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Top 10 Games with Staff Writer, Zack Rezac

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Top 10 Games is a new, semi-regular series that hopes to offer a bit of insight into the twisted minds of Goomba Stomp’s writers, editors, and podcasters by allowing them to tell you about their all time favorite games, and why they love them to such an unhealthy degree.

Before we get into the list, it’s worth stating that this is my personal list of my favorite games. This doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’re the greatest games ever made (although a few of them are), they’re simply my personal favorite. That being said, feel free to let me know how terrible this list is on twitter.

10) Xenoblade Chronicles

My full list may not accurately represent this, but I love JRPGs. I have been playing them ever since I was a kid, with the first one being the remake of Final Fantasy l and ll for the GBA. This also happens to be the game I played most recently on my list as well; even though I owned it at launch, I never got around to actually playing it past the introduction. My buddies at Goomba Stomp convinced me to give it another try, and I’m so happy I took the plunge.

xenoblade gaur plains

Xenoblade Chronicles is without a doubt the best JRPG I have ever played. This game gets all the major things right when it comes to this genre; a lovable cast of characters, a deep and engaging battle system, and a sense of progression and adventure that pushes the player to try new things. The story may take a while to get rolling, but once it does, it takes you on an epic and emotional journey that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The game is also absolutely massive, containing giant landscapes with hundreds of side quests to find and complete. Xenoblade has set the new standard for me in terms of RPGs, and I’m hoping the sequel will do the same.

9) Red Steel

“What? Red Steel? But that game is terrible!” Yes, you’re correct! Red Steel is an awful game that’s filled to the brim with glitches and bugs. It has a half-baked multiplayer mode consisting of only four stages along with a fairly forgettable single player campaign. So why is it on this list? Simply put, I have never had more fun with a local multiplayer shooter than I have had with Red Steel. My friends and I would play deathmatch against each other for hours anytime we got the chance, and to date it’s the only Wii game I have kept since launch day. The glitches actually ended up making the game hilarious, as we were able to replicate the glitches and use them to our advantage.

red steel

The controls, while broken, eventually became second nature to us. We adapted to the silly mechanics and design decisions and created a unique experience out of it. There was no anger, frustration, or contempt when we played. It was always an exceedingly good time because of how bad (good?) it was. Any other game in those circumstances would have been dropped in a matter of minutes, but Red Steel just seemed to strike a chord with me and my friend group. Would I recommend the game to anyone else? Of course not. It’s terrible.

8) Pokemon Ruby

While I played through both generations one and two, it wasn’t until Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire that I became obsessed. Pokemania had completely taken its of me after spending a few weeks with this game, with summer days being spent outside with my friends battling and trading. Generation three came along with all sorts of new pokemon to catch and areas to explore. I still think Hoenn is one of the most well designed regions to this day, especially with weather becoming an integral game mechanic.

ruby

Deeper battle mechanics were also introduced this time around that would go on to become staples of the franchise, like the physical/special split. Energy-based attacks were now relegated to a separate stat called Special Attack, with the Special Defense stat made to defend against it. Additions like these made the leap from Silver/Gold to Ruby/Sapphire feel enormous, especially since the game was running on beefier hardware. At the time, I had more friends than ever playing Pokemon with me, which undoubtedly helped me enjoy the game more.

7) Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

It’s not often that I play games for their story, as I’ve always been more of a person that enjoys excellent gameplay mechanics over a focus on narrative. However, the Professor Layton series is an exception to this rule, as I quickly found myself becoming obsessed with its quirky cast of characters after only a few hours with the first game. It’s a game based around solving a series of smaller puzzles in order to unravel the story’s larger mystery, with cut scenes and dialogue sprinkled throughout.

layton

What makes these games so special is that it was the first time I had played a game primarily for its plot. I wanted nothing more than to get to the next cut scene to see how Layton and the gang would handle the situation. The puzzles were fantastic as well, with some of them taking me days to solve. Unwound Future is the last game in the original trilogy, and it’s on my list simply because it has the best narrative. The gameplay doesn’t really change too much throughout the series, but it’s the title’s narrative that really pushed the boundaries of what I could expect from games on an emotional level.

