Here’s the second and final part of my top 59 games of 2016, which is really just a slightly dishonest way of saying “my ranked list of the 59 games I beat in 2016, none of which were released in 2016.” If you missed part 1, you can check it out here.
#25 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Master System)
I’m not going to lie and say the Master System Sonic games are as good as the Genesis games. They’re not. It isn’t like comparing Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. It’s more like comparing SMW with SMB 1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Master System is a well-designed game that was a lot of fun to play, but the people behind it just weren’t able to create something truly on par with the 16-bit games. It did come out before Sonic 2 for the Genesis, so this was Tails’ first video game appearance. If you’re a Sonic fan who loved the Genesis classics and wished Sega would “make them like they used to,” well this game might be just what you’ve been looking for. I really enjoyed it and was thoroughly impressed by what the folks behind it were capable of making for a past-gen console.
#24 – The G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury (Game Gear)
A great soundtrack, enteresting levels, multiple characters with different abilities that make replaying those levels (which you will need to do) fun instead of tedious, and some great boss battles mean that this game is better than not only the first Shinobi game for the Game Gear, but also the first Shinobi game (regardless of whether you played the Master System or NES version). This is just a very solid action platformer that probably would’ve been considered a classic had it been released on something like the NES or the Genesis. Sadly, since the Game Gear wasn’t a smashing success and didn’t find itself in most of our hands, it gets ignored and is mostly forgotten, which is a shame. If you like Shinobi or you’re are a fan of old school platformers, you need to give this game a shot.
#23 – Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3)
Persona 4 is firmly in my top 5 favourite games of all time, so getting the chance to play something with all those characters I loved and to see Inaba again was great, despite the fact that this is a fighting game and I don’t like fighting games. I never played the original P4 Arena, but I got the gist of the story and was able to enjoy its continuation in Ultimax. I put the difficulty to its easiest setting and breezed through the fights to be able to get to what I enjoy: the story. I kind of wish I’d played Persona 3 before playing this, as I likely would’ve loved this game more if I had, since the game has two campaigns, one following the P4 characters and another following the characters from P3. Once the P3 campaign is done, you unlock the true ending found in the P4 campaign. If this was a fighting game with characters from some series I don’t care about, I probably wouldn’t have even played this game, and if I had bothered to play it, I wouldn’t have liked it. It is really the P4 connection that did it for me. I have no idea if it is even a decent fighting game and I don’t care. On the other hand, if this was almost any other genre of game, it would be much higher on this list. I really loved Persona 4 and hate fighters, ok?
#22 – Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis)
The original Contra is one of the few games I would call perfect. There is absolutely nothing in that game I believe could be changed that would improve it in any way. As a result of this, I hold particularly tough opinions of all the Contra sequels. None come close to being as perfect as the original, whether Super C or Contra III: The Alien Wars, and none should’ve even tried. The same is true for Hard Corps. It isn’t a bad game, but it’s far from perfect. As a guy who loves the old school “hard” games, I’d still argue that his game is too hard, or at least “too hard” for bad reasons. Unlike Gunstar Heroes, where despite often having your screen completely filled with enemies, explosions, and projectiles, the game is fun because you have health. You can smash through, get hit here and there, and still have lots of fun. Meanwhile, in Hard Corps, one hit equals death, so all the mayhem is just frustrating. Often, I never even saw the projectile that hit me or the enemy that shot said projectile. There’s just too much going on. It gets lost in all of the mess flashing on your screen. Secondly, two things I loved about Contra were the fun stages where I got to gun down tonnes of enemies and the epic boss fights that were tough but fair. Those two things are gone. The stages are often short, to the point where it feels like you spend most of the game fighting bosses, and those don’t have the challenge/reward balance of the original. Most of them are too long, feature too many changing patterns, and just aren’t very fun. It’s still a good game, but it pales in comparison to the NES classic. All of this makes it sound like I think it’s a bad game or didn’t like it, but I repeat: the original Contra is a perfect game. I can’t help but show you nothing but flaws.
#20 – Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Game Gear)
Apparently “Illusion” is a series (I had no idea) and this is the second one I’ve ever played. I’d argue it is slightly better than the first game in the series (Castle of Illusion). The story is a little better and Mickey can do a little more than butt-stomp enemies thanks to items he needs to collect. I also thought it was cool to have to return to previous levels equipped with these items to reach new areas. Still very easy, but a satisfying experience. I highly recommend it for people who are new to video games, platformers specifically. Might be a great way to continue the introduction to video games for children. Mickey is joined by Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Daisy in this game, so they might enjoy that. Plus, it requires a little more thought and problem solving than Castle of Illusion.
