8 Games I Play Through Each Year
SUPER MARIO BROS (Nintendo) From the moment you start playing SMB you know you’re in for something special with the blue background, colorful sprites, and catchy 8-bit tune. SMB was the first game I beat, and though I enjoy the next two installments more, the original is what made me want to play video games the rest of my life. I feel like each time I play SMB I discover something new like a coin box or find a 1-UP I’d forgotten.
SUPER STAR WARS TRILOGY (Super Nintendo) I love Star Wars, even the prequels (though there’s a chance I wouldn’t if the original trilogy wasn’t such a big part of my childhood), and the Super Star Wars trilogy on the SNES is the greatest collection of Star Wars games on any console. The sprites are large and there’s a great variety of realistic characters: stormtroopers, bounty hunters, Cantina folk. There are awesome boss battles with monsters not in the movies, as well as with the Rancor, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, and Bib Fortuna of all people. The lightsaber duel with Darth Vader at the end of Super Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite boss battles of all time. There are just two things I don’t like about these games. No Boba Fett in Super Return of the Jedi; he could have made a triumphant return after escaping from the Sarlacc Pit to battle the Rebel Scum once more. And no lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Old Ben Kenobi in Super Star Wars, even though the swordplay in Super Star Wars was bland compared to the next two games. This series also sports one of my favorite guns of all time–the Plasma blaster. A gun I consider to be on par with the Ice Beam. It is gut-wrenching when your character dies and you lose this fine weapon, however uncivilized.
CONTRA (NES) I’ve never tried to beat Contra without the Konami code. I enjoy having no regard for my safety, knowing I have many more men in reserve to die for my cause. Contra is my favorite co-op NES game, though I can rarely get my wife to play (and without stealing all my lives!). Also, if your playing partner is a being a jerk, you can kill him off by advancing too far and he falls to his death or steal his weapon power-ups. This game is best played shirtless to get in tune with your character Bill “Mad Dog” Rizer or Lance “Scorpion” Bean, along with a two-liter Mountain Dew at your side. Contra pumps so much awesome you’ll need the Mountain Dew to keep up. I love unlimited ammo. Perfect for a game like this while constantly blasting your spread gun. I would love to see a return of 2D sidescrollers like Contra to modern day gaming with HD graphics. Not every game needs to be a AAA title with 100+ hours of storyline and DLC every two weeks.
TMNT II: THE ARCADE GAME (NES) I love beat ‘em ups, and they were plentiful in the late 80′s and early 90′s. My favorite in the genre is TMNT II: The Arcade Game, a nearly perfect port of the arcade game. Speaking of the actual arcade game, I once helped my friend spend $40 of his birthday money playing this game one afternoon in a video rental store. I”m such a bastard. Although TMNT III: The Manhattan Project is a better game with improved fighting mechanics and more varied enemies, TMNT II is my first choice on the NES. The jump-and-slash move feels more fatal than the lift-and-dump technique in the third game. Seeing the large sprites of Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang, and Shredder for the first time impressed me so much when I received this game as a Christmas present when I was younger, I thought there was no way a game could look better than this. Same goes for the gameplay. It’s simple and gnarly and fun to play for a few hours. It’s perfect.
MEGA MAN 2 (NES) Want to know the real reason I’m a big fan of the Mega Man series? How about because Dr. Light looks like Harold Howard after he transforms into a werewolf in the movie Teen Wolf. Actually, this isn’t entirely true–but it does add an extra layer of awesome to this iconic series. Mega Man 2 is the perfect blend of platforming and shooting, with the greatest collection of robot masters (Metal Man, Quick Man, and Wood Man to name a few) and a great boss battle with a mechanized dragon in Dr. Wily’s Castle. This was the first Mega Man I beat, and it took me forever. I had a harder time getting past the dragon than beating Dr. Wily. The trick to beating Dr. Wily is not to get intimidated by his beautiful and hypnotic bushy eyebrows.
STREET FIGHTER II: TURBO (SNES) While Mortal Kombat may have the cool Fatalities, it doesn’t compare to the gameplay of the Street Fighter II games. I always felt I was simply button mashing in Mortal Kombat (which is still fun) unless trying to perform a Fatality; it lacked any real sort of strategy compared to Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II: Turbo rectified the injustice of the first game on the SNES, The World Warrior, by adding the four bosses as playable characters: Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison. My go-to characters to play are Ryu, Chun Li, Sagat, and Balrog–mostly for his ability to dominate in tight jean shorts. Just hearing the music and phrases “You Win” and “Shoryuken” when executing Ryu’s rising dragon fist transforms me to the times my friends and I would hold sleepovers and have all-night marathons of this game. We had our favorite move sets scribbled down in our school notebooks. When somebody lost we’d yell “Loser Walks,” a phrase we still use to this day, regardless if we’re gaming or not.
* There are two games I’ve beaten in the past year that are sure to become perennial play throughs: Metroid and Super Metroid. I beat Super Metroid first, though with great aid from internet walkthroughs, but I was able to beat Metroid on my own, from everything I had learned from the SNES game. I hadn’t played much of the Metroid series before this past year, but now hold Super Metroid in my top 5 video games of all time list, with Metroid scoring in the top 5 of NES games. The exploration and hidden items reminded me of my favorite series Zelda, and Samus’ weapons upgrades are the best in video games.
Each year I experience an old video game or series I’d never played before that captivates me. I hope that never ends.