Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Top 14: Video Games!

My Top 14: Video Games
A list by Molly P. (female, b. 1980)
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I've been playing video and computer games since I was three, when all I had was a lonely Commodore Vic 20 and a handful of cartridges. Commodore 64 would arrive a few years later, followed by NES, Super Nintendo, Gameboy, PC, N64, GameCube, Wii, and DS. I have had many enjoyable gaming experiences over the years. Some games I've played through multiple times. Some I've spent -- well, I don't even want to guess how many hours playing. And now comes the inevitable, my Top 14 Video Games List (inevitable because, well, you know me and lists.)

But guess what!? Several of my friends and fellow 80's babies were kind enough to send me their Top 14 Video Games lists, too! How does my list compare to theirs? How does yours compare to ours?

Well, let's go ahead and hit power and get this thing started!

#14: Final Fantasy (I)
NES, 1987

Final Fantasy: This is the RPG that started it all -- for me, at least. Four noble heroes, off on a quest -- fighting one-eyed monsters, wild sea creatures, and... dinosaurs? (Yep, sometimes dinosaurs.) Traveling the world by boat, airship, or canoe... collecting gold, buying weapons and armor... making their way through maze-like dungeons and destroying bosses. Oh, and the music -- it brings me back to my childhood every time. Despite its age, Final Fantasy is still one of my favorite RPGs. 

Multiple Platforms, 2009
I'm a big fan of the rock band/guitar hero-type games, but Lego Rock Band is my favorite. It has great song choices, a story mode that's fairly easy to navigate, and goals that aren't impossible to accomplish. You don't have to be a pro singer or player to be successful. And I'm definitely not a pro. But I still love to rock. (And it certainly doesn't hurt that I love Lego, too!)

PC/GBA, 2000

For about five years in the 00's, I was super into the Nancy Drew games from Her Interactive. Playing as the iconic Ms. Drew, you have to find hidden objects, solve puzzles, talk to people, get clues, and explore spooky places. Message In A Haunted Mansion was the first one I ever played, and I've replayed it four or five times. It's just so cool. The music, the puzzles, the secret passages. Plus, each ND game throws in a bit of history or teaches you something; this one focused on San Francisco and the 1906 earthquake. There are close to 30 games in the series, now, and I've sort of grown out of them, but the early ones still hold a special place in my heart.

#11: Animal Crossing (& Animal Crossing: New Leaf)
Nintendo GameCube, 2001 (3DS, 2013)

I've been obsessed with many games over the years, and Animal Crossing was one of them. My senior year of college, this is what I was playing for multiple hours a day. Sure I have a 15-page paper due, but hello -- A FLUFFY SHEEP WANTS TO BE MY FRIEND! Animal Crossing: New Leaf, for 3DS, is like the original but with a bunch of extras. The more you play it, the more buildings open up in your "downtown" area and the more places you can go. You can even visit friends' towns in real-time, chat with them, and leave a bunch of mangoes in front of their house. Not that I would or anything....

Various Nintendo Consoles, 1996-2012

Even though the Harvest Moon games and the Animal Crossing games have a lot in common, I actually like the Harvest Moon games a bit better. I love raising and caring for animals and little farms, selling my produce, buying things, and making my house look nice. The games that I've played through -- Another Wonderful Life and Magical Melody -- are different enough from one another, but are both equally engaging. Now I need to find more of these!

#9: The Sims
PC, 2000

There have been several incarnations of the Sims, and I've enjoyed each one differently. In Sims 3, I liked making people. Sims 2, I enjoyed creating "machinima" -- filming and editing music videos and a web series. But the original Sims was the one where I actually did what I was "supposed to do" -- I ran simulations on people and families, trying to get them to thrive in their love lives and careers -- all without burning down their houses in the process. 

Then I learned about the money hack, and things got a bit crazy. I'd buy a giant lot, stick in eight Sims, neglect to give them showers, phones, or much comfort, call it "Survivor," and watch to see who lasted the longest. I'd use a move-objects cheat to put the Sims in goofy positions (like having a human share physical space with a bear. Or put people in the walls. You know, because I was normal!) No matter what crazy things I thought of, the game was always amusing -- it was like playing with an electronic doll house, and since I loved dolls, I knew I'd love The Sims -- and I certainly did.