#19 – Master of Darkness (Master System)
Castlevania, but for the Master System. If that sounds like a diss, you’re taking it the wrong way. Never take a comparison to old school Castlevania games as an insult. It’s a compliment. I would’ve gladly played 15 NES Castlevania games. Now, this game probably as good as the first Castlevania game, maybe even the third game as well (I was never a huge fan of either, but they are classics). If I had grown up with this game, it would most certainly be a childhood favourite associated with many fond memories. I don’t know what else to say about it that explains the game better than “Castlevania, but for the Master System.” It has platforming, sub-weapons, bosses, creepy and macabre settings and enemies, etc.
#18 – Monster Party (NES)
This game is so damn weird. It is bizarre and absurd and even several more adjectives that basically also mean weird. Weird is one of my favourite things. So are horror movies and defying expectations and conventions. Monster Party does this like I’d never imagined an NES game could be capable. Imagine fighting mummies, fish heads with legs that run around, a giant onion ring, a punk rock guitarist, a dude stuck head first into the ground who gyrates his ass and legs at you, and the list goes on. You need to play this game just to experience it. Even if you don’t enjoy playing the game, you should be able to enjoy seeing it. Just look at all the monster faces instead of leaves in that tree. Look at those eyeballs walking around. PLAY THIS GAME!
#17 – Ninja Gaiden (Master System)
Other than the music, which is good, not great, this game absolutely stands up to the NES Ninja Gaiden games. It has everything you loved (or maybe hated) about the NES games: running around, slashing enemies, jumping all over the place, using ninja magic. All of it is here. There’s even stuff added to make things ninja-ier. Instead of being able to climb walls, you can grab onto walls and wall jump. This may sound like you’ve lost an ability, but when combined with the ability to hold onto the bottom of platforms and then jump onto them, the design of the levels is so well done that I never even really noticed. Everything flowed, one platform to the next, one jump to another, so well. It was an absolute pleasure to play. I wish we had a trilogy of games just like this one. You should give it a shot.
#16 – Sonic the Hedgehog (Master System)
I came into this game thinking it would be terrible. I fully expected it would be nothing more than some terrible, barely playable port of the Genesis game. Instead, I was pleased to find myself playing a completely original game that was almost just as well designed as the Genesis games. Sure, it isn’t as pretty and the music wasn’t quite as good, but it’s to be expected with a game coming out on a previous gen system. Despite that, I had a blast (even without Blast Processing) playing it and it was well worth my time. It honestly deserves to be talked about along with the Genesis games as one of the great Sonic games.
#15 – Minecraft (PS3)
Here’s another game I expected to hate. I only got it because my oldest kid wanted it. I don’t have much to say about it that the whole world doesn’t already know. Personally, I enjoyed the mining and exploring, but didn’t really like building. Luckily, both my wife and son loved creating weird houses and other buildings, so I’d go off finding materials and bring them back so they could use it. I do wish it came with things like quests. The villagers or whatever they’re called are fairly useless. Gathering a certain type of material so they could build something, or having to go defeat some large enemy and escort its prisoners would’ve added a lot of fun for me. It likely would’ve knocked it up about 10 spots on this list. In the end, I got everything I needed to create an End Portal and killed the dragon. I’ve barely played since.
#14 – Mega Bomberman (Genesis)
In the post for games #59 to #26, I mentioned how baffled I was by the fact that Bomberman had sequels despite how terrible it was, but that I was happy it did. This is one of the sequels I had in mind. It’s the same basic Bomberman formula, but instead of beating 50 or 100 nearly identical levels because they’re there, you get a story, different worlds to visit, and boss fights. Now THIS is a complete game. It still has the same mechanics as the original Bomberman, but it’s done in a much more interesting and enjoyable way. If there are more games like this one, I want to play them.
#13 – Ristar (Genesis)
I grew up with a Genesis and pretty much never heard of Ristar. I don’t even remember seeing it at any of the places I rented games. All of this is a shame, as it is a fun, gorgeoous, and wonderful game. Why doesn’t it have a sequel? Why doesn’t it have MANY sequels? Well, a major part of the reason is that it was released in 1995, the same year the Saturn was released in North America and Europe. This likely explains how I missed it while growing up as well. In any case, I played it this year and was completely impressed. It looks and sounds like the game Sega and Sonic Team made after Sonic the Hedgehog 3, which is absolutely what it is. In fact, for years, I’ve thought the music from Ristar’s first level was from Sonic & Knuckles. This is a fucking good game. Fans of the Genesis or platformers who’ve never played it really should fix that this year. I’m really glad I did.
