If you’re back for round three of my EGM #150 coverage, you’re a brave soul. Only a glutton for punishment like you would risk life-threatening brain cramps. Regardless of why you’re here, it’s time to push your significant other to the side, and reminisce about the glory days of EGM. You’ve already experienced the tasty frosting around EGM’s Top 100 games, but you’ve yet to experience the delicious center. Forget your mom’s homemade apple pie–your voracious appetite will soon be satisfied with EGM’s top fifty games, twenty-five of which are in this installment. Before you press start, make sure to look at my first and second entry on EGM #150 if you haven’t already.
What EGM said: "Kids who wanted to be astronauts suddenly wanted to be commandos in ’88. Blame it on this side-scroller’s never-ending intensity and wicked power-ups (our fave: the spreadgun). More teens knew the cheat code than knew the capital of Iowa, but it’s the elite few who can conquer the aliens with three lives."
What I have to say: Contra was the kind of game we all loved in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I never experienced the first installment in the series, but I did play many of its imitators. What these blatant rip-offs often lacked was Contra’s ultra-difficult gameplay. Contra is so difficult, a real solider would almost rather choose actual warfare over Contra’s hellish jungles. Few were able to survive this game without the infamous Konami code. The soldiers who returned unscathed with all three lives intact are the true heroes. Solid Snake would be proud.
Title: Paper Mario
Platform: Nintendo 64
What EGM said: "It may look like Mario Babies and lack the pedigree of Square-developed Super NES prequel Mario RPG (see #60), but Paper Mario offers more depth, side quests and charm before 10 a.m. than most RPGs dish out all day. And unlike most battle systems, the game’s combo-crazy combat is actually fun."
What I have to say: After experiencing the excellent Mario RPG and 3D-platforming king, Mario 64, I was excited about the prospect of a new Mario RPG. Mario RPG 2 was announced shortly after the N64′s launch, so I expected another great RPG with groundbreaking gameplay and incredible graphics. Then, I saw a single image of the game in Nintendo Power and was horrified at what I saw. It was almost as if Nintendo molested Mario RPG–I was enraged. Well, a name change came and Paper Mario was finally released in 2001 after I had purchased a Playstation and was no longer interested. Then along came EGM’s review. Their gold score still didn’t convince me to buy the game, but I was starting to think about giving it a chance. Then my brother received it for a present and fell in love. It was his favorite game, so I finally decided to try it. Did I like it as much as Mario RPG? No, it felt like a watered-down version of that classic, but I still managed to have a good time–one that was good enough to make me agree with its position on this list.
Title: Panzer Dragoon Zwei
What EGM said: "If the first Panzer Dragoon intrigued the minds of gamers everywhere, Zwei captured them lock, stock and barrel. Featuring branching paths, the ability to affect the growth of your dragon, one of the most beautifully designed game worlds ever, and a box full of secrets, PDZ is a landmark shooter."
What I have to say: Panzer Dragoon Zwei is another legendary Saturn game I missed out on. After reading James Mielke’s article on the Panzer Dragoon series over at 1UP, I had to see some video footage. What I witnessed was an on-rails shooter that looked incredibly fun. The soundtrack impressed, just like the original Panzer Dragoon–enough so that I may purchase the game within the next month.
Title: Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Platform: Game Boy Color
What EGM said: "Look past the Poke-hype and you’re left with a fun and engrossing adventure game that taps a direct line to your inner child. Capturing and battling those cute lil’ bastards is just the beginning. The internal clock, wide array of gadgets and a hundred new monsters make this newest Poke-quest the best."
What I have to say: I was lucky enough to experience Pokemon before it became a phenomenon in the U.S. My friend received it as a present from his homestay family while visting Japan during Spring 1996, so I got a chance to take an early look at the game. The whole concept was cool–being able to experience an RPG with a rock-paper-scissors battle-system on a portable and being able to trade your captured monsters with friends. By the time the series reached the U.S., I was in the making-fun-of- Pokemon-crowd for awhile (I was in middle school after all), but I soon converted and hopped on the bandwagon. I loved Pokemon Red and Blue, and Gold and Silver were an even better experience. I didn’t quite complete the journey, but I thought the day and night cycle was clever, and it was nice to experience Pokemon in color. To me, Pokemon Gold was the pinnacle of the series, and rightfully deserves its place on this list.
