E3 might be over but we still have loads of coverage on the way. The Goomba Stomp crew is back from Los Angeles and we will be publishing many more articles with impressions of all the games we played at this year’s convention. In the meantime, we have compiled a list of our most anticipated games from this year’s gala. Enjoy!
Inspired and influenced by the original Cyberpunk 2020 pen and paper RPG, CD Projekt Red’s ambitious new project is not just my most anticipated game from E3, but quite possibly my most anticipated game ever. The trailer that premiered during the Microsoft press conference blew my socks off and, in my opinion, might just be greatest demo in the history of E3. Cyberpunk 2077 is a behemoth of a game, an open world RPG even bigger that The Witcher 3 and with possible multiplayer features on top of hundreds of hours of single-player roleplaying. And, if that isn’t impressive enough, it’s also a first-person shooter with no load times (at least, according to the devs). It’s a game that seems years a head of its time and far beyond the ambitions of anything presented at this year’s convention. Only time will tell if the game lives up to the hype, but based on the visuals alone, Cyberpunk 2077 may be one of the greatest games ever made. (Ricky D)
“Fuck Fallout 76”
That was my reaction when I heard the game was to be a multiplayer Survival game. In an instant, I’d done a complete flip since hearing of its existence and any trace of excitement at the prospect of another game in the futuristic 50’s like dystopic ‘hell hole’ that is Fallout 4 had completely evaporated.
So it was with a morbid curiosity, rather than interest that I tuned into the Bethesda E3 conference to see the damage for myself. Did I want a MMO Fallout? Hell no… Those games are special because the player is special. Every time you add a player to that formula, you dilute the experience and remove the secret sauce that makes these games so enjoyable… but as Tod Howard began telling us about the game and ‘Country Roads’ kicked into life, I found myself captivated and dare I say excited about the idea of surviving in the wasteland with a group of friends. Building one of those self-packing ‘lunch box’ houses and hunting rare materials to help me discover some nuclear codes could if done right be absolutely fantastic.
Other than the building mechanics, the first thing to really jump out is how great the game looks. Howard claims that Fallout 76 is 4 times bigger than Fallout 4 and 16 times more detailed. Environments are more vibrant than ever and peering across the landscape, players will be able to see different weather patterns in different areas of the map. The game also promises an engaging story, as well as the ability to play in groups and against my better judgement, this has me very excited.
Over the last few months, I’ve grown to appreciate the value of a great multiplayer experience. Games like Overwatch, Destiny, Sea of Thieves and Fortnite have allowed me to keep in touch with friends as the rigours of daily life mean that I lack the same amount of free time as I once did and although it’s still early days, I am hoping that Fallout 76 can become one of our go-to games.
Of course, there are always concerns about these things. There presumably won’t be any V.A.T.S., and Bethesda are yet to make a game of this nature that isn’t broken in some way, but the groundwork is set and coming out of E3, there’s no other game that has left a mark on me quite like this and I can’t wait to see more. (David Smile)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem is in a precarious spot. The massive success of Awakening completely reinvigorated the series and catapulted it into Nintendo’s staple of AAA franchises. However, the subsequent cash-grabby strategy of releasing three Fates iterations (unlike Pokémon, you needed to play at least two to get the full story) managed to segment that new player base soon after. Fire Emblem Three Houses is the franchise’s first time on consoles since the Wii, and in many ways, it feels like the team knows they have to go all out to regain goodwill and take full advantage of the new hardware. Thankfully, Three Houses looks like it’s received a host of significant improvements across the board.
While battles in Fire Emblem have always been thrilling tactical affairs, it was a bit strange to only see 1v1 fights on a battlefield supposedly populated by tons of troops. With the power of the Switch, Three Houses visually represents hordes of unit-specific fighters attacking alongside you. It can’t be overstated just how cool of an upgrade this is for a franchise knocking on 30.
Utilizing the extra power of the Switch is a theme here; bland battlefield environments aside, the game has received a massive visual overhaul across the board. Character portraits now sport the HD sheen of a modern Disgaea game. My Castle from Fates seems to be back complete with a shiny new third-person perspective that looks absolutely beautiful. And naturally, we can now enjoy Fire Emblem’s stellar cinematics in high definition.
For as much as we know about this new entry, there’re also a ton of unknowns. Is the marriage mechanic returning (please)? Will there be time traveling kids again (please)? Will this be a linear experience or one where player choice can affect the outcome of the story? Fire Emblem is somewhat notorious for its DLC rollout; how will that look this time around? Despite all the question marks, one thing is certain—I can’t wait to see more in an upcoming Direct.
The Last of Us Part 2
Few games manage to balance thoughtful and emotional storytelling with engaging gameplay and in-depth mechanics. Of the few examples that happen to pull it off, it’s pretty easy to argue that The Last of Us, originally released for the PlayStation 3 in 2013. While the sequel, the appropriately titled The Last of Us Part II, has been teased with various trailers since late 2016, it hasn’t been until this year’s recent E3 demonstration that the public got a chance to see how the game would play. If the presented “gameplay” trailer is any indication, Part II promises to be the same mix of thoughtful and emotional narrative and brutal, unflinching acts of horrific violence.
This is a very good thing.
One of the important things that the original game accomplished was giving meaning to violence. It’s a game that began with the death of a major character – one that you actually play as in the introduction. This immediately introduces us to a world where death has meaning, meaning that resonates throughout the rest of the experience, both in gameplay and in the story. It’s not easy to kill people in The Last of Us. It is draining, mentally and physically to the characters and players. In a lot of ways, it asks the protagonist, and by extension ourselves, what you would be willing to do for the ones you love. Would you kill strangers? Kill friends? Kill… well, everybody? Joel’s decision to essentially doom mankind for the sake of one stand-in daughter figure forces us to consider our lives and choices in a way few video games are brave enough to present.
It looks to be another wonderful, miserable ride where every choice has meaning, and every failure has consequences, both in gameplay and story. And I am mostly hoping that Joel says “clickers” a lot. (Katrina Lind)
Persona 3 Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5 Dancing in Starlight
Despite all of the fantastic entries that were shown off at this year’s E3, none of them truly had me as excited as the two Persona dancing games that were confirmed for a localization next year. Persona is one of my favorite game franchises, so the fact that the two games were released in Japan with no localization in sight had been tearing me apart. Now that there are confirmed release dates, as well as the English voice actors reprising their roles in the brand new character interactions, I can’t wait to dive back into Persona one more time. Persona 4 Dancing All Night is a guilty pleasure of mine since the premise was so ridiculous yet effective considering how stellar the Persona soundtracks are. The brand new games replace the traditional story modes with a “commu” mode, which lets the players interact with their party members similar to a traditional social link. I can’t wait to see the characters in each group conversing more casually with one another, which was something that I felt was sorely missing from both Persona 3 and 5 compared to Persona 4. The dances also look incredibly impressive and well-choreographed, showing off each character’s personalities through their moves. There seems to be a surprising amount of depth as well, with many different costumes and accessories to unlock as well as the various difficulty modes found in the two entries. The brand new character models and settings look phenomenal, with the Persona 3 characters, in particular, looking fantastic compared to their last 3D outings on the PS2 and 3DS. I’ve only heard a couple of the remixes and tracks included in the two games, but I can safely say that this will be a day one purchase for me as a fan of both Persona and rhythm games. (Ed Moreno)
Resident Evil 2 Remake
I’m a die-hard Capcom fan. I practically grew up playing Mega Man, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, and plenty of other Capcom classics from every console generation. Resident Evil 2 is one of my favorite games on the original PlayStation as well as one of my favorite classic Resident Evil titles. It fixed a lot of things from the original, including the writing (sort of), pacing, environments (there were a lot less shadowless neon-colored walls), and gameplay. I was a mix of excited and skeptical when I first saw the announcement video back in 2015. Resident Evil 7 had yet to come out, so the only real games to compare it to were the HD port of REmake and Revelations 2. I love the classic style of survival horror, but I don’t know if I would have trusted Capcom to pull off a game with fixed camera angles and tank-controls in this day and age, but at the same time the fast-paced action of Revelations 2 doesn’t feel like a good fit for a game like Resident Evil 2. What Capcom unveiled this past week feels like the perfect middle ground. An over the should camera can be used to great effect to build up tension when used properly and can create some interesting situations when combined with the tight corridors of the Raccoon Police Department,
I’m loving how the game has visually turned out. There’s a lot of things reminiscent of the original map from over 20 years ago, but there’s plenty of little updates too…like the reception desk actually being at the front of the station instead of behind the big, obstructing, angel statue. The demo only went into the police station, but the trailer gives us a glimpse at some of the other areas in the game, and it seems that dim-lighting, claustrophobic hallways, and a muted color palette are all consisted throughout. These are all things reminiscent of what makes Resident Evil 7’s visual design so good. I hope that we will continue to see and hear good things about REmake 2 as it continues development. (Taylor Smith)
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
When Shadows Die Twice was first teased in a couple of short trailers, speculation mounted that it might be Bloodborne 2, or another amalgam of the Souls series that From Software’s Hidetaka Miyazaki put on hiatus in 2016.
While this bit of wishful thinking turned out to be just that, it didn’t stop Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice from turning in a show-stopping debut at E3 2018. Sure, it may not be the new hit of Dark Souls heroin that fans have been pining for, but the game does contain enough of the series’ trademark DNA to be instantly recognizable as a From Software title.
However, where Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice sets itself apart from its forebears is in its emphasis on lightning fast action. Even as Souls mainstays like the ability to return from death and towering bosses make their return, this game seems to be putting the kind of emphasis on white-knuckle action that would put even Bloodborne to shame.
It is, of course, worth mentioning that From Software did also work on the Tenchu series from back in the day, and Miyazaki (who is helming the project) has mentioned that stint in the world of ninjas as an influence on the development of Sekiro, though he stresses that this is a new and unique franchise.
Still with a permanent, story-centric main character, and no RPG elements revealed as of yet, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is as unlikely a Souls follow-up as we might have imagined. Let’s hope it still kicks ass, and picks up the ball that Team Ninja dropped when they tried this last year with Nioh. (Mike Worby)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks absolutely amazing. I had my expectations going into the Direct about how Smash would be handled, but nothing prepared me for the absolute bedlam of pure Nintendo charm that would engulf nearly half of the Nintendo’s E3 presentation. All the fascinating details that we received about Ultimate didn’t seem seem like unnecessary padding, but like an avalanche of incredible information that has put the community’s hype train at full speed once again. From the return of every single character that’s ever been in a Smash game (Snake!) to the introduction of Ridley, a character that Director Masahiro Sakurai had long decried as “too big” for Smash, every second of the Direct revealed new information about Ultimate in a volume that even Super Smash Bros. for Wii U did not surpass.
In that way, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate feels like a Smash fan’s dream come true. With the resurrection of Melee’s hallowed directional air dodge to the rebalancing of perennially-bad characters, such as Ganondorf, Ultimate looks poised to fuse the hardcore base of Melee with the accessibility of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and, in the process, create the most balanced Smash experience yet. For a Smash fanbase that has been fractured since the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008, Ultimate seems like the perfect game to bridge the gap. With more details yet to surface (come on, story mode!), there’s more than enough to get excited about with the latest entry in the Smash series, one that can finally be taken anywhere and played with anyone, anywhere. (Izsak Barnette)
The Top Ten Space Opera Comics
Logan continues his list, this time giving his top 5 picks for the best Space Opera Comics.