#12 – Castlevania: Bloodlines (Genesis)
Simon’s Quest is still my favourite Castlevania game, followed by Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, so Castlevania III and VI have always been disappointments, as was this one. Sure, Simon’s Quest has its flaws, but to go back to pretty much the exact same formula as the original was a terrible idea. Other than the graphics when they’re shown to me, I can’t even tell I and III apart. IV and this one are pretty much the same thing. Strip away the graphical improvements and you’re left with playing the same game again. Luckily, this just means that it isn’t as great a game as I hoped or thought it could’ve been. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a great game. It’s actually a lot of fun. The Leaning Tower swaying back and forth as you climb it, the water rising and falling, mirroring you, the enemies, and platforms on its calm surface, whatever the hell is going on in Castle Proserpina, all of it is beautiful and impressive for a 16-bit game. I just wish they’d done something a little more ambitious than a basic platformer just like every other Castlevania game other than Simon’s Quest.
#11 – Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)
It looks a little, well, messy? Blurry? Smudged? Regardless, it plays like a Ninja Gaiden game and feels like one too. If you ever felt like the NES Ninja Gaiden games were great, but just too damn difficult, this is perfect for you. It is still tough, but nowhere near as brutal as its NES counterparts. I particularly enjoyed the boss battles. If you can get past the graphics and accept that a handheld game simply cannot look as good as a console game from the same generation, then you’re in a fun time.
#10 – Call of Duty (PC)
I thought I’d played this before. I guess I’d played the second one. I was surprised by how much fun I had playing it. Sure, the graphics show the game’s age, but you’re still left with a solid game. Not to be hipsterish here, but I honestly prefer this to the newer CoD games. I’m not a huge fan of FPSs. They’re like action movies most of the time to me. They can be entertaining, but rarely deep. But with the first few CoD and Battlefield games, at least I felt like it gave me a small glimpse into some pretty important historical stuff.
#9 – Adventures of Lolo 3 (NES)
So after beating Adventures of Lolo 2, I dove right into 3. I was very happy to see they didn’t just release another game full of levels that easily could’ve been in either of the first two games. I understand that walking from one place to the next on the map is a purely cosmetic addition. I understand that it is also an utterly unnecessary addition because it forces you to walk around on an overworld map to get to a bunch of pixels that simply bring you to the next bunch of levels that easily could’ve started immediately after finishing the previous bunch of levels. Still, for some reason, it made the game feel more like a quest or an adventure, like I wasn’t just beating a hundred levels in a row because they put 100 levels in the game. As I discussed on Twitter recently, I would’ve loved to see HAL continue with this series, maybe with some platformers on the SNES and then a 3D game for the N64 the way Hudson Soft did with Bomberman.
#8 – Gain Ground (Master System)
I’m still not sure how to explain this game adequately. I even hesitated embedding a video because without actually playing the game, I don’t think it is easy to appreciate what Gain Ground is about. It’s a shooter, with elements of a real-time tactical game and a strategy game. You start off in the “Primitive Age,” and work your way to the present and, eventually, the future. There are 50 levels, with a boss at every 10. You control one of a set of characters at a time. Each has different abilities. To beat a level, you need to reach the exit or kill every enemy. The enemies all have different abilities as well, so it is important to choose your characters wisely. If one “dies,” he or she remains on the screen as a captive, which you can then rescue. There are also more characters to be found, as captives, in the levels, with a total of 20 different characters for you to discover. All of this means there is a great deal of strategy to how you play. None of what I’ve explained does justice to how much fun I had playing. You really should try this game. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Master System or Genesis version. It is the most unique game I’ve played in a while and so much fun.
#7 – Dynamite Headdy (Genesis)
Would you just look at that GIF I posted above? Reeeeeeeeally look at it. This is what you get as a boss fight only a couple minutes into the game. Look at those colours! Look at the utter nonsense of all those elements coming together. It seems like the only kind of game Treasure can make, regardless of genre, is bright, hard, colourful, weird games that often seem to be missed by most gamers but loved by those lucky enough to have gotten their hands on it. It is honestly one of the greatest platformers on the Genesis. Along with Ristar, gamers are poorer for never having seen sequels released for these series.
