I’ve been blessed in my short time on this planet to have played hundreds and hundreds of video games. From a very young age, my interest in video games was sparked by my Aunt who moved in with us and brought her Nintendo 64. My parents then indulged my obsession over the years, getting me games for the holidays and my birthdays. My Dad sat next to me on our living room couch from the beginning, through so many different adventures. From Portal 2 to Ratchet & Clank and Don’t Starve he always showed a huge interest in my passion which made me feel more and more excited to explore video games, write about video games and ultimately work in video games.
I was taken with the endless possibilities of video games. Possibilities of new worlds, new characters, new stories and new ways to play. Looking back at all of these games, obviously, some have struck me more than others. Some have stayed with me for years, bubbling up in my mind and reminding me of some good, and some bad, times in my life. Certain games were crucial turning points in discovering what I like and don’t like, what I want from new games. Sometimes games have even made me reflect on my own life, what I believe and why I’m doing what I do. So I wanted to sort through my almost two decades of play and really think about what means the most to me.
To be clear, this is not the best 100 games ever made or the most important 100 games. This is Stephan’s favourite 100 games based on pure, personal bias. These games are what stayed with me over the years. These games had the biggest impact on me. These are the most important games to me, and for that reason, there are games that are very particular to my experience and no one else’s. There are some games that I played in my formative years that in retrospect are not anything amazing but hold such an awesome power of nostalgia in my heart that they’ll always be important to me. So if you’re interested then I’d like to humbly present my top 100 video games. I sincerely hope you enjoy!
Note: Each game is accompanied by the developer, the platform I first played it on and the year it was released. This list considered the games I feel I’d played enough before April 2017.
100. LIMBO – Playdead (Xbox 360, 2010)
I played LIMBO several years after it released, but I was totally unaware of the impact it had on the indie game scene. I thought it just looked like an interesting puzzle game. But after the first bear trap sent the little boy’s head spraying blood through the air I realized this was much more than an interesting puzzler. LIMBO does more with black and white than most games do with the whole palette of colours. Interesting puzzles, startling deaths, brain slugs and an ambiguous conclusion are what keep LIMBO on my mind, long after I’d beaten it.
99. Stellar Smooch – Alec Thomson & Jenny Jiao Hsia (iOS, 2015)
This was the first game I played by the incredible Jenny Jiao Hsia, a designer of many cute and fun experiences. Stellar Smooch is a story of two satellites adrift in space, just longing for each other and a glorious smooch. The levels are separated by wonderful poetry that fills in the story between these two literally star crossed lovers and is some of my favourite game writing to date. And it’s free?! I almost feel bad not being able to support this talented and wonderful artist.
98. Portal – Valve (Xbox 360, 2007)
The mechanic of portals still makes for one of the most interesting explorations of puzzles and space in games I’ve encountered. It just happens that this interesting mechanic is complimented by an equally interesting world in which Chel, trapped within Aperture Science, is tormented by GLaDOS for scientific gains. Also, the credit song is STILL one of the greatest songs ever, in or outside of video games.
97. Super Mario Advance 2: Super Mario World – Nintendo (GBA, 2002)
I first played Super Mario World on my Gameboy Advance when I was 5 years old, way back before I knew it was originally a SNES title that many hail as one of the best platformers ever made. To me it was just a better Super Mario Bros. because now I got to ride a green lizard that I could eject from, sending him plummeting to his demise, ensuring I could reach that tricky ledge. This might even be the first game that caused me to question the morality of what I’d done in a game. But then the catchy music erased my guilt and I hopped along to the goal post.
96. Red Dead Redemption – Rockstar Games (Xbox 360, 2010)
Here’s the thing. Rockstar Games make sexist, racist, homophobic and generally problematic games. They also build some of the grandest, technically impressive and meticulously crafted virtual worlds I’ve ever encountered. Red Dead Redemption is one of these worlds, where Wild West horseback adventures, a classic Western story and a fantastic late game twist make for one of the more memorable games I’ve played. But this is all tarnished by sexual assault, super racist depictions of Mexicans and some pretty gross treatment of Indigenous people. So while there are some wonderful parts of Red Dead Redemption that I loved, I’m also very critical of its gaping flaws. But it’s definitely an experience I’ll remember for a long time to come.
95. Pokémon Pearl – GameFreak (DS Lite, 2006)
Everyone’s first Pokémon game is something special. For me, that was Pokémon Pearl which I got for my DS Lite when I was just beginning to explore the world of games beyond side scrollers and mascot platformers. My save file in Pokémon Pearl had well over 150 hours before my DS Lite was misplaced and I lost everything. But those 150 hours were an experience that drove me to play every Pokémon game that followed, eagerly awaiting the next time I would choose a starter and set out to explore the world!
94. Dishonored – Arkane Studios (Xbox 360, 2012)
Dishonored builds a compelling world and story that most other games only dream of reaching. Corvo’s tale of betrayal, banishment and ultimate redemption is an exciting one which had me heavily invested in this Victorian setting plagued by disease and death. But the thing that really makes Dishonored special is the way the story changes and adapts to the player’s actions. There are so many ways to beat each mission and vastly different conclusions depending on how the player chooses to tackle them. I had that stupid song the guards whistle stuck in my head for months…
93. GoNNER – Art in Heart (PC, 2016)
The first time I encountered GoNNER was in a picture Rami Ismail tweeted of himself wearing a shirt bearing the game’s logo. Rami’s support and the intriguing logo were all I needed, I preordered on Steam and played the hour it unlocked. But here’s the thing, GoNNER is an exceptional game in its mechanics, music and roguelite brilliance- but there’s an even bigger reason I remember it so fondly. GoNNER was the one of the first time I connected with the designer and spoke to them about their work. I reached out to Mattias “D!TTØ” Dittrich over Twitter and arranged an interview in which I got to talk to the person responsible for a game I loved, for the first time in my life. D!TTØ’s correspondence means a lot to me, and following his success and the success of GoNNER have been as awesome as playing it.
92. Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo (Wii, 2008)
Brawl was a pretty mediocre game, like it wasn’t really that balanced or tuned in the way other Super Smash Bros. games are and is generally considered the worst game of the series. But 8-year-old Stephan didn’t know that, and neither did any of his friends. All 8-year-old Stephan knew was that he loved Link, Samus and Ness and this was a game which he could enjoy with his other 8-year-old friends for hours and hours. After I had unlocked every character, stage and beaten the Subspace Emissary twice I must’ve spent hundreds of hours playing Brawl. And when you’re a kid that’s all that matters.
91. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Nintendo (Wii, 2006)
Before Twilight Princess my only encounter with The Legend of Zelda was holding my Aunt’s N64 cartridge for Ocarina of Time and marvelling at its unique gold finish, and glimpses of my Aunt playing in our basement. It was a mystery, but a mystery I knew I wanted to uncover. So when I got my Wii and talked my dad into looking past the “T for Teen” rating I finally got my first look into the world of Hyrule. And I was amazed. Of course in retrospect, Twilight Princess is a so-so game. Its introduction is 3 hours too long, the world is pretty bland and empty and there’s not a whole lot of nuance to the combat. But again, 8-year-old Stephan could’ve cared less. It took me over 70 hours but I finally defeated Ganon on Hyrule field, and that graphic sword-through-the-chest finish was absolutely amazing. I knew The Legend of Zelda was a series I wanted to get into, and thankfully I did.