I'm back folks! After quite a hiatus big poppa HOH has cooked up a spicy meatball of Mega Man and Donkey Kong flavored ramblings.
Psych! Both Mega Man Legends and DK 64 have been left out in the cold for this go 'round, leaving a clean slate for other 2D platformers to flood the list.
Psych again, baby! There's only room for one 2D platformer to be found in these hallowed halls (otherwise known as some internet dude's opinion). Shout out to Mischief Makers though- that game's a longtime favorite that didn't quite make the list.
And shout out to my mom. I spent 10 long months working on this list and I would have died long before the list was done if she didn't keep the stream hot pockets flowing. It's only with the support of my family that I was able to keep pressing on. Sorry I've been so grumpy; writing top 10 lists is hard work and your sonny boy has to get this right. You understand.
And mom, stop calling my amiibos dolls, yeah? I spent too much money on these things for you to insult me like this. I can move out whenever I want so just stop it or you're going to ruin a good thing. I'm sorry I had to call you out like this but I don't know what else to do.
Taken on its own, the second outing of the titular bear and bird is pretty great. It's only when comparisons are made between the sequel and the original that disappointment arises. For the second outing, Rare pushed the boundaries of the series in a lot of ways. The underlying philosophy seemed to be that more was better, so we've got more moves, a ton of eggs, a bigger overworld, and more expansive levels. In some ways, this game is more creative than the first title as its levels draw from less cliche platformer environments, featuring factories, sunken cities, mayan inspired temples, a carnival, and an ancient dinosaur area.
So then what is keeping Tooie from replacing my beloved Banjo Kazooie in the cockles of my heart? Well, sometimes Banjo Tooie slips into becoming a case of quantity over quality. That aforementioned Dino level in particular has large expanses of open spaces with little interesting to do or see. The same is true of the mine level, albeit to a lesser extent. And the factory level is a convoluted mess to navigate and mentally map out. It also feels like there are too many moves that are only useful in too few situations. Banjo Tooie has it's fair number of instances where less would have been more.
But that doesn't stop Banjo Tooie from being a great game. It is a well made 3D Platformer with the unfortunate position of having to follow in the footsteps of one of my favorite games.
Conker's Bad Furday
At a core gameplay level, Conker is quite lacking. But by using creative and humorous situations, Conker's Bad Fur Day is able to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The clever writing takes the player on a wacky journey through a variety of situations. Not all of them are well done, but thanks to the sheer variety a fair number of them work. Thanks to making one of the buttons a context sensitive action that changes depending on the situation, Conker's Bad Fur Day is able to utilize a considerable amount of variety in its gameplay scenarios.
If I'm being honest here, I don't even find the game all that funny. It's just not really my kind of humor. But I'm down with what Conker is serving up because it leads to a wide breadth of wacky scenarios that make the gameplay more interesting.
Even if I don't find it to be very humorous, it took guts on the part of Rare to put a poop boss in their game. Kudos for the poop boss, Rare.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
He's more than you think, he's got maximum pink. And thanks to the future magic of new millennium polygons, he's more well rounded than ever. It's Kirby!
Kirby 64 is fantastic. It's got a soundtrack crafted by gods in the halls of Valhalla, capable of instilling a variety of feelings ranging from energetic optimism (Grasslands 1) to somber, mechanistic determination (Factory Inspection). It's absurd that a game so bright and cheery can produce music that feels so melancholic.
And this game has an incredible 64 different power ups! Actually I made that number up, but it's a lot! Being able to combine longstanding series powerups to create creative new abilities is brilliant. Some are much more effective than others, but even the upgrades that aren't all that useful are inspired and interesting. When I was younger, I would challenge myself to see how much of the game I could get through using the fridge ability.
The Kirby series is like the eternal bridesmaid or that employee who has been plugging away at a job for 20 years but is hardly noticed. The series puts out a ton of games, both experimental and traditional, with almost no duds and consistently phenomenal music, but the series always seems to be overlooked when considering Nintendo's greatest IPs. I'm guilty of this too, so we're all the asshole here. Kirby deserves better than this.
Like Conker, the core gameplay here isn't really anything special. There's an appeal to the simplicity of the RPG mechanics, but it wears thin after a couple dozen hours. The main attraction here is the presentation and elements surrounding that core gameplay. Except this game excels above Conker by a sizable margin.
