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My Favorite 25 Video Games of the 2000s: Part 2

Video Games - by - January 17, 2010 - 01:05 UTC - Be first to Comment!

For those of you who haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.

10. Capcom vs. SNK 2 – Multiple Platforms, 2001

The first game in my Top 10 sees a combination of two sets of my favorite fighting game characters ever. Growing up, I was a big fan of the Neo-Geo, as it was cool to see so many games on one arcade machine (I’m serious, that’s why I loved it so much) but their fighting games always appealed to me, especially the Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown games. King of Fighters really sealed the deal for me, as I loved the idea of tag team fighting and with so many characters to choose from (especially using some of my favorites from other Neo-Geo fighters) I became an instant fan of this series, as well.

The precursor to this game was a nifty fighter that had a weird point system, and although it was limited a bit in it’s execution, I enjoyed it enough. It was a cool concept, and wasn’t the first time something like this had been tried. But it was the second game that made me stand up and take notice of a style that I thought was the most balanced in all fighting games. Twice as many fighters as the first game, and instead of fighters with preset levels like in the first game, the sequel set your levels up in regards to how many characters you selected on a 4 point system (2-1-1 for 3 characters, 2-2 or 3-1 for 2 characters, or 4 for 1 character). It also added in many more characters on the SNK side that people were a bit more familiar with (like Haohmaru and Nakoruru from Samurai Showdown) to go along with some Capcom guys that hadn’t been seen in a while (ROLENTO~!).

But the best part of the game were the six styles that could be employed. Whereas the first game only had two (Capcom and SNK), the sequel featured four others that played to different strengths: parrying, storing super moves, custom combos (taken from Street Fighter Alpha) and, my favorite, the rage style, where you took so much damage that when your meter was filled, your character could unleash the best super moves in their arsenal at full power, something that was eventually used in Street Fighter IV for their Revenge Meter and Ultra Combos.

I made mention in an article I did for Sports Joystick in 2008 that I was extremely sad with EVO 2008 taking Capcom vs. SNK 2 out of the rotation, especially considering Third Strike was an technically inferior game that had become way too predictable and had turned almost into a parody of itself thanks to that year’s final, which featured 5 Chun-Li’s, 2 Ken’s, and, thankfully, an Akuma. That year, the CVS2 finals were much more varied, and also saw players use more than one team if the one they normally used didn’t get the job done. It also saw players have to master more than just one character to survive, meaning that a lot more had to be put in for somebody to become a master of the game.

It’s now a hard to find game and is highly sought after in the fighting game community, and while the biggest fighting game tournament in the world has decided to take it off the docket, I’m happy to have it here amongst my 10 favorite games of the last decade, and is the highest ranked amongst the Capcom/SNK fighters.

9. Final Fantasy IX – PlayStation, 2000

I almost put Final Fantasy X on this list. As a whole, X is gorgeous, had great voice acting, an awesome story line, a great fighting system, and the Sphere Grid is one of the coolest ways to build characters in the history of the series.

But IX had a story that was memorable as well. For PlayStation, it was the best looking game in the series. It didn’t have voice acting capabilities, but the characters were some of the best. I think the thing I liked most about it was that when you played the game, you were ALWAYS looking forward to what happened next. I liked how you were constantly in search of cool things for ALL your characters, not just one. Zidane might have been the main character, but you were always looking for things for Dagger, or Steiner, or, most impressively, Vivi.

It was Zidane’s game to lead but it was Vivi who stole the show. Someone who was looking for an identity, someone who was pure of heart and had bravery that when it was absolutely necessary, he unleashed it towards those who deserved it. I loved that Zidane treated him just like anyone else that he met, but at the same time, he made sure that Vivi realized his potential as a person. I don’t think I could say that about anyone in Final Fantasy X, no matter how cool I thought Auron was (and trust me, that dude was cool).

In the end, it was a throwback to what made the games prior to this (like FF IV, and to a lesser extent, FF VI) so memorable. The weapons you used had to be mastered so that you could unleash their true capabilities. You even had an amazing subquest that saw you try and get to a point in Disc 4 in TWELVE HOURS to get Steiner’s best weapon, the Excalibur II. You also had a nice cast of villains that had the usual FF hierarchy (I think it was much better than FF VIII or X’s villains) but it was done in a logical manner that it seemed like they weren’t trying to rush things at the end.

