If my math is correct, this post should be my 100th post here on Tales From The Backlog. I am surprised just like you all that I am here to celebrate this occasion. I already surpassed 100 follows on the blog a while ago, but I didn’t do anything at the time to commemorate it or anything. With this, I thought it would be a bit more special to do something for the one hundredth post on here. I do want to thank all of you who enjoy reading my random posts on video games and whatnot. Hopefully I can keep on doing it for a while longer and continue to grow.
As the title suggests, I was going to share my top 100 games, but quickly realized how hard that was. I got stuck around 50ish games until I gave up on that list. So instead I am cutting that number down by 90% and sharing with you my top 10 games instead. If I make it to my 200th post then I will share ten more with you, and by the time I get to my 1000th post you will have my full list. Picking your top 10 is never an easy tasks since you have to decide and debate what your favorite games might be out of all the possibilities that you may have. As someone who has played a lot of games, it is hard to narrow down the list and declare just 10 of them as your favorite. After time and consideration, I have narrowed down what I consider my current top 10 games of all time. This list will probably change over time as long as new games keep coming out. But where ever they may fall in the future, these games will have a special place within my collection.
10. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I-IV
This has become one of my new favorite series in the past few years. I randomly picked the first game up in 2018, but didn’t play it until the following year. The story in this series instantly hooked me with its insane plot twists and well thought out characters and their development. The only downside of this series is that it takes a lot of time to get through each game with this story connecting to others in the series; Sky with 3 games, Crossbell with Zero and Azure, Cold Steel with 4 games, Hajimari no Kiseki that came out last year, and now Kuro no Kiseki that comes out this year. That is a lot to commit to one series, but one that I will get to over the years.
Besides the story, there is a lot of variety when it comes to customizing your character’s skills. Each character has a Master Quartz attached to them that can be leveled up to unlock skills and raise stats (you can equip two at a time in later games). Along with that, regular quartz can be attached to each character to give them extra stat boosts, magic, and special benefits. It works almost like the materia system from Final Fantasy VII. Even though some characters have specific strengths in one area, it is nice that you have to option to outfit characters with a healing spell just in case you need it. It is a fun system to hunt down quartz that can strengthen your character’s build and it is one of my highlights.
The writer’s paid close attention to the story and nothing feels out of place or left unsolved. Everything connects throughout the events of the story even though an answer to a question doesn’t come up until the end of each game. Every character has their own development that’s continues to grow in each title. Even background characters have their own progression and story that doesn’t need to be there, but it is there if you want to learn more about them (or are going for the achievement). It makes the entire saga feel like a living world where characters not important to the plot may have connections with others characters and the overall world. It is a little frustrating to hunt all of these character notes and missing one feels like a let down, but it is worth it to get a sense of everyone’s struggles and viewpoints with all the events happening.
As of writing this, I am on part 4 of Trails of Cold Steel. I had to take a break from the series since I will spend over almost 100 hours on my first playthrough. I will finish it by the end of the year and cry my eyes out like I have for every ending in these games. I do have the Trails in the Sky games ready to go next, and I’m still up in the air if I want to play Azure and Zero. If JRPGs with good storytelling, attention to detail, excellent battle mechanics, and waifus all over the place, then I highly recommend giving these games a chance.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons
When asked what your favorite Zelda game is, most people will go with one of the console Zelda titles (Link to the Past, Ocarina, Majora’s, Wind Waker, Breath of Wild). For me personally, I love the Oracle games in the series. If I had to pick one out of the two, it would probably be Seasons since it is the one that I had as a kid (wouldn’t play Ages until it came out on the 3DS Virtual Console). These games are just fun and have a lot of creative tools and mechanics that aren’t used in other Zelda games.
Each game focuses on a different aspect of the Legend of Zelda series. Ages focuses more on the puzzle elements of the series, while Seasons has a lot of combat areas in it. This doesn’t mean that each version is lacking the other element. Both games are great in their own merit and present a great Zelda title when played together.
