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The Top 50 SNES Games

Part Two

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Best Super Nintendo Games Best SNES Games

You might not believe it, but it’s absolutely true: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or the SNES, for short, is now old enough to have serious regrets about its life, and if you’re old enough to have had one of these wee grey boxes in your living room, then you’re probably even older.

Inspiring stuff right? In all seriousness, though, the SNES is certainly one of the all-time greats in the console department and now that Nintendo is starting to add SNES games to the online Switch library, what better way to celebrate than to list our top 50 SNES games.

We gathered together some of our best and brightest to help us celebrate, and we hope you’ll join us too!

** This is the second half of this list. Click here for the first half. **

Best SNES Games #25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

Based on the original 1987 TNMT animated series, Turtles in Time is a side-scrolling beat’em up for the SNES. The game takes you, as the name implies, back through time as you battle Shredder’s foot army and get back the Statue of Liberty which Krang stole. The game produced so many fun moments such as surfing in a sewer while battling reptiles, and fighting our favorite classic Saturday mornings cartoon villains like Bebop and Rocksteady and ultimately facing Krang himself in the Technodrome.

Another memorable aspect to the game would have to be the soundtrack. The music in the game was so upbeat it lent itself well to the action and it even had the “Pizza Power” song from the TMNT live concert! It could be just me that realized that fact or even remembered that there was a time where there was a live concert tour. Anyhow, the game got itself a remake called Turtles in Time Re-Shelled in 2009 for Xbox Live and PSN. Turtles in Time is probably the best game the series ever produced and a classic to anyone, certainly everyone who grew up as a kid in the 90’s. (Aaron Santos)

Best SNES Games #24. F-Zero

F-Zero was one of the original North American launch titles for the SNES. Set in the the year 2560, the game revolves around a racing circuit known as F-Zero, which is financed by multi-billionaires who profit from human civilization’s expansion into the cosmos.

Even after all these years, it remains remarkably impressive from a purely visual standpoint. Critics lauded F-Zero for its fast and challenging gameplay, variety of tracks, and the Mode 7 rotational and scaling effects — which were relatively new back in 1990. Although the N64 sequel would add more racers and the ability to use a spin attack on your rivals, the SNES original set a standard for the racing genre and lay down the blueprint for Super Mario Kart, which would emerge from Nintendo’s labs not long after.

From the tight controls and perfect sound effects, to the fantastic music and the impeccable course design, F-Zero reinvigorated the genre and inspired the future creation of numerous racing games – not to mention, the game also introduced Captain Falcon/The Blue Falcon, Dr. Stuart/The Golden Fox, Pico/Wild Goose, and Samurai Goroh/Fire Stingray. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #23. Contra 3: The Alien Wars

Set in the year 2636, the alien invaders that were defeated during the previous Contra installments have returned and launched a full-scale attack against mankind. The Alien Wars was the fourth Contra game to come to the States, after Contra and Super C on the NES and Operation C on the Game Boy. While previous Contra games drew inspiration from action movies like Rambo, Contra III features a host of Hollywood blockbuster references including enemies who appear straight out of an early James Cameron film (Terminator, Aliens).

Replacing the jungle-themed levels is a post-apocalyptic metropolis overrun by alien invaders, and the identities of Bill and Lance (the original Contra heroes), were swapped with their descendants Jimbo and Sully. The power of the Super NES allowed for better graphics, enhanced sound and unique new spins on the classic run-and-gun gameplay – bringing it closer to the quality of their arcade counterparts.

The level design is more complex and the players are more flexible – able to grab on to poles or ceilings, climb walls and ladders, grapple up walls and somersault through the air. The player can also shoot in eight possible directions without moving or jumping. In addition, the levels in The Alien Wars involve two Mode 7 enabled top-view stages. The Contra series has always been known for its difficulty, begging even the most practiced of gamers to cheat, but Konami used every trick up it’s sleeve to make Contra III: The Alien Wars the ultimate SNES shooter and even removed the famous Up-Up-Down-Down Konami Code (which normally grants players 30 lives in the first Contra titles).

Without the classic cheat, there’s no easy way out. Contra III is arguably the best installment in the Contra series, a game which plays like a 80s big budget Hollywood film, with action that is just as fast and furious. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #22. Donkey Kong Country

In 1994, with the release of the Saturn and Playstation on the horizon, the Super Nintendo needed a visually impressive killer app to reinforce its market dominance, and Donkey Kong Country fulfilled the calling. It creatively recast a classic Nintendo villain as the titular hero; gave him a varied, gorgeous landscape to jump through, provided him with his very own Luigi-like sidekick, Diddy Kong; and gave him a unique set of skills, such as the ability to tag-team with his partner, give him a piggyback ride, and throw him at enemies.

The stunning graphics not only showcased the sturdy capabilities of the console, but also helped build atmosphere. Donkey Kong Country was not just a tech demo for what the SNES could accomplish in the 32-bit era. To complement the athletic platforming in caves, forests, mountaintops, and industrial spaces, there were immersive moods, dramatic lighting, and an alternatively infectious and eerie soundtrack. Beyond its historical role, Donkey Kong Country remains an endlessly enjoyable classic. (Guido Pellegrini)

Best SNES Games #21. Secret of Mana

As action-RPGs started to gain in popularity in the mid-90s, many game companies began cashing in on this new trend. Square (now Square Enix) developed and produced possibly the 2nd best of the 16-bit era: Secret of Mana, the sequel to the 1991 game Seiken Densetsu (released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure).

Although the storyline isn’t quite as epic as Square’s Final Fantasy series of games, the result is a visually stunning, and highly original, action-packed role-playing title that’s become one of the most beloved RPGs ever created. Unlike its 16-bit contemporaries Final Fantasy III and Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana is an active-time RPG — in other words, its battles take place in real time. This unique battle system is just one of the many reasons Mana is still recognized today as one of the best games ever made. It also offered another major breakthrough for the genre; Secret of Mana allowed for up to three players to control your party members if you had the proper setup (the game cartridge, the system, three controllers and the SNES Super Multitap accessory).

Each character is distinctly individual and all three of the characters must work together in order for the party to succeed. The game received considerable acclaim for its bright colorful graphics, expansive plot, its Ring Command menu system and the incredible soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta. Squaresoft proved yet again that it is indeed one of the world’s master RPG makers. Following the releases of Sword of Mana on GBA, plus spin-offs Children of Mana and Heroes of Mana on DS, be sure to go back to the series’ roots and find out why Secret of Mana is so wonderful and charming. (Ricky D)

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Best SNES Games #20. Actraiser

ActRaiser was one of the first games to hit store shelves following the launch of the SNES in North America and it was also one of the first games to really show off the capabilities of the console. The graphics demonstrated the system’s ability to push rich 16-bit colors and multi-layered backgrounds, while Yuzo Koshiro’s emotionally evocative musical score is often regarded as one of the best of the era.

ActRaiser received a considerable amount of praise for successfully blending two genres seamlessly, being both an action-platformer and a city builder. The mix of the two was not always a success but the contrasting differences between the two genres added to the appeal of the game. Twenty-five years later and I still have yet to see a game similar to it. And even today ActRaiser holds up extremely well. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #19. Shadowrun

Based on a tabletop roleplaying game of the same name, Shadowrun was a hidden gem that stood out from its contemporaries thanks to its unique setting and real-time action gameplay. The world of Shadowrun borrows heavily from cyberpunk lore (think Neuromancer), and the atmosphere is heavily influenced by Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic film Blade Runner. Set in a cyberpunk metropolis (a futuristic version of Seattle) during the year 2050, the story follows a crime-noir plot loosely based on the novel, Never Deal with a Dragon, written by game creator Robert N. Charrette.

For a 16-bit game released in 1991, the plot is so thick, there’s enough here for a Netflix series. Mega-corporations rule over practically everything, hackers take over the planet and magic spells, dragons, samurai, wizards, dwarves, elves, orcs and trolls all coexist in the same city. You play as a man named Jake Armitage who’s gunned down in the game’s opening moments, only to awake somehow in a morgue – with amnesia. From there you fight vampires and zombies and anything else that stands in your way.

During the 16-bit era, there were three Shadowrun games, published for the SNES, Genesis, and Mega CD platforms. Each of them was made by completely separate developers and offer entirely different takes on the story, but the SNES version is often regarded as the very best of the bunch. The title’s unique setting and gameplay earned it critical success, but sadly it actually flopped commercially. Thankfully, after years of calls for remakes and sequels, a successful Kickstarter campaign resurrected the franchise with Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun Dragonfall. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #18. Tetris Attack

What is there to say about Tetris Attack that hasn’t been said already? The classic Tetris formula has been scrapped in favor of competitive match-three action set in the Mario universe. This title sports some of the most addictive puzzle gameplay ever created, especially when playing against another person. Matching three blocks together clears them, however, skilled players will go for multiple clears back to back to rack up enough blocks to place on your opponent’s screen. Once the blocks hit the top of the screen, the game is over.

The gameplay is simple but the skill cap is huge, meaning there is almost always room for improvement. Gamers who prefer to play solo are in for a fun, albeit challenging, experience as well. The villains of the Super Mario Bros. series form a path to the final battle with Bowser. Each battle is more challenging than the last, and while this mode isn’t particularly lengthy, it’s a blast to replay on higher difficulties.

It says a lot about a game when its formula has been copied time and time again by other series. Tetris Attack separates itself from these clones because of its charming aesthetic. It’s an ageless formula that provides a fun time for gamers of any skill level and is sure to be played competitively for years to come. (Zach Rezac)

Best SNES Games #17. Super Bomberman

Super Bomberman is full of bombs. And power-ups. And stalking your friend down a dead-end corridor so you can seal them in and blow them sky high. This is not a game that requires a Ph.D. and a grande, quad, non-fat, no-whip, mocha decaf. This is a game you play shirtless and sweating in your parents’ living room, wondering how your big brother can still beat you after 23 years.

The game has an overlooked single player campaign. So as to not break with tradition, its best to skip straight to Battle Mode.

If a professor were to make a case that being engaged in Super Bomberman’s multiplayer was akin to being permanently in a state of fight-or-flight, they would likely have a PhD and be asked to turn the lights off on their way out. But four-player Battle Mode is still incredible. Bombs are laid, thrown, and kicked right in your face. Games are over in minutes. The pace is brutal, and one bad move means the difference between life and death – not that any avatar in Super Bomberman’s cartoony universe takes it seriously.

