I could have done just one list, but I couldn’t narrow it down. I noticed that I had trouble picking between games I played alone versus games I played with others. Still, a few on the “multiplayer” list were really not competitive, and therefore didn’t seem within the spirit of the list.
So here they are, my top ten favorite video games that are single-player or allow you to play cooperatively with others.
10. Harvest Moon 64 ~ Who would have believed a farming game would be so fun? I don’t know what it is about virtual chores that make them so much more fun than real chores, maybe because pushing some buttons is much easier than actually milking a cow or plowing a field. Playing this game in while I lived in Indiana was the closest I ever came to being a hick.
9. Captain Goodnight and the Islands of Fear ~ One of the first games I consciously remember playing, it was the best of the five (the others being Oregon Trails, Fuzzy Womp, Ghostbusters, and Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One). I never beat this game, but I played the opening levels countless times throughout my youth.
8. Kingdom Hearts ~ This is the game that keeps me from regretting my purchase of a PS2. This game blends Final Fantasy style, team-based role-playing with Disney. Now I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. This game was released in 2002, when I was 19, and yet I didn’t even purchase it until I was 21. I did not find the game to be childish at all, and actually found it quite refreshing because I found myself actually following the story because the characters were recognizable.
7. Bubble Bobble ~ The only video game I remember ever playing with my mother, I loved this NES classic. Whether single player or with a friend playing along, it was just so much fun blowing bubbles and bouncing your Technicolor lizard character around the screen in a quest to defeat all the enemies before time ran out, while always on the lookout for suspiciously familiar French fries marked with a big M.
6. Donkey Kong Country ~ Possibly the last great side-scrolling game, DKC and its sequels mark the brief period of time when 3D animation was being done in a 2D format. I remember this being one of the first games where the graphics of the actual gameplay, not the just title screen, blew me away.
5. Mario Paint ~ It almost didn’t make the list, but then I decided it deserved more than that. The only true “game” part of Mario Paint was a fly-swatter side-game you could play which utilizes the mouse for the SNES which comes packaged with Mario Paint. Instead, this title was about creating. It allowed drawing, animation (real framed animation, with variable speed), and music composition. YouTube is full of Mario Paint-inspired material, some of it very entertaining.
4. Super Mario Brothers 3 ~ Setting the format for the rest of the Super Mario side-scrollers, this game helped redefine non-linear action games. While “warps” had always been a part of Mario since the beginning, Super Mario 3 allowed multiple paths through each level, not to mention warp whistles which allow you to beat the game in minutes. For those who play through it (99.9% of us), this game offers some serious depth of level design, and also introduces the idea of Mario modifiers beyond the standard fire flower and mushroom. The ability to fly alone changed the way I looked at Mario forever.
3. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars ~ My favorite Mario game of all time, and the one most people have never played. This game actually lets you play with Bowser in your team alongside Mario, and also introduces two weird characters you never see again: Geno and Mallow. Turns out, the rights to those guys are owned by Square-Enix, not Nintendo. I don’t think most people mind. You could spend months playing this, finish, and want nothing more than to start over at from scratch.
2. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind ~ Morrowind was the ultimate open-world, or “sandbox” RPG. You could do just about anything in this game. You could steal from the guy who helps you out first thing in the game, go on the run from the law, become a werewolf, and be the terror of the world. Or, you could be a normal adventurer, choosing from any of a number races and classes. Even what gender you play affects your stats. This is also a game you never “beat.” It just keeps going and going, until you have had enough… or until you’ve lost your job and you have bills to pay.
1. The Legend of Zelda ~ The original great game. While I chose the original, you could substitute just about any from the series, and on any system. You could tell they knew this game would be amazing because they made the cartridge gold. Couple bits of trivia: you don’t play as Zelda, you play as Link. Zelda is the princess you aim to rescue. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Zelda and Mario, named her after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife. Also, this was the first NES game with a save feature. This cartridge featured an internal battery which kept the data from being wiped when the power was turned off.