Speaking of which, this is the only Zelda title that has two different version that you can link up for one super adventure. After you finish one title, you can transfer your save data via a password and continue your adventure in the other game. You won’t be able to bring over items, but you can transfer rings that you collect to help you in the next game. If you finish the second game with your save data, you will be able to unlock the true ending and face off against feral Ganon to bring the story to a close.
What makes me like these titles over the other Zelda games is the presentation of the games. I like the 2D top down Zelda titles over their 3D counterparts. The changing of the seasons mechanic is one of my favorite puzzle elements in a Zelda game, and I wish they would bring it back (they keep bringing time travel and passing between worlds). The dungeons are always fun to do, and the items that you get can be used in creative ways. If these games ever got the same treatment like Link’s Awakening did, I would be all over those (even though I have a soft spot for the Game Boy ascetic.
8. Star Fox 64
In space, no one can hear you scream. They instead can hear a space bunny tell you to do a barrel roll in your versatile aircraft machine. Star Fox 64 is one of those games that I played as a kid, but didn’t start to enjoy it until my later years. There is something fun about this rail shooter is fun to play over and over.
Star Fox 64 is not a long game or difficult. You shoot down baddies in each stage and fight a boss at the end. The replayability comes from exploring each route in the game since you can only follow a certain path based on what you did in the previous stage. You want to go to Sector X instead of the Asteroid Belt? Then I hope you knew that you had to fly under the arches in Cornelia to trigger the event to change paths. Each mission will result in a “Mission Accomplish” or “Mission Complete.” Mission Accomplish means that you did the right thing to continue on the path for the “good” ending. Mission Complete means that you completed your mission, but you missed something to finish your true goal. There is no road to a bad ending, so there is nothing to get discourage if you don’t get the true ending. Sometimes, it’s just fun to play the other areas if you are tired of trying to get the true ending.
Star Fox 64 is one of those comfort games that you can play and not feel stressed about anything. This is probably one of the few games that I like to play on the N64 over the 3DS version. The 3DS version polishes up all the textures in the game and looks impressive in 3D mode. There isn’t much different in the game however besides if you want to play with traditional controls or gyro motion. I prefer the abomination of the N64 controller when playing this game due in part to nostalgia.
7. Mega Man X
Possibly the first action/platformer game that I played on my own outside of Mario and Sonic. At a young age, this game should have been difficult or intimidating to me since all fast, paced games gave me anxiety. Mega Man X was different somehow that eight year old me could blast through all eight stages with no problem (playing it over and over helped a lot). The spider boss in the first part of the Sigma stage was my roadblock back then, but 20 years later and I now can finish this game in one sitting. There is a lot to love about Mega Man X from the music, stage design, and the mavericks that you fight against. I also have to thank this game for giving me the X in my user name.
There is a lot that I can say about this game since it is a perfect game in my opinion. The classic Mega Man formula is there with finding enemy weaknesses to help you greatly in their fight. What Mega Man X does differently however is having the stages be affected by ones that you complete. The lava in Flame Mammoth’s stage giving you trouble? Defeat Chill Penguin first and his stage gets frozen over in the process; making the stage easier. Defeating Storm Eagle before tackling Spark Mandrill will get rid of the electric sparks that come from the floor, but it will turn the lights off in some rooms; so it is a double edge sword in those regards. This can make for some fun replayability if you want to fight a Maverick with their stage intake or not.
The power-ups for X are great as well, even though at a young age I only got the feet and helmet upgrades. Each upgrade gives X an new ability. The feet upgrade gives him a dash which should always be the first thing you get when starting this game. The body upgrade reduces damage you can take, and the helmet can break obstacles above you. The Mega Buster upgrade that you can get by finding it or from Zero can charge your regular shot to a third level, and charge up your secondary weapons for cool new effects. You can also get a one shot Hadouken attack that make refighting the bosses a joke at times.
I enjoy watching speedruns of this game since it is easy to follow and see how other people play the game. It is one of those games that never gets boring no matter how many times you play it. Me placing it this “low” on my list doesn’t mean that the other games are better than this. It just means that at this time, this is where I would stick this game on my list. This is the oldest game on my list, and the fact that it still has a strong impression on me says a lot.
6. Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3
Back in 2014, I purchased my first PS3. The first game that I got for the system was Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, and I never regretted that decision. The only exposure that I had to this game was playing it with a friend one day and finishing the campaign in one sitting. This was my first introduction to a musou game and I quickly learned that I am a fan of the genre. The Mobile Suit Gundam ascetic helped with that (and I’m still haven’t watched the full series).
Musou games are simple. You just plow through hordes of enemies and complete your objective. Some strategy is needed when you have to determine which areas to conquer to give yourself an advantage or to get rid of powerful enemies. There is also some challenge if you play it on the hardest difficulty where all of a sudden you feel like one of the papercraft enemies against general units. This simple repetitive motion of mowing down enemies left and right might sound boring to most, but I find it relaxing and a good way to get my stress out.
I was on the path of completing all the missions and getting the platinum trophy for this game, but my data got erased when my first PS3 died on me. It was a devastating lost for me and I have yet to go back and finish everything again. This doesn’t mean that I’m bored with the game. When I first did it, I was living at home with not much to do with my days not working, so playing this game for hours helped with passing the time and distracting my brain of worries. Maybe since I’m done with school for good, I can revisit and lose myself in the heaps of scrap metal again.
5. Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver
In my opinion, this is where the Pokémon series peeked. This was an amazing remake of Pokémon Gold and Silver on the Gameboy. Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver showed how massive a Pokémon game could be with everything from the original game plus tons of additional content to keep trainers busy for a long time. I choose SoulSilver when it came out since I was the one with the Silver version when it came out.
New features in this version included the additional story and content from Pokémon Crystal with Eugene’s quest to find Suicune, choosing between playing male or female, and more to do with the Ruins of Alpha. Surprise features included the Pokéathlon (a mini game contest area), the ability to rechallenge gym leaders on certain days, a new battle frontier, the return of the Safari Zone, and the best feature ever, having your Pokémon follow behind you. This feature isn’t locked behind a certain area or restricted to certain Pokémon, all Pokémon available in the game can follow you everywhere. If you bought the game when it came out, you also got a pedometer called the Pokéwalker included. It was a really neat pedometer that you could transfer one of your Pokémon to and walk around with them to level up, grow affection, and get neat rewards for walking around. Sadly mine meet its fate with the washing machine one day.
I could talk all day about how these versions felt like the definitive Pokémon game that people wanted for forever. The improve visuals and changes to the battle mechanics made for great battles and customizations of teams. Daily events made replaying the game fun since certain things only happened on that day. Each gym leader’s gym got some redesigns that made going through their gym interesting with their specific themes. The only downside to some of the content is that it is locked behind special items that you could only get during special events (like the Celebi event). You could trigger these events with hacking tools, but aren’t necessary unless you really want to see those events.
For me, no other Pokémon games can top these. I find myself constantly revisiting this version since I just have so much fun with it. Pokémon Silver was an important game for me when I first got it back in 2000, so having this remake brought back good memories and quality of life improvements that made this the definitive version to play. I’m not going to say Game Freak is lazy these days or incapable of creating new games in the series like this. Games need to innovate and create new things to avoid being the same concept with a different coat of paint. I’m happy that each version of Pokémon is something different so that I can go back and replay the older titles if I want to experience it again. All I am saying is that I would love for a future game to go as hard as this version did just to test my love for this game.
4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
“What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” I first heard this line of dialogue just five years ago and I became hooked. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night came out in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I was able to play it. I was hooked on this game from beginning to end and was left wanting more after I finished it. The gameplay, visuals, music, and design all felt cozy and left me feeling sad that I didn’t have the opportunity to play it earlier in my life.
Symphony of the Night was the first Castlevania game to fall into the Metroidvania format. You explored Dracula’s castle from top to bottom and you would return to areas one you found powerups to help you travers the castle further. What makes Castlevania different from Metroid is the RPG element of the game. Alucard is able to level up and equip weapons and armor to help boost his stats to help him in each area of the castle. You are also able to learn spells and acquire familiars to help you along the journey. I think this is why I preferred SOTN over 2D Metroid titles since I can change up my playstyle just a little bit to make playthroughs interesting each time.
