Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (70-66)

Click here for the introduction!

70. Wario Land II (Game Boy)

The Wario Land games represent a special kind of oddness and creativity that blossomed in Nintendo’s suite of titles for their Game Boy handheld back in the 90s. Because they weren’t developing a big console game, Nintendo’s designers probably felt less pressure to deliver on certain expectations or adhere to certain conventions. This kind of freedom really shows in games like the Super Mario Land titles, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and of course the Wario Land games. Wario Land II differs quite a bit from its predecessor: Wario is impervious to damage, for one thing, and the game has also gotten rid of the Super Mario World-style world map. Instead, a narrative plays out across a bunch of stages played immediately one after the other, but depending on what actions the player takes or what secret routes they find, their path can branch and the final outcome of the adventure can vary wildly. It’s a really interesting set-up for a platformer and one that encourages replaying levels and discovering every secret the game has to offer. Wario Land II is like a treasure trove that keeps extending deeper downwards until you discover the final, ultimate secret. Full of imaginative levels and packed with mysteries, I got completely lost in Wario Land II as a kid and it kept my face glued to my Game Boy screen until I had found and seen everything.

69. Kirby Super Star/Kirby Super Star Ultra (SNES/DS)

Like most Super Nintendo games on this list, Kirby Super Star is another game that I wanted to play for years, but was denied on account of me not having a Super Nintendo. While it eventually came to the Wii’s Virtual Console, I actually first experienced Super Star in its original form when I was in college. My roommate had somehow acquired a Super Nintendo and a box of games (something about his aunt finding it in her attic or something) and one of these was of course the elusive Super Star. I was overjoyed to finally experience the game and everything was going great until my save data somehow got corrupted when I was nearly finished with the adventure. I did restart and complete the whole game from scratch, but this nonetheless really soured my initial experience with Super Star unfortunately. All the same, from The Great Cave Offensive (my favorite) to Revenge of Meta Knight to Milky Way Wishes and more, Kirby Super Star is a greatly enjoyable time from beginning to end. While I mainly prefer the more standard Kirby adventures to Super Star’s oddball “multi-game” approach, I still appreciate the title’s uniqueness. The 2008 DS remake, Super Star Ultra, is my preferred version of the game and includes all of the original game’s modes as well as several new ones that all fit in nicely. In many ways, Super Star Ultra feels like the ultimate Kirby game, offering a robust and fulfilling Kirby experience that covers a ton of ground and contains most of the iconic characters and elements from throughout the series.

68. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

It had been a long time since a new Zelda game had given me the kind of feeling that A Link Between Worlds did. It brought back the free-form, exciting sense of exploration and discovery that the classic top-down Zeldas are known for, and it did it with several twists. The item-shop idea allowed for a wonderful sense of freedom and the extremely well-implemented wall-merging mechanic allowed for numerous angles to puzzle-solving and completely changed the way I thought about top-down Zelda. To top it all off, A Link Between Worlds also uses stereoscopic 3D to lovely effect and this is just another way this game subtly brings something new to the classic overhead Zelda design. While it’s not flawless, there’s just so much I could praise about this game: I could on and on about the wonderful soundtrack (with a surprising amount of great original compositions), fantastic dungeons, and the way that the game constantly played with my expectations and surprised me in all sorts of delightful ways. Beyond all this, ALBW also just has that special Zelda magic, as evidenced by moments like its touching ending sequence.

67. Super Paper Mario (Wii)

The first two Paper Mario games get plenty of love, and rightfully so, but Super Paper Mario seems to get a raw deal, and it pains me to see it occasionally lumped in with the likes of the soulless Paper Mario: Sticker Star as “one of the bad Paper Mario games”. While at its mechanical core, Super Paper Mario is a platformer and quite a departure from its turn-based RPG brethren, its heart and soul is completely in line with the smartly written, wildly imaginative, and subversive originals, perhaps even surpassing them to an extent in these regards. Full of memorable new characters (and new roles for existing ones) and interesting locations, Super Paper Mario is brimming with personality and creativity. Like its predecessor, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Super Paper Mario largely eschews well-worn-out Mario series tropes and instead sees Mario and his companions traveling to the pixelated palace of a nerdy chameleon who is a parody of Nintendo’s very own fanbase, a prehistoric land where overworld-dwelling rock people and underworld-dwelling flower people are at war, a convenience store in space, and even to…well, I won’t spoil that one. And even though it lacks turn-based battles, in its structure, atmosphere, ancillary mechanics, and storytelling, this adventure is every bit an RPG at heart and fits well in line with its predecessors. Speaking of storytelling, one of the aspects of Super Paper Mario that stands out the most is its narrative, which takes some surprisingly thoughtful and interesting turns for a game starring Nintendo’s mustachioed mascot, and is ultimately a uniquely touching tale for the series.

66. Pikmin 3 (Wii U)

I associate Pikmin 3 with late summer nights, peaceful and cool, crickets chirping a lullaby outside the window. Similar to Unravel (and I suppose many games on this list), Pikmin 3 is another very “me” game. Pikmin 2 is special to me and a great game, but it’s a bit bloated. Its follow-up condenses things and delivers the most refined, polished, accessible, and quite frankly enjoyable game in the series. It takes some of the great aspects of Pikmin 2 and melds them with a sense of urgency and greater narrative heft more akin to the original Pikmin and spins it all into a wonderful adventure with a potent atmosphere that feels almost profound. It’s hard to describe the kind of unique feeling that the Pikmin games have but this essence is perhaps more prominent than ever in Pikmin 3. An experience that combines my love of nature with my love of little things with my love of engrossing interactive experiences, its locales are gorgeous, its characters charming, its design satisfying, and its memorable final chapter left such an impression on me that I felt the need to dedicate a whole post to it separate from my review.


We approach the halfway point next time with #65-61!

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