10. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!! – Note the three exclamation marks. I’ve heard this described as the “perfect game” or “the very bestest game ever made in the world ever,” and yeah, it’s pretty epic. How can such a deep game about boxing be accomplished with only a directional pad and two buttons? It’s simply incredible and holds up as a true classic. The addition and subsequent subtraction of Mike Tyson makes it all the more legendary.
9. Arnold Palmer’s Tournament Golf – Really? Yep. Remember, it’s epic because I played it, and for me, this was the first game that came close to making the game of golf enjoyable without windmills. Memorizing club strengths and taking into account the direction and speed of the wind, spacing the feet apart, and following those little lines on the green to sink a perfect putt – when it’s a video game, it’s not completely pointless and wasteful. All golf games should be video games, and they should all try to be as good as this one.
8. Toe Jam and Earl – This game deserves another playthrough and a whole article devoted to it, so I’m going to ramble on a bit about this one. A rich kid in our town got a Super Nintendo before any of us, and somehow through the magic of money got Toe Jam and Earl for the Genesis in the same day. Needless to say he became very popular, and another one of my friends and I found it necessary to sleep over at his house. That night, in spite of the imminent power of the SNES, we ended up playing probably 90% TJ&E because it was so fucking funny, challenging, and the cooperative gameplay was much more meaningful than any game we had ever played. You play as aliens, searching the earth for your lost spaceship parts, collecting mysterious presents that could be helpful weapons, extra life or lives, or even instant deaths. You had to contend with various earthlings such as swarms of bees, a lady pushing her kid around in a shopping cart and screaming at it to SHUT UP!!, the Nerd Herd, and the Boogeyman himself who would boogey you to death or knock you off the stage to fall a few levels, forcing you to find your way to the elevators that would bring you back. You could get separated from your buddy and sometimes have to hop down to help them out. You could get good at identifying presents and knowing which wrapping papers to avoid until you accidentally open a randomizer which mixes up all the contents and forces you to start trial and erring with them all over again. If you had Icarus Wings or rocket skates, you could go back to level 1 and cross the sea to the southwest to drop down a hole and visit the secret level which had a lemonade stand and chicks in a hot tub who would “titter titter” as you “chat chat”ed with them. You burped when you drank root beer. You could have a rap jam instead of playing the adventure. The adventure could be randomized or standardized, and it was just about the greatest game ever. They really fucked up the sequels, but this first one should be enshrined, infused with the soul of a saint and be guaranteed a spot in the afterlife because if it isn’t there, I’m not going.
7. Thunderforce III – I know I say that a lot of games have the best soundtrack ever, but Thunderforce III has the best soundtrack ever, and it really does. If you don’t believe me, you should play it. In that way, I hope you doubt everything I’ve ever said, because it would require you to actually sit down and enjoy some of this shit, which would bring me joy. Not as much as simply having my opinion respected and considered every once in a while, but definitely more than a brand new Game Gear. Anyway, Thunderforce III is just a kick fucking ass side scrolling space shooter with dope bosses and treacherous environments. Did I mention it has the best fucking soundtrack ever? Man, is it good.
6. King’s Quest IV – One of the earliest games where you play the heroine rather than the hero. That’s pretty cool, and it was still a parser style command game, and our commands just got grosser and grosser. If you were to log the commands typed into King’s Quest IV when I was 10 years old (or 33 for that matter), they’d be like PICK UP BOW (okay) TAKE OFF CLOTHES (i don’t understand) UNDRESS (I don’t understand) SHOW TITS (i don’t understand) FUCK YOU (now what kind of language is that) SUCK MY DICK (i don’t understand ‘suck’) YES YOU DO BECAUSE YOU SUCK COCKS FOR A LIVING (i don’t understand). Great game with slightly more sensible puzzles than some of its predecessors, a lot of it based on classic fairy tales, though there was some bullshit that could really get you screwed, like digging up too many graves and your shovel breaking. Or the fact that you had to save and load and pray in order to get through the troll’s cave, because it was actual luck (or a random number generator if you want to be a nerd about it) that determined if you could proceed to the next screen without the troll showing up and dragging you off to your death by the braids. Weird random memory: Playing this game in the den while my parents watched a made-for-TV movie called “Perfect People” about a married couple who end up getting liposuction, hair implants and plastic surgery. I think they get hooked on prescription drugs, too. The TV was just a couple feet to the right of the computer monitor, so I ended up watching a bunch of it and realizing that adults were very susceptible to becoming (or perhaps remaining) insecure lameasses.
5. Super Mario All-Stars – Ka-ching, motherfucker! Four games in one slot. Hey, Nintendo did it and so can I. It was such a great idea to port the first four Super Mario Bros. games to the SNES on a single cartridge, so of course I bought that shit up (and did it once again when they made it for the Wii). I played this one listening to the Beavis and Butt-Head Experience CD – remember that one? Literally got to the very last stage in the Lost Levels (which was actually just Japan’s Super Mario Bros. 2) but could not beat it. All the other ones, though, got their due. It was with this game that I realized that not all that glitters is gold, and not all graphic and sound updates are as lovable as their original incarnations. George Lucas would later drive the point home when he added those extra scenes to the Star Wars movies and made them stupid.
