Favorite Games - A Year by Year Review
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I came to most of these games a few years after their initial release, obviously. I grew up as much with Atari early on as I did with NES, and played a number of Atari games. My all-time favorite came out the year before, 1979, and was called Galaxian. Among the 1980 releases, it was a toss up between Warlords and Berzerk, though I went with Berzerk because I probably spent more hours navigating forcefields and coaxing mindless robots to kill themselves than I ever did bouncing a ball at enemy strongholds.
Berzerk - Atari 2600
This game is a true classic, and the fact that you can't actually beat the game, like so many Atari games, can be frustrating for anyone not used to such games. I loved this game, though I have yet to cycle over on this one, as you can on some other ones more easily, like the game Defender.
Warlords - Atari 2600
This game is great even with just two people, but it really shines when you have four people playing it. It seems a simple concept, but can be quite difficult when you're playing all human opponents. The AI on this one isn't great, though I suppose that's what you'd expect on these older games. Still, I'd recommend giving this one a try.
Defender - Atari 2600
Saving earth from invading aliens in a rocket...carrot? Yes, a great game, and one that is surprisingly addictive. I've never cycled this game over to the beginning before dying, but my brother has at least once. I'm not just that good at saving planet earth I guess.
While there were some games this year that I enjoyed, only two made the final cut for favorite games. By far, Frogger was number one, and is a game I still enjoy playing at times. It's interesting to see the many versions and games he's been in since this one, but it's hard to beat this classic.
Frogger - Atari 2600
This game reminds me of the old "Why did the X cross the road" joke, though obviously it's much cooler than that. In spite of a simple concept, this game is highly addictive and each level becomes more difficult. I was never a master at this game, but I did manage to make it far enough in the game to see the spiders that attack you and the alligators you can actual jump on, if you're careful. A true classic worth giving a try.
Yars' Revenge - Atari 2600
I'm not sure if this falls under Hide N' Seek or Dodge Ball, but it's a similar type game. You play an avenging insect trying to infiltrate an enemy stronghold and kill the boss. It's quite interesting and challenging. I was never great at this one, but it was quite fun.
There was some debate in my research on the exact year Pac-Man came to the Atari 2600. I opted with this year, but if I am in error, please let me know. Pitfall also made this favorite games year, but Pac-Man is timeless in many ways, and is a game still enjoyed at times. Pitfall doesn't quite have that same re-playability for me any more.
Pac-Man - Atari 2600
What I find most interesting about this game is that it's one of two games often blamed for the decline of the Atari system, the other being E.T. I can see E.T. being blamed. I don't see such a horrible game often. However, Pac-man is a classic, and has since had a number of sequels and off-shoots. Could this popularity be a "reboot" phenomenon and the original was really bad? I don't think so, but then, I've been known to be wrong.
Pitfall! - Atari 2600
This game is a true classic of Atari, though I'm not sure it could hold the interest of the newer generations. It has had a few sequels, and I'm not sure how popular they were. I found this game enjoyable, if frustrating at times. I always seemed to fall down the pits at the worst times. Still, it is one of the classics of the system.
Yes, only one game listed on this year, but this game was and still is an awesome classic. While there was probably no way to dual with light sabres on an Atari 2600, this was the next best thing. And who doesn't love playing with light sabres?
Star Wars: Jedi Arena - Atari 2600
Alright, so this isn't exactly a Jedi Knight caliber game, but for this system, it's a classic, and I won't say addictive, but certainly worth a try. Remember Luke training for the first time with a light saber on the Millenium Falcon? This game simulates that experience while making it a two-player game. The training ball fires blasts of electricity which is fired by you or your opponent. The training ball also goes crazy after a set period of time and will shoot blasts at you or your opponent. Yes, I'm sure I'm not doing it justice, but if you're going to try an Atari, I'd give this one a try.
While most of the games in this section could easily be listed first, I had to give the title this year to the original Mario Bros. from NES. While I had played many games on Atari by this point, the experience of this game was so new and engrossing during its day, it's hard not to place this game first, if for no other reason than it was the beginning of a different era in home console games.
