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1/19/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #60-51

60. XCOM 2 (Firaxis Games, 2016)

Having played several entries in the series, I can say that XCOM 2, in combination with its War of the Chosen and Shen's Last Gift DLCs, and  is easily my favorite.  While the original is a classic and Enemy Unknown was a great remake, XCOM 2 takes things in an entirely new direction.  Set in a universe after the first alien war was lost and Advent has overtaken the planet with the aim of launching a sinister, world-spanning project, means it's a much darker game, but also one where the odds - and time - are very much stacked against you.  Managing your squad abilities and time are key elements of the strategy, as are making the most of all four new classes and their abilities.  The expansions only compound this, adding in tougher boss characters known as "the Chosen", new recruits in the form of SPARK androids with their own abilities, and a number of customization options.  A game with a lot to see and do, but you can play it for months and not see it all.  And you probably will, because it's ridiculously fun.

59. Diablo II (Blizzard Entertainment, 2000)


The followup to Blizzard's mega-hit Diablo, the second game in the franchise upped the ante in almost every way.  Featuring faster gameplay, a choice of five new classes (seven in the expansion) each with their own variety of skill sets and equipment choices, and of course a plethora of new quests, items, bosses and challenges to undertake.  It also featured multiplayer for up to eight simultaneous players, who could choose to tackle dungeons, gain levels or just duke it out in battles to the death.  Other new features, like "Rune words" and the ability to combine items and reroll equipment properties would also become staples of other games in the genre.  Once again, a major hit for Blizzard that continues to be fun even today.  There are even a few killer fan mods available for those tired of the stock game.


58. Startropics (Nintendo, 1990)

A rare example of a game never getting a Japanese release despite being created by a Japanese development team.  They were missing out, though, as Startropics is a high quality title.  Essentially an Americanized Legend of Zelda, the game features a more modern environment replete with a lot of Zelda's puzzle-oriented dungeons, giant bosses and action-driven gameplay.  Further matching the theme, your weapons included things like baseballs and yo-yos, and you were given a submarine to patrol the game's environments (navigated by a character who bears a strong resemblance to ROB), all in a quest to rescue your uncle from an alien overlord who seeks to conquer Earth and destroy the last of a race called the Argonians.  It's a bit outlandish and fiendishly difficult at times (particularly the final dungeons), but the sheer charm of it makes Startropics into a memorable experience nevertheless.

57. Torchlight II (Runic Games, 2012)

Diablo III may have been an unmitigated disaster (in fact, to date it's the only game I've ever shipped back to the publisher and gotten a refund for), but where Blizzard falls flat, their former staff picks up the slack.  Torchlight II is a ridiculously fun action-RPG with tons of loot, online co-op, mod support (even online - double bonus!) and some creative innovations, like being able to send your pet back to town to get more potions and trade in loot so you don't have to stop fighting, and having loot drops tracked separately for each player so you can grab up whatever you please from enemies (and still have plenty to trade between other players or even your own characters).  It's just pure fun and I love it.

56. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (Atlus, 2004)


Shin Megami Tensei is a franchise known for three things - its branching story paths, allowing the player to recruit demons, and of course being brutally difficult, requiring a great amount of player commitment and many, many deaths and continues to complete.  Nocturne is no different, providing a plethora of tricky dungeon puzzles, difficult bosses and all but requiring mastery of the game's fusion system and party customization to succeed.  Still, its haunting dreamlike atmosphere, compelling storyline, interesting characters and replay value make it a game that, while it may make you curse a lot, also proves to be extremely rewarding once you batten down and commit yourself to it fully.  Nocturne is Shin Megami Tensei - and Japanese RPGs - at their finest.

