Overall Top 20 Editors' Picks
Andrew Barker
Neal Chandran
Eric Farand
Patrick Gann
Sam Hansen
Derek Heemsbergen
John P. Hussey
Josh Lewis
Abraham Ashton Liu
Liz Maas
John McCarroll
Stephen Meyerink
Kyle E. Miller
Dennis Rubinshteyn
Michael Salbato
John Tucker
Kimberley Wallace
Dave Yeager
The Hall of Shame
#20 - The World Ends With You (Nintendo DS)

The World Ends With You is hardly the most conventional or informative title for a game. That's probably why its awesomeness took so many of us by surprise. It's also not conventional for the hero of the game to be dead when it begins. That's right, 15 year old Neku is dead and he can't remember how it happened. People are wandering around in their typical daily lives, but they can't see him or hear him. It turns out that Neku, along with a number of other dead teenagers (who work in pairs), are part of a "competition" known as the Reaper's Game. Whoever wins will get another chance at life. The story is incredibly exciting at times, and gets pretty edge-of-your-seat towards the end.

The gameplay is just as unconventional. Battles take place in real-time and are entirely controlled by the stylus. You can equip badges that give you different powers by drawing or tapping the screen in various ways. Just to add to the mayhem, you actually battle on both screens of your DS! Neku fights on the bottom using your stylus, and his partner is up top using the D-Pad. You can even change your level on the fly to increase both the difficulty and the potential rewards from fights! Tag on a wicked urban, rock-pop soundtrack and some pretty fantastic graphics, and you have a recipe for success.

#19 - Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (PSone)

Given the fact that RPGFan started as LunarNET, it should come as no surprise that a Lunar title made it onto our list. Thanks in part to Working Designs' delay-ridden schedule, Eternal Blue Complete for PlayStation was released in the year 2000, putting it on the outer limit of the decade of coverage we're considering for this list.

While the plot, characters, graphics, and music may be a little too sappy-sweet for some, it goes almost as a blanket statement that we RPGFan staff have a soft spot in our hearts for it. Hiro and Lucia are a fantastic couple; Lucia's development over time from cold and alien to warm and truly human (comparing her two "bathing" scenes demonstrates this) is something that Hiro learns to cope with. He never backs down, he's never emo or whiny, yet he's also a fair bit more manly than Alex from the first Lunar. Likable characters go a very, very long way in our book.

Also, Borgan bromide. Need we say more?

#18 - Ever 17: Out of Infinity (PC)

Ever17: Out of Infinity is a visual novel in KID's acclaimed Infinity series, and the only installment ever released in English by the short-lived publisher Hirameki. However, if there ever was an Infinity game to bring over in English, this was certainly it. Visual novels live and die by their storylines, and Ever17 has one of the most emotionally charged, intense, deep, and compelling storylines ever seen in a video game. The story's real beauty is that it offers a great balance of intense drama with quieter personal moments, fleshed-out characters, and complex themes about humanity without ever being obtuse, overwrought, or overworked. It appeals to every emotion of the human experience in a genuine and unforced way. After one playthrough, players will be hooked and keep playing it again and again until they unravel every last layer of plot and see every single good and bad ending. Words simply cannot describe how engaging the storyline is without revealing massive spoilers.

What's more, the superb cast of immersive characters is the heart and soul of the story. They develop in a believable fashion, and players will form emotional bonds with at least one, if not all, of them. Tsugumi Komachi is perhaps the best tragic heroine ever encountered in a video game. Her full story will move even the most hardened tough guy to tears. We have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating that players who thought Albedo in the Xenosaga series was an incredible character and a fascinating case study need to play Ever17 and meet Tsugumi.

Add to all this some gorgeous art direction and Takeshi Abo's poignant soundtrack, and it is clear that Ever17: Out of Infinity remains the pinnacle of visual novels.

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