Nintendo DS, 2009-2011

This is one of the coolest games I've ever played. You go through a series of levels, which are puzzles. Some require something like: "Get from point A to point B." Others are much more complicated. To solve the puzzles, you have to request objects to help you. Need to get across a pit? Type "rope" and a rope will appear. Type "bridge" and you've got a bridge. Type "lion" and a lion will appear --- aaaand eat you. The puzzles vary in complication, and some levels require you to beat them 3 times, using different objects each time. It's a game that makes you think... and marvel at how many words and objects the game is capable of producing, if only you ask.

Multiple Platforms, 2008

I enjoy watching Indiana Jones (especially Last Crusade), and this game puts me right into the middle of the action. As Indy (or other characters from the films), you play through levels based on the three original movies -- punching bad guys, solving puzzles, and trying to get past booby traps. A fun throwback to the classic movies, all with a Lego twist. (P.S. Watch out for snakes!)

PC, 2002

RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 was a slightly better version than 1, and I still prefer it over 3 (even though 3 has better graphics and you can ride the rides.) But whichever version I play, I have so much fun creating theme parks -- building rides, designing the park, trying to attract guests. Long before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter came to real life, I was building a HP theme park in RCT2. It had a train, a haunted house called the Shrieking Shack, and... I forget what else, but it was stellar. RCT2 is a relaxing game that stirs my creative juices and lets me build to my heart's content. Still a favorite after more than a decade.

Nintendo, 1990

The first Super Mario Bros. game was fun -- though I usually lost all my lives sometime during level three. Super Mario 2 was interesting, and it was cool that you had four characters you could play, but it was a bit trippy. Then came Super Mario 3... and it was as if Nintendo had taken every piece of feedback they got from the earlier games, listened, and spun the suggestions into the best game that could possibly be made. Improvements: Levels where you can now go forward, backward, or skyward. Players automatically switching turns after playing one level, but playing basically as a team (a good system in a household with siblings.) Getting to choose your path through the world maps. Warp whistles. Mushrooms, stars, and other items you can collect, store, and use as necessary. Tanooki Suits. Frog suits. Hidden coin ships. 

In 1990, Mario's world got a whole lot more awesome -- and so did mine.

#4: Tetris
Gameboy, 1989, and Multiple Other Platforms

So simple, so compelling. Yes, I love Tetris. It was the first game I got for my newly-purchased GameBoy back in 1995, and in subsequent years, I've procured it for two cell phones and have even owned a Tetris keychain. I really enjoy the original version, but Tetris Party has added even more fun ways to enjoy the game. Tetris somehow manages to be both relaxing and exciting, and even after 18 years, I still enjoy it.

Multiple Nintendo Consoles, 1992-present

With each new Mario Kart game comes changes (not always great) but one fact remains consistent -- Mario Kart is always fun. Sure, if you're new to the game, you're liable to run into walls with alarming frequency and find yourself at the mercy of that guy with the sign that tells you you're going the wrong way. But once you find your skillz, you're ready to join your friends (up to four people) in a wild dash around wacky circuits based on different Mario characters and concepts. Meanwhile, you can collect objects that can help you -- turtle shells to throw at people, mushrooms to speed you along, and -- my personal favorite -- the bullet (in the Wii version), which brings you from 12th place into... well, probably just 11th place, but still... it brings hope to the apparently doomed. Always a party favorite, I've never disliked a Mario Kart game.

#2: Lego Harry Potter (Years 1-4Years 5-7)
Multiple Platforms, 2010 & 2011

Every couple of years I'll read the Harry Potter book series. Then I may rewatch the film series. And after that, I'll dive into these games. Playing the Lego Harry Potter games is akin to becoming Harry himself and actually experiencing his adventures. (Moreso than just reading the books... yes, heresy, I know....) The games stick closely to the films, with a few extra moments of humor thrown in to either explain away too-deep-for-kids plot points or to just lighten the mood. (For example, nobody ever dies horribly in these games. If someone is avada-kadavra-ed, they either break apart like a Lego minifig would or, at the very least, wave humorously goodbye. Which, strangely, doesn't cheapen anything, really.) Besides all that, you have actual music from the films washing over you at every turn. And how fun is it, getting to explore Hogwarts Castle and all its rooms, passageways, and secrets? I love the books, and like the movies, but none of them makes me feel like I'm actually a wizard quite like these games do. 