This SNES Hall of Famer still feels “of the right now”. The sequel’s music is arguably better, and the addition of the Gold Bomberman was a clever incentive, but everything the second game stood for was built here. Even its graphics don’t feel overly dated. Again, the cartoonishness helps.

Nothing about Super Bomberman sought to change the world, but it was a game made beautiful by its simplicity. Killing someone was pretty easy, and not blowing yourself up with your own bomb often impossible.

Highly replayable to this day. (Luke Geraghty)

Best SNES Games #16. Super Castlevania IV

It’s hard to talk about the Castlevania franchise without bringing up Super Castlevania lV. Taking everything that worked from the NES titles and throwing out everything that didn’t, this 1991 masterpiece’s challenging gameplay and gorgeous visuals easily earn it a spot on this list. The soundtrack is also one of the best in the series, with tunes ranging from haunting melodies to catchy rock-influenced tracks.

lV also represents the first huge gameplay change in the series. Simon could now throw his whip in eight directions, which made for much better platforming and combat. Deaths were much less frustrating than in previous titles because of the amount of control the player had over Simon. Graphically, there aren’t many prettier games on the console. Sprites are large, detailed, and gruesome looking, with huge bosses looking especially impressive on the new hardware. Fan favorites like Death and Dracula make their return along with a host of new monsters that are bound to offer up a fierce challenge.

What’s more impressive about this SNES classic is that it’s still just as fun to play today as it was in 1991. The gameplay enhancements prevent it from feeling old and stiff like the first entry in the series. Super Castlevania lV really is an improvement in every sense of the term, and it certainly set the bar high for future titles in the series. (Zack Rezak)

Best SNES Games #15. Star Fox

Known as Starwing in Europe, Star Fox was the first Nintendo title to feature three-dimensional graphics thanks to the inclusion of the Mode 7 Chip — a small addition that allowed for 3D rendering. While Star Fox’s graphics haven’t aged well, as is the case with most games with early 3D polygons — the game was, and perhaps still is, incredibly entertaining from start to finish.

The action unfolds across numerous stages, each taking place on different planet or sector of the Lylat solar system as you pilot the now iconic ArWing and battle Andross and his army. Along with the cast of memorable characters (Falco, Slippy, and Peppy) and tight controls, this rail shooter became a critical and commercial success and jump-started a long-running Nintendo franchise. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #14. Mortal Kombat II

Solid fighting mechanics, attractive graphics, tight controls: everything an excellent fighting game needs. But Mortal Kombat II, for SNES owners in the 90s, meant something else beyond its systems. It was mysterious, it had secret moves and opponents, and it was spectacularly violent. And this violence wove its own enigmatic spell. It meant a kind of transgression, especially on a Nintendo console. A journey into a dark, bloody underworld; a crass, videogame version of Dante’s Inferno.

There’s a plot somewhere in the story mode. Subsequent titles, comics, and films have deepened the franchise’s mythos. Yet most Mortal Kombat II players, I would guess, are only vaguely aware that they’re participating in some tournament set in fantasy land. They’re likely more concerned with the bizarre collection of warriors with outlandish powers and hilarious rituals, called fatalities, babalities, or friendships, with which they conclude victorious battles. Learning how to perform these powers and rituals, simply to enjoy the bloody animations or the incongruous comedy of hardened fighters transformed into toddlers, is one of the main attractions.

The sketchy plot, the nightmarish backdrops, the weird magic, the hidden rivals, and the plethora of techniques and skills, all contribute to the game’s aura. Mortal Kombat II is about exploration as much as it is about actual fighting. Many of the best and most exciting moves, again, have no practical purpose. Fatalities, babalities, and friendships, so crucial to the overall experience, simply finish off already fallen rivals. They’re both means and ends. Players learn them to see how they look and humiliate their friends. But they don’t do anything useful with them. And that’s part of the Mortal Kombat charm: soaking in the mood and mystique, not just the intricacies of its game mechanics. (Guido Pellegrini)

Best SNES Games #13. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

When Nintendo first announced that they would be developing an RPG with the legendary Final Fantasy creators, Squaresoft, the surprise of the public was palpable, and the hype was infective. Just what would these two powerhouse developers cook up together? The answer was one of the best RPGs of the 16-bit generation.

Super Mario RPG recast the titular plumber into an isometric faux-3D world, and had the overbearing gall to not only team him up with Bowser against an even greater evil, but to introduce several new and intriguing characters to his world. The jump mechanics and typical Super Mario Bros. tropes are all cross-coded into a beautiful and inviting RPG world, filled with challenging puzzles, fantastic writing, and tons of fan service. This might not be the most conventional game in the dozens of Mario-centric titles out there, but it’s certainly one of the best. (Mike Worby)

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Best SNES Games #12. NHL ’94

NHL ’94 was the game that truly defined hockey adaptations in the 16-bit era and to this day, many hockey fans still consider it to be the best hockey game ever made. The game was so refined that many modern versions are still trying to clear the bar it set.

Four-player gameplay was the huge bonus, as was the ’93 NHL roster which featured the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, the addition of two teams through league expansion, the sudden prominence of European superstars and of course, the crowning of the Montreal Canadiens as Stanley Cup champions! NHL ’94 is the hockey game that set a standard for what hockey games were to become in the future and even today, online leagues are set up over at NHL94Online.com where players take control of their favorite teams and compete across multiple skill-based leagues of up to 12 teams. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #11. Super Punch-Out

Super Punch-Out!! had some mighty big shoes to fill in the wake of its predecessor’s worldwide success. The general idea of a sequel is to keep what works with a beloved formula while presenting something new and unique, and Super Punch-Out did just that.

Super Punch-Out set itself apart with its cartoon-like style, and colorful and outlandish opponents such as Aran Ryan, Mad Clown, Super Macho Man and Rick Bruiser, to name a few. The gameplay didn’t change much, but the usage of transparency was added to facilitate the game’s “behind the back” perspective, and like the original Punch-Out, Super Punch-Out is more of a puzzle game, rather than a sports game: Each opponent of the rogues gallery (16 in total, some familiar and others new) has their own unique style of fighting, and more importantly, their own unique weaknesses. You can’t just randomly punch your way through to victory by smashing buttons; players must carefully observe each opponent in order to find their weak spot. Mac’s move set remains simplistic, amounting to left and right jabs, hooks, and dodges, and Doc is still in your corner! Much like its star Little Mac, this is one underdog not to be taken lightly. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #10. Mega Man X

Capcom made Mega Man fans wait a very long time for the arrival of Mega Man X, releasing the game for the SNES two and a half years after the system’s debut. But when it arrived, it was obvious why it took so long. This wasn’t just another Mega Man game, it was a complete reinvention of the franchise and it blew our young minds. The classic series mythology forms the basis for Mega Man X, but the plot is new – taking place a century after the original Mega Man series with an all-new arch-nemesis named Sigma, and a supporting hero named Zero – a Maverick Hunter/ mechanical soldier who helps X (Mega Man) defeat robots who turned against humanity. With the help of his partner Zero, X must thwart the plans of Sigma and save mankind. The standard run-and-gun action remains intact with traditional attack strategies all carrying over – but this time around players get an assortment of advanced maneuvers like dashing, wall jumping, and instant weapon-swapping. In addition, X can charge his buster and the slide has been replaced with a dash. Furthermore, Mega Man could now increase the length of his health meter — and he could upgrade his suit, piece by piece, to complete a set of new armor (which makes you look more and more like his hero, Zero). If you haven’t yet played this game, give it a try, and find out why Mega Man X is one of the all-time best. There’s so much to say about this game, and why, as a sequel, it is one of the best; but since I’m limited to a number of words I can write, I recommend checking out this amazing video essay. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #9. Final Fantasy IV

First released in the west as Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy IV took Square’s role-playing series to new heights. Previous entries included more intensive character customization with a focus on the gameplay, but when Final Fantasy IV landed, it was one of the first truly great adventure stories in all of gaming. Following the main protagonist Cecil Harvey, Final Fantasy IV is an epic tackling themes of love, friendship, betrayal and justice and set the standard for future RPGs not just on the SNES but every contemporary and succeeding console. The cast of characters that join Cecil is varied, each a distinctive personality and useful in different ways in combat. Kain Highwind, a dragoon, remains a fan favorite, and the ever-present Cid of the series makes his first playable appearance as Cid Pollendina.

On top of a superb story, Final Fantasy IV also features a ridiculously good soundtrack from the now legendary Nobuo Uematsu and the first iteration of the Active Time Battle system that would define later entries. Final Fantasy VII often gets cited not just as the best Final Fantasy, but the best video game of all time. Purists, though, tend to look back on the two SNES Final Fantasy games as being series high points—true classics that may be simple in retrospect but that are timeless and effortlessly replayable. At the very least, Final Fantasy IV was the beginning of a new era for storytelling in games. (Sean Colletti)

Best SNES Games #8. Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart needs little introduction. With almost nine million units sold, it is the third highest selling SNES title and regularly places among the best games of all time. The critical and commercial success allowed Nintendo to release numerous other Mario spin-offs, keeping the franchise alive despite the relative infrequency of Mario platformers.

Whereas later titles focused more on item play – cough, the blue shell, cough – the original Mario Kart was generally about racing. Tracks were carefully designed. There were ideal spots to twist left or right, and although a well-timed feather or a green shell could give you an advantage, skill would see you win the day. It was perfectly possible in lower difficulties to get ahead and stay there without worrying a single hit would bump you back to the last place.

That doesn’t mean Mario Kart was afraid to punish you.

The learning curve was steep. Tracks were easy to learn but hard to master. And the Special Cup Race on 150cc will forever be the stuff of nightmares.

What Mario Kart lacked in kindness it made up for in the intricate design and its fantastic Battle Mode, where two players zoomed around dodging peels and popping each other’s balloons. Rarely has the sound of a balloon exploding been so humiliating.

Also, it should be noted the AI are all unforgivable cheats. Donkey Kong Jr. must be chowing down with one hand on the wheel to have that many banana skins. For a driving gorilla, he sure is good at multitasking. (Luke Geraghty)

Best SNES Games #7. Street Fighter II

Like most popular arcade games of the time, Street Fighter 2 inevitably made its way to home consoles. Given Capcom’s publishing history and relationships with Nintendo, it was first ported to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The SNES adaptation is probably one of the best arcade-to-console ports in history and despite some minor changes to the graphics and audio (in order to fit into the cartridge), the port is extremely faithful to the original.

