70 – Gradius
Gradius is a delightfully simple but addictive and challenging scrolling shooter from Konami. When it was released on the NES there were still very few really good games in this genre and it was a huge breath of fresh air. This is the title that got me addicted to the S.H.U.M.P. / Bullet Hell genre of shooters that would grow to be hugely popular in Japan as it gave skilled players a platform to show off their gaming chops.
69 - Final Fantasy IX
I had a weird experience with Final Fantasy IX. When it was first released I actually did not like it. I thought it was slower than Final Fantasy VIII and story and design-wise, a step backwards. After I swallowed my pride and played through the game from start to finish, I realized it is a beautiful, well written, funny and fun-to-play RPG with great characters, a wonderful soundtrack and a unique story with some great twists.
68 - Gran Turismo 4
Gran Turismo was already a favorite series of mine when this one came out, but nothing could prepare me for how perfect, how beautiful, and how polished this game was. Everything was just right. The uber-realistic graphics, even on the PS2, were inconceivably good (I looked at the press releases before the game came out and was calling “B.S.” on the so-called screenshots; boy was I wrong), and I had no idea that eventually games would look better. Still, at the time this game came out, nothing looked better. Nothing.
67 - Rock Band - Series
I love music. I play guitar, bass, keyboard and am currently teaching myself violin. I find that anything that makes people interested in possibly playing an instrument is a great thing, and Guitar Hero was a great start. It would be a few years until Harmonix would release Rock Band. It was in a huge box for a video game, which was filled with a cumbersome array of bits and pieces. After you assemble (YES. ASSEMBLE) the game you were ready to experience a layered, challenging, fun game that brought people of all ages and skill levels together. I think Rock Band is responsible for more than just the expansion of the popular music genre. I believe Rock Band is one of the first modern titles that would bridge the gap for gamers and non-gamers. Since anybody can pick up a mic and sing, you didn't have to have magic fingers to be a pro, and that made less experienced players a match for the gaming hotshots. This made Rock Band and it's even superior sequel Rock Band 2 a great game for families.
66 - Super Mario Bros.
This classic game was a huge step forward in gaming in 1985. It taught us that games could be more than vague blips and blocks on the screen, and video game sound could be more that scratches, bumps and beeps. It was an addictive, exciting, fast-paced game placed in a strange world with characters that were captivating and are now staples in the industry. Honestly, if it wasn't for this game, the video game industry, which was fledgling before the NES and this game was released, would probably be dead. Period.
65 - Street Fighter 2
The arcade fighter classic from Capcom was so huge in its day that you literally could not get into arcades; the crowds and lines for this game were that long. However, the early 1990's were not good to arcades. The dreaded drought and closing of arcades from the early 1980's returned, this time not due to disinterest more so than the massive popularity of home gaming and the onset of the 16-bit generation of consoles. Street Fighter 2 began appearing in American arcades in 1994 and all of the sudden, the barren, empty arcades (who were resorting to selling their cabinets to stay in business) were booming. Street Fighter 2 was just one of those games that felt like it would be the start of something fresh; something new. It had a roster that was, at its time, huge; each of the characters were different (for the most part); and it boasts the onset of a new control scheme that would remain the staple for fighters to this very day. Street Fighter 2 would go on to become one of the most successful and famous franchises in video game history and would pave the way for literally hundreds of fighters to come.
64 - Streets of Rage 2
Face it, beat 'em ups are fun. I love them. I think they just feel different than other games. Arguably the best beat 'em up released on consoles during the 16-bit generation was Streets of Rage 2. Also known as Bare Knuckle, Streets of Rage was a hit on consoles so naturally it would spawn a sequel, thus came Streets of Rage 2. With four characters to choose from, this title would be the Double Dragon killer fans of the genre were waiting for. It was fun, pretty to look at and filled with unique bosses and challenges. Plus, who didn't love Skate. I love me some Skate.
P.S. Rollerblades are for dorks now.
63 - Star Ocean 2
A ton of endings, a cast of great characters, an engaging story and fun combat all make up this delightful RPG on the Playstation. Released by Enix in 1998, this title holds a special place in my heart. It just brings back so many memories. The pseudo-real-time combat was just part of it. There's a tone to this game that was just different. It reminded me of my favorite RPG of all time, which will show up later in this list (I won't reveal it yet though). The storytelling was just so good.
62 - Earthworm Jim
Doug Tennaple's over-the-top, funny, and challenging platformer just hits all the right notes for me. The set pieces are very amusing, filled with imagery that was reminiscent of franchises like Ren and Stimpy, and huge, multi-tiered levels that were cluttered with enemies and dangers. Plus, don't tell me you didn't laugh during the battle with Evil the Cat. He literally has 9 lives. Even though he wasn't exactly hard, his battle was truly memorable.
61 - Final Fantasy
Squaresoft fell under some hard times in the late 1980's. After a few titles launched but did not do well they were at risk of going out of business. They released Final Fantasy as a last ditch effort to stay afloat. The tile came from the thought that “this was it”. If Final Fantasy did not work, it would actually be our “final” release. Well... This simple, understated title would spawn a huge list of sequels and spin-offs, tons of famous characters and a famously good series of soundtracks that would get the orchestral treatment and become a touring live concert. The turn-based combat was perfect, giving the player the option to build their own balanced team and put them to task against a list of varying enemies with an actual back story. After “proving your worth” you embark on a quest where things go from awesome to even... more... awesome. I still think Chaos is one of the coolest looking baddies ever too. He just looks like he will eat your eyeballs.