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200 Best Nintendo Games (Part 7) Switch and Play

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Here we are, at the tail end of this enormous list. It’s crazy to think that while we came up with a list that features a whopping 200 games, there are still so many games we wish we could have included. As mentioned at the start of this seven-part series, while we did decide to order this chronologically, we did say we would reveal the ranking of the top 20 games as voted by our staff. You can find that ranking down below. Enjoy!

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Part Seven 2010 – 2018

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165) Super Mario Galaxy 2
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: May 23, 2010
Genre(s) Platforming

Few sequels can quite capture the brilliance of their predecessors. Many thought that Nintendo had caught lightning in a bottle when they released the original Super Mario Galaxy in 2007, but 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 set a new bar of excellence for the plumber’s adventures. By incorporating classic elements such as Yoshi, and by creatively imagining new elements such as the Cloud Flower, Nintendo breathed life into the Galaxy series while also maintaining the quality present in the original.

In many ways, Super Mario Galaxy 2 surpasses the original Galaxy. The levels are more creative, the power-ups are more interesting, and the introduction of Yoshi adds creative flair to the level design. The music is equally stunning, matched only by the original Galaxy in its brilliance. Mahito Yokota, Ryo Nagamatsu, and Koji Kondo’s soundtrack embodies the wonder and thrill of space while excellently incorporating classic Super Mario themes.

While some may call it nothing more than DLC for the original, Super Mario Galaxy 2 improves on the first game dramatically while also adding enough inventive, fresh content to make this game the definitive Galaxy experience. (Izsak Barnette)

Characters166) Xenoblade Chronicles
Developer(s) Monolith Soft[a]
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: JP: 10 June 2010 / NA: 6 April 2012
Genre(s) Role-playing

By 2012 the JRPG genre was in steep decline. Intensely rebuking Final Fantasy XIII, fans of the genre looked for a new series to become the standard by which other JRPGs were judged. After an intense localization battle that saw Nintendo recognize consumer demand for Xenoblade Chronicles in North America, the JRPG fanbase was given that chance.

Despite launching while the Wii was being not-so-quietly put out to pasture, Xenoblade Chronicles was a critical hit (pun intended) that shattered expectations and put unknown second party developer Monolith Soft on the map. Headed by famed Japanese game developer Tetsuya Takahashi, Xenoblade Chronicles manages to take Takahashi’s famed talent with exposition and control it, producing one of gaming’s most finely crafted stories in the process.

Whereas Takahashi’s previous titles such as Xenogears and Xenosaga completely embrace the traditional nature of previous JRPGs, Xenoblade took emphasis from Western MMOs, added a finely tuned story, and integrated what ranks as one of gaming’s greatest soundtracks into a hundred hour long epic, refocusing the entire JRPG industry in the process.

From its impressive setting upon the bodies of two deceased titans to its impressive art direction and expressive characters, Xenoblade Chronicles is a masterpiece that needs to be savored from beginning to end, and is well worth the time it takes to uncover its mysteries. (Izsak Barnette)

167) Pokemon Black and White
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release: JP: September 18, 2010 / NA: March 6, 2011
Genre(s) Role-playing

Pokémon Red and Blue had been fourteen years ago, and since then there had never been a Pokémon game that presented an unpredictable adventure. This was about to change with the release of Pokémon Black and White — a fresh canvas, a new map to explore, and every pokémon on your adventure had never been discovered before.

Game Freak didn’t take this task lightly; around 150 pokémon were added in this generation, some particularly weak in design, but others some of the best in the whole of the franchise. It was a mixed bag, and that’s where it drew its best comparisons with Red and Blue. While the previous generations had attempted to build on top of each other, Black and White began from its own foundations, starting a new era of Pokémon entirely.

Black and White was the first Pokémon game to be inspired by a region outside of Japan — New York to be exact. It was in a sense the first Pokémon game to realize how far the Pokémon franchise had come, and how popular it was worldwide and beyond. While on a technical level it isn’t the strongest generation of Pokémon games, it has a special place in the Pokémon collection for its tenacity to be entirely original from its predecessors. (James Baker)

168) Super Mario 3D Land
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: November 3, 2011 / NA: November 13, 2011
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario 3D Land represents the first 3DS title to make full use of the system’s array of capabilities. With an expertly balanced difficulty progression, dazzling level design, and masterful Power-Ups, this is the ideal 3DS experience. As an experience, Super Mario 3D Land gets deeper the longer you play, as you sink into its particular groove and learn to appreciate it as a unique title — one that is separate from yet beautifully derivative of the entire Mario franchise. As a whole, 3D Land is brilliant and addictive, and does for 3D-enhanced platforming what the original Super Mario Bros. did for 2D platforming. (Katrina Lind)

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169) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii
Release: NA: November 20, 2011
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Fans had to know that Nintendo was up to something truly special when they announced that Skyward Sword would officially become the first game in the Legend of Zelda timeline. Fortunately, Nintendo delivered on all of those expectations and more with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. A game that took the revolutionary/gimmicky motion controls of the Wii to their fullest extent, Skyward Sword is almost worth playing as much as a proof of concept as it is for its breathtaking adventure and wholly original take on the Zelda mythos.

Set among a series of floating islands that eventually give way to a shattered world below, Skyward Sword both echoes the world design of one of the best Zelda titles in history in the form of The Wind Waker, and calls to mind the scale of the Final Fantasy series in equal measure. Throw in some gorgeous art design and one of the most concise plots in the franchise, and you’re left with a truly underrated classic, easily one of the best games in the series. (Mike Worby)

170) Pushmo
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Taku Sugioka
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release:  JP: October 5, 2011 / NA: December 8, 2011
Genre(s) Puzzle

Pushmo seems like any other cutesy puzzle game you’d see on the eShop. While that’s true, that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. The best puzzle games are the ones that leave you pondering in enjoyment, rather than frustration, and Pushmo does just that.

The basic objective of Pushmo is to move around blocks in order to rescue the little kids hidden within them. There are a given set of rules and limitations that the player must work in: you can only push or pull blocks, and you can only move up one block space at a time. Pushmo is chock-full of brain-scratching spatial reasoning puzzles. The real difficulty comes from figuring out which order you must move the blocks in order to ascend. Pushmo is simple in concept, but delightfully challenging in practice. (Kyle Rogacion)

Dark_Pit_(Kid_Icarus_Uprising)171) Kid Icarus Uprising
Developer(s) Project Sora
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: 22 March 2012 / NA: 23 March 2012
Genre(s) Third-person shooter

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” With those words Pit jumps on screen with his trusty bow and starts blasting away at Medusa’s Underworld Army. Kid Icarus: Uprising was the first Kid Icarus game released in 25 years, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Masahiro Sakurai, best known for his work on the Super Smash Bros. and Kirby franchises, delivered a gem of a title that’s quirky, silly, and, most importantly, fun.

There’s so much life bursting from the 3DS’ screen when you’re playing Uprising. Pit, Palutena, and the rest of this massive cast are constantly chatting about one thing or another while you fight, with truly hilarious dialogue and occasionally emotional moments. The high speed action can also make you miss out on it, as enemies are always about trashing away at our hero.

Pit is no slouch, however, and he comes prepared with an insane arsenal of customizable weapons that range from massive clubs for melee fighting to long distance staffs. He can use short but powerful claws, versatile blades, and futuristic orbitars as well. In the weapons forgery he can merge different weapons together to create new ones with different special effects, and with a game this tough he’ll need to.

Kid Icarus: Uprising’s control scheme gave some players trouble, but once mastered, using the stylus to both spin the bottom screen and aim becomes second nature. It’s definitely worth taking the time as well, as Pit’s welcome home party is one of the best games Nintendo has released this century. (Tyler Kelbaugh) 

172) Fire Emblem Awakening
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: April 19, 2012 / NA: February 4, 2013
Genre(s) Strategy

Fire Emblem: Awakening could have been the last entry in the Fire Emblem franchise. Intelligent Systems was told that if the game didn’t sell over 250,000 copies, the niche strategy series would have its plug pulled. With that in mind, the team decided to throw every new idea they had out there when developing Awakening, while also paying homage to past entries.