Paper Mario is utterly charming. The character designs, writing, and story are simply delightful, effortlessly evoking positive vibes. You're pushed to keep playing because you're dying to know what new character or area you will encounter next. Of particular note are the partner characters who join your party throughout the journey.
And that's what this game feels like: a journey. You're bonking folks with your hammer throughout the land. By the end, it feels like you have thoroughly adventured through the mushroom kingdom, meeting friends along the way and stopping eccentric foes.
I think that's why recent Paper Mario titles have burned so many fans. I don't think most people are coming to these games for the gameplay. What most people want from a Paper Mario game is a fun journey with interesting characters and storylines. So when you make everything surrounding the gameplay dull and predictable, you are actively and intentionally diminishing what makes the series appealing to so many people in the first place.
IT'D BE KIND OF LIKE TAKING A WELL WRITTEN STRATEGY SERIES AND MAKING IT ABOUT MANIPULATING STATS AND ABILITIES FOR THE BEST TEAM AND COURTING SHALLOW, ONE DIMENTIONAL WAIFUS. WOULDN'T IT, INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS?
Who is your Paper Mario waifu? Mine is Luigi.
Sin and Punishment
I really debated putting this game higher because I'm a dirty fucking hipster. But in the end Star Fox 64 just barely beat out S&P. Ask me which I prefer next week and you'll probably get a different answer, though.
Sin and Punishment is this arcadey shooter where you have to move a character left and right with one control stick while aiming with the other stick. Except the N64 controller only has one control stick. Oops.
Actually, this doesn't prove to be a problem on the VC version, which I feel plays fine. I enjoy having to focus on both keeping your character out of harm's way and making sure your shots hit their target. Further nuance is added with the contextual melee attack that can be used to deal a ton of damage to nearby enemies and deflect some attacks, adding more layers to the moment-to-moment decision making. Some sections choose to focus on just shooting or dodging, cranking up the challenge appropriately.
You can beat this game in an hour or so, but like most good arcade games, it holds up to multiple replays and attempts for high scores. And the story is a delicious, cheesy mess that I can't help but enjoy. The same goes for the monster and character designs, which offer a nice variety with regard to visuals and gameplay.
Star Fox 64
I feel like I don't really have to explain this one. Star Fox 64 is a superlative arcade shooter with charming characters, a variety of environments, and a surprisingly deep scoring system. The game is short and sweet, offering a variety of paths which intersect in neat ways that are rewarding to discover. The remake is very well done as well, increasing the visual detail without betraying the simple, angular design of an N64 game. It looks awesome.
Do you see that picture? Who the heck lets Falco die on the first level and then posts a picture of it online? What kind of person does that? What happened to them to make them that way?
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time is secretly my favorite game, but I have to put it here to retain my hipster cred. Don't tell anyone.
Nah, not really. But I love this game, folks.
It's a classic Zelda experience that sets a fantastic template for future 3D Zelda games. You've got your typical fire, grass, water, desert, and haunted levels, but it never feels like they're phoning it in. There aren't really any dips in quality, with a steady stream of dungeons and sidequests that all bring the fun.
So much of the design in this game feels like iconic Zelda. From the characters, to the puzzles, to the dungeons. It's prototypical Zelda, through and through. And there's a reason other 3D Zelda games use this as a foundation; it's nearly perfect. I would love to play a Zelda Gaiden type expansion for Ocarina of Time. It's just such a great template.
Perhaps I would have rated this game higher, but I've played this game too much for me to honestly enjoy it as much as I do the next 3 games.
Super Mario 64
What more could I say about Mario 64? It's a nearly perfect 3D platformer that gets so much right.
A big thing here is the core controls. Just moving Mario around feels great. But when you manipulate those satisfying controls into a speedy string of movements needed to navigate an area efficiently, the experience becomes euphoric.
It wasn't until last January that I finally beat this game 100%. I did it in a couple marathon sessions and it was such a great experience. I probably hadn't enojyed Mario 64 that much since it first came out. Something I found surprisingly enjoyable were the 100 coin challenges. They really tested my knowledge of the environments, and in some cases became grueling endurance contests.
I'm aching to try out some of the fan-made mods for this game. Like with Ocarina of Time, I feel like the foundation here is so strong that you could build countless areas on top of it before things start to grow tiresome. I sincerely hope we get another Mario game in the vein of 64 soon.
I've talked about Banjo Kazooie at length on here multiple times throughout the years, and understandably so. It's in my top 3 favorite games and is the closest thing I've played to a perfect game.
