Check out my other site, RPGreats, for honest RPG reviews!

1/24/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #40-31

40. Dust: An Elysian Tail (Humble Hearts, 2012)

A gorgeously animated 2D adventure whose gameplay is strongly reminiscent of a Metroid title crossed with elements of a good Devil May Cry/Bayonetta styled beat-em-up, Dust is only made more impressive by the fact that it was designed, programmed and animated entirely by one guy.  The real draw to me, though, is its storyline, which has some surprisingly well-developed and acted characters and quite dark themes in spite of the overall cute, colorful visual style.  Despite that, it's also not afraid to have a sense of humor, giving us two of the most compelling protagonists I've seen in a game in quite a long time.  Dust is an incredible game, and easily one of the best the Xbox Live Arcade service ever brought us.  Of course, it's also since been ported to PC and PS4, so non-Xboxers have no excuse not to check it out too.

39. Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo, 2007)

The Wii marked Nintendo's return to relevance in the world of console gaming, and they of course needed a big, groundbreaking game to sell it.  They certainly delivered with Mario Galaxy - a game which took the familiar lighthearted, colorful platforming fun of Mario and put it in spacey environments, complete with plenty of clever gravity manipulation - from hopping between small planetoids to racing around a track of water suspended above a black hole, the game was imaginative and fun in every detail.  Not to mention the incredible soundtrack and sights even with the Wii's 480p output, proving indelibly that fun always trumps technological advances.

38. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Golden (Atlus, 2012)


Once again, Persona 4 takes an already ground-breaking game and polishes it up in every respect, creating an even better experience than its already inventive predecessor and crafting an unforgettable RPG experience that ranks as one of the finest ever made.  Persona 4 pushes the character development to new heights, as well as adding new content onto Persona 4 in the form of new dungeons, an expanded storyline, countless new gameplay features and locales to visit, and even a new ending or two.  All great stuff, and though the game can be a bit drawn-out and frustrating (particularly as so much is missable), it's a fantastic RPG.

37. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Nintendo, 2015)


Majora's Mask was always one of the more unpopular 3D Zelda titles, with complaints commonly aimed at its unconventional style, unclear goals and relatively high difficulty level for the franchise.  Honestly, though, I always thought it was a big improvement over Ocarina of Time, which to me always felt like an unnecessary prequel and a big step back gameplay-wise from the earlier titles.  The 3DS title definitely addresses a few common complaints, however, with the player now able to adjust the clock to a desired time to complete certain events (instead of just in 6-hour increments), the ability to have actual saves instead of temporary quick-saves before events, and a handy notebook to keep track of the game's many quests.  Not to mention reworked boss battles that add a bit more of Zelda's puzzle-solving element to the proceedings.  A fine update of the game, and definitely among my favorite of the 3D Zeldas for its bizarre atmosphere.

36. Mega Man 2 (Capcom, 1989)


The NES brought us a lot of fantastic platformers, but in my book, the one the encapsulates the system at its best has to be Mega Man 2.  A nearly-perfect blend of action, amazing stage design and intense boss battles, not to mention a dynamite presentation with clean, colorful visuals and some of the best 8-bit music ever composed.  But more than that was its open-ended design; whereas later Mega Man games were usually dictated by a linear order for the boss weapons, this one gives each boss several viable weaknesses to exploit, allowing for many different approaches and strategies.  I'm still not quite sure why they did away with that in later sequels, but regardless, it is something I always enjoyed about the game.  But more than that, the sheer polish and ingenious design of the game ensures that Mega Man 2 is one title I can replay endlessly and never get bored of.

35. Undertale (Toby Fox, 2015)

A game that obviously draws heavy inspiration from Earthbound in its simplistic visual style, strange sense of humor and surprisingly heart-felt characters, but which also carves out its own niche.  Undertale is also a rarity among JRPG styled games in that it grants the player freedom of choice, allowing them to fight any monsters they come across or sparing them (with each enemy type requiring their own steps to take that path).  Your choices all have an impact on the story and which ending you receive, and your choices on earlier playthroughs will even affect events that happen in later ones.  A novel idea with an ingenious execution, as well as a charming and heartwarming adventure throughout, Undertale is a standout game.

34. Advance Wars: Dual Strike (Intelligent Systems, 2005)

Advance Wars is a game that single-handedly consumed most of my senior year in high school; I was bored with Pokemon, the Game Boy Advance was out, and this was one of the first half-dozen games available for it, so I decided to give it a go.  I was not let down, as Advance Wars is incredible.  A turn based tactical combat title sporting numerous unit types with their own applications, solid visuals and music, tons of charm and a unique "CO Power" system where each playable character gets a unique boost after dealing enough damage to the enemy (or taking heavy damage themselves), Advance Wars has fun to spare. Later games retooled the balance and added more COs, maps and features, and Dual Strike was easily the series' height, keeping everything that made the series a hit to begin with while expanding on it dramatically.  Some new features included the ability to tag-team COs (and do a double-attack if you charged both their meters in a single turn), tune your COs with upgrades earned by using them in the campaign, and battling across both screens, all of which were quite fun additions.  Sadly the series went into dormance not long after with a relatively forgettable followup (Days of Ruin), but with a remake of the first two games now out on the Switch, the series might just make the comeback it deserves.

33. Terranigma (Quintet, 1996)

The last Quintet game on the SNES, and it was an excellent one.  Featuring rich visuals and music to rival any big-budget RPG title, as well as their usual strong storytelling and characterizations, Terranigma was quite an experience.  Of course, it also expanded upon their previous entries in the "trilogy" by including more complex combat mechanics, giving the player a wide variety of moves like a sliding kick, rapid stab and a spinning jump attack that all had to be used in various ways to overcome the game's challenges.  The end result was a great sendoff to the platform.  The only real downside was that the game was never released in North America, as the SNES' lifespan was coming to an end at the time to make way for the Nintendo 64.  As a result of that, Quintet's big title to rival the likes of Chrono Trigger never became anywhere near as popular, and the company ceased production not long thereafter...

32. Grandia (Game Arts, 1999)

Game Arts became known to the west through their Lunar games (both on the Sega CD and their excellent Playstation remakes), but their other big RPG franchise never got nearly as much recognition.  I'm honestly not sure why, either, as it's an exceptionally charming adventure with a great combat system, well-written characters and some amazingly-realized visuals and music; defying the norms of most Playstation/Saturn RPGs, the game utilized 3D environments and 2D sprites, rather than the other way around, which made dungeons much more dynamic and interesting.  But above all else, it recognized that video games are meant to be fun adventures into the unknown, bringing with it all the charm and fun of exploring a strange new world.

31. 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.