It became one of the console’s best sellers and was so successful that Capcom just kept releasing more versions of it. From 1991 to 1994, there were 5 adaptations of Street Fighter II and by 1995, the game had been played by at least 25 million Americans in homes and arcades, while the gross revenues of the console and arcade versions had exceeded $2.312 billion, making it Capcom’s best-selling single consumer game software at the time. Street Fighter II set a standard, popularized the genre, and set off a renaissance for the arcade game industry in the early 1990s. At the time it was groundbreaking and 25 years later it stands the test of time, that any gamer, no matter what their age, can enjoy. (Ricky D)

Best SNES Games #6. Earthbound

EarthBound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, was met with poor critical response and sales in the United States, but as the years went by, the game received wide acclaim and was deemed by many a timeless classic. It has since become one of the most sought-after games in the second-hand market, selling for upwards of $300 for the cartridge alone. The second game of the Mother series (the first was never released in the English language), follows Ness and his party of four, traveling the world to collect melodies en route to defeating the evil alien force known as Giygas.

While EarthBound’s overall gameplay feels like a traditional Japanese RPG of the era, the game breaks from tradition through its setting: a world of 90’s Americana seen from a Japanese point of view. Nothing stands out quite like its visual style – an 8-bit presentation powered by a 16-bit processor. The graphics might not be as advanced as some of the other 16-bit titles available on the SNES, but it is certainly among the most memorable. The SNES was home to some amazing soundtracks, but EarthBound’s soundtrack remains the best. Created by four composers, there’s enough music here to fill 8 of the 24 megabits on the cartridge – with direct musical quotations of classical tune and folk music, and a few samples culled from commercial pop and rock. EarthBound is not only one of the most unique and refreshing RPG experiences ever made but also one of the most entertaining as well.

Holding onto an incredibly dedicated cult following, the main character Ness became a featured character in the Super Smash Bros. series and in 2013, EarthBound was reissued and given a worldwide release for the Wii U Virtual Console following many years of fan lobbying. Of all the games I own on the Super NES, Earthbound is the game I treasure the most. (Ricky D)

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Best SNES Games #5. Super Mario World

Every great sequel finds the latent potential in its predecessor and expands upon it. Super Mario Bros. 3, on the Nintendo Entertainment System, had introduced maps to connect groups of individual levels, but its different worlds remained disconnected. There was no consistent universe or geography, so the mapped environments were not as immersive as they could have been. Super Mario World corrected this missed opportunity, as its name implies. There’s just one world and players must move through it. When they advance to the next area, they deepen their understanding of the place they’re already in – rather than starting over from scratch in yet another surreal landscape.

This geographical cohesiveness conveys the length and texture of a journey. There’s a good reason epic fantasy novels tend to include detailed maps, and Tolkien wasn’t merely wasting his time and ours by including lengthy descriptive passages in The Lord of the Rings. If travel is an important theme, then players, viewers, or readers should understand the lay of the land. Otherwise, all that walking and voyaging is just an abstraction, a bunch of lines on a blank grid.

Of course, this is a platformer, not a role-playing game. The emphasis is on the platforming challenges, the flawless and responsive controls, the bright colors and relatively sharp character models that demonstrated what the SNES could do. Geographical cohesiveness is not as important as it might be, say, in a Zelda title. And in fact, subsequent Mario installments, on the Nintendo 64 and the Wii, would return to the Super Mario Bros. 3 formula, with their teleporting doors to distant provinces. (Super Mario Sunshine, with its expansive island, is an exception.) But the vastness of the world in Super Mario World, the excitement of uncovering new continents or transforming the surrounding topography, is one of the main reasons it’s so beloved.

Platformers are basically about players’ relationship to virtual environments, so taking a page (or more) from the mapped journeys of epic fantasy proved to be an inspired, brilliant, and enduring design strategy. (Guido Pellegrini)

Best SNES Games #4. Final Fantasy VI

Though Final Fantasy VII is often cited as the game which changed Final Fantasy forever, a strong argument can be made for Final Fantasy VI as the proper bearer of such a title. Up to this point in the series, each of the installments had been placed in a decidedly medieval setting. From the jaw-dropping, pseudo-3D, opening moments of FFVI, it’s clear that all of that has changed. Mechs, firearms, and a variety of technologies that ride the line between science-fiction and steampunk all make their Final Fantasy debuts here.

This is also one of the series’ darkest entries with characters who contemplate suicide, several major deaths, and an insanely malicious villain who actually succeeds completely in his horrifying plan by the games halfway point. With the largest and most diverse cast of the entire Final Fantasy franchise, some haunting and emotional music from longtime composer Nobuo Uematsu, the best set of side-quests ever delivered, and a wildly intense final battle, Final Fantasy VI is, without question, a series standout. (Mike Worby)

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Best SNES Games #3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. While Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was an interesting departure from the style of The Legend of Zelda, the 1991 SNES game A Link to the Past took the original game of the series and perfected what was already there. A Link to the Past isn’t necessarily innovative. Unlike Ocarina of Time, it didn’t usher in a whole new experience for gamers. But for many, A Link to the Past is the definitive Zelda game (and one of the best video games of all time) because of how utterly streamlined and polished it is.

Everything that was fun and exciting about The Legend of Zelda is here tenfold: an arsenal of neat items at your disposal, an expansive world full of memorable settings and enemies, cleverly-designed puzzles, challenging boss battles and the general feeling of the epic quest (aided by the soundtrack) that puts the “Legend” into the title. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is just pure, simple gaming at its height, where every little piece comes together flawlessly to create the ultimate action-adventure experience.

The game was re-released for the Game Boy Advance and received a follow-up for the 3DS (A Link Between Worlds), solidifying its place in the canon of not just the Zelda series, but as one of Nintendo’s finest products of all time. (Sean Colletti)

Best SNES Games #2. Chrono Trigger

Square’s Chrono Trigger was always destined to be interesting, to say the least. Made by a dream team of key developers from both Square and Enix (years before those companies would merge), Chrono Trigger combines the battle system of Final Fantasy with the lighter tone of Dragon Quest, and the high-quality visuals of both series. Add in Dragon-Ball-creator Akira Toriyama’s art and a rousing score by Yasunori Mitsuda, and you have a recipe for something wonderful.

Actually playing the game, however, the gamer realizes that it is not “just” another great 1990s release from Square – it’s a meticulous masterclass in design that goes against many JRPG conventions, while still serving up a classic tale of action and adventure.

In a genre where unwieldy length is typical, Chrono Trigger clocks in at a relatively brief (and much more digestible) 20 hours. In a time where battles would flash to a separate screen to showcase highly detailed monster sprites, Chrono Trigger instead had its monsters appear in the field. The player could even avoid some fights by just walking around them. Combined with a touching story and funny, lovable characters, Chrono Trigger is an outstanding example of a studio at the top of its game, like the Finding Nemo to Square’s Pixar.

So what more can be said about a game so beloved?

How about proof of its enduring quality? I have a confession to make: I never owned a SNES, and I didn’t play Chrono Trigger until I was already out of high school, fifteen years after its release. Today, I still unreservedly call it one of the best games I have ever played. (Mitchell Akhurst)

Best SNES Games #1. Super Metroid

One of the things most notable about Super Metroid is its profound and effective sense of atmosphere. Few games have managed to make an alien world that feels so strange and surreal as the planet Zebes does here. Though the evocative music goes a long way to establishing the sad and decaying world, points must be given to the design team who really nail the deliberate strangeness of the creature and area layouts.

What makes Super Metroid such a strong experience is its uninhibited use of wordless story-telling to craft an emotionally-engaging narrative which casts two characters as mothers and creates an intense dichotomy and rivalry between them, culminating in an unforgettable battle over a savage but innocent child.

In the nuts and bolts department, the gameplay is wildly inventive, utilizing the power-up based exploration mechanics which were introduced in previous installments, Super Metroid takes an everything and the kitchen sink approach to growing your character, wherein you start off as a pellet-firing weakling and end the game as an invincible, hyper-driven, flashing, super-speeded, infinite-jumping juggernaut. Add to that the fact that you’re playing as the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy, and Super Metroid equals pure gaming bliss. If you want a game that absolutely lives up to all of its hype and more than you need to play Super Metroid. (Mike Worby)

PART ONE: TOP 50 SNES GAMES

Be sure to also check out:

The Top 50 SNES Games

The 40 Best Nintendo 64 Games

The Best Game Boy Games that Stand the Test of Time

The Best Game Boy Advance Games

35 Best Gamecube Games

The Very Best Wii Games

The 25 Best Wii U Games

The Best Nintendo Switch Games

200 Best Nintendo Games

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice.Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rogerio Andrade

    September 10, 2019 at 10:35 am

    What a great list, but the lack of International Superstar Soccer 2 really puzzles me …
    It´s one of the best sports game in the SNES, probably the best. It tops any EA efforts with lots of play modes, great animations and soundtrack, excellent controls – which is the base that PES uses to this day – easy to pick-up and play, multiplayer up to 4 people …
    Perhaps its absence is due to the low popularity of the game in the U.S.? It´s kind of dissapointing to not see it in this list, since that game was very popular in Latin America and Japan and was well-known in Europe too.

  2. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    September 10, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    I know I voted for International Superstar Soccer as did a few other writers.

    The problem when making a best gaming list is that many gamers don’t play sports.

    There have been many years in which I think a sports game belongs on the best of the year list but ot enough people voted for it.

    But yes, I agree, International Superstar Soccer should be on the list. I’d easily replace one of the Star Wars titles.

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Games

PAX West Indies 2019 (Final) – feat. ‘Indivisible’, ‘Shovel Knight Dig’, and more

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Pax West 2019 Indies

After plenty of PAX coverage, I’ve finally got the last of the indies out of the way! There were too many good games to cover this year; hopefully you were able to find a few that caught your eye!

Indivisible

Indivisible is a game that, at this point, needs no introduction. From the creators of Skullgirls comes a new gorgeously 2.5D-animated game that seeks to bring back the gameplay popularized by Valkyrie Profile. After a successful crowdfunding campaign back in 2015, Indivisible will finally be releasing this October, and it’s shaping up to be worth the wait.

A pastiche of Southeast Asian mythologies, Indivisible’s story follows Ajna, a girl who sets out on an epic adventure to discover the origins of her mysterious powers. She’s joined by a colorful cast of heroes, each of whom possesses unique abilities that will help her both on and off the battlefield. Lab Zero’s signature 2D animation shines even brighter against a vividly designed 3D backdrop. Ajna’s world comes to life in a stunning array of colors and motion as you explore extensively detailed vistas and delve into fast-paced action-RPG combat.

