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1/23/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #50-41

50. Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening Special Edition (Capcom, 2006)

The original Devil May Cry was a runaway hit in the early days of the Playstation 2, sporting a unique blend of intense beat-em-up action and puzzle solving with a high level of challenge and some boss battles that were amazing in scale.  After a rather poorly botched sequel in DMC2, Capcom put the series back on track with 3, which not only sported tighter controls and camera angles, but a much greater variety of gameplay as there were now four distinct gameplay styles to choose from, each with their own unique advantages.  Swordmaster would grant the player additional moves with all melee weapons, for example, while Trickster made the player more agile and better able to avoid enemy attacks.  There were also a much wider variety of weapons and firearms to choose from, including an electric guitar that could summon swarms of bats and lightning bolts, a pair of swords that summoned fire and wind, and my personal favorite, a flail wielded like a nunchuck.  The Special Edition also added in Vergil as a playable character, lending even more variety to the gameplay, and alleviated some complaints about the original's difficulty by including mid-stage checkpoints and changing the difficulty levels to be more akin to the Japanese release's.  While far from the strongest game in terms of storytelling, Devil May Cry 3 provided a strong blend of strategy and action, and while its style has been often imitated, there's nothing else quite like it out there.

49. Alien Soldier (Treasure, 1995)

Another early Treasure title, and one which attracted some criticism for its relatively complicated controls and mechanics.  Once the player is used to it, though, the game is an absolutely brilliant action experience.  Essentially a series of enormous boss battles, the player must master dodging, utilizing six different weapon types, countering enemy shots to turn their bullets into more health, and destroying them on set time limits in order to persevere to the end, which proves to be a very long but extremely rewarding ordeal.  The only real shame is that it was given such a limited release in most regions.


48. Thief Gold (Looking Glass Studios, 1998)

Metal Gear may have popularized the genre, but Looking Glass's Thief is without a doubt my favorite stealth game franchise, primarily because it carries the tension of the genre so well - you were sticking to shadows every step of the way, glancing over your shoulder for enemies, and using any tricks or hidden passages you could find to avoid being seen (or make a quick escape if you were).  The grim fantasy setting and eerie architecture only added to the mood, as well as giving you some unique and fantastic tools for the job - from moss arrows (quieting your footsteps on metal and stone floors) to rope arrows to flash bombs and gas mines, you had plenty of options to accommodate your particular gameplay style.  Add multiple difficulty settings on top, each with their own mission objectives, and you have a game with plenty of replay value as well.  To say nothing of some of the brilliant fan-made missions and level packs out there.

47. Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (Blue Sky Productions, 1992)

A game that was built from the ground up to not just be a more realistic kind of puzzle-driven dungeon crawler, but a full blown life simulation too.  To that end, you had skills not just oriented around combat and spellcasting, but for swimming, conversing, identifying items and bartering with NPCs among many others.  It had a lighting system and rudimentary physics for platforming, letting objects bounce off of walls (and activate switches) and no single set solution for most puzzles, letting the player take an innovative approach to figuring out the game's mysteries.  Downright mind-blowing stuff for 1992, and the influence it's had on the industry since is immeasurable. inspiring games like Elder Scrolls, Half-Life 2, Deus Ex, and numerous others.  It's a bit clumsy and awkwardly slow to play today, but it's nevertheless a great game and an important building block for gaming as a whole.


46. Danganronpa (Tetralogy) (Spike Chunsoft, 2014-2017)

It may be a visual novel series, but thanks to some very strong writing and aesthetic design in spite of its limited budget, Danganronpa rapidly became one of my favorite game franchises in the short while after I played it.  Starring a group of high school kids trapped in a twisted game of survival where they're forced to kill one another over the vague promise of escape, Danganronpa manages to be surreal, violent, and wildly funny all the same time.  That all comes down to the brilliant writing, which has a jokey tone throughout yet still manages to get the player invested with its strongly-written characters and murder mystery elements.  A lot of fun from start to finish, and the franchise that singlehandedly justifies the purchase of a PSVita (or Playstation TV) in my book.

45. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (Origin Systems, 1985)

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.

44. 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 my favorite of the 3D Zeldas for its bizarre atmosphere.

43. Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft, 1997)


A divisive game among series fans, and while I don't think it's flawless, I can't deny that it's a game that made a huge impact, both on me and on gaming as a whole.  A cinematic experience with stunning visuals (for the time), amazing music, a wonderful central storyline and an amazing cast of characters; I'll never forget the complex, flawed protagonist Cloud, nor the chilling and wicked Sephiroth and his unsettling alien puppetmaster, Jenova.  The gameplay is a bit less well-polished, but consistently entertaining, and the integration of numerous minigames and sub-quests added a lot of variety to the experience.  It may have been followed by a plethora of mediocre spinoffs and knockoffs and all the following Final Fantasies were very hit-or-miss in quality, but 7 will always hold a special place.

42. 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.  Not to mention tons of replay value.  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.

41. Deltarune (Toby Fox, 2018)

Some might call it uncouth to add a game that's only 2/7ths done to my top 100 games list, but I don't care; Deltarune is totally worthy of the honor.  Taking the core gameplay of Undertale to new heights with party-based design, as well as much more challenging encounters (taming most enemies is a multi-step process now, especially bosses), it also never loses sight of what made its predecessor great.  The vivid, colorful environments, the expressive characters who never once fall into being lazy cardboard-cutouts (even the antagonists are very well-realized, three-dimensional characters with their own motives and personalities) and it's not afraid to show its emotional side, running the gamut from hilarious to disturbing to tender while never once feeling forced.  Even with only two chapters done, it's a brilliant experience; hell, even if it never gets finished, it'll still be one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had. In an era where 99% of all time and money in the medium of video gaming goes into pretty-yet-empty 3D backdrops, models and textures that'll age about as well as milk and algorithmically-generated bland filler just to meet some arbitrary publisher-mandated length quota, with another 3 years of multi-gigabyte patches to follow just to make it slightly resemble an actual, finished product, it's nice to see developers who still remember what really makes gaming great.