- Some of these games aren't exactly what you would consider great and they have their flaws, this list is based on what I had the most fun playing and what resonates with me as a gamer.
- Just because I don't mention a good game here doesn't not me I don't like it. This kind of list leaves with a lot of great choices being left out.
- Honorable Mentions: Yoshi's Island, Goldeneye (Old and New), Quantum Of Solace, Pac-Man Rally, Cave Story, Infamous, Uncharted Series, Mario Party 2 and 3, Killing Floor, Audiosurf, Beat Hazard, Binding Of Isaac, Left For Dead 1 and 2, Super Metroid, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario, Saints Row The Third, Diddy Kong Racing, Snowboard Kids 2, Warioware Inc, AGH I'LL BE HERE ALL DAY
Now let's just get through this long list already...
25. Spongebob Squarepants The Movie The Game (GCN)
Before I talk about how baffling this choice is, allow me to explain something about how a good chunk of the games that I have were accumulated. When I lived in Venezuela, most of my games would come from my father after he went on a business trip or my grandparents. Video games in Venezuela were incredibly pricey and the stores themselves were somewhat scarce. It isn't like now where I can simply just ask my folks for money and walk to an EB Games, back then I'd usually earn my game by doing well in school, wait for Christmas/my birthday or get that occasional game from my grandparents. I had a grander appreciation for my library of games, and seemed to look past their flaws and oddities most of the time (save Superman 64, that game was awful). Nowadays, as I sift through my library, I find that some of those games that I got from my dad feel like they were just gotten at the last second. Sometimes I'd inform him on what I wanted but other times I'd just have to take what I got and give it a try. This was one of the latter games.
I figured that the reason I got this was because of my infatuation with Spongebob Squarepants. I loved anything that had to do with that yellow square at the time and a significant amount of the games that I have reflect that. Those games weren't necessarily bad though. There was Employee of The Month which was a fairly amusing point and click adventure, Operation Krabby Patty which was a collection of games that I remember vaguely being decent and Lights, Camera, Pants which was basically a rip-off of Mario Party sans the board that managed to be entertaining. While they were okay, they all felt plain. Employee of the Month seemed as it would have been just as good as a 10-part episode, Operation Krabby Patty doesn't cling to your mind and Lights, Camera, Pants...well actually that one's okay even if it is a ripoff, but it doesn't have much else to offer. This is where the Movie game differs from all of them.
The game relives every moment of the movie even providing some stills from the movie (which I guess they can't use the actual movie screenshots because money) and it does it perfectly by making it a platformer. You go from Spongebob to Patrick in each of the levels and you do your best to get from Point A to Point B as you would in a regular platformer. What made it interesting is how some of the levels were constructed in relation to the movie. For example, the first part of the game takes place in the dream at the beginning of the movie. The next scene after that is you at the Goofy Goober, going through a video game version of Candyland gently woven into the level design. The gameplay is simple platforming goodness along with the fighting abilities that allows you to take down enemies with Spongebob's iconic karatei skills or Patrick's...tongue. There's various other skills you can unlock as you progress in the game, and you can upgrade them too if you have enough of the dumbbells (which serve as the coins in the game) collected.
There's also a great deal of variety in the gameplay, ranging from your regular platforming adventuring to driving levels, tubing levels, fighting challenges, the occasional boss battle, platforming challenges, a Spongeball challenge which is kind of like Marble Madness and a Sonic Wave Guitar challenge which is basically you directing a note through a series of rings so it reaches the finish line in time. Personally, I enjoy the Spongeball challenges the most not only for the music but for the smooth controls and the general feel of the level. While I enjoy the charm of the game though, the game is fairly easy. While that's understandable since it's a game targeting a younger demographic, it felt that there was potential in there that could have served for a richer gaming experience.
Ironically, there are two points in the game that it decides to be cheapishly hard. Those being the Sonic Wave Guitar challenges and the final tubing level that took place in the Knick-Knacks shop. The first one has the problem of a fixed camera, areas with terrible lighting that land you hitting a wall, somewhat stiff controls and an aggravating sharp turn that can incredibly absurd levels of challenge. While that's bad, you can eventually beat it if you set your mind to it and don't fully distract yourself. The Knick-Knacks sliding level on the other hand is constructed very oddly. There's a lot of places where you have to jump with lightning fast reflexes and immense precision. The curves can stray you off the path fairly quickly and it doesn't help that sometimes messes with the controls in certain areas making it all the more harden to get by. It's even worse when you're doing a timed challenge or something of that like.
Despite the control problems in some areas of the game, I still find myself enjoying a great deal of the game. There's still a part of me that likes the show, which probably benefits the game, but the general platforming is all around fun. The design for the enemies and levels are top-notch and inventive for having to be restricted to following the movie. Not to mention that some of the music tracks surprised me for this game.
24. Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)
A good amount of people will think that I should have put Melee on the list rather than Brawl, and I can understand that. The gameplay feels more crisper and evened out in Melee than it did in Brawl. The reason that I decided to go with Brawl rather than Melee, is that Brawl was grander than Melee. There are 10 more characters, 12 more stages, there's a level editor, final smashes were added to the game, you could play online (although it is awful) and the "story" mode was more cinematic (metaphorically and literally). It was going to be the first game that Mario and Sonic were going to duke it out once and for all in a video game, but then the Olympics ruined it. At least this one was the first game that you actually fight as either Mario or Sonic in a battle. You could also play as Solid Snake in this game. So it clearly shows that this installment was trying to be bigger and better than Melee.
I generally found myself having more fun with Brawl than I did with Melee as well. While there was an instance of Fox, Falco and Wolf sharing similar playing maneuvers and final smashes (along with Ness and Lucas and the Links), there were less clone characters and more variety with the roster. The soundtrack of the game is wonderful. Especially the covers and the few original tracks are so beautifully orchestrated. It's just sublime listening to the music, especially the main theme. It is an absolute marvel. The single player mode of Subspace Emissary was an interesting mode. On the one hand, it seems inventive to tie all the characters into a story and slowly amassing your roster by going further into the levels while creating some new enemies to combat against. On the other hand, this mode would have worked much better if you could combat against more of the enemies from where the characters came from rather than just fighting this Primid invasion or whatever. It's not necessarily a bad mode, the problems just seem to come more from the design rather than the gameplay. It's fairly challenging and fairly enjoyable too.
The actual game itself, that being all the fighting with friends (or CPU if friends are unavailable or non-existant), is as fun as ever. For those of you who are unaware of how Super Smash Brothers works, it's basically a fighter mixed in with a few platformer elements along with some items thrown into the mix. The point of the game is to knock your enemy right out of the stage by any means necessary. You have your regular attacks and your special attacks. What makes Brawl all the more interesting is that they've added Final Smashes which are attacks you can obtain by breaking Smash Balls. Once you have them in your possession, you simply press a button and unleash all sorts of hell. It's such a satisfying experience when you have that Final Smash and you take down your enemies lightning fast. The characters you can choose from are great, from the speedy Sonic, to the powerhouse Bowser, to the Pikmin reliant Captain Olimar, to good ol' Mario, to the all-around awesome Meta Knight, to so many other great choices.
It's hard to say what makes this game so great because it's the type you need to have close friends playing along with you. It's a game that is generally fun when you play it with somebody else. The single-player experience is fine, and you can definitely have your fair share of amusement with the CPU, but with others playing alongside you, it's all the greater.
23. Super Paper Mario (Wii)
Let me make it clear that I'm not as big on RPGs as others would be. I don't have that many of them in my collection, save for the Paper Mario series. Do I hate RPGs? I don't make it all that evident that I have much against them. Unless we're talking about JRPGs, in which case it looks like I'm apalled by them. As much as I jest with others on how "X game that just happens to be a JRPG sucks", I don't have that much against them. Sure, a lot of Japanophiles like these games and I don't really approve of them, but that's not enough reason to hate them. Some of the most interesting characters, weapons, designs and music come from JRPGs. Disgaea 3 and the golden games from Final Fantasy series being prime examples of the wonders it can offer. I can't really pinpoint why I don't play that many RPGs, whether it be J or W, since it's not really a length issue or anything since I have played some RPGs before and been okay with it. I guess it's just one of those preference matters.
With that said, Super Paper Mario isn't the typical RPG. I mean sure, the series is supposed to be known for it's RPG style and it has some RPG elements, but it is not exactly an RPG in the way it flows. It actually flows much more like a platformer mixed with a beat-em-up, combined with some puzzle elements that has some instances of a more RPGish feel. For the most part you fight your enemies in real time and the only instance of changing abilities or your partners in the game is by pausing the game and selecting something else rather than doing it in a turn-based battle. And while people call it the black sheep of the series, I still find it to be a tad better than the original Paper Mario. It's heresy, but the way the game flows out is actually kind of enjoyable. But it's more than just how the game goes by the gameplay. I mean, a good chunk of the puzzles can be solved by just titling from 2D to 2.5/3D and I've seen platforming before in a Mario game. What exactly makes Super Paper Mario that special that it deserves to be an inch better than the original?
Count Bleck, that's what. There is no denying that I have a fascination for the main villain of the game. The design looks so dapper, the colors work perfectly, the sadistic smile and cackling of "Bleh heh heh heh!" when he does his diabolical deeds and his motivation that's actually surprising for Paper Mario standards is just great. Sure, you could say that Dimentio was better. You could also say that the way Dimentio looks is much more interesting that Bleck but I couldn't care. Without spoiling it for those who haven't played the game, Count Bleck is perhaps one of the greatest characters in the Paper Mario universe, if not the best one of them all. The story of the game is also one of the more interesting ones for the series as Bleck forces Peach and Bowser to marry so that a Chaos Heart will open a void that will destroy every dimension out there. He doesn't want to rule anything...he wants to annihilate everything. That's just maniacal.
