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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #100-91

Just as the name implies, this is a top 100 of my personal favorite games of all time.  Keep in mind that this list is my opinion and no-one else's, so if you don't agree with an included game or where it's placed... I honestly don't care!

X. Castle of the Winds (Saadasoft, 1993)

I'm very particular when it comes to dungeon crawlers, but Castle of the Winds was always one that appealed to me.  I think a large part of that may be nostalgia value for a simpler time in gaming; the crudely-styled non-animated sprites and graphics, the tiled Windows interface, the brief but very well-written bits of prose (most of which are in a .hlp file; how ancient is that?), and of course hours of gameplay that its developer managed to cram onto a single 3 1/4" floppy disk.  Even today, I can still load this one up in a VM and have fun for a few hours disarming traps and killing monsters with ice balls.  Games like Diablo and Torchlight may be better in every way, but Castle of the Winds is an excellent guilty pleasure.

100. xxx

99. Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Sega Technical Institute, 1994)

Sonic 3 was a technical marvel on the Genesis, maintaining the series' colorful visuals, kickass music, trippy levels and fast gameplay and polishing all of those elements up to 11; however, it attracted controversy for its short length compared to 2.  That was little surprise, as it was released as half a game and the later half was brought out as "Sonic and Knuckles" with a double-ended cart that could lock on to 3 and combine both games into one.  A few other extras were included too, like the ability to lock onto Sonic 2 to play as Knuckles in that game, and the ability to lock onto Sonic 1 to play endlessly-generated levels of the Blue Sphere minigame.  Basically, DLC before DLC.  But we didn't care too much, as both halves of the game (and the sum of its parts) were excellent.  Sonic may be the target of much mockery and ridicule these days, but S3&K will always be a fantastic platformer.


98. Battletoads (Rare, 1991)

An ever-controversial NES game for its sheer insane difficulty, but unlike many others on the system, it gets an inordinate amount of flak for that.  But if you can look past that and appreciate the game itself, you have a brilliantly-crafted experience.  While it at first presents itself as a beat-em-up, no two levels at all feel the same - from rappelling down a giant hole and dodging traps to surfing down a river to the fast-paced (and notorious) Turbo Tunnel, the game is a challenging series of obstacle courses that require a lot of memorization and twitch skill to complete, but all are very well-made and feature some downright jaw-dropping visuals for the NES.  Not to mention when you finally get to the end and trounce the Dark Queen, you feel like a king for what you've accomplished.  I'm not sure why games like Ninja Gaiden get a free pass and this one doesn't, but regardless, Battletoads was fun back then and I still love it today.

95. xxx


96. Final Fantasy V (Squaresoft, 1992 in Japan)

There has been (and always will be) a lot of debate about which 16-bit Final Fantasy is the best, and to me, that answer will always be "Mystic Quest".  I kid, I kid; put down the torches and pitchforks.  The answer to me is V (keep them down), and that comes in large part due to the sheer genius of its gameplay.  Returning to the choice-based system of Final Fantasy III, letting you pick any of thirty or so classes and change them at almost any time, it also allowed you for the first time in the series to mix-and-match abilities from those classes, letting you customize your party to an insane degree.  Want a monk that can equip armor like a Knight?  You can do it.  A summoner that can use white magic?  You can do that too.  A thief who can wield axes?  Yep, it's possible.  It was even the debut of my favorite Final Fantasy class, the Blue Mage, who copies powerful-but-usually-expensive monster spells for later use.  But most fun of all, your base Freelancer class keeps bonuses you've earned from classes you've mastered, becoming an uber-powerful juggernaut class at the end of the game.  Sure, it's a bit uneven difficulty-wise and certainly not the best SNES RPG in terms of storytelling, but I was having too much fun with it to care.  Final Fantasy V was great, is great and always will be great.

95. Lunar: Silver Star Story (Game Arts/Japan Art Media, 1999)


A remake of the brilliant Sega CD RPG, Lunar sported colorful graphics, impeccable design, a fantastic soundtrack and animation and voice acting on par with that of a big budget animated movie.  Not only was it voice acted, but the FMV scenes were fully animated, hand drawn and gorgeous to behold, even sporting some song numbers that rival many of the memorable Disney films in quality.  Pair that up with some brilliantly written characters, impeccable dialog and some very challenging gameplay and you have a truly unforgettable experience.  An absolute classic RPG that easily stands up as my favorite effort from both Game Arts and Working Designs to this day.

94. Star Fox 64 (Nintendo, 1997)

A great many fans ended up disappointed when Star Fox 2 was cancelled.  Understandable, as the game looked fantastic, expanding on the original in every way imaginable and featuring some downright amazing 3D graphics on the SNES (which, as stated, was not designed with 3D graphics in mind at all).  Well, Nintendo somewhat made it up to us with Star Fox 64, a solid remake of the original game featuring a voice acted narrative (with actual voice acting, not garbled gibberish), sharp graphics, gigantic bosses, clever stage designs and numerous stage routes that gave the game some substantial replay value.  There were even two new controllable vehicles in the form of the Landmaster Tank and the Blue Marine sub, which were pretty cool but sadly limited to specific stages.   All in all, though, we have a solid entertaining game that's fun to try and get a high score on.  It was also the first game that touted the use of the "Rumble Pak", the device that introduced proper force feedback to gaming and would shake your controller whenever you took an especially big hit.  Every game console since has incorporated that into their controllers in some form or another, so it was a pretty big deal at the time.

93. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (Intelligent Systems, 2004)

It may be sacrilege to some, but I honestly think the second Paper Mario game holds up better than Super Mario RPG (and make no mistake, I love Mario RPG).  The N64 original was just okay and most of the ones that followed were pretty forgettable, but this game goes all-in, putting a 2D Mario into a 3d picture book world and taking advantage of the concept in every way it can - unfolding parts of the terrain to reveal new paths, having Mario transform into a paper airplane or a boat to reach new areas, and of course having some impressive and fluid design with hundreds of sprites onscreen at a time.  It takes the minigame-driven combat of SMRPG a step further too - not just for timed button presses, but shooting minigames, filling bars, spinning the control stick, et cetera all tie in, and doing well with all of them will fill up the audience, which in turn lets you unleash more powerful attacks (and occasionally they try to sabotage you too, so be wary of that).  Fun, charming and with a kickass soundtrack, TTYD is an amazing game that deserves another shot.

24. DOOM (Id Software, 1993)

DOOM was an amazing title at the time of its release for its realistic 3D environments, fast-paced action and varied gameplay, combining elements of puzzle-solving with run and gun action against hordes of enemies.  But when you added on online deathmatches and the ability to create custom maps, the game's replay value rocketed through the roof, and even today it remains an incredibly fun experience, spawning hundreds of thousands of custom maps and countless player mods that remix the experience into something completely new.  Surpassed in technology but still unmatched in gameplay, DOOM is a truly immortal game.

91. Ikenfell (Happy Ray Games, 2020)

RPGs are a notoriously difficult and time-consuming genre to develop, which is why well-made indie RPGs are always something I enjoy.  Ikenfell definitely fits the bill, with, some low-resolution but surprisingly expressive and well-animated sprites, some wonderful music (by the two who composed for the show Steven Universe, so they definitely know what they're doing) and a very charming cast of well-written characters.  Its gameplay is nothing especially groundbreaking (working in the timed button presses of Super Mario RPG and some light grid-based combat tactics), but serviceable and fun, and it's just the right length that it remains fun throughout and never wears out its welcome.  A delightful experience from start to finish.