The list of best comic book space operas continues from Part 1 and enters the 21st century, with a pair of crossovers from Marvel and DC, some indie excellence from Image Comics, and the great Black Mask Studios among the top 5:
5. Annihilation (Marvel; 2006-2007)
Even though it was released at the same time as Marvel’s famous Civil War event, cosmic counterpart Annihilation arguably holds up better a decade later. Annihilation is a beautiful hybrid of military science-fiction and space opera, following a rag-tag band of Marvel cosmic characters as they battle Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave, a group of bug-like creatures who are being manipulated by Thanos and want to suck the whole universe into the Negative Zone. The stakes are immediately raised when they wipe out the entire Nova Corps, except for Richard Rider. Annihilation is responsible for bringing now-popular characters like Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Nova, and Gamora into the limelight. Without this comic, there would probably be no Guardians of the Galaxy film, even if its tone is way grimmer, and Peter Quill is more crazy than sexy and charming in it.
Instead of crossing over into every Marvel comic under the sun, this event consisted of a prologue one-shot, five four-issue miniseries, and a six-issue core miniseries simply called Annihilation, written by Keith Giffen and drawn by Andrea DiVito. The minis remind me of George R.R. Martin using different narrators in A Song of Ice and Fire, and they provide different perspectives on the war against the Annihilation Wave. They are also more character-driven, whereas Annihilation is the big blockbuster finale, even if it doesn’t end in complete and utter triumph while leaving some threads open for Annihilation: Conquest and the excellent Nova solo comic, which immediately comments on how petty the heroes’ in-fighting in Civil War is in light of the events of its sister crossover.
Annihilation: Nova is the Hero’s Journey with a sense of humor, as future Guardians of the Galaxy writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, along with superstar artist Kev Walker, show how Richard Rider goes from runt of the Nova Corps litter to the leader of the fight against the Annihilation Wave. Annihilation: Super Skrull and Annihilation: Ronan cast the Marvel villains Kl’rt the Super Skrull and Ronan the Accuser as noble figures, with Kl’rt making a heroic sacrifice. Ronan’s story has an added element of existential crisis from writer Simon Furman, as he must find purpose in a world where the Kree have stripped his Accuser rank and are ruled by bureaucrats who don’t care how many Kree warriors die. Annihilation: Silver Surfer is the most cosmic comic of the bunch, with Silver Surfer and former Heralds of Galactus banding together to stop the nefarious figures that are using Annihilus and his carnivorous insect crew like puppets on strings.
Andrea DiVito and Scott Kolins are the standouts on Annihilation and Annihilation Prologue, as far as the art is concerned. They can lay down a double-page spread showing the destruction of planets and cosmic beings, while also highlighting the human moments in the middle of the action, like the rage in Drax’s face every time Thanos is mentioned.
Annihilation and its follow-up, Annihilation Conquest (who can resist Ultron in space?), are memorable comics because they are good science fiction stories that happen to take place in the Marvel Universe. They add extra depths to characters that are one-note villains, like Super Skrull and Ronan, and tell a story about the cost of war and unlikely allies banding together in the face of disaster. If you pick up one Marvel “event comic” from the 2000s, make it Annihilation.
4. Sinestro Corps War (DC; 2007-2008)
In the DC Universe, the Green Lantern Corps are space cops who have overcome fear and can use their power rings to create projections of anything in their imagination to protect the universe. On the other side of the coin is the Sinestro Corps, who use yellow power rings to bring order to the universe through fear. The two sides comes to blows in the “Sinestro Corps War” storyline, told in the pages of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern and Dave Gibbons’ and Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps, with art from Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Angel Unzueta, and countless fill-in pencilers, inkers, and colorists that bring these almost Biblical – and quite emotional – space battles to life. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but “Sinestro Corps War” succeeds because Johns take these godlike characters’ feelings and insecurities seriously, while also lifting Sinestro into the pantheon of archvillains. It was a coming out party for the Green Lantern franchise and may have partially been responsible for the greenlighting of the 2011 film.
The idea for “Sinestro Corps War” came from an obscure Green Lantern story by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame, one that is very rooted in DC Comics continuity. However, Johns leans on a tremendous team of artists, including Reis and Van Sciver, to depict past events, like Hal Jordan becoming evil in the 1990s, all the way through to the present conflict. His almost religious reverence for the DC stories of the past pairs nicely with Gibbons’ cheeky character-driven writing, which makes even the most D-list members of the Green Lantern Corps compelling, like the combat medic Soranik Natu, who patrols Sinestro’s home planet, or the planet-sized Green Lantern, Mogo. A throwaway joke in a Moore and Gibbons comic becomes the heart and soul of Johns, Reis, Gibbons, and Gleason’s creation.
Fear is a powerful motivation for most human beings’ actions, and Geoff Johns leans on this terrifying, yet true reality to orchestrate the DC Universe’s finest soap opera since the days of Jack Kirby. He uses the emotional component of the Green Lanterns and Sinestro Corps’ powers, not just for cool action scenes, but also to explore the motivations and feelings of those who wield them, including the walking mediocrity, Hal Jordan. “Sinestro Corps War” established Ivan Reis (currently on Justice League of America) and Patrick Gleason (currently drawing Superman) as their go-to artist for blockbuster stories, while still keeping in mind the human aspects of these big-time characters, and not just doing double-page spreads. Best of all, it set the stage for Blackest Night, the most epic non-Grant-Morrison-written DC comic that didn’t make this list (because it is more of a superhero/horror book than space opera).
3. Saga (Image; 2012 to present)
When I started thinking about comics I was going to write about for Space Opera Month, Saga immediately popped up into my head. This Eisner, Harvey, and Hugo Award-winning science fiction comic by Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) and Fiona Staples (Archie) is about a couple named Alana and Marko, who are from the perpetually-warring planet and moon of Landfall and Wreath. They fall in love, have a beautiful daughter named Hazel, and then go on the run from a variety of pursuers, including morally-ambiguous bounty hunter The Will, Mario’s ex-fiance Gwendolyn, a spider-legged bounty hunter named The Stalk, an aristocrat with a TV for a head called Prince Robot IV, and a cat named Lying Cat (who is literally a lie detector). One of the best parts of Saga is seeing Staples’ creative – and occasionally disturbing – design for the different beings that Alana and Marko run into, including a hipster teenage ghost who is their babysitter, an adorable and loyal (fan favorite) seal creature named Ghus, anthropomorphic fishnet stockings who live on the pleasure planet Sextillion, and countless others.
Even though it happens on a variety of strange planets against the backdrop of complicated political intrigue, Vaughan and Staples make Saga about the difficulty of starting a family, even though there are plenty of fire fights, magical duels, and timely escapes. Alana and Marko fight a lot of the time, and recently in the comics they have been separated. The series also doesn’t keep Hazel (who is the comic’s narrator) a baby forever. At the time of this writing, she has grown into a rambunctious little girl, who is slowly becoming aware of what the outside world thinks of her parents’ actions.
Hazel’s coming of age and Alana and Marko’s relationship struggles keep Saga grounded, while Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples indulge in some seriously cool worldbuilding – like a romance novel that’s a secret revolutionary treatise, or how Alana used to be a kind of soap opera actress – while fleshing out an ever-expanding supporting cast. At its core, however, Saga is about how creating and nurturing life is better than taking one, even if it seems like the senseless violence will never cease… (Warning: Saga kills off characters on a Whedonesque level)
2.Starlight (Image; 2014)
He’s most famous for his violent, entertaining, and more than a little sophomoric Kick-Ass and Kingsman series, as well as a revisionist take on Marvel heroes in Ultimates and Civil War, but Starlight showcases a more mature side of comics’ Scottish enfant-terrible, Mark Millar. It also has some gorgeous Moebius-meets-Norman-Rockwell (but with a sense of humor) art from Goran Parlov (Fury MAX). The comic is about an elderly man named Duke McQueen, who saved the planet Tantalus and its queen from the tyrannical Typhon when he was a young man. After his victory, he left Tantalus to be with his beloved wife, Joanne, who passes away from cancer in Starlight #1. Duke is ridiculed for the outlandish accounts of his adventures, and is a lonely old dude who is almost forgotten. However, in Starlight he is called to save Tantalus from a new tyrant – with the help of his number one fan Krish Moor, who looks like he belongs in the Speed Racer universe, but has a sad backstory similar to Batman.
What makes Starlight so endearing is the character of Duke McQueen. Sure, he ends up being a double blaster-wielding, double-fisted hero in the end, but the early issues set him up as a sad old man who misses his wife. Goran Parlov is fantastic at drawing vehicles and sci-fi weaponry, but he also nails the sad moments, like Duke sitting alone and smoking under the stars, or a place setting for a family dinner that no one bothered to show up to. These emotional sequences make the action in the back half of the series that much exhilarating, as Duke inspires the Tantalans to rise up against their new tyrant, Kingfisher (who looks like Darth Vader and has the appetite for luxury of Jabba the Hutt).
Starlight is the old New Testament quote “No prophet is accepted in his hometown,” but on an intergalactic level. Sure, Duke saved a whole planet, but he’s treated as a crank by his family and neighbors. Duke’s journey from retired hero to returning hero is thrilling, and he’s a selfless, noble man with wry one-liners to boot. The miniseries is worth reading for Goran Parlov’s command of the comics medium ,as he excels at everything from double-page spreads of tyrannical mining planets, to furious car chases, and even an old man watching the stars that he once saved. It’s a pity that this was his last interior art, as of early 2017.
1. Space Riders (Black Mask; 2015, 2017)
With its Jack-Kirby-meets-a-Grimes-album cover (or a really well-done punk rock zine), art from artist Alexis Zirritt, and anything goes/picaresque-style plotting from writer Fabian Rangel, Space Riders is a fucking awesome four-issue space opera miniseries from Black Mask Studios, one of comics’ most innovative publishers. Space Riders follows the adventures of Capitan Peligro (Spanish for “Captain Danger”), his first mate Mono (a religiously devout baboon), and Yara, a badass, yet level-headed female android (who saves the crew’s bacon multiple times). Their ship is the Santa Muerte, a literal flying skull that has been discontinued by the EISF, the Space Riders’ employer. There is an overarching plot featuring gods, a tomb, and the fate of the universe, but Space Riders is really a comeback story, as Capitan Peligro must prove himself to his superiors and regain his rank and ride. He must deal with the legacy of his father, who was also a Space Rider, as well as also try to get revenge against his rival, Hammerhead.
It only took a few pages of Space Riders #1 to make me fall in love with Alexis Zirritt’s art and colors. Every page that he draws deserves to either be a poster or an album cover. With his intense reds and wobbly, seemingly LSD-laced pencils, Zirritt makes faster-than-light travel seem like the scariest shit ever for a human being. Jumping to hyperspace isn’t some mash-a-button-and-escape deal for Capitan Peligro, but a dark night of the soul, as he goes a little mad and ends up wrecking the Santa Muerte. This comic is packed to the gills with generally cool stuff, like a double-page splash of a space whale getting harassed by Viking-themed space biker gangs, along with your usual space opera fare, including killer robots and tractor beams. There are layers to this coolness, however, like the space whale being a riff on Moby Dick (but with Peligro wanting to protect this majestic – and possibly divine – creature instead of killing it like that windbag Captain Ahab). It’s a nice environmental parable that isn’t schmaltzy thanks to the presence of Tarantino-esque one-liners, chest mounted machine guns and – did I mention the Viking motorcycle gang?
