When taking a look at these lists I have been producing for the past week, I came to a head in the process. I know a series like Metroid is worthy of it’s own post, I just felt that trying to figure out the best game in that series may be splitting hairs. Metroid is a near perfect series with very few slip-ups, Metroid Other M being the main I could think of. There are also plenty of series that are excellent that just don’t have enough games to merit a top 5 list. So I decided to write The Best of the Rest, dedicated to the continued brilliance of Nintendo’s games.
The Most Forgotten – Star Fox
As a series Star Fox really only has two good installments. Nintendo has often lost their way with Fox McCloud and friends often smashing him into different genres. The fox is best at space ship fighting. While games like Star Fox Assault had their fair share of space fighting, there were too many on-foot missions that both felt forced and played terrible. Star Fox Adventures is a classic piece of garbage. What’s upsetting is that both Star Fox (SNES) and Star Fox 64 (N64) are EXCELLENT games. It’s been almost 10 years since a real Star Fox installment which is a bummer to most avid fans of the series. Luckily we saw Nintendo show off some footage for Star Fox on the WiiU this year at E3. I certainly hope that brings this series back to life. Nintendo has put series on hiatus before, only to bring them back better than ever (Kid Icarus comes to mind). Let’s just hope to remember Star Fox for all it was, and still is.
The Best Oddity – Yoshi’s Island
Technically Yoshi’s Island is Super Mario World 2, though most people forget about that. Before the word “prequel” was ever thrown around by film houses Yoshi’s Island gave us a taste of the beginnings of Mario’s life. The stork accidentally drops Baby Mario onto Yoshi’s Island where the Yoshis agree to take him back to his family. We’re left with six memorable worlds of platforming. Yoshi’s Island recreated how Mario games played, it removed the time limit, added stage collectibles, and a new “egg-shooting” system that was both fun and original. By removing the time limit the player was given the freedom to explore each stage and find all sorts of secrets. I love the style of Yoshi’s Island with its crayon drawing texture and story book motif. While Nintendo has made some more Yoshi games since it’s original release, nothing compares to the first one. Yoshi’s Island was the perfect game to begin wrapping the life cycle of the SNES. With the PSX hitting the market the same year, but Yoshi’s Island is a much more memorable experience than any of the PSX’s launch titles. It has lovely music, visuals, and Yoshi is extremely likable in this game. Luckily, they hadn’t made the “baby-voice” change to Yoshi yet, which would happen a few years later in the awful Yoshi’s Story. I still go back and play this game quite a bit, and I know it’s Huey’s favorite.
The Best Experiment – Metroid Prime
I just as easily could have named Metroid Prime the best Metroid game. While many would call that blasphemy to rank any game higher than Super Metroid, Prime has had almost as much of an impact on the modern video game industry as its predecessor. During Nintendo’s experimental period, The Gamecube, Metroid Prime broke away from the 2D adventuring of Super Metroid. Super Metroid was and still is one of the greatest experiences ever. There is a reason why “Metroid-Vania” exists as a genre today. Prime made bold choices and challenged how we played Metroid. It would be a disservice to Retro Studios and Prime to consider this Metroid as a First-Person Shooter. While the game is played from the first person perspective, it’s very much an adventure game. I doubt games like Elder Scrolls and BioShock would have been pushed to consoles as eagerly without games like Metroid Prime. Shooting isn’t your main prerogative, you’re encouraged to explore. Even twelve years later MP is still breath taking to look at. It’s sense of size and wonder are unrivaled in video games. Metroid Prime still feels like Metroid even after the jump to 3D. Samus is still alone on a planet as she searches for answers to what happened before she arrived. Metroid Prime bridges the gap between Metroid and Metroid 2, and gives us a young Samus learning the history of the Metriods and the Space Pirates. Retro gave us a game that doesn’t force us to read the story, but they encourage us to find it. Prime is a magical experience, and few games have ever felt THAT GOOD. To this day I consider Metroid Prime to be in my top 10 favorite games. It’s incredible.
