BKA Content’s Top 25 Video Games for Video Games Day
Everybody likes a vacation, right? What better way to get away than to get lost in an alternate reality?! In honor of National Video Games Day (and because we appreciate all kinds of content here at BKA), we’ve put together a list of our top 25 favorite video games, spanning across all systems and consoles.
It was Uncharted territory for us, and it felt a lot like a Harvest Moon solar eclipse was going on here in the office (based on all the excitement and the Halo that appeared), but once we took a break from Super Smashing each other’s opinions and went outside in the Donkey Kong Country air to get a Breath of the Wild, it was as if there was a Sonic boom and things started to really make sense. So, you could say it was Destiny that we decided to pull the Chrono Trigger on this list…. Ok, I’ll stop.
The grading rubric was based entirely on pure, unadulterated, extremely biased opinions. It was tough to narrow it down to just 25, but we think we’ve found some real winners. We had contributions from many of our management, development and executive team members but are always open to other suggestions. Whether you do or don’t agree with this list, we’d love to hear about it.
So, without further ado, here are the BKA Top 25 favorite video games listed in alphabetical order:
BattleToads were the definition of cool. Everybody loved the Ninja Turtles, myself included. Fun, lovable turtles. But the BattleToads were not to be messed with. Punching battle-ready pigs off screen or drop-kicking kangaroos into oblivion was the most satisfying feeling. But don’t even get me started on the racing sequence in level 3. That had to be the most maddening level ever, especially if you’re playing 2 players with someone that just can’t cut it. As hard as it was, I loved BattleToads. – Jon Bingham
The Super Nintendo had loads of amazing RPGs, but this one stands out. This game had time travel, dinosaurs, magic and robots, but still felt like it was all packaged together in a medieval fantasy-adventure game. The music was legit, the characters were lovable, and the time-travel decisions you made actually affected the outcome of the game. That’s right, there were multiple endings – 13 to be exact. Making decisions that mattered in an already well-narrated story made this adventure come to life. – Matt Secrist
↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A Start. Everybody knows the code for 30 extra lives, and you needed them if you wanted to make it far in Contra. Running and gunning your way through every level, picking up new guns (spread gun was the best) and fighting robotic bosses was the best. Contra was hands down one of the best NES games ever. – Jon Bingham
I can easily say, without a doubt, that I’ve never played a game more than I did Destiny. Love it or hate it, you have to admit that at some point you were absolutely addicted to the game. The way Bungie’s leveling system worked made you want to grind day and night just to get a slightly better piece of gear or a new weapon with an awesome ability (I’m looking at you Gjallarhorn). Getting exotic engram drops in a strike and then having the Cryptarch give you something worthless from it, was both exhilarating and infuriating.
And raids, what can I even say about raids? I’ve never played a co-op mission that was so difficult, confusing or amazing. The amount of team work needed and the uniqueness of each one was something so fun and so frustrating. – Jon Bingham
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country was one of the first platformers that broke from the classic Mario world that was both gorgeous (remember the underwater levels) and incredibly fun to play for its time. In Donkey Kong Country, the two-player swap system between Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong was awesome as it allowed you and your best friend to take the lead on different challenging levels throughout the game. Who knew that riding mine carts and collecting bananas could be so much fun? – Greg Secrist
Dr. Mario (NES or Wii version):
There are many nights where I fall asleep and my dreams consist of small pills lining up and disappearing when there are four in a row. The day I learned that removing two viruses at the same time dropped bombs on the other player was the day I truly mastered Dr. Mario. Now, my husband and I play on level 15 at medium speed and annihilate each other on a regular basis. We have the original system (and it still works), but you can also download Dr. Mario on the Wii and use the Wii controllers to play. I’ve heard from Matt that he can beat me, but I think he just doesn’t want to admit that a girl is better than him at a video game because it’s so emasculating.
