Between this site and my old one I hit my 400th video game review not too long ago, so although it's a little redundant and can be inferred from my posts, I thought I would highlight my favorite games of all time throughout this year, which is the tenth year that I've been keeping a video game blog (how time flies...). My list of favorites are limited to the games that I've written about on my blog, and so there are many classics that no doubt deserve a place but that I just haven't gotten around to replaying (not to mention all the worthy games out there that I haven't found the time to play for the first time!).
I don't think it's a spoiler to say that my list is dominated by Nintendo games as I'm a Nintendo fanboy, or that it's dominated by Nintendo's top franchises, but to keep things a little more interesting I thought I'd start with one of two posts that feature a more varied assortment of favorites. I definitely don't think there's any point in trying to try to rank the games since they're all so excellent in different ways, so this list is chronological.
Last caveat: I'm purposely calling this list my "Favorite Games of All Time" as opposed to "Best Games of All Time", because I recognize that the list is purely subjective and that some games on my list are not likely to be on anyone else's list (or very few people's anyway). My main criterion now and always for games deserving of being on my list are those that give me that special "tingle" of pure bliss, so although there are many games that I "enjoy" and give me the occasional tingle, a much smaller fraction give me that special tingle continuously and aren't weighed down by long boring sections or other problems.
So without further ado, here's the first list! Enjoy! ;)
Intergalactic Video Game Academy's Favorite Games of All Time: Part 1
|Space Invaders (Arcade, 1978). Starting things off is the original Space Invaders. Some of the games on my list earn a spot partly in appreciation of how significant they are historically, and Space Invaders falls into that camp. But the game also has to hold up today to make it onto my list, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my time with this game. What I liked most about Space Invaders is that it makes the most of its constraints and includes multiple phases within each level. In my review I said, "Even though I didn't get through many levels, the game has a nice balance of making you choose to go offensive (shoot at the aliens) or defensive (dodge or hide behind one of the barriers) and forcing you to constantly be on the move or risk the aliens reaching the 'Earth', i.e. the bottom of the screen." The game's simple black and white pixel graphics are timeless and classic, and it packs a lot of groundbreaking creativity into a small package.|
|Galaga (Arcade, 1981; NES, 1985). In my post about Space Invaders I'd said, "For me Galaga is still the classic arcade shoot 'em up". Galaga was a game that I grew up playing in the arcade, and even nostalgia aside it really fulfills the promise of Space Invaders with wholly satisfying enemy variety and challenge. Letting your ship get captured, and winning it back and doubling your firepower (this game's equivalent of Contra's spread gun) is pure video game magic. My post was about the NES version, which to me is a wholly acceptable port, rather than the arcade version, but both versions are a ton of fun.|
|Contra (Arcade, 1987; NES, 1988). Speaking of Contra... Haha. The game is one of my favorites of all time, and not just because I played it a lot on the NES when I was a kid. The game has some of the funnest co-op around, and its legendary challenge is offset by the huge boost in number of lives that the Konami code provides. Getting the spread gun is guaranteed to make you feel like a bad@$$, and is one of the classic moments in video gaming. To me this is the run 'n gun classic that all others in the genre must be compared to.|
|Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (SNES, 1995). I've played a lot of platformers over the years, so by the time I got to Super Mario World 2 I was pretty jaded. The game's core mechanic, in which you're babysitting Baby Mario, is a unique hook, as is its art style, but in my original post I wrote, "The variety in the stages felt improved to such a degree that it reminded me of SMB3, extremely high praise indeed. Although SMW2 starts off a bit slow (the first two worlds, of six, don’t have much character) and had me feeling like i was going through the motions of playing through yet another platformer, pretty soon the game had surprises around every corner and had me completely hooked." Variety is one of the keys to a great platformer, but that doesn't just mean introducing new enemies and elements every second, but using the set in surprising and clever ways, which SMW2 does (and makes it look so easy!). The game (and subsequent series') emphasis on collectathons brings the experience down very slightly for me, but this still easily earns a place on my list.|
