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Spoony's Top 100 Games, #10-1

10. Suikoden II (Konami, 1999)

Another game I always felt was vastly overlooked, but I can't really blame people too much for that as it was released with little fanfare amidst Final Fantasy's runaway success in the late 90s, and, seeing its slow sales, Konami refused to print any more copies. It was put up as a digital download on the PSN many years later, but by then Konami was going out of their way to burn bridges with frivolous copyright claims and the cancellation of many prominent franchises, leading to many long-time fans turning their backs on the company for good.  It's all a pity, really, as Suikoden II is a fantastic war epic with an enormous cast and gameplay that combines elements of turn-based war strategy games and traditional JRPGs, not to mention some surprisingly good characterizations and emotional writing throughout.  Definitive proof that a large cast can be used in a JRPG's favor, and that storytelling in them can easily be on par with a good book or TV series.

9. Bayonetta (Platinum Games, 2009)

From the gaming legend Hideki Kamiya, who brought us such over-the-top action titles as Resident Evil 2, Viewtiful Joe and the original Devil May Cry, comes a game whose wild, stylized action puts all of his previous efforts to shame and still has plenty of awesomeness left over.  In addition to the usual puzzle-solving and melees with huge swarms of foes, Bayonetta's gameplay is also a wonderfully spot-on mix of styles from seemingly every action game of the 3D era, allowing the player to wield swords, whips, fire and and lightning claws, or just a plethora of firearms (all of which can be used to extend weapon combos by holding down the button after a strike).  All presented in colorful, gorgeous 60 FPS and with an incredibly funny protagonist to boot.   Bayonetta is doubtlessly one of the finest action games ever made, if not the best.

8. System Shock 2 (Looking Glass Studios/Irrational Games, 1999)

The final game worked on by Looking Glass, and quite a solid one to go out on.  System Shock 2 is a brilliant blend of survival horror, RPG and first person shooter elements, giving the player almost total freedom in the way they customize their character and play through the game.  The horror element is also amazingly well realized, conveying a feel of claustrophobia and isolation thanks to its uncomfortable setting and the ever-present menace of the Many, a hive-mind of creepy parasitic aliens that has the ship firmly in its possession.  Not to mention some unparalleled audio design and voice acting, as was Looking Glass' trademark.  A game with tons of replayability and fantastic atmosphere, System Shock 2 is easily my favorite horror game of all time.

7. Mega Man 3 (Capcom, 1990)

Widely considered to be the pinnacle of the classic Mega Man series, Mega Man 3 was certainly a stellar game for its time, expanding on Mega Man 2's gameplay in numerous ways while retaining the excellent design that put the series on the map.  The formula is essentially the same as 2 - fight eight bosses in any order, then tackle a final gauntlet - but the additions made turn it into something brilliant.  First being Rush the robo-dog, who can transform into a submarine, a jet platform or a springboard to more easily navigate the environment (and cross some otherwise insurmountable obstacles).  The gauntlet also ups the stakes by having you fight a menacing "Doc Robot" who mimics the abilities of all of Mega Man 2's bosses, as well as several original bosses and a mysterious new arrival in "Break Man", later revealed to be one of Dr. Light's original designs.  And of course as per series standards, the visuals and music are absolutely top-notch for the NES platform.  The NES had a lot of solid platfomers, but nothing else quite equals classic 8-bit platforming like Mega Man in my book.

6. Super Metroid (Nintendo, 1994)

While technically a sequel, Super Metroid also serves as something of a remake, taking the design of the original Metroid and expanding on it tenfold.  This comes in the form of a larger game environment, yes, but it also extends to the overall design, with numerous new powerups, countless new abilities for Samus (including the ever-popular Shinespark and wall-jump) and colossal boss battles that really showed off the power of the Super Nintendo platform.  All accompanied by the same moody score and bizarre alien environments of the original, as well as a captivating storyline despite lacking much of a spoken narrative.  Super Metroid is still the gold standard for the genre even twenty years after its release.