Pro tip: if you are playing on a higher level where you must get the viruses from the side, don’t use the down button on your controller to make them drop faster, or you will die. Let it play out while your opponent tries to rush them, and you will win every time. – Katie Price
Today’s first-person juggernauts such as Destiny and Halo all started somewhere, and that somewhere was with Goldeneye. This James Bond based shooter became one of the best known N64 games and was such a blast to play.
What made this game so much fun was the ability for 4 people to play simultaneously on one TV. I can’t even tell you how many late nights I had with my friends searching for the coveted golden gun to get the infamous one-shot-kill just to rub it in their face for weeks afterward. The replay ability of this game was unmatched for its time and I still have fond memories of it to this day. – Greg Secrist
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
I LOVED cars as a kid and there was no other game at the time that fulfilled that desire to drive awesome cars at high speeds like the Gran Turismo franchise. I’d give GT3 the nod as my overall favorite. The upgraded graphics on the PS2 made the cars look so good and the driving felt so realistic. Being able to choose from 100s of amazing cars and drive them on world famous tracks kept me playing for a very long time. Gran Turismo will always be one of my favorites. – Jon Bingham
Grand Theft Auto 5 is literally endless amounts of fun. The game has been out for nearly 4 years now and Rockstar is STILL creating incredible new content for it. Having the ability to do practically anything you want in a game with an environment as large as Los Santos makes every moment of gameplay fun and unexpected. The campaigns were fun, but playing online with a group of friends, running around town and wreaking havoc is about as much fun as you could ever have. – Jon Bingham
To me, the perfect Friday night in Jr. High School was spent with my closest friends playing Halo in my parent’s basement. Hooking up the LAN cables to connect multiple Xboxes, busting out the Doritos and Mountain Dew, and hearing the title screen theme song were all sure signs of the fun to come.
This was the game that got me started on online gaming and introduced me to the world of pwning noobs and getting cursed at by random 12-year-olds (using words I never knew existed). One of my best friends I made in high school was thanks to hours spent playing Halo 3 together. So, thank you Halo, for all the good (and the bad) you have brought to my life. – Caleb Shepherd
The Harvest Moon games are great because there just aren’t many other games like them. While many people assume the gameplay is slow and tedious, they are actually really addictive and much more complex than they seem. There are tons of things to do in the game and you can play it however you want. Plant crops, raise animals, go mining for ore, or get to know the townspeople. You may even find your husband or wife…in the game, that is.
There is so much to do you must learn to manage your time wisely. If you are sick of stressful games that make you want to throw your controller at your TV, you should give a farming simulation a try. There are several Harvest Moon titles, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. – Liz Houtz
King’s Quest 1: Quest for the Crown
I still remember sitting at our family computer as a little kid, controlling a little yellow man with a blue hat and a red shirt while navigating fairy-tale related challenges to earn the title of King. I typed in commands and hoped they worked as I used my magic mirror, ran away from thieves, stumped Rumpelstiltskin, defeated the troll under the bridge and eventually climbed a beanstalk to take on giants.
This game captured my imagination in every way, and also challenged me to think outside the box and look for things that weren’t obvious. I can’t remember how many times I used the save button or how many faulty commands I typed, but I remember the thrill of finally getting it right. – Matt Secrist
The Last of Us
I’m a sucker for zombie movies, and this game was the best zombie movie ever made. That’s right, it’s basically a movie. That you can play. That’s about zombies. And it’s awesome.
The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the zombies are both somewhat believable and legitimately scary. There were times I was playing this at night in my apartment alone and my heart was beating out of my chest because I was genuinely on edge. The scenery was beautiful yet eerie, and survival and stealth were just as important as being able to blow the head off of a clicker zombie when you alerted it by being too loud. But it’s hard to talk too much about the amazing gameplay and visuals when it pales in comparison to the character-driven storyline of Ellie and Joel. You fall in love with the characters, and the story compels you to go on into this god-forsaken world until at last you get to that one part at the end… – Matt Secrist
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If I had to pick one game that truly shaped my love of video games, it would be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This was the first Zelda game I ever played and I remember falling in love with the music (which still gets stuck in my head on a daily basis) and getting lost in the world, that I now have memorized like the back of my hand, collecting new weapons and preparing to defeat Ganondorf and save Princess Zelda.
