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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Greatest Video Games of All-Time Vol. 1

Some games are truly near and dear to my heart. These are the games that I go back to and play time and time again or look back on with immeasurable fondness. These are what I consider to be the greatest games in the history of the medium. It should go without saying that this is my own personal list. No doubt some gamers will take issues with some of my choices and that's fine. I've decided not to rank my picks. This feature isn't about where each particular game stands but rather about the games themselves. All of these games are here because I think they deserve to be so I'm not going to be bothered with attaching a number placement to them.

Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES, 1990)

My first, clear memories of gaming began with Mario so this feature may as well kick off with one of his best efforts. After taking a trip to the strange, yet intriguing world of Subcon in Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario and Luigi returned to the Mushroom World to take on the Koopa Troop once more. This time, Bowser got himself some extra help. Bowser has the Koopalings at his aid and has sent each one off to conquer seven worlds. Super Mario Bros. brought back the familiar power ups from the first Super Mario Bros. while introducing a slew of new ones. The Super Leaf allowed Mario the brief power of flight. The god-like powers of the Hammer Suit made losing it the most painful feeling in the world. The Frog Suit made those torturous underwater levels a breeze. So many power-ups and suits were at your disposal that you could stock them up for later use. But Super Mario Bros. 3 didn't just expand the number of power-ups. The worlds of the game were so much bigger than the ones in Super Mario Bros. 1-2 that they were each comprised on their own world map. This of course meant you could bypass certain levels all together. Super Mario Bros. 3 also hosts some of the shortest levels of the franchise, which made lack of checkpoints on the more difficult levels especially painful. Improved controls made using the new abilities you gained so much more satisfying, making for a platform fan's utopia on the NES. From start to finish, Super Mario Bros. 3 is an unforgettable thrill ride that never gets old no matter how many times I play it.

Also on: SNES, GBA, Wii, Wii U, 3DS, 

Sonic 3 & Knuckles (GEN, 1994)

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was released in Feburary of 1994. Come October of that same year, Sonic and Knuckles stormed onto the Genesis. Strap Sonic 3 onto Sonic & Knuckles through the later cart's lock-on technology and you get Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the mammoth sized game Sonic 3 was always intended to be. Taking plenty of cues from Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles has expansive zones to explore and keeps much of the same high speed fun and platforming. The game does, however, spice things up by giving you three characters to play as. While Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are all speedy little devils, each one has something that sets them apart. Sonic controls the same way he always has but Tails can fly and swim for brief periods of time. Knuckles can't jump as high as the previous two but he can glide, climb walls and bust down certain walls to reveal shortcuts. Those new elemental shields really came in handy depending on what area you were in and were a step up from the first game's vanilla shield. Throw in some slickly design zones, some incredible final boss battles and some catchy, mondo cool beats and you've got my all-time favorite Sonic game. Don't bother play these games as stand alone titles. You're doing yourself a great disservice.

Also on: SAT, GCN, PS2, XB, DS, Wii

Final Fantasy VI (SNES, 1994)

Final Fantasy VI features an intriguing plot driven by some of the most colorful cast of characters in an RPG. Through Terra, Lock, Celes, Shadow and the rest, the game deals with some pretty heavy issues like coping with the loss of loved ones, suicide, teenage pregnancy and coming to terms with who you are. The good guys are a wonderful band of protagonists but they really do get upstaged by the game's villain, Kefka. Initially introduced as a gofer, by the time you reach the second half of the game, Kefka is the god of magic, has transformed the world into his own private hell and most of the remaining populace lives in fear because the maniacal clown can pretty much put an end to their existence whenever he feels like it. The different character classes keeps the battles from growing stale and the relics that can be equipped turn some characters into walking tanks. Fine as the battle system is, though, the real attractions of Final Fantasy VI are the story and memorable cast members.

Also on: PS, PS3, Wii, iOS

Gunstar Heroes (GEN, 1993)

Konami's Contra franchise houses some truly magnificent run 'n gun games, with the crown jewel being Contra III. So it's fitting that some of Contra III's staff would go on to form Treasure and their first game as the company was the legendary Gunstar Heroes. Gunstar Heroes does much to make it stand out from most games in the genre. You actually have a health meter that can be increased. The first four levels can be selected in the order of your choosing. You can mix and match weapon combos for devastating, even game breaking results. Even your partner in co-op play can be hurled at the enemies and will receive no damage in turn. The level design is also quite lively. The anti-gravity mine cart level lets you shift gravity at any time and is capped off with a jaw dropping battle against Seven Force, a shape changing mech. There's even a crazy board game stage where you roll dice and get sent off to do a myriad of different trials such as getting through a maze or fighting a pint sized soldier who is far stronger than his size would lead you to believe. All of this and some of the most impressive visuals and audio on the Genesis make Gunstar Heroes a 16-bit masterpiece.

Also on: PS3, Wii, 360, iOS

Final Fight (ARC, 1989)

Mayor Mike Haggar's daughter has been kidnapped! That's terrible! Does Haggar sic the police on those awful Mad Gear thugs? Nope. Being a former pro wrestler, he's not afraid to get his hands dirty so he takes to the streets along with Cody and Guy to clean their filthy clocks. Walk to the right and beat up mook after mook. Some are harder to take down than others but the concept of the game is simple, repetitive, beat 'em up fun and great for when you just want to zone out. Being an arcade game, Final Fight is on the brutal side and if you happen to being playing the arcade version, expect to see up to eight Mad Gears on the screen at one time, even if you have back up. Guy is quick and can wall jump, Cody has a really good stabbing hand whenever a knife is nearby and Haggar moves like a tank and has the muscle of said machine. Choose your brawler and go save that daughter!

