Welcome to part 3 of a brand new mega list for CelJaded’s Top 100 Best Video Games. This third post features entries #80 to #71.
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.
“It’s time to make some crazzzy money, are you ready? Here we go!”
#80 – DOOM
Principal Platforms: PC, Practically everything else… | Developer: id Software | Publisher: Shareware, baby! | Genre: DOOM | Year: 1993
The brainchild of industry icons John Carmack and John Romero, this nonstop 3D slaughter-fest was an unprecedented success during its release; one that shook the gaming community to its very core and subsequently went down in history as one of the most popular and influential games of all time.
DOOM‘s status as a surefire success and cultural icon derive from a very simple, but fun as-all-hell gameplay formula combined with cutting edge graphics and a world-conqueringly good network multiplayer feature.
As the progenitor of the industry-leading first-person shooter or FPS genre, DOOM‘s influential reach is unmistakable and all-encompassing.
I did not play PC games during the Nineties so my exposure to DOOM in its heyday was limited to whatever watered-down port home consoles could manage at the time. My experience with the botched Sega Saturn and 32X versions was predictably lacklustre and kept me from experiencing the true quality of the game for the longest time.
When technology finally caught up many years later, DOOM was a widespread phenomenon available for practically every console and computer that could run it. At last my chance had come to experience the game at its best and truly appreciate what the original furor had truly been all about.
Here is a game built for instantaneous gratification. In addition to being one the best, DOOM is without a doubt one the fastest paced games I’ve ever played. Your marine arrives “kneedeep in the dead” on the first level and from there you simply tear through every demonic hell-spawn in your way with an rapidly expanding arsenal of lethal weaponry.
The DOOM engine is a wonder for its time and allows for an incredible 3D feel despite the many painstakingly drawn 2D sprites present. The graphic design is a bit samey but still very evocative of its Gothic-future theme with vile demonic enemies, twisted structures and blood-splashed terminals littering the game’s many levels.
Certain titles that emulate DOOM and indeed, many FPS games today, frequently make mistakes when it comes to the available weapons. DOOM is relentless fun because of how intense and satisfying every weapon is to actually fire. Everything from the satisfying shotgun (complete with reload animation) and the flesh-tearing chainsaw to the brutal rocket launcher and screen-clearing BFG 9000 are nothing less than a thrill to deploy against the hordes of hell. It may be super violent, but the enjoyment factor is unmistakable.
I honestly can’t tell you anything else about DOOM that isn’t already painfully obvious; it’s an often imitated but never duplicated classic in action video game design and it will likely remain that way forever.
#79 – Crazy Taxi
Principal Platforms: Arcade, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube | Developer: Hitmaker | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Racing | Year: 1999
Crazy Taxi is an excellent game and one that understands how a delightfully simple concept can sometimes make for the best arcade experience money can buy.
This is a very accessible title that almost anyone can pick up and instantly start enjoying. Once you’ve inserted your coin and selected a driver then it’s time to blitz through a digitally re-imagined West Coast city to score as many fares as you can before the timer runs out.
The rules of the road are not observed here, so you’ll quickly find yourself smashing through traffic, leaping off of ramps and drifting around corners in an attempt to grab tips and score big before dropping your fist-pumping customer at the requested destination.
There’s a semi-helpful arrow at the top of the screen that points in the direction you should be heading and depending on how fast you get to your fare’s destination you will be given an appropriate rank and a pinch of bonus time added to your clock.
Some of the game’s backgrounds look particularly basic, but on the whole the graphics are vibrant and impressive. Sega‘s NAOMI arcade board is capable of cramming many cars onto the screen at the same time with even basic assets such as water, chairs and bystanders all looking detailed and colourful.
Also worthy of mention is the game’s soundtrack which includes well known songs from The Offspring and Bad Religion. Whilst the inclusion of such music is not going to appeal to everyone, it does lend an unmistakably catchy atmosphere and suits the overall high energy theme of the game quite well.
The home versions of Crazy Taxi add a little more replay value to the overall package in the form of a remixed city and various bonus challenges and secrets, but overall the core experience of Crazy Taxi works a lot better in short bursts.
To paraphrase the priest who always wants to go to the church: “Wow, this is one hell of a game!”