Super Mario Bros. - Famicom and NES
This one is the true classic that started a franchise. Atari is a great system, but this title, along with the ground-breaking system, took gaming in a new direction. I have many fond memories of playing this game out at our family river house on spring and summer days. If you're at all a Mario fan and haven't played this one, you simply must seek this title out.
The Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown - PC Games
One of the earliest PC games I can remember playing. PC's when I was growing up were DOS-based, and the games were mostly simple. This is one of the first RPG's on a PC and a classic, if with a stiff learning curve. Still, if you don't mind dated graphics, this is a classic worth exploring.
Kung Fu - Famicom and NES
Have you seen the movie The Game of Death, starring Bruce Lee? This game is much like that movie. Your girlfriend has been kidnapped and is being held by Mr. X on the top floor of his hideout. You have to face a different martial arts master on each floor, each one more difficult than the last. This was a classic of the opening titles for the NES and I'd highly recommend acquiring this one if you get the chance.
Ghosts 'N Goblins - Famicom and NES
While the sequel on the Super NES was a bit easier for beginners to get through, this one is a true classic, with a difficulty that bordered on ridiculous at times. Essentially you have two hit points the whole game, and with very few special weapons to work with.
Wild Gunman - Famicom and NES
Who can't remember the joy of Wild Gunman? The standoffs with outlaws, or the quickdraws with multiple. The only thing that took from this game was the often poor performance of the light gun.
There were many notable games during this year as well, but hardly any more notable than the original The Legend of Zelda. There had never been a game like this before, and it proved to be a game changer, one that spawned a formula for so many other games afterwards, both in and outside the Zelda franchise.
The Legend of Zelda - Famicom and NES
This is the classic, the game that spawned a franchise, and one of my all-time favorites. I'm not quite as much as a master of it as my brother is, who reached the end of the game without a sword, but I have beaten both quests. I still have a number of games in this series to play and master, but I will always return to this game, and not merely for nostalgia. This game still is addictive and a joy to play.
Defender of the Crown - PC Games
This should refer to the NES version of the game, but I've had difficulty locating it on amazon to add. I'll add a custom entry eventually. It's difficult to explain why this game was so addictive--all that was involved was sieging castles with very little interactive fighting in the siege, and some tournaments and other special type one on one combats that were sporadic, but there was something satisfying about winning this strategy oriented game.
Pro Wrestling - Famicom and NES
In general, I'm not a huge fan of wrestling games. However, this one has a special place in my childhood lore. In addition to being a great simple wrestling game, involving some of the same button combo type play as a Mortal Combat game might, one character from this game made it out of the game and into some very odd and imaginative games I played in my backyard with a close childhood friend.
The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight - PC Games
The sequel to the Bard's Tale, one of the first RPG's that I played, it's a very solid game, and quite addicting, if you enjoy good old fashioned RPGs and don't mind dated graphics. My friend Mike is obsessed with graphics and can't appreciate old games because of their graphics. As for myself, I care more about gameplay and story than appearances. Not that a I mind a beautiful and breathtaking appearance in the appearance of a game.
Some of these may be arguable on this year, but for me, the top two were difficult. As much as I loved and played the original Pirates! on our new PC, Metroid has proved to have a longer impact on me, and thus got the nod. I still enjoy going to this old game, even if all the maps are mostly memorized by this point. Metroid is a true classic. That being said, it's notable that this year was the beginning of my long love affair with PC games. I had dabbled with PC games before this, but the publication of Pirates! and Maniac Mansion spurred a far greater interest in PC games from this point onward.
Metroid - Famicom and NES
Who doesn't remember this game? There were a number of notables this year, but this has to be the top of the list. One thing that always frustrated me on this game was the picture they had showing Samus at the end game with the wave beam. Is it possible to beat the game without the ice beam? If so, I'm just not that good, and I have to wonder who is. I could never make it to the end of the game without freezing those metroids. A true class here, though, and one worth playing if you enjoy the more modern installments of the series.
