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My Top 50 Games of All Time, Not Yours: #50-41

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Right now you’re probably thinking one of two things, either “Oh god, another list” or “Cool, I love lists!”  Either way I can guarantee if you read on this will be the most unique top games list you’ve ever seen and here’s the big reason:  I’ve never owned a Nintendo Entertainment System or a Super Nintendo.  That’s right, pick yourself up off the floor and come to grips with the fact that I’ve never owned arguably the two greatest consoles ever known to man.  Why,  you ask?  Well I’ve always been a Sega kid.  Not sure if it was because I was just trying to be different when I was younger or what, but I grew up on the Sega Master System and the Sega Genesis and on up through Sega’s console history.  

Obviously I’ve owned other consoles as well, but not owning the aforementioned big dogs probably makes you think I’m at a disadvantage when making a list like this.  Not true.  To be honest we all know the Zelda series is great, as well as Mega Man and countless others.  Why beat a dead horse?  Instead I’m going to bitch slap your typical sense of what the greatest games of all time are and show you what you missed or what you underappreciated.  Of course, I’m sure you’ll see some of your old favorites along the way regardless but you’re guaranteed to learn about something you never gave a chance.  

On to the list, but first one note on how I ranked the games:  I won’t bore you by ranking different games from the same series separately.  What I essentially did was take all the games from one series and sort of average them out in order to treat them as one entry, however if I prefer one particular game that will be the only one mentioned.

50.  X-Men (Sega Genesis)

Back in the day when 16-Bit translated to “awesome,” licensed games were still mostly bombs just like today.  So many games were published that obviously there were some good ones, but on average those were still few and far between.  It was even more rare that a franchise would pique in popularity and a good game would actually come out at the same time, however this was the case with X-Men for the Sega Genesis.  The truth is that not only was it a great game, but it let you do everything a kid who enjoyed X-Men would want to do in such a game.

Most satisfying of the game’s features was that you could switch between Gambit, Cyclops, Wolverine and Nightcrawler and they all had different abilities that actually made sense.  The locales were varied and the bosses were right on the money, using many villains from the comics we know and love.  Other X-Men also appeared in supporting roles like Iceman, Rogue and Jean Grey.  All that being said it was a perfect platformer when you consider that they handled the license properly.

49.  Captain America & The Avengers

This was a riff on the classic beat ’em up arcade cabinet from the early ’90s that was ported to the Sega Genesis then later to the SNES, Game Boy and Game Gear.  You selected from Captain America, Vision, Iron Man, and Hawkeye and this is another example of how the characters all felt different ability- and control-wise.  In X-Men it was more for the sake of using different characters to accomplish different goals, however here it’s straight beat ’em up action but the game still stays balanced no matter who you’re using which is incredibly important.

The enemies were cheesy robots for the most part but at least the bosses were a classic, if not a tad lame group of villains from the comics:  Crossbones, Ultron, Living Laser and even the Juggernaut show up.  Other Avengers making cameo appearances include Quiksilver, Wonder Man and Namor.  I understand this reads a lot like the last game but you have to admit there’s nothing like playing a solid game based on a franchise you love where all the characters are well-represented.  This is a good arcade port that still translated the fun of the arcade game even if the graphics were subpar in comparison.

48.  Winter Challenge

I admit, this is an odd one.  It’s essentially a Winter Olympics game, however I maintain it’s the only game from the 16-bit era and henceforth that actually properly reflected Olympic-style sports.  The luge, bobsled, ski jump, downhill and country skiing, slalom, speed skating and biathlon were all included and for the most part had enough of a fun factor to keep you going.  

This is one of the first games I played where your character actually could have his/her own name, appearance, and country of origin.  Yes, I realize this had been done before but it was simply a pleasure to play a game that kept track of all your character’s uniqueness and all your timed event scores through an entire Olympics.  It never got old to continually compete and try to better your times and most importantly earn medals, especially when you start getting a sense of which athletes from which countries are the ones to beat.

47.  Golden Axe

An arcade as well as a Sega classic, Golden Axe was one of those side-scrolling beat ’em ups that at the time was pretty innovative.  Set in a medieval-themed world, players trekked across a map in search of Death Adder, who has kidnapped the king’s daughter.  Death Adder, amongst other enemies, was essentially a knight that was ‘roided up along the lines of Shredder in the second TMNT movie (anyone, anyone?).  At the start of the game players chose between a barbarian, a dwarf, and a scantily-clad female body builder with a sword.  All had unique magic spells to go along with the standard jumping and attacking.

This game is great simply because it manages to stand out in a genre where you can pick up just about any title and at least be entertained.  The setting was unique and a good break from the standard urban theme that beat ’em ups typically had, and the magic abilities of each character was an innovation that seems small now but at the time it really was fairly new to the genre.  Same with the ability to ride beasts previously occupied by enemies.  Later on games like Streets of Rage would adopt the same mechanics, but it was Golden Axe that could arguably be called the first step forward after the beat ’em up genre was established.

46.  Altered Beast

If you were like me and bought into Sega’s aggressive marketing campaign for the Genesis (the words “rad” and “awesome” come to mind) then Altered Beast was one of the games that brought the hype to fruition.  Sure, the Super NES came a bit later and had great success but the Genesis for a time was the new frontier and had its own share of popularity, and if you had one the experience all started with Altered Beast.