#78 – Metal Slug 3
Principal Platforms: Arcade, Neo Geo, PlayStation 2, Xbox | Developer: SNK | Publisher: SNK | Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up | Year: 2000
Filled with ‘best in the business’ 2D sprite work, plenty of over-the-top action and little dashes of humour here and there, the Metal Slug series represents everything that’s great about arcade games produced by the veterans at SNK.
Although I wouldn’t call myself an expert on the Metal Slug franchise, I’m entirely confident in saying that Metal Slug 3 is the “best one” of the lot.
The variety in both level and enemy design is the real reason behind this entry’s success. Gone are the repetitive battlefields and samey troops of previous games; Metal Slug 3 instead treats you to a tropical island ruled by mutant crabs, snow swept vistas during a zombie outbreak and ancient temples filled with man-eating plants and an Uzi-toting monkey ally whose wearing a nappy for some reason.
This craziness reaches a roaring crescendo during the final stage when aliens abduct your selected character, leaving your secondary player-controlled soldier to launch a rescue by assaulting the alien mothership. Expect to see exploding asteroids, evil clones of your captured comrade and a free fall airborne firefight against the alien overlord himself!
The instantly playable Metal Slug formula is intact though and it’s still brimming with all the zany characters, satisfying power-ups and intense two player action that the series is known for.
The game also represents a significant challenge (even for seasoned players) and requires nerves of steel to beat. Luckily some of the home ports come with a freeplay option so the game can be enjoyed by those of all skill levels.
Like I said before, Metal Slug 3 really is the pinnacle of the series with no other title bearing the franchise name able to match the sort of creativity and varied enjoyment it offers. As the last Metal Slug game made by the original SNK team, Metal Slug 3 is a send-off the likes of which gaming has only rarely witnessed.
#77 – Sonic Adventure
Principal Platforms: Dreamcast, PC, GameCube | Developer: Sonic Team | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Action/Adventure | Year: 1998
If I did entertain nostalgia as a factoring concern in this list, then there’s a chance that Sonic Adventure would be in the top 10 instead of here at #77.
Sega failed to bring an original Sonic the Hedgehog title to their Saturn console but were determined not to make that same mistake again with the Dreamcast.
Sonic Adventure was released to heavy praise and rightly so; this is a game that fully realized Sonic in 3D and reinvented many aspects of the series that delighted fans rather then angering them (something that Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is doing quite well today it seems).
This is the game that established Sonic’s universe as part of a developing story. Many liberties were taken with the setting but ultimately it was for the better as the characters that fans had grew up with were given a voice and a proper 3D makeover.
Sonic Adventure lives up to its name by featuring several intertwining stories supported by different gameplay styles. Sonic’s chapter is the main attraction of course and takes the form of a fast action platformer complete with collectibles and boss battles similar to previous titles in the series albeit in full 3D.
For their time the levels looked incredible and whilst not as tightly designed as those in say, Super Mario 64, the sensation of running across the sides of buildings and exploring ancient temples was a thrill in its own right.
Not every aspect is perfect of course. The fishing levels featuring the universally reviled Big the Cat character are annoying, the camera system is unruly and the overall run time of the game is short when you know the ins and outs. Even with those faults though, this title still represents what is perhaps the boldest step forward the Sonic series ever took.
The transition to 3D seemed to be a much harder task here when compared to the effortless hop Mario made, but the results are still impressive and the story as a whole is memorable, well constructed and makes good on the adventure premise that it promises.
The effect of hindsight and dissenting opinions passed on from vastly inferior ports have been cruel to Sonic Adventure‘s memory (reviews were extremely positive at the time of release), but it still stands as one of the first games that fully harnessed the Dreamcast‘s power and it established an entirely new universe for its respective franchise.
#76 – Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Principal Platforms: Xbox, PC, PlayStation 2 | Developer: Ubisoft Montreal | Publisher: Ubisoft | Genre: Stealth | Year: 2002
Originally released for Xbox in 2002, Splinter Cell was a key game that Xbox owners would use to show off the raw power of the console.
The first time I saw my TV screen bathed in the stylish glow of thermal vision (seamlessly activated by pressing right on the Xbox D-pad), I was speechless. Splinter Cell truly was a game ahead of its time when it came to visual flair.
But it’s not just the graphics that are great in this landmark title. Unlike the majority of the late Tom Clancy’s officially endorsed video games, Splinter Cell is a pure stealth game that significantly limits your shooting capability.
