25 Videogames With the Most Lifetime Real Estate in My Head

8 February 2024

Replacing something that was lost in transition, sorta

Sometime last year on social media, a bunch of folks were posting their top 25 of all time lists of various media exactly like the picture above. I typed most of the following up and posted it somewhere else on a whim, but didn't keep it up for long—then somehow managed to format this whole blog before leaving it sitting around 'till now. I don't think about games nearly as much as before to have a top 25 favorites list (and I've actually grown a little averse to how arbitrarily flattening these types of things can be), so instead I went with a games that have had the most significance in my life, for better or worse list. It's definitely the latter for a couple of these...

Yoshi’s Island Advance

I’m like 99% sure this was one of the, if not the very first videogame I ever played?? There’s this memory preserved in crystalline clearness in my head: the morning of Christmas Day, standing next to the old couch in the living room of my family’s old house, where my grandmother hands me a new Game Boy Advance (the red Target exclusive one) with the box for Yoshi’s Island taped to it. Anyway, I have no idea why the hell this was considered kid-friendly enough to be given to 4~5-year old me, as there are multiple images in this game that make me scared of getting up to go pee in the dead of night to this very day.


stupid-MMO-addiction #1, slightly redeemed by the fact that spending untold hours clicking to perform menial tasks in its world is probably a big part of why I like a lot of fantasy stuff so much today.

Final Fantasy I and II

grouping these two under a single entry (is this cheating?), though the first is probably the one that deserves it the most. The version I spent the most time with wasn’t even the GBA Dawn of Souls, but the iOS ports of the 20th anniversary editions for PSP—but those weren’t even the first version of FF1 that I encountered! That honor belongs to the weird in-between ports for flip/keyboard cell phones and their ilk of the early 2000s.

Hero Fighter

okay I constantly say that another game on this list is one that nobody here has heard of, but I’m pretty sure this is the real one nobody around here has heard of. You might have heard of Little Fighter 2 though, a freeware beat-em-up made by Chinese developer Marti Wong. Hero Fighter is more or less the same game but in a medieval fantasy world with your average anime story to accompany it. Its online functionality was also integrated a lot more simply than LF2 with its server browser, fostering a competitive itch in me that fit pretty well into the other game called “Fighter” a little bit down the line…

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

the only Kingdom Hearts game that I still like, probably to a disproportionate degree, since I have fan merch decorating some precious things of mine. Who knew that the melodramatic black-box mess that is Kingdom Hearts could so well capture the modern experience of slogging through work at your dead end job just for the fleetingly precious time to hang out with your homies?

Cave Story

my GOAT? I think? Idk, whenever I think of “videogames” in an abstract sense, I think of this game—not in a “this is what videogames could/should be” (awed, probably giving too much credit to something) way, but in a “videogames should be more like this game” (casual, appreciative) way.

Mirror’s Edge

are we in the era where Mirror’s Edge’s influence has saturated as much as it can now? I dunno; haven’t done much looking around, but I’ve never felt the need to either. There’s just nothing else out there like this, nothing else that captures the feeling of acrobatic movement like this game does.

RPG Maker VX Ace

a game maker over a game, but it feels like it deserves a place here anyway. All of my old dream 50 hour ensembles have been broken into parts within various written fiction endeavors as they should be, but I still want to try and release something small and focused someday.


my high school years were in the same window where this game was becoming the all-consuming cultural gravitational force it is now, yet somehow I managed not to get fully caught in it. Which is also really funny—we were expressly forbidden from playing anything other than webgames during computer downtime, even though nobody would think to install anything most of the computers were Macs…but guess who brought in a cracked .jar file that could download a version of the game onto the computers and subsequently spread like wildfire through the place???

Realm of the Mad God

hey Mr. Hotler I finally stopped playing this stupid game (emphasis his) are you happy now

Team Fortress 2

stupid-MMO-addiction #3. I have spent an embarrassing portion of my life playing this game, the only thing that has ever managed to cross 1000 hours on my Steam profile (at least until if/when I get back into RPG Maker again). Not to diagnose anyone else in the same boat, but I feel like a genuine psychopath every time I sink into this game’s brand of absurd cartoon violence for some reason.