Space Riders is a wild ride of a comic book, and it’s one of the books on this list that I feel comfortable recommending even to people who aren’t into science fiction, but still like cool action and characters with problems. Fabian Rangel and Alexis Zirritt don’t waste time on oodles of exposition, instead just throwing readers into intense situations and never letting off the gas. Capitan Peligro gets a solid character arc as he evolves from an utter fuck-up, and refuses promotion so he can be free to fly through space with his crew, beating bad guys and figuring out more about the mysterious dying gods in the current series, Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality.
The Top Ten Space Opera Comics
Before advances in visual effects, comic books and strips were arguably the best places to experience epic stories of swashbuckling heroes, princesses, and extraterrestrials in galaxies far, far away.
With a “special effects budget” that is only dependent on the imagination of the writer, artist, and colorist, comics are the perfect medium for space opera. Before advances in visual effects, comic books and strips were arguably the best places to experience epic stories of swashbuckling heroes, princesses, and extraterrestrials in galaxies far, far away. George Lucas himself wanted to make an adaptation of Alex Raymond’s comic strip Flash Gordon as his second feature film after THX-1138, but legendary Italian director Frederico Fellini had the rights. This compelled him to make his original space opera, Star Wars, and the rest is movie and merchandising history. Decades after the original Star Wars trilogy wrapped, its spirit of adventure survived in the Expanded Universe Dark Horse comics, a sort of homage to the movie’s debt to Flash Gordon as well as other comic books, like the bande dessinee Valerian and Laureline, and the future technology and machines found in the artwork of Jack Kirby.
Even though there are some great (and not so great) comics based on sci-fi franchises, like Star Wars, Serenity, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, all the comics on this list aren’t based on pre-existing media, however. Some of them take place in the shared Marvel and DC Universes, and others have inspired current or future films, but they are all original visions of war, the future, heroism, and cool stuff blowing up brought to life on the comic book page by some of fiction’s greatest creative minds, including Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Dave Gibbons, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Moebius, Jim Starlin, and of course, the King of Comics himself, Jack Kirby.
In chronological order, here are the top ten best space opera comics that you should check out.
10. Valerian and Laureline (Dargaud; 1967-2010)
The long running series of Valerian and Laureline bande-dessinees are the perfect hybrid of time-travel science fiction and space opera, with some stories following the dashing pair of spatio-temporal agents to different planets, and others to different eras. The main setting is the 28th century, when Earth is a utopia, space and time travel are just a fact of life, and most of the inhabitants spend their time on leisure activities, not work. Valerian, Laureline, and other spatio-temporal agents protect this peaceful existence from space-time anomalies and other threats. The comics, which were all written by Pierre Christin, drawn by Jean-Claude Mezieres, and colored by Eveline Tranle, began as simple fights between good and evil, but became much more complex as the series progressed and looked into the nature of death, feminism, and democracy, especially its ability to be corrupted and turned into imperialism.
Christin writes Valerian not as a superhero or moral authority, but as kind of goofy, someone stumbling into situations feet first. For example, in the first Valerian story, “The City of Shifting Waters,” he complains about climbing skyscraper stairs in a ruined 1986 New York, and is taken captive by a gang of looters until Laureline saves him. Laureline is definitely the smarter of the pair, even though she sometimes ends up in damsel in distress (which Christin plays for satire of gender roles in later installments). The dynamic between Valerian and Laureline gives the comics a lot of energy to go with Christin’s dense, yet fast moving scripts, Mezieres’ glorious and humorous art, and Tranle’s shrewd color choices.
The Valerian and Laureline comics are truly a joy to read, espousing humanism and cooperation in the face of tyranny and evil through exciting 50 page bites. For a modern reader, they feel like the perfect combination of Star Wars (which was influenced by the comic) and Doctor Who, with space battles, time travel, foot chases, and witty banter galore. You haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed a human/robot fight in Yellowstone National Park with bison peacefully grazing in the background.
9. “Fourth World Saga” (DC Comics; 1970-1974, 1985)
After saying that dialogue bubble filler and carnival barker Stan Lee was the sole creator of the Marvel Universe, and generally treating him like garbage, Jack Kirby jumped ship to DC Comics in 1970. He was basically given a blank check, and after passing on marquee titles like Superman, he became the writer and artist on Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. From this Z-list title, he launched his famous “Fourth World Saga” and created iconic characters like the New Gods Mister Miracle, Big Barda, and Orion, along with their arch-nemesis Darkseid, who is set to appear in a future Justice League film.
The “Fourth World Saga” spread across the New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Forever People comics, focusing on different inhabitants of the planet New Genesis, which is locked in eternal warfare with the totalitarian Apokolips. New Gods tells the story of Orion, the champion of New Genesis, who goes to Earth to prevent Darkseid from finding the nefarious Anti-Life Equation and wreaking havoc in the universe. It’s biblical in scope and scale, and contains the great twist (almost a decade before Empire Strikes Back) that Darkseid is Orion’s father. Forever People is like American Graffiti with superheroes, as a team of young inhabitants of New Genesis also trying to stop Darkseid and his mortal allies, Intergang, who are led by the new publisher of the Daily Planet. Mister Miracle is about Scott Free, an escape artist from New Genesis, who takes on the mantle of Mister Miracle after his mentor is killed. What makes this comic stand out from the other Fourth World titles is the strong relationship between the physically unimposing Scott and his warrior-wife, Big Barda, who formerly worked for Darkseid’s Female Furies.
Jack Kirby’s purple prose and “hip” slang in the Fourth World books may not have aged well, but few artists have rivaled the power of his figures. From Orion wrestling with Darkseid’s Parademons, to the the Forever People zooming by or Mister Miracle make a death defying escape, Kirby’s art is full of energy, and the punches and holds he draws have real weight behind them. His trademark “Kirby krackle” adds to the otherworldly factor of his work, and complements the outlandish, yet enduring costumes for characters like Orion, the enigmatic Metron, Mister Miracle, and Big Barda.
“The Fourth World Saga” is filled to the brim with imaginative ideas that could take a whole series of articles to describe, and features some of Jack Kirby’s most kinetic pencils. It stands with Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men as one of the greatest comics of the 1970s, and also inspired the DC Animated Universe, as well as modern storylines like Final Crisis.
8. Dreadstar (Epic/First Comics/Malibu; 1980-1991, 1994-1995)
Although he was responsible for killing off the second Robin, Jason Todd, writer/artist Jim Starlin is probably the best known American space opera comics creator. He even wrote and drew a Thanos graphic novel for Marvel as recently as 2016. His greatest original creation is the long running series Dreadstar, a blend of the fantasy, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, and superhero genres that featured an anthropomorphic cat as a POV character. It was the flagship title of Epic Comics, a creator-owned imprint from Marvel that was a forerunner of DC’s Vertigo, home of classic comics like Sandman, Hellblazer, and Fables.
Dreadstar is both a swashbuckling adventure comic and a meditation on war and religious fundamentalism. The basic setup of the world is that there is war between the authoritarian Monarchy and the Instrumentality, a kind of Spanish Inquisition-meets-Scientology theocratic government with special teleporting technology. Starlin’s drawing of Vanth Dreadstar, the last survivor of the Milky Way galaxy and receiver of a magical weapon, resembles DC Comics’ socially conscious hero Green Arrow, and he renounces violence to be a farmer until the planet of cat people he lives on is destroyed. He then ends up leading a crew of misfits to end the war between the Monarchy and the Instrumentality, and bring a kind of peace to the remaining galaxies – except that he, the cybernetic magician Darklock, the cat person Oedi, and the telepath Willow occasionally work with the Monarchy, as Dreadstar isn’t just a simple good vs evil story.
Jim Starlin’s art has power and energy like Jack Kirby’s work ,although his faces are a little more distinct than the King’s. He also uses colors and angles that give off a trippier vibe, like when Dreadstar and his crew rob a vault, or the Lord Papal is imbued with special abilities by a nefarious higher power. Making the magic more surreal and the scientific elements of Dreadstar clean and more technical reinforces the sprawling comic’s main ideological conflict between the sacred and secular. Unfortunately, the series has never been properly concluded by either Starlin or his replacement writer, Peter David (X-Factor).
7. The Incal (Humanoids;1981-1988)
The Incal is a series of five graphic novels written by Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and drawn by legendary French artist Moebius. It is considered one of the masterpieces of the comics medium, and follows the rough-and-tumble misadventures of a hard-drinking, prostitute-frequenting P.I. named John DiFool, who comes into possession of the Light Incal, an object of great power. He and his talking pet seagull Deepo go on the run from a variety of factions, including the badass mercenary Metabaron, seeking to take the Incal for themselves while simultaneously embarking on a spiritual journey.
Moebius’ art and Yves Chaland’s colors capture the essence of dystopia in The Incal. Sure, there are cool flying ships and aliens, but also overcrowded public transportation, filthy tunnels, and a president who makes his own cloning into the television event of the season (after reruns of a game show called Piss and Feces). There is a clear distinction between the “glowing” upper class and the “unwashed masses” in power and opportunity. However, Chaland uses irridescent tones any time the Incal speaks to DiFool while trying to break him out of his slumber and into a spiritual awakening. He eventually ends up teaming up with the Metabaron and others in a great battle of good and evil between the Dark and Light Incal.
Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius capture humanity at its most grotesque and most transcendent in The Incal. This is a comic that features an elderly upper class woman seeing a wolf man prostitute, but also a flawed man finding self-realization through something that would be a mere MacGuffin in another creative team’s hand. The Incal has a political and spiritual conscience as well as cool vehicles and gorgeous Moebius cityscapes.
6. Infinity Gauntlet (Marvel; 1991)
One can only hope that the upcoming Avengers Infinity War film is at least as half as epic as writer Jim Starlin and artists George Perez and Ron Lim’s Infinity Gauntlet miniseries. In the story, Thanos, who collected all the Infinity Gems in the Thanos Quest series, puts them in the Infinity Gauntlet and wipes off half the life in the universe to impress his mistress, Death. This half includes the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Daredevil. Thanos is on a hubristic a rampage for the most of the miniseries, and even defeats such powerhouses as Chaos, Order, and Eternity
Though he left the series after issue 4, Infinity Gauntlet is a testament to George Perez’s mastery of both the superhero team-up and the cosmic epic. He and Lim draw scenes like Thanos becoming one with the universe or the death of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen with style and ease, providing readers with iconic moments, like when Captain America, leading a troop of battered, beleaguered heroes, tells Thanos that he’ll never win. Infinity Gauntlet is a study in escalation and hubris, with Thanos finally bested by his own insecurity after a roller coaster ride of a series.
Infinity Gauntlet is what Marvel and DC Comics events should aspire to be. The stakes are high and the splash pages are big, yet Starlin, Perez, and Lim leave room for characterization. Infinity Gauntlet provides the climax of the messianic journey of Adam Warlock that began when Starlin created him in the 1970s. Thanos’ final fate is pretty brilliant, and it’s a shame that multiple “Infinity” sequels had to ruin that fantastic ending.
