Welcome to part 1 of a brand new mega list for CelJaded’s Top 100 Best Video Games. This inaugural post features entries #100 to #91 and will run for the next two months with the final entry landing on June 3rd 2015.
Be sure to read the introduction that I put together beforehand too as it gives a more detailed introduction on what I’m trying to achieve here as well as a few other random musings that you may find insightful.
If you’re looking for another post in this same series then consider visiting the associated index which includes a readout of all published entries and the posts in which they appear.
Now that’s taken care of, let’s “press start” and get this underway.
“Choose your destiny!”
#100 – Seaman
Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 | Developer: Vivarium | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Virtual Pet | Year: 1999
There were a couple of different games in the running for the #100 spot but following the unfortunate passing of actor Leonard Nimoy recently, I decided that the oddball title Seaman should be the one to get us started.
Seaman is a violence-free virtual pet simulator where players take responsibility for the bizarre “Seaman” species, using their very own laboratory/aquarium. With a little guidance from Leonard Nimoy (actually playing himself), your task is to learn more about this strange half-carp, half-man sea creature and care for him as he grows from a tiny tadpole to a fully fledged “Frogman”.
The game runs on a fairly sophisticated internal clock and plays in full real-time (keeping track when the console is turned off) meaning that at least twice every day you’ll need to clean the tank, drop in some food and raise the temperature to a comfortable level. Failure to do so will result in your Seaman’s death whereupon it’s right back to the beginning to start all over again. Yikes!
There is very little actual gameplay in this title, to the point where calling it a “game” at all is somewhat of a misnomer. What keeps things interesting however is some impressive microphone functionality, which allows you to communicate with your Seaman by talking to him. Once he’s grown to adult size, the range of responses is incredible not to mention rather cheeky and sardonic.
Eventually Seaman wants to know more about you and will start asking questions of his own.
“What do you use the internet for?” he might ask for example, with follow ups as simple as “that’s nice” to “well, at least you’re an honest pervert” depending on your response!
Whilst it’s easy to brush off Seaman as an idle curiosity, it’s fascinating how much nuance is buried in the game’s many audio files. Those dedicated enough to reach the Frogman stage will start to uncover an intriguing backstory concerning Seaman’s fictional creator that eventually leads to a twist ending that’s both thoughtful and rather unexpected.
All of this is backed up by the aforementioned voice talent of Leonard Nimoy, whose welcoming and hilariously committed dialogue really helps tie everything together.
Seaman is as niche, strange and outright silly as it looks, but there’s no mistaking the enjoyment I’ve gotten from playing this one over the years. Even though my own Frogman named “Ginsburg” has now sadly moved on, the memory is always there.
#99 – Crystal Warriors
Principal Platforms: Sega Game Gear | Developer: Sega | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Strategy | Year: 1991
A rare gem for the Sega Game Gear is Crystal Warriors; a turn-based tactics game with a lot of bite considering the hardware in question.
This game hails from a time where a “plot” was just something you put at the start of a software manual to the fill space.
An evil race of bad men have stolen the four elemental crystals and it’s up to the heroic Princess Iris and her band of adventurers to defeat them and restore peace to the land. Despite being a bit flat story-wise (there’s no dialogue or cutscenes), it is nice to see a strong female lead for a change.
Each scenario presents you with a traditional top-down strategy affair where your primary objective is to liberate the civilian town on the other side of the map, either by infiltrating it with one of your soldiers or by eliminating every enemy in sight.
Every playable character has their own elemental attribute (similar to Pokémon) which modifies the damage they do against specific enemies and bosses. There are also up to 16 different types of elemental monsters to assist you (I’m seeing a pattern here…) once they’ve been tamed in battle.
What’s nice is that every solider you hire has their own name and custom drawn sprite; a little touch that really adds to the despair caused by their death. Much like the Fire Emblem series, Crystal Warriors features character perma-death which means that each encounter needs to be properly analyzed before engaging; it’s certainly possible to end up in later battles that you simply can’t win because of losses sustained earlier in the game!
The graphics take advantage of the Game Gear’s expanded colour palette with character designs looking quite pleasing for a portable 8-bit title. The sound work is serviceable enough too, but as with most games of its type, it soon becomes repetitive and irritating.
Crystal Warriors probably gets a lot of praise solely for the fact it’s an English Game Gear title that doesn’t get overly boring after an hour’s play. The stiff challenge and tactical gameplay was a good fit for the handheld though and I still entertain the idea of playing this one even now.
Not a perfect crystal perhaps, but a shiny one at the very least.
#98 – Blast Chamber
Principal Platforms: PlayStation, Saturn | Developer: Attention to Detail | Publisher: Activision | Genre: Action/Multiplayer | Year: 1996
A multiplayer extravaganza if ever there was one, Blast Chamber was featured in my overlooked games article a couple of months ago but rather than regurgitate those exact sentiments here however, I feel there is a bit more I can add with regards to this rather unique title.