Since then I have beat the game more times than I can count in addition to playing every Zelda game that has been made and spending over $1,000 on new gaming consoles knowing I will likely only use them to play Zelda. To me, this game is perfection and I will never grow tired of saving Hyrule. – Caleb Shepherd
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
While Ocarina of Time cemented my love for the Zelda franchise (and is still my absolute favorite game of all time), Breath of the Wild still felt like a game changer. The “open air” concept was unlike anything I’d ever played before. You truly could explore EVERYTHING. I spent hours upon hours just running around the map trying to explore, climb and upgrade everything, but I’m still not even close to finding it all.
Maybe my favorite thing about this game was the physics/logic system built in. There were multiple ways to solve puzzles and if you thought of something that seemed like it would work, it usually would. Like using metal swords as conductors for electricity, or freezing ice blocks in a waterfall to be able to climb it. Then you could talk to your friends about the same puzzles/scenarios and realize you all did it differently. Trust me, we spent many lunch hours at the office (it was ONLY at lunchtime I swear!!) swapping stories of cool things we had encountered or ways we had beaten puzzles. The social aspect of the game made it something I’ll always remember.
Never have I played a game that captivated the sense of exploration and adventure quite like this one while still driving a solid Zelda story, no matter which route you took while playing it. The champion of Hyrule does it again. – Matt Secrist
Mario Kart 64
Have you met anyone that didn’t love Mario Kart? I didn’t think so. I’ve yet to play a more competitive Nintendo game. Let’s face it, we’ve all spent countless hours with our friends trying to perfect the art of the kart. Like nailing the power slide (drift) around every corner, jumping the wall at the top of the first hill on Wario Stadium, or strategically placing banana peels on every corner that will result in one of your friends falling off the track and left to be picked up by the ever-slow moving Lakitu. Or maybe you were the type that purposefully lagged close enough behind last place hoping the next item box you drive over will land you the lightning so you can use it just before your friends go off the long ramp on Royal Raceway.
Am I sparking any memories here?! Did everyone else fight over who got to be Yoshi or Peach? How many controllers were broken from poor sports after a loss? Did the unpredictable nature of every single game keep you up until the wee hours of the morning? Just one more race! I’ve got you this time! This game was the single biggest bonding element in my childhood friendships, the fuel to my competitive nature, and the reason that my loyalty to Nintendo still exists. – Drew Allen
It may seem simplistic by today’s gaming standards, but Ms. Pac-Man is a classic that will never go out of style. The maze filled with moving obstacles requires much more skill than the methodical munching of its Pac-Man predecessor. Each level of Ms. Pac-Man requires more difficult strategic decisions (bonus banana or ghost?) and faster reflexes (Eeeek! I’m not going to make it to the escape tunnel!). Just when you think you’ve got it mastered, the speed increases exponentially. But not before you get to rest your joystick hand for a brief moment and watch the yellow, lipstick-wearing protagonist get the best of Blinky, Pinky and Inky in a clever cartoon between levels. What’s not to love? – Melinda Rhodes
Pokemon Red & Blue
I remember playing Pokémon for the first time at my best friend’s house and immediately knowing I had to have it. A couple of weeks later I got Pokémon Blue Version and the rest is history. Countless hours were spent travelling through the Pokémon world trying to catch them all – not to mention the time spent watching the anime, collecting the cards, and playing with the toys. I even remember thinking my life was over one Christmas when I thought I didn’t get my special edition Pikachu Gameboy Color with Pokémon Yellow. So yeah, let’s just say that Pokémon was a pretty big deal to me as kid. – Caleb Shepherd
Red Dead Redemption
How many games do you remember that are centered around the western genre? Probably, none, right? Then came Read Dead Redemption in 2010. This game was essentially GTA cowboys, and was an absolute blast to play.