The result was one of the best games ever made, along with over two million copies sold. Fire Emblem: Awakening made smart additions to the tried-and-true formula to make the game appeal to casual and hardcore fans alike. This blend can be seen in all facets, be it story beats, character archetypes, or gameplay mechanics. While retaining series staples like the Weapons Triangle, support conversations, and permadeath, Awakening simplifies things for new players through the addition of casual mode. This mode turns permadeath off, and lets players focus more on the story and character development.

More than any Fire Emblem game before it, Awakening focuses on character development. It brings back Genealogy of the Holy War‘s marriage system, letting players marry their soldiers off to one another, which results in their child joining the army. These bonds between characters and player make each risky maneuver in battle that much more difficult to go through with. However, even this system toed the line between casual and hardcore, as players could marry based on which couples they thought went well together or on how they could maximize the stats of each child character.

After Fire Emblem: Awakening, the series became one of Nintendo’s most prized IPs. Since its release in 2013, the franchise has seen several highly successful releases and spin offs. It’s one of the 3DS’ greatest success stories, as well as one of its very best titles. (Tyler Kelbaugh)

NewLeaf

173) Animal Crossing: A New Leaf
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Isao Moro
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: November 8, 2012 / NA: June 9, 2013
Genre(s) Social simulation

Animal Crossing as a whole is a marvel. A celebration of the mundane, it’s an impossibly gripping, quirky, and quaint franchise in which you move to a new town, expand a house, pay off a mortgage, make friends, make money, and ultimately make merry in a charming beyond reason, microcosmic escapade where all neighbors and natives are animals. Full of life and heart, its easy to get lost in the world of Animal Crossing, a world where every day feels new, that persists on its own, and provides an escape into a second home for the player, where trivial tasks and chores are fun and there’s always something to do. Animal Crossing: New Leaf provides all of this in spades, handily rebottling the lightning of its predecessors, while adeptly earning its subtitle, in particular, the “new” part. New Leaf simultaneously refines enormous quantities of the Animal Crossing experience, making for one of the least obtrusive, thoroughly appealing games of our time, easy to play and impossibly difficult to find fault with. The franchise’s historical hiccups have been halted with New Leaf; fruit can be stacked, fossils can be donated in bulk — almost every minor grievance I can think of has been ironed out and removed. New Leaf is Animal Crossing at its finest, while providing much more of what players love, with more to collect, decorate with, and achieve.

As mentioned, New Leaf earns its adjective. By allowing the player to act as mayor, players can not only inject their personalities into their home and decorations, but can customize the town they inhabit as well. From the town layout, including the location of the player’s home, to town projects and sights, to the implementation of expected establishments like a police station, players can have a hand in it all, giving one more avenue of growth and customization, all while preserving the simplicity and painlessness of play Animal Crossing is known for. The door to customization has been opened wider than ever before, inside and out. The exterior of player’s homes can be altered beyond just paint jobs, and certain interior furniture can be customized and reupholstered by the alpaca Cyrus at the Re-Tail store. There are more furniture sets to collect and clothing to adorn than ever before, including Nintendo items stored within fortune cookies. No house is complete without a Master Sword, Tri Force, and Majora’s Mask. There’s also more to do than ever before, with players now open to go swimming and diving for more species. Perhaps best of all, the world of New Leaf is a semi-shared world in which players can visit the homes of other players thanks to the 3DS’ StreetPass function, and even order evasive catalogue items they see within. The world of Animal Crossing: New Leaf is truly the player’s oyster, with limitless things to do and collect, something new to discover every day, all tailored to the player fulfilling the fun role of mayor. Endlessly entertaining and unbelievably ironed out, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is not only the best Animal Crossing title, its one of Nintendo’s best games plain and simple. (Tim Maison)

174) Bravely Default
Developer(s) Silicon Studio
Publisher(s) Square Enix
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: October 11, 2012
Genre(s) Role-playing

Back in the early days of the 3DS, Square Enix announced a brand new title called Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies, a title that had even the most ardent of JRPG fans scratching their heads. The title was eventually given the slightly less confusing moniker Bravely Default: Flying Fairy and released for the West in 2014. Once in the wild, Bravely Default proved, convoluted title or not, to be a return to form that JRPG fans had been wanting.

Bravely Default takes many cues from classic Final Fantasy games, such as a job system for each character, and a story that heavily revolves around crystals and light vs. dark. The titular Brave and Default system allows players to stock turns in favor of unleashing a flurry of actions in a single phase, allowing for the setup of devastating combos, and combined with the expansive job system, also allows for a flexibility that encourages the player to actively seek ways to break the game with various party set ups and turn combos.

While opinions on the story are highly polarized, it is one that is arguably unique from its JRPG compatriots. The characters are dynamic and likeable, and are crafted in such a meticulous manner you can’t help but cheer them on through all their trials and tribulations. The inspiring soundtrack further emphasizes the feelings of being on a heroic adventure to save the world.

Bravely Default is like coming back to vanilla ice cream after many years of eating anything but. After trying the increasingly complicated flavors on the market, the simplicity of vanilla is refreshing and a solid reminder of why it’s the king of ice cream to begin with. (Matthew Ponthier)

175) New Super Mario Bros. U
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s)) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: NA: November 18, 2012
Genre(s) Platforming

Released as a launch title for the Wii U in late 2012, New Super Mario Bros. U seemed destined to disappoint gamers eagerly awaiting a third entry in the Super Mario Galaxy series. As the fourth New Super Mario Bros. game in six years, and with the least amount of new content, New Super Mario Bros. U has faced an uphill battle to gain the recognition that it rightfully deserves. Shunned by the public and decried by gamers as Nintendo simply cashing in on existing assets, New Super Mario Bros. U is well worth the time and energy it takes to recognize its greatness.

While it may lack originality, New Super Mario Bros. U more than makes up for it by executing what is perhaps Mario’s most tightly constructed 2D platforming adventure yet. Balancing expertly the scales of difficulty and accessibility, the game manages to appeal to newcomers and veterans alike, and the Star Coin challenges are some of the finest in the New Super Mario Bros. series. That, coupled with a truly beautiful HD and sixty fps presentation, cement this as not only the best traditional New Super Mario Bros. game, but also one of the Wii U’s best outings. (Izsak Barnette)

176) Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Developer(s) Next Level Games / Nintendo SPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: March 20, 2013 / NA: March 24, 2013
Genre(s) Adventure, Horror

The main idea that Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon brought to the forefront is the idea that Luigi and other Mario Bros. characters aren’t forgotten. Mario tends to overshadow Luigi quite often, and Luigi is left being the “lesser brother.” Even when Luigi set off on his own adventure in Luigi’s Mansion over a decade ago, he still was defined by Mario, somehow capsulized with an entire button dedicated to calling out Mario’s name.

Dark Moon is important because it shows gamers and Mario Bros. fans that Luigi is an important character on his own. What’s fun about Luigi is not just that he’s important, but that he is distinct. He has a personality and is afraid of ghosts, and in addition to rescuing his brother, he overcomes his own fears. That in itself is the closest Nintendo gets to personal journeys and character arcs.

Dark Moon also contains non traditional gameplay that doesn’t operate like typical Nintendo games. The use of gadgets and tools that are very nontraditional, primarily the use flashlights and vacuums, and they help make this game also extremely replayable. While the first Luigi’s Mansion had you play through the entire game only to grade you (which was frustrating for completionists), Dark Moon is split into much more manageable missions. You get graded for what are more like 10 or 20 minute chunks. It does a really good job of converting a home console experience to a portable system without sacrificing the gameplay that made it fun in the first place. It actually gives the game a bit more focus and momentum than it’s predecessor. Dark Moon is also the closest Nintendo will ever get to making a Resident Evil game.

