In an era where we're bombarded with games that are worth playing on a near weekly basis, naturally, it becomes one where most of us are trying to play catch up. Unless you're Chris Carter and live in a world where days have 36 hours and weeks have 9 days, you probably don't have the time (or money) to play most new releases. Seriously, I'll never understand how that guy churns out as many reviews as he does, my hat goes off to him. Much respect, sir.
But over the past year, I've made it a point to finally get some of the monkeys off my back and whittle that backlog down a bit. These are some of the games that I've managed to eliminate from an ever-growing list.
The reason this incredible game is only being mentioned as an honorable mention is because I've already written about it in a previous blog. After I had bested the 16 colossi, I finally understood why Destructoid ranked it as their top game from 2000-2010. I didn't play the game for any particular reason, it just didn't interest me when it was first released, and then I just never got around to playing it once I warmed up to it. It was released as a free title on PlayStation Plus about a year ago, along with its spiritual predecessor, Ico. I played Ico first and really, really didn't like it. Sorry, guys. I know that game has a its fair share of fans, but it just wasn't for me. SotC, on the other hand, is legitimately one of the best games I've ever played.
I love the Playstation 2. So much so that I ranked it as my second favorite console of all-time on my very first Weekly Top 5 list. But for the majority of the time I owned a PS2, I was either unemployed or only making a minute wage at a part time job, so buying a new game was usually a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of affair. Oftentimes I would buy games used, and one of the games I bought was the original Jak and Daxter. I loved that game, and the sequels as well. The PS2 had its fair share of cartoony-action-buddy-comedies (which should be a actual genre at this point), and I thought the Jak series, the Sly Cooper series, and Ratchet & Clank would all be too similar to one another, so once I played Jak, I never went back.
My first exposure to Ratchet wasn't until the second PS3 title, A Crack in Time, which is one of the best games on the console. Because I loved it so much, I went back and played the Ratchet & Clank HD Collection when it was on sale on PS Plus for $7.50 last holiday season. I went through and played them in their original order. It was obvious from the start how they improved the series, as the first game did not give me the option invert the x-axis, so I was constantly thrown off. Then, when I played the sequel, Going Commando, the x-axis was reversed to the way that I normally play, but it took me a long time to figure out if that were the case or not.
Anyway, if you do what I did and play the PS3 games before you play the original PS2 titles, I would actually suggest not going back to them unless you just really want to know how the series started. That's why I did it, and I'm ultimately glad that I did, but the Future series is so much better that going back might disappoint you.
I've never been a fan of the turn-based style of combat. It's the reason I've never been able to finish classics like Chrono Trigger and numerous Final Fantasy titles. In my life, I've only completed five, and four of them have "Mario" in the title. I fell in love with the Mario & Luigi series of RPGs, I'm not sure why, but I would imagine it's likely due to the fact that a) it's Mario, and b) they're fairly simple. I've owned a copy of Super Mario RPG for years, I just never got around to playing it, and when it was originally released, I had already converted to the Genesis because of the Sega Channel, so the years went by without me giving this classic game a go.
When I sat down and thought about some of the games that I wanted to conquer, Super Mario RPG was right near the top of that list. I thought about how much I love Mario & Luigi, and wanted to see where it all started. Granted, the Mario & Luigi games are a completely different series, but it was a great look at just how much fun can be had by Nintendo with their beloved franchise.
It's not a difficult game, nor is it long unless you want to level up your characters, but I never found myself having to grind. I did find a few boss battles giving me some trouble, but once I developed an effective strategy (which usually just meant setting aside one character in my party to be strictly a healer) I made short work of them. If you've played a Mario & Luigi game, it's no surprise to discover that this game has a great sense of humor. I had a few minor annoyances, but nothing worth noting. If I had played this game when it was released, perhaps it would have motivated me to play more RPGs as a kid.
A ways back, I wrote a blog detailing one of the greatest shames in my gaming life: I had never finished a Legend of Zelda game. The games themselves just didn't interest me as a kid, and throughout the years I tried to play a few, but never felt compelled to finish them. That being said, I've always had an interest in the Legend of Zelda's lore, and I love reading and watching new things about the world of Hyrule. The one game I tried the most to play was A Link to the Past. I first tried it a few years ago, but wound up getting stuck and putting it away. But I knew I couldn't go through my life without finishing a Zelda title, so when A Link Between Worlds was released on the 3DS last year, I borrowed it from a friend and told myself I was finishing this game even if it meant having to keep a guide in front of me.
I didn't need to do that though, as A Link Between Worlds isn't as opaque as previous entries. Some people didn't like the renting system the game introduced, but for people like me who were basically new to the franchise, being able to rent items and tackle the dungeons any way I see fit was a Godsend. The only problem with this is that the first dungeon I went to was also the hardest one, so I saw the "Game Over" screen more than my fair share of times. Still, once I was able to best that dungeon, the rest of the game was fairly easy. I was already familiar with the basic structure of Hyrule from my short time with Link to the Past, so knowing where to go or how to get there was never too much of a problem. I finished the game far from 100% completion--I didn't even get some of the more basic items like the Pegasus Boots--but it still turned out to be some of the most fun I've had on my 3DS.
