Archive for the ‘Top Ten’ Category

With Maggie in dire need of medical care, Rick and quite a large crew jump into the RV and take a trip toward the Hilltop. Fearing the potential of an attack on the road, the core crew decides that they need to have strength in numbers. They find this to be true, as they run into Saviors on every path they take. In their first encounter, Rick introduces the idea that it could the someone’s last day on Earth, which later appears to be the case when the group finally meets the infamous Negan and his bat Lucille.

Meanwhile, Morgan continues his journey to find Carol and discovers that she had not gone far but had been injured in her fight with the Saviors. He tends to her but she is weak and resisting returning to Alexandria. While distracted, Carol slips away but is caught but the survivor from the ambush. He disarms her and shoots her in the arm and the leg before Morgan appears to save her.

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#WhoIsIt?:¬†The question for the next several months will be which one of our favorite characters met their end to Lucille. In an early conversation from Talking Dead, it actually appears that the cast may not even know which one actually met their end. Theories will be abundant throughout the summer. For now, all we know are the suspects…

Rick & Carl: This seems unlikely. Megan needs Rick to keep his people working and killing Carl would result in Rick losing interest in going on.

Daryl:¬†One of the likely candidates…I previously talked about this one. He has caused a lot of trouble for the Saviors and would be a significant enough loss to kill Alexandria’s sense of fight but make a statement to fall in line with their new boss.

Glenn:¬†Besides the comics serving as source material, Glenn’s outburst may have set his fate. When Negan pointed the bat at Maggie, the outburst may not have been such a freebie as indicated.

Maggie:¬†She is already sickly and Negan’s threats already pushed Glenn out of position. Her death would be a clearly heartbreaking moment for the entire group and she appears too weak to be useful to Negan’s cause.

Eugene: Taking the RV on his own was a badass moment, but it was foolish. They were surrounded the entire trip and he was clearly going to get captured. The question is whether Negan randomly picked him.

Abraham: Puffing up while kneeling on the ground probably made a bit of an impression with Negan. The question would be whether Abraham appears more useful as a worker or as an example.

Rosita & Michonne: Negan does not kill woman (in the comics) and does not likely take his revenge on these two.

Aaron:¬†This is a possibility, but the death would not be a major one in the context of the character development. While Negan might pick randomly, the show’s developers would not leave that up to chance.

Morgan’s Attempt at Redemption:¬†Other than the main storyline with Negan’s arrival, Morgan was still out on the search for Carol and found her rather quickly. While she initially accepted his help, she refused to return with him and made a speech about why she can no longer be with the people she loves. When faced with the life or death situation with Carol’s stalker, he hesitated only long enough to give the guy a chance. He moved the gun toward Carol so Morgan pulled the trigger. This is a major challenge to his life is precious concept, but it also pulled a page from Carol’s book, as he paid a price for saving someone he cared about and wanted to save.

The Saviors: Not much to say here, as we knew they were a threat and Negan gives them that leader that matches the group the fans fear. Their numbers are great and will give Rick and the others a real challenge moving forward.

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Meanwhile, there was another element released at the end of the Morgan and Carol story. The men in armor are going to add a new group to the mix who will be important to providing support against the Saviors.

In Memoriam: the Savior stalker and one of the beloved core members of Rick and the Alexandrians

Question of the Week: #WhoIsIt?

Evolving before the rest of the industry could catch up, Nintendo advanced to a place that open new doors for game development. While Sony, Sega, and Microsoft were all creating games that had a 3-dimensional concept, Nintendo used polygon graphics to get that z-axis to perform greater than could ever be predicted. The system started with its quintessential Mario game, but Pilotwings jumped in to help highlight what the new graphic style could do to revolutionize the possibilities in gaming. Large, free-range environments began to become the standard and characters had more malleability and mobility than the past.

The N64 came at a pivotal point in the industry as well. Nintendo had stuck with cartridges for their entire existence, but the rest of the industry was switching to CDs for storage considerations. Sticking to their guns, Nintendo believed the cartridge still provided better opportunities for file saving, load times, and cleaner gameplay. While it seemed to work in the short term, the system’s end came when CD (and eventually DVD) technology outshines the capabilities of the cartridge. While Nintendo still tried to break convention, they had left a ton of titles that deserve attention and praise for their lasting impact on the industry.

Honorable Mention:¬†Turok: Dinosaur Hunter; Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire; Yoshi’s Story; Pilotwings 64; Wave Race 64; Banjo-Tooie; Donkey Kong 64; Mario Tennis; Pokemon Stadium; Pokemon Snap; Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards; Diddy Kong Racing; F-Zero X; Star Wars: Rouge Squadron; 1080 Snowboarding; WWF: No Mercy; Paper Mario; Resident Evil 2; Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater; Conker’s Bad Fur Day

10) Mario Party183539-mario_party_3__u_

Party games had never truly existed before. There was no genre to define the type of game that pitted more than two players against each other that could not cleanly be defined as an action-adventure game or fighting game. Mario Party changed the video game universe with the way that it engaged players of all ages and incorporated ways to even out skill level without luck being too big of a factor. The mini games within the greater package may have been simplistic (and a few of them frustrating), but the variety and creativity is something to honor. This game paved the ways for a whole series to be constructed simply around Mario-based mini games, but eventually this led to a whole new slate of games that could officially be deemed party games.

