1.) Donkey Kong Country (Nintendo) – When this game was released in 1994, there was simply nothing like it graphically, but the SNES was hitting its full stride in this time. Even going back and playing it today, it’s still a marvel. It’s a standard hop ‘n’ bop platformer. The type of game Nintendo remained renowned for, but the graphics and animations were remarkable, it had a full and rich soundtrack, and more secrets in each level that practically any game of its time period. If a gamer couldn’t stumble upon a few secret areas and earn a few extra lives during a play session, they simply weren’t trying.

2.) Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda) – To describe Oblivion in one word, that would have to be: Intricate. Back in the days of games like Wizardry, The Bard’s Tale, and Might & Magic, these types of RPGs could last an incredibly long time. JPRGs such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Phantasy Star gave a much more linear quest. Oblivion is a living, breathing world filled with its main storyline, but also the opportunity to explore the province of Cyrodil with such a fine level of detail, that it’s easy to put aside the main quest to ride across the countryside on horseback, or explore some little cave just off the beaten path. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sense of freedom allowed in the game, which is why the game is also helpful enough to remind you the way to complete the main goal. If there was ever a game to allow the player to feel like they are really involved in a fantasy quest, this would be the title.

3.) Phantasy Star Online (Sega) – This is a benchmark title for two reasons: It’s the first real online console RPG, and another reason why the Dreamcast was so utterly brilliant. Taking several departures to the original four titles, PSO put players on a space station where they (And three real friends) would go down to the planet’s surface for level grinding, monster fighting, and the acquisition of really cool items that couldn’t be found offline. Marked by excellent graphics, and a soundtrack that gave subtle nods to the original tunes in the series, PSO became the ultimate party game online. Best of all? Back then it was free.

4.) Stinger (Konami) – One of the great “cute ’em ups” which placed your Stinger/Twinbee ship through all sorts of surreal battlegrounds (both vertical and horizontal), a clever power-up system, catchy music, silly bosses, and solid two-player action. Shooters remain something of a dime a dozen of the Wii’s Virtual Console, but it remains almost criminal that this fun, quirky title hasn’t seen the light of day again.

5.) Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega) – Back in the day when Disney made genuinely awesome platforming games (instead of every new title based on Hannah Montana and High School Musical), Castle of Illusion gave a similar plot to the original Super Mario Bros.: Mickey Mouse has to save Minnie from an evil witch in a castle filled with toy worlds, forests, giant rolling apples, dungeons, upside down rooms, and swimming through lakes of milk. Naturally, Mickey faces every obstacle with a smile and a cheerful soundtrack, but that by no means undermines the level of creativity found in the level design or the attention to detail and color found in the worlds that Mickey traverses. Even the most cynical of gamers have admitted that the game is a lot of fun, with some challenging areas. It’s just a shame that unless Sega and Disney work something out, we may never see this one again. This was definitely one of those “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” showcase titles.

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