After posting the league assignment for the week and seeing the great feedback, I realized something...I love making lists! In light of the top 10 movie list and reflecting on the fun I had making it, (I'm a nerd, I love categorizing and itemizing) I'm going to keep up the spirit and start my own top 10. This one will be a pretty easy one. It'll stray from my normal zone of Action figures and move into video games. Hey, they were toys in their own right so I guess I'm still in the same ballpark, right?
Top 10 Nintendo Games that I owned from the NES era
10. Rescue Rangers - Got this one in my Easter Basket...played it non-stop. I loved the co-op action and the great character sprites. It was a game you could play with younger, older, male, female players and pretty much everyone I know universally liked this one. It's a perfect rendition of the animated property as well, including nearly every friend and foe within this game. (Why couldn't the first Ninja Turtles game take a hint instead of giving us every character except the ones from the cartoon and comic book?) Fat Cat's casino, the Toy store, turning off the faucets in the kitchen level...so many absolutely clever touches in this game made what could have been a very rushed, forgettable title a truely memorable experience.
9. Guardian Legend - Very cool under-rated game. You're flying, Shooting, exploring and collecting clad in a transforming mech suit to fight huge ugly monsters on both land and air. It was extremely rewarding and had a beautiful soundtrack. Wish I could play it now because I think I would appreciate it even more as an adult. Sadly, no VC release slated.
8. Ikari Warriors - Cool game I saw at my buddy Tim's house. His mom played it quite a bit...still remember her smoking cigarettes and hammering away at Zelda's second quest. Hip lady. Loved it from the first screen of the plane going down. I always felt it had a Rambo feel to it as one man (or two) army taking on hordes of soulless troopers. This probably could have doubled better for Rambo then the actual Rambo game. I thoroughly enjoyed plowing about in the tank, lobbing grenades, mowing down soldiers, scoring hits and the music, as repetitive as it was, still was a catchy epic tune. Followed up by a spacier, weirder, but still entertaining sequel. Another arcade port done very well that included a co-op two player mode on top of a solid single player experience. Honestly, two-player is the true way to play as having that second gun makes the game extremely easier.
7. Maniac Mansion - This game could make it into the top 10 just for the soundtrack. I think it
actually had it's soundtrack released separately. This was a LucasArts licensed game that just overflowed with unique weirdness. A ton of LucasArts stuff from this era were true gems and they actually could get their own top 10 from Sam and Max to Full Throttle. It was so random and funky in its presentation and style. It was even developed into a horrible spin off television show that obviously didn't last. I still get a kick out of the fact you can microwave the hamster. *you lose if you do this* Additionally, it was one of the only tricks I saw on Gamepro TV that I actually tried...playing the tape after recording the tentacles record of a high pitch screeching to break the chandelier to get the rusty key...honestly, who thinks of this stuff?
6. Double Dragon II - Takes everything we enjoyed about the original Double Dragon and improves upon it. It's packed full of great fighting, action, environmental hazards, and background designs. It just is an all around fist pounding button masher of a game. Few things are as rewarding as knocking someone off the helicopter, perfectly timing an uppercut on one of those dashing ninjas or throwing someone off a building by their hair. Add-ons like dynamite and grenades are a super inclusion as well.
5. Contra - Shoot, Shoot, Shoot and Shoot some more. This one is pure adrenaline pumping action. I got it cheap off my cousin who was done with it along with Pac-Man and Ice Climber. This was the keeper of the three. This includes fighting huge, disgusting bosses, endless supplies of drones, gun turrets and vehicles that seemingly never end. This game goes from straight up military shooter to crazy sci-fi in the flick of a switch and is one of the first games that utilizes a 3D perspective. Some prefer Super C but this game stands out for me because I think it was the first NES title that really nailed an arcade feel. I've played the Contra Arcade Port for X-Box Live and it doesn't stand up to the NES version in my opinion. It also has THE best powerup in any video game, can you say, "Spread Gun"?
4. Mega Man 2 - The best hands down Mega Man of the bunch. This often finds itself competing with Mega Man 3 for fan favorite but I think 2 edges out its sequel. This is because of the great levels, bosses, powers and super catchy soundtrack. I have the Dr. Light Message Screen theme as my ringtone! Unforgiving in its' difficulty...never to this day beat Wily's castle but even from seeing the preview of it in Nintendo Power I will always have a reverence for the amazing enemy design like the robo fish, shrimp, helmet heads, gorillas, monkeys, walkers and birds. Get yourself a NES Max controller for this one.