In all, it was one of the most well-designed games that ever came out in the series, but gets lost in the shuffle between FF VII and FF X, the games that started the series out on their respective PlayStation platforms. It’s one of the best games Square Enix put out as far as having a great balance between story, gameplay and aesthetics.

And of course, it had Vivi.

8. WWF No Mercy – Nintendo 64, 2000

For my money, the best wrestling game THQ ever put out, even if it used the AKI-based gameplay from their Virtual All-Pro Wrestling series, and one of the best games ever for the N64. I remember getting this and the first thing I did was create myself, trying to use all the moves that none of the default wrestlers used. I didn’t really know at that time that they were all used by wrestlers from Japan (although I would figure that out soon enough when I increased my wrestling viewership) but I just thought they were the coolest.

Besides the crazy amount of moves you could assign to wrestlers, it also included some of my favorite former WCW wrestlers in the game (like Eddy Guerrero and, well, yeah, at that time, Chris Benoit) and a cool story mode that was done in a pyramid style to keep storylines fresh. It also allowed crazy things to happen in those story modes, like having The Big Show go after the Light Heavyweight title, and having someone like The Rock go after the Woman’s title.

It also added the ladder match into the fold, and even though it got to be tedious at times, it was a great addition to the franchise, and added a lot of dimensions to the game play. It also made a great sound when you slammed someone on it with a move or jumped off the top rope and did a move, too. I also liked how you got a chance to earn extras by earning money in the numerous game modes. The best item, you ask? That would be the ability to buy one of The Godfather’s hos…for $500,000. Pimpin’ ain’t easy, folks.

However, it was the Survival mode, where you started in a Royal Rumble type atmosphere and had to defeat as many other wrestlers as you could to earn some of that money, where the game got its replay value. You got a chance to try and get your way to 100 eliminations and earn a bunch of money doing it. There were times where it got a bit cheap, but at the same time, it was a mode where you had
a lot of fun knocking everybody out.

To many gamers, there are just games that you can pop in and play over and over again, regardless of how long you had been away from them. For me, this was my most treasured N64 game, something that THQ eventually used as template for their SmackDown! series. While that was indeed good, it never felt like this when it came to fluidity, physics and realism in wrestling mechanics. But there was one other wrestling game that is just a tiny bit better, something that sacrificed all those attributes for an engine that is unrivaled in the world of wrestling video games.

7. Fire Pro Wrestling Returns – PlayStation 2, 2007

I actually modded my old PS2 and bought the import version of this game. That’s how stoked I was to play this game. I had played King of Colosseum II, which was a 3D version of this game that had a bit more complicated grappling system and the real licensing for all the Japanese wrestling federations (How you doing, Samoa Joe?) but it was this iteration of the franchise, which really hadn’t changed since it’s inception in the early 90’s, that sold me on it being the superior wrestling game series.

The depth of this game is absolutely incredible. Hundreds of wrestlers, both past and present, including some of the greats in history that were not being used in the US-based wrestling games. Over 1,500 moves, including some that had never been used in any other games at all. I remember making my character for the first time and being amazed at the number of moves I could choose from, including some from the anime series that would eventually spawn the game “Ultimate Muscle.” Kinnuku Buster for the win!

But more than the moves and more than the wrestlers was that the game itself took realism to a whole new level with pro wrestling. (Weird statement for a fake sport, but hear me out.) You weren’t about to beat someone in two minutes…unless you used a move that was able to cause a critical hit to somebody. In fact, if you tried to go for a big move early, you would most likely get it countered right away. It also had a fantastic flow to it, allowing wrestlers to counter moves in an instant with precise timing in the same vein as wrestlers hitting their big moves.

