The lights are on
It’s hard to believe, but Game Informer has just printed its 200th issue.
Back in August 2001, when we hit the 100th issue milestone, we wrangled up a list
of the top 100 games of all time. We’re doing a similar list for number 200
(with twice as many slots), but we thought it would be fun for our readers to check
out the last big list. You’ll notice some familiar favorites, a few games
that have been forgotten over the years and plenty of argument fuel. Be sure to
look out for issue 200, too. It’ll be hitting mailboxes and newsstands in
the next few days.
100. Ape Escape
99. The House of the Dead 2
This sequel took the already insane action of undead hordes relentlessly coming
at you to a more intense, more gory level. Shooters don't come any more hectic than
House of the Dead 2. With head shots a requirement and innocents to save, the only
way to describe the action is frantic. The arcade version came to Dreamcast in perfect
form. Unfortunately, without an equally perfect gun accessory, it lost something
in translation, but not enough to keep it off this list.
97. Mortal Kombat II
Characters in Mortal Kombat II risked having their arms ripped off, their bodies
bitten in half, and their heads eaten – all in spectacular fountains of blood.
Hmm…wonder what all the controversy was about? Whether its entertainment
comes more from the gameplay or the gore galore is debatable. The only thing for
sure is MK II delivered a fatality to people's wallets in the arcade and in the
96. Tetris Attack
Why this SNES game has Tetris in its name we have no idea. What we do know is that
Tetris Attack is one of the most addictive puzzle games ever created. The premise
is to match like-colored blocks by moving them on the grid with your cursor. When
they match up they disappear, and drop on your opponent. Bigger combos drop bigger
blocks, and thus the madness begins. This game can also be found on Game Boy and
on N64 as Pokémon Puzzle Challenge and Pokémon Puzzle League, respectively.
95. NBA 2K1
Not content to just leave well enough alone, Visual Concepts took the best next-gen
b-ball title and made it better. Sure, online play is always gonna turn some heads,
but how about wowing the masses with a great Franchise mode, new post-up moves,
and some gritty street courts? All this happened without backing down an inch from
its tight, realistic gameplay. 2K1 cemented Visual Concepts' status as a rising
sports star to be reckoned with.
94. Phantasy Star
Everyone has heard of Phantasy Star, yet it seems as though hardly anyone knows
how the series got its start. A full year before Enix changed the face of RPGs with
the NES title Dragon Warrior, Sega had already released the graphically superior
Phantasy Star. With animated battle sequences, still-frame cutscenes, and zoom-ins
for character interaction, Phantasy Star was ahead of its time, and many of its
elements are still used within today’s RPGs.
93. Ninja Gaiden
It would be a long, arduous journey for Ryu Hayabusa, but gamers were there every
step of the way. Being an early user of cinematic cutscenes, this 8-bit side-scroller
found fans glued to their seats to see where the plot would take them, not to mention
the action. Although the third installment of the title was weaker than the first
two, Ryu would later be enshrined in Tecmo's Dead or Alive fighting hall of fame.
92. Cool Boarders 2
91. Mario’s Picross
The premise of cross referencing numbers to locate pixels that you must uncover
to create a picture sounds about as entertaining as pulling your eyebrows out with
tweezers, but in the case of Mario’s Picross, it’s pure genius. Many
of the staff members here at Game Informer have defeated this game many times over,
but its brain-busting puzzles keep us coming back again and again. Plus, Mario’s
Picross will make the backhoe live forever in gaming history.
90. Super Bomberman
89. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Building on the vaunted Baldur’s legacy, this sequel was constructed with
exquisite detail and careful attention to every conceivable facet of gameplay. Quickly
becoming a critical darling, BGII found its way into hundreds of thousands of homes
across the world. Blending multiplayer abilities with engrossing plot lines and
eye-popping graphics, this title had many fans screaming for more as they finished
their 200-plus hour foray into the Forgotten Realms.
88. Road Rash
87. Hot Shots Golf
Sports titles usually err on the side of being too simple or too complicated, but
PS-X's Hot Shots Golf straddled the line with charm to spare. Even though the cartoony
look prompted GI to cry, "Not a Golf Sim," Hot Shots proved to give even veteran
golfers fits on its courses. Replay depth was added with hidden characters and courses,
and its lack of intimidation would pave the way for titles like Cyber Tiger and
86. Tomb Raider
Sometimes it takes a woman's touch. Where Indiana Jones or Prince of Persia failed
to make huge video game inroads, Lara Croft's English accent and twin guns made
gamers and nonplayers alike a captive audience. Peel off the pretty layers, however,
and you had a title with brain-busting puzzles, platforming, quick gunplay, plus
plot twists and turns. Even though many thought even a sequel was a game too many,
the movie starring Angelina Jolie means Lara is bigger than ever.
