A look at the Sega Saturn from the perspective of a Sega fan

I got my Sega Genesis for my 12th birthday in 1994. I instantly fell in love with that thing. The first game I played was the amazing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that came bundled with my soon-to-be favorite game console for several years. Prior to getting a Genesis I couldn’t really say I was a fanboy or even just a fan of any platform. I had an NES, and before that we had an Atari. Before that I did all my gaming at the arcade.

As someone who was a HUGE fan of video arcades and arcade games the Genesis was a blast. By the time the Sega CD and 32X came along I was seriously contemplating buying either or both of those upgrades to gladly keep my Genesis alive. But things started to really turn around the closer the Saturn came to launching. The hype began building up. I starting to really consider saving all of my after school money I was earning from throwing newspapers, mowing lawns, and working in the corn fields on the side.

At the time, what drew me to the prospect of wanting to get a Sega Saturn was a combination of my love for the Genesis, arcade games, and the transition to the new world of 3D gaming. As the 90’s dragged on a few things started to become apparent to me early on. First thing I noticed about the Saturn was the lack of games. Remember when you are a kid flipping threw the gaming magazines all you have to go on is the information they offer. I didn’t have any way of knowing what games were coming out unless Electronic Gaming Monthly, Game Pro, or Sega Visions told me about it. Considering Sega Visions ceased following the launch of the Saturn, I didn’t really have much faith in the new product early on. I can’t say I “knew” it was going to fail. Far from it, I wanted one but I wasn’t sold to the point of I have to have one.

Whenever I would read a review of a Saturn game and the reviewers would point out how the game felt rushed, incomplete, buggy, or some other similar phrasing, I started to get skeptical. I distinctly remember reading a review for Virtua Fighter where the reviewer flat out said skip the Saturn and stick to the much cheaper 32X version. I also remember reading a really lousy review for the Saturn version of Mortal Kombat II, a game that was running smooth on the Super NES! I felt like if the Saturn can’t even handle a game both 16 bit consoles did okay, not to mention the 32X version was a huge selling point on making me want a 32X, I started to get a bad feeling about Saturn. That’s not to say it didn’t have games I wanted to play, just not very many must have games were jumping out at me.

The few games I was interested in, Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Panzer Dragoon, Virtua Cop and Sonic 3D Blast, all looked like they weren’t really showing off the true potential for what the Saturn was promising to do. At the time as I kept reading reviews of mediocre games, articles on how poorly the Saturn was selling, and the more I would see game after game getting announced for the new Sony Playstation and with no Saturn version planned, the more I started to lose interest. By the time the N64 finally started to make waves I had all but moved on from the Saturn. I wouldn’t give it another thought until the day my friend showed me his brand new Dreamcast. My reaction was, oh, when did they kill of the Saturn? I honestly stopped paying attention. As a self-proclaimed Sega fan this bothered me. I was saddened that the Dreamcast was already out and pushing the Saturn into obscurity. I also felt bad that I had missed my chance to get in on Saturn when it was still current tech. Then the more I looked into it, the more I realized, I wasn’t missing out on much.

I realize that over the years the prevailing attitude of the majority of sheeple on the web has shifted from thinking the Saturn was a mess of a console, to the Saturn was an overrated piece of junk to now it being considered a hidden gem or an underrated masterpiece. Whatever your attitude is, keep in mind this is a reflection from the perspective of someone whose whole life revolved around the Genesis.

At the time, as in during it’s life span I went through many phases. The first phase was excitement for a new console from Sega. This phase didn’t last long. I was already torn between wanting to get a 32X to give my Genesis new life, to wanting to save up money for a Saturn when it arrived. I even remember reading about the E3 thing, a whole month later in a magazine, thinking, what just happened?

I had been following the PSX and Saturn launch hype for months so I was shocked to learn Sega blew their wad and was now seeing all their hype fizzle. I maintained some hype for while, thinking erroneously Sony wouldn’t last. My logic was Playstation was too similar to the doomed 3DO. I ended up being wrong but more on that down the way.

My attitude started shifting as I started reading reviews. I kept holding out hope with each review that maybe the next game would prove to be worth owning. I would demo some of these games at local stores from time to time, so I wasn’t relying entirely on other people’s impressions. Still, the reviews were not doing the system many favors. There were a few hidden gems along the way but at the time I kept thinking this is not a good score. At first I thought everyone was judging the console unfairly. But looking back I think the opposite, I think they were being too soft because they didn’t want to accept Sega was messing up so bad.

When I realized the Saturn was in trouble was about the time I read a review, or even a preview, for the game Virtua Fighter Kids. My 13-year-old brain thought, wow, that’s a stupid idea for a game. Even then I felt like the system must be in trouble if they are resorting to such an obvious cash grab knowing full well it was just a cheap way to get another game on stores shelves in a big hurry for minimal effort. I knew that if this was the case the system was in trouble. All it really took was flipping through the magazine past thew 2-3 pages of Saturn games before stumbling upon the 8 or more pages of Playstation games to start to realize, Sony was getting all the love. Remember N64 wouldn’t be on the scene for a whole year later and even as I started reading articles on the upcoming Ultra 64 I started to get worried the Saturn was in trouble. By the time the N64 came out I had already forgotten about the 32 bit consoles and was already buying into the 64 bit hype train. I ended up dropping the money to get an N64 on launch day.

