We’re back with the seventh 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 1996
Next Week: Best Games of 1998
T.J.’s Picks, #5 – #2
5. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
This was the first time a video game let us experience the iconic Star Wars journey from being a sort of average dude to becoming a Jedi Knight. And it wasn’t just reliving Luke’s journey. Because the story and locations Kyle Katarn experienced on his own path to understanding the Force, it felt like my journey. The writing was inventive and cinematic. The level design presented some interesting visuals and challenges. But most of all, that moment you first get to mow down stormtroopers with a lightsaber was a wannabe Jedi’s dream come true.
4. Mega Man Legends
This is the best Mega Man game of all time. There. I said it. Presumably, half of you are cheering and the other half are throwing blunt objects. Sincerely, I’m shocked this game isn’t more well regarded. It’s the Ocarina of Time, the Super Mario 64, of the franchise. It has an interesting story, a joyfully weird open world, and some of the creepiest, most enigmatic villains I’ve ever come up against. Exploring its dangerous dungeons and interacting with its memorable cast was a highlight of this console generation.
3. Final Fantasy VII
While VI still remains king of the franchise, VII is not far behind. It had an original and different setting that pit one of gaming’s most iconic ensembles against one of the greatest villains ever written. When Sephiroth does that thing, he earned the honor of being the first game character I wanted to make real just so I could actually, seriously kill him in real life. Such was my young angst and outrage at his misdeeds. FF7 was sprawling, in a good way. There were so many secrets to find, hidden bosses to defeat, and ultimate weapons to unlock. You could spend dozens of hours – longer than the total length of some lesser RPGs – breeding the perfect racing Chocobo. That commitment to quality in side quests and diversions is sadly missing from most games these days.
2. Total Annihilation
More than anything, I remember how mind-blowing the scale of Total Annihilation was the first time I played it. My main frame of reference for RTS up until then was WarCraft II, in which you could select a maximum of nine units at a time. Total Annihilation opened the door to higher-level strategic thinking with its economic systems (which included being able to recycle your demolished foes), uber-expensive super units that had to be treated like the massive resource investment they were to be effective, and the sheer number of different units and the roles they could play depending on your opponent and the terrain. Many of the best RTSes of the last 20 years owe their existence to this landmark moment.