DZ's Top 60: #20-11 - Gotta Go Faster, Faster, Fasterfasterfaster

20. Kirby Air Ride

Kirby Air Ride was a game I got for Christmas 2004 (I think), and I just thought it was OK. It really didn't hold my interest compared to most of the other Gamecube games I already had at the time.

But around 2009, I was big into Mega Man, and I had a Mega Man 9 medley on my MP3 player that was about seven minutes long. Somehow I got the idea to play a seven-minute game of City Trial while I listened to it, which is where I discovered something.

Playing games while listening to other things kinda rules.

Kirby Air Ride (specifically City Trial) was my introduction to the idea of a "podcast game", something to keep your eyes and hands occupied while you listen to music or podcasts. I have vivid memories of playing this game in 2014 listening to GameXplain discussions. Indeed, I still boot the game up every so often to this day whenever I wanna listen to stuff.

Oh yeah and there's two other modes that aren't City Trial. They're fine I guess.

19. Rivals of Aether

Rivals of Aether is Smash Bros. with furries. If you're not familiar with this game, that's all you need to know.

But for real, of all the non-Smash platform fighters, I think this is easily the best of the bunch. It boasts a very polished-looking visual style and a great chip-fusion soundtrack by flashygoodness, and the characters are all unique and complex.

The mechanics of this game are inspired heavily by Project M, featuring many of the same tech brought over in one way or another, but recontextualized to be easier to perform consistently. If you have a hard time getting into competitive Melee or PM because of how demanding the controls can be, this might be worth looking into.

Of course it's still just as deep as those games mechanically, and despite the roster only having a total of 14 characters (unless you wanna open the can of worms that is the Steam Workshop), every character fits multiple archetypes and it's not hard to find one that you vibe with.

I've been a fan of this game since early access, and it's only gotten better since then. It's also available on the Switch now, making it even easier to recommend to people who like Smash. It's a great choice for people who want something a little more energetic than Ultimate, or just something different.

18. Sonic Mania

I feel comfortable calling Sonic Mania the best 2D Sonic. It's made by people who are very passionate about classic Sonic, and it shows.

The game is contextualized as if it were an alternate-universe Sonic 4 that released on the Saturn, and as such has enhanced variants of all the Sonic staples. The sprites are more detailed, the animations are more fluid, the music is excellent CD-quality audio, and the special stages are now in true 3D.

Sonic Mania feels like how you remember Sonic games being without all the bad or frustrating parts. The level design is crafted very well to allow for multiple paths without getting stuck in a loop like would sometimes happen in Sonic 3. The special stages are actually fun to play and not bullshit. And THE DROP DASH!! Spin dashing in the air! A very simple addition but one that adds so much to the classic Sonic formula and keeps you in constant motion.

I wouldn't say Sonic Mania is completely flawless and perfect, but it is the only 2D Sonic I've completed 100% and the reason is because it's the only one that doesn't frustrate me into submission after a while.

Oh, and the true final boss music, while I won't spoil it, has a VERY interesting motif about 50 seconds in...

17. Kid Icarus: Uprising

Before Kid Icarus Uprising was released, I somehow had it in my head that the game would be a Zelda clone. It wasn't until the game's promotional videos appeared on the 3DS eShop that I saw that the game was actually a fast-paced action game. What I saw looked so fun that I had to get my mom to drive me to Walmart so I could play the game right away, and I'd say it didn't disappoint.

So, spoiler alert: the game tricks you into thinking it's fairly short, but it actually ends up being almost three times as long. Nowadays, this is something of an open secret since many of the most memorable characters don't show up until after the Disc One Final Boss, but it definitely caught me off-guard when I first played the game. I really did think this game had nine levels... T-T

I know some people prefer the flying sections of the game, but personally I was all about the land portions. The combination of melee and projectile gameplay made it really fun to find the best way to approach the variety of different enemies in the game. This was especially necessary when trying to clear all levels on the highest difficulty for 100% completion.

I always wished that this game would get a port or sequel for the Wii U, since IMO the trackball-style control scheme is a huge part of what made the game as fun as it was, and playing it on a TV with a Gamepad would maybe alleviate some of the hand strain it caused people. Maybe a Switch version with a trackball Joycon included?

16. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle

I've gone back and forth on SA2B a lot over the years. I first played it when I was 11, which is the PERFECT age to play it IMO. I loved it then, it was like the perfect Sonic game to me. Then I tried replaying it again when I was older and decided "uhhh actually this has aged kinda shit". But then after watching the Snapcube SA2 fan dub I got the urge to revisit the game and I'm happy to report that actually it IS good after all.

The story is some real shonen anime bullshit with very inconsistent voice acting and that's awesome because like I said, this game is PERFECT for 11-year-olds. Would I appreciate this about the game if I had played it later in life? Almost definitely not. But this list is all about my own personal experiences with games, so in this instance it's a valid point in favor of the game.

Like let's be honest. Snowboarding down a San Francisco street and outrunning a massive armored military truck? RAD. Eggman hijacking a space station and using its super-powerful plasma cannon to blast a whole in the fucking moon? RAD. Sonic just barely reaching a space shuttle in the middle of an Egyptian pyramid and blasting off in to space? Odd, but RAD. This game is RAD.

Sonic and Shadow are very fun to control, they have the kind of linear 3D platforming I like where you're mostly getting from point A to point B but the stage takes advantage of 3D space to add lots of twists and turns, with a few branching paths here and there to find secrets.

Tails and Eggman, while I originally considered them my least favorite playstyle due to how slow their mechs are, actually can be really fun when doing some of the optional missions and you've developed a mastery of their movement.

Knuckles and Rouge are some people's least favorite part of this game, but I've always loved their stages. It's fun trying to track down their emerald shards or whatever they're after, using knowledge of the level layouts and hint monitors to track them down. It's like an early version of randomizers. I do wish the radar worked like in Sonic Adventure where you can track all three collectibles at once, but it's also extremely satisfying when you find an emerald shard you weren't even looking for.

Oh and that's not even talking about the Chao Garden! So much fun to raise your little guy and force them into bloodsports.

All in all I'm so glad this game has aged as well as it has, because it was such a big part of my tween years and it's very validating to know it holds up.

15. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

God, the pre-release hype period for SSBU was something else. Hard to believe it only lasted nine months. For a few months of it, we weren't even sure if it was a new game or a port of Smash 4.

Even though I've grown bored of the game after two years, it's hard to deny it gave me a LOT of what I wanted from a new Smash game. More movement options, an expansive single-player campaign (yes I liked World of Light), EVERY CHARACTER RETURNING, Simon Belmont, King K. FUCKING Rool, and lots of very welcome QoL changes.

It was so much fun playing in all those VGF tournies, even when Scotty obliterated my Isabelle. That's an experience I hope to have again sometime. Maybe when the next Smash comes out in like 2036 we can all get together again and I can complain about how my Master Chief keeps losing to Goku mains.

14. Metroid Prime

The most recent addition to this list in terms of when I first played it, I first played Metroid Prime from late November to early December 2020. It's also the first Metroid that I've ever beaten, or even made any serious progress in.

...I get the hype for this game. I love that the HUD is Samus's helmet, I love the way she controls, I love the Metroidvania progression, I love the environments and ambient soundtrack. It's an incredible package, and I can see how this game coming out in 2003 by an at-the-time unknown developer would have blown people away.

I think for a long time I was hesitant to check this game out because of it being technically a first-person shooter, a genre I'm not very good at and tend not to be interested in. But approaching it as a Metroidvania through the lens of an FPS is much more accurate and personally appealing.

I have Metroid Prime 2 ready to play, but it's still not been very long since playing the first game that I wanna wait a while until it's not so fresh in my memory before embarking on another adventure of that scope.

13. Banjo-Kazooie

Another game that feels right out of my childhood even though I didn't play it until I was an adult.

Banjo-Kazooie is a game I had always wanted to play ever since I saw an ad for it in an old gamer magazine and heard it played similar to Super Mario 64, and at the ripe old age of 20, I finally got a copy of the game for Christmas.

Banjo-Kazooie really feels like it took every aspect of Super Mario 64 and tried to improve on all of it. The graphics are cartoony and colorful, the writing is witty in a corny sort of way, the music is rich and dynamic, and I'm all about that N64 staple of colored lighting in dark areas.

