The world of video games is constantly bogged down with opinions. These opinions can cover a number of different topics. Some gamers believe that graphics make a good game. Other gamers believe that the story-line is what makes a great game. There are others that think a good game rests solely on its game-play.
Gamers also like to argue about the best platform to play a game on. Look at any message board or Facebook comment string that pertains to video games. Conversations almost always dissolve into a battle over which is the better system – Xbox One, Wii U, Playstation 4, or PC. Things are getting even more muddled with Nvidia and Steam, names usually associated with PC gaming, making their own consoles. The argument will continue to be never-ending.
In addition to gamers being divided on matters of what makes a good game and which system is best, another common argument is “are modern games actually better than the early classics?” Realistically, many modern games offer a much more immersive and fully satisfying experience over the days of Atari and Intellivision. You won’t find many arguing that an old Tandy-Vision game is better than any given modern video game. However, there was an era of gaming between some of the first home video games and the modern consoles that many people still claim spawned some of the best games to this day. You’d be hard pressed to find a video game site that doesn’t have at least one article on Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger. The first ever Zelda game for the original Nintendo is constantly referenced in pop culture. Even Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo has made its way back in the news when a video of Youtuber SethBling doing a speed-run gained some popularity. Many games from the retro era have stood the test of time, with people still playing them to this very day. You won’t find many gamers who would disagree that these games still trump the competition.
14. Dragon’s Lair Series (Multi-platform)
The Dragon’s Lair series, which includes Dragon’s Lair, Dragon’s Lair II, and Space Ace, was way ahead of its time. The game, created by animator Don Bluth (The Land Before Time), originally played off a laser-disc inside of an arcade cabinet. The idea was revolutionary but the game-play was a little tough to get the hang of. A user had to direct the hero through the fully animated feature, much like the matching of a called button in modern games. The original cabinets didn’t tell the player which button to press, so completing these games was a process of trial and error. This wasn’t very much fun when each turn cost a few quarters. These cabinets were generally more expensive than their single-quarter counterparts.
Later on, the games would become playable on Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-Ray players, and a version of the game would be released on almost any modern console that was capable of the animation (Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3). The games have a huge cult following and they’re incredibly fun (and absolutely beautiful to watch) once you get the hang of them.
13. Smash TV (NES/SNES)
Geometry Wars and its sequels are rather popular, even though they’re very simple games. Smash TV had the exact same control system and overall goal as Geometry Wars, but it had a number of things that Geometry Wars lacked: humor, a great story, tons of violence, crazy boss battles, and beautiful, pixelated ladies!
In the future, two game show contestants are forced to go through a treacherous and deadly gauntlet for the amusement of the viewers at home. As they fight off the endless hordes of adversaries, they pick up as much cash and prizes as they can along the way. The game also offers that perfect level of old school difficulty that hovers somewhere between “seemingly impossible” and “but not unbeatable.”
You also have to love the game’s garbled host.
“Big money! Big prizes! I LOVE IT!”
12. Dragon’s Curse (TurboGrafx 16)
It wouldn’t be hard to find several people that agree most of the games on this list are better than the modern fare. Dragon’s Curse, on the other hand, is a bit of an unknown gem. The game was originally released on the TurboGrafx 16, a system that didn’t get a lot of love due to its huge price tag for the time. It was released in North America in 1989 and came with a suggested retail price of $399.99 and didn’t come with any bundled games. For some perspective, the Xbox One was being sold for $349.99 with games only a few months ago. Games like Dragon’s Curse just didn’t get played, which is a travesty.
Dragon’s Curse was a sort of adventuring/RPG/platformer that could be compared to the Adventure Island series, or even the Zelda games. Gamers at the time even compared it to classics like Metroid and Castlevania. The game was actually the third installment to the Wonder Boy series that released on the early Sega consoles. Throughout the game, your character is cursed by a dragon to look like different creatures, each one giving your character different abilities that help you clear different parts of the levels. The sound, music, animation, and game play, all come together in a beautiful harmony. If you missed this one, you absolutely have to give it a try.