Then I decided I wanted to pull a Tarantino and play this particular sequence in the Zelda timeline out of order and played A Link to the Past afterwards. Upon completion, I finally understood why Zelda had always been held in such high regard by my friends, Link to the Past in particular. It truly is a masterful game, and if I had played it back in the day, it's safe to say it would been a surefire contender for one of my favorite games on the SNES. I won't lie, I had a YouTube playthrough open during some sections in an effort to save time and sanity. Yeah, it's cheating, but I'm a fairly busy dude and have lots of other games I would like to get to, so I watched a walkthrough, sue me. It didn't take away any of the enjoyment. In fact, it probably caused me to have more fun than if I had tried to figure it out on my own, because there were several sections where I sat there and realized that I never could have figured out its particular trick.
Playing these games in reverse order was kind of interesting. I was able to play Link to the Past and say "Hey, they kept that in the sequel" or "Oh, so that was originally a Link to the Past boss" and so on. I suppose my next step is to complete a 3D Zelda game now. I'm thinking Wind Waker since it's the one I've always had the most interest in.
I mentioned this in my Top Castlevania Games list a couple of weeks ago. It really is amazing to me that I never played Super Castlevania IV as a young tyke, because I loved the NES games and this was a very early SNES title, so it was certainly around when I had a Super Nintendo. But I was never privy to when and what games were being released, so it's safe to assume that I just plum didn't know about it.
Throughout the years my love for the series only grew greater, and this became more and more of a blemish on my backlog. As the Halloween season approached, my Castlevania fire began to burn as it does every year, and I knew this game had to finally be completed. I had originally tried playing it when I first got my Wii and purchased it on the Virtual Console, but for whatever reason I just never finished it. When I decided to play through my backlog, I knew I wanted to play the games on their native systems, and with the exception of Shadow of the Colossus the Ratchet & Clank games (HD versions on my PS3), every other game on the list was played on its original console. I don't decry emulation, but being a collector, I figured if I have the games and systems, I should just do it that way.
Some people herald Super Castlevania IV as the be-all and end-all of Castlevania series, but man, that's just not true. It's a fantastic game, no doubt about it, and such an improvement over the NES titles, but let's not kid ourselves. I wouldn't even rank it as the best linear Castlevania game. As much as I enjoyed it, I can't help but feel like this is one of those games that's clouded by nostalgia in the minds of those who champion it the most. It plays well, it sounds great, it's not too long and not too short, it offers a decent challenge, and much like the Zelda games, it was cool to see how much stuff I've seen in the more recent games that originally appeared in this one. It did a lot for the series, a huge step in the right direction, but it didn't break the mold.
Super Metroid was at the top of my backlog list for years. It was one of the first games I picked up when I started collecting back in 2008, and it had been staring at me for six years before I finally sat down with it. I know of several writers and publications that have named it their greatest game of all-time, and since the "metroidvania" has long been one of my favorite genres, it was absolutely eating at me that I hadn't given it more time than I had.
Over the summer, my wife had to go out of town for a few days for work, and I was in a gaming drought. I didn't have a whole lot of current games that sounded interesting at the time, and I was booooooored. That's when I stepped into my retro gaming room. I didn't even have to scan the titles to find one that sounded good. I found the SNES shelf and immediately grabbed Super Metroid. I was determined. I was going to finally do this. Super Metroid was going to be played, and played hard. This is the game that started off my backlog conquest. Once I started Super Metroid, I finally had the determination to decimate the games I had never played.
While I wouldn't go as far as saying that Super Metroid is the best game ever made, it's certainly a contender. One thing that I didn't expect was for the game to almost feel like a horror game. Even though Samus is very powerful, it's made clear from the start that no one is coming to help you. The planet of Zebes has an incredible atmosphere, and I couldn't shake the feeling of bleakness and despair that emanated from the world around me. You just feel so...alone. This is another game that I didn't 100%, but I did scour the landscape as much as I could. The end game screen said I finished in just over 7 hours, but they obviously don't take into account when you're looking at the map, because I spent a lot of time looking at that map. Unlike Zelda, I mostly brute-forced my way through Super Metroid, only resorting to GameFAQS twice in my adventure on parts where I needed to bomb a certain area that gave off no indication that that was even an option.
It's a testament to the developers that they were able to tell such a great story with zero dialogue outside of the opening sequence. Take the section where you're taught to wall jump as an example. In games today, the little creatures that show up to show you that you need to wall jump wouldn't be there. Instead, you would have something pop up on the screen explaining exactly how to perform a wall jump. But here, you're basically just told "Hey, watch these little guys and then figure it out for yourself." It took a few tries to get the nuances of wall jumping down, but eventually it became second nature.
There are so many little touches like that that made the game an absolute pleasure to finally play. I don't have the nostalgia clouding my judgment, and even today I would say it's one of my top 5 SNES games, and this is the one game on the list that I'm legitimately sad I didn't play as a kid. One last thing, Super Metroid may very well have the best ending sequence in gaming history. Those last 15 minutes were outstanding.
My friend and I actually did a mini episode of our podcast where we talk about my experience. It's about 25 minutes long, and you can listen to it in this YouTube video:
So what's next on my list? Right now, it's Secret of Mana. While I do have other games, I'm going to save them for next week's list: My Top 5 Gaming Shames.
So, what games are you guys trying to get off your backlog?
Thanks for reading,