Nuu’s Top 100 Greatest Games of All-Time
70| Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Released: October 24th, 2013
Definitive Version: Nintendo 3DS; Also on: iOS
The Phoenix Wright series effectively came out of nowhere. With no advertising, on a relatively new platform, and having a very strange premise the games have managed to gain a significant cult following while achieving moderately successful sales in the West. The series left quite a legacy for the fifth entry to fill that was also the first on the next generation portable after the series made it big. Capcom took advantage of the series popularity and the more powerful hardware by incorporating high quality 3D graphics, stunning animation, and anime cutscenes. The series was back and was sure to let the fans know.
Anyone who is familiar with Phoenix Wright knows the gist of the series. You play as a young lawyer who has to defend a practically undefendable defendant. They face overwhelming odds against them and it is up to you to solve the mystery to get them off the hook. Players will be searching for clues as they interview, and outright interrogate, townsfolk and go to the scene of the crime to search for evidence. Once finished the second half of the game begins as the player attends a court room trial as they cross examine testimonials from witnesses. This process repeats around three times and by the end the player manages to turn the whole case on its head and the defendant is free.
This may appeal to some people, but to others not so much. In one’s head someone probably thinks the game is akin to a playable version of “Law & Order”. In actuality the game is a light-hearted and comical game filled with charming characters, intriguing mysteries, and a lot of humorous writing. Dual Destinies continues to fulfill these expectations. The game brings back a lot of old characters but introduces a lot of new ones as well. Phoenix, Apollo, Trucy, and Pearl make their way back to series with their same lovable personalities…well for the most part. A bit of time has passed since the last game so the characters have matured. While Phoenix is still a goofball at times he has also gained confidence and more experience as a lawyer. Apollo is no longer the rookie lawyer from the previous entry and now has a bit more experience under his belt, as well as seems to be more determined in finding the truth. Trucy is her same loveable and upbeat self. Pearl is still cute and innocent, but also has grown up and is now getting hit on by boys. I really pat Capcom on back for bothering to further mature and develop their characters rather than have them be stuck in arrested development like many other franchises.
The game also introduces a new cast of characters. Athena, who is arguably the protagonist, is likely the best female co-lead the series has had. She is very upbeat, determined, and uses the power of “analytical psychology” during the trial. Blackquill is Dual Destinies main “antagonist” as he is a defense attorney who is also in handcuffs. He’s locked up in jail but due to his immense talent as a prosecutor the court system still lets him work his magic. He has the persona of a Samurai which results in him getting hotblooded and competitive, but also has him focused more so on revealing the truth than winning the case. There are many more characters in this entry, both returning and new, but I don’t want to spoil too much.
The game adds a lot of new gameplay elements. The first obvious one is that due to the jump toward 3D, the camera has a lot more free movement. Rooms can be viewed in a lot more angles and it seems that every item can be turned 360 degrees every which way to be inspected. Every Phoenix Wright game since the second one always has some gimmick they introduce in the courtroom. For Dual Destinies this gimmick is the reading of emotions. Due to Athena’s power of “analytical psychology” she can pick up when a witness feels strong emotions, much like a lie detector. It is up to the player to select what phrase is triggering that emotion, as well as just what emotion the witness is feeling. Another new feature is the “closer” in which at the end of each case the player has to choose from a selection bit by bit to piece together what really occured during the events of each case. Besides these things the game is more or less the usual Ace Attorney affair wth interrogations, cross examines, searching for clues, etc.
Perhaps what seperates this entry the most from previous games is the graphics. Rather than using 2D illustrations the game opts for cel-shaded 3D models. This may be a turn off at first but the game look great and the animation is even better. It also lends to some pretty cool effects such as the camera rotating and taking the Nintendo 3DS’s 3D effect by the horns as the characters really pop-out.
Dual Destinies is a great entry in a great series. Capcom could have easily botched the series move to a new platform but instead they managed to keep everything fans loved and added some more. The first episode of the game is actually avaliable for free on iOS, and while it isn’t the best version it wouldn’t hurt to just try it out. It’s free after all.
69| Genji Tsuushin Agedama
Released: December 13th, 1991
Available on: PC Engine
People tend to forget that gaming has always been a global marketplace. Never was this more apparent than during the 16-bit era. As most know, the Super Nintendo ended up coming on top in sales over the Sega Megadrive. However, what most don’t know is that Sega’s console actually outside Nintendo’s in America. The primary reason why Nintendo sold so many more consoles than Sega is due to the fact that the Sega Megadrive was a dud in Japan. Much of this was due to the fact that prior to the Megadrive’s release there was already a competing console with Nintendo. The NEC PC Engine was a small and sleek system specializing in glorified 8-bit games, the real Super Nintendo so to speak. It had volumes of shoot-em-ups, platformers, and quirky games that highly appealed to the Japanese market. Unfortunately the system pulled a reverse Sega, while it was successful in Japan, it bombed in every other territory. Not only did this result in the system’s life getting cut short in the West, but also resulted in the lack of quality titles being localized. The meat of the PC Engine’s library actually never left Japanese shores, however due to the age of Youtube, Ebay, and emulation many games have gotten much more exposure.