11. Super Mario RPG (SNES)
Not only will you find people that call Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars one of the single greatest Mario games ever made, but many might even tell you it’s the single greatest game ever made. This game put Mario in a story-driven game with game-play similar to that of the turn based RPGs of its era. It was incredibly fun, and it introduced two great new (but largely forgotten) characters to the ever-expanding world of Mario: Mallow and Geno.
The RPG play-style was carried over to the Paper Mario series, making the first Paper Mario a bit of a sequel. Many fans of Mario RPG didn’t care for the stylized approach of Paper Mario, and are still waiting for a true sequel to the SNES classic.
10. Mega Man 2 (NES)
The Mega Man series is one of the biggest game series of all time. It spanned several consoles, including Nintendo, Super Nintendo, N64, Playstation, Playstation 2, and new installments done in a retro style have been released on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and the Wii. The game even had ports on the old Nintendo handhelds, as well as the old Tiger handhelds. There were sports games featuring the character, a sort of RPG game called Mega Man Legends, there were battle games, and there was even a “standard” series and “X” series in the line. The game has spawned comic books, action figures, and an animated television show. Mega Man truly proves that the first step in making a great game is creating a great character.
There are two Mega Man games that absolutely have to be played. The first being Mega Man II on the original NES. This sequel did everything a sequel should do. It kept everything from the first game that made it great and improved upon everything else. The bosses dropped great power up weapons, it boasts some of the best video game music of all time, the levels were hard but not impossible, and you have to love figuring out which order to play the bosses in.
9. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Chrono Trigger could very well be one of the greatest games ever made. There isn’t a person who has played this time-travel RPG that would disagree. Many fans of Chrono Trigger have turned a yearly play-through of the much beloved game into an annual tradition (your writer being one of them).
Aside from great graphics and sprites, an engaging story, and music that might even beat out Mega Man II, the game had multiple story trajectories and endings that resulted from a phenomenal choice system. Modern games tend to take a “time out” to give you clearly defined “good” and “evil” choices. Chrono Trigger‘s choices were completely natural and never took away from the immersion. A great example of this is bumping into a disguised princess at a local fair. If the player chooses to pick up the necklace she drops before seeing if she is okay, this choice will be used against you by character witnesses at a trial later in the game. The game never forces you to do one or the other, it all depends on the hands of the gamer and if they even noticed the necklace.
8. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time (N64)
Many people still claim that this is the best Zelda game of all time, even after great games like Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword hit the shelves. The only game in the Zelda series that seems to hold a torch to Ocarina of Time with fans is the Nintendo 64 follow up Majora’s Mask. To be fair, Majora’s Mask fever has become more of a recent thing thanks to a re-release on the 3DS. Most people still tend to hold that Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game, if not the best game of all time. It offered a whole new take on the character and followed Link throughout time. Players could go back and forth between Link as a child and Link as an adult. The story was engaging and the game-play was fantastic. Considering the Nintendo 64 had one of the worst controllers of all time, good game-play is quite an accomplishment.
There are a lot of games on the Nintendo 64 that look pretty terrible graphically when you revisit the system. Ocarina of Time was not one of them.
7. Contra (NES)
There’s nothing truly special about Contra at first glance. The graphics are decent for Nintendo, but certainly not the best the system ever offered. The game-play is good but only because it’s so basic. It would have been hard to screw it up. There wasn’t much to the story other than “kill the aliens.”
Contra was so good because it was so hard. It was actually challenging, a feature that most modern games don’t like to offer since games these days are more hung up on the player banging their way through what is essentially a glorified movie. In Contra you were constantly dodging an endless barrage of bullets and enemies, all while trying to pick up power-ups that would make your gun actually useful. You had three lives. That was it. Take a single hit, and you die. Don’t even think you can use a “continue”. Despite being so hard, Contra was more addicting than Tetris.
Contra also popularized the still famous “Konami Code”. Say it with me:
Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start!
6. Final Fantasy VII (Playstation X)
Final Fantasy VII might be the first game that made the world go “whooooooa” in unison. When the first trailer dropped, it was handled more like a cinematic event. The game was one of the first console games to have truly jaw-dropping cinematic cut-scenes. The story was nothing short of incredible. The characters were all well written and highly memorable. This wasn’t one of those games where the only character with any substance was your hero or villain. Speaking of villains, this game introduced a villain that may even be up there with Darth Vader as one of the greatest villains of all time: Sephiroth!
