Nuu’s Top 100 Greatest Games of All-Time
60| Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance
Released: November 12th, 2001
Definitive Version: Playstation 3; Also on: Xbox 360, PS Vita, PC, PS2, Xbox
It is rare for a game’s reputation to change over time. When Metal Gear Solid 2 originally released it was criticized heavily by the fanbase to the point where some even retconned the entry the same way some have retconned Devil May Cry 2. The game was widely seen as inferior to the original in every way with complaints being geared toward the strange bosses, the melodramatic codec scenes, and the lifeless industrial setting. However, by far and wide the biggest criticism toward the game was geared toward the big twist that happened an eighth way through the game. The game opens up with Solid Snake infiltrating a ship as his trusty assistant Otacon received a tip that the ship is carrying weapons of mass destruction. About an hour and a half later the game jumps timelines. The player now seems to be playing a flashback where Snake is at the entrance of Shadow Moses as he waits to go up the elevator. Once in the elevator he takes off his mask, it turns out the player doesn’t see the face of an old rugged soldier, but of a blonde haired pretty boy named Raiden. Regularly this change would be enough to have many turn on the game, but the fact that much of the game revolved around Raiden speaking to his girlfriend and being very emotional really dialed things up to an eleven. As a result the game was spat on by the traditional fans.
Fifteen years later however, the game is seen as not only a hallmark of the series, but to gaming in general. Regularly when fans rank the series the game is often ranked toward the top if not at the top of their lists. What was once seen as the black sheep of the franchise is now seen as the black swan. A game that was very misunderstood at release, but over time people began to see it under a different light. Kojima and his crew weren’t trying to just push the Metal Gear franchise, they were trying to push gaming in general.
Throughout the game players will come across a theme that revolves around faith in public opinion in the new information age. People are now exposed to a limitless amount of articles, news clips, and opinion pieces due to the emergence of the world-wide web. How exactly can we continue trusting the public at large to lead the country with all of this information when it has historically been shown to be so fickle. In 2001, the game’s message and core theme seemed to “out there” to most. It seemed like it was trying to be philosophical for the sake of being philosophical. However, in an age of 9/11 truthers, Muslim extremists, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump being a presidential candidate, the game’s message hits very close to home. It was ingenious and just goes to show how Kojima manages to be ahead of the curb in more than just game developing.
All of this doesn’t even speak on the game itself. Metal Gear Solid 2 is quite simply the mastery of the traditional Metal Gear formula. What began as a MSX game where the players can only move in four directions and punch walls, players can now crouch, crawl, hide in lockers and boxes, shoot out lights and cameras, obscure lasers, knock on walls, choke out enemies, hold up enemies, interrogate enemies, distract enemies, etc. The game had managed to do a lot for something that, despite the cinematic nature, is primarily played in an overhead perspective. Players will find themselves constantly experimenting with different strategies and tactics in dealing with enemies.
The game’s level design is also top notch.It is the last game to put a major focus on backtracking and unlocking rooms and areas via keycard. Backtracking isn’t for everyone, but to me there is a huge sense of satisfaction in rewarding the player in remembering the layout of the area and where they have to go to next. The industrial shell complex is perfect for this as it encompasses multiple stories and is all interconnected. This makes the area perfect for the traditional Metal Gear design. Despite the core design of the game being very tight and high quality, this doesn’t stop Kojima and his team from experimenting with the game. While much of the game will have the players sneaking around areas and taking out enemies, much of it also contains unique segments that involve swimming, bomb defusing, and even katana wielding. These segments do a pretty good job in always keeping the game interesting and fresh.
No Metal Gear game would be complete without the boss battles, and Metal Gear Solid 2 has some damn memorable ones. While they were often hated when players first encountered them, overtime they have received a soft spot. This includes a roller skating bomber, a woman who can’t get hit by bullets, and a vampire. This also includes segments that were beloved from the beginning such as the player taking on multiple Metal Gears at once. Admittedly it doesn’t have the best boss battles in the series, but it certainly doesn’t have the worst.
While the game is mostly free from criticism today, that doesn’t mean that some of the original critique wasn’t deserving. The first is that the plot is a bit too nonsensical, even by Metal Gear standards. It is very difficult to follow and often needs a read through a wikia page to even comprehend the basic points of it. Now to be fair it is clear that the game is meant to be confusing by design, but Kojima and crew went a little too far with it. Rather than the game’s plot and world feeling mysterious, at times it instead feels like an incoherent mess. On top of that, while Raiden is no longer a character who whenever mentioned inspires seething hatred from fans, he isn’t exactly the ideal character to have in the game. I agree with the consensus that despite his troubled past he seems too much like a “pretty boy” for the series. It comes to no surprise that Kojima rebuilt the character, literally, and turned him into a cyborg ninja.
Metal Gear Solid 2 was quite simply ahead of its time. Back in the early 2000s it wasn’t as common for series to experiment too much on sequels. Much of this was due to the fact that 3D gameplay was still very new to players so a sequel improving on an imperfect formula was more than enough to hold their attention. However, Kojima’s mind has never worked like that. This is why every mainline entry in Metal Gear Solid has been different from the last. Kojima released Metal Gear Solid 3 three years later and stripped the player of all of their high tech gadgets and dumped them in the jungle as they learned to survive in the wilderness. Metal Gear Solid 4 was a hodgepodge of different locations as Snake had “no place to hide” as he was frequently put into wide open areas with patrolling enemies. Metal Gear Solid 5 took Metal Gear to the open world as players had two huge maps to explore containing multiple bases, secrets, and objectives. It seems that Kojima is never content with doing the same old thing over and over. Personally I feel that this is the real reason why Metal Gear Solid 2 had such an initial cold reception. Back in 2001 players didn’t know how Kojima operated, but by his later releases they did. Now that players know what to expect from a sequel headed by Kojima, they can look at Metal Gear Solid 2 through different eyes and see it as it deserved to be seen since its initial release.