9)¬†The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s MaskThe_Legend_of_Zelda_-_Majora's_Mask_(North_America)

First of all, this is not the only Legend of Zelda game to grace this list. The reality is that Nintendo had a gold mine and found just the right way to engage it. Majora’s Mask was a bit of a diversion from the previous Zelda game, in that it was darker, stranger, and more nuanced than its predecessors. Link, after the events of a previous game, found himself in the woods with Epona. Getting attacked by the Skull Kid (wearing a special mask), Link ends up in a new land and is commissioned to save it from destruction before the Moon crashes into the world. As young Link throughout the game, he uses masks to engage and extract special abilities to traverse his new land. The game was full of strange characters, interesting side quests, and creepy bad guys. It may have been difficult for some to pick up as easily as other games on this list, but it was truly a treasure for this system. (The commercial is for a remastered version of the game.)

8) Perfect Dark71fzEw4A6IL._SX300_.gif

This is one of those games that I heard plenty about but never actually got the chance to play it myself. Based off of the¬†Goldeneye 007¬†engine and due to the company’s inability to produce a sequel off of the successful first-person shooter,¬†Perfect Dark¬†rose to more of a cult status (since it was not a known story) but was able to improve upon the presentation of the 007 game. Surprisingly, the multiplayer was actually on par (if not slightly better) than its well-known predecessor. The only thing that is really hurting this game’s ability to move up on this list is the fact that I never played it and probably never actually will. I’ve moved on…

7) Banjo-Kazooie1159001550-00

As far as 3D platformers go, this was an odd one. Vegetables with eyes. Inanimate objects coming to life and needing your help. And a witch that seems to keep leaving the door open for you to upgrade your abilities and match her power. Just plain weird…but worth all of the oddities. Two friends joined together closer than the movie¬†Stuck on You. Banjo is the more powerful, bumbling one, while Kazooie was more finesse and sass. The banter made the game truly enjoyable and the creativity of Rare to choose worlds that would normally not be considered for a game of this type was simply perfect for its success. While the sequel also was strong, it went a little too far and pushed the limits of the variety of gameplay elements one game can provide.

6) Star Fox 64StarFox64_N64_Game_Box

At this point of the list, it is tough to truly distinguish which game really is better than the others. This is definitely the case for Star Fox 64. Fox and friends (not to be confused with FOX News) are back on a system that was much more prepared to present a complete game in comparison to the SNES. The 3D feel of the game and the dynamic levels made this one that could easily be played for hours and hours. Not only was the single player strong, but this was one of those games that proved that multiplayer battles and missions were the wave of the future. The multiplayer was intriguing in the way players could choose Arwing, tank, or your character with a pistol. Still, the single-player battles with Star Wolf and the amazingly engrossing boss battles were the true gems of this game. It is strange that Nintendo has failed to produce another flight simulator game like this since the N64.

5) Super Mario 64Super_Mario_64_(NA)

This was the game that started the system. This was the one that changed the name of the game. It evolved video games truly into the world of 3D and dramatically raised the bar for its competitors. Unlike the previous entries of the Mario series, this was one that had levels but also game players the ability to navigate an open environment and choose their path more freely. I was also inspired to attempt a speed run for all 120 stars, but I never was able to complete it in any less that 23 hours (still impressive, I would say). The worlds, the enemies, and the challenges made the replay value so high that I can still break it out today and enjoy it just as much as the more complicated action-adventure and RPG games now.

4) Super Smash Bros.Super-smash-bros-boxart

Fighting games had traditionally been a 1 vs. 1 affair. Nintendo decided it was time to break the mold with this game. In the first success of its kind,¬†Super Smash Bros.¬†pitted Nintendo’s top icons against each other on a variety of stages set in their games. If you had ever wondered if Mario could beat Link in a fight, you could test your theory. The single player mode was a little on the quick side, but the focus of the game was on the multiplayer. The variety of moves, stages, and items created a vast gaming experience for hours and hours of enjoyment. Since the original game, anticipation skyrockets every time a new edition begins to get teased. Who is going to be in this next one?!? None of this has been able to be replicated by the other companies, nor should it ever be.

3) Mario Kart 64Mk64cover

SNES had it right with the first in the series, but N64 took advantage of the 3D environments and also maximized the multiplayer experience, just like SSB. With 8 featured characters (including Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and Yoshi), the racing and the battle mode had the right balance of challenge and flexibility. While the flat tracks of the first game were relatively dynamic, power sliding through Bowser’s Castle, navigating Yoshi’s Valley, and racing around Rainbow Road was just stellar. The battle mode was an even bigger step up. Fighting it out on multilevel platforms created a new way to play that helped to set up the following games. Just like SSB, this was simply hours and hours of multiplayer fun!

2) Goldeneye 007007-GoldenEye

There is a bit of a theme at the top of this list. The previous titles hit the racing and fighting genres, but the shooting genre had not taken off in the console world yet. Shooters were mostly resigned to computers due to the processing power and control elements necessary to make it work.¬†Goldeneye 007¬†changed the game and opened up the possibility for consoles to capitalize on 3D graphic technology. The single player mode followed the events of the film, but with a few additional missions thrown in. The difficulty level was extremely high, especially with the final levels. Yet again though, the multiplayer was the significant success of the game. Fighting it out in the facility or the temple provided all sorts of secret pathways and places to set traps. Being able to customize the weapons package also provided a lot of variability as well. Just don’t be the jerk who always chooses Oddjob…

1) Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of TimeThe_Legend_of_Zelda_-_Ocarina_of_Time_(Collector's_Edition)

Arguably considered the best game of all time, this was one of the few titles to actually get perfect scores from game reviewers almost entirely across the board. Link was back, and with a quest that was more epic than anyone could have ever dreamed. Traveling from his childhood into young adulthood, the game was dynamic, dramatic, expansive, challenging, and truly a masterpiece. Even with the infamous Water Temple, few could ever walk away from OOT with any sense of disappointment. Battling Gohma inside the first temple or Ganondorf/Ganon at the end was just enthralling. One of the best moments of the game may actually be at the first real encounter with Ganondorf capturing Zelda and then getting the Master Sword, or maybe it was actually when Hyrule Castle falls and Ganon rises from the rubble. Mario may be the Nintendo mascot and have impressive numbers that outrank The Legend of Zelda but Link is the true franchise.