6) Cuphead

If you had asked me to make a list of features that would make up my dream video game, it would pretty much be Cuphead. Gorgeous art style? Check. A focus on controls and precise gameplay? Check. Larger-than-life boss battles? You get the idea. Cuphead is the debut game from newly formed indie team Studio MDHR. It features side scrolling run-and-gun gameplay similar to Contra, however most of the player’s time will be spent in boss battles rather than platforming stages. Oh, and the whole game has been painstakingly drawn to look identical to a 1930s cartoon.

cuphead

Games this unique come around once in a blue moon, especially ones with this much quality. The boss designs are incredible, the controls are perfect, and the difficulty will please even the most hardcore fans of the genre. It’s a dream come true for retro game fans like myself. It’s the first game I have ever loved enough to get every single achievement for (which in this case, was no small feat). Cuphead is one of the easiest recommendations on my list for PC and Xbox players, especially if you have someone to play it with.

5) Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 was the game that started my obsession with Nintendo and games in general. I had played quite a few games before I was given a Nintendo 64, however none of them had the same effect that this one did. As a kid, I was absolutely blown away by the amount of freedom the game gave the player. I remember spending hours just running around the castle and seeing what I could do/find. 5 year old Zack never imagined that games could be this massive, and I quickly became addicted to the experience.

mario 64

The game holds up remarkably well today due to how incredible it feels to control Mario. Everything feels so precise and intuitive, especially compared to the competition. Dividing the game’s challenges into stars that had to be collected in each stage was a genius formula that would go on to return in games like Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Odyssey. It’s also one of the most important video games ever made, as it demonstrated how incredible 3D gaming could really be. 

4) Wario Ware Inc: Mega Microgames!/Twisted

I honestly could not choose between these two games, as they are both incredible for their own reasons, so both of them get the number 4 spot. The Wario Ware series has always been one of my favorites, and almost every entry in the franchise has something fun to offer. The concept of playing a series of lightning fast micro-games in quick succession works amazingly, especially on a handheld like the GBA. It feels unlike anything else I have ever played and remains the most addictive gaming experience I’ve had so far.

warioware

Wario Ware Inc: Mega Microgames was the first in the series and did an excellent job in setting the foundation for future entries. It also introduced a plethora of new characters like Jimmy T. and 9 Volt that each had their own distinct personalities and gameplay gimmicks. The microgames introduced here are still some of the best the series has to offer in terms of both gameplay and aesthetics. However, Wario Ware Twisted took this formula and cranked things up to 11. It adds gyroscopic control to a new set of microgames, and while that may seem awful at first, it controls beautifully. Since each game only lasts a few seconds, there’s never any need for complicated or precise movements. It’s easily one of the best uses of motion controls I’ve ever seen, even by today’s standards.

3) Resident Evil 4

I know this game is probably on a million other Top 10 lists, but it’s there for a reason. Resident Evil 4 is the best third person shooter/horror game ever made, and is just as fun to play today as it was in 2005. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes this game so special, as there are so many elements that work together to create an overall incredible experience. For starters, the visuals for the time were absolutely groundbreaking on consoles. Character models and environments had an impressive amount of detail that hadn’t been seen yet on the GameCube. The gameplay was also much more fast-paced than past entries, requiring the player to deal with hordes of enemies and bosses that took hundreds of bullets to kill. It was head and shoulders above anything else that was out at the time.

resident evil 4

Resident Evil 4 strikes the perfect balance between making the player feel powerful and powerless. Acquiring new weapons that allow the player to decimate a crowd of ganados makes you feel like a badass, however enemies like the regenerator can also be placed in crowded rooms to take you down a few notches. It has the best pacing of any single player game I’ve ever played, the game never manages to feel like a chore or as though it’s moving along much too quickly. It’s a shame that Capcom hasn’t been able to capture this magic a second time, as it’s easily the best game they’ve ever had a hand in making.

