It’s a mighty crowded world of entertainment out there, from movies to television to music to video games, and it’d be easy to get lost amidst it all. It’s the latter medium we’re going to take a look at today, as we here at Goliath have done our best to sort through the muck and bring you 10 classic video games you can (re) play in times of trouble. If it’s your first time through any of these, we’re very envious; these are all, in some fashion, games that are not to be missed. Engrossing stories, legendary graphics and medium influence are why they’ve been chosen, and as such you’ve got little reason not to trust us and have a go at any one of these (be prepared to surrender your precious extracurricular hours, they’re addictive). So whether you’re sick of new games, fed up with the latest superhero movie, or just plain bored, boot up these classics to kill a few hours.
10. Mass Effect (BioWare)
The first in a trilogy consistently hailed as one of the greatest ever, Mass Effect may not have the smoothed out game play of its sequels (Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3), but it does have the good fortune of being the inaugural entry of the series into the video game canon. Combining elements of the RPG (role playing game), FPS (first-person shooter) and sandbox game, Mass Effect is a stunning achievement which features one of the most captivating video game plotlines of all time, where you play as Captain Jack Shepherd and try to foil a plot for intergalactic destruction by the evil Saren and his compatriots. Complete with spaceships, aliens and a hefty dose of sci-fi technology, all rendered in beautiful graphics, Mass Effect remains one of the all-time greatest video games you can easily sink 100 hours into.
9. Kingdom Hearts (Square Enix)
Kingdom Hearts, the famous Japanese RPG/action classic that combines elements of both genres, is a curious breed; a crossover franchise that features the best of Square Enix (Final Fantasy) and Disney, this now-classic video game follows protagonist Sora as she navigates a world filled with colorful characters (quite literally). A commercial success that garnered extremely solid reviews upon release, Kingdom Hearts has developed a rabid fan base due to its often cartoony graphics and deep gallery of famous and playable characters. One of the most important games in bridging Japanese and American audiences, Kingdom Hearts holds up well despite advances in technology and remains a must-play for any gamer looking to run through the classics.
8. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (Blizzard Entertainment)
We specifically omitted the insanely popular World of Warcraft from this list, simply because its continually evolving landscape and enduring popularity make it so incredibly omniscient that even your Grandma is probably a level 60 Paladin who can whoop your…you know what, you get the gist. The omission of World of Warcraft does not extend to other games in Blizzard’s catalog, however, and that takes us to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. The king of RTS (real time strategy) games, Reign of Chaos contains the same epic mythology that pervades most of Blizzard’s titles and combines it with epic battles, great graphics and an engrossing storyline that includes champions (whose popularity would increase with games like Defence of the Ancients and League of Legends).
7. Legend of the Dragoon (Sony Entertainment)
While most of the names on this list should look somewhat familiar if you’ve ever picked up a console controller or owned a PC, this one’s a little more obscure and may not be recognized by all. Sony Entertainment’s The Legend of the Dragoon is a game which borrowed heavily from the extremely popular Final Fantasy series (more on them later), but at the same time took that formula and made it all its own. Featuring the familiar turn-based combat system of most Japanese role playing games, The Legend of the Dragoon had some interesting tweaks, including the titular Dragoon mode and difficult-to-land combo manoeuvres, which made the game feel fresh. Excellent characters and ahead-of-their-time graphics helped contribute to the overwhelming popularity of this game, which sold over a million copies worldwide.
6. Chrono Trigger (Square Enix)
There’s not a list of classic video games out there that doesn’t include Chrono Trigger, the Japanese role playing game that has sold over 2.5 million units worldwide. Instrumental (but not definitive) in selling American audiences on the potential of Japanese video games, Chrono Trigger is about as critically acclaimed as video games come, known for its wildly engaging plot line that follows the ever-silent, katana wielding protagonist Crono as he attempts to save the future of the world (spoiler alert, there’s an absolute ton of time travel in this game. And yes, it’s as awesome as you might think). The true definition of a classic video game that is always eligible for a thorough play through, Chrono Trigger is one of the most esteemed and enjoyable games on this list.