Blast Chamber arrived in 1996 to a very lukewarm reception in spite of its original concept. The game is still a refreshing change of pace today and stands apart from the usual raft of first person shooters and tower defence titles that are popular at the moment.
The closest thing you can really equate it to is an explosive variant on the capture the flag scenario, where competitors must collect a floating crystal and dump it into their colour coded reactor in order to recharge the bomb timer that they have strapped to their chest.
Rooms rotate, power-ups fly and chaos ensues amongst the game’s many symmetrically designed platforms and traps.
One of the biggest reasons for the game’s failure is its appalling graphics. The 3D perspective makes it difficult to line up your jumps and the zoomed-out camera results in everything looking extremely small. Supposedly the game is a little less fuzzy on PlayStation; where the hardware’s aptitude for 3D is helpful in combating a few of the rough edges.
In an era where 3D graphics were fast becoming the expected selling point for games though, Blast Chamber‘s humble appearance likely did not (and still won’t) make a good first impression.
The level design is varied however and the game’s simple and responsive controls do lend it a very nice pick-up-and-play appeal that anyone can dive right into.
Out of all the games appearing on this list, Blast Chamber is probably the one that requires the most concessions to its quality. Ultimately though the unique aspects win me over, and in overlooking its faults I’m often reminded of how fun and original video games can be.
#97 – Space Invaders
Principal Platforms: Arcade, Atari 2600, Too many others to list! | Developer: Taito | Publisher: Taito, Midway | Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up | Year: 1978
Space Invaders has been synonymous with classic video games since its original release way back in 1978. The Atari 2600 version (of which I’m most familiar) is a release that just gets everything right.
A very faithful translation, the Space Invaders release for the Atari 2600 deserves special mention for retaining the frantic shoot ’em up action of its arcade original without compromising on visual fidelity. As the first game to popularize the use of ‘high scores’ it would be criminal if they were absent but thankfully not so in the cartridge version.
It would take me longer as a child to fully grasp the finesse required to play Space Invaders effectively. The pace of the game increases exponentially as you blast more and more of the ever-descending alien horde intent on catching you out with a stray missile.
When down to the final enemy, the game moves at max speed tasking you to successfully time that one final bullet that will complete the level, for such an old game it is thrilling stuff even to this day.
The Atari 2600 version comes brimming with options that modify the existing game. It wouldn’t be until I gained familiarity with the Atari‘s on board selection switches that I began finding ways to change the setup of the level; altering the speed of the game, the destructible “rocket” barriers that help guard your ship and even the number of simultaneous or alternating players.
Space Invaders was the first licensed home version of an arcade video game and what an effort has been made here. The Atari 2600, even with its rather limited power, does an excellent job of recreating a game that my uncles still tout as the best ever.
My uncle Nick and uncle Carl would often join me to play the game when I was younger, uttering the triumphant stock phrase of “he’s history” after successfully hitting an alien!
It’s no real wonder that the home version of Space Invaders would catapult the Atari 2600 sales through the roof; it’s still a seriously good game even to this day and still gets the odd remake and remaster when Taito is feeling spry.
#96 – Mortal Kombat II
Principal Platforms: Arcade, Mega Drive, SNES | Developer: Midway, Probe | Publisher: Midway, Acclaim | Genre: 2D Beat ‘Em Up | Year: 1993
If you are looking for just one gaming franchise, just one, that can stand as a representative for my childhood then look no further. I, like many of the kids from my era, lived through all the controversy, the rage and the irresistible madness that was Mortal Kombat in the early to mid Nineties.
And if you go back in time over twenty years, find young Alex Hajdasz and tell him: “one day you will consider Mortal Kombat II to be the best in the series”, he would not believe you.
It’s telling of how I see games when I was young compared to how I see them now. Mortal Kombat 3 (and its many revisions) had more outlandish characters, more finishing moves and more combos, so how could it not be the best, right?
The debate will likely go on for years over which title represents the series’ peak, but for me, I now have to vote Mortal Kombat II. It’s a prime example of a sequel that takes everything that was good about the original and makes it ten times better.
The graphics are sharper, the sound is more powerful and the gameplay is lot more fast paced than ever before. The character roster is expanded with existing fighters acquiring a larger move-set and more frames of animation.
The commitment to story has not disappeared; every fighter still feels like they have a good reason to be here and each stage background often has clues to something larger going on behind the scenes. There are plenty of new secret fighters to discover this time around too with series favourites Smoke, Noob Saibot and female ninja Jade making their debuts in this edition.
