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30 Best Games of All Time [2023 Edition]

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Categorizing the best games of all time can be difficult. New games release and make an impact with their quality. Older games continue to influence while still being incredible in their own right. Nevertheless, each has made its mark on history, whether it’s changing entire genres, presenting unforgettable stories or as achievements in artistic excellence. Let’s take the top 30 games of all time, starting with number 30…

30. SSX 3

 

The SSX series was already a massive success when SSX 3 rolled around, but the team at EA Vancouver didn’t rest on its laurels. It added an open world, connecting its various courses and letting players explore with almost instant loading; super-uber tricks added more depth to the already addictive trick system; and the presentation was simply stunning thanks to the snow effects. Of course, having a soundtrack that was incredible enough to win the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ Outstanding Achievement in Licensed Soundtrack awards isn’t too bad either.

29. Far Cry 3

far cry 3

Leaving Far Cry 2’s open-ended narrative and survival-lite mechanics behind, it embraced fast-paced gunplay, challenging enemies and well-designed environments. The narrative surrounding Jason Brody and his descent into madness was a poor inversion of the Hero’s Journey but still offered some memorable sequences like flaming entire fields, escaping sinking ships and whatever the heck that sequence with Vaas was.

28. Burnout 3: Takedown

burnout 3

Racing games at the time weren’t afraid to embrace more violent tendencies, but Burnout 3: Takedown was a different ballgame. Its arcade-style gameplay wasn’t just chaos for the sake of it – the takedowns and high-speed gameplay were skill-based, encouraging players to wreck their opponents, keep the Boost meter going, and not get wrecked in return.

Supporting this stellar gameplay loop is World Tour mode, with 173 events across various worldwide locations and modes and multiplayer, including split-screen support. Whether it’s two teams of six players competing to wreck each other or creating a massive pile-up in Crash Mode before exploding it all, there’s enough to keep you coming back.

27. Perfect Dark (N64)

Perfect Dark

Though not a direct sequel to GoldenEye 007, the similarities between both shooters were enough to make fans eagerly anticipate Rare’s next hit. It easily exceeded expectations, delivering an incredible futuristic narrative that mixed spy agencies and alien conspiracies with awesome sci-fi weapons and stellar mission design. And as impressive as the visuals were, especially on the Nintendo 64, the soundtrack mixed with synth-wave, techno and futuristic beats with stellar orchestration for a superb experience. Truly one of the best shooters of all time.

26. Forza Horizon 5

forza horizon 5

It’s hard to replicate a streak like Playground Games, with three back-to-back open-world racing hits that pushed the envelope in photo-realism and sheer breadth of content. Forza Horizon 5 still managed, restructuring its campaign and driving disciplines into unique Festival Sites with their own stories, steps and rewards.

Mexico was an incredible choice for a map, thanks to its sheer range of biomes and weather conditions, including brand-new dust storms. It added to the series’ penchant for open-world tomfoolery, which felt more rewarding thanks to the Accolades. Whether you dipped your toes in for some quick races or went to the Hall of Fame, Forza Horizon 5 excelled every step of the way.

25. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Coming off an acclaimed title like Ori and the Blind Forest is no easy feat, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps pulled it off and emerged as superior. It revamped the art style into something far more detailed and expanded on the world in unique, imaginative ways. It tells an emotional new story, improving the pacing with autosaves while adding to combat thanks to the new Shard system. While not the most revolutionary sequel, it’s an excellent step forward and extremely well-polished in almost every way.

24. Celeste

Celeste 03

Celeste is as well-polished and deftly tuned as a 2D side-scrolling platformer could be. Each level, divided into multiple screens, employs unique mechanics, and as Madeline, your job is to execute them perfectly. It can seem daunting at first, but the difficulty is also well-crafted, and the fact that the controls are so responsive and the soundtrack so endearing makes it all the more enjoyable to try and try again. Beyond all of this, however, Celeste is a beautiful story about mental health, acceptance, and ultimately finding yourself even if the path is scary and fraught with danger.

23. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Considered the definitive skating title at the time and arguably by today’s standards, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is just pure gameplay perfection. The trick variety and mechanics, including the beloved Manual, work well with the controls and the level design, featuring some of the series’ best, encourages replay value while hosting a myriad of secrets. With multiplayer, a park editor, hidden characters and a fantastic soundtrack, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is a joy to experience and still holds up all these years later, as evidenced in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, the remake.

