Chey’s Top 25 – #11 – Diablo 2

Genre:  Dungeon Crawler
Platform:  PC

We are now entering the “not kidding around” part of my top 25.  I’ve sunk more time than I care to admit into all but two of my remaining top 25.  I’m talking YEARS of actual game time, all combined.  Coming in at number 11 is Diablo 2.

This game was released in June of 2000 and I think I started playing it about a year or so later.  I was immediately sucked in.  This was a very revolutionary game as it really created the genre of dungeon crawlers, which are often called “Diablo clones”.  There was a first Diablo, which was a good game in its own right.  There was also a Diablo 3, which is another great game, and there are rumors of a Diablo 4.  Blizzard, the developer, takes so long on their games, however, that we’ll likely not see it for a good five years, if it even exists.

I loved Diablo 2 for many reasons.  The game play is just fun.  You are constantly clicking on things on the screen.  There is quite a bit of strategy in this game as well as you have a lot of different spells and abilities you can pick from, but can really only have two active at any given time.  You also have to keep a close eye on your mana pool and your health.  This game has a robust tech tree, which makes every play through unique and every character fresh.

Diablo 2 tech tree

The writing is really good.  I have a tendency to ignore a lot of the lore in games, but I read every bit of this that I could.  It’s a story of good vs evil and keeping balance in the world.  Heaven vs Hell.  One of the oldest stories there is.  But let’s not kid ourselves here.  This game is really about the loot.  It’s so satisfying to see gold and items spew from the body of dead foes.  And when you see a really rare piece drop, you really get excited.  However, my biggest issue with this game was a seemingly arbitrarily limited inventory space.  You could not carry much and your bank wasn’t that large, either.  That made for some difficult decisions when seeing that phat lootz drop on the play field.

Diablo 2 inventory

To make inventory matters worse, the game had charms that had to stay in your inventory to have an effect.  Some of them only took up one inventory slot, but some took up three!  This may have been an annoyance, but it also really added to the depth of the game.  The result was keeping different sets of gear for different types of mobs.

This game features some awesome battles, great environments and graphics that are a bit out-dated now, but the game is still wildly popular and fun.  The soundtrack really adds to the tension in some areas.  The maps are different every time you play, too, so it feels different every time you play it.  If by some chance you’ve never played it, DO!

Chey’s Top 25 – #12 – Tetris

Genre:  Puzzle
Platform:  All

This was the game that started it all, folks.  Video games had been fun, leisurely things to help pass the time up until this one.  It’s Tetris, the first uber-addictive game, at least in my world.  I was in sixth or seventh grade when we rented this one for the NES.  I remember distinctively because my cousin Nikki was spending the night, which was normally a really big and fun deal.  This game made me all but ignore her.  My mom tried to pry me away without much luck.  It was the first time I remember feeling addicted to something.

The game is really simple and I don’t have too much to say about it.  You line up the pieces and complete lines to clear them.  The more you clear at once, the higher your score.  Your goal is to keep playing for as long as you can.  It’s been done on every platform since its birth in 1984.  It was developed by two Russians, and I would argue it’s the best thing to ever come from that country (including the space program!).  The individual pieces are called Tetriminos.  You can find all sorts of Tetris-inspired memorabilia.  I have a board game called Tetris link and Matt made me Tetrimino shelves:

Tetris Shelves

My favorite version will always be the NES version, simply because it was the first one to get me hooked.  I have played many, many different versions of it, but this one is still one of the best.  Not to brag, but I’m pretty good at it.  If you have somehow never played it, just do a Google search for it and you’ll find a version free online.

Chey’s Top 25 – #13 – Donkey Kong Country

Genre:  Platformer
Platform:  Super Nintendo

My siblings rented a Super Nintendo (SNES) way back when and had rented this game along with it.  I happened to be at the house that night and played a bit of it.  The next day, I went out and bought a SNES and this game just so I could play it more.  This game is absolutely amazing and defined the SNES for me.

The graphics, for the time, were jaw-dropping.  I had never seen anything like it.  The water level (shown above) was the best thing I’d seen.  Add in a gorgeous soundtrack and perfect gameplay and you’ve got yourself a hit.

You play as either Donkey Kong or his sidekick, Diddy Kong.  You could switch between them at will, which was necessary in many levels as each had their own strengths.  Diddy couldn’t kill certain mobs and DK couldn’t reach some spots that Diddy could.  It made for a new level of gameplay.  There were also save points throughout the levels, which were absolutely necessary.  The game features the top-down view of a map between levels and you could go back and play previous games.

