7 Best Video Games of All Time
Video games have permeated every aspect of our society, whether or not you personally enjoy them. The chup-chup-boop of arcade legends like Space Invaders or the growling “Finish Him!” in Mortal Kombat can be as evocative as a Michael Jackson or Beatles tune, making it difficult for some to conceive of a world without video games.
More than 150 nominees, spanning multiple generations of gamers, were put through TIME’s tech team’s rigorous ranking process in order to compile this survey of the industry’s finest ideas from the past three-and-a-half decades. Here are our top 50 games of all time.
King’s Quest III: To Heir Is Human
Prior to Nintendo’s heyday in the ’90s, PC games ruled the roost, and none were more imaginative than Sierra’s offerings. The original King’s Quest is the installment of their adventure series that receives the most praise from reviewers. But the 1986 third installment, which was twice the size of the previous two films and as clever as any in the series, deserves the most praise. Due to the game’s focus on the exploits of Prince Alexander, a 17-year-old from Daventry, it resonated more with its primary players, who were, like it or not, predominantly male. In spite of (or perhaps because of) its dated visuals, the keyboard-controlled adventure remains fun to play (try it yourself). Gathering the necessary ingredients to make potions, dodging the wizard’s evil black cat, and stealing the pirate’s treasure are all feats of pure magic.
Dota 2 is the improbable sequel to a fan mod for a Blizzard game that came out in 2002, and it exploded onto the e-sports scene in 2013 with its innovative take on real-time resource management and turf control. The game is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), a subgenre of the competitive real-time strategy genre in which two teams of five players face off across a symmetrical map separated by a river. Dota 2 matches are difficult to master but exciting to watch, as the camera views pinball around the battlefields flush with antagonists converging on dozens of flashpoints as players battle to demolish the other team’s “ancient.”
Rovio’s first mobile game, Angry Birds, was released in 2009 and is now one of the most successful franchises in the world. However, the studio’s unique physics puzzler in which players slingshot roly-poly birds at likewise rotund, entrenched pigs also honed in on key elements of smartphone gaming’s then-nascent purview: bite-sized levels for on-the-go play, easy to pickup (if grueling to master) gameplay, and eventually a free-to-play biz model built on microtransactions. One could say that Angry Birds set the standard for the countless other mobile games that have since competed for our digital currency.
Castlevania, released in 1987, was a monster of a game that tested the limits of the NES’s 8-bit architecture with its stunning visuals, complex physics (for such an early platformer), and unforgettable music that matched the title’s eerie atmosphere perfectly. In contrast to Nintendo’s lighthearted Super Mario games, this was a serious challenge, even if it wasn’t as scary as the then-unknown survival horror genre. Players who took on the role of vampire hunter Simon Belmont and explored Dracula’s castle found a lot of worn out equipment. You have to defeat Death, and he’s not even the final boss, and the game opens with bloodstained gates.
For many, Jonathan Blow’s 2008 time-bending side-scroller was a story of loss and upheaval that addressed a range of cultural ills. Blow resisted, implying that such interpretations were oversimplified. Whatever the case may be, Braid is unlike any other game because it is the product of a mind that can masterfully subvert established norms of game design and player expectations, all while incorporating metaphysical questions about the nature of reality. “It’s like Blow went back to the aesthetic of the late ’80s and created a rift in time, like an alternate universe where we’d have gone in a different direction,” says Sean Murray, co-creator of No Man’s Sky. This is because Braid could have been played on the Amiga and would have blown minds back in the day. Video game design as we know it today would have had to be entirely rethought.
Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar’s 2010 open-world opus Red Dead Redemption deserves top honors on this list for many reasons, not the least of which are its gorgeous high plains and scrub-filled landscapes, multilayered missions, and sprawling story told with both the verve of a Leone and the introspection of a Peckinpah. When not engaging in sudden gun duels and galloping chases, the player can take a break from the action by herding cattle or playing minigames like five finger fillet as they follow former outlaw John Marston through an alternate, sometimes hallucinatory, version of the West (around 1911). It was Grand Theft Auto with a Western twist, but Rockstar showed they could do more than just sling satire.
Play the Chrome dinosaur game for PC/mobile if you enjoy dodging pterosaurs and jumping over cacti. Since Google decided to make their Chrome browser a little more fun, they’ve integrated a dinosaur game into it, and it’s now available from the start menu.
It used to be that the only way to play this game on Dinosaur Game was if you were browsing the web and suddenly lost your connection. However, since its release, it has become a cult pastime, and many people play it when they should be working, whether or not they have access to the internet.
You Chrome Dinosaur fans can simplify the game even further by installing a widget on your Android’s home screen.
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario Kart was more than just one of the best-looking games for the Super Nintendo; it revolutionized the racing genre by turning serious competition into a riotous celebration of fruit-throwing mayhem. This 1992 classic, the first in a long series of racing games, set the standard for the genre with innovative features like multiple circuit difficulties, split-screen multiplayer, and a battle mode to spice up the otherwise routine sprinting. Super Mario Kart was the series’ first entry, and it set the bar extremely high with innovative features like Rainbow Road, expert strategies like drifting, and frustrating balancers like the lightning bolt.