Ranking The Legend of Zelda Series
There is hardly a more beloved franchise in all of video games than The Legend of Zelda, but though so many of its entries are at or near the top of many players’ lists of all-time favorites, how do each of the titles stack up when pitted against each other? After a lengthy voting process involving several on the staff and a complicated point-tallying system, we here at Goomba Stomp have finally come up with a ranking of our favorite Zelda games. These are not in the order of best to worst but instead, they are the ones we love from least to most! Without further Fi-like explanation, here is the list of Our Favorite Zelda Games:
Editor’s Note: We decided to omit spin-offs and obscure titles and focus solely on the main series. The cover image comes courtesy of Nintendo of Europe.
17. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Nintendo would have you believe that The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is a cooperative game where you can come together with your friends and experience all the joys of dungeon crawling together. In truth, it’s actually a crucible that tests even the greatest of friendships and tempts all players into committing atrocities against their fellow players.
Now, it’s all well and good to just play the game as it is intended to be — but that’s not getting the full depth out it. Oh no. Until you start using the feather to strand your friends across chasms, making it impossible to progress, you haven’t really played. Until you start trapping friends in tiny rooms with bombs, you haven’t lived.
Because, in truth, the game isn’t that hard — especially with four people. What makes it really fun are the resultant fireworks that pop off when the egos of four friends clash together. Did your buddy just nab the item you want? Screw that! Knock him into the void over and over. When he complains, laugh. When your other two friends try to intervene, make them share the same fate until justice is served. Then, after five solid minutes of everyone else begging for mercy, consider stopping so you can move to the next frame. After that, prepare to spend the next five minutes running away from your friends who want to do you harm. It is merely the circle of life.
And that’s why Four Swords is great. Not because of its excellent level design or the cool connectivity between Game Boys and the Gamecube, but because of the way it tricked friends into torturing each other for hours on end. (Jason Krell)
16. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was a game with good ideas, but held back with a few big problems. Spirit Tracks, on the other hand, builds on its precursor and fixes those problems to end up being one of the finest portable Zelda titles. Though the new system of traveling on your train initially feels more constricting than before, it still provides a sense of exploration and discovery by unlocking railways and expanding the map. The game also has more interesting items for puzzle solving, with the sand wand and the whip being notable standouts. It also offers more in terms of a narrative worth getting invested in.
As is typically the case, Zelda finds herself in a predicament, and though this inciting incident appears to turn her into a ghost, she actually ends up hanging out for the duration of the game as Link’s new companion. As crucial a character as she is to the plot, this is one of the first times where she actually gets to breathe and spend time with the main character who, despite not talking, still shares great chemistry with Zelda. They also allow for some side characters, notably one of the antagonists, Byrne, to have proper character arcs and a backstory.
Though it still has a similar “central dungeon” mechanic to Phantom Hourglass, they don’t force you to trudge through old areas, nor is it attached with a time limit. And with Zelda in her ghost form, she’s actually able to take over the bodies of those invincible monsters from before, which not only makes the game feel fairer, but it also adds a whole new mechanic of managing two characters at once.
It may have come out late in the system’s life cycle, but it’s a solid and underrated title that deserves a second look. (Daniel Philion)
15. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap
To be clear, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap isn’t a bad game by any means. It’s not even a game that’s undermined by certain key flaws. It’s a perfectly functional entry that doesn’t betray the design philosophy that the Zelda series is known for. But mere competence can’t make up for the fact that this game is extremely forgettable.
This version of Hyrule doesn’t stand out as a particularly unique world to explore, instead relying on the standard location tropes. The characters bring little to the table, with your new companion, Ezlo (not to be confused with Assassin’s Creed’s “Ezio”), being more obnoxious than endearing, and the new villain, Vaati, lacking the presence of Ganon. Zelda herself also has no interesting role to play beyond being a typical damsel in distress.
The major new idea this game brings to the series is the shrinking mechanic, which may have been interesting if it had been offered with more freedom. In practice, you can only shrink in specific places, which makes this less of a fun new way to explore, and more just as a gimmick to set up specific puzzles.
That said, there are still some clever puzzles, and shrinking does offer a unique perspective. Though it’s a dull boss fight, there’s something to be said about taking those easily killed Chu Chu’s and making it more daunting by changing your size. In the end, Minish Cap proves that there’s more to the Zelda experience than the formula itself; there’s a spark or sense of wonder that they need to incite in the player to make them truly resonate. (Daniel Philion)
14. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is the sister game to Oracle of Seasons, both of which are the portable successors to Link’s Awakening DX. Both games share a lot in common with Link’s Awakening, but each took a different route in how it presented its gameplay, Oracle of Ages focused on puzzles and tried to find interesting ways to get the player to think about their surroundings and their inventory, as well as giving the player a lot of items that interacted with the environment rather than with enemies.
On a personal level, Oracle of Ages resonates with me a lot, as it’s the version I had when the two games originally came out. I remember being thoroughly surprised by the boss of the second dungeon, Head Thwomp, as it was a battle based around timing (something I wasn’t very good at when I was ten years old) and did not require the use of the sword, instead making use of bombs. Many of the boss battles in Oracle of Ages followed this trend of not using the sword as your main damage-dealing item. While today that’s not much of an accomplishment for a Zelda title, when the Oracle games were coming out the series was still establishing its footing in 3D, and many bosses in the top-down games were still focused primarily on sword-based combat. Oracle of Ages also has one of my personal favorite items, the Seed Shooter. Intended to be Ages’ version of the staple bow/slingshot, the Seed Shooter is able to ricochet various types of ammo off walls to hit targets. While this is implemented in some puzzles, it’s not carried throughout the game, and ultimately you can still just stand in front of something and spam seeds like rapid-fire arrows.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages is an interesting example of how to experiment with an IP, even if some of its most interesting ideas are not fully realized. (Taylor Smith)
13. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons is the action game anti-thesis to Ages‘ puzzle-focused gimmicks. Many of the bosses in Oracle of Seasons are reworks or recycles of bosses from the original The Legend of Zelda or other titles. This is probably because when Capcom made their original pitch to Nintendo about working on a Zelda game, it was meant to be a Game Boy remake of the original. Rather than rely on a lot of gimmicks, bosses were more about recognizing cycles and patterns and then punishing accordingly. This focus is reflected in the gear Link can acquire. In Ages, the Seed Shooter allowed for new creative ways to solve projectile based puzzles, but the Slingshot in Seasons serves roughly the same purpose as the Bow and Arrow in any other top-down Zelda.
In order to obtain the true ending in either Oracle of Seasons or Oracle of Ages you would need to link the two games together via a password. If you were lucky enough to own both copies of the Oracles titles it was as simple as completing one game, writing it down, and starting the next, but for the not so lucky it required you to either have a friend who had the opposite title. Thankfully, this problem has sort of been remedied with the two games being put on the 3DS Virtual Console. While Oracle of Seasons was the preferred version here at Goomba Stomp, both titles are great in their own ways. If you’ve yet to play them, I highly recommend checking both out. (Taylor Smith)
12. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
In a many ways, this game should be a lot better than it is. It was the first Zelda game on Nintendo’s dual screen device, and it made use of nearly every feature on the system. The touch screen allowed you to attack enemies in a direct and interesting way, and you were able to write notes on your map screen and chart out your course when sailing across the sea. It also felt a lot more inspired than its portable predecessors by having a much larger world to explore and more out-of-left-field puzzles (including a devilishly clever one where you had to put the DS in sleep mode).
With all that going for it, why then would it be so low on this list? One reason: the Temple of the Ocean King.
The Temple of the Ocean King is possibly the worst/least fun idea of any Zelda game. What it entails is that every time you beat a dungeon you have to go back to this main dungeon to unlock the next area. It’s bad enough that this area is filled with invincible monsters that will send you back to the start of the room after one hit, but in subsequent visits they also have you go through areas you’ve already been to in order to get deeper in the dungeon. It gets very repetitive very quickly and just wastes your time, which happens to be limited here just to add a little more unwanted stress.
It’s also a pity that, in a game’s that meant to be a sequel to the excellent Wind Waker, it has next to nothing carried over from that adventure. The one thing they do carry over is Tetra, who gets relegated to “Damsel in Distress” in the first few minutes. She was an interesting enough character to merit her own game, so having her return just to be taken out of the equation that early can’t help but feel like a letdown. (Daniel Philion)
11. The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link
The second installment in The Legend of Zelda series titled The Adventure of Link is often considered the black sheep of the family. Despite being one of the best-selling games in the entire series, many fans hate it and with good reason. The game is tough and I do mean tough. Players must be prepared for repeated failure when sitting down to play Zelda II, but that is sort of what makes the game so great. The sense of accomplishment a player feels when finishing Zelda II is perhaps unmatched by any other game in the NES library.
The Adventure of Link was a bold and radical departure for the series, but it has its supporters and many fans will argue it is not only one of the five best games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System but the most punishing game of the 8-bit generation. It offers players one of the most engrossing gaming experiences available on the console and features some of the best boss battles the series has to offer. The Adventure of Link was an incredibly assured attempt to rewrite the rules and introduced many elements that would become commonplace in future Zelda games a larger focus on storytelling, as well as sidequests. Yes it is difficult and yes it is different, but for better or for worse, that is what makes it stand out from all the other entries in the series. Zelda II is unique, but frustrating – flawed but brilliant – and without question, an important game that helped define what the Zelda games would ultimately be. (Rick D)
10. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Nintendo has always been skilled at linking to the past while looking to the future, creating a bridge to franchise evolution, and that philosophy has rarely been better realized than with the 3DS’ The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. A sequel of sorts to the seminal SNES classic, this adventure covers basically the same physical ground, but takes much of the established franchise elements of the last 20 years and chucks them out the window. By ditching dungeon rewards and instead allowing players to rent (with the latter option to buy) the hookshot, bow, boomerang, three magic rods, and every other weapon or tool usually reserved as a prize, Nintendo was able to concentrate on what the beloved series used to do best: exploration. The freedom to go wherever one wanted in a Zelda game was a concept so old that it was almost novel, and A Link Between Worlds was a breath of fresh air — at least before the next one came along.
Thanks to impeccable puzzle designs, a lively world full of character, and a brilliant mechanic that sees Link turn himself into a 2D painting that can traverse walls in order to solve puzzles and reach new areas, the game still is. A Link Between Worlds invokes nostalgia in order to mess with fans’ minds, using its new gameplay concepts to twist them into thinking outside the box, producing some of the best “aha!” moments in the series. Gorgeous top-down visuals make the old new again, tight controls are ever-so-satisfying, and a clever story plays on expectations, but The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds best lives up to its title by bridging the gap between the comforting formula of days gone by and the promise of exciting things to come for Nintendo’s hallowed franchise. (Patrick Murphy)
9. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Fans had to know that Nintendo was up to something truly special when they announced that Skyward Sword would officially become the first game in the Legend of Zelda timeline. Fortunately, Nintendo delivered on all of those expectations and more with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. A game that took the revolutionary/gimmicky motion controls of the Wii to their fullest extent, Skyward Sword is almost worth playing as much as a proof of concept as it is for its breathtaking adventure and wholly original take on the Zelda mythos.
