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Tony's top 32 games of all time!


Is it June 4th again already? Where does the time go?

Yes, your close, personal pal Tony has just turned 32! In celebration of this anniversary of admittedly no particular significance, I want to try my hand at something that I've never laid down in written word before: a list of my favorite video games.

When it comes to the media I consume, I've always had trouble nailing down my absolute preferences. I wouldn't be able to tell you what my favorite TV show, movie, comic book, album, or even song is. But when it comes to video games, my selections are thankfully more well-defined. I decided the hour was ripe to attach rankings to my picks and give you all a better understanding of my gamer identity.

In keeping with the day's theme, here are my top 32 video games of all time:

[32] The Even More Incredible Machine

I've never been much of a PC gamer, but I'd be lying if I said I don't have fond memories of tinkering around on the compy during my elementary and junior high years. I was introduced to The Even More Incredible Machine through an after school computer class, and I was immediately hooked. Assembling my own virtual Rube Goldberg devices gave me a taste for physics-based experimentation that stoked my passion for math and science.

[31] Taiko no Tatsujin series

Instrument accessory rhythm games come and go, but only Taiko no Tatsujin has kept me engaged, despite my lack of skill. The setup is extremely simple -- you need only even worry about hitting the center of the drum or the outer rim -- but that merely incentivizes you to develop your own trademark drumming style. And now that I live in Japan, I can slide into any arcade in town, pick up a pair of bachi sticks, and groove to an ever-rotating selection of bubbly anime or J-pop hits.

[30] NHLPA Hockey '93

From Blades of Steel to Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, hockey seems to adapt better to the gaming medium than any other sport. King of the ring, however, is NHLPA Hockey '93 for Sega Genesis. You could check fools and watch them bleed on the ice, then use the instant replay function to relive the impact over and over again to the delicious embarrassment of Player Two. There were yearly follow-ups, of course, but they removed in-game fighting at the NHL's behest, which is why they aren't on my list.

[29] Katamari Damacy

"Cathartic" is the word I'd use to describe Katamari Damacy. Coming home from a rough day to lump up a bunch of stuff into a giant ball to the sweet melodies of one of the most brilliant soundtracks ever recorded is my kind of therapy. There's something quite profound about the game's sense of scale -- you begin by gathering assorted household debris, and in minutes you are consuming entire landmasses. You may feel inconsequential at times, but glory is always within rolling distance.

[28] F-Zero GX

F-Zero on Super Nintendo: not my cup of tea. F-Zero X on N64: I'm kinda diggin' it. F-Zero GX on GameCube: damn, this is hot! The speed! The white-knuckle turns! The heart-pounding techno jams! If Mario Kart is about making sure that everyone can have a great time, F-Zero GX is about separating the wheat from the chaff. Not everyone can ride with the big dogs, but those who persevere will enter a whole new dimension of spatial awareness.

[27] Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

I doubt many thought that courtroom drama would make for an entertaining video game until ol' Nicky came around pointing his accusatory finger. Ace Attorney demonstrated that there's a thrill in backing a witness into a corner that simply cannot be matched by ordinary combat. It's also one of the funniest games around, thanks in no small part to a stellar localization that eschews direct translation for an endearingly absurd "Americanization" angle.

[26] Rhythm Tengoku

Taiko no Tatsujin is already simple, but Rhythm Tengoku takes is a step further with WarioWare-style musical minigames. I played the Japanese GBA original some time after Rhythm Heaven on DS, and despite my love and appreciation for the latter, I vastly prefer the first game's one- to two-button actions. It's perfectly playable by audio cues alone, but if you keep your peepers open, you're treated to an adorable imagery and bizarre humor that never grows stale.

[25] SimCity

One of my greatest pleasures is glancing out the airplane window just as we're taking off and watching as the ground expands into infinity, like the world's largest LEGO playset. I just want to reach out and pick up one of those tiny cars or build a towering obelisk in the heart of town. SimCity scratches that itch, granting me command over my own miniature city, and giving me the tools to help my citizens flourish or raze it all in a childish fit.

[24] Chrono Trigger

I didn't dive into RPGs until I was in high school, and ever since I've been playing catchup. For example, I only started Chrono Trigger for the first time last summer on DS! When I did, I immediately understood why it's such a beloved piece of time travel fiction. Though actions in the past impact key story beats in the future, it's the non-essential events, like preventing Lucca's mother's accident or reviving a forest, that truly give the game its charm.