85. NFL 2K1
Sega returned with the Dreamcast, and provided stiff competition to EA's Madden
series in only its first year out (NFL 2K). One installment later and Visual Concepts’
franchise got even more game by becoming the first football title to go online.
Growing in other ways, 2K1 made its running game more accessible, and the series
itself was the first to introduce populated sidelines. NFL 2K1 has stamped “Sega”
on the sport and paved the way for a solid franchise.
84. RC Pro Am
83. Kid Icarus
Pit's journey through Angel Land to save Palutena from Medusa became a backwards/forwards,
up/down platforming adventure that captivated and frustrated. Particularly since
you only had one life per stage, and the Eggplant Wizard could cause fits. The side
rooms where you could shop, heal, power-up, and pick up treasure provided plenty
of action away from the fray. Some even were inspired enough to play through multiple
times to get the different Medusa images at the end of this NES classic.
81. Age of Empires
Microsoft certainly wasn't the first to release a resource-based real-time strategy
title, but it struck a chord with gamers with the release of its loosely historically-based
Age of Empires. Part WarCraft and part SimCity, players select a civilization, then
advance them from cavemen to castle builders. Of course, neighboring cultures eventually
clash with one another, and thanks to Age's flawless eight-player interface, war
is a welcome treat.
80. The Sims
After years of trying to shepherd your constituents into high-class apartment buildings
and sky-scraping office complexes, Maxis unleashed a world where you control the
life of a Sim citizen. From what kind of job they had to who their friends were,
you played God. Raising a family, throwing a party, or getting into fights were
only a few of the things you could arrange for your virtual family. The Sims opened
up a torrent of mods downloadable through the web, and with its quirky originality,
became a best-selling title almost overnight.
79. Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling was the first wrestling game for the NES, and it captured the imaginations
of the burgeoning home console crowd. Featuring six playable characters, each with
his own special move, this title sold like gangbusters and ultimately led the way
for the wrestling game explosion still in full force today. True fans of this classic
title can hum the music that played during the matches; if you’re one of them,
you’re doing it right now. This console veteran has passed the test of time
with flying colors.
78. Panzer Dragoon Saga
77. Secret of Mana
A beautiful game in its own right, Secret of Mana is actually an important release
in Square Soft’s history. Other than a few Game Boy titles, this really is
the first time Square ventured outside the Final Fantasy realm and explored what
else the RPG genre has to offer. Secret of Mana’s stimulating, real-time gameplay
and breathtaking settings came together to create a near Zelda killer – a
feat no developer has even come close to achieving.
76. Dr. Mario
75. Double Dragon
It has a gang that steals your girlfriend, and you and a buddy get to beat the tar
out of everyone together. Is it any wonder why it’s so appealing? This side-scrolling
beat-em-up is still being imitated today, but it's hard to top the original fun
of jump kicking a whip-wielding woman in the face. Plus, the ending where the two
characters fight each other to see who gets the girl has to be one of the most pleasant
surprises in gaming.
74. Soul Calibur
73. Twisted Metal 2
Not that the first game doesn’t deserve adulation as well, we chose Twisted
Metal 2 because this is the title where it all came together and blew everybody’s
socks clear off. The choice of vehicles, control schematic, environmental interaction,
and sheer magnitude of destruction combine to forge an irresistible package. If
not for Gran Turismo, this would be Sony’s number one franchise. Surprisingly,
even today, Twisted Metal 2 looks great, and proves to be just as addictive.
72. Robotron: 2084
With wave after wave of screens filled with enemies, mines, and flying missiles,
Robotron: 2084 had more action than one joystick could handle. Using the left stick
to move, and the right to fire, players are put in charge of rescuing the remaining
members of humanity from the Robotrons. With only a millisecond break given between
waves, Robotron is the pinnacle of relentless arcade action, where dying actually
provides a pleasant respite.
These wisecracking goofballs are the innovators of cool. After all, they did teach
kids a number of valuable lessons. For instance, use teamwork whenever possible.
Make fun of your elders at any given chance. And always, no matter what, save the
damsel in distress. In all seriousness, you really won’t find a platformer
with better level layouts, secrets, and character maneuvers. Really, who better
to stand at Mario’s side than these two highly animated and well-voiced morons?
69. Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Few franchise sequels keep garnering the praise that Resident Evil does. First appearing
on the Dreamcast, Code: Veronica showed that the equation of Umbrella zombies +
puzzles still amounted to making the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight
up. This next-gen debut of the series still clung to its prerendered background
origins, but kept improving itself nevertheless.
68. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
67. Ghouls 'N Ghosts
An improvement of the Ghosts 'N Goblins formula, Ghouls 'N Ghosts added on to the
tale of Arthur's exploits against demonic forces with more power-ups, curses, and
the ability to throw lances up and down. Furthering this great game's legend was
a fantastic port of the arcade version to Sega Genesis, which was one of the console's
first must-have titles. Ghouls 'N Ghosts didn't do anything extraordinary, but it
did everything right, and that is what makes it great.
66. Bionic Commando
65. Donkey Kong Country 2
Rare has made some amazing games over the years, and Donkey Kong Country 2 on SNES
still stands as one of its best. This follow-up to the smash hit Donkey Kong Country
features better graphics, more perilous action/platforming, and introduces Dixie
Kong along with a great cast of other creatures you can play. Even the most hardened
action/platform players will find themselves going bananas over DKC2.
63. Baseball Stars
Even without the MLB and MLBPA licenses, Baseball Stars simply crushed every other
NES baseball release. The smooth fielding controls allowed players to complete amazing
plays like diving for grounders and climbing the fence to rob a homer. The batter/pitcher
interface really couldn’t have been delivered much better. For sim junkies,
this was one of the first games to offer seasonal stat tracking, roster management,
and player alterations.
61. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Everyone knows that this is the most challenging and finely polished Sonic The Hedgehog
title. Not one to fall victim to the sophomore jinx, Sega did everything in its
power to ensure gamers the time of their lives. Along with a more diverse selection
of levels, Sega inserted a nifty two-player mode, additional super-charged moves,
and even went so far as to give Sonic a sidekick – Tails.
60. Donkey Kong
59. Tekken 2
Is it just us, or are second titles in fighting franchises always the best? Tekken
2 supports this theory by taking the much-loved control of the first, then diversifying
it with a higher number of characters, better animation, and unbelievably varied
moves. Tekken 2 was well worth the asking price of a couple quarters in the arcade,
and the extremely faithful PlayStation translation is still one of the best fighting
games on the system.
58. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Classic games never die, they only get better…or at least they did in the
case of Arkanoid. The basic Breakout premise was given a decade of video game advancement,
and the result was something that made its inspiration seem archaic in comparison.
Bouncing a ball against bricks became all the more exciting with power-ups to collect,
enemies to blast, and multiple levels to explore. Will there ever be a game that
does to Arkanoid what it did to Breakout? Maybe, but it seems impossible.
56. Tempest 2000
55. Chrono Cross
If ever there were a threat to the Final Fantasy Empire, it would be the Chrono
series. The latest chapter, Chrono Cross, far surpasses anything ever attempted
in an FF game. Playing the numbers game much like Konami’s Suikoden, this
dynamic adventure includes over 40 playable characters and two gigantic quests,
yet never loses a step in delivering a deeply moving story. The complex combat system
and dynamic look are considered to be the most spectacular Square has ever envisioned.
54. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins showed the gaming world that it takes more than just dark
clothes and pointy throwing objects to make it as a ninja. Forcing players to learn
and utilize stealth techniques to not only excel, but merely survive, Tenchu is
a challenging, nerve-wracking game that leaves you screaming in frustration, then
crawling back for more. Here's hoping that the silent throat-slitting will continue
on PlayStation 2.
53. Metal Gear
The depth of Hideo Kojima's first-ever game ensured that hero Solid Snake's mission
into Outer Heaven would not be the last of Metal Gear. Both its revolutionary stealth
aspects and dramatic plot turns via another cool aspect, Snake's Codec, made this
NES title a huge step above other gun-toters of the time (although it debuted on
the Japan-only MSX system). Kojima's vision has thankfully tempered unnecessary
sequels and only heightened our anticipation for more.
52 Lode Runner
51. Ridge Racer
Before Gran Turismo forever changed the racing genre, Ridge Racer was the definitive
speedster. As one of the first PlayStation games released, its texturing hasn’t
withstood the test of time, but its gameplay has. Famous for its unique powerslide
steering, Ridge Racer was essentially the first racing game to push players to perfect
the controls, master the courses, and complete perfect runs. While it only offered
one course, it proved to be more than enough to keep gamers hooked.
50. Virtua Tennis
49. Half-Life: Counter-Strike
As the explosion of online multiplayer annihilation continues and mutates, one has
stood head and shoulders above the rest of the pack – Half-Life: Counter-Strike.
With incredible realism, plus an enviable blend of gameplay and graphics, this title
quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. While companies are still playing catch
up to this gargantuan hit, an equal has yet to be made. There’s just nothing
better than picking off some lame camper from 100 yards with a sniper rifle.
This early NES title set up the classic confrontation between Dracula and the Belmont
family. As well as many action/platform elements that became standards in the industry,
this first in the series introduced us to the whip-wielding gameplay that's carried
the title through countless sequels. Perhaps the formula was too amazing for its
own good, however, since no Castlevania game has ever succeeded in the 3D realm.
