5 Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze - Despite being released less than a year ago, Tropical Freeze has quickly rocketed up the charts to become one of my favorite games ever. Retro Studios is a master of their craft, and they somehow managed to top the incredible Donkey Kong Country Returns. The jump to Wii U provides the game with impressive visuals that bring the colorful worlds to life. Speaking of color, the game is absolutely bursting with it, making for one of the best looking 2D platformers on the market. Make no mistake though, this isn't a case of style over substance, as the high pedigree of platforming from DKCR is very much intact for Tropical Freeze. The levels are more dynamic than ever, and look gorgeous in motion. Something is always happening to keep the action fresh and interesting, with an even greater variety in level design that in it's predecessor. While Returns focused one a singular island an created a rich, believable atmosphere upon that, Tropical Freeze sacrifices that atmosphere for 6 unique islands. While the atmosphere isn't as strong here, the range of levels and themes is much more diverse this time around. What does help the game's atmosphere is the return of series composer David Wise. He has crafted one of the absolute best soundtracks in gaming, rivaling even that of Donkey Kong Country 2. Overall, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze expands on its predecessor in the best ways possible. To put it simply, it is platforming at its finest, with fantastic levels, music, and visuals. If you don't have a Wii U, then you're missing out on this gem.
4 Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 - Yoshi's Island is probably the game that defined my childhood. To give you an idea of just how much I played this game, I had amassed over 700 lives on my original savefile. I lost track of just how many times I played through the game, but it never gets old to me. There's nothing else quite like it, and it just has something special that many other games are missing. The gameplay is hard to describe. It's a platformer at heart, but it has so many other elements that all come together extremely well. I can remember so many of the levels in the game because of how fun they are and because of how much character they have. I think these are some of the most well designed levels in gaming, the kind that stick with you even after you finish the game. The spritework is extremely expressive, giving almost everything in the game a personality. Add in the music and you have a magical experience that hasn't been matched yet. I would try to explain further about why I love Yoshi's Island, but it's something that can't be put into words. It's an experience that everyone needs to have for themselves.
3 Metroid Prime - To me, atmosphere is one of the most important aspects in a game. Obviously, it is more vital to some games than to others, but whenever I think of a game with strong atmosphere, I think of Metroid Prime. The think that struck me about Metroid Prime is just how alive the world of Talon IV feels. When you first step out of your ship and onto the planet, everything is unfamiliar of foreign. What follows is a journey to uncover the planet's secrets and explore every inch of the ground underneath you. The exploration is very organic, and viewing the world through Samus' visor is incredibly immersive. You actually feel like you're exploring the world for yourself, through your own eyes. It's a very powerful feeling, and one that has yet to be replicated by any other game. And that's really it right there. Of course the gameplay is superb, blending in the exploration elements of the Metroid series with first-person shooting elements seamlessly. Gathering equipment to gradually become more powerful and gain access to new areas is just as satisfying as in previous Metroid games. The difference here is Metroid Prime's ability to fully immerse the player into its world. The ambient soundtrack does a great job of setting the mood for each area of Talon IV. The way the story is told is also very clever. It tells you very little outright, leaving you to scan the world around you and learn information for yourself. Metroid Prime is simply masterful, building a living, breathing world and letting you feel like you are actually Samus Aran herself.
2 Team Fortress 2 - Wow, talk about a surprise. I credit Team Fortress 2 with single-handedly getting me into the FPS genre as well as PC gaming as a whole. Before TF2, I had no interest in first-person shooters whatsoever. This game changed my mind with its bright, cartoony artstyle and wonderful characters. You get to pick from 9 unique classes, all with different weapons, skills, and personalities. And I think that's the key word here: personality. TF2 has lots of it, and it does wonders for the game. There is no story mode or campaign here, just an array of multiplayer modes. Unlike most other FPS games however, deathmatches are not the main focus here. Instead you have game-modes such as Control Point, where both teams fight to control a set of control points, Attack and Defend, where one team tries to defend the control points from the other team's assaults, and Payload, where one team pushes a cart towards the other team's base. Each mode encourages teamwork, and it's very difficult to succeed otherwise. Rather than have every player run off and fend for themselves, TF2 has players work together to achieve the goal. Every class is important, and a strong team needs to have balance. No game can even come close to the 700+ hours I have spent playing Team Fortress 2. The maps are all great, and really don't get old. Your experience with the game can vary depending on what the other players are like, but it also means that no two matches feel the same. I could go on about all the things I like about the game, but I want to finish this list so I can go play it some more. It's definitely the best game you'll never pay for.
1 Super Mario Galaxy - To explain why Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite game of all time, I need to tell a story. My first experience with the game was not actually playing it, but it left an impression on me nonetheless. On my friend's birthday, he and I, along with another close friend, all went to the store so he could pick out a game. After looking over the game cabinets at our local Walmart, he decided on Super Mario Galaxy. We immediately went back to the house to try the game, and to put it bluntly, my 14 year-old mind was blown. From the moment the game booted up and I was treated to the opening title theme, I knew this game was special. Simply watching my friend play through the game was amazing, each new galaxy filling me with awe. Super Mario Galaxy is really the only time I have ever been left speechless by a game. Everything about it was simply amazing to me, and still is to this day. Nintendo absolutely hit every aspect of this game out of the park. The presentation is some of the best on the Wii, and simply in general. The soundtrack is legendary, and probably the best Mario soundtrack to date. The controls are perfect and responsive, making controlling Mario a joy. The galaxies are bursting with creativity and it really feels like you're on a grand adventure through space. Some of you are probably wondering why I never mentioned the sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2. To be honest, it could very easily share the top spot on this list, as it has everything that made the first game great, plus arguably better levels, but there is one small thing that puts the original Super Mario Galaxy above it for me. Remember that little thing called atmosphere I've been talking about this whole list? Super Mario Galaxy has absolutely perfect atmosphere, managing to capture the feeling of deep space and the loneliness that accompanies it. The use of dark, starry skies is a huge reason for this, as well as the Comet Observatory. While many people complain about the Comet Observatory, saying there is nothing to do on it and it takes too long to get around, that never bothered me because I serves a different purpose. Coming back to it after every mission and catching a break just peacefully floating through space is genius. Accompanied by an amazingly soothing piece of music, the Comet Obseratory serves more as a reminded to the player of just how grand their journey is. Each galaxy you visit and complete brings you closer to rescuing the princess, but you always have the Comet Observatory to come back to when you need a break. Something about Super Mario Galaxy resonates with me in all the right ways. I can't adequately translate the feelings the game gives me into words, but I'll just say it was a very special experience for me. I view Super Mario Galaxy as a perfect game, and also as my favorite game of all time.