[23] Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

Treasure are the grandmasters of over-the-top action, as exemplified by Sin & Punishment on N64. Like most of you, I was introduced to that game via Wii's Virtual Console, and though I enjoyed my time, it was a constant struggle against the Classic Controller layout. Then Star Successor came along with its effortless pointer control scheme, and the pieces finally snapped together. It starts on a high note and never relents as you blast through waves of the most outlandish enemies and bosses imaginable.

[22] 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

One of only a minuscule handful of games I have awarded or would be willing to award a 10/10 score. I was expecting a basic "escape the room" adventure, but 999 blew those expectations out the air lock within minutes. It is the most engrossing video game narrative I've ever enjoyed, drowning in fascinating characters and shocking twists. And the manner in which it uses the DS hardware during its climax is so genius that I literally dropped my machine in shock when the hour came. Brilliant.

[21] Super Mario Maker

I have easily logged more hours into this bad boy than any other game. As a child, I would go through reams of printer paper, sketching out my own custom Mario maps in the hope that someday those levels would be enjoyed by players around the world. Thanks to Super Mario Maker's intuitive toolset, that dream at long last became a reality. The only reason this game isn't higher on my list is due to its poor discoverability tools. Hopefully a Switch version materializes and makes it easier to seek quality courses.

[20] EarthBound

As with Chrono Trigger, I experienced EarthBound for the first time last year. I kicked off a marathon session with EarthBound Beginnings, which I found to be as frustrating as every other NES-era RPG, then immediately followed with the SNES sequel. The stark jump in quality is beyond measure. The lovable characters! The heartwarming story! The way enemies on the overworld map flee in terror after you defeat an area's boss! There really is no other RPG quite like it.

[19] Mischief Makers

Nintendo 64 was bereft of 2D side-scrollers, but what few we did receive were top of their class. Take Mischief Makers, which features a cute heroine who attacks by shaking her enemies, a cadre of anthropomorphic Power Rangers, and a world where every person and their furniture looks like Ghostface from Scream. In my opinion, this is Treasure's greatest work. When I couldn't find a copy in stores, I actually called up Blockbuster and had them mail me a pre-owned cartridge from one of their out-of-state locations!

[18] Super Smash Bros. series

Remember that legendary commercial for Super Smash Bros. on N64? Of course you do! It was a declaration to the world that here was the party game to end all party games. Melee sessions were a weekly event in my college dorm. Brawl and 4 brought the boys in blue -- Sonic and Mega Man -- into the mix to settle those schoolyard arguments from long ago about who would win in a no-holds-barred throwdown. Each fresh installment reignites my addiction, a multiplayer habit that I never want to kick.

[17] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project

Fans of TMNT brawlers typically cite either the original arcade game or Turtles in Time as their fave, but my pick is the one entry exclusive to the NES: The Manhattan Project. My brother and I would make regular runs through this Konami classic, which begins on the sunny shores of our home state of Florida and ends with an epic showdown against Super Shredder in outer space. This game represented the height of Turtle Mania for my prepubescent self, even more so than the movies or action figures.

[16] Power Blazer

In 1991, Taito released a rock solid action platformer called Power Blade for NES. The previous year, they released a crass Mega Man knockoff called Power Blazer for Famicom. It's the latter version that I grew up with, and though the Western localization is objectively superior, I nonetheless have a deep fondness for the original and its super deformed aesthetic. I love Power Blazer so much, I couldn't help but gush about it right here on Destructoid nearly eight years ago!

[15] Family Stadium series

Baseball video games in the US put me to sleep. Give me more of Japan's Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium -- or Famista for short -- which for years has enjoyed success with its roster of chubby cartoon athletes and increasingly bizarre extra modes. A new installment just recently landed on 3DS, but my nostalgia lies with the Famicom entries. As the son of a Nippon Professional Baseball player -- true story! -- Famista was the intersection of my father's passion for the sport and my own passion for gaming.

[14] Tetris

It's taken a lifetime of sampling the various produce of the puzzle genre to realize that the only pure puzzler that can maintain my interest is Tetris. What other puzzle game even comes close to its addictive simplicity? I fondly recall overnight class trips with my Game Boy in tow, challenging any and all comers to link cable battles late into the evening. Years later, I would be roaming the halls of MAGFest, this time armed with a copy of Tetris DS. The battleground may change, but the game remains the same.

[13] Shovel Knight

So many retro throwbacks claim to recapture the spirit of 8-bit yesteryear, but none come close to Shovel Knight in any capacity. I replayed the main campaign three times to clear all the in-game Feats, then I repeated the process with both the Plague Knight and Specter Knight campaigns. I'm no achievement hunter, so your game has to be pretty special to compel me to go full completionist. I'm convinced that Yacht Club Games must have made some kind of deal with the devil to craft this masterpiece. 