177) Pikmin 3
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: July 13, 2013 / NA: August 4, 2013
Genre(s) Real-time strategy

Gorgeous greens and subtle blues paint the beautiful world of PNF-404, an emotionally aggravating planet of wondrous wilderness filled with exotic life forms. As an alien that’s exhausted all resources on your home planet, you visit merely to exploit it. The incredibly cute but helplessly naive creatures called Pikmin follow you curiously like you’re their messiah sent from the heavens. They will fight for you, protect you, and sometimes even die for you and your selfish cause. The poignant connection you establish with the Pikmin only make the game more uneasy, as you watch them often be devoured by the predators of the planet. Your march through the luscious forests and the ponderous ponds, in search of the cosmic drive key to send you and a bountiful of fruit back to your home planet, is a treacherous task; you’ll need the Pikmin help to solve the puzzles. The addition of more species of Pikmin, with new abilities such as flight, create much more complicated puzzles than the previous installments. (James Baker)

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178) Shin Megami Tensei IV
Developer(s) Atlus
Publisher(s) Atlus
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: May 23, 2013 / NA: July 16, 2013
Genre(s) Role-playing

Shin Megami Tensei IV brings demon taming on the go in what is without a doubt one of the biggest adventures on the 3DS. ATLUS had been putting spin-off titles and remakes of older MegaTen titles on the DS and 3DS for a while, but SMTIV’s reveal was met with mixed reaction. Having a mainline MegaTen on a portable seems like a cheap cop-out, especially when the last numbered game on the PlayStation 2 still looks pretty good almost a decade and a half later. Platform is not a testament to quality though, and Shin Megami Tensei IV feels perfect on the 3DS.

SMTIV is good 30-40 hour adventure through the hellscape of a demon-ravaged Tokyo. It’s a concept almost every MegaTen game has used, but IV still finds a way to make it feel unique. Past games have had the player in true isolation, with humanity almost completely wiped out, but IV sticks you in a world where humans have found a way to stay alive and struggle. This translates well with the social aspects of the 3DS, and it makes sense that you can bump into other demon tamers and exchange creatures through street pass. Side quests have you exploring alternate plotlines and discovering difficult moral situations. Shin Megami Tensei IV is a wonderful 3DS RPG, and it serves to show exactly what the upcoming MegaTen game on the Switch could potentially deliver. (Taylor Smith)

Wonderful 101

179) The Wonderful 101
Developer(s) PlatinumGames
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: August 24, 2013 / NA: September 15, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Few games symbolize the Wii U experience better than The Wonderful 101. Charming in its joyful exuberance, yet occasionally clunky in execution, this gonzo action-spectacular from Platinum Games tries a bit of everything, assaulting the player with eye-popping sensory overload while experimenting with a variety of gameplay options made possible by the gamepad. Inspired by tokusatsu, the story has players in control of an ever-expanding team of color-coded superheroes known as The Wonderful 100 (guess who the extra hero is), each with a special power that allows them all to unite like Voltron into a larger form, usually a powerful weapon of some sort, and take on the bad guys. When a race of hilariously evil lizard aliens (cheesily named GEATH JERK) attempts to invade Earth, the United Nations secret service, CENTINELS, tasks a mild-mannered school teacher also known as Wonder Red with leading the group in defense of a planet under siege.

The main draw of The Wonderful 101 is the sheer zaniness of it all, with epic battles against armies of giant robots laying waste to isometric cityscapes by blowing up everything they come across in truly spectacular fashion, panicked citizens fleeing like ants in every direction who must be corralled and rescued, and outrageous set piece after outrageous set piece, from leading kids through a train of flaming school buses under attack by a mechanized three-headed dragon, to getting shrunk and going full-on Innerspace before squashing a malicious bug atop a keyboard. It’s as weird to describe as it is to play, but the fun Platinum clearly had making this game is infectious. Heroes and villains are portrayed in such slapstick broadness that even silly stereotypes can elicit a grin, and dialogue is a nice combination of stupid and witty. The action suffers some from awkward symbol drawing that doesn’t work smoothly no matter how one does it, and when the camera switches to the gamepad it’s easy to get lost, but at least The Wonderful 101 tries for something new, even if it doesn’t always succeed with flying superhero colors. With a full complement of characters onscreen, the chaos can sometimes be overwhelming, but those having problems with the sometimes finicky touch controls or Bayonetta-like combos can simply tone down the difficulty level and enjoy the dazzling fireworks show. For fans of B-movie insanity, it’s completely worth it. (Patrick Murphy)

180) Pokemon X & Y
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: WW: October 12, 2013
Genre(s) Role-playing video game

Pokémon X and Y is perhaps one of the most underrated Pokémon titles. Much like Pokémon Gold and Silver, it did much work in balancing out the mechanics in the strategy aspect of the game. The introduction of the Fairy-type really helped weaken the dominance of the Dragon-type, and strengthened the offensive abilities of Steel and Poison types, which are both usually used defensively. This, coupled with the introduction of Mega Evolution, shaped a different kind of competitive Pokémon scene.

The storyline is typical of Pokémon from the last few generations: a gang of misguided thugs want to destroy and create a new world in their own image. While that’s its weakest contribution, Pokémon X and Y introduces some of the best new pokémon designs to the franchise, including some of the mega evolutions. Greninja has become one of the most popular, confirmed by its inclusion in the Super Smash Bros. franchise. Hawlucha is a firm fan favorite, and as for a personal opinion, Goomy is the cutest Dragon-type of all time. Mega evolutions also really help change the dynamics of battle. Suddenly, a Mega-Venusaur with its ability Thick Fat would be able to wipe out Fire-types without too much of a struggle. Mega-Ampharos has the additional Dragon-type added and its strategy changed with it.

Pokémon X and Y was a quiet revolution within the franchise. While the storyline didn’t change and the journey followed the same formula, there were subtle changes brought in that would pave the path to Pokémon Sun and Moon. In effect, X and Y gave Game Freak the confidence to experiment with the formula further, something that the Pokémon franchise had needed for a long time. (James Baker)

181) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: EU: November 22, 2013 / NA: November 22, 2013
Genre(s) Action-adventure

Nintendo has always been skilled at linking to the past while looking to the future, creating a bridge to franchise evolution, and that philosophy has rarely been better realized than with the 3DS’ The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. A sequel of sorts to the seminal SNES classic, this adventure covers basically the same physical ground, but takes much of the established franchise elements of the last 20 years and chucks them out the window. By ditching dungeon rewards and instead allowing players to rent (with the later option to buy) the hookshot, bow, boomerang, three magic rods, and every other weapon or tool usually reserved as a prize, Nintendo was able to concentrate on what the beloved series used to do best: exploration. The freedom to go wherever one wanted in a Zelda game was a concept so old that it was almost novel, and A Link Between Worlds was a breath of fresh air — at least before the next one came along.

Thanks to impeccable puzzle designs, a lively world full of character, and a brilliant mechanic that sees Link turn himself into a 2D painting that can traverse walls in order to solve puzzles and reach new areas, the game still is. A Link Between Worlds invokes nostalgia in order to mess with fans’ minds, using its new gameplay concepts to twist them into thinking outside the box, producing some of the best “aha!” moments in the series. Gorgeous top-down visuals make the old new again, tight controls are ever-so-satisfying, and a clever story plays on expectations, but The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds best lives up to its title by bridging the gap between the comforting formula of days gone by and the promise of exciting things to come for Nintendo’s hallowed franchise. (Patrick Murphy)

Super Mario 3D World182) Super Mario 3D World
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo / 1-UP Studio
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: November 21, 2013 / NA: November 22, 2013
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario 3D World had a lot to live up to at its launch. The previous three 3D Mario titles on N64, GameCube, and Wii had all cleverly innovated on (or in Super Mario 64’s case, even invented) the traditional 3D platformer. As a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Super Mario 3D Land on the Nintendo 3DS, Super Mario 3D World wasn’t the 3D Mario game that gamers expected, but it proved subtly brilliant, providing the Wii U with one of its finest titles in the process.