5. Ultima VII: The Black Gate (Origin Systems, 1992)

Origin Systems was ahead of their time in too many ways to count, and that is perhaps most evident in their brilliant 1992 RPG Ultima VII: The Black Gate.  Built on the foundation of ten amazing games before it, Ultima VII upped the stakes by having an enormous game environment that could be freely roamed and interacted with in a surprisingly realistic fashion - bread could be baked, drawbridges can be raised and lowered, and nearly anything can be picked up and wielded as a weapon.  Of course, as per series standards it also reveled in its amazing storytelling, with a cast of hundreds of well-realized characters and a game world with hundreds of years of history and lore for the player to experience in addition to the usual complement of enemy hordes and dungeons.  It was a bit buggy and hard to get running, but that's to be expected for a game of this size, and hell, for 1992, the sheer ambition of its design made it worth putting up with a few glitches and some high system requirements.  Just avoid the terrible, awful, ghastly, horrible, ridiculous and (did I mention?) atrocious SNES version, as it does not do this game justice at all.

4. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Nintendo, 1993)

Link to the Past was one of the earliest games I can remember that had me hooked on the sheer strength of its narrative and presentation, thrusting the player into an epic, world-spanning journey whose merit comes from the sheer polish in every facet of its design.  The player definitely has plenty to see and experience with the wide variety of weapons and items at their disposal, but as if that's not enough, the game also utilizes two parallel worlds to travel between, with the subtle differences between them enabling all sorts of creative treasure-hunting and secret finding.  Top that with a colorful cast of characters, a strong storyline with a lot of gravity behind it, a simple yet charming and colorful visual style and an incredible soundtrack that gives it a feel of a legendary adventure, and you have a true 16-bit classic.

3. Super Mario All Stars + Super Mario World (Nintendo, 1994)

Some may consider it a copout to put a compilation game on a top games list, but hey, it's my list and I'll put what I like on it!  Besides, I couldn't bring myself to pick one of the classic Mario games over the others - they're all too damn good.  Mario 1 is an undeniable genre-definer and probably the single most important game for console gaming as we know it, Lost Levels was one of those devious "hard mode" hacks before we even knew those were a thing, SMB2 was an enjoyable, if unconventional, sequel, and of course SMB3 took the gameplay style to perfection with its brilliant stage designs, inventive powerups and impeccable presentation.   Finally, Super Mario World, while it may lack the challenge and fine polish of its predecessors, also brought a touch of nonlinearity to the table, not to mention plenty of hidden secrets to find.  No matter which one you play, though, you're in for a really good time.

2. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (Nintendo, 1996)

Mario's games are undeniable classics, but to me, the undisputed king of action-platformer gameplay has to be the first in the Yoshi spinoff series, Yoshi's Island.  An extremely stylish, colorful and fluidly-animated game to be sure (thanks to the Super FX2 chip), but more than that, the game is a bastion of absolutely impeccable design.  The stages are layered with hidden secrets and the mechanics lend themselves to all sorts of creative puzzles - ricocheting eggs to hit targets, transforming into vehicles, and hordes of creative enemies and bosses.  The only real tragedy of it is that all of the Yoshi-centered sequels insisted on giving the franchise a much more infantile atmosphere and that all of them ranged from mediocre to awful in comparison.  Just because it's designed with a young audience in mind doesn't mean that you can't also make it enjoyable for an older crowd, guys!

1. EarthBound (APE/HAL Laboratory, 1995)

One of the games that got me into RPGs, and despite playing hundreds of them since, I always come back to Earthbound as my choice for the finest game in the genre, as well as my personal choice for the greatest game ever made.  That mainly comes down to one big factor, namely that this is a work of passion rather than rote repetition, seemingly going out of its way to break every trend the genre had established to that point.  Rather than being set in a medieval fantasy world or a dark future, Earthbound is set in modern day and features relatively mundane, ordinary "weapons" like yo-yos, frying pans and baseball bats.  Its enemies are equally strange, with runaway dogs, possessed fire hydrants and Manly Fish to name a few.  It soundtrack is among the best ever composed for the medium, with each and every locale accompanied by a distinct and memorable tune; I can listen to any track from this OST and the memories of my adventures instantly flood back.  But most of all, I love the game for its humor and sincerity, taking the visual style and quirky, unique charm of a good comic strip and expanding it into a world-spanning adventure, which lends itself to a lot of novel sights, clever jokes and surprisingly heart-felt moments.  This was a game meant to introduce a little more happiness into the world, and it shows throughout.  And it's for that reason that I can say, without hesitation, that I have yet to play another game that even comes close to it in terms of establishing an emotional connection to the player.  Simply genius.