3. Castlevania - Although III is a technically superior game, I have more warmth in my heart for the original vampire slayer. I can remember seeing it for the first time at my dad's buddy's house when his teenage son was playing it and seeing him kill the vampire bat and I could say was, "woah!" It blew my 6 year old mind. I was obsessed with haunted house stuff so this game (along with the mindnumbingly hard Ghost and Goblins) knocked my imagination for a loop. I had no idea such things could be done with video games. I played this game religiously. Even to this day, I dread the crows and Medusa heads.
2. Star Tropics - One of the most memorable experiences playing a game I ever had. Star Tropics is hands down the best NES game ever made. Playing through it the first time was magical for me. I didn't realize why I liked it and it felt so familiar (Zelda gameplay mechanics could be a reason) but I was sucked into the fantasy world as the young boy Mike searching for his lost explorer uncle. Standout moments included playing the organ, Shecola, the submarine, ROB the robot, the disappearing ink packed in my NES case all on top of having an super engaging action mode and a very neat jumping trigger system for disarming traps and opening doors. This game had so many amazing parts and was the first I ever played that broke the fourth wall and involved the player! (same reason I loved Metal Gear: Solid)...My cousin Tara and I marvelled at this game and used to call each other when we got one step further or figured something out. Few games did it then and no games do it now.
1. Super Mario Brothers/ Duck Hunt - Although, I'd prefer to play Star Tropics now I gotta give proper homage to the first NES game I ever played (Big Shock). I remember seeing it at my cousins' houses as a 5 year old and absolutely loving every second. Duck Hunt was a blast with my parents who got a bigger kick out of the "Light Gun" than I did. In addition to playing, Mario was essentially the first video game I ever saw as I never was exposed to any of the Atari titles with the exception of playing SiniStar at my local K-Mart with my Dad. He still says, "I HUNGER!" to me. As basic as this game goes, it does everything right from the essential moving from right to left gameplay mechanic, collecting the coins and powerups to the effective combat system of stomping everything that gets in your way. What started as a little overall wearing mustachio fighting the turtles and eating mushrooms, blew up into a massive franchise that is enduing 3 decades. If anything ever got me into drawing and art, this was it as Mario was the absolute first character I ever learned to draw well. This was also a very nice save for my Christmas morning that year because along with this excellent pack in game, I also received Ghostbusters for NES...the infamous Ghostbusters for NES...as my father and I struggled to figure it out, we finally gave up, put it on the back burner and popped in the ultimate safety, the Brothers Mario. Ghostbusters ended up working out because we exchanged it that week for another Nintendo great, The Legend of Zelda...which officially hooked my father on the NES.
ALSO...While we're on the subject, let's crank out some more Video Game related rambling!
Here's the Top 10...well 12 games I wish I could get a shot at again... A lot of these games, for whatever reason, have been off the major radar from being playable for me. If you have the means and/or ability to play this stuff, go for it. They are great titles and deserve attention for innovation, uniqueness and unforgettable gaming experiences. You can always cross your fingers and wait around getting increasingly discouraged. Seriously, don't hold your breath for many of these titles. Then again, in the past years we have seen re-releases of Bonk's Adventure, Chrono Trigger, X-Men and Simpsons arcade games, Symphony of the Night and Radiant Silvergun so all hope is not lost.
12. EarthBound (SNES) - Very innovative and original concept for a RPG. One of the last released throughout the SNES's long shelf life. Still remember the stinky (weird) ad in Nintendo Power for this game. A cult and fan favorite that kinda got a bit of a tease through it's inclusion in Smash Brothers. This game (along with its sequels) has been extremely illusive (Going for a hundred bucks on the after market) and up to now has not been graced with a virtual console release... Hey, Final Fantasy III was released very late so maybe there is a sliver of hope.
11 . Batman (NES and Arcade) : Great level design, fantastic action, spectacular music. This game wins on all counts with Ninja Gaiden like wall jumping, super varied weapons and a spot on combat system. Played it once at the Harry Houdini Museum during my cousin's birthday party. Random, I know. Never got to play it since. Batman Returns on the SNES is possibly one of the best 16 bit beat 'em ups ever made as well. Data East knocked it out of the park with this one...yet we're still waiting for a VC release that apparently is never happening. Another Batman related game I loved was the Arcade version of the Tim Burton movie... very cool beat 'em up that I'd love an extended go at.
10. Cowboys of Moo Mesa (arcade game) - Great arcade game that actually was right next to the Batman arcade game at my local movie theater. Super big, well animated sprites. Pumping soundtrack and non-stop action packed shooter action. Again, would love to get a longer chance to play without having to cut off the game to catch the previews to whatever movie I was going to see.
9. Strider (Genesis) - This game isn't that hard to get but in my case I own no Genesis models so it is a very unlikely situation where I'd be able to play this game. I remember it being super fun, flipping around, hacking and slashing and taking in the colorful levels, super detailed and well animated sprites and just having a blast. Strider is one of my favorite playable characters in Marvel Vs. Capcom II.
