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75. The Last of Us (PS3)
Just about one year after playing through it for the first
time, I have very distinct memories of The
Last of Us. Even with all the high
expectations I had going in, the game still managed to impress me, and from the
moment I saw its haunting title screen, I knew it would be special. Its harrowing
world, poignant storytelling, and fully-realized characters that feel more like
real people than perhaps any other game I’ve played save for maybe Majora’s Mask all contribute to a weighty
experience that is burdensome, distressing, and emotionally draining. There’s
something about The Last of Us that has
really made it stick with me. I expected a top-tier “AAA” video game experience,
but I got something more.
74. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES)
There’s something about the
atmosphere of Donkey Kong Country 2 that
captivated me in a way that the original Donkey
Kong Country, good game though it may be, failed to do. A big part of this
is certainly the music, which is one of my favorite soundtracks in video game
history and earned David Wise a place among legends in my book. The first time
I heard Stickerbush Symphony was a religious experience. My love for DKC2 is
also related to the adventurous, pirate-themed setting though and memorable levels
that are creative and fantastical, like a gigantic pirate ship and a beehive-infested
amusement park. In addition, I love the tag-team of Diddy and Dixie, who both
play much better than lumbering Donkey Kong does in the original game, and
little touches like their end-of-level fanfares give this game a lot of
personality. DKC2 is the special kind
of 90s platformer that made me initially fall in love with video games that I
just happened to somehow miss playing until I was in college, and there’s only
one game with the Donkey Kong name that I love more.
73. Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
I captured my feelings on the gorgeous and blissful Mario Kart 8 pretty well in this post,
but suffice it to say this joyous game surprised me with how special it really
is. There’s just something sublime about the feel of drifting around every
tight corner and racing at blistering speeds through the game’s imaginative and
beautiful courses. Everything from the music to the visuals to the feel of play
all harmoniously come together in Mario
Kart 8 to produce something magical and even therapeutic. Mario Kart 8 is, in a word, jubilant.
72. Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA (N64)
I don’t talk about it much, but the Rush series has a very special place in
my heart. In fact, for a certain period of time Rush 2 was perhaps my first or second favorite N64 game, no joke. Rush 2 is emblematic of a time when I
would rarely acquire new games, and the ones that I did I would completely devour.
What makes the Rush series unique
among racing games is that they place a large focus not on a standard Grand
Prix mode (though that’s there too) but on exploring the game’s enormous and extravagantly detailed tracks. Calling them “tracks” doesn’t
really seem accurate though as these may as well be mini open world sandboxes.
These games are packed with secrets and wacky easter eggs, such as a hidden
underground stunt arena in the original San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing that would eventually lead to an entire
dedicated “stunt mode” in San Francisco Rush 2049. The courses in Rush 2 highly
encourage exploration as they offer not only creative shortcuts and other
hidden areas but collectible keys and even collectible…Mountain Dew cans??? There’s
a delightful surreality to the Rush games.
Even though the tracks in Rush 2 take
place in largely faithful recreations of the likes of New York and Los Angeles,
I don’t think San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island actually contains a gigantic
loop-the-loop. In truth, I love all the classic Rush games, from the original to 2049, but Rush 2 is the
one that I have the fondest memories of. It’s also one of those sequels that
pretty much one-ups the original in every way and I love the wide variety of
locales in the game beyond just San Francisco.
71. Viewtiful Joe (GameCube)
Viewtiful Joe is one
of many unique gems to come out of the GameCube era. After the eponymous Joe gets
sucked into the land of movies Last Action Hero-style, he becomes a superhero and can unleash “VFX” powers that
allow him to harness the special effects of movies such as slowing down time to
dodge bullets or speeding it up to solve certain puzzles. It’s an inspired
concept and mastering all of Joe’s abilities to punch and platform through
several different “movies” is a great time. The game employs an incredibly
stylish cel-shaded visual aesthetic and every world is packed with detail and
life. Viewtiful Joe is also a punishing
game that requires dedication and mastery of its mechanics; I still regard
finally defeating its level 6 boss, one of the hardest in any game I’ve ever
played, after days and days of attempts as one of my most satisfying video game
accomplishments. What was perhaps even more satisfying though was defeating
this same boss again for a friend on just the first or second try.
Next up is #70-66! Hope to see you then!