It’s a niche game that definitely had a small audience to it (Two iterations of it were released on the Game Boy Advance to somewhat reasonable success), but it was the last game in the series (so far, at least) that allowed diehard wrestling fans like myself the chance to craft wrestling matches exactly how I’d like. The graphics were hardly amazing, the sound was minimally intriguing at best…but you have yourself a 30 minute match where you throw bomb after bomb, nearfall after nearfall, and you get totally ingrained in it, even if it uses the same sprites that had been around since the days of the Super Nintendo. While it retains the top game on my list in the wrestling genre, it’s probably the best wrestling game that most wrestling fans haven’t played yet.

6. MLB Power Pros 2008 – Numerous platforms, 2008

People fawn over MLB 09: The Show as the best baseball game that has come out in the last few years, but I’ll take this game every day of the week and a twice on Sunday for a doubleheader. Besides the incredible funny Japanese-style graphics, MLB Power Pros 2008 was a surprisingly deep game that allowed players to explore the game of baseball in many different forms.

There were some incredible modes to this game outside of the normal modes you would find in your normal baseball games. You had two different modes that saw you go through your baseball career in two different ways: MLB Life mode was more about how you spent your life outside of the game, while Career mode saw you start out in Spring Training as a young gun looking for a roster spot.

But it was how the game was presented that really drew you in. It was basically a direct port from it’s Japanese counterpart, but the American pastime was shown in a very Japanese manner, which made it completely unique. Graphically, it was much like an anime would be shown, even right down the emotions on the player’s faces. It was also presented in a very stop-and-go manner, a lot like something you would see in the Phoenix Wright series, where you’d almost get lulled into a false sense of security, and then BAM! OBJECTION~!

But the gameplay sealed the deal. It was simplified to a point, but at the same time, you had to know what you were doing or else you would get creamed. There was also something pretty awesome about the fact that I played a game that had a lot of similarities to the baseball games I grew up on (World Series Baseball, Baseball Stars 2, the SEGA World Series Baseball games, Triple Play), but it was almost updated to take away a lot of the flaws. It was easy to pick up, easy to master, and fun all around.

I was sad to hear that it didn’t get picked up for a 2009 iteration, but at the same time, I knew that much like the #2 game on my list, it didn’t matter what year the game came out in. It was all about how much fun you had playing it. And Power Pros was without a doubt the most fun baseball game I played from the last decade.

5. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King – PlayStation 2, 2005

I’ll tell you what, I didn’t expect this game to be that high on my list at first, thinking that the Final Fantasy games or some other RPGs would step up and claim the spot, but for me, I don’t really think an RPG got better than this. It was the first Dragon Quest game that was heavily pushed in the United States, and as I mentioned earlier with Star Ocean, it built upon the popularity shown with the Final Fantasy X games, but as soon as I saw it on the cheap, I had to buy it, only to see if it was worth a go around.

It was more than just a go around, and it turned out to be one of the best RPGs ever made. Drawn by the same animators who created the Dragon Ball Z series, the eighth chapter in the Dragon Quest series pitted the nameless hero on a search for a cure to his king’s curse, as he was turned into a toad thanks to an evil sorcerer that betrayed him named Dhoulmagus. Now, for those of you who have read everything so far, you’ve seen me harp on being able to keep things simple, but as long as the execution is tip-top, you’ve got me hooked.

It’s as simple a story as you’ll ever hear. Girl in distress (and that has to do with the curse, as well), a cast of characters that is memorable, and a vast world that saw you explore every inch of it to get everything you’d want out of the game. The sidequests are awesome (including a quest that sees you go to an entirely different world just to get some of the best things in the game) and the battles are fierce.

But everything about the game is memorable. From the mouse that turns into a secret weapon, to the game’s crazy moments between Yangus and the King (too many to count), to the monsters that you can recruit to fight off in the Monster Arena, to some crazy non-playable characters that you encounter…it’s just a game that sticks with you, and it invites you to challenge it again and again. The fighting alone takes a lot to get used to, and once you get the hang of it, you find out that you don’t know much of anything at all, and have to get used to it again.

I’m pretty sure it’s the best thing Square Enix produced in the 2000’s, and that’s with all the critically-acclaimed games that sold millions and millions, many more than Dragon Quest VIII sold, but at the same time, I’m not sure I played a more enjoyable game from them than this one
right here, the PlayStation 2’s not-so-hidden gem that made people love RPGs just a little bit more.