The N64 clearly proved that it was the system that revolutionized both 3D and multiplayer gaming. The cartridge began to see a decline after the first several years of success, but Nintendo would continue to find ways to stay relevant until they could revolutionize yet again. Stay tuned for the Gamecube review soon.

When we think of fantastic scores or memorable music, most people would tend to go toward artists’ direct albums or compositions completed for movies or television series. Some of the greats, like John Williams, Danny Elfman, James Horner, and Hans Zimmer, have made the movie experience that much greater by matching up the score to the action or drama on-screen. Most people felt a strong reaction when they first heard the fanfare of the¬†Star Wars¬†theme or the playfulness of the music from¬†The Nightmare Before Christmas. It invokes tension, passion, levity, or power.

The same could be said from the world of gaming…

Music in video games has been vital to making some of the greatest gaming experiences that much greater. Star-crossed lovers finally admitting their feelings, the majesty of a new world being opened, and a melodic backdrop that fills out an adventure that is just beginning are just some of the connections that music has made in the gaming world. Admittedly, my gaming experiences are somewhat diverse, but I have tended to appreciate certain series over others. I have been a loyal Nintendo follower but have dabbled in the world of Sony and on the PC, with little connection to Microsoft or Sega. Still, the list below includes some of the best musical compositions I have heard over the years from some of the most memorable games across these many platforms.

For this list, I will only be picking one song per franchise in order to diversify the songs listed. While many title themes can be identified for being extremely memorable, I am purposely going to shift my focus to specific tracks that invoke a level of intense connection with the experience on the screen, with honorable mentions for other songs that are similarly impactful.

10) Metroid РPrologue: The Metroid series has used a lot of mechanical sounds to produce its accompanying themes, but the prologue in Super Metroid truly raised the bar for the fanfare of the series. A true accomplishment, beating Ridley and Mother Brain is no easy task. Neither is traversing a harsh terrain with no true allies to save you. Samus was also revealed to be a woman in this game, which made the experience sweeter. Women had not been protagonist in these games with the same type of bravado and matching soundtrack. The finale/prologue changes the atmosphere to a more heroic element, adding to that accomplishment of halting evil and escaping the collapsing planet. The 16-bit song is just fine, but the orchestrated version takes it to a whole new level.

9) Mega Man – Dr. Wily’s Castle: Having achieved victory over the first 8 bosses, Mega Man finally reaches the end of his quest at the evil Dr. Wily’s lair. Achieving this is no small feat, as the simplified controls and dangerous terrain of the first eight levels does not provide an easy path toward this goal. The high energy brings the player back into the zone with the ability to take on this final set of levels. Some of the other Mega Man games revisited this soundtrack, including a revitalized version in the¬†Mega Man X¬†series.

8)¬†Star Fox – Corneria:¬†The soundtrack to the¬†Star Fox¬†series has a lot of use of electric guitar and in a lot of ways sounds like some of the music from the¬†Mega Man¬†series. What makes this particular song so memorable is that it sets up the epic quest of traveling throughout the galaxy to take on the evil Andross. Starting off the game with such a rocking’ ballad helps to set the tone almost like starting off a great mixtape with¬†You Give Love a Bad Name. The remainder of the game has equally energetic music but only¬†Star Wolf comes close to the level of energy as this one.

7)¬†Mirror’s Edge – Still Alive:¬†While I only ever played this game in its demo version, the main theme from the game is clearly present, upfront, and magical. The song gives the perfect background to the free running experience of the game.¬†Mirror’s Edge¬†was an interesting concept even without its music. A game that is based on navigating through the rooftops and a city on foot without being able to stop for a breath keeps the energy level up and could be a little too intense for some. What the music does is to almost make you feel like you are flying and gliding through the landscape and grooving while exploring each of the runs. This may not be an epic song, a beautifully sad ballad, or a hard-edged battle theme, but it is exactly what is needed to enhance the experience of this game.

6)¬†Super Smash Bros. – Melee (Main Theme):¬†With the first¬†Super Smash Bros.¬†being such a great success, the sequel was highly anticipated and seen to be a potential instant classic on the Gamecube. One of the best things about this song is that it is everything that is amazing about some of Nintendo’s greatest franchises. When I first turned on the system with this game, I was excited to see what Nintendo had produced. With the characters coming alive on-screen (and in a way that was far and above the graphics of the N64), the music just made the experience that much more epic. Even before actually playing the game, I knew this was a true winner.¬†Super Smash Bros. Brawl¬†had a more epic feel to it with the choir element, but the difference between the first and second games was significantly more memorable.

5)¬†Super Mario – Gusty Garden Galaxy:¬†Anyone can say that the first game’s music is the most memorable and it has been adapted to fit the proceeding games in the Mario series.¬†Super Mario 64¬†revolutionized the series with the 3-D worlds, while¬†Super Mario Sunshine¬†raised the bar in graphic presentation.¬†Finally arriving at¬†Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii,¬†Gusty Garden Galaxy enhanced an already memorable series of compositions. SMG¬†as not only 3-D, but it was also so big that it could not fit on one world. There were a few other musical themes that appeared before this one, but¬†Gusty Garden Galaxy is just fun, playful, and majestic to a level that truly boasts the new heights of the series. The plumber is going nowhere and this theme is proof of Nintendo’s ability to still make its primary formula work toward the benefit of the fans.