With Skullgirls under their belt, developer Lab Zero is no stranger to game polish. The team brings back their fluidly stylish sense of design with a game that just feels good to play. While there are bits of platforming here and there, the real meat behind Indivisible lies in the combat.

True to Lab Zero’s fighting-game background, Indivisible calls for fast-paced strategic button-mashing as you control four characters in battle. A combination of button inputs, stick directions, and proper timing makes all the difference between hacking away at your enemy and truly comboing them down for big damage. You can’t just randomly button-mash, however. Each character has limited actions on your “turn”, so you need to be judicious with how you fight.

This game looks and feels pretty incredible; the four years in-development have clearly been well spent. With their release right around the corner, Indivisible is shaping up to be one of 2019’s most anticipated releases, an accolade that’s well-earned.

Bravery Network Online

If there’s one thing that Pokemon shares in common with Smash Bros., it’s that the competitive community has evolved far beyond the original scope. Pokemon Showdown, a browser-based Pokemon combat simulator, developed a strong following of players who wanted to do away with the fluff of catching and training to focus purely on the battles. Bravery Network Online is the result of a hardcore Showdown fan looking to to take the game even further that that.

Bravery Network Online is stylishly flashy, with an aesthetic that perfectly suits the punchy combat. Players pick from a pool of combatants, each with their own set of unique moves and stats. One of the big differences between BNO and Pokemon is the lack of type-effectiveness. Strengths and weaknesses are instead based around more of a binary “type” system of physical vs. technical, which still manages to keep the strategy of Pokemon types without their cumbersome granularity.

The other key difference in BNO’s combat is the “Flourish” mechanic. As your fights progress, you build up charges that can be stockpiled and used to augment existing abilities. These added bonuses might come in form of extra damage, higher hit rates, self-heals, etc. While BNO is undoubtedly built on the Pokemon framework, it’s different in all the right places to make it stand out as an evolution to the decades old franchise, rather than a copy of it.

Shovel Knight DIG

Ya know him. Ya dig him. It’s Shovel Knight, baby.

The Shovel Knight series has been the darling of the indie gaming scene ever since he first dug his way into our hearts more than five years. It’s not hard to see why: beyond the stellar gameplay, inspired by games like Mega Man and Ducktales, Shovel Knight himself is a helluva mascot. His striking design is up there with the best of them, and Yacht Club’s sense of style and color come back in spades with Shovel Knight Dig.

Unlike previous games in the Shovel Knight franchise, Shovel Knight Dig focuses on vertical movement rather than horizontal. The name says it all: your primary objective is to dig down, collecting treasure and smiting your enemies along the way. Skillful platforming is still required, but the inclusion of dirt blocks in Dig makes for some neat twists on the traditional platforming action. If Shovel Knight is adjacent to a dirt block, you can tap the “dig” button to rapidly shovel through blocks in one of the four cardinal directions.

The freestyle digging mechanics mesh wonderfully with the traditional action platforming. Yacht Club is a master of gamefeel design, with every step, every jump, every swipe of the shovel flowing smoothly from one input to the next. Shovel Knight Dig speeds up the pacing with enemies and environmental hazards that actively chase you down. Once you get into the rhythm of the mechanics though, you’ll find that digging comes just as easily as breathing.

Journey to the Savage Planet

Part No Man’s Sky, part Aperture Science, Journey to the Savage Planet has players embark on an intergalactic journey at great peril to their own wellbeing. You take on the role of an employee at Kindred Aerospace, rated 4th Best Interstellar Exploration Company, who has been dropped off on an uncharted planet in the faraway recesses of the galaxy. Either solo or with a friend, you’ll venture out into this savage wilderness and tame it for the benefit of all humanity (and a paycheck).

While it’s an FPS, combat takes a bit of a backseat in Journey to the Savage Planet. The demo at PAX featured two different enemy types, small rotund birds and flying electric jellyfishes, that acted more as environmental hazards than real threats. Savage Planet’s primary focus was on exploring, and the game gives you plenty of tools to do that. Set in a colorfully lush alien world, you run, jump, and zipline all across a wide expansive map as you chart out the unknown terrain. Fans of the Metroid Prime series will also enjoy the “scan” mechanic, which allows players to take a deep dive into their surroundings to uncover more about them.

Journey to the Savage Planet has a distinctly goofy feel to it that’s embodied in much of the game’s presentation. Your employer, Kindred Aerospace, makes a point of assuring you that you (and they) are galactic pioneers, charting out a course for humanity. Never mind the shoddy equipment, thinly veiled questionable business practices, or utter disdain for native flora and fauna. Journey to the Savage Planet also features co-op play, so you can trample on this lovely alien world with your friends!

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‘Majora’s Mask’ Dungeon by Dungeon: Stone Temple Tower

I will be looking at the dungeon design of the 3DS version of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. This week is Stone Temple Tower.

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Halfway through my analysis of Link’s Awakening, Nintendo unveiled an adorable chibi-clay “reimagining” of that game for the Switch. In celebration of its upcoming launch, I will turn my eye from the strangest, darkest, most surreal portable Zelda to the strangest, darkest, most surreal console Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Majora’s Mask is arguably the Zelda game most open to hermeneutic critique, as its narrative themes run deep but somewhat vague, and it’s wholly original structure feels like postmodern art compared to the conservative story and character arcs of nearly every other Zelda. In this series, I will be looking specifically at the dungeon design of the 3DS version of the game, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D. While this version makes several changes to the Nintendo 64 version, some of which are rather consequential and controversial, I am choosing to scrutinize this version because it is probably how most players currently play the game (plus, it’s the version I own that isn’t hundreds of miles away at my mom’s house). In this entry, I will be looking at the game’s third dungeon, Stone Temple Tower.

Stone Temple Tower

Stone Tower Temple’s name is a bit misleading, as it is more of a temple at the top of a stone tower than a stone tower itself. In fact, Stone Tower Temple is the least vertical of the four main dungeons, consisting of only nine rooms across three (but essentially two) floors. Aesthetically, the dungeon is premised around its stone theme, which is admittedly less inspired than Woodfall Temple, has less potential than Snowhead Temple, and is less vivacious than Great Bay Temple. Most of the dungeon dabbles in greys and browns which can get a bit bland, however they do lend the dungeon a visual clarity that is absolutely essential given Stone Tower’s unique navigational complexities. For example, a drab color scheme makes hidden elements, such as a treasure chests on the ceiling the player can grapple to, stand out from the backdrop. While occasional flourishes like wall sketches and the giant face in the main room lend the dungeon a bit more character, it would have been nice if this character came through more prominently in at least the rooms where visual clarity isn’t a necessity.

Stone Temple Tower, Majora's Mask

The dungeon’s layout may be where it shines brightest, as it plays equally well rightside up and topsy-turvy. This is a magnificent design feat that bests the previous year’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night at its own game in several regards. Aside from this famous inversion mechanic, the dungeon holds up incredibly well on a room-by-room basis. It houses some of the toughest puzzles so far, the most difficult and intentional platforming, and the most intricate combat scenarios. Moreover, the dungeon features some surprisingly varied use of the Mirror Shield in its first half (though angling it precisely can get tricky in a couple rooms), as well as fairy placement that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Great Bay Temple. The only downside to the fairy placement here is that since a couple are placed in well-hidden nooks and crannies, the player may have to flip the dungeon a couple extra times to find their last fairy or two, and that flipping process is grating. The aforementioned treasure chest grapple points should also be noted, both in how they ask the player to reconsider the salient properties of treasure chests, and in how they act as both a platforming mechanic and a reward. All of this said, it can sometimes be difficult to find the way forward when the player has to transition between levels, as the dungeon map doesn’t much help the player navigate its intricate layout. This is another instance of where the game could have benefited from a 3D map that more clearly gave the player a sense of how the dungeon’s different levels connect. In a couple moments, such as locating the upside-down treasure chest needed to reach the final boss door, the treasure chest is so well-hidden that many players probably hit a wall. It should also be noted that having to play the Elegy of Emptiness to weigh down switches so many times gets tiresome, makes backtracking especially obnoxious, and never feels like it is used to its full potential.

Stone Temple Tower, Majora's Mask

This flipping mechanic is the dungeon’s central gimmick, and while it is an incredible accomplishment in its own right, it also plays into Stone Tower Temple’s concern with perspective. Indeed, the player will find themselves actively searching almost every room of the dungeon multiple times from multiple angles, asking themselves what a room might look like upside-down or mentally bookmarking something currently out-of-reach knowing there may be a reward to reap there later. On a deeper level, this flipping mechanic instills an increased spatial awareness in the player that in turn inspires speculative, curious, perspective-conscious thought. It takes the dungeon’s three dimensions and adds another dimension to it, rewarding players who are especially observant and attuned to abnormalities. In many ways, the Zelda franchise has not seen this form of inspired dungeon design since, with even Breath of the Wild’s Divine Beasts failing to match the poignancy and immediacy of understanding how flipping a space upside-down impacts layout and traversal. Almost twenty years later, Portal is the only game that come to mind as matching Stone Tower Temple’s ability to recontextualize interior space in such a way that the player has to reevaluate that space from a totally unique perspective in order to play most meaningfully. While flipping is used expertly for navigation, it would have been great to take this one step further through enemy types, bosses, and more puzzles that integrate this mechanic (though this was likely technically infeasible on the N64).

And while the dungeon does not feature its own unique transformation mask, it uses the three from previous dungeons as well as those dungeons ever do. Actually, Goron Link is used to withstand heat (along with rolling), which many players may not even know is one of its unique abilities because it’s not required in Snowhead Temple. Meanwhile, Zora Link is used is for both swimming and underwater combat in areas more spacious (and therefore more suitable to the mask) than Great Bay Temple, and Deku Link is brilliantly integrated into a room with air currents of various power. On the whole, each mask is arguably used better here than in their respective dungeon, though not nearly as thoroughly (especially in combat, where masks are almost never required to fight a specific enemy). Having one multi-stage mini-boss that utilized all three mask types, for example, would have further integrated these transformations cohesively, and having them relate more directly to the dungeon’s flipping mechanic (such as swimming Mario Galaxy-like in a floating pool of water) could have pushed the masks and the dungeon’s central gimmick one step further (though again…technical limitations).

light arrow in the Stone Temple Tower

The dungeon’s item are the Light Arrows, which are yet again just another variation on the basic Arrows earned in Woodfall Temple. Fortunately, their strength and high-rupee rewards upon defeating an enemy make them especially useful in battle, and they are also the key to flipping the dungeon. It’s unfortunate, however, that there isn’t much use for them outside Stone Tower Temple, and that they essentially nullify the Mirror Shield by allowing Link to always have access to light. Combined with heavy mask usage, the Light Arrows can also be a magic drain, meaning players unequipped with some form of magic restoration may have to occasionally farm magic. While the player gets more mileage out of the Light Arrows here than in Ocarina of Time, a couple more unique properties could have made them feel more like a distinct item rather than just powered-up arrows that nullify the Mirror Shield.