22. Gears of War

gears of war 1

Following its first showcase, “brutality” seemed to be the unifying theme for Gears of War. Chainsawing Locusts, heads exploding with headshots and other gore dotted the third-person shooter. However, Epic Games’ breakout shooter offered so much more – stellar cover-based shooting, the Active Reload for more involved combat, and a uniquely post-apocalyptic future for humanity which mixed ruin and beauty. The story of Kilo Squad immersed us in each character’s demons while simultaneously introducing a depressing yet rich world rife with conflict and intrigue.

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There are more than a few nagging areas, like Dom’s AI, but so much of what makes the series great was executed so well in the original. Whatever the future may hold, the legacy of Marcus Fenix will never die.

21. Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter World Iceborne_01

Does Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate have more content? Yes. Does Rise streamline certain things in appealing ways? Sure. Is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate amazing? Absolutely. But Monster Hunter World, especially post-Iceborne, stands out for offering perhaps the most well-rounded Monster Hunter experience out there.

It’s accessible for brand-new players and features the smoothest gameplay in the series (arguably even better than Rise). It looks fantastic, whether witnessing a Turf War between Rathalos and Rajang or taking in the sights at Hoarfrost Reach. The selection of activities is fantastic, and it’s simply amazing to team up with friends. It’s not perfect, but for hunting gamers, this is the bar to meet.

20. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

splinter cell chaos theory

Pandora Tomorrow was a worthy follow-up to the first Splinter Cell, but Chaos Theory is where the series peaked. On top of excellently designed missions from top to bottom, it featured important changes to the formula. Missions no longer fail when triggering alarms; an aural monitor indicates Sam’s noise relative to his environments; and enemy AI reacts more naturally to threats.

The choice of different kits to emphasize specific play styles, a combat knife for CQC and improvised interrogation, and multiple new attachments, weapons and grenades have also been added, enhancing the experience further. If that weren’t enough, Chaos Theory even featured multiplayer with a revamped Spy vs Mercenary mode, a co-op campaign and much more that was tons of fun.

19. Horizon Forbidden West

horizon forbidden west

Take the accessible hunting of the first game, building on it with new Machines and weapon types. Add tons of new skills, outfits and weapons for numerous build possibilities. Fill the world with an incredible range of activities, from platforming and puzzle solving to hunts and tabletop games. Now add some gorgeous visuals, some of the generation’s best – that’s Horizon Forbidden West.

Even if you’re not overly invested in the story (which is still pretty good), the improvements made to the presentation – especially the motion capture and facial animations in dialogue exchange – are fantastic. Just exploring the sheer variety of environments feels natural and fun. The accessibility options are the icing on the cake, allowing you to push a build to the limit or relax and farm in peace.

18. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

Racing games are known to be at the very cutting edge of technology, and GT3 was a prime example of that achievement for the PlayStation 2. Selling close to 15 million copies, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was a game that appealed to both veterans and newcomers of the genre. Although the number of cars saw a drastic reduction compared to its predecessor, it made up for it by dialing up the visual fidelity and level of detail. Although Gran Turismo 7, the latest entry in the series is an absolutely amazing game, it still can’t come close to the beast that was Gran Turismo 3.

17. Super Mario Galaxy 2

It’s insane to think that Nintendo not only released Super Mario Galaxy, one of the best games of all time, but then released its sequel three years later, which is also excellent, and superior in many ways. The same gameplay fundamentals apply, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes the established formula and offers more variety with its galaxies and power-ups, better pacing, the addition of Yoshi, and many more challenges to put veterans to the test. Having all this with an incredible orchestral score and gorgeous visuals also didn’t hurt. Some may prefer the first game, but they’re both instant classics in their own right.

16. Journey

Gameplay-wise, Journey is a pretty simple game. You roam some gorgeous levels with linear objectives, exploring and discovering mysterious runes, and fly through the air, attempting to decipher it all. However, along the way, you’ll meet other players who can help charge your cloak when flying.

There’s no voice or text chat – all communication is through singing as you journey together, perhaps to the end if you’re willing. This meditative experience encourages replaying, meeting different people and living in the world, going from a bystander to a tour guide as you usher in new players. It’s simply phenomenal to behold.

15. Metroid Prime Remastered

Metroid Prime Remastered

Whenever there’s a conversation about the greatest Metroid-style games ever made, it’s disheartening that Metroid Prime isn’t mentioned more. Back in the day, a first-person Metroid had to fight for recognition and justifiably earned critical (but not commercial) acclaim for its quality. In this day and age, Metroid Prime Remastered is a reminder of the series’ merits and how good the original game is.

