Choosing which of From Software's epic action-RPG titles to put on my list was like choosing a favorite child (okay, maybe I didn't have to think too hard about Dark Souls II). It may seem crazy to pick the game that's only been out for two months, but I selected Bloodborne because the combat and world design are a step above the previous efforts. I can't stop playing or thinking about this game. Every time I finish a new game run, I end up restarting simply to engage in some more of that sublime combat. Every weapon choice leads to remarkably different strategies and tactics (I challenge anyone to definitively prove that the Hunter Axe isn't the best weapon ever created by From), and the amazingly grotesque bosses and a creepy story make this one of the most tonally consistent games I've ever played. Hidetaka Miyazaki's latest has its hooks firmly planted in me, and I couldn't be happier.
Chrono Trigger is like a love letter to my childhood. Akira Toriyama's iconic character designs made me feel right at home after watching some Dragon Ball Z at 8:30 on a Sunday morning (heavily edited for American audiences, of course), and the time traveling storyline twists and turns in unexpected ways. What starts as a friendly romp through time begins to unravel into a heavy story about loss and the inevitability of death. Knowing that Lavos is going to wake up and destroy the world in 1999 hangs over the whole experience, and each step on the journey to prevent this calamity feels weighty and earned. It's a world filled with secrets and discoveries, including unique situations and even an extra playable character that's super easy to miss. But perhaps Chrono Trigger's biggest contribution to gaming is the addition of the New Game+ mode. I always wanted to power through a game again with a super badass party, and Chrono Trigger finally answered my prayers. But even twenty years after its release, many games still don't add as much depth to the experience as this dream project concocted between Square and Enix before they were one company. How can you argue with a game that lets you fight the final boss WHENEVER you want?
Diablo II might just be the most replayable video game ever made. The incredibly open skill system allows for an insane level of variety and player choice. Maybe you want to play a necromancer focused on curses and direct damage, or maybe you want to buff your minions so they can do all of the heavy lifting. How about a barbarian who throws axes, or perhaps a whirlwind tank capable of holding his own against massive mobs. It's been nearly fifteen years since the game's release, and people are still finding new ways to push the systems Blizzard put in place. The Lord of Destruction expansion made a great game a seminal classic, increasing build choice in a way that many games have tried and failed to replicate. Diablo III is a fantastic game in many ways, but there's no denying the enticing allure of D2's complex character systems and well hidden secrets. Diablo II comes with a timeless recommendation. It's complex enough to satisfy hardcore gamers and yet friendly enough for just about anyone to have fun smashing the forces of Hell.
Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series is roughly the equivalent of comfort food for my gaming tastes. I can fire up a new character and lose myself in the world for twenty or so hours before I get bored and move on. Fallout 3, on the other hand, took the established formula and ran with it. With stronger writing, better combat, and a fantastically bleak post-apocalyptic world, Fallout 3 stuck with me months after release, and I can still find new adventures and interesting characters in the wasteland. From the eerie Dunwich Building to the Republic of Dave, Fallout 3 is a surprisingly unique adventure that still remains relevant today.
In terms of remastered or rereleased games, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is the gold standard. Square Enix took an already great game (that many didn't have the chance to play due to the scarcity of the shoddy Playstation One port) and balanced the gameplay to perfection. It had a ridiculously awesome amount of player agency and customization. You could master a couple of movement enhancements from the thief tree to make your mage that much faster on the battlefield or focus on your ninja's ability to take down tough beasts that harangued your party. With branching story paths and an amazingly easy way to leap to different plot points (WHY CAN'T MORE STORY-BASED GAMES DO THIS?!!!!), Let Us Cling Together can suck you in for hundreds of hours and still challenge your capabilities as a battlefield commander.