Though the Wii U never achieved the popularity Nintendo had hoped for in the successor to one of the best-selling consoles of all time, those few who gave this quirky console and its touchscreen gamepad controller a chance were rewarded with some of the best and most unique games of the generation. While quantity was always a problem, quality rarely was, from first-party offerings that often were the pinnacle of their respective franchises, to the incredible creativity displayed by indie developers in exploring new ways to play games.
History will likely look back fondly upon Nintendo’s charming but flawed experiment, as when it comes to actual gaming, the system was home to some truly fantastic experiences. To that end the staff here at Goomba Stomp has voted on and compiled a list of the 25 Best Wii U Games. Enjoy!
25. Affordable Space Adventures
While most developers, including Nintendo itself, struggled to capitalize on the potential of the gamepad to create unique gaming experiences, a small company based in Denmark managed to make it look easy. Knapnok Games’ collaboration with Nicklas Nygren (better known as Nifflas) produced not only one of the Wii U’s best games in Affordable Space Adventures, but one that it’s hard to imagine would be as enjoyable played on anything else. Taking control of a recently wrecked spacecraft after an intergalactic tourism incident gone horribly wrong, players must navigate an alien world by solving physics-based puzzles, all while avoiding the dangerous denizens awakened by the intrusion. The trick to surviving is the proper management of the ship’s various systems, from the engines and anti-gravity to a small searchlight and scanner. These contraptions all emit different levels of noise, heat, and electricity, elements that alert the mechanized threats to the ship’s location, the result of which usually equals fiery destruction.
The gamepad becomes the onboard computer at the helm, slowly booting up new functions as they come online and controllable via the touchscreen. Juggling these systems to preserve functionality while decreasing the desired output enough to slip by sentries undetected is where the challenge comes in, as everything happens in real time, and adjustments must be made on the fly. It’s both intuitive and immersive, making players feel like they’ve actually got their hands on the vehicle’s interface, with little details, like a cracked screen occasionally glitching, sci-fi bleeps and bloops emanating from the gamepad speakers, and ever-changing meters only adding to the ambiance. This free-flowing scheme would be difficult to implement elsewhere without necessitating pauses, or inserting a UI that intrudes so heavily into the beautiful otherworldly imagery up on the TV screen that the illusion would be shattered, and Affordable Space Adventures casts an absorbing spell. The mystery behind both the planet and the shady, yet cheerfully optimistic, travel agency responsible for the game’s events is entertaining satire concisely told, culminating in one of the most inventive uses for the Miiverse yet. It’s a mesmerizing trip from start to finish, made possible by clever puzzles, an engrossing design, and unique controls only found on the Wii U. (Patrick Murphy)
True to its name, numerous body parts will be separated and strewn across the stark, ancient netherworld of Drinkbox Studios’ Severed, but despite the vicious sword slashing at the heart of the gameplay, it’s the Zelda-like dungeons and haunting atmosphere that lingers long after playing. The Mexican/Central American-inspired visuals stand out stunningly, like a pastel pop-up storybook, and the somber tones of a young woman seeking both rescue and revenge offer a distinct vibe that is never less than absorbing. The story is told mostly through imagery instead of exposition, playing out more like a beautiful nightmare than a straight narrative, and this open-ended, mysterious method is quite effective. Exploring the sadly colorful world, full of dense woods and cavernous ruins, covered in symbols and grotesque monsters, the hero slowly learns her place in this tale, but interpreting for oneself the meaning of the events that unfold is what makes Severed‘s story truly engaging.
That and the limb-detaching hacking and slashing, of course. Swiping the stylus across the gamepad touchscreen simulates a sword swing, with both direction and length being significant factors. Short bursts can produce a series of small lacerations, while longer strokes create deep gashes that deliver more damage, and with many enemies quick to cover up, finding the right angle from which to attack is imperative for victory. As the game progresses, battles start to involve multiple enemies, many of which apply buffs to strengthen themselves, and encounters can often seem like juggling acts, pivoting from monster to monster, chipping away at their health while protecting your own. It’s a satisfying system and one that recalls certain strategic combat elements of Skyward Sword. The reward of precision cutting is an array of arms, legs, eyeballs, and other organs that can be used to forge upgrades, turning a former peasant into a badass warrior ready take on a world of death by causing some herself. Meticulous dungeon design and some nice secrets to uncover accompany the blood-soaked punctuation of conflict, ensuring that journey taken in Severed remains mesmerizing. (Patrick Murphy)
23. Hyrule Warriors
The fact that Hyrule Warriors is able to exist on its own represents one of the many great things about the Wii U. No other console gives players the chance to experience one of the greatest video game franchises of all time adapted into a Dynasty Warriors-style action game, and this is part of what makes Hyrule Warriors such an engaging and exciting experience.