Packed in with the console itself, Altered Beast was a port of the fairly popular arcade game.  The graphics didn’t measure up, but it was still apparent that the 16-bit generation had begun.  Good music, better graphics than what we were all used to, and the ability to transform into wolf, dragon, bear and tiger all with (somewhat) different abilities.  This was a really fun game that has a lot of nostalgia attached to it.  Sure it’s not the best side-scroller you’ll ever find, but the aesthetics were there and again you kind of have to transport yourself back to the beginning of the 16-bit era to really know what kind of an impact this game had on kids.  “Wise fwum your gwave!”

45.  The Adventures of Willy Beamish

Released for the PC and when I played it, the Sega CD, The Adventures of Willy Beamish is one of those point and click adventure games that were popularized in the 1990s.  In the same style as Day of the Tentacle and The Secret of Monkey Island, this particular game took place in the present day, and you played a kid of about 12 years of age who aspires to participate in the Nintari (get it?) video game championship.  

When the game starts you’re in detention because your pet frog got you into trouble at school.  You can get out early and intercept your bad report card in the mail, which would deny you your video game privileges, or be a good boy and stay.  Other adventures include a lot of real-life stuff kids struggle with deciding on:  Washing the car, facing bullies, etc.  It also has a whimsical aspect as well, like when the babysitter turns into a monster and you have to defeat her.  It’s a game that embodies being a kid, and hit all the right notes for me because I was a kid very similar to Willy.  Replaying the game brings back fond memories of the cheesy/fun dialogue, real-life locales that really made you feel like you were a kid near home or on an adventure elsewhere, and off beat fantasy moments that made you smile.  If you can tap into your childhood it’s a charming game.

44.  Jet Grind Radio

This game deserves an award just for originality and giving gamers something new.  Around the year 2000 there were still a lot of things games were doing that we hadn’t seen before, but with the vibrant colors, crazy music, and rebel gameplay of Jet Grind Radio (Jet Set Radio in Japan), gamers really were given a package that is still unique to this day.

As a punk kid on rollerblades you skate around town spray painting walls, hoods of cars, and just about anything else while avoiding the cops and eventually tagging over top of rival gang logos.  The cel-shaded graphics and bright colors really give the game a unique apperance, and it all looks great while grinding and mid-air somersaulting your way through tricks and tags, the mechanics of which are easily pulled off as to not detract from the game’s premise and distinguish it from being a simple Tony Hawk clone.  A fresh experience that isn’t like anything else you’ve played.

43.  Marvel vs. Capcom 2

The first fighter to enter the ring that is my countdown, but probably not the last.  Any 2D fighting fan has played MvsC2.  The series essentially took the Street Fighter formula, added a ton of Marvel and Capcom characters to the usual roster, introduced tag team play and amped up the speed to beyond hyper proportions.  Choose any team of three, swap them out when you wish and even dole out “helper” attacks if you just need a partner to step in for a spell.  You can also decide to unleash two or even all three of your characters on your opponent at once with a full hyper gauge.

This is a game that was a dream come true for someone like me:  a huge video game fan that (naturally) was into comics at the time.  How can you argue with 56 total playable characters from the Marvel and Capcom universes?  Let me repeat that:  56 playable characters!  Ryu/Wolverine/Venom, Chun-Li/Cable/Strider Hiryu, the possibilities are endless.  Plus, as briefly mentioned before the action on-screen is insanely fast and a great way to take a break from the more technical 2D fighters and just go nuts pulling off special move after special move with lightning precision.  An awesome, frantic package that has a lot of underlying room for skill.  Oh, and there’s about six billion unlockables.

42.  Toejam & Earl

Another Sega game that furthered their “cool” factor, Toejam and Earl’s outer space adventures actually made for a pretty cool game.  The character archetypes are ridiculous by today’s standards, but aliens wearing sunglasses and bling were something us kids related to in the early ’90s.  The game revolved around Toejam and Earl trekking across Earth looking for pieces of their crashed spaceship so they could go home.

Each level had funky/wacky music, wild enemies like crazy dentists and killer mailboxes, and lots of presents!  Grabbing presents was much of the fun, given that they provided power-ups but could also have negative effects.  It was often a guessing game of risk/reward until you had discovered many of the items.  Also, one nice dynamic was that each level was an island of land floating in space and you could fall off the edge to a previous level or find an elevator to proceed up.  Games like this defined the vibe of the early ’90s and what kids wanted to see in their popular culture, and the humor worked well and was well-received by critics and gamers alike.

41.  General Chaos

Here is a diamond in the rough that may not have withstood the test of time, but at the very least was a blast to play in its heyday.  If you’ve never heard of this one don’t feel bad, it’s a fairly obscure Genesis title.  General Chaos is essentially a squad-based game with an isometric view.  You select one of a handful of available groups of soldiers compiled from gunners, flame throwers, rocket launchers and grenadiers.  You’re taken through a selection of missions where you’re pitted against a computer (or human) controlled squad.  You may also have to do something like blow up a train in the process.  You don’t see me arguing.

The battlefield is one screen’s worth of terrain, filled with barbed wired, sand bags, trees, and railroad tracks.  The D-Pad moves a cursor which you use to not so much select particular squad members and order them around but moreso move them all at once and let the sh*t fly.  Admittedly this game would be timeless with the use of a mouse instead of a controller, but as it is it’s playable and offers an organic experience that can be quite different every time.  The game is also quite cartoony and the humorous animations lighten up the gameplay.  A game that suffers a bit as it ages but offers a lot of replay value if you can look past the control limitations.

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