From the adorable Super Bell, which transforms Mario and Co. into lovable catsuit-wearing adventurers, to the story-book plot involving Bowser kidnapping the Sprixies, every aspect of Super Mario 3D World feels cozy. Expertly designed landscapes beautifully rendered in high definition complement the charm evident from the game’s inception. Such beautiful design, combined with a spectacular jazz-inspired score and excellent controls, cement what is one of the best 3D Mario games to date. (Izsak Barnette)

donkey_kong_country_tropical_freeze_conceptart_jLF12183) Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze
Developer(s) Retro Studios
Monster Games
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: February 14, 2014 / NA: February 21, 2014
Genre(s) Platforming

Good things do come in big packages. The trick for any game developer is to find the small game within the big one, which is exactly what Retro Studios did with Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. Tropical Freeze is the fifth Donkey Kong Country sidescroller, the second made by Nintendo’s Austin, Texas-based studio, and some would argue the best of the bunch. The game doesn’t deviate much from the established formula, but Retro Studios has done more with this latest DKC than a simple change of scenery. The most striking improvement is that Donkey Kong is in HD for the very first time, and he looks great. But don’t be fooled by its beauty; Tropical Freeze is a tough platformer, seemingly designed to frustrate even the most gifted gamers. Here is a game made with wit and excitement, boasting plenty of moments of visionary beauty, but also a game that will drive you mad. I lost count keeping track of the number of times I died while playing, but it was all worth it.

Tropical Freeze‘s six islands contain some tense challenges and lots of unique level ideas. Each level delivers a sense of scale that feels bigger than most two-dimensional games, and the constant switches and level variety keeps it fresh and interesting throughout. Tropical Freeze is full of astonishment, thrills, chills, spills, kills, and ills. The lengthy boss fights and the multitude of well-placed secrets and collectibles stand out as some of the best parts of the game, and like many Wii U titles, Freeze also features a couch multiplayer mode where player two can choose between Diddy, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong. Meanwhile, original series composer David Wise returned to create one of the best video game soundtracks of this generation. Brawling, magnificent, heroic: that’s Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. (Ricky D)

184) Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Developer(s) Level-5
Publisher(s) JP: Level-5
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: February 28, 2013 / NA: February 28, 2014
Genre(s) Puzzle, Adventure

Given that Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy was the sixth and final installment of this wonderfully unique series, you’d be forgiven for supposing developer Level-5 would have run out of ideas by the time The Azran Legacy released in early 2013. However, while it’s true it wasn’t quite as challenging as some of its predecessors, The Azran Legacy nevertheless marks the high point of the amiable archaeologist’s string of whimsical, puzzle-fuelled adventures. The story is more compelling than ever, with a mysterious ancient civilisation, a cast of quirky yet endearing characters, an all-powerful crime syndicate, and the threat of humanity’s imminent destruction providing a level of intrigue never before seen in a Professor Layton game. And it’s this, combined with an utterly gorgeous cel-shaded art style that’s every bit as beautiful as a Studio Ghibli film, as well as a handful of quality of life enhancements, that makes The Azran Legacy such a joy to play.
Indeed, as much as I love Pandora’s Box and The Spectre’s Call, The Azran Legacy exemplifies everything that’s brilliant about the Professor Layton series. (John Websell)

185) Mario Kart 8
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Release: NA: May 30, 2014
Genre(s) Kart racing

Despite being an old dog with few new tricks, the Mario Kart formula is inherently fun, still consistently entertaining after all these years, and while Mario Kart 8 doesn’t try to shake anything up too much, it refines those elements to create one of the best entries the franchise has to offer. Building upon successful elements of its predecessors, Mario Kart 8 delivers a slew of fantastic courses — half new and half remastered from previous titles, each designed to perfection and shown off via some of the most beautiful visuals to be found on the Wii U, or anywhere else. Thanks to a seemingly endless amount of customization available for karts, power sliding through the deliciously caked roads of Sweet Sweet Canyon or across the neon keys of the Electrodrome feels as smooth as silk, and new anti-gravity boosts help turn an otherwise fairly superficial addition into something strategic.

Any tactical advantage will be necessary when going head to head with the top drivers in Mario Kart 8‘s robust online community, even with the sometimes crazy nature of lead changes the series is known for. Luckily, a local friend can be brought along to help (or fire a red shell into your back), extending the options for couch co-op and highlighting even more what makes Mario Kart so special: local multiplayer. Using lightning to shrink up to three of your pals, then mercilessly running them over and seeing their obscenity-laced reactions because they’re actually in the same room doesn’t get any better. This party aspect remains a huge part of why the franchise has had such lasting appeal after seven sequels, and the near-flawless experience provided here surely guarantees that streak will continue. Gorgeous, precise, maddening, joyous, with one of the catchiest soundtracks around and incredible DLC, it’s no wonder that Mario Kart 8 is one of the best games on the Wii U. (Patrick Murphy)

SuperSmashBros5186) Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Developer(s) Bandai Namco Games / Sora Ltd.
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS, Wii U
Release: JP: September 13, 2014 / NA: October 3, 2014
Genre(s) Fighting

Masahiro Sakurai really outdid himself with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, giving fans of the series just about everything they could want and more. It’d be easy to criticize the Super Smash Bros. series for having changed so little since its debut three console generations ago, but putting aside the problematic online mode, Smash delivers more fighters, more stages, more songs, more moves, more modes, more everything! There is a laundry list of things to love about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and topping the list is the game’s confidence, which allows it to cater to anyone who might be interested in duking it out with Nintendo’s beloved character roster. This version is perfect for beginners and experts alike, and features a lineup of more than 50 mascots from Nintendo, Sega, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Square-Enix, and more.

Just as impressive as the character roster is the arena line-up, with over 50 beautifully crafted stages (counting DLC) from which to choose. These stages provide the perfect battling ground, and in some cases, the arena will fight back. Smash Wii U is the great equalizer of games — one that embraces the series’ hyper-competitive side, all the while still managing to deliver one of the most enjoyable party games in years. It’s a bottomless toy box, never getting old, and much like the very best Wii U games, Smash is the best game to play with family and friends. And this time around, you can play with up to eight players. What more can you ask for? (Ricky D)

Bayonetta3

187) Bayonetta 2
Developer(s) PlatinumGames
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Yusuke Hashimoto
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: September 20, 2014 / NA: October 24, 2014
Genre(s) Action, Hack ‘n’ slash

One of the most un-Nintendo games to be published by Nintendo also just happens to be one of the best. Platinum’s Bayonetta 2 came to the Wii U with both boot-guns ablaze, showing the family-friendly console how to let its hair down and have a sexy good time, in the process improving on nearly every aspect of the original (which was included as a bonus in 1st edition physical copies). Taking on the cherub-faced archangels of heaven and the twisted demons of hell never looked or felt so good, and though the story is full of just as much intelligible nonsense as the warrior witch’s first go-around, there’s a certain charm in the supremely confident, wink-wink attitude in which Bayonetta struts through the ridiculousness. She may have a new haircut, some gruesome new Torture Attacks, and the ecstasy of the Umbran Climax, but that same rebellious spirit and penchant for wanton destruction remain.

Bayonetta 2 feels like a fireworks grand finale from start to finish, a gleeful celebration of bonkers action and cheeseball dialogue. Razor-sharp gameplay finishes it off, allowing both skilled veterans and first-timers alike to derive as much pleasure from the combat system as they’d like. If you’re looking for an action-spectacular full of insane battles atop speeding jet fighters, panther-surfing through a tidal wave, demigods duking it out like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, peppered with chuckle-worthy double entendres throughout, Bayonetta 2 cannot be missed. One of the best titles on Wii U, and on any Nintendo console, period. (Patrick Murphy)

188) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release:  JP: November 13, 2014
Genre(s) Puzzle

It speaks to the quality of Super Mario 3D World that a series of puzzles within the game would be brilliant enough to deserve their own standalone title. Far from something that could’ve been DLC, however, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker completely overhauled the concepts found in 3D World to form its own fully realized puzzle experience.