Looking back the most obviously issue with Saturn was the games. A few years later after I had grown up, gotten a job and began collecting video games as a hobby I went back and dug into the Saturn library. Unfortunately the passage of time was not a friend of the console. The games that would have blown me away in 1995/1996 had I gotten a chance to experience them then, were severely outdated in 2004 when I was buying them up. I didn’t go after any of the super rare or ultra expensive games, but I had a decent enough assortment when it was all said and done. In the end my Saturn collection consisted of X-Men Children of the Atom, Sonic 3D Blast, Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, Sonic 2, Virtua Cop 1 and 2, NiGHTS into Dreams, Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Panzer Dragoon, Revolution X, Daytona USA, World Series Baseball, Mortal Kombat 3, Gex, even Tomb Raider. I might have had a couple other games but honestly nothing stood out in my mind as particularly noteworthy. I felt NiGHTS was so overrated I became very hostile to the Sega bots online that insisted I was playing it wrong. No, the game just didn’t appeal to me, at all. The fighting games were mediocre at best, the X-Men game was fun but not worth the asking price. Panzer Dragoon felt too bloated for what was basically a Star Fox type game which I wasn’t a big fan of Star Fox either. While I did enjoy Virtua Cop 1 and 2, and even as bad as it was to some people, I really had a lot of fun playing Bug! and Sonic 3D Blast. The rest of the games were just, eh nothing special.

I since went back and checked out much more of the consoles library via emulation. However that’s shoddy at best. The real trouble with Saturn collecting is all the expensive games aren’t worth the price you pay. Even if a game was on both PS1 and Saturn it could go for 3-4 times as much money on Saturn than PS1, and for all intents and purposes they’d be basically the same game. I grew so disgusted with Saturn collecting it was the first system I sold off. I traded it into a used retro game store for a big box of GameCube games and never regretted it.

I think the Saturn did have potential, but the truth is, I think most of that potential was too little, too late. Sega squandered all of their good will with Genesis fans before they even launched the Saturn. As the months turned to years I started to lose interest in the system. Today, even if I had the money I probably wouldn’t buy very many Saturn games. The console is, in my opinion, vastly overrated. It’s good for a few quick arcade ports and it has a handful of great hidden gems if you got the money to seek them out. The majority if the library, however, is available elsewhere for far less money. The handful of true exclusives aren’t even all worth the price of admission making Saturn truly a collector’s console.

30 Sega Carts to start up your collection right

I did a similar post about the NES recently and now this is my stab at naming 30 Sega Genesis carts a new collector might consider getting started with. I will try to venture off the beaten path, this isn’t a list of the top 30 games, or even a list of hidden gems, just a good, well-rounded assortment of games to pick up and get a good start. Also I am numbering these to keep track of how many are on the list, these are not ranked in order of important.

1. Sonic 2

For most collectors and gamers alike, if you are thinking about getting into Sega you need to start with Sonic games. Everyone has their opinion and this list will reflect mine so this is the one I recommend up front. This has a very great single player campaign more with an optional 2-player experience if you know how to do it right and work as a team. However the real fun is in the 2-player split screen competition mode. Everyone has that game they could get their parents to play who weren’t exactly gamers, 2-player competition Sonic 2 was our families entry point for family fun. I think it holds up especially well with today’s “speedrun” culture so it’s worth checking out, plus it still has a pseudo-3D special stage to connect the retro with the modern.

2. X-Men

You will want a brawler or “beat-em-up” right off the bat. The 16-bit era was the golden age of arcade fighting games and X-Men is a great example of how to bring that action to the home screen and make it exceptional. Unlike typical arcade brawlers though, this game has a lot going for it. It’s actually more of an action game than a straight bean-em-up, but it’s a lot of fun. You get to explore the most popular scenes from X-Men lore, facing their more well-known enemies with a roster that samples some of the  best members the X-Men have ever had. The game is great. However, there is a trick to it, in order to beat the game you do have to know the right moment to hit the reset button in order to progress and not everyone is going to know that up front. I highly recommend this as a great 2-player and single player action game with fun characters to explore. It is done in the style of the fondly remembered X-Men animated series that ran on Fox in the 90’s so it’s got a double-dose of nostaglia and cool factor going for it.

3. Shinobi 3

On the surface, like Sonic, you could make a case for any of the three Shinobi titles on the console. However, unlike Sonic, I push heavily for the third installment over the others. All games are fantastic but this one just took everything that was great from the previous and upped the ante by about 1000 percent. The action is immediate, urgent, and very heart-pounding from the moment you turn the cart on, the music itself gets you pumped up and ready to start busting your ninja moves to fight the evil criminal monster makers this game throws at you. The horse riding and jetski levels add an extra layer of variety that make the game even more exciting. Ninja Gaiden on NES is a great Ninja game, Shinobi 3 is a fantastic follow through to damn near perfection. The game is the right blend of hard and fun, with varying degrees of difficult options to help you find your perfect game play style.

4. Turrican

If you are going into the Genesis library from the perspective of a SNES fan or gamer, Turrican might be a good starting point. It has some of the Metroid style level and power ups, it has some bullet hail action common in shooters and it has the robot/sci-fi action of any good arcade game from the era. It is basically the perfect storm. This game is also HARD, you think NES hard is a thing, oh no, this takes NES hard and maxes it out. The game can be easy if you use a handy little cheat, but the enemies are non-stop, respawn at the worst place, there are sudden death traps all over and the grand boss battles really remind you of what a boss battle in an action game was supposed to feel like. The game was inspired heavily by Metroid, and it shows. There are other ports out there, some better some worse, but this is a list of Genesis games and the Sega port is a fine entry in the series. Again like above, there are other Turrican games, three total technically, on the Genesis so you are free to explore the library and find more action to keep you entertained. I still enjoy going back to this one the most, especially the music it’s just great fun. I do remember the cheat code, and any NES Contra fan will attest, in some games the cheat code really just makes the game playable, as is the case here.

