Video games have been around for decades. They entertain audiences of all ages. Some are works of art and others are… well, not. But even amongst all the great games that have been created, some stand among the absolute peak in quality. These are 30 of the best games ever made.
Beyond: Two Souls (2013)
A 2013 game starring Elliot Page and Willem Dafoe already elevates this game, at least in terms of star power. They were rendered into the game using advanced motion-capture technology. Unlike most games, this one actually debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Beyond: Two Souls really shows how video games can be works of art. Even people that don’t like video games can get into this one.
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (2003)
Despite having been based off of the popular, multimedia franchise, Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic has spawned its own number of spin-offs, novels, and comic books. There’s a reason people have been clamoring for this franchise to be adapted into a movie or tv series. And that’s because it’s good! KOTOR isn’t just a fun RPG game, but it also has a rather engaging plot line. It’ll have you completely rethink what the Jedi, the Sith, or even what the Force even is.
Mass Effect (2007)
Mass Effect had some of the best-rendered and realistic-looking characters when it was first made in 2007. While those graphics look a little dated by today’s standards, the game is still an incredibly polished work, that’s equal parts fun to play and gut-wrenching as you go through the story. With a customizable player character in Captain Shepherd, the world or, more accurately, universe that you’re exploring feels incredibly fleshed out and engaging.
Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2004)
If you loved KOTOR, then you’re bound to fall in love with KOTORII. Its quality is all the more impressive, considering it came out only a year after the original. The game does everything a sequel’s supposed to do, building off of previously established lore, improving gameplay, and making a plot even more engaging than the last game’s.
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Speaking of sequels and RPGs, Mass Effect 2 is fantastic. Bringing back all of the best aspects of the previous game, in an even more engaging plot, this game one-ups its predecessor with two primary things: interrelationships and actions. You can really learn more about your allies to get closer to them (both in and out of game). Not to mention, the improvements to combat help Mass Effect 2 really stand on its own as a straight-up action game as well.
Moving away from the RPG genre, we have Stellaris. A strategy game in the vein of the Civilization franchise, this one focuses on you building your own interstellar empire. Not only can you wage war or build peace between other civilizations, but can even form alliances to deal with different crises. In a more recent update, you can even play as one of these crises, giving the player a lot more options and reason to keep playing.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (2016)
With the mention of Civilization, here’s the latest entry in the franchise. Like its predecessors, this game focuses on the creation and building of your own nation. As you advance in technology, you become more and more capable of expanding, either crushing nations under your heel or making peace. And of course, there have been plenty of updates to the gameplay to enhance the gameplay, with everyone’s favorite aspects from the previous entries still being preserved.
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)
People praise Skyrim, and even Oblivion, quite often in the present, but some seem to forget their grandaddy, Morrowind. It’s open-world style and high amount of choice have been refined over time, but none of the other Elder Scrolls game have the same feel or storyline. You really feel like you’re in some kind of alien, fantasy world when playing this one.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Is it really that surprising that a game that’s been ported onto every console since 2011 is on this list? After all, the reason that people keep buying this game is the reason there’s no Elders Scrolls VI yet. The game still has those lovely RPG skills, along with new magic. Not to mention, with the updated graphics, it’s simply the best-looking game in the franchise.
Fallout 3 (2008)
Despite being called Fallout 3, this game was actually the first of its kind in the Fallout franchise. Before, they were treated more like top-down RPGs. But with Fallout 3, Bethesda decided to go with a similar approach to the Elder Scrolls games. And, it’s actually pretty fun. Traveling through the Capital Wasteland (formerly known as Washington D.C.) and searching for your father as you fight raiders, super mutants, and feral ghouls. There’s a plot line relating to finding a clean water source, but the most memorable thing about all of that is that your dad’s played by Liam Neeson.
BioShock Infinite (2013)
The first two BioShock games had trouble hooking some players with its railroading and strange, RPG elements. Not two mention, the second one’s plot turned off even people that enjoyed the first game. But BioShock Infinite was a game that everyone wanted to pick up. More of a shooter than an RPG, the game possessed a more engaging plot and a much more vibrant and interesting world to interact in.
Kerbal Space Program (2015)
A charming game that also relies on real-world physics to be able to function. Of course, the goal is still to create a functional rocket, but you won’t feel too bad from your rocket constantly crashing. Even Elon Musk enjoys this game.
Halo 3 (2007)
Halo is a particularly beloved and excellently crafted gaming franchise. Which is all the more surprising given its status as a first-person shooter. Most people don’t associate those with particularly good plots, or even interesting game mechanics. However, out of all the Halo games, Halo 3 has to be the best. It took what was in the first two games and refined them to a T, at least in terms of gameplay. When it came to the story, however, it proved to be just as immaculate, with the game becoming a cultural phenomena. It’s even the only game in the franchise to specifically have a spin-off from itself, that being Halo 3: ODST.
No game really has as much staying power as Minecraft. The fact that it’s been a live-service game since it’s creation probably helps with that. This is the one game on the last that’s constantly being improved, with new mechanics, crafting recipes, and other items being added in every year. Minecraft even has its own convention! Have you ever been to Minecon?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
The Witcher was a novel series first, a game series second, and now it’s a tv series as well. But, of all the games in the franchise, Wild Hunt is the game with the highest quality. It didn’t start out that way, needing to be fixed up over the course of several updates, but it has since become an incredibly fun fantasy game.
Metro: Exodus (2019)
Metro: Exodus is the third game based off of the Metro novel series. Previous entries in the franchise were more similar to DOOM in their play-style, but have since become more reminiscent of RPGs. The game features an engaging plot, brought to life with an excellent cast. And its focus on stealth combat heavily rewards the player for using a quieter approach as opposed to going in guns blazing.