What most noticeably separates Treasure Tracker from any of the mainline Mario games is the Captain’s inability to jump. This limitation manages to give birth to some truly creative and varied level design. Be it having to time movements to musical cues or needing to have a perfect run across crumbling platforms while avoiding enemies, Treasure Tracker manages to keep players on their toes across the entirety of its 70 or so puzzles. Nintendo also smartly implemented its difficulty scaling measures from the 3D Mario games, making each level simple enough for a beginner to beat, while providing a serious challenge for more seasoned gamers via hidden collectibles.

Perhaps even more than the smart puzzle solving gameplay and impressive level design, Treasure Tracker oozes polish and charm. The game’s visuals continue to rival some of Nintendo’s current offerings, and the character animations are so well done that one can’t help but fall in love with Captain Toad and Toadette. If you enjoy a smart puzzler with cute characters and plenty of content, you owe it to yourself to try this gem of a title. (Brent Middleton)

Splatoonfggdfdsdf189) Splatoon
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: 28 May 2015
Genre(s) Third-person shooter

An untraditional console needs an untraditional standard-bearer, and so Splatoon just may end up being the game that most defines the Wii U. Instead of racking up kills, the goal of regular battles is to cover as much of the area in your team’s ink as possible, while preventing the opposing side from doing the same. Leave it to Nintendo to create not only an online multiplayer shooter where aiming your gun at another player isn’t the way to win, but also generating some refreshing inclusiveness in a genre noted for being harsh on newcomers. Part of this brilliance lies in the game’s accessibility: though some players may not have the precision sniping skills to pick off their half-squid/half-human mutant opponents one by one, reveling in the gurgling death throes, anyone can pick up a paint roller and cover the ground in inky goodness. This doesn’t mean that smart tactics and expertise aren’t rewarded, but instead that no one is useless, coldly abandoned by their mates to simply become stats for the enemy. Technique still reigns supreme on the battlefield, but at least rookies aren’t simply relegated to cannon fodder. Quick matches also keep things moving along, ensuring that those getting painted into a corner won’t have to endure the punishment for long, and a wealth of other modes cater to all skill levels and play types. Anyone can have fun making a glorious mess in Splatoon, and this philosophy is a huge part of what makes it so special.

The rest of the credit goes to some of the most satisfying gameplay found this side of a Mario game. Rarely does the simple act of controlling a game’s avatar feel this good, but the intuitive controls in Splatoon entice players to keep running, jumping, and swimming through globby battle after globby battle long after bedtime. The ability to dive into the murky splatter to cruise underneath fences and up walls, creating one’s own path with nothing more than the standard ammunition, opens up arenas to all sorts of approaches, providing big payoffs to those who ink outside the box. This freedom of movement, coupled with the multiple weapon types with strengths and weaknesses that all feel distinct, leads to a sense of gleeful liberation, turning matches into less a predatory competition than delightful chaos, where surprises lurk under the surface and the restricting rules of “hardcore” gaming are thrown out the window in favor of utter enjoyment. In the end, Splatoon is destined to be looked upon as the hallowed beginning of a (non) killer franchise, an experience that ranks among the best on the Wii U. (Patrick Murphy)

190) Fire Emblem Fates
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo SPD
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: June 25, 2015
Genre(s) Strategy

The brutality to the battlefield returns, and the side you choose determines your fate. Your soldiers are ready, your swords sharpened, and your arrows are plenty. All that awaits is the decision of defense or conquest. Whatever you decide, the kingdoms of Hoshido and Nohr will change forever. Fire Emblem: Fates brings some of the most compelling stories to the franchise, boasting three different games with three different scenarios. Birthright is seen as the best of the three for a beginner, with a much easier playthrough. Conquest is the most challenging, and the DLC Revelations lies somewhere in between.

The complex moralities surrounding the three games leave you with more questions than answers, participant in a tale of clashing bloodlines where the uncomfortable middle is your unfortunate situation. Conquest remains the better of the three games, with its darker shade of gray tone that uncomfortably leads you to follow the bloodthirsty King Garon, whose missions seem to punish rather than test you.

The turn-based style of battle remains its biggest strength. The game of chess absorbs you into a perfectionist’s nightmare, with one wrong move able to cost you the entire battle. This endearing style of strategy game has kept Fire Emblem alive and well for over three decades, and the intricacy of the battle leaves a devastating beauty to each critical moment. There’s no right or wrong adventure; each journey will leave you wanting more. (James Baker)

Super Mario Maker 2191) Super Mario Maker
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Release: JP: September 10, 2015 / NA: September 11, 2015
Genre(s) Platforming

As the name might suggest, Super Mario Maker allows players to make their own Super Mario Bros. levels — specifically, levels that fit within the aesthetics of four games in the series: Super Mario Bros.Super Mario Bros. 3Super Mario Worldand the recent New Super Mario Bros. U. Creating levels can be a daunting task, but what helps Super Mario Maker stand apart from other games like LittleBigPlanet is how easy it really is. Super Mario Maker keeps things simple by removing complicated elements like logic programming, and features an incredibly accessible level construction kit that anyone can easily enjoy.

The well-designed interface makes learning easy, and once you are finished, you can share your creations online with a passionate community of fans from around the world. And that is what makes Super Mario Maker so great — the play hub, where you can simply enjoy Mario Maker levels made by other people. With such an active and passionate community, Super Mario Maker has provided Wii U owners with countless hours of gaming. Whether creating, exploring, watching others play and create, or just playing other people’s levels, Mario Maker has provided us with an exceptional experience, all while offering insight into three decades of platforming brilliance. (Ricky D)

192) Xenoblade Chronicles X
Developer(s) Monolith Soft
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: April 29, 2015 / NA: December 4, 2015
Genre(s) Role-playing

Arriving some years after the acclaimed Xenoblade ChroniclesXenoblade Chronicles X sees Monolith Soft throwing a curveball, combining the fantasy lore of its predecessor with a slick science fiction narrative that puts lasers and giant robots in the spotlight. Whilst many disapprove of such a direction, those that are on board with the alteration in formula can discover an expansive world that is begging to be explored, overflowing to the brim with an eclectic variety of creatures and environments. The addictively satisfying combat of Xenoblade Chronicles makes a much welcome return, alongside the brand new addition of Skells, ginormous mecha that can be piloted by your team of characters.

Being useful for fast paced exploration (including vertical traversal that is otherwise impossible on foot) of the aforementioned expansive world, alongside launching preposterously powerful attacks upon your opponents, the fully customisable Skells transform Xenoblade Chronicles X, an already enjoyable experience, into a truly wonderful one. Whilst it may stumble along the way due to its mediocre narrative, an overabundance of forgettable side quests, and various technical issues, Xenoblade Chronicles X scores top marks in the categories of ambition, creativity, and playtime (sinking one hundred hours into its wealth of activities is a breeze). (Harry Morris)

193) Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Developer(s) Atlus
Platform(s) Wii U
Release: JP: December 26, 2015 / NA/EU: June 24, 2016
Genre(s) Role-playing

What makes Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE so special is the fact that it merges two of Japan’s biggest RPG franchises, Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei. Both series have had success on Nintendo consoles, and watching them come together masterfully in one game is something truly special.

