We’re entering into the part of this list that was perhaps the least difficult to figure out. I’ve never had just the “all-time favorite video game,” but I have had many I would consider for the position. The spots below these five games were easily the most difficult to determine because these games here were in the top 5 before I even began, and while their positions here may have shifted a little over the course of this list, they’ve largely remained in the place they began since before I even started.
Without further ado, here we go, into the final stretch of this list. I hope you’ve enjoyed it—here are my top 5 video games of all time!
5. Pokémon Gold / Silver
I don’t think there’s a series that affected my childhood the way that Pokémon did. When I think back to some of my favorite moments when I was younger, Pokémon was often a part of them, not necessarily because of the thing itself, but its presence in my life. I made friends over Pokémon, I lost friends over Pokémon, I drew pictures after homework, and collected the cards. I taped the episodes on Saturday, I saw the movies in theaters, I played the games to completion and then would start them all over.
Pokémon left a definitive imprint on my childhood and the adoration I have for it today can be easily traced back to then, so it would be natural to assume that some sort of Pokémon game would have ended up here, and you’d be right if you assumed that—good on you, kudos! Your guessing skills are the tops!
Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver were an incredible point in the series. They weren’t my first games, but they still remain my favorite games to date. Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue were simple. It’s easy to forget, but so much of what Pokémon is today wasn’t around then. There was no breeding feature, there were no baby Pokémon, no shinies, no genders and only basic element types. The core of the game was present back then, but so much of what made the game better began in Generation 2, and all of that aside, that generation’s Pokémon were simply some of the best.
I don’t believe the Pokémon games to be the most robust RPG experiences, but there is hardly a series that was more impactful to an entire generation of children than Pokémon was for kids like me. Pokémon will always be close to me regardless of how it changes and I can only hope that when I have kids, it’s still going strong.
4. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
If ever there was an underdog on this list, it’s Ni no Kuni, and if I’m being entirely honest with you, I can’t and could never put my finger onto why I love this game so much. The combat isn’t the most satisfying, the story, not the most original, but by God if Ni no Kuni isn’t one of the most beautiful games I’ve played, and one of the happiest ones too.
I’m a sucker for anything Studio Ghibli and for anything cute and happy. Ni no Kuni carries with it charm in spades and—honestly, I’m having difficulty doing it justice here. I played Ni no Kuni during my last couple of months in college and during that time, when I still hadn’t finished my thesis, when I wasn’t even sure I’d graduate on time, Ni no Kuni was a moment of reprieve from the stress of the rest of my day. It made me smile, it made me relax, it made me excited to continue playing and when I began the process of creating this list, Ni no Kuni was always here—securely placed in the top 5 of my favorite games of all time.
Do yourself a favor, if you enjoy JRPGs, if you like Studio Ghibli, if you like love, and happiness, and having the pants charmed off of you, play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It is 100% deserving of your attention.
3. Paper Mario
I can often measure my enjoyment of a game by the number of times I’ll excitedly play through it and, oddly enough, I would venture to guess that Paper Mario is perhaps the game I’ve played through the most.
If ever there was a theme to my “top 5 games” list, it’s this: I don’t know. Similarly with Ni no Kuni, I don’t know why I love Paper Mario the way that I do. It’s strange, given the love I have for so many other RPG series to pick out Paper Mario as one of the top when it is notably simpler than a lot of the others, but there’s a charm to Mario, to the paper aesthetic, that is so simply Nintendo, and it’s one I haven’t seen to such an inventive degree in a game that’s come out since.
I LOVE Paper Mario to an unhealthy degree, but I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe it’s the humor, maybe it’s the doubling down on the application of paper in the world, but honestly I couldn’t tell you. It’s a game that I have such fond feelings for and have had for so long that it couldn’t have ended at any other place on this list than in the top 5. It’s fun, it’s funny and it’s a Mario experience that is honestly like no other and casting a ballot, I’d vote for a remaster of Paper Mario first—hands down. It’s a really good game and an original outing for Nintendo’s favorite plumber. Play it if you haven’t or even if you have, just do like I did: play it again, over and over and over and over again.
2. Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
Ratchet and Clank is a series that is ever the more out of place with every game that releases. As games mature and the norms change, the games of today begin to look different from the games that released 15 years ago, but Ratchet and Clank, during all of that time, has done little to change what it does so well, preferring to keep with what made it good rather than becoming something else.