Also on: SNES, SCD, GBA, PS2, XB, PSP, Wii, PS3, 360, Wii U, iOS

Mega Man 3 (NES, 1990)

The second Mega Man game I ever played is, in my honest opinion, the greatest Mega Man game of the whole franchise, yes, even eclipsing the highly praised Mega Man 2. Mega Man 3 kept plenty of what had become series staples by this point. Crafty level design, a catchy chiptune soundtrack, and some pretty memorable bosses, even if Top Man is a little bit of an oddball. This game also brought some new things to the table. The mysterious, fan favorite Proto Man would often show up to challenge you and other times, he'd aid you. Mega Man gained his faithful robo canine Rush in this outing as well as some faster maneuverability with the slide move. Along with all the new stuff the game has going for it, Mega Man 3 shows that it isn't afraid to tread some old ground. All of the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 are back and so is a second incarnation of the dreaded Yellow Devil. Mega Man 3 is a long (at least in terms of classic Mega Man), sometimes frustrating, but very entertaining Mega Man experience that I love returning to.

Also on: PS, GCN, PS2, XB, Wii, Wii U, 3DS

Donkey Kong (GB, 1994)

Everyone remembers the 1981 arcade classic Donkey Kong. Platform through four levels to rescue Mario's girlfriend Pauline all the while being assaulted by her captor, the big ape himself. At the end of the fourth level, Mario trounces DK and is reunited with Pauline. But then Donkey Kong gets back up, kidnaps Pauline again and initiates one of the lengthiest video game chases ever, going to the city, the jungle, the desert and even the arctic to name a few locals. Huh. That never happened back in 1981. This masterful handheld Donkey Kong game contains all four original arcade levels and 97 brand  new stages. Mario can perform hand stands, back flips, double jumps and more. And you thought Mario's jump game didn't get crazy until Super Mario 64. You'll need Mario's insane acrobatic moves to navigate through this platform/puzzle affair to reach the key and proceed on to the next stage. Mario still has access to his trusty hammer, he can pick up certain enemies and chuck them at other baddies a la Super Mario Bros. 2, and his durability has been improved so he can fall from slightly greater heights and still keep breathing. If you're looking to see Mario and Donkey Kong's rivalry at it's very best, look no further than Donkey Kong on the GB.

Also on: 3DS

Out Run (ARC, 1986)

Yu Suzuki's driving masterpiece is quite simply one of the finest video games that has ever come out of SEGA. The only thing you're outrunning in Out Run is the clock as you drive cross country with your girlfriend at your side through five different stages. When you approach the end of the stage, you'll come across a fork in the road, which lets you choose which destination you'll travel to next. Most arcade racers at the time had you traveling the same path over and over but the non-liner stage progression really keeps Out Run from getting stale. Using "super scaler" technology (also used in games like Super Hang-On, Space Harrier After Burner, and Galaxy Force II) Out Run pumps put some eye widening visuals that remain impressive almost 30 years after the game was released. Ditto for the game's soundtrack. "Magical Sound Shower", "Splash Wave", "Passing Breeze," and "Last Wave" rank right up there with the "Ground Theme" from Super Mario Bros. when it comes to iconic game music. It may seem dull on paper, but passing other cars, handling tight turns and traveling the world on four wheels at high speeds is one of the best experiences the medium of gaming has to offer.

Also on: SMS, GEN, GG, MSX, SAT, PCE, DC, GBA, PS2, XB, 3DS

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2, 2001)

The stealth action gameplay had been refined from the original Metal Gear Solid. Being able to aim in first person mode with any gun allowed for greater accuracy and the inclusion of lockers meant you could hide bodies to avoid alerting other enemy soldiers to your presence or unleash your inner bully. Many were butt hurt upon learning that Solid Snake had been replaced by newcomer Raiden , but I honestly didn't mind this because, as much as I like Snake, the gaming world is overrun with characters just like him. MGS2 also catches flak for its cheesy romance between Jack and Rose and absurd story moments. Yeah, let's pretend the other MGS games are perfection and don't have more than their fair share of eye rolling moments.

Aslo on: XB, PS3. 360

Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii, 2011)

Good things are worth waiting for and such is the case with Kirby's Return to Dream Land, a game that went through a lengthy development cycle, spanning a little over ten years.  The game plays like a bigger, better Kirby Super Star, which is pretty impressive when you consider that Kirby and Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai had nothing to do with this game's development. New abilities are introduced, older abilities are enhanced and it has chaotic, but super fun, drop-in-and-out four player multiplayer. Anyone that isn't the first player can play as non-pink Kirbys or select from King Dedede, Meta Knight and Waddle Dee. The game also sports a beefy amount of bonus content like an EX version of the game's main story mode, which gives bosses more attacks, cuts your life bar in half and overall makes the game a lot more challenging. There's also the Challenge mode that has you mastering each Copy Ability to be awarded the highest ranking medal, which, surprise, surprise, isn't gold. The Arena, a boss rush mode also makes a come back as does The True Arena. From Pop Star to Halcandra, to insane duels with Galacta Knight, to fun with acronyms, and cutting a mountain in half with a giant fish, Kirby's Return to Dream Land gets my vote as the best Kirby game ever.

The Greatest Video Games of All-Time Vol. 2
The Greatest Video Games of All-Time Database 

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