DZ's Top 60: #30-21 - Recency Bias

30. Mario Kart 8

Arguably the peak of Mario Kart for a lot of people, Mario Kart 8 was, until Breath of the Wild, probably the best-looking game on the Wii U. It still looks pretty good on the Switch, even.

But it didn't just look good, but it played good as well. It more or less feels like Mario Kart 7, which I already thought was a very solid Mario Kart, but now it's on a console, which is where I prefer to play my games.

This is the first Mario Kart to feature DLC tracks and characters, as well as feature Nintendo characters from outside the greater Mario/Donkey Kong franchise. I think the choices were good and I'm glad they only went with a select few, though I can imagine Mario Kart 9 might go even further and turn this into Super Smash Kart.

I'd say the battle mode holds this entry back some, but with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe having a true battle mode, I'd say that version is probably the definitive modern Mario Kart.

29. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Honestly, I haven't played this game since like 2008 so there's a good chance this placement would be different if it was fresher in my mind.

But as it stands, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is a great game. I was a big fan of the original Paper Mario, and I was really glad that a sequel was able to deliver the Paper Mario experience I love while still standing on its own.

The Doopliss chapter in particular always stuck with me, something about the idea of having your identity stolen like that is terrifying. I also remember having a bit of a crush on Koops, which I've discovered was actually pretty common among other people who played the game as kids.

The only other thing I have to say is that the Rogueport theme always reminded me of the credits music to this one Rugrats episode where a series of coincidences leads Chuckie to believe that he has superpowers (volume warning).

28. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

In many ways, New Horizons isn't as good of a game as earlier Animal Crossing titles, namely New Leaf. But it's still my favorite Animal Crossing because of the things it does right.

For one thing, the fact that it doesn't tie any of your personal appearance stuff behind any obscure questions is SO nice. You get a whole suite of hair styles, facial options, and skin tones to customize yourself at any point (did you know in previous games the only way to have a non-white skin tone was to get a tan? That's so extremely fucked up).

I also liked the fact that your island had a much greater degree of customization. You don't really unlock all your options until several weeks in, but it's nice to know that you don't have to worry about someone moving in in a random spot and ruining your entire feng shui.

But to me, ACNH wouldn't be what it was if not for coming out at the exact perfect time. This game released a WEEK after the global quarantine, and many people were looking for new avenues to pour their time and effort into. Everybody was playing Animal Crossing, even people who normally wouldn't, and it was so much fun being able to visit my friend's islands regularly and exchange items.

It also gave me an excuse to explore fashion and presentation in a way that I'm not normally able to do, and show it off when visiting other people. Towards the end of my playtime, I was mostly playing just to see what new clothes were available in the Able Sisters shop.

I probably still would have enjoyed New Horizons even if it didn't end up being the official game of the quarantine, but the circumstances definitely helped give everyone a social outlet in a time where people really needed one, and there's definitely a lot of value in that.

27. Mega Man 9

I feel like Mega Man 9 and 10 are looked at through a less-forgiving lens than they were a decade ago when they came out. The NES retro-throwback genre is so played out now to the point of being a punchline, and even back then there were people who thought MM9 and 10 represented a regression in the series' development. Now that we have Mega Man 11, is there any reason to look back at this weird point in Mega Man's history?

Well, yeah I think so. These two games offered some of the tightest, most polished platforming in the series. The new robot masters, graphics, and music all feel right at home alongside the NES classics, and the additional features like time trials and an endless mode added so much more to do than just fight the robot masters and tackle the Wily Castle.

I originally had Mega Man 10 in this spot but after some careful consideration I decided I liked MM9 a little bit more. I wish I could have put 10 somewhere else on this list but I guess that's what happens when you write these by the seat of your pants. Just pretend it's #27.5.

26. Thimbleweed Park

It's a modern point-and-click from one of the original creators of Maniac Mansion, so you know I was gonna be all over it.

Thimbleweed Park takes place in the late 80s, but the premise of the game is essentially "what if Scully and Mulder were in Twin Peaks?". The game starts out with two agents investigating a dead body that's turned up in Thimbleweed Country, but you quickly realize the scope of the game extends well beyond this premise.

It's really difficult to discuss the brilliance of the game's storytelling without going into spoilers; even what I've already told you is a spoiler. But one strength this game has that I can talk about is the characters. There are five playable characters total, and each one of them has a distinct personality, backstory, and motive. Delores is my personal favorite of the bunch, she's a very adorkable protagonist if you'll pardon the TV Tropes terminology. The script is very funny and almost every character in the game gets at least one good joke that only they could deliver.

The game's artstyle is heavily influenced by the PC version of Maniac Mansion, but with a much greater level of detail. The environments in this game look absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful nature shots and strong lighting effects that help sell the unsettling nature of the game.

Oh, and sidenote: the game has a lot of references to past LucasArts games, but there is actually an option to turn the references off. I've never seen one of these throwback-type games offer that before, and I think it's really cool for people who may be put off by that kind of thing (which I normally would be but I left it on because I need Maniac Mansion references to live).