59| World of Warcraft
Released: November 23rd, 2004
Available on: PC (Windows & Mac)
World of Warcraft was a phenomenon during the 2000s. Not only was it everywhere on the internet, but it even broke into the mainstream as it was the basis of episodes of popular TV shows like South Park. The game’s success resulted in a lot of the casual gaming audience getting into these more complex games than one would expect. I even saw a fair amount of couples that played the game. Rather than the stereotype being that a male gamer’s girlfriend was yelling at them for playing the game too long to spend time with them, it was instead male gamers getting yelled at for playing the game too long as they were eating up their girlfriend’s playtime. There was something very immersive and blatantly addicting about World of Warcraft.
I managed to get in the game at the tail end of its hyperpopularity. It was a dark age period from me as I no longer had a gaming PC, but had a MacBook Pro instead. The game selection was smaller, but I decided to try World of Warcraft to see what the hype was all about. My experience with the game could be described in one particular moment. There is one point of the game that involved entering a labyrinth to fight a leader of bandits of some sort. I partnered with a dozen other players or so. We went in and gave it our all. We fought through his henchmen until we got to the big boss at the end of the level. The team fought tirelessly until he was defeated. After doing a celebratory victory pose I walked up with the rest of the group toward the exit to complete the mission. Suddenly, my character fell off the edge of a pathway. I was then warped back to the beginning of the level. I was angry at first, but realized that it would take a bit longer before the enemies would respawn. I began continue going through labyrinth when to my horror I discovered that a few of the enemies had already respawned back to life. Being a low level character I couldn’t possibly fight through all the enemies in the area by myself. I called for help on the party chat but no one responded, I did so again and one person actually answered. I told him my situation and he stated that due to me not walking out of the exit I technically didn’t complete the objective. However, he will be going back to the entrance to help me out. Being coupled with a very high leveled character gave me just the boost I needed to be able to fight my way, or rather run my way, through the area. We eventually passed the boss area, where he luckily had not respawned yet, and toward the area where I fell. I was being extra cautious this time so I managed not to fall, but my partner did. I asked if he was okay and he stated “I’ll be fine, just go on without me!”. I ran to the exit and to my relief out the other side, my objective was complete. This was, to me at least, the true pull of World of Warcraft. You were playing a game that was interconnected with over ten million people. These people can help you, betray you, aid you, rob you, or just socialite with you. The “world” in its title wasn’t put there for nothing.
The game starts off with the player choosing between the Horde or the Alliance. Once players make their choice they begin their quest in a tutorial like area. The missions start out in either being fetch quests or “kill X amount of enemies”. As the game goes on the quests become a bit more varied as they involve the player hunting down assassins, ancient creatures, and exploring dungeons and lairs. This is pretty much what the game revolves around. Explore an area finding people with question marks over their heads, complete their quests to level up, and finding people with exclamation marks over their heads to complete their mandatory quests. Once all of those are complete players move onto the next area. This sounds very simplistic and honestly not too different from your typical WRPG. What makes the game are the people you will encounter during and inbetween these quests. The above was just one of the many examples I had throughout the game of my interactions with other players. There is a certain feeling one gets from actually playing and working with another human being rather than an A.I.
Today the game looks extremely dated technical wise. It is more a less an HD remaster of a Xbox game. What saves the game from being an eyesore is the enchanting art-style. A mix of colorful high fantasy with a dash of cartooniness results in a game that looks timeless. Sure it isn’t say Okami but it still looks pleasing to the eyes twelve years later. The character designs are also unique and appealing. It definitely sets itself apart from its Tolkien aspired roots as the game has its own style and atmosphere.
There was a time when to many gamers Blizzard could do no wrong. Their games were seen as perfect as Nintendo’s top tier offerings. Over the years people have taken off their glasses and have observed some of the flaws. World of Warcraft isn’t an exception to this. My biggest problem with the game, and why I no longer play it, is that the game suffers from something I like to call “Grand Theft Auto syndrome”. This involves having a game that is a sandbox (or sandbox-like) experience and relies in entertaining the player by giving them what seems like an endless amount of choices of what they could do at any given time during the game. This seems amazing at first, but soon the player discovers that out of all the things the game has to offer, there are only a handful of them that the player actually enjoys doing. After some time the player eventually gets bored with the game. This is exactly what happened to World of Warcraft with me. The first two months I was addicted to the game playing it hours on end. However, after the second month I became very bored with the game. The quests seemed all very similar and just finding ways to shoot to shit with players just became boring. These sandboxy type games tend to be the jack of all trades, masters of none, type of ordeals. And that is perfectly fine. However, what’s the point of playing a game for hours on end if there isn’t much to master? Sure I kept hearing from diehard players who kept trying to keep me in the game that it really opens up when raiding is involved. But from my brief experience of it, it just didn’t entertain me that much. Looking at the game’s subscription base, it seems that I am not alone as it now has less than half the amount of subscribers as it did when I initially dropped out.
