Star Fox 64

Overall, Star Fox 64 is nothing short of spectacular. It is the full realization of the concept of bringing arcade space shooters to a home console, and it reaches that status not just by perfectly translating the genre’s excitement and high-scoring thrill to television screens, but by finding ways to naturally expand the otherwise brief experience into a meaningful length. Be it by flying an Arwing, piloting a Landmaster, or diving in the Blue-Marine, players are bound to have an excellent time when blasting through Andross’ large army, and they will do so accompanied by likable characters, plenty of voice-acted dialogues, and stages that always succeed in surprising, testing gamers’ capacity to react quickly and shoot fast, and inviting them back for one more try. It is a source of joy that keeps on delivering for quite some time, and it is no wonder the absurd quality of the action it presents has been so hard to replicate.

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Star Fox

The conclusion is that, like many Super Nintendo classics, there is fun to be had in the original Star Fox. However, differently from other remarkable titles of the era, the first quest of Fox, Falco, Peppy, and Slippy has had a big portion of its glory eroded by the passing of time. Although it inaugurated a gameplay style that has served the franchise relatively well for a big amount of years and translated with grace the excitement of sidescrolling space shooters to the 3-D perspective, the fact it was one of gaming’s first huge endeavors into the world of polygonal graphics has caused its visuals and some of its gameplay components to lose luster. Going through its stages remains a thrill, shooting up as many enemies as humanly possible is still an appealing challenge, and trying hard to beat one’s best score in each of the game’s three routes is certainly alluring. Sadly, the reaching of those awards has to go through being able to look past very aged visuals and a few frustrating gameplay quirks that stem from technological limitations and clumsy implementation.

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Donkey Kong Country

That does not, obviously, mean Donkey Kong Country is a bad game. It is, actually, a major finding; a discovery of a universe of gameplay possibilities that, before it, simply did not exist. It transformed Donkey Kong from a usually mindless villain into a hero of his own vast and rich world, and it constructed an adventure that ranks among the Super Nintendo’s best platformers. The fact it comes out rather bruised from a comparison to all its sequels speaks more about their stunning quality than about Donkey Kong Country itself. Its gameplay has been improved; its visuals have been taken to higher heights; and its soundtrack, of very unique instrumentation and tone, has inspired much better ones. However, its birth paved the way to a historic franchise that is an integral part of the gaming vocabulary, and the resulting adventure is – by all means – still a fantastic and enjoyable gameplay experience, even if other Donkey Kong Country games end up amounting to packages that are more complete, well-balanced, and creative. It is, after all, only natural, because they have all had a pretty spectacular base upon which to build; and it was here that those original pillars were put in place.

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Kirby Super Star

In a chain of games that has spanned some decades, gone through many consoles, and birthed a horde of installments, no effort has captured that jubilant carefree feeling as well as Kirby Super Star, originally released for the Super Nintendo. And it is somewhat easy to see why. While most of the pink puffball’s titles center around one predetermined plot, hence giving them a serious stiff structural form that is similar to that of other platformers, Kirby Super Star is absurdly loose. It feels like a party; a celebration of Kirby’s sheer glory, one that was planned and created as an opportunity for him to display his ridiculously overpowered strength in whatever way he sees fit. Surely, the game is not aimless: it has purpose. There are, actually, quite a few of those and players are bound to be delighted by most, if not all, of them. Yet, amidst saving Dream Land’s produce or trying to punch the ground so hard Planet Popstar – his home – almost cracks in half, the final objective of it all seems to be giving Kirby a chance to show off; and the result is quite beautiful.

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Super Mario Sunshine

As such, although Super Mario Sunshine is most of the times an excellent display of platforming greatness both in its open worlds and in its linear portions, it presents a few rough edges that can make it more frustrating than it should have been. Its controls, its camera (though not perfect), and the variety of its objectives show greater maturity in relation to Super Mario 64, but – at the same time – the excess of direction that its episodes possess takes away much of the joy that comes with the unexpected discoveries of unguided exploration. Nevertheless, the game is undeniably fun, often inventive, very challenging to those who want to fully complete it, and quite welcoming to anyone who just wishes to get to its end. Alongside those qualities, its brightest spot may be how even though it drinks heavily from Super Mario 64 in terms of structure, it is able to give its adventure a completely unique tone and feel within the franchise’s canon due to its great relaxed setting and F.L.U.D.D., its key gameplay component. Because of that, it is a must-play for absolutely everyone, as the well-designed experience found here cannot be had anywhere else.

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Mario Tennis Aces

With a good deal of extra care, Mario Tennis Aces could have easily been the best entry in the franchise’s history. Unfortunately, it is considerably held back by the fact many of its offline modes suffer from issues that are so primary one has to wonder how it was possible for a company as big and quality-focused as Nintendo to overlook them. Therefore, while the gameplay itself is stellar, presenting a perfect mixture of solid basics of the sport that are implemented in simple ways and absurd quirks that add a whole lot of excitement, splendor, and strategy to this world of rackets and courts, the content that surrounds it is, at best, problematic. As such, the recommendation of Mario Tennis Aces comes with massive caveats. If one is willing to jump into the game’s online mode and soak in all of the thrill and brutality of those courts, or if one wants to enjoy a great – though limited – multiplayer sessions beside great friends, the game has quite a bit to offer despite its hard-to-ignore faults. If one, on the other hand, is looking for a meaty single-player experience that brings equal levels of challenge, value, and enjoyment, Mario Tennis Aces will not satisfy.

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Hollow Knight

Balanced against so much outstanding quality, though, it is easy to see how minimal – not to say completely negligible – those problems are. Hollow Knight blasts by them, and it constructs an adventure of all-time greatness. By giving its starring knight a set of skills that is absolutely common and presenting a progression that is not too different from that of other classic Metroidvania titles, it muscles its way towards excellence by achieving unforeseen performance in other areas. The size of its world is stunning; the level of freedom players have at any point in the game is mesmerizing; the tsunami of content, both mandatory and extra, it carries is flooring; the design of its levels – which have a fine-tuned balance between platforming, environmental puzzles, and exploration – is masterful; the optional challenges that protect its most valuable collectibles are as brutal as they are fun; and the way it completely puts all elements of its exploration into the hands of players (including figuring out where to go, opening shortcuts, and putting effort into mapping the terrain) is daring. All of those pieces come together to form, in the depths of the gorgeous haunting Hallownest, a quest that gloriously walks through the halls of gaming history that are reserved for the industry’s finest productions ever.

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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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