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1/24/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #30-21

30. Simcity 2000 (Maxis, 1995)


I'm not terribly fond of simulation games as a whole, but Simcity 2000 managed to win me over in a big way back in the mid-90s, providing just enough depth and complexity to be challenging but not enough to make the whole thing seem like a chore.  It was also just fun for the sheer amount of freedom you're given - you can design every city to the last detail, and the lack of any concrete end goal means you can create anything from a utopian metropolis to a destitute island city plagued by UFO attacks and firestorms.  Of course, those with a more goal-oriented mindset can also take on the Scenarios, which include things like dealing with widespread boredom to cleaning up the aftermath from giant floods, volcanoes and even a nuclear attack by terrorists.  Really enjoyable stuff, and still a game I occasionally dust off and play to this day.

29. Danganronpa (Tetralogy) (Spike Chunsoft, 2014-2017)

It may be a visual novel series, but thanks to some very strong writing and aesthetic design in spite of its limited budget, Danganronpa rapidly became one of my favorite game franchises in the short while after I played it.  Starring a group of high school kids trapped in a twisted game of survival where they're forced to kill one another over the vague promise of escape, Danganronpa manages to be surreal, violent, and wildly funny all the same time.  That all comes down to the brilliant writing, which has a jokey tone throughout yet still manages to get the player invested with its strongly-written characters and murder mystery elements.  A lot of fun from start to finish, and the franchise that singlehandedly justifies the purchase of a PSVita (or Playstation TV) in my book.

28. The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1987)


Alongside Mario and Metroid, this was one of the big three games that really put the NES on the map and convinced everyone that console gaming wasn't dead after all.  It's not hard to see why, as Zelda is an ingenious blend of action, adventure and puzzle solving with some great atmosphere.  Action for its hordes of challenging enemies and gigantic bosses, adventure for its enormous dungeons and game environment laden with tons of hidden secrets, and puzzle solving for, well, having to find said secrets and plenty of hidden paths to navigate the dungeons.  You can't rest easy once you've cleared the final dungeon and defeated Ganon, either, as there is a whole new quest awaiting you with everything moved around and much more challenging dungeon layouts and enemies lying in wait.  Still, you don't mind redoing the whole adventure again with things made even tougher this time because the whole experience is so fluid and fun.  A true masterpiece even to this day.

27. Sin and Punishment: Successor to the Earth (Treasure, 2001)

My favorite Treasure game to this day, which represents both a new turn for them and maintains their particular brand of over-the-top action.  The new turn comes in the form of its storytelling, which takes the story in a very dark direction; set in a future Earth where Japan has been overrun by monsters called the "ruffians", the story follows a small group of rebels standing against an occupation by the "Armed Volunteers", a military force whose members possess strange superpowers.  The gameplay is also a unique blend of platforming and rail shooter elements, with your aiming being handled by the thumbstick and your character having to evade obstacles with well-timed dodges, jumps and rolls controlled via the C buttons.  Oh, and a clever mechanic where you can melee attack close enemies and deflect certain projectiles with a well-timed tap of the trigger.  All things that lend themselves to Sin and Punishment being an incredible score-driven action game with a surprisingly good story on top, as well as lending themselves to some of the wildest action scenes in any video game, ever.

26. Thief 2: The Metal Age (Looking Glass Studios, 2000)

A followup to the original Thief, taking place a year after its events and chronicling the rise of a sinister new organization called the "Mechanists" who take the world by storm with their advanced technology.  To that end, the player can expect all sorts of anachronistic fun - security cameras, turrets, complex locking mechanisms, submarines and yes, even bomb-launching security automatons.  It's a little silly, but it all works surprisingly well thanks to Looking Glass' brilliant atmospheric sound design and strong character writing.  It also allows for the player to utilize some clever new tricks of their own, like climbable vine arrows (which can be shot into both wooden surfaces and metal grates), exploding frogbeast eggs and "scouting orbs" utilizing the protagonist's mechanical eye to see into new areas with minimal risk.  And of course, the usual stealth-based gameplay is a ton of fun and lends itself to lots of interesting mission objectives.

25. Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000)


If Goldeneye broke new ground for the mission-driven shooter genre, then Perfect Dark took it to, well, perfection.  This was in no small part due to the addition of the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak, which allowed for much more detailed visuals and voiceovers for many of the characters, not to mention much more threatening enemy AI.  Additionally, the futuristic setting also allows for all sorts of clever new gadgets like ricocheting "pinball grenades", laptop sentry guns, and submachine guns with automatic lock-on functionality.  That's all good, but like Goldeneye, the real draw is in its multiplayer, which adds in several new game modes as well as the ability to have up to eight computer-controlled "simulants" running around, making for some very intense and surprisingly strategic matches.  Everything about Perfect Dark is just pure fun.


24. Undertale (Toby Fox, 2015)


A game that obviously draws heavy inspiration from Earthbound in its simplistic visual style, strange sense of humor and surprisingly heart-felt characters, but which also carves out its own niche.  Undertale is also a rarity among JRPG styled games in that it grants the player freedom of choice, allowing them to fight any monsters they come across or sparing them (with each enemy type requiring their own steps to take that path).  Your choices all have an impact on the story and which ending you receive, and your choices on earlier playthroughs will even affect events that happen in later ones.  A novel idea with an ingenious execution, as well as a charming and heartwarming adventure throughout, Undertale is a standout game.

23. Bayonetta 2 (Platinum Games, 2014)


How do you follow up a game that puts just about every other action title ever made to shame? Well, it's definitely a tall order, but Yusuke Hashimoto found a way with Bayonetta 2.  Putting much more emphasis on wild boss battles and introducing a plethora of new weapons including dual swords, an enormous bow and arrows, an enormous mechanical hammer and a giant three-bladed scythe,  Bayonetta 2 also provides more of the same over-the-top fun whilst tightening the overall pacing and adding plenty of new challenges to conquer.  A truly amazing expansion on an already golden experience.

22. Chrono Trigger (Squaresoft, 1995)

A rare example of a Square game that I actually agree with general concensus on, because Chrono Trigger is good.  Really, really good.  One of the games that got me into JRPGs in general, to be honest.  It broke away from earlier games in the genre in many ways, placing much more emphasis on scripted battles, controlling the battlefield with spells, and of course teamwork between allies to unleash combination attacks that could wreak havoc like no other.  There was even a great story and mechanics that perfectly utilizes its time travel gimmick, as well as some stellar visuals and one of the greatest gaming soundtracks of all time.  Chrono Trigger is a masterpiece in the RPG genre and a true must-play.

21. Planescape: Torment (Black Isle, 1999)


Black Isle were practically synonymous with quality CRPGs during their short existence, bringing us top-notch titles like Icewind Dale and Fallout 2.  Planescape: Torment is seen by many as their crowning achievement, combining the gameplay of Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale with an incredibly well-defined, dark world replete with bizarre sights and colorful characters.  Your main character is no different in that regard, being effectively immortal and attempting to regain his lost memories through all sorts of ordeals.  Your immortality also factors into the gameplay, allowing you to do really strange things like swap out your own eyeballs and reattach severed fingers onto yourself, among other bizarre (and often unsettling) feats.  Its gameplay is much less focused on combat and much more on dialog, but you honestly don't mind that much when the narrative is so dense (comprising over one million written words) and such a captivating read that you stay glued throughout every word.