While it does feel less polished than it should be, the game still packs the perfect amount of nostalgia, tight combat, and replayability. Players get the chance to battle hordes of enemies as some of the most memorable characters from the Legend of Zelda series, such as Link, Zelda, Sheik, and Midna. Each of these characters offers a different play style and signature moves. Battles are fought across iconic areas such as Hyrule Field, Death Mountain, and Skyloft. Along with the copious amounts of content stored in the main game, players can also play through Adventure mode. Modeling itself after the original Legend of Zelda overworld, players run through various areas and try to complete tasks or kill enemies. With victory comes new characters, items, and gear. While this mode is optional, it does make the base game much more exciting and fun. Amiibo support for Hyrule Warriors is also fairly strong, with game-centric figures offering stronger weapons and items, while amiibos from other games give the player some of the lower-tier weapons and items.
The only real weak point for Hyrule Warriors is its story. The entire endeavor feels a bit rushed and hollow, but given the style of the game, this makes sense. It’s always been a challenge to tell and engaging story in a Dynasty Warriors-style game, mainly due to the fact the majority of the gameplay revolves around constant combat.
The bottom line is that Hyrule Warriors was designed to appeal to fans of core Zelda series. While someone completely new to the series could still have fun with the game, a majority of the subtle references and nuances would be lost on them. This does not delude the fact that Hyrule Warriors represents one of the most enjoyable and exciting gaming experiences players can have on the Wii U, hands down. (Carston Carasella)
Enter Runbow, the debut title from Toronto-based developer 13AM Games. Runbow is a fast-paced action party game with a novel gameplay mechanic that can be enjoyed solo or with up-to nine friends who race against each other as platforms and obstacles appear and disappear when the background changes colors. For a small indie game, this platformer is jam-packed with content both competitive and cooperative — a fabulous soundtrack, striking visuals — and plenty of unlockable characters, which include the titular character from Shovel Knight, Rusty from SteamWorld Dig, and Max from Mutant Mudds. Runbow is, simply put, the best local multiplayer experience on Wii U this side of Smash Bros., but it’s also a difficult platformer that will keep you busy for hours on end. (Ricky D)
21. Lego City Undercover
Lego games are primarily known for their family-friendly takes on popular licensed properties, coupled with simple but fun couch co-op, but the Wii U’s Lego City Undercover tosses both those crutches aside, deciding to stand on its own two blocky feet with an original story and single-player focus, in the process delivering possibly the most clever, well-rounded, and engaging entry in the brick-smashing series yet. The open-world adventure following a charming dope of a renegade cop in his pursuit of truth and justice (and the girlfriend that got away) takes place in the spectacularly-imagined Lego City, a bustling metropolis portrayed as an amalgamation of some of the most recognizable cities in America and elsewhere, with sections that draw from New York and Miami, San Francisco, and even Venice. This place feels just as magical as any Star Wars or Marvel setting, yet it’s completely new, a cornucopia of surprises both great and small. From off-roading in Blue Bell National Park to parkour-ing through the back alleys of the Chinatown-like Pagoda district, exploring nooks and crannies while smashing everything in sight in the search for both collectibles and Easter eggs is a joy. The city feels alive, with pedestrians leaping out of the way of recklessly speeding police chases, or simply musing about their lives while waiting for the airport bus. The writers show that they can handle comedy without always falling back on references, but movie buffs will, of course, spot a boatload of in-jokes, from characters inspired by Dirty Harry and The Shawshank Redemption to a construction foreman that speaks almost solely in Arnold Schwarzenegger puns.
The writing is often sharp and quite witty, peppering the player with so many jokes that those falling flat are quickly forgotten, and this approach is taken with the gameplay as well. Though many of the actions in Lego games get repetitive over time, Lego City Undercover mixes things up quite well, with a good-guy GTA-inspired overworld allowing for G-rated vehicle “commandeering,” gang arrests in sunny playground parks, and terrorizing the populace on pigback. The main story missions combine light puzzle solving with a combat system that resembles a watered-down version of counter-based moves of games like Arkham City (so more than just mindless button-pushing is required), and some acrobatic platforming is thrown in for good measure. Nothing ever gets complicated, but it’s never boring either, and the goofy objectives are often gleeful highlights of an superbly madcap world. Add in some great uses for the gamepad that seem more organic than most, and Lego City Undercover feels like it belongs on the Wii U, a uniquely entertaining game for a uniquely entertaining console. (Patrick Murphy)
‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming
Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.
In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.
It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.
Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.
And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.
It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.
No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more.
How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?
Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.
One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?
Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.
Real Friends Raid Together
Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.
After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.
If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.
After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.
Max Raid Battle Rundown
The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.
To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.
If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.
The Fruits of Victory
Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.
Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.
Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.
15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter
On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.
“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”
On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.
The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.
Taking the Narrative Back
Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Snake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.
Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.
Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.
A Whole New Meaning to Survival
When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.
Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.
On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.
The Beginning of Product Placement
The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.
The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”
When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.
A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank
At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.
Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.
2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, a compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.
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