4. New Super Mario Bros. – Nintendo DS, 2006

I’ve beaten the game three times but that doesn’t make it less fun. I know the Wii version has come out but it’ll need to marinate a little while before it becomes top of the line (although if sales, reviews, feedback, and me playing it a little bit of it already has any indication, it’s gonna go down as an all-time great), but its predecessor is the reason the Wii game exists, taking the most recognizable game style in history, amping it up a bit, and making the old school new again.

The level designs are remarkably challenging, much like Super Mario World, but at the same time, it makes it fun to try and get the stuff to completely finish the game with all the gold coins. The new items add a lot of depth to the game, and I liked how the enemies were a little bit smarter in this game than previous incarnations. It allowed Mario to be new and fresh, but at the same time, retain what made the game so great in the first place, which, as I said before, seems to be a Nintendo staple.

It felt like any other side scrolling Mario game (which was key as there hadn’t been one in almost a decade), and when put up along side the great predecessors, it more than holds its own. It’s an incredible testament to the Nintendo way of gaming that even when pulling something out of mothballs, they make sure that if it’s going to get used again, it gets used correctly.

It’s the one game on my list that I can pick up and play any time I want to and it feels great every time I do it. I don’t have to start it at the beginning or make sure I’m playing it with the right people. I just have to start it up, pick a level, and go. It’s addicting, it’s fun, it hits all the right notes. It’s just like playing it for the first time ever. It doesn’t get too much better than that, folks.

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo Wii, 2008

Ever since Super Smash Bros. became the surprise hit of the Nintendo 64, I’ve been hooked on the game and its sequels. But the Wii version of the game hit me like one of Donkey Kong’s giant hammers. Over and over and over and over and over again. With that tinny music playing in the background, too. You know the tune. Almost like a horse race being played in fast forward.

It was Smash, but was a different kind of Smash. More characters (obviously), more levels (obviously), more items (obviously, including the Super Smash, which was the most welcome of the additions, if you ask me), but the gameplay was tighter. Combos flowed easier, and some of the game’s cheaper moves from the previous games were toned down a notch.

But why anybody plays Smash at all is because when you get a group of people together to play, it doesn’t get any better than a five life stock battle on a balanced melee level (Corneria is best, although Final Destination is alright, too) to see who’s got the best skills. Everyone had their go to character, but even as you dabbled in others you found out that they all had their own great nuances to them and it just made the game that much more fun to play.

I bring up EVO 2008 again because I felt vindicated upon arriving for it. Brawl had made it into the rotation for the first time that year, and I was very excited to see how it would be received in a crowd that had its heart set on all the Capcom fighters. Pete and I sat in the crowd and watched as the sequel to a phenomenal tournament game left people in awe, with some ridiculous knockouts that had people jumping out of their seats. For a game seen as too “kiddie,” it sure had the grown folk up in arms at the end.

That’s why I love the game so much. It looks like something a kid would play. It IS something a kid would play. But at 25, it’s the first game I break out if my buddies are over, because I don’t think we’d have nearly as much fun playing any other game.

2. NBA 2K1 – Sega Dreamcast, 2000

When my family bought a Dreamcast, we made sure we got it when the getting was good. After starting out at about $400, it came down in price a lot thanks to low sales, and it was right after I had a chance to play this game over at Sean’s house. I had saved up a little bit of money due to my umpiring, and Pete and I went all in on it: The game, an extra controller, two memory cards and a keyboard for online play.

It was then that this game took a hold of me like no other game I had played probably since Triple Play 98. It was the perfect sports game. Arcade-like enough to pick up and play, but deep enough so that if you wanted to get in-depth, it would allow you to truly master it. This also was the only sports game I ever played that truly understood the computer comeback correctly. I could be up 15 in the 4th quarter, but if I left good shooters open, the shots would fall.

Pete and I were not happy with how the Celtics were in this game (they were crap, really, with only Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker joined by a bunch of scrubs) so we decided to make our own versions of the Celtics. He had him and his friend Benny and a bunch of made up crazy looking dudes, while I took myself and all my basketball playing buddies and built the team around them.

