The Best Video Games Ever

As I write about video games and suggest a number of them on the site, I thought it would be helpful go through what I consider to be the greatest games ever released. Looking closely at what I've played in the past should help you get a good idea of what I'm looking for today. I'll also try to identify the essential ingredients of a great game. 

Unlike other forms of entertainment, most games are soon forgotten as the technology and the hardware moves on to bigger and better things.

Unless you're paying a premium for repackaged 'retro' games or you've found an old console in your attic, you're unlikely to go back to great games. They can also look pretty basic compared to what's on offer today but some of them have still got that extra magic that makes up for it. 

Here are my favourite games of all time and I've deliberately stayed away from anything released within the last decade to keep this focussed on the classics.


Kick Off 2

I think this has to be the best football game ever, and I haven't forgotten the FIFA or Pro Evolution games. Although Sensible Soccer developed a lot of the ideas here a few years afterwards, this one really nailed it during the golden years of the Amiga/ST era.

Dino Dini created a masterpiece with the original game and then improved every aspect with this near-perfect sequel.

Aftertouch changed everything and made head-to-head games a lot more competitive. You could also import your teams from the Player Manager game if you really wanted to dive in.

I loved this game because it was just so easy to pick up and play.

You could invite a friend over who'd never played it before and they'd be soon be causing you problems after a couple of matches. It was also something you could quickly dip into for the odd match and then arrange a tournament when you had time.

I think the top down view is the perfect way to present a football game.

It let you control everything and it was far better then the side scrollers that were around at the time, like the official Itallia '90 game. I also enjoyed this a lot more than any of the FIFA games I've played.

It's just a shame that this is pretty much forgotten now.


Sid Meier's Pirates

This was an amazing game in the early '90s and it received a fantastic update in 2005. I played this version on the original Xbox and it was a very special game. I also played it on the PSP, where I finally completed it, and I have the iOS app.

It's the open-ended nature of the game that made it so special.

You can follow the narrative and avenge your family, or you could just become a simple merchant and sail around the Caribbean trading. You can choose which nation you represent as well and if you chose to engage in piracy, you could acquire an impressive fleet.

Being the 1990's, this obviously had to be done as simply as possible in terms of gameplay. This results in a number of 'sub-games' that include duelling, sailing and even dancing, to win the hearts of governors daughters.

Because of this, the game was extremely simple to play but delivered so much to explore and interact with.

A lot of games on this scale can be terribly complex and aren't really experiences you can 'dip in and out of' when you feel like it. This was different though as you essentialy set your own limits.

I think the most important thing about this game is that creativity and innovation overcame technical limitations and really made a difference.

One of the most interesting things for me is the typical '90s ending, where countless hours of play are rewarded with a single page of text. It didn't put you off though, as it's such a great game.


The Secret of Monkey Island

This one really helped change the perception of what a video game was all about. It was part of an important shift away from shooters and scrollers and more importantly, it was something anyone could play.

For me it was all about the humour, as this was a really clever and funny game.

Point and click adventures were the perfect way to present great games on the fairly basic hardware of the time. The graphics were also pretty special at the time and really added something to the experience.

This game quickly drew you in and you were soon hooked. It also introduced you to some great characters and put you in plenty of awkward situations that required clever solutions.

I think this game showed everyone how important humour and an engaging narrative is to a great game.

You need memorable and relatable characters as well if you want to create an unforgettable experience. It also doesn't hurt if you laugh a lot while you're playing a great game. 


Tetris

Just try to think about this game without the tune playing in your head. 

It put a video game, and a gaming device, into the hands of people that would have probably never thought of playing one before.

Tetris was not only a great game as it pretty much carried the Gameboy when it was launched. It was such a simple idea, but it quickly became very addictive as you endlessly attempted to improve your score, and maybe see a rocket taking off.

I think Tetris is the perfect example of how great games need a simple and engaging 'hook' that keeps you coming back for more.

There isn't even a narrative here, just the prospect of a simple reward when it all goes right. It's also just as good today as it was back then.


Super Street Fighter 2

Street Fighter 2 changed everything when it arrived. Although we'd had 'beat 'em ups' before it came along, this time there were eight characters and they all had special moves. 

It's hard to describe what a huge step forward this game was.

It was an amazing experience when you first played it in an arcade. You could also have some pretty epic duels with your friends as well.