The story of Tokyo Mirage Sessions is at its core very reminiscent of previous Atlus titles, with a focus on teens, relationships, and otherworldly monsters and demons.  However, Fire Emblem‘s hand in the narrative is never put in second place, as both franchises share the spotlight. Fan favorites like Chrom and Tharja make appearances as the protagonists summon (or as they’re called in the game, mirages). These mirages help develop the plot as well as provide an interesting dynamic in combat. What’s more, the game’s focus on pop stars and the entertainment industry means that every attack is attached to some dance move or musical note. This creates a vibrant, exciting, and engaging battle system that is both unfamiliar and oddly reminiscent of previous Atlus RPGs.

As with the Fire Emblem franchise, crafting and acquiring new gear both play pivotal roles in progressing through Tokyo Mirage Sessions. This also allows the player to tailor their team’s combat skills to their liking. Every member of the player’s party fights differently, but by utilizing newfound gear and abilities, the characters can play off each others’ strengths and weaknesses. As with most Japanese RPGs, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE takes a decent amount of time to get into, but the slog through the first few hours is well worth what comes after. With a diverse cast of characters and the intriguing backdrop of the Japanese entertainment industry, it’s hard for Mirage Sessions to disappoint. (Carston Carasella)

194) Pokemon Sun and Moon
Developer(s) Game Freak
Publisher(s) The Pokémon Company
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release: November 18, 2016
Genre(s) Role-playing

The formula for every Pokémon game before had been the same. Ten-year-old kid goes to the professor to get his/her first pokémon, challenges eight gyms, defeats an evil gang and then becomes league champion. The latest generation, Pokémon Sun and Moon, was the first to deviate from the traditional narrative and became a successful experiment within the franchise.

This time, Pokémon introduced trials whereby the player has to defeat a totem pokémon to earn a z-crystal. The trials were actually much more challenging than the gyms – other than Whitney – in the last Pokémon games. The difference was Pokémon Sun and Moon introduced the ability for wild pokémon to call for help. Totem pokémon count as wild pokémon, just the player is unable to catch them. This meant on the second turn, the totem pokémon would call for help and would often capture the attention of a pokémon that can really assist its strengths. This put strategy at the heart of the storyline for the first time, where sweeping gyms with an over-powered Blastoise wouldn’t cut it.

The z-crystals had an actual use other than entry to the Pokémon League, initiating a powerful move that could be used once per battle. This essentially replaced Mega Evolution from Pokémon X and Y as the gimmick of the generation, a gimmick that was admittedly a bit of a novelty and didn’t have the same strategic effect as Mega Evolution did. The other change was the introduction of Ultra Beasts, pokémon from another dimension. The added to the complexity of the Pokémon World as a whole, setting the scene for endless creativity in the next generation. Pokémon Sun and Moon won’t be the most iconic Pokémon title, but it was the most ambitious at changing the routine. (James Baker)

195) Fire Emblem Heroes
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD, Intelligent Systems
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) iOS, Android
Release: February 2, 2017
Genre(s) Strategy

While Pokémon Go wasn’t strictly a Nintendo game, and so couldn’t be included on the list, it seemed to inspire Nintendo to enter the mobile market. First came Super Mario Run, which was a steady start to their mobile ambition, but then came Fire Emblem Heroes, and it leapt Nintendo into new territory entirely.

In reality, Fire Emblem Heroes simplified the franchise to make it available for everyone, which (to be honest) was the perfect strategy for a mobile game. Introducing the basic Fire Emblem mechanics to a wider audience helped draw new people to one of Nintendo’s less well known franchises.

Fire Emblem Heroes works on a ‘gacha’ system; essentially obtaining a new hero is determined by a vending machine, meaning what hero you get is completely luck based. The player earns orbs, which can be spent on the random generating of a new hero, each with a different skill and leveland therefore varying degrees of usefulness. In many ways this a typical mobile game with its addictive nature, keeping the player gambling on obtaining a useful hero; however, this is not Fire Emblem Heroes’ legacy. Its legacy is the newfound popularity of the Fire Emblem franchise, introducing a world of new people to its rock-paper-scissors style strategy. Fire Emblem Heroes is just a spectacular start into Nintendo’s mobile ambitions. (James Baker)

bOTW

196) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch, Wii U
Release: WW: March 3, 2017
Genre(s) Action-adventure

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in open-world design, and with its release comes a true watershed moment in gaming history. The result is nothing less than magical. It artfully blends the best bits of the franchise’s thirty-plus year history and produces a sandbox so full of mystery and so full of adventure, it could take you well over 100 hours to uncover most of its secrets. What we have here is the most ambitious title in the history of the franchise, an epic journey that quivers with anticipation, wonder, surprise and excitement. It never gets old. It never gets tiring. There’s not a minute that goes by in which you’ll want to put down the controller, because Breath of the Wild keeps players constantly curious and fascinated by the world around them. There’s truly something unusually haunting and engrossing about the game, and whatever your opinion on the Nintendo Switch, Breath of the Wild is arguably one of the greatest games ever made.

Since its arrival in 1986, the Zelda series has always pushed the technical boundaries of whatever console it has graced, and Breath of the Wild continues this tradition (times two). Epic, mythic, and simply terrific, Breath of the Wild brings a new kind of experience to fans across the globe. In return, it demands your attention. It’s a landmark in video games such that labeling it a masterpiece almost seems inevitable. In the end, however, most of what makes Breath of the Wild so beloved is Nintendo’s determination to constantly challenge themselves while crafting an unforgettable experience that also doubles as a commentary on the freedom of playing on the Switch. That a game of this magnitude can be playable anywhere you go is a remarkable feat. (Ricky D)

197) Splatoon 2
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch
Release: July 21, 2017
Genre(s) Third-person shooter

The first Splatoon gave us a new way to play multiplayer shooters, a genre that sometimes feels stale. Two years later, Splatoon 2 doesn’t revitalize shooters all over again, but instead refines Nintendo’s unusual, brilliant take. Splatoon 2 carries with it the brightly inked world design and amazingly fluid mechanics of the first game. Nintendo could have simply ported the original game to the Switch, but they decided to build upon that for the game’s release on the Switch. What the first Splatoon did so well is still built into the sequel’s mechanics and gameplay, but now the game is wholly available on a system that you can play on the couch or on the go, which is a great way to play Splatoon.

It’s baffling that Splatoon 2‘s best feature is held back by a frustrating lack of proper online support, and in many ways it’s the same game with some new tricks, but there are still enough imaginative additions for anyone who played the first game to death. Another reason the game still continuously feels fresh is the added additions by Nintendo that are growing more substantial in each update. It may be much more of the same, but Splatoon 2 is wholly addicting, fun, and still fresh. (Katrina Lind)

198) Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Developer(s) Ubisoft Paris / Ubisoft Milan
Publisher(s) Ubisoft
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch
Release: 29 August 2017
Genre(s) Turn-based tactics

Mario has been relying on his feet for decades, and the precision gameplay behind the high-jumping, goomba-stomping action rarely disappoints. However, for the Switch Ubisoft had a different idea (so different that it was initially met with a chorus of internet boos), and instead decided to give Mario’s dogs a rest while putting the power in his hands — and players’ minds. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle might go against the grain a bit for those who never imagined concocting a strategy for anything outside of tricky platforming, or that their favorite former plumber would wield a firearm, but somehow it came together and worked beautifully. The X-COM gameplay translates amazingly well to the Mushroom Kingdom’s core characters, where Mario, Luigi, Peach must team with Rabbid lookalikes and a talking Roomba named Beep-O in order to stop a maniac bunny that can’t control his VR goggles. Or something. Like with the best Mario games, plot doesn’t matter that much; gameplay is where it counts, and Mario + Rabbids does not disappoint.