#1: Paper Mario & Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
(N64, 2001 & GameCube, 2004)

I almost hate to group these two together, since they have different stories, objectives, and gameplay, but as they are equally awesome (and decidedly more awesome than the later Paper Mario games), I might as well. These two games are both RPGs and adventure games, with Mario on a quest to save the princess (naturally) by making his way through different parts of his world, battling bad guys, getting his experience points up (and becoming stronger), finding badges that grant him power, and finding other objects that will help him proceed. There is so much to do in the games and they're so satisfying that I've played through each multiple times and will continue to play through them again and again. The first two Paper Mario games always makes me feel like I've just gone on an important, totally awesome quest. And that, I believe, is what all video games should aspire to do, in their own special way.

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Well, that's it! My Top 14! Honorable Mentions go to: Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Gameboy), Mario Party series (various platforms), The Sims 2 (PC), Super Mario Bros. (NES), Donald Duck's Playground (Commodore 64), Sci Fi Pinball (PC), Sim City 2000, and others that I have inadvertently forgotten but will add here later.)

In no particular order, here are some of the Top 14 Video Games lists from my fellow Gen Y-ers and Pals!


Mike W. 
(male, b. 1980)

1. The Legend of Zelda — This one’s a catch-all, because otherwise my entire list is just Zelda games. Asking me to pick my favorite is like asking me to pick my favorite child. Each one, for me, is tied to a period of my life. The Adventure of Link is me at 8 years old, staying up late with my dad. Majora’s Mask is college, and my roommate is there, crying ending. Link’s Awakening is the bus ride to and from middle school. The Oracle games are the train ride to and from work. The Wind Waker is me alone in my room with the windows open and the fan on to create the illusion of a sea breeze. And Skyward Sword is me at home while the baby’s asleep. The first one’s that now, too.

2. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) — Think about the first Super Mario Bros. You hear the music in your head, don’t you? You know that song by heart. Now put Mario in space and get a full symphony orchestra to perform the soundtrack. I love getting lost in this game, and the soundtrack is a huge part of that.

3. Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (SNES) — My favorite sports game. Years after the 1993 season, my friends/family and I still kept playing this one, holding tournaments and keeping track of our wins and losses on an old chalkboard.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES) — The original arcade game has an important place in my heart, but I spent a lot more time playing this one because I owned it. Again, the soundtrack is a step up from the other games, and that’s a running theme with many of my favorites.

5. Mega Man II (NES) — This one always felt more refined to me than the others. It’s easier to shake up the level order in this one and still have it make some sense. The bosses in later games had only one true weakness each. This game took the rock-paper-scissors concept and added the lizard and Spock.

6. Contra (NES) — Sometimes, when everyone else is asleep, I break out this game and try to finish it without the extra lives code, just to prove to myself that I can still do it.

7. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (Dreamcast) — This has more longevity than the other Street Fighter games. With all the extra characters and options in this one, you’re playing through close to 100 times just to see it all.

8. Super Castlevania IV (SNES) — My first Super Nintendo game after Super Mario World. Again, the music and sounds here help set the mood, and for me, it’s an important part of every Halloween season.

9. The Black Cauldron (PC) — It’s from the makers of King’s Quest, but with simpler commands (the function keys) and a Disney license. This is the first game where I felt completely immersed. The backdrops are gorgeous, even in giant pixels and 16 colors. For me, no scene in video games bears the Horned King’s castle on the horizon.

10. Ninja Gaiden (NES) — But the cut scenes in this game come close. This game was very difficult, but one of the few of its time that made it worth finishing and seeing all of it.

11. Sunset Riders (Arcade) — I probably spent more time in high school with this game than I did with girls. It owns at least $100 of my lunch money. Worth it.

