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100 Games to Play Before You Die

# 10-1

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Ultimately we're all digital dust, so what do we do with the precious little time we have on this planet?  Help cure a disease?  Please.  Volunteer for charity?  Don’t make me laugh.  Obviously, the correct response is “play video games.”  I know what you’re thinking: “But Noble Eskimo, with such little time left, how do I know which titles are worthy?!”  Fret not my chronologically deficient amigo! We've got you covered.  We count down the top 100 games that you absolutely must play before it's game over.

I want to make clear this is not a “Best 100 Games of All Time” list. The games here were chosen based on a number of factors to determine which ones have best stood the test of time, made an industrial impact, have lasting significance, and most importantly, can be recommended to a terminal patient without further compromising their mortality. That said, please enjoy the countdown!

 

#10 - LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3, 2011)

There are few experiences like LittleBigPlanet. More charming than Sean Connery and twice as beautiful, LBP2 takes videogame creationism and makes an entire genre out of it. Whereas other games focus on nitty-gritty realistic violence and over-the-top destruction, LittleBigPlanet cements its place as a fantastic, family-friendly experience that melts the hearts of even the most jaded individuals.

 

#9 - Portal (Multi, 2007)

Portal was so well-written that it changed a traditional birthday dessert into an internet meme phenomenon and an inanimate metal box into an adorable, lovable creature. Since Portal, the word "cube" is always preceded by "companion" and strawberries are a necessary addition to cake. Homicidal robots make great companions cube and silent female protagonists spawn more fan fiction than the most loud-mouthed superheroes. Oh, and I almost forgot; in addition to the brilliant narrative lies one of the most mind-bending puzzle games ever made. Portal shows just why Valve is considered the tippy-top of the gaming food chain.

 

#8 - Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3, 2008)

Nathan Drake is destined to go down with the great protagonists of all time, right up there with Who's It and What's His Name, among others. His sharp wit dices one-liners into delectable nuggets and his undeniable charm soothes even the most jaded of internet trolls, all while mowing down wave after wave of bad guys with his trademark clumsy-yet-efficient style. Despite his fraternity brother appearance, Nathan Drake is one of the most unique characters in the industry.

 

#7 - Star Wars: X-Wing / Star Wars: TIE Fighter (PC, 1993/1994)

X-Wing and TIE Fighter are the best licensed games ever made and unlocks the potential of one of the best intellectual properties out there. Other games may have tried their hand at the free-roaming space combat genre, though none of them even come close to these titles' perfection. Unfortunately, due to outrageous licensing fees and George Lucas' gigantic throat, we are unlikely to ever see another release in this outstanding series, and to add insult to injury, these games don't run on most modern PCs. I highly recommend finding an old 486 and slapping in these floppy disks.

 

#6 - Shadow of the Colossus (PS2, 2005)

Shadow of the Colossus is proof that videogames can be art. That is all.

 

#5 - Metal Gear Solid (PS1, 1998)

Of all the ground-breaking games, Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid stands apart as one of the most influential titles ever released. It's almost impossible to accurately portray just how big of an impact it has made on the industry, but here's a brief list of some of the things that were modernized or originated from this masterpiece:

Realistic force-feedback
Complex stealth gameplay
User interaction (aka fourth wall destruction)
Snake's iconic growl
Hollywood-level cinematography
David Hayter's career

 

#4 - Tetris (Everything, 1986)

If you haven't played Tetris yet, you must be purposefully avoiding it like the plague. The title has been distributed in every way imaginable, from standard retail releases, pirated Tengen copies, included-in-breakfast-cereal keychains and everything in between. This puzzle title challenges each half of your brain, testing the left hemisphere's quick-thought and reflexes and right's long-term puzzle solving. Aside from vodka, Tetris is the best thing to ever come from the red state.

 

#3 - Mass Effect 2 (Multi, 2010)

Even though it's only a year old, Mass Effect 2 has already claimed its place as one of the greatest games of all time. No other title gives the player such absolute control over shaping the story and the universe around them, making Commander Shepard the defining hero of this console generation. He (or she) is the personification of pure role-playing; nothing happens in the world without Shepard's say-so, and almost everything revolves around him (or her) is some way. Forget turn-based number-crunching snore-fests; Mass Effect 2 is what role-playing games should have always been.

 

#2 - Half-Life 2 (PC, 2004)

Gordon Freeman is all that is man and then some. Without saying a word, he got a doctorate in physics from MIT, single-handedly annihilated an invading alien race, wooed an unattainably perfect woman in Alyx Vance, and is (assumedly) currently defending the world from oppression and genocide during this lapse between Episode 2 and whatever is to come next. With just a crowbar, radical beard and a pair BCGs, "the one Free Man" has accomplished more in the first-person realm than even those with access to souped-up power armor.

 

#1 - Super Street Fighter II Turbo (Multi, 1994)

What makes a videogame great? Pretty visuals, innovation, addictive gameplay, and tight controls, right? I'm sure everyone can agree on that. But what pushes a videogame beyond great and into the realm of something special, something that can't be defined by what we see or hear? This writer believes that indefinable "X factor" rests in the human element, in how we take that gaming experience and apply it to our interactions with other people, and considering that, the Street Fighter II series has no equal in bringing people together... or tearing them apart. I chose Super Street Fighter II Turbo due to its lasting appeal and impeccable balance, though pretty much anything from the Street Fighter II series would suffice.

Emotions run high in all competitive videogames, from Halo to Wii Sports and all things in-between, but Street Fighter II perfectly reveals the raw "human vs human" element, with both players given the same rules, same character selection, and a variety of actions to use as they will, be it to attack, defend, feint, or something else entirely. The goal is simple: hurt your opponent more than he hurts you. The implications of this conflict are much deeper than the objective might suggest; feelings of anger, frustration, joy, satisfaction - everything is on the line. Friendships are built and destroyed in bouts of Street Fighter II.

If you lose, you have no one else to blame. If you win, it is because of your own superior abilities. Street Fighter II brings out the worst and best in all of us; this is what gaming is all about.

 

4.28.11

#100-91 #90-81 #80-71 #70-61 #60-51 #50-41 #40-31 #30-21 #20-11 #10-1


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