I would be remiss if I did not of course mention the overall upping of violence and the brand new fatalities that this version brings, with two finishers per character and many new stage fatalities that can launch your opponents into spikes, pits and pools of acid. Lovely!
Another plus-point that doesn’t seem to get enough recognition is the music. MK II keeps to the Oriental inspired roots of the first game and in turn presents a rather brooding, downbeat soundtrack that really gives you a much better impression that these warriors are fighting for their very lives. When compared to the ill-fitting and rather melodramatic techno-vibe beats of the third game, MK II sounds a lot more suitable in my opinion.
There’s a reason Nintendo quietly relinquished their console ban on depictions of violence, as the arcade game and its home versions were a sensation during release and set many sales records for the time.
It may have taken longer for me to appreciate this frantic beat ’em up when compared to the more bombastic titles of later years, but there’s no doubt that Mortal Kombat II deserves to be mentioned when talking about the series’ very best installments.
#95 – Phantasy Star Online
Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox | Developer: Sonic Team | Publisher: Sega | Genre: RPG | Year: 2000
Online gaming took a very brave step forward with the release of Phantasy Star Online; the world’s first online console RPG.
Once you’ve created your character from a range of manga inspired models and colours, you’ll progress alongside a party of up to three other online players through various future-themed dungeons in search of loot and the elusive Red Ring Rico; an explorer intent on unraveling the mysteries of Planet Ragol.
Owing to the limited nature of the Dreamcast control pad, there are only a few buttons needed to attack, cast spells and use items. Although the action is kept simple, the real-time combat makes for a refreshing change of pace in an RPG, however action orientated it may be.
At one point this title may have been my most played game of all time, but over the years its repetitive gameplay has long since waned on me. Nevertheless, PSO still looks extremely impressive for its age with a colourful cast of custom characters and a treasure trove of awesome-looking rare weapons to uncover.
This title received many revisions for subsequent platforms; releases that would eventually add new character classes, weapons, items and episodes to the story. Another commonly tweaked element are the “drop rates” for the game’s rare items which in the Dreamcast original were truly horrendous. If I recall there are certain items that only appear with 1/600.000 chance! Even after hundreds of hours of gameplay, it was likely that you would never see a lot of what the game had to offer.
The final release Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst is a full PC version of the game that at one time offered the whole show, again with online connectivity and a brand new chapter for a monthly subscription fee. Even though all versions of the title are now officially discontinued, there are still committed players out there playing on fan-managed servers; such is the game’s enduring appeal.
Games like this are overwhelmingly common nowadays, but back in 2000 it felt fresh and exciting and I was glad to have been a part of it in spite of the number of cheaters playing online.
You know who you are.
#94 – Road Rash II
Principal Platforms: Mega Drive | Developer: Electronic Arts | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Genre: Racing | Year: 1993
Electronic Arts often distinguished themselves as the purveyors of high quality Mega Drive titles, and the Road Rash series in particular is amongst those held in only the highest regards amongst retro gamers.
Whilst not hugely different from its prequel, Road Rash II is an instantly playable motorbike racer that features something that every adolescent kid can get behind; the ability to punch other riders in the face.
The satisfying “thwack!” that the player’s fists, chains and baseball bats deliver when they connect is the stuff of legend and elevates the entire game to a silly level of fun.
Key to this sequel is the simultaneous two player mode that allows you and a buddy to tear up the track together as you try your best to secure the number 1 position in the face of stiff opposition from opposing “rashers”, obstacles and even the police.
The tongue-in-cheek animations that play at a race’s conclusion are a great inclusion, as is the ability to upgrade your bike to more powerful nitro capable behemoths that send you roaring up the track with an incredible feeling of speed.
The entire campaign is lengthy though and it’s likely you’ll get bored long before making it to the end of the toughest tracks. The password feature is very handy for saving both players’ progress though and does give the game a ‘career mode’ sort of feel which is impressive for a title that is now over twenty years old.
Despite an abnormal number of faulty cartridges threatening to ruin my experience of this game over the years, Road Rash II is still one of those instantly playable two player titles that every Sega acolyte simply needs to have in their collection.
#93 – Earthworm Jim
Principal Platforms: Mega Drive, SNES, Mega CD, PC | Developer: Virgin Interactive | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Genre: Platformer | Year: 1994
Quality 2D platformers are something of a mainstay in console gaming with Earthworm Jim being one of the most fondly loved of such classics.
Standing as one the finest Western developed 16-bit titles of the era, Earthworm Jim is blessed with excellent graphics, unique gameplay and plenty of cartooney humour over an altogether crazy platforming adventure.
The animation in Earthworm Jim is nothing short of fantastic. The unique production process utilized by wizard programmer Dave Perry is well known and Jim just looks exquisite as he runs, jumps, shoots and swings his way throughout the game’s many strange levels.