Having been ripe in my early adolescence during the PlayStation 2’s reign, the Ratchet and Clank series remains housed within a soft spot for me, and as the industry doubles down ever further into open-world expansiveness, this series holds true to its platformer roots. Sure, given the option, I’d love to explore more. I’d love more planets, more guns, more lore to dig into, but what has always made Ratchet and Clank so great is its adherence to a core experience. The platforming is tight, the planets are rarely boring, the weapons are always over the top, but hardly overpowered—and it’s fun. It’s just fun. Ratchet and Clank continues the legacy of what was so great about that generation of games—a pursuit of fun and humor above all else—and manages even into the current generation to keep itself relevant.
Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time is arguably my favorite entry. “Arguably” because I’ve played nearly every game in the series and would rank so many so highly, but I feel like what edges A Crack in Time just slightly above titles like Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal are the ever so slight, but meaningful, changes to the formula. A Crack in Time is a more meaningful experience. It’s more introspective. There isn’t just a universe ending calamity to contend with, but more personal issues as well and we see, more than in any other entry, a level of growth with not just our main characters but so many of secondaries too that just isn’t present in the games that came before it.
The games that came before A Crack in Time are wonderful and the games since are really great too, but this entry managed to create a unique experience that was both incredibly adherent to what’s always been so great and different enough at the same time. It wasn’t as funny necessarily or the longest entry in the series, but it was certainly one of the best Ratchet and Clank experiences I’ve ever had—and that’s definitely saying something.
Last, but not least.
Our #1 spot.
Let’s look at the nominees.
Okay, here we go.
Here it is!
1. Final Fantasy X / Final Fantasy Tactics
Okay…so I cheated here, obviously, but hear me out. Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy Tactics are two completely different games, but when I was planning this list out and thinking of them both, so much of what made me want them here was so similar that it only seemed right to place them in the same position—the reason for that being my brother.
Final Fantasy is perhaps my favorite series of all time. I haven’t played every game and not every game I’ve played has been great, but ever since I was very young, it’s always been a point of attachment with my older brother. I would watch him play, he would help me when I played, and while so many of the older entries in the series are very close to me, it is these two that stand above in my mind as my favorites—by far.
Both of these games are ones I remember being exposed to most when my brother was in college. He would be gone for the majority of the year, come home in the summer, and every day, when I’d get home from camp, I would run upstairs and watch him play well into the late hours of the night. They’re different. Final Fantasy X is the more traditional series fare and Final Fantasy Tactics is…well, more tactical, more akin to Fire Emblem or XCOM if you have some familiarity with those. But despite the differences, they were games I enjoyed for similar reasons, games surrounded by moments I can look back on now as not only my favorite in gaming, but some of my favorite of being a child.
That being said, the entirety of the reason the both of these games reside at the top is not due solely to those memories but rather the fact that they are so, so good. Gun to my head, Tactics would probably get the nod, but both games are wonderful examples of the series’ lineage. That isn’t to say they aren’t without flaws. Final Fantasy X has some issues with linearity and Tidus, the protagonist, can be rather weak. Tactics has some balancing issues and some rather sharp spikes in difficulty. But these games, these experiences, are largely what keeps me, and has kept me so long, playing and enjoying video games.
Remembering the times I’ve spent playing games video games with the people I love is what makes this past time so meaningful to me. Video games to some are largely empty and mindless, but they’ve been influential to who I’ve become. Were it not for games like Final Fantasy, I wouldn’t play music, I wouldn’t draw, I wouldn’t write, I wouldn’t create. Games created a sense of creation in me that I probably never would have delved into otherwise, so when I look at the games that influenced me most and the moments that mean so much to me, it’s games like these and the moments that go with them that are easy to pick out.
Thank you everyone for lasting this long and lasting to the end of my list. It may seem silly, it may seem unnecessary, but this was fun to do. Video games have been a large part of my life for so long and having the opportunity to share these games with my friends and with you—singled out hypothetical non-friend—has been a great little thing.
I don’t really know what else to say. This is the end of my list. I hope you enjoyed it, enjoy the rest of your day. Okay. Buh-bye.