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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!

100. 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.

99. Ys: The Oath in Felghana (Falcom, 2005/2012)


Ys is a series I wasn't familiar with until fairly recently, but I'm glad I hopped on board when it had its trilogy of releases on the PSP.  Easily my favorite of those was Oath in Felghana, a remake of the much-maligned Wanderers from Ys released on the 16-bit platforms.  Oath retains the action-driven gameplay of the series but amps it up to eleven, actually rewarding the player with stat bonuses and extra experience for mowing through enemies as quickly as possible, and having some very fast-paced, intense boss fights comparable to games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry.  Of course, the series' high standards for well-written characters and incredible power metal soundtracks also shine through, delivering an experience as intense and driving as it is fun.
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98. SaGa Frontier (Square, 1998)

SaGa is definitely one of Square's less popular franchises, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by them at first - their unusual mechanics, free-roaming design and emphasis on setting over individual story make them much more akin to old CRPGs like Phantasie than a typical Japanese RPG.  I've always liked them for just that reason, though, and Frontier is my favorite of the bunch for its bizarre atmosphere and creative format - seven short stories set in the same overall world, and while characters and plot points occasionally overlap,  they're all self-contained and very unique.  From a woman finding herself in a bizarre new life with powers she never asked for to a supermodel framed for murder to an ancient robot trying to find his purpose, it's a game with a lot to offer.  It was infamously rushed, though, resulting in a lot of cut areas and some quests being much shorter than intended (and featuring stark difficulty leaps as a result), but a few flaws don't stop it from being a surreal and entertaining masterpiece.

97. Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (BioWare/Beamdog Software, 2013)

Probably the best-known and beloved of the Infinity Engine games, and it isn't hard to see why - the game has a ton to offer with its 60+ playable classes, a great storyline with some very memorable characters (all of whom have their own questlines) and just some downright frantic combat, putting the high challenge of D&D into a game with plenty of creative tactics.  It can get frustrating at times with overpowered enemies that all but require using engine exploits to succeed (Beholders and Illithids in general) but as far as RPG experiences go, this is one of the best you're likely to find for D&D games.  As well as BioWare's best game by far.

97. 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.

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. One Step From Eden (Thomas Moon Kang, 2020)

A crazily addictive little title that combines Mega Man Battle Network's combat with the wrappings of a roguelike - randomized events and rewards from battle, shuffling enemies and boss types, and every single decision you make feeling like the wrong one.  Basically, you pick a character (each of which has several variants with different starting loadouts and a unique weapon), steadily build up a deck and try to make your way through increasingly tough waves of enemies, hitting the occasional shop or rescue mission to try and tilt the odds further in your favor.  Simple enough at first, but you really do have to be on point as the boss battles start to ramp up, as they can very quickly whittle down your health and bring your run to an end.  As with any good game of this type, you do steadily unlock more things as you play more and more and you're given plenty of options to experiment with, so while the game is short, the replay value is strong.   Even moreso with the PC version, which supports modding (and appropriately has several Battle Network characters on Steam workshop already).

92. Worms: Armageddon (Team-17, 1999)

The third in the Worms series is not just regarded as its finest entry, but one of the best video games ever made.  You certainly won't hear me arguing against it, either, as it's a fantastic title.  With a huge variety of weapons (from Street Fighter style martial arts to grenades to grappling hooks to airstrikes to Concrete Donkeys) and an ever-changing Battlefield affected by wind and deformed by weapon blasts and player construction, there is a ton of variety to its design and enough strategy to keep you constantly entertained.  Moreso in its multi-player aspect, which let teams of up to eight worms Duke it out until only one was left standing. The ability to bulls one's own custom terrain was another cool bonus; after all, who doesn't want to blow up their own house at least once in the virtual arena?

91. Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2005)



Admittedly, I've never been much for horror games, survival ones in particular; their attempts to be scary mostly just come off as lame and their gameplay is so one-note and boring that they generally put me straight to sleep.  But Resident Evil 4 is definitely an exception, taking the puzzle-based gameplay of the earlier entries and kicking the action up to eleven.  The slow, lurching hordes of enemies, satisfying gun and melee combat make the action both tense and extremely satisfying, and some grotesque boss monsters add variety to the proceedings too.  That, plus some extra campaign content and the ever-fun Mercenaries mode, make it a game that simply never gets old to play.  It may be a divisive entry among long-time franchise fans, but regardless, it's a game you can start up at any time and have a blast playing.