Sid Meier's Pirates! - PC Games
There have been many renditions of this game since, but this one is still my favorite. Even with dated graphics, the feel of being a buccaneer, of uncovering buried treasure, storming a town, and fighting at sea, along with quests from various governors and nations make this one a true classic for me.
Castlevania - Famicom and NES
A true classic, and one that has been very difficult to recapture in later installments. There are some that are good games in themselves, but many of them are a flop and cannot live up to the legacy that this one created. Probably the most difficult part of this game was the inability to move while jumping in the air. Sure you can swing your whip, but once you jump, you're stuck until you land or are hit by the many enemies coming at you. I don't know how many times I've been hit and killed while in the air on this game.
Maniac Mansion - PC Games
This is the first in a quirky type of video game that sees its culmination, at least to me, in the first to Monkey Island series. The bizarre and at times twisted humor and insane puzzles solvable in different ways by different combinations of characters make this a worthy honorable mention.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link - Famicom and NES
While not remembered as often as a classic as the original, in large part because of its departure in style from the original, this game is a classic in its own right. Anyone who has taken the time to play this game came to have a growing affection for it. And of course, the difficulty could be ridiculous at time until you acquired the hammer. Then, everything seemed to fall in place...that is, until the last levels and fighting your own shadow.
I am sure my number two on this list raises some eyebrows, as Simon's Quest is often considered a bastard child of the early Castlevania's due to its huge change from the first one in style. Still, I enjoyed it enough to place it second. The choice of first was a no-brainer for me. I love everything about The Battle of Olympus. It had many of the elements that the original Zelda had, puzzles, various dungeons and bosses, upgrading equipment, and it explored the world of ancient Greece and mythology that I love so much.
The Battle of Olympus - Famicom and NES
While being a side scrolling game, this one had many of the things I love about Zelda, upgrading equipment and obtaining new items, solving puzzles and exploring "dungeon" areas to defeat bosses, a good storyline. And it's one of the few early games to use Greek myth in the game, at least on the NES. The sidescrolling reminded me a bit of Zelda II. In fact, it feels in many ways similar to that game. I'd highly recommend this game if you have a system.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - Famicom and NES
I am not certain how this game was received overall, but among my circle, I know there were many who didn't like the game because it felt uniquely different than the first game in the series. And it was. I don't believe it was intended to be the same, but what it did have was an interesting adventure feel, allowing and even requiring you revisit some locales as you explored more and became more powerful. I found it quite fun; perhaps it's not quite a good as the first one, but it's definitely work playing at least once, and to me, multiple times...with some time between sessions.
Contra - Famicom and NES
In all honesty, I never enjoyed any of the sequels of this game, but for some reason, this one was quite addictive and one of the best early two-player coop games. Of course, without the cheat code to gain a large number of lives, this game is also almost unbeatable...if not completely unbeatable.
R.C. Pro-Am - Famicom and NES
I have never been a huge fan of the more modern, contemporary racing games. To me, games like Gran Turismo just become redundant and dull; I am not saying they are not good games, if you enjoy those kinds of games. In fact, I can see how I would love them if I enjoyed racing games more. But be that as it may, this one I found quit enjoyable. It's a racing game from a simpler time in video games. The entire track is in view as you race around it with a top-down view, and it's relatively simple to navigate, without requiring hundreds of hours driving in circles to beat. To me, this one is a classic. For those who love Gran Turismo, I mean no disrespect. It's just not my cup of tea.
Paperboy - Famicom and NES
This game could easily be listed as one of the most frustrating games I played on a normal basis. What was most frustrating is when you "appeared" to have plenty of room to miss an object but somehow you inevitably hit the object and lost a life. The margin of error on this game for avoiding obstacles was ridiculous at times, though I loved seeing the Grim Reaper in this game. I wonder if there are any paperboys who ever saw a Grim Reaper while delivering papers...hhm, I should hope not.