There is nothing that feels unnecessary in Banjo Kazzoie. The levels are just the right size and the game is just the right length. The core mechanics are finely honed and complemented by a variety of side missions that aren't so few that they feel out of place, yet also aren't so numerous that they make the experience feel unfocused. Just the right amount of new abilities to make it feel like your character is growing without being overwhelmed as you progress or feeling underpowered at the start.
The areas are your stock video game environments, but they have that special Rareware touch that makes them feel fresh and interesting. Fantastic writing, music, environment, and visual design go miles towards giving the familiar a feeling of newness. This is helped by features such as the match 2 puzzle and the spelling puzzles being interfaced with using the same language the player uses for the rest of the game- running, jumping, and attacking.
I've gotta cut myself of here. Banjo Kazooie is practically perfect, nailing everything on both the small and large scale.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
The reasons Majora's Mask is tied for being my favorite game are very personal and subjective. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a fantastically made game with plenty of touches that I love, such as the mechanics involving the masks, the emphasis on sidequests, and the ways it deviates from the "baseline Zelda" design of Ocarina of Time. But for me the game runs deeper than that.
I had Majora's Mask since I was little, but I was always too afraid and terrible at games to get very far in it. I reconnected with this game later in my life at just the right time. I was struggling with grief and depression when I suddenly discovered this world where you could help people solve their struggles in the face of apocalyptic stakes by observing and understanding their lives and personal problems. You have the power to help these people and help them in a personal way. It was downright cathartic. In the face of imminent death, you're still able to find some sort of joy in the little victories, such as watching a baby chicken grow up, finding a baby's grandfather so he can play a song to calm the baby down, and helping a mailman come to terms with the conflict between his vocational and personal responsibilities. The small, interpersonal victories keep you going and stack up to make a world of change. Hurt people hurt people, but if you can understand where they're coming from and why they're doing what they're doing, you're one step closer to helping them. Sometimes the answer is as simple as listening to the musician by the laundry pool, sometimes it's more involved like reuniting Anju and Kafei.
And not everyone can be saved. Darmani, Mikau, and the Deku Butler's son are dead and there's nothing you can do about it. You can wear their masks, but you will never replace them. But you can carry on their legacy- their will- within yourself through your actions and the decisions you make. They are gone from this world, but their ideas and what they fought for can live on within you. By inheriting their will (metaphorically or metaphysically, depending on your views) you can carry on a cascading effect for generations, helping those around you and creating all those little victories that gradually make things better. Do not sit around and mourn their loss forever. Use their life and who they were as motivation to become a better person and make a difference.
Like the world's most disgusting sandwich, this list has corn at the top and bottom and a bunch of sap in the middle. And some sap has leaked onto the metaphorical plate below this paragraph. I'll probably do a gamecube list at some point. Part of the reason I lost motivation before was because I have to write all of this in one sitting or copy and paste a bunch of times from a word document, both of which burn me out. It would be much easier if I could somehow save a draft. In other words I blame Zero and his terrible site about casual baby games. Stop posting on twitter all the time and make this random superfluous change to your website, you bum.
Thank you for taking the time to read this nonsense. Let those you love know how important they are to you. Remind yourself that things can get better. If you feel like giving up, remember that the small positive things in our life can make all the difference, and what may seem like a small gesture to you can mean the world to someone else.
If you find the heavy emphasis on sidequests and the lack of a meaty main adventure to be unappealing, then this just may not be the game for you. Doubly so if you don't like the time mechanic. I can get why somebody would be put off by those things, which I also think contributed to MM's delayed appreciation. It's not for everyone, especially if you prefer lengthy main quests like in Ocarina, Twilight Princess, and Link to the Past. I think most people have that game or movie that everyone else seems to love but they just can't get into for whatever reason.
@WrathOfSamus777 Of course I know about the tune for slowed time, I got that as soon as I could. Running out of time isn't really a problem though; a much more useful tool would be the ability to skip to any hour I wanted.
@Hero_Of_Hyrule It isn't necessarily that I don't like those things, it's more that Majora's Mask doesn't have the elements I want and expect from a Zelda title, specifically. It has more of a spin-off feel to me, which I don't mean as a negative thing, just that it's quite different. The game should be better on its own merits as a game if I can pretend it isn't a Zelda title
@WrathOfSamus777 I can't remember what they changed or added either, but that would be nice if true. I already bought the 3DS version, just haven't gotten around to playing it yet, the changes in it will hopefully make it easier for me to get into the game.