Dots, ducks, and bats were all it took to fire imaginations in the early days of
home consoles and start the first video game RPG. Atari's 2600 was host to this
simple quest to return the Enchanted Chalice to the golden castle. Along the way,
however, you'd have to locate and protect items (from being taken by that *** bat),
slay duck-billed dragons, and even find the Magic Dot. This was the first Easter
Egg, or hidden surprise, which simply read, "Created by William Robinett."
46. Super Mario World
Mario already had the patent on 8-bit gaming, so it was only natural that this Super
Nintendo pack-in title ruled the 16-bit platform roost from the word go. The plumbers
received help in the form of Yoshi, a dino companion whose taste for Koopas resulted
in special powers. Mario World had 96 stages, many with multiple endings. It may
not have deviated much from the precedent set by Mario Bros. 3, but it definitely
perfected the formula.
45. Final Fantasy Tactics
So many things can be said about this PlayStation game. On its own, it’s an
amazing strategy title, but when you add in the Final Fantasy universe it goes off
the scale. With enemies that adjust to your experience levels, and different skills
that each member of your party can learn, there is so much game here you can literally
play for over 200 hours and not even be close to maxing out all your characters’
abilities. Simply amazing.
If there ever was a time when motocross didn't suffer from a social stigma, it was
in 1985, when Excitebike came out for the NES. Instead, kids everywhere reveled
in the game's mix of cool track obstacles and slight strategy (turbo too much and
you'll be wasting valuable seconds on the side of the track as your bike cools down).
In fact, Excitebike virtually introduced the sports standard of creating your own
track. The game was so highly thought of that it was included in Excitebike 64 some
15 years later.
43. Final Fantasy IX
Rather than continue its foray into sci-fi, Square Soft decided to take a step back
with the last PlayStation installment of its venerable Final Fantasy series. The
results couldn't have been grander. The main meat of the game is arguably the best
of the PlayStation lot, and the sidequests and minigames give players more than
they bargained for. A wonderful cap to an amazing series, Final Fantasy IX is a
game that will be fondly remembered by all who play it.
42. Star Wars: X-Wing
X-Wing allowed Star Wars fans to finally jump in the cockpit of a Rebel Alliance
fighter and have a dogfight with the Empire. The game (and its numerous expansions
and sequels) features a borderline flight sim interface atop well-defined graphics
that move at an appropriately blazing speed. The later addition of multiplayer finalized
this masterpiece of space warfare that still holds up incredibly well in today's
Looking at it today, Pitfall! seems like
a repetitive platformer. Back in 1982, however, there was nothing like it. As Pitfall
Harry, players tried to traverse across 255 hazardous screens with only a jump button
to aid them in their quest to collect all the gold in under 20 minutes. A revolution
in gameplay, graphics, and sound (can you hear the Tarzan yell while reading this?),
Pitfall! closed down the Atari 2600, but opened the doors for hordes of platformers
40. Final Fantasy II
Super Nintendo was a great system for fans of RPGs. This Square classic started
the genre's explosion on the 16-bit console, and did so in style. It also begot
many of the series' staples, such as Chocobos, vehicles, and party configuration.
The story was original, and deviated from the simple "villain snags princess" fare
we'd been spoon-fed in so many role-playing games before. Cecil's inner struggle
made him more than just a chivalrous knight, and gave the game personality.
39. Pokémon Red/Blue
The game that made Nintendo billions of dollars, caused kids to froth at the mouth,
and drove parents nuts. Say what you will of Pokémon, there's no denying
that it is the best role-playing game on Game Boy. Once you start, you can't stop,
and it's clear why it's so popular. It’s easy to hate the hype; it’s
hard to hate the game. Hopefully, Pokémon will be remembered for both its
good and bad sides.
38. Tecmo Bowl
Tecmo Bowl featured less plays than the 'ball played in your backyard, but it was
the first to spawn trash-talking sessions between friends. Sure, the game wasn't
ruled by football strategy, but it gave you rowdy, infectious fun that the sport
deserved. Beyond that, it started to make football look action-packed, beyond Xs
and Os or blocky figures. Those were the days when Lawrence Taylor and Phil McKonkey
were kings, and you wouldn't want it any other way.
37. Dragon Warrior
Even though The Legend of Zelda did more to introduce gamers to the idea of role-playing
games, and even though other Japanese RPGs found their way to the States before
it, Dragon Warrior still holds a place in the hearts of many as the first RPG they
ever played. Probably more influential on the console RPG scene than any other game,
Dragon Warrior isn't perfect, but it is fun. Have you killed a slime lately?
36. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
A game so great it could only be defeated by its own sequel. Although part 2 is
definitely superior to the original, there's still plenty to love about the first
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. It introduced a control scheme that implants itself into
your subconscious. The Warehouse level is still one of our favorites. Plus, the
soundtrack has yet to be topped. Pro Skater has inspired many clones, but they all
have yet to defeat this ambassador of kickyourassator.
35. Super Mario Kart
This racer with a focus on fun spawned more crummy imitators than Elvis, but you
can't blame Mario Kart. It's only natural for companies to try to capitalize on
one of the best multiplayer games ever. All your favorites from the Mario universe
are here, racing for place and battling for bragging rights. SNES' Mode 7 scaling
revolutionized the way racing games looked, and Kart's weapons added a new dimension
to play. Not even the 64-bit update can compete with this originator.
34. Resident Evil 2
The first introduced us to the concept of survival horror, but Resident Evil 2 honed
the formula to a fine edge. The graphics got a serious upgrade, plus players were
given more gore and weapons and the opportunity to play two different characters.
Fear is a difficult emotion to evoke in a game, and Resident Evil 2 is guaranteed
to put a shudder in your spine. Best of all, after the game is done, it can be played
again with a different story. The horror…The horror…
The online multiplayer RPG phenomenon started with a little-known game called Meridian
59 from 3DO in 1996, which was then improved upon by Ultima Online, and eventually
perfected by EverQuest from Verant Interactive. In this persistent online fantasy
world, thousands of players must work together to defeat dragons, slay giants, and
explore the lands of Norrath. Through expansion packs and patches, new areas are
opened, and even various things change over time to keep the game new and fresh
to its legions of players.
32. Mega Man 2
No, we didn’t roll a die to determine which Mega Man we would insert into
the Top 100. Even if you played the first adventure, you can’t help but feel
completely overwhelmed by part two. Along with a tremendous musical score, Capcom
ironed out the difficulty, added vehicles, and most importantly, made the boss encounters
as exciting and nerve-wracking as they could possibly be. This standard was refined
in dozens of sequels and offshoots, but Mega Man 2 still reigns supreme.
Although there were plenty of other sim games
for PC before its debut, SimCity's micromanagement features offerred something for
fans to drool over, and over, and over. Not only that, but this game served as a
template for sims of other topics (whether it be building railroads, theme parks,
etc.) and was at the forefront of an explosion in the genre in the late ‘80s.
Who'd a thunk that your average Joe/Jane would give two turds about zoning or city
planning before SimCity?
30. Super Mario Bros. 2
With the absence of Shigeru Miyamoto, what was originally titled Yumekojo Doki Doki
Panic in Japan became Super Mario Bros. 2. This awkward-looking platformer instantly
turned into a beloved staple of the Super Mario franchise. Taking on the persona
of your favorite characters from the original Nintendo offering, Mario 2 allowed
you to capitalize on their strengths to help you overcome the diverse level types.
Toad has never looked better.
29. Super Metroid
The first Metroid on NES certainly deserves props for pioneering the series, but
Super Metroid on SNES is its pinnacle. To many of the Game Informer staff, Super
Metroid and Metroid easily make the top ten, but since we let the readers in on
this list, Super Metroid slid down a bit. Best described as an RPG with no talk
and all action, Metroid is an adventure like no other. Fans all across the world
wait patiently for the next installment in the series on GameCube, but until that
shows what it’s got, Super Metroid is still king (errr…queen).
28. Command & Conquer
1995 witnessed the birth of a revolution in the real-time strategy genre. With the
release of C&C, gamers were able to play through an entire campaign as one contingent,
then turn around and play an entirely different storyline through the eyes of those
who were once your enemy. Multiplayer capabilities made for even more replay value.
Westwood was able to produce extremely successful sequels to this game, but the
original stands as a testament to a tried and true gameplay formula.
27. Madden NFL 2001
Nothing more than new rosters? Not quite. Madden 2001 was not only the prerequisite,
but the defining game for the PS2. Collecting cards, slick graphics, and fast player
movements were enough to excite fans something fierce, even if there were features
from previous editions missing. Real-time, TV-style presentation between plays brought
a drama found only on the field itself, and could even make playing the Falcons
26. Crash Bandicoot: Warped
The first Crash is too hard, the second Crash is too easy, but Crash 3 is just right.
Packed with lots of wacky vehicles, amazingly fun time trials, and all the fantastic
action/platforming that you have come to expect from the series, this game really
is the ultimate Crash title. Definitely one any player would want in their library.
It isn't pretty, even by Atari 2600 standards, but Warlords was the original trash-talking
four-player combat game, and it's still the best. The goal of the game is simple:
maneuver your shield so the ball destroys other players' walls while protecting
your own. With a paddle in everyone's hand, however, Warlords quickly transforms
from a simple Pong/Breakout hybrid into a nerve-wracking fight to the finish. Fast
and visceral, Warlords is as addicting now as it was 20 years ago.
