Sunday, February 17, 2019

My Favorite Game From Each Year Of My Life (1985 - 1989)

I have a pension for making lists and ranking my favorite things. I've been doing it for several years now, and I look forward to the end of each year so I can make my Top 10 Games of the Year list. But what about the best games from the years before I started writing?

Just for something fun, I'm looking at the best games from each year of my life and writing about what games would have won my game of the year had I been able to write about them at the time. As the years go on, I'll also have as many as two other games listed as "contenders," so just consider those to be the top 3 of that year for me.

If you've followed my writing for any length of time, you may notice that these lists don't match up with my previous "Games of the Year" writings, and that's because my opinions on certain games may have changed. Maybe a game that got my number 2 spot that year came out with DLC and it jumped up to number 1, or maybe I went back and played a game that I didn't play the year it came out and wound up loving it. Many things caused shake-ups in my lists, and I'll do my best to address those shake-ups when I get to those games.

Let's begin with the year of my birth: 1985.
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. kind of has to be my favorite game of 1985, right? Obviously, I didn't play the game until a few years later when my brother and I received our first NES with the game packed in, but what else could I really choose? Ghost 'n Goblins? Get out of here with that!

The now legendary series's initial adventure changed the video game industry and sparked my love of the medium, and it will definitely not be the last time you see the Super Mario Bros. franchise on these lists.

One of my favorite movies as a kid was Monster Squad. I'm not sure if I love Monster Squad because I played Castlevania or if I loved Castlevania because I watched Monster Squad, but the two are synonymous with each other in my head. I've had a fascination with the classic monsters ever since.

Again, not the last time a game from this series will make the lists, but there's something about the original game that holds an extra special place in my heart. Perhaps it's the music, which still rocks today. Or maybe it's the bosses like the giant Medusa head or the Grim Reaper. Maybe it's the box art, which is still my favorite video game cover of all-time.

If there's any series that I hate to have seen fall from grace, it's Castlevania.

What makes Contra so great is not the incredible amount of machismo that oozes from it, nor is it that the NES port is superior to the arcade version. Contra is great because, even to this day, it remains one of the greatest co-op experiences you can have. The controls are spot-on, allowing the players to easily traverse the tiered stages with the combination of Down + Jump. Contra has an incredible variety in stages in terms of both the setting and the type of levels, which can be normal side-scrolling, vertical-scrolling, or behind-the-back in a pseudo-3D perspective.

The Contra series is well-known for its challenge, as well as letting you subvert that challenge with use of the "Konami Code" (though we knew it better as the "Contra Code" as kids). Being able to beat Contra without the code is a badge of honor for any retro gamer. But if there is anything we should remember Contra for (aside from the box art that rips off 3 major films), it's the ability to grief your friends and younger siblings by being able to steal their lives when you've run out.

Mega Man 2
1988 can make a case for being the best single year of video game releases. I don't personally ascribe to that notion, but when you look at the laundry list of classic games released that year, it's easy to see the argument. Bionic Commando, Blaster Master, Double Dragon II, Super Dodge Ball, Ice Hockey, Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario Bros. 2, Splatterhouse, etc. 1988 was incredible. But for me, Mega Man 2 is the game that trumps them all.

When it comes to the standard Mega Man series, MM2 still stands as its pinnacle. There have been other great games featuring the Blue Bomber, such as Mega Man 3, 9, and 2018's incredible Mega Man 11. But Mega Man 2 features probably the best the original series has to offer in terms of music, robot masters, level design, enemy design, and features a surprisingly touching ending credits sequence. When it comes to run-and-gun platforming, few games compare to MM2.

There's just something special about DuckTales. Almost all of Capcom's Disney-licensed games on NES are of the highest quality, or at the very least, they're all worth playing, and DuckTales is the best of the best. Any aficionado of video game tunes will undoubtedly tout the DuckTales soundtrack as one of the best you'll ever hear, mostly due to the "Moon Theme," but the entire soundtrack is completely outstanding.

Scrooge McDuck's pogo and cane swinging abilities are just as fun today as they were in 1989, and almost all of the show's main characters are represented. If you don't want to track down an NES and a copy of DuckTales, you can play the excellent remastered version on many modern consoles, though I would implore you to play the original version if at all possible. It's one of my top 5 NES games, and I can't say enough good things about it.

And that's going to do it for the 80s. Coming shortly will be my top games from the 'tude-filled 90s.