Can you believe it?! 50 posts! I launched my website in the late summer of 2019 and began publishing regular blog posts at the beginning of 2020. It all started with my idea to create monthly themed Top Ten lists about video games based on some sort of pun (Jam-uary, Food-uary, Blarch, Ape-ril, etc.). Of the 50 posts, exactly half of them are dedicated to Top Ten lists related to gaming.
So, to celebrate this milestone, I’d like to take a minute to shoutout the games that have reappeared over and over again in my postings and explain why these games can be at the forefront of my mind. Oh, and to clarify some ground rules about this post, I’m only including games that I’ve talked about more extensively these past two years (my apologies to the games on the lists about Fire, Health, and Rain!!). Without further ado, please enjoy my “Most Mentioned Games!”
Mega Man X
(Super Nintendo 1993)
Why do I like X so much? Because X is dashing! No, I don’t mean he’s handsome. I mean that once he obtains the leg upgrade, he can physically dash around stages. This mechanic adds a whole new layer of speed and action to completely set the series apart from the classic Mega Man games.
One reason it’s so easy to come back to Mega Man X (besides it being one of my all-time favorite games) is the variety of animals that are represented by each of the boss characters. In the first entry alone, you have a monkey, an armadillo, an octopus, a beetle, a chameleon, an eagle, a mammoth, a spider, a dinosaur, and a dog! Now, multiply that by the eight games that exist in the X series (not counting Command Mission) and that’s over 64 animal types that I could potentially include in an article! Oo, you know what? This gives me a sweet idea for starting a Mega Man-themed zoo…
(Game Boy 1996 JP/1998 US)
Admittedly, I’m not a die-hard fan of the Pokémon series. I owned Blue, and I remember playing it almost to completion but I gave up when I got to Victory Road. At that point in the game, I think I was overwhelmed at the fact that I needed to go back to grind levels for all the Pokémon types I had been ignoring throughout the journey. I have since deleted my save file, and I doubt I’ll give it another shot.
Despite this experience with trying to catch ’em all, I can’t ignore the vast number of themes, creatures, and characters that have appeared since the series began way back in 1998 (1996 for Japan). I’ll add that whenever I tell my Pokémon-savvy friends about my new blog ideas, they’re quick to let me know if something from the game might be a good candidate. With the recent release of Pokémon Legends Arceus, I’m finding myself drawn to the potential Breath of the Wild-like experience. So, who knows? Maybe later this year I’ll be on my way to becoming a Pokémon Master once again!
Sonic the Hedgehog
(Sega Genesis 1991)
I grew up with Nintendo products, so my eyes always lit up whenever I went over to the house of a friend who owned a Sega Genesis. Compared to my original NES, the colors popped, the attitude was edgy, and the music was boppin’. Playing Sega always made you feel like you were getting away with something.
Over 30 years later, Sonic is still as relevant as ever. Sonic CD (1993) was one of the only games my Grandma owned when she first bought a computer, and I couldn’t get enough of the incredible soundtrack. Later, when the heralded hedgehog was added to Super Smash Bros for 3DS/Wii U in 2014, I decided to forego my Diddy Kong-ing of the past, and I picked up Sonic as my new main. My friends weren’t used to a character who could “go fast,” so it wasn’t long before I was the top contender amongst my fellow gamers (though, it didn’t last). More recently, I finished Sonic Mania (2017) for the Nintendo Switch and found it to be the nostalgic experience I always wanted out of a Sonic game. Finally, while I haven’t yet seen any of the new movies featuring one of my favorite childhood actors, Jim Carrey, as Dr. Robotnik (Dr. Eggman?), my Sonic t-shirt is at the ready. “If I’m strong, I can fly. I can reach the other side of the rainbow.”