Although there are plenty of violent means for disposing of enemies, most of these are non-lethal with casualties often resulting in mission failure. Athletic operative Sam Fisher has the ability to elbow, pistol-whip, electrocute, stun, gas and even jump on the various terrorists he faces and must use his environment to his fullest advantage if he’s to remain undetected whilst doing so.
The whole game revolves around the concept of light and dark and, besides from just looking brilliant, offers the crucial gameplay element of visibility. It’s in your best interest to work in the dark because you have night/thermal vision and your enemies don’t (most of the time at least).
The shadows of every dark level allow for plenty of sneaking around, but you still have to be mindful of the ground you’re walking on as noisy floorboards and scattered debris can quickly alert enemies if you’re not careful. Fortunately Sam has plenty of well animated travel options including crouching, rolling, shimmying, and even more advanced actions such as zip-lining, rappelling and the trademark split-jump move.
Although the gameplay is remarkably absorbing and addictive, it has to be said that the overall package is a little thin in terms of replay value. The additional levels delivered through the early Xbox Live subscription were nice but rather short-lived and were not an ideal solution for everyone considering the low adoption rate of the service.
The Splinter Cell series would go on to create a huge franchise following this game and it’s not hard to see why when you consider the quality on offer here. It may be the only title in the series I’ve played to date, but I’m confident in saying that it probably still ranks amongst the best.
#75 – Dynasty Warriors 3
Principal Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox | Developer: Omega Force | Publisher: Koei | Genre: Action, Hack and Slash | Year: 2001
I consider Dynasty Warriors to be the equivalent of a video game morphine drip; sweet thrills whilst it lasts. That’s not because the series features games that are overly short, quite the contrary; it will take many hours to unlock all of the characters, stages and bonuses in each one, but it’s more likely that repetition will turn you away long before that happens.
This is a 3D action/strategy series of games that’s rather heavy on the action and rather light on the strategy.
Taking its setup from Luo Guanzhong’s 14th century historical novel Romance of Three Kingdoms, the Dynasty Warriors games depict exaggerated avatars of those real life soldiers, generals and strategists from the novel as they embark on an exaggerated retelling of the war to unite China.
The core franchise, now in its 8th iteration and counting, has proved massively popular despite its often simple (not to mention highly repetitive) gameplay and the various spin offs which behave very similar to each other. But the game ultimately succeeds by providing immediate combat thrills with ample room to upgrade and improve a massive roster of playable characters with a nice little touch of history (however many liberties are taken) thrown in to bring everything together.
I must confess though that featuring Dynasty Warriors 3 here is a slight cheat on my part. There are many graphically and technically superior titles in this evergreen series now, including releases for next generation systems that look nothing short of stunning with their full HD graphics.
But Dynasty Warriors 3 was the title that established the franchise as a hack n’ slash romp to begin with (as opposed to a beat ’em up like the first two) and many of the fundamental systems, levels and concepts have carried on from this game into the more modern titles.
Every subsequent release from Dynasty Warriors 3 up until Dynasty Warriors 5 was practically the same game with tweaks, extra characters and graphical upgrades. The stages themselves mostly follow the same structure, the stories don’t change much and the majority of weapons and items also carry on from game to game. In more basic terms, Dynasty Warriors 3 for me was when the series was at its freshest and most unexplored and it still stands as my most most played title in the franchise.
Long misunderstood to be a button-basher, the repetitive combat in this game has a little bit more nuance than is first apparent. You’re free to approach battles however you wish; you can fight troops on the frontline and make steady progress, you can search the battlefield for an opening in the enemy ranks and if you want to charge headlong through the horde to confront the enemy general then the game won’t stop you.
The core action may be repetitive but it’s not restrictive; it’s that and the addictive character building that really makes Dynasty Warriors shine.
In a world yet to be burdened with the awkwardness of gamer profiles and online integration, Dynasty Warriors 3 is a fantastic two player experience also. Every scenario in the game can be tackled alongside a friend and the presence of an extra player helps mix up the existing formula by offering new tactics and strategies in battle.
The now primitive graphics, draw distance and two-shot kill archers (way to go all realistic on us there Omega Force) will make this game a tough recommendation in 2015, but for all the bells and whistles of the many sequels, it’s still Dynasty Warriors 3 that I’ve enjoyed the most.
