Yep I’m doing one too I guess. Because I love games and need to tell people how much I love them. I’m honestly surprised I could even come up with 100, much less rank them, but hey I did it.
I’m ranking these games based on how much they resonated with me and how much of an effect they’ve had on my life. Enjoyment is also a factor but not 100% necessary. I’m also going to try to treat each entry as if I’m “selling” the game. As in, I'm assuming you’re completely unfamiliar with the game and I’m trying to convince you to play it, or at the very least understand why I like it.
Also I've learned that condensing your entire thoughts about a game into a few paragraphs is really hard.
Anyways, let’s begin!
Games that would probably be included in this list if I ever got around to finishing them:
Disco Elysium Chrono Trigger
Hades Cyberpunk 2077
Super Mario Odyssey VVVVVV
Metro Trilogy >observer_
It’s about the journey, not the destination.
So, my somewhat controversial (and maybe slightly snobby) take on video games, is that I see them as more than “games”, per se. They’re not always necessarily a challenge or activity to be “won’, they’re an experience. They can be beautiful, they can be powerful, they can be held to just as high of a standard as movies or books. We’re still discovering what they can do as a medium that other mediums can’t, and I think they have an incredible amount of potential past the stereotypical violent, juvenile time-wasters that they’re often seen as. Journey is a great example of video games as an interactive art form.
In Journey, you’re paired with another anonymous player, and your only goal is to walk to the mountain in the distance. There’s no dialogue or voice chat, and your only method of communication is singing a wordless music note. There’s some very forgiving platforming and puzzles along the way, but for the most part the gameplay takes a backseat to the visuals and dynamic music score. Every new section of the game is like a new painting, with gorgeous colors and lighting. The addition of sharing it all with another nameless player as you accompany each other on your trek, makes it a truly emotional and wondrous experience.
If you’re looking for a more engaging gameplay experience or aren’t into artsy-fartsy walking simulators, Journey might not be for you, but I’m very glad to have played it.
I’m not normally into real-time strategy games, much less 4X ones, but I guess all you need to do is put it in space and give it a Mass Effect vibe and I’m in. Stellaris is a strategy game where you play as a species (human or of your own creation) that has just discovered faster-than-light travel and is beginning their journey to spread amongst the stars and meet other spacefaring species.
You mine planets for resources, colonize systems, research technology, form alliances and rivalries, most of what you’d expect from a 4X game. What I love though, is the sheer amount of options you have. It’s like building your own space opera any way you want. Want to form a federation with your alien friends? You can do that! Want to uplift or enslave that lesser species? You can do that! Want to build a research station around that black hole that’s emitting weird radio waves? Go for it! Want to turn your species into a drug-addicted, placid bunch of happy slackers so they’ll stop complaining about what an imcompetent leader you are? You uh, you can do that.
That, on top of the anomalies to be investigated, relics of ancient civilizations to be discovered, wars to be fought, it makes every game of Stellaris a new adventure to be had.
98. Detroit: Become Human
My name is Connor. I’m the android sent by CyberLife.
I’ll be first to admit, this game tries a little too hard to be profound at times, with all its revolutionary imagery, messiah characters, its heavy-handed philosophy and allegories. It gets almost silly.
But of course, I wouldn’t include it on this list if I didn’t find it overall enjoyable or compelling. Detroit is entirely story-focused, where gameplay boils down to quicktime events and making choices. You play as three different characters. There’s Connor, a detective android who investigates crimes committed by “deviant” androids. Kara, a housekeeper android searching for refuge with a little girl named Alice, after fleeing from her abusive owner. And Markus, a caretaker android who becomes the leader of an android rights movement, and has the power to “awaken” other androids from their obedient programming.
The story explores a lot of my favorite themes in science fiction. What is consciousness? What does it mean to be human, or a person? Can a robot be a person? Should they have rights? Stuff straight out of Blade Runner. The amount of drastically different branching paths in the story, and the high stakes (including permanent character deaths), make for really meaningful (and sometimes outright stressful) decisions with actual consequences. And for what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with some genuinely effective and chilling moments.
And if nothing else, you can hear Clancy Brown (who also plays Mr. Krabs) swear up a storm.
From the makers of Limbo, INSIDE has you play as a boy making his way through a hostile dystopian world with an unclear goal. All you know is that guards, dogs, machines, and a bunch of freaky creatures are out to get you.
