Video games has come a long way. The stuff that kids were playing on their consoles and computers decades ago, has gaming changed all that much? Of course they have, and they changed all the way back to 1998, the single greatest year in the entire history of gaming. Yes, 1998 really is the best year in gaming because many of the titles released in this very year turned video games into the pop culture phenomenon that it is today. 1998 was a well established year where popular games and genres were defined or redefined. These are instant classics proceeded to shape to define gaming forever after. This is personally my favorite year ever because this was around the time I entered the 3rd grade with a better elementary school teacher, we moved to a new two story villa, and this was the year that we got the Sony Playstation for the first time. So when it comes to making my Top 10 favorite games of this very year, it’s really hard for me to pick only ten that I still continue playing and still continue to hunt down. I love those 365 days so passionately that I would want the time machine to exist so I can just go back to those times when these games were new and people everywhere were obsessing over it. That’s part of the reason why we it’s a lot more fun to play these games when it was released in opposed to playing them now when everybody forgot about them. These are the times where I’m in a great mood to once again Gotta Catch ‘Em All, Travel Through the Land of the Dead, Obtaining the Tri Force in 3D, Having Psycho Mantis reading memory cards, escaping Black Mesa, torching Gnasty Gnorc, getting all Jiggies, collecting 25 crystals, destroy the zergs, this was all gaming in year 1998!
Number 10. – Banjo-Kazooie
What’s up with all those people saying that kiddy games are at all bad? If you played something like Banjo-Kazooie, you know it should be a positive. Rareware strikes again with a whole new breed of 3D Platformers where scavenging for collectables everywhere is a object of the game. Collecting items never felt so much fun as the game encourages the player to explore all across each level in order to progress to another level. Best of all is the power-ups that simply enhances the overall experience like having Kazooie run on took while Banjo is on her back. Banjo-Kazooie is one of the liveliest 3D platformers that I have ever played on the N64. Every detail has at least a cartoony animations and quirky soundtrack that sticks out like a sore thumb. Banjo-Kazooie is purely lovable and it shows that no matter how much older we get, we still have a soft spot for our childhood that motivates us come back to this game.
Number 9. – Pokémon
There was a time of our lives where nobody could go outside and hear about Pokémon. I mean it’s a fascinating concept on its own; a child (trainer) goes out on a tournament for self glory by using the creatures that he/she captures called Pokémon to use them for battle at your every command. It was a very simple RPG, but it becomes so addicting once you start playing. We all just wanted to capture what we find interesting or useful and see what it can do by learning moves and also what it can evolve to as a reward for training them. We test our skills to battle 8 gym leaders and face the elite four to succeed the goal of being a Pokémon master. I know it’s bullshit that Nintendo only gave us two separated versions that each has their own exclusives, but at least we can put great use for the link cable that we hardly use. Plus, everyone was into Pokémon so trading Pokémon and battling with friends was one of the most fun part of the whole series. Pokémon, whether you love it or hate it, is a nostalgic moment for us all. For us that grew up with this game, we all remember how hard it was to choose only 1 out of three Pokémon, our first gym battle with Brock, team rocket, Giovani, and so much more and we still talk about it today. The reason why we love Pokémon so much is because we really wish to have such amazing creatures as our own and it fascinates us that have such amazing powers that is totally action packed. Yet, I still imagine myself being a Pokémon trainer time and time again but somehow I come back Pokémon to live that moment.
