Any sort of personal Top 10's are a pain in the ass because you'll fumble through what you think is best.
Let's be lenient and say IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE IN ANY SPECIFIC ORDER so don't hurt yourself trying.
PS: I've sort of...overdone my list, do yours however (obviously).
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Yes it was easy, and yes it was a "reworked Ocarina of Time". Fine. But, in my opinion, it took Ocarina of Time (which is, sorry, but dated by now) and made it better and provided an atmosphere that finally and deeply fleshed out how a Zelda game "should" feel. As the GameCube's swan song, the graphics are impressive even by today's standards and demonstrates a great range of dungeon styles, with interesting "in-between dungeon" tasks. I admire the new approach they took with Zant (from calm, creepy and devious to a complete obssesive lunatic) and a strong companion in Midna (who's wit and sass played infinitely better against the incessant chatterbox, Navi, and Nintendo's preschool mascot, Fi). While I know the game being "too easy" can be a major flaw, but I do like it for a more casual title in the series (whereas Skyward Sword made you do shit like the Silent Realm to piss you off than entertain you).
Play Count: 3
Honourable Mention: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for being awesome.
Extra Points: Ganondork's corn-roll-crown.
Final Fantasy IX.
I feel like this is what happens when a perfect blend of "Final Fantasy" and "fairytale-storybook" happens. You get the more creative/out-there concepts of a Final Fantasy game (Kuja, Terra, Garland, Black Mages) but the traditional story of a thief and a princess (which feels like a pseudo-Princess Bride) amongst wonderful/bizarre animal special (none more hilarious than "Hippo-people"). The battle system is somewhat basic, but there is tons to do and a great cast and world to support it. Although, I have to rip on the Chocobo Hot Cold; despite the amount of quests and characters, most major equipment is from that one game, making the rest of the quests feel less relevant (and way too many "key items" that do fuck all...hell, let them open up a gaming gallery or some shit).
Play Count: 2, likely another in the future though
Honourable Mention: FF6 for a similar vibe, FF5 for battle system, FF7 for being a strong title as well
Extra Points: ATE system
Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky.
I almost feel like a complete IDIOT for putting this here given we're about only 1/4 through the whole tale (yeah, it's three chapters, but the next two are longer than the first, so...). But I need to give major kudos to a series that is, in concept, extremely bland and not very original, but really creative and full of heart in its execution. The dialogue is clever and the plot is smart; the characters are tropes but extremely endearing; the battle system is typical turn-based but with a few added flairs to keep it fun. Apparently the treasure box messages were of XSeed's own devices... good on them! I'd actually murder a person to see the other games localized somehow...
Play Count: 2, working on third in between study sessions... Carnelia books suck.
Honourable Mention: Radiant Historia for a lot of the same reasons. Simple, but well done take to normal turn-based battles and a more than decent script with good politics.
Extra Points: Genki-girl lead -- probably to make up for the rest of the LoH females of the past....
Star Ocean: The Second Story.
While I think Star Ocean 3 has waaaayyy better customization options; the dungeons suck monstrous dick and come at your sometimes in waves of 3-dungeon areas IN A ROW that make it hard to pick up and play. And despite Star Ocean 4's dogshit story, the battle system plays extremely well and comfortably.
However; I like Star Ocean 2 because it is the easiest and perhaps most fun to play and the most fun to break. It was my first serious go at an RPG (as a kid, I won't lie, gameshark was my friend) and I love the atmosphere in the game (Arlia was a great change from the Sci-fi Earth world; and I love the random inclusion of Christian icons in the Hoffman Ruins, or the bizarre monster skeletons in the deeper parts of the Santuary of Linga). There are a ton of flaws, it's an older title after all, but the game is fun and for its time shows a really in-depth and deep character customization.
Play Count: Tons; some to completion, some cut out half way. I usually make a habit of putting a movie on while I play through the prologue though...
Honourable Mention: Star Ocean 3/4.