8. Duck Tales (NES) - Played this at my uncle's Christmas party on a random NES hooked up in his side room. It was great but I only got to play the snow level and kept getting stuck. Having crying cousins screaming for the controller didn't help but this was a title I always wanted to get another shot at. Again, awesome music (the Space theme has been remixed more times than you can count) and distinctive Capcom art direction and control. Virtual Console can't seem to work it out with the Disney properties so we're still without the greats like Tailspin, Darkwing Duck, Rescue Rangers and this amazing title.
7. Aliens (arcade) - Super cool shooter...Best rendition of the Aliens series I can remember.
My local bowling alley had this one sitting in the corner and I had a blast feeding quarters into it. You had every gun at your disposal and fought a ton of inspired stuff from the franchise. A lot of the Aliens reminded me of the big, bad, uglies you fought in the SplatterHouse series. The level with the Marines APC was a cool one as I loved the Colonial APC and included it in a previous league assignment. The crazy thing was I played this game years before ever getting to see the actual movie.
6. Alone in the Dark 2 (MSDOS) - A very cool PC game...the first I actually played. One game that really made you use your mind to solve the puzzles for Edward Carnby, the detective on the hunt for a young abducted girl from the pirate "One-Eyed Jack." Very dated in its graphics but one of the first of its kind in the survival horror (suspense) genre. Alone in the Dark, the original was a very much more Cthulu inspired game with better elements of Horror but I felt the sequel edged out the predecessor for sentimental reasons.
5. Rescue: the Embassy Mission and Golgo 13 (NES) - A set of old school NES titles that were way ahead of their time. They are kind of repetitive now based on superior games that have come out since like Splinter Cell and the like but they stand out to me for having very realistic settings during the years they were released; be it the focus on stealth, avoidance, patience in Rescue or the cloak and dagger, adult story line of Golgo. Rescue was broken into a few mini-games but I heartily enjoyed playing the shooting, ducking, sniping and dodging levels.... Golgo had great dialogue, cut scenes, and a very involving world your agent plays through. Play them both while thinking of the time they came out, you'd be surprised.
4. Einhander (Playstation) - Here's a great game from SquareSoft. A side moving shoot em up that has such a distinct and impressive visual style. I only got a shot at playing a demo of this that was a pack in with Final Fantasy VIII if I remember correctly. In all reality, it was way better than Final Fantasy VIII. I used to play it over and over again. Many games replicate the feel such as Ikaruga and Raiden III but I think this title edges out nearly every Shmup I can list. I would absolutely love to get a chance to play the whole game with its expert art direction, cool weapons, arcade like palate and incorporation of fully fleshed out 3d backgrounds. Check it out on the aftermarket...it's brutally priced!
3. Colony Wars (Playstation) - The Playstation's epic space sim/shooter. It was so well executed and presented and I loved every minute of playing this game with beautiful visuals and such an engrossing PC feel to a console home title. It was followed up by a sequel called "Vengeance" which was another amazing title. Graphics on this game are top notch as well as they really push the PS one's engine to the max.
2. BioForge (MSDOS) - This was the ultimate PC gaming experience in my mind. One of the first games I got when I got my GateWay 2000. This reminds me of how much I loved the old MS DOS games. Came packed with features, tech manuals, a whole bunch of books setting the stage and really getting you into the world. This was a game where actually reading the found log books of dead or evacuated crew really pull you in and feel extremely convincing through expertly written text. This is the world of the protagonist, an un-named, prisoner of a lunar science base which is experiencing violent tremors and an apparent self-destruct sequence counting down. I never saw anything like this game when I played it with puzzle solving, brutal combat, fully realized characters and real challenges. How would you as an unarmed, injured person take out 2 guards wielding automatic weapons or take down reinforcement dropships...and really, what other game would allow you to beat a man to death with his own severed arm?
1. T.I.E. Fighter (MSDOS) - I never was huge into the whole flight sim genre but this one was an absolute keeper. Again, witness PC gaming at its' best with an involving story, in depth controls, realistic flight settings and super realistic missions. Maarek Steele is our lead character who's back story is completed through the included booklets and manuals as a swoop gang member later conscripted into the navy as a crewman and technician and then later brought into the TIE Fighter corps. The world really sets you up to see it from the Empire's side and you really get a picture of the vastness of the Empire and the universe of Star Wars. I played this game unceasingly and would love to get a shot at it again or to see it updated with HD graphics. Nothing is more satisfying than blowing a Mon Calamari Cruiser Away or seeing 3 reinforcement Star Destroyers come in from light speed.