Despite its general look, Firewatch is a pretty dramatic game with several sinister undertones. Playing as Henry, a fire lookout in a park, you try to solve the mystery of what’s happening in the park. The only help you receive is from your manager, Delilah, who you communicate with through a walkie talkie. It’s a lot like playing through an interactive drama as opposed to just a video game.
This game is both fun and cathartic. Playing as a former bodyguard turned assassin, your goal is to kill the oligarchy governing your city before the lower classes are overrun with plague and death. With the game’s RPG elements, you uncover different abilities to assist in your goals. The first game in this franchise, they haven’t made a better one since.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005)
The sequel to the fantastic Star Wars: Battlefront from 2004, this game came out just before Revenge of the Sith and included locations and levels based off of parts of the film. It took all the things about the first game that everyone loved and built on top of it. Outside of the first- and third-person shooter mechanics, the game added in heroes, the Rise of the Empire story mode, and several new game modes. This included Capture the Flag and space levels. It’s a shame that the planned Battlefront III game was canned. And while EA eventually made their own pair of Battlefront games, they don’t exactly have the same charm as the originals.
This is one of the few games that managed to be released after being funded on Kickstarter. And it’s actually good! Its goal is simple, build a successful colony using the materials generated on the map. Of course, raiders and rival colonies will try to stop your progress, so there will always be action. Additionally, the people that live in your colony form interpersonal relationships that can create some drama.
Myst was the top-selling game around until The Sims came around in 2002. It was a story-driven world based around interactive puzzles and problem-solving. It has a deep, internal mythology and, surprisingly, absolutely no combat. All the while, you can move across the island of Myst at your own leisure. Doing so tells you the history of the island, as well as your own backstory.
Pokémon Heart Gold And Soul Silver (2010)
Pokémon is the most successful media franchise on the planet, raking in billions upon billions of dollars. New games have been coming out since 1996, and each generation of games improves upon current mechanics, adds in new Pokémon to catch and train, and new moves for your Mons to learn. Everyone has their favorite Pokémon generations, and even individual games, but Heart Gold and Soul Silver is the gold standard in terms of both mechanics and content. A remake of the original Pokémon Gold and Silver from 1999, the game not only boasted updated graphics and game mechanics, but a much beloved adventure that old players could revisit and new players could go through for the first time. The Johto-based games were particularly loved, not just because of what you can do before you beat the game, but once you enter the post-game, you’re able to adventure through Kanto, the region visited in the very first Pokémon game!
Battleships Forever (2007)
Battleships Forever was a finalist for the 10th annual Independent Games Festival’s Design Innovation Award. Created by Sean “th15” Chan, it was the first Singaporean game to receive the honor. It’s a real-time strategy game that allows the player to compete with AI in several different mode, including a campaign. It also uses a simple, physics system. Damage can occur on localized portions of a ship, shots can miss, and different ships move at different speeds depending on mass.
Who would’ve expected a second Kickstarter game to make the list? The game features a randomly generated map in space, from which the player needs to expand their faction’s influence. As you build more equipment, your faction begins to change and attempt to use your most successful designs.
The Outer Worlds (2019)
The company responsible for KOTOR and Fallout, Obsidian Entertainment, is on the list again. This time with an original IP. The game’s been praised for its great story, difficult combat, and quality voice acting. The game’s aesthetic is both familiar, mostly referencing other alternate future storylines, but unique at the same time.
Saints Row 2 (2008)
There have been five of these games released (soon to be six), but most people agree that Saints Row 2 is the best. Like all of the other entries in this franchise, the game features raunchy humor, tons of weapons, and an open world. Of course, let’s not forget about the Respect system, which is what allows you to get new missions and progress through the game. Future titles maintain this, but they just don’t seem to have the same charm as this one.
Mount And Blade II: Bannerlord (2020)
A prequel/sequel to Warbound, Bannerlord takes what its predecessor did well and refines it to a T. The most notable improvement was its dialogue system, adding greater depth to the gameplay and NPC interactions. Of course, commanding an entire legion of soldiers is an overall fun experience when playing any game.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)
Super Smash Bros. has been a cultural phenomena and money-printing machine since its first entry came out on the Nintendo 64 in 1999. Since then, it’s had four killer sequels, all with their own distinct art styles and a few new or unique game modes. The reason why Ultimate is being included over all the others though is simply because it has more. Every character that’s ever been in a Smash Bros. game is playable here, with 11 new characters (and 14 additional ones as DLC). In its current state, the game has a roster of 89 fighters, 114 stages, and 1,068 different musical tracks. Not to mention the new game modes like Smash Down, Squad Strike, and the World of Light Adventure Mode.
FTL: Faster Than Light (2012)
An interesting, top-down game that focuses on you and your crew running, repairing, and protecting a starship. Enemies and maps are randomly generated and how you save is somewhat limited. That means, if you make a mistake, you’re stuck with it. The consequences are real.
The Legend Of Time: Ocarina Of Time (1998)
When people talk about The Legend of Zelda, this is the game everyone’s referring to. It’s been a high-quality, well-regarded game franchise since it was first created. Even the lower-rated games are still incredibly popular. And this game is the cream of the crop. People have been comparing every new entry in the franchise to Ocarina of Time since 1998. As the first 3D Legend of Zelda game, it only makes sense. This game was so good, it was actually the only Legend of Zelda game to receive a direct sequel (until the Breath of the Wild sequel comes out) in the form of Majora’s Mask.