There were collectibles in the game as well besides your simple coins (bananas in this case).  In every level, there were level-up balloons scattered about.  There were hidden areas to each level.  You could also find animals to ride (ostrich, shark, rhino, frog) which all added to the gameplay.  There were also letters that spelled out KONG and gave free life if you found them all.

There were some very memorable levels in this game.  Besides the aforementioned water levels, my favorite was the mine cart level.  In it, you rode in a mine cart and had to jump your way through broken tracks and obstacles to make it to the end.  I played this level over and over because it was so fun.

DKC play

If you have never had the pleasure of playing this game, you need to find it.  I still have it for my SNES and do play it from time to time.  I have it on the GCW Zero as well, but there’s something special about playing it on its original hardware.  There was also a Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, and each were fun in their own right.  Nintendo came out with a couple of reboots – for the 3DS and Wii.  I may cover those at a different time.  This was the game, however, that really launched Donkey Kong into modern Nintendo fame.

Chey’s Top 25 – #14 – Picross 3D

Genre:  Puzzle
Platform:  Nintendo DS

I have played through this game three times total and have played through it perfectly once.  According to my DS, I have spent over 200 hours playing this game.  I will probably play it another 200 in my lifetime.  It was a new way of thinking for me and the only puzzle game of its kind that I’ve ever played.  And it is challenging and so much fun.

I had never played a picross game before, so the switch to 3D was non-existent for me.  I have played them religiously since, but this was my intro to the genre.  This is a logic game through and through.  You are presented with a cube or other shape with numbers on the outside of it.  Your job is to whittle away at the cube until you reveal the hidden shape inside.  The numbers are clues to help you do this.  The stylus and touch screen make this a breeze and fun.  They represent how many cubes are in each row or column.  Getting started is pretty easy as long as you have either 0’s (none of the cubes belong in that row) or the maximum numbers of cubes for the row (all belong).  From there, you can work your way through it and figure out which cubes belong there and which don’t.

The most challenging part of this game is the perfection, though.  To get a perfect score, you need to complete a level perfectly and within their time limit.  It forces you to think a bit more quickly than you might like, which means that you are apt to make mistakes.  I had to replay some levels six or seven times to get it perfect.  Some puzzles took upwards of 25 minutes to complete.  And I loved every second of it.

If you like logic and puzzle games, definitely get this one.  There’s is a sequel released in Japan, but 3DS games are region-locked, so I’d have to get a Japanese 3DS to play it, which I’m not going to do.  There are rumors that it is going to be released in Europe, so I’m hoping they extend that to the US as well.

Chey’s Top 25 – #15 – Project Gotham Racing

Genre:  Racing
Platform:  XBox Original

I got Project Gotham Racing (PGR from here on out) when I got the XBox original on launch day.  I loved this game from the second I put it in the drive (pun intended).  The graphics are amazing and still hold up well today.  It was the first game that I played that allowed you to integrate your own soundtrack from the XBox’s hard drive into the game.  It handles that brilliantly – there’s a DJ on the radio and he talks between your songs, just like the radio.

I wasn’t much of a fan of racing games before this one.  I played a few of them over the years including RC Pro Am, Super Cars and Need For Speed.  But this game was/still is special.  You don’t just drive to win in this game.  Now, if you want to, there is a mode for that.  However, that is a tiny fraction of what you can do.  The game is divided into cities – New York, London, Tokyo, San Francisco, etc.  In each city there are different tracks and challenges that you need to pass to get better cars and progress through the game.  My favorite car was the Nissan GTR Skyline (superb handling).  Those challenges include time trials, overtake challenges, total laps and more.  But the heart of this game is kudos.

You get kudos by driving with style.  Anyone can slam into other cars and walls to win.  This game rewards you for finesse.  You get points and combo streaks for things like clean sections, drifting around corners, getting air, driving on two wheels, passing cars (without hitting them) and a lot more!  If you hit something, your streak is over and you don’t get the kudos.  Let me repeat this – you are rewarded in this racing game for using your breaks once in a while.  Once you get good at it, notice how your hands react to the course and how fluid you are with the game.  I love this game so much that it regularly finds itself in my XBox 360 drive (thank goodness for backwards compatibility).

Even if you don’t typically like racing games, I would recommend trying this one.  It’s very different from all other racers and I haven’t been able to find one like it since (except PGR 2, 3 and 4, which are all solid games).

