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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. Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, 2020)

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.

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. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Eluisive Age Definitive Edition (Square Enix, Switch)

Dragon Quest is a series that was largely ignored in the west for a long time, but XI was the first in over a decade to really take off and become regarded as one of the genre's finest.  It's easy to see why, too - while the core design, aesthetics and even sound effects and music cues have stayed unchanged for over three decades now, the game is so finely polished and flawlessly executed in every respect that they add to its overall charm not subtract from it.  The characters are fantastic, the writing is solid and Akira Toriyama's character designs are brought to life flawlessly, with expressive animations and great voiceover.  There is still a heavy focus on combat and farming, though you can greatly speed up the combat and even assign party members to AI control to quickly blaze through mundane fights and switch back to manual on the fly whenever necessary.  The game even pays homage to all of its predecessors with a game-spanning questline where you set the past straight, which is just awesome.  Lots of companies are content to just make cynical cashins that look the part but are no fun to actually experience, but Dragon Quest XI gets it, embodying everything great about old-school RPGs while working in enough quality-of-life features to ensure that it remains fun to even the most jaded modern RPG fan.

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.