The Best Spin-Off – Mario Kart
Is there really a contest here? Mario Kart vs. Mario Party? Mario Kart vs. Mario Baseball? Strikers? Sure some of those games are great, but nothing compares to the brilliance of Mario Kart. I have never played a bad Mario Kart game, EVER! Sure Mario Kart 8 outshines most of the other games, but from Super Mario Kart through the next seven installments there is very little “bad” to talk about. Nintendo continues to innovate the Kart series and has made it one of the premier reasons to buy one of their consoles. I have logged weeks into playing Mario Kart. It has been THE game at social gatherings, middle school sleepovers, and summer bbqs after it gets too “buggy” outside. I’m not sure what else there is to say about Kart other than it’s pure fun and addiction. I hope that Nintendo continues to make Mario Kart for another 125 years.
The Coolest Nintendo Surprise – Super Smash Bros.
I used to play with a lot of action figures as a kid. I’d have tournaments in my basement between the likes of Venom and Tommy the Green Ranger, Snake Eyes and The Wolfman from Ghostbusters. I didn’t really know what a “crossover” was at the point in time, I just had cool toys I liked. I was a kid throughout the 1990s so fighting games reigned supreme at the arcade and on the home consoles. Nintendo had made games of all different genres: action, platforming, RPG, racing, adventure, but they never made a fighting game. Then I remember getting an EGM back in 1999 that was talking about a new Nintendo fighting game that starred all of their classic characters. This game was called Super Smash Bros. and it was fantastic. the summer of 1999 was filled with shouts from my basement as friendships ended over pokeballs and homerun bats. While Smash has evolved as a game series, the original still has a special feel and deserves its spot in history. Who can forget this commercial?
Smash has become something of a religion these days, as groups of avid fans circle the world to battle each other. While Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Tekken all have devout followings, Smash players are a bit different. They’re more driven and more dedicated to ensure that their game it represented. The Smash Bros. collective have also fought to get their game (Melee) played on the main stages at EVO, not a small accomplishment by any standard. That’s what Smash Bros. has done for gaming, not only is it an excellent game series, but it’s a lifestyle and a cause. I love Smash Bros. and I’m so happy that Nintendo continues to make them, power to their community.
The Greatest Nintendo RPG – Super Mario RPG: The Legend of the Seven Stars
Back before Square left Nintendo for Sony, the two had a wonderful marriage that defined my childhood. Watching Square jump to the PSX was a bit of a heartbreak for my younger self but we wouldn’t have gotten FFVII without it, so in hindsight it was the best for both companies. Super Mario RPG is my favorite video game. It taught me what RPGs were all about, and it was one of the first games I can remember caring so much about. I loved the original Final Fantasy on the NES and Final Fantasy VI on the SNES, but Mario RPG has a different significance for me. Firstly, it allowed platforming and RPG elements to be blended so well that it feels like both and neither at the same time. Battles became so much more engaging than other conventional RPGs with timed hits and blocks. There was a wonderful little story that took Mario and his friends on a great adventure. With a perfect Squaresoft soundtrack, bright Nintendo visuals, and a real sense of expansiveness Mario RPG is the perfect educational RPG. It’s not as big as most role-playing games, but it allows you to have fun and not worry too much about stats and grinding. It also introduced us to Geno and Mallow, two great characters that sadly don’t appear in either universe anymore. It would be nice for Nintendo and Square to make a true sequel to Mario RPG, but we’ll have to settle for Mario and Luigi games (which are great in their own way).
The Best Mertoid/Game – Super Metroid
This could also read “The Best Nintendo Game” as well. Super Metroid is amazing. It has no problems, whatsoever. It can be played exactly how the player wants to play it. It can be beaten in 10 hours or in under 2. It’s a full 2D world that encourages exploration and pushes the player to think about their environments. Super Metroid may be the single most copied game in the history of video games. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is essentially Super Metroid, as are many of the other more recent Castlevania games. Super Metroid created its own genre of video game “Metroid-Vania”. That’s the overall impact of this game. It’s the pinnacle of everything Nintendo did on the SNES, and represents its console like no other game. Super Metroid has some of the most memorable locales of any game and also has some of the most iconic boss fights. It’s hard to continue to write about Super Metroid, because it’s just that good. Few games have ever been this good, and few will ever reach it’s level. Some publications have even named Super Metriod as their greatest game ever made. I can’t deny that one bit, It’s ridiculously good.