2) Super Mario Galaxy

I firmly believe that Super Mario Galaxy is the greatest video game ever made. So why isn’t it number 1? Well this is a list of my favorite games, so I’m not basing everything off of pure quality (*cough* Red Steel *cough*). It’s no secret that Nintendo is my favorite game developer, and it’s games like this that keep me obsessed. Super Mario Galaxy is the gaming industry’s greatest achievement and remains the culmination of Nintendo’s game design principles. It represents the evolution of gaming’s most iconic character while maintaining everything that made him special in the first place.

galaxy

No game feels more like an extension of yourself than this one. Mario feels like a dream to control just as he did in Super Mario 64, however the new space themed setting adds an unbelievable amount of variety to the levels. The game is constantly pushing the player’s expectations to new heights after introducing more and more gameplay mechanics to the scene. One stage has Mario scaling a giant robot whereas another has him hurtling through silent space. Oh, and the soundtrack might be the best of all time. It’s a euphoric experience that literally anyone can find something to smile about.

1) Warioland 4

Wario Land 4 is a very special video game that I hope everyone gets the chance to play at some point. But wait, isn’t it just a fairly standard platformer like the other entries in the franchise? Well, no, not exactly. Wario Land 4 is just… different. There’s something unexplainable about it in that it just oozes surrealism. The environments all feel like a weird dreamscape, especially on levels like Toy Block Tower and Pinball Zone. It has a completely unique aesthetic and mood that has yet to be replicated by any other title, even when played today.

wario land 4

It’s also incredibly solid in terms of mechanics. Each level can be explored in a (mostly) non-linear fashion. Diamonds, gems, and even soundtrack CDs are hidden throughout each stage, some of which are required in order to move on. Highly skilled players can move Wario at some pretty ridiculous speeds using his charge mechanic, which was new to the franchise with this outing. Wario’s transformations also play an integral role in traversing each stage, with each of them feeling different enough to keep the game interesting.

All in all, Wario Land 4 is greater than the sum of its parts. I almost can’t explain exactly why it’s my favorite game ever, it just is. Play it. Trust me. Hopefully you can have the same experience that I continue to have with it to this day.

Just a guy who loves games, powerlifting, and cats (not necessarily in that order). I love collecting cool Nintendo stuff, especially old consoles and figures. Wario is my spirit animal. I also stream Nintendo games on twitch every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 8:30 pm eastern time!

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Patrick

    December 23, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Did you ever play Red Steel 2? So much better in every way, which is probably why no one remembers it anymore.

    • Zack Rezac

      February 4, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      I did play Red Steel 2 actually, and yes it’s a much better game!

  2. James Baker

    December 23, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    I always found Pokémon Ruby as one of the worst, but then it did come after Pokémon Gold and Silver which I’ve always rated as the best, so it had a tough act to follow. You can usually judge a Pokémon fan’s age by which generation is their favourite, I buck the trend a bit because by that rule I should favour Red and Blue.

    • Zack Rezac

      February 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      Ruby just happened to release at the right age for me I guess. I got so sucked in to that world…

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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10 Years Later: ‘Mass Effect 2’ is An All-Time Sci-fi Classic

Mass Effect 2 didn’t just nail the formula for a successful sequel, it tied together one of the greatest science fiction tales ever.

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Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect launched in 2007 as the boldest science fiction project ever conceived for consoles. The complex mythology, history and the many alien races, each with their own political/religious beliefs offered a depth rarely seen in the medium. Only a game as ambitious as Mass Effect 2 could not only match the pedigree of such a massive project but surpass it in every single way imaginable.

Released 3 years after the original, a full decade ago, Mass Effect 2 set the benchmark for not just sequels but for science fiction gaming as well. Few sequels are able to overcome the weaknesses of their predecessors with such perfect accuracy while also doubling down on what made them good in the first place.

The first task that fell to Bioware was to refine the combat. The original game had more of a strategic angle to it but that strategy meant the game was constantly stopping and starting, stuttering the action and ruining the flow of the game. By streamlining the combat into more of an action RPG experience (emphasis on action), Mass Effect 2 created a much better sense of tension in battle sequences. Aiming, using techniques and issuing orders also flowed more smoothly with these changes.

'Mass Effect 2' is An All-Time Sci-fi Classic

Another major change was the removal of the Mako, an exploratory rover the player drove around alien planets with. While a novel idea, the Mako often lead to aimless wandering as the player sought out resources on the many planets of Mass Effect. Instead of driving to their destination, players were now warped directly to the area they would be exploring. Resource collection was overhauled as a result.