25. Diddy Kong Racing

OK I just realized I've been writing for ninety minutes and I still have five games left so I'm gonna start speeding these up.

Diddy Kong Racing is a great example of Rare taking a popular genre and setting the bar, in this case being their take on Mario Kart.

DKR is unique for offering a substantial single-player adventure mode, something that Mario Kart wouldn't do until Mario Kart DS, and then never again. This, combined with the very tight driving and fantastic soundtrack by David Wise and Graeme Norgate, makes it one that it always a treat to return to.

It's just too bad Banjo and Conker, originally cool early-bird cameos, are now what keeps the game in copyright limbo (and I guess Tiptup too but who's gonna sue over Tiptup?)

24. Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3 was, for a significant portion of my childhood, the game I considered my favorite. This game has something like 90 unique levels, which for an NES game feels absolutely massive.

SMB3 has some of my favorite controls in a standard 2D Mario, and the artstyle in the NES version just has this warmth to it I can't describe, but it's a game I've always thought was nice to look at.

I remember my cartridge of the game stopped working at some point, and I was dying to play it again somehow, so when I saw advertizements for Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 in Disney Adventures magazine, I was extremely excited. I remember getting my grandma to drive me to Walmart so I could buy the game and the strategy guide.

Nowadays you can play the game on the go with the 3DS, Switch, or even your phone, but it was very novel at the time that I could play through world 7 while waiting for my mom to get the tires changed on her car.

23. Super Mario Odyssey

Collectathon platformers are maybe my favorite genre of all, and there was a time in the late 00s-early 10s where we just weren't seeing them. AAA developers had moved on from the genre, and indie game developers hadn't quite caught up with the technology to create 3D games of that scale. Even the games that were being made in this time, like Super Mario Galaxy 2, were skewing more linear. Yooka-Laylee was one of the first big comebacks for the genre, and while I maintain it's a perfectly good game, we're not talking about that.

Super Mario Odyssey was the big return to the collectathon-style Mario game that hadn't truly embraced since Sunshine, and it was the game that sold a lot of people on the Switch. It was the Mario game I had wanted to see for 10 years, and for the most part it delivered exactly what I wanted it to.

It actually feels a little more like a Banjo-Kazooie or Banjo-Tooie with the scope of the levels. They all have their own visual flair to them, and each gives you fun new costumes to dress Mario up in. It's all very charming.

One thing I will criticize the game for is that it's not a very satisfying game to go for 100% in. There are SO many Moons in this game, and a couple of them ask you to do ridiculous things like jump rope 100 times in a row. I'm also a completionist, but at some point I decided it wasn't worth it and just make my peace with the progress I had.

Really looking forward to when I finally forget enough about this game that I can revisit it with fresh eyes. I wonder how well it will hold up then...

22. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild was my first, and so far only, open world adventure. It's possible I'm giving it too much credit for doing things that other games may have been doing for the past 10 years, but I really really enjoyed this game and how it made me change the way I approach games.

Once you get past the plateu, the entire game opens up to you all at once. When this happened, I was absolutely paralyzed by choice. There are so many places I can go right now. How do I know which is the correct path? What I go somewhere with nothing important to do and end up wasting a bunch of time? I just wanted to stay on the plateau forever where I know it's safe.

But eventually I decided, no I have to play the game. So I just went in whatever direction I decided to go, I can't even remember. And I quickly understood something: "There is no wrong path". You can go any direction in Breath of the Wild that you want, and find and accomplish something meaningful. Maybe you'll find some items, or weapons, or a shrine, or even a Korok seed, but no matter what, it's not a waste of time.

It may sound obvious or dumb, but this game made me realize that the best way to cure paralysis of choice is to just pick something. Breath of the Wild actually forced my brain to stop being an anxiety-riddled piece of shit for two seconds and just enjoy the journey whereever it takes me.

21. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

I had Ocarina of Time from a very young age, so when I found out one of my mom's friends had the then-newly-released Majora's Mask, I was interested to see what it was about. What I got instead was a very scary cutscene of Link being transformed into a perpetually sad-faced wooden monster and six-year-old DZ was horribly traumatized forever.

But replaying the game when I was 12 or so, I certainly was able to appreciate it a lot more. As someone who was familiar with Ocarina of Time, it was so fascinating to see how many familiar characters and assets were used in unfamiliar ways.

The Groundhog Day premise of the game gave it a very unique way of telling its story. You don't get as much of a linear plot where the narrative decides which characters and elements to focus on, but rather you get to explore the plot yourself, you get to see where the characters are at during any given point of the three-day cycle, how their stories unfold, and how they interact with the stories of other characters. It makes the characters feel like they have lives outside of whatever the plot tells them they need to be doing in front of you.

Like I said with the Link's Awakening spot, this game conveys a lot of dark concepts in the context of a colorful fantasy world, and rather than being a sharp juxtaposition, it makes the story feel all the more earnest.


The 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

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