This was a difficult year to rank, as I love all five of these games. All are classics in their own genres and unique enough to merit playing again many years later. In the end, I gave Baseball Stars the edge. Why? It's hard to nail down, but perhaps because there has not really been a baseball game like it since. Most have taken another track, that of trying to imitate MLB and current players. This game is truly unique in that you build your own team from scratch, including names and the ability to improve your players. A true classic here.
Baseball Stars - Famicom and NES
As I mentioned, this game, to me, is a true classic and unique in ways no other baseball games seem to imitate. All sports games, for that matter, especially today, seem to imitate professional, true-to-life teams, and none of them allow you to personalize the teams, or to create your own. Perhaps this has to do with profit and their perception that people don't want this kind of sports game? I don't know. But I love this one. Update this with modern graphics and utilize new features on the new systems? You'd have a classic in the making. But even without that, this one is a gem, and well worth buying if you get the chance.
Ignoring graphics, if you want to try a quirky and unique game, give this one a try. You're given a very basic starship to begin, and get to create a unique crew of different races and skills. The goal is not to win by conquest, but rather to win by trading with various races. Of course, there is plenty of starship fighting that goes on, and at least a few races that are hostile with you from the beginning. And all of the navigation is done with X Y coordinates on a star map. I'd highly recommend giving it a try.
Dragon Warrior - Famicom and NES
A classic RPG that not only spawned a whole series, but also many similar games. While games seem to be, in large part, going away from the simple menu, turn-based RPG (most are adding more complicated menu options or creating more dynamic battle systems), there is something satisfying about this old battle system. The game is a classic, and should be experienced by anyone who enjoys RPGs.
Super Mario Bros. 3 - Famicom and NES
Of all the Mario games I've played (and I'll admit that hasn't been nearly as many as exist), this is one of my all-time favorites, right up there with Super Mario World. The game is a great mix of what made the original so great, with many new features and options to explore, including bonus games, mobile encounters (not sure what to call the moving enemies on the world map), and the ability to fly for a limited time. Oddly enough, this game garnered weird attention from Peta for the Racoon Mario version in the game.
Hot Rod: American Street Drag - PC Games
If you want a Gran Turismo type of experience, you may as well forget this game. It's hardly a realistic racing game. However, if you have an open mind for a different kind of racing game, this one is worth a try. It's set in the early sixties, the time of drag racing and pink slips and classic cars. It has early elements of upgrading cars by going under the hood, and otherwise upgrading various aspects of your hot rod to win big money and other cars, all in hopes of making it to the big race in the fall. I'm sure I'm not doing this game justice, but I hope you'll give it a try all the same.
This is the first year that PC games outstripped my passion for console games. This was also the year Sega Genesis game out, though I never truly embraced that system. Super Mario World still makes the list as a timeless classic, but for me, by far the most addictive, humorous and enjoyable game this year was the original The Secret of Monkey Island. For any one who has played it, no description is necessary, but for those who haven't, it's a truly unique game that told a humorous story built entirely on puzzles and humorous solutions. In a similar vein as Maniac Mansion in its quirkiness, but with a style all its own. This game still gets played these many years later.
The Secret of Monkey Island - PC Games
This game is a true classic, and an experience you simply must explore if you enjoy adventure games in the least bit. There is truly nothing quite like it out there today, with the witty humor, bizarre puzzles, and vintage graphics. I remember spending hours in this world, exchanging witty comebacks with pirates during duels, concocting a weird recipe to magically transport my ship to Monkey Island, and trying to rescue Governor Marley from the evil Pirate LeChuck.
Super Mario World - Super famicom and SNES
This is the second of my two favorite Mario games. This game built further on my other favorite, Mario Bros. 3, and expanded the concepts and ideas from that game. The addition of Yoshi, the cape to replace the Racoon Mario, and a unique feel for each area of the map, with secrets to explore, and many themes and features that would appear in future Mario games, particularly the Haunted House that would make appearances in Super Mario Kart.