The most defining part of INSIDE is its surreal, eerie atmosphere. The game is very sparing with color and sound, and always makes the world feel alien and unwelcoming. The gameplay itself is also fittingly minimalist. While the game does continuously introduce new mechanics and puzzles, your only controls are run, jump, and grab. Your only way to deal with enemies is to run or outsmart them, which usually feels like solving a puzzle in itself, and the game is often set up in a way in which you have barely have enough time to do so, leading to frantic moments where you make it out by the skin of your teeth. As bizarre as the mechanics get, they always make sense. As with any good puzzle, the pieces are always clearly laid out in front of you, you just have to figure out how to put them together. It’s just that sometimes failure means getting blasted to pieces by a machine that fires shockwaves (did I mention how brutal the deaths are in this game?)
I don’t want to spoil much more, as this is one of those games that is best played as blind as possible, but this game gets intense and WEIRD. The climax is among the craziest I’ve seen in a video game. It’s a short 2-3 hours, definitely worth a try.
THIS BATTLE WILL GET RED HOT
Boss time! Learn the patterns of their attacks! Die! Never stop shooting! Die again! Admire the incredible hand-drawn animation inspired by cartoons of the 1930’s! Die once more! REPEAT.
And… yeah, that’s Cuphead. You play as Cuphead and his pal Mugman, who lose a bet with the devil and have to go collect soul contracts from those in debt to him. How do you get these contracts? By fightin’ BOSSES. Twisty, crazy, bouncy, delightfully animated BOSSES.
The game perfectly captures the old “rubber hose” animation style, and is full of charming character designs. My favorite is the dragon, Grim Matchstick, to no one’s surprise, although I also really like Cagney Carnation, pictured above. It’s all so lovely to look at that you can almost forget the fact that you’re dying over, and over, and over. The game itself is basically a bullet hell in which each boss throws out projectiles and attacks, and you slowly eat away at their health by shooting them and parrying.
But as brutally difficult as the game is, the difficulty still feels fair. Bosses have 3 stages, each with set attack patterns and vulnerable spots that you learn and memorize as you play. But, there’s no health bar, and no indication of how close you are to beating them unless you lose. This encourages a lot of trial-and-error, where you try to do better with each attempt, and also entices you to keep trying as the game shows you just how close you were to winning every time. But, when you win, it’s of your own doing and earned, not from luck or a fluke. Somehow, those dozens upon dozens of tries feel worth it when you hear that oh so sweet “KNOCKOUT”.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and GRIS says so much about pain and loss without uttering a single one. GRIS is a platformer that has you play as a girl named Gris (“gray” in Spanish), who has lost her voice and is stuck in an empty, colorless world after bearing some kind of tragedy in her life.
You spend the game traveling to different parts of the world, restoring colors and gaining new abilities, such as turning into a heavy block or creating paths with stars, which let you progress and solve new puzzles. It’s not quite a Metroidvania, as the abilities usually are only needed in the area in which you actually collect them, and you can freely go to any of the different areas in any order you wish. The puzzles and platforming aren’t terribly difficult and you cannot die, as the game is meant to be very accessible, but there’s enough to keep you engaged.
I don’t know how many games I can just call “gorgeous” or “beautiful”, but uh, yeah, this game is gorgeously beautiful. You can pretty much pause at any point and you’ve got a painting on screen. The flat, hand-drawn animation and backgrounds and watercolor aesthetic complements the gameplay as the world slowly starts to refill with color. Which, in turn, works perfectly for the game’s allegory of life after loss, literally piecing life back together when all colors have gone out of the world. It’s, again, another abstract, artsy-fartsy game that may not be for everyone, but I think it’s a great example of how games can be cathartic or even therapeutic when tackling these types of issues that everyone goes through. It doesn’t have a ton of replay value, and it’s rather short, but I think it’s worth your time.
*confused cat noises*
OneShot is an RPG in which you are a character. Yes, you, the player. The world knows you exist. You guide a cat-like person named Niko through a desolate, dying world as they try to return the world’s sun (a lightbulb) to a distant tower, and find their way back home. There’s no combat or anything, it’s mostly just exploring and interacting with the world and the people in it, and solving puzzles. The environments are gloomy and alien, and the whole game has a very dream-like quality.
As far as metafiction goes, OneShot probably goes the farthest I’ve seen of any video game. There is absolutely no fourth wall, the game itself seems to be aware that it’s a computer program. A lot of puzzles involve files on your PC, or windows on your desktop. Niko is aware that you’re an entity outside of their reality and speaks directly to you as if you’re some kind of higher power. When you close the game and start up again later, Niko will tell you about the dreams they had, as if they were just asleep while the game was closed. It goes even farther than that in ways I don’t want to spoil, but it gets pretty existential at some parts. Did I mention how precious Niko is? Well they are and I want absolutely nothing to happen to them.
