Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (75-71)

Click here for the introduction!

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 UsEven 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!

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