I've been gaming since the days of the Atari 2600 and the arcade craze of the 80s as a child, and likely will be gaming well in to my old age. Here are my (current) top 10 games and/or game series. To simplify, I'm going to consolidate a series of games down to my favorite of that series, and let it represent the group as a whole. For example, there are at least 10 different LEGO games I've enjoyed at various levels, so instead of possibly having two or more in my top 10, I'll consider the series as one complete entry and place it based in my top 10 based on how I feel about my favorite game of that series. Make sense? I think so! Tell me how you feel about my picks and give me your own on Twitter, Facebook and IG!
10- Mat Mania
Old school, but still a contender! This was one of the few arcade machines I actually owned and stored in my Dad's garage, long before I would ever own my own home. I ended up selling it, but it's available via emulation machines and it's on Nintendo Switch. This game was literally a half block away from my childhood home, at a time when corner mini-grocery stores where common. I would run down the street with a handful of quarters and slowly get better and better, often getting stuck against Coco Savage. He's still the toughest opponent in the game today, lol. I would purposely skimp on meals at grade school, to hang on to some change for the walk home, to stop and play (kids walked to and from grade school back in the 80s if you can believe that). The game still holds up today! It plays very fluid, with responsive controls, and a pretty deep set of moves with only 2 buttons. Also, the pinning move can be used as a running splash or a high-cross body if the opponent is standing (this creates a depth in options to finish the match, and if you're a wrestling fan, or a fan or wrestling games, you'll appreciate what that means). the characters are all very different (5 opponents) and look cool.
So this was the sequel and man, I can remember the heartbreak after seeing this in the arcade, and playing for the first time. It's now 2 player vs. if you want, and the 2nd player is named Joe, which is cool, sure. A couple new moves and reversals, great. BUT... LESS characters? What? They took characters OUT so there were only 3 different opponents. In my head I was ready for updated versions of the classics, and some new challengers, but ultimately, this game wouldn't get any more of my quarters, as I need to go after Piranha and Coco Savege.
This game hits a nerve for me as I have a somewhat irrational fear of deep, deep water. The whole story takes place in an underwater city with leaks all over and gives me the creeps, in that fun way that we go to horror movies for. The stages and map are all in a retro, art deco style that is fun to explore and very visually interesting. The gunplay is ok, but the real fun comes with unlocking and using new powers. There are no actual cutscenes, other than the animation showing you being transported from certain areas to others under water. There are collectible audio clips, which are creepy to listen to but tell you enough about what's going on to make sense of why you're here, and what the point of everything in the game is.
8- Saints Row 2
Basically a GTA-light, but in the best way for my play-level. It's more toward the arcade end of the spectrum, so cars handle more smooth and it's just easier to aim, run, fight, drive, fly, etc. A ton of collectibles and customization. You can make your character look like however you want, and they are displayed that way in the cutscenes, which are light-hearted and quick. The cars have a ton of customization as well, and the real ingenious option with vehicles in my opinion, is that once you've collected a car in your garage, you've always got it available. If you take it out and wreck it, or abandon it in a mission, there's infinite copies of that car in your garage, and at no cost or penalty. In GTA by comparison, you have to do come weird insurance claim, and have it returned to you, in some sort of pseudo realistic attempt. Not fun, lol. The Saints Row series is over the top fun, and the whole game is co-op. You can bring a buddy in to the open world and race, do missions, chase collectibles, story missions, pretty much anything the game offers. One cool feature which not sure if this was intentional, is that you DON'T have to stay near your co-op guest. They could be on one side of the map, looking for collectibles while I'm on the other side of the map in a car chase. Most games force you to be in the same vicinity. The multiplayer is kind of understated, but co-op is an A+. Saints Row 2 overall is pretty crass and sophomoric but in a tongue-in-cheeck way that kind of makes fun of those games with low-brow, aggressive male humor.