5. Mortal Kombat

The war between Nintendo and Sega was a blood conflict, and it all started right here with the first volley into the battlefield of violent video games. Sega brought video games to the masses more than Nintendo in many ways, at least to the collective consciousness of the larger public. This game spawned lawsuits and Congressional hearings, leading all the way to the creation of a rating system in place today. Oh and it happens to be a GREAT port of a FUN arcade fighting game. The move set still holds up, the graphics are still passable, for the most part, and the characters and fatalities are as memorable as ever. This is also *THE* game to force you into picking up a 6-Button controller, and it is so worth it. Some criticize it for not being too faithful to the arcade, at least by today’s standards. Well duh, it was released on inferior hardware, but that was common. If Contra or TMNT for NES get a free pass, why does MK for Sega get so much flack? The graphics are mostly the same or at least close enough, all of the levels are there, the minor graphical differences are just that, minor, and the gameplay is spot on plus the music is actually much better in the Sega version, making it a very worthy purchase for a Sega collector even to this day. I can’t, and won’t say that about the subsequent entries in the series, but MK 1 is worth buying and playing today.

6. Toe Jam and Earl: Panic on Funkotron

Stop it right now, I know you are screaming at the computer telling me this game sucks play the original. Slow down, here me out. First, duh, everyone knows the original is a classic, and yes, everyone knows Sega was not very well known for their platformers, but chill dudes, this is still a top notch platformer with great level design, fun characters, an entertaining and humorous story, and it’s one of the brightest and most colorful games on the Genesis. If you were looking for a uniquely Sega game that also felt Nintendo enough then this is it. The game is fun, and the challenge is great and the 2-player mode requires full cooperation of both parties if you want to make any real progress.

7. Biohazard Battle

I will get this off my chest before I move forward. Those people who “claim” the Turbo Graphix-16 is the “best” console for arcade shooters (shoot-em-ups or shmups) are either lying, or have been lied to. Just by sheer numbers alone the Genesis beats the TG-16. I mean there were a grand total of 21 shooters for Turbo, you can bring that up to the mid 30’s if you add Turbo CD, and yes they were ALL great games, but Genesis has 50+ shooters, and among them is this amazing gem of a game. While not every shooter is golden, this game is great. It has 4 ships, each organic in nature, has a lot of imagery to nuclear war and alien invasions, and the levels get progressively more difficult with the weapons and bosses increasing in intensity at each stage. Oh and as any Sega fan with gladly point out to those Nintendo fanboys, despite the so-called limitations of the hardware, the music in this game is FANTASTIC. This is easily one of the top tier, hidden gem arcade style shooters you will ever discover. Are there better shooters on the console, oh sure, but this game is totally worth buying a Genesis for if nothing else. That doesn’t mean Turbo is not a GREAT console for shooter fans, but come on, it’s got nothing on the Genesis and this game proves that.

8. Cool Spot

I will keep this short, this game is the definitive platforming game based on a licensed non-Disney character. Sure that’s a lot of qualifiers but this game is fun. Sure it is also on SNES but we are focused on Sega right now. Anyways pick it up its fun, its cheap and yeah not perfect still a great game to get started.

9. Bubba N Stix

I won’t spend a lot of time on each game, and here on out I am going to move pretty quick, but this game is just a good blend of 90’s weirdness, Sega coolness, and platforming goodness. It’s not the greatest platformer ever, but it’s a good time nonetheless.

10. D&D Warriors of the Eternal Sun

There are not that many great RPG’s on the console. As a D&D fan, I always recommend this game to anyone collecting for the Sega. It’s not a traditional JRPG it blends elements of both western and Eastern style gameplay and features some pretty good customization based on one of the better rulesets of the game. It’s fun, and a good action RPG to get you started.

11. Sonic Spinball

Once again not to take a “dig” at Turbo fans who brag about the “awesome” pinball games on their console but Sega has you beat with this gem. Take pinball action with multiple boards, multi level boards, mix it with sci-fi themed Sonic, throw in some platforming and amazing 90’s techno inspired music and you got yourself a good time. ‘Nuff Said.

12. Raiden Trad

Keep this quick, a great arcade port of a fun shooter game. It’s a fun game with a lot of action to keep the shmup fans happy and it plays well enough for a Sega game.

13. Decap Attack

Now if you want a quirky game that really shows how different from Nintendo Sega was, this is the place to start. The main character throws his head at enemies, really it’s a lot of fun. It has a very early 90’s vibe and plays quite well for a platformer. It’s a good game all around.

14. Comix Zone

I would be burned at the stake if I mentioned Genesis games and didn’t bring this up. It’s plays into the X-Men/comic book vibe Sega was really great at in the 90’s. Hell, even in the later years their consoles were well known for having fantastic super-hero themed games. This is no exception. Best of all, it’s completely original and hard as hell while remaining fun to play at the same time. Pick it up, I can’t say more good things about it than what is already out there.

15. Disney’s Aladdin

Hey Nintendo fanboys, you want to talk about the awesome Disney afternoon games on your NES, okay good for you those cute little 8-bit games sure were fun, when I was 8. Now, let me show you a real game, oh and it’s Disney and based on one of the greatest animated films of all time. Everyone knows the Sega version of Disney’s Aladdin is *THE* version of Aladdin to get, so I am not teaching you anything new. But seriously if you buy a Sega console to game or collect and you wait too long to get this game, you lose all your gamer cred.

16. Thunderforce/Lightning Force

These games are all good, I won’t force you to pick which one is the best, grab the first one you come across that is within your budget and enjoy more proof Sega was *THE* shmup fans dream console, not the Turbo what’sitcalled.

17. Joe Montana Sports Talk Football

I am not a huge sports fan but every collector knows they have to have that one sports game to show off, and if you have a Sega console, this is probably it. Moving on.

