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1/17/2016

Spoony's Top 100 Games, #90-81

90. God Hand (Clover Studio, 2006)

A game from short-lived but beloved Capcom offshoot Clover and Shinji Mikami, mastermind of the Resident Evil franchise.  But I bet nobody was expecting God Hand to be what it was considering both of those names - a beat-em-up with tons of cartoonish humor, ridiculous characters and flashy (and often comically brutal) violence. All the makings of a great video game experience, but few ever got into it due to the fact that it's also immensely difficult - one must quickly master dodging, crowd control, character upgrades and effective attack chains to manage the relentless onslaughts of enemies, or they will die time and again.  A vicious and demanding title, but an extremely fun one once you're adapted to it.

89. The Ultimate Doom (Id Software, 1994)

If you had a remotely passable PC in the mid-1990s, you probably played Doom in some form or another.  My first exposure to it was via a shareware floppy disk containing the first episode, and I was hooked immediately - the fast-paced action, the creepy atmosphere, and of course a killer soundtrack all lent themselves to plenty of fun.  Then I talked my dad into mail-ordering me a copy of Ultimate Doom and only found more fun awaited with plenty of creatively designed levels, powerful monsters and of course one of the most iconic weapons in video game history, the room-sweeping BFG 9000.  Surpassed in technology but still unmatched in gameplay, Doom is the quintessential DOS-era shooter.

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 (ASMR Studios, 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. Blast Corps (Rare, 1997)

At its core, Blast Corps provides the player with a simple goal: Clear a path for a truck carrying a nuclear payload so it can reach a safe detonation site.  To that end, one must utilize a variety of vehicles and giant robots to smash down anything in its way, leveling buildings and creating bridges over gaps.  But what makes it great is the sheer amount of variety they managed to fit into it - your vehicles come in a variety of forms, from a missile-launching motorcycle to a hyper-durable dump truck to giant mechas who stomp down buildings or somersault into them, leveling entire city blocks at a time.  There are also a variety of sub-missions to handle, from time trial races to leveling a set number of buildings to lighting all the lights in a maze before several suspiciously-colored bulldozers get you.  It's good, silly, challenging fun throughout, and a game I'm honestly surprised never got more attention than it did.  Maybe because this was when games started to be less about the gameplay and more about pushing FMV technology for storytelling.  Regardless, Blast Corps is a fantastically fun action-puzzle game and well worth your time to check out.

85. Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo, 2002)


The first proper "sequel" to Super Mario 64 in format, but it didn't end up being anywhere near as popular due to its high difficulty level and somewhat unpolished feel (with a heavy emphasis on tedious coin hunting).  Still, for all its problems, Mario Sunshine was an extremely fun game that brought many new elements to the table - Yoshi's return granted the player access to new areas and abilities, and the FLUDD backpack added a new dimension to the gameplay that allowed Mario to defeat enemies and new ways and explore the environment by functioning as a jetpack of sorts.  Of course, at its core there's still plenty of that challenging platforming the series built itself upon, too.  Mario Sunshine may not be the most beloved Mario game, but I always found it to be worthwhile nonetheless.

84. Torchlight II (Runic Games, 2012)


Action-RPGs have been around since the 80s in some form or another, but the franchise's first big break (in North America at least) was probably Diablo - a fun little randomly-generated game where you brawled your way through tons of monsters and the occasional giant boss, with randomized loot and even online play.  Blizzard dropped the ball with Diablo 3, but Runic Games was right there to pick it up with Torchlight, delivering the same brand of frantic gameplay as Diablo 2 while losing none of its iconic depth or style.  The fact that it fully supports player-created mods only lends even more to the fun factor and makes this a game you really can replay almost endlessly.

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 (Square, 1997)


As divisive a game as it is, and while I have some mixed feelings about it myself, I can't deny how much of an influence Final Fantasy VII has had on both me and gaming as a whole.  This, Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star IV are what opened my eyes to the world of RPGs, convincing me they could be more than just tedious stat-grinding in a flat grid-based world, and in fact could be a vehicle for some truly in-depth storytelling with a cinematic flair on par with any good action movie.  Its setpieces, heroes and especially its villains remain some of the most memorable in the genre, and are the pillars upon which entire other franchises (both Square and otherwise) have been built.  And in all honesty, it's still an exceptionally fun game in spite of its balance issues and odd bugs.  The long-awaited remake has a lot to live up to, but if it's half the game-changer the original VII was, it's bound to be another immortal classic.

81. River City Ransom EX (Million, 2004)

An updated remake of the NES cult classic on the Game Boy Advance, and you can bet I was on board as soon as I heard about it.  Featuring not only improved visuals and sounds but also a plethora of new moves, enemy types, weapons and gameplay options, River City Ransom EX is one of the finest beat-em-ups in the genre, combining elements of open world games, RPGs and of course good old enemy-pummeling action.  The only downside is that it inexplicably lacks a two-player co-op mode, though you can at least transfer your character to your friend's copy of the game and have him be controlled by the CPU instead.  Had they not neglected that, this game would have been absolutely perfect!