Street Fighter IV

lord, the sigh I heaved when I typed this game out. Where do I even begin? TF2 might have the most hours logged on any platform keeping track of playtime, but the amount of time spent just thinking about Street Fighter IV and V eclipses it by a massive margin. This game and the fighting game community in general consumed the later years of my teenage life, probably too much so (this is absolutely not a mark against the FGC, but my stupid teenage tendencies). I hadn’t played too many traditional fighting games up to that point, so playing fighting games solely competitively has left me completely unable to fathom engaging with them in just a “casual” way. Which is silly, since that era was basically lightning in a bottle that I almost certainly will never capture again; but like, man… Every time I load up a fighting game and bounce off after a couple hours, every time I watch top level play, every time I see someone struggle to perform special moves, I wonder how the hell I managed to get as competent as I am. (placed Plat 4 on SF6 with suboptimal Cammy play baybeeeee)

Final Fantasy IX

after a partial replay this last year I’m actually not sure if I love this game as much as I used to. Not because it’s a bad game, it’s still really dang good—just when you’re not nearly as severely depressed as you were when you first played it* and have a better understanding of RPG design and an idea of what you think good fantasy stuff should be doing…the magic seems a lot less magical. I also still get mad about how Freya has such a cool design and backstory yet the game goes absolutely nowhere with it thematically. I should probably finish that fix-it fic I started for her someday…

* no joke, playing this game when I was capital-D Depressed back in like 2016~2017 managed to do a lot in lifting me out of it; which tracks given that the developers received a letter from someone who refrained from killing themselves after playing it back in the day. Sometimes videogames are good!


do you believe in love at first sight? You probably shouldn’t—at least not with people, anyway*—but I dunno, there are a handful of games that I see 30 seconds of and go, “I have no idea what this is but I need to play this game because I’m 99% sure I’m going to vibe with it 100%.” LOST SPHEAR is, somehow, miraculously, one of those games, to a pretty profound degree. Which is hilarious, because it really isn’t that well-put-together of a game! The story is what you would get if a bunch of GameFAQs authors who loved JRPG tropes way too much and weren’t irony-poisoned by the internet’s toxic spews threw their ideas into a hat and ordered them at random! It’s ridiculously bloated battle mechanics gives you options with complexity lightyears beyond what someone would reasonably need to beat it! The encounter design is a bunch of daisy-chained open fields that tries to surprise the player maybe three times over its 30 hour playtime! They don’t even explain what “sphear” is supposed to mean, but its not like they needed to since it doesn’t appear in a single line/UX element of text in the whole goddang videogame!! But like, man—I listen to some of Tomoki Miyoshi’s ruminative, melancholy, moving music. I let the game sit in some of its more dreamlike areas. I listen to the music some more. I take in at the game’s key art, two figures standing above the white, shimmering outline of his vanished homeland, left as nothing but a blank silhouette on the world—and think not of the mess LOST SPHEAR is, but what it wants to be: the echoing, hollowing feeling of standing in the wake of loss. I wonder why this beautiful aesthetic is in a run-of-the-mill JRPG of all places, why this melancholy medley couldn’t be lifted and put in a different medium, or at least a different genre of game, something that would put them to better use—yet still glad that they are where they are, anyway. God. They gotta give Tokyo RPG Factory another shot, man. Once they figure out how to tell a different kind of story, at least. (yes, I am very much aware that the studio was shuttered despite their games selling perfectly fine barely a week before I put this post up. Naturally, I wish all squeenix executives a very die, much moreso than they already deserve.)

* actually, the book The Other Significant Others, which was published a few months after I put this post up, explores and basically confirms that love at first sight can be a real thing which can lead to lasting friendships more profound than romantic relationships.

Pokémon Ultra Moon

I think is the last good mainline Pokémon game? Should it be considered the last good mainline Pokémon game? It probably should be considered the last good mainline Pokémon game. Sword and Shield were half-baked out of the box, Scarlet and Violet bent themselves out of shape to conform to every other AAA game out there; yet Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, while supposedly not doing anything special within the series, managed to send the DS era of games off with a bang for me. I also loved how these games had a bunch of “sidequests” that weren’t really “sidequests” because they weren’t framed as such with a bunch of waypoints conspicuously marking them as such; if you were curious enough to walk around everywhere or revisit an area after the story had moved on, you’d run into random scenarios with enough variance to seem like chance encounters IRL.