4)¬†Castlevania – Lost Painting:¬†To be honest, this song is better in the recomposed piano version, but the entire soundtrack for¬†Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is spectacular. The entire game is amazing. It officially combined the RPG genre with the action-adventure genre to create an action RPG. While Alucard is the only true playable character, the ill-fated vampire turns his actions toward thwarting the villainous Dracula from overtaking the world. The castle which he must traverse is full of twists and turns, and a whole assortment of thematic areas with their own musical arrangements. When this song arises, it is like a reprieve from the harsher elements of the game, but not fully removed from the majesty or sorcery of Dracula’s castle. The version in the game was understated from its arrangement, but the many iterations, both orchestrated and arranged for piano, help to better paint the picture of mystery and adventure that the game produced.

3) Chrono Trigger – Magus Confronted:¬†Similar to a series higher on this list, the music from this game truly enhanced the experience in remarkable ways. Battle music in RPGs is typically energetic and hard-edged, but the reveal of the anti-hero and the start of the battle had a level of fanfare unmatched by most other games up to and beyond that point in gaming history. Chrono and his team enter¬†Magus’s Castle, defeat Ozzie and his gang, and arrive at the¬†sanctum at the lowest level of the castle. Walking into the room, there is an eerie, quiet atmosphere about the upcoming confrontation. Arriving before Magus, he goes into a speech about disrupting his plans and then the music begins with some soft strings, vocals, and flute performing a descending ominous introduction to the battle music. Finally, the fanfare begins and the epic battle against the wizard commences. While the fight itself is easy to manage in terms of his attacks and patterns, the battle music gives the experience a much more epic feel. Later battles against Lavos and Queen Zeal are much tougher but lack the sophistication and energy that Magus achieves.

2)¬†The Legend of Zelda – Fi’s Lament:¬†For arguably the best franchise in gaming history, this may seem like an unlikely song to reach the top of the list. The main theme is easily more memorable and invokes that sense of adventure and heroism that has become a gaming standard. Even some of the themes from¬†Ocarina of Time, such as¬†Zelda’s Lullaby¬†or¬†Gerudo Valley, are more widely known. It is because this song produces a much stronger specific response that it wins out in this list. Fi is a character that may be more forgettable as Link’s sidekick, but she surprised gamers when this theme finally appeared in the game. After finishing his quest and while ready to return the master sword to its stone, Link discovers that he is also parting ways with Fi. Though she is a creature without emotion, there is something different in these finals moments that the two characters share. They quested to save Zelda and restore balance to the land, but their goodbye appears to have extracted a sense of emotion out of the stoic Fi. Link appears affected by realizing that he is leaving her behind, and gamers suddenly felt the same way. Navi, the King of Red Lions, and Midna never were able to create that same emotion in their final goodbyes and that achievement should be recognized.

1) Final Fantasy – To Zanarkand:¬†This series could easily have its own top thirty. Each of the¬†Final Fantasy¬†games have been accomplishments in storytelling and composition.¬†FF6¬†has several tracks that take the 16-bit game to amazing heights, including¬†Terra’s Theme and¬†Phantom Forest.¬†FF7 could possibly¬†win as the best musical soundtrack out of the entire series, particularly the¬†Main Theme and¬†Aerith’s Theme. There are even several competitors in¬†FFX¬†that could give¬†To Zanarkand¬†a run for its money, including¬†Suteki Da Ne for its portrayal of Tidus and Yuna finally giving into their passions and sharing a beautiful moment alone together. In the end, the top song on the list serves as the title track and the one that builds the story toward its conclusion for its protagonist. Tidus is searching for proof of what happened to him during the attack by Sin that threw him 1000 years into the future. He joins Yuna in hopes of learning the truth about his time travel and his father while also supporting her quest to defeat Sin. On the eve of reaching Zanarkand, the group gathers for their final descent into the lost city. Lost in thought, this piano theme plays and ties the story together in the perfect way, part love song and part thematic ballad of an ill-fated hero. Just a perfectly composed piece.

Agree with these selections? Tell me what your favorite songs or themes are from your favorite games.

While in competition with the Sega Genesis and the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, Nintendo prepared its next generation system. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) upped the ante to 16-bit graphics and expanded the company’s ability to produce a greater variety of games. All of Nintendo’s favorite characters returned and in exponentially greater ways. Mario, Samus, Link, Kirby, and Donkey Kong make the list for their contributions, but can they make the top spot?

Honorable Mention: Super Mario RPG; Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island; Street Fighter II Turbo; Donkey Kong Country; Earthworm Jim; Super Castlevania IV;¬†Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtle in Time; F-Zero; Contra III; Earthbound; Gradius III; Tetris Attack; Super Punch-Out!!; Super Star Wars; Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3; Killer Instinct; Mega Man X 2 & 3; NBA Jam Tournament Edition

Star_Fox_SNES10) Star Fox

Starting a new Nintendo franchise, Fox McCloud entered the scene with his Arwing and a trio of wingmen ready to do battle with the great Andross. Capitalizing on the underserved arena of flight simulators, this game combined an intriguing flight experience with an entertaining comedic banter from the wingmen. Slippy Toad, Peppy Hare, and Falco Lombard accompany the star fighter Fox to Planet Venom to hopefully save the galaxy from the mad scientist’s evil grasp. This was challenging and pioneered the 3-D graphic design for the future of gaming.