#74 – Duke Nukem 3D
Principal Platforms: PC, Nintendo 64, Saturn, PlayStation | Developer: 3D Realms | Publisher: GT Interactive | Genre: First Person Shooter | Year: 1996
Duke Nukem 3D represents one the first glimpses I would ever have into the world of PC gaming and as far as first impressions go, you couldn’t have picked a more instantly appealing title.
The wonderfully interactive levels, dizzying array of awesome weapons, cocky humour and pixelated topless strippers threatened to overload my young mind with sheer cool.
Even in spite of its rather antiquated references, boyish humour and overt sexism, Duke Nukem 3D is a technically accomplished game that pushes many boundaries that other “DOOM clones” do not.
Although the technology between the two games is very similar, Duke Nukem 3D feels very much like a superior successor to DOOM. Duke can aim on the Y axis, he can crouch and the levels he visits are rarely flat planes and feature slopes and all sorts of moving and interactive components.
The urban levels constitute a particular highlight as Duke blasts his way through super markets, nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and even pornography stores on his way to stop the evil Cycloid Emperor and his forces from invading Earth.
You can interact with everything from toilets and light switches to pinball machines and pool tables and considering the obsession that most games have with dreary sewers and boring crypts, Duke’s environments are such a refreshing change of pace.
The abundance of secret areas to be found in each stage also adds to the fun and you’ll find yourself poking every wall, poster and lampshade in an effort to locate the many hidden switches. Whilst most of these secrets lead to simple ammo and health drops, some of them reveal amusing cameos and references to other media including a Snake Plissken torso, the dead body of Luke Skywalker and, as Duke puts it: “one DOOMed space marine”.
Whilst arguably not the most satisfying arsenal in first-person shooter history, Duke gets access to some extremely fun toys including a trusty shotgun, manually detonating pipe bombs and a very cool freeze ray. The game is also notable for its raft of high quality ports, including an astonishingly good rendition for the Sega Saturn by Lobotomy Software and an excellently remixed version for the Nintendo 64 by Eurocom.
Duke Nukem 3D is a loud and bombastic throwback to the Nineties that is a still a real blast to play today, especially with multiple players. Even though its aging misogynistic themes form an amusing time capsule that the industry is steadily begin to move away from, the game behind Duke is what will truly endure.
And now that Duke Nukem Forever has successfully doomed the franchise to hell, it’s my guess that gamers will cling to the pleasant memory of Duke Nukem 3D even tighter than ever before.
#73 – Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012
Principal Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC | Developer: Stainless Games | Publisher: Wizards of the Coast | Genre: Card Battle | Year: 2011
Whilst I’ve played better paper card games than Magic: The Gathering in the past, not many digital card games have rivaled my enjoyment of this second installment in the Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers series.
Marketed as an introductory tool to the “real experience”, Duels 2012 excels expectations by offering much more than its meager premise would suggest.
A limited (but very welcome) deck customization feature is introduced in this title as well as a new campaign mode with a more intuitive map screen. There are plenty of new challenges to solve, achievements to earn and ten brand new decks with more powerful and interesting cards to unlock.
Although there are some balance concerns (the blue deck is particularly brutal), the deck selection is still varied and interesting. Deck keys, foil cards and DLC deck packs make their debut in Duels 2012 too, so you’ll have even more avenues for customization before play begins.
The stand-out inclusion in this title of course, and my personal favourite feature at that, is the archenemy game mode. Inspired by the paper Magic game type of the same name, this mode pits one player against a team of three allied opponents with the standard victory conditions remaining the same.
The twist is that the lone Archenemy player has a personal scheme deck featuring a random assortment of insanely powerful cards with which to wreak havoc on the allied force. Whilst you cannot edit the scheme decks themselves, each one tailors itself to the mana colours that you’re currently using, so you’re bound to find a good synergy to help you hold out against the allied team.
Although it’s a lot of fun with any number of players, Duels 2012 joins a niche selection of games that work especially well for three as the accompanying Archenemy campaign is multiplayer compatible as well.
Subsequent titles in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series certainly have their advantages, but none of them bring the level of improvement and quality that’s present in this 2012 edition.