One of these games is Genji Tsuushin Agedama. Based on the short lived anime series, the game…well it’s hard to tell exactly what the game is about being that it is all in Japanese. But it has something to do with a boy with powers in defeating evil monster forces. What makes the game such a gem is its unique gameplay. It combines the shoot-em-up genre and the platformer genre in perfect harmony. Like a shoot-em-up, the screen automatically scrolls to right while enemies pop up on the side of the screen. The player can control the character sprite as they can move them left or right The objective of the game is to shoot projectiles at enemies in order to defeat them. The game has a unique feature where the player can collect different colored gems in order to charge their attacks to do a special move. The longer they hold their attack for, the more powerful of a special move they get to use. These moves often revolve around huge projectiles taking up most of the screen as enemies are mowed down by flames, whirlwinds, genies, and what have you. The other major part of the game is the platforming. The game isn’t Mario exactly, but throughout the levels players will be required to jump from platform to platform as they will be forced to time their jumps for a precise landing.
The game features a variety of levels that often have the player doing different things. Some are very straight forward, others will require the player to jump like a madman, some will actually control like a typical platform game even. It’s surprising that a game that seems so simple on the surface actually has such a diverse set of stages. At the end of each area is a boss battle. These are actually pretty good. They won’t make your head sweat like many acclaimed shoot-em-ups, but they are unique and charming enough to be enjoyable, even if they are a bit easy.
Graphically the game looks pretty good. The PC Engine really struggled to have sprites as detailed as its 16-bit rivals. It had a fraction of the color palette that the Megadrive had, which in turn had a fraction of the color palette that the Super Nintendo had. The silver lining of this is that it resulted in games having a simplistic style that ironically had them age better due to the fact that the graphics don’t look as pixealated. Genji Tsuushin Agedama is no exception to this. While it isn’t the most detailed game out there, the sprites look clean and inoffensive to the eye. This is especially true for the larger sprites, particularly the boss battles.
Genji Tsuushin Agedama is a game lost in the time. It had three things going against it. It was an anime game, released on a console that was only successful in Japan, and was released in a niche genre that only had a significant following in Japan. There was no way on Earth that the game would be released on Western shores. However due to technology and our connected lifestyles, it is easier than ever before for people to try these games, both through legal and not so legal means. Hopefully this game gets a second look by many Western gamers.
68| Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition
Released: March 1st, 2005
Definitive Version: Playstation 2; Also on: PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
In 2001 Capcom released a game titled Devil May Cry and thus invented a new genre. The “hard action genre” as I like to call it (no not “character action” that is the stupidest name ever and anyone who calls it that is an idiot). This genre separates itself from the likes of beat-em-ups and typical hack-n-slash games as it is a single player game with the franticness and combat complexity of a fighting game, but with the progression of a typical narrative focused single player game. The last point isn’t a requirement, but the former two certainly are. Since the launch of Devil May Cry multiple other games in the genre have been released such as Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta, and Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance. But like Street Fighter, Devil May Cry is always recognized as the mother franchise of the genre.
There was nothing like the original Devil May Cry when it was released. It was so fast paced and intense there was literally nothing to compare it to. It was as if someone who enjoyed playing the end credits scene of Street Fighter EX 3 decided to make a game modeled after it. Finally people who wanted the complexity, pace, and tension of a multiplayer fighting game can get something similar in a single player package. Obviously everybody who enjoyed Devil May Cry was stoked when the sequel was announced. Unfortunately the game turned out to be infamously bad. Capcom realized this and did the right thing by having the series return to its roots with its next entry. The result is that Devil May Cry 3 is widely seen as not only the best game in the series, but arguably the entire genre as well.
Gameplay wise the game is based of the first game, but improved in everyway. For starters the combat has been refined significantly. As usual the player controls a sword-wielding/gunslinging badass named Dante where they can implement a string of sword and gun attacks however way they please. Dante has multiple abilities such as the ability to double jump, slide on the ground, do back flips, run up walls, and juggle enemies. Combining Dante’s fluid movement with the flexible combat system results in pulling off combos that are more than impressive and satisfying. Added to this entry is the ability to choose which class, or “style”, Dante will be in. Each class results in Dante controlling a little differently and having different moves more inline with the specific class. For example swordsman results in Dante’s combat abilities focused on sword wielding, while gunslinger obviously focuses on using his guns. There a six classes to choose from and they are all unique in their own way.