7- Mortal Kombat 2
This particular game dominated my study time in my first year of college. I'd sit in class and get very bored and very distracted, and instead of taking notes, I'd study the moves list for MKII. Not proud of that, but it was those giant auditorium classes at University of Cincinnati, and likely a class I that didn't matter toward my eventual degree (long story). Anyway, it was a challenge not to spend a lot of time and a lot of quarters at the campus arcade or one of the handful of arcades we had around Cincinnati circa 1993. This game still holds up, and is another that I can enjoy at the drop of a hat. Many of the moves are still burned in to my brain, and muscle memory, but it's one quick google search on my phone if I can't remember how to do a friendship or what have you. Every time I play this, I've got the nostalgic feelings being in the arcade, trying to beat the game with each character to see the simple endings. Someone would eventually walk up, put a quarter in and interrupt your game, and it's one. If I were to get beat, I'd have a friend there, and we'd take turns until we had control of the game back then continue on.
Mortal Kombat (9, the reboot)
Back to basics, easy to play, story was great, cutscenes quick and entertaining, character models look great. Freddy Krueger shows up as a playable character and blows my mind. A whole new world of possibilities with licensed characters. A lot of fun!
Mortal Kombat 11 (Ultimate)
The series is getting a bit convoluted, with loot boxes and power ups, etc. but I do like the customization options. I was going to pass on this entirely, because I was really let down by MKX, BUT when I saw Robocop was added as a DLC character, I had to give it a shot. The graphics on the XBOX Series X are insanely good, and the game IS fun to play, just lacks that magic I feel from the old school game that MK9 captured a bit of.
6- LEGO Marvel Avengers
This is another tough one to narrow down as a favorite, as if you tend to love any of these LEGO games, you're likely to love them all. Avengers is my standout as it has a great variety of characters, the stories and levels are fun (they tend to follow the MCU movies loosely) and the hub worlds are all clever and engaging. Again, I've played them all pretty much, and enjoyed them all. If pressed to pick one, it would be this one, as Marvel is my go-to brand for so much enjoyment and entertainment. Collecting the figures and seeing them unlock along the way is addicting, and just good fun.
LEGO Marvel Superheroes
The first LEGO game for Marvel, and it's so good. This was before there were certain characters that would be left out because they were licensed to other movie studios, so we've got X-Man and Fantastic Four along with the Avengers and Spider-Man, etc. The colors are more bright and vibrant and comic-booky than in the other games. This one is a close 2nd in my list of favorite LEGO games.
LEGO Indiana Jones
Play though the movies and relive the Indiana Jones trilogy!
LEGO Star Wars
I loved the levels from the ORIGINAL trilogy, but the prequel levels, and the game based on the newer movies were only so-so for me since I'm just not a fan of those other movies. I'm looking forward to Skywalker saga and going through all the Star Wars lore in a fresh new game!
LEGO Batman 3
The DC LEGO games (Batman 1 & 2) just weren't as fun for me, but this one hit a good balance of expanding to include more of the DC Universe characters and rely less on multiple Batman suits to get through the levels. As with all things DC however, just not anywhere near Marvel's level of greatness for my tastes.
5- MASS Effect 2
Another game that took me by surprise. I bypassed MASS Effect 1, and just happened to pick this one up browsing the shelves at GAMESTOP. It hooked me hard, and I could not put it down. While I normally can't stand dialogue and cutscenes, MASS Effect 2 is actually interesting to me, and the way they treat the cutscenes as more cinematic with smooth and sweeping camera movement keeps me interested and holds my attention. Plus, that at any second, you might be prompted to choose a response, is kind of the point. You CAN still skip ahead through if you want, but the dialogue actually impacts how characters react to you and what can happen in the game. It's very fun, and even though I went back and played ME1 and then through ME3, ME2 stands out as the best, and can pretty much be played stand alone, and still feel like a full story and experience. Miranda is one of my favorite characters to interact with! I can't believe the franchise hasn't spawned a movie or TV show yet. It's got such a unique space, sci-fi take different from Star Wars or Star Trek. It leans in to the sex appeal a bit, which has caused some controversy, but I've never seen an issue here. It's not gratuitous, and that many characters look like professional models (men and women) doesn't bother me, personally.