18. Boogerman

I used to go into a video game store with my sister all the time. There was one employee there who no matter what console you were looking for he would always say, have you played Boogerman yet? He wasn’t wrong in how much he hyped this game. Sure, I already had it and if you want to get into Sega collecting you might as well pick it up first chance you get, it’s pretty good and really captures the whole spirit of the console, well the 90’s in general.

19. Clayfighter

This is another one that falls under the quirky category of games. Basically it’s a stop motion animated arcade style 1 on 1 fighting game. Is it the best fighting game on the system, not by a long shot, but it will look damn nice sitting on your shelf and it makes for a great conversation piece.

20. Spider-Man

There are a few different Spider-Man games on the console, this one is just titled Spider-Man no subtitle. It’s loosely based on the animated cartoon, and has some similarities to the Sega CD counterpart. In this game you are Spidey, armed with his spider-powers, and his trust camera that he uses to sell photos to earn money to buy extra equipment. It has a learning curve but once you get the hang of it this wall-crawling action platformer is sure to make your spider senses tingle with joy.

21. Gunstar Heroes

Tell the Nintendo Fanboys they can keep their umpteenth Contra sequel/knock off while you sit back and have a blast shooting down enemies with some of the best run n gun action you will ever come across outside of a Neo Geo. This game captures the spirit of something like a Metal Slug while offering a grounded Contra-esque experience. Sure you could just go for the (not lame) Contra Hard Corps anyways, but any self respecting Sega fan will tell you Gunstar Heroes is where it’s at.

22. Ghouls N Ghosts

Yes it was a launch title. Yes it was a sequel to a (fantastic) NES game, and yes it’s HARD as hell, but you know what, I am almost certain that if you are brand new getting into Sega collecting you will find no better game than this to pick up and get you into the awesome 16-bit mood. Sure there is the (superior) Super Ghosts N Goblins on SNES, which if you have a Super Nintendo get that game too, but this is all about Sega and this arcade style classic is sure to keep you coming back for more. The levels are fun, the bosses battles are challenging, the atmosphere is dark and the music is great for getting you pumped for action.

23. Columns

Everyone is going to tell you get Sonic, get Altered Beast, and get Columns. I am going to tell you get Sonic 2, and get Columns. Columns is a simple, but fun and addicting puzzle game. There aren’t that many good puzzle games on the system unfortunately and Columns is one of the best, it’s a great common game so it won’t break the bank, and it’s a good pick up and play casual game to try to get your friends into the Sega experience. The music is also very good, it will put you in a trance but that’s okay.

24. Streets of Rage 2

Skip 1, wait to get 3 when you are good and ready and just dive into one of, if not the best, 16-bit arcade-style brawlers ever made. This game is just too much fun, the music is just fantastic, the action is great, the levels are perfectly designed and the boss battles are just the right mix of fun and challenge. This is the definitive arcade beat-em-up and it’s exclusive to Sega Genesis* (Or the Genesis Rom is available on various compilations but it was never released in arcades)

25. Vectorman

I wasn’t going to pick too many obvious choices at the same time I wanted to stay away from too many of the “hidden gems” that are probably too expensive or hard to find. Instead I wanted to focus just on getting you a decent collection of games relatively quickly and your first 30 games for Genesis absolutely must include Vectorman. This is Sega action at it’s peak. The graphics are top notch, the music is fantastic, the level design and boss battles, sounds familiar? Sega actually did make GREAT games during the 16-bit era, in fact they made such great games that this honestly explains why despite their total suckage these days, they still have such a devoted fanbase, because hey even if they never make a game as great as Vectorman again, at least they made this one for the world to enjoy, and hell they did us a solid and made a sequel too. Just shut up and buy this game already.

26. Virtua Racing

Nintendo has their F/X Chip, Sega gas their SVP chip. Now Nintendo went on to release a good number of F/X games, Sega released just one for their SVP chip. Fortunately for gamers, and unfortunately for Sega investors, they topped Nintendo by forgoing the expensive chip and replaced it with the, much maligned, Sega 32X add-on. Now I would highly recommend just getting a 32X, but until you are ready for that, or if you decide to stick to the basics, fine but at the very least get this game. The arcade original was a game changer and yes it actually won awards and accolades. Is this version fun, you bet your ass it is. Sure it is clunky by today’s standards, hell it was clunky by the standards of the time, but it’s a great demonstration of what they were trying to do, demonstrates that Nintendo weren’t the only ones desperate to beef up their console with some 3D graphics, oh and it’s actually a fun racing game. Also if you are into collecting, which these guides are aimed at collectors, you KNOW you want this beast of a cartridge sitting on your shelf for your gamer friends to stare at. Yes you do, we know you do.

27. Super Street Fighter II

Did you honestly think I, a devoted Fighting game fanatic and self proclaimed Sega nerd (seriously my handle online is Segagamer12) was going to not mention *the* fighting game of fighting games? Well think again. Shut your Nintendo fanboy friends up with a good 6-button pad and a copy of the best 16-bit version of SF2 in existence, and yes this one is actually better in every way to the SNES counterpart, especially if you have the 6-button pad, or hell a REAL gamer/collector would even have a 6-button arcade stick so there you go pick this up and show off that HELL YEAH the Genesis blast processing was good for more than just shooting blue rodents through rollercoaster-like loop-d-loops. This is the definitive cartridge version of this arcade classic that to this day continues to impact the gaming world. Hell the Switch is itself getting a port of this game, okay the Arcade game, but it’s still proof that at one time Capcom knew how to make some of the very best games on the planet. Hyperbole and fanboyism aside, this is a great version of the game.