93. Hyper Light Drifter
I sure do love my artsy games with no dialogue. Hyper Light Drifter is a top-down action RPG in which you play as the Drifter, a wandering swordsman suffering from an unspecified terminal illness. The game serves as an allegory for chronic illness, and was inspired by the lead developer’s own experience with congenital heart disease. The story is told 100% visually, either through environmental storytelling or wordless cutscenes. Even NPC dialogue is only told through symbols or pictures. It doesn’t hold your hand at all, it feels more like it’s meant to be interpreted than understood.
When you’re not exploring the serene, colorful environments, the game offers some really stylish and challenging combat. Okay, so like, you know those super fast swordsmen in anime and stuff that disappear or become an afterimage and then slice through enemies? Like Master Yi in League of Legends, or Lyn from Fire Emblem? Anyways, uh, this is probably the only game I’ve played that not only lets you fight like that, but makes you actually feel like you’re doing it and not just watching your character do it. The combat is fast paced and full of flashy neon colors and effects as you dash around, dodging and parrying attacks as you look for openings to strike. You also have a pistol (and an optional grenade upgrade), but its ammo is only replenished by striking enemies with your sword, so it encourages you to use your melee and ranged attacks in tandem. It’s one of those games that just feels right, it’s an absolute joy to play. Your mileage may vary on the abstract storytelling, but I loved every second of it.
92. Read Only Memories
So normally the cyberpunk genre takes place in a dystopian future, full of rampant technology and corporations, social alienation and societal breakdown and all that. Read Only Memories is pretty much most of those, but everyone is gay.
Read Only Memories is a point-and-click adventure that takes place in 2064, Neo-San Francisco. It imagines a future in which LGBTQ+ people are treated as completely commonplace and equal. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single established cishet person in the huge colorful cast of characters. You play as a journalist (for which you can pick any pronouns) who teams up with a robot named Turing, the world’s first truly sapient machine, as you track down your kidnapped friend (who also happens to be Turing’s creator). Lots of detective sleuthing ensues as you follow leads and track down clues throughout the city, uncovering hidden plots and conspiracies. The game manages to touch on some topical themes such as identity politics and discrimination, without explicitly centering it around LGBTQ+ people. Instead, the world is full of “hybrids”, humans spliced with animal DNA for medical or aesthetic reasons, which serve as a catch-all stand-in for stigmatized people. It thankfully doesn’t delve too deep into such things (after all, the people for whom this game is made for have probably heard it all), and focuses more on the mystery and the characters you meet along the way. And man does this game have some great characters. There’s a southern genderfluid hacker, a snarky cat lady (she’s literally part cat), a wannabe gangster who calls himself Starfucker, and of course the loveable robot Turing who’s with you the whole way. And they’re all wonderfully voice acted, some even by YouTubers like ProZD and NateWantsToBattle.
It doesn’t do anything terribly groundbreaking for the genre of speculative fiction, but if you’ve always wanted a game with a queer-inclusive cast, Read Only Memories is a good start.
91. The Last Guardian
The Last Guardian was pretty polarizing when it came out. It wasn’t the pure masterpiece people expected after Shadow of the Colossus, and people either loved or hated the realistic behavior of Trico, your giant animal companion.
The Last Guardian is an adventure game with lots of platforming and puzzles, in which you play as a boy trying to escape “The Nest”, a valley full of treacherous ruins. With you is a big bird… cat… thing named Trico, who helps you climb, explore, and fight enemies as you make your way through the ruins. Trico is the best AND HE’S ADORABLE AND YOU CAN PET HIM AND
Okay so, the game is pretty much a series of environmental puzzles where you and Trico help each other progress. There are smaller areas, levers, and switches and such that only you can use, whereas Trico might be able to carry you to a high up spot, or break through a big crumbling wall. The catch is that Trico is just an animal, you have to get him to understand what you need him to do, and then get him to do it. To accomplish this, you can use physical gestures, like jumping in place, or point at things. You basically train Trico over the course of the game to do what you need him to on command. And that’s pretty much what polarized people, some found it frustrating when they told Trico to do something and instead he’d just… ignore you and go play in a giant puddle. But of course, this is exactly what I love about the game. Trico isn’t just a gameplay mechanic, he’s a creature with his own volitions, one you have to earn your bond with. It makes every little breakthrough feel real, and your ongoing companionship with him feel that much more emotional. It’s honestly something I’ve never seen any other game do. Plus TRICO IS SO FRIGGIN CUTE HOW CAN YOU BE MAD AT HIM AND
10 down, 90 more to go. I'll see you in the next one.