From DOOM to Lollipop Chainsaw, the 13 best game titles of all time

What's in a name? A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but if you call a game about exploring ancient ruins and killing monsters with big guns "Flowers of Serenity," you're gonna have a tough time marketing that sucker. Thankfully, plenty of developers are as creative with their titles as they are with their gameplay. To give recognition to that aspect of the creative process, we've put together a list celebrating some of the best titles in video game history.

For this list, we tried to separate the quality of the game as much as possible from the quality of the title. Super Mario 64 is a wonderful, ageless classic, but it's really just the plumber's name plus a number representing the console it was on. It'd be like calling God of War "Angry Kratos PlayStation" - doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. So please, enjoy the poetry and prose of these, 13 of the best game titles ever.

Doom

There are few game titles as in-your-face as "Doom," or if we're going with the stylized spelling, "DOOM." Even before firing up this classic, you know it's going to be aggressive, loud, and you're probably going to die a lot. There's a reason that the 2016 reboot / sequel / requel opted not to tack on a number like previous games in the series; it would've only diluted the reaction that comes from this powerful, singular word. - Sam Prell

Dragon's Dogma

Fantasy games have a strong lineage of alliterative titles: Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards and Warriors, Ghosts 'n Goblins, Sword & Sworcery. Purely on the merits of its name, Dragon's Dogma is a fine addition to their pleasingly repetitive ranks. Capcom's open-world fantasy RPG also earns points for incorporating the kind of word you don't often hear in video game titles - dogma, referring to an unquestioned set of beliefs established by a single authority - in a subversively evocative way. When you think of a Japanese fantasy RPG, you probably picture random encounters and turn-based combat. Dragon's Dogma defies not only that expectation, but also the expectations of players anticipating a traditional western-style open-world RPG. Fast travel? No, not much of that, but how about player-made "Pawns" who travel around the internet and bring back gifts from their other masters? - Connor Sheridan

Einhander

"One-hander" is the literal translation for the linguistically German name of this Japanese-made sidescrolling shooter. Hailing from Squaresoft’s PS1 glory days, Einhander was a pinnacle of its form with blazing, twitchy shooting stages that proved 3D polygons could look every bit as beautiful as the 2D sprites that typified these spaceship-vs-everything games. The name wasn’t just co-opting foreign language to stand out. Einhander is the descriptive name of your ship, a blue craft shaped like a human hand at rest. The bottom - the would-be opposable thumb - could grab weapons out of the air from downed enemies and drop them just as easily. The memorably hard consonants of German verbiage also perfectly evoke the chunky, demanding strategy of the game itself. A perfect name for a nigh perfect game. - Anthony John Agnello

The Evil Within

Horror works best when it’s simple: the bump in the night, the thing under the bed. "The Evil Within" is not only an elegant turn of phrase, it’s a multipurpose way to hint at what awaits you. On the surface, it can refer to the creatures that await you within the walls of any of its gruesome locations, but it also references the horrors that dwell inside your mind, your heart, and your soul. A lumbering giant chasing you with a chainsaw is terrifying, for sure, but also clean, in a way, because it’s well-defined. Being forced to question reality, however, is far more messy. Can you trust what you see? Doubt can be just as insidious and do as much damage as more overt threats, but The Evil Within provides plenty of both, just to make sure you don’t leave unscathed. - Susan Arendt

Half-Life

Wikipedia defines a "half-life" as "the time required for a quantity to reduce to half its initial value," noting that "the term is commonly used in nuclear physics to describe how quickly unstable atoms undergo, or how long stable atoms survive, radioactive decay." Meanwhile, Half-Life the video game is about portals ripping open doorways to alien dimensions, causing an infestation at a secret research facility where you, a mute scientist wearing an orange biohazard suit, must use a crowbar and scavenged weapons to save the world. Not a whole lot of crossover there. But step back from the most literal interpretations and the connecting tissue of science and survival come together to form a cool and catchy title that sticks in your mind. At least until you start adding numbers and tacking "episode" onto the end. - Sam Prell

The Last of Us

Naughty Dog could've named The Last of Us many things: "Emotionally Unavailable Dad Simulator," "Fungus Zombies Ate My Neighbors," or "Well I Guess We're Proper F*cked Now." But the infected and the bandits you encounter often take a backseat to the story of Joel and Ellie, so it's fitting that the title doesn't make you think TLOU will be an action game. "The Last of Us" perfectly captures a melancholy atmosphere that permeates the game and its themes of loss and grief. - Sam Prell