Never before had a gamer been able to walk into a saloon and start a fist fight or pick up an innocent citizen and put them on the train tracks to meet their doom (heard you could do this from a friend of a friend…). Instead of stealing cars, you stole horses, robbed stage coaches, or spent time hunting bears in the woods all the while building up to a classic shootout with the villain.
It was a romantic homage to the western genre, while also making playing in that genre incredibly cool! Its gigantic open world, realistic environments and online multiplayer easily helped this game win Game of the Year and is an experience that I won’t soon forget. – Greg Secrist
Sonic the Hedgehog
When I think about Sonic the Hedgehog, I’m reminded of memories of carefree, warm, summer days of my friends and me sitting down to play. There is nothing quite like being an overconfident, blue hedgehog that can run faster than the speed of sound to reach the end of the level. Dodging and weaving in and out of enemies and obstacles while attempting to get the fastest time ever (or at least beat your friends time), is a thrill. Every little mistake erupts in laughter and every challenge overcome is a feeling of triumph. The upbeat cheerful music that the Sonic games are known for still makes me smile to this day. – Trevor Spencer
Requiring the dexterity of a pianist and the intellect of a grandmaster chess player, Starcraft is difficult. The combination of these two skills makes Starcraft one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, video games to date. Starcraft is a Real Time Strategy game where two players battle it out through strategy by building bases and armies. I’ve discovered endless amounts of tactics that can be accomplished to gain the upper hand against the opposition. The tug of war that occurs in a match is exhilarating, but the best feeling is finally destroying their base and seeing the sweet ‘VICTORY’ that pops up on the screen. – Trevor Spencer
Street Fighter 2 Turbo
Hoduken! Back in its heyday, you couldn’t walk into an arcade without this game being front and center. With a cast of unforgettable characters, it was so fun to pick your favorite character (RYU for me) and try and smash your opponent in the face until you reached victory. Learning and mastering the special moves on the d-pad was both frustrating and satisfying as the special moves could wreak absolute havoc on your enemy. Sonic Boom! – Greg Secrist
Super Smash Brothers (Melee)
My childhood and this game are inseparably connected. I’ve seen the Smash Brother series draw people together that seem to have little in common. From foreign exchange students all the way to my closest friends, it doesn’t matter; Super Smash Brothers has always brought me a good time. I love the contrast of a goofy, chaotic match with 3 of my other friends on Hyrule Temple, to having a serious tournament match on Final Destination. When I’m looking for a way to unwind, I know I can always go back to a brawl between friends playing Super Smash Brothers. – Trevor Spencer
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
My childhood would not have been complete without a ninja turtle game that I could play with my best friends at literally every sleepover. There were so many things to love about this game as a kid including stealing life-infusing pizza from your friends when your life was already full, hitting fire hydrants and sewer hole covers into the foot clan, executing perfectly-timed jump kicks to beat bosses and the “A””B” button mashing special to name just a few. In the end, beating the game in one go without using a continue was always the goal. Plus, who could forget the line “Tonight I dine on turtle soup.”?? Classic. – Matt Secrist
The first Uncharted wowed PS3 owners everywhere by introducing us to the world of treasure-hunter Nathan Drake. Naughty Dog polished up everything from the first game and overdid it by 100 miles, completely nailing it with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
This game looked gorgeous with Naughty Dog’s absolutely insane attention to detail. This realism was then matched with a never-before-seen level of voice acting and character development storytelling that we’ve only ever seen in movies. This game WAS a playable movie, and it was the first game of its time to have epic action sequences such as a train barreling uncontrollably through the mountains of Nepal that a gamer never forgets.
Not only did this game give us a blockbuster campaign, but the Uncharted multiplayer also had its debut. Nobody expected the multiplayer to be as fun as it was and it turned out being a huge hit. With each iteration of the game, Naughty Dog has truly outdone itself with its ability to create character driven stories as well as provide some of the most breath-taking moments gaming has to offer. Naughty Dog has proven that everything they touch turns to gold, and that all started with Uncharted 2 which deserved its Game of the Year award in 2009. – Greg Secrist