Despite loving this game, I have never 100% completed the game. I’ve never finished the Richter playthrough despite that being a whole new experience. I think I just like playing as Alucard since I have more options available to use than Richter. Nevertheless, I just love playing through this game whenever I’m in the mood to do so.
3. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
What I have come to learn is that your first Monster Hunter game is usually your favorite. Monster Hunter World introduced a lot of new players to the franchise, and will probably go down as one of everyone’s favorite in the series. Old school players will praise Monster Hunter Freedom Unite as one of the best Monster Hunter experiences out there. I’m not one of them. I was introduced to Monster Hunter with Monster Hunter Tri, but Tri is not my favorite Monster Hunter (for various reasons). My favorite (so far) is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.
Why 4U? A number of personal reasons. Monster Hunter games are not renowned for their story, but I enjoyed the story in this game. The idea of becoming the hunter for this small caravan and traveling to different locations was fun and different from just being a village monster hunter. Every new character you picked up on the caravan offered a new service for you to use like mending, crafting decorations, and cooking. It just felt like a tall of a wondering caravan who would go to places and help resolve monster issues before returning to the guild headquarters. I just enjoyed that.
Besides the story, I really enjoyed all the monsters that you fought. The Gore Magala was an interesting monster that rewarded you for being aggressive and punished you for being too cautious. Monsters affected by the Gore Magala’s virus were fun aggressive variants of themselves, and it could affect all monsters in the game. Of course there were other great monsters in this game like the Dalamadur (a snake like monster that you fought on a platform), the Seregios (a wyvern that cuts you), and the Gogmazios (an elder dragon covered in oil and a dragonator). The Gogmazios fight in particular is tied to one of my best memories in gaming that I really need to write down one day.
Outside of that, this title was the first Monster Hunter game that I really got to play with others frequently. I managed to have a group of four friends that would meet up and play through the G rank missions in the game. Sitting around and hunting together in the same room is a complete different experience than just playing online alone in the room. The sense of comradery of helping each other and celebrating together after a successful hunt is an aspect that I miss and wish I could experience more. Monster Hunter Rise on the Switch could itch that feeling, but I don’t have many people around me anymore to meet up and play together.
I also miss the fun and creative weapons, armor, and quest that were in this game. In my opinion, 4U had some of the best armor designs that felt creative. There were a lot of collaborative events in the game with Universal Studios Japan (USJ) that came with different armor and weapons that looked silly, but added charm to the series. There were also Nintendo dlc where you could costumes and weapons from Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. I will never forget doing the Three Virtues quest to get the Link armor set and weapons. While armor layering didn’t exist back then, you could add a rainbow color changing setting for your armor that was really cool.
I don’t know if Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will continue to be my favorite in the series if the gameplay continues to evolve with every title. But the pure sense of enjoyment and how much of a badass that I felt while playing the game will never leave me and always hold this game fondly. I once considered this game as my favorite game of all time, but I have since scaled it back down.
2. Persona 4 Golden
Have you ever played a game that really resonated with you in a way that helped you understand yourself better? For me, Persona 4 helped me realize who I was and to never pretend to be someone I’m not. That is the theme of Persona 4. Pursuing your true self.
If you haven’t played Persona 4 (PLAY IT!), you follow a bunch of high school students as they try to solve a murder mystery taking place in their town. Most of the playable characters find themselves a victim of the killer, who kills their targets by placing them in the TV world. In the TV world, the person is confronted by a part of them that they try to hide from others. This could be a crazy wild side that you don’t want people to see or denying a part of you that makes you “you.” Regardless, if they are unable to come to terms with this part of them, they are killed by their shadow. Accepting your shadow grants you the power of a Persona, your true self and source of power to fight the shadows.