Title: Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2
What EGM said: "PSO does for consoles what PCs have been doing for years: bringing people together, online. The unwashed gaming masses gather in PSO’s lobbies, creating a console watering hole devoid of linguistic barriers. Sure, dungeon exploration gets old after a while, but the quest for rare items keeps you going."
What I have to say: I didn’t have a Dreamcast or a broadband Internet connection, so I was jealous of people who had PSO. I also had no way of hooking up a Dreamcast to the phone line, so I had to stick with occasional rounds of Starcraft when I wanted some online competition. I’m not much of a loot whore, but I had a good time playing Diablo 2 with friends, so I’m sure I would’ve loved PSO (especially considering that it had much better graphics and a sci-fi setting). PSO was one of the first major online console games, so its position on this list is well-deserved.
Title: Super Mario Kart
Platform: Super NES
What EGM said: "If you think we’re krazy for listing this old-timer higher than Mario Kart 64 or Kart: Super Circuit, then we figure you never spent enough quality tie with this originator of the kart-game species. The shortcut-crammed course design here is the best in the series, and we really miss the Feather-hop power-up in later games."
What I have to say: Mario Kart was one of the first games I remember enjoying with a group of people. My siblings and dad liked it, my friends enjoyed it, and it crossed gender boundaries. I even remember someone bringing it to a class party at school. The graphical effects were impressive at the time of the game’s release, and it was drastically different from other racing experiences of the time period. Mario Kart’s power-up system has spawned numerous imitators, so it’s obvious why this game made the list.
Title: Final Fantasy Tactics
What EGM said: "It has one of the most convoluted, poorly written/translated storylines in the history of video games–we still don’t know what the plot is about. but FF Tactics took FFV’s incredible job system and turned it into a full-fledged strategy game, with amazing depth of play that can steal hours and hours from your life."
What I have to say: Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the few games that have changed my life in a monumental way. This strategy-RPG had great artwork, a deep battle system that took hours to master and didn’t get repetitive like most RPGs, a phenomenal soundtrack, and one of the best storylines ever to grace a video game (yes, I said it). I never really understood why people had so much trouble understanding the plot of FF Tactics. Sure, the translation was poor, and there were several plot threads, but I loved the deeply woven narrative that included issues and themes such as class struggle, treachery, love, betrayal, manipulation, religious hypocrisy, and so much more. This is a game that history buffs will enjoy, because it is closely related to certain eras of European history. Besides enjoying the story, I had so much fun with the battle system that I spent ten hours fighting battles at Mandalia Plains in Chapter 1 before proceeding. Crazy, huh?
Title: Contra III: The Alien Wars
Platform: Super NES
What EGM said: "Back when the Contra series was still good, Contra III was the series’ greatest installment. It overloads our senses with big bosses, incredible backgrounds and scaling and rotation effects, back when "scaling" and "rotation" were a big deal. And the two-player mode lets you share all the intensity with a bud."
What I have to say: Contra III is an excellent action game, but is so hardcore that it’ll make the cockiest Gears of War players cry. I first experienced the game on the Wii, so I had lost the drive to replay stages over and over like when I was younger, but the frantic action found within is unmatched. Contra III also made great use of Mode 7 effects and featured massive bosses that could easily turn you into scrap metal. If you want to be pulverized, this is your game.
Title: Ms. Pac-Man
What EGM said: "Ms. Pac-Man is a timeless classic we EGM editors still find ourselves playing today. And did you know two MIT students/hackers in the early ’80s reverse-engineered (Mr.) Pac-Man to create the girly version, which Midway bought and distributed? We always knew higher education had a point."
What I have to say: Ms. Pac-Man is video gaming distilled to its purest form. There’s no number crunching, no obtuse level design, and no tea bagging–there’s only playing. My favorite Pac-Man is now Pac-Man Championship Edition, but Ms. Pac-Man is still a game that’s fun to play. It’s great for a quick fix, and I wish it was still available at greasy pizza places and local arcades.
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Platform: Game Boy Color
What EGM said: "More action-oriented than Oracle of Ages, Seasons is a phenomenal adventure made even better by its ability to link up with Ages. You take control of the four seasons (no, not them) to solve Zelda-style puzzles and save the land of Holodrum, not to mention the Oracle of Seasons herself."
What I have to say: Zelda fans had reason to worry when development duties of the Oracle games were handed to Capcom, but Capcom came through. Oracle of Seasons is one-half of a two-part series of Zelda games that could only be truly completed if you bought both games. A password given at each game’s clear screen would allow you to access the final boss. Seasons was a great follow-up to Link’s Awakening that featured clever puzzles involving four seasons, and it didn’t hurt that it also had enough action to satisfy a viking.
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Platform: Game Boy Color
What EGM said: "With more puzzles than GBC sibling Oracle of Seasons, Ages is a thinking-dude’s action-RPG. The game has you fiddling with the flow of time, jumping back and forth between the past and the present, which totally factors into most of the head-scratching puzzles. can’t figure out what to do in the present? Zip back to the past and look for the answer. And true to the series, the dungeon design and bosses here are cunningly designed."
What I have to say: Oracle of Ages certainly had more puzzles than Oracle of Seasons, but it managed to be just as fun. Some gamers found the puzzles too daunting, but I had less trouble with this game than finding where to go on the overworld in Minish Cap. These games are still worth a play-through, even today.
Title: R-Type Delta
What EGM said: "If any game can be forgiven for slowdown during play, it’s R-Type Delta. Wave after wave of enemies and bullets pack the screen so tight that when things bog down, it’s actually a relief. Three playable ships, a great power-up system and epic boss fights–a shooter that taxes your brains as well as your thumbs."
What I have to say: I never played R-Type Delta, but if it’s anything like the first two R-Type games, I’d probably have some fun. Bullet hell can be enjoyable up to a point, but once the enemies become too cheap, it’s best to give up before you start breaking controllers. For shmup fans, Delta probably belongs on this list, but I would have handed the lofty rank of 38 to another game.
Title: Resident Evil Code: Veronica X
Platform: Playstation 2
What EGM said: "Code: Veronica proved that a demented, cross-dressing villain, assorted twisted bosses and enemies, and disturbing locales on two separate continents make for a damn tasty survival-horror stew. Thanks to its assorted extras, this PS2 port beats out the equally gorgeous Dreamcast version."
What I have to say: Resident Evil fans probably already hate me enough for missing the first two games in the series, so I should probably pretend that I’ve experienced Code: Veronica. Despite it having tank controls, I’d like to give the first fully-3D entry in the series a shot. Even if I don’t, I at least managed to relive part of the story in Resident Evil 5′s memos.
Title: Chrono Cross
What EGM said: "Chrono Cross blew RPG fans and Chrono Trigger devotees away by nailing all the elements that make an RPG great. You get a memorable story, endearing cast, traditional turn-based gameplay with some innovative twists, and top-notch soundtrack and visuals. It’s enough to give this sucker instant-classic status."
What I have to say: Folks, this is the first RPG that nearly received a platinum award from EGM. If I were Sewart’s master, I would have forced him to commit seppuku for his disgraceful score of 9.5. All joking aside, Chrono Cross was a great follow-up to Chrono Trigger. I know that plenty of Chrono Trigger fans disagree with me, but I loved the organic looking environments, the innovative battle system where you didn’t have to gain levels and fight random battles, the game’s few dozen characters, the complex plot featuring multiple dimensions and fate, and the incredible soundtrack. It’s not often that I purchase game soundtracks, but Chrono Cross’ musical score is so amazing that I had to have it in this case. True story: I was lucky enough to witness beautiful women dancing to the musical score of this masterpiece.
Title: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Platform: Game Boy Advance
What EGM said: "Just ’cause it’s stuck on a handheld doesn’t keep Circle of the Moon from being one of the best Castlevania games ever made. It combines classic zombie-spank action with a clever "card" system that lets you mix elements for different power-ups and weapons–it’s everything you need for a great action-adventure."