The first stage or two is basic platforming fare, but later the variety really ramps up with Jim navigating weird mazes, saving a distressed mutant puppy from aliens and even bungee jump battling against an evil ball of snot!
All of this wacky gameplay is backed up by quality backdrops, a diverse cast of enemies and some infectious tunes composed by the notable video game musician Tommy Talerico.
The controls for Jim’s whip attack can be a bit awkward and it’s no exaggeration that some later levels perhaps go a bit overboard in both length and difficulty, but on the whole Earthworm Jim is a fun ride and a decent challenge.
The ‘Special Edition’ version of the game for Mega CD and Windows is nice in that it offers a new weapon, a new level and a sorely needed password system. Also notable is the fantastic CD quality soundtrack and the newly narrated endings that feature one of the developers talking about worm facts and delivering a gushing congratulations message should you beat the game on hard difficulty.
Both of these additions are remarkably funny and really add to Earthworm Jim‘s silly appeal.
In a word: groovy!
#92 – Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
Principal Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC | Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Genre: Action/Adventure | Year: 2006
Lost Planet is one of those titles to feature the “Capcom annoyance factor” as I call it. The controls can be finicky, you can easily get stun-locked when being shot and the plot requires you to suspend disbelief to a truly absurd level. But in spite of all this, the game still manages to be fun whilst also looking incredible.
The story mode is also criticized for being nothing more than a glorified boss rush. But there’s nothing wrong with a good boss rush now and then is there?…
It’s true there are a lot of bosses in this game (and yes; some of them refuse to die), but man are they impressive! Gigantic snow worms, aggressive Godzilla-style moths and towering mutated spiders all stand in your way and what a blast you’ll have putting them all down. The stirring orchestral soundtrack by composer Jamie Christopherson also does a great job at heightening the tension in these encounters.
Strangely though, the story mode is not what initially drew me to this title but instead it was the rather fantastic multiplayer mode. With the vanilla title featuring four different modes of play and a good selection of weapons and mech suits, Lost Planet has a great snow-swept look that makes for a refreshing change to the standard deathmatch environment.
The game’s pace is more deliberate with players moving slower than you’d expect, but the action is still fast and brutal once those players meet. The addition of a standard issue grappling hook is also notable for the way it switches up encounters on the fly as it allows you to quickly traverse vertical surfaces and reach sniper points with ease.
Once someone jumps into a mech suit however, all bets are off! The earth shattering power of their various shoulder-mounted missile launchers and chain guns are able to make short work of any player wandering around in the open.
Whilst I’m not normally one to enjoy online games of such scale, Lost Planet struck a chord with me for whatever unique reason. Finding and gunning down the #1 ranked player in world (at the time) was an achievement that I was quite proud of for a while too.
Lost Planet is definitely not a game for everyone, but much like its stablemate Gears of War, it offered plenty of good multiplayer thrills to a couple of consoles that were in dire need of such good times in their early days on the market.
#91 – Resident Evil Code: Veronica
Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube | Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Genre: Survival Horror | Year: 2000
I’m not ashamed to admit that the first Resident Evil game for Sony PlayStation absolutely terrified me when I first saw it in motion as a kid. And yet, despite the fear its blood-soaked 32-bit visuals invoked, there was always a bizarre fascination of what lay beyond those opening cutscenes and mansion hallways that I was too scared to venture into.
Trying to play Resident Evil later in life proved to be a fruitless task though, as its unforgiving gameplay and stupidily obtuse puzzles were hardly the sort of thing I was looking for. Yes, it seems the “Capcom annoyance factor” had struck again, much to my dismay.
I always held out hope that a playable sequel would eventually see the light of day though and whilst Resident Evil 2 would sadly pass me by, Resident Evil Code: Veronica most certainly did not.
Truly one of the most gorgeous looking console games of its time, Code: Veronica did away with the series’ usual pre-rendered locations and introduced full 3D environments and larger-than-life character models.
Aside from simply looking excellent, I found this game to be particularly well paced with effective moments of horror, action and relief spread out quite nicely across the two discs worth of content. The atmosphere is so remarkably tense all the way throughout the story and the brooding soundtrack only adds to that anxiety of being trapped on a zombie-infested prison island, isolated from any sane person who can help you.
The obtuse puzzling and irritating item management from the first game is still present (although to a lighter degree) but the rousing gun-play certainly helps alleviate the quieter moments with pounding SFX that really make you feel every bullet fired. The bonus battle mode is certainly an interesting addition too and makes for a nice game-within-a-game scenario for completionists.
Overall Code: Veronica may not have been the complete revolution that the immense hype claimed it was, but it’s still very much a good Resident Evil game when you get down to it. It’s a beautiful entry into the series that looks very cinematic at times and it does what the series is known for just as well (if not better) than the games before it did.