Extra Points: PA system, getting a stupid high powered weapon by Mars if played right... Barrels!
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
It's hard to beat the added drama of watching your character's demise: It's one thing to see an in-game death (such as FF7's Aeris), but another to watch a scene knowing how it'll turn out, and the point where a characters tale slowly shows "telltale signs" that they're walking to their imminent death. The plot is extremely bittersweet but beautifully done, and the use of Norse myth in a new context was well-executed. One major complaint is that it's too easy to break down the "good characters" (Lawfer) from the really dogshit characters (Badrach, Lleleleleweyn). I also hate when the best characters and best equipment are in the last few floors of the bonus dungeon.
But anyways. Without a doubt, the "Hard Mode" (i.e.; the BEST MODE) provides some of the most unique, interesting, but complicated RPG-platform dungeons I've ever played. The battle system is a great take on RPG turn-based that requires using multiple attacks to be timed effectively.
Play Count: Once, but a perfect run! It's a hard game to go back to. The dungeons are unique and extremely worthy of merit, but some are hard to trek through again (fuck you Lezard and your goddamn tower; the "Egyptian Tomb" also took me for-fucking-ever). Non-skippable cutscenes, for obvious reasons, hamper the idea of repeat playthroughs. And also, the requirements for the A-Ending are ridiculously arbitrary.
Honourable Mention: Valkyrie Profile Silmeria; battle system-wise, it doesn't get enough credit as it deserves.
Extra Points: Three L's: Lawfer. Lezard. Lenneth.... and GUTS!
Resident Evil 5/6 (plus other co-op titles in this slot)
Yikes. Lumping two together. But it has to be mentioned; despite a TON of questionable design choices (moreso in Res6 than 5), the co-op multiplayer was a ton of fun. Six had the better controls (running and gunning was long overdue), but five had better replay value.
Play Count: Several with many people
Honourable Mention: I hate doing this too, but I wanna throw in stuff like Mario Double Dash and Secret of Mana and the like. While again, not my favorite games, reeeallly make the experience for me just because of good people there.
Extra Points: Chris' biceps, Sherry being all adorbs, and Jake being fun to play as
Kirby Super Star
This game ruled my world in '96. Fun co-op, tons of levels, fun abilities, and exciting "kirby-music" and wonderful worlds. I want to put Kirby 64 on this list, but I think the nostalgia is doing funny things to my head (I think I also generally like the "speed" of Kirby Super Star; Kirby 64 and to a greater extent Kirby 3 was a goddamn pain in the ass because even running felt sluggish and slow).
...Why are Kirby games so cute, fun, and fluffy until their final bosses which are nothing short of nightmare-fuel?? Perfect I guess for a game that takes place in "Dreamland", I guess.
Play Count: Many.
Honourable Mention: Kirby 64.
Extra Points: Could the Great Cave Offensive be *any* cooler?
Tales of the Abyss/Tales of Graces f
EUGH, sorry...lumping again. But I honestly believe if you took the plot/characters from Abyss and the battle system from Graces you'd have what is a gaming unicorn, an 11/10. But I do think these games belong here on their own, but for different reasons -- so I thought I'd lump it together.
Tales of the Abyss plot sports not only a ton of unique and interesting NPCs, but also great main characters each representing their own nation's interests; they're a travelling "UN club" with great back stories behind them in addition to the very in-depth main plot. I also like how the game doesn't throw any punches with regards to their villain: If people hated FF9's Necron from coming out of thin air, a savvy enough person will figure out who Abyss' main villain within the first half hour of the game and plays the idea straight till the end. The game talks about life and death, politics and the environment, and destiny and freedom....but at the cost of an intriguing battle system (free run makes everything too easy) and a lot of backtracking.