Despite that, the game was extremely fun and entertaining during my time with it. Two months is about the length of a meaty RPG anyway, which kind of starts the philosophical question of “is there that much of a difference between having an extremely good time by completing an 80 hour game and having an extremely good time by clocking in 80 hours of a game that is hundreds of hours long?” If the answer “no” is in anyway partially true than World of Warcraft definitely deserves to make this list. It is one of the most memorable game experiences I have had. It is true that today the game is no longer at its high mark of 12 million players and is no longer the game publishers flock to emulate, as that title currently belongs to League of Legends. However, it is still a major game pulling in millions of subscribers and even has a blockbuster film behind it. Blizzard even expanded the series further by creating Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a widely successful online collectible card game. World of Warcraft catapulted the “Warcraft” brand to be a multi-media phenomenon that is possibly only rivaled by Poke’mon. It is one of gamings most infamous brands and will likely be around for another 22 years.
58| Space Funeral
Released: September 17th, 2010
Available on: PC
Undertale seems to be all of the rage lately as it takes the classic Mother formula of mixing JRPG with a comical theme that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While I do agree that Undertale is a great game, it appeared on this list after all, I wonder why there wasn’t such fanfare for Space Funeral which came out half a decade earlier and was free. Sure the game was even shorter than Undertale and didn’t quite have its production values, but its world was even more intriguing and “weird” than Undertale’s. It’s a hidden gem that definitely deserves a playthrough from anyone.
The game begins with a selection screen giving the player the option to start a new game, load a game, or exit the game. What’s strange is that rather than having these things written out, all of the options simply say “Blood” instead. This is accompanied by a bloody disembodied head on the title screen. To add to that the Final Fantasy theme is being played, though in an off-tempo manner. Once the top “blood” is selected the first screen appears. The player controls the character of a fat sobbing young man. He is in front of a casket which contains him. Standing next to it is a zombified man and next to him a woman who is possibly his mother. When the character talks to the woman she repeats “Eat your greens.” The hysterical fat character exits the building to find himself in a nightmare inducing world filled with blood lakes, giant disembodied heads for houses, and strange creatures including zombies, muscle men, wizards, and ball shaped rabbits. The world is truly unlike anything else you will encounter in a video game.
The plot starts off when the player eventually bumps into a horse with its head and tail chopped off. The horse is very much alive and even talks. According to the horse, who calls himself “Leg Horse”, he was once a king and someone took over his throne. He has since been on a quest to take back his rightful place as heir and demands that the sobbing young man accompanies him. This is the basis of the story, but just like Mother and Undertale, what makes the game stands out isn’t the plot per say, but the characters and locations the player will visit during the journey. Players will find themselves roaming through blood caverns, talking with a Guru Wizards, fighting of Crime bosses, meeting vampires, amongst other things. It is all very “Mothery” but with a twist of course.
The presentation of the game is fantastic. The setting has been described enough as it mostly consists of a living nightmare world with blood and decapitation at every turn. What adds to this is the game’s art style. It is very crude and unprofessional as it all is done in Microsoft Paint with single filled colors. Despite this it works very well and helps it stand out. However, none of this even mentions the game’s psychedelic ’60s and ’70s era soundtrack. It sounds crazy at the first listen but it is absolutely perfect for the game. It adds to its mysterious and unsettling atmosphere as your ears are in the same state as your eyes. It is a state of encountering something strange and possibly even grotesque, but you just can’t find yourself to turn away as you actually enjoy what you are experiencing.
I have yet to mention the game’s actual gameplay. While the setting and theme are anything but typical, the gameplay itself is actually very average. It is your usual linear JRPG experience. You follow a pathway on the map until you get to the next major event. During the travel toward the destination the heroes will come across enemies they will fight in a turn based battle system. The only thing to really note is that the game doesn’t use random battles, but rather the more modern system of having enemies follow the player around on the map to in which if they touch the player then they will be transferred to a battle screen. The game’s battle system is active turn based, so each character will have a meter that fills up until they can attack. The character can’t sit around too long as the enemies have such a delay between attacking as well, and as soon as they can attack they will. During the battles their is a command list where each character can either attack, use a skill, use an item, or use “mystery” which has rare chance of causing something random. It’s essentially the ATB battle system from Final Fantasy. It would be nice if the game did something a little more unique, but being that everything else about the game is so different it isn’t that much of a mark against it.
The game isn’t perfect as it is too short and could use a few more stand out characters. That said it is still a highly enjoyable title that deserves a playthrough from any gamer. The atmosphere is amazing and its style is very baldly and is nothing that a non-independent developer would ever dream of attempting. Once again the game is free. F-R-E-E, free! There is no excuse not to at least try the game. Believe me you will not regret it.
57| Mario Kart 7
Released: December 4th, 2011
Available on: Nintendo 3DS
Quick question, what is Nintendo’s consistently best selling game series? You answered Super Mario correct? This would be the obvious choice for how much of an anchor the series has been for the company and gaming as whole, however, that would be incorrect. Over the past thirteen years (and possibly before) the Mario Kart entries have consistently sold more than their Super Mario counterparts, and often chart as the best selling or second selling titles on their respected systems. Thus the “spin-off” series has surpassed the father series.
This isn’t too surprising as Mario Kart has a lot of a appeal. In many ways it is the perfect party game. It takes the “dull” racing genre and spices it up with attacks, charge strips, and wacky level design. The fundamentals are tight enough so that the game still feels competitive, but is also random and zany enough to be welcoming to new players. Anyone who has ever picked up a Nintendo controller knows the deal with Mario Kart. You can select a wide range of a cast of characters from the Super Mario universe. Each of them has their own different kart with its own strengths and weaknesses, though newer entries are starting to get away from this as they offer completely customizable cars. The player rides across a race track complete with speed strips, bottomless pits, lava, ramps, and even wild creatures ready to munch racers up. A few points throughout the course there are boxes with question marks in them. These boxes give the player special abilities such as shells to shoot at other players, banana peels to drop, and even bullet bills that give the player a huge speed boost for a matter of seconds.