While few players will talk about the thrill of spinning a globe around and aiming a reticle in order to collect resources in Mass Effect 2, the simple speed by which this process was streamlined offered a hefty margin of improvement over the original game. Resources that might have taken a half-hour to collect in the first game could now be found in 1/10 of that time. Resource collection, while a vital part of the game, was never meant to be the time sink it was in the original Mass Effect, and by speeding up this process, Mass Effect 2 allowed players to get back to the meat of the game: doing missions and exploring the galaxy.

Of course, these aren’t necessarily the most significant changes that players will recall from their time with Mass Effect 2. The story and character roster were also expanded considerably from the first game, and these are without a doubt the biggest improvements that this sequel is able to mount.

Mass Effect 2

While Mass Effect had seven playable characters, Mass Effect 2 expanded that to twelve. Not only was the amount of characters an improvement, though, the quality of the characters on offer was also much stronger this time around. A full nine new characters were introduced for players to utilize in combat, strategize with and get to know throughout the game. Among them were badass assassin Thane Krios, dangerous convict Jack, morally dubious Miranda Lawson, and hivemind robot Legion.

In fact, the cast of Mass Effect 2 is so good that it has rightfully become a benchmark for the creation of a compelling cast of characters in RPGs, and video games, in general. The sheer diversity on display in the looks, personalities and movesets allowed for the cast is awe-inspiring, and this is without even considering the trump card that Mass Effect 2 flashed throughout the experience of playing the game.

The monumental suicide mission to raid the Collectors’ base and save humanity is the impetus for the entire plot of Mass Effect 2, and the reason for which the player is recruiting the baddest mother fuckers from all over the galaxy in hopes of success. It isn’t just a suicide mission in name either, many, or even all, of the cast can die during the completion of this mission, adding a layer of suspense and finality to the final stage of Mass Effect 2 that few other games can match.

'Mass Effect 2' is An All-Time Sci-fi Classic

To this end, players were encouraged to get to know their crew through loyalty missions specific to each cast member. By undertaking these optional missions and completing them in a way that would impress or endear themselves to the character in question, players were able to ascertain the unquestioned respect and loyalty of that character, ensuring they wouldn’t go rogue during the final mission.

Still, even passing these prerequisites with flying colors wasn’t a guarantee for success. Players also had to pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the characters when assigning tasks and making split-second decisions. Who you would leave to recon an area, repair a piece of equipment, or lock down a path, could make the difference as to who was going to survive the mission. Further complicating things, the characters you wanted to take with you to final branches of the mission might be the very people best suited for these earlier tasks.

Mass Effect 2 isn’t just one of the greatest science fiction games of all time, but one of the best science fiction experiences in any medium, full stop”.

Getting everyone out alive is a truly Machiavellian task, requiring either a guide or multiple playthroughs in order to get it precisely right. To that end, my feeling is that it’s better to go at it honestly the first time around, dealing with the requisite losses that this experience entails. After all, it isn’t really a suicide mission without a couple of casualties right? Even with all of my preparations and foresight, I lost Tali and Legion in the final mission, but for the fate of the human race, these losses were an acceptable cost.

Mass Effect 2

Even outside the strength of this fantastic cast and the monumental undertaking of planning and executing this final mission, there were other key characters and elements introduced as well. The Illusive Man, voiced by the great Martin Sheen, emerged as a necessary evil, saving Commander Shepard from death but asking morally complex decisions to be made as the cost of doing business. The relationship with, and the choices the player makes, in regard to The Illusive Man have far-reaching consequences for the remainder of the series, and as he emerged to become a primary antagonist in the final game of the trilogy, the considerations to be made were vast and insidious by their very definition.

With so many factors working in its favor, Mass Effect 2 is the rare game that is so perfectly designed that both its predecessor and sequel suffer by comparison as a result. While the improvements of ME2 make it hard to go back to the original game, the scope and ambition of an entire cast that could be alive or dead at the end of the journey also neutered the third game, causing many of the best characters in the trilogy to be excised from the final leg of the trip.

Truly, Mass Effect 2 isn’t just one of the greatest science fiction games of all time, but one of the best science fiction experiences in any medium, full stop. Like The Empire Strikes Back before it, Mass Effect 2 is the best exemplar of its universe and what makes it compelling and worthwhile in general.

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