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1/18/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #70-61

70. Starflight (Binary Systems, 1986/1991)


A groundbreaking game in the mid-80s and still a standout one today, Starflight was amazing for the sheer amount of depth it provided; the player was given free reign to explore the galaxy, recover resources to sell, find inhabitable planets, interact with alien races (both diplomatically and in war), and generally carve out their own niche in a vast universe.  Of course, there was an underlying storyline as well, and a good one at that - the player's ultimate goal was to decipher clues found throughout their travels, unravel the mysteries of the galaxy, find out exactly why extinction-level events threaten every major star system they run across, and put a stop to it once and for all.

69. Marvel's Spider-Man (Insomniac Games, 2018)


The Batman Arkham franchise may have started a golden age of superhero video games, but Marvel's Spider-man took that format and pushed everything in it up to 11.  The game looks amazing, has some killer voiceover (even with different takes depending on what Spider-man's actually doing during dialog), and it plays fantastically well - taking down bad guys, sneaking through security and traps and just gliding around the city are all buttery-smooth and exquisitely fun.  Not to mention a great storyline that pays homage to the character and everything that makes Spider-man great whilst pulling no punches in its emotional moments, and even some fantastic DLC missions.  Superhero games have been around since gaming's earliest days, but Marvel's Spider-Man stands as one of the very best ever made (and will long into the future).

68. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (Game Arts, 1998)

I never could afford a Sega CD as a kid, so the groundbreaking Lunar games went completely over my head at the time.  Thankfully they got two very high-quality remakes on the Playstation, and when I played them I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.  Lunar 2, while I consider it the weaker of the two games, is still an extremely compelling experience, combining the feel of a good animated movie with some solid RPG mechanics and surprisingly good animation and voice acting for its era, not to mention a very strong love story as the focus of its plot.  Oh, and an absolutely stellar soundtrack, of course. I may not have had exposure to its original iteration until many years after the fact, but Lunar still stands as proof that the CD format could do a lot for the genre that the old memory-limited cartridges simply could not.

67. Deus Ex (Ion Storm, 2000)

I know I'd get lynched if Deus Ex wasn't on the list somewhere, so here it is. And what a game, especially for 2000.  Retaining the free-form design philosophy of games like Ultima Underworld, the player is presented with a goal and exactly how they accomplish it is completely up to them - sneak in via rooftops and sewers, go in guns blazing, disable security via lockpicks and hacking or using your augmentations to bypass obstacles entirely, are all equally valid options.  Moreover, your choices would have a tangible impact on the story, affecting how scenes would play out later, and there were three different endings to experience (each tailored to a different playstyle), which lent it a fair bit of replay value. But more than anything else, the story and setting was what sold Deus Ex, thrusting the player into a grim dystopia where every big-government conspiracy was very real.  A memorable game on every front.

66. Hades (Supergiant Games, 2020)

2020 was seemingly the year of action-roguelikes, and Hades is probably the best-acclaimed of all of them.  Following the story of Hades' son as he attempts to escape from Tartarus and make his way to Olympus, it's got plenty of the usual roguelike tropes - different weapons and upgrades to purchase and find, currencies to upgrade your character between runs to give yourself a better shot next time, and of course, plenty of risk-versus-reward tradeoffs in the form of making deals with Chaos.  But what sets its apart is the presentation of its story, becoming another element that gradually gets revealed the more you play through the game, die off and return to the start; all of the characters are amazingly well-written and performed, and seeing all of their interactions each time you die and return to the start keeps you invested and ensures you never get frustrated. A very challenging, yet stylish, immaculately well-made and highly rewarding experience that will keep you coming back for "just one more try" we'll into the early hours of the day. 

65. Metal Slug X (SNK, 1999)


Metal Slug X is a somewhat more polished reimagining of Metal Slug 2, eliminating much of its slowdown while remixing its gameplay with new enemy patterns and a slightly different boss order.  For my money, though, it's also the best Metal Slug game ever made, with a perfect blend of design cues, destructible environments and that good old gorgeous 2D animation, not to mention one of the greatest final battles in video game history.  This really is a title that must be experienced for any fan of arcade action titles.




64. Metroid Fusion (Nintendo, 2002)


Metroid enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the early 2000s thanks to Retro Studios' runaway hit Metroid Prime and a couple of top-notch releases on the Game Boy Advance.  The more controversial of the two was Metroid Fusion, which took on a much more dialog-heavy approach than its predecessors and also deigned to have - gasp! - linear game progression!  That didn't make it a bad game, though - far from it, in fact.  Metroid Fusion effectively captured the isolation of the earlier games, putting Samus alone against a space station full of creatures mutated by an aggressive alien virus and even an evil doppelganger that infected the remains of her original suit, resulting in an extremely dangerous new foe.  If Metroid and Super Metroid were homages to Alien, this one is an homage to The Thing - a much different experience, but no less good.

63. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (Quest/Square Enix, 2010)

I admittedly wasn't a big fan of the Ogre Battle games, but Tactics Ogre really won me over to the franchise.  A turn-based tactical RPG from Yasumi Matsuno and a forerunner to pretty much the entire turn-based strategy RPG genre (on consoles, at least), Tactics Ogre was later more-or-less remade into Final Fantasy Tactics, spawning another great series in itself.  Tactics Ogre certainly should be overlooked, though, as it's a masterfully made game - challenging, complex and yet fun, with multiple story paths, some of the most well-crafted lore and characters in any game I've ever played, and multiple story paths and endings to experience giving it major replayability as well.  The PSP version also deserves extra merit for succeeding in every way the port of FFT failed on the platform, with smooth performance, natural-sounding Middle English that isn't cringey in the slightest, and new features that feel well-integrated instead of tacked on and distracting (but then, having Matsuno return as lead designer probably helped with that).  A classic game from a severely underrated talent among Japanese RPGs.

62. Astro Boy: Omega Factor (Treasure/Hitmaker, 2004)


Not only my favorite Game Boy Advance game of all time, but one of the finest from the Sega, Hitmaker and Treasure camps to boot, Astro Boy is a great experience all around.  Combining numerous Osamu Tezuka characters into one enormous storyline, as well as several different gameplay styles (beat-em-up and scrolling shooter being the most prominent), Astro Boy is also a very challenging game.  But the real genius of it all is in its implementation - by finding characters, Astro Boy's "Omega Factor" develops, unlocking new abilities and upgrades.  A pretty clever way to explore the universe of Osamu Tezuka (which you really should anyway; the guy is a legend).

61: Quake (Id Software, 1997)


Every modern FPS owes much to Doom, but with apologies to that classic, I have to say I much prefer Quake these days.  It took some time to win me over, but after really taking in its atmosphere, gorgeously designed 3D maps, creepy enemies and relentlessly fast-paced design, it's pretty hard to go back.  Moreso when it has some fantastic addons like Arcane Dimensions and the two official expansion packs that expand upon the experience in some pretty amazing ways, adding new some of the most well-crafted new enemies, stages and bosses I've seen in any FPS.  Quake kicks ass and is the quintessential Id shooter from the 90s.