Stone Tower Temple is home to a whopping fourteen enemy types, which represent the best enemy selection in the game as a whole. While the dungeon may be lacking a distinct theme, each of these enemy types somehow feels at home, and is almost always placed in a manner that synergizes with a room’s architecture and specialized challenges. Furthermore, some enemies, like the Eyegore, are unusually formidable, while others, like the Death Armos and Hiploop, require forethought and strategizing uncommon in normal baddies. Overall, this is a fantastic enemy palette that represents the pinnacle of Majora’s combat.

Link firing a light arrow.

Fortunately, the three(!) mini-boss fights play only substantiate Stone Tower Temple as having some of the best combat in the game. The Garo Master and Gomess, the dungeon’s first and third mini-bosses, are intricate Souls-lite swordplay scuffles that emphasize defense, timing, and pattern recognition. They are some of the most fully-realized enemies in the entire game and each is far more satisfying, interesting, and enjoyable than some of Majora’s actual bosses. And while Stone Tower does feature another Wizzrobe fight, it is at least slightly more difficult than past incarnations because his warp points are harder to target and his attacks deal more damage. Still, if Wizzrobe were one of two mini-bosses instead of one of three, he would have been supremely disappointing. 

Majora's Mask combat

The boss fight against Twinmold is certainly grand and climactic, but it is also clunky and boring. The first phase has the player shoot at the eyes of a giant flying centipede while dodging another giant flying centipede. While it has a Shadow of the Colossus-like vibe and premise, it can be incredibly difficult to track both bosses at once due to the game’s camera, so Link is often pummeled from off-screen at seemingly random intervals. Unfortunately, the second phase of the fight, which sounds cooler, is even more aggravating. After donning the Giant’s Mask, Link grows massive in stature and learns wrestling moves that allows him to smack, grab, spin, and throw the remaining flying centipede. Unfortunately, a mix of slow movement, shoddy hitboxes, and a far-too-large health bar ultimately make this fight incredibly slow and repetitive. In the end, Twinmold is not the worst boss in the game, but it ends up feeling the most disappointing because its potential is so obviously sky-high.

As a whole, Stone Tower Temple probably features the most consistently satisfying, varied, and innovative gameplay in Majora’s Mask. While fans primarily remember it for its fantastic flipping gimmick, it is just as remarkable for its vast array of combat scenarios, tricky navigational puzzles, and shrewd use of all three transformation masks. Its aesthetic and boss fight might not live up to their potential, but in terms of sheer level design, Stone Tower Temple remains one of the most ambitious and remarkable dungeons in the Zelda franchise. If Great Bay Temple was an inspiration for the Divine Beasts of Breath of the Wild, we can only hope that Breath of the Wild’s inevitable sequel takes a cue from Stone Tower Temple and makes a similarly remarkable evolutionary leap forward.

For deep dives into other levels from Majora’s Mask, as well as levels from other classic Nintendo games such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, click here.

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Game Reviews

‘Heave Ho’ Review: Us & Chuck

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Couch co-op is a phrase that’s used pretty infrequently these days. In fact, it seems that couch co-op wasn’t even a phrase at all until it wasn’t the norm anymore. With the modern emphasis on online experiences, the delights of a room full of screaming maniacs stumbling through a party game is largely a lost remnant of generations past. This, however, poses a difficult conundrum to any reviewers unfortunate enough to be unable to fulfill the most vital component for a couch co-op game review: a full couch. Treading in the wobbly footsteps of party classic Mount Your Friends (and clasping at the slippery tentacles of Octodad), Heave Ho is a game fundamentally for social people.

Its premise is a very similar task that involves swinging your wacky avatar’s limbs around, desperately trying to grab hold of any nearby surfaces. The game is more concerned with getting your character to the end of an obstacle course than clambering over your opponents like in Mount Your Friends, and there are a distinctly smaller number of limbs to control (and appendages to laugh at).

Couch co-op is a phrase that’s used pretty infrequently these days. In fact, it seems that couch co-op wasn’t even a phrase at all until it wasn’t the norm anymore. With the modern emphasis on online experiences, the delights of a room full of screaming maniacs stumbling through a party game is largely a lost remnant of generations past. This, however, poses a difficult conundrum to any reviewers unfortunate enough to be unable to fulfill the most vital component for a couch co-op game review: a full couch. Treading in the wobbly footsteps of party classic Mount Your Friends (and clasping at the slippery tentacles of Octodad), Heave Ho is a game fundamentally for social people.

Its premise involves the very similar task of swinging your wacky avatar’s limbs around, desperately trying to grab hold of any nearby surfaces. But Heave Ho is more concerned with getting your character to the end of an obstacle course than clambering over your opponents like in Mount Your Friends, and there is a distinctly smaller number of limbs to control (and appendages to laugh at).

Fingertips count in ‘Heave Ho’

There’s really not much to Heave Ho that warrants more explaining, as expressed via the world’s shortest tutorial at the beginning of the first level. Use the left analog stick for moving both of your character’s arms, press L or ZL for grabbing with the left arm, and press R or ZR for the right; that’s it. At least, that would be it, unless — and this is admittedly a somewhat niche bugbear — you’re a user of the neon red/blue launch Joy-Con, because their colors are flipped on the game’s assistance gloves. You can tell yourself you won’t be affected, but if you’re playing handheld and staring at bright blue and red in your own hands, you’re naturally going to associate those colors with the in-game hands.

A lot of the game feels flat solo, but these moments are still great

Upon acknowledgement of the incredibly basic controls, players are promptly (and literally) dropped straight into the level, left to fumble your way around the various objects and pitfalls en route to the goal. Striking a balance between careful, methodical navigation and reckless flinging is the key to success, with the former being more reliable and the latter being a hell of a lot more fun.

Heave Ho does feels a little forced in terms of its attempts at humor; it’s all very noisy, colorful and silly, which is obviously the point, and playing a game where you chuck a gangly anthropomorphic blob around with little-to-no coordination is never going to be the way to get your fill of sophisticated chuckles. I guess goofy wigs and obnoxious voices are funny to some people, but as the game gets harder and the challenges begin to frustrate, the humor is less of a mood lifter and more of an annoyance.

It all looks like fun and games here, but this world is horrific

The strength of a game like this will typically be measured in the number of laughs emanating from a packed living room, but its longevity will always be judged on how it endears as a solo experience. This is even more vital in the absence of online multiplayer, meaning you’re either playing with a house full of mates, or by yourself. I don’t have a house full of mates all that often, so the majority of my time with the game was playing solo, and that really doesn’t feel like the optimum way to get the most out of Heave Ho. The wacky, party-gaming hijinks sharply degenerate into a frustrating, often tedious slog when played alone.

The moments of intense satisfaction when nailing a long swing to a distant platform, or completing a particularly tricky level, shouldn’t be ignored, but they are too often mired by either boredom or anger. Easier levels require very little thought or technique to complete, and late-game ones are rage-inducing. This is exacerbated by the inexplicable decision from the developers to force players to complete all of an area’s levels in one run. There are no checkpoints after individual levels, so if you find yourself at a wall on the final level of a run and need a break from the game, you’re going to have to go back and complete all its preceding levels just to get yourself back.

I ain’t even gotta look!

This is a real mood-killer, and I found myself apathetically averse to trudging back through older levels to merely match the progress of a previous day’s attempts, especially when that previous day ended in frustration anyway. The type of game that Heave Ho is — one that builds itself on rapid-fire, bite-size challenges — just cannot benefit from forcing players into marathon sittings, especially when multiple people are required for optimum enjoyment.

Having online options would help, and it’s baffling as to why couch co-op and online co-op are mutually exclusive in some games. Playing an online game of Worms back on Xbox 360 was one of the most hilarious experiences I’ve had in any multiplayer game, and it’s such a shame to be denied even the potential for this with Heave Ho instead of being left to drag my tired fiancé to the TV for some forced hilarity. It might have been the worst possible litmus test for a party game, but were she writing this review it would have consisted largely of how “stressful,” she found it. I saw a few smiles, but perhaps the game isn’t as inclusive as it tries to present itself.

Two heads are definitely not better than one here

With the fiancé out of the potential player pool, I may bring Heave Ho out at a more receptive social occasion in the future, as the potential for communal hilarity is definitely there, but solo play is definitely not going to be something to engage in again. Perhaps if the necessary quality of life improvements were made — chiefly, being able to swap the colours of the assist gloves around and having a checkpoint after each level — then players might be more inclined to hammer away at it, but unfortunately, it’s likely to be just squirreled away as a potential curiosity rather than a go-to source of fun.

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20 Memorable Moments from Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’ Series

To commemorate The Walking Dead game series, we’ll be counting down 20 of the most memorable moments throughout the series.

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Recently rumours have surfaced that Telltale Games will be making a comeback following interest from a pair of investors. After the closure of the studio last year upcoming Telltale titles — such as The Wolf Among Us 2 –– were cancelled indefinitely but this news could mean that a revival of these games may be on the way. Skybound Games have also recently released The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Edition, a collection of all 4 seasons of The Walking Dead game alongside some bonus content such as concept art, music and commentaries. Due to this release, and the newfound hope for Telltale Games, now seems like a good time to reflect on the game that thrust Telltale into the spotlight: The Walking Dead. The series was halfway through its final season when Telltale closed its doors but Skybound Games jumped in to finish off the story of Clementine, the hugely beloved protagonist.

To commemorate The Walking Dead game series, I’ll be counting down 20 of the most memorable moments throughout the series.  A quick side note before we begin: when Telltale first closed down I wrote an article about the top ten moments from Telltale Games in general which included some Walking Dead moments. I will be using the same entries — with a few minor adjustments — if those moments find themselves on this list too, as my opinion has not changed.