A game’s combat system is only as good as the playable area designed around it, and Devil May Cry 3 makes note of this. For starters, the boss battles are incredible. Each boss pushes the player to their limit as every strategy and tactic will be exhausted to beat them. The sadisticness is a fair trade for the intense tension and challenge these fights present to the player and the pure satisfaction once a boss is defeated. Coming from that aspect, in a way the game’s boss fights were Dark Souls before Dark Souls. You couldn’t even save before the boss, you had to beat the entire area before you could even save. The bosses were also varied as some specialized in projectile attacks, others used their immense size as an advantage, while others fought up close and personal sword to sword.
It just wasn’t the bosses that added to the game’s tension. The enemy design was top notch as well with levels adding a lot of creativity of just how to approach them. This includes fighting in narrow spaces to do wall runs or in a strip club to twirl on a pole to launch yourself at enemies. There are also some unique segments such as a chessboard battle where the player’s objective is to kill the oversized king and queen chess pieces as a horde of pawn pieces, along with a knight and bishop piece, block their way. It really showed the game had a lot of creativity behind it.
The only a few things bad about the game which mostly boils down to the story. Now I know that Capcom wanted the game to be over the top and self-parody itself, but all things considered it is just too much. The game attempts to mock the action hero trope but instead just makes it self look foolish in the process. The main reason is that it never tones it down. It seems that in every single scene Dante is in he is always showing off somehow and saying something cheesy. Outside of this the story is a bit typical for these types of games. A humongous ancient caste appears in the middle of a city. The rebel protagonist is all but forced to explore it. On his way he meets a young woman who is there for alternate reasons. And at the end the protagonist defeats the person who summoned the city. It is a little more complicated than that but that’s the gist of it.
Devil May Cry 3 is a masterpiece of an action game. Gameplay wise it hits all the right notes with a deep combat system, challenging bosses, and experimental levels. The game isn’t perfect as the story the stupid and the game’s difficulty curve is a little to sharp. The music is also atrocious, I mean just listen to this song that plays throughout most of the game’s encounters. But being over a decade old, it is pretty impressive that it could still be claimed to be “the best action game ever made” and few would disagree harshly.
67| Super Turrican
Released: May 1993 (Exact date unknown)
Definitive Version: Super Nintendo; Also on: Virtual Console for Wii
People tend to forget that during the 1980s and the early 1990s PC gaming dominated Europe. Consoles like the NES were virtually absent in the country. This resulted in a handful of European developers creating a lot of clones of popular NES games. The most infamous of these is The Great Giana Sisters. Essentially a Super Mario Bros. reskin, the game was one of the most popular titles on the Commodore 64. Obviously it led to a lawsuit from Nintendo which they later lost but the series left somewhat of a legacy. It was directed by Manfred Trenz who was part of the development team Rainbow Arts. They later developed Katakis, a R-Type clone, that was so good that they were approached by Konami to do a port of R-Type for the Commodore 64 and Amiga.Wanting to do something more original, Rainbow Arts created Turrican, a game that is best described as a little bit of Contra and a little bit of Metroid.
The games are part of the run and gun genre as the player controls a humanoid robot character as they shoot down enemy aliens and machines with various lasers, bullets, and bomb which can all be upgraded by collecting powerups. Throughout the game the player find themselves gunning much more so than running, due to the fact that the levels aren’t designed to go one simple direction. They are a bit maze-like as they need to be fully explored. The character will travel left, right, up, and down through the map until they get to the end destination. It was pretty ambitious project for its time.
Seeing the rise of consoles the series eventually moved from the desktop to the floortop. With the exception of the NES entry, the console titles weren’t developed by the Rainbow Arts, but by the infamous developer Factor 5; yes the same Factor 5 that was behind Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II and Lair. They worked on the Turrican games for both the Sega MegaDrive and Super Nintendo, appropriately titled Mega Turrican and Super Turrican respectably. The superior version was the Super Nintendo entry. While part of this was due to the usual better graphics and sound found on the system, it was mostly due to the game design just being superior. The gameplay mix of Contra and Metroid had the series feel right at home on the system. As described before the game is a run and gun game which has the player explore the map in a variety of directions while they shoot down enemies as they collect a variety of powerups. These powerups can be separated into traditional bullets, a wave of lasers, a stream of lighting, and bouncing bullets. Each of these powerups are useful in different situations as there is a huge variety to the enemies and level design, thus there is no “one size fits all” approach.
The levels aren’t quite Super Metroid complexity, but they do require a bit of navigation. Throughout each level the player will encounter multiple paths. These typically involve the player jumping on a series of platforms or falling down various pits to reach the next checkpoint. To be fair most of the game still requires the player going to the right side of the screen, but it often throws a few curveballs at the player which results in a first clear run rarely occurring. You will often be required to explore every nook and cranny of the map to find the exit. At the end of stage is typically a boss. These bosses tend to be huge sprites, at times taking up the entire screen. Unfortunately while they may look intimidating they aren’t too difficult to beat. It typically takes only a few tries before you are greeted with the sound of multiple explosions that are more present in MegaDrive games.