55. The Xenosaga trilogy (Namco/Monolith Soft, 2003, 2005, 2006)

With the advent of Monolith Soft, another top-notch RPG company made its debut in the PS2 era.  Headed by Tetsuya Takahashi after his departure from Square, he set out once more to create an epic science-fiction serial drama in video game form.  In that regard he was successful, as the game bears a well-crafted storyline with some very layered and interesting characters.  On the other hand, that led to some very long droughts in gameplay where the player is watching cutscenes and dialog for 30+ minutes at a stretch (though they are slightly better about this in the sequels).  Still, those who could tolerate its pace and linearity found a very strong space opera worthy of hanging with the best of them.  Unfortunately, friction with publisher Namco led to a significant portion of the development team being reassigned or released as the series went on, cutting the story's projection as a six-part project to only three.  As a result, the third game's story ends up feeling rather abruptly wrapped up in its final chapters and it ends with a cliffhanger that may never be resolved.  Still, fans of good sci-fi epics should definitely give Xenosaga a whirl - in terms of cinematic storytelling, few games before or since have even been on the same tier as this one.

54. Metal Gear Solid (Konami, 1998)


A reboot of Kojima's stealth-driven Metal Gear franchise, which took the MSX and NES markets by storm with its fast-paced gameplay and surprisingly deep storyline for the era.  Solid was definitely a sight to behold when it first came out too, not only for its high production quality on par with a good film (even in spite of the grainy graphical capabilities of the PS1), but for the sheer scope and ambition of its storytelling.  Set in a world facing the threat of widespread nuclear proliferation, terrorism and the eponymous super-weapon Metal Gear REX, Snake's story as a reluctant hero sent to defuse one such situation lends itself to a very layered and compelling narrative.  Throughout it all, though, it also never loses sight of its roots as a video game, making sly references to such and even breaking the fourth wall on occasion.  A true classic.

53. The Legend of Zelda; Link's Awakening (Nintendo, 1993)


The Zelda franchise's first Game Boy outing, and what a debut it was, jumping straight to the top of Nintendo Power's popularity charts and staying there for a solid five years, only finally being upstaged by the Pokemon franchise in 1998.  There was a good reason for that too, as the game is stellar on every front.  Playing like something of a cross between the original Zelda and something of an action-platformer, the game swaps between sidescroller and overhead segments frequently throughout its dungeons, and platforming became just as much a part of the experience as defeating enemies and solving puzzles.  Of course, as per series standards, there was still plenty of that, as well as a top-notch presentation, a fun cast of characters and surprisingly good storyline that fully takes advantage of the game's surreal tone.

52. Axiom Verge (Thomas Happ, 2015)

It's still a mystery to me how one guy working on his own can make an incredible 2D Metroid game, yet Nintendo, with the vast amount of money and resources at their disposal, hasn't done so in over a decade.  Well, regardless, Axiom Verge is a stellar game in the same mold, combining moody chiptune music and the same feeling of isolation in an eerie, organic alien environment as any good Metroid title.  Add in some unique powerups, a plethora of clever weapons, tons of hidden secrets and plenty of enormous boss fights, and you've got a hell of a good time.

51. Mischief Makers (Treasure, 1997)

The first Treasure game I ever played, and once I did, I was hooked on the company for life. Equal parts over the top silly and awesome, the game has you playing as Marina Liteyears, a hyper-strong jet-propelled robotic maid out to rescue Professor Theo from his kidnappers, the Clancer army. The game's mechanics center on grabbing, shaking and throwing items to a variety of effects - grabbing missiles out of the air, shaking them to make them larger, and throwing them back at your enemies to name just one. Tossing enemies into one another, throwing bombs and items into a pot then shaking to "combine" them into one larger item to name a couple more. It even features some delightfully silly stages like riding a giant bee, outrunning a tidal wave on a tricycle and the ever-awesome missile surfing stage (pictured), as well as boss fights against some truly outlandish boss monsters. Hell, there's even a time trial system and a hidden gold gem in each stage that extends the ending cinematic slightly, giving it some considerable replay value as well. Another game that should be rereleased to a wider audience but still hasn't for some reason...