250px-Kirby_Super_Star_Coverart9) Kirby’s Super Star

The pink puffball came back and with a much more integrated and expansive game this his first console and handheld editions. Kirby’s world expanded to the realm of two-player adventure with a whole new combination of powers to absorb. The game had a few adventures that took the more traditional route, but then it added a boss battle mode, treasure hunting adventure, and a couple of mini-games. ¬†It may not have had the same difficulty level as the other side-scrolling adventures, but it was still tons of fun to play with a friend.

Mega_Man_X_Coverart8) Mega Man X

While the first set of Mega Man games were simple yet challenging, the X games added a number of different elements that took the series to a new level. The basic design was the same, with the 8 boss levels and series of stages leading up to an end boss. Added to the game was a new set of upgrades, dash abilities, and blaster charging, as well as a new master villain, Sigma, and new ally, Zero. The stages were bright, colorful, and dynamic, allowing players the engage in a new level of gameplay that far exceeds its predecessors. The 2nd and 3rd games are also impressive, but this one started the newly revamped series.

super-mario-world-17) Super Mario World

Mario returns for one of his top two games in this list. Super Mario World took the experience of Super Mario 3 and advanced it to the new system. Taking Mario back to the age of the dinosaurs, the feel of the game was similar to its side-scroller predecessors. Yoshi made his first appearance as Mario’s wingman. Replacing the leaf with the feather cape was another slight change. The most important thing was that it revisited the formula that had been working for so long, with the Koopa kids and battling with Bowser to save the princess. This ended up being a great way to start the new system.

DK_Country_26) Donkey Kong Country II

While the first game in the series reintroduced Donkey Kong in a new way, the sequel really mastered the formula for collecting items throughout each level and making elaborate and expertly designed levels and bosses. Diddy and Dixie Kong traveled through several different areas, each with their own special bosses and with the help of some animal friends. Racing across a level with Rambi the Rhino or Engaurde the Swordfish made for some great experiences. After collecting all of the items in each level, the bonus world truly ramped up the difficulty level and made the total gaming experience a blast.

Supermariokart_box5)  Super Mario Kart

Racing with Nintendo characters…excellent! This served as the first Nintendo game to connect characters from across several of its franchises. With characters including Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Toad, and Yoshi, players had 16 tracks to explore and race through to to earn the Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special Cups. If the racing was not enough, players were able to grab special items and use them to gain an advantage. Added to this, there was a battle mode to enjoy as well. The overall design was a little crude, but there was only so much that could be done in the SNES. This was still an instant classic.

250px-Smetroidbox4) Super Metroid

Metroid connected some of the best elements of Mario and Zelda, but Super Matroid officially became its own supreme game. Samus finally revealed that she was a girl, but she also unveiled a new set of weapons and a truly dynamic experience. Mother Brain came back but was joined by a new iconic member of the Metroid series, Ridley. The game was innovative for the way that it incorporated weapon upgrading, saving, and backtracking to explore the entire world. It was surprising that there was not another addition to this series until the Gamecube was available 8 years after this release.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_A_Link_to_the_Past_SNES_Game_Cover3) Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

No Nintendo system’s top ten list would be complete without at least one Zelda game. Considered one of the best of the franchise, A Link to the Past truly expanded the story of Link and Zelda, as well as expanded the art of exploring the world of Hyrule. Link found himself a hero to start the game, but he was unprepared for the adventure ahead and had some serious exploring ahead of him to collect the necessary weapons and items to battle¬†Sahasrahla and Ganon to save Zelda. Bouncing between two worlds and becoming a rabbit until finding the correct item to save his form, the Zelda franchise was forever changed by the continued expansiveness of its successors.

st_ds_box_ya2) Chrono Trigger

One of the best genres of games that released on the SNES was role-playing games. Squaresoft was particularly successful at creating these experience. Enter Chrono Trigger. A legendary hero started off as a spiky red-headed kid who got entangled with the princess, Marle, and found himself traveling through time to stop Lavos from destroying the world. The game followed 7 playable characters and made sure to have story lines that incorporated all of them as important to the broader story. The moment that Chrono, the protagonist, died in the middle of the story, it served as the first game that truly shocked players with the death of its title character. Though he could be and must be saved to progress, beating the game was discovered to not truly be the end. The game also boasted several different endings based on at what point of the storyline Lavos was defeated. Truly an impressive title.

2408854-4670746880-ff3_u1) Final Fantasy VI (FF3 – US)

Surprise to many, FF6 still remains my favorite game on the SNES. This sequel of the Final Fantasy series was compelling and challenging. Terra, a troubled young woman, found herself struggling with gaps in her past and eventually discovered that she was part human part Esper. In a world of magic, she is saved by a thief named Locke, and later joined by a large team of allies. One of the RPG world’s best villains made his appearance in this game. Kefka had that infamous laugh and challenging ascent through the final battle. Similar to the #2 game on this list, the game allowed for every character to engage in their own storyline and character development, particularly when the world is reshaped in the middle of the story. I have played through this game too many times to count and have never grown tired of the experience.

Next up will be the N64. Sometimes considered the underrated system of the Nintendo series of consoles, it boasts some of the best games of all time.

With spring finally starting to reveal itself, I feel like I want to unveil my favorite games of all time. I am a somewhat casual, somewhat more invested gamer and have been playing since I was old enough to understand the Atari 2600. Classics like Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, River Raid, and Combat filled the hours as I played with my older sister. Taking a moment to reflect on my favorites, I decided to follow the route of so many YouTube channels and produce my own Top Ten list.

“Like” if you agree. Comment if you think I missed something or would argue against me.