 

Chey’s Top 25 – #16 – Super Mario Brothers 3

Genre:  Platformer
Platform:  NES

The first Super Mario Brothers may have had the biggest impact on the video game industry of any game in the history of gaming.  It came bundled with the NES and was a really fun game.  Super Mario Brothers 2 then came along and was just…weird.  There’s a story behind that game, but I’ll save it for another day.  Then came Super Mario Brothers 3 in 1988.  It may not have had the impact that it’s older sibling did, but it was far more fun.

I’m not the only one that feels this way.  This was one of the best-selling games for the NES and is often thought to be one of the best games of all-time.  When it came down to it, it was just a really fun game.  My sisters and I would play this for hours.  I still remember the fun little clap we would do at the end of each level.

This game is different from its predecessors as you navigated from world to world on a map.  This is a feature widely used in games to this day.  You could go back to replay previous levels and skip certain levels if you wanted.  It also introduced a fun new feature – Mario could glide with his raccoon tail!  There was also a frog suit and a bear (maybe?) suit.  The levels were unique – one was a giant level where you were tiny – and fun.  And, of course, that pesky Princess Peach was always in another castle.

The graphics in this game were crisp and cute.  The sound effects and music really added to the game and I probably still hum the main theme in my sleep.  There are lots of secret things to be found in this game, too, so if you don’t look them up, you’ve got a lot of fun exploration to do.

If you haven’t played this game, you likely haven’t played many games at all.  I have it on my 3DS and still enjoy playing it.  It has stood the test of time quite well.  Please go out and find it now if you’ve never had the pleasure!

Chey’s Top 25 – #17 – Puzzle Quest

Genre:  Match-3, RPG
Platform:  All, I think.  I have it for Nintendo DS and XBox 360.

Having long been a fan of match-3 type of games, you can imagine my delight at finding a game that combined that simple game play with RPG elements.  I believe this was one of the first games I downloaded from the XBox Live arcade, many years ago.  I have played the poo out of this game.  I have played it all the way through at least 10 times, which is no small feat because there’s a lot of grinding involved in it.  I personally think the DS version of the game is best due to the use of the stylus.

This game has you create a character from a few different classes and start on your merry way.  It has some “save the princess” story, but there are definitely twists on it.  For example, you have the option to help the princess escape her situation of forced marriage and be a badass with you on the road.  Of course I did this.  Screw the man!

As you play, you level up and get to assign points for different attributes which increase the game play.  As you encounter certain enemies, you can “capture” them by completing an often-challenging mini game.  Once you do that, you learn the spells it knows, allowing you greater ability to customize your character.  You can also lay siege to cities, build a citadel with various beneficial buildings, train mounts and research spells.

The “Quest” part of this game is no laughing matter.  There are a TON of quests to do, and it may take you hours of grinding to become powerful enough to complete some of them.  That was fine with me, however, because this is a super fun game.  There have been a few other versions of it.  I never gave Puzzle Quest 2 a fair shake and I’ll go back to it someday.  I didn’t like Puzzle Quest Galactrix, which is hexagonal and set in space.  There’s also a Marvel version which is quite good, too.  But I would first check out the original and its expansion, which is always included with the original game.  Have fun!

Chey’s Top 25 – #18 – The Sims

Genre:  Simulation
Platform:  PC

I had been a fan of SimCity since middle school, when we played SimCity original as a way to teach us the basics of city planning.  More SimCity versions came out, but you can imagine my excitement when a new level of granularity arrived, allowing you to actually control the people of your city.  This was Will Wright’s grand vision, and it was The Sims.

The original Sims still remains my favorite.  It seemed to me that you had the most items to play and create with and customizing your own wasn’t too difficult.  The concept of the Sims is this – you create people/families and control every single aspect of their lives.  You design their house, you buy them new objects, you decorate, you decide if they procreate, you choose when/if they use the bathroom or shower, you get them a job and help them excel at it.  You also control their social interactions.  If you are like me, you care for your Sims and try to make them as happy as possible.  Then again, there were always the players that chose this route…

Sims Evil

So, so cruel.

I always recreated the place I happened to be living at the time and my family/friends.  It was a lot of fun, but the game got challenging as you progressed as your game always tended to focus on making and maintaining friends.  I find this hard in real life, so it’s no surprise that I found it difficult and stressful in a game.  And then there were the seemingly endless expansions that were just money sinks:

Sims Expansions

Next expansion: The Sims, Just Give Us Your Money Already

I played Sims 2 and 3, and each added their own unique twists.  It was pretty impressive how much of a likeness I could get to my husband.  I haven’t played Sims 4 yet.  But, as I said, the original was good enough to make my top 25 and I would suggest playing it if you haven’t.