This all seems very random and varied, but Mario Kart 7 specifically adds even more things to the formula. The most obvious is that cars now have the ability to fly and go underwater. Throughout the stages there will be segments where cars dive into lakes or have ramps that go off of cliffs. The cars will then spout propellers or gliders depending on the situation. Personally I feel that these parts of the stages add a lot of variety to the tracks and keep the game fresh. There is also the option to drive in a first person viewpoint. It isn’t preferable but it is interesting to try out, specifically due to the Nintendo 3DS’s 3D capabilities.
On top of the expected Grand Prix mode and head to head racing modes, the game also has the return of Battle mode. In this mode players are put into some sort of kart arena where they drive around picking up random items from question blocks as they collect coins. The objective is simple, collect as many coins as possible. As players collect coins they have to avoid being hit, as one hit will result in them losing their coins. While collecting coins, they should also be at least somewhat focus on taking out other players to have them drop their coins. The person with the most coins at the end of the match wins. It’s a bit different than the “balloon” affair of “three strikes you’re out”, but it is much more preferable as it keeps players in the game and thus the challenge factor up.
Mario Kart DS was a huge step for Nintendo. This wasn’t just because it had online gameplay, but that it managed to have good online gameplay in terms of netcode(a memo that the Super Smash Bros. Brawl team didn’t get). Mario Kart 7 continues on this tradition as the netcode is very smooth. Say what you want about Nintendo, but when they want to they can make games with damn good netcode, embarrassing Capcom, From Software, and Activision. I can be playing with someone across the world and still have a reliable connection with them. This goes both for head to head races and face to face battles.
There isn’t much else to say about Mario Kart 7, it is by far the best Mario Kart, at least portable Mario Kart, you can get. Not only does it feature everyones favorite characters from the Super Mario universe, but it has a collection of tracks and customization options that appeal to everyone. On top of that it has a strong netcode and active community that makes online battles available whenever desired. It is likely the best selling SKU for the its respected system and it’s easy to see why.
56| To the Moon
Released: November 1st, 2011
Available on: PC ( All major OSes)
RPG Maker has come quite a long way as a game making tool. For years the software was laughed at and scrutinized. The tool didn’t demand basic coding and didn’t even require users to create their own assets. What resulted was a community that was filled with very broken and unplayable games. In its sea of shit however, there were a few gems. This most notably began to happen in 2008 where three quality titles were released. The first was the infamous Barkley, Shut up and Jam, Gaiden. This was a post-apocalyptic parody JRPG where players played as basketball legend Charles Barkley who many years ago performed a dunk in a basketball game so powerful that it became a bomb killing most in attendance. As a result basketball was outlawed. Unfortunately, recently another unknown person performed another dunk that was so powerful that its resulting shockwave turned into a nuclear bomb which killed millions and turning its pinpoint of New York City into a wasteland, and Barkley is blamed for it. The next game was an episodic series called The Way. This was a standard storybased JRPG with very short but satisfying episodes of the player following the path of a hero. The third game was a French title called Off which the player plays as a character who fights with a baseball bat as they journey through a world that is, in reference to the title, feels very off. However, no title managed to completely shatter the stigma attached to RPG Maker than To the Moon.
Rather than being a JRPG, like most RPG Maker games, To the Moon is instead a narrative based adventure game with some puzzle elements. The player primarily controls two characters as they interact with the environment in order to progress the story. Throughout the game there are also these strange puzzle-like events that have to be completed. This all seems very basic and stale, but this is truly a game that is carried by its story and writing.
The game was released in 2011, putting it into the era where there was a lot of media about people venturing into other’s minds and altering their dreams/memories. The film Inception is obviously the most well known of these. To the Moon takes from this premise as the player controls two employees of a company that is known to grant wishes. Essentially it involves people going into the minds of others and altering their memories so that they achieve their dreams. The player controls either a cool headed and professional employee named Dr. Eva Rosalene or the slight goofball Dr. Neil Watts. They walk into the mansion of aged Johnny Wyles who is on his deathbed. He has one wish he wants to be granted, he wants to go to the moon. The rest of the game primarily revolves around the doctors traveling through Mr. Wyles’ mind as they try to alter history and have him achieve his life long dream of space travel.
As said before, the meat of this game is in the story. It is very engaging and emotional. There will be times where the player’s heart will sink and others when they will jump for joy. This is primarily due to the fact that the characters in the game are written very well.It is actually some of the best writing I’ve seen in a game. Each textbox has depth and weight that carries on to it, thus each event that happens feels very significant. In all honesty, playing this game feels much like watching a movie. The game will have the player travel back and forth through “time” as they engage with the butterfly effect with Mr. Wyles’ childhood, youth, adult, middle aged, and elder years. Each time period revolves around triggering a major event to be changed just so that Mr. Wyles dream is achieved. It’s very interesting seeing everything being played out.
Despite being on the primitive and restrictive RPG Maker tileset, the game actually looks very good. The art style is very appealing with a dreamy looking palette and well done lighting. The only complaint is that the game features a fair amount of screen tearing, especially when the camera goes through long pans. The game also has a soundtrack that is unique to the videogame space. It is mostly composed of piano pieces, and once in a while switching things out with an acoustic guitar. It’s a simplistic soundtrack that does well to complement the game’s classy presentation.
The major fault with the game however, is that it is a bit too short. I clocked in roughly three hours into the game, so it is only a bit longer than your average drama film. Regardless, the game is still cheap and its ten dollar price tag is more than fair. The game has won many awards, including story of the year from a big named publication, proving that it isn’t the tools that make the game, but the one using them.