Once the oddity of not directly controlling Mario wears off, players are treated to a surprisingly deep and engaging level of turn-based strategy, as well as a variety of maps and enemies that constantly challenge one to rethink tactics from battle to battle. Those new to the genre might feel a bit intimidated at first, but like a typical Nintendo game, the difficulty is paced to perfection, never suffering from intense rises or falls, all the way through to the end. In fact, Ubisoft has done an incredible impersonation of Mario’s makers, nailing the colorful look and feel of the franchise so well that those unaware of the game’s actual developers could easily be fooled. A lot of love was put into Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and the results amount to one of the best “Nintendo” games not made by Nintendo — ever. (Patrick Murphy)

199) Metroid: Samus Returns
Developer(s) MercurySteam / Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo 3DS
Release 15 September 2017
Genre(s) Action-adventure

After years of waiting with baited breath for a new Metroid game, fans were finally met with Metroid: Samus Returns earlier this year, and while calling the game entirely “new” might be a bit of a stretch, Nintendo and Mercury Steam have done enough new things with Samus Returns to justify its existence. As a remake of the Game Boy game, Metroid: Return of Samus, Samus Returns has seen a huge and favorable upgrade in the looks department first and foremost.

Another new addition comes in the fast and frenetic combat which the game boasts, thanks to it’s new counter attack system. Though the mechanic feels a bit over-used toward the beginning of the adventure, the gameplay grows more and more balanced as Samus Returns marches onward to the extinction of metroid-kind. Though it takes some effort to adjust to this new playstyle, by the time your super-powered Samus is approaching the end game, you’ll be right at home with this latest iteration of Metroid, and truly sad to see those credits roll.

With a few new surprises for even series veterans who have played the original and the unsanctioned AM2R remake last year, Samus Returns is one more reason to hold onto Nintendo’s fledgling handheld, and its success may even lead to a remake of another classic Metroid title if fans are lucky. (Mike Worby)

Super-Mario-Odyssey-Hats200) Super Mario Odyssey
Developer(s) Nintendo EPD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Nintendo Switch
Release: October 27, 2017
Genre(s) Platforming

Super Mario Odyssey is arguably the most important Super Mario game since Super Mario 64 launched on the N64. I personally may not like it more than the incredible 3D World released on the Wii U, but Odyssey is guaranteed to help Nintendo sell even more Switch consoles over the next six months, while simultaneously reinventing the series for a whole new generation.

What makes Odyssey special is that it isn’t so much a sandbox game as it is a toy box. When it came to creating Odyssey, instead of making a vast open world, the creators decided to make the levels in Odyssey smaller but packed them with as many characters, puzzles, hidden secrets, call-backs and various obstacles for you to discover. The whole game is basically structured like a giant playground and the more time you spend messing around, the more likely you’ll be rewarded for it. Not since Super Mario 64 has a Mario platformer placed such a heavy emphasis on exploration, and boy is it ever fun running around these breathtakingly gorgeous, intricately designed levels that are oozing with style. Odyssey encourages players to explore every nook and cranny, and it helps that Mario now has Cappy to use as a standard throw attack. That possession power, embodied by Mario’s new sidekick is what makes Odyssey stand out from every other entry in the series. It’s a brilliant idea that allows for dozens of additional playable characters, all with different powers, abilities, and ways of getting around. Professionally, Mario has always worn many hats but in this game, he’s anything and everything he wants to be.

For every new idea Odyssey throws at you, this is also a game filled with nostalgia and it’s worth noting just how many amazing references there are, both big and small, to the series’ past. You’ll encounter familiar characters, challenges, music cues and more from past games, and there are even moments when Mario even transforms back into his 8-bit self! These 2D segments where Mario enters a warp pipe and is transported to a world that precisely recreates the 8-bit Super Mario Bros’ mechanics and visual style may be the game’s biggest surprise and sometimes, it offers the hardest challenges. And for those of you who have finished the game, I’m sure you’ll agree that the New Donk City music festival, which recreates the stages from the original Donkey Kong, might be the biggest gaming highlight of the year.

The finale is a brilliantly executed sequence as well, letting Mario hop inside Bowser’s mind and body and rampage through a dying moon. That particular turn of events feels poetic and an ingenious way to celebrate one of the longest running franchises in gaming. It’s also a testament to the sheer creativity underlying Odyssey that, even after watching the credits roll, there’s so much left to discover. They say it’s all about the journey and not about the ending, but with Odyssey, the journey continues on. (Ricky D)

****

And in terms of the ranking, below are the top 20 games as voted by our staff. It is also worth mentioning that Ocarina of Time took first place by only one point.

  1. Ocarina of Time
  2. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  3. Super Mario Bros. 3
  4. Super Mario World
  5. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  6. Metroid Prime
  7. Resident Evil 4
  8. Majora’s Mask
  9. Super Mario 64
  10. Super Metroid
  11. Super Mario Galaxy
  12. Chrono Trigger
  13. Super Mario Odyssey
  14. Pokemon Gold and Silver
  15. Super Smash Bros. Melee
  16. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  17. Mario Kart 8
  18. Super Mario Bros.
  19. Tetris
  20. Pokemon Red and Blue

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE | PART SIX | PART SEVEN

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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From ‘dnd’ to ‘Death Stranding’: Good Old Fashioned Boss Fights

If Death Stranding proves anything, and it does, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.

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Death Stranding Higgs Boss Fights

There’s nothing quite like a good boss fight. With the creation of dnd in 1975– a Dungeons & Dragons inspired RPG for the PLATO system– video games would be introduced to bosses. It’s hard to imagine the medium without bosses, those perpetual protectors of progress. For dnd, an incredibly primitive RPG, a boss allowed the game to feature these miniature climaxes — memorable events independent of the core gameplay loop. Bosses demand players pay attention or die, and beating one is a triumph in and of itself. Looking back, dnd’s concept of what a boss is amounts to little more than the average random battle, but video games could now build towards emotional highs like any other medium. 

A good boss can make or break a game, but they’re almost always a given. dnd essentially set an inherent basic of game design: video games have bosses. As the seventh generation of gaming ushered in more narrative driven and “cinematic” titles, however, boss design fundamentally changed. Where bosses had evolved from dnd to often serve as explicit rewards or a means to thoughtfully challenge a player’s grasp of the core mechanics, developers started to primarily embrace the “spectacle” of fighting a boss. 

Spectacle and boss fights naturally go hand in hand, though. After all, a boss is spectacle in nature. dnd’s spectacle is comparatively primitive, but it’s there and bosses do feel like events. Boss fights have always demanded our attention as an audience, isolating the world of a game into a singular objective. Some of the best bosses in gaming are almost pure spectacle: Baby Bowser in Yoshi’s Island, Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, and Metal Gear REX in Metal Gear Solid. None of these bosses are particularly hard, but they make up for their lack of challenge with scale, scope, and gravitas. Spectacle. 

At the same time, they engage with the mechanics of the game even if they don’t outright challenge them. Of course, it would be disingenuous to go on without mentioning that all of these bosses appear near the end of their respective games. They’re easier and focus on spectacle as a means of rewarding the audience for coming so far. Anyone who’s played A Link to the Past in full will likely remember Moldorm as vividly as Ganon, but it’s the latter who fans will remember. Ganon is a spectacular duel to the death inside of a pyramid where the environment changes over the course of the fight. The former is just a good old fashioned boss fight. Who wants that?

As it turns out, a good chunk of AAA developers. BioWare director Casey Hudson infamously spoke out about boss fights after the release of Mass Effect 3, criticizing them for being “too video gamey.” While, contextually, Hudson’s comment refers to narratively convenient bosses specifically, it’s a sentiment that clearly rang true with developers throughout the late oughts & teens. This isn’t to say games with amazing bosses didn’t release over the course of the decade -– very far from it -– but boss design has changed, to the point where the Iggy Koopas and Revolver Ocelots of the world seem almost out of place. 

That’s just a consequence of consuming only AAA content, though. The indie scene has been thriving, and Japanese game development is the best it’s been in quite a while. In a generation where gaming is more mature and grounded than it’s ever been, the medium needed to end the decade with a reminder of video games in their purest form. Death Stranding is anything but, but its core philosophies play to the strengths of the medium with an evident passion. Death Stranding demands that audiences slow down and play by the game’s rules. 