@WrathOfSamus777 I believe you're correct. I'm not against that change as it's really just speeding up the process of waiting around for a certain time. I'm less enamoured with the saving changes they made though
The ability to just 'go back' to an earlier save and do over what you screwed up instead of engaging in a full timeline reset takes away from the game's theme of consequences though. I know when I played the 3DS version the other year I (somehow?!) screwed up Sakon's hideout. It would have been very easy to just go back to my previous save and repeat it, but I instead chose to play out the current timeline and take another crack at that sidequest the next go around.
It may *seem* tedious, but IMO that's how you learn and discover things in the game. And there's at least one point that I can think of off the top of my head where the consequences of 'missing' an event spin off into an item you can't otherwise get. So I would recommend @Mop it up that you try and resist the temptation to abuse the new save mechanic in order to get the authentic experience.
@Shadowlink @Mop it up The waiting around never bothered me, as I would kind of observe everything going on as the time passed. It added to the eerie feel of the game for me. I totally understand people not wanting to do that though.
But @Mop it up, I would strongly urge you to complete the Bomber's Notebook if you play it. The main sidequest has one of the best stories I've ever seen in a video game and is the cherry on the sunday of the game. Not to talk it up too much, but it made all the head-scratching worth it when I completed it. You can plow through the dungeons and beat it that way if you want, but it's sort of missing the point of the game, which is seeing the effect your actions are having on the world and inhabitants of Termina.
It isn't necessarily that I don't like those things, it's more that Majora's Mask doesn't have the elements I want and expect from a Zelda title, specifically. It has more of a spin-off feel to me, which I don't mean as a negative thing, just that it's quite different. The game should be better on its own merits as a game if I can pretend it isn't a Zelda title
Oh, I get that. A big part of why games like Majora's Mask and Mario Sunshine appeal to me so much is because they use the phenomenal starting point of their predecessors to dive into some new, unexplored idea.
It's like the developers said "We've got our more basic Zelda and Mario games already set up, so what interesting new thing can we try? What if we put the next Mario game on an island? What if we made the next Zelda about sidequests and collecting things? What if Metroid Prime 2 tried a dual world mechanic."
The danger of developing a game like this is that it is going to appeal to fewer people, but most of the people who enjoy it will get that much more out of the experience because it is filling a niche that they like. The more specialize it becomes, the better it will fill that niche, but at the cost of potentially alienating more people. Between Mario 64 and Sunshine, I think 64 is the higher quality game, but I prefer Sunshine because it appeals to me in specific ways that 64 doesn't.
But we also need those more traditional games to give us a baseline. If every Mario game was in a tropical setting and every Zelda was so focused on optional content, Mario Sunshine and Majora's Mask wouldn't feel so special and developers wouldn't have a pre-made foundation to then deviate from.
That's actually not a bad point. One of the things that blew me away when I first played this was realising I could pick out one of the characters who had a set 'schedule' and just follow them around to the different points where you could interact with them. It really drove home the fact that unlike normal game NPC's who tend to stay in one place forever, these were real characters with their own lives, lives that went on without you. It really brought home the concept of time as expressed by the game. You'd obviously miss that sort of thing just skipping over time periods.
Still as a concept, it's really just a more refined version of what the Song of Double Time already offered, so it's not like you couldn't skip stuff before anyway.
I wonder if we could see another Zelda game along those lines that *really* went nuts with the concept. I'm combining concepts from stuff like Chrono Trigger, Radiant Historia, and even the Zero Escape games. So it's not just one main timeline, with little variations and changes, but rather something that resembles the FLOW diagrams from Virtues Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma.
A timeline that branches all over the place and leads to multiple different outcomes as you change various nexus points. All in the goal of finding the 'true' timeline.
That would be pretty ambitious, but awesome if they could pull it off.
@Shadowlink Yeah, it would be ambitious, but great if they could pull it off. I remember reading somewhere that Aonuma or someone was saying that the original plan for Majora's Mask was for it to be a seven-day time period, but they shortened it to three because it got too convoluted. Which was the right decision.
But yeah, if they could take the basics of what they did with Majora's Mask and layer some more elements on there without it getting too convoluted, it could pretty amazing. I would love a return trip to Termina and see how things have been going there since Link left.
Oh, and Fierce Deity Link would absolutely need to make a reappearance.