Oh hey, look…a zombie game in the top five. Huge surprise, right? Well, back in 1998, it was for me. I had played the first installment of Resident Evil, and I loved it, but Resident Evil 2 was just so much better in so many ways. For a kid obsessed with all things living dead, this was the game that made me realize that the best zombie narratives of the future are going to be found inside games, not movies.

The elements that frustrated audiences were still there: the odd camera angels, the weird button layout, and the intricate puzzles that required a lot of searching for items (or just grabbing a strategy guide – probably the last time I ever used one of those). But the additions far outweighed the negative leftovers. Playing as two different characters, with two distinct storylines, made for an engaging and long-lasting experience. While the shuffling undead remained my favorite adversaries, the range of mutated creatures you’d encounter throughout the game put its predecessor to shame.

What do I remember most about Resident Evil 2? That I cared enough about the game to devote all my free time that month to beating it. That was always the judge of a great game – did it become the end all, be all game for a small period of time? From the moment I picked up the game at Toys “R” Us, I didn’t put it down until I had beaten the game completely. It was also the first game that I ever missed school for – that’s a true story. My mother had put a pre-order on the game, and when it came out that day, she let skip school that day. It was close enough to my birthday that it was my little gift from her to me.

You might be thinking “wait, Resident Evil 2 is super violent and you must’ve still been in elementary school…what gives?” All of that is true, but my parents were not controlling maniacs. Their brand of parenting allowed me to be exposed to a variety of media, from violent to profane, starting at an early age, except they were there to explain clearly that narratives are fictional, and horror movies and gross-out comedies typically have enough working under the surface that the initial shock of violence and language is actually in support of something else. So here I am, twenty-seven years young, and an upstanding citizen of the world. Perhaps more parents should take a page from my parents’ book than trying to micromanage their kids’ media intake.

Thanks mom and dad for Resident Evil 2. Your guidance made me realize that it was more than just gore and shooting…that’s why it sits at number four of all time.