What I have to say: I haven’t played many Castlevania games, but out of the Symphony of the Night- style Castlevanias, SoTN was the only one that I truly enjoyed. I played Harmony of Dissonance for the DS and wasn’t that impressed, so I’m not sure if Circle of the Moon would have made me foam at the mouth either. Still, having a SoTN-style of game on a handheld is pretty cool, so it probably deserves a place on this list.
Title: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
What EGM said: "Body blow, body blow…knockout! Ah, the sweet sounds of victory. With only a few punches in its arsenal and limited defensive moves, Punch-out!! still tops modern boxing games in heavyweight fun. It took real skill to topple final boss Tyson. We’re just glad he didn’t come at us with his ear-nibbling finishing move."
What I have to say: "Dance like a fly, bite like a mosquito". Those words of wisdom accompany one of the greatest boxing games of all time. I like how Punch-Out!! kicks realism to the curb and focuses solely on fun. Timing is everything in this game, so it is a true gamer’s game. The stereotypes are pretty ridiculous, and may offend some people, but they’re also part of the game’s charm. Punch-Out!! doesn’t take itself too seriously, so you shouldn’t either. Now if only I could get myself to lighten up–getting stuck on the guy who jiggles his man boobs has made me a bitter man.
Title: Saturn Bomberman
What EGM said: "We’ve seen several episodes in this popular and always-fun series, but none (not even Dreamcast’s Bomberman Online) can out-blast this one, an old-fashioned 2D party game that supports up to 10 players (yes, 10!). Once you’ve tried this, you’ll never look at four-player (yawn) Bomberman the same way again."
What I have to say: EGM sure loves their Saturn Bomberman. I wonder if it compares favorably to Bomberman Live? It probably deserved its place on this list, as Bomberman Live wasn’t out yet, but now with modern technology, we can almost play with nine other people online. Perhaps this classic has finally been dethroned.
Title: NCAA Football 2002
Platform: Playstation 2
What EGM said: "We never realized how addicting it could be to try to make your favorite college team climb through the rankings to a bowl game until we picked up this fast-paced baller. Whatever it lacks in realism, it makes up for in fun–a fact well demonstrated by the number of work deadlines it caused EGM staffers to miss."
What I have to say: Ah NCAA–a Madden clone. This series started to come into its own later in the PS2′s lifecycle, but initially it was too similar to Madden. I wouldn’t have ranked this game so high, but if it featured an Oregon Duck on the cover, I may have been able to look the other way.
Title: Madden NFL 2002
Platform: Playstation 2
What EGM said: "Football series have come and gone, but the latest in this bellwether franchise continues to impress. A decade of refined computer intelligence makes this the most realistic game on the field. Its graphics are stunning enough to make you overlook Madden and Summerall’s zombie-like commentary."
What I have to say: Ah…the days when there was actual competition between football franchises. This installment of Madden didn’t impress me as much as the first PS2 Madden, as I had already witnessed the impressive graphics, and only minor enhancements were made. The series really started progressing with Madden 2003, and it was there where we first witnessed online play and more fluid animations. I don’t think Madden deserved a spot on this list, but you’ve gotta be a sporto to truly appreciate Madden.
Title: Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
What EGM said: "While most people consider Street Fighter II Turbo as their favorite Capcom fighter, SFIII: 3rd Strike is where many pros go to brawl. This amazingly animated, super-technical fighter rewards skilled players with the deepest 2D fighting action around. Forget about the 3D SF EX series. This is where it’s at."
What I have to say: My only experience with Street Fighter III was on a Street Fighter Anniversary disc, and I don’t have fond memories of the experience. It’s not that Street Fighter III is a bad game–it was just hard to play a new fighting game with so many unfamiliar characters. The characters of Street Fighter II were one-of-a-kind upon the game’s release, so I quickly grew attached to them. Street Fighter 3 may have featured similar (although far more complex) gameplay, but I didn’t enjoy using any of the fighters. Maybe I should give the game another chance someday.
