1.) Braid (Microsoft) – Simply put, Braid is an unforgettable gaming experience. Designed by Jonathan Blow, the game is a platformer/puzzle hybrid that looks like a painting in motion. What is so brilliant (and often maddening) about Braid is that all of the answers are right in front of the player. You don’t need to go ahead a few levels to find a necessary power-up, it isn’t a matter of forgetting to do something earlier in the level. What you need to solve any puzzle is given to you, and can be solved right there. The puzzles makes sense, once you understand how to master the game’s mechanics. It’s being able to see the solution that is right in front of you is the aspect that will melt your brain. But it’s worth it. For as minimalist as the story is, finding all of the pieces opens up the conclusion, and you will never look at the “save the princess” scenario the same way again.

2.) Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo) – No self-respecting game list could ever omit this title. The Zelda series has always maintained consistently high quality through the life of the series, but there is something genuinely special about this entry. There is a genuine feeling of width and depth to the world of Hyrule in this game, making it feel like the entire world, right down to its dungeons, is fully connected as one set piece. There are few games that can emulate this effect as well. The added aspect of horseback riding, time travel, the fairy tale feel of the game, and even fishing just comes off as remarkably fun and immersive, and one of the best, if not the best entry in the series. What’s more, the game ranks just as highly among the best that gaming has to offer.

3.) Geometry Wars 2 (Activision) – The first game brought new light into the retro arcade genre. Not based on an existing classic, Geomerty Wars blended the best of games like Robotron and Tempest, while making a name for its own merits. Part two takes that formula, and just builds upon it with six frantic modes, each fun and addictive in their own way. Geometry Wars 2 takes on something of a “Zen” quality as when the game “clicks” in the player’s mind and play becomes almost an extension, the scores can build quickly, and the gliding through the game like a well-tuned machine is a genuinely satisfying feeling.

4.) Stampede (Activision) – One of Activision’s first Atari 2600 classics, there’s something novel in that there aren’t that many Western themed video games out there, especially not about cattle driving and roping steer. Despite its quirky premise, the game becomes fast paced and addictive quickly, leading into that “one more time” mentality that was so prevalent of games during this age. Primitive by today’s standards, but still remarkably engrossing.

5.) Joust (Williams) – The classic duel of chivalry… on giant, flying ostriches while avoiding pterodactyls. That was the beauty of the 1980’s, even the most far-fetched of concepts could still be turned into a fun video game. The game was designed for 2 players at once, still novel at the time, and players could work with or against each other (similar to Mario Bros.), and the loose controls can lead to some frantic maneuvers, in trying to bump off an egg, or avoiding the invincible(?) pterodactyl. There is always something set to kill you in Joust, but it’s fun to see how many minutes you can survive to see another wave.

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