Tales of Graces f sports what is one of the, if not THE best battle system -- not only amongst Tales titles, but easily as a contender for this generation of RPGs. It eliminates the need for MP in an extremely effective way, making it seem almost archaic and irrelevant to bring back (thanks, Xillia). The use of additional title-related skills as well as bumping up stats through them was unique and effective and gives the game a ton of mileage of small goals to help pave the way for additional growth (essentially give out what you put in). Funny enough, Graces suffers the opposite of Abyss' problem: The storyline is really, really cheesy and almost laughably simple (rather, some of the ideas are good, but played out pretty poorly).
I guess asking for a good plot and battle system is sometimes too much to ask for, huh?
Abyss - 3
Graces - Still one the first run! But there's a lot to do, and it's easy to go back and forth between the end-game of the main arc and epilogue to get it all done in some weird-ass Groundhog Day time loop.
Honourable Mention: Symphonia, Eternia, Vesperia. I dunno, the series has a lot of charm and is pretty easy to recommend...and one of few very RPG series' that's still alive and going strong.
Extra Points: Jade and Pascal; proving you can be more than just the group's go-to "nerd"
It's just a cool idea with a lot more going on in the plot than it really seems on the outside. C'mon, I mean, just how cool is it when you first arrive in the future? And when you're walking around magical floating continents thousands of years in the past? Also: a robot and a frog-knight join you -- that's grounds for an instant letter-grade bump up.
Play Count: Maybe 4? It was a staple in the 90s, I've seen it played about as much as I've played it personally
Honourable Mentions: I guess Radiant Historia for fitting in the time-travel part (and doing it justice). Chrono Cross also gets too little love for its ambition
Extra Points: Robo, Frog.
Shadow of the Colossus.
While I was less than impressed with the noodle-grip of Wander in the "enhanced" PS3 version, the game is still phenomenal and just feels great to play. The game does a lot with the idea of "less is more"; the world is extremely lonely; but I love seeing how many unique environments are within the one land you're thrown into. I love how speed runs can complete all Colossi around the half hour mark, but the world is gigantic and will likely take up most of the time. Anyways, the good about this game has been stated thousands of times, so why go on?
Play Count: 3, room for more since it's relatively quick and easy to pick up.
Extra Points: Agro
Other Honourable Mentions Nominees:
Zelda Oracle Series: It played on Gameboy, but didn't "feel" like gameboy gmae. The ideas and style were amazing and fun and the new tools made the 2D Zelda experience as somethng worthy to stand against the 3D titles.
Bust-a-Move: What good establishment in the 90s didn't have this paired with some other arcade game? 90% of places some kid had a birthday party at (bowling or Chuckie Cheese) had one of these and it's just a damn fun game. ...that, and Magical Drop as the "stays in Japan" take on bubble-popping fun.
Baten Kaitos (and Origins too): Great plot twists, and a card-based battle system that's actually fun.
Assassin's Creed II/Brotherhood: while the series has bad/apparent quality shifts, some games are awesome, some not, the series is overall a lot of fun. Who can say assassinating people in cool time periods is a bad thing?
Legend of Mana: It has that "storybook" quality of FF9 and the game looks amazing... but the overall gameplay is too easy to make use of all of its gameplay elements (magic, pets, robot) and the plot and style is just...too fucking random to be any "awesome".
Wild Arms 1/3: It's a western RPG. A guy named Roswell gives you an alien sidequest. What the fuck else do you need? It would be on the Top 10, but I like the above better, so...
Super Metroid: AS a platformer, this was a hard title to be outdone even when it came out pretty early on the SNES' life cycle.
Zero Escape Series: No series has had me so shocked over plot twists, nor has any series delivered so many. Unfortunately, puzzle games suffer in that once you figure it out, repeat playthroughs are really dull for it.
Journey: It is amazing, but I do think unanimous glowing reviews are killing it for me. The game is just too damn short and therefore offers too few elements to really challenge/engage the players. An extra level or two would have been greatly appreciated. Anyways, I do like this somewhat wave of "art" games like Braid and Limbo and Unfinished Swan coming into the playfield.