4. Chrono Trigger – Take the artwork of Dragonball’s Akira Toriyama and a Squaresoft RPG and you get… Dragon Quest! No, wait – Enix and Square were still two separate companies (I almost wrote ‘countries’) at the time. This is just a brilliant RPG with excellent music, story, and god damn fucking everything. I play this game, or at least start a new quest every winter and listen to the Roots’ second album because it’s a tradition. One of these days I swear I’m going to try out a game that snubs Magus in favor of helping Frog, but it’s really hard to pass up adding such a badass to the party. Bonus – the Japanese version for the DS has both English and Japanese options, and you can switch between them at will.
3. Super Smash Bros. (N64) – I’ll tell you a story. Be quiet. When I was in the throes of my first bout with Pokemon madness, I got into some wack shit. I had seen the Pokemon movie in American theaters. I played 50 hours of Pokemon Snap trying to photograph the little shits. I kept my money and driver’s license in a Pikachu wallet. And still, I was yet to control a Pokemon in a game as the Pokemon itself. The same way I wanted a Final Fantasy-esque role-playing game with Zelda-style slashing, I wanted to BE the Pokemon and jump around and attack enemies with all my Poke-might. It must have been the late spring of 1999 when my friend and I visited Toys R Us and they had a game at the playable Nintendo 64 display which I had never seen or heard of. It was called Super Smash Bros. and seemed to be a kind of fighting game where you could play as classic Nintendo characters. Among them, Pikachu was playable, and I was like hot Koffing shit! Pikachu was playable! I grabbed the controller and jumped and attacked and fought, and we must have played the game for an hour there in the store. Not soon after that, this friend owned a copy of the game and we began playing it as part of our evening ritual of drinking and smoking and cursing and getting fucked up and playing video games. Life was very fulfilling then, on summer breaks from college. By the time school started again and I had moved back to my college town, playing Smash remained the #1 game among my friends who remained at home. The next summer, Smash was still the de facto purpose of our nightly get-togethers and remained so all the way until December of 2001.
2. Super Smash Bros. Melee – This game came out in December of 2001. The anticipation had been swelling all year since we had heard that there was going to be a new Smash game with more characters, and a complete overhaul on the graphics, which though not necessary, would provide a new experience, which was welcome, because I’m not sure how long we’d be able to continue playing that first Smash Bros. game on the 64 without going mad. Our tradition continued through Smash Melee, and we logged thousands of hours fighting each other and perfecting our techniques. It became the deepest fighting game that was as much of a psychic battle of wits as it was a technical ballet of the fingers. Smash was representative of all conflicts in life, and like Miyamoto Musashi wrote in the Book of Five Rings… uh.. a bunch of very insightful stuff about battle and stuff. Smash became a kind of hyper chess that we played every fucking night, and it bound us together like a cult. My friendships with my fellow Smashers have not deteriorated even with years and miles between our meetings. We will meet again, and we will Smash again.
1. Super Smash Bros. Brawl / X – Which brings us to the present day. It was to be expected that we would all get the new Smash Bros. game even though we lived thousands of miles away from each other, but Brawl lets us continue to play over a Wi-Fi connection, which is really great. Though we can never truly replicate the summers at the turn of the century, at least we can use Gamecube controllers. Smash has also always been like a kind of museum of Nintendo’s greatest achievements, and if you thought the number of collectible trophies in Melee was insane, Brawl lets you basically mount every one of Princess Peach’s pubes on pedestals for posterity. You can read the history of old games and characters, and even play demos of some of their classic titles right there in the game. You collect soundtracks. You collect stickers to modify character stats for the fully-realized adventure game included. So many goddamn characters to play and new strategies to explore. Items, stages, music music music. This is the game used for Smash tournaments where I live now. I have met fighters from across the world and observed their techniques and learned more about my fellow man through the advent of Super Smash Bros. It is the ultimate game and deservingly takes the number one spot on this list for its beauty, its playability, its sense of tradition, and the effects that it can create on your outlook on life and way of living. Well, at least my outlook on life and way of living. Which is all that really mattered in the first place. Do you even Smash, bro?
So there you are, fiends and neighbors. Play and play well because there is obviously a lot out there, and a significant amount of it is actually worth checking out. Someday, maybe today, you will have a list like this of your very own. I kind of want to kill some items on this bitch so I can squeeze in Leisure Suit Larry 6 and Gabriel Knight 2, but perhaps someday there will be a revised version up here. Oh fuck that. It took forever and wasted a lot of person’s time. And now it’s over and I can get back to trying to finish Quest for Glory IV here at work while nobody’s looking.