Factor 5 became so well known due them being so well attuned to presentation. Super Turrican is no exception. The graphics are detailed, the sprites are large, and there are multiple enemies and projectiles on screen all without slowdown. The sound quality of the game is also very impressive and is amongst the Super Nintendo’s best. The problem is that while these things are technically impressive they aren’t impressive by merit. The graphics may be detailed but the art style merely gets the job done. While there are often a lot of things going on the screen at once the game isn’t intense as more well known 16-bit run and gun games. Super Turrican sounds great but it isn’t particularly that great to listen to. Just like the art, the music is merely serviceable. It’s all still very fun to play, but I can’t help but feel to wonder what a developer like say Treasure would be able to do if they had such talent.
Regardless, even though it isn’t the most intense game or the most easy on the eyes, Super Turrican is still one of the best run and gun games of its generation. Its not so linear maps coupled with quality level design and shooting mechanics make for a solid game. It is unfortunate that the series was eclipsed by other well known franchises as Rainbow Arts and Factor 5 seemed to have stumbled upon something special.
66| Left 4 Dead 2
Released: November 17th, 2009
Definitive Version: PC (All major OSes); Also on: Xbox 360
During the latter half of the 2000s there was a huge revival with zombies in the entertainment world. This has continued on to the modern day, most notably with the hit franchise The Walking Dead. I don’t recall what exactly started this revival, but I think most will agree that it can be traced back to the film 28 Days Later. The movie was a modestly budgeted British horror film that involved zombies taking over the United Kingdom. Now what differentiated it from the more mainstream zombies found in the acclaimed Living Dead films were primarily two things. The first is that the “zombies” weren’t really zombies, but regularly people who were infected with a specific type of “rage virus”.The second, and the most major reason, is that rather than the zombies being slow and dumb, they were just as fast as any other human and had some sort of intelligence. So not only did zombies have the advantage in numbers, but they no longer had a disadvantage in speed and not as much of a disadvantage in smarts. It was formula that gelled very well with modern audiences and soon all types of mediums from film to books began adapting this formula such as Shaun of the Dead and World War Z. This obviously included video games as well such as Resident Evil 4 and Killing Floor. But if there is one franchise that stands as the definitive example of this formula, it is clearly the Left 4 Dead series.
Released in 2008, Left 4 Dead revolved around four players meeting online as they choose to plays as four different characters and select a map. Once the game started there was one simple objective, get to the end of the map without dying. This was a lot harder than it sounds as traveling from point A to point B the players came across a literally endless supply of zombies, with dozens and at times even hundreds coming at the players at once. Luckily each player is equipped with a weapon of their choice that they get in their starting safe house, as well as various items such as healing packs. Throughout the map there are also a share of abandoned houses and buildings each containing the same weapons and items, or at least something similar. The game may have been simple, but it was enough for it to become a massive hit.
Unfortunately the developers weren’t satisfied with the end product and decided to make a sequel Left 4 Dead 2. The best way to describe the game is that it is more or less “Super Left 4 Dead: Turbo Edition”. It feels less like a sequel and more like an updated version of the original game. The gameplay was the exact the same but with new maps, characters, enemies, and the addition of melee weapons. As par to the first one, the game starts off with four people logging onto in a server and selecting which character and map they want. Once all votes are casted the game starts. The players begin in a safe house where they select their gear and leave to reach the next checkpoint. Once again, in between the safe house and the next checkpoint the players will have to deal with an onslaught of zombies. The vast majority are the regularly zombies who run really fast and are out for blood. Occasionally there are others such as the fat boomers who explode which results in killing everything in the surrounding area, the witches who cry in the corner not to be disturbed…or else, the spitters who spit acid at the players, etc. But the most notable of these is the tank. A huge enemy that can do immense damage by pounding on the player or even picking up large objects such as cars and throwing it at them. They often act as a boss in each level due to the immense damage they dish out and the huge amount of hit points they have.
And that’s about it. Left 4 Dead 2 is a game with a very basic formula that is very fun. It may sound repetitive but it takes a while to become so as each enemy encounter can be handled in a variety of different ways. And even if the main mode becomes stale, there are multiple other modes to try, even a versus mode where one side are the protagonists while the other are the zombies. There are some faults with the game though. One is that there are some people in the community who believe the original Left 4 Dead is superior, however due to the entire first game being ported into Left 4 Dead 2, it is no longer an issue. However, another is that the game isn’t all that deep. It is very basic as there is little strategy to survive. Just simply avoid zombies and use the most powerful weapon possible. While this doesn’t stop the game from being fun, it does leave players who want a little more meat to the game with a lack of something to sink their teeth into. However, if you want a fun and mindless zombie game, you can’t go wrong with Left 4 Dead 2.
65| Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Released: August 23rd, 2011
Definitive Version: PC (Windows & OSX); Also on: Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360
It was understandable to be worried about Deus Ex: Human Revolution when it was first announced. For starters the Deus Ex series didn’t really have the best track record for sequels. The second entry was praised by critics, but panned by fans. There was then the first person shooter Project Snowblind which was in a way a spiritual sequel to the game that was merely an average game and hardly had any RPG elements. Another factor is that since Western role playing games made it big on consoles with The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, they began to cater to the mass market. The result were games that gutted the role playing elements for things that appealed more to the casual consumer such as large open worlds and action oriented combat. However, once the game was released all fears subsided as the result was one of the best role playing games of the generation.
The game takes place in the not so distant future Human augmentation is the hot new industry as it involves turning average joes into the Six Million Dollar Man. Clearly this power is too much for one person to have as it seems that multiple organizations want a piece of the pie. The proceeding story plays out in a very complex and messy manner you would expect form these types of science fiction video games. In all honesty, the plot is probably the worst part of the game as it is a bit difficult to follow. However, strangely enough it still manages to keep the player engaged in the story due to the game having well directed interactive cutscenes ala Metro 2033 and Half-Life 2, though it is not quite as good as those games.
The game plays exactly like Deus Ex. It controls like a first person shooter, but the player has the ability to augment their body for super speed, super strength, high intelligence, and other features. As one travels through the map they will be able to talk and interact with others. A dialogued box pops up that gives the player choice in what to say. Depending on what choice they pick results in a different response from each individual. Sometimes the difference in responses don’t really make a difference, other times certain responses will result in interesting scenarios or will even result in new objectives being available. It is the bare bones basic of a Western role playing game. But what makes the game quality entry in the genre boils down to two things. The first is that your choices have weight to them. Throughout the game the player will come across multiple choices that have potential to change the story itself quite significantly. These choices also aren’t as obvious as something that pops into a text box, as at times they are also incorporated into real-time gameplay. The other reason is just how well done the game’s non-RPG elements are. Unlike many WRPGs with action backdrops where the action is mediocre at best, such as say Alpha Protocol, the gunplay and stealth in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is very well done. Sure the gunplay isn’t Crysis and the stealth isn’t Metal Gear Solid, but it is all still very enjoyable. The feedback from shooting enemies has a certain “omph” to it and many areas of the game are actually designed with sneaking around in mind.It really raises the bar for the genre.
Again, the story is nothing special. However, one unique aspect of it is that it gives the game an excuse to have the player move to different areas. The game starts off in Montreal, then moves to Detroit, then moves to China, and concludes in Singapore. To be fair almost all of the game takes place in Detroit and China, however the maps in these areas are so well done it doesn’t leave much to complain about. While the maps aren’t huge they are very well designed and encourage the player to explore to find extra side-quests and loot. They are multi-layered as there are things to discover on the ground floor, on the high rises, and even down in the sewers. It seems that half of the game was spent walking around town seeing what interesting things there were to find.
In short, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a proper sequel to the classic original game. It updates the controls and combat, while keeping the role playing elements intact. While many well respected RPG series were bastardized by modern entires, Deus Ex: Human Revolution managed to walk a different path.
64| Super Mario Bros.
Released: 1985 (Exact date unknown)
Definitive Version: Nintendo Entertainment System; Also on: Wii, Gamecube, SNES, GBA, GBC, Countless Bootleg Systems, Virtual Console for Wii U, Wii, and 3DS
There is no way anyone can understate the impact the original Super Mario Bros. had on the industry. It single handedly resurrected the North American video game market, it created an alternative gameplay style that was separate from the skill based arcade games and the complex PC games, and finally it resulted in the industry becoming much more Japanese. Many of the things it did seem basic by today’s standards but Super Mario Bros. did a lot of new things for its time.
The game focused on having tight and intuitive controls first and foremost. The levels weren’t design so much as to test the player’s skill, which they were to a degree, but more so to maximize the player’s enjoyment. While there was a score system, the player’s goal wasn’t to receive the highest score, but more so just to simply make it to the end of the level. The high score was more of a personal achievement than something to be used for competitive purposes.The screen scrolled smoothly that allowed the player to explore the area and discover secrets, such as a hidden pathway by entering a specific green pipe. The character killed enemies by using the jumping ability and smashed blocks to collect coins and powerups. And at the end of each stage set the player would encounter a boss. Again, this may sound very barebones, but at in 1985 there was nothing like this. Sure there were games that featured aspects of these things such as Montezuma’s Revenge and Pitfall, but nothing that combined everything all at once.