Released: 1989 (Exact date unknown)
Definitive Version: Arcade; Also on: PC Engine, Wii Virtual Console, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360
Friday the 13th was released in 1980 and was wildly successful.Filmed on a budget of around half a million dollars the film went on to make sixty million in the box office alone. This led to a slew of sequels as the humble indie film quickly turned into a yearly franchise. Campy violent horror films were all the rage in the 1980s. They were particularly popular with male teenagers and young adults who just love blood and gore. Despite violence in video games being heavily scrutinized as gaming was still seen as a “kids” hobby, that couldn’t stop the industry from staying away from the lucrative hunger male teenage and young adult market, a market that will come to define gaming in later eras. Namco decided to make a game solely targeted toward this market, in which stared a Jason Voorhees knockoff as he fights off an onslaught of monsters. The game was appropriately titled Splatterhouse.
The actual game of Splatterhouse couldn’t be more simple. It is a beat-em-up that involves the player walking toward the right side of the screen as they punch, kick, and decapitate enemies. The player uses two buttons. One button controls leg attacks, while the other controls the character’s arms. Enemies in the game tend to be really dumb. They simply just walk up to you and try to hit you. The challenge is when a group of them all come at you at once. On top of that the stages are filled with various traps that will throw the player off and cause harm to the character. This is where most people complain about the game. They claim that the game is far too simple and is only remembered due to its violence. I disagree. While I agree that the game is very simplistic, that is the beauty of it. Just bashing enemies to bits feels fun compared to many other beat-em-ups. And to me that is the most important aspect in a game like this, how it feels playing. The damage collision is very satisfying.
Admittedly, the violence certainly adds to the satisfaction. Yes it feels good bashing your enemy to bits, it’s even better when you see those bits deteriorate as a geyser of blood spews through the enemy. Make no mistake, Splatterhouse is a very violent game, especially for its time. In addition to the enemies being decapitated and exploding with blood spewing out of them, the levels are decorated with decaying bodies, blood and guts in the ground, and just unsettling images. Enemies are designed very grotesque as many have rotting and damaged body parts. It was certainly a very ballsy title of its era.
As said before, the game was carbon copy of campy horror films from the 1980s. It managed to come out at the absolute twilight of the phenomenon as it came to Western shores the year that would mark the end of the annual Friday the 13th releases. The story is about a couple that are running through the woods. The game doesn’t explain why, but later playing the outdoor stages with the undead walking about, I assume they got spooked by the monsters. They go inside this mansion and see and the boyfriend meets an ill fate. While laying their dying he becomes possessed by a mask and transforms into a super strong Jason Voorhees knockoff. The rest of the game involves the player saving his girlfriend. I have to say that it is kind of a weird twist seeing the monster being the “good guy” for a change…well sorta.
As expected the game did cause a bit of an uproar during its initial release. Especially since the console version on the PC Engine (Turbografx 16 to Westerners) wasn’t really toned down much for gore. That said, the game didn’t cause as much controversy as expected due to the fact that the arcade release wasn’t too wide and that it was only ported to an ill fated console. By the time the sequels arrived it was around the time that Mortal Kombat released, so its clear that it stole its controversial thunder.For better or worse, Splatterhouse is remembered as a game that was all style and no substance. Something that I don’t completely agree with, but alas opinions are opinions.
54| New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Released: November 15th, 2009
Available on: Nintendo Wii
After Super Mario World launched on the SNES, it would be years before Nintendo made another proper Super Mario game. As a matter of a fact, after Super Mario Land 2, which was released in the West a year after Super Mario World, there wouldn’t be a new 2D sidescrolling entry staring Mario until 2006. New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS was hailed as the return of Mario to traditional form. And to make sure people understood that this is a unique installment rather than a simple port or remake of a previous game, Nintendo even put the word “new” in the title. While the game met huge critical and commercial success, I didn’t really feel it. In fact I sold it a few days after I got it. Just something about the game felt “off” to me. So when Nintendo announced New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I was a bit skeptical. After playing the game however, my skepticism quickly turned into excitement.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a continuation of the Super Mario Bros. series. Anyone who even knows what a video game is knows the premise of a Mario game. The princess gets kidnapped, so it is up to Mario, and at times Luigi, to save her. The game involves the player often going toward the right side of the screen as they hop on platforms, jump on the heads enemies, and jump under blocks to receive coins and special abilities. It is a classic formula that has stood the test of time very well.
Luckily, Nintendo didn’t just set on their laurels as the Wii entry has some new features. The game has new suits and level styles for the player to take advantage of. There is a penguin suit the protagonist can wear where they throw snowballs to freeze enemies and can slide through ice as if they were sledding. There is a lot of ways to play around with these mechanics as you can freeze enemies to extend your jump range, come to an abrupt stop, amongst other things. There is also the propeller suit which has the character flying and gliding throughout the stage. No Wii game would be complete without Wii remote functionality, the game has platforms that the player has to tilt the Wii remote back and forth to move. The propeller suit also requires the player to waggle the controller to have their suit’s propeller spin.
The biggest addition to the game however, was the inclusion of multiplayer. In this mode up to four players can play the game. Admittedly it makes the game much more fun as you can work with, or against, your friends to complete a level. One complaint that is found often with these multiplayer components is that the game becomes too chaotic and the other players just get in a way. In a genre where space and timing is important, other people jumping around in the screen space is certainly a deterrent. While this isn’t as much of a problem in New Super Mario. Bros Wii as it is in other games, it still is a problem. If one wanted to clear a level the fastest and/or most efficient way possible, it isn’t best to bring a friend. Nevertheless it is still a fun multiplayer mode and is a good alternative if you and your friends become bored of Smash, Mario Kart, and Wii Sports.