[12] Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Circle of the Moon was my introduction to Castlevania's branch of nonlinear adventures. I was already a fan of the franchise, and to experience that Gothic horror atmosphere applied to a massive playground bursting with weapons, armor, and treasures was to have my appreciation strengthened. I honestly wouldn't have minded if Konami kept pumping out portable Castlevania's in this style 'til doomsday. Ironically, I've yet to play Circle of the Moon's progenitor: Symphony of the Night. For shame, I know.

[11] The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

The first Zelda I ever owned. It was the summer of '98 when I picked this up at Target, after which I spent weeks exploring the far reaches of Koholint Island. I got stuck very early on, so I used the infamous warp screen glitch to cheese may way through most obstacles on that first playthrough. I even accidentally stumbled upon a technique to beat the final boss without Magic Powder -- a glitch that I'm almost 100% positive I was the first and only person to discover. Try to prove me wrong!

[10] Contra

There are three franchises that I consider my personal Holy Gaming Trinity: CastlevaniaContra, and Mega Man. I've already briefly touched upon the first, so let's move on to the second.

The original Contra on NES is often cited as having a high level of difficulty, but it's rather forgiving and inviting compared to its sequels. You never feel completely overwhelmed, thus compelling you to persevere. I polished my skills enough that I can now confidently breeze through without the use of the Konami Code or a single continue. And once you are plowing through swarms of cannon fodder and tearing down hulking aliens, you can't help but feel like a beast. That's your reward for putting the time and effort into perfecting every jump and bullet trajectory. It's the ultimate power fantasy.

[9] Contra: Hard Corps

This brute just barely inches ahead of OG Contra. While many folks will may to convince you that Contra III: The Alien Wars on SNES is the pinnacle of the series, those people would be WRONG! I don't fault their lapse in judgment, though. They probably didn't have a Sega Genesis growing up, thus never experienced the ball-busting glory of Contra: Hard Corps.

A cast of playable characters that includes a dwarfish robot and a werewolf, branching paths leading to alternate endings, the most imaginative parade of bosses this side of a Treasure game, a pulsating soundtrack that rocks harder than the San Andreas Fault... there's even a secret battle against a parody of Simon Belmont, complete with a remix of "Vampire Killer"! How could I not be completely in love with this madness!?

[8] Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge

Castlevania: The Adventure for Game Boy was merely... alright. It was my first Castlevania, so it does occupy a special place in my heart. The sequel, though? Oh man, where do I begin!? Inventive environments, non-traditional Castlevania bosses, creative stage gimmicks such as rope pulley mechanisms that alternate direction to throw off your climb and crush you in their gears -- an improvement over its predecessor in every conceivable way!

But what launches Belmont's Revenge into the stratosphere is its killer thrash metal soundtrack -- featuring sick track titles like "New Messiah" and "Original Sin" -- that I consider the best not only within the franchise but among the entire Game Boy library. You don't know the meaning of the word "badass" until you've heard this 8-bit cover of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue." It's transcendent!

[7] Rocket Knight Adventures

I don't know if you are old enough to remember the "The Beforetimes" in "The Long, Long Ago," but the Internet was not always a ubiquitous fixture in the average household. Aside from playground conversations and whatever titles magazines chose to spotlight, you often didn't know what new wares were available. This meant that you literally had to judge a game by its cover whenever you convinced your parents to take you to the rental shop.

Many times you were stuck with a turd all weekend, but every so often, you stumbled upon gold. Of all my blind rentals, Rocket Knight Adventures was by far my greatest find. The hero Sparkster may have been just another "animal mascot with attitude" that was all the rage during that age, but his quest was far from typical. If you ever wanted to experience Konami in their absolute prime, this Genesis classic is your ticket.

[6] Super Mario World

For years, I would only get to play Super Mario World during brief sessions at friends' homes. For years, I would flip to the Classified Information section of the latest Nintendo Power and read about yet another shocking secret hidden in the corners of Dinosaur Land. For both these reasons, the game had a somewhat larger-than-life mystique about it; my mind simply could not fathom the scope of Mario's SNES debut.

Every time I sat in front of the tube, I charted some new route or discovered an expert technique after experimenting with the new items and controls. Eventually I discovered Star World and thought I had reached the summit. Then I discovered a hidden world within Star World. Then all the worlds and enemies in the game were completely transformed. To this day, I am convinced that there are still secrets left to uncover. I must plunge ever deeper.

[5] Sonic the Hedgehog 2

In the Great Super Nintendo / Sega Genesis Console War, I aligned myself with the Hedgehog Brigade. You gotta admit, Sonic was way cooler than some fat man in overalls. I was fated to be a Sega child, anyway -- I think it was a legal requirement among Latin Americans. All the same, hanging out at my cousins' house one summer and seeing that little blue blur zipping around a pinball landscape changed my world.

When Sonic 2 found its way under the tree in Christmas of '92, I was thrown for yet another loop-de-loop. More streamlined than Sonic 1 and better paced than Sonic 3 & Knuckles, this is the game that represents Sonic's Golden Age. And on that summer afternoon when I finally gathered all the Chaos Emeralds and bore witness to the Super Sonic transformation for the first time, it was the most Bill & Ted "Whoa" moment of my life.

[4] Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Double Dragon II touches an especially tender part of my soul, because it was the only video game that my father was willing and capable of playing with me. Well, aside from Famista, of course. However, it was this pastiche of '80s American martial arts cinema that became our go-to bonding ritual. Just us, sitting on the floor of our Yokohama apartment, glued to the ol' Sony Trinitron, uppercutting and helicopter kicking into a state of unbridled joy.

Our connection with this game was so strong that on one of my dad's return trips to Japan, long after we had moved to Florida, he bought me another copy, despite the fact that my original cartridge was still neatly tucked away in my game basket. It's been many years since we last had one of our Famicom sessions, but I have a feeling that he and I are due for one last reunion with the Lee Brothers.

[3] Mega Man X

Mega Man games are comfort food to me, like a tasty PB&J on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Even after six NES adventures and four Game Boy romps, they remained consistently choice. I was perfectly content to keep playing new sequels in the same mold with a rotating motley crew of Robot Masters to tango with. And then Mega Man X exploded into my universe and showed me that what was was not all that could be.

In my opinion, Mega Man X is one of the few truly perfect games in existence. Every enemy placement, every music track, every Maverick design -- there is not a single element that I don't think is flawless. I've played it a hundred times and I'll play it a hundred more.

[2] The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Link's Awakening may have been the first Zelda I owned, but A Link to the Past was the first one I played. I have my childhood friend Kyle to thank for that -- I was forced to listen to him day after day, gushing about how awesome this game was, flaunting his Nintendo Player's Guide. What was the big deal about some goofy game about wizards and princesses? Then he invited me over for a sleepover one day. We woke up at 5 AM or some such ungodly hour, slapped a Game Genie onto his cartridge, then ran wild about Turtle Rock without a care in the world. I was in total awe for every second.

It wouldn't be until several years later when my brother received an SNES as a gift that I could finally play A Link to the Past in its entirety. Never have I experienced an adventure on such a grand scale, from the call to action during that fateful thunderstorm to Link's arrival in the Dark World, Hyrule's apocalyptic afterimage. Danger and discovery in every cavern, humor and heartache around every tree, all the elements of an Odyssey for the modern age. Many games have attempted to emulate it, but all fall woefully short.

[1] Mega Man 2

Anyone who has followed my work over the past decade should not be surprised by my number one pick. Still, I personally find my choice to be rather odd in retrospect. I've gone on record in the past (hell, in this very list as well) about how I think Mega Man X is the perfect action platformer. I've also presented a fabulously reasoned case claiming that Mega Man 6 reigns supreme among the Classic series. If I were to begin jonesing for a Mega Man fix, I would most likely opt for either of those over Mega Man 2.

But here's the kicker: At the end of the day, neither of those are Mega Man 2.

Mega Man is my all-time favorite video game series. I've collected the games, the comics, the CDs, the T-shirts, the figurines, the DVDs, and even limited release candy tins. I designed entire Mega Man sequels on printer paper and stapled them together to fashion crude strategy guides. I've thrown the game sprites into Flash and PowerPoint for high school and college presentations. I spent an unhealthy amount of time tracking down every officially licensed piece of Mega Man software for the sake of an oversized timeline poster.

All this began with Mega Man 2. I had played the original Mega Man first at a friend's house, and that planted the seeds for my future obsession, seeds that only bloomed when I received a Famicom of my very own along with a copy of the landmark sequel. I hum the soundtrack at least once every day. I consider the appearance of the Mecha Dragon in Wily's Castle to be the most intense boss encounter of all time. Heh... I scoff at the plebs would even consider playing through on easy mode!

For as long as I live, there will never by another game that could possibly match the impact that Mega Man 2 has had on my writing career and personal life.

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About Tony Ponceone of us since 12:40 AM on 09.09.2007

(Decommissioned) Super Fighting Robot