Set among a series of floating islands that eventually give way to a shattered world below, Skyward Sword both echoes the world design of one of the best Zelda titles in history in the form of The Wind Waker, and calls to mind the scale of the Final Fantasy series in equal measure. Throw in some gorgeous art design and one of the most concise plots in the franchise, and you’re left with a truly underrated classic, easily one of the best games in the series. (Mike Worby)
8. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was the first portable title in the series, and is easily one of my personal favorites. It was the first Zelda title to make an attempt at exploring Link’s character beyond that of the boy called to action. For once, Link is not seeking to stop Ganon and save the princess, kingdom, or Triforce. Instead, his is a journey of self-discovery, led by a desire to leave the island of Koholint that he has been shipwrecked on. Much of Koholint is full of life, especially when compared to the desolate wasteland that was the original Legend of Zelda and horribly mangled Dark World of A Link to the Past. It’s a breath of fresh air, with plenty of different-looking areas and regions. Overall, the game’s aesthetics’ are great, and the story they present is something that was only ever (theoretically) tackled again once.
Link’s Awakening was also the first top-down Zelda to make use of jumping. While The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past both used pitfalls as ways to impede progress, they never had a clear answer to them. This time Link is granted the gift of jumping from an item called the Roc’s Feather, the very first dungeon item in the game. By combining the Roc’s Feather with the Pegasus Boots, Link could clear even bigger gaps and jump over large obstacles. Link’s Awakening is an amazing Zelda title not only for its plethora of new ideas, but for also setting new benchmarks for later games in the series. (Taylor Smith)
7. The Legend of Zelda
Shigeru Miyamoto’s masterpiece laid the groundwork for almost every action-RPG that came after it, and it has become a staple franchise for Nintendo that is still going strong, 30 years later. When it was released, The Legend of Zelda was a first in so many categories. Not only was it an early example of open world and non-linear gameplay, but it also introduced a battery backup to save your progress. It served as the foundation of many modern adventure games, introducing now-basic concepts like dungeon maps, utility equipment, and boss formulas that we still see used today.
The Legend of Zelda has aged surprisingly well thanks to a brilliant soundtrack, creative visuals and masterfully layered adventure. And while it’s unapologetic in its open world approach, the lack of hand-holding might be what makes it so great. It is, without a doubt, one of the most influential games of all time, and one of the greatest games ever made. It was ahead of its time and it stands the test of time. Very few games can make that claim. (Ricky D)
6. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The adult Link portions of Ocarina of Time got gamers’ appetites whetted for a more badass version of the green tunic-wearing hero, one who could stand tall against the inevitable evil forces and whose sword slashed viciously, cutting a swath through them. Wind Waker was not that, and though looked upon now as a masterpiece, its seemingly lighter tone at the time sparked a little rebellion. Fans of Nintendo’s legendary series were growing up, and just like with Star Wars or comic books, they wanted to hold onto their innocent past while also having it reflect their pragmatic present, something that kept in tone with their rising adult pessimism, something truer to the gloomy outlook that only comes with maturity. In short, as eventually happens with everything fun or innocent that fans go crazy for, they wanted something darker.
I was no different in those days, and so when the first images of Link wielding his blade from atop his trusty steed, surrounded by grossly disfigured moblins and bathed in eerie twilight first surfaced, I was instantly sold. Twilight Princess is no kiddie quest with bright flowers and snot-nosed munchkins; there is war, pain and suffering, noble sacrifice, and trippy weird visions of greed, death, and super-creepy-looking laughing girls slowly descending headfirst from the sky. The land has been poisoned and the people that populate it struggle against the shady sickness taking hold. A somber tone pervades throughout to the melancholy end, few moments of true happiness relaxing in the goat paddock found in between.
Never has a Zelda game relied so much on imagery to set its tone, never have the dungeons been so vast and monstrous, and never has the journey seemed so mythic. Twilight Princess feels like everything Ocarina of Time wanted to be, a fulfillment of years of fan expectations. It hosts the best sidekick in the series, the widest assortment of attacks, some of the most clever dungeons (Snowpeak’s crumbling mansion, the Gerudo desert’s Arbiter’s Grounds) and unique items (magnetic boots=awesome, spinner surfing=fun), and a massive amount of gameplay for those willing to explore every nook and cranny tracking down Poes and bugs. I personally have never bothered with Agitha or the golden Jovani on any of my many playthroughs, but it’s nice to know that there’s more going on in Hyrule than just the main quest.
With an epic setting accompanying the tragic feel, Twilight Princess gave fans exactly what they wanted, and in doing so delivered one of the most powerful entries in the franchise. (Patrick Murphy)
5. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Director Eiji Aonuma’s swashbuckling adventure The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, set 100 years after the events in Ocarina of Time, stands as one of three best games released in the series thus far. Along with the N64 classic and A Link to the Past, The Wind Waker masterfully baits and hooks players with its perfect blend of polished design, tightly crafted controls, and beautiful presentation. Utilizing a completely new look with cel-shaded graphics, the game casts players in the role of a familiar young Link, who sets out on a long voyage across troubled seas, into dark dangerous dungeons and against ruthless foes to save his kidnapped sister. At the time of its release, it was immediately evident that Wind Waker was going to be different from the previous Zelda titles, yet it’s surprising that the grandeur of The Wind Waker‘s bold, thick strokes, lusciously saturated palette, and notably boyish protagonist with his humongous, expressive eyes ever caused so much controversy back in 2003. Over a decade later, the game’s legacy remains defined by its visuals.
Players with keen eyes and an appreciation for art will know that Nintendo doesn’t just do things for the sake of pure experimentation. When developing The Wind Waker, Nintendo not only created a hugely stylistic world down to every last detail, but also pushed the power of Gamecube to do so. Upon closer inspection, cel-shading clearly was the right choice. This is a game that emphasizes the vastness of the open ocean and the open sky, and with the application of cel-shading, every wave, every gust of wind is beautifully pronounced against a backdrop of colorful hillsides, small villages, and coastal locales. And like all previous titles in the series, the dungeons prove to be the most enjoyable aspect of this game, despite having so few. It is in these dungeons that Wind Waker shines. The true beauty of the visuals stands out, as each dungeon is brought to life with an astounding amount of detail. It’s ultimately not difficult to see why The Wind Waker has become something of a classic in the years since its release. Overall it is a huge achievement in every way, with a classic mix of sword-swinging action, perplexing puzzles, stirring storylines, vibrant art, evocative soundtrack, a cast of colorful characters, beautiful melodies, and a fantastic battle system that propels the adventure and exploration. For many, the Zelda brand represents the pinnacle of gaming, and The Wind Waker stands tall, side by side with the very best. (Ricky D)
4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
How exactly do you make a follow up to Ocarina of Time? Well, apparently you do it by making one of the few games in the series that doesn’t involve Ganon, you limit Zelda to one tiny appearance in a flashback, and you all but forget about the Triforce. Don’t be fooled, while Majora’s Mask is a clear departure from the typical Zelda formula, it’s still very much a Zelda game at heart, and to me (and at least a few others) it ranks right up there as one of the absolute best games in the franchise.
Taking place a couple of months after the events of OoT, Majora’s Mask kicks off with our good friend Link searching a forest for an old friend, when he stumbles upon an imp wearing a bizarre mask. The nefarious creature, known as Skull Kid, steals Link’s horse and leads him to a parallel version of Hyrule known as Termina. From there Link embarks on one of his typical quests; there are dungeons to explore, puzzles to solve, and bosses to beat, all standard-fare for the Hero of Time. The game is very similar to Ocarina of Time in a lot of respects, as gameplay between the two is near identical, and Nintendo reused also of graphical assets from OoT, so they share many visual similarities. However, despite all their commonalities, Majora’s Mask sets itself apart with its three-day time cycle, and more importantly, its ominous tone.
From Skull Kid’s creepy laugh during the game’s opening to the eerie final boss battle, Majora’s Mask is equally bizarre and unsettling from start to finish. The first time you witness Link transform when putting on a mask is undeniably jarring due to his screams of pain and the poignant visuals. The Happy Mask Salesmen seems like an ally, but one can’t help shake the feeling that he’s hiding malicious intent, which temporarily seeps out when you make him the slightest bit angry. The ever-looming harbinger of death that hangs in the sky, inching closer and closer as the clock winds down, creates a menacing sense of tension that’s not really present in other games in the series. And on top of all that, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the experience is the game’s world itself. Where exactly is Termina located? Is it a parallel dimension, or perhaps some sort of purgatory state? Why are so many characters from OoT’s Hyrule also in Termina? The name given to the land makes it seem like it was doomed since its very inception.
As good as Ocarina of Time is, it succeeds by employing a somewhat simplistic and expected tone and pace. Majora’s Mask takes a much riskier route, creating an awe-inspiring yet disturbing world, resulting in perhaps the most unique and mesmerizing Zelda adventure to date. (Matt De Azevedo)
3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
How many tales have been told about players popping in A Link to the Past only to be blown away by the game’s opening, an ominous start that begins with a psychic warning of danger, continues through a nighttime thunderstorm, and ends with the death of Link’s uncle and the rescue of Princess Zelda (so soon!) from her imprisonment? Younger gamers may get sick of hearing it, but the reason these moments and something as simple as rain stands out in the minds of those who experienced it at the time is because they were revolutionary, the start of a powerful new kind of storytelling in Zelda and video games in general. Never before had we seen something set such a cinematic mood as those streaking droplets illuminated by flashes of lightning, and from then on a standard was set that see games, for better or for worse, pay more attention to narrative.
But those atmospheric and still-gorgeous 16-bit visuals would have meant nothing if the game wasn’t backed up with an outstanding adventure at its core, and A Link to the Past‘s gameplay and puzzle-solving is where this turning point in the series still really shines. Swinging the sword felt infinitely better than the unsatisfying butter knife that Link wielded in his prior quest, and the various items and weapons acquired throughout were used far more frequently and cleverly. And while the previous entries in the franchise had certainly made their mark with different sorts of takes on exploring the land and battling enemies, it wasn’t until A Link to the Past, that the formula and feel that would define the series henceforth would finally come together. Puzzle-solving became the way to progress through dungeons, the idea of dual worlds or parallel dimensions came into play, and suddenly there were tons of empty bottles to be discovered, including from a guy under a bridge who has an abnormal friendship with birds.
Out of the entire franchise, I’ve easily played A Link to the Past as much as all the others combined, as its efficient pacing and beautiful world are a comfortable joy to return to, where I (unbelievably) keep noticing new surprises each time I take up the Master Sword. (Patrick Murphy)
2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a masterclass in open-world design, and with its release comes a true watershed moment in gaming history. The result is nothing less than magical. It artfully blends the best bits of the franchise’s thirty-plus year history and produces a sandbox so full of mystery and so full of adventure, it could take you well over 100 hours to uncover most of its secrets. What we have here is the most ambitious title in the history of the franchise, an epic journey that quivers with anticipation, wonder, surprise and excitement. It never gets old. It never gets tiring. There’s not a minute that goes by in which you’ll want to put down the controller, because Breath of the Wild keeps players constantly curious and fascinated by the world around them. There’s truly something unusually haunting and engrossing about the game, and whatever your opinion on the Nintendo Switch, Breath of the Wild is arguably one of the greatest games ever made.
