Alright. I'm pumped. I'm ready to go. This here is my pet project I've been thinking about forever. An attempt to find the top nine games for every game system ever. I don't know if I'll be able to do it. But if I die and people look at my casket being lowered into the ground, someone in the background will shed a tear and say "At least he tried! He tried, damnit!"
So that's cool.
And lets start this bad boy off with the single defining game system in my life.
The Nintendo Entertainment System.
Released in 1985 to very little fanfare due to the video game crash the year before, Nintendo said "screw you people, I'm releasing this system."
And they did, and eventually the NES became just the best thing ever to exist on the planet.
This system defined what gaming was going to be like for the next bunch of years and ruined the lives of so many people like myself that it's not worth counting. I love you, Nintendo. But enough about that. My top nine games for the NES. Now, I understand that these games are probably on most people's lists, but we're starting simple. Don't worry about it.
9. OK, then. Coming it at the coveted number nine position we have a little game called Ice Hockey (1988, Nintendo). One of my favorite sports games of all time. Not for realism, not for graphics, but for seriously fun and simple gameplay.
The game consisted of a team of 4 guys. You got to choose whether or not they were skinny, normal, or fat (Tony's a fan of the 4 fat guys team, but I'm a fan of the 3 fat guys and one skinny/fast character). Then you played a sort of side-scrolling hockey game. Now, one of the problems I see with a lot of games today is that they have the power to make these intense graphics, put all the money there, and forget gameplay. This game had no graphics so they put everything into gameplay. Simple, yet awesome. I think, in fact, that gameplay is why the NES classic series for the GBA is doing so well. People are warming up to the fact that graphics do not make the game.
8. Next, we have the popular gem Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (1987, Nintendo). I believe this is the only NES game ever released which guest-stars a serial rapist, but I might be wrong. This was a port/sort-of sequel to Nintendo's very popular arcade hit Punch-Out which was released 3 years earlier.
The game was insanely popular, I think, due to the sharpness of the graphics and the simple gameplay. Left, right, dodge, and uppercut were the basic moves, then you got a super move by hitting the select button. Pretty easy stuff. The game was actually so popular that my college roommate Brad would constantly fill out 007 373 5963 on any form that asked for his SS number. Then he'd get confused by the extra number and have to ask for another form (or, as happened most of the time, two new forms). The game is actually fun enough in my mind that I still play it whenever I visit Castle Awesome and find myself with a few hours to kill. Fun.
7. Blaster Master (1988, Sunsoft). The bizarre story of a boy whose pet frog falls down a strange hole in his backyard and gets radiation poisoning, so the boy must follow the frog. What's down there? Why, a huge maze of tunnels and a giant tank, of course.
The storyline lacked a bit of logic, but the game itself was super-fun. Half platformer and half top-down walkabout. The game was simply huge, and one of the first games that I played where you had the ability to go back through previous levels with a new tank accesory to find the next level. Guns, mutated monsters, a tank, a frog, and a boy with a dream (and a tank). Who could ask for more?
6. Final Fantasy. Released in the U.S. in 1990 by Square, this game was their biggest project they had ever tried to make. The game had actually been released in Japan three years earlier, but NoA felt that the game would be too hard for Americans (there was also just a ton of text that had to be translated).
They felt it would be so hard, in fact, that on release, the game came with a map of every dungeon in the game and a list of every creature you'd encounter. Weaknesses and all.
That, of course, made it possible for you to bring maps into school and become somewhat more popular and speak expertly on what combination of people you should have in your group. I was always a fan of Red Mage, Black Mage, Fighter, and Blackbelt personally, though my friend Tommy tried the old "beat the game with 4 White Mages" once and actually got fairly far into the game before giving up due to boredom.
It was my first RPG and, in fact, set the gold standard for every RPG to come out after that.
5. Tetris (1992, Nintendo). Like Siberia...only harder. Or so the game claimed...sort of. The game was really the first bit of fun that the Americas got from behind the dreaded iron curtain. Was it fun, though? Or merely a dastardly trick designed to drive us all insane? I'm-a say fun.
The game was actually a huge ordeal for Nintendo and a little company called Tengen. Tengen, if you'll remember, was sick of paying Nintendo huge sums of money and only being allowed to make five games a year and only a certain amount of those games, etc. Nintendo, of course, at the time, had good reasons to limit the games being released. The memory of the great 1984 game crash was still fresh in everyone's mind. The main reason for the crash was that everyone could make and publish any crappy-ass game they wanted.
Tengen was interested in producing as many games as they could for the proverbial quick buck. Tetris was one of the games. They, however, didn't make it. They, in fact, bought the game on the black market in Turkey and decided to make a port of it. The problem was how Tengen could reverse-engineer the Nintendo game paks so that they could make their own.
