Updated: Mar 17
Welcome back from the weekend! I hope yours was more restful than mine. Let's get back into it.
70. Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure
I love Dr. Mario. Even though Tetris will have more representation on this list and is the series with the better games overall, Dr. Mario is the puzzle series that is a bit more closer to my heart. Frankly, I'm better at it, which helps.
As far as entries in the Dr. Mario series goes, Miracle Cure is probably the best. First of all, it's downloadable for 3DS, and puzzle games get a massive boost from being portable. The ability to pull it out, get a few rounds in, and put it away makes it friendly for any kind of commute or other sort of downtime. Even if it weren't for that big bonus, this is probably the most mechanically satisfying iteration of Dr. Mario out there, which is saying something for a game that has always felt great right from the start. If you have a 3DS and haven't picked this up, there's really no reason not to.
69. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
This game is so slept on, y'all. Yeah, you're meant to use the bongo controllers, which is a bit weird, but it's all part of the charm. If the bongos keep you from playing the game, you are missing out on a phenomenally well designed platformer. Once you get a feel for the unique control scheme, it feels so much better than you ever would have thought at first. The great feel is made to feel even better by the combo system, which makes each game hugely replayable. I think it's impossible to play Jungle Beat without getting hooked on improving your runs and increasing your point total on each level.
Did this game get a subconscious bump up simply because I want to evangelize it a little bit? Maybe. But I'm happy it's here, and you should be, too.
68. Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Project M
Hopefully Nintendo stopped reading this list after I brought up AM2R last time. Their copyright ninjas are en route to my house currently, but I should be able to finish writing before they get here.
I've jokingly called SSB Brawl "the best boot disk of all time," but that's not entirely fair. Brawl is probably the best casual game in the series, even if it has its failings in the competitive sphere. I have some awesome memories of playing Brawl in high school, both in my dorm room and in the student commons on the big screen.
I'll defend Brawl all day long, but I'd be lying if I I didn't say the real reason it makes the list is because of PM. I am a big fan of competitive Smash, although I don't compete or follow the scene as closely as I used to. I participated in the Melee and PM scenes in Minnesota and Wisconsin for a solid three-year stretch and had a great time in those communities. While I think I like Melee more on its own, the PM community is something special and deserves so much recognition for their perseverance.
As far as the game itself, there is a lot to love. Practically every character is competitively viable, which is something Nintendo has never really been able to do in the official games. Unfortunately, sometimes the way that characters become viable is through overcentralizing gimmick designs, but...it's Smash, so that's just the norm. I love that the design philosophy of the PM team isn't "nerf the good characters," but rather "buff the bad characters." Everyone is good and feels good. What more could you ask for?
Someone once described PM as "The Smash game for [Melee] Falco mains who want to play other characters." I think it was meant as an insult. I think it's a compliment.
67. Super Mario Galaxy
I've gone on record as saying that I think Galaxy and (especially) Galaxy 2 are overrated. But! That by no means makes them bad games. They still hold to the well established Mario standard of quality and bring that undeniable charm. Galaxy 1 deserves a lot of love for being 3D Mario's return to mechanical purity, focusing more on how Mario moves through spaces rather than how you'll interact with the world when you have a jetpack on. (Sunshine is a great game, but I don't think it's necessarily a great Mario game.) The gravity stuff is fun and implemented well. There's something innately satisfying about long jumping yourself into orbit. Of course, the music alone cranks this game up a few notches. The soundtrack isn't exactly listenable front-to-back (lots of the boss music is just very annoying out of the context of the game), but the tracks that hit, hit extremely hard.
66. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
Sonic is a great series because no matter what your opinion is, the community unanimously agrees that you are categorically wrong.
65. Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen
FireRed and LeafGreen are sort of a fascinating case study. These games were released in 2004, which is only 8 years after the original release of Red/Green and only 6 years after the stateside release of Red/Blue. When I was a kid, it seemed like an eternity between the originals and the remakes, but in retrospect, it actually happened ridiculously fast. It makes me wonder--what if GameFreak had waited a few more years and started the remake train in, say, Gen 5? It's a fruitless exercise to think about it for too long, since it, you know, didn't happen; but I think waiting a few more years to cash in on the nostalgia train could have been a better long-term move for the series. That said, I love Gen 3, and I love Gen 1, so combining the two is something I can't really complain about.
The main impetus for these remakes was because there was no way to transfer your Pokemon from the GBC to the GBA or beyond. The designers of Pokemon have since admitted that this was a grave mistake. As it stands right now, you can get a Pokemon from your Game Boy Advance cartridge of Sapphire all the way up to your Nintendo Switch copy of Sword; but you still can't move your very first Charizard you raised when you were 6 years old in 1998. Thankfully, though, FRLG exist so you can still have access to those Pokemon in their original environments. Since then, there have been Virtual Console releases of Gen 1 and 2 that allow you to transfer Pokemon ahead to Pokemon Bank, but you still can't do the full-generation daisy chain, which is regrettable.
Anyway, I haven't really talked about the games themselves that much, but I think I'll combine all my thoughts on Gen 3 in just a moment. But first...
64. Super Mario Bros.
If you haven't noticed, I've been trying to use my own gameplay screenshots for this list where I can. That's easiest for the games I have access to on Switch, of course, so that's where you'll see most of them, including the one above. That's right, that means I've played Super Mario Bros. on yet another occasion on yet another console.
