Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Top 115 Favorite Video Games (85-81)

Click here for the introduction!

85. Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

Super Mario Maker nearly became a full-time job for me when it released exactly one year ago today. Prior to the game’s release, I was reasonably excited for it, but I figured I’d play around with it for a few weeks and then move on. I ended up completely losing myself in this bottomless toy-box as my imagination completely ran wild. Super Mario Maker is a childhood dream come true for me. All those imaginary Mario levels I’ve daydreamed about and played through in my head over the years could now be reality (well, somewhat). While the game has some frustrations and limitations (most of which have now been addressed through updates), this creative-tool/game hybrid is nonetheless a treasure. I spent hours and hours deep into the night toiling away on making every brick perfect in creations that I poured my heart into, from a massive airship to an underground sewer complex to a four-level ghost story, and this isn’t even taking into account all the other time I spent exploring all of the creative and wonderful levels from other users. Super Mario Maker even extended beyond the screen as I’d pen ideas down in a notebook and plan out future courses; I even had a whole game planned but I inevitably got burned out before realizing my full ambitions. Looking back, this game fired up my imagination in a way that I hadn’t felt in many years; it was invigorating, and I was always excited to jump back into the game to start creating and playing around again.  Super Mario Maker is a universe, an endless template for creating and playing, and if you are someone who can appreciate both aspects of the experience like me, than it is a truly magical experience indeed.

84. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess/Twilight Princess HD (GameCube/Wii U)

I’ve written about this before, but to this date, I have never in my life been more excited for an upcoming video game than The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I remember when it was announced, I remember each new trailer, I remember when Midna and Wolf Link were revealed (in what still stands as my favorite video game trailer of all time)…there was the delay, the inevitable porting to the Wii, and all the hype and speculation surrounding the game’s release. I remember finally beholding the game Christmas morning in 2006, having just gotten home for winter break from my first year at college. I unpackaged the game, absorbed the title cinematic, and experienced those opening moments with shaking hands.

I had never been so immensely thrilled to herd goats.

I’ve long had a rocky relationship with Twilight Princess and "mixed feelings" only begins to describe it. Twilight Princess represents a catering to fans and a safe return to form after the unhinged imagination present in Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker, a facet which sours the title a bit for me to this day. Nevertheless, Twilight Princess is a beautiful, impeccably-designed, and memorable adventure. Its dungeons are some of the strongest in the series, with the haunting Arbiter’s Grounds and the charming Snowpeak Ruins being two especially memorable highlights. While it is lacking in terms of sidequests compared to other Zelda titles, TP’s main quest is mainly one engaging venture after another that takes Link to the dreary depths of a giant lake, to a moonlit desert encampment, and to the far reaches of an enchanted grove. There are thrilling horseback battles, sword duels with an undead knight, and even an old-West shoot-out…by the time the credits role, there are few games that can say they’ve delivered such a satisfying journey. It’s nothing too daring and it certainly apes a lot of material from previous Zelda adventures, but there’s something comforting and pristine about Twilight Princess’s traditional adventure, and the Wii U’s HD remaster only makes its creative art direction easier to appreciate.

I was surprised by how easily I became immersed in the original Legend of Zelda the first time I played it. I expected something that would be awkward and difficult to get into compared to the Zelda games that I’d played, and while perhaps in some ways this was true, The Legend of Zelda ended up being an absorbing adventure that not only contains many of the hallmarks that make later Zelda games so great, but also a unique charm that is all its own. It’s a satisfying challenge and there’s something about its minimalist pixel art, tiled dungeons, and satisfying sense of progression that I find very endearing. Coupled with its lovingly-detailed instruction manual and official old-school-anime-style artwork, there’s a very classic nature to this game that I adore. I was late to the party on this one, first playing the re-released Game Boy Advance version, but thanks to a close friend also playing through the same version at the same time, I was able to have that experience of sharing secrets and experiences just like people did with the NES version. And even though Level 6 is still a major pain in the ass, I still enjoy going through the original Zelda quite a bit today.

I still remember the pre-release buzz for the original BioShock and thinking that the game looked fascinating. The concept of a mysterious, derelict city under the ocean full of hulking beings in diving suits immediately intrigued me. It did not take long at all to realize that the game was something special the summer that I finally dove into it and began exploring the halls of the city of Rapture. The environment, atmosphere, art design, and sound design in BioShock is all brilliantly done, and working my way through every flooded corridor and listening to every discarded audio log was truly a treat. There’s a potent sense of place in this game, and Rapture and its many colorful personalities is a beautifully-realized creation.

Can you believe that back in the glorious year of 2002, Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime both released on the same day in the US? I mean, what a time to be alive! Comparing that with the dark post-Other M times we live in today is bound to make a person a little wistful, especially since these two games were my very first experience with the Metroid series. While Prime admittedly left the bigger impact on me, Fusion is still a great experience. Taking Samus to a creepy space station overrun with mutants and a parasitic menace, Fusion is a polished and somber follow-up to Super Metroid, and is still currently the last Metroid story chronologically. While I prefer the more non-linear 2D Metroid titles over Fusion, it is nonetheless dripping with atmosphere and the encounters with Samus’s eerie doppelganger, the SA-X, are a tense highlight.


Stop by again for #80-76!

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