The enhanced visuals and environmental details are almost on the level of a remake, even if the core game is still fundamentally the same. But the bosses, the environment design, the exploration and the haunting atmosphere are all masterfully executed, ensuring a quality experience even now.

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14. Dead Space (2023)

dead space remake

Interestingly, another Metroid-style game should receive an enhanced version this year. However, unlike Metroid Prime Remastered, Dead Space isn’t content to deliver incredible visuals, teeming with extensive detail and upgrades to effects, lighting and shadows. It builds on the mythos of the original with side quests and an expanded narrative, incorporates new mechanics like the Intensity Director and Peeling System to enhance the gameplay, and even has a brand new, alternate ending that makes us question what’s next for the franchise.

All of this, on top of the same incredible gameplay, bosses, levels and set-pieces that made the original so great. For as difficult as it can be to balance the new and the old, and still deliver a compelling experience, Dead Space makes it look effortless.

13. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

uncharted 2

An upgraded engine enabled many feats seen in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, but its numerous improvements went beyond the technical. In sequel terms, it went above and beyond the original, as Nathan Drake traversed the globe, following the trail of Marco Polo. The solid platforming returned, made all the more intense with some incredible set pieces, while the shooting was even more responsive. Such well-crafted pacing and production values would have fit right at home with the best of Hollywood – the fact that Naughty Dog was doing all this in 2009 on the PlayStation 3 feels insane.

12. Mass Effect 2

mass effect 2

Mass Effect 2 delivered high-octane action and sleek cover-shooting mechanics. Commander Shepard roamed the galaxy, recruiting allies to battle the Collectors, making decisions to resolve their crises before embarking on a suicide mission that could potentially seal their fates. The jump in presentation and the quality of writing places Mass Effect 2 in the upper echelon of gaming.

11. Resident Evil 2 (2019)

resident evil 2

The fact that the announcement video for Resident Evil 2 Remake was in 2015 and the title was finally released in 2019 is a testament to the sheer dedication of its team to the fans.

And what a remake it turned out to be, reimagining that one bad night in Raccoon City with an over-the-shoulder camera and aiming, a revamped Mr X, stunning visuals courtesy of RE Engine and improved pacing. While some parts were trimmed or cut, much was faithful to the original, expertly enhanced to highlight how masterfully executed the survival horror formula could be. It changed perceptions around the series and serves as a template for how modern-day remakes should be done.

10. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2_07

While it received critical acclaim back in the day, some found it to be a rushed sequel. As time passed, however, the journey of James Sutherland in the titular town, as he traversed his purgatory of crime and punishment, has been hailed as one of the greatest horror games. In terms of presentation, the game’s atmosphere and use of fog are unmatched, lending well to the pacing without bogging down the fidelity.

The creature designs remain iconic, whether it’s Pyramid Head representing James’ guilty and sexual frustration or Angela’s trauma manifesting as the Abstract Daddy. The remake looks good, but considering how high the bar is, it has a lot to live up to when capturing that mix of greyish moral tones and the undulating terror lurking within each person.

9. Batman: Arkham City

batman arkham city

It can’t be overstated just how influential Batman: Arkham Asylum was on the superhero video game genre. Not only did it adapt one of the most memorable Batman stories of all time in superb fashion, but it did so in a way in keeping with being Batman. Batman: Arkham City expanded on this with a huge world, but didn’t skimp on the story-telling or attention to detail.

It was a venerable playground of activities, AR trials, Riddler Trophies and secrets, backed by some compelling villain side stories and high stakes. Furthermore, the Freeflow combat felt even smoother and more responsive and remains a rollicking good time even by today’s standards.

8. God of War Ragnarok

After all the years of hype, speculation and sheer excitement, God of War Ragnarok couldn’t possibly live up to it all. And yet, Sony Santa Monica delivered, expanding on the exploration and characterization that defined the first game in incredible ways. Whether it’s Atreus trying to discover himself or Kratos defining family in the face of annihilation, the story is an outstanding character study.

You also can’t say enough about the combat and how it’s expanded to include more options for combos and builds, whether it’s relying on weapons or your fists. The world is also incredibly designed, with familiar areas housing new secrets and new regions offering astonishing art design and challenges. Having all of this and an extensive post-game that doesn’t feel tacked on is a testament to the love and care that Santa Monica Studio has for the franchise.

7. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

When most open-world games felt akin to clearing checklists, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt arrived and injected soul into its world. Many side quests felt like standalone stories in their own right, with stellar writing and characterization. The world also encouraged exploration and discovery, with several activities to eat up all your time.

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Even if you weren’t an aficionado of open-world games, it felt fun to look for Witcher gear and learn the fate of different Witchers, hang out with Lambert on a quest, or take down various horrors in contracts. The sheer amount of extraordinary content, to say nothing of the stellar main quest was enough to excuse some of the combat hiccups and bugs.

6. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty

Hype can be a killer for many a sequel, especially when it’s the follow-up to Metal Gear Solid. How do you craft a new tale to ensnare fans of Solid Snake? How do you expand on its stealth mechanics? How do you top the boss fights and plot of the original?

It seemed impossible, but Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of the Liberty was more concerned about upending expectations and standing firm. A shocking new protagonist in Raiden, a story focused on privacy, AI and virtual reality in a post-modern age, and bizarre new bosses all took players by surprise. It was all expertly delivered, and buoyed by incredible music, visuals, enemy AI and stealth mechanics that rival today’s best. From a misunderstood masterpiece to a timeless classic that remains relevant today, Metal Gear Solid 2 is simply in a class of its own.

5. Grand Theft Auto 5

gta 5 online dlc heists

Rockstar Games had a perfect formula for its Grand Theft Auto franchise for years. It attempted to revamp some things in Grand Theft Auto 4, but for the most part, its open world made sense. With Grand Theft Auto 5, it seemingly pulled off the impossible, evolving its formula in numerous ways while advancing the genre.

It’s not just that GTA 5 was a triumph narratively with its three playable characters (all switchable at pretty much anytime). Or that the new heists were enjoyable, the gunplay amazing, or the sheer amount of quality content was overwhelming. It’s the detail of the world, the attention to each NPC, the faithfulness to which Los Santos resembled Los Angeles, and the scale it was all achieved, especially on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Let’s not even start with GTA Online, which is still insanely popular.

4. The Last of Us Part 1

The Last of Us Part 1

Say what you will about the remake and how it’s a giant cash grab, especially without Factions. However, the fact remains – it’s a better version of The Last of Us, which is one of the greatest games ever made. The story was already incredible, with Joel and Ellie traversing the United States, initially hostile to one another and becoming like family, but the improved animations, environmental details and fidelity make it that much more immersive.

The AI has also been changed to provide more variety in encounters, and new options added to make the game easier or as challenging as one would like. Say what you will about the business practices, but the remake is a masterpiece in its own right.

3. Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2

To claim that Half-Life 2 was super hyped would be an understatement of the century. Not only it managed to deliver an exceptional experience but it surpassed player expectations. Half-Life 2 is easily one of the greatest first-person shooters of all time, which revolutionized enemy AI, story-telling and physics, with two exceptionally crafted DLC Episodes that masterfully build on the story.

2. Elden Ring

If FromSoftware created open-world Dark Souls, it might have taken less time. That would have been the safer approach. However, Elden Ring is so much more. It’s an odyssey into a sundered land, one teeming with horror and beauty alike while expanding on the beloved Souls-like combat with Ashes of War, Sorceries, Incantations, Spirit Ashes, and more. While taking inspiration from Breath of the Wild, it offers stunning environments, dozens of unique weapons with unique moves, dozens of unique bosses and unique paths to take.

That feeling of exploring almost everywhere is also present, but with an ever-constant feeling of danger and excitement. It can be tough and unforgiving, filled with secrets and extensive NPC questlines that require guides to figure out, but that only adds to the appeal.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Yes, Nintendo’s interpretation of Zelda in an open-world setting wins out again, six years after its initial release and before its hotly anticipated sequel. Explaining why the entire experience is incredible is difficult, but it’s the dozens of little things – the feeling of wonder around every corner. The organic gameplay encourages experimentation in the sandbox.

The quiet, peaceful music and gentle breeze that flows through the world as you explore. Just being able to climb almost anything and explore to your heart’s content. The sheer breadth of content and mystery. The gorgeous aesthetic. Even the weapon durability, which still gets mixed reactions, makes each item matter and encourages adapting on the fly.

But more importantly, it all comes together, resulting in a unique journey every time you start anew, cementing Breath of the Wild as the best of all time.


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