The graphics in the game are clean, but a little plain. Unlike taking the route of Vanillaware, Ubisoft, and Nintendo’s own Wario title, New Super Mario Bros. Wii looks very basic. In its defense there is an advantage to this. There isn’t much clutter or confusion on screen thus the player can always tell where their next platform is. Also let’s be honest, with the exception of Super Mario World 2, which technically wasn’t even a Super Mario Bros. game, the series has never really been much of a looker. For what’s it worth the graphics are very colorful and vibrant, and the music is classic Mario through and through.
It was a bit odd that the Super Mario Bros. part of the Mario franchise was virtually dormant for fourteen years. This is a series that carries on a legacy like no other game in the history of the industry. Being that both the DS and Wii versions sold around thirty million copies, Nintendo has definitely realized their error. Possibly a little too much as they released a total of four 2D Mario games just six years after the series made its hallmark return. This isn’t to mention the Super Mario 3D entries, which feel much like a 3D version of the New Super Mario Bros. games, if that makes sense, and Super Mario Maker. Regardless, I think any gamer would prefer a gaming world with traditional Mario than one without.
53| Dungeon Explorer
Released: 1989 (Exact release date unknown)
Definitive Version: PC Engine; Also on: PSN for PS3 and PSP, Virtual Console for Wii
Atlus is one of the most respected role playing developers out there. The company has shown to provide quality products in the genre with games as avant garde as the modern Persona series to as traditional as Etrian Odyssey. But even way back in the 1980s the company still produced high quality RPGs. Dungeon Explorer was a game I downloaded off of the Virtual Console on whim. The game seemed archaic at first, but before I knew it I was hooked. It soon became a game that friends and I would regularly play after school. It was a cult classic in the making.
Dungeon Explorer is extremely similar to Gauntlet. Up to four players can play the game at once. The game starts off with the player(s) picking a character class. Each character class has different speed, health, attack power, and possibly a special ability. The players attack enemies by shooting swords, magic balls, or arrows at them. The game primarily focuses on the players entering dungeons and defeating enemies until they get to the dungeon boss. What makes this game different from Gauntlet is that it actually has a story and is more open ended. Being that the game was released in post Dragon Quest world, Dungeon Explorer had a story about serving King while the player had the ability to walk around various towns and talk with local residents to gather hints of where to go and what to do. It certainly isn’t the most advanced storytelling in the era, but even today it is pretty rare to find local on screen multiplayer games with any sort of story attached to them.
Make no mistake, Dungeon Explorer isn’t a masterpiece. The game has many flaws including an awkward difficulty curve, classes which simply can’t beat certain bosses, a so-so artstyle, and a paper thin plot. However, it has a strange aura about it that pulls people toward it. Despite being in an age of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I still had friends who preferred to play Dungeon Explorer. I feel that this is because despite the game’s flaws, it does some things very well. The first is that it nails the feeling of exploration. Despite it technically being limited, players are forced to actually explore their surroundings. They have to talk to towns people, look for well placed caverns and doors, and keep various hints in mind. Personally I found these parts of the game just as fun as the dungeon segments. This isn’t to say that the dungeon segments are weak. In fact the dungeons are great. The enemies are no pushovers and there is a ton of variety to them. And unlike Gauntlet, enemies are challenging due to their attack patterns and placements rather than due to them being a horde. The classes all feel different as well. Some classes allow the player to move around very quickly, but lack powerful attacks. Others may be moderately fast in speed and have poor attack power, but have longer range. On top of this some classes have special abilities such as the ability to heal or even change the game’s music! There is a lot of variety to choose from which means that there is a bit of play when it comes to the games tactics.
Presentation wise, as said before the game isn’t a looker and the story isn’t that good. But the soundtrack is excellent. It outputs off the synthy and arpeggio sounding PC Engine very well. Showing that its sound style can offer a healthy alternative to both the melodic Super Nintendo and the hard hitting grunge of the Mega Drive. The music was done by Tsukasa Masuko who did the pre-Nocturne Megaten games. His standout works are Shin Megami Tensei II and Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. He fathered the entire Megaten sound style and tone. It comes to no surprise that his talent excels no matter what title he works on.
Dungeon Explorer is admittedly a pretty odd game to have on this list. Most would dismiss this entry as nostalgia, however I didn’t play the game until it released on the Wii’s Virtual Console. The game’s flaws have always been apparent, but it is still wildly fun to play. I am also not alone in this as I had friends who enjoyed the game as well. The best way I can describe this game is that it is a cult classic. While it has flaws, it contains specific strengths that aren’t too commonly found in most other games. Its sense of exploration and cooperative play mix very well to give off a unique experience that stands the test of time. There was a modern entry released for the DS and PSP around ten years ago, but they didn’t leave the narrative based multiplayer components intact. They also weren’t particularly good. Now that Hudson is defunct, I hope that Dungeon Explorer can find its way back into Atlus’s hands for a quality modern update.
52| The Witcher
Released: October 30th, 2007
Available on: PC (Windows & Mac)
It was a dark time to be traditional Western Role Playing Game fan during mid and late 2000s. The genre had found stunning success with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as it had broke sales records for the genre. For those too young, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the first game of the genre to truly hit the mainstream game player. Sure some would argue that technically Bioware beat Bethesda to the punch with The Knights of the Old Republic. However, as praised as that game is, most of its commercial success was due to the Star Wars license. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was the first IP to popularize and mainstream Western RPGs on consoles with it’s own laurels. Unfortunately there was a price to this. The audience in the console market was much more casual compared to the more technical savvy PC gamer. As a result The Elder Scrolls IV felt less like a RPG and more a exploration game. It wasn’t long until Bethesda managed to try the formula again, this time with the Fallout franchise. Fallout 3 was hailed to be the great return of the series. However, most of the WRPG fanbase were distasteful toward it once they realized it was being made by Bethesda. Their fears turned out to be warranted. During this time however, there was a different ambitious WRPG in development.
