We’re back with the eighth entry in our series on the best games of all time! Since Loresworn has only been around since 2015, but D.M. and T.J. have been having opinions about games much longer than that, we’re embarking on a journey through every year from 1980 to the present, listing our favorite games that came out each year. Every week we’ll be discussing a specific year, listing what we think are the five best games from that year. At the end of this saga, we will look over all the games from each year to create Top 25 Games of All Time lists for each of us, and a grand Top 100 Games of All Time to stand as Loresworn’s final word on the subject!
Be sure to check the last page for the current rankings in the Best Game-lympics, where we will be scoring the current leaders in the Platform, Developer, and Country of Origin categories based on where each of their games place on each year’s list.
Last Week: Best Games of 1997
Next Week: Best Games of 1999
T.J.’s Picks, #5 – #2
5. Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes
This was like Smash Bros before Smash Bros. With a diverse roster of characters we knew and loved from other games and comic books, Marvel vs Capcom let us finally start to settle some of those playground “Who would win?” debates on the small screen. The fighters were well animated and fun to control, the special attacks were exciting and ripped right from the source material, and the innovative tag team gameplay even added some strategic depth to the mix. The 90s were a great decade for fighting games, and as late as it hit the scene, this one left its mark.
*Screenshot from the Enhanced Edition re-release – it’s all we could find that was available for free.
4. Baldur’s Gate
While only a foreshadowing of what BioWare would go on to become in the narrative RPG space, Baldur’s Gate is no less a groundbreaking and enthralling quest. It was the first time any studio really managed to capture the experience of sitting down to play Dungeons and Dragons with your friends – in a digital format. The world was richly realized. The combat options were plentiful. Your choices actually mattered to the story. There was a lot of reading. Okay, maybe too much reading for this type of game. But nonetheless, the seed of some all-time greats existed in the original Baldur’s Gate… even if it just misses wearing that title for itself.
This is another one of those stepping stones towards perfect immersion by changing the way we see game worlds, making you a part of it like never before. Its commitment to never breaking from the first-person, continuous episode of consciousness format meant my brain often forgot where I stopped and Gordon Freeman began. And on top of this all was a clever, terrifying, multi-layered sci fi story with twists aplenty – including one of the best narrative rug-pullings in first person shooter history in the final act. Only a bizarre and incomprehensible final boss encounter keep Valve’s first masterpiece from being higher on my list. Well, that and the fact that the remaining two games on my list are titans that resound through the ages.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarnia of Time
What can I really say that hasn’t already been said? Ocarnia is considered by many to be the single best video game ever created. And in my assessment, it’s not far off the mark. There are few adventures I’ve undertaken that hold such a special place in my heart. I probably completed it close to a dozen times from beginning to end across its various versions, even though it didn’t have procedural content or a branching story, because it was just that fun and I would take any excuse to get lost in that world again. The characters, environments, and music were supremely charming and memorable. The combat was fun and challenging. Each dungeon felt distinct and exciting both in visual style and in the challenges it presented. The journey from the Kokiri Forest to the final confrontation with Gannon came together as this epic, satisfying, nearly flawless whole full of secrets to unlock and side activities to enjoy. It’s not for mere nostalgia that there have been so few games since 98 considered to be worthy of mentioning alongside Ocarina. It is a work of absolute excellence within the medium.