Number 8. – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Surprised to see that this game is not number 1 on the list though it is the most praised game of all time? To me, I believe that A Link to the Past is a superior game because Ocarina of Time test my patience from really enjoying this game. From the opening, getting through boring dungeons, and even getting through the long-ass, painful dialog (The Owl, King Zora, and more) were all huge flaws that ruined most of the enjoyment. But this game wouldn’t make it this high on the list if it wasn’t great, which it really is. Our biggest expectations when it comes to the Nintendo 64 is to have all of our favorite Nintendo franchises to make an installment in full 3D. Though most of them didn’t make it (Earthbound, Metroid, and more), a Zelda game in 3D was Nintendo fan’s dream. It took all the familiar creatures, elements, and characters that appeared in the previous title and made it into an interactive 3D experience and a whole new perspective. Every detail and aspect of the game is just so rich that it makes it feel like a sense of an artistic value in it. You can see the day cycle from day to night, massive open-world, dungeons packed with treasures and enemies/bosses, and so many more. These were all the aspects that Nintendo were perfecting for many years and the end result was an indescribable experience. Not only that, but the controls felt incredible; you can swap up any item or weapon with three C-buttons, swift your sword into many ways of attacking, applying any action when you come close to an object that can be interacted, automatic jumping when you walk off the edge of a platform, look into first person, shoot in first person, and also the innovative Z-targetting. This was something that Nintendo tried to do in Zelda II by making it combat oriented, but Ocarina of Time perfected it by making the player 100% focused on their target and they can fight offensively or defensively. Z-targetting can also use Navi to help the player indicate danger, a point of interest, or give detail information about the target you’re facing making a whole new perspective in video games that games today borrows. Most importantly, the usage of the Ocarina which can cast magic and all possibilities once they play a song. This became the backbone of the game’s brilliant musical score and the player can also play the tunes out and make the impossible into a reality from transportation, changing the time of day, call for your horse Epona, communicate with Sierra, cause a thunder storm, and open doors. The best part of all is the journey. It’s almost a coming-of-age fantasy adventure where you have so many dungeons to accomplish, items to collect, enemies to kill, and bosses to defeat. You develop from a young boy who couldn’t fit in the fairy town and then time-travel to adulthood which even adds so much more to the overall experience by the moves he can do, the items he can use, and the places he can go. That part of the game really makes you think of life changing so fast because of the familiar aspects of Hyrule that you seen from your childhood is forever changed in the post-apocalyptic future that was all caused by the evil Gannondorf. These were all the great things that made Ocarina just a masterpiece, plain and simple, even thought it isn’t the greatest game of all time as many over the year tries to convince you to believe.
Number 7. – Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
I maybe the only person in the world that actually knows that Turok 2: Seeds of Evil is the best N64 first-person shooter of all time; even better than the likes of GoldenEye 007. By every stretch of the imagination, this game went so many miles ahead of Turok: The Dinosaur Hunter from the gunplay, weapon variety, physics, sound, music, and story. You heard me right, this FPS had an engaging story where there are aspects of the plot becomes so epic when fighting these dinosaurs & so many monsters and even watch some of the scariest cutsenes ever. What made me love Turok 2: Seeds of Evil so much is because it has some of the most satisfying gunplay I’ve ever played in any game. Whenever you shoot any enemy, they give different reactions and great physics, even if you shot them in the same spot. I give a lot of credit for Akklaim for actually giving so many dying animations whenever you kill someone and it’s something that game developers today should take note. Never has there ever been a game that offered this many variety of weapons that each are useful (cerebral bore is the best weapons in video games ever), plus different ammo types for each, all of which cause great effect with the most brutal 64-bit visuals whenever you blow off their heads off and other body parts. The level designs are so massive, I’ve never seen level designs that are so big before or since (completely nonlinear) which makes them fantastic battlegrounds in your adventure. This is not a short game at all, you have a massive amount of hours to play with this game, plus much more when you play it with your friends in the multiplayer. It’s phenomenal to see all of these wonderful things put in a single game and all of these great features makes it an immersive and satisfying shooter ever. I never been as satisfied as I was when I played this classic that still withstands against all the other FPS since.
Number 6. – Half-Life
The least immersive aspect about FPS’s in it’s early stages is that it feels more like a shooting gallery instead of a realistic combative experience. After Half-Life was released, now every first-person shooter in existence is trying to one-up what Half-Life accomplished, but they’re still seen as imitators. I’ve never forgotten the first moment I went outside. All these graphics we have now, these movie-quality scenes playing out on our monitors, and not a one of them has a hope of making me feel anything like the same shock, exhilaration, and terror that overcame me when I first stepped foot outside Black Mesa. Half-Life was the first-person shooter that made all of us realise there could be a story alongside the shooting. No longer do we feel as if we’re just jumping through level to level, but instead following a story-driven path that has scripted events that’s so convincing that you’re in this world created by Gabe Newell and the Valve development team. Because of Half-Life we now have a great community of computer gamers using Steam and even having modding being a popular hobby to the masses. I really can’t imagine a world without Half-Life because it would be so much different that what it is today.
Number 5. – Crash Bandicoot: Warped
Linear games in 3D graphics have always been a iffy for me, but not the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy on the PS1. The reason for that is they always offered something different, challenging, and fun for every couple of feet you make towards the end of each level. For Crash Bandicoot: Warped’s case, it totally succeeds in capturing everything special from Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex and tripled it to the bare minimum. I love that almost every level (except some of the themes) felt every different from one another where they sometimes get out of the traditional Crash Bandicoot levels of breaking crates and collection the crystal, but also offer challenges like Coco riding a tiger across the Great Wall of China, motorcycle racing, and aircraft piloting. Even for the traditional Crash Bandicoot levels when he’s on foot, it all feels different thanks to the time-traveling theme that the third installment goes for from the jurassic era, medieval times, egyptian tombs, underwater levels, the future, and more. Even more of a rewarding experience, you also have very memorable bosses like Tiny, Dingodile, Dr. Nefarious Trophy, Dr. N. Gin, and Dr. Neo Cortex with Aku Aku’s evil twin Uka Uka and beating all of them grants Crash Bandicoot new powers and abilities. These powers are used to be in the later levels, not the other way around that creates backtracking like other 3D platformers. Never did I ever had as much fun with a single playstation game because its charm and variety just has an ever lasting appeal. Sure, anyone can find Crash Bandicoot: Warped as a short game, but because of its charm it has more than a high replay value. In fact, this is perhaps the most replayed game ever. I don’t think that there’s ever a game out there that made me want to keep coming back to it again and again. Warped really utilized the playstation technology at its fullest from the colors, quick load times, fast pacing, amazing sound, vibration controller, and smooth animation were all just so damn lovable! This playstation game hold very dear in my heart because it was my first Playstation game and since then I could never put it down.
Number 4. – Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus
This is honestly the best sequel I’ve ever seen in my life. Oddworld Abe’s Oddysee has the best graphics of the 1990s and Exoddus brought so much more to the table to unimaginable possibilities. The fundamental gameplay from the previous game still remains, but Exoddus fixed everything that was flawed from Oddysee and made the closest thing to perfection. Communicating with NPCs never felt so good as you can have simple control of all the Mudokins that you have to save, but it also adds so much to the challenge by giving each of them to react differently. Some are too pissed, depressed, or hype to keep in control so Oddworld Inhabitants gave us more actions by allowing the player to solve their problem by saying sorry, stop fighting, and slap them to keep their sanity. But there are also the sympathetic blind Mudokins who had their sight taken away from them. Possessing enemies returns to the series, but it works better than ever as you can control more than just the Sligs this time, you can control the Paramites, Scabs, the Glukins, and even your own exploding fart. The game’s humor is through-the-roof as it got me rolling on their slap stick, dry humor, and even cartoony nature. I really appreciate the fact that Abe’s Exoddus is much more light hearted than the dark and unsettling tone of Abe’s Oddysee, while still keeping the artistry and atmosphere that made Oddworld so fucking beautiful. What makes this game my favorite 2D platformer ever is the fact that it offers so many brand new challenges that really test veterans of the genre. If the challenge is way too hard, then you can create your save points that creates player’s choice of check points, which really keeps the player from repeating on rescuing Mudokins whenever you die and give a more balanced gameplay. Even better, this game offers multiplayer which makes bringing a friend over to see who goes the farthest to be a fun experience. Abe’s Exoddus is simply the best Oddworld game and personally my favorite 2D platformer of all time. It perfected the cinematic platformer gameplay (from Another World), the charming appeal from top to bottom, best graphics of the 1990s, and even the best damn artistry ever seen in a video game! Abe’s Exoddus is a great example of how a game can stay true to its conceptual pursuit while still improving upon the original, all while keeping its soul intact.
Number 3. – Grim Fandango
There’s a clear reason why this game, along with other Tim Schafer games, are given with so much praise and cult following. It’s because they go far beyond the imaginations and creativity seen from any media, not just video games. For Grim Fandango’s case, can you tell me another game since and after that is set in the afterlife where they took the film noir style and made an fantastic journey to paradise? It’s really sad to see that Lucas Arts really wanted to change their adventure games from the point-and-click SCUMM to the GrimE engine, which I think is the most unique engine I’ve ever seen. Everything about Grim Fandango is so lovable and so memorable that you can forgive the poor key board interface and tank controls (which I don’t mind at all). It almost as seems that traveling the land of the dead would have been a depressing game, but there have been so much comedy that feels like a breath of fresh air. Since then I’ve never seen another game that has been so creative (until Psychonauts) because of the combination aztec folklore, the aztec afterlife, mexican paper skeletons, film noir, and comedy into one. I admit that I’m one of those millions of fans out there that didn’t get a chance to play Grim Fandango until many years later, but it’s never too late to experience this ageless classic because nothing, and I mean, nothing has ever brought anything as unique as this!
Number 2. – Metal Gear Solid
Upon the game’s release & before the game became the popular franchise that it is now today, we all assumed that this was a stealth military simulator. And boy, were we all in for a treat for some of the most qualitative playstation game of all time. This is proof that not all military-themed games are simply accomplish a mission operation, but Metal Gear Solid instead made it a very deep and thought-provoking game that tackles the themes of survival, dangers of nuclear proliferation, government conspiracy, love, and passing on genes to future generations. This title did more than just revolutionizing the stealth game genre, it also showed that storytelling in video games can be very crucial and intelligent. It really gets the player suspenseful when it comes to how evil the plans of Fox Hound really are. Metal Gear Solid gets the player at ease to keep out of sight and it feels like the whole operation is more serious than any tone seen in a video game. Hiding in boxes, crawling underneath objects, and using noise to distract enemies, Solid Snake really knows his stealth. Equipped with a radar, Snake must avoid detection lest he set off any alarms, which puts him in “alert mode” and forces him to hide. Once hidden, the “evasion mode” counter ticks away until the guards lose the trail and Solid Snake is back in “infiltration mode” once more. The dialog passing back and forth between Snake, the people in the operation, and the folks that he communicates on radio is really engaging like having an actual conversation with these characters as they are real. I love to listen to any of these wonderful voice acting and masterful screenplay all day if I have to as they offer so much emotion and valuable information from various characters. Almost every aspect of the game thrills the player to continue playing and then face a member of FoxHound. Every time you face one of the members of FoxHound, they give Solid Snake different challenges of battle from hand to hand combat (Gray Fox) to sniper battle (Sniper Wolf). What’s surprising of them all is that most of these villains are not all evil, they are sympathetic and are driven by their motivations for a purpose. It’s all of those things that makes Metal Gear Solid truly surprising and feel like its more than just a video game. I defy anyone who thinks otherwise because this game achieved much more than anyone can imagine and it got the gaming industry as a whole to be smarter, passionate, and more important than ever before! I can’t imagine video games today could ever tell good stories or create such immersion today without the importance of Metal Gear Solid.
Number 1. – Panzer Dragoon Saga
Surprised to see this game at the number 1 spot? Well that’s because this underrated game was a humongous achievement and there has never been a game like it before and after. Since we’re all now living in the Nintendo Generation, the only people left that will tell you that this game is good are the Sega Saturn fans who experienced it. What an achievement it was to turn a franchise that’s known for its on-rails shooting to THE BEST role-playing game of all time. If you really love the first two Panzer Dragoon games, don’t be discouraged that this is a different genre because this installment kept the many familiar aspects from the first two games to make it a worthy sequel; from the enemies, selecting what you want to interact, Dragon’s attack, etc. The one main reason why this classic is number 1 for me because you have to remember that in 1997 we were all blown away by Final Fantasy 7, but when we got a chance to see Panzer Dragoon Saga it blew us away even more for having MUCH better graphics (actual transparency in this era), voice-acting throughout, everything to be in full 3D, much better soundtrack, and even free roam in the game’s world that in every way imaginable succeeds over FF7. The one thing I really dislike about console role-playing games (outside that they’re not as fun as table top RPG’s) is that when you’re in battle, characters stand around just taking turns on hitting each other or wait to get hit, which is stupid on to itself. But Panzer Dragoon Saga managed to make turn-based combat to look somewhat plausible by having the dragon you’re riding on and the enemies to battle up in the air. Unlike any RPG out there, you can maneuver around the enemy to its left, right, ahead, or behind them so that you can shoot them at their weak spot or mistakenly get hit at their most crucial area. This combat mechanic creates some of the most dynamic visuals and engaging battle sequences ever implemented in a game and no other RPG came even close to it since. Just like Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei, as your Dragon continues to level up, at certain levels he can evolve into an entirely different dragon. And if you don’t like how your Dragon looks you can either keep leveling up to a different look or you can change its stats to make it look different. That part of the game really beats the likes of Pokemon in their own evolution concept. The journey involves Edge riding his powerful dragon to revenge on his fallen comrades and rescue the mysterious girl from the ruins. The fan favorite, Azel, looked like she was going to be a generic damsel in distress that we need to rescue only to find out later in the game that she is in Crayman’s side and becomes your biggest nemesis. Panzer Dragoon Saga’s plot is so well-told for it has so many twists and complete with emersion that I rarely see in video games anymore. There is any doubt in my mind that this is the most underrated game of all time because it went miles ahead on what most people considers to be the best RPG (like FF7, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, or whatever), no other game feels anywhere like it, and the end of the game succeeds in offering complete satisfactory. It’s such a shame that nobody gives Sega Saturn a chance and as a result there are only 300,000 copies that were published by Sega which means that they are rare and very low number of people have experienced its magic. If you are a hardcore gamer, you owe it to yourself to play this game before you leave this Earth; you are missing out on one of the best games of all time! Panzer Dragoon Saga took me out of my regular life each time I put the game on, it embraced me and absorbed me into its own world. No other game can ever take its place in my heart.