I’m not sure what motivated me to make this list but a contributing factor was probably my own personal interest. I was genuinely interested to see what I’d put. I had a good idea of what the first three or four were going to be, but after that I honestly wasn’t sure how the cards would eventually be dealt. I’m 30 years old and have been playing video games since the early 90s, so there was a pretty big sample size upon which I could pick from.
As it was, I’ve enjoyed the process of narrowing them down, and it was the anticipation of this enjoyment that ultimately led me to do it. Will this list always be the same? Probably not. I’ve found my tastes and preferences have changed over the years, and I have no doubt that they’ll change again as I continue to age. However, right now in February/March 2018, these are my Top Twenty Favourite Video Games.
And that’s all they are by the way, my own personal favourites. This isn’t supposed to be an objective list, and it’s based heavily on my own narrow preferences. As a general rule, I prefer platformers and sports games, so expect quite a few of those to feature. I have no real love of turn-based combat or Japanese RPGs, so Final Fantasy fans, I’m warning you in advance that you won’t see a single FF game on here. I’m not saying they’re bad games, I’m just saying they’re not my own personal cup of tea.
Put. Down. The Pitchforks.
And with that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s finish off the list, shall we?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo version)
I’ve gone for the Super Nintendo version over the arcade one for this game because it was the version I played and fell in love with all those years ago. I was a huge Teenage Mutant Hero (they wouldn’t let them use the word “ninja” in the UK) Turtles fan and used to watch it religiously. I’d played the Turtles game for the Nintendo Entertainment System which was, if we’re being diplomatic, a tad disappointing.
However, when I first played Turtles in Time, I was blown away as it was everything I ever wanted from a Turtles game. You pick one of the four Turtles, with an option for a friend to also get involved, and mow your way through numerous Footsoldiers and other villainous henchmen in a quest to rescue the Statue of Liberty, which has been stolen by the nefarious tandem of Krang and Shredder.
There’s nothing overly complex about the controls. You have an attack and jump button, which if pressed together at the same time will see you do a life-sapping special attack, and you can essentially mash your way to victory should you desire. Each level features a boss character from the TV Show, be it the hideous man-fly Baxter Stockman or the rabid Slash the Turtle. Each Boss has their own special moves and attack patterns, which you will have to memorise to ensure you can minimise the damage they do to you.
As the name suggests, the game sees the Turtles sent through a time vortex by the evil Shredder and having to fight their way home, which makes for numerous interesting destinations, such as a pirate ship and a moving Wild West train.
Having since played the arcade version, it obviously has higher quality sound and runs smoother in general, but I do enjoy the SNES version more. I prefer the selection of bosses on the console version and also like how some of the levels are designed differently.
Regardless of which version you play, Turtles in Time is a lot of fun, and I’ve sunk many an hour into it over the years.
Grand Theft Auto V (Multiple Platforms)
I initially held out on buying GTA V when it first hit consoles during the seventh generation. It wasn’t because I didn’t think it looked good, because I definitely thought it did, but it was mostly because I knew it required a lot of space on the hard drive to install. At the time, I didn’t have much space on my Xbox 360 hard drive, so I decided I’d invest in a bigger hard drive first before buying it. As it turned out, I never bought that bigger hard drive and just kind of forgot about GTA V.
Thankfully, GTA V was so popular that it eventually saw a re-release to consoles during the eighth gen, which was when I first picked it up. I remember it vividly now as it was during Christmas 2014, and I basically spent my Christmas break from work playing it endlessly. I wasn’t so much engrossed as I was addicted to it. Los Santos feels like a fully functioning and living City, and it’s not difficult to be consumed by it.
There are thousands of computer generated people, cars and animals, all getting on with their own existence as you go about your, often nefarious, business whilst playing as one of the three central characters.
As you stroll down by the beach, people are walking their dogs or are chatting on their phones. I randomly passed a gruff, middle aged black man who was in the middle of a phone call with his wife as he was blaming her for his erectile dysfunction. This actually happened, they paid an actor to come in and read the lines for this, on the 1,000/1 off chance that someone might randomly hear it.
The level of detail to the little things in this game is both incredibly impressive and also a little bit terrifying. I’ve spoken to people who don’t even bother with the story missions. They just boot up the game and go for a drive in the Los Santos sun. I spent a good 20 minutes during one play session just going for a walk and taking pictures.
When you can tear yourself away from the scenery, the game itself is excellent. The game is built around three crooks (Michael, Franklin and Trevor) that are looking to complete a number of heists in order to make ends meet. Michael has been forcibly retired for nearly a decade but is getting the itch to get back in. Franklin is a young wannabe gangster from the streets who is looking for his first big job. And then there’s Trevor. I don’t think I can adequately explain just how bizarre Trevor is, you’ll have to play the game. The man is a freaking cucaracha though, no mistake.
All in all, this game will eat into your free time. No matter how late it is or how long you’ve been playing, it’s very hard to fight the urge to complete just one more mission.
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 (Nintendo 64)
Without question, VPW2 is my all-time favourite wrestling game. Using the same THQ/AKI game engine found in games like No Mercy, VPW2 differs in that its roster is made up of wrestlers from the All Japan Pro Wrestling company as opposed to the WWF or WCW. Along with the All Japan grapplers are unlicensed unlockable wrestlers which have all the correct moves and can be edited to look like their real life counterparts.
As someone who is a big fan of 90s era All Japan, I was in absolute hog heaven when I first got my hands on VPW2. All the big hitters from the timeframe are included, with Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue and Jun Akiyama all present and correct. You also have the option to unlock Japanese legends, such as Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki and Genichiro Tenryu.
Anyone who has played a THQ/AKI N64 game shouldn’t find it too hard to get used to the controls, but the game has some really nice touches to make it feel authentically Japanese. For instance, one of the arenas you can fight in is the world famous Tokyo Dome which has an entrance ramp going all the way up to the ring. This means the fight can spill onto the ramp, and you can deliver punishing manoeuvres onto it, as well as dive out onto it to smack a helpless rival. In addition to that, wrestlers will sometimes pop straight back up from getting suplexed by their foes and deliver a big running strike to flatten their opponents, just like in the real AJPW.
The game truly feels like Japanese wrestling and captures so much about it that fans enjoy. You also have the option to fight under Mixed Martial Arts rules with a host of big name fighters from the day, such as Minoru Suzuki and Nobuhiko Takada. The MMA fighters actually control differently from their pro wrestling counterparts, and they’ll even stubbornly block Irish Whips.
If you love yourself some 90s Puroresu, then this game is a must have. I just love it!
International Superstar Soccer Pro 98 (PlayStation)
Konami’s fall from the status of respected games developer and publisher to a veritable living, breathing shit show has provided me with no joy. As this list will have no doubt shown, Konami have been responsible for some of my favourite games of all-time, so it hurts even more to see them in their current miserable form.
It wasn’t always like this, it really wasn’t. Once upon a time, Konami was a label that promised quality and excellence. Once upon a time, seeing a game was developed or published by Konami was cause for optimism. Not anymore, sadly, but back in 1998 you could still rely on Konami to deliver the goods, as they did in spades with ISS Pro 98.
Released not far apart from the exceptional FIFA 99, both games represented an impressive one-two punch in the footy genre, giving video game enthusiasts a choice between two brilliant yet different games. FIFA 99 was a higher tempo arcade experience which often saw high score lines and long searing runs. By comparison, ISS was more based around simulation and the possession game.
ISS Pro 98 is the first football game where I ever really enjoyed the act of passing. Passing in ISS Pro 98 is snappy, accurate and satisfying, something that a lot of other games from the time period couldn’t replicate. Whereas FIFA 99 would allow you to bomb from one end of the pitch to the other and welly the opposing goal with shot after shot, running with the ball in ISS Pro 98 is far more unwieldy, meaning you have to be sensible about when you run as it will make it much easier for the opposing team to dispossess you.
Shots and crosses make a delightful thudding noise when you strike the ball, and the late Tony Gubba provides decent commentary for the time period. Sometimes he can sound a tad wooden, but in general the standard is better than the usual low one for these sorts of games at the time.
The game doesn’t include any licensed players and only features international teams, but Konami have done a great job recreating the accurate kits of the time, and the game includes an edit mode that lets you rename players.
Ultimately, the lack of license doesn’t hurt the game because it’s just so enjoyable to play. I still go back to ISS Pro 98 for a kick about to this day. It’s my favourite football game ever, and I’ve played a chuffing lot of them in my time!
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (Super Nintendo)
As previously mentioned in last week’s article, the original Donkey Kong Country is one of my favourite games of all time. Everything from the gameplay, the graphics and the soundtrack in the original DKC is utterly wonderful, so DKC 2 had an uphill struggle to live up to its popular elder sibling. Thankfully, not only does DKC 2 match its predecessor, but it even exceeds it in many areas.
The big change between the two games is that you don’t actually get to play as Donkey Kong in DKC 2. Whereas in the previous game the nefarious Kremlins had stolen DK’s banana hoard, for the sequel they decided to skip lugging away all the fruit and just nab DK himself, with the plan to hold him ransom for said bananas.
Deciding not to give in to terrorist demands, DK’s best buddy, Diddy Kong, decides to venture to the Kremlins’ home base of Crocodile Island and jolly well rescue him. However, Diddy’s girlfriend, Dixie, decides that she isn’t going to let him have all the fun and comes along with him to provide some much needed support.
What I like about the relationship between Diddy and Dixie is that they are presented far more as equals than Donkey and Diddy were. In the first DKC, Donkey is very much the star of the show, and Diddy is his little mate tagging along. In DKC 2, both Diddy and Dixie are equally capable of saving the day, and there’s far more of a focus on teamwork as the two can throw one another to reach certain sections and kill enemies.
The soundtrack is still fantastic, with David Wise coming back to create even more atmospheric tunes, such Bayou Boogie and Stickerbrush Symphony. The bad guys now have a pirate theme, with big, bad King K. Rool even changing his name to Captain and donning a cannon to shoot at our brave duo.
As a young player, I was blown away by this game. It was everything I could have wanted from a DKC sequel and more, and I played it almost non-stop. I remember that the day I got it I was incredibly ill and had been bedridden for a couple of days. I couldn’t bring myself to eat, and I hadn’t had any real sleep due to feeling so poorly. Feeling bad for me, my mum decided to pick DKC 2 up for me as I’d mentioned it to her after playing it at my child minder’s house.
Seeing the game and being promised that, if I could get a good night’s sleep, I could play it the next day willed me on to start getting over my illness, and I did indeed manage to get some shut eye. It’s been so long ago that I can’t even remember what illness I had, but I vividly remember the feeling I got when I saw that box come out of the plastic bag.
DKC 2 is not just a great game that is playable and looks great even today, but it’s also a game that stirs up so many memories and feelings within me. I’m not saying it’s objectively the best game ever or even one of the greatest, but it will forever hold a special place in my heart. In some ways, it’s almost a part of me, and for that reason it tops this list.
I’d like to thank you for joining me on this month-long journey. Why not share your favourite games in the comments?
Seeing as when this gets posted we’ll be around a month out from WWE WrestleMania, I’ll be doing some retro wrestling articles over the coming weeks to tie in with it. Hopefully, you’ll join me next week for some retro grappling action!
Thanks for reading
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave