So, here’s the thing. The story behind this is that it was originally going to be a video feature, where my voice-over would accompany videos of the games in motion while I explain why these are my favorite games of all time. But, since Premiere Pro doesn’t like to work with me, and I can just as easily make it a blog post, I figured “Why not?” and here we are. I may end up making a video companion-piece to this later, but for now, I figure it’d be fun to share this with you guys. Hope you enjoy, and I hope you try some or all of these games out!
What’s there left to say about Chrono Trigger? It’s widely regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, even sometimes edging out the ever-popular Zelda titles. It was released at the height of the 16-bit RPG era, and is easily one of the most memorable games of its time. The guys responsible for this glorious tale were known as the “Dream Team”, consisting of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakagchi, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii, and Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama. There’s a reason people lost their shit when a lot of the same people made 2006’s “Blue Dragon”.
It’s an epic tale about a boy who’s called to adventure through time, the friends he meets along the way, and the ancient evil they must eradicate. The time travel hook allows for a myriad of areas to explore, including older and newer versions of ones you’ve been to before, so it rarely gets boring. The team attacks add a whole new spin on the classic Active-Time Battle system. And with a number of different endings, it’s a classic you’ll want to replay as soon as it’s done.
People wonder why I don’t read books. Chrono Trigger is the kind of game I bring up to point out why.
I’ve never played the first Klonoa. I’ve never even picked up the recent Wii remake of the game. And yet, Klonoa 2 is such a perfect, self-contained little game, that it doesn’t matter. It takes place in a different land, has a different cast of characters, and Klonoa has amnesia. All of the game’s tricks are taught to the player right away, because Klonoa is one of those game characters that has his whole arsenal at his disposal from the start. He can jump, he can float for a few seconds, and he can use his magic ring to grab enemies and other paraphernalia. And Namco somehow made a game filled with platforming puzzles based around those abilities, and it never once feels boring or repetitive.
Maybe it’s because the game’s graphics, design, music, voice-acting, characters, and etc are so damn charming. Maybe it’s the ingenious level design that features just as many “wow moments” as it does brain-twisting challenges. Maybe it’s the fact that this is a game that truly feels like a modern version of an old-school platformer. And the craziest part is? The only new thing Namco added to this sequel are hoverboarding levels.
Klonoa is a criminally under-appreciated series, and after playing Klonoa 2, you’ll see why.
I love Pokemon. Of course, I’m biased: I was born in 1990, so when Pokemon fever first struck in America, I was the prime age for the “gotta catch ’em all” craze. And I haven’t stopped loving the little bastards from Game Freak ever since. The 2nd and 5th generations top my list of the core games, with the 4th and 1st generations coming in a close 2nd place. I really wanted to go with my nostalgia and pick Pokemon Silver for this, but the contributions that Pokemon Black and White made to streamline the experience cannot be ignored.
We finally got a Pokemon game that looks like it’s using true 3D, and you’re lying if your jaw wasn’t floored the first time you walked on the bridge to Castelia City. We finally got a Pokemon game with a story that was more than “defeat 8 gym leaders and beat the evil team and the Elite 4”. We finally got a fast, easy-to-use battling system that not only used Wireless connection between two DS systems and online battles with Nintendo Wi-Fi, but built-in IR sensors in the game cards for near-instantaneous battling with no hiccups. We got integration with the web with the Global Battle Union and Dream World, which I’ve spent more time on than I’d like to admit. And finally, we got a whole new batch of the little critters to catch.
I don’t care if it’s become nigh-impossible to complete my Pokedex. Core Pokemon games are good for literally hundreds of hours, they taught kids to connect and trade, and it’s still a winning formula, 15 years later.
You want a good RPG tale? How about 5? Odin Sphere is a massive Shakesperean opera that tells the story of the impending doom of the world, and how five individuals must bring an end to it all. These characters’ stories will cross and intertwine to create one large, epic narrative in one of the best tales I’ve heard a game tell.
Each character comes with their own play-style and moveset, and the protagonist of one story could be the antagonist of another. The artwork looks like oil paintings come to life, and set the bar for future Vanillaware games such as GrimGrimoire, Muramasa, and the upcoming Dragon’s Crown. The sweeping music accompanies the entirely-voice-acted story, and provides a suitable battle atmosphere. It’s a different sort of action-RPG, with a strange alchemy system that lets you take loot and turn it into helpful potions, only HP and Psypher power to level up, and two restaurants that give you massive HP bonuses (if you can bring in the necessary ingredients for the dish you desire, of course.)
Gamers who were my age back in the mid-90’s look on Final Fantasy IV and VI with reverence with how attached to the characters and story they were. Odin Sphere is my Final Fantasy VI, with its gripping tale and fantastic characters. This game is just plain beautiful.
Square Enix is undeniably an RPG powerhouse, but this game, from the same team who brought us Kingdom Hearts, is something else. Yeah, it’s an action-RPG through and through, but it does enough things differently that the things that can make RPGs become repetitive and boring are negated almost completely. The massive amount of pins to collect and evolve means that combat will never get dull, as you’ll always have a new skill to try out. You can reduce your character’s level and rack up the difficulty on the fly to get better item drops if you’re feeling risky. Grinding never once felt boring while playing this game.
There’s the eating system that requires you to burn off food through battles, and you can only eat so much in a real-time 24-hour period. There’s a fashion system that not only gives you boosts for matching brands, but lets you affect the fashion trends in the area to give you a bigger boost. You can gradually make friends with shop clerks so they’ll offer you exclusive items and give pre-existing ones new abilities. There’s a gimmick where you’re incepting ideas into people’s minds, and this was before even The Dark Knight hit theaters. There’s a mini-game that involves your collection of pins, and it is damn addicting. The graffiti art aesthetic. The awesome soundtrack featuring fully vocalized J-pop. Tetsuya Nomoura character designs that actually make sense in the fashion-centric world of Shibuya, Tokyo. All this wrapped inside a hell of a story that keeps you guessing until the end. Oh, and even more details of the backstory can be revealed by re-playing missions after the credits have rolled.
This is my favorite game of all time. Every time I erase my save file and play it over, I fall in love all over again. It’s something familiar, but also something completely new and fresh. It’s fantastic. Heed the calling. The Reaper’s game has begun.
And, of course, here are some runners-up. Games that I really love, but just didn’t make the list: