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Top 10 Favorite Games – The Cubist

Top 10 Favorite Games – The Cubist

At some point in nearly every gamer’s career, no matter how serious or casual, he or she makes the proclamation that “this is one of my favorite games ever!”  But how often do we really sit down and try to quantify the best of the best?  It’s a daunting proposition, though it is a worthy exercise for figuring out just where our tastes (and perhaps guilty pleasures) truly lie.  Welcome to my attempt at such a task.  I haven’t limited my selections in any way; I’ve only tried to examine the different aspects available in different genres and how they speak to my overall enjoyment of a game.  At times these choices may overlap with highly revered titles, and for good reason, though at others, it’s quite possible that perhaps they spoke to me and only me.

Click on the headings to check out my selections!

Number 10

Dr. Mario - NESDr. Mario – NES – 1990

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

Puzzle games are a mixed bag in my book.  Even the best of them tend to get old and repetitive, and the really good ones too often become too difficult to enjoy.  Dr. Mario isn’t all that different in such regards, but something about it tends to transcend these negatives.  Maybe it’s because I spent so much time utilizing its brilliant multiplayer setup, or maybe it’s just because I spent a lot of time playing it period.

One thing that’s great about Dr. Mario is that it has an actual objective, or more correctly, a readily identifiable objective.  In Tetris, for instance, the round ends when the board is clear.  However, this situation remains out of the player’s control most of the time, and even when it is in the player’s control, the player can prolong play if they wish.  In Dr. Mario, one eliminates all viruses (virii?) and the round is done, and there’s really no incentive to keep going.  Having an end in sight gives the game a sense of urgency and finality not always found in similar games.

Dr. Mario - NES

This guy is off to a horrible start.

Multiplayer does a fantastic job of balancing the game’s relative simplicity by encouraging players not only to eliminate viruses, but to also establish combinations to hinder the other player’s progress.  Layering the gameplay like this is much more effective than the “race” that other early puzzlers encourage, and playing with such disturbances quickly builds skill.  And that’s when Dr. Mario truly becomes an experience: when you can confidently crank it up to “high” and start on level 27.  Customizable options (extensive and rather rare for the era) allow players of any skill to play, and two players of different skill can even face off against each other with different settings.

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what’s so special about Dr. Mario.  The whole “falling block” style of gameplay keeps it familiar, while the addition of viruses adds a welcome level of purpose.  It may not seem all that innovative these days (the concept was copied as early as Tetris 2), but the straightforward and fast-paced nature still provides a rewarding experience.  This is probably the best example of gaming where doing the same thing over and over fails to get old!

Number 9

Wipeout 3Wipeout 3 – PS1 – 1999

I’ve never been much for racing games.  Sure, I enjoy Mario Kart as much as the next gamer, and I’ve had a surprisingly entertaining run with Forza 5 on the Xbox One, but most of the time I keep my distance.  One clear exception is the Wipeout series, which I’ve kept up with off and on over the years.  Way back when the PlayStation was cutting edge and rental stores had shelves full of games (or even existed, for that matter), I had an amazing couple of days playing Wipeout XL.  As I searched for this game a few years later when PS1 games were dirt cheap, all I was able to locate was Wipeout 3.  I bought it and was at first a little disappointed, but I quickly grew to love it.

Wipeout 3

After a ton of hard work, these “prototype” courses were unlocked; I know it doesn’t look that cool, but it is!

The Wipeout series is somewhat unique due to its combination of combat and racing.  In some games, entire modes of play are dedicated primarily to combat.  Herein lies the appeal; can’t out-race an opponent?  Disable their ship permanently with a plasma bolt.  Last place?  Set off a quake to be felt through the ages.  The futuristic design and environment helps distance the series from “regular” racing games as well.

Why Wipeout 3 in particular?  It’s hard to say, but maybe it’s because I spent so much time with it.  It was the first (and still one of the few) racing games where I actually wiped the floor with the computer.  It was also one of the first games that I truly cranked up to “hard” because I felt ready for the challenge.  I left no stone uncovered and unlocked vast reams of material.  Wipeout 3 lands in a wonderful “Goldilocks zone” in terms of content.  It’s not so large as to be unattainable, but there’s an ample amount of courses, vehicles, weapons, and difficulty classes to provide a thorough and complex experience.

Number 8

Mortal Kombat Trilogy - PS1Mortal Kombat Trilogy – PS1 – 1996

Ah yes, the pinnacle of two dimensional, digitized fighting games.  Mortal Kombat Trilogy was an amazing accomplishment for its time, and still stands as one of the most memorable and probably my favorite moment of the franchise.  Later games would re-invent the wheel (minus the hiccup we call MK 4), and although I enjoy these newer installments, I’ve always felt that the heart and soul of Mortal Kombat lies within the digitized sprites that were all too familiar in the 90’s.

MKT was basically the sum of all that came before it.  The PS1 version included every playable character thus far and added the male Chameleon.  The N64 version omitted a number of characters due to size restrictions and instead introduced the female Khameleon.  So aside from this single character, the PS1 MKT included everyone that a Mortal Kombat fan could ask for, even alternate, “older” versions of 4 characters.  All backgrounds and stages were included as well, along with multiple cheat codes to fully break the chains.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy - PS1

How badass did that look roughly 15 years ago!? This specific screen shot showcases older versions of Jax, Rayden, and Kung Lao, though strangely, Kano remains in his original state. I still remember the first time I caught a glimpse of this in a magazine well before owning the game…amazing!
Armageddon would later beat the pants off this line-up thought…

Don’t get me wrong, the game is extremely difficult, even on “easy” settings.  The computer’s “cheapness” undermines even the most serious gamers’ intents, so the fun factor can be limited; it’s much more pleasurable with a human opponent.  Loading times are particularly vicious as well, however, I still can’t help but acknowledge the all-encompassing roster.  Maybe some of them weren’t as fully fleshed out as they could be, and the bosses left something to be desired, but nowhere else can you pit Goro against Kintaro, or Motaro against Jax sans bionic arms.

Mortal Kombat Trilogy didn’t bring much new to the table in terms of gameplay, though its scope is laudable.  Just knowing that everyone is available (well ok, not Khameleon) was enough to keep me hooked on this for quite a while, and it still offers up the most complete dose of old school Mortal Kombat, perfect for satisfying those cravings.

Number 7

HaloHalo – Xbox – 2001

Interested in the review? Read it here!

Everyone remembers this one, right?  It’s a shame that Halo turned into somewhat of a fad, because nowadays people look back on it and tend to regard the fanaticism as “silly,” often ignoring what made Halo so special in the first place.  Not only did it pretty much single-handedly define what we now know as online multiplayer, but the single player campaign mode also gave first person shooters a much needed kick in the ass.  Halo set the stage for the hyper-real FPSs that dominate shelves these days, and unquestionably stands as one of the most influential games to come out of the “modern” era of gaming.

I played my fair share of multiplayer death matches back in my freshmen dorm.  Although I didn’t own an Xbox at the time, there was enough Halo going on at all hours of the day that I was able to earn my stripes.  I went from the lowly guy spinning in circles in the middle of an open area shooting at the ground to a fairly competent player who could at least manage to keep myself out of 4th place most of the time.


A clip from “Assault on the Control Room,” probably the most in-depth area of the game.

When I finally got my own Xbox, I got my fill of “Slayer” relatively quickly, and ended up much more interested in the single player mode.  Initially I was shocked that Halo had so much more to offer than what I’d seen in multiplayer, and why with all there was to do, people were forever stuck to multiplayer.  With such freedom of movement and so many equal but different options when it comes to combat, I was instantly hooked.  Previously I had found the FPS to be a fairly rigid genre.  In older games one’s view is often restricted, weapons can be difficult to aim, resources are scarce, and getting lost is a constant concern.  Halo gave us wide open spaces, easy to follow paths, and a completely revolutionary system of control.

The fluidity of control is probably what most distinguishes Halo from its predecessors.  The two analog sticks were tough for many of us who grew up with the NES and Genesis to grasp initially (how many of you remember getting the very first DualShock for the PS1 and quickly switching back to the original controller…?), but it turned out to be a magnificent system, perfectly suited to the FPS.  Halo’s simulation of enemy tactics, vehicular combat, and real-world physics moved it further away from fantasy yet simultaneously made the entire experience more accessible.  For casual fans, we finally had a near-perfect environment in which to run around and shoot stuff in some meaningful context, and for those looking for more of a simulation, the difficulty could be turned up whereupon the game becomes an entirely different entity based on strategy, planning, and observation.

Number 6

StarTropicsStarTropics – NES – 1990

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

StarTropics, is, for me at least, an easy choice when it comes to “best games.”  To be fair, StarTropics lifted much of its gameplay from The Legend of Zelda, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less successful.  It contains an RPG-like and puzzle solving overworld interspersed with underworld dungeons that focus heavily on combat.  The dichotomy between these two worlds is much more defined than that of Zelda, but the similarities are obvious.

What has always grabbed my attention about StarTropics is the setting.  The laid back, island feel is the perfect contrast to darker elements later in the game, blending both horror and sci-fi tropes.  In many ways this mirrors the overland/underworld setup; StarTropics perfectly marries two seemingly disparate concepts, ultimately adding a degree of tension to the evolving storyline.  Switching modes between problem solving and combat is also unique, and contributes to an experience that never gets stale.


There are dozens of memorable scenes, from the bosses, to the overworld, to the little robot, but the organ room here is probably my favorite.

Discovery is another facet that keeps StarTropics interesting.  With so many little secrets and clever puzzles, the game stays fresh right up to the end.  Combat plays a larger role as the game progresses, but this isn’t simply brute force reflexes and memorization.  Instead, the dungeons take on their own maze-like structure requiring more ingenuity than battle readiness in order to complete.

StarTropics may not be 100% one of a kind, though it does act almost like 2 completely different games spliced together, and in a meaningful, cohesive manner at that.  The visuals are among the most beautiful that the NES has to offer, and it’s one of few 8-bit games with a complex and evolving story.  Clever and elegant puzzles and RPG elements round things out, and overall the whole thing is one damn fun ride from start to finish.

Number 5

Castlevania: Lords of ShadowCastlevania: Lords of Shadow – PS3 – 2010

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

Let’s get real: I don’t play a ton of new games, and when I do, rarely do I find one as much fun as this.  My Castlevania binge over the last year has taken me through many interesting games, though Lords of Shadow stands tall as one of the most downright enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had during this “modern” era.  Even were I not extremely well-versed in Castlevania at the time, no doubt I would’ve found this game to be just as incredible.

Lords of Shadow offers up an immersive experience, rich in mythology, medieval lore, and extending into its own cosmology of sorts.  It also completely ignores the previously confusing continuity of Castlevania in light of its own fresh approach.  I wasn’t enthused at first, but it didn’t take long until I was convinced of its sweeping success.  Watching the story unfold is a significant part of the experience.  Instead of a story about Dracula, we’re given a layered, nuanced tale about love, life, honor, and betrayal.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Gabriel staking either Brauner or Olrox, both nods to vampire characters from the “previous continuity.”

Gameplay reflects this dark, dismal descent into lands unknown with absolute precision.  Lost kingdoms, forgotten beings, and abodes of the dead are all presented vividly and with infinite imagination.  Castlevania or not, I love the idea of venturing out into the mysterious wilderness of 11th Century folkloric Europe, and Lords of Shadows delivers in spades. Video games have been growing in cinematic appeal over the last few years, and while I feel many attempts are hollow and underdeveloped, Lords of Shadow revels in enough fantasy to make it work.

The cherry on top is Konami’s thoughtful acknowledgment of past iterations of the series.  Small allusions to several previous games are found in place names, characters, and in the rich “literature” that accompanies one’s inventory.

Number 4

Guitar Hero 5Guitar Hero 5 – 360 – 2009

Ever since the first time I picked up a plastic guitar and rocked out to some old classic rock song that I didn’t like, I was instantaneously hooked.  I own an obscene amount of fake plastic instruments and have logged probably what amounts to entire weeks with the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises alike.  I knew that one of these games would make the list, but it took some time to figure out just which one.  Oh, and just for the record, I actually liked DJ Hero and DJ Hero 2.  And Band Hero.  

Not to launch into too much of a history lesson here, but most of us are aware that 2 of the companies that made the very first Guitar Hero game possible split shortly after its release.  Neversoft went on under the Guitar Hero name and Harmonix emerged with Rock Band.  Though the Rock Band series introduced “full band” play long before Guitar Hero, the first generation of Rock Band instruments were notoriously poorly constructed, and most everyone upgraded their equipment as soon as Rock Band 2 was available.  Guitar Hero wouldn’t break into full band play until their 4th major release (6th overall), and by then, they’d already learned quite a bit from Harmonix’s trials.  The drumset, however, was abysmal and Rock Band held the top spot for fake plastic drums.  On the flipside, Harmonix never could quite nail down the perfect guitar peripheral.

Guitar Hero 5

Not that it really needed to, but Guitar Hero 5 really upped the ante with its graphics.
Oh, and as much as I wanted to master all instruments, I can’t hold a tune well enough to sing.

Guitar Hero 5 was never sold as a full-band package (to my knowledge; correct me if I’m wrong) and frankly I never actually owned a bona fide “Guitar Hero 5 Edition” of the guitar, though I did play one a few times and it was virtually indistinguishable from the excellent guitar packaged along with World Tour.  But despite my assessment of the equipment, Guitar Hero 5 is my overall favorite of the bunch for a number of reasons.  First of all, while I think Rock Band is a fine technical accomplishment, it never did possess quite the same flair as Guitar Hero.  The latter maintained this sort of grimy, underground aesthetic that really did a great job of melding various sub-cultures within the rock and metal communities: allusions to Satanic symbols, bikers, punks, hippies…it was all there and blended in a package that only got better over time.  Presentation-wise, Rock Band always remained a little too sterile and generic comparatively; I daresay that there was deliberate emo and hipster leanings at times.

Guitar Hero 5

I love how much easier it is to put a full band together: everyone can adjust their settings without waiting for anyone else, only the leader can move things forward or back, and provided you have enough physical instruments, there’s no arguing about who plays what.

Guitar Hero 5 also stands out due to both interface and song selection.  With the first 3 main games in the series, we got mostly classic rock which began to give way slightly to heavier alternative rock from more recent years.  By World Tour though, the set list had changed appropriately to accommodate a full band.  A lot of people were unhappy about the influx of more indie and pop-oriented music and the drastic departure from classic rock, but I enjoyed the diversity.  Back in the days of Guitar Hero II, I played stuff like Message in a Bottle and Freya just because I wanted to play the game.  But by World Tour, I was rocking out to songs like Lazy Eye, Float On, and Feel the Pain because I actually like those songs.  The recent additions really brought it to a new level.

Still, the setlist in World Tour could’ve been better.  In an attempt to promote local acts, there is a noticeable portion of filler.  Additionally, World Tour hadn’t worked all the kinks out of the interface yet, and that’s where Guitar Hero 5 comes in.  By the fifth installment we have a well-rounded set list with few duds, not to mention a brilliantly constructed system of quickly and easily changing instruments, changing players (computer and/or human), adjusting difficulty, and pretty much ensuring that each player was able to tailor the experience to their skill and instrument.  It went a long way in streamlining the multitude of variables going into any one “outing,” greatly reducing the time spent bogged down in menus or yelling at your friends for accidentally hitting buttons/drums.

All Guitar Hero / Rock Band

I hate that the genre’s popularity died so quickly, but it ain’t hard to see why…
(I own ALL of this!)

Guitar Hero 5 essentially represents the peak of the genre’s evolution.  Once Warriors of Rock, the sixth game, was released, the series attempted to return to its roots and garnered little interest in an over-saturated market.  Keep in mind that within a relatively short span of time we’d seen the releases of the band-centric Metallica and Van Halen from Guitar Hero, the spin-offs Band Hero, and DJ Hero 1 and 2, along with several Rock Band Track Packs (I’m counting 7 in my collection including one that was only available for the PS2), Lego Rock Band, and Rock Band’s band-centric Green Day and The Beatles titles.  And let’s not forget the scores of downloadable songs that were appearing from both camps as well as prior installments like Guitar Hero Smash Hits, Rocks the 80s, and Aerosmith that were already filling up shelves.  Handheld and mobile markets weren’t immune either, but these were a substantial degradation from their console counterparts.  Rock Band 3 did some pretty amazing things to push the genre forward; it’s a shame the public was tired of it by then and Harmonix didn’t get a chance to refine what they’d just introduced (“pro” modes, cymbal expansion, “pro guitar,” keyboard, etc.).  Most people discarded these games as quickly as they latched onto them, but there are those of us who really got into it and appreciated it beyond its popularity.  Maybe in a few years we’ll see a comeback with all kinds of new stuff; who knows?  Not many things can top running the 360’s output to a decent stereo and rocking out as loud as possible to something like A-Punk or Dancing with Myself.

Number 3

Super Mario Bros. 3Super Mario Bros. 3 – NES – 1990

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

What “best of” list would be complete without this seminal piece of software?  Well ok, if you’re in your early 20’s or younger, SMB 3 may not be the biggest blip on your radar, but many of us have a hard time imaging the term “video game” without conjuring up something from Super Mario Bros. 3.  Historically, this game broke through all sorts of conventions and introduced a huge amount of depth into a platformer.  Unlike the very strict structures of past platformers, there’s a reasonable degree of freedom in SMB 3.  Players have a World Map to show them the lay of the land as well as the opportunity to gather numerous items that can be useful within levels and on the map itself.

There’s not a lot to say about this game that hasn’t already been said a hundred times over, so I’ll just go over what makes it so great for me.  First and foremost, I love the balance that Nintendo achieved between too easy and extremely difficult (though the last world is hard hard hard).  Mario has access to a lot of enhancements in this release, including the Raccoon Tail and Sledgehammer, Tanooki, and Frog suits.  In many games powerups are limited to the levels in which they’re available, but with Super Mario 3’s inventory system, one can traipse around any stage with any enhancement.  Each world also has a theme (a concept loosely utilized in Super Mario Bros. 2 and carried over to many subsequent Mario platformers) which at the time added a needed boost of variety.

Super Mario Bros. 3

Finding a Sledgehammer Suit was pretty rare (and no, it’s not the same as the little hammer that you get to break obstructive rocks in the over-world), but if you have a Game Genie, you can rock this epitome of badass-ery at all times.

Between flawless controls, an inherent diversity, and hidden gems like the whistles and secret exits, SMB 3 really set the stage for what future Mario platformers would look like.  It may not seem so impressive nowadays (even just compared to its successor Super Mario World), but at the time it was a burst of innovation that helped define and set the standard for a genre that remains synonymous with “video gaming” for an entire generation.

Number 2

Super Mario Galaxy 2Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Wii – 2010

Yes, that’s right, more Mario.  I had a tough time deciding the placement of this game and SMB 3, but ultimately I decided that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the modern day equivalent to the former, pushing the envelope even further and opening up even more possibilities that we’ve yet to witness.

The first Super Mario Galaxy introduced us to all sorts of experimental platforming mechanics that weren’t possible on previous hardware, and Galaxy 2 took these same ideas, refined them, and brought us a slightly more cohesive and well composed entry in the series.  If you haven’t played this game yet, you absolutely must.  I can’t even begin to describe how familiar yet foreign the gameplay is, all at the same time.  3D is used amazingly well, with Mario running on the outside of spheres, or on the inside as well, along with jumping and fighting in a true 3D environment.  A lot of games have convincing 3D worlds, but it’s difficult to truly understand what moving in 3D is actually like until playing a game like this.  Mario is truly engaged in moving up, down, left, right, forward, and back at all times.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Rolling on a ball is one of the more memorable pieces of the game…though it’s not really fair to say that since the entire game is memorable!

What’s perhaps more amazing is how quickly a player can get acclimated to this astonishing freedom of movement.  There are different movements and mechanics to take into account, yet the developers did a great job of translating most of these needs in a highly intuitive way.  Level design is elegant and creative, and although there’s a fundamentally straight path from beginning to end, this fact is all but hidden.  Many levels are spent flying from one planet to another, hopping from one floating planetoid to another, going inside and outside different structures, and much much more.  Just seeing the process is enough to admire it.

Since the days of Super Mario World, Nintendo has “rewarded” thorough and astute players with bonus levels designed to push the game’s mechanics to its limits.  Galaxy 2 follows suit and offers an amazing suite of ultra-hard levels.  What I find remarkable is how fun it is to at least attempt these levels.  Finishing them is another matter…but the creative level designs are amazing.  It’s actually fun to lose 2 or 3 dozen lives while trying to finish these mini-masterpieces, with all bonus items in tow no less.

Number 1

FaxanaduFaxanadu – NES – 1989

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

If you’ve read my review of Faxanadu, then I probably don’t need to explain much more.  While it’s certainly a game I would recommend to NES fans, I’m not sure if I’d bother with arguing that it’s “the best game ever;” however, it is probably my favorite.  Faxanadu is an action-adventure game with heavy RPG influences.  Although at times it can feel something like an “evolved platformer,” the game isn’t really divided into stages and the player is free to backtrack to any previous point.

One reason I love Faxanadu is because of how perfectly tailored the difficulty is (for me at least).  There’s a fair bit of problem solving, but it isn’t designed to induce headaches.  I also love the progressive nature of the game.  As one digs deeper into the adventure at hand, moods darken, the environments become more twisted and unearthly, and it does a surprisingly effective job at sucking the player into the rather somber story.  The creative visuals instantly caught my attention and have stuck with me ever since.  Faxanadu is truly a world steeped in fantasy, and it does so on its own terms without relying on standard fantasy tropes.  There aren’t that many games out that are truly this original.


Faxanadu has a password system that’s cleverly woven into gameplay via the use of churches and “gurus.” It’s my understanding that the interior of these churches were intended to be a fully Christian representation in the Japanese version, with crosses and depictions of the crucifixion, but these elements were scrapped in the North American release.

Such a wide array of moods are conveyed, making it difficult not to get somewhat emotionally involved.  I think what really drives this aspect is that it isn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows all the time.  The NPCs are weary, fearful people, and it’s evident that our main hero is truly alone.  Faxanadu happens in an aged, decaying world, filled with signs of disuse and loss, and I love letting it all soak in.  The churches offer a solemn sanctuary of respite with their soft blue glow and soothing organ music.  The merry folks in the relatively safe kingdom on the outskirts of the action give off the humble aura of a simpler time.  Sleepy, quiet villages later on are populated by the downtrodden and stubborn, and their limited dialog reflects their survivalist nature.  Even open expanses are not immune to the darkness.  There is a quiet, foreboding tone throughout as monsters freely rove.  Misty and fog-drenched passages further serve to sever our hero from the light, and the late game is riddled with forgotten towers full of grotesqueries.  The chaotic nature is fully realized with the otherworldly lands near the end, far from the influences of humanity and reason.


I love every screen and sprite of this game, but I am particularly fond of this misty area. Truly haunting.

Every ounce of Faxanadu serves a purpose and tells its story with an amazing amount of pathos that while more common in today’s games, was far beyond the reach of most 8-bit developers.  I know that not everyone will get what I got out of Faxanadu, but it’s worth anyone’s time nonetheless.  I still give it a go about once a year, and every single time, I can still almost feel the spiderwebs in my face, smell the dust and the filth, hear bones rattling in a corridor or a creature scratching at the walls…it’s as if I’m the one trekking through this remote little terror-stricken corner of an ancient, far off realm.

Honorable Mentions

Like any good Top 10 list, I had trouble narrowing my favorites down to 10.  Fortunately, past writers have set a convenient precedent known as the “honorable mention” for just such an occasion.  These are in no particular order, and chosen because they were initially considered for inclusion in the actual list.  It wasn’t that I found reasons to exclude these particular games, I just found reasons for which I had to include the others.  So let’s look briefly at a set of games that all tied for Number 11.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – PS1 – 1997

Interested in the review?  Read both Doobs’ take and mine (The Cubist)Castlevania: Symphony of the Night!

Yeah ok, let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way.  “How can you love Castlevania and put some other Castlevania game above SotN!!??”  Well, that comes down to little more than personal preference.  I simply believe that Lords of Shadow is a more immersive and ultimately more rewarding gaming experience.  However, I won’t deny the appeal of Symphony of the Night, though I do have a tougher time sympathizing with all the SotN die-hards after playing 6 nearly identical games; 3 on the GBA and 3 more on the Nintendo DS.  Symphony of the Night is undoubtedly an amazing game, and certainly an experience that every gamer should seek.  It really managed to draw from the best parts of successful genres and put them together in an amazing way.  The spooky setting is awesome too.  Konami managed a deft combination of mindless slashing and careful exploration to fashion a lengthy, complex, and ever-changing experience.

Mario Party 9Mario Party 9 – Wii – 2012

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

Seems like a weird contender for favorite games, eh?  I’m chalking it up to having spent so much time with the Mario Party series.  But as I said at the beginning, I made a deliberate effort to consider all the things that make gaming enjoyable to me.  If my preferred genre is the platformer and I only rank my 10 favorite platformers, it wouldn’t be much of a list.  Inevitably, Mario Party 9 scooted across my list of games that I couldn’t quite discount.  No one else has ever really pulled off anything quite like Mario Party, and Mario Party 9 takes note of both the many successes and failures throughout the franchise to craft an extremely well-designed product.  I will admit that the luck factor can get frustrating, but most of the time it’s just plain fun to play.  Competition is fun and lighthearted, and the games are simple enough to be completed by anyone yet also cleverly planned in a way where it is difficult for one player to dominate throughout.

The Legend of Zelda - NESThe Legend of Zelda – NES – 1987

Is this a generic choice for a “best of” list?  I don’t think so.  Most people point to the series’ outings on the Super NES and N64 as highlights of the Zelda franchise, but something about the original has always stuck with me.  It’s an intense experience to say the least, and there’s hardly ever any breathing room, but it is immensely rewarding and one of the most impressive 8-bit accomplishments.  The extreme difficulty will keep all but the most dedicated of gamers from reaching the end; go ahead, use a Game Genie, you have my permission.  Even without the hardships of combat, The Legend of Zelda is a mysterious game from the beginning, and less than half  of the game’s area is actually visible.  Finding the underground labyrinths is tough.  Arming yourself adequately to make it through is even tougher.  And navigating from entrance to boss is tougher still.  Oh, by the way, slaying the behemoth guarding the TriForce isn’t always enough; most dungeons house an indispensable item within some remote wing.  Yeah, it’s hard even with the Game Genie, but its cryptic layout adds considerably to its charm.

Actually finishing the game will only add to one’s appreciation, and throughout all the years I’ve spent playing it, I’ve only really sat down and finished it twice.  Between the endless combat above and below ground, collecting money, finding and remembering the right places to spend your money, navigating what can be a very tricky and logic-defying world, and mapping out the subterranean mazes, The Legend of Zelda is a mammoth achievement worthy of any serious gamer’s time.  Sure it’s a little lighter on story and less user friendly than later installments, but it’s uncommon to find such a polished and detailed game during a series’ first outing.

Super Mario WorldSuper Mario World – SNES – 1991

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

Yeah yeah, more Mario, but Mario has always been on the forefront of gaming in one way or another and anyone who denies it is either doing so out of spite or ignorance.  Had I grown up with the Atari 2600 or ColecoVision, the original Super Mario Bros. would probably have a spot on this list as well.  At any rate, Super Mario World represented a major leap for not only Mario, but platformers in general.  Whereas SMB 3 really upped the ante with its multitude of new features and mechanics, the merits of Super Mario World are a little more subtle (well, except for maybe Yoshi, but if you’re like me you probably lost him as soon as you got him and then died trying to get him back).  Super Mario World took SMB 3’s innovation and channeled it into a more ordered and composed package.  Although I (slightly) prefer the eccentricity of SMB 3 over the more tamed nature of World, I do appreciate the advancements in control and design.

World continued to push against the boundaries of convention and offered up magnificently imaginative slew of level designs.  “Boo Houses” make their first appearance here, further reinforcing the dichotomy of “the obvious world” and “the hidden world.” SMB 3 had its share of secrets, but Super Mario World is really the first Mario game that introduced these built-in layers to gameplay.  Instead of selecting an “easy” or “hard” setting, the choice was yours during any given level.  Want to run straight through?  No problem.  Want to probe around a bit?  Great, you’ll have a lot to do and discover.  All too often games of this and surrounding eras operate on the premise of making the player do something to progress; however, in Super Mario World, you had a choice, even if it wasn’t explicit.  You can choose to do more than you need to in order to unlock worlds that you don’t need to play, and therein lies the beauty that would persist in main Mario titles all the way to the present.  It’s a brilliant idea and moreover the execution is (virtually) flawless.

MetroidMetroid – NES – 1987

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

This was probably the toughest one to leave off of my list and honestly I’m still a little torn as whether Metroid or Dr. Mario best deserves the Number 10 spot.  Metroid and The Legend of Zelda always go hand in hand with me, perhaps because there are so many elements worth comparing.  Metroid has an entirely different setting and also spends much of its time vertical rather than horizontal, but the exploration and item gathering share many similarities.

Like several of the other older games I’ve included, Metroid is thick with atmosphere.  The little “beeps,” “boops,” and “blips” are part of a minimalist soundtrack employed at times, where the silence is as much of a part of the music as the notes.  There’s a great sense of isolation evoked within this alien underground fortress, and yet again, this is 8-bit creativity at it’s finest.  Like Zelda, this is a tough game….really tough.  And like Zelda, many of the game’s most important and necessary items are craftily tucked away in locations that require an intersection of luck and diligence to discover.  (Once more) like Zelda, a Game Genie can make Metroid much more enjoyable.  What I really love is how well the music, concept, and imagery all coalesce into an original experience with lasting impact.  Who doesn’t almost feel some dread for Samus as she descends down one elevator after another…?

Sonic 2Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Genesis – 1992

Interested in the review?  Read it here!

Anyone who had a Genesis as a kid couldn’t help but be forever changed by Sonic 2.  It was an extremely fast game for its day, and its creators really had to think on a new level to design levels that could accommodate these new mechanics.  Sonic 2 was and would always have been a successful game in its own right, but I think one thing that really drove its popularity was the “rivalry” with Mario.  Sonic 2 deserves a lot of credit for opening up what a platformer could be, and without it we may not have ever gotten offbeat classics like Earthworm Jim, Rayman, and Vectorman.  Besides a whole new approach to “running and jumping,” Sonic 2 boasted some impressive visuals that were noticeably more vibrant and sharper than anything that Nintendo would accomplish on either the NES or SNES.  I’m not saying the Mario games I’ve already mentioned didn’t have acceptable graphics, it’s just that the Genesis had a crispness to it that Nintendo couldn’t quite touch at the time.

Sega would go on to tinker with Sonic again and again over the years, though for whatever reason, Sonic 2 still stands as the pillar of the series.  Plenty of acclaimed games have been released since, but none quite so recognizable.  If nothing else, Sonic himself at least had the throne for a couple of years as the hipper alternative to Mario.  I’m not thrilled that Sega was eventually forced to fold, but I am happy to see these two heavyweights on the same team at last.

Now, if only we could get something out of this pairing besides the damn Olympics…

Written by The Cubist

Top 10 Favorite Games

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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  1. Nice seeing Faxanadu at the number one spot. I’m quite fond of that game. It’s also interesting to see a “Guitar Hero” title in a top ten. As a fellow Guitar Hero nut, I much prefer “Warriors of Rock” over 5, but of course, I see why you would like 5. Its also nice to see a Wipeout game here. Love the series. Great list!

  2. Halo seems an obvious choice with good reason, I don’t think anyone can forget the first time you played that campaign with a friend, that final warthog ride still gives me chills. Also the first time I saw the flood, it landed on my friends shoulder, I screamed and shot at it… I think he screamed because I opened fire 2 inches from his face.

  3. InfiniteKnife
    InfiniteKnife says:

    Being the ever observant one I am, it’s worth pointing out that the SMB3 screenshot is actually from Super Mario All Stars for SNES. The graphics weren’t THAT good on the NES. haha.

  4. Great stuff Cube! I am, of course, offended at the lack of a 3DO or Atari Jaguar CD game on your top 10 list… But at least you included Dr. Mario, which is something I included on my list as well. Namely because you actually introduced me to that game in a whole other way! We’d veg out at your house for seriously 3 to 5 hours in one sitting playing Dr. Mario!

    • What can I say, Cybermorph missed the list by a hair!

      I don’t even quite know how Dr. Mario morphed into such an experience over here that summer…it just became like the thing to do those last few hours of the night! But those were some frantic battles. I was like a damn sport. I always kicked everyone else’s ass but if I remember correctly tended to break even with you about 50/50.


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