Wing Commander - PC Games
I can't say I am a huge fan of the sequels to this game, but this one is by far one of the best early flight simulators. From being stuck with a lousy second plane for too long to the crumby wingman who almost always got in the way of your glory, this one is truly a classic, and I say that in the most endearing way possible. Of course, there's also the amazing battles against Last Starfighter type odds that make this ridiculously fun to play.
Loom - PC Games
Unique. That word describes this game best. In addition to being in the same vein as the Secret of Monkey Island in humor and puzzles, it is the only early game to involve music as a part of the game interaction. In order to cast spells, you have to play a series of notes on a distaff. It wasn't until much later that some games took the idea and used it in more modern gameplay. This one is truly an innovator and a joy to play.
DuckTales: The Quest for Gold - PC Games
I'm sure many are probably scratching their heads seeing this one on here, but for me, this one had the odd mix of story and gameplay that I couldn't put down. There's not much of a story, as this is all about gathering money to be the richest by the end of the race, but the variety of quests and adventures on this one is simply too much fun. I spent quite a months addicted to this game.
The choice during this year was extremely difficult for me. The Legend of Zelda still gets played, and is truly a timeless classic. Still, even though I no longer play the original Civilization, I gave it the edge during this year. No other game released this year inspired so many long nights and "...just one more turn" afternoons than this game. In spite of its flaws, this game also changed the gaming landscape and spawned a love affair with the series that only ended with the release of Civilization V.
Sid Meier's Civilization - PC Games
I can't say enough about the value of this game, both in terms of gameplay but also in terms of a genre launching title. The graphics on this game are a bit dated today, and the gameplay has been improved in the second installment, and further expanded and improved after. But the experience and effect of this first title is undeniable. I spent many summer days when this first came out playing "just one more turn" and being further frustrated as all my plans failed because of a chance loss or a savvy enemy who launched a surprise attack on me.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - Super famicom and SNES
I'm not sure much needs to be said about this timeless classic, but I do believe it's the first NES or Super NES game that inspired the feeling of sadness when it was over and I couldn't play it any more, at least for a while. That alone puts it into another category of games for me.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge - PC Games
In the same vein as the original, this is another gem of this genre, and one I'd highly recommend. After becoming rich in the first one, you lose it all and go searching for yet another treasure, the treasure of Big Whoop. I won't spoil the game, but it's a classic, and sadly, was the last game that felt in the same vein. The series after this took a huge turn in style, due to the departure of the original programmers. I hate the new style, and could not get into the later titles.
Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra - PC Games
I didn't quite get into the first two Might and Magic games, but this one was another matter. While not as fluid as some of it's later installments, it had all the elements I look for in an RPG, great party creation and character advancement, a good story with side quests and interesting puzzles to solve. One of the early RPG classics in my eyes.
Super Castlevania IV - Super famicom and SNES
This title is one of the few Castlevanias, following the original, that still captured much of the same feel and experience. Once this series migrated to the Playstation, the titles often failed to create such an enjoyable experience for the series. Some of the enjoyment returned with some of the Gameboy titles, to be sure, but as far as console games go, this is probably, in my mind, the last good Castlevania series for some time.
For me, the number one game this year was an easy choice. In spite of some other great games, Darklands will also be that truly unique gaming experience that no other game has since replicated for me. There are many that use alchemy, and the upgrading of weapons and armor is hardly new. I think it was the story and atmosphere, combined with the unique aspects of gameplay (alchemy, prayer to saints, the choice to abide by the law or slay everyone you encounter) that make this game the unique experience it is.