24. Sonic The Hedgehog
We don't know how the Sega Genesis would have fared without a mascot. All we do
know is that after Sonic The Hedgehog became the pack-in cartridge for Genesis,
Sega soon controlled the majority of the early '90s console market. Sonic perfectly
showcased the Genesis' vivid graphics and processing speed. It was also a fun and
inventive platformer. Sonic's adventures have since taken him into the 3D realm,
but his 2D incarnations are still the most fondly remembered.
23. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Bringing the series back to its isometric roots and expanding on the world of Hyrule,
the first SNES Zelda is a graphical breakthrough and one of the most clever games
to date. After the mediocre NES release, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, no one
really knew where Nintendo would take this series next. Rather than continuing its
experiments, Nintendo stayed true to the original, and formed the gameplay foundation
for all forthcoming Zelda titles to follow.
22. Street Fighter II
One-on-one fighting games didn't hit big-time until this masterpiece showed up in
arcades. Capcom's flagship fighter let you pick from a group of World Warriors (instead
of one default character), each with his or her own special techniques. Turbo upped
the speed ante, and the Super Nintendo received near-perfect ports. It's impossible
to measure the massive influence that Street Fighter II had on the fighting game
genre as a whole. Ryu be praised.
21. Gran Turismo
Video game racing is as old as the hills, but it wasn’t until '98 that Gran
Turismo offered the complete package. GT delivered in graphics, gameplay, and depth
like none before. The latter aspect was seen in the Reference Manual, which detailed
cars' specs and told you how it all works on the track. The game offered more than
just real courses and cars. Players were bowled over by the all-encompassing sim
experience, from buying Racing Stabilizers to correct entry angles for turns.
20. NHLPA 93
Blood flowed red on the ice when you were injured, and that was just one of the
perks of playing the first NHL title developed by EA itself. From here on out the
publisher would be known for keeping on top of yearly rosters, and it started with
NHLPA 93 (even if it meant that official team logos had to be axed from the year
before). Stats also played a bigger role in 93, with even the tracking of the crowd's
decibel level possible. Saveable line changes brought more strategy than before,
although NHLPA 93 was still an intense experience out on the ice. The game's speed
flows, and helped mark hockey as one of the best multiplayer sports on consoles
for years to come.
Namco took one of its good games, Galaxian, and added the strategic option of allowing
ships to be captured, then rescued for a double dose of firepower, danger, and fun.
Twenty years later, Galaga is still the best there is in the shooter arena. Galaga
was also one of the first games to introduce the idea of a safe, yet frustrating,
bonus round in the form of the Challenge Stage. The fear of getting trapped in a
corner by shots, the agony of accidentally shooting your own ship and receiving
a measly 1,000 points as compensation, and the thrill of scoring perfectly on a
Challenge Stage have not been tempered by time, and the pull of a Galaga upright
is still an undeniable force for any quarters in your pocket.
When this game hit the PlayStation in 1997, Konami's Castlevania series was already
a well-respected and long-standing franchise. Still, nobody expected the mastery
that Symphony of the Night embodied. Expertly sticking to its 2D roots, this game
showed unparalleled artistry in both appearance and sound. The gothic mood was shown
in every echoing organ note and stained-glass backdrop. Everything about Symphony
was massive. Bosses were colossal, the map was huge, and the list of weapons and
items was staggering. The gameplay borrowed a bit from Metroid, with the acquisition
of powers to reach new areas. Beat the “end boss,” and you find out
you've only fought half the battle. Using PlayStation's technology with old-school
gameplay resulted in a masterpiece that may be one of the last two-dimensional gaming
17. Metal Gear Solid
Snake's gaming return was one of the most hyped-up events in video game history.
For months, tidbits of info leaked out on this Hideo Kojima opus, and the collective
gaming world was foaming at the mouth to play this marvel. When it released in 1998,
it didn't disappoint. The immersive storytelling of Kojima unfolded the deep, involved
plot of special agent Solid Snake and his quest to destroy the Metal Gear weapon.
Beautiful, real-time cutscenes were used to convey the emotion of the mission, and
multiple gameplay styles had Snake doing everything from rappelling down a building
to leisurely taking photos. Deviating from your objectives was encouraged, and showed
off the game's amazing detail. Just remember kids: tobacco is wacko, if you're a
16. GoldenEye 007
15. Chrono Trigger
Square is best known for Final Fantasy, and for good reason. After all, four FF
titles made this very list. Square isn't a one-trick pony, though, and the company
made many other great RPGs, such as Secret of Mana, Xenogears, and Vagrant Story.
