The Top Ten Best Games Ever | Games, Gamers, & Gaming

For five years, I’ve been honored to talk to LJ’s readers about games, the people who play them, and how bringing gaming into the library can help connect with patrons. Now, the time has come to pass the joystick to others. For my final play, this is the article I’ve been wanting to write since the beginning: my picks for the top ten greatest video games ever made.

10. Frogger

Proof positive that the best games have simple mechanics. Frogger demanded discipline and commitment from players, constantly taunting with inevitable victory while also offering some (for the time) complex environmental design.

9. Tetris (Game Boy)

Another simplistic game that manages to be endlessly complex, Tetris has been on nearly every gaming platform since its inception and has survived with only slight variations on its geometry-rich gameplay. Arranging falling blocks so they fill a horizontal space while trying to contain their height never gets old.

8. Super Mario Bros.

Its story line may be simple—save the princess!—but its revolutionary level design, varied environmental obstacles and enemies, and hidden secrets provide a master class in solid game ­design.

7. Halo: Combat Evolved

This first-person shooter (FPS) features fast-paced tactical action, rich lore, and engrossing open environments, along with some of gaming’s most truly epic moments (the nail-biting final race against the clock is pure Hollywood excitement).

6. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This gothic-horror adventure game captures the imagination despite its relative lack of a compelling narrative. The Castle­vania series has always dripped with atmosphere, and this entry is especially notable for its surprisingly rich 2-D levels and characters. Its addicting side-scrolling monster slaying with smooth, tight controls always ­satisfies.

5. Batman: Arkham Asylum

A faithful re-creation of the tone and atmosphere of Batman comics as well as an incredibly well-designed game, Arkham Asylum features a well-crafted story with excellent voice acting. Gamers experience a balance of fast-paced hand-to-hand combat, pulse-pounding stealth segments, and environmental puzzles on their way to a showdown with Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker.

4. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

While many games offer an open world, multiple quests, and freedom of movement, nothing ever truly feels out of reach here, given that nearly every surface is scalable. Plus, the environmental design amazingly conveys scope of size and age, with ancient structures having a genuine feeling of timelessness and history and the primeval wilderness feeling untouched by human hands. Intense combat, clever puzzles, and compelling characterization make Zelda a gaming standout.

3. Half-Life 2

This game pushed the FPS genre forward. With even more seamless transitions between levels—larger and more complex to begin with—and smarter enemies, this game feels like playing an action film. Enhanced physics made puzzles more gratifying and challenging in addition to making combat more dynamic.

2. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

This sprawling role-playing game has one of the largest virtual worlds ever created. What could be standard fantasy fare instead explores deep and meaningful themes, but the game doesn’t slack off when it comes to mechanics. A simple-to-learn, difficult-to-master combat system makes each fight seem fresh and engaging. The large-scale battles against monsters, demons, and humans who are much like both have emotional weight in addition to being anxiety-inducing tests of skill.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

This game is essentially perfect, with flawlessly designed environments, tight and immersive combat controls, an engaging story line, clever puzzles, and an iconic score. Link’s travels through time and back as he fights the evil Ganondorf and his corrupting influence offer some of the most exciting moments of adventure and discovery we’ve ever had in gaming, be it from thrilling boss fights on a scale never seen before or the exhilaration of figuring out an intricate puzzle. Plus, there are just as many fun, lighthearted distractions—for example, carnival games, fishing, and horse racing—as there are epic adventures.

I’m going to miss sharing my passion for games and gaming with all of you. It has meant so much to me to hear from those of you who received inspiration from this column, so I leave you with this: keep doing awesome things. The world, now more than ever, needs librarians who are passionate about media that attracts a diverse crowd in a judgment-free ­environment.
And remember: keep telling yourself, just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

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M. Brandon Robbins About M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins (mbrandon.robbins@gmail.com) is the Media Coordinator at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. He's a member of the 2011 class of ALA Emerging Leaders.

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