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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #90-81

90. Mother 3 (Game Boy Advance, 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. Battletoads (Rare, 1991)


An ever-controversial NES game for its sheer insane difficulty, but unlike many others on the system, it gets an inordinate amount of flak for that.  But if you can look past that and appreciate the game itself, you have a brilliantly-crafted experience.  While it at first presents itself as a beat-em-up, no two levels at all feel the same - from rappelling down a giant hole and dodging traps to surfing down a river to the fast-paced (and notorious) Turbo Tunnel, the game is a challenging series of obstacle courses that require a lot of memorization and twitch skill to complete, but all are very well-made and feature some downright jaw-dropping visuals for the NES.  Not to mention when you finally get to the end and trounce the Dark Queen, you feel like a king for what you've accomplished.  I'm not sure why games like Ninja Gaiden get a free pass and this one doesn't, but regardless, Battletoads was fun back then and I still love it today.

88. 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.

87. 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.

86. 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.

85. Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Sega Technical Institute, 1994)


Sonic 3 was a technical marvel on the Genesis, maintaining the series' colorful visuals, kickass music trippy levels and fast gameplay and polishing all of those elements up to 11; however, it attracted controversy for its short length compared to 2.  That was little surprise, as it was released as half a game and the later half was brought out as "Sonic and Knuckles" with a double-ended cart that could lock on to 3 and combine both games into one.  A few other extras were included too, like the ability to lock onto Sonic 2 to play as Knuckles in that game, and the ability to lock onto Sonic 1 to play endlessly-generated levels of the Blue Sphere minigame.  Basically, DLC before DLC.  But we didn't care too much, as both halves of the game (and the sum of its parts) were excellent.  Sonic may be the target of much mockery and ridicule these days, but S3&K will always be a fantastic platformer.

84. Ys: The Oath in Felghana (Falcom, 2005/2012)


Ys is a series I wasn't familiar with until fairly recently, but I'm glad I hopped on board when it had its trilogy of releases on the PSP.  Easily my favorite of those was Oath in Felghana, a remake of the much-maligned Wanderers from Ys released on the 16-bit platforms.  Oath retains the action-driven gameplay of the series but amps it up to eleven, actually rewarding the player with stat bonuses and extra experience for mowing through enemies as quickly as possible, and having some very fast-paced, intense boss fights comparable to games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry.  Of course, the series' high standards for well-written characters and incredible power metal soundtracks also shine through, delivering an experience as intense and driving as it is fun.

83. 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.

82. Space Harrier (Sega, 1985)


It's hard to believe that this game is almost as old as I am, since it conveys a feeling of three-dimensional depth and speed that easily rivals games released years after the fact.  Its gameplay is fairly straightforward shoot-em-up fare, but the sheer number of sprites on screen at a time, as well as the scaling effects, smooth motion and sheer frequency for which things fly at you, is downright exhilarating.  The strange science fantasy landscapes you blaze through throughout the game are also a joy to behold.  The game was so far ahead of its time that it couldn't be properly conveyed on a home console for nearly a decade after the fact, and even then you had to buy one of those crummy 32X addons to play it!  Thankfully, we now have a much better alternative in the 3DS port of the game, which adds in some new features like a proper final boss battle and analog controls to make it true to the arcade version.

81.  Maniac Mansion (Lucasfilm Games, 1987)

Point-and-click adventure games were a pretty huge genre in the 80s, but fell off around the time the mid 90's rolled around.  Solving puzzles and following their storylines was fun, but for most, once you'd figured them all out and gotten to the end, there wasn't much left to see; it 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.