Since its arrival in 1986, the Zelda series has always pushed the technical boundaries of whatever console it has graced, and Breath of the Wild continues this tradition (times two). Epic, mythic, and simply terrific, Breath of the Wild brings a new kind of experience to fans across the globe. In return, it demands your attention. It’s a landmark in video games such that labeling it a masterpiece almost seems inevitable. In the end, however, most of what makes Breath of the Wild so beloved is Nintendo’s determination to constantly challenge themselves while crafting an unforgettable experience that also doubles as a commentary on the freedom of playing on the Switch. That a game of this magnitude can be playable anywhere you go is a remarkable feat. (Ricky D)
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
You won’t find a gamer alive who doesn’t remember the first time they played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and there’s a very good reason for that: OOT isn’t just regularly counted as one of the best Zelda games of all time, but it also routinely finds itself in the conversation for the best games ever made. As a trendsetter and pioneering effort for 3D adventure games, action titles and RPGs alike, Ocarina of Time holds a special place in a lot of gamers’ hearts, particularly those who were young enough to have a lot of imagination in them upon its initial release.
It was a game that opened a tiny door in our minds when it first introduced us to a young Link in Kokiri Forest, and then wrenched that door all the way open a mere hour later when we were unleashed onto the full expanse of Hyrule Field and were gifted with a world to explore which was bigger than life. If, through some very strange events, you have still managed to not play OOT then you are doing yourself a disservice as a gamer. With awe-inspiring environments, a cast of memorable characters, a charming story, and one of the most epic adventures ever experienced, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game that will stick in your grey matter even decades from now, and it is well deserving of its place there. (Mike Worby)
Let us know your rankings in the comments below!
Best Video Games of 2019 (Halfway Point)
2019 is shaping up to be a great year for video games. Here is a list of the twenty best video games of 2019, released so far.
With E3, gamers across the globe are inundated every year with hundreds of announcements for upcoming video game releases – and every year it is a Goomba Stomp tradition that we compile a list of the best games of the year so far so we can promote the titles we love one last time before they’re (sometimes) lost in the shuffle.
While you sit back and wait for the games set for release in the second half of the year, we strongly recommend the following titles. Let us know if you think we’ve missed something in the comments below. Enjoy!
Special Mention: New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
Nintendo has this weird ability to straddle the old and the new, perhaps unlike any other gaming company in the world. They have spent decades selling us on consoles and games that for better or worse continually push the envelope on what we expect from games and the hardware we play them on, whilst simultaneously reselling and rehashing games that we grew up playing, drumming on those nostalgia buttons to tease that dollar from our pockets. One such set of games that encapsulate all of this is the New Super Mario Bros series.
The NSMB titles are a set of games that hark back to a simpler time when Mario was 2D and all you had to do was bounce, jump and flame throw your way from left to right to the flag at the end. With NSMB and in particular NSMB U Deluxe, Nintendo take this now well-trodden formula and sprinkle a bit of their modern sensibilities, adding updated visuals, coin collecting on each level and a whole host of power-ups, from the Tanuki and Flower suits, to newer additions like Metal Mario and a personal favourite of mine, the Penguin Suit.
There’s nothing new about this game and it being a re-release from the dark WiiU days might mean that many have allowed it to pass over them this year, but if you have even a passing interest in 2D Mario, don’t let this one slip by unplayed
The NSMB games, may on the face of it seem like an old game with a facelift, but the truth is that they are much more than that. They manage to achieve that age-old Nintendo ‘Holy Grail’ and marry the old with the new and this title is no exception. When Super Mario 64 brought Nintendo roaring into the 3D world, it felt fresh, new and exciting (Which it was), but as time goes on, many players to this day will go back to those 2D games and enjoy them all over again.
Perhaps NSMB has never reached the heights of the originals, but there’s no doubt that they are an excellent way to get your fix of 2D Mario, and for once I’m happy to give Nintendo new money for old rope. NSMB U Deluxe is a stellar outing for this series, but also one that was sorely underplayed due to the disastrous disinterest people had in the WiiU. If like most you missed this game the first time around, don’t let it go unplayed a second time. (David Smile)
18. Baba is You
Baba Is You, is a wonderful little puzzle game where the physical rules of the game are the puzzle pieces themselves. In a graphically-simple little world, you push and pull words into phrases, like a miniature programming language, but you’re a weird bunny creature doing the heavy lifting. It’s sort of like The Adventures of Lolo meets Scribblenauts, if you’ll mind the deep-nerd references. The conceit and gameplay are novel, well-executed, and well worth a look for any fan of puzzle games. The mechanic gets a bit less satisfying when the puzzles become more unforgiving about 3/4 into the game, but Baba remains fun and interesting for long enough to be one of the highlights of 2019 thus far. (Marty Allen)
17. Katana Zero
Telling compelling narratives in video games is no easy feat. In Katana ZERO, the player takes on the role of a young assassin for hire. He takes assignments during the day and returns to his rundown apartment building in a less than desirable part of town at night. Though it starts out fairly straightforward, the story takes several surprising turns rather quickly. The writing here is sharp, and the narrative flies from thrilling to comforting to horrifying all in the game’s short five to six-hour runtime.
At its core, though, Katana ZERO is an unrelenting action platformer that isn’t afraid to make players work to reach the next level. The game is split into levels spanning a multitude of locales around its seedy city backdrop. Similarly to Celeste, each level is broken into small segments that, upon death, can be restarted almost instantaneously. This design decision is a smart one seeing as both enemies and the assassin go down in one hit. As a result, every room almost feels like a puzzle that needs to be solved to near-perfection to finish, and they’re designed in such a way that it’s always clear what players need to do to beat them.
Katana ZERO is a concise, mysterious, and strikingly atmospheric game. Its story is well-worth playing through, though whether or not it sticks the landing is up for debate. Similarly, while the art direction and moody 80s synth-pop soundtrack deliver a completely intoxicating experience, the game isn’t much of a looker as far as pixelated games go. Nonetheless, this is a must-play for any fans of the action-platformer genre. There’s a lot of fun to have here and, with the choices you make having a significant impact on how the narrative plays out, there’s a good bit of replayability as well. (Brent Middleton)
16. Rage 2
The open world first-person shooter niche is largely dominated by the Far Cry series. However, every once in a while a game comes along that attempts to tip the balance. Rage 2, developed in tandem by id Software and Avalanche Studios, is one such game. With a focus on the kind of high octane, madcap combat that made 2016’s Doom such a hilariously violent return to form for the franchise mixed with the emergent anarchic antics that make Avalanche’s Just Cause series such a guilty pleasure, Rage 2 is the most unapologetically fun game released so far this year. The key reason for that is that it’s not ashamed of what it is, and doesn’t try to express anything other than the joy at the core of gaming itself.
Featuring a visual aesthetic so glaring and vibrant it’s like the developers tapped into the essence of rave culture and spraypainted the world with it, the game’s environments never become dull or repetitive. The same can’t be truly said of the activities on offer in those environments, as the world map is festooned with the usual array of enemy outposts and exploration locations that can at times make the entire point of traversing the world between main missions feel like little more than a box-ticking exercise. Fortunately, the quality of the gameplay and the world design means that on the whole you spend less time thinking about what you’re actually doing and more time on how you’re doing it.
No matter how much of an improvement Rage 2 may be over its 2011 predecessor, it does fall down in one major regard. The first game was roundly criticized for its lackluster narrative and eight years on it seems that neither id or Avalanche were able to overcome that issue. The story is serviceable at best, and whilst what little of it there is well-written and constructed there just isn’t enough of it to carry the entire game. This wouldn’t have been such an obvious problem if the side missions had been properly fleshed out, but as they stand they are limited to various bounty hunts and nothing else. All things considered, the lack of story content is Rage 2‘s only really significant flaw. Nevertheless, it is definitely one of the best games released so far this year and is a strong contender for my personal game of the year for 2019. (Christopher Underwood)
Wargroove is an epic, beautiful love letter to the lost (but not forgotten) classic strategy series, Advance Wars. Following the same formula of Nintendo’s collaboration with Intelligent Systems, Wargroove tells the story of the trials and tribulations of Princess Marcia as she leads her kingdom in the wake of her father’s assassination. Players will recruit troops, capture towns, fight the undead, and — if you play as well I do — get stuck on the same missions for hours.
Wargroove is not an easy game, and sometimes it’s not even a fair one. Objectives may change in the middle of a battle, making a difficult fight almost impossible — until you replay it, knowing what’s coming, and beat it without a modicum of effort. Some units never seem to be worth their excessive cost, and map design often doesn’t allow for the interesting positioning tactics that the game otherwise tries to encourage. The story — while better than anything put forward by Advance Wars — is nothing to write home about, either.
However, objectives are mixed up at a decent rate between missions, stopping the game from getting too repetitive during overly long, socially-unacceptable binge sessions. New units are introduced at a healthy rate, and the game is absolutely loaded with content. There are three separate single-player modes (including the brilliant “Puzzle Mode,” in which the player has one turn to win a battle from a predefined position), and each requires a significant time investment to complete. On top of that, there is online and local multiplayer for up to 4 players, and it’s possible to craft not only your own maps, but your own entire campaigns.
Above all else, Wargroove is a wonderfully produced game with tense battles, gorgeous sprite work, a generous amount of content, and absolutely tons of heart. It hearkens back to an era when games were simpler, but no less wonderful affairs. It’s an expression of pure joy, and while there will be some debate as to whether it manages to live up to the legacy of its obvious inspiration, Wargroove is a worthy investment for any fan of classic turn-based strategy. (Rowan Ryder)
14. BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL!
BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is a game for squares. It is a game for gamers who appreciate clear visual presentation in favor of aesthetic frills, tone in favor of traditional narrative, and meticulous variation-on-a-theme design over anything in vogue. After all, it is a game about a square (or two squares, or a rectangle) moving from left to right across a monochrome palette. The best news about this fourth entry in the series is that it brings co-op to the table, so multiple squares can complete a campaign full of puzzles specifically designed around two allied players. And somehow the game’s third campaign, where the player controls a rectangle rather than a square, radically alters traversal and puzzle-solving despite merely making the playable character taller. What other game makes such intricate and deep use of its architecture that doubling the size of its protagonist could sensibly justify building a new campaign from scratch?
If you haven’t enjoyed past BOXBOY! games, it’s unlikely you’ll like this one. BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is pretty much more of the same, and considering BYE-BYE-BOXBOY!’s insanely diverse power-up-style boxes that are nowhere to be seen here, it can sometimes feel like less of the same. But for those who enjoy slow-paced brain-ticklers and appreciate a simple mechanic being milked until its udder is bone dry, BOXBOY! + BOXGIRL! is an undeniably great value. Though the first half of 2019 has left the Switch with a rather lackluster first-party lineup, this game is a low-cost diamond in the rough. But of course, its primary reason for existing is to rationalize Qbby’s inclusion in Smash’s Fighter’s Pass as the fifth and final new character. Bring the hype! (Kyle Rentschler)
13. Ape Out
In Ape Out, Gabe Cuzzillo and his small team have crafted something unique that comes highly recommended. This game is equal parts beautiful, thoughtful, exhilarating, and fun. The sum of its parts is a creation that is all-too-rare in games — something fresh and unlike anything else. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t playing it, and unable to put the controller down in order to give each board ‘just one more try.’ To have that gameplay experience put together with so much artistic flair makes for the kind of experience that is worth killing for. Again and again and again.