I grew up in a college neighborhood and when I discovered that my student neighbors had Tetris on their computer, I suddenly was always wandering through their door to play their games. This excitement was heightened when I learned that one of them, like me, also owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. After crushing me in several rounds of football (I forget which one) and ruining my spirit forever, I noticed a shiny gray cartridge peaking out from my neighbor’s stack of possessions. Startropics? I must try it! He was kind enough to let me borrow it but not before making sure that I left with the original box and its contents. Huh. That’s weird. Why would I need all this extra stuff? No matter. New game to play!
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I’ll just say that the environment of Startropics is tropical, bright, and shrouded with an overarching mystery that invigorates any young Goonies lover’s sense of adventure. On top of that, the music holds a melodic charm that continues to get me groovin’ to this very day. I even went as far to create my own musical lead sheet for the main dungeon theme so I could play it at jazz gigs!
Well, it turns out that the developers of this game were literally thinking outside the box, making for some of the most creative and nostalgic experiences I’ve ever encountered. At a certain point in your quest, you are asked to input a code into your Sub-C underwater vehicle in order to further operate the machine. You literally could not close the text box until you’ve completed this task. What the heck? Did you see a code in the world somewhere? Did you talk to someone with important information? Oh no. Did you miss it??? Nope! It was in your *real world* box along with the instruction manual the entire time. Startropics breaks the 4th wall by including an *actual* physical letter from the main character’s Uncle Steve that contains a SECRET MESSAGE which can only be revealed by submerging the paper in water. I was so lucky to have a Mom who figured this out for me and was completely blown away when she and I took a few minutes to try it out. Sure enough. The code was there. We solved a REAL mystery! For this reason alone, Startropics reigns high on my list of gaming experiences. I’ll never forget it!
Super Mario Land 2:
6 Golden Coins
(Game Boy 1992)
In terms of plot, Mario games as of late have gotten incredibly lazy. Back in 1992, however, developers were keen to give us something new with each subsequent adventure that followed the courageous plumber. This idea especially rang true in the Super Mario Land series for Game Boy which brought our main character to strange lands to face off against a fresh set of villains.
Also, Nintendo’s marketing department literally tried to hypnotize us into wanting to play their games.
Enter Wario: the most twisted, psychotic and chaotic antagonist we’ve ever seen. He is our master! Mario is my enemy! Being the disobedient children that we were, we wanted nothing more than to defy this weirdo by doing exactly the opposite of what he said. We WILL get the six golden coins, and we WILL reach the palace!
In order to find these coins, we had to traverse through six vastly different zones all with their own unique sets of characters and creatures. It is for this reason alone that Super Mario Land 2 is so easy to come back to time after time. Why, in the three blog posts I listed above, the only reason I included this game was because of the Space Zone, Pumpkin Zone, and Tree Zone! I’ll argue, though, that each of these locations have distinctive features that make them memorable in their own right. All that’s left now is to find a way to include the Turtle Zone, Macro Zone, and Mario Zone. Honestly, after listing them here, I’ve already got some ideas brewing!
Having been enthralled by the full-motion video of Final Fantasy 7 on the original PlayStation, I chose to forsake my Nintendo heritage and become a Sony kid. So, while my friends were experiencing the four-player action of GoldenEye 007 and Mario Kart 64, I was enjoying titles like Crash Bandicoot, Croc, and Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. 15 years later, I lived with a friend who owned an N64, and a used copy of Banjo-Kazooie just happened to be the right price one day when I was browsing Amazon. This was my chance to go back and see what all the fuss was about!
Well, to no surprise at all, I found Banjo-Kazooie to be exactly the pleasantly delightful experience that everyone boasted about it in the late 90’s. Now, I’m not one to get overly excited about collect-a-thon types of games, but the developers of Banjo made one particular design choice that blew Super Mario 64 out of the water: your characters are not taken out of the level/world after you collect a jiggy. Finally! I could immerse myself complete in each area without having to select a new mission every time I wanted to jump back in. Because of this design choice, I had a genuine desire to fully explore the setting, meet all the characters – and yes, even collect all the things. By the end of the game, getting 100% (save for a few honeycombs) wasn’t a chore. I relished in both the opportunity and challenge to find everything. And, of course, as a musician, I couldn’t *bear* the thought of missing a note!