|Mario Kart 64 (N64, 1996). I've played all of the Mario Kart games, but Mario Kart 64 remains my favorite of the series. In my retrospective of the series from a few years ago I wrote: Mario Kart 64 is really what made me become a fan of the series. Although it’s prob. among the easiest in the series, like many sequels it took the core concept and greatly expanded it. The tracks went from the almost-completely flat tracks of Super Mario Kart to ones that had bumps, jumps, and steeply angled twists and turns, along with many more moving obstacles to contend with including penguins, cars and trucks, boulders, a train, and a giant Yoshi egg. the game introduced new types of course locations that have been built upon ever since, including farm, desert, stadium, jungle, and city tracks. the balance of items feels 'just right', and i think many people would agree that it’s one of the standout entries in the series, if not the best." 'Nuff said! ;)|
Samba de Amigo (DC, 2000; Wii, 2008). Years before Guitar Hero and Wii, there was Samba de Amigo on Dreamcast. I played the game on Wii, but apparently the Dreamcast version is just as good. In my post about the Wii version I wrote, "The wackiness of the design and the fact that you’re frickin’ shaking your Wiimotes like maracas to Spanish songs and random songs like 'Groove is in the Heart' thrown in makes this classic, totally stupid fun." If ever there were a game to put a smile on your face (and of everyone in the nearby vicinity), this is it.
|Wario Land 3 (GBC, 2000). I still haven't quite finished all of the Wario Land games, but I was surprised at how inventive Wario Land 3 was. At the time I wrote, "It has so many of the things I’ve found to be key factors in really successful platformers, including colorful and varied locales, fun characters and powerups, tight controls, a smooth progression, and new elements introduced at virtually every turn but all in keeping with the game’s universe. Wario’s Looney-Tunes-esque transformations are as enjoyable as the last game, and he continues to be an endearing anti-hero." The way that the stages and map continually evolve also feels fresh even years since its original release. Definitely a classic that gives even Mario a run for his money.|
|Pikmin (GCN, 2001) (Post 1 | Post 2). All the games in the Pikmin series provide a rare combination of charm and strategy. The Pikmin themselves are completely adorable, and the variety in the enemy design and the game mechanics themselves are all very satisfying. I know I'm in a minority, but I actually preferred the first Pikmin game to the second (which I still haven't finished). At the time I wrote, "Though the 30 day time limit of the first game can be frustrating, it makes the game much more tense and thus fun." I haven't played enough of Pikmin 3 yet to really have a strong feeling about it, but I'll always have fond memories of exploring the lush, familiar-yet-alien world of the original Pikmin.|
|Dance Dance Revolution Konamix (PS, 2002). There are tons of Dance Dance Revolution games, but the one I started off with was Dance Dance Revolution Konamix for the original PlayStation (one of the latest games released for that system). After years of being wowed by master DDR dancer-players I would see occasionally in arcades or at video game events, I finally got to see what all the fuss was about and I've gradually built up my own skillz. As with Samba de Amigo it's pretty much impossible to play the game without laughing at yourself (or others if you're playing with a group), and the game was one of the pioneers of video games that are also effective as exercise. A lot of fun, and a game you could spend a lifetime truly mastering.|
|F-Zero GX (GCN, 2003) (Post 1 | Post 2). I'm not that interested in racing games in general, but I played F-Zero GX obsessively for several months without a break. At the time I wrote, "This is a game that, like Metroid Prime, has so much polish everywhere it just gleams. From the visuals to the music to the tight gameplay, everything is so well developed it really makes every moment a purely pleasurable experience, so much so that even if you crash your last racer at the last millisecond of the last race, just a hair away from getting 1st in the whole cup (as I just did tonight), you don’t really mind too much." At the time I had also wondered, "How in the world is Nintendo going to top this??", and given that the series has pretty much been on hiatus since it may be that they've been pondering the same thing. Another game that I have very fond (although also painful, since the game is hard), memories of.|
So that's it for this first installment. Four more to go! The next few installments will be more thematic, and so I'll save my favorite assorted games from 2003 on for the last installment. These posts won't be on a regular schedule, but I'll work them in whenever I have a light week of actual reviews. Now in the meantime... back to more gaming and more game reviews!