Honorable Mentions:¬†A Boy and His Blob; NES Open (Golf);¬†Contra/Super C; Battletoads; Super Mario Bros. 2; Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!; Castlevania; Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers

f08069c9e465da174f931299d050d9961331534856_full10) Little Nemo: The Dream Master

Though this may be a game that most people passed up, this was one of the first games to put to screen the idea of transporting into one’s dreams and do it well. Nemo enters his dreams and has the ability to take on the qualities of different creatures as he navigates different worlds. The difficulty curve on this game was surprisingly high, as the later levels required a lot more awareness and decision-making when switching between animals. Capcom had been surging with a number of great titles at the time, but few had the success of their final product like this one.

255px-DrMarioBox9) Dr. Mario

Tetris may be the standard, but Dr. Mario was the king of the NES puzzle games. With the basic task of destroying viruses by stacking matching colored pills on them, the game was easy to learn but difficult to master. It was surprising that using just three colors was enough to make this a worthwhile game. The best part of this puzzle game compared to others, like Tetris, was that the two-player mode expanded the gameplay immensely and set the tone for multiplayer puzzle games of the future. Personally, I got to a point of just setting it to the max level and seeing how many times in a row I could beat it, but I had plenty of practice to master the art of virus destruction.

KA_Boxart8)¬†Kirby’s Adventure

Like Nemo above, Kirby was imaginative and transformative, but few realized that the little pink puffball would so quickly emerge as a key Nintendo mascot. Similar to Nemo, the side-scrolling hero could adopt the special abilities of the enemies to help defeat bosses and power through levels. The difference was that this hero had a much broader range of possibilities and caught on more definitively with players. Spawning a whole series between the console and handheld systems, Kirby proved that he was more power than his stature may suggest.

TMNT NES American Box Art7) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle II: The Arcade Game

Truly riding on the success of the TV series, TMNT reinvented itself between the first and second games. The difficulty level on the first game was so high that most players failed to ever see the ending. Going more with the traditional beat ’em up, side-scrolling style play, the reinvented series started with a strong single/two-player combat system and memorable moments and characters. Konami even hid a variation of the infamous code in the game that allowed for¬†players to start the game off with 99 lives, making it impossible to ever lose (unless you really tried).

cover_large6) Mega Man Series

It is so difficult to choose just one of the games because this entire series for the NES was excellent. The little blue warrior with the upgradable weapons proved himself as a staple of the early years of Nintendo. The bosses may have been somewhat simple at the beginning, but it was Nintendo’s version of encourage fan forecasting of what elements or bosses would appear in the next installment. No matter if it was Wood Man, Toad Man, or Shadow Man, players knew that Dr. Wiley was waiting for them at the end of the game. The save system was interested, as players had to write down a code to return to the game but it helped when a level proved itself more challenging.

1355101207-005) Metroid

Blending together some of the best aspects of a few of Nintendo’s other great titles, Samus entered the scene as a heroine who was on a mission to stop Mother Brain from destruction. Ready¬†with an¬†arm cannon which could be upgraded, she battled her way through a treacherous planet to stop her antagonist. The ability to turn into a ball which could drop bombs was a helpful bonus. The identity of who Samus really was somehow stayed a secret until the sequel on the SNES, but it was clear that Nintendo had found itself a newer, more aggressive mascot.

finalfantasynintendoentertna_14) Final Fantasy

Although not the first role-playing game to capture some serious attention, Final Fantasy had a depth that was truly impressive on an 8-bit console. There were no true main characters, but players had the ability to select their desired party from a collection of different roles. Whether you wanted a band of thieves or a combination with different mages, the customization was impressive for 1990. This game also spawned, arguably, the best role-playing series of all time. I have spent weeks and months playing through Final Fantasy 3, 7, 10, and 12, and it is all thanks to this humble start.

1165732965-003) Duck Tales

Not many would place this game so high on the list. Duck Tales was a fun TV show that got adapted into a console game. There were other attempts that were good but not nearly as successful, including Darkwing Duck and Chip n’ Dale. The difference with this game was the combination of difficulty, playfulness, and hidden gems that made this title one of Nintendo’s best. Scrooge McDuck is not a typical protagonist. As an already wealthy adventurer, it would be surprising to find him wanting to put himself in danger, but he does it anyway. Needing to save his nephews and eventually encounter Dracula were interesting extra touches that made this game such a gem.

1036635022-002) Super Mario Bros. 3

The first game was a classic. The sequel was a quirky new take on the themes of the game. The third was a masterpiece. Mario has been Nintendo’s lead character for years and this game served as a tribute to the character, even relatively early in his existence. The game was the first to introduce Bowser’s children as the world bosses. It also introduced a wider range of powers, including the Hammer Suit, Super Leaf, Frog Suit, P-Wing, and Tanooki Suit. The game was challenging, especially in the final world with the never-ending tank and airship levels. This could easily be the top game of the console, except for the fact that Nintendo created another excellent series…

eu_box_front1) The Legend of Zelda

Link has come to save the Princess Zelda and all Nintendo fans immediately rejoice. This was an interesting overhead view adventure game that combined fighting, puzzles, and questing as players explored the world of Hyrule. This game sparked a franchise that has produced some of the best games of all time. Link, Zelda, and Ganon are linked for eternity and fans would never have it any other way. Boasting a regular and second quest, the game optimized the early save system and the complexity of the future of adventure games.

Stay tuned for the next installment featuring the SNES Top Ten, and like/comment whether you agree or would challenge my list for the NES.

Alright…I know this series is a little quirky and happened to score a lot of fanboys, but Joss Whedon created quite the show. Focused around the idea of a “slayer” who takes out supernatural beings (mostly vampires), Buffy’s character goes through a transformation from high school drama to facing death to facing life to the end of the world (multiple times). Each season brought a new arc, new central villains and new stages of Buffy’s life.

