The year is over, so once again we thought it was time to make a list of the best games of all time. That’s no easy task, because so many great games have come out in the past thirty-five years. Nevertheless, we at the editorial team put our heads together, called each other rotten fish and cut the most emotionally charged knots. The result is this comprehensive list and a very grim atmosphere on the editorial staff.
It may sound somewhat crazy, but to make a list like this as fair as possible, you actually have to be flexible. For example, with sports games you often choose the best from the franchise, because they are usually released every year and sometimes differ little from each other. That while from franchises like those of Zelda or Mario you’re going to encounter multiple games in the list, though we tried to keep that to a minimum as well.
In addition, different aspects come into play when it comes to choosing a game. Thus, games are not all looked at in the same way, because some games have to make it mainly on the impact it had when it was released, while others have to make it on its playability or nostalgia. It is impossible to compare the first Mario game with, say, Red Dead Redemption 2, but you still have to make choices in such a list.
Fat chance you don’t agree with the list, we already couldn’t agree with each other on our small editorial team, let alone with the rest of the Benelux. Still, we would love to read your reaction to the list, stating that we are incredible sadists because we didn’t put your favorite game in the list. But even more fun, you probably have all kinds of memories of the games in the list and please don’t hide that, we enjoy reading them!
90. Shenmue 1 & 2 (2001)
Shenmue 1 & 2 are typically games that haven’t stood the test of time very well, but when they were released they were technological marvels. Sure, the gameplay is not for everyone, but for the gourmet, it was a treat. You are Ryo Hazuki and your father has been murdered and so an adventure awaits you, which after three volumes is still not over. Lan Di, your father’s killer, is still on the loose and it looks like he’s going to get away with it too!
While you travel after Lan Di, in the places you arrive, you actually take your time tremendously and meet all kinds of strange types. Think of it as a kind of life simulator, where at the end of a long day you have to sleep, and to sleep somewhere you need money, so you have to work. Hauling boxes, moving boxes with a forklift, taking books outside, catching leaves, getting people gambling addicted with Lucky Hit, racing a duckling, waiting for the bus, waiting for the store to open; it’s just a small sampling of occupations that keep you from finding Lan Di.
The strength of the Shenmue games are the beautiful Asian cities (and villages), the themes and the lousy acting by all the actors involved. Unfortunately, not every gamer fell for the charm of the Shenmue series and, as a result, the first two volumes became a huge flop in terms of sales. SEGA had put a lot of time and especially money into it and gambled that it would be a success … although you could also say that SEGA was known for strange choices and bad policies at the time. But make no mistake, the series came from the mind of Yu Suzuki, known for Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA, Virtua Racer and Virtua Cop. It took a long time for a third installment to arrive and it was made outside of SEGAS, but with a very small budget, which unfortunately prevented it from matching the magic of the first two installments. Now we have to make do with an animated series of Shenmue to see Lan Di wracked.
Moment of the game:
Shenmue 1 & 2 are packed with unforgettable moments, but above all, the “do what you want” principle is what makes us long for the quality of the series again. If you want to hang out in the arcade all day, that’s up to you! Many classics like Outrun and Super Hang On are playable! You’ve been seeing this principle more in games since then, including the Yakuza series, where in the latest installment you can play a real version of Daytona USA 2!
89. Donkey Kong Country (1994)
Before Rare was bought out by Microsoft, the British developer primarily made its games for Nintendo consoles. Many of Rare’s games are downright classics, and that reputation began with Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo. Through clever trickery, the developer managed to conjure beautiful 3D graphics on a 16-bit console and was allowed to work with Nintendo’s franchise. The result is a beautiful game full of platforming fun and challenging levels full of secrets and collectible items.
Rare subsequently made several sequels of the same high standard, while the series was given new life on later Nintendo consoles with Retro Studios as the developer. Versions of Donkey Kong Country also appeared on several other Nintendo consoles, but the best version is still the Super Nintendo one. The game is packed with secret locations and has stood the test of time reasonably well. Yes, now the graphics won’t blow you off your chair, but the gameplay still stands the test of time.
It’s pretty clever of Rare to revive Donkey Kong, after we knew the ape mostly from old arcade games, where he was mostly the villain. Still Nintendo is using Rare’s design for Donkey Kong, and you could even see that reflected in the Super Mario Bros. movie, which hit theaters earlier this year. I’m sure it won’t end with games centered around the tie-dyed monkey either, but the impact of the first Donkey Kong Country was unprecedented!