Darklands - PC Games
This is easily the best RPG of it's year, and a true classic worth playing even today. The setting and mix of magic and mysticism is not replicated in any other game that I know of. Creating a party of four characters, you have the use of standard weapons and skills, including basic, early firearms, but also such skills as alchemy to create a wide range of potions, and spiritual/divine aid in the way of praying to saints. Besides dealing with various more mundane type quests, such as defeating robber barons and the like, you also can explore caverns full of mythical creatures, puzzles and traps, fight and slay dragons, visit witches seances and either take part or desecrate them, be hunted by the followers of Satan, the list goes on, but I'll stop there. If you haven't played it, I'd highly recommend giving it a try.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest - Super famicom and SNES
This was the very first Final Fantasy game I ever played, and one of my favorites in the series, perhaps in part because it was my first. The series has taken a decidedly sci-fi turn, especially in later installments, but this one still stands mostly in the fantasy realm. For this system and time, it's amazing, with good character progression and an interesting assortment of skills and weapons, including magic of course. Not something I play all the time any more, but definitely worth giving it a try.
Yes, I've beaten this game, but not back when I played it during its release. This game is a great adventure game, with some RPG elements in it, and fun puzzles to solve. The character and atmosphere of the game is fascinating, if the combat system is rather simple for its time. What makes it worth playing is largely the atmosphere and story, both of which are engaging and entertaining, especially as there are multiple ways to beat the puzzles, depending on which type of character you choose to develop (thief, magic caster, or warrior). Well worth a play through, if you enjoy adventure games.
Wolfenstein 3D - PC Games
An amazing early first person shooter game. In fact, it's the earliest I can remember being addicted to and playing well into the early hours of the morning. The only thing I can say I didn't enjoy was having to kill dogs in the game. Yes, they were angry and bloodthirsty and would kill you if you didn't kill them first. But still....
Super Mario Kart - Super famicom and SNES
I never quite got into many of these, not being a huge fan of racing games in general, but this one is quite fun. The earliest of the Mario Kart games, to me it is also the most being, having the smallest learning curve of them, and the simplest of them. Of course, if you're looking for realism, or a huge number of features, this one is probably not your best bet. If you're not huge into racing games like me, then this might just be one of the best bets for you.
There were a number of notable games for me this year, but my favorite this year was another easy choice. Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos is a genre of game that has since fallen largely out of favorite, no in the epic fantasy realm, but in its closed-ended approach to the game. In spite of having different heroes with different strengths in the game, there really is a narrow story and path, with no true side quests as we see today. In spite of that, I loved this game. The story and gameplay was addictive, and even with a few bugs, the game featured a narrator of Patrick Stewart, the actor of Star Trek fame.
Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos - PC Games
Another classic RPG, and one that features Patrick Stewart's voice. For those Star Trek fans like myself, that is a huge plus. The game itself has multiple ways to overcome various obstacles in the game, as you choose a "class" at the beginning via starting character selection (balanced, thief, magic user, warrior). While the exploration of the map is somewhat restrictive (if you've played any EA RPGs, think narrowly defined areas you can explore with set boundaries), but the fun part is in the puzzles and fighting. You can, with some effort, make any of the character classes work with any skill set (melee, magic casting, ranged/thievery), which I find interesting, but it is much more difficult when doing so. I recently played through with a magic user class whom I turnt into a thief. It was quite challenging, but rewarding to win that way.
Super Mario All-Stars - Super famicom and SNES
In addition to a whole new game, this also give you access to several other Mario games and is a great value if you don't have many of the older games in the series.
NHL Stanley Cup - Super famicom and SNES
Again, not a huge sports game fan (a sports fan, but not a video game sports fan), but this is one of my favorites. Previous games I enjoyed were simpler (such as Blades of Steel), but this game is still a simple enough game to NOT require a year to master the controls. So many sports games, especially football ones today, require a manual and many hours of practice to master the controls, only to find your copy has now been replaced by the title just released. This one does not do that, and allows you to enjoy the game much more quickly.
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This list ranks my top games year by year, starting at the year of my birth - 1980. I've limited the rankings to five per year. This list excludes games I did not or have not played, which may include some classic titles, such as the N64 Zeldas. This list also excludes arcade games, as I was not a huge arcade frequenter. Many of the early years have only one or two entries, in part because I didn't not truly begin gaming until 1985, when the original NES came into existence in the US. If a year is missing early on, it's because there were no notable games I played that year.
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