A completely unknown studio that’s only experience was translating various role playing games to Polish, was making a big budget, or what was considered big budget at the time, WRPG. Rather than taking after The Elder Scrolls IV, it would instead take after more beloved cult classics such as the Black Isle games where the meat of the game was making morally gray choices. It focused on this so much that the game’s tagline was something akin to “there aren’t any choices, just consequences.” When the game was finally released it lived up to its expectations.
The Witcher focuses on a man named “Geralt”. It turns out he isn’t much of a man at all, but rather a witcher. Witchers are essentially mutated men who wander the world as for hire monster slayers and occasional dispute solvers. In layman terms they are essentially samurai in Polish folklore. Throughout Geralt’s journey he will encounter many quests that will give him the option, or outright force him, to make very tough decisions. Morality isn’t measured in whether one wants to be good or evil, but rather the beliefs of the player. Questions such as who is more fit to be a mother or whether or not the public should know dire information even if they may incite violence when knowing it, are what the game focuses on. There aren’t any easy choices in The Witcher. Best of all, all of these choices can have a substantial effect the game’s story and general world. As the player makes decisions, his relationships and even alliance changes throughout the course of the game. Friends become enemies, terrorists become allies, and entire communities will either hold you up or hunt you down. Thus the game offers a different experience for each player and each different playthrough.
The game is designed just like any other traditional WRPG. The player roams around the world discovering various towns as they talk with townsfolk performing a variety of quests. While on these quests key information is discovered on where to go next to progress the game. They player will follow the trail these quests lead to until they eventually get to the end area and final boss. Like most WRPGs, it isn’t the main quest itself that makes the game interesting, but the journey toward completing the main quest. Discovering new locations is very exciting, and merely talking with others can be a rush itself as the result of the conversation can be creating a new friend or foe.On paper The Witcher doesn’t do anything particularly new with the genre, other than bringing it to the third dimension. However, it is the fact that it does those things so very well.
Rather than being turnbased or even psuedo-turnbased, the game uses a real-time action combat. Players wield Geralt’s swords around as they defeat enemies and monsters. Geralt has two swords. The steel sword is to fight off humans, while the silver sword fights off monsters. This is very important to remember as using the wrong sword severely handicaps the player. Geralt can also perform magic attacks such as lighting enemies on fire or even stopping them in their tracks.These are very useful, especially when fighting multiple enemies at once. In addition to all of this, the player can also craft potions which can result in Geralt delivering more powerful attacks, the ability to see in the dark, amongst other things. Sure the combat isn’t as deep as Devil May Cry, and the magic attacks could be balanced better, but it still works very well considering that even today most open world RPGs shy away from real-time combat.
What really made The Witcher stand out during release was how adult everything was presented. Make no mistake, The Witcher is a game made by adults, for adults. Sure around the time of The Witcher’s release there were plenty of games meant for “adults” but most of them earned those titles by just upping the gore factor and dirtying the language. In contrast, while The Witcher does feature naughty medieval language and violence, it doesn’t let it define the game. What defines the game is the conflict and harsh realities the player comes by. The day to day conflicts of quarrels between neighbors, couples, and different factions. The realities of racism, poverty, and abuse. These are subjects that, especially at time of the game’s release, are rarely touched on. It is those moments that The Witcher series is the most remember by, not its cutting edge 3D world, sense of exploration, violence, or general “coolness”. Not that the game lacks any of those things, but the point is The Witcher stands out where it is suppose to stand out.
The seemingly unknown Polish developer’s gamble paid off big time. The Witcher was a huge success, and probably was the last successful big budget RPG that is exclusive to the PC. Each concurrent release became more popular and successful, with the third entry reaching flagship worldwide success. Even in Japan, the Witcher series is a recognizable brand. The series developer, CDProjekt, is red hot right now due to The Witcher 3’s success, their digital platform is growing, their next AAA WRPG is in development, and they recently formed a new branch. The WRPG genre is also a lot more healthy as quality titles don’t seem to be in shortage. Much of this is due to the success of funding companies like Kickstarter, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Witcher helped by proving that deep WRPG gameplay is still viable for the mass market. No matter how you look at it, The Witcher’s release had quite an effect on gaming.
51| Final Fantasy VII
Released: September 7th, 1997
Definitive Version: PC; Also on: PSN for PS4, PSVita, PS3, and PSP, PS, iOS
It is impossible to understate just how dominate JRPGs were to the Japanese marketplace during the 1990s. They were a phenomenon in which huge swathes of the population would rush to the stores to purchase the latest entry in their favorite series. It is sort of similar to how first person shooters were all the rage, and arguably still are, in North America during late 2000s and early 2010s, where seemingly every child and adult rushed out to purchase the latest Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo. The appeal of the genre was very clear, they were essentially playable anime. They took the complicated role playing genre, and crafted it for the mast market, while putting in an engaging story and characters. It was the mix of the right amount of depth and simplicity to please audiences. Despite the genre being an seemingly unstoppable force in Japan, in the rest of the world the genre was very niche. JRPGs were very rarely released in the west, and even if they were released there tended to be very few copies available. On top of all that they were terribly translated to the point where Google Translator would do a better job than the “professionals” these companies hired. To sum up how JRPGs were treated in the western marketplace, I recall hearing a story from someone who stated that when they were young they went shopping for Sega Master System games. He saw Phantasy Star for over $120 a price that he was surprised by. When he asked the clerk about the game, the clerk responded “oh that game, it’s priced so high because it is a RPG and these games never sell. I just mark it up until a collector comes by and buys it…eventually.”