SMB is like spaghetti and meatballs for me. It's not my favorite food, but you can be absolutely sure that I will take it whenever it is offered, and I will devour it every time. I think I own SMB 8 times over, and I can guarantee you that number will keep going up. And you know what? I'll keep playing it. It's short, it's sweet, I can play it with or without warps. It's the game that started it all, and it still plays remarkably well. In fact, doing this write-up has just made me want to play it again. Maybe I'll do that later this week on That Weird SMB Game & Watch.
63. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald
Pokemon is one of my favorite series, which is why it was a little surprising to me to realize that no game in the series makes it past the 60's. I wondered why that was, but I think I realized that, in general, the value of Pokemon is more than the sum of its parts. Show me an individual Pokemon game and I'll say, "Heck yeah, I love that game!" Show me an individual Pokemon game and pit it against another game I love, and often I'll pick the other game.
So here it is, my zenith for the Pokemon series: Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (with FRLG just two spots ago, too). I love Gen 3 mainly for nostalgic reasons, but I've also replayed these games so much because I think they've aged astonishingly well. They're mechanically snappy; the campaign is paced well; there's a great level curve; the look is colorful and timeless; and the new Pokemon designs are delightful. Basically all my issues with Gen 2 are addressed in Gen 3, and the game also added Natures and Abilities to make the battling and team building deeper.
Boy, when you're 10, the story felt so massive and epic. Unfortunately, the Pokemon series learned the wrong lessons from RSE in the story department; the designers started to pretend that the games' stories actually matter, instead of just treating the stories as vehicles to move the systems forward. RSE managed to give you cool, powerful legendaries without making one of them Literal God. If I ever want a quick Pokemon replay, I boot up a Gen 3 game, because the games just don't get in the way of themselves the way they do from Gen 4 and beyond. It's just pure Pokemon joy.
62. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
This was my first Shantae game, which was both a blessing and a curse. It's an excellent introduction to the series; however, I don't think any other game in the series comes close to the heights that this game reaches. Pirate's Curse is the truest Metroidvania in the series aside from the original GBC game (which is great, but deeply flawed), and I think Shantae's gameplay and design shines when it's done in that genre.
The Metroidvania thing that Pirate's Curse does best is the growth curve. By the end of the game, you are so powerful and the movement becomes unbelievably crisp and under your control. That is always my favorite aspect of any Metroidvania, and few games in the genre accomplish it as well as this one. I hope that WayForward takes the time and dedication to build another game on this foundation soon, whether in the Shantae series or otherwise.
61. Super Meat Boy
I love video games of all sizes and genres. Role playing games, action games, adventure games, narrative games, strategy games, first person shooter games, third person shooter games. I love games that defy genres and expand the medium. But my favorite genre of all is the platformer, and all of the subgenres therein. You know why? Platformers are just games, man. They're just pure game. They're video games distilled.
Super Meat Boy was the harbinger of one of my favorite subgenres of platformer, the beautifully and aptly named Splatformer. The philosophy behind this game was as simple as it was revalatory: a game is allowed to be tough as nails if it's good and if it's fair. Before Super Meat Boy, most platformers that were "hard" were mostly just poorly designed or bad. This was the game that proved that you can get a way with a lot in your game if it remains attainable. You can present a massive mountain to summit if it's actually climbable. (More on that later.)
There's a lot I could shout out about Super Meat Boy, but I want to focus on one thing specifically: it rewards failure. Every aspect of this game's design is to encourage you to break through barriers. There are infinite lives. The respawn is extremely quick. The music doesn't stop between deaths. The blood stays on the buzzsaws until you beat the level. Yes, you will die--in fact, here's a replay of all the times you died. Death becomes a tool to aid your progress, and everything in the game works to push you forward and achieve the challenge.
I love this game, but I love even more what it brought to games in general. The fruits of Super Meat Boy will be fully borne in the Top Ten.
99. Mass Effect 3 (XBox 360, 2012)
98. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Switch, 2019)
97. Yoku's Island Express (Switch, 2018)
96. Slay the Spire (Switch, 2017)
95. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES, 1987)
94. Mega Man 11 (Switch, 2018)
93. Baba is You (Switch, 2019)
92. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, 2006)
91. Tetris & Dr. Mario (SNES, 1994)
89. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES, 1989)
88. Mega Man 3 (NES, 1990)
87. Mighty Switch Force (3DS, 2011)
86. Ori and the Blind Forest (PC, 2015)
85. WarioWare Gold (3DS, 2018)
84. Mega Man X3 (SNES, 1995)
83. The Legend of Zelda: Oracles of Ages and Seasons (GBC, 2001)
82. Gris (Switch, 2018)
81. Sonic Mania (Switch, 2017)
79. AM2R: Another Metroid 2 Remake (PC, 2016)
78. SteamWorld: Dig (3DS, 2013)
77. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ (GBA, 2003)
76. Rayman Legends (Wii U, 2013)
75. Mega Man X2 (SNES, 1994)
74. Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow (Game Boy, 1998)
73. F-Zero GX (GameCube, 2003)
72. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (GameCube, 2003)
71. Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES, 1996)
70. Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure (3DS, 2015)
69. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GameCube, 2004)
68. Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Project M (Wii, 2008)
67. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, 2007)
66. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (GameCube, 2001)
65. Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen (GBA, 2004)
64. Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985)
63. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald (GBA, 2002)
62. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (Wii U, 2014)
61. Super Meat Boy (PC, 2010)