28. Mutant League Hockey

Sega were the MASTERS of making sports games back in the 90’s, in fact they were more known for their SEGA SPORTS branding than E.A Sports was in the later half of the decade. Their hockey games are among the best of the best and while they didn’t actually make this game, in fact it was Electronic Arts, the fact that the console is so known for it’s hockey games is pretty much common knowledge. This is also a great example of a 90’s theme that was done well, monsters and mutants. This game is probably one of the most fun sports titles and non sports titles on the console. Before EA became the butt of many jokes, they were one of the most respected developers on the Sega platform that we all know and love.

29. Garfield Caught in the Act

So you got your Cool Spot do you? Good. Got your Sonic 2 and your Decap Attack? Fine. And of course you got your Disney’s Aladdin. Now if you want a really fun game starring everyone’s favorite furball then this is it. No it’s not a great game by any stretch of the imagination. But it is a great character, it has some great ideas and hell it’s not the normal boring old Golden Axe or Altered Beast everyone else is recommending. Seriously you are going to get those games but don’t you want your Genesis collection to stand out from the crowd? I mean if everyone bought the same 25 games life would get pretty boring. And I know I already throw enough of the super common picks everyone is going to suggest, with good reason of course. No this game belongs in your collection because it’s different, while familiar at the same time. This game tried what Gex perfect on the next generation of consoles. It’s not entirely bad, some people like it but it’s nothing more than an average platformer, which to be honest isn’t even all bad as platformers are the true appeal of the 16-bit era of gaming anyways.

30. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This is a great game. Also I am sure I have mentioned by now I am a HUGE fighting game fan and while I could suggest something else that isn’t another fighting game, seriously come on now you want to get some games that others are going to shake their head at. This is a one on one arcade style fighting game with monsters and levels taken directly from the show. The play mechanics are simple, it’ actually a very easy game, nothing special but you get that Go Go Power Rangers tune stuck in your head while playing and that alone should get your pumped up for a few minutes.

I didn’t want to just recommend the same old games everyone does, but I also didn’t want to dig too deep into the obscure. I tried to pick games that were iconic for the time yet would be great talking points for a Genesis collector to point to and give their friends something to be in awe of. Maybe there are better lists of games out there, this is by no means comprehensive it’s just a jumping off point, but a good list of games to get you started. And there you have it, a good set of Sega 16-bit carts to get your going.

 

 

 

 

30 NES games to get started

In a few months Nintendo is planning on releasing the SNES Classic Edition. As a follow up to the popular but under-produced NES Classic Edition, I expect this thing to be quite popular with gamers and collectors. However, due to scarcity and the fact the NES mini has already been discontinued, I thought I would write a 30 NES games to start up a collection for the lapsed gamer who might want to get back into NES gaming, but who doesn’t want to shell out the money for an NES mini. This list is based on my own preferences but I think it should be a good reflection of the NES library. I think these are 30 games that any gamer should pick up early on when starting their NES collection. I might write similar guides or lists for other consoles if I enjoy this enough. Also I am not ranking these, this is not a top 30 NES games, so the order is not that important these are just the 30 games I personally feel every NES collectors should get right away.

1. Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt

The first game every collector should have is the most obvious one. Seriously, if you are trying to go back in time to revisit the NES, or you are a kid just discovering it for the first time there is no other game as iconic or important as this game. There are different variations and combinations of these two games, but the classic SMB/Duck Hunt cart is the most obvious one to get.

2. Duck Tales

This game gets a lot of attention, and with good reason. The cartoon was classic, the tune is catchy, the characters are very retro and the game play is fantastic. What more can I say? I was trying to avoid games that rely so heavily on nostalgia, but fortunately Capcom recently upgraded this game on modern consoles as DuckTales Remastered, so it has the potential to reach a younger audience thus not relying entirely on nostalgia.

3. Batman

Probably the best action/platformer on the console and certainly one of, if not the best, comic book/super hero games in the NES library. A great game with good music, fun game play, decent challenge, and great graphics for the console. Also based on an amazing movie that is still worth revisiting while you are at it.

4. Iron Tank

Not everyone is going to pick a random tank combat game, but I think if you are going to get serious about NES collecting you need this game in your collection. It’s not as well known as some of the other games you hear banded about, but it’s still a lot of fun. This is one of those “NES hard” games where the difficulty is going to turn some people away, but the game play, the graphics, and the challenge all make it a very worthy game to add to your collection quite early on.

5. Legend of Zelda

Most people this will be either their first or second purchase. This game is so icon it practically defines the entire NES generation. I can’t say enough good things about this game, I played it to death as a kid, so much in fact the battery died in my cart.

6. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

I could just say buy all 3 games, 4 if you count the fighting game, but I think this is probably the one to start with. Save the first for when you are padding your collection and get 3 when you are ready for more beat-em-ups. I say start with 2 because it’s the easiest to pick up and play, its the most iconic, it is based on the arcade game so it has that retro arcade feel to it, and it’s the one based most off the cartoons so would be the most familiar to a lot of people. The first game is good too but I recommend 2 for an early collector.

7. Dr. Mario

It shouldn’t take you too long to pick up this game. It’s arguably the best puzzle game on the console, and certainly a higher priority to me than Tetris. Although Tetris is well known, chances are you have multiple copies of Tetris spread across however many gaming platforms you have, so why not put off getting Tetris and start with the, in my opinion, superior game anyways?