The answer? Fuck reverse-engineering. They sued Nintendo and used the lawsuit to get at Nintendo's blueprints, citing disclosure. Nintendo didn't know what had happened until it was too late, and Tengen started making and selling Tetris. What did Nintendo do, then? They didn't even bother suing, really. They had a small countersuit to distract Tengen from the fact that they went to every toy store in the U.S. and told them that if they sold Tengen games, they weren't going to be receiving any actual Nintendo products.
In the meantime, Nintendo went to Russia and talked with the developer and the government about getting the rights to the game. They didn't even realize that the game was being mass-produced and were so pissed off that someone took the game that they signed over all the video game rights to Nintendo, effectively screwing Tengen like a prom date.
Bricks fell from the sky, and you sort of had to stack them to make lines. It was awesome.
4. Base Wars is probably the greatest game that you never heard of, let alone played, during the NES heyday. Released by Ultra, it was a baseball game played with robots who had weapons.
With six possible player-made teams you could save, a million accessories to buy for your robots (guns, swords, pitching cannons, power shoulders, ultra speed engines, etc). Hugely customizable, and insanely addictive. The gameplay was, at first, like baseball, but if you were thrown out, you weren't necessarily out just yet. You'd run up to the base and you and the first baseman would go to a side screen to fight it out. Winner gets the base (or out, depending on if you were batting or fielding).
Really original, really cool, and really fun. Robots with guns who play baseball. Who could ask for more?
3. OK, so now we're getting into the top three and I'm sure you can guess at least two of them. They're on my list, they're probably on your list, and they're on every other person's list in this country or any other country for that matter. Coming in at number 3, we have Metroid.
One of the very few sci-fi games that Nintendo released in the very beginning (I think to avoid the Atari "every game is in space" vibe that they had). This was just one of the most bitching platformers ever made. Huge maps, tons of weapons, a save feature (well, sort of) and the first successful video game to ever star a chick. Though in brilliant fashion, this wasn't realised 'til the very end of the game. Granted, I seem to remember that I always knew it was a girl, even before I played the game. The same way that I never remember being blown away by Darth Vader being Luke's father. I always just sort of knew. A shame, really.
Anyway, the game was fantastic and huge and adored by nearly everyone. The music was eerie as well. The game featured no time limit, though if you finished quickly enough you got to see Samus in full bathing suit glory. Interesting note here. This marks the time of a distinct change in the way American children were growing up. We used to have Sesame Street and the messages of love, and sharing, and caring, etc. This started to be replaced by what seemed to be Nintendo's message: you are alone, everyone wants to kill you, and time is running out. I prefer Nintendo, but it might explain my paranoia.
2. Mario Bros. 3 (1990, Nintendo). This game really marked the pinnacle of the Mario franchise on the NES. SMB1 had been a fun game, revolutionary in fact, but it wasn't until the third game that they really stepped up what a platformer could and should be.
Interesting note. SMB2 had actually been released 6 months prior to the 3rd one. How did they get such fantastic turnaround? Originally, SMB2 had been a different game, starring a strange group of people in turbans. Nintendo realized the game was a lot of fun, but felt that starting a new franchise character would be difficult. They took out all of turban people, and quick, threw in the mario characters. Which also explains why 2 was so completely and utterly different than every other game. It worked, too. Everyone had Mario 2 and then Mario 3 with virtually no waiting. Brilliant.
The gameplay was basic platforming with Mario silliness, but also featured a few mini-games, the ability to store your items, and also, for the first time, ever, a plot. Granted, the plot didn't go too far away from the original (rescue the Princess), but still, it was a nice change of pace. The final feature that I loved was the overhead map which let you, in some cases, avoid certain levels in favor of other levels, find item shops, and go into mini-battles with various Hammer Brothers. Awesome, awesome game.
1. Well, it's been a long couple of pages, but we're finally here, and since the game hasn't been mentioned yet, you already know damn well that it's Zelda (1986, Nintendo)! Nintendo knew they had something incredibly special in their hands. The had a huge ad campaign which didn't show any screen shots, and they had a game that came in gold plastic. They dumped a ton of money into marketing and ended up with one of the most crazy-successful franchises ever conceived.
This was Nintendo's first real venture into the fantasy realm and a perfect compliment to the sci-fi epic Metroid. The game, in fact, was just so damn big that they started a newsletter to give hints about the game. Nintendo apparently was a little tired of a thousand phone calls a day asking how to get through the enchanted forest (in-game the way was given to you by a fortune teller). That newsletter then became Nintendo Power, another savvy move by Nintendo, because they could give high marks to whatever game they felt like shilling. Were kids that dumb though? Of course they were...we were. Whatever.
Gameplay...oh you know the gameplay. You've played the game and you love it as much as I do. It was plainly and simply my favorite NES game ever, and I shouldn't have to explain why.
So there, I hope you've enjoyed my first trip into this mad quest I have, and I'll see you next week with a brand new console to ogle over.
Notable mentions go to Contra, Karnov, and Double Dragon.
All images ©Nintendo of America.