The series quickly evolved and we found ourselves playing the Champion Edition, where you could now play as the bosses, and then my favourite, Super Street Fighter 2 with four new challengers. Both of these also had 'Turbo' editions with gameplay enhancements.

Far from being cash-ins though, these games were all great in their own right. They were also perfectly presented on the SNES.

If you gave me a Super Street Fighter 2 arcade cabinet, I could probably play it forever.

With all the combos and moves available, it pretty much had everything. It looked great as well and caught everyones attention when you played it.


Goldeneye 64

This one took shooters to another level and pretty much saved the N64. It didn't really need the Bond licence either, as it was a great game in its own right.

Just introducing sniper rifles alone should give this game a special place in video game history.

It just felt different when you played it and the way the characters moved when you shot them was quite different. It was also cool when you knocked their hats off.

It also gave you plenty of reasons to keep playing with varied difficulty levels and objectives.

This game really became something when you played it with other people though. In the days before online gaming was easy, this was the way you played games with your friends.

A four-way fight in the same room was quite something, and it often got a bit heated.

It's such a shame that issues with the Bond licence has kept this from being re-issued as it's a classic. At least we can still play the unofficial sequel, Perfect Dark.


Command and Conquer: Red Alert

I honestly think this is the greatest video game ever released. It's almost endless because after hours of single player campaigns, there were skirmish and online modes.

This was one of those game you simply couldn't stop playing.

It was the perfect sequel to the the original Command and Conquer, but the story and the units really seemed to work a lot better here. It was also easy to play, but so hard to master.

I think the highest praise I can give this game is that nothing has come close to it since. The more comical sequels were decent games in their own right, but they never got near this one in terms of the overall experience.

If you hadn't guessed already, Red Alert is still my 'desert island game' and I just love everything about it.

For me, it's all about the overwhelming amount of options available and the insatiable desire to finish what you started. I also thought the FMV was pretty cool as well and really suited these games.


TOCA Race Driver 2

This is still my favourite racing game of all time. Codemasters put all their experience to great use and there was an engaging story mode as well that really made it stand out.

It was the sheer variety of cars and tracks that made this game so special.

It was great on the original Xbox and Xbox Live delivered an unbelievable multiplayer experience. From DTM cars to ice racing and trucks, this game had pretty much everything. There were also plenty of tracks so the options were almost endless online.

This was also happening at a time where the office F1 game on the PlayStation simply let you race other people's ghost laps.

This was a very special game and the best thing about it is that it managed to pull off all its ambitious ideas.

It was huge, it felt great to play and you really felt it was something special. The fact that the cars got damaged also meant that people didn't simply pile into you at the first corner and ruin online games.


Wings

I loved all the Cinemaware games, but this one was very special. It also showed people that you could learn a lot from a video game.

You literally fought your way through World War 1 and your journals told the story.

Even with the technical limitations at the time, it was a cinematic experience and you couldn't help getting involved. It also made some very clever use of three basic gameplay levels as you took part in strafing, bombing and dogfighting missions.

There was so much variety and they also included a role play feature where you would develop your own character as you went along.

It also brought home the horrors of war, particularly when you had to face the 'Bloody April' of 1917.

I have some very special memories of playing this game and it taught me so much about World War 1. Everything you did was significant and there was always plenty of action. 


Metal Gear Solid

I consider this to be one of the first truly great cinematic experience on a games console.

Hideo Kojima extracted everything he could from the original Playstation hardware and delivered a masterpiece.

Just revisiting some of the levels in the far more advanced Guns of the Patriots highlighted how unforgettable this game was. It expanded on the previous NES games and turned the new Metal Gear Solid series into a phenomenon.

Cinematic gameplay, bizarre characters, offbeat humour and a complex and constantly evolving story have made this one of the greatest series of games ever released.

It all started here and anyone who's played this one will know that it quickly made an impression. Like all Metal Gear games, it feels different and you can't miss all the neat little touches that don't really need to be there.

I love this whole series and although it's hard to pick a favourite, this one stands out for me because it launched it and  it didn't let any technical limitations hold it back.

I think it also says something that this entire game was updated to produce The Twin Snakes on the GameCube. How great would it be great if this appeared again on the Switch?


Hopefully, a few of these selections brought back some very special memories and got you thinking about all the elements that make up a great game. Keep checking the blog for more great ideas.