#72 – Banjo-Kazooie
Principal Platforms: Nintendo 64 | Developer: Rare | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: 3D Platformer | Year: 1998
The Nintendo 64 console marked a major change for me as a games enthusiast. When it was introduced to our household one Christmas, it marked the beginning of an influx of readily accessible Nintendo titles for me to try and enjoy. Considering my childish brand loyalty to Sega platforms at the time, it meant giving up a lifelong view that games from competing hardware were somehow inferior.
Luckily, in spite of its rather dogged reliance on cartridge technology, the N64 was blessed with many incredible games with quite a number of them being produced by a company called Rare.
When their latest N64 title Banjo-Kazooie was first unveiled however, it would not be me struggling with the problem of brand loyalty but instead the Nintendo fans themselves.
It’s strange to think how many times I’ve seen this quality game decried as a “Super Mario 64 ripoff” as, if anything, Banjo-Kazooie is a worthy successor to Mario’s throne and just one more reason why Nintendo and its new 64-bit console finally had me convinced.
Banjo-Kazooie is a 3D platformer then, one that does borrow heavily from Super Mario 64. There’s a near identical control scheme, similar level objectives and a variation on the tired ‘save the damsel’ storyline.
The similarities to Mario sort of end there though as Banjo’s game worlds are much bigger, more detailed and feature interactive characters in practically every corner. Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird excel when it comes to teamwork; Kazooie is faster and can scale steep cliffs with her talons whereas Banjo handles the platforming and close combat.
When working together there’s not much that the duo can’t accomplish, but that’s not to say that levels are easy. There are many puzzles to solve on your adventure as well as minions to fight and secrets to uncover.
Not every area is instantly accessible though and you may have need of a new special ability or even a transformation from the friendly witch doctor Mumbo Jumbo whose magic can turn Banjo into one of several different animals. As a termite Banjo can scale uneven surfaces, as a crocodile he can brave the deadly swamps and as a bee he can fly around unhindered and sting enemies.
The level of detail in this game is amazing in itself. From the opening theme song to the final cutscene, Banjo-Kazooie is extremely well animated with plenty of vibrant colours and silly voices that all add to the game’s unmistakable charm. Whether you’re talking to a sentient bucket called Leaky, a moody camel called Gobi or the happy-go-lucky polar bear called Boggy, the character designs suit the game perfectly.
The dynamic audio represents a high for cartridge based games too as the music constantly shifts to reflect the player’s current location. The charming music sounds clear as crystal when you’re out in the open but seamlessly becomes slower and muffled the moment you dive underwater. Sound effects are equally impressive with collectibles even creating a melody if picked up in quick succession.
The environments are a huge success too and it all starts with a vast hub network that leads to many individual action stages throughout the game. Each level is designed in a non-linear fashion and allows players to go anywhere and do anything they like.
There are so many tasks and objectives to encounter though that it never feels like anything is lacking a point. There are lots of races, mini games and battles to get involved in and it all amounts to what is a very big adventure that will take many hours to complete in full.
Banjo-Kazooie is one of the N64‘s finest titles and one that I have enjoyed completing on not one but three different occasions.
#71 – Virtua Tennis 2
Principal Platforms: Arcade, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 | Developer: Hitmaker | Publisher: Sega | Genre: Sports | Year: 2001
Often considered one of the finest video games ever made, Virtua Tennis 2 brings back all of the addicting ‘two button’ gameplay whilst introducing an expanded roster of players that now includes famous female athletes as well as the familiar male faces from the first game.
Multiplayer support is back too of course and it still offers the same ludicrous amounts of enjoyment for up to four players competing simultaneously.
The single player ‘World Tour’ mode is another highlight; a campaign that sees your custom created tennis players battling for the number one world ranking amongst a variety of singles and doubles matches and even some fun training minigames.
As a video game (sports or otherwise) Virtua Tennis 2 really does have it all. The graphics are still fantastic, the camera angles and instant replays are still a treat and the gameplay itself is still instantly gratifying with its beautifully simple and intuitive control scheme. The fluid feeling of your player as he/she moves around the court is hugely pleasing and makes you feel in control at all times.
The timing of your shots is crucial and there’s a lot of skill to the game when you consider how basic the controls actually are. Smashing a ball that has drifted a bit high is always a thrilling sensation too and one that’s bolstered by a huge number of quality animations that are present in the game’s code. From a distance it could easily be mistaken for the real thing!
Solid visuals, solid controls and solid fundamentals make Virtua Tennis 2 a quality title whether you like sports games or not.