The change that seems small on the surface but completely changes the way the game is played, however, is that rather than leave the level when you claim one of the main collectibles, you instead stay in the level as long as you want, giving you the option to collect as much as you possibly can. This would become standard in most collectathons, and for good reason, as it keeps the gameplay moving and makes the collecting feel addictive.

My only two criticisms of the game: One, the characters are a little slipperier than I'd like (not that big of a deal, it's just strange and makes certain maneuvers more difficult than it feels like they should be). Two, I find Grunty's Furnace Fun and the final boss frustrating. During my last playthrough I just got all the collectibles from the main levels and let the game end there.

Sorry, Tooty, but how bad can being big and green be, really?

12. Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom

Another game I didn't play until last year, BFBB has quickly become one of my favorite games to replay.

It's yet another collectathon platformer, but set in the Spongebob universe. The writing team from the cartoon made a lot of the script, and as the game was released at the peak of the show's quality, it feels very classic.

The controls are razor-sharp and it feels great being able to make very precise movements around the stage; I would compare it to a 3D version of the way Mega Man moves in his games.

BFBB is a really good collectathon from the Gamecube/PS2/Xbox era, and one that has earned it's place as a cult classic and deserving of a modern remake.

Ordinarily I probably would rank this game a bit lower. it's a really good game on it's own, don't get me wrong, but I think what really makes it stand out is how much fun it becomes as a speedgame. There's a glitch you can do called cruise boosting, which applies a constant sliding speed to Spongebob. Not only does this more than double your movement speed, but it also lets you move while using stationary moves for even more movement options. When combined with another glitch that lets you avoid OOB detection, it opens the door for some crazy sequence breaks.

I can't tell you how much fun it is to run with an active cruise boost, taking shortcuts through the level you shouldn't normally be able to take, and generally breaking the game to your whim. It's addictive and that's a lot of why I've replayed this game 30 times in 9 months. I can do a NG+ 100% run in about 3 hours and if I had the setup to record it I would absolutely stream one.

I'd highly recommend checking out a BFBB speedrun sometime. Even if you're not at all familiar with the game, the fast-paced technical movement is hypnotic to watch.

11. Undertale

So there's this obscure indie RPG called "Undertale", you probably haven't heard of it.

It's really hard to talk about Undertale without spoiling anything, which is why the entire internet doesn't bother. But basically it's one of those "your choices matter" games where your choices actually matter. Pacifism is actually the more fun and engaging option, while killing is tedious and emotionally draining.

This isn't meant to sell it short, of course. There's a lot of stuff going on in Undertale to appreciate besides the moral choices. The characters and writing are extremely memorable, as well as the music and the way the game uses motifs. Undertale does a really good job of selling the emotion you're supposed to be feeling during any given scene without it coming off as forced or schmaltzy. And often it's not even done through a cutscene, but conveyed through gameplay. I can't explain how it works, I just know that it does.

I've never played a game that has quite the emotional resonance that Undertale does. I've also never played a game that's as goofy and self-aware as Undertale is. It really sticks with you.


List so far:

60. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams

59. Sonic Advance 3

58. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie

57. Friday The 13th: The Game

56. Mario Party

55. Nicktoons Racing (GBA)

54. DuckTales Remastered

53. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie

52. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

51. Super Mario Maker

50. Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins

49. Mega Man 6

48. Deltarune

47. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4

46. Splatoon 2

45. Tales of Symphonia

44. Mega Man X

43. Wario Land 4

42. Baba Is You

41. Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics

40. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble

39. SSX3

38. Mario Party 3

37. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

36. Kirby's Adventure / Nightmare in Dream Land

35. NiGHTS into Dreams...

34. Sonic Mega Collection

33. Luigi's Mansion


31. Super Mario World

30. Mario Kart 8

29. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

28. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

27. Mega Man 9

26. Thimbleweed Park

25. Diddy Kong Racing

24. Super Mario Bros. 3

23. Super Mario Odyssey

22. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

21. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

20. Kirby Air Ride

19. Rivals of Aether

18. Sonic Mania

17. Kid Icarus: Uprising

16. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle

15. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

14. Metroid Prime

13. Banjo-Kazooie

12. Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom

11. Undertale

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