Being that the game is over thirty years old and is arguably not only the first true platformer game, but also arguably the first modern video game as well, it could come to some as a surprise that it is still one of the best games out there. While there have been platformers that have surpassed Super Mario Bros., the game sticks solely due to its simplicity. It is platforming bliss through and through without any of the fat.There is only one power up, one type of jump move, and one alternate gameplay stage. It is the grandmother of all platformers and its gameplay reflects this. However, another reason that makes it stand out is that it is just still so well designed. The level design is top notch. While it certainly isn’t the flashiest game by today’s standards, it is certainly still fun. Each block, platform, and enemy is carefully inserted in a specific spot to make the game flow as smooth as possible. Quality graphics can get dated, but quality level design and controls do not, and Super Mario Bros. is a testament to that.
I often walk around the mall and see generic counterfeit systems for sale. They are packed in with a dozen or so games in them. These systems tend to have a game that the public can play for demonstration purposes, and that one game is always the original Super Mario Bros. It’s amusing seeing children often stopping to play the game. Despite all the advancements in graphics and sound, and the fact that their parents have a fancy tablet in their hand, the kids gravitate toward this game. It just shows how much pull the title has and how it was the perfect candidate to rise the gaming market from the dead. It is all further proof that there is no game that is more worthy to hold the title of “Industry Savior” than Super Mario Bros.
63| Super Mario 64
Released: September 26th, 1996
Definitive Version: Nintendo DS; Also on: N64, Virtual Console for Wii & Wii U
Before Nintendo began designing the levels, before they even put up a single platform, Miyamoto had his team focus on one single thing, to make Mario control fun in an open area. Mario didn’t just have to function in a 3D space, he had to excel. Just the act of running around and jumping would have to gauger interest of the player, just like it did in the original Super Mario Bros. Nintendo succeeded so much that they actually began the game in a 3D open area outside of Peach’s castle. Before many players even started the game they spent at least five minutes running around hoping, jumping, and climbing outside. Once they were done taking Mario for a test drive the real game began.
Players entered Peach’s castle and came across multiple rooms. In most of these rooms is a huge painting. If Mario jumps into one of these paintings he enters a level. One would expect levels to be much like Crash Bandicoot, that Mario can only progress in one direction, presumably “up”, as he bounces on enemy heads and hits boxes. Nintendo certainly could have gone this route, but they found it to be too lazy and predictable. Instead they had, for the time, huge open 3D worlds for the player to explore. There were obviously paths laid out for the player, but they often didn’t have to take them. On top of that many of these paths branched out. Due to this non-linearity rather than the game focusing on Mario jumping on a single flagpole to mark the end of a level, instead he collects multiple stars. Each level has an average of seven stars. These stars can be earned by collecting coins, getting to one of the end points, or finding and defeating a secret boss. Most modern games reward players with “achievements” as they often due run of the mill things to earn notch on their belts, Super Mario 64 built the entire game around that and had to make players work for their objectives.
The controls really need to be elaborated more on just how great they are. Mario feels absolutely perfect in this game. The player can press the “A” button to jump once, if they press it again once Mario lands on the ground to jump a little higher, and if they press it a third time he will jump even higher and much further. If the trigger button is pressed while jumping Mario will do a butt pound just like Yoshi and Yoshi’s Island, if the trigger is press shortly before “A” while Mario is running he will lunge forward. If “A” is pressed again he will launch a bit further face first as he will land sliding like a baseball player attempting to reach for a base. If trigger is pressed before “A” and the control stick is pushed back then Mario will perform a backwards somersault. The four “C” buttons on the controller control different camera angles so the direction the player is heading will always be visible. The “B” button can punch or kick if it is pressed after Mario jumps. It may all sound complicated, but the way it is done makes it feel so natural and intuitive.
Like most Mario games the levels have tons of variety. Some levels are huge open areas, while others are linear to the point that they seem to more of an updated version of the 2D Super Mario series than something revolutionary. The game has the Ghost mazes from Super Mario World and the underwater levels the series has always had. At the end of each floor the player completes a trial level which leads them to Bowser. The objective is to grab his tail and spin him around to throw him out of the ring, typically three times. Though there are a few other bosses scattered throughout the game, they aren’t too difficult but do require one to use their brain at times.
Like the original Super Mario Bros., it is very difficult to over-exaggerate Super Mario 64’s importance. Prior to the game the only 3D games in existence were either First Person Shooters, Virtua Fighter, racing games, and games with pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D models acting as sprites. The closest game that had the player running around in a 3D space was Tomb Raider. This is saying a lot since the game had tank controls, was stiff, and played very slow. Super Mario 64 was the first game that showed that 3D can be freed from the shackles of linearity and be just as nimble and agile as 2D games. Twenty years after its release modern games still base so much on it. Control wise every game controls the character with the left thumb on the analog stick and uses the right side of the controller to control the camera. Gameplay wise most games feature open 3D worlds where many objectives and secrets are hidden to be able to progress the game. Nintendo set out to make Super Mario 64 just as influential and great as the original Super Mario Bros. I’d say that they more than succeeded.
