This feels like a good time to mention that these games are being ranked on how fun I think they'd be for someone playing right now. No points for historical significance or innovation if someone else has since done it better.
Also, to clarify, the system listed after a game is always the one I first played it on and the year is always the original US release. For games with a lot of rereleases, those combinations might not make sense. And now back to our regularly scheduled ten games:
#50: Chrono Trigger (Square, DS, 1995)
Chrono Trigger may not be my favorite of the Golden Age JRPGs, but I absolutely see what the many people who consider it the greatest game ever love about it. Yasunori Mitsuda's soundtrack is without a doubt one of the best, it had a truly innovative approach to combat that still feels fresh after 25 years, and, of course, it has an amazing story to tell. Really, the only things holding it back for me are that a few characters are a bit boring and the late game gets grindy. But everything else? Brilliant.
#49: Portal (Valve, PC, 2007)
There are very few games that could debut in a bundle with Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2 and come away as the defining part of the pack. Portal not only managed that, it did it so thoroughly that it may even be more widely recognizable than those other games today. It's one of the funniest games ever made, and truly the game that launched a thousand memes. I still know the lyrics to Johnathan Coulton's Still Alive by heart. Oh, and there were some pretty damn clever puzzles to boot.
#48: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (Falcom/XSEED, Vita, 2016)
If CS1 was Falcom doing Persona, CS2 is them still doing that while also aping Mass Effect 2. Like that game, you're traveling to different parts of the world to slowly reunite your party, get a new ship, and take on the big bad. It even imports some choices from the first game, albeit not very well. From there, it's basically CS1 but better. Minor issues with characters who were done developing and should not have returned aside, it's a solid buildup to the perfect ending at which point it... does not end. There are 10 tedious and totally pointless hours tacked on the end so it can better connect to a third game, which ended up not even being very good. That cost it a lot of places on this list.
#47: A Hat in Time (Gears for Breakfast, PC, 2017)
Yeah, I put this higher than any Mario game. Fight me, Luigi. HiT might not have the production value of Nintendo's flagship, but it combines strong Sunshine-era platforming with a heart and sense of humor that just works for me more than any of the famous plumber's titles ever have. This is a game with a murder mystery level, a haunted house, free roaming open world levels, and, with mod support, even an Ace Attorney game. There's even a super-difficult challenge road for people who really want to push themselves.
#46: Parkitect (Texel Raptor, PC, 2018)
Okay, Parkitect is possibly the best example of the importance of being fun right now on this list. It's Roller Coaster Tycoon with some noticeable improvements. That's it. There's nothing revolutionary about it. Parkitect is just an incremental improvement on the best theme park sim.
#45: Yuppie Psycho (Baroque Decay/Another Indie, PC, 2019)
I feel like every time I enjoy a horror game, it can be described as "Silent Hill, but-", and in this case it's "but entirely contained in an office building." You've been hired at Sintra Corp, and your only task is to Kill the Witch. She's corrupted the building so that there are horrible monsters like the copier up there, but also no one really seems to acknowledge that a spider copier is not normal. It's weird, it's scary, it has really good music by Garoad, it's Yuppie Psycho.
#44: A Plague Tale: Innocence (Asobo Studio/Focus Home Interactive, PC, 2019)
Big History Textbook doesn't want you to know that the plague was actually an ocean of demon rats who kept following this little kid named Hugo around. You're his sister, Amicia, and you need to take him across France to find your mother and break the curse without getting eaten by rats or murdered by the evil cardinal who wants to use Hugo to become the Rat God or something. It's a mix of stealth against humans and light-based puzzles against rats. Simple, but highly effective. And those rat swarms are hard to forget.
#43: Little Nightmares (Tarsier Studios/Bandai Namco, PC, 2017)
It's the "move right" puzzle platforming of Limbo combined with a dark, almost Tim Burton-y ship of monstrous cannibal adults. You're Six, a girl in a rain coat who needs to sneak through the boat and escape without getting eaten. The art and setpieces carry here - any given shot of this game looks amazing, and the action is at its best when there's a flood of monsters right on your heels. The sequel and a set of DLC expansions are out now, and I should probably actually play them at some point.
#42: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Capcom/Nintendo, GBA, 2004)
It's been a while since we've seen a Zelda game, but we're finally here at the best one. And it wasn't even made by Nintendo. MC wins out because it's just so damn efficient with it's design. If you just want to blast through the story, you can do that with hardly any backtracking and still get a great Zelda experience with six full dungeons and boss fights. If you want to get 100%, though, it'll send you to every corner of the world for kinstone fusions, secret items, and minigames. It's beautiful to look at. The soundtrack is, frankly, unreasonably good for a GBA title. It's one of the most overlooked titles in the series, it doesn't care. It has too many cuccos to catch.
#41: Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch/Sony, PS4, 2020)
Ghost is the second entry in this set of 10 that's here more for excelling at an old idea than for its own innovations. Nearly everything it does has been in open world games before. Its strength is taking those old mechanics and refining them to remove the grind or better integrate with the theme. It's the open world samurai/ninja legend people have been wanting for years, basically. A good story and jaw-dropping environments round out what is, I think, the only open world game I've ever 100% completed.