MASS Effect 3
The payoff isn't nearly as good, and doesn't feel like your decisions mattered as much as they did in ME2, but it's still a fun game to play. The gunplay is tight and the maps and levels are easy to navigate and the missions are fun. There are some annoying dream sequences which get me yelling at the TV, where you have to walk your character very slowly forward, trying to give you some kind of symbolic drama or feeling of dread or something. These pop up a few times through the story, and are so irritating, that along with the lame ending bring the whole game experience down a bit. There are some great moments, such as taking a robotic vehicle to the bottom of an ocean and seeing the glass slowly cracking as you carry out your mission.
4- Fire Pro Wrestling World
My favorite wrestling game of all time (and I pretty much played them all). This game is a dream for a gamer that's a pro-wrestling fan and it's so under-the-radar. I originally found Fire Pro Wrestling 6 Man Scramble on some random internet search, and found out it was released only in Japan and was the latest in a series of such games. You needed a special dongle to get your Sega Saturn to read the Japanese games. A lot of work had to go in to this, such as finding and printing the English translations (all the game menus were in Japanese). The characters were also, but you could rename them in English after you were able to navigate the menus. This game was so much fun to play and with friends (up to 6) that all this extra effort was worth it to me. Eventually, there would be more versions that were released in the US, but they are all pretty much the same game, just built up with each release. More in-game options, more wrestlers, more save space, etc. each new game brings more fun! Fire Pro Wrestling World is the latest and best and possibly the last.
The Fire Pro series has a relatively small but passionate fanbase that add mods to the PC version and trade videos and ideas. It's got 32-bit graphics with an unusual, isometric camera angle, but once you learn how to play gets you hooked. The creation tools are off the charts. Even the older versions of the games had layered pieces of every character to configure clothing parts and colors to make pretty much any wrestler you wanted. They also allow to edit every part of a wrestler's moveset, stats, and even their behavior (CPU logic). The current version on PS4 and PC has create a move, making the game pretty much future proof (you can make any move you see on TV or make up in your head) and allows for community sharing of parts, wrestlers, moves, and rings. The ooooooonly gripe I have, that has seen this game slip from number 1 in my lists over the years, is that when I first discovered the series, it was 6 man scramble, meaning up to 6 wrestlers in the ring at once. The later games, increase that to 8, which is even better. I've been waiting, and thought it would happen with this latest game, that it would be bumped up to 10. 10 wrestlers in the match at once, so you can create those 5 on 5 Survivor Series matches from the 80s. Alas, it seems that's not going to happen as the series is slowly dying off. This is one of those rare series that I am so fond of I'll always keep in my collection. I've got it from Saturn, Playstation, PS4 and of course the digital version on my PC. CRITICAL!
3- Batman: Arkham Asylum
This game really caught me by surprise. Most licensed games were lame up until this hit. I remember ignoring it, assuming it was bad, then seeing reviews and how much hype it had generated. I downloaded the demo on a whim, one boring afternoon, and was hooked instantly. By this time, it had been out for over a year or so, and the Game of the Year edition was just recently released. This is a game I'll generally play through once a year. It's so contained and solid as an overall experience. I love how "small" and claustrophobic it gets at time. The map you're in is deep and just the right size to not get tedious going from one point to the other. I'm amazed at how well the game moves you from place to place in the story and one mission takes you to the next spot in organic fashion, and you're not just getting missions and objectives arbitrarily sending you all over the map (as I felt the series did in the later games). The combat is addicting, and just the right level of complex for me. I'm more Marvel than DC by far, but appreciate the comic book roots they grow out of in this game. The cutscenes are good, and quick, as they should be (just let me play, I have a controller in my hand, I don't want to sit and watch the game talk to itself). Collecting the Riddler trophies is enjoyable for me, and after the game has been beaten, a great little time-killer. I'll jump on and find 5 more, to kill time, and eventually, close out the game til next year. The stealth sections are so much fun, and these areas in the map are simple enough to not get too difficult or frustrating. Sneaking through the asylum is creepy and has a horror element to it, that really gets your pulse going. Play it with the lights turned off! The audio logs and Arkham histories you collect are also good and creepy. This is a must play for anyone that considers themselves a gamer.
