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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #90-81

90. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (Sandlot, 2015)


All the frantic fun of a Smash TV style shoot-em-up action game combined with the wrapping of a cheesy B-movie, and that's really all you need to have a good time.  Pitting the player as a lone soldier against hordes of giant insects, dragons, robots, UFOs and the occasional kaiju creature, every level is just a big, crazy brawl with hundreds of enemies.  But then you add in four playable classes, online co-op and hundreds of unlockable weapons to play with, and you have a game with plenty of replayability on top of the action.  Pure fun that never for a moment takes itself seriously.

89. Freedom Planet (Galaxytrail, 2014)

Freedom Planet makes no secret of what it is - an homage to Sega Genesis era action games like Sonic, Gunstar Heroes and Rocket Knight Adventures, adopting their colorful and fluidly-animated visual styles, uncomplicated control schemes, enormous bosses and fast-paced gameplay.  Like many of them, Freedom Planet is also a top-notch title worthy of hanging with the best of the genre, and I dare say it even surpasses many of the games that inspired it in quality.  Definitive proof that indie studios can make excellent games even on a shoestring budget.

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. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, 1997)


While it wasn't the first game in the franchise to assume 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.

84. Marvel's Spider-Man (Insomniac Games, 2018)

The Batman Arkham franchise may have started a golden age of superhero video games, but Marvel's Spider-man took that format and pushed everything in it up to 11.  The game looks amazing, has some killer voiceover (even with different takes depending on what Spider-man's actually doing during dialog), and it plays fantastically well - taking down bad guys, sneaking through security and traps and just gliding around the city are all buttery-smooth and exquisitely fun.  Not to mention a great storyline that pays homage to the character and everything that makes him great whilst pulling no punches in its emotional moments, and even some fantastic DLC missions.  Superhero games have been around since gaming's earliest days, but Marvel's Spider-Man stands as one of the very best ever made (and will long into the future).

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. Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft, 1997)


A divisive game among series fans, and while I have some mixed feelings about it myself, I can't deny that it's a game that made a huge impact, both on me and on gaming as a whole.  A cinematic experience with stunning visuals (for the time), amazing music, a wonderful central storyline and an amazing cast of characters; I'll never forget the complex, flawed protagonist Cloud, nor the chilling and wicked Sephiroth and his unsettling alien puppetmaster, Jenova.  The gameplay is a bit less well-polished, but consistently entertaining, and the integration of numerous minigames and sub-quests added a lot of variety to the experience.  It may have been followed by a plethora of mediocre spinoffs and knockoffs and  later entries in the series may have improved upon its design in numerous ways, but 7 will always hold a special place.

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.