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The Top 50 Games of All Time (50-41)
How exactly does one go about determining what makes a game great, much less what makes one better than another? It’s a tough question. We do, however, have some basic criteria that we can use. Graphical fidelity, sound design, art style, gameplay; the list is endless. Some games stand apart, though. How a game stands the test of time is always a good basis, and how their influence is felt through the generations is always fascinating to watch. After going through roughly thirty-one drafts, ten arguments and at least one major complete shake-up, here is Part 1 of the Top 50 Games of All Time.
50. Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Kicking off the Top 50, we have the first of what’s sure to be many Nintendo games on the list. Super Smash Bros. Brawl perfectly encapsulates what makes Nintendo such a great company. At its heart, the formula is an easy sale: Take a bunch of iconic (and not-so-iconic) characters from your past franchises, throw them into a huge brawler and pour gallons of fan service all over it. The first Smash Bros. was a riotous good time, and every iteration since has improved upon the formula, culminating in the startlingly good Brawl. A lengthy (and surprisingly well-done) single player experience was finally introduced to balance out the incredible multiplayer, and a slew of unlockable characters, stages, minigames and trophies provide enough content for even the most hardcore of completionists to enjoy. Embracing pure fan, Smash Bros let us live out our video game fantasies in pure awesomeness.
49. Gears of War 2: Proving that Xbox Live was there for more than just Halo 2, the first Gears of War was a true landmark title for the Xbox 360. As it turns out, Epic Games knows a little bit about Unreal Engine (they should, they built it), and they were instrumental in showing us what high-def was truly capable of. The second entry might have taken a small step back in the multiplayer department, but it delivered the full package with the introduction of Horde mode. If you have any questions about how influential that was, just take a look at any shooter on the market today. If they don’t have a Horde mode clone, they are probably doing something wrong.
48. Twisted Metal 2: If you have a problem with a homicidal clown riding an ice cream truck around shooting missiles at people, then the Twisted Metal franchise probably isn’t for you. For the rest of us, it was a step away from the cute cuddly series the PlayStation was inundated with, and offered a game that was both mature and obscenely childish at the same time. As good as the first game was, the series truly hit its stride with the second entry, offering a ton of insane characters, crazy stages and enough weaponry to take down a medium-sized nation. Unlike a lot of franchises from that day, Twisted Metal is still going strong, and is just as fun as ever.
47. Castle Crashers: One of the most downright fun games you will ever play, Castle Crashers was one of the first breakout hits for the Xbox Live Arcade, and would go on to become the best-selling game on the service, at least until Minecraft came along and dethroned it. Able to stand toe-to-toe with some of the most classic beat-em-ups of all time, Castle Crashers injected Zelda-esque secrets, impressive RPG-lite elements and a healthy dose of humor into the formula. Created by the masterminds behind popular flash portal Newgrounds, Castle Crashers is an absolute blast to play, especially when you bring three other buddies along for the ride. The excellent sound design, timeless art style and myriad hidden weapons, characters and animal orbs were just icing on the already delicious cake.
46. Gran Turismo 2: Realism may be a desirable goal in today’s games, but back in the late 90s the rule was the more ridiculous, the better. That trend may very well have ended with the release of Gran Turismo. Elevating the simulation racer genre to a whole new plane, Gran Turismo provided a level of realism and accuracy that would rival any of today’s releases, right down to the painstakingly authentic (and car specific) engine sounds. Now that’s commitment. Gran Turismo 2 upped the ante with more cars, more stages and more mufflers to squeeze every last horsepower out of your used Acura. It didn’t hurt that it also came loaded with enough content to keep racers interested for years. The real clincher though was finally saving up the $2,000,000 for the Pike’s Peak Suzuki, and leaving the competition in the dust.
45. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood: The Assassin’s Creed franchise struck an immediate chord with gamers, and it’s no surprise why. We’ve had a ninja/assassin/guy with blade fetish since Ninja Gaiden first sliced his way into our hearts, and Assassin’s Creed scratched that itch beautifully…in gorgeous HD. The first entry had its problems, but gamers were immediately enraptured by the setting, and most of the bigger problems were fixed in the second Creed. Brotherhood added multiplayer to the franchise, and while we were skeptical at first, it turned out to be a stellar addition to the series. The tale of Ezio, his assassins and their everlasting fight against the Templars never gets old, despite the dozens of hours we’ve aimlessly ran around the Animus waiting for the world to load.
44. Resident Evil 2: Zombie games are a dime a dozen now, but there was a time when that wasn’t so true. Of course, zombies weren’t exactly a new idea in 1996, but never before had a video game so perfectly presented a zombie experience. Resident Evil 2 dropped in early 1998, and would go on to become the fastest-selling game of its time in North America, changing the survival horror genre forever. The incredible graphics, unforgettable music and super intense gameplay proved a captivating mix, but it was the interactivity between Claire and Leon’s stories that was truly impressive. The unique “dual scenario” system almost seems like a predecessor to Mass Effect’s import system, and was awe inspiring at the time.
43. StarCraft 2: There are competitive game competitions, and there are StarCraft competitions. The two resemble each other very little. It all starts with the flawless balancing, an area that is frighteningly (and statistically) researched accurately. Whether you prefer the Terrans, the Protoss or, my personal favorite, the Zerg, an array of unique units and insane special abilities are just waiting to be exploited and micro-managed for your strategy entertainment. An incredible story mode is available for those who don’t like the hyper competitive nature of StarCraft, complete with a large amount of unlockables and one of the best difficulty-balanced campaigns ever. Zerg Rush FTW!
42. Grand Theft Auto IV: If there is a true master of satire today, it has to be Rockstar Games. Lampooning pop culture with an ease that is almost unfair, the Grand Theft Auto series has always been one of the more innovative franchises around, always on the forefront of the industry. Grand Theft Auto IV created one of the more intriguing protagonists ever written in Niko Bellic, a recent immigrant trying to escape a dark past. While trying to find the American Dream, Niko instead finds out that, although you can run from your demons, you cannot hide from them, and his journey to possible redemption is a fascinating one…complete with more sidequests and needy friends that one man could ever want.
41. Mario Kart: Mario has had some awfully weird second careers. He has moonlighted as a doctor, a painter, a plumber and a composer, but his best night job has been when he takes a lap around the go-kart track. Every system since the SNES has featured some sort of kart racing, but the original remains the best. Racing around as Bowser or a Koopa Troopa was certainly a novel experience at the time, but solid racing mechanics and outlandish weaponry made the game an absolute blast to play in its own right. The hours could easily fly by as you pounded each other in battle mode, and finally perfecting that Rainbow Road run you’ve been repeating was quite rewarding. That flashy Mode 7 map was pretty spiffy as well.
Stay tuned for for the rest of our countdown, and see if your favorite game makes the cut. Have a thought on the first part of the list? Leave us a comment, or head to the forums to discuss it with us!