*Major spoilers ahead for all 4 seasons of The Walking Dead.*

20. Kenny/Jane Flashback: A New Frontier

In Season Three, Clementine becomes a companion as the player takes on the role of a new character, Javier Garcia. We get some flashbacks as to what happened to Clementine in the gap between seasons two and three. There are multiple endings to season two, so it is the flashbacks that we get from two particular endings that are most memorable. In one ending Clementine can take baby A.J. and go with Kenny and in another she can leave with Jane. If the player leaves with Kenny, the flashback shows Kenny teaching Clementine how to drive. They get into an accident and Kenny is thrown through the windscreen, losing the feeling in his legs. To allow Clementine and A.J to escape, he uses himself as bait for walkers and gets eaten alive. This flashback is memorable for all the wrong reasons. It feels like a rushed and half thought out way of getting rid of Kenny to explain why Clementine is alone. For such a beloved character, it seems so wrong to merely dispose of him in order to wrap up a loose end. This ending for Kenny is an injustice to his character. Memorable doesn’t have to mean good! In the other flashback, Jane, Clementine and A.J return to Howe’s and are living comfortably enough. Jane sends Clementine to do a perimeter sweep but when she returns, she finds that Jane has hung herself. A distraught and confused Clementine finds a positive pregnancy test on the ground. This makes sense for Jane’s character. She was always a somewhat cold lone wolf who was uncomfortable with children. Finding out she was pregnant in a post-apocalyptic world would have been the worst possible outcome. She was a survivor who was willing to do whatever it took to stay alive and to have not one but two helpless babies in her care would not have been an option. There was also a somewhat selfish nature to Jane, so killing herself to avoid her pregnancy, and leaving Clementine and A.J alone, is a believable and fitting end to her story.

19. Clem Leaves to Search for A.J: A New Frontier

At the end of Season Three, Clem decides to venture out alone to search for A.J, the baby from Season Two who she had taken into her care. We see her navigating through walkers, taking them out confidently and with ease. This moment is a good representation of Clementine’s development through the years. Although she still had one more season to go, it was clear at this point just how much she has grown and matured since her introduction in season one. You can’t help but feel a connection with her if you have been playing the game since the beginning and seeing Clementine go it alone with a fierce determination about her made me feel proud of the person she had become.

18. Basement Scene: The Final Season

Something that I wasn’t expecting from The Final Season was a moment that felt like it was ripped straight out of a horror movie. Despite the horror zombie theme running through The Walking Dead series, it plays as an interactive point and click story rather than a horror game. In episode one of The Final Season, Clementine is locked in a basement with a character called Brody who has recently died. Clementine knows that Brody will turn into a walker soon, so she starts looking for a way to escape. The darkness of the basement is lit only by a flashlight which Clem goes to find. As she does, you can see that Brody’s body has gone. As the player maneuvers through the dark, disturbing noises can be heard as Brody slowly turns. It’s all very unsettling so I couldn’t help but feel a little unnerved. The creepiest moment comes when Clementine struggles to get the basement doors open and we then cut to Brody’s perspective as she approaches Clementine from behind. Just as Clem opens the doors, we see Brody’s zombified face appear behind her and drag her back into the dark. Of course, Clem survives the encounter but it is a genuinely scary moment due to the horror and suspense elements being crafted and utilized so well. It was a scene that left me feeling surprised, impressed and freaked out all at once.

17. Clementine’s Parents: Season One

From the beginning of the game, Clementine is certain that her parents are still alive and that she will find them. Voicemails left on Clementine’s house phone tell us that her father has been bitten but her mother’s fate is left ambiguous. Dialogue options allow the player to lie to Clementine but canon dialogue suggests that Lee is certain that they are both gone. This is more than likely the case but Clementine’s boundless optimism in the darkest of situations would give even the most cynical player some hope. When the group get to Savannah, Clementine is kidnapped and the final episode centres on Lee trying to get her back safely before his time runs out. He finally tracks her down in the hotel her parents had been staying and after covering her in walker guts to sneak her past a herd, Lee and Clementine begin their escape through the walker filled streets. As you navigate your way through the walkers, Clementine stops dead in her tracks with a horrified look on her face. We then see what has stopped her: the reanimated corpses of her parents aimlessly wandering the streets. It is in this moment that Clementine’s optimism is quashed. It doesn’t disappear entirely, but it certainly wanes from this point on. It is a turning point for her as a character as she has to stare the harsh reality of this new world in the face. There are no happy endings. There are only cold, hard facts. I myself was shocked by this too, having adopted some of Clementine’s positivity throughout my time playing. But I quickly realized that there was never really any hope for her parents, this was the harsh truth and perhaps I should have made Lee be more honest with Clementine about it from the start. This scene was impressive for the genuine gut punch it delivers as well as for being a pivotal moment for Clementine as a character.

16. The Walker Barn: The Final Season

An interesting new character from The Walking Dead: The Final Season is James, an ex-Whisperer who tries to convince Clementine that the walkers are more than just mindless monsters. When Clementine needs James to help her in the fight against Lilly, he only agrees on the condition that Clementine makes more of an effort to see things his way. To do this, Clem must don James’s walker skin mask and enter a barn full of walkers with the goal of touching the wind chime in the back. She reluctantly does so but when she reaches the wind chime and it starts to ring out, the walkers seem to look on in awe and confusion. James’s argument that there is a semblance of the person that they used to be within the walkers suddenly becomes far more convincing. The player can decide whether Clementine believes James might be right or not, but even if you remain unconvinced, it is hard not to see something vaguely resembling a human reaction when the walkers observe the wind chime. This is the first time in the game series that has suggested that there may be more to the walkers than first meets the eye. This is most likely not the case as Clementine later says, but it is hard not to see the expression in the eyes of the rotting corpses as they listen to the soft chimes. Jared Emerson-Johnson’s simple yet powerful music score for this moment is also one of the best in the entire game.

15. Clementine Dreams of Lee: The Final Season

Lee was such an important figure to Clementine as he taught her about survival and saved her life countless times so to see him again was a nice moment in The Final Season. Clementine dreams of Lee the night before she is due to lead an attack on Lilly and her group of raiders. She gets his advice and gives him an update of how things are going. Not only is it cool to see Lee’s updated character model in the new game engine, it is also good for Clementine to have one final moment with him to act as a form of closure to the series as a whole. I definitely felt emotional seeing Lee again, particularly when he comments on how big Clementine has gotten when he sees her at the age she is now. It was a great moment that wrapped up Lee and Clementine’s time together.

14. Duck Gets Bitten: Season One

Duck is one of the more polarising characters from The Walking Dead. Acting as the antithesis to the gentle and mild-mannered Clementine, Duck is the hyperactive, loud and somewhat irritating child of Kenny and Katjaa. Duck is well intentioned but it is difficult to find him anywhere near as likeable as Clementine. However, when it is revealed that he has been bitten by a walker in episode three, it is a sorrowful moment. Duck’s energy depletes more and more as he gets sick before either being put out of his misery by Lee or Kenny, or left to turn (depending on player choice). Kenny’s refusal to acknowledge the truth of Duck’s wound makes the situation all the more emotional. No matter what you thought of Duck, he was an innocent child who didn’t deserve the death he got. Duck’s bite and slow descent into death was memorable in that it showed that the game was very much in the same line as the corresponding comics. No one is safe.  Any man, woman or child can die at any second in this walker infested world.

13. Clementine and Sam: Season Two

A brief but memorable interaction from Season Two of The Walking Dead is Clementine’s time with a stray dog called Sam. She encounters him near an abandoned campsite and though wary of each other initially, the player can choose to interact with Sam in a way that suggests he could be a new companion for Clementine. It all seems to be going well until Clementine finds a can of food. Once she gets it open, the player can choose to offer some to Sam. No matter what they choose to do, Sam snatches the food and tries to eat it all. When Clementine tries to grab it back, Sam attacks her. He clamps his jaw onto her arm and the player must wrestle with the dog to stop him. Clementine kicks Sam just as he goes for her throat and he ends up being impaled on an old tent pole. This moment is  heart-breaking for both Clementine and the player. No matter how the player interacts with him, it is clear that Clementine and Sam like one another and she could have found herself a friend. As Sam lies dying, struggling and unable to move after his impalement, the player chooses whether they will leave Sam to die a slow and painful death or kill him outright to end his suffering. This is the final emotional blow in a scene that is already hard to watch.

12. Omid’s Death: Season Two

Another The Walking Dead scene that was difficult to watch was the opening moment from Season Two. Having lost Lee in the climax of Season One, Clementine becomes the playable character and is left with Omid and a heavily pregnant Christa. After stopping for a break at a gas station bathroom, Clementine makes the mistake of leaving her gun unattended. She ends up held at gunpoint with her own weapon as a teenage scavenger attempts to rob her. When Omid enters the bathroom to try and help Clementine, the shocked robber accidentally shoots him through the heart and kills him. Omid was one of the more likeable characters of Season One, despite being introduced late into the game, so to see him gunned down whilst attempting to protect Clementine is horrible. It is clear that Clementine blames herself for what happened due to leaving her gun to the side — as does Christa — which adds another dimension of sadness to this moment.

11. Katjaa’s Suicide: Season One

One of the most human and heart-breaking deaths in The Walking Dead game is Katjaa, Kenny’s wife and Duck’s mother. When Duck is bitten and on the verge of death, Katjaa and Kenny take him into the woods with the intent of putting him out of his misery. Although we don’t see it, we hear Katjaa suddenly turn the gun on herself. Katjaa was being incredibly strong about the situation and was far more grounded in reality about the situation then Kenny was. However, her sudden decision to take her own life made her character all the more tragic. Her strength faltered for one moment and she couldn’t handle it. Because of that, she made a split second decision. This was incredibly realistic and painful due to the sheer humanity of Katjaa’s thought process and her choice. The fact that it happens off screen and is still able to be so powerful is also testament to Telltale’s skill at constructing meaningful moments within their games.

10. Mariana’s Death: A New Frontier

You will probably notice that I haven’t included many entries from Season Three of The Walking Dead (also known as A New Frontier). It’s the weakest in the series of games and it doesn’t have quite as many iconic moments. However, there is one scene in particular that I always come back to when considering the game series as a whole. One of the faults of the series is, in my opinion, the decision to switch the focus to entirely new characters. Clementine is demoted to a supporting player in A New Frontier as the focus turns to Javier Garcia and his family. The characters aren’t nearly as easy to get emotionally attached to as the characters were in Season One and Season Two. Certain characters seem to act bitter and angry towards Javier no matter what dialogue you choose to use with them, such as Javier’s brother David and his nephew Gabe. Even Clementine seems surlier in this title (I can forgive her for that due to the fact that she is now a hormonal teenager). Despite that, there is one character that is sweeter in nature than the rest: Javier’s niece Mariana. Although the player only spends a small amount of time with her, her intelligence, maturity, creativity and soulful attitude instantly make her likeable. I couldn’t help but feel a connection to her and a desire to protect her, similar to the feeling that I got upon first meeting Clementine. At the end of the first episode, Mariana is suddenly shot through the head whilst retrieving her beloved headphones. It is not only a shock due to the unexpected nature of the moment but also emotional as Mariana is a good character who is still very young. For someone to callously shoot a little girl through the head is horrific, but very much aligned to The Walking Dead’s brutal style. Mariana’s death is similar to that of Duck’s, reminding us that children are certainly not safe from a gruesome death in this new and cruel world.