There was the occasional episode that was a little off, particularly the episode that served as an anti-drinking campaign, but the show had a plethora of excellent moments. There are quotable moments aplenty. The characters develop from episode to episode but they maintain the clever quips that make the writing intriguing. From musical numbers to the end of the world, these are my top 10 favorite Buffy moments.

#10: Restless (4.22) – As the only season that does not end with a huge battle, season 4 ends with a series of dream sequences that frame what is to come for the slayer and her friends. Though Xander, Giles and Willow all experience similar themed lessons, Buffy finds herself face to face with the first slayer. There are a number of allusions with Dawn and the beginning of Adam, prior to his transformation. With a different approach to this season finale, the storyline was opened up for at least a few more seasons of Buffy-mania.

#9: Once More, With Feeling (6.7) – Though there are a number of moments in this episode (regarded one of the best musical episodes of all time), the most vital one is near the end. As Buffy attempts to make a deal with the demon, she begins her song “Give Me Something to Sing About.” The song comes with a revelation for the rest of the characters. Though they believed her resurrection was a blessing, they realize that she does not feel the same. It is also another moment in the Buffy-Spike saga that brings their love story more toward fruition.

#8: Becoming Pt.2 (2.22) – In a season that saw Angel go from vampire with a soul to full villain, Buffy has a tough choice to make. With an odd backing by Spike, he and Buffy take down Angel and Drusilla. At the moment Angel has his soul returned, Buffy realizes that she must say goodbye. Though Angel is completely confused by her actions, he fades away, changing their relationship from that point forward.

#7: Grave (6.22) – Though the episode is focused on the near destruction of the world at Willow’s hands, there are two moments that actually make this an amazingly good episode. The first is how Xander saves the world. Approaching the enraged Willow slowly, he is able to talk some sense into her and she breaks down, eliminating her power’s strength and world destruction. The second comes at the end of the episode when Spike finishes his quest in Africa. Though it is not clear what he wants from the previous episodes, his last moments end with him receiving his lost soul. This is a game-changer going into the last season.

 

#6: Chosen (7.22) – In the final moments before the epic battle, the main four characters meet up for one last conversation. Rather than talking about the impending struggle, the group breaks into a conversation similar to that of an earlier battle. It is a moment of levity in a period of turmoil and allows Xander to show a little of the humor that once defined his character.

 

#5: Dirty Girls (7.18) – At the vineyard, the slayers attempt to take out the preacher. When Xander gets brave and caught in the middle of the action, he pays for dearly for his involvement. The preacher blinds him in one eye, changing his character permanently. Going from the comedian of the group to its darkest member, he and Willow attempt to joke with each other but realize those moments have passed. It was a tough moment for anyone who appreciated the Xander character.

#4: Seeing Red (6.19) – Buffy, having just destroyed Warren’s powers, finds herself facing mortality again when he shows up in her backyard the morning after their confrontation. Armed with the only human weapon that can seemingly kill her, Warren pulls out a gun out of desperation. Firing shots without aiming, he hits Buffy in the stomach but a stray bullet flies through the upstairs window and strikes Tara in the chest. Falling into Willow’s arms, she fades aways and leave Willow in shock. This moment leads to Willow’s transformation into the evil spirit that concludes the 6th season.

#3: The Gift (5.22) – During Buffy’s defining moment, she promises to Dawn that she will find her way back somehow and dives into the open portal. Releasing her energy, Buffy sacrifices herself to save everyone, particularly Dawn (her only significant remaining family. While her first death ended in her revival through CPR, this is seemingly permanent. Spike also has a moment that pushes his character to the next level in his display of love for Buffy. He had led on to his feelings throughout the past couple seasons, but he exhibits true loss when he sees Buffy’s body lifeless on the ground.

#2: The Body (5.16) – The show has a number of emotional moments, but this is one of the most difficult to handle. It does not matter that Buffy dies twice, but when her mother seemingly passes away from natural causes unexpectedly, the characters fall into a rather intense level of grief. The best reaction comes from Anya, who suffers from a lack of understanding human emotion. Like a child, she looks at those around her and asks what she should be feeling. It also sets the stage for another growth moment for Buffy into adulthood.

#1: Prophecy Girl (1.12) – Though a short moment in the span of the series, the first season had appeared to be more of a teen romantic sci-fi comedy than a drama. The ridiculous situations during the first several episodes set up a show that did not seem to have any real depth. The scene when Buffy begins to truly deal with her mortality and snaps at Giles’s focus on the prophecy takes the show to a new level. Buffy appears to have a number of inner demons and a true value for life. This ends up being only the beginning of her battle between life and death but definitely a meaningful moment in her development.

With her quirky style, beautiful voice and down-to-earth attitude, Sara Bareilles has quickly become one of my favorite artists. I was first exposed to her music through some random searching on iTunes for some new songs. Love Song was certainly a catchy hit but the rest of the album drew me into her sound and style. I have said many times that I would love to meet a woman who can sing her heart out, and playing an instrument would make her that much more compelling. Sara truly takes it to the next level with her abilities across multiple instruments and styles of music. Her music can be described as a blend of pop, jazz and soul with an occasional infusion of punk (more so through her sense of style).

After building an interest in her music, I found out she was coming to Chapel Hill, NC to play at Cat’s Cradle and I knew I had to go. She definitely did not disappoint with that concert. I was standing about four rows back from the stage and she came out to start off the evening with a little chatter with the crowd before her opening acts. She was adorable and truly made a great connection with the crowd. After Greg Laswell’s performance, her band took to the stage and played her on. With a powerful jamming on the piano, the show began and I knew this was going to be the best concert I had ever seen. The show included a combination of songs off her newer album, Kaleidoscope Heart, with a spattering of her former hits and random song from Radiohead. I left the concert buzzed by the energy of the performance and would love to see her again.

          

Besides the eventual top 10 list that I am getting to, I would also like to point out that she has some incredible covers that have been highlighted on YouTube. Included within her current set of covers are Beyonce’s Single Ladies, the Beatles’s Oh Darling, Coldplay’s Yellow, Aha’s Take On Me, Mumford and Son’s Little Lion Man,¬†Amy Winehouse’s Valerie¬†and Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay. While the last song of this list could easily be one of my favorite for my top 10, I will simply say that Yellow and (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay are just simply amazing. Here are some teaser before I get to the official top 10 list…

Alright now…I think it is time to get to the top 10 list. When I chose these songs, I left the covers out and had to think about what made each one of these such great hits. I will say now that I do appreciate some of the more mainstream hits, like Love Song and Bottle It Up, but she has so many great songs that I just had to look past what made it big. Each of these songs elicits different genres and emotions. If you cannot find even one song from this list that can become addictive, then there is no hope for your musical taste.

A couple definite quality songs that did not make the cut but are still fantastic are Bottle It Up (great hit mainstream hit), Love Song (the song that truly launched her into the spotlight), Many the Miles (another bouncy hit that either starts or ends her concerts with the strong energy it brings), Basket Case (a mellow but emotional song about missing someone special), Undertow (a beautiful lounge-like jazz song that is probably under-appreciated) and City (a passionate tune that highlights a bit of her range as the song builds).

         

Here are the top 10 Sara Bareilles songs as of 11.27.11…

#10 РMachine Gun: This is probably not the first song that comes to mind when thinking about Sara, but there is an intriguing quality about this song where it seems like she can just belt it out at the top of her lungs and still make it beautiful. I would have loved to here her sing this one live but maybe another time. http://youtu.be/XaLpjdokxls

#9 – Bluebird: Possibly one of Sara’s favorite songs off of her most recent album, Bluebird is a soothing melody that has a bit more of the range that Basket Case does not highlight. This is definitely a Sara original, even though there are plenty of other artists that have songs with the same title. Gather your strength and rise up.¬†http://youtu.be/7H2PI_rVB2Y

#8 – Morningside: With quite a bit more attitude, this is a song that can easily get you moving. It has the feeling like she infused a little bit of funk with the sound of the guitar and the accent beats with the drums and low octave piano. http://youtu.be/FWRiEgFs8vQ

#7 РUncharted: Definitely one of the bigger hits off Kaleidoscope Heart, the music video is actually really simple and hardly features Sara in the images. Her videos have a theme of focusing on a wide variety of people, in a sense to show an interconnectedness of life. Enjoy the Ben Folds cameo and take in her passion for taking the road not traveled. http://youtu.be/zlxB9zGH8GU

#6 РNot Alone: Taking a jazz soul tone, she breaks out of the bounds of even the more thematic sound she showcases. She exposes her more deep, sultry side with a hard low octave piano and bouncy rhythm. This is easily a catchy song that did not seem to get noticed as well as a potential hit. http://youtu.be/HNGDALL4jew

#5 – King of Anything: Serving as the song that kicked off the release of Kaleidoscope Heart, she has released several songs that have the common theme of trying to both produce and defy putting out a pop hit. Love Song was in direct reaction to her record studio’s request for a pop hit (I’m not gonna write you a love song / cause you ask for it / cause you need one) and Bottle it Up highlighted both how love songs are just bottled up and distributed as well as how love gets thrown around without appreciating it. King of Anything¬†highlights both taking a stand against overbearing masculinity and her record studio requesting another pop hit. In the end, she still produced a great one.¬†http://youtu.be/eR7-AUmiNcA

#4 РFairytale: One of her most playful songs, the variation between her original version on Careful Confessions and her first widely distributed album, Little Voice, does not matter because both versions make you want to sing along. Taking famous fairytale princesses and turning their stories on their heads, she produced a bouncy melody that she uses to empower women beyond gender stereotypes. When she was introducing this at her concert, I knew what was coming and she definitely looked like she was having fun with it on stage. http://youtu.be/SgSeF9IBc1M

#3 РLet the Rain: Between her emotional and playful hits, she produces a number of songs that truly invoke a feeling of empowerment of either taking the next step or getting excited for something new. This song is just that, as a message for starting fresh and taking hold of new opportunities. This song gets me fired up when I need an energy boost. http://youtu.be/YpRdv5Tbzq4

#2 РHold My Heart: Although one of her widely appreciated emotional hits, there is just so much passion portrayed both through the lyrics and her delivery. Highlighting how we all protect ourselves by being cautious with our heart, we are all looking for someone we can trust to truly love us. It is amazing how close to the studio version the sound of the live one truly is. http://youtu.be/IY30PLBhzH4

#1 – Gravity: There are a number of versions of this song and every one of them cuts you deep. While the music video takes a more astrologically symbolic approach to highlighting the concept of gravity (with lights and objects representing parts of out solar system), her lyrics are voicing the cries for help of a woman trapped in a challenging and emotionally draining relationship. While the two elements do not seem to match at all, there is a beautiful dance between the video’s images, her melody and the story of a desperate woman. Simply beautiful.¬†http://youtu.be/rEXhAMtbaec

Well there you have it. I certainly love all of her music, but these 10 songs are the ones that have truly stood out and made me a Sara fan. I cannot wait for the next album and hopefully another tour.