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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #80-71

80. 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.


79. 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).


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. One Step From Eden (Thomas Moon Kang, 2020)

A crazily addictive little title that combines Mega Man Battle Network's combat with the wrappings of a roguelike - randomized events and rewards from battle, shuffling enemies and boss types, and every single decision you make feeling like the wrong one.  Basically, you pick a character (each of which has several variants with different starting loadouts and a unique weapon), steadily build up a deck and try to make your way through increasingly tough waves of enemies, hitting the occasional shop or rescue mission to try and tilt the odds further in your favor.  Simple enough at first, but you really do have to be on point as the boss battles start to ramp up, as they can very quickly whittle down your health and bring your run to an end.  As with any good game of this type, you do steadily unlock more things as you play more and more and you're given plenty of options to experiment with, so while the game is short, the replay value is strong.   Even moreso with the PC version, which supports modding (and appropriately has several Battle Network characters on Steam workshop already).

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. Marvel VS Capcom: Clash of Heroes (Capcom, 1998)

An arcade game I must have sunk well over $50 into during a class field trip, and I don't regret it one bit as this game is just as fun now as it was then. The incredible presentation and visuals (including some clever interactive stages), plethora of hidden characters, amazing soundtrack and intense gameplay are all honed to perfection here, and of course it features the star of one of my favorite franchises of all time (Mega Man) as a playable character, which was a huge plus. It may be largely overshadowed by its sequels, but to me, the original Marvel VS Capcom is over-the-top fun at its most pure.

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. Hades (Supergiant Games, PC/MacOS/Switch)

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.