Of all those, however, Chrono Trigger on SNES is king of the hill. The time traveling
enabled lots of room for exploration, and brought forth some truly interesting characters,
all created by Dragon Ball's Toriyama. What other game would have a party consisting
of a medieval frog, a futuristic robot, and an Amazon? These partners in quest could
team up for dazzling combo attacks. The actions you picked affected the way the
story unfolded, leading up to 15 different endings. You could even recruit the main
bad guy. Chrono Trigger is the stuff legends are made of.
14. Mike Tyson's Punch Out!!
At the peak of his profession and popularity, Mike Tyson appeared in Nintendo's
Punch Out!! Based on the arcade game, players took the part of the underdog, Little
Mac, in his quest to become heavyweight champ. Some matches were total jokes (Glass
Joe), some required paced pugilism (Bald Bull), and others were like deducing a
puzzle (King Hippo). The hard road to higher ranking would eventually lead you to
a face-off with Mike Tyson that was as impossible as defeating him in real life.
The one thing Mike Tyson couldn't defeat, however, was controversy, and charges
of violence soon put his career in a downward spiral. Nintendo removed Tyson's name
from Punch Out!! and replaced his character with Mr. Dream. Ever since, boxing hasn't
had a champion as well-received as Tyson, and consoles haven't had a boxing game
as beloved as Punch Out!!
Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start – the classic Konami
code that launched a thousand lives and made one of its first appearances with this
mainly side-scrolling shoot-fest (two levels were in a third-person 3D). Two dudes,
temporary power-ups, plenty of weapons, and awesome bosses whipped NES owners into
a frenzy and became trademarks of the series. It's not that any one aspect of Contra
was revolutionary, other than that it all added up to unshakable fun, despite being
a difficult game to conquer. This success would see the series on to several incarnations,
including ones for the PlayStation, but the simple magic of the 8- and 16-bit editions
wasn't to be duplicated.
12. Super Mario 64
As a well-established icon in the two-dimensional world, Mario faced his toughest
hurdle – transferring his platforming fundamentals into the unexplored third
dimension. With Shigeru Miyamoto holding his hand the entire way, Mario made the
leap – a leap that would go on to alter the face of gaming as we know it.
As Miyamoto so boldly embarked into uncharted territory, he remained loyal to the
series and implemented as many classic elements as he could. The soundtrack, gameplay
direction, and wacky cast of characters delivered the classic sensation gamers so
highly demanded. The transformation to 3D allowed Miyamoto to expand upon his award-winning
formula. With the sheer size of the environments came the need to explore and study
the surroundings. This was one small step for Mario, yet one giant leap for mankind.
11. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Untouchable was a good way to describe this game when it released. Nothing had been
done like it before, and we sat in quiet awe as we traveled the land of Hyrule in
ways we never thought possible. Utilizing a 3D engine to power Link’s new
adventure, Miyamoto showed us all why he is still considered the reigning super-heavyweight
champion of video game creators. The epic story of Link’s battle against Ganondorf
through time to save the Princess enthralled us for weeks on end. The graphics amazed,
the controls were gorgeous, and the unveiling of Z-targeting had fans in a lather.
Incorporating elements from previous Zelda offerings, Ocarina struck the perfect
balance between old-school institutions and radical new ideas. From minigames to
intricate puzzles and enormous environments, Ocarina of Time represents a benchmark
in gaming history.
10. Final Fantasy VII
In 1997, the RPG faithful took a collective gasp in wonderment as Square Soft unleashed
its newest opus, Final Fantasy VII, on the PlayStation. Few would argue that the
series’ pent-up graphical potential was finally allowed to come to fruition
in this gorgeously rendered universe. Taking the role of Cloud, you joined Avalanche
– a group fighting against the evil Shinra Corporation. Shinra has devised
a way to suck life energy out of the planet and use it to control the universe.
Summon attacks were unleashed on opponents, which were as beautiful to look at as
they were devastating to their targets. Final Fantasy VII’s effortless gameplay,
luxuriously vast plot lines, numerous sidequests, minigames, and a virtual mountain
of items to discover kept many of us up far past more sensible bedtimes.
9. Ms. Pac-Man
Around a year after Pac-Man had taken the world by storm, Namco and Midway released
the female counterpart that would eventually outlast and outsell the original. Ms.
Pac-Man had it all over her hubby. The game had multiple mazes, food that marched
about the screen rather than remaining stationary, and ghosts that couldn't be fooled
by any pattern. Ms. Pac-Man went on to become the best-selling arcade game of all
time, and versions of the game have appeared on virtually every home console since
the Atari 2600. Due to continuing popularity, Ms. Pac-Man cabinets can still be
found in abundance across the American landscape. If anyone questions this masterful
maze chase's place in the top ten of all time, it still costs but 25 cents to find
out the truth.