9. Lilly Returns: The Final Season

Lilly’s exit from The Walking Dead game was left open ended in Season One, no matter whether the player decides to leave her on the side of the road or not. Her return in The Final Season wasn’t a huge surprise due to trailers beforehand confirming her appearance but her relationship with Clementine is one of the more interesting elements. Clementine and Lilly had a good relationship in Season One. Though you don’t get to see much interaction between them, it is clear that Lilly cares for Clementine and wants to protect her as most of the other adults in the group do. In a sweet and familial gesture, Lilly is the one who gives Clementine the hair ties that she uses throughout the series. Things have obviously changed by the time that they meet again. Lilly is the lieutenant of a group of raiders from a haven called the Delta who are in search of soldiers to defend their home as they embark on a war with another group of survivors. This isn’t optional though and Lilly and her crew plan to kidnap those they want to recruit. They purposely travel to Ericson Boarding School to recruit the teenagers living there, having already taken some kids from Ericson beforehand.  It is here that Lilly meets Clementine again. Their meeting isn’t exactly a joyous one. Clementine is thrown to the ground; a boot is firmly planted on her neck and a gun pointed at the back of her head. It isn’t until Clem is kicked in the face that she is turned around and Lilly recognises her. The conversation between the two can differ depending on Lee’s actions in Season One. Lilly is harsh and disrespectful towards those who have died (not remembering Carley/Doug’s name and suggesting that Lee was a bad mentor) but if Lee showed her kindness then she has a slightly softer edge to her. If Clem chooses to acknowledge Lilly and not be aggressive, she will also be a tad more understanding. However, as the game progresses the relationship between the two gets even more strained and Clementine ends up going to war against Lilly with the Ericson kids. Lilly and Clementine’s reunion is very bittersweet. Lilly was always a tough character so a cheerful reunion wasn’t expected, but to see two people who were once like family turn to mortal enemies is saddening. The character development for both Lilly and Clementine that their meeting leads to is also an interesting element, making it one of the more memorable parts of the game series.

8. Lilly Shoots Carley/Doug: Season One

Episode Three of Season One of The Walking Dead is arguably the best episode of the entire series. So much happens in a short space of time and by the end of the episode, things are vastly different from how they started. Halfway through Episode Three, tensions are running high in the group of survivors. Lilly is close to breaking point due to having to watch her father die in brutal fashion in Episode Two.  When one of the group is found to be making a deal with bandits, Lilly is on a mission to find the culprit. As she tries to figure out who it was, she is pushed over the edge and snaps. She shoots Carley/Doug, whoever Lee saved in the first episode, and instantly kills them. The sudden death proved that Telltale weren’t afraid to kill off any of their characters and that everyone was expendable. It also showed how the horrors of the apocalypse can change people and turn them into ruthless killers. Lee is then left to choose whether to abandon Lilly on the side of the road or let her stay with the group, another tough player choice. The shocking murder and aftermath from Lee’s choice made for one of the most gripping episodes of the entire series.

7. Clementine Stitches Her Arm: Season Two

Clementine is shown to be a strong-willed and determined little girl, even from the very beginning of The Walking Dead game, when she was at her youngest. She continued to prove herself to be more than capable of surviving, but this moment in particular shows just how resilient she is. Clementine is left with a large gaping bite wound on her arm after the attack from Sam the dog. The new group she finds is suspicious of her bite so she is locked in a shed. After finding the items she needs to clean her wound and stitch it up, she sets about patching herself up. The player is forced to sew up Clem’s arm with a regular needle and watch as she screams and cries in pain. It’s hard enough to watch, but even harder having to control Clementine as she digs the needle into her flesh and her wound bleeds. Painful in every sense of the word, this moment not only shows that Clementine is more capable than most adults, yet alone an ordinary child, but also that Telltale are able to make their players squirm with a simple press of a button.

6. A.J. Shoots Marlon: The Final Season

One of the staples of The Final Season of The Walking Dead is the relationship between A.J and Clementine. A.J. was born in Season Two and after the death of his parents, Clementine adopts him as her own and raises him either alone, in Wellington or with Kenny or Jane depending on the player choice. No matter what the player chooses, Clementine is eventually reunited with A.J after he is taken from her by the New Frontier group from Season Three. She has been raising him ever since in a relationship that parallels the one between Clementine and Lee. The player has to be careful in what they say to A.J. as he is always paying attention, again in a similar fashion to how Clementine would take note of Lee’s actions (Clementine will remember that, after all). Being born into the apocalypse with no knowledge of the world before has made A.J tougher and less stable than Clementine was at his age. His decision to kill another human being at the end of the first episode shows just how warped his world view has become. Marlon is the leader of the Ericson Boarding School for Troubled Youths, where Clementine and A.J find themselves after the boarding school kids save them following a car accident. It is revealed at the end of the episode that Marlon has been making deals with bandits, letting them kidnap some of the students in exchange for leaving the others at the school in peace. Clementine confronts Marlon and they engage in a tense standoff with Marlon pointing his gun at Clem. It can end a couple of ways. Clementine can physically overpower Marlon or she can convince him to stand down and drop his weapon. What can’t be changed is A.J’s decision to shoot Marlon in the back of the head despite him surrendering. After he has killed Marlon, A.J. will then say that he did what Clementine told him to and he will repeat the phrase that she said to him earlier in the episode (either “aim for the head”, “don’t hesitate” or “save the last bullet for yourself” depending on player choice). The repercussions of Clementine’s teachings are highlighted here and I certainly started to wonder as to whether I had been teaching A.J the right things after this. In Season One, Clementine only killed when Lee was in mortal danger. This is not the same situation. Marlon had stood down. He had lowered his weapon. He was no longer a threat and yet A.J still found it necessary to kill him. I found myself feeling responsible for A.J.’s decision and that is what I believe makes this moment memorable. To engage the player enough for them to feel guilty on behalf of another character’s action is an impressive feat and Telltale pulls it off perfectly here.

5. The Return of Kenny: Season Two

The first Walking Dead season from Telltale was pretty brutal when it came to the final death count. One of those assumed casualties was Kenny, a lovable, albeit infuriating, character. His annoyance with player character Lee if you didn’t side with him at all times was a cause of frustration for many, but Kenny clearly had a good heart. When his family are taken from him, you can’t help but feel his pain. Although the death of his wife and child is a powerful moment in itself, Kenny’s return in Season Two represents some hope and light in an unforgiving world. Clementine is left entirely alone after the opening of Season Two so having a trusted person come back into her life, one she assumed was dead, is a positive thing for her. It is a far more positive outcome in comparison to her reunion with Lilly. Kenny goes through an interesting character arc as it becomes clear he is still fighting demons. He’s clearly traumatized by what happened to his family. He even seems to have regrets in the way he treated Lee, if the player did not always take his side. Kenny is a flawed but endearing character and his return allows for more character development, as well as giving Clementine a member of her new family back.

4. Clementine Gets Bitten: The Final Season

Toward the end of the last episode of The Final Season, the unthinkable happens: Clementine gets bitten. After an encounter with the brainwashed Minerva on a bridge, Clementine ends up with a massive axe wound on her leg. Unable to move quickly, she and A.J. end up trapped with walkers closing in. A.J. scrambles up a rock and attempts to help Clementine up after him. She isn’t able to move quickly enough and a pursuing walker bites her on the ankle. It is a horrible moment to watch, seeing the character that we have kept safe all this time finally meeting the fate that fans of the series were so afraid of. As Clementine checks her ankle, the player has to slowly open her boot and the tension is palpable as you do so. The music disappears and all you can hear is Clementine’s laboured breathing as she makes the discovery of teeth marks on her already mangled leg. Players who have completed the game know that this isn’t the end of Clementine –more on that later– but to see her grow weaker and weaker as she succumbs to her bite is pretty excruciating. A.J. and Clementine take shelter in a barn where she collapses to the ground, no longer able to move.  She props herself up and instructs A.J. on how to secure the area as walkers attempt to get in. The scene is a direct reflection of the Season One ending, where Lee teaches Clementine to defend herself and helps her escape, whilst he sits on the floor unable to move. It is harrowing to see Clementine succumbing to the same fate as her protector, as she also teaches her ward how to go it alone. The scene makes the story come full circle, with Clementine saying her last goodbyes to A.J. and asking him to kill her as Lee did (players can also decide to tell A.J. to leave her there as with Lee). The strong parallels with Season One symbolise the completion of Clementine’s journey with the player and it is a memorable, and particularly affecting, scene.

3. Lee Gets Bitten: Season One

In Season One, Clementine goes missing at the end of the fourth episode whilst the group is in Savannah looking for a boat to escape. Intent on finding her parents, Clementine puts her trust in a stranger and, of course, it ends badly. As Lee, the player starts searching the house they are holed up in to try and find her. Lee becomes panicked as he spots Clementine’s hat and her radio outside of the fence. As the player reaches down to pick up the radio, a hidden walker lashes out and takes a bite out of Lee’s wrist. I still remember playing this part of the game for the first time years ago. I remember feeling absolute shock as the camera panned down to reveal the bite mark on Lee’s wrist. Lee starts to panic, saying “No!” over and over, and clutching at his wrist. His reaction wasn’t too different from my own. As soon as you realize he has been bitten, you know he is going to die. I had grown attached to Lee’s character as he had brilliant development through the series as well as an interesting arc and back story. Knowing that this was the end for him was so upsetting. Tension and anticipation also make up the scene, with the radio crackling as the player approaches just before Lee picks it up. You can tell something is going to happen, but can’t be sure what. This masterful approach to suspense, combined with the genuinely saddening and emotional moment, and Dave Fennoy’s fantastic voice acting, is what makes Lee’s bite one of the most memorable moments in The Walking Dead series.

