Earthbound

By setting its quest in the modern world and by approaching its universe with the total recklessness of a toddler, the game uncovers an impressive array of uncanny gameplay scenarios of unique tone, outlandish theme, and often unbelievable happenings. It is frequently surrealistic, it is always subversive, it is sometimes incomprehensible, it is occasionally hilarious, it is underlined by a very solid battle system, and it is carried by a story that holds far more feelings than it seems to. Earthbound may not be its generation’s most technically impressive RPG, and it is certainly not the best one there is when dissected into individual parts. However, sometimes heart, soul, humor, creativity, bold intentions, and disregard for expectations outweigh all the rest. And Earthbound has those to spare.

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The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past

In the few areas in which it falls short from sheer excellence, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past may have been improved upon by some of the installments that would follow it. Everywhere else, though, it is extremely hard to find an entry in the saga that is more well-rounded, has a better pace, and presents such a dazzling – and utterly flawless – balance between complete freedom and sensible guidance. A Link to the Past, after two irregular games that did not achieve everything they intended to, was the title that defined the franchise’s gameplay as the world would come to know it and, in turn, transformed it into one of gaming’s greatest properties. Yet, with its strengths in mind, it is easy to see its relevance and quality are not purely related to that fact. On the contrary, it is a game that must be thoroughly experienced by all players, because much of what it does is so utterly remarkable that Nintendo itself has been unable to consistently top it or even replicate it.

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Super Mario Kart

And, in a way, that statement nicely sums up playing Super Mario Kart from a modern perspective. It is clear the franchise has greatly and naturally advanced since its first installment: graphics have become better, songs and scenery have become more varied, races have included more competitors, tracks have grown to outstandingly insane levels of design, and the experience has become more polished. However, Super Mario Kart – as the game of the series that is truest to kart racing itself, thanks to its simplicity – packs an exciting challenge of a kind that cannot be found in any of the other installments. Surely, Super Mario Kart will not blow the minds of those who have gone through more recent entries of the series; yet, the game will likely be able to entertain and make one look rather fondly to the franchise’s very well-designed beginning.

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F-Zero

Yet, even when carrying such thin content, F-Zero is still greatly enjoyable. It is obvious that, thanks to 3-D gaming as well as consoles with increased power, the franchise has – since its inception – grown far beyond the completely flat tracks and fifteen-car races that its Super Nintendo version provides. Nonetheless, the title is worth a revisit for far more reasons than the fact it was the start of one of Nintendo’s greatest series. It is a fast, exciting, and challenging racing game that entertains with excellence while it lasts. Given there is not much to it, the time one will spend with F-Zero will strongly depend on how willing they are to take on the game’s highest difficulty settings; therefore, the decision of whether to acquire it or not heavily relies on that variable. Those who do decide to dive into the game, though, will quickly understand why F-Zero is mentioned as a major inspiration to all titles that involve high-speed futuristic races through circuits that defy the laws of gravity and star a level of brutality that challenges common sense.

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Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

It is pretty obvious, from everything it does, that a spectacular amount of work, dedication, and creativity went into the making of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Its addition of collectibles and its focus on more intricate levels showed the Mario 2-D games had the capacity to be far more than a straightforward race to the finish, and its artistic prowess created a visual masterpiece that succeeded in topping even the graphics of games that took the hardware of the era to the edge of their technical limits. It is true it carries some easily avoidable design issues that end up being the cause of some frustration, and it is arguable some of its worlds could have benefited from more of a thematic cohesion between levels, as sometimes it feels like backgrounds are used randomly rather than to form a uniform term. Nonetheless, Yoshi’s Island is by all means a spectacular achievement that still plays as well as it did when it was released and that retains its capacity to amaze. And those are the biggest statements that can be made about the brilliancy of the content within.

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The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie

Still, The Great Circus Mystery is able to carry enough redeeming features to keep it interesting. Playing it alongside others is fun; its soundtrack is filled with great tunes, even if the fact most of them are pretty brief means that they loop a little bit too frequently for their own good; its twelve boss encounters are creative; and its level of difficulty is good although its continue system, which takes players back to the mid-level checkpoint once all lives are lost instead of making them return to the stage’s start, comes off as not sufficiently punishing.

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Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Given its development by LucasArts, a group of folks that were once masters of parody, humor, and stylish goofiness, it is only natural that the game’s major and more noticeable strength is its quirkiness. Zeke and Julie are extravagantly designed, and the neighbors that must be rescued are ridiculously insane, because only the craziest – and best – kind of people would be barbecuing, relaxing on the pool, cheer-leading or leisurely taking in the sights while the gates of hell are blown apart and monsters from all kinds are invading once-peaceful territory.

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Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

Yet, there is just no way around it: Donkey Kong Country 2 is one the, if not the, best sidescrolling platformers of all time. It checks all requirements with style: it has a great amount of extra content, a daunting but fair level of difficulty, unforgettable enemies that are fondly remembered until this very day, good boss battles, clever mechanics and creative levels that make full use of them. What takes it over the top, though, are its haunting atmosphere that combines cartoonish inspirations with a dark quest of urgent nature and a soundtrack for the ages. Donkey Kong Country 2 proved that, more than mere competition for the plumber, Rareware had the capacity to craft games to top Nintendo’s best efforts.

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Super Metroid

Some games spend the whole length of their running time searching for a defining watermark; a moment of remarkable weight that will be imprinted in the minds of gamers for decades to come. For Super Metroid, though, that quest comes to an end right as it is turned on. The words “Metroid 3” come in as if relayed from a mysterious outer space source, indicating the game’s placement on the franchise’s timeline, and, soon thereafter, players are met with a vision of utter calamity: as an ominous tune plays on the background, a dimly lit room filled with dead scientists is shown, and while the machinery remains operational, a lonely caged Metroid screeches as if calling out to someone.

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