(Super Nintendo 1995)
An epic RPG spanning seven eras with the potential to reach 12 different endings, Chrono Trigger was one of the biggest adventures I had ever completed at the time (preceded by Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy 4, and Secret of Mana). What set CT apart from these other games was the element of time travel. Naturally, with Back to the Future being my all-*time* favorite movie, I was drawn in immediately to the seemingly endless possibilities presented in Chrono Trigger. Of course, I never owned the game, so most of my experience with it occurred at a friends house and was usually accompanied with deep, philosophical discussions about the impacts of our actions in the past (well, “deep” for a kid).
One such action in my past that had an incredibly positive impact on my future was when I *accidentally* borrowed Chrono Trigger from this same friend. Truly, it was not on purpose! I had spent the night at this person’s house, and as a joke, I was hastily cramming all of his Super Nintendo games into my bag pretending that I’d leave his home with all of his stuff. I emptied the bag in front of his eyes, and he was satisfied that I returned everything. To my surprise, though, one game still remained when I got home that day. Lo and behold! Chrono Trigger was still with me! I felt terrible and let him know immediately. Thankfully, he was okay with letting me hang onto it for the time being. So, with new game in hand, I dove in hard and tried to get as many endings as I could while the opportunity lasted. I’m convinced I achieved all of them, and if I were to look up a guide about how to get the endings now, part of my brain would say to me “Ah, yes, I definitely remember that.” As a result, Chrono Trigger has stuck with me, and especially whenever I hear the fantastic music, I immediately jump back into my mind-Epoch to travel to the era when I was just a kid living out my Back to the Future dreams.
(Super Nintendo 1994)
My hype for EarthBound likely began in July of 1995 when I received volume 74 of Nintendo Power. What made this issue so special? Scratch and sniff advertisement! Yes, this particular magazine contained an ad for EarthBound boasting that “this game stinks.” Included were the legendary pictures that, upon being scratched, would smell like pizza or whatever else was on the page. The nearby excerpt went on to say that the now SNES cult classic is “the first Role-Playing Game with B.O.” while the back of the ad simply recited “EarthBound: It’s like living inside your gym shoes.” Okay, I’m officially intrigued. (I’ll note here that volume 73 had the first official 10-page article about the game).
The game was quirky. I was quirky. It was a match made in Heaven. I quickly set my heart on being the first (and possibly only) person in my small circle of friends to own such a creative piece of art. It was a big deal, too, because we didn’t have the money to buy a lot of games, so I often felt like I was the last person to get their hands on something unless we were renting it for just a few nights.
As luck would have it, I must have gotten Christmas or birthday money or something because a short time later, my parents and I were at Toys R Us, and I caught a glimpse of the giant green box which held the holy cartridge along with its coveted strategy guide. It’s possible that the game was on sale or I had a coupon, too (it normally retailed for $70). In any case, EarthBound was now mine, and I was going to play the belch out of it.
Play the belch out of it, I did! EarthBound became one of the few RPGs where my characters reached level 99. I also went out of my way to get super rare items like the Gutsy Bat and Sword of Kings which both only had a 1 out of 128 chance of being dropped by specific enemies. Not only that, but I’d often load up my final save in the game just so I could defeat Giygas over and over again. There was just something so special about getting to that last part of the battle where Paula’s prayers were not only heard by your in-game friends all over the world, but the game personally invited you, the player, to join in the fight with your own well-wishes for the desperate heroes. The experience was unforgettable, and I love now reminiscing about all the glorious times I had with EarthBound.