Dragon Quest XI

hahahahahahaha you expect me to write something here about this fucking game after the half million I’ve already done in multiple formats when there’s probably still another half million to go are you out of your fucking mind hahahahahaha


there’s probably not much I can say about this game that anyone else hasn’t, but I will say no matter what anyone thinks this game is about, I think it’s inarguable that the game conveys the notion that RPG mechanics are inherently lean towards machines of cruelty (at least those that involve an accumulation of power, which is basically every single one with an EXP bar), which has left me questioning “okay, where do we go from here?” with regards to my favorite genre and the implications of anything create within or inspired by it. (This is also a big reason why I have twenty million confused thoughts about the above game, too.)


there’s also not much of anything new or unique I can say here either, but I can say this game properly introduced me to Lena Raine’s music, which includes the album Oneknowing, which is probably the most inconspicuously significant piece of media I've ever encountered given how I’ve listened to it literally hundreds, closing in on a thousand times.

Wide Ocean Big Jacket

okay, y’know what, fuck it, videogames actually should be more like this one. It’s presentation is so frugal, yet it manages to pack so much heart into its bite-size scenes.


vibes-love-at-first-sight game #2. Basically in the same boat as Celeste (which is funny considering that both games were supposedly born in the same apartment) and literally written about in the same age-old post of mine, with its soundtrack being my gateway drug to even more digital fusion instead.


playing any Dark Souls game is basically injecting constant stream of serotonin into my brain, but there’s a lot of little wrinkles that keeps anything in that series from becoming an all-timer. Bloodborne, though, has a world I found incredibly compelling in spite (or maybe even because?) of the lovecraftian horror, cuts out the esoteric multiplayer requirements for all of its spells, mostly gets rid the stupid fucking mechanic known as poise, dunks on you for using a shield, adds the glorious combo of quickstep and rally, makes all the weapons cool, speeds everything up—leaving a fast, fierce, visceral romp that embodies “your defense being ass doesn’t matter if your offense is good enough” (please please please Sony release this game from your clutches so it can come to PC I have a gaming laptop now and my base PS4 is begging for release)

Ara Fell

vibes-love-at-first-sight game #3. Overall, this game just Fine, but same deal with LOST SPHEAR: I walk around some of its areas and listen to some of its music and go “yeah man…..this is It.”


vibes-love-at-first-sight #4 (is this telling of what kind of person I am?) It feels like a flattening to compare this one to Breath of the Wild, even though it is very obviously a riff of Breath of the Wild, but still. I spent a lot of time in BOTW trying to traverse its landscapes as they are—walking around (literally gently tilting the left stick walking around) or riding a horse at a canter and just generally trying to take in the shape of the land, y’know like one would do if they were in the wild—but, being ye olde videogamee about the chosen hero who is the only one that can save the fantasy land, there was a lot of samey-combat and goofy puzzling and incomprehensible dungeons getting in the way of that. Sable has an answer to just about all of my woes with that game—no combat, all exploration, sweeping landscapes that straddle the line between familiarity and otherworldly, and most importantly, a design philosophy free of the orthodoxy of chosen ones—instead a wholly unremarkable journey in the context of its world, which is fitting given that it’s about the universal journey of finding your place in the world. I also......still haven’t gotten more than like 10 hours into it, because this type of game isn’t one that seems right to sit down for, if that makes sense? (also desperately wishing for a Switch port here)


real recency bias going on here, as this is the first videogame I’ve actually completed in months; but this one was very easily the most thought-provoking game I’ve experienced in years. It’s a weird blend of mechanics (3D wallrunning platforming but your sprint isn’t “faster running” and your double jump is a THPS wallplant! Match-3 puzzles with gimmicks that represent the uniqueness of lifeforms!) that never overstay their welcome due to how short the game is, yet Analgesic’s willingness to let players see the rough edges of its games lends itself well to the “lets see if I can go where I’m not supposed to go” I always try with platformers and the like. Somehow those work together to make a narrative about three scientists linking their consciousness with a sentient island and the porousness of identity and cultures and selfhood and all the associated emotions when these streams clash even more profound.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

why the fuck did no one tell me the JRPG equivalent of a multivolume epic fantasy novel series was right here sitting under my nose the entire goddamn time. why doesn't anyone else understand that stock characters are fine actually if you give them a proper place and aren't afraid to take them completely seriously. why doesn't anyone else care about their world enough to let their NPCs' lives progress with the plot too. why the hell does this town just randomly have the smoothest jazz to ever exist in a videogame. why did they save the theme that actually got me to dip my toes into this for the sequel. how did I come this close to tearing up at the end for a romance that really didn't have the sauce. falcom fuckin' got me. what the hell. what the fuck.