12. Aladdin (Genesis) — My favorite console game that I’ve never owned. My neighbors did, and for a good year or so, this is all I did at their house. Plus, Aladdin pushing on walls, determined to make them move, will never not be funny to me.

13. Tecmo Super Bowl (NES) — I never got used to Madden. This, to me, is the best football video game of all time, and I’m not alone in thinking so. There’s a whole website dedicated to hacking this game every year with updated rosters and team logos.

14. F-Zero X (N64) — Mario Kart is more fun with friends. When it was just me, I spent more time and sweat on this than any other racing game. YEAHHHH, THE FINAL LAP!


Kerry P. 
(female, b. 1985)

Animal crossing- Immersive world, fun, great music, getting collections, love that the seasons change and there are seasonal events.

Banjo Kazooie- My mom called this the "wee-woo" game, because he makes terrible annoying sounds every time he jumps. I played this as a kid, and then again with stan, and I'm on my third playthrough. INCREDIBLE content, music, and story. It's funny and cool.

Sims- Lots of the same reasons as animal crossing, although making two weird pets and breeding them and raising the rainbow puppies is a lot of fun too.

Donkey Kong Country 2- Diddy's Kong Quest- Such fun levels, and I loved the difference in the characters you could play. Dixie Kong sold me on the game.

Kirby's Pinball- I played this for HOURS as a child on my giant bulky gameboy. The game holds up. I love that it's pinball with mini games and boss levels. Cool idea. I've never beat the game.

Pokemon Yellow- I love pikachu.

Pokemon Stadium- This was one of my favorite games to play with my siblings. Lickitung's Sushi-Go-Round was the best mini-game. It was a lot like mario party, but you could also assemble pokemon teams and battle. Really fun.

California Games- This game is way fun. I still like playing it. It's one of the only NES games that I still enjoy.

Mario Party- I'm not going to pick one, although the ones that hurt your hand because you had to rotate the N64 joystick probably aren't my favorite.

Paper Mario is excellent

Mario Kart for wii is excellent

Smash Bros for wii is excellent

Puzzle Quest is excellent

Endless Ocean is SUCH a relaxing game. Go around, make friends with dolphins, explore the ocean, listen to soothing enya-like music.... love it. 


Stephen N. 
(male, b. 1984)

Super Mario Bros 3 
Super Mario World

Mario Kart 64 
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins 
Ms. Pac-Man 
Dig Dug 
Soul Calibur II 
Animal Crossing New Leaf

TMNT IV: Turtles In Time 
Cruis'n Exotica 
Lucky N' Wild 
Super Mario Bros 2 
Arch Rivals


Alex H. 
(male, b. 1984)

14. Sleeping Dogs 
13. Just Cause 2 
12. Alpha Protocol 
11. Batman Arkham Asylum

10. The Walking Dead 
09. Thief 2 
08. Deus Ex 
07. Final Fantasy 6 
06. God Hand 
05. Civilization 5 
04. The World Ends With You 
03. Super Mario Bros. 3 
02. The Secret of Monkey Island 
01. Mega Man 2


Stan P. 
(male, b. 1982)

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Most well-designed game of the entire series. Tight, compact, bursting with feeling and heart, beautiful musical composition, and immaculate dungeon design.

The best multiplayer first-person shooter ever made. Some of the most intense and satisfying competitive video game moments of my life.

Heroes of Might & Magic 2
Highly addictive and charming hybrid of competitive kingdom-building strategizing in an RPG-like setting. My friends and I were obsessed with it in middle school.

Super Mario Bros. 3
A revolutionary release on NES. It showed us how to create a whole, engrossing world of platforming adventure and mechanical creativity.

Super Metroid
The sprawling and varied environments, but deep underground, with ancient ruins and sinister creatures and cool power-ups to discover, produced a special kind of atmosphere never again replicated. The first masterpiece of the "metroidvania" genre (open-world platforming with backtracking upon acquiring new key/door objects).

World of Warcraft
The best massively-multiplayer online game. A gigantic world with tons of backstory and lore, with beautiful environments, great dungeons, and amazingly fun multiplayer battle arenas.

