It’s true I’ve left a lot of the “heaviest hitters” out (Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Final Fantasy, etc.), and a lot of that was intentional. They’re all wonderful games, and I will cover them, but I wanted to show that there was more to life that the obvious titles out there. I may even cover one of two in this post. I always pull these games off the top of my head, based off what I have covered, and what I haven’t. Anyhoo, here commences the list:

1.) Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Sega) – Despite the media scandals and all the general oddities around one of the most notable pop superstars ever (The Thriller album still rocks, face it), in the 1990’s, there came a game based on the man. And it was cool. It was very cool. Music-themed games are so commonplace these days, and one of my most favorite genres. For the first time, gamers got to be immersed in a music video like experience with some great classic music, the ability to pull of MJ’s repertoire of moves for offensive as well as show, and darn it, the game was just fun and imaginative. Any game that allows Michael Jackson break it down with laser beam toting guards and cave spiders to the theme of “Billie Jean” is somehow just inherently cool. There was rumored to have a sequel come out for this, but that’s when the allegations came out. I’m hoping this one comes to the Wii’s Virtual Console, but who knows if anyone will touch this game these days. Regardless, this was a fun title, and one of my favorites from the Genesis.

2.) Haunted House (Atari) – Imagine a time when Lego block sized pixels could actually be scary. Haunted House was a surprisingly atmospheric title for the old 2600, with echoing footsteps down darkened halls and thunder and lighting to signify when ghosts and other supernatural and earthly evils would appear. The black backgrounds weren’t just black, it was the dark, where you couldn’t see life-saving items that could save your life, or to find the pieces of an urn to escape the haunted house. It even threw in the Twilight Zone Theme if you managed to escape the four-story manor. I bought an Atari Flashback 2.0 about a year ago, and the game still holds up well, easily in comparison to my other favorite, Adventure (a title I’ll cover down the road).

3.) Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo) – The original game. What can be said about this title that hasn’t already? That it’s still just as much fun to play now as it was then? It’s a template for brilliant and “correct” game design? For such a small game in comparison to later titles, how many secrets and tricks this had available to learn and exploit? It’s all that. That and more. This game represents such a unique aspect of my childhood. A lot of fond memories and thrown controller pads for the longest time, I never could reach that “Another Castle” where the Princess was held. I did eventually, and “Super Mario” begat an army of sequels and spin-offs strong into this day. But there’s something “pure” about the original game. The fact that it’s still as brilliantly addictive and fun now is a testament to just how good this title is. These days, I can get to the Princess just fine, but I still love the journey in getting there.

4.) Kingdom Hearts II (Square-Enix/Buena Vista Games) – I enjoyed the first game a lot, but the sequel brought so much to the table that the first game didn’t have. There was the much-improved Gummi Ship levels, which played like a proper shooter, more worlds, more abilities. And Tron? Ever since 1982, I waited for a game to explore that world, and this game makes good on it. And Pirates of the Caribbean. And Beauty and the Beast. And Steamboat Willie. The production values for this game are insane. There’s so much to see and enjoy as a Disney or Square fan, with fantastic voice acting, and and a story that ties the events of the original game and the Game Boy Advance “interquel” together in a satisfying package. It’s a Disneyland ride that one doesn’t want to leave that easily.

Splatterhouse (Namco) – Sure the main character (Rick) moves like a stagnant moose, and what was “controversial” then is not a big deal today, but when Splatterhouse first came out, there was a “cool” factor to it that couldn’t be denied. I never owned a Turbografx-16, but one of my friends did, and we’d play it over there for hours, reveling in the fact that this was a game that would make parents cringe. Downloading it on the Wii’s Virtual Console, it’s still a fun romp, though nostalgia drives it more than the “shocking” gore effects of stiffly moving zombies and wolves. And I get a lot more of the horror influences now, as it pays homage to a lot of the popular ’80’s scary movies films of the time. In the days of my NES and Genesis ownerships, this was the game that I always envied Turbo owners getting.

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