8. Super Mario Bros. 3
In this legendary release, Mr. Miyamoto took the reigns of the Mario series once
again and made the world stand up and take notice. Wildly successful doesn’t
begin to describe the impact this game had on the video game landscape. With sales
well in excess of 7 million copies worldwide, gamers reveled in the title’s
enormous levels and multitudinous secrets. Drawing inspiration from Super Mario
Bros., this third installment captured the light-hearted exploration which permeated
the first, while at the same time inserting gameplay elements that delighted young
and old alike. With the addition of different power-ups and suits for players to
find and use, Mario took on forms never before seen. Not only has this release stood
the test of time with iron-clad gameplay and eye-popping graphics, it has continued
to capture the imaginations of fans around the planet. Super Mario Bros. 3 is truly
one of the finest pieces of entertainment software ever released.
7. Final Fantasy III
Of all the Final Fantasy games ever made, FFIII was the best. That's quite a statement,
considering how good each and every installment has been. Released in Japan as Final
Fantasy VI, this Super Nintendo RPG rewrote the book on what a role-playing game
should be. Where developers once took a lackadaisical approach to graphics, FFIII
had some of the sharpest visuals ever seen on a 16-bit system. The music was second
to none, as well. But the play, that’s where it shined brightest. Everything
gameplay-wise in this title just clicked. Espers taught your characters magic. Each
party member had his or her own distinct personality. Relics would enhance attributes.
Hours could be spent gaining new items in the arena. No other game in the series
can topple Final Fantasy III, and likewise neither can any other RPG.
Lately it seems Doom will be best remembered in infamy, which is a shame since this
groundbreaking title deserves to be recollected in a much better light. The contributions
Doom has made to the video game world are legion. It busted the first-person shooter
genre wide open. It proved shareware and game demos could be a viable marketing
tool. It showed how visceral the online head-to-head experience could be. It opened
the doors for player-created game expansions. Perhaps more important than all these
landmarks, however, is the fact that Doom is just plain fun. No matter what system
it’s running on, exploring, finding secrets, and killing everything in sight
within the smooth first-person engine is as fresh now as when Doom was first introduced.
Why not download a shareware copy in your spare time to see just how well the game
has aged, and just how much other games have borrowed from this classic?
4. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
From nowhere, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater made skateboarding arguably more popular
than standards like football. None thought that a more addictive drug could be distilled
for the sequel, but that's exactly what we got. Wringing the PS-X for all it’s
worth, more detailed skaters, attributes, and create-a-park/skater features were
just a few of the additions. Taking already perfect controls, Tony 2 allowed you
to configure your tricks to your liking by either changing the button mapping or
purchasing from a huge list of moves and specials. Replay wasn't a luxury, it was
mandatory – not just to unlock new characters, but to find every gap and rack
up points every which way. The Hawk series has created a rush of replicas and made
a mold for extreme sports in general. The sheer evolution from number one to two
has rivals still wallowing in the dust – even though it's almost two years
and a few consoles after the fact. Not just the greatest sports game ever, but a
modern classic for the ages.
Created in 1985 by Russian mathematician Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris is the world’s
best-selling and best-known puzzler. While working as a programmer in the field
of speech recognition and artificial intelligence at the Computer Center of the
Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Pajitov often programmed games to test various equipment.
In the case of Tetris, he decided to create a program that simulated the traditional
puzzle game Pentomino (a game that requires you to fit 12 differently shaped pieces
formed out of five squares into a box). “When I wrote the program for rotation
of pieces and I saw how it worked, poomph! I knew it would be great in real time,”
Pajitnov remembers. Soon Pajitnov realized that the 12-5 combination was too much,
so he reduced the number to 7 pieces formed out of 4 squares, and Tetris was born.
Soon the game was spreading all over Moscow just by word of mouth, and in time,
across the globe. Today, Tetris can be played on handhelds, PCs, and console machines,
and you can bet it will be a part of gaming until the end of time.
2. Super Mario Bros.
Video games were resurrected with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System,
and Mario was the voodoo high priest. This game was included with the NES, so the
millions of people who bought the console were immediately down with the plumber.
Children would gather at their friend's house after school and play it religiously.
Parents would wait for their kids to go to sleep so they could take on the role
of the pot-bellied Italian, who is still the most recognizable face in video games.
Unlike previous platformers, which featured a handful of levels each on a single
screen, the entire Mushroom Kingdom spanned 32 massive stages. Mario kicked turtles
on land, dodged squid underwater, and squashed Goomba underground, all with flawless
control. Coin collecting and secret searching added an element of replay that was
foreign to games at that point. Everyone knows about the hidden 1-up in the first
stage, or the warp zone to World 4. Everyone also knows that Super Mario Bros. is
the crown jewel of platform games, and Mario is king.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.