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street

I know this game gets a lot of hate, especially since a certain Youtuber trashed it so famously. Still it’s actually not that bad of a game. The common criticism of it not having that much to do with the movies aside, which I would argue it actually does the job of re-creating the nightmare just fine, it does have its flaws. Still, as a HUGE Nightmare on Elm Street fan, I personally love this game, warts and all. It’s actually a decent, crazy fun 4-player experience. Sure you likely won’t beat it without cheating, but honestly how many NES games can you beat without cheating anyways? Also, part of the charm in collecting NES carts is revisiting the 80’s, and nothing is more 80’s than Freddy Krueger.

9. Casltevania

I try not list the obvious games but since this isn’t a top 30 list and it certainly isn’t a list of hidden gems, I figured this is just one of those iconic games every NES collector needs in their collection, and fairly early on too. I won’t get too into it, the game launched one of the longest running horror franchises in gaming history.

10. Super Mario Bros. 3

I would almost suggest getting these games in reverse order, starting with 3, then 2 and ending up with 1. Either way, all three of them belong in your NES collection, but the first and 3rd certainly belong in your first 30 for sure.

11. Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man

Take your pick, get either the Namco licensed ones or the unlicensed Tengen carts, Mr. or Ms. Pac-Man both games are good, and either one should be early purchases. I strongly believe that both of these games are just true staples in gaming history that should never be over looked. Personally I love them both equally and can never choose one over the other. But for the sake of this list, and because money could be an issue for most people, you should be good to pick one and have hours of fun from time to time.

12. P.O.W.

I love arcade games. A lot of the best arcade games from the NES library can certainly be found on modern consoles for sure. If you are going to start a collection, I would recommend going after this game over some of the more common, heavily talked about games. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. Sure it’s not the best game to begin with, but it’s a good pick up and play action game for the NES reminiscent of the classic arcade experience.

13. Contra

Speaking of great arcade ports… Seriously Contra is practically *the* NES game to collect at this point. It’s a great run and gun, it’s a great 2 player action game, and it’s a fantastic port of an arcade game. Most people say this version is actually superior to the real arcade version it is based on, I happen to be one of those people.

14. 3-D Battles of the World Runner

You are going to be collecting NES games you have plenty of time to pick up the staples. Why not get a quirky game that makes good use of the 3D gimmick while also being another throw back to awesome arcade game play. It’s a pretty decent “Space Harrier” clone if you want to get down to it, and it’s a lot of fun.

15. Popeye

Another arcade classic. I played Popeye so much as a kid. I actually enjoyed it even more than the famous Donkey Kong arcade hit. Granted the game hasn’t aged all that well and yes it mostly is just a Donkey Kong clone, albeit an official one if you want to get down to it. Still the game is fun, the music is catchy and if you are looking for a nice little arcade game to get you going this is as good a place as any to start, and let’s be honest do you really want to just get DK like everyone else or wouldn’t you rather have this, a game that is unique and probably a little more collectible than DK? I know I would.

16. Ninja Gaiden

I almost didn’t want to pick this one, first, it’s too obvious, second, its super hard. But let’s be real if you are looking to collect NES games this is going to be one of your first 30 purchases for sure. It’s a great game totally worthy of all the praise. Is it hard, HELL YEAH, but it’s also very fun.

17. The Simpsons: Bart vs. The World

You need at least one bad game in your collection to start off with, might as well get one that makes for a good talking piece right? Is the game bad, yes, but let’s be real the purpose of collecting the physical carts if you are going that route is to relive the 80’s, Simpsons games were terrible but we all played them, we all rented them over and over knowing they were bad but somehow hoping against all hope that if we just got good enough we might uncover a good game underneath. Also it’s not all bad, it does have some decent mini games and unlike the other games, it does have a coherent story, at least as coherent as an episode of the cartoon.

18. Zelda II: Adventure of Link

Love it or hate it you need this game in your collection ASAP. I personally loved it. In fact I can’t decide which Zelda game I enjoy more, I honestly put equal amounts of time into playing each one. I have owned every re-release of both Zelda NES games and I highly recommend both as a good starting point, and bonus, you get a little variety in the gameplay if you get this one and the first early on.

19. Blades of Steel

I don’t typically recommend getting sports games right away. I prefer to put them off until I have had a good library of non-sports games and then slowly pick them off one at a time. This is one of the better sports games on the console. Even if you don’t like sports NES sports games are mostly pretty good. This is certainly more fun to play than a game of baseball or golf, in my opinion. I might even do a separate list of the best NES sports games, who knows.

20. Joust

I know, another classic arcade game. What can I say, the NES was billed as an arcade in your living room, and it was so much better at delivering on that promise than everything that came before it. Joust is a good game, it’s a fairly good port, and I think it’s a game any collector should pick up because it’s just so easy to pick up and play.

21. Battletoads

It’s divisive to most but it’s still a good game, mostly. This is another one of those ‘NES hard’ games that is more frustrating than fun, but it has so much 80’s charm it’s just totally worth buying just for the humorous moments. Grab a friend and just have at it. The game is not just hard it is extremely hard, but any NES collector who wants to be taken seriously needs to add this game to their collection as early as they can.

22. Anticipation

One of those quirky NES games that just captures the spirit of the decade perfectly. Over the top, lots of mini games and puzzles, multiplayer, and it’s just got so much going on how can you turn this down?

23. Mega Man 2

I could just say pick any random one but we all know 2 is the one to get.

24. Little Nemo Adventures in Slumberland

I don’t know what the internet reaction to this game is, I haven’t really read many reviews, but I personally enjoyed it so much as a kid. Now, A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my favorite movies, and part of that is I love the idea of a dream world. This game, and the movie, both do a very good job capturing that part of the imagination. This one is hard also, but seriously if you are playing NES games you should expect to pick up a few hard ones as you go.

25. Blaster Master

Here is a game that does get named a lot, but usually in hidden gems discussions. With the recent remaster on Switch, what better time than starting up a new NES collection to buy this classic? The game might not be on the top of anyone’s lists, it’s still a super fun, not overly difficult action game with some pretty original gameplay.