2. Clementine is Alive!: The Final Season

After Clementine is bitten, we see A.J swing his axe down before the screen cuts to black. It’s assumed that he has put Clem out of her misery, and we begin playing as A.J. A.J is going about life at Ericson and catching some fish for dinner when he sees Clementine’s hat floating down the river (Clem lost her hat during the attack on Lilly and the raiders). As he carries the hat back to Ericson, Alela Diane’s ‘Take Us Back’ starts to play and some of the other kids join him on the way. This is the same song that plays during the credits of Season One, so it is assumed that this is the end of the game. A.J. has finally found a home and is living out his life with the boarding school kids whilst remembering the teachings that Clem gave him, just as Lee did for Clementine. However, upon his return we see that Clementine is actually alive but now missing a leg. Again, this is a moment that I remember well as I felt such emotion upon playing it. I think I may have audibly cheered. I had shed a tear over Clementine’s faux death — just as I did over Lee — and had resigned myself to the fact that she was gone. Seeing her limp onto screen, crutch in tow, was such a brilliant moment. Of course, if you think about it too much it doesn’t make that much sense. How could A.J, who can’t be more than 6 or 7, have managed to cut off a grown teenager’s leg? The axe he used was also covered in walker blood so surely if Clementine hadn’t bled out, she would have still been infected. How did A.J manage to get Clem back to the school by himself before she died of blood loss?? These are all valid questions which would usually seriously bug me, but I honestly did not care for any of it. All I cared about was that this character, who I had come to love after protecting her and watching her grow up and survive in a new and brutal world, was alive. Clementine has become such a beloved character amongst the gaming community that Skybound were able to save the game from complete cancellation. That wouldn’t have happened if the players hadn’t resonated with her the way that they did. We, as a community, needed the conclusion of her story and, thanks to Skybound, we were able to see her get the ending she deserved. The player’s role of Clementine ends in the barn as the player takes on the role of A.J. in the epilogue as he chats to Clem. Melissa Hutchison gives an impressive and tearful performance as Clem as she asks A.J. if she has done a good job taking care of him after spending so much time running and looking for somewhere to call home. She then hands over her hat to A.J., hanging it up for good, both physically and symbolically. Again, the emotion is potent here as we have experienced everything that Clementine has been through to finally get to this point. She can rest now, even if it is with only one leg. Clementine surviving her bite may not be entirely logical, but if there is anyone who deserves a happy ending (or as happy an ending as you can get from The Walking Dead) it is certainly our sweet pea Clementine. Lee will remember that.

1. Goodbye Lee:  Season One

Having played through Season One of Telltale’s The Walking Dead multiple times, I can say with honesty that I still cry at the ending. Moving, brutal and emotionally crippling, Season One culminates with Lee succumbing to his bite and suffering one of two fates, depending on player choice. Choice one is to be shot in the head by Clementine, the little girl who you’ve given your life to protect. Choice two is to be left to turn into a walker, arguably a fate worse than death. So there are no winners here, no matter what you pick. Lee is an excellent protagonist, his dark past makes him a criminal and this contradicts his role of protector to Clementine. He isn’t perfect. He has made mistakes and continues to do so as you play. But he is believable as a flawed, but ultimately well-meaning, man. A man who sees his opportunity to redeem himself by saving, and taking care of, Clementine. To see him bitten at the end of episode four is a painful moment but watching him deteriorate through episode five, and eventually die, is excruciating. You feel a connection with him, a person struggling to do the right thing and protect those he cares about, despite the end of the world situation. As he and Clementine have a final moment together, it becomes clear that it has all led to this. That you have taught her how to survive, how to behave, but also how to say goodbye. The final words and last goodbye that he and Clementine share are, in my opinion, the most powerful and memorable of any Telltale game. And make sure to keep that hair short.

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Definitive Series is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows.

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‘Final Fantasy VIII’: A Beloved Black Sheep

If the the general operative way to make a sequel to a massive success like Final Fantasy VII would be to give people more of the same, only bigger and better, Squaresoft opted for something of a different approach.

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When Final Fantasy VII emerged on the scene back in 1997, it changed the way gamers looked at, and experienced, JRPGs. With its flashy cutscenes, cool aesthetic and myriad of anime badasses, Final Fantasy VII pulled off the seemingly impossible task of making RPGs cool. It also gave RPGs a breath of fresh air, exposing them to the mainstream and earning them a much bigger slice of the gaming industry. Then came Final Fantasy VIII.

If the the general operative way to make a sequel to a massive success like Final Fantasy VII would be to give people more of the same, only bigger and better, Squaresoft opted for something of a different approach. In fact, Final Fantasy VIII was so wildly different from its predecessor that it wouldn’t be stretch to call them polar opposites.

Where FFVII took place in a world that was dark, moody and foreboding, FFVIII was bright, colorful and drenched in sunlight. Where VII began in the desolate slums of a fascist, dystopian nightmare, VIII opened in the sort of beautifully-rendered, futuristic facility that would be right at home in paradise. Though Final Fantasy VI  and VII were separated by an entire hardware generation, there similar venues of dark steampunk and darker cyberpunk make them far more comparable in terms of their look and feel then VII and VIII.

Final Fantasy VIII

Beautiful scenes like this would be wildly out of place in Final Fantasy VIII’s predecessors.

The characters were just as distinctly different. There were no caped monster men or gun-armed maniacs here, just 6 high school students of relatively similar age, build and disposition. From the magic system to the way experience was garnered, from the way that weapons were upgraded to the method with which players earned money, Final Fantasy VIII re-did literally everything VII had built, right from the ground up.

This comparison goes a long way toward explaining Final Fantasy VIII and its strangely disjointed place in the series. Where VI, VII, IX and are all fondly and widely remembered, VIII is more stridently beloved by a small group of loyalists. Despite its strong reviews and fantastic salesFinal Fantasy VIII found itself slipping further and further from the series’ limelight as the years passed by.

Now, however, with the release of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, the black sheep of the mainline Final Fantasy franchise has gained a new lease on life. As one of the last of the golden age titles in the series to finally reach a mass market rerelease, FFVIII finally has a chance to redeem itself from years of teasing and jibes about its confounding junction system and endlessly plot-twisting time compression storyline.

Final Fantasy VIII

Despite the games often sunny disposition, scenes of nail-biting suspense were often just around the corner.

Getting down to brass tacks, there was indeed a LOT to learn from the outset. Critics of the game are absolutely right in one respect: this game is complicated. If that weren’t readily apparent, the seemingly never-ending stream of tutorials that unfold over the course of the games first 10 hours oughta clue you in real quick. How to junction a GF, how to draw magic, how to junction magic, how to switch junctions, etc. You’ll be reading the word junction so much, you’ll think you’re watching an educational special.

With that said, though, once you’d finally mastered the many idiosyncratic elements of the junction system, you’d never felt more powerful in your life. Junctioning Ultima to strength, Full-Life to HP, and casting some Aura magic could make short work of just about any threat the game threw at you, and that’s just one of dozens of strategies that the malleable junction system provided players with. As Quistis points out early on, junctioning a status effect like blind or sleep to your elemental attack attribute could render seemingly insurmountable enemies relatively harmless in one fell stroke.

Of course, the complex nature of such a system could not be overstated. If anyone were to read this who hadn’t played the game, I’m sure it would come across as absolute jibberish. That’s part of the charm of Final Fantasy VIII though: like many a beloved cult classic, this game is as uncompromising and unabashedly against the grain as a sequel we might get from the likes of David Lynch.

Few JRPGs are peppered with as much colorfully silly levity as Final Fantasy VIII.

The same goes for the magic system. While drawing magic from draw points and enemies is initially confusing, the amount of freedom it gives the player to stock up on spells and utilize them for a myriad of purposes was utterly earth-shattering. The fact that entire GFs (Guardian Forces) could be missed just because the player forgot to check the draw options on a particular boss was the kind of kick in the general genital region that made a game like Final Fantasy VIII worth going back to at least once more after completion.

Upgrading weapons with collected materials was also very different. No more just buying the next awesome sword from a new vendor, the player would instead need to find a Weapons Monthly issue for the information on the upgrade, and then mine the respective materials needed to improve their weapon. Finally, the SeeD salary system ranked and evaluated the player as they made their way through the game. No more earning a shower of gil just for offing a few enemies, if you weren’t representing the SeeDs and Gardens in an optimal fashion, your pay would suffer as a result.

Outside of gameplay, these wild 180 degree turns continued in Final Fantasy VIII‘s plotline.  Following the hard science fiction bent of the story of FFVIII could be a task in and of itself. A game that ostensibly begins with high school mercenaries being dispatched to aid rogue organizations around the world eventually evolves into an endless battle across space and time with a sorceress from the future. Meanwhile, some of the most seemingly important plot points in the game, such as Squall’s parentage, or the party’s connection with Laguna and company, are resolved only in the background. Players looking to piece together the many disparate elements of this story will have to put on their Dark Souls helmets and do a bit of individual exploration if they want answers.

The keyart for the game, presented after the opening cinematic, immediately makes the focus of Final Fantasy VIII clear.

The way the game focused on love as an essential motivation is also unique to the series. Though there had been love stories in Final Fantasy games prior to this, they never offered this much depth and emotion. Essentially the central character arc of the game, that of Squall Leonhart, is that of a damaged, emotionally bereft man opening up and learning to love again after suffering loss in the form of childhood traumas. The importance of this focus cannot be overstated. Final Fantasy VIII is a love story first and foremost, and anyone who might doubt that prospect need look no further than the keyart that accompanies the title sequence.

This focus on love, and its healing power, offers Squall perhaps the most fascinating character arc of any in the Final Fantasy franchise. Ostensibly a cold, apathetic loner at the outset, Squall transforms over the course of the story into a man who’s willing to throw caution to the wind if it means saving his friends or his love. Take, for example, the sequence toward the end of the game wherein Squall hurtles himself into the depths of space to save Rinoa, with absolutely no plan on how he might make his return. His love is so important to who he is, and what it has made him, that he would rather die than let it go.

The defining moment for this character, Squall, is unimaginable to players who first meet him sulking and brooding his way through the little monologue snippets that play in his mind. Even in the middle of the story, he opts to send Zell to save Rinoa from a potentially fatal fall, only going himself when there appears to be no other option. This gradual arc from stoic and closed off to open and supportive is still fascinating over 20 years later, and one of the key charms of Final Fantasy VIII.

The heartfelt love story between Squall and Rinoa remains one of the games greatest strengths all these years later.

Back in the fold and better than ever after 2 decades, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered has given the beloved black sheep of the Final Fantasy family a new lease on life, and a second chance to redefine its legacy. Whether it’s your first time venturing into this mad little piece of fiction or you’re coming back for the 10th replay, there’s never been a better, or more convenient, way to experience this one of a kind story.

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Freelance Film Writers

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. We are currently looking for Indie Game reviewers.

Learn more by clicking here.

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