Atlus/R&D1 - PSX
I have not yet played the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy Tactics, but I have played and finished Kartia - a decent PSX strategy RPG. Kartia has two different main characters, and each has their own completely separate quest. But only by playing through both quests will you understand the full story, since they tie in with each other at various points. Kartia uses an interesting rock-paper-scissors system with the three different kinds of "Phantoms" that you can create in battle to fight enemy phantoms. Kartia also has one of the most well-written stories in a game that I've seen.
MEGA MAN 2
Capcom - NES
Although the Mega Man series often gets ridiculed for having too many games that are all very similar, Mega Man 2 was my first foray into the series, and it left me with a very good impression! Although Mega Man 1 was an okay game, it was part 2 that launched the series into stardom. Creative levels, decent bosses, colorful graphics, excellent music, passwords, and two difficulty settings set Mega Man 2 apart from many other platformers of its era.
MEGA MAN 3
Capcom - NES
Mega Man 3 is even more challenging than Mega Man 2's harder difficulty setting, and has several more stages, too, which gives it a slight edge over its predecessor, although for me, it's really a toss-up as to which I like more. Its music and graphics are equal in high quality to Mega Man 2, and the play control added the ability to slide. Mega Man 3 is also the game that introduced Rush, Mega Man's robot dog companion.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK'S AWAKENING
Nintendo - Gameboy
This is my absolute favorite Gameboy game! It's amazing to me just how much was crammed into it. Using a similar style of gameplay as A Link to the Past from the Super NES, Link's Awakening chronicles Link's mysterious adventure on the uncharted Koholint Island. The island has a dark secret, which is only revealed by battling your way through dungeons, just as you did in earlier Zelda games. GB Zelda also seems to have more character interaction than other Zelda games, and the plot is different from the usual "defeat Ganon" fare.
Activision/Sony/Matrix/Contrail - PSX
Alundra 2 is a very underrated PSX adventure game, and many reviews have misrepresented what this game is really like. Its single biggest crime is that its story and characters have no relation to Alundra 1, whatsoever, (and its graphics leave something to be desired), but if you can put that aside and look at the gameplay, itself, it's actually quite good! Alundra 2 features lots of puzzle-solving, exploration, and enemy-slashing like other adventure games, and it has excellent boss fights! Many of the puzzles are quite original and require you to do a lot more than just watch something happen after hitting a switch, so it's very challenging to complete some of the more arduous tasks.
Working Designs/Sony/Matrix/Contrail - PSX
Alundra is by far the best PSX game I've played, yet! At first glance, Alundra appears to be a Zelda clone, but there are many puzzles that are very unique to this game. Like in Zelda games, Alundra explores dungeons in search of items and weapons that allow passage to other areas. Alundra is a little more action-oriented than Zelda and has some of the toughest boss fights around!
Nintendo - NES
I don't think there's ever been a game that took such a simplistic style of play and turned it into a complex system the way Punch-Out did. You take on the role of Little Mac, who must fight all the heavyweight champions of the world. Each boxer has unique moves that can be anticipated by watching their facial and body expressions. Punch-Out starts out easy enough, but becomes progressively more difficult until you face the ultimate challenge - Mr. Dream or Mike Tyson (depending on what copy of the game you have.)
FCI/Compile - NES
Zanac is one of the best shooters for the NES, and one of the best shooters made, period. It is extremely fast and challenging (and with no slowdown), and has an interesting AI system that increases or decreases the difficulty depending on how you play. Zanac has excellent play control, music, and really tough boss fights. It's chock full of little secrets for clever (or lucky) gamers to discover, which adds to the "intrigue" value.
SUPER MARIO BROS.
Nintendo - NES
Super Mario Bros., as we all know, is the game that revolutionized home video games, forever. Super Mario Bros. set the standards for fun, challenge, and replay value that all games to follow would have to live up to. When I first got my NES, I had gotten SMB with the system, and bought SMB3 separately, and I'll admit that I didn't quite fall in love with SMB the way I did with SMB3. Nevertheless, it's a great game that has stood the test of time exceptionally well! If you haven't played this game (and who hasn't?), then what are you waiting for? Go, do it now!
Jaleco/Lucasarts - NES
Although this game was heavily censored from the PC version, I still loved it to death! (And there were a few things I liked better about the NES version, such as the awesome music, and Weird Ed, who is better as a teenage commando than a weird old man.) Using a point-and-click interface, similar to that of Shadowgate, Maniac Mansion required you to solve very complex conundrums in order to rescue a kidnapped cheerleader from Dr. Fred's creepy mansion. Maniac Mansion gave a real feeling of suspense and drama because you knew that at any moment while exploring the mansion, you could get caught by one of its bizarre inhabitants, or lose if you made the wrong move. Many point-and-click games had no reply value once they were beaten, but Maniac Mansion resolved this by allowing you to choose from several different kids, each of whom would have to solve the game's mysteries in their own unique way.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA
Nintendo - NES
What can be said about this game that hasn't already been said? Nine huge dungeons, a non-linear world to explore, lots of enemies to fight, items to find, and puzzles to solve, Zelda pretty much had it all! Zelda even has a harder second quest, although I have to admit that I greatly prefer the first quest.
SNK - NES
Crystalis is one of the finest adventure games ever made. It had one of the most unique storylines that involved a post-apocalyptic earth, an evil emperor of darkness, and the mystery of a great floating tower. Rather than having lots of Zelda-style "moving block" puzzles, Crystalis focused on solving more real-life situations. The basic swordplay is similar to earlier adventure games, Zelda and Willow, but in Crystalis you could charge up your sword's power level - a feature that would later be used in games like Secret of Mana and Evermore. Don't play that bastardized Game Boy Color version of Crystalis, the NES version is the only way to go.
LITTLE NINJA BROTHERS
Culture Brain - NES
Little Ninja Bros. is one of the most fun and unique RPGs I've ever played! Battles on the overworld and in various dungeons are random, like Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior, but most of them are real-time, so you actually control your Ninja character as he jumps, punches, kicks, and uses magic. Some boss battles are menu-driven, like traditional RPGs. Little Ninja Bros. is even two-player, so a second person can join in on the fun! The game features a long challenging quest, some very tough boss fights, three levels of difficutly, and Goemon-style humor. A very, very underrated and overlooked game!
Nintendo/Hal Laboratory - NES
It doesn't have animal friend helpers or Gooey, but Kirby's Adventure has better level design than Kirby's Dream Land 3, and features a harder second quest, if you can find all 100% of its secret exits. Kirby's Adventure was the first game in which Kirby could copy the powers of his enemies by inhaling certain kinds and swallowing them. The graphics of this game are truly excellent, especially some of the effects, like the rotating towers.
DRAGON SPIRIT: THE NEW LEGEND
Bandai/Namco - NES
I've played many great NES shooters, but Dragon Spirit is still my favorite. It's a shooter that has you flying a dragon rather than a spaceship. The dragon can get lots of powerups that increase his fire's strength and even make him grow extra heads! Although I find the game very easy, now, it took me awhile to master, due to its many creative levels. Some levels have swarms of enemies and bullets that fill the screen, while others have all that plus walls that close in on you, lights that constantly flicker out, and other great surprises. The boss fights are good, especially the final boss! Dragon Spirit also has a decent NES soundtrack.
Konami - SNES
Gradius 3 is one of my favorite shooters. It has a wealth of levels, multitudes of enemies that keep the screen busy, and bigass bosses! Gradius 3 also has a unique customizable feature in which you can choose what kinds of weapons and power-ups your ship can acquire. Moderately challenging, Gradius 3 has three levels of difficulty and excellent music!
SUPER MARIO RPG
Nintendo/Squaresoft - SNES
Super Mario RPG has impressive ACM-rendered graphics, but that is only the icing on the cake. This game is just full of imagination and surprises! The battle system involves unique "timed attacks" in which you press a button before a character executes a move to make it more powerful. This adds a little more player involvement in the battles than most RPGs. Although SMRPG is very easy, it is full of charms such as many cameo appearances and fun mini-games. It does have a few difficult boss fights, though, and a decent final boss fight.
Enix/Quintet - SNES
Although a bit too easy to complete, ActRaiser was a unique Super NES game that featured both Castlevania-like action scenes and Populous-style simulation scenes. The graphics and sound were truly beautiful, despite it being a first-generation SNES game, and the gameplay was addicting and fun. A hidden Professional mode was included to provide gamers with more challenge once the main game was finished.
SUPER MARIO 64
Nintendo - N64
Super Mario 64 revolutionized 3D gaming with its expansive environments, colorful graphics, fluid play control, and myriad puzzles. Although many 3D platformers have come and gone, few have lived up to the standards set by Super Mario 64.
BREATH OF FIRE
Squaresoft/Capcom - SNES
Breath of Fire was one masterpiece of an RPG! It was chock full of more features, interesting dungeon design, boss fights, and other fascinating facets than almost any RPG I'd played before. Aside from creative dungeons with rotating floors, teleporters, disappearing walls, and other bizarre phenomena, BoF had sidequests galore (many in which you'd earn powers to transform your characters), ultra-tough bosses, and even a deep dark well-kept secret that was your key to getting the best of the multiple endings. BoF also had an interesting plot with charming and colorful characters, and fun "mini-games" like hunting animals with Bo and setting up a shop with Gobi.
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