26. Ghosts N Goblins

If you thought I was going to make a list of 30 NES games to start your collection and leave off this game, you were nuts. Again, yes, it is an arcade game, and yes it is difficult, but by now hard/arcade ports are pretty much the best games to get on the NES, at least when you are getting back into it or just getting started.

27. Star Wars

I know the SNES games are better, but it’s Star Wars how can you not get excited? I happen to enjoy the 8-bit version slightly more than the SNES one at times because the driving isn’t as clumsy as it is in the 16-bit versions. They only made 2 for the NES, both are good but this is the one to get first.

28. Kid Icarus

It was either this or Metroid and I think getting started you will have more fun exploring a game that doesn’t have a bazillion sequels/remakes. The game is fun, but hard and this time it’s not even based on an arcade game.

29. Wild Gunman

You need more than one light gun game especially if you do get Duck Hunt early on with the Zapper, you’re going to want a second game to justify having the Zapper and shelling out money on that CRT tube TV set you had to in order to get it to play right. Also it was featured in Back to the Future, albeit as an arcade game which it was not originally. Still a fun game and very much worth getting early on.

30. Chip N Dale’s Rescue Rangers

Much like DuckTales this game is just a blast to play. The 2 player action is fantastic, the game really captures the essence of the show quite well and despite being released recently on modern consoles, it still holds up quite well as a great retro NES game.

There you have it, 30 great NES games to get you started on your journey to collecting for one of the greatest, most beloved home video game consoles of all time.

 

 

 

“You are all my children now.”

In the 1980’s there was a trifecta of different styles all blending together in a perfect storm of outrageous thematic elements that would soon dominate the entire fringe culture, and even cross into mainstream. Going a decade back the roots of this movement were beginning with the rise of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG game. The theme was medieval fantasy. It had firmly taken hold of video game culture by the middle of the decade with games such as Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Ghosts N Goblins, Gauntlet, and even Castlevania taking the horror/fantasy genre to mainstream status. On the music side bands like Alice Cooper, Dio, KISS, and many others, were using D&D, horror, fantasy, and medieval art mixed with Gothic imagery. While Hollywood itself was slow to jump on the bandwagon, indie filmmakers like George Lucas, Stephan Spielberg, Jim Henson, and John Carpenter were all making variations of this theme. And best of all they blended together perfectly. Horror movies would reference D&D usually with a gamer depicted or borrow heavily from medieval mythologies, while having a strong heavy-metal soundtrack, which in turn contained lyrics that referenced D&D either directly or indirectly often as the horror movies would. So if you were a fan of medieval fantasy, Gothic imagery and music that told stories set in these thematic worlds, then the mid-to-late 80’s was your decade.

During this time nothing blended these three elements together better than Wes Craven’s Gothic horror masterpiece “A Nightmare o Elm Street.” While the first film itself doesn’t really contain too much in the way of medieval fantasy, it does have a very strong fantasy component, the music is very fitting for the mood, plus it also contains some of that D&D-esque metal rock sprinkled in to ensure it hit all of the notes. In some ways the movie is a murder mystery, you know almost  detective noir-style with Nancy trying to solve the mystery of the masked villain killing her friends one-by-one. It also has a little bit of Gothic horror with Freddy acting as a zombie, a vampire, and a serial killer all while tormenting his victims not with his own dastardly schemes, but using their own fears against them. In some ways it is also a psychological thriller.

The film opens with an abstract scene in the basement of some factory or plant with an unseen man crafting a glove containing sharp razors as extensions of the fingers. Immediately the tone of the film is set, the killer is unseen, hiding in the shadows, nobody knows who, or what, he is or why he is killing these seemingly random teenagers. During the course of the film there are references to Shakespeare, including a quote from Julius Cesar about nightmares, fitting as in the play he dreamed of his demise before it happened, much like the victims in the film.

I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it. I am not under the impression that just because it is old everyone knows what takes place, I will say anyone that has any interest in mythology, fantasy, horror, vampires, zombies, the undead, D&D, or heavy metal music should check out the entire franchise. Each film has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

The sequel, often criticized but still worth watching, goes in a different direction. Instead of a murder mystery where the kids are trying to survive by figuring out who the killer is and how to defeat him, part two, subtitled as “Freddy’s Revenge,” takes on a more haunted house, possession story line. Again it has some moments fans cringe at but it also has a few of the iconic moments that the franchise is well known for. There is even scene that takes place inside of a Gothic night club, further tying the franchise into this whole theme.

Of course if you really want proof the Nightmare films are really D&D-inspired look no further than the third entry. Regarded by many, myself included, as the best in the franchise second only to the original to some, it’s a masterpiece in many ways and proof that a sequel can outdo the original. But there are so many more D&D elements and fantasy themes in this movie. For starters the subtitle is now “The Dream Warriors.” It centers on the survivors of the previous two films, the “Last of the Elm Street teenagers.” something you just have to watch the movies to understand. It also features a kid who prominently plays D&D in the movie, even going so far as having an actual scene depicting, fairly accurately unlike most movies, a portion of game play. In the dream world however things get weirder, this character becomes a wizard with super powers and another character takes on a Gothic/Punk look even meeting Freddy face to face in an alley. There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to the third installment, a D&D type maze/dungeon at the end where they come together as a team, a cleric type, a sage type, a fighter type, and even the silent stealthy bard/thief type, who all have to face the final boss, Freddy, at the end to win the treasure, their right to live, and go back to living normal lives at the end of their mythic quest. It truly is the one film in the series the most similar to an actual game of Dungeons and Dragons, from the very opening scene to the very end credits. It even brings in a fleshed out back story and mythology to the character and his origins are explored in a very medieval Catholic mythology sort of way.

