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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #90-81

90. 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.

89. Gunstar Heroes (Treasure, 1993)

The debut title of Treasure (an independent company spun-off from industry giant Konami) and still one of their finest titles, showing the world that "blast processing" wasn't just a marketing gimmick and that the Sega Genesis most definitely could tread ground that the SNES couldn't by providing incredibly fluid animation and fast-paced gameplay that its competitor simply could not match. All that and it was a pretty damn fun game too, having one or two players combine four different weapon types in any way they pleased (resulting in things like steerable firewalls, homing lasers and a short ranged beam of lightning) and blasting their way through hordes of enemies and countless over-the-top boss battles.  This really was a game that made even the most die-hard of Nintendo fans just a little green with envy, whether they admitted it or not.

88. Cuphead (Studio MDHR, 2017)


An exceptionally well-crafted action game with two-player co-op as the player battles a ton of huge, multi-stage bosses and the occasional platforming level.  All backed with hand-drawn animation reminiscent of a 1930's Max Fleischer cartoon and music and sound design to match.  It looks the part, it plays great, and it's challenging without being frustrating or feeling "unfair" at any point, and best of all, you're not punished for buying and using powerups.  Basically, a game that succeeds at everything it tries to do.  Proof that when a team combines passion and talent, great things can happen.

87. Gitaroo Man (iNiS, 2002)


A low-key release in the early days of the Playstation 2, which would only get buried further once the music game genre took off and it got buried under a parade of Rock Band and Guitar Hero games.  A shame, as Gitaroo Man is a wild ride from start to finish.  Telling the story of a kid named U-1 as he acquires the magical Gitaroo and battles an invading alien force with its powers, the story, animations, songs and general gameplay style are all perfectly suited to that brand of energetic madness, lending itself to a fast-paced, challenging, hilarious and thoroughly unforgettable experience on every front.

86. Resident Evil: Village (Capcom, 2021)

Resident Evil is a franchise that's definitely had its ups and downs over the years, but with a resurgence that brought us the amazing VII, an excellent remake of 2 and a not-quite-excellent-but-still-solid remake of 3, everyone was excited for what would come next.  The answer was Village, and it frankly blew me away.  The game masterfully works in all things Resident Evil, from the slower-paced segments with a focus on puzzle solving and evading danger to the over-the-top boss fights, treasure hunting and inventory-upgrade system of 4, and the game looks absolutely stellar - virtually photorealistic.  It's also the first game in a very long time that genuinely creeped me out on several occasions, building a brilliantly unsettling atmosphere and a true sense of dread.  It's the best RE I've played in over fifteen years, and that's saying a lot considering how amazing the games that came before it were.

85. Saints Row IV (Volition, 2013)


Saints Row is a franchise that's undeniably gotten more and more ridiculous with each new sequel, slowly turning from a fairly straight GTA clone to a full-blown Tex Avery cartoon by the third game.  But in an era where so many game studios and franchises take themselves so damned seriously, I don't think that's a bad thing at all.  Saints Row IV in particular recognizes exactly what video games should be about - pure, campy fun.  From the joke-heavy dialog and outlandish storyline to the ridiculous weaponry (featuring things like a Black Hole Gun and a Dubstep Gun) to a plethora of over-the-top superpowers and exaggerated enemies, as well as some rather amusing satire of other contemporary games, Saints Row IV is pure entertainment that never wears out its welcome.  I honestly wish more games and developers had the courage to revel in their own silliness as much as Volition does.

84. Streets of Rage 2 (Sega AM7/Ancient, 1992)


Streets of Rage 2 is considered by many to be the greatest beat-em-up ever made.  I don't know if I quite agree with that, but there's no denying that it is a very worthwhile addition to the genre.  Take the usual beat-em-up formula, add in a huge variety of crazy enemies (including robots, jetpack guys and ninjas), and complete the package with challenging gameplay, detailed and well animated characters, and a fantastic soundtrack that pushed the Sega Genesis platform to its limits thanks to composer Yuzo Koshiro, and you've got one hell of a good time.  A game which truly highlight Sega and the Genesis platform at their best in every respect.

83. Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2005)


Admittedly, I've never been much for horror games, survival ones in particular; their attempts to be intense and scary mostly just come off as contrived and their gameplay is so one-note and slow that they generally bore me straight to sleep.  But Resident Evil 4 is definitely an exception, taking the puzzle-based gameplay of the earlier entries and kicking the action up to eleven.  The slow, lurching hordes of enemies, satisfying gun and melee combat make the action both tense and extremely satisfying, and some grotesque boss monsters add variety to the proceedings too.  That, plus some extra campaign content and the ever-fun Mercenaries mode, make it a game that simply never gets old to play.  It may be a divisive entry among long-time franchise fans, but regardless, it's a game you can start up at any time and have a blast playing.

82. DOOM (Id Software, 1993)

DOOM was an amazing title at the time of its release for its realistic 3D environments, fast-paced action and varied gameplay, combining elements of puzzle-solving with run and gun action against hordes of enemies.  But when you added on online deathmatches and the ability to create custom maps, the game's replay value rocketed through the roof, and even today it remains an incredibly fun experience, spawning hundreds of thousands of custom maps and countless player mods that remix the experience into something completely new.  Surpassed in technology but still unmatched in gameplay, DOOM is a true classic.

81.  Maniac Mansion (Lucasfilm Games, 1987)

Point-and-click adventure games were a pretty huge genre in the 80s, but began to fall off around the time the mid 90's rolled around.  Solving puzzles and following their storylines was fun, but once you'd figured out all the puzzles and gotten to the end, that was basically it; the game wouldn't be any different the next time through.  Maniac Mansion is definitely an exception, though, letting the player pick a team of three characters (Dave and two others), each with their own talents and ways to bypass certain obstacles, which in turn lent itself to eleven different endings.  That, plus a consistently hilarious sense of humor, a lack of cheap deaths (you can still get characters killed, but it generally requires doing something really dumb) and a lot of nods to cheesy horror movies the tropes thereof, made Maniac Mansion a great time that's still fun today.