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1/24/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #30-21

30. Fallout 2 (Black Isle Studios, 1998)


The original Fallout was a standout title for its time, introducing a heavy, well, role-playing element back into roleplaying games instead of just being an endless monster-squashing simulator; nearly every quest and scenario could be handled in a variety of different ways, and it was even possible to win without witnessing a single death or firing a single shot at an enemy.  Fallout 2, while it doesn't have the same amount of polish, makes up for it in its sheer amount of content, expanding the world and questlines tenfold and tweaking its gameplay to add conveniences like a car (which cuts down travel time and adds extra storage) and making recruitable NPCs programmable to a degree and much more useful in a fight.  All of this, compounded with a sharp wit and a prevalent sense of humor, make Fallout 2 an engrossing experience you can easily get caught playing for hours.

29. Mega Man X (Capcom, 1994)


Mega Man was a huge hit on the NES, spawning six sequels before the platform was finally retired at the end of 1994.  The franchise then made the leap to the Super Nintendo, and once again, the result was brilliant.  Bringing with it a reimagined protagonist and a much darker atmosphere, as well as high-res visuals, fluid animations and amazing music that took full advantage of the Super Nintendo's hardware, Mega Man X was a top contender in its own right.  Of course, it also introduced Mega Man X's sidekick Zero, who would eclipse X himself in popularity to the point of upstaging him in later games and even getting his own spinoff series (which even the game's producer admits was intentional).  The X series may have declined sharply in quality over the years, but there's no denying that the first two games were fantastic.

28. The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1987)


Alongside Mario and Metroid, this was one of the big three games that really put the NES on the map and convinced everyone that console gaming wasn't dead after all.  It's not hard to see why, as Zelda is an ingenious blend of action, adventure and puzzle solving with some great atmosphere.  Action for its hordes of challenging enemies and gigantic bosses, adventure for its enormous dungeons and game environment laden with tons of hidden secrets, and puzzle solving for, well, having to find said secrets and plenty of hidden paths to navigate the dungeons.  You can't rest easy once you've cleared the final dungeon and defeated Ganon, either, as there is a whole new quest awaiting you with everything moved around and much more challenging dungeon layouts and enemies lying in wait.  Still, you don't mind redoing the whole adventure again with things made even tougher this time because the whole experience is so fluid and fun.  A true masterpiece even to this day.

27. Diablo II (Blizzard, 2000)

Blizzard had a huge hit on their hands with Diablo, so naturally, they quickly sought to capitalize on it by making a sequel.  The end result didn't arrive until three years after the first, but as they say, quality is something you can't rush.  It also saw quite an overhaul in style - while the first game was slow-moving, creepy and more of a roguelike with its negative shrine effects and cursed equipment, Diablo II is much more fast-paced and actiony; an almost Smash TV-style take on RPGs. The playable classes were not only greater in number (5 in the base game, 7 with the expansion installed), but each now had three skill trees and countless possible choices for equipment, adding tons of variety and replayability.  Moreso as equipment now came in sets that granted large bonuses when all pieces were equipped, and they were fitted with slots that could be fitted with gems to add elemental properties or runes which, placed in the proper order, could add some massive boosts. Fun and rife with depth, there is little wonder Diablo II is highly regarded and being played online by fans to this day.

26. Half-Life 2 (Valve, 2004)

While I'm generally not a big first person shooter guy, Half-Life 2 is one I'm glad to pick up and play whenever the opportunity presents itself.  The game was downright jaw-dropping for its time in 2004 and remains so today, presenting some innovative mechanics (like the Gravity Gun), creative puzzle solving, a bleak atmosphere, intense combat, plenty of variety and a strong narrative despite the fact that Gordon Freeman never utters a single word throughout the whole thing.  That it's also inspired numerous incredible mods and spinoffs that have become timeless classics in their own right speaks to its quality, and Valve neglecting this franchise for so long since is downright criminal.  Bring on Half-Life 3 already; we're all waiting!

25. Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, 1996)

If Doom introduced the idea of realistic environments that still retained elements of strong gameplay, Duke Nukem 3D took it to perfection.  Not content to take place in sterile military bases and stone buildings, Duke Nukem has you walking down city streets, entering realistic locales like supermarkets and football stadiums, and blasting aliens all the while with a plethora of clever weapons.  From pipe bombs to "freeze throwers" to laser-activated mines to machine guns.  Other inventive powerups include jetpacks, portable medkits and speed/melee damage boosting steroids.  It's still steeped in brutal violence, cheesecake and cheesy action movie one-liners, of course, but that's all part of the charm.

24. Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000)


If Goldeneye broke new ground for the mission-driven shooter genre, then Perfect Dark took it to, well, perfection.  This was in no small part due to the addition of the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak, which allowed for much more detailed visuals and voiceovers for many of the characters, not to mention much more threatening enemy AI.  Additionally, the futuristic setting also allows for all sorts of clever new gadgets like ricocheting "pinball grenades", laptop sentry guns, and submachine guns with automatic lock-on functionality.  That's all good, but like Goldeneye, the real draw is in its multiplayer, which adds in several new game modes as well as the ability to have up to eight computer-controlled "simulants" running around, making for some very intense and surprisingly strategic matches.  Everything about Perfect Dark is just pure fun.

23. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (Origin Systems, 1986)


Doubtlessly one of the most important RPGs ever made, Ultima IV is not about simply defeating some great evil; you already did that three times in the previous games.  Rather, you now take up the role of a different sort of hero entirely - leading by example, helping the needy and asking for nothing in return.  To that end you must master the eight virtues (Compassion, Honesty, Valor, Honor, Justice, Sacrifice, Spirituality and Humility) and begin a quest into the Stygian Abyss itself to recover the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom alongside the champions of the land.  Of course, it's not as simple as it sounds - you'll have to uncover a long trail of clues by travelling between towns, searching around and cross-referencing everything people say to find everything you'll need to complete the journey, and that can easily eat up many hours in itself.  Still, the unique premise, intricately detailed world and compelling lore of Britannia all make it a very worthwhile journey.

22. Scorched Earth (Wendell Hicken, 1991)


While I never was a huge PC gamer, Scorched Earth is one of those games that really managed to captivate me.  Not only was it a fun title with its relatively simple premise (blow up all the other tanks) and its wide variety of weaponry and power-ups (from ground-tunneling warheads to enormous nukes to numerous homing systems), but the sheer amount of customization it offered was amazing.  Changing winds, lightning storms, destroyable terrain, air viscosity, walls that can be set to wrap around or reflect shots, and so forth.  Hell, the retail version even lets you scan in your own mountains than you can blow up during matches.  The game really could be customized to the last detail, and provides endless fun as a result, especially when you have friends to battle with.  The only real letdown is that it lacks online functionality.


21. Planescape: Torment (Black Isle, 1999)


Black Isle were practically synonymous with quality CRPGs during their short existence, bringing us top-notch titles like Icewind Dale and Fallout 2.  Planescape: Torment is seen by many as their crowning achievement, combining the gameplay of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale with an incredibly well-defined, dark world replete with bizarre sights and colorful characters.  Your main character is no different in that regard, being effectively immortal and attempting to regain his lost memories through all sorts of ordeals.  Your immortality also factors into the gameplay, allowing you to do really strange things like swap out your own eyeballs and reattach severed fingers onto yourself, among other bizarre (and often unsettling) feats.  Its gameplay is much less focused on combat and much more on dialog, but you honestly don't mind that much when the narrative is so dense (comprising over one million written words) and such a captivating read that you stay glued throughout every word.