Lollipop Chainsaw

With a name like this, how can you not want to find out what the hell the game is about? Alright, so it might not feature any actual chainsaws shaped like lollipops (look to Condemned 2: Bloodshot for that gem), but it perfectly encapsulates the happy-go-lucky / zombie bloodbath contrast that Suda51’s game is all about. Juliet is basically the human personification of a lollipop - sugary sweet, bright outfits, speaks as if she’s just found a basket of puppies - but with her chainsaw by her side she slashes zombies with manic ease. This disparity reaches from one end of the violence scale (wouldn’t hurt a fly) to the other (ALL CAPS RAGE) and hauls them together, making sure you don’t take either element too seriously. Both Juliet’s charm and the blood she skips through end up mixing to create a deviously enjoyable slasher. Go on, try it: tell someone you’re playing Lollipop Chainsaw and watch that brow furrow. - Zoe Delahunty-Light

Metal Slug

SNK's seminal sidescrolling shooter series bears a name that's essentially my 'cellar door': two plain words, paired for a total of three syllables, to create something of stunning euphonic beauty. You might've played Metal Slug countless times without really knowing what the title refers to - it's a stout, heavy-sounding nickname for the Super Vehicle-001, that iconic, bulbous little tank you can commandeer early on in the game. And unlike Contra, where the game name also doubles its co-op heroes' military unit, Marco and Tarma wage war on the behalf of the Peregrine Falcon Strike Force. The concept of a Metal Slug admittedly doesn't make much sense - until you think of it as a speeding bullet or a chunky artillery shell, both of which you'll be shooting a lot of over the course of your mission. - Lucas Sullivan

Nuclear Throne

This title is almost as crunchy and reverberating as the shrieking battle cries, clik-clak loaded cartridges, and bass-heavy bullet blasts that fill this top-down shooter. Hearing the name should make you picture an imposing seat of pure destructive power, and all it takes is a little imagination to picture a struggle across the treacherous battlefields of an irradiated wasteland in order to finally claim the fabled Nuclear Throne. The name - and, without spoiling anything, what it represents - will be pulsing in your mind every time you dive in for another permadeath run, eager to guide your chosen mutant towards radiation-soaked royalty. - Lucas Sullivan
 

Resident Evil

Okay, I’ll concede that "Biohazard" is perhaps a more appropriate name for a game about deadly viruses, but the same argument gave us Medal of Honor Warfighter. I love "Resident Evil" because it has mystery. It’s such a mystery, in fact, that we even asked the devs about the name way back in 2009. It turns out that Capcom ran a competition to rename the game because registering it as ‘Biohazard’ in the US would have been impossible - there was already a (terrible) game with the same name, as well a New York hardcore band. I love Resident Evil because it’s mildly entertaining pun that eludes to the setting of the first game - although it hasn’t made much sense since - but also because it just looks right. That fat, red text, coupled with a gravelly voiceover, feel like a part of gaming’s rich heritage. It’s the Barry Burton of gaming names: solid, slightly daft, and utterly, perfectly untouchable. - Matt Elliott

Sam & Max Beyond Time And Space Episode 2 - Moai Better Blues

How many game titles manage to simultaneously suggest pulp sci-fi, enigmatic stone heads, and Spike Lee's sophomore cinematic musical? This one. - Connor Sheridan

Shadow of the Colossus

Any game name that starts with "shadow" is alright by me - Shadow the Hedgehog excepted - and this is great example of telling you exactly what’s in the game while still retaining a degree of ambiguity. It’s menacing and enticing all at once, and a that improves one you’ve played the game. Perhaps that’s why it’s so great. It’s one of those names that reminds you of a lost adventure, evoking all the best bits of an incredible game. If it’s powerful enough to take you back and make you hear the music and feel the thrill and horror of downing your first colossus. It also has a classical, almost Homeric quality, which makes a game about a small boy stabbing big monsters seem even more important. The only issue I have is that technically it should be colossi, but that sounds terrible, so let’s move on. - Matt Elliott

Silent Hill

Has someone turned the air conditioning on? Nope - those shivers come directly from reading the words "Silent Hill." Sounding like an inconspicuous name of a town, the title manages to chime into a ton bad omens we’re barely conscious of. Perfectly hitting in on that feeling that something’s not quite right, its word pairing is on point. Silence is one of the last things you want to encounter when you step into a new town. It does not bode well. Why is it silent? Where is everyone? As for Hill, there’s something about that mass of earth which is vaguely ominous. It just sounds so bare. You can almost imagine standing atop of a hill, looking about you and seeing absolutely nothing but mist. Silent Hill indeed. - Zoe Delahunty-Light