Part four sort of keeps the notion of dream powers, introduces new concepts like the Dream Master, the films subtitle, and ends in a final battle with a new powered up girl in a church where at the end she ends up well I won’t spoil it but it’s very much in line with the theme I been repeating.

Part 5 and 6 are where the franchise takes a turn for the worse. Number 5, the Dream Child, is more of a comic book movie, Freddy is even depicted as a comic book villain and his nemesis is his own mother, resurrected to take him back to hell or something I guess. The movie has a more action movie, comic book vibe and style to it. In some ways that is refreshing, in other ways it can be off putting. Part six is, to put it bluntly, a parody of the franchise. It’s basically a Warner Bros. cartoon making fun of the whole concept, and yes it even features Bugs Bunny and Wizard of Oz references and heavily relies on the 3-D gimmick. It does flesh out the mythology quite well, and features a really great cameo by the dark master himself, Alice Cooper, again really mixing the themes in a way that ensures fans will find something to enjoy. It’s the worst of the films by most accounts but still worth watching for a few things, those cameos and back story plus a surprise I won’t spoil.

Part 7, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, gets back to the Gothic horror theme by basically putting Freddy into the Hansel and Gretel story. There isn’t much else to say it’s almost a remake/reboot of the original film with a twist but it’s one of the scarier films in the series, still worth checking out. I won’t go into either Freddy Vs. Jason or the 2010 Remake as they both stray so far from the original their best left in their own world. I enjoyed them each, in their own way, but neither of them live up to the source material. Freddy vs. Jason is made for the Playstation crowd and the remake was too dark and had no ties to the fantasy mythology that the original had. Worse of all, it wasn’t even about a child murderer freed on a technicality, it was a sick perverted child molester that had no motive for murdering his victims in their dream world, which also had no fantasy elements at all, instead it was trying too hard to be dark an edgy where it really just ended up being creepy and uncomfortable.

What can I say, I enjoy Gothic music and themes, I play Dungeons and Dragons extensively and I thoroughly enjoy the fantasy-themed horror series of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Netflix recently added the original film to its streaming service, Part 2 and New Nightmare had been there before but they are not the actual best movies, the first and 3rd films are really the two to watch. Part 4 is pretty good, 5 and 6 are laughable but somewhat entertaining and the rest are different degrees of bad or too dark for my taste.

I also really enjoyed the documentary on Netflix “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” that really delved deep into the behind the scenes of the movies.

My personal ranking, with scores, best to worst:

  1. A Nightmare On Elm Street 5/5
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors 5/5
  3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master 4.5/5
  4. Freddy vs. Jason 4/5
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child 3.5/5
  6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge 3.5/5
  7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead, The Final Nightmare 3.5/5
  8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) remake 3.5/5
  9. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare 3/5

Since I consider both New Nightmare and 2010 to be remakes, I prefer the full on reboot over the half-baked soft reboot. I know others will disagree but I just never cared for the breaking the fourth wall and taking Freddy into the “real” world making everything that came before just a movie, inside of a movie, too meta for my tastes.

There you have it, my general thoughts on the Freddy Krueger character and the films he appears in.

Sim Town for PC- Thoughts and impressions.

I have always enjoyed playing Sim City, it has and always will be one of my favorite games of all time. Recently I began wondering why there wasn’t a Sim Town and so I did a Google search and discovered there in fact already was one. It was released on Super NES as Sim City Jr. a game I never play because it is entirely in Japanese and my current reading level is no where comprehensive enough to play a text heavy  game. I managed to fumble my way through Zelda Famicom but that was pretty easy as I have played Zelda NES numerous times already.

So what did I want in a Sim Town game that Sim City didn’t already offer? Partially the ability to control exactly what types of businesses, houses, and buildings are placed was a big thing. Sim Town offers just that level of customization. There is a down side, the game is targeted towards younger children and has a tone that even as a Nintendo fan I find too primitive for my tastes. Still I am having some fun with the game but I can’t help wishing there was a more robust version of this sort of game. I want the level of sophistication and complexities of a proper Sim City, I just want to be able to create a small town, suburban feel if I want rather than focusing entirely on Metropolis sized mega-cities. I want to still have the ability to play Sim City the traditional way too. I just would like the option of building a small town where I decide to build a bowling alley or a grocery store instead of just deciding to make a square Residential or Commercial.

Truth be told I haven’t tried any of the modern Sim City games, the newest one I have is Sim City 2000 and that is 2 decades old at this point. I have contemplated trying the newest Sim City game but I have yet to find the time, money, or motivation, to get around to it.

My initial impression of Sim Town was, despite the obvious decision to dumb down the game to make it more “kid-friendly” I really enjoy the level of control over what exact type of buildings you get to create. I also like that you get to read the bios of individual sims and this aspect has me interested in trying one of the proper Sims games. I honestly never have gotten around to trying a Sims game, mostly because as a hard core, traditional gamer I find them to be too casual focused for my general tastes. Well as I have aged my gaming preferences have changed with me and I found that I still enjoy Sim City more and more each year so one think Sim Town did was open my up to the idea of trying out one of the modern Sims games and then looking into a newer Sim City game as well. Money is tight as is time so I am not sure which direction I will go from here all I can say is if I was fifteen years younger I might really enjoy Sim Town more. Right now it just makes me wish I was playing a proper game with similar features. If you have a young child and want to introduce them to the Sim City style of play this is an obvious choice, just keep in mind there is some tricks you will have to do to make it playable on a modern computer, unless you go the browser route which I refuse to do.