It's one of those games that has a good chunk of references from other games while giving itself it's own identity within the series. Granted the way it does that is basically be the middle ground of a JRPG and a regular platforming Mario game, but it still does it well. While some parts are just painfully easy, it delivers with a good amount of challenge and a tale that is absolutely fantastic for Paper Mario standards, which granted aren't that high, but it's something you wouldn't really expect from your run-of-the-mill Mario-related game.
22. Mario Kart DS (DS...duh)
There's quite a lot of Mario Karts to choose from. And even more Mario Kart ripoffs too. Now sure, you may think that's a joke, but some of the ripoffs are pretty good, like Diddy Kong Racing, Pac Man Rally and Cra-uh...never mind that, but yeah some of them are okay. Hell there's just some fun racers like the Star Wars Episode 1 Pod Racer N64 game and Beetles Adventure Racing (I never did get that rainbow Beetle...), and Cruisin' US-nevermind. It was kind of tough to choose which one of the racers would end up here. It eventually came down to Pac-Man Rally, Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart Double Dash and Mario Kart DS. I excluded Mario Kart Wii because I didn't feel all that much invested in it (even though it's got some good tracks) and it just came down to PCR, MKDD and MKDS. I then eliminated PCR and MKDD because while both had some interesting concepts and incorporated having special items that specific kart racers could apply in the race, MKDS felt more balanced and perfected the portable karting experience. So yeah, let's talk about MKDS.
Now while some herald Mario Kart 64 as one of the greater MK installments (which I think is a little silly), I'd have to say that Mario Kart DS is the best of the best. It managed to take everything that was right about the other games (which if you've played the games, you'll find a lot of the good is basically used with all of the other versions, save for some small alterations), and made it all the better by moving it to the DS. Each of the new tracks looks awesome and can be navigated fairly easily. The music isn't half-bad, with one of my personal favorites being the Airship Fortress not only for the wonderful track but for the level design itself. It also was the game that managed to bring back some of the better tracks from the past such as Choco Mountain and Mushroom Bridge. The gameplay is just your standard racing with peculiar items aiding you to defeat your rivals and annoying you when your rivals use them against you. The original powerups come back like the green shells, the red shells, the dreaded blue shells, the banana peels, the lightning bolts and the stars. And then there's newer weapons such as the Bloopers that spray ink on your enemies so they can't see the road ahead and the Bullet Bills that push you further into the track while taking down anyone who stands in it's way.
What makes the game all the better is that there is online. And while Nintendo's skeptical for online gameplay, it works well with this game. You can race with your friends or with random strangers. For the most part, everything moves in "real-time" so to speak, when you're online, and it's all-around enjoyable when you end up beating more than one nationality at this game. That's one of the charms of this game, just being able to race around people from across the world and doing it without that many problems.
21. Saints Row 2 (PS2)
While I enjoy my fair share of GTA, there's no doubt in my mind that Saints Row is always a few steps ahead in the levels of fun you can have. There's a lot more creativity to be had in Saints Row as you usually end up buying places, changing your appearances, changing your clothes and finding new ways to kill people with all sorts of weapons. Oddly enough, my exposure to the Saint Row games started with The Third and went down. You may think that with that said, I would have chosen Saints Row The Third, because of the purdy graphics and all the zaniness that you encountered. Sure, it was fun how crazy the Third ended up being, but there was a lot of problems. It didn't end up fully embracing that madness and DLC made all the variety equal forking over some more cash. And even then, some of the new DLC was mediocre.
Saints Row 2 on the other hand feels more full. It also knows it's tone better than the Third. While there's a lot of outright insane events that occur in Saints Row 2, it juxtapositions itself well with the sort of city and trying to rise from a fallen icon to a shining sign of yesteryear's glory coming back to take back the throne. The characters are actually pretty fun too, Johnny Gat being a man that's equally as nuts as you, Shaundi being the stereotypical stoner and Pierce being the brains that everyone seems to pick on. You end up fending off some Jamaican gangmembers, some Yakuza wannabees and some "hardcore" biker gang in the process of reclaiming what was rightfully yours. The game is chock-full with tons of activities, missions and places to go about with that will keep you occupied for a very long time, such as finding stunt jumps and. places to tag with your gang sign. Unlike Third, you have to go around a lot of terrain and figure out the secrets yourselves rather simply obtaining something that gives you the secrets right away which adds for a greater level of challenge.
Now, if you don't want to do any of the racing, celebrity protecting, fight club fighting, assassinating and shooting gang members in a specific area that the game offers to you, there's always just messing about as you would in a sandbox. It's evident that if Saints Row seems to trump GTA, it's practically going to deliver in that field and it does. Very well might I add, as when you run over pedestrians they fly out like crazy. You have a good amount of variety with the weapon choices as can just go about slicing people with a katana or bashing their brains with a mallet, choose from a pistol or a revolver, use a pipe cane as a shotgun, decide from a rocket launcher or a sniper rifle among many other choices. While all the variety and replayability is present, there's still a fair amount of bugs and glitches that you'll encounter that can be a bit of a pain. Other than that, this is one of those games that is just perfect for relieving stress.