Puzzle Quest
An extremely innovative game design that uses the match-3 puzzle board to create a battle system. That's cool in itself, but Puzzle Quest goes the extra mile by including a flood of supporting content, including hundreds of missions, craftable equipment, stealable abilities, special mounts, and more, turning a cool concept into a journey that fills tons of hours.

Final Fantasy
The first truly engrossing and beautiful RPG on console systems. The "archaic" system of having "stuck" jobs from the beginning creates a meta-game of replayability that lasts even to this day. I'm on the verge of finishing my 12th runthrough now.

Super Mario RPG
When SquareSoft grabbed the reins on a Mario-themed RPG, nobody knew how it would turn out, but it ended up being one of the last great games on the Super NES. Prerendered graphics iconic of the "end of the 16-bit era," a daring story wherein a classic bad guy becomes an ally, and a whole host of great side minigames made it unforgettable.

Goldeneye 007
Never before had a first-person shooter been so excellent in both single-player and multiplayer modes. The innovative difficulty system and the ability to earn cheats through achievements were both way ahead of their time. Plus, it faithfully replicated actual scenes from the movie. Far and away the best video game based on a movie.

MajorMUD: Realm of Legends
I've tried about a dozen MUDs (multi-user dungeons; text-based MMOs with smaller user-bases, basically), and MajorMUD is still the best. Tons of races and classes to choose from, zones that make you feel like you're "there" with flavorful directional geography and descriptive text, and deep realm-rooted lore to discover. Plus, no lame junk like needing to eat to avoid hunger (a way, in some MUDs, in which "realism" is almost always terrible).

Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The Super Smash Bros. series represents my most enjoyable side-view fighting game experiences. Though criticized by some for some shortcomings vs. Melee, Brawl is my favorite, because of several awesome, exclusive characters and a super-fun co-op adventure mode.

TIE Fighter
A Star Wars game in which you serve the Empire!? TIE Fighter was the first game that made you really feel like you were IN the Star Wars universe, as a product of its great (at the time) 3D graphics, faithful tech and mechanics, and truly enrapturing story.

Day of the Tentacle
The best graphic adventure ever. You can't die (revolutionary at the time), you have three characters in three time-periods that you switch between and trade items between (creating humorous and intelligent gameplay and puzzles), and the resolution to item/event chains was imaginative and hilarious.


Thursday, November 7, 2013


Last year I wrote about my first "big deal" acting experience -- as a no-lines, can-barely-be-seen ghoul in a small-time production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I wrote about how I couldn't stop giggling (instead of cackling), and nearly got booted from the play.

But that wasn't my first unfortunate acting experience. Oh, no. Let's not forget the Church Christmas Musical of 1988.

At last, I was old enough to join the kids' choir. Not only that, but the director wanted to give me a speaking role! It wouldn't be much -- I'd just have to walk up to the microphone and recite part of a verse during a musical interlude -- but I'd get to be the center of attention for five seconds, and how could I not appreciate that?

Oh, well, maybe because it turned out to be THIS verse...?

 Isaiah 40:10 -- "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom..."

Now, I didn't know exactly what a bosom was, but it was definitely goofier-sounding than womb, which had something to do with Mary's stomach, I knew. But bosom... well, it sounded like boo and maybe bottom, and I was convinced that if I got up and said that word in front of a congregation full of people, they would all burst out laughing. And possibly throw tomatoes. And hymn books. It would be like getting up and saying poo. There was no way. I couldn't.

And yet -- I did. There's not much more to this story. I may have whined about having to do it, but my parents worked me through it. I practiced at home. I said the line on the big night and nobody audibly laughed. And then it was over.

I've had a lot of these little moments in life. Moments where I had to do something I felt very uncomfortable doing, but just went ahead and did it and felt a flood of relief. It's better, I've found, to just go ahead and get things over with rather than stress out over them.

So why can't I just call an eye doctor and make a darn appointment? (Says the lady with the glasses whose frames' color has nearly all been scratched off.) Girl, just pick a clinic. Just call. Just go. Yeah it sucks when they do that stupid test and then make your pupils look like moons, but so? So what? You'll feel better afterward! Just do it!

Besides, it beats having to say bosom in front of five hundred people, and if you could do that when you were eight, well, these days you oughta be freaking unstoppable.