#6 – El Viento (Genesis)
I tweeted while I beat this game. So I’m just going to repeat what I said there as I played it:
- Alright, it’s time to save 1928 New York City from a cult leader, Al Capone, and a Cthulhu mythos ancient god.
- Now off to Mount Rushmore, where Al Capone says I’ll find “something interesting.” More interesting than the super advanced tank I fought?
- Wow…Capone was right. These blue and green rotating totem pole turrets are pretty interesting, as are all the trampolines.
- The 1928 version of Mount Rushmore sounds cooler than the modern day version.
- NO ONE TOLD ME RUSHMORE HAS SWIRLING PINEAPPLE/CACTUS PLATFORMS.
- I’ve now fought a giant Jello/amoeba, then I rode a dolphin and fought Cthulhu-like things, and now I’m taking down a giant meatball.
- Woah! The meatball has spaghetti arms. This is getting serious.
- Time for some more El Viento. What will I fight next? A giant chicken that shoots dogs? 27 marshmallows tied together with electricity?
- I was way off. Instead of those things, I fought bubbles in the Grand Canyon. Now I’m off to Detroit to fight…?
- It was in Detroit, so of course the level was in an auto plant…which was fully automated…in 1928. Boss was a gremlin. Not the car.
- Now I’m off to the Empire State Building via blimp.
And then I beat the game. The entire thing was an absolutely wonderful experience. I highly recommend you give it a shot. Please note, it is not necessary to play Earnest Evans before El Viento. El Viento takes place 7 years after the events of Earnest Evans, and three years before the events of the third game in the trilogy, Annet(t) Futatabi (I’ve seen it with one and two Ts) for the Sega CD, but the three games’ stories are separate experiences that just happen to share some characters.
#5 – Comix Zone (Genesis)
I owned this game as a kid and I loved it, yet I never managed to beat it til this year. It was never a matter of the game not being fun or me not having any interest in playing it. Quite the contrary, as I’ve always loved the game. I’m not normally a fan of beat ‘em ups, but this game is just oozing with originality, from the enemies and levels, but especially how the setting impacts the levels. With your character having been sucked into the comic book he was writing by the bad guy he created, the levels have you jumping from panel to panel. Pages/levels can catch on fire. Your rat friend, Roadkill, is able to tear pages/levels to unearth hidden items. I thought it was neat at the time and still do today. I can only imagine how much more I’d’ve loved it if I actually liked comics. Anyway, it took me a couple decades to beat it because it is punishingly difficult, but it punishes you for being bad at the game. The difficulty isn’t cheap, so I have to respect a difficult game that keeps handing your ass to you while making you feel like you’re just bad at playing it. Instead of frustration and rage, I would feel a kind of begrudging respect with a healthy dose of “I’ll get you next time.”
#5 – Dragon Age: Origins (PS3)
With playing this, Dungeon Siege III, and Skyrim in the same year, along with beating Oblivion and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning near the end of 2015, I’ve had a lot of trouble remembering which game had which story elements, enemies, and gameplay elements. I distinctly remember loving the game. I’m pretty sure it had dragons. I really liked the characters, as they’re the part of the game I remembered the most vividly. The relationship parts with all of the people in your party was also a nice touch those other games I mentioned didn’t do or didn’t do as well. I’ve never played another Dragon Age game, so all I know is that this was an excellent game and I am now very interested in the sequels.
#3 – Phantasy Star (Master System)
I played this for Game Overkill. I have two thirds of a full review ready. I hope to have it up in the next four weeks. Until then, just know that I loved it. It deserves to be talked about the way Dragon Warrior/Quest and Final Fantasy are talked about. This game is a classic.
#2 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)
This was a pretty damn good game.
#1 – Brutal Doom: Hell on Earth (PC)
There was never a contest. It pretty much never mattered which other games I played this year. This game reaches Contra-levels of perfect. I can’t think of a single thing that could improve the game. It is a brutal, gory, tense, fun, entertaining, engrossing, and thoroughly flawless chunk of gaming. With all these modern games trying to be gritty and serious and having these convoluted plots, Brutal Doom just gives you 30 levels of unadulterated awesome. It is by far the best game I played this year and probably the best game I’ve beaten since I finished Persona 4 in 2014. No image can do it justice, so I simply embedded the trailer above. If watching that doesn’t make you want to try it out, then there’s nothing I can say to change your mind. It is also free.
So there you have it, the 59 games I beat in 2016, covering 7 platforms. Part of me hopes I beat less games in 2017, since this was a lot more work than I expected. I’ve already beaten one, so we’ll see in 12 months.