Batman: Arkham City
Definitely enjoy the 'more of the same' aspects of this game, and I do think it's good, just a drop off from the first one for me, mostly because of the overall world map. They made it a bit more of an open world, and many of the missions have you criss-crossing back and forth over the map, and it's not exactly a smooth ride. The cable jumps and gliding are ok, but the terrain and skyline aren't contributing to a quick, fun set of movement. Cable gun, leap, glide, dive pull up, awkward turn, hit a building, fall, repeat. I enjoy the Saw (movie) like challenges from the Riddler, but again, I'm just a bit awkward with the acrobatics so there's a few awkward deaths and restarts, that kind of takes the fun out of it for me. Good game, just not great IMO, just makes me want to replay the first one.
2- Far Cry: Blood Dragon
I have to say, this was a tough call no to take the top spot. As a whole, all these games together have given me a lot of hours of being entertained. Of all the games in the series, Blood Dragon stands out to me as my favorite for a few reasons. It's rooted in 80's movie glory, and I read somewhere it being described as being TRON, Robocop, Terminator and Predator added to a blender and injected in to the Far Cry game engine, which is hitting a lot of my 80s fandom. It's much shorter than the 'full' games, but to me that's fine, as I can enjoy it over a month or two and run through it with less overall time commitment. The weapons are all fun, not overly complicated, and the stealth mechanics are great. Love that TRON styled bow and arrow! the collectibles are fun to find, like old VHS tapes poking fun at 80s movie cliches. A BIG win for me also is the cutscenes, or rather the LACK of cutscenes. If you ever played Ninja Gaiden on the NES you'll know exactly the kind of cutscenes I enjoy. FCBD scenes are short, and in 16 Bit (or 32 maybe) graphics. They are actually funny, which is entertaining, not trying to be dramatic like the other Far Cry games or so many other games that misuse (IMO) cutscenes. They shouldn't try to be dramatic or lengthy, just quick bits of info delivered that for whatever reason can't come through in gameplay. Don't get me wrong, I love every Far Cry game I've played, but Blood Dragon is the one I've enjoyed the most and is always on my replay list.
Honorable mentions in order of favorite to least favorite: Far Cry 4, Far Cry 3, Far Cry New Dawn, Far Cry 5, far Cry 6, Far Cry Primal, Far Cry 2
1- Spider-Man (Sony Playstation exclusive)
This one takes the win for me! It's so much fun to just turn on and play or dive in to the story and side missions. The controls are smooth and easy to pick up. They can get complex and deep, but you can enjoy the game just fine if you're like me and struggle with some of the more complicated combos. The graphics are unbelievable on both the last gen or new gen upgraded view. Their version of New York is so detailed and a get distracted just looking in every nook and cranny of the city. The costumes (there are a lot) are fun to collect, and all look great. For me it freshens up the game just by changing looks between plays. The cutscenes are very tolerable (again, I'm very picky about cutscenes) and so many of the classic Spidey villains are in the game and so much fun to combat. The web-swinging is addicting and feels so smooth. That's the key to this game for me, it doesn't feel like a chore to commute from mission-to-mission, it's a rare occasion where I don't mind going from point A to point B just to start the next objective or get that next collectible. The physics on the swings and jumps are fun to watch and control and I get a legit sense of height. The decision to allow for running on walls is another genius addition while so minor, it's a great way to prevent commutes from being tedious or more time consuming than they need to be. Of course there is a fast travel system, which is great to have, though I barely wanted to use it, and when I did, it was just to see the very entertaining short cutscenes (video below).