Title: Super Mario Bros. 2 All-Stars Edition
Platform: Super NES (original: NES)
Year: ’93 (original: ’88)
What EGM said: "Based on a non-Mario Japanese game, SMB2 is the freak of the series: You pick up enemies instead of bashing them, and this is the first and last time many of these enemies–including boss Wart–were seen. The version in GBA Super Mario Advance may be flashier, but we’d rather play SMB2 on the big screen."
What I have to say: Mario Bros. 2 is an oddball, but it’s one of those rare obscurities that you grow attached to. The four-character system, item throwing, and unique baddies made SMB2 a unique NES experience. I recently re-played it, and agree with EGM that it deserves a position on this list (although I would have placed it lower).
Title: Hot Shots Golf 2
Company: Sony CEA
What EGM said: "The perfect game to bust out on a laid-back Sunday afternoon (along with a six-pack), Hot Shots 2 takes all the fun parts of golf–the skill, the gear, the crusty dudes with bad toupees–and leaves out the country clubs, real-life courses and golf celebs that most gamers don’t give a gopher’s ass about."
What I have to say: Golf is sport I’ve never been interested in, so I usually shy away from golf games. I’ve never played Hot Shots Golf, but it appears to be a fun take on the sport. It likely feels outdated now with the advent of motion control, but for the time in which this article was written, it was probably one of the better sports titles.
Title: Sonic CD
Platform: Sega CD
What EGM said: "Those new-fangled 3D Sonic games with all their polygons and extra characters still don’t beat out Sonic CD as the best game in the series. SCD boasts good level design, a great soundtrack and a super-cool time-travel aspect that directly affects the game’s ending. Sonic Team should mine this old gal for some ideas."
What I have to say: I didn’t get to play Sonic CD until 2008 on Sonic Gems Collection, but I loved what I played. I thought I had outgrown the blue blur, but this trippy, time-traveling quest made me remember the days in which Sonic was actually good. Each of the game’s levels has three unique looks (past, present, futuristic) and multiple paths, so Sonic CD has incredible replay value. Sega needs to get with the program and release this on Wii Virtual Console, or at least XBLA.
Title: Chrono Trigger
Platform: Super NES
What EGM said: "Time-tripping quest? Check. Unique battle system? Check. Soaring musical score? Check. Sounds like an RPG trifecta to us. And Chrono Trigger–which combos the best aspects of Final Fantasy and Secret of Mana–does deliver nearly everthing we want in an RPG (except FF-caliber character development)."
What I have to say: There’s only one single-player RPG I can remember that non-gamers actually enjoyed watching, and that was Chrono Trigger. In 5th grade, one of my friends loaned me his copy of Chrono Trigger, and on my birthday, my friends and I stayed up long past our bedtime and huddled around Chrono Trigger. A couple people enjoyed hitting each other with inflatable hammers, but the sane individuals in the group enjoyed playing and watching Chrono Trigger. Sadly, I used a Game Genie the first time through, but years later, I purchased Chrono from the same friend who loaned it to me for a measly $20. Several years later, it still remains one of my favorite games.
Title: The Legend of Zelda
What EGM said: "A classic in every sense of the word, the original Zelda is a masterpiece of game design, not to mention the very first game of its kind. Even today, Zelda’s perfect mix of action and exploration–complete with two huge quests and loads of secrets–will keep armchair adventurers glued to their TV sets for weeks."
What I have to say: The Legend of Zelda was one of the first games I wanted to experience outside of the TV screen. I made Zelda legos; my dad helped me make a cardboard Zelda shield and a sword made of duct-tape, and my Zelda fandom didn’t reach new heights until I was 7 and playing A Link to the Past. I prefer most of the later entries in the series over the original, but I played it again last month, and I still managed to have a good time. Sadly, I no longer have my sword and shield.
You’ve now made it three-fourths of the way through the tasty cake that is EGM #150. What will the last games be? Are your favorite console games represented? Just remember, if your favorites didn’t make it, don’t lynch me–EGM is the one to blame.
Once again, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the finale!