Ape Out is a rhythmic pulse of thrust-push-kill fun. Ape Out is the kick drum rolling right into to the snare and a crash just as you crush that guard a hair before he pulls the trigger. Ape Out is blood trailing behind you when you can’t take another shot, then crossing through the green door of freedom and into the jungle beyond at the last moment. (Marty Allen)
12. Days Gone
If you’ve played one zombie apocalypse game, you’ve played them all. Right? Wrong. Bend Studio (best known for the Syphon Filter series and Uncharted: Golden Abyss) took a largely played out concept and made it entirely their own in their latest title, Days Gone. Written and directed by John Garvin, the game tells a tale of love, loss, friendship, and hope for redemption. Driven by the heartfelt performance of Sam Witwer as the protagonist, Deacon St. John, the game explores the more human elements of a zombie apocalypse. Although the game has been criticized for it’s supposedly lacking narrative, what makes it stand out from all the other games in this genre is precisely the fact that its story is relatively grounded and simplistic.
Featuring jaw-droppingly evocative landscapes, the game masterfully evokes its rural Oregon setting with relentlessly stylistic aplomb. Whether players are navigating their way through tangled forests carved up by traffic-clogged back roads or scavenging amidst the ruins of a small town overrun by merciless bandits, the environments are always remarkably well crafted and utterly engaging at all times. The sheer level of detail in the game world means that the sense of place is always genuinely palpable to such an extent that at times it’s on par with and often exceeds even Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.
Other than Techland’s Dying Light, Days Gone is the only game of its kind that makes its zombies/infected enemies feel genuinely threatening. Whether players encounter them in small, roaming packs or teeming, ravenous hordes they are always cause for concern and are rendered with such precise detail that they’re more a reflection of mankind’s darkest urges than they are brutish monsters. Even when you’re in the middle of nowhere safety is never assured, as at a moment’s notice you can be ambushed by all manner of freakish creatures hellbent on ending your life. Days Gone may not be especially innovative or genre-defining, but it is without a doubt one of the most entertaining and thrilling games released so far this year. It is a more than welcome and deserving addition to the expanding catalogue of excellent PS4 exclusives that continue to make Sony’s latest generation of consoles the best on the market. (Chris Underwood)
11. Apex Legends
Apex Legends is the hero that EA needed, but not the hero they deserved. Released just over two weeks before another EA game, Anthem, Respawn Entertainment’s title received almost no fanfare, no marketing and no hype build-up – especially in comparison to the aforementioned Bioware effort. Anthem was plastered all over online stores and E3 presentations, and ended up being a miserable pile of unfinished, dull, employee-draining gubbins, while Apex Legends quietly went about its business on the way to becoming arguably (and correctly) considered the best game in the battle royale genre.
Combining Titanfall-style movement with Hero Shooter character classes, Apex Legends is an incredibly polished and unique battle royale title. It wasn’t perfect but, astonishingly, the game launched in a very impressive state, especially for a game released, not only in 2019, not only by EA, but for free. It was fast and fluid, it had an interesting array of weapons and character abilities and it just worked. It worked and it was bloody brilliant – a mishmash of genres that culminated in a shooter that was riotous fun without any caveats.
There were things that needed work in the aftermath of the game’s launch, and Respawn has admirably addressed their missteps in acceptable timeframes – both for the end user and for the people making it to avoid killing themselves through exhaustion and stress. Since launch, the game has received its obligatory Battle Pass and Season modes, and both were decidedly lacking in their initial state. As recently as last week, both have been significantly improved for Season 2. Learning curves are wholly understandable when the price of entry is absolutely nothing for the player.
We’ve also seen new characters, challenges, weapons and some, unfortunately, ‘meh’ skins released since launch – but it’s obvious that Respawn is committed to keeping the service alive with improvements and additions. A game as good as Apex deserves to be a mainstay in the genre, and it definitely deserved more attention from its own publisher at launch. Regardless, the cream has risen to the top and Apex is here to stay. (Alex Aldridge)
10. Life Is Strange 2
When a sequel to the critically acclaimed Life is Strange was announced back in 2016, it was unclear as to where Dontnod Entertainment was going to go for the next chapter of their game. No matter what choice the player opts for at the end of the first game, it is a fitting conclusion to Max and Chloe’s story. Even though fans were hoping for more from the characters in the original, it was announced that the main characters and the story would be new. It was hard to see how players would be able to connect with the game as much as we did with the first installment but Life is Strange 2 has so far managed to be just as compelling as the original.
This time around the focus is on two brothers, Sean and Daniel, as they embark on a road trip whilst on the run after a tragic event triggers Daniel’s strange powers. Whilst Max was able to control the flow of time, Daniel’s powers are more telekinesis based as he is able to move objects with his mind and create powerful energy blasts. This time around we don’t play as the character with supernatural abilities. Instead, we play as Sean, Daniels older brother who must guide and advise him. It’s an interesting take in terms of story as your decisions directly impact Daniel and how he uses his powers. Choices are again crucial within the game as they can change how certain characters (most importantly Daniel) react and behave towards you as well as changing the flow of story events, even if it all ends to the same or a similar conclusion. I found myself trying to be the best guardian and big brother that I could be towards Daniel, opting for the choices that felt the most responsible and wise. In the same way that Dontnod was able to create a compelling relationship that the player rooted for with Max and Chloe in the first game, their depiction of the two brothers is equally convincing despite the bizarre circumstances that they find themselves in.
Life is Strange 2 has only released three episodes of five so far and I definitely feel that it is one of the best games of the year despite not even being complete yet. Hopefully, the game will continue as successfully as it has begun when episodes four and five are released on August 22nd and December 3rd for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. (Antonia Haynes)
9. The Walking Dead: The Final Season
After the news came that Telltale Games would be shutting its doors last September, fans were rightly concerned about the fate of The Walking Dead: The Final Season. With the game in the middle of its story, one that wraps up Clementine’s fate (the star of three previous Walking Dead games) things were pretty dire until Skybound Entertainment swooped in to save the day.
And lucky for us all that they did, for The Walking Dead: The Final Season may be Telltale’s finest game. With more advanced gameplay thanks to a new engine, a story with genuine stakes and plenty of twists and turns, and themes that mirror those of the beloved first game without downright aping them, The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a triumph of a game and a story that deserved to be told.
We’ll miss Telltale Games, but this gem is as good a way as any to send them off. (Mike Worby)
8. Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 is the latest (and possibly greatest) installment of the long-running bloody bonanza. With gameplay refinement reaching new heights, eye-popping graphical fidelity, and a roster more balanced than the most talented tightrope walker; NetherRealm Studios smashed it.
Mortal Kombat 11 doubles down on its best in class story mode, delivering an entertaining (albeit cheesy) romp through its eclectic lore. A barrage of single player content incentives play for those aspiring to eat brains as Baraka without the warming comfort of a friend or loved one. Endlessly alone, punching in Fatality button combinations. Sometimes it’s four buttons, sometimes it’s five. The on-screen digital puppet is shredded limb from limb, but you’re the one that’s hurting. She left you and took the kids, and now all that numbs your tortured soul is the flicker of fun attained from uppercutting Kano’s stupid head.
Well, who needs the wife and kids when such a stupendous Krypt exists? Manifesting on Shang Tsung’s island, it’s chock-full of classic eye candy and darker mysteries than Michael Jackson’s sex dungeon (well, almost more). Said Krypt lends itself to a rewarding gameplay loop with the Towers of Time, with staggering quantities of unlockables providing an endless reason to fight, fight, and fight some more.
Mortal Kombat 11 isn’t perfect, and its missteps spoil bits of what’s otherwise a flawless victory. But this aside, it’s 2019’s most kickass fighter thus far, and with the Shang Tsung DLC looming, things will only get gorier in the wild world of Kombat. (Harry Morris)
7. The Division 2
The 1st quarter of the year has become an increasingly contested release window ever since Horizon Zero Dawn proved that the post-holiday season lull didn’t have to be a lull at all. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 was one of the biggest titles to come to market early this year, and beyond that, it’s one the best looter-shooters ever made. A bold claim indeed, but one from my perspective is entirely true because it’s not a genre that I’ve ever really got to grips with. The combination of the realistic setting, excellent core mechanics, and an addictive gameplay loop has resulted in a looter-shooter that has a unique appeal. There’s an artful understatement to every element of the game in hands of other developers would have crossed-over into a threadbare territory, but Ubisoft struck the right balance between simple and intricate that just works on every level.
The main campaign missions are classic popcorn political thriller through-and-through, although some critics have complained about the developers not standing behind any particular political message, I’m of the firm belief that they didn’t really need to. Far better to allow players to draw what conclusions they may from the story rather than shoehorn in any prescribed stance on contemporary life. Beyond the endgame content is absolutely as good as it gets for the genre, with loot coming thick and fast to the extent that character progress through gear upgrades is always a possibility so the game never feels stagnant in the way that say Destiny 2 often can. The class and skill system gives players a large range of build options and loadout types so that they’re never forced into using one particular set-up in order to feel useful, which is again quite refreshing for a game in the looter-shoot genre.
The Division 2 may not be as drastic a department from the first game as many might have hoped, but it strikes all the right notes as far as a sequel is concerned. The gameplay and support systems are refined just enough that they do feel improved across the board but aren’t so radically different that they alienate fans of the first game or stand as a barrier to entry for those new the series. With regular additions and updates being made to the game The Division 2 wasn’t just a strong start to the year for Ubisoft but also for fans of the series and the genre alike. It’s a game I will keep going back to throughout the course of 2019, and if you’ve not already played then I urge you to do so. What are you waiting for? Washington D.C isn’t gonna save itself! (Christopher Underwood)
6. Yoshi’s Crafted World
Maybe looks aren’t everything, but a new coat of paint can sure freshen a room up. The Yoshi franchise has been the subject of cute visual experimentation since the coloring-book aesthetic of the SNES’ Yoshi’s Island, but the little dino’s latest adventure for the Nintendo Switch might just be his most eye-pleasing yet. Sure, the platforming might feel a bit more cardboard than in some previous outings, but Yoshi’s Crafted World is nevertheless a joy to play from start to finish, if only to see what homemade delights developer Good-Feel has tucked around the next corner.
The story of missing gemstones serves as classic Nintendo window dressing used to move players along as they perform light platforming and exploration through a variety of fantastic and disparate worlds; once the game begins, the plot thread can quickly be forgotten. But who cares? The real draw of Yoshi’s Crafted World is the levels themselves, which look like they’ve been built in someone’s basement playroom out of household materials like corrugated cardboard, paper plates, tinfoil, bendy straws, toothpicks, and plastic cups. The pure imagination on display in constructing environments ranging from palm-tree jungles to coral-lined sea floors is absolutely grin-inducing, with chugging locomotives and creaky haunted houses all lovingly pieced together with a handmade, toy-like feel that leaves an impression that the stages in this game are not meant to just be played through, but played with.
The egg-throwing gameplay with which one does so is mostly safe and familiar (with a giant Yoshi robot or plane ride thrown in to keep things fresh), but replaying levels in order to collect flowers or red coins is still a blast when it feels like there are layers to each stage that can be pulled back to reveal some previously unseen visual treasure. Gamers have always been drawn to shiny things, and for those who appreciate the whimsical, Yoshi’s Crafted World is one of the most glittering on Nintendo’s console. (Patrick Murphy)
5. Tetris 99
One of the biggest surprises this year was the reveal and launch of Tetris 99, which combines the tried-and-true puzzle gameplay with his own particular blend of mayhem. The game, which is free to download (provided you’re a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber), is perhaps the least expected take on the battle royale genre – but some would argue the best. Developed by Arika, known for Tetris: The Grand Master series, Tetris 99 pits you against 98 other players simultaneously, and the last surviving player wins. It’s ridiculous and mesmerizing — not to mention mind-blowing when you stop and admire how Tetris 99 demonstrates the true adaptability of the original Tetris.