In a generation where holding a player’s hand is the norm, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s not only appropriately old-school, it’s a step back in the right direction. Like any facet of game design, bosses need to be thoughtfully considered. Being “too video gamey” can indeed be a bad thing depending on a titles tone, but swinging in the wrong direction and playing it too safe is never a good idea. Especially since Death Stranding proves mature, grounded AAA titles can absolutely still have the same over the top, pattern-based boss fights of yore — and comfortably, at that. 

“No BTs. No Voidouts. No bullshit. Just a good-old fashioned boss fight.”
– Higgs, Death Stranding (2019)

What’s interesting to note about Death Stranding’s boss fights is that they all play up the spectacle. Now, given the context that’s been established, that might seem like a step in the wrong direction, but any medium has to evolve with time. AAA developers haven’t historically used spectacle well, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Not every boss should be Ganon, but they should always be memorable. The problem with modern spectacle is that it doesn’t go beyond the surface level. It often carries little to no weight or context. Players are expected to care for the spectacle of the spectacle, but that’s simply not where the medium shines. Games are inherently about interconnectivity, and nothing demands more interconnection than a boss fight. 

From the moment players formally meet Higgs and he floods Port Knot City, it’s clear that Death Stranding’s boss fights are more Snake Eater than they are Peace Walker. They’re all incredibly meaty with tons of health, typical of a modern Hideo Kojima boss, but they’re not bullet sponges, and Sam’s limited inventory means that players will constantly be cycling through different weapons over the course of a fight. Couple this with bosses having identifiable patterns and Death Stranding’s boss loops end up being real highlights. 

As expected of a first boss, the Squid BT is on the simple side. At this point in the game, Sam really only has hematic grenades to fight back with. Anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn how to use the grenades are now forced to do so as it becomes the only means of making progress. Since Higgs also ambushes Sam, players won’t be prepared for a fight on their first playthrough, forced to scavenge the flooded environment for gear. Most bosses strip Sam of his gear, but this approach only results in tense, well crafted battles that offer plenty of variety. Should Sam already have grenades on him, players can rush in to fight the Squid. Should they not, however, they’re going to have to search while staying alive. 

Starting with the next boss, the first fight against Cliff, Death Stranding begins allowing players to choose exactly how they approach a fight. Much like in Metal Gear, there’s no right or wrong way to tackle a boss. Where bosses in MGS2 onwards could be tackled lethally or non-lethally, Death Stranding’s bosses are more about action versus stealth. Both approaches are totally viable, and they lead into their own isolated boss loops. As Cliff Unger hunts Sam through World War I era trenches, players can stealth their way around him or just dive in guns blazing. 

It’s an incredibly tense battle, but it doesn’t let the spectacle of the situation outdo the actual fight. Cliff isn’t a set piece even if he looks it. He’s a genuine boss and players have to play well to beat him. Stealthing around to hit him from behind is safer, but it means players will be fighting Cliff for much longer, requiring more mental stamina. On the flip side, cutting to the chase and unloading the moment he rears his head will end the fight sooner, but only for players who know how to get in & out of combat fast. Otherwise, Cliff’s personal army will slaughter Sam. 

Cliff is fought twice more over the course of Death Stranding, and each encounter builds off the last. The World War I trenches provided plenty of cover for players regardless of which approach they chose, so naturally the second fight takes place in a World War II city. There’s still plenty of hiding spots, but Sam is now out in the open. Just as easily as Sam can see Cliff, so can he be seen. Getting to Cliff is harder in general. Stealthing towards him means taking advantage of any and all blind spots, no matter how brief. Starting a gunfight either requires some pre-established course of action or quick reflexes. 

Death Stranding

By the third and final fight, Sam is taking on Cliff in an open Vietnamese jungle. Stealthing through and fighting back are both harder, but players will have built up the proper skills over their past two fights to adequately stand a chance. The fights against Cliff are the most video gamey Death Stranding ever gets, with each one sharing the same definable patterns, but they’re ultimately a net positive for the game. Having to learn a pattern, finding a way to fight back, and reveling in the scope of a great boss fight makes Death Stranding better on a whole. 

Honestly, the final fight against Cliff isn’t going to be a challenge for most players, but it’ll still stand out as a highlight. Each boss fight is a playground in and of itself. If Sam’s not being transported to a secluded battlefield, areas will be flooded with tar so that they can be molded into proper boss arenas. Even Dark Souls, a modern series that rightfully prides itself on its bosses, often won’t give the same level of care toward boss arenas. Good bosses need good level design just as much as they need good patterns. 

Perhaps more important than anything else, Death Stranding’s boss fights are long. Even if players know what they’re doing, they still have to endure an endurance match of sorts. Boss fights aren’t just about overcoming a challenge, they’re about surviving and making progress. Cliff’s not particularly difficult, but one mistake can result in Sam getting torn into. The majority of BT boss fights will try to overwhelm the player in the second half, the final one even featuring a nasty one-hit-kill that can easily sneak up on players wading through tar. Bosses should feel like events, from how players can engage mechanically, to how they’re presented narratively. 

No discussion of Death Stranding’s good old fashioned boss fights would be complete without mentioning the boss fight: Higgs. After serving as the game’s main villain for dozens upon dozens of hours, Sam finally gets his chance to fight back in a three phase boss fight that could have (very) prematurely ended the game on a high. Unlike the fights against Cliff, Sam really does have nothinghere, no matter what. He’s stripped of his gear, his weapons, and even BB. “Stick versus rope. Gun versus strand.” It’s a great way not only to wrap up Higgs’ arc, but it also challenges a player’s mastery of the most basic mechanics. 

Death Stranding

Phase 1 of the fight requires players understand not only Sam’s hand to hand combat capabilities, but his ability to throw packages. Throw a package at Higgs, beat him up, rinse, repeat. All the while he’s hunting Sam in one of the most constricted boss arenas in the game. Popping up too early means taking a few shots courtesy of Higgs. Popping up too late means needing to find him all over again. 

Phase 2 puts Sam on the offensive, and expects players to fight back with his strand. Higgs needs to be countered, hog-tied, and then kicked into oblivion. On-screen button prompts make the ordeal easier than it would otherwise be, but it’s thrilling to fight a boss who requires players to pull off reflex-based inputs that go beyond the typical QTE flare. Players need to set themselves up accordingly to counter Higgs, actively taking him head on. 

By the time fighting game health bars pop up for the third phase, it’s fairly obvious Higgs’ boss fight is a love letter to the very concept of the boss fight. It’s over the top, almost nonsensical, but it has the right narrative and emotional context to stand out as one of the best moments in an already spectacular game. The fight against Higgs is a miniature climax in a massive story that spans half a hundred hours, and is about to keep on keeping on for half a dozen more. 

Death Stranding

When it really comes down to it, there’s no right or wrong way to conceive a boss fight. Those spectacle bosses have their place, and this generation has seen a lot of amazing ones. What’s important is that developers build and contextualize spectacle accordingly. Boss fights aren’t just an inherent part of gaming, they’re a tool that can make a title better. Opportunities to shine light on the core mechanics, or an interesting aspect of game design. Death Stranding’s penultimate mission essentially pits Sam against a boss gauntlet across the entire UCA, a last chance for players to really indulge in everything at their disposal before the grand finale. 

Death Stranding would still be good without its boss fights, but it certainly wouldn’t be great. Each one elevates the game, not only by presenting a visually memorable and mechanically engaging challenge, but by existing as natural consequences of the story. Each boss is contextualized properly with enough weight where each victory has a considerable amount of impact. Boss fights have come a long way since dnd, but they’re recognizable for what they are: a reminder that games are games, and the medium should be embracing those video gamey elements. It’s through this “video gameyness” that the most memorable titles are made. If Death Stranding proves anything, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.

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Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

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Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.

Yaga

Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.

Yaga

At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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