Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (35-31)

Click here for the introduction!

35. Paper Mario (N64)

Did you know that the only fanfiction I’ve ever written was a Paper Mario one? As I was eagerly anticipating the upcoming Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, I lamented the fact that I had never played the original N64 game, so I tracked down a copy and played Paper Mario in the summer of 2004. While playing the game, I began posting on the IGN Paper Mario forums, initially just asking for help. This soon spiraled into me becoming a full-time member of a gaming community and before I knew it I was writing a fanfiction. I have extremely fond memories of that time and can’t help but associate them with this game and its sequel. Paper Mario itself is a wonderful example of creativity; it features an inspired take on the familiar Mushroom Kingdom and I love its chapter format, diversity of lovable partner characters, and simple yet satisfying RPG mechanics. In this premier outing, the whole “paper” concept was just an aesthetic choice, and it made for a compelling art-style that still holds up well even on the aged N64 hardware.

34. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (Game Boy Advance)

Superstar Saga was the first Mario RPG I played and I instantly fell in love with it. It is zany, imaginative, and hilarious. It’s from a time when Nintendo wasn’t afraid to do whatever the hell they wanted with Mario and when the Mario RPGs in particular were a bastion of creativity and unique ideas. Unique ideas like an evil bean witch stealing Princess Peach’s dialogue (as in the text in her text boxes) and replacing it with explosives and sending Mario and Luigi on a quest to the Beanbean Kingdom, an all-new land where Bowser loses his memory and becomes a thief’s apprentice, the now infamous villain Fawful makes metaphors about sandwiches and mustard and doom, and Mario uses his brother as a surfboard I think? What I really love about the first Mario and Luigi compared to its successors is its open, interconnected, detailed world, which doesn’t feel like merely a handful of areas stapled together. It feels like a 2D Zelda overworld almost, with tons of secrets to find and interesting areas to explore and quirky characters to meet. The battle system and mechanics are engaging without being drawn-out or gimmicky and the humor is inspired. Superstar Saga isn’t bogged down with tutorials or repetitive, boring areas full of mundane fetch quests, and it’s not a mess of touch-screeny, motion-controlled mini-game gimmickry; it’s just a wonderfully creative, well-designed RPG. None of the games that followed in the still ongoing Mario and Luigi series have managed to capture the magic of the original for me, and quite frankly they don’t even come anywhere close.

33. Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

Let me get something out of the way right now: I’ve never finished Final Fantasy VII. I stopped playing at the very end of the game on disc three with only the big finale to go, so I did play through practically the whole thing, I just never actually finished it. It is one of my biggest gaming regrets, because I adore this game. Final Fantasy VII is tied with memories of a high school summer long gone by and even though I was quite late in playing the game, I still found myself engrossed in its extremely compelling world and complex narrative. For its time, FFVII was incredibly ambitious, and it’s one of those games where I can feel the passion of the developers in every facet of the experience. I unabashedly love this game’s atmosphere as well as its soundtrack. Composed by the great Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy VII’s score is a wonder, and easily one of my absolute favorites in video games. It also contains the greatest battle music in JRPG history that still gets me pumped up to this day. Someday, someday soon, I need to go back and re-experience this whole game complete with a proper conclusion.

32. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

First off: another masterful soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu. It should be clear if you’ve read just about any one of these posts, but music is extremely important to me, in video games and otherwise. In fact, it is one of the most important elements in video games for me; it can set a mood, create an atmosphere, evoke emotions, and so much more. I think when it comes to Final Fantasy VI, “emotion” is a very key word. One of the first things I think about when I think about FFVI is its characters; their different stories, the way they grow, and how the narrative draws them together and progresses with a focus and a confidence that few other games can match. Unlike many other JRPGs, the narrative here is not convoluted or overly complex, but it is gripping stuff and does a great job of balancing humor and drama. FFVI is filled with powerful narrative moments that I won’t dare spoil, but suffice to say it’s an incredibly narratively ambitious game for its time and summons a heap of emotion using only pixels and sprites, which is actually quite similar to the next game on this list…

31. Cave Story (PC)

Cave Story speaks directly to my heart. It pulled me in, held me close, punched me in the gut, and left me deeply moved. It just does everything right. The detailed world-building, emotional storytelling, and level of imagination on display in Cave Story rivals any of my favorite games of all time. Also, I know I’m a fossilized record at this point, but I also adore this game’s pixel art and soundtrack. From its enigmatic beginnings to its multiple endings, Cave Story is an unforgettable and special journey that can be downright brutal in more ways than one. I really want to spoil as little as I can about the game as it’s something best experienced as blind as possible, but you have my word that Cave Story is easily one of the greatest video games I’ve ever played. It is also immensely inspirational, as the entire game, which was inspired by the likes of Metroid, was developed by a single person, Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya, who did the art, writing, music, level design, and programming all by himself in a five year effort. An indie inspiration and simply an incredible game, Cave Story is a work of art in every way.


Only 30 more games to go! The final stretch begins next time with #30-26!

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