62| Sonic the Hedgehog
Released: June 23rd, 1991
Definitive Version: Sega Mega Drive; Also on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii Virtual Console, PS2, 3DS eShop, PSP, iOS, Android, GBA
It is popular opinion that Sonic the Hedgehog entries have lost their touch ever since the series made the pivot to 3D with the Sega Dreamcast. I am not of that opinion. In fact I am even more conservative than that. I believe that the series has yet to reach its heights it achieved with the very first entry released in 1991. Before explaining that it would be best to explain the context of the series. In the very early 1990s Nintendo was synonymous with video games. Just like when someone used to say “iPod” they meant MP3 player, people used to say “Nintendo” and meant video game console. There was a good reason for this. The Nintendo Entertainment System had virtually the entire North American video game console market. In fact it was such a phenomenon that more households had a NES than a personal computer.
However, the times were changing. The tweens who were introduced to the cute little plumber were growing up and Mario just didn’t seem that cool anymore. This was also a period of cultural change. The 1980s died and the 1990s hit. For anyone who can remember back then, it was all about things being “extreme” and “edgy”. People will often see older episodes of The Simpsons and see Bart riding his bright colored skateboard as he says catch phrases like “Cowabunga” and “Eat My Shorts”. Sega saw this and decided to find a game that could fit well with this new “extreme” and “edgy” trend for their new console. They found it in a blue hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog was a platformer, just like Super Mario Bros., however it was different in that he could travel very fast through an at times rollercoaster like levels. He also had cool “saw blades” on his back and was bright and colorful. He was the perfect candidate for a modern mascot in the 1990s. This ended up working fantastically and single handedly rose the Sega’s Genesis console to prominence to which they even outsold the Nintendo Entertainment System’s successor in North America. Sonic quickly became one of the biggest series in all of gaming.
But what about the actual game? How does it hold up today? Well despite the game having a reputation of revolving around being the F-Zero of platformers, as it involves the player running around the screen at incredibly high speeds as they smash across enemies and platforms, in reality the game is much smarter than this. While there are moments in the game where Sonic goes go across the screen very fast, they are very brisk and tend to be only a couple of seconds at most. The game really revolves around the player exploring the world, hopping platform to platform, solving minor puzzles, all as they try to find the exit. People always try to point out what made Sonic was the speed of the game, but really it was the ingenious level design. While virtually every platformer up until that time involved the player going from left to right, Sonic mixed it up a bit. While as a whole the character started on one end of the screen and had to get to the other, which was in general to the right side, players would often find themselves at dead ends where they had a few different routes that they could take. They could jump on bolder that will send them down, jump up on a spring where they could go up, or find a secret passage such as behind a waterfall that could take them somewhere else. Not all of these alternate paths were present during every dead end, nor were they only present during a dead end. So contrary to popular belief, the game plays much slower than most remember, and at many times slower than even the typical Mario game. However, the game does occasionally put in moments of the player moving at breakneck speeds to satisfy their inner speed demon. Though at times this could result in them missing significant parts of the level and secrets, or obtaining them if they know certain tricks.
The controls of the game are great. They would be perfect, except the first entry is missing the hallmark spin dash move. Instead in order to spin, Sonic has to run down a platform and the player has to press down. It still gets the job done most of the time, though lacks a certain satisfaction one gets from “charging” up the dash in successor entries. The physics in the game are fantastic as running around has a lot of feel and weight to it. When Sonic begins to speed up, you can feel it, vice versa when he slows down. The same goes for when Sonic is in the air as players have to time and measure their jumps to go from platform to platform.
Presentation wise the game is top notch. The Megadrive may have lacked the color count the Super Nintendo had, but looking at Sonic the Hedgehog’s palette one would never know this. The game is bright, colorful, and very detailed. On top of that the music is fantastic and amongst the most memorable of the 1990s. The levels are very big for the time and are varied. The game seems to cover every type of environment possible from the jungle, to the arctic, to ruins, to even casino. It makes the level have much more life and personality to them.
The reason why I hold firm that this is still the best entry in the series is due to the fact that I feel other games in the series focused more on speed than on design. Even Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a bit of a mess as they sacrificed the intricate level design of the first game for the feel of speed. Sure the levels may be complex on paper, but they aren’t particularly well designed as the player will often get lost as they speed past areas. And even when those areas are reached they aren’t designed particularly well. Sonic 3 alleviated these problems a bit, but it still wasn’t as good as the first one. Sonic CD was very ambitious and tried to push the thinking elements of the original game even further, but it ended up being plagued by confusing and just flatout dumb level design. Specifically with the nonsensical placements of the the time machines. Sonic then became 3D and the rest is history.
Twenty five years later Sega has yet to put out an entry that has surpassed the game that put them on the map. It is a bit sad I feel that while Mario and his previous games are regularly met with love, Sonic is largely ignored outside of those that grew up with him. I wouldn’t mind once in a while seeing it be Sonic the Hedgehog that was on store kiosks of bootleg consoles than Super Mario Bros. It was truly the first title that deserved to dethrone the Super Mario series as being the face of the platformer genre. Luckily it got what it deserved, but it didn’t hold it for as long as it should have.
61| Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Released: February 23rd, 1994
Definitive Version: Arcade; Also on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, PS, Saturn, 3DO, GBA
How does one even begin to describe Street Fighter II’s legacy on the industry. Not only did it extend the lifespan on traditional arcade by a couple of extra years and that it single handedly created the modern fighting game genre, but it also was the spearhead of the competitive video game scene. There is quite a legacy the Street Fighter franchise brings to gaming, and this years EVO record turnout of 4,000+ for its latest entry manages to reinforce that. Due to the game being so influential there have been countless of games inspired by it that have tried to improve its basic formula. How well can a entry that first came out twenty five years ago stand the test of time? Pretty damn well it turns out.
Even today Street Fighter II is being played by about 50 people online right now as I type. During peak hours that number doubles. Despite having dozens more quality modern options available to players, so many still choose the original entries that started it all. Why? Well as someone who occasionally joins them, I feel that I can explain. In short, Street Fighter II takes away all of the fluff found in many fighting games that came after it. Fighting games today are plagued with assists, parries, combobreakers, counters, clashes, bursts, rolls, and what have you. In addition to that there are many moves where the player can maneuver to one end of the screen to the other, as well as attacks that can cover a considerable amount distance very quickly. Street Fighter II takes these things away. In Super Turbo you simply have your normal attacks, combos, a throw, and a super move. That is it, there is nothing else. This leads to the game having significantly stronger mind games than your typical fighting game.
It’s often referred to as a “footsie” game for a reason. The meat of the game isn’t memorizing combos or executing complex moves, it is about reading your opponent as you try to position yourself to have the edge on the ground floor. Due to this every move has to be carefully timed, calculated, and in all honesty guessed to the greatest accuracy. This isn’t to say that modern fighting games don’t do these things, it’s just that Super Turbo puts so much focus toward it. While there has been much gained from all of the extra features and abilities modern fighting games present, there is something lost that is more present in classic fighting games like Street Fighter II.
Other than that, there isn’t much more to say. It’s Street Fighter II. It has Ryu, Chun-Li, M.Bison, Sagat, E. Honda, Dhalism, Zangief, Blanka, Ken, Vega, Balrog, and Guile. What some people don’t remember or know, is that Street Fighter II added more characters after these twelve. This is mostly due to the fact that Super Street Fighter II, the game that introduced four new characters, was the only entry released on the popular home consoles, and was done so relatively late in the systems lives. As a result the game didn’t sell nearly as well as The World Warriors, Champion Edition, or Turbo did. Super Street Fighter II added Dee Jay, T. Hawk, Fei Long, and the beloved Cammy to the roster. Super Turbo added Akuma as a secret character. Being honest, I always felt that Dee Jay and Fei Long were both so generic that they just couldn’t appeal to me. While Akuma just seemed a bit too “dark” for Street Fighter II character. Though I felt that T. Hawk and Cammy fit right in with the rest of the cast however.
One strange thing about Super Turbo in particularly is that it is difficult to select the original colors of each character. For example Ryu’s “default” color scheme in Super Turbo is gray and yellow. You can select each character’s original color however,but only after inputting a specific code tied to each character. I don’t know the purpose of this, possibly it was one more way to “shake things up” as it was the fifth version of Street Fighter II. Or maybe it was a way to get more quarters from players as they likely tried multiple times to figure out the code to unlock their preferred character’s classic color scheme. Though I would be lying if I didn’t believe that some characters looked pretty damn good in their alternative colors.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo is simply the go to version of Street Fighter II. There have been some updates applied to the game series since. The first was Hyper Street Fighter II which came packed in Street Fighter Anniversary Collection. It was suppose to be the main coarse of the pack-in which allowed players to choose not only which character play as, but which version as well. For example one person could play as Ryu with all of his Super Turbo moves and abilities and go against someone who wants to play as M. Bison with his Champion Edition moves and abilities. It seemed to work great in theory, but at the end of the day people felt it made the game more complicated than it should have. It likely didn’t help that in the long run it was overshadowed by a game put on the same disc at the last minute for the Western release. There was also Street Fighter II HD Remix which was hyped up a lot during release as it was 2D HD redrawing of Super Street Fighter II with some minor changes to gameplay. But some months after release people just went back to Super Turbo.
Maybe it’s because it was the last Street Fighter II update for quite some time so it is what people are used to, or that it was the last “official” arcade release so people consider it the definitive version, or maybe that it is quite simply the best version of the game. Whatever it is Super Turbo is the most played version of Street Fighter II out of the many available. Twenty five years after the first game’s release Street Fighter II is still regularly played by old bloods and new ones alike. It is a game with a lot of pull and appeal and could possibly still have a good amount of life left in it still.