In 1997, the genre was the hotter than it ever would be in Japan. Final Fantasy VII was released and used the CD capabilities of the new Playstation console to their fullest extent. Sony saw the immense success of the game in Japan, and was determined to replicate that success in the West. So they devised a ingenious idea. Rather than marketing the game as role playing game or as an “anime comes to life”, they instead decided to market it as a blockbuster film. Pumping in $100 million for the U.S.. marketing budget alone, on top of its original $45 million development costs, Final Fantasy VII was truly the first AAA game that would be AAA by today’s standards. Today this seems like standard fare, but back then it was insane. Well until Final Fantasy VII became one of the best selling games on the system. Final Fantasy VII not only became one of the Playstation’s most prominent system sellers world-wide, but it also brought JRPGs into the main stream. Not only were JRPGs started regularly being released in the west in available quantities, but they were also reasonably translated.
Final Fantasy VII clearly has a strong legacy, but what of the actual game itself? Despite the game receiving a lot criticism over the years, it has actually aged extremely well, outside of its chunky and blocky characters.Despite being copied to hell and back, the game’s world still feel very original and dark, while characters are likable and stand out. Despite being hailed as the first big “3D JRPG” the game is actually two dimensional for the most part. It uses painted backgrounds and puts 3D models over them to give an illusion of a 3D world. At times it works very well, however during close up shots, the characters really stick out like sore thumb. At times it makes one wish that the character’s were pre-rendered in the same style of the backgrounds to keep consistency. What’s impressive is that at times throughout the game the backgrounds will actually animate while the player walks around, some of these animations are actually really complex such as one scene requiring the player hop onto helicopter.
The game’s graphics shine during the battle segments of the game. The Playstation’s sweet processing power goes toward rending three characters and a few monsters. Character’s look much more detailed and alive, and just makes one wish that this is how the game looked throughout the entire playthrough. One thing that has aged quite a bit are the cutscenes. Seen as cutting edge at the time, today they aren’t too impressive. This is particularly with the characters as they are textureless and use basic lighting and shading. It leaves a lot more to be desired, however to be fair Squaresoft really brought their A game when it came to artstyle, graphics, and CG with their next Final Fantasy entry.
The story of the game is pretty complex. The best way I can describe it without going too much into detail is that it focuses on terrorism, environmentalism, clones, and classism. Sure, today it seems like the typical JRPG and anime “deep for the sake of deep” trope, but at the time it was extremely unique when most RPGs had Medieval settings and plot points. To its credit, the plot is still very good today and despite being a bit full of itself, is still very engaging. As said before though, the characters stand out at least as much as the story. There’s Cloud the dickish hero, Barret the stereotypical angry black man, Tifa the badass female fighter, Aeris the kind hearted love interest, Red XIII the experimented creature, and many others. Again this sounds typical, but just like with the story, this was very unique at the time and even today the characters do well to stand out. I mean think about it, a black main character…in a JRPG!? Truly a radical idea if I’ve ever heard of one.
The battle system is your typical Final Fantasy battle system. It’s active turn based where characters can attack, use a skill, an item, or possibly magic. It’s all very standard, and while it isn’t particularly bad, it isn’t particularly good either. It merely gets the job done. There is also the materia system in which players can equip special crystal orbs to gain ability and up stats. It was pretty interesting at its time and has since become staple of The Legend of Heroes series. It brings much needed variety and strategy to the battle system.
What I feel makes Final Fantasy VII standout even more so than its setting and characters, is how smooth and quick plays. It’s truly a game where you can go through a lot and make significant progress in a single sitting. While most RPGs, even today, take a significant amount of time for the player to achieve anything, in just an hour or two of playertime a significant chunk of Final Fantasy VII’s world and characterization will be finished. The game is very well paced and does its best not to drag on. Part of this is due to the game often changing locations as you are never in one place for too long of a time. Another part of it is that the game always throws in various situations toward the player, whether they be serious or humorous, to keep things interesting. It’s something that I feel that RPGs, both Japanese and Western, tend to lack and what often has me put them down after a few hours of playthrough. Building up a story and world is important, but it doesn’t mean that things have to move along so slowly. This also lends Final Fantasy VII to be a very replayable game, especially since the game has a lot of hidden treasures and secrets, there are even party characters integral to the plot that the player may not have gotten during their first playthrough.
Final Fantasy VII is underrated. That’s right underrated.While I do agree that back in the day the game was overblown in its quality of being “the undisputed greatest RPG of all-time”, today things are a bit different. It seems that people just criticize this game solely because it is the most popular Final Fantasy game. While I can see others liking Final Fantasy VI, IX, and XII more, I think that VII gets too much hate. The game has aged extremely well over the years, and is still very fun to play. The characters are interesting, the world is engaging, its fun exploring the towns, and the game is paced very well. This may be controversial to say today, but in my opinion Final Fantasy VII is the best Final Fantasy game. Despite the game easily making this spot on its own merits, it also had a huge ripple effect on the industry. If it wasn’t for Final Fantasy VII, we would have gotten so many Japanese developers to put their games out in the West. No Shin Megami Tensei, no Tales games, no Legend of Heroes, no Xenoseries, etc. Any fan of the genre should know the game’s legacy and its effects on the industry.