5. Diablo II (Blizzard Entertainment)
Ahhhhh, Diablo II. To think of the things we could have done instead of dumping countless hours into your legendary dungeons and characters…we could’ve learned a new language, or taken up a musical instrument or written a book of poetry. It’s a complement to the game that playing Diablo II seems on par with any of those accomplishments, as completing the now-famous game seems as seminal a contemporary experience as any of the others listed. Developed by Blizzard as a fantasy themed response to the science fiction Starcraft (another game absent from this list due to its sequel’s contemporary relevance), Diablo II won innumerable awards and gave birth to a sequel (Diablo III) that, while underwhelming, did briefly give us flashbacks to our time spent holed away in the basement with Diablo II. If you’ve got the time to invest, it’s a great and rewarding experience.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo)
There’s a few Legend of Zelda games that you could’ve placed here, as many games in the franchise have achieved “classic” status since the series was first introduced in 1986. We’ve chosen The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the fifth game in the series, simply because it’s most likely to resonate with the generation who grew up with the Internet. Everyone played this game, and its pervasiveness, rather than detracting from its legend, only stands to add to it as people everywhere reminisce about the difficulty of the Fire temple or the childish joy of kicking chickens across the horizon. Consistently cited as the game that sold the Nintendo 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is also fortunate enough to have one of the most iconic video games scores of all time attached to it; with music playing such a central role to the game’s plot, it was unavoidable!
3. Shadow of the Colossus (Sony Entertainment)
Featuring iconic imagery and some of the most jaw-dropping artwork ever seen in a video game, Shadow of the Colossus was only ever released on Sony platforms (Playstation 2, 3 and 4), a fact which made it both exclusive and extremely cool all at once. A sandbox game which features a loose plot that involves resurrecting a young girl so the protagonist, Wander, may find out why she was inaccurately sacrificed in the first place. Along the way, Wander must traverse the Forbidden Land which is filled with giant colossi, the only opponents to be found in the game. Freeing in its structure and gorgeous in its panels, The Shadow of the Colossus is commonly cited as one of the best looking video games of all time, and its minimalist approach resonated strongly in an era of oversaturated and difficult to comprehend games.
2. Earthbound (Nintendo)
Incredibly ahead of its time and still unmatched in its originality and humor, Earthbound holds a special place in the hallowed halls of video game history. Obscure, surreal and incredibly fun to play, Earthbound is the story of Ness (who most readers probably recognize from the Super Smash Bros. series, where he is a playable character), a young boy who investigates a meteor crash to find an evil force named Giygas has filled the world with hate and transformed everyone in it to strange, satirical versions of themselves (or in some cases, other things). It’s an incredibly abstract plot that’s gripping and often hilarious, characteristics consistent with the remainder of the game that are consistently cited among the reasons for its legendary status. Featuring one of the all-time great video game scores, Earthbound is the underrated, underplayed game that you’ve always searched for.
1. Final Fantasy VII (Square Enix)
Cited upon its release as “quite possibly the greatest video game ever made,” Final Fantasy VII can still lay claim to that title almost 20 years later. The game that sold the Playstation and made Japanese role playing games accessible to American audiences, Final Fantasy VII has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and maintains a legendary status among gamers for damn near every facet of its game play. Iconic characters? Check. We could pick Cloud Strife out of a lineup of a thousand characters. Amazing score? Check. “One Winged Angel,” the soundtrack to the final boss battle, is among the most recognizable of all time. Plot? Don’t even get us started. It’s the best in the history of video games, hands down. This is one of those things better experienced than described, including one of the most shocking video game cinematics of all time (trust us, if you’ve played it you know the one, and if you haven’t…keep the tissues nearby, it’s a heartbreaker).