeon below the city to beat up monsters, collect their bits, and then craft better and better weapons. The story and characters are entertaining enough, but you'll stick around for the surprisingly deep combat. Each of the different weapon types has unique controls and abilities, and the large variety of monsters means you have to adapt your approach with each fight. Bosses, though somewhat rare, are a particular highlight, and it's thrilling every time you bring one down and unlock a whole new set of crafting options. Possibly the most tragically overlooked game on GBA.
#97: Monster Prom (Beautiful Gltich/Three Awesome Guys, PC, 2018)
Monster Prom is a parody dating sim where you need to raise your stats Princess Maker-style in order to get one of six asshole monsters to accept your invitation to Monster Prom. It's an incredibly stupid concept that works because the game knows exactly how stupid it is, and practically every scene is completely over the top. My preferred way to play is to reject everyone and raise a character who is, frankly, too cool for these losers. The game questions why you're playing if you're going to be like me, but it also totally lets you do it and I have fun every time. Until the DLC, anyway, which adds in some new characters who are less asshole-y. I'll go to prom with them.
#96: Inside (Playdead, PC, 2016)
How do you even describe this game? It's a puzzle platformer where you almost exclusively move right, none of the puzzles are particularly complicated, and the platforming is largely trivial. So far, it sounds like a pretty bad puzzle platformer. And it is, but that's because it's not really about the puzzles or the platforming. They're there to make you interact with its truly unnerving world. Things happen in this game. The ending is unforgettable. It's almost impossible to describe without playing.
#95: The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game (Grace Bruxner, PC, 2018)
Frog Detective is the world's second best detective. The best is Lobster Cop, of course, but he's not available to solve the case of THE HAUNTED ISLAND, which we have to shout. Frog Detective the game pretends its dev is a six year old, and everything in it follows the impeccable logic of six year olds. There are spooky noises on the island, therefore there is a ghost. You are a detective, so therefore you must have a useless magnifying glass. Everyone speaks in simple sentences and looks like they were made in about 30 seconds in Blendr. Comedy gold.
#94: Kirby Air Ride (HAL Laboratory/Nintendo, GameCube, 2003)
Kirby Air Ride is a bit like the swamp castle from Monty Python. They said nobody could make a Kirby racing game, but Nintendo did it anyway. The first mode, race, is a bit boring and sunk into the swamp of forgettable game modes. The second mode, top down race, is awful, and it fell over, burned down, and then sunk into the swamp of forgettable game modes. But the third mode! The third mode is City Trial, and it is genius. You drive around town finding hidden power ups to boost your air machine, entirely new machines, and the parts to construct one of the three legendary machines. Other players and events can help or hinder you along the way, but after time's up whatever you're left riding and whatever stats you have are what you bring to the final event. Maybe you built a stupidly fast ride that'll leave everyone in the dust in Drag Race, but then the game went and picked High Jump and you lose horribly. It's not balanced at all and there's only one map, but there's also nothing else like it and I'm still not tired of it after hundreds of rounds. Who cares that only a third of the game is worthwhile?
#93. Microsoft Flight Simulator (Asobo/Xbox, PC, 2020)
Look, this is barely a game. It's a proper flight sim, and as much as I like planes, I have no idea what many of the settings here do and I don't have any interest in following ATC instructions. But MFS2020 has an ace up its sleeve: the entire goddamn planet is in the game. That screenshot of New York up there has every single building in New York in it, and you could take a similarly accurate one of Tokyo, Paris, or even your own neighborhood. Dozens of famous monuments are in the same, and while it's jarring when you find one missing (ah, the famous Buckinham Office Block, home of the Queen), it's like nothing else when it's working. With the whole world on lockdown, a game like this really couldn't have come out at a better time.
#92: Pictopix (Tomlab Games, PC, 2017)
Not every great game needs to be revolutionary, and Pictopix is likely one of the least revolutionary games on this list. It's Picross. Lots of these games try to shake things up with a story mode, colors, or any number of other new mechanics, but Pictopix is just Picross. There's nothing you haven't seen before, but you probably haven't seen it done this well or in this volume. And hey, sometimes it's enough to be the very best at an established craft.
#91: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda, PC, 2011)
I'll never be able to recapture that feeling of playing Skyrim for the first time and not knowing what to expect from any of it. This world does an incredible job of rewarding exploration with new shouts, beautiful vistas, or something just plain weird. Even when you've seen a hundred Dragur caves there's often still something interesting at the end to make the next one worth it. This was also where modding really came into its own, and you can patch in everything from improved food textures to entirely new magic systems. It doesn't hold up as well once the magic of the unknown is gone, but that first playthrough is still with me.
And that's the first 10 down! 90-81 will come another day.