60. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (1991)
This game holds a special place in my heart. Going to the arcade was never really a part of my adolescent gaming experience, but every trip there — or to a bowling alley, or Dave and Busters, or anywhere that had arcade machines — included more than a few quarters being lost to Turtles in Time. And then when it was ported to SNES? Game over, man. Raphael was and will always be my main.
59. Mario Kart: Double Dash (2003)
Double Dash is my all-time favorite Mario Kart game, which I know probably puts me in the minority. Part of that reasoning belongs to the fact that I just played the most of it on Gamecube, but I also really enjoy the two-driver aspect. There’s an additional level of strategy there. Plus, this version of the game boasts some awesome levels, back before the series became overly reliant on updating old tracks.
58. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 (2004)
I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, so it’s almost disappointing that there aren’t even more Star Wars games on this list. But Knights of the Old Republic 2 is fan-freaking-tastic — though I do prefer the original. You can just tell that the sequel was rushed out the door a bit. I do have to give props to Darth Nihilus, who is one of the more badass looking characters in either game.
57. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
Here it is, my number one Grand Theft Auto game. To me, San Andreas combines the best elements of Grand Theft Auto IV and Vice City. CJ is a great protagonist, and San Andreas is a great setting — combining elements of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. There’s so much visual variety on display compared to either of the other games.
56. SimCity 2000 (1993)
Whereas the original game put city management sims on the map, SimCity 2000 took them to a whole other level. The futuristic aspects are what spoke to me most as a kid, and I still appreciate the more subtle changes like moving to an isometric view. In a mere four years, SimCity went from being a spreadsheet-like simulator to actually looking and feeling more like a video game.
55. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013)
As we get farther along in the list, you’ll start seeing games that offer more emotional experiences. Those are the ones that really stand out in my memory. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does such a cool thing in combining its simple narrative with its mechanics, and the moment near the end of the game where those two things come to a head will stay with me forever.
54. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004)
Up Your Arsenal put the Ratchet and Clank series on its modern trajectory — being more focused on action and fun weapons than on platforming or puzzle solving. To me, the largest gameplay improvement included in Up Your Arsenal is the strafe ability, which, when combined with locking on, makes running and jumping around while shooting an absolute blast. Also, Dr. Nefarious is the best Ratchet and Clank villain.
53. Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
It’s always hard including some of the more recent games on a list like this, since there’s a fair amount of recency bias to be expected. But, as my second favorite game from 2017, I think Horizon more than earns its spot just outside the top 50. And if Guerrilla Games can improve on some of the issues I had with the platforming and story info dumps, the sequel could land even higher on this list.
52. Life is Strange (2015)
Life is Strange is a great build on what Telltale typically does with its adventure games. The characters, relationships, and story still take a front seat to any real “gameplay,” but there’s more on offer here than just picking dialogue options. The time manipulation piece is such a great hook that encourages replayability, and every episode ends with some huge cliffhanger that makes you want to dive into the next one.
51. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
If this was a list of the most transformative video games of all time, Symphony of the Night would be a lock for top 10. But, for a simple list of what I think are the 100 best games ever made, it rounds out the bottom 50. That isn’t a slight against the game, as it really helped put non-linear level design on the map. I just don’t love the Castlevania series as much as some.