With our respective created teams, we dominated, but at the same time, the game reacted to us being so good and amped it up themselves. You could cheat the game a bit if you truly wanted to, but in the end, they had a way of setting things up for you to have to fight for a win. There were great moves to make, tough shots to take, and you really had to be careful in how you used them because they left you wide open for turnovers and the like.

I think the best thing about the game was that it was easy to pick up and play, and the games were just so much fun to play. I don’t know how many times I hit a spin move into a three pointer at the top of the key to start a comeback, or post up and hit a fadeaway spinning into the lane. Nevermind the street mode in the game, with relaxed rules and a much freer arcade style gameplay. I don’t think I played a sports game that had more to it that was also so much fun.

It was something else to play this game back in its heyday. NBA Live never really translated well to the PS2, while the 2K Sports franchise became so popular that they split off from Sega and started their own brand. I liked the games that followed, but nothing touched 2K1 for its balance and ability to keep me entertained. In fact, seven years after its release when I busted out the Dreamcast and plugged it in, it still brought me back to the old days where I’d try and knock out half a season on the weekends. Basketball just got no better than this game to me, and it still doesn’t.

1. Mother 3 – Game Boy Advanced, 2003 (Japan-only release)

The game that tops my list isn’t a shocker to those who have played games with me. In fact, when it comes to video games in general over the course of my 20 years of gaming, I don’t have too many games on my list that crack the list of games that could be played over and over again for no reason other than to just play them.

In the 1990’s, EarthBound was that game for me. Pete and I loved that game. The big box, the strategy guide, the cool Starman on the front…it was awesome. We rented it so much that we convinced our mom it would be easier to just buy the damn thing instead of wasting our money renting it. It turn
ed out to be the best purchase I ever made. With my guidance skills, Pete and I tackled the game full on, taking turns (with him doing most of the playing) as we looked to beat the game. When we eventually did, I got my other friends into it, and they felt the same about the game that I did, eventually turning it into a situation not unlike a great book, where when you finish reading it, you pass it along in hopes that someone else would enjoy it as much as you did.

The sequel to that game ended up being over a decade in the making for hardcore fans like myself, who waited on the arrival of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive add-on and the game that would send it into a must-buy for me: EarthBound 2. Previews came out and got us all riled up, even with the 64DD in doubt, and we were all hoping to hear that it would be coming out much sooner than later.

But it never came, as the 64DD got scrapped in favor of a brand new project, which would eventually become the Nintendo Gamecube. EarthBound 2 got scrapped due to the cancellation of the 64DD, and faded into obscurity when it came to it’s North American fans. I was crushed, but even more crushed when I heard the follow-up announcement a while later, when it was said that the project was back on…but for the Game Boy Advance…and that it wasn’t going to be sold in the U.S.

So eight years after the game sold here in the U.S. known as EarthBound hit the shelves, Mother 3 hit the Japanese market and was named a great success, as along with its release was a combo release of the first two Mother games for the GBA, known in the U.S. as EarthBound Zero, a Nintendo release, and EarthBound. With the popularity of EarthBound back in its heyday, people were waiting for it to be released on the Game Boy Advance, but the day never came, even with rumors of a packaged deal much like Japan did with the first two Mother games.

That led many fans of the game to lash out in petition so that Nintendo would grant a North American release, but that never happened either, which led a group of fans to do the video game world’s version of “The Grey Album.” Taking the downloadable ROM of the Japanese version of the game, hackers actually two years to complete a fully translated patch of the game, finally allowing Mother fans to plahttp://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=2222063571064060967&postID=6072295814852152882y the game they had waited over a decade to play.

Even waiting that long, it was worth the wait.

It was a game that played a lot like EarthBound, but it had its own little twists. There was a musical accompaniment to each battle that allowed the player to attack enemies to the beat of the song, adding up the damage as the hits grew to achieve maximum damage. It was a perfect musically assisted system, as the fourth hit on every combo was the most damage, and you could have a maximum of 16 hits total, the equivalent of four measures of