Moment of the game:
Once again, Donkey Kong Country had, for its time, beautiful graphics. Some levels were even more beautiful than others, but the underwater levels were the best. It was quite extraordinary that such a beautiful game could be played on the Super Nintendo, at a time when people were just switching from 16-bit to 32-bit. You could even say that Donkey Kong Country is more beautiful and many times more interesting than any game for SEGA’s 32X.
88. NBA Jam Tournament Edition (1994)
Boomshakalaka! This madcap, 2-on-2 basketball game managed to blow gamers away in the 1990s with its playful style. You conquer the ball by simply pushing the other player over and no referee gives a hard time about it. Dunking is more the rule than the exception and involves the player jumping exaggeratedly high into the air, only to stomp the ball through the net after a few somersaults. Once one player scores three times in a row, he is “on fire,” which is nicely accompanied by an enthusiastic commentator: “Heeeeeeeeee’s oooon fiiireee!!! Basketball spectacle of the highest order. And yes, when the ball is “on fire,” it is literally on fire (don’t try this at home)!
By the way, the first NBA Jam came out in 1993, but the Tournament Edition is by far the best version of the game. This one was so full of funny extras that we had no choice but to opt for the Tournament Edition. Subsequent installments in the series changed the gameplay so much that there was little left of NBA Jam, and they also tried to reboot it in 2010. Unfortunately, they never came close to the quality and chaos of the original and the Tournament Edition.
Besides the fun gameplay, you could also discover all sorts of secrets…well, discover…you usually found them in game magazines. It often came down to filling in a certain name and you could, for example, have Bill Clinton on your team! By the way, this game was playable on a huge number of consoles and if you ask us, the arcade version is the best, but it was also in top condition on the Mega Drive and Saturn!
Moment of the game:
The idea of the game was very simple and actually there wasn’t that much variety, but the overall picture was very nice. Everyone knew the commentator’s statements, even if you had never played NBA Jam before. You can still hear the statements recurring in other games, but we also like to refer to them on the editorial staff.
87. Command & Conquer (1995)
They did the trick before with Dune 2, but with Command & Conquer, onwtikkelaar Westwood Studios put itself on the map as the king of the Real Time Strategy genre. It combined tactical warfare with resource gathering and base building. The right mix between commanding your troops, defending your base and building an advanced network made for an addictive experience. This gameplay showed it off even better against an opponent of human and blood. By the way, it is advisable that you agree on a time when you are not allowed to attack each other, so that you both have time to build a good base, otherwise the fun is quickly gone.
After the great original, more volumes came out in the Command & Conquer series, including more spin-offs like Red Alert. Not every part was equally great, and that has mostly to do with the fact that the original developer now no longer exists, and that hasn’t done the series any favors, as it has long since ceased to be the great franchise it was in the 1990s. By the way, a remaster has been released where you can now zoom in and out of the action.
Commercially, the highlight was Command & Conquer: Tiberium Sun, but we think the first installment was a lot stronger. Not only did it start a whole new series, but the whole RTS genre owes a lot to this volume. The way you build bases and prepare your men for the delicious battles, almost every RTS since then has done it that way.
Moment of the game:
Even though the gameplay was solid, the game was also a lot of fun because of the dramatic actors. The series has had all kinds of actors come by, such as Tim Curry and even though that’s a good actor, the cheesy set-up in Command & Conquer hit the right tone. Not to mention Kane!
86. Bioshock (2007)
In August of 2007, a demo of Bioshock was released on various systems and it left a deep impression on most gamers. In the demo, you played the beginning of the game and were thrillingly immersed more and more in the story and the beautiful underwater world of Rapture. We ourselves are in favor of a sci-fi game with horror elements, but even people who are not so fond of that were immediately taken by the great atmosphere Ken Levine managed to create.
Bioshock feels as adventurous as it is exciting, and you’ll never forget your first experience with such an impressive Daddy. Call me a sissy, but I was literally under the table in-game because I didn’t know how to defeat this gentleman. The metallic sound of footsteps getting louder and louder made for one of my favorite moments in games.
Some more sequels came out, such as Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinte, although we never got the promised PS Vita part. Meanwhile, a new Bioshock has been announced, but it doesn’t look like Ken Levine will be involved. So it remains to be seen whether this will be a worthy installment in the series. Should you still want to purchase Bioshock, it is good to know that a Bioshock Collection has been released on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Moment of the game:
The first 30 minutes of Bioshock is, in our opinion, one of the best openings of any game ever! The plane crash, the sea, Rapture and the water are strongly designed and make you feel like you are really there and in the end Rapture is the last place we ever want to be found!