Final Fantasy 4
(Super Nintendo 1991)
Speaking of games that involved praying for your heroes on the brink of defeat… Final Fantasy 4 was the first RPG that I ever encountered with some major substance to its story. Per usual, I was hanging at my friend’s house (yes, the same friend where I “borrowed” Chrono Trigger), and we were subjugated to watching his older brother play all the games that were too “complicated” for our young, feeble minds. Truly, the way my friend’s brother played FF4 made it completely impossible to understand what was going on. He would mash through dialogue boxes, wander aimlessly on the world map, and think way too hard about his command choices in battle.
So, yes, maybe my young mind wasn’t able to really comprehend what was happening in the story, but that didn’t stop me from fully absorbing all of the incredibly genius music that accompanied every aspect of the game. His wandering aimlessly on the world map meant more time for me to hear the Overworld Theme. His thinking way too hard about his command choices in battle meant more time for me to hear the Fight Theme. If I was really lucky, I’d get to hear the music when he was riding a chocobo (my favorite!).
I connected hard with these pieces, and to that end, the seeds of my love for this game had been sown. When I finally had the opportunity to play the game for myself, it didn’t take much extra effort to throw myself into the story with such amazing melodies to accompany the experience. I remember that Final Fantasy IV (I’ll point out also that it was called Final Fantasy 2 for us Americans) occupied my head space so much, that in 3rd grade, I’d ask my teacher if I could be excused from class so I could go to the computer lab and write stories where my friends and I were characters in the game. I specifically recall that my friend Travis was a Dragoon Knight who we discovered in a cave on the moon! I never finished the story. If only I still had access to the file. The sci-fi fantasy world would have been changed forever!
Super Mario 64
It’s no mystery. For many of us, Super Mario 64 was our first foray into games with fully 3D environments, and seeing one of our favorite characters exploring the world in this new way had a major impact on our conditioned, 2D minds. That isn’t to say that 3D graphics didn’t exist at all before the Nintendo ULTRA 64 came along (“Ultra” being the original name for the system). I had played first-person shooters like Marathon, Doom, and Wolfenstein 3D that had their own ways of creating a 3D environment. I had also briefly tried my hand at the original Alone in the Dark game, which was likely a precursor to horror games like Resident Evil with its fixed camera angles to hide those creatures that were lurking just around the corner. But, Super Mario 64 felt so much more freeing, and of course, Nintendo did their darndest to get us excited about this new generation of gaming.
Apart from the Nintendo Power hype that showed off all of the projects coming to the N64 (Zelda, Pilotwings, and Blast Corps were the three others that stood out to me), the big N wanted to make sure we could get our hands on the system to try it out by setting up kiosks in stores all over the country. I’m certain that my first experience with SM64 was at a Shopko or a Prange Way or maybe some other dated retail outlet. I knew I had to have more, but I also knew we probably couldn’t afford the system. So, I did what any child would have done at the time – I begged my parents to rent an N64 from our local game/video store.
Somehow, it worked! I was beyond excited. We hooked up the system in our basement, and I couldn’t wait to get started. One problem, though: N64 controllers are……different! I knew how to hold an Atari joystick, a NES controller, and a SNES controller. I even understood how the controls worked for most arcade games. Look at this thing, though…
If you were seeing this for the first time as a child, you’d be confused, too (and I’ve even seen adults from recent YouTube videos who have done retro gaming videos who were holding it wrong). So, to explain my thought process… our trusty D-Pad is on the left. That must mean that our left hand goes on the far left and then our right hand is utilizing the buttons on the right. Oh wait, the D-Pad doesn’t do anything. Ah, this middle joystick controls Mario. But… but, surely I don’t move my hand away from the left side of the controller. That’s where left hands belong! I guess you just have to awkwardly reach your thumb all the way over to the joystick. Ah, this must be a controller for adults and I’m just a little kid.
So, there I sat in my parent’s basement extensively playing Super Mario 64 for the first time with my thumb stretched waaaay over to the joystick to make Mario move. I spent the entire weekend playing like that. I’m not sure where I learned how to properly hold the controller (if you really don’t know, you just put your hand on the grip next to the joystick and basically ignore the entire D-Pad area of the controller). I had a great time with the system, but perhaps from this incident alone, PlayStation was the better choice for me after all.