At its core, the game is still the Tetris you remember. It involves tetrominoes, geometric shapes composed of four square blocks each. A random sequence of Tetriminos fall down the playing field and it’s your job to manipulate these Tetriminos, by moving each one sideways and/or rotating by quarter-turns, so that they form a solid horizontal line with no gaps. When such a line is formed, it disappears and any blocks above it fall down to fill the empty space. Anyone who remembers the original Tetris will also notice the blocks are the same colors, and the familiar Tetris theme plays along in the background. The difference, this time around is that your ultimate goal isn’t to get a high score but instead to be the last man standing.
It’s hard to believe that three decades on, Tetris is still a worldwide phenomenon. It’s also hard to believe that Tetris 99 was a joke someone apparently made on Twitter before Akira made it a reality. Even harder to believe, Tetris 99 is a contender for Game of the Year and is able to stand side by side on a stage with behemoths such as Fortniteand APEX Legends. I won’t dare say Tetris 99 is the best battle royale game on the market, but it sure is my favourite. (Ricky D)
4. Kingdom Hearts III
There are few game franchises with histories as storied, or convoluted, as Kingdom Hearts. At seventeen years old, the series spans across no less than eight games and has appeared on almost as many consoles. The fact that each and every one of those games relates in varying degrees of importance to Sora’s vaunted fight against darkness is equal parts impressive and absurd. The story has been the butt of jokes and internet memes as creative as the story itself is labyrinthine. It’s because it’s been so long that it makes the sheer existence of Kingdom Hearts III feel like a miracle, that we’ve actually made it to the end.
Kingdom Hearts III is the very definition of a beautifully flawed game. On one hand, we have the stupendous combat that feels like a fairy-tale popup book in game format, the stunningly realized Disney worlds (except Frozen’s), and Yoko Shimomura’s spell-binding songs that continue to be simply enrapturing. On the other hand, the story is incredibly lopsided, magic spells break the game in two even on the most difficult setting, and Sora still has all the likeability of a piece of cardboard.
Yet despite those flaws, this spaz of game manages to succeed in becoming the grand culmination to this nearly two-decade-long saga. Plot threads that had been left hanging for years finally had their closure. As characters were reunited and heavy consciouses finally relieved, it felt as much a victory to the player as the characters experiencing them, and that’s something incredibly emotional.
Where this series goes from here is anyone’s guess, as Nomura has repeatedly demonstrated just how zany he’s willing to go with the franchise. Either way, Kingdom Hearts III will be fondly remembered by fans as the title that finally brought this first book to a close. (Matthew Ponthier)
3. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The good people of From Software are best known for providing deep combat and high difficulty gameplay experiences, and this is not a reputation that Sekiro shirks. On the contrary, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice might be the toughest, most brutal challenge from the creators of Dark Souls yet.
Set in feudal Japan, Sekiro follows Wolf, a shinobi charged with protecting a child whose blood holds the secrets of immortality. When the divine child is taken by force, and Wolf is left for dead, the shinobi wages an all or nothing war against the Ashina samurai clan in hopes of retrieving the child and redeeming himself.
With lightning fast gameplay, all or nothing stakes, and a remix of some of the features that have made past From Software games a success, Sekiro is a gauntlet for the ages, and one of the most rewarding games you’re likely to play all year. (Mike Worby)
2. Devil May Cry V
If you don’t count the spin-off/reboot DMC developed by Ninja Theory, 2019 marks eleven years since we last had a proper entry in the Devil May Cry series. That’s a long time to wait for loyal fans but thankfully Devil May Cry V is a return to form and more importantly, almost everything about those original games has been improved.
Developed in-house at Capcom by a team of series veterans, Devil May Cry Vis sprawling, infectious, inventive, ambitious, and downright thrilling. The momentum never lets up from the second the prologue begins and for roughly 15 hours and exactly 20 missions, Devil May Cry V is electrifying. Director Hideaki Itsuno and his team have delivered quite possibly the goriest, craziest, most eye-blowing (there’s a lot of eyeballs), chunk-spewing, head-exploding installment of the series yet.
Propelled by non-stop, over-the-top action, geysers of blood and fetishistic metamorphoses, DMCV must be
played seen to be believed. It’s spectacular, irresistible, unapologetically juvenile and totally fuckin’ insane – a mesmerizing piece of art that experimentally pushes the series to daring new heights. (Ricky D)
1. Resident Evil 2
It’s rare to see a direct sequel live up to or surpass the original, but Hideki Kamiya’s Resident Evil 2 (1998) not only matched the quality of its predecessor but arguably surpassed it to become one of the greatest of its genre. The original RE2 was the perfect sequel — an outstanding science-fiction thriller that put players at the edge of their seats. Scene to scene, encounter to encounter, its tension builds unrelentingly. It isn’t, however, so rare to see a game remastered or remade outshine the original, especially given how far technology has advanced over the years. That’s not to say that all games remade are winners, but there are plenty of reasons why Resident Evil 2 (2019) has gathered high praise. If the original RE2 was a perfect sequel, the new Resident Evil 2 is a prime example of how to remake a classic while staying faithful to the original. Dare I say, it’s a near-perfect remake?
While the word “Remake” doesn’t appear in the title, Resident Evil 2 (2019) is, in fact, a remake of the PS1 original. Capcom built the game from the ground up, changing a few things here and there, and for the most part those changes have improved what was already a great game. Much of the critical acclaim has centered on RE2’s gameplay and thick atmosphere, and much like Resident Evil 7, Capcom has made a game that is visually stunning throughout. Resident Evil 2 has just the right amount of retro appeal, capturing the spirit of the original without being bound by it. Capcom’s new Resident Evil 2 — which was released twenty-one years after the PlayStation original — is everything one can hope from a video game remake.
It preserves enough of the source material to feel like a respectful tribute, yet changes just enough to warrant its existence. This is one of the best horror games ever made — and proof that cannibalizing old material sometimes works fiendishly well. While I have fond memories of the original game, RE2 (2019) is smarter, tighter, and far scarier — start to finish. It’s a masterclass in environmental design, sound design, level design, and atmosphere. All of that and more makes Resident Evil 2 one of the best remakes — er, ‘re-envisionings’ — of a horror classic (game or otherwise). (Ricky D)
The Top 5 ‘Castlevania’ Games of All Time
Vampires, bats, whips, spells, castles…what’s the first thing that comes to mind when hearing these words? Elder Scrolls maybe? Twilight perhaps? Of course not! It’s time to take a look at one of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time: Castlevania. A series that has been alive since 1986 is bound to have a wide array of titles, and Castlevania is no exception. While it isn’t quite as big as it was during the NES/SNES era, there are still plenty of quality titles that deserve to be played by any and all game aficionados.
Today, we are going to take a look at the top 5 greatest Castlevania games ever made. While many of you are most likely not going to agree with this list (and I’m sure there will be a LOT of you), it should be noted that this is exclusively my opinion and not the opinion of everyone on the site. That being said, I would still love to hear the changes you would make to this list! Let’s begin!
5. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (WiiWare)
I realize this is most certainly an odd pick, however it easily deserves the number 5 spot on the list. While The Adventure: ReBirth does nothing to further the series in terms of innovation, it doesn’t necessarily need to. Released as a $10 WiiWare title, ReBirth plays like the older Castlevania games with a fresh coat of paint. The game looks beautiful, the gameplay is simple yet rewarding, and the bosses are fun and challenging. There really isn’t much more to ask for from a game like this, especially considering the asking price. Gamers new to the series will find ReBirth to be a great entry title, as it paints a prettier picture of what the older games were all about. It just goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to produce something awesome.
4. Castlevania lll: Dracula’s Curse (NES)
While the first Castlevania game set the precedent for the now-legendary series, it was Castlevania lll: Dracula’s Curse that represented the best of what the NES Castlevania titles had to offer. The gameplay and visuals remained largely unchanged from the first entry in the series, albeit with the addition of three new playable characters. Grant, Sypha, and Alucard could accompany Trevor on his quest to defeat Dracula, and each one has a completely unique ability set. Grant is very nimble and can scale certain surfaces and change direction mid-jump. Sypha is a mage that uses powerful sub-attacks to wipe out enemies. Alucard is one of the better options in the game, as he can transform into a bat and shoot fireballs from a distance. These characters breathed much needed life into the lore of the series that would continue to grow as future installments were released, especially regarding Alucard and Dracula. Dracula’s Curse is an incredibly solid entry in the series and deserves it’s spot among the best of them on the NES.
3. Super Castlevania lV (SNES)
Super Castlevania lV represents the first major upgrade that the series got, and boy was it a whopper. Gameplay went from being stiff and archaic to fluid and intense, mainly due to the fact that Simon Belmont could now throw his whip in eight different directions instead of only directly in front of him. The enhanced power of the SNES allowed for some truly ground-breaking visuals and backdrops, most notably the spiraling tunnel section that impressed nearly every gamer that experienced it back in 1991. Fan-favorite enemies and bosses were completely overhauled and looked better than ever. One thing that remained the same, however, was the series’ infamous difficulty. The journey to Dracula is certainly no walk in the park this time around, however the added attack options made the difficulty feel less artificial than previous titles.
2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Playstation)
WHAT?!?!? Symphony of the Night isn’t number 1?!?!? Put your pitchforks down and let me explain. For those that have been living under a rock, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night pioneered the Metroid-vania subgenre. Instead of the traditional set of linear levels, Dracula’s Castle was opened up to the player, and Castlevania fans couldn’t be happier. Incredibly detailed sprites and an amazing soundtrack were icing on the cake to this masterpiece. One of the largest new additions, however, was the ability to level up and find new weapons to use and equip, which was a huge departure from the traditional whip-wielding gameplay of the older titles. Every other aspect of the game was fine-tuned to perfection, including screen-sized bosses and a rock-filled soundtrack. In fact, there really isn’t anything wrong with this title, as it combines brand-new gameplay elements with near-perfect presentation and atmosphere. Games like this simply only come around once in a blue moon. With that being said, I still think there’s one Castlevania title that stands above them all…
1. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is the best Castlevania game ever made and stands as one of the finest titles on the Nintendo DS, and that’s saying something. Every single major facet of the Castlevania series has been mastered here; the music is awesome, the Gothic atmosphere is intact, and the gameplay is tight and responsive. The unique hook of collecting the souls of fallen enemies that was introduced in Aria of Sorrow is also back and better than ever. Collected souls act as new abilities and powers that the main character Soma Cruz can equip and use against the creatures of the night. The Metroid-vania style that focuses on exploration returns here as well, giving players the chance to find every soul hidden within the castle while adding some much needed replayability to the series. While it isn’t the most unique title in the series, as it’s essentially a sequel to Aria of Sorrow, its insanely addictive gameplay and gorgeous environments make you forget that it isn’t taking any risks. It’s an absolute must play for any fan of the series and deserves to be in every DS owner’s library.
Disagree with this list? Let me know what you would change! I understand there are a lot of titles I am probably missing like Rondo of Blood, however keep in mind that this only a Top 5 list. With that being said, it’s time to get back to some vampire slaying…
Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip.
Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com
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