When the game was released, Final Fantasy Fever was contracted by people that didn’t even play RPGs. This is the game that made people rush out and get the original Playstation. This is the game that warranted a theatrically released Final Fantasy film. While the film did poorly, many would agree this was largely due to the fact that it did not follow the characters from Final Fantasy VII. A second film, Advent Children, did much better and actually did follow the characters from FF VII.
5. Final Fantasy VI (III) (SNES)
If you played Final Fantasy VI in North America, you probably played the game as Final Fantasy III. Certain installments weren’t released in North America until much later (and on different systems). The game didn’t deviate too much from the tried and true formula that all the early Final Fantasy games had. It just had a great story and great characters to play with in your party. Whenever someone brings up Chrono Trigger as one of the best RPGs of all time, someone will almost always throw Final Fantasy III into the conversation.
While the game boasts every quality that makes a game great, it had one thing that truly makes it one of the best: a playable Mog!
4. Mario 64 (N64)
There is a whole generation that claims that the Nintendo 64 was the best console ever made. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, this just isn’t true. On the other hand, if more games had been made with the time and effort of Mario 64, then that would have easily been the case. The game had so many exploitable secrets, massive and fully explorable levels with a number of different goals, great boss battles, and it’s one of the few games on the Nintendo 64 that you can revisit without feeling like someone puked a bunch of glitchy polygons onto a screen. If you purchased a Nintendo 64 just to play this game and then let it collect dust while sitting next to your Playstation, you didn’t make an entirely bad decision (but you should have played Zelda and GoldenEye). It’s also one of a handful of Nintendo 64 games that actually made using that god awful controller feel natural.
3. Mega Man X (SNES)
What Mega Man II was to the “standard” Mega Man series, Mega Man X was to the “X” series. The games kept everything that made the standard series great. The difficulty, the mega-buster, the boss battles, the added puzzle of playing the bosses in a certain order, some of the best music in any game series ever, and awesome weapon upgrades from defeated bosses. The game also had an additional upgrade system that gave Mega Man extra modifications to his suit by finding pods placed throughout the levels by his creator, Dr. Light. We also got to meet the coolest Mega Man character since Proto Man: Zero!
The game also boasts a more emotional and fleshed out story than most Mega Man games. Knowing that Mega Man had a feeling of inadequacy when it came to Zero made finding those pods all the more rewarding.
It was also nice to see animal based robotic bosses as opposed to the labor oriented originals.
2. Pokemon Snap(N64)
Pokemon Snap is quite possibly the most addicting game ever made. The fun factor goes beyond the standard Pokemon games and fully taps into what really makes those games so fun. It isn’t the battles so much as it’s finding all the Pokemon.
In Snap, you’re a photographer working with Professor Oak to make a field guide containing all the Pokemon. The game puts you in a vehicle that takes a set path through various eco-systems in the Pokemon universe. The player uses various tools at their disposal to get the Pokemon to eat, use their abilities, and even evolve. Sometimes you need to use the items to even get the Pokemon to show their faces, or gather together. This adds a huge level of replay to the game since you can always try to get better photos and unlock more levels and Pokemon to photograph.
1. GoldenEye (N64)
This is one of those 64 games that look terrible when you revisit the system. Thankfully, the game did have a remake where the graphics were cleaned up considerably. Many people still play this game at parties and it’s no surprise: it’s a fantastic first person shooter that allows you to play with four friends without working internet, multiple copies of the game, or multiple systems. If you haven’t, you absolutely need to play the “Man With the Golden Gun Mode” with four people.
Once you beat the game, you unlock a huge library of maps and playable characters that all have their various advantages and disadvantages. There are a ton of weapons that include conventional items like pistols and machine guns, but there are also various mines and even lasers since everything is pulled from other James Bond flicks and not just GoldenEye. This game set the standard for the mega-popular FPS (first-person shooter) genre. In an industry that is completely over-saturated with FPS games, this one still stands out as one of the best.
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