Each Persona game has its own personal theme to the story. Persona 3 is all about accepting the cycle of life and death and not being afraid to live life. Persona 5 is all about rebelling against your nature and how society expects you to act and behave. Persona 4‘s theme of accepting who you are is a deep one that I hold tightly. In the past, I was that kid who was ashamed of the way I looked, talked, acted, and sharing the interest I had. I was (and still a bit to this day) a mute who was afraid to share anything about myself out of fear of being judged by others. Now, I am confident in my individuality and never doubt myself about who I am. Persona 4 didn’t fix that for me, but it did make me realize that I need to have confidence in being true to myself.
I choose Person 4 Golden on my list because it is the best version of the game. The dungeons and presentation may not hold a candle to Persona 5, but the story and characters are what keep me coming back to it. This is another one of those games that I really love, but have not 100% done everything. I completely skipped the Marie content in Golden and meant to play a second time to get everything. The best thing about Persona 4 Golden is that you no longer have to find a PlayStation Vita to play it! It came out on Steam last year and runs pretty good from what I’ve seen (yes I immediately bought it when it released and have yet to touch it). It may not be the flashes game in the series, but it is my personal favorite and has a great story to it.
1. Tales of Symphonia
I had to really ask myself if this was my favorite game of all time. The answer that I gave to myself was “of course.” Tales of Symphonia is my gold standard when it comes to JRPGs. An amazing story, great characters and development, a fun combat system, and events that keep you guessing what’s next. It may seem like a game that follows tropes that we are familiar to these days, but playing it when I first could back in 2007/2008 (around that time), I was surprise of how well made of a game this was.
Tales of Symphonia follows the story of Lloyd Irving as he helps his friend Colette on her journey to bring salvation to the world. Things don’t pan out well once Lloyd finds out what Colette has to sacrifice in order to complete this task. What comes next is a tale of learning the truth behind the journey of salvation, enemies becoming friends, friends becoming enemies, traveling between worlds, plot twists coming out of every left field, and a social commentary about racism, the rich vs. the poor, and trying to help someone who has lost their way. I wasn’t expecting all of these elements to be covered in a sixty hour game, but Symphonia tackles all of its themes and produces a well written story that is entertaining and somber.
My brain is a little scattered on the order of Tales games that I played, but I think Phantasia was my first, then Legendia, then Symphonia. Phantasia on the GBA is a mess, and Legendia had its ups and downs (the music if phenomenal though). Symphonia took my issues from those games and gave me a game that I had little to no complaints about. The action combat in this game feels perfect to the point where I’m not lost in the dazzle of the visuals, but never bored watching the techniques and spells on the field. The party composition also matters since they cannot be changed during battle and require a little though about who to bring in. An argument that some characters feel like a waste (like Persea and Regal), but I feel like their inclusion helps with the balance of physical attackers and magic users (something I feel earlier Tales game disregard). Speaking of which, I love using the magic users like Genis and Raine when playing multiplayer since I just get to sit in the back and not fight the camera to focus on me.
I don’t really know what else to say about this game. Unlike other games on this list where I haven’t finished everything, I believe that I have done everything in this game (maybe minus the coliseum). I just never have a bad time playing this game and could possibly be content just playing this for the rest of my life. It is a game that I can always go back to and just try new things to change up my play session. The battle dialogue will never get old for me (Pancake time! Stalagmite!) The last time I played it I just learned how to use union attacks effectively and I realized how big of a mechanic I had been missing. It is just one of those games that I find fun to play and never disappoints,
What was disappointing was Tales of Symphony: Dawn of the New World which was…..eh.
So that is my current list as of June 18, 2021. Will my list change over the years? Probably since there were other games that made it on my list before. Making a list like this is not easy since I enjoy most of the games I play, and they each offer a different experience from one another. The same would happen if I made a list of games that I absolutely hate playing. To end this massive post, I would like to say that your favorite games don’t have to be one’s that are critically praised or the “best games ever made.” Your favorite games should be the ones you enjoy the most and have value to you. Forget what other people may say about your opinions, because at the end of the day opinions are just that.
Thank you for reading! Go out and play your favorite video games. And I will see ya when I get back from my vacation.