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Monday, February 28, 2011

My 100 Favorite Video Games of All Time: Part 8 (30-21)

30 – Mega Man 2
The Blue Bomber returned for his first sequel in 1988. The game was bigger, expanding the boss roster from 6 to 8, louder with a memorable soundtrack that ranks amongst the greatest ever, more challenging with some clever level design and brutal bosses in later levels and was just all around more fun. Mega Man 2 is one of the greatest game sequels of all time, surpassing its predecessor in every way. The series will continue to stay strong through the 90's and will become one of the mainstays in gaming and Capcom's flagship franchise.

29 – Psychonauts
Tim Schafer is one of the most talented game designers of all time and Psychonauts is his Sistine Chapel. This utterly bizarre gaming experience is just so clever, so inventive, so funny and ever so fun to play that it will remain ingrained in your psyche for years after you play it. Psychonauts takes on cliches from video games, movies, television and does it with wit and with charm. Add some truly fun characters, especially the hero Rasputin (“Raz”) and you have an exercise in perfection in platforming. There are few 3D platforming titles that have resonated with me as much as Psychonauts has.

28 – Gunstar Heroes
Gunstar Heroes is a fast-paced run-and-gun shooter in the vain of Contra. GH's advantage over most other scrolling shooters of its era, however, was its energetic action and kinetic level design. High-speed dashes through mines, speedy slides down the faces of pyramids and frantic scaling of buildings all ratchet up the action here. Gunstar Heroes is a relentless shooter that boasts intelligent action set pieces and unforgiving difficulty.

27 - Final Fantasy X
Always a Final Fantasy fan, I was truly excited about the series' first foray into the next generation on the Playstation 2. Final Fantasy X is a delightful story with captivating characters and solid turn-based combat. While more linear than traditional Final Fantasy titles, it did away with the world map, seamlessly linking the areas together by geography, so the pilgrimage you take actually felt like a, well, pilgrimage. The story undertones of theocracy vs. freedom, prejudice vs. understanding, and love vs. tradition all give the game a depth that was rare in a video game story, and the relationships between the characters in the story were very convincing, never feeling forced. While Final Fantasy X is not the best game in the series overall, in the storytelling front, it is an exceptionally executed example of how games can be used to tell a great tale, not merely using the story to carry the action.

26 – Portal
First-person shooters have been an ultra-popular genre for years, especially with PC gamers. Portal took the action of the series and used it to force you to put on your thinking cap. Emphasizing puzzle solving over action, Portal employs brilliant level design and flawless physics to force you to think your way through each level instead of just trigger-happily gunning down faceless baddies.  Oh, and I should also mention that I could not stop laughing while playing through this one.  Truly brilliant.

25 - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania returned to RPG form with Symphony of the Night and did so with such excellence that it remains one of the greatest action titles ever made. The mix of exploration and growth in SotN is solid and steady. The castle was large enough to be engrossing, but not so large that it is impossible to navigate. The soundtrack was stunning and the game had just the right amount of challenge. It was blended just right to be a classic.

24 – Shadow of the Colossus
Where do I begin? When the folks at Sony were pitched a game that was nothing but 16 boss battles with lots of galloping through vacant fields in between, I wonder how it went over. I'm so glad this game exists. It is my all time, favorite PS2 game, it is my favorite game from the last 10 years, and it is a perfect example of how, when you just take a chance, a truly wonderful idea can become a truly epic game. With sixteen of the most ingenious, intimidating, and glorious boss battles in the history of video games, Shadow of the Colossus will remain one of the most beautiful and enrapturing gaming experiences ever.

23 – Super Mario 64
The greatest 3D platformer of all time was made with love, and it shows. While the series did veer slightly from many of the traditions of the original games, it managed to veer from one great series of ideas to another. The brilliant level design will be the gauge by with other platformers will be judged to this day and it will spark the new ideas that other games released since could only attempt to replicate. There are few games that remain as fun to play after dozens of play-throughs as Super Mario 64 does.

22 – Starcraft
If you asked Blizzard in the 90's if they thought this single RTS would become a spectator's sport in a foreign nation, I wonder if they had any idea? Starcraft is the most polished and celebrated strategy game of all time. It was built upon an already solid framework with Warcraft as its foundation. Blizzard struck gold with this title and has managed to milk its success for more than a decade. Starcraft easily has had the strongest and longest run of any singular release in the entire gaming industry's history and its easy to understand why with a single playthrough.

21 - The Sims
The Sims is a smart, fun and endearing title where you embody the life of one person, or the lives of a whole family, and lead them through their careers and their relationships with each other and with the other Sims in their town. The game boasted a great deal of customization and the growth of the Sims and their home gave a tactile model of your progress through the game. The Sims is a classic example of how to do something very different, very, very well.

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