“Well, excuuuuuuuuuse me, Princesss!” Zelda games have been a staple in my life ever since playing the original at my cousin’s house. Moreover, The Legend of Zelda cartoon segment was one of my favorites during the Super Mario Bros Super Show (I loved especially that they used actual sound effects from the game). I also owned a few Zelda books that I purchased at our elementary school Scholastic Books Fairs. And, I even still have a Link pencil eraser from the 1st grade (it’s literally on my desk right now as I’m typing!). Below are the four games that have showed up several times over the last couple years.
Breath of the Wild
(Wii U/Switch 2017)
I put roughly 140 hours into Breath of the Wild finding every shrine (with only a little online help for the last two or three). I still haven’t completed all of the DLC content. Admittedly, I will not be going back for all the Korok seeds. It’s a game filled with discovery where three hours can pass by in an instant. Hurry up, sequel! I want more!
Link to the Past
(Super Nintendo 1991)
Regularly appearing in the top five of my all-time favorite games, LttP is an adventure I can return to time after time and always enjoy. I love the music, I love the world, and it’s just the right amount of challenge. I even made some LttP-themed tile art back when Mario Paint was a thing. More recently, my friends and I have added an extra layer of competition by holding “speedrun” parties in which we’d all play the game at the same time to see who could complete it the fastest. I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up winning our first and second events, beating the game in just under four and a half hours. Furthermore, when A Link Between Worlds was released for 3DS in 2013, I was thrilled to once again visit this version of Hyrule and explore the land using the game’s new gimmick which turned Link into a literal piece of art who could attach himself to the walls.
Since I was a Sony kid, I generally missed out on most N64 titles – including Majora’s Mask. There were a few times when I tried to the play the game on an emulator, but the experience was slow and my controller was not suited for the job. So, when I learned that the game was going to be remastered for the 3DS, I went for it right away. I was so glad I did! Although frustrating at times (and some stressful boss fights where I’d literally win with just seconds left to go), I really enjoyed the Groundhog Day-esque gameplay.
With the limited time that I had, I found that I would sit down each session and set clear goals for how I would use that time. I’d think, “Okay, today, I’m just going to go east and see how far it goes” or “Let’s follow this person and try to learn their routine.” I became deeply curious about the town and the world surrounding it. I doubt I could play Majora’s Mask again, but because I relived those three days so many times, the game has found a comfy home in my brain.
Ocarina of Time
I may have owned the original PlayStation, but a few N64 games did manage to slip through the cracks. My sister owned an N64, and I was surprised one summer to learn that she also possessed Ocarina of Time. So, that year, I spent some extra time at my Mom’s house in order to finish the game. Is it the the masterpiece that everyone has hyped it up to be? As I’ve hinted, Zelda games have a habit of building incredible worlds coupled with incredible music, and this one was no different. Likewise, seeing a classic character make the jump to 3D echoed my experience with Super Mario 64. It was also my first experience with a game that used the “Z-targeting” system for combat.
When the game was remastered for 3DS in 2011, I picked it up immediately. I loved the ability to use the system’s gyro controls in order to aim the bow and slingshot. One of my favorite battles was fighting Phantom Ganon in the Forest Temple by casually spinning around in my office chair.
Link to the Past, I think, will always hold the top spot for me, but Ocarina of Time is not far behind. In case you’re curious…
5. Minish Cap
4. Ocarina of Time
3. A Link Between Worlds
2. Breath of the Wild
1. Link to the Past
Thanks so much for taking time to read my article! Have you enjoyed the first 50 posts? Which one was your favorite? Leave me a comment below and let me know! Also, if you want to see the next 50, be sure to subscribe to this blog via e-mail to have content delivered directly to your inbox!