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Bydo Haven't I met you before?
I cannot praise R-Types enough. It is without a doubt the best game I've played in years. It is also quite possibly the most difficult game I've finished, with the second half of R-Type's 7th stage being one of the hardest and best designed single moments in any game. After the thousands of deaths, finally delivering the fatal blast to the boss was truly exhilirating. R-Types sparked in me a tremendous interest in shooters, but nothing has beaten - or come close - to this game.

Castlevania III
Braving the masts of the pirate ship
Fights against fire-breathing serpents who emerge from the depths; escaping a sinking, ancient temple; swinging from pendulum to pendulum over an abyss as bats swoop towards you - THIS is the sort of excitement that fills Castlevania III's 17 stages, inexhaustible in their creativity and challenges. My favorite platformer ever.

Super Mario All Stars
Admit it if you too were killed by this Goomba the first time you 

played this game Sky Land, possibly my favorite world
By the time I got Super Mario All Stars (when it was rereleased in the late '90s) I had already finished the NES Mario games countless times. Was it worth it to buy this, then? Absolutely! The Lost Levels, the original Japanese sequel to Super Mario Bros., was great enough by itself to justify buying this collection. I thought the original Super Mario Bros. was a fantastic and challenging game, but how would I have thought of it if it were not my first game ever? The Lost Levels, played over ten years after it was made, also proved how well the Mario series has aged, and how challenging they really can be. When I recently played SMB and the Lost Levels, I was amazed by how fast they were, easily the fastest sidescrollers I've played (faster than Ninja Gaiden, faster than Strider 2, faster than Sonic). Super Mario Bros. 3 kept most of the action, added lots of twists, bonuses, secrets, and was so overloaded with ideas it took over 100 stages to accommodate them all.

Vagrant Story
Like all great games, Vagrant Story was made by people who were not afraid - certainly not afraid of frustrating or overwhelming players. Nothing was simplified; nothing was held back; nothing was compromised. Vagrant Story is certain to crush RPG players who use no strategy beyond selecting "fight" in round after round. For those who can embrace the challenge, Vagrant Story's complexity will be delicious. The weapon system is incredibly complicated, and the combos allow skill, despite this being an RPG. Whether you favor the weapons or the combos, you'll always be thinking. Also, Vagrant Story has the best translation I've seen in a videogame, and an intriguing story (and completely unlike the cliches usually seen in RPGs) that rewards careful attention and close analysis.

Final Fantasy IV
Bounty and Mercy For the sake of all 

those living on the earth, I will destroy you!
First played in 1991, it was obvious that Final Fantasy 4 was something special. This has only grown more apparent over time, as few later good RPGs have remained completely unaffected by FF4's influence. Perhaps not novel material, FF4's story was perfect as a game story, with twists that broke the game out of the "level 1, level 2" formula of older games, making the game unpredictable but still organized. While it contained some typos that could grate on my nerves, the original U.S. translation is actually underrated, containing many great lines, and Cecil's evolving personality still comes through strongly. But FF4's greatest triumph was its active time battles, which added speed and excitement to menu driven battles. But FF4 didn't merely introduce ATB; it perfected it with various creative minor and boss battles and skills. About half of the boss battles in Chrono Trigger are based on the CPU boss from FF4.

GoldenEye 007
Remember: You are licensed to kill Beautiful, lonely hunting grounds
There is so much to Goldeneye, and so much of it is so great. I especially admire the subtle brillance of the levels' designs. The game offers nearly limitless challenge: Three difficulty levels (which progressively add goals as well as more dangerous enemies); "Cheats", which both alter the experience of the game when used, and require speed and skill to earn; and multiple ways of playing with other people. This is the last super-popular game I've played which I felt deserved its popularity.

This classic R-Type boss has never looked cooler The Bydo World looks most alien and atmospheric in R-Type Delta
R-Type III was disappointing; THIS was the R-Type sequel we were waiting for! R-Type Delta has the meticulously crafted stages and streams of bullets that provide the thrills, intensity and difficulty connoisseurs have come to expect from the series. You can choose from 4 ships, which are actually different enough that strategies can change drastically from ship to ship. Delta also has a "note" section for even more replay goals.

Final Fantasy Tactics
Most of Final Fantasy Tactics is random battles. Thank goodness, then, that FFT has the variety, customization potential, and tactics needed to keep these battles fresh. My favorite class was probably the ninja class. And my least favorite enemies were probably those squid-headed characters that can control your mind.

Mars Matrix
Just read the review, will ya'?

Okay, okay, Mars Matrix is a fantastic shooter that packs the screen full of more bullets than you can probably believe (the above static screen shots don't quite do it justice), and your ship's mosquito attack - which lets you absorb bullets and spit them out - is creative and fun to use. I can play this game for score for hours.

Cool alien settings In the belly of 

MDK 2 was a learning experience for me. But that's just fine with me - if there's ever a time when games have nothing more to teach me, I'll find a new art to admire. At first I didn't like MDK 2's control scheme (it seemed like the characters had a propensity to crab walk) but by the end of the game, I wouldn't have had it any other way. This game has a perfect camera system - always behind your back, and you're always in control. The game is so difficult that without its control scheme and perfect camera, some parts would have been nigh impossible. Many areas had a mystery to figure out; others were full-on action. And the game culminated in one of gaming's great bosses.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
I love Simon's Quest, but Symphony of the Night was a big improvement over it as a Castlevania adventure game. SotN might not yet have boss fights good enough for it to be an action game, but the bosses that it has are better than the wusses in Simon's Quest. SotN also has more exploration and does not have Simon's Quest's rather unfair mysteries. SotN carries on the Castlevania tradition of looking and sounding fantastic. It also has references to some older Castlevania games, which I considered a treat.

Thunder Force V
Free Range in action Guardian Knight is one 

of the best TFV bosses
Perfect control, a great soundtrack, and plenty of action - what more do you need? Thunder Force V kicks ass!

Ys Book 1 and 2
Dark Fact Temple of the Goddesses
Of all the Turbo games I've played, Ys Book I and II is the one that has best lived up to their hype. The music, from the CD, is fabulous - but even that takes a back seat to the classic RPG adventure gameplay - foremost, the fight system. Killing 100 enemies to build a level is actually fun when you can kill one enemy per second. Ys 1 is short but packed with mazes and mysteries - an RPG quickplay. Ys II is longer and harder.

Super Metroid
Landing on Zebes Return of the Mother 

Okay, I'll admit it - I think I would have liked Super Metroid more if it had more action, and better boss fights towards the end. But even so, there were a couple of puzzles that stumped me for a day or so. Both the puzzles and the suggestions of story were incredible, considering the game had no dialogue past the beginning of the game. Overall, Super Metroid had plenty of atmosphere and exploration in Zebes's large alien, icky or mechanical settings. It feels fulfilling to build Samus's power.

Yoshi's Island
Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy Sluggy the Unshaven
The Super FX2 chip within Yoshi's Island made the game's fluid special effects slither. And the 12 bosses were all unique and very cool. Getting 100% in all 6 worlds should keep you exploring for quite a while.

Contra 3
I enjoyed the NES Contra games, but I didn't think they were as challenging as they could have been. Enter Contra III. Contra III is one of the tightest action games ever devised - its 6 stages are somewhat short, but they are loaded with one memorable set piece after another.

Final Fantasy
Temple of Fiends These guys are a good source 

of gold early in the game
After Final Fantasy 7's financial success, it can be hard to imagine the conditions Final Fantasy was released in. While other RPGs beat FF to U.S. shores, it was one of the first made, and it was still uncommon to see, at any given visit to a store, an RPG among the action games. But Final Fantasy wasn't just a novelty; it was a truly great game that made me overlook that skill was not required. It might be tempting to say this game is easy aside from the patience needed to gain levels, but then you'd have to forget how tricky it was to find the airship or the caravan. If you're really crazy, you can try playing the game with a party of all white mages, like I am in the above pictures.

Victory!  Even if I beat a loser!
Mr. Dream - One of the greatest bosses ever. You'll need reflexes and restraint, strategy and intuition to beat him. This game's control is extremely simple, but the final boss takes this game to its limit. But the whole game is not merely the final boss - losers like Glass Joe are punching bags even for beginners, and other opponents have patterns or gimmicks that make them challenging at first, and fun during rematches.

Super Punch Out
Super PunchOut!! has the same style of play as PunchOut!!!, but with a few more moves for more variety, and, even better, more opponents with a lot more patterns. In my opinion, the early characters in Super PunchOut might be more fun to replay than the early characters in PunchOut.

Donkey Kong Country 2
The roller coaster rides are among my favorite 

Yes, it's a Mario knock-off. But it's a great Mario knock-off - not to mention the best and most challenging of the Donkey Kong Country series.

A sorcerer is revived, centuries after a great war, from cryostatis to prevent an emperor from gaining the power of a flying tower. Amazingly, this tale concludes in a way such that there are no truly fantastic elements - the explanation for everything fits within the bounds of logic. Call me naive, but some parts of this game touched me, like when you meet a rabbit whose owner has died. The game itself is perfected adventure, with many mazes, and mysteries that frequently stumped me.

Castlevania is one of the oldest NES games with great art and music, and the final boss fight required rhythm and anticipation.

Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest
A body part of Dracula lies within Transylvania in autumn
What was up with the back of this game's box? It showed jumping zombies in town at night, even though they can't do that in the game.

I'd love to write a more serious synopsis for this game, but it'll have to wait until I get an answer for that question.

Gravity Flip! Check out the R-Type 

Warships in the background!
At first glace, MetalStorm seems to be a fun walk-and-shoot platformer, whose clever gravity flip feature distinguishes it from other platform games. But as fun as the first quest is, the extremely difficult second quest is when MetalStorm's true brilliance emerges.

Super Mario Kart
Koopa Beach Power Sliding on Rainbow Road
Remember OutRun? It - and other racing games of its time - usually had either a horizon a few feet in front of your car, or it felt as though the road itself was twisting beneath you, rather than as though you were approaching a turn and moving through it. Mode 7 and F-Zero changed that, allowing the entire track to exist at once and for you to see from one end to the other of it. Super Mario Kart followed F-Zero's lead, but adds better track design and two player modes (many of which were suitable for matches between players of any difference in skill level). And the 150 cc mode is truly tough.

Super Mario RPG
Panoramic Vista Fight Scene
It's a Mario game, it's an RPG, it's fun! Yay!

Street Fighter 2
SHORYUKEN! This picture would have had more 

excitement if I didn't have to control both characters and take the screenshot myself
Who remembers this: Starting a two player game by yourself, then dragon punching (or trying to) from left to right across the screen. Then, turning around and dragon punching back, right to left. Street Fighter 2 was the first fighting game as we now know them, and, fittingly, it was my first. That meant I had to do a lot of practicing to get the moves down, and at first this was not like playing any other game; it was like doing something totally new and different for the first time. There couldn't have been a better first fighter, though: The game's first (of 8) difficulty levels could let anyone play the game (though not see the ending) and beating the highest difficulty will only come after practicing much time on your dragon punch.

Miniboss Holy Crap
Compile's 1986 shooter, Zanac, packed the screen with more bullets than you might think the NES capable of handling, if you didn't see it for yourself. And with no slowdown, no less. There are only a few things to distinguish this game's 12 stages from each other, but the game's random A.I. keeps excitement high from beginning to end.

Also notable is Zanac X Zanac, a revival on the Playstation, which includes a new Zanac game and -- even better -- a remake of Zanac which includes many options for playing the classic in various ways.

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