80. Mother 3 (Nintendo/Brownie Brown/APE, 2006 in Japan)
Mother 3 is a game with a very long and troubled production history; beginning in 1994 on the Super Famicom, moving to the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive, then the N64 once the 64DD tanked, then finally being cancelled in late 2000 when the Gamecube was announced and the team had failed to make much progress due to their inexperience with 3D game development. Then it was picked back up in 2003 and finally released on the Game Boy Advance in 2006, undergoing heavy rewrites and changes all the while. This does show up in the final product, as the game has a rather uneven difficulty level and several segments feel rushed (particularly the last two chapters). But in spite of its problems, this is an Earthbound game through and through. That means a quirky sense of humor and some surreal set pieces lain atop a surprisingly heartfelt and dramatic storyline. Well worth checking out for any RPG fan, especially in light of a very high quality fan translation that was completed in 2008.
79. 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.
78. Tyrian 2000 (Eclipse Software, 2000)
I've never been a big fan of shmups, but Tyrian 2000 is definitely an exception, providing challenging gameplay with plenty of pop. Drawing inspiration from the likes of R-Type and Zanac while introducing many elements of its own, Tyrian has a lot to offer. In addition to a story mode that has you collecting points to purchase ship upgrades, there are other clever game modes like an Arcade mode that lets you collect powerups and input Street Fighter style moves to do special attacks, minigames like "Destruct" (an artillery combat game similar to Scorched Earth or Worms), plenty of alternate paths and hidden content and a strong sense of humor. All in all, just a fun, kickass game for the PC platform; it's a pity Eclipse Software never made more games after this one.
77. 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 morning.
76. Skullgirls: Second Encore (Autumn Games/Lab Zero/M2, 2012)
A sleeper title that slowly built its way up to becoming a cult classic, Skullgirls is a great fast-paced fighting game with some fantastic hand-drawn animation, very creative character designs and surprisingly innovative elements - infinite combo protection, virtually no unblockable attacks, and surprisingly robust rollback netcode that makes playing online a breeze even without a super-high-end connection. Even the story is great, which is pretty rare in the fighting game genre; it hits the perfect blend of humor and drama and ends up being extremely memorable. It may never be as big as Street Fighter or Tekken or (ugh) Smash, but it's the one I'd much rather play any day of the week.
75. X-COM: UFO Defense (Mythos Games, 1994)
Also released as "UFO: Enemy Unknown", UFO Defense served as the first game in the strategic simulation X-COM series. The game expertly combined elements of base building, turn-based combat and business sim as the player had to manage their limited resources, reverse-engineer alien technology and keep their squads well-equipped (and alive) enough to deal with escalating alien attacks across the globe, with their ultimate goal being to take the fight to the alien base on Mars and defeat their leader in a final assault. It also found just the right blend of gameplay elements, providing plenty of depth and challenge while not overwhelming the player. X-COM had a remarkably good multi-platform remake in 2012 (which had an incredible sequel a few years later), but the original is certainly nothing to sneeze at either.
74. Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, PS4/XBox One/Xbox Series X/PC)
Yep, Yakuza is back for more, though it takes a very bold new direction in terms of gameplay - rather than being a light RPG with an actiony beat-em-up combat system, Like a Dragon goes full-tilt into turn-based RPG territory, emphasizing stats, elemental resistances, timed button presses for extra damage and even magic (yes, magic - you summon pigeons and spit booze-fueled flames and do other silly things with it). The story is once again a fairly dark crime drama, but the atmosphere outside the story scenes is the same usual Yakuza charm - irreverent, goofy nonsense packed to the brim with minigames and side-stories, all of which are excellent in their own right. Yakuza continues to be a fantastic series that isn't afraid to have fun with its concept even as it punches you in the feels.
73. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, 1997)
While it wasn't the first game in the franchise to utilize an open-world style of exploration (that being the relatively unpopular Castlevania II), Symphony of the Night was the game that took it to perfection. Giving the player tons of options and abilities, as well as an enormous castle environment to explore, ensured that Symphony of the Night is a widely played game that still enjoys a massive cult following to this day. While I never was a big fan of the Castlevania franchise, there's no denying that SOTN is a very worthwhile endeavor for the sheer amount of gameplay it offers - challenge runs, speedruns, or just casual playthroughs are all a blast in this one. Oh, and it's got some really kickass visuals and music to boot.
72. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (Rare, 1995)
Another example of a groundbreaking game getting an equally groundbreaking sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2 had more of everything to offer. Stage variety, hidden secrets, animal companions, sharper visuals, better music... it really was a step above the first DKC in every respect. Hell, it even took a page from Super Mario World's book and had entire hidden worlds to discover if you found enough special coins to unlock them, and these stages were among the toughest the game, so your skills had to be honed to a T just to stand a chance at making it through them. There were even some clever cameos from other Nintendo characters if you managed to collect enough hidden DK coins before the ending. Now if only they could get their act together and make another sequel even half as good as this...
71. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete (Game Arts, 2000)
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.