Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Top 50 Games: 50-47

A few years back, I did a listing of my best video games of all time on our shared blog. The process was fun for me, and I feel it's time for an agonizing reappraisal of the situation. I'm going to redo my personal top 50 video games list and post them here. There won't be a huge number of changes from the last one, as I've been playing video games for some 25 years now.

The rankings are based on my own personal feelings and whims. They have nothing to do with sales, awards or anything else.

Number 50:
Title: Theme Hospital
Platform: Sony Playstation
Genre: Strategy/Simulation

We'll kick things off with one most of you won't be familiar with. Theme Hospital is a PC game (later ported over to the Playstation) about constructing and managing a hospital. You'd start off with a certain amount of cash and an empty building. The game consists of building various diagnostics and treatment rooms and hiring a (hopefully) competent staff to run the operation. You need to make sure your layout is practical, otherwise people will have trouble getting from one place to another. If patients have to wait too long they'll either leave or die, neither of which is good. Your doctors, nurses, receptionists and janitors will work faster the more they're paid, and they'll often demand raises. The game is made by Bullfrog Games (it's a sequel to Theme Park) and is full of tongue-in-cheek humor. Among the ailments your patients have: TV Personalities, Corrugated Ankles, Bloaty Head and The Squits. Theme Hospital also has the distinction of being the first thing I ever purchased online. My mom and I went up to the Yale Library, went to and bought the game with her credit card. Go capitalism go!

Number 49:
Title: Golden Axe
Platform: Arcade
Genre: Side-scrolling beat 'em up

In the late eighties, the beat up all the bad guys on the screen style of co-op games were pretty popular. Double Dragon was the first one I remember seeing, followed by things like Bad Dudes and Streets of Rage. The plot of Bad Dudes was "Ninjas have kidnapped the President. Are you BAD enough to rescue him?" How awesome is that? Anyhow, the best of these games was Golden Axe. You got to choose a character at the beginning from the male warrior (average at everything) the female warrior (poor at combat, powerful magic spells) or the dwarven warrior (weak magic, powerful combat.) I typically chose the dwarf. There was a story about Death-Adder and killing your parents or innocent villagers or some such nonsense. It was an excuse to run from stage to stage killing bad guys. Along the way there were mounts you could ride like dragons or weird lizard/bird hybrid monsters. In between stages you would make camp and sleep, and while you were sleeping little midgets would come and rob you. You got to chase them around and kick them until they gave your stuff back. If you beat the game, it showed the monsters coming out of the arcade cabinet and chasing you down the street. On the screen, I mean. Not in real life. Great game.

Number 48:
Title: Paper Mario
Platform: Nintendo 64
Genre: Roleplaying Game

If I had more memory of it, this spot would probably be held by Super Mario RPG for the Super Nintendo. I don't recall anything about the game other than the fact that I loved it. My sister, however, let her then-boyfriend borrow it some 15 years ago and it disappeared into the abyss. I do still own, remember and enjoy Paper Mario however. It's one of the (very) few good N64 games. Paper Mario had the typical Mario story of the princess being kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario needing to rescue her. The game is written with a good degree of humor, and definitely not afraid to poke fun at itself which is always welcome. It's a turn-based RPG with some timing thrown in, so you can score some bonus damage if you hit a button at just the right time or if you rotate the analog stick just right. That sort of thing helps keep the combat more involved than many old-school RPGs. If you like Mario and RPGs, odds are pretty good you'd like Paper Mario. It's also available for download on the Wii for a reasonable price.

Number 47:
Title: Tetris
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Genre: Puzzle

If I were basing the list on worldwide appeal and impact on the gaming industry, Tetris would probably be number one. It would certainly be in the top 5. After all, it is largely responsible for the success of the original Nintendo Gameboy, which helped get us where we are - with handhelds like the DS and PSP becoming major players in the video game industry. Every knows it, everyone knows how to play it, and I'd bet that people will still be playing it in 50 years. How many other games could you say that about?


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