Sunday, September 4, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (110-106)

Click here for the introduction!

110. Shantae (Game Boy Color)

Compared to its smoother-playing sequels, the original Shantae is a little wonky, but it’s nonetheless an imaginative platforming adventure that is still probably the most unique game in the series. Released late in the handheld’s life, it’s probably one of the prettiest Game Boy Color games out there and is packed with big colorful sprites and charming animations. Structurally, the game is sort of like a cross between Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Zelda, and Metroid, but Shantae definitely has its own original flare that makes it stand apart. The world and storyline is wacky, involving genies and pirates and roaming zombie caravans, and the whole experience has a distinct sense of humor about everything. I also adore the game’s unique and detailed belly-dancing mechanic and Shantae’s transformation abilities. The original Shantae GBC cartridge is notoriously rare and expensive, but the same experience can be purchased for a mere $5 on the 3DS eShop.

109. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (DSi)

Risky’s Revenge carries over a lot of what made the original Shantae special and, in a quantifiable sense, improves on that game in just about every way. The combat and platforming mechanics are much more satisfying, Shantae’s dancing has been streamlined (though a bit of the charm has been lost in the process), the world is more enjoyable to explore, the music has been kicked up about ten or twenty notches as Jake Kaufman truly begins to hit his stride, the quirky writing is even stronger (this is actually one of the funniest games I’ve ever played), and the spritework is even more fantastic. The one big drawback of Risky’s Revenge is that its adventure feels a bit cut short and in order to get the full story, you’ll need to play Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Still, even though I still find a lot to love in the original Shantae, Risky’s Revenge is much more playable and currently my favorite in this charming and creative series. While it was originally released as a downloadable title on the Nintendo DSi, Risky’s Revenge has since been ported to a bunch of other places, including 3DS, PC, and even smartphones.

108. Gone Home (PC)

I only just played Gone Home last year but it was a strangely nostalgic and personal experience with all of its references to the 90s and a shy, artistic, relatable protagonist with a large imagination and aspirations of being a writer. It also combined a fantastic central voice performance and intelligent environmental design to tell a gripping and human story that hooked me from beginning to end.

107. Super Smash Bros. (N64)

The original Super Smash Bros. was a bizarre and exciting game when it released in 1999. There was even something inherently exciting about the colorful, hand-drawn boxart that immediately captivated me, even though I barely knew who Samus Aran or Fox McCloud were at the time. I did recognize Mario, Kirby, and Pikachu though and I fell in love with this surreal mishmash of Nintendoverses almost as soon as I started playing. It was a blast playing with friends of course, but I also have fond memories of rushing home from school to smash targets with Donkey Kong by myself. The original Smash also has something that the newer games in the series largely lack: atmosphere. From the strangely toned-down main menu music to the meta narrative of a child playing with their toys to the eerie music that plays after defeating the final boss, there’s just something special about this game that I feel was lost as the series went on to become the flashy monstrosity that it is today.

106. Unravel (PC)

While a clever and charming puzzle-platformer on its own merits, what makes Unravel particularly special to me is how much I relate to it. As I wrote here, it feels uncannily like the game was made specifically for me between the beautiful, nearly photorealistic appreciation of nature’s small wonders, the theme of a small creature exploring our gigantic world, and even the fact that yarn has a special nostalgic quality for me because my Nana loved to knit. Heck, the dang thing even released on my birthday. While Unravel’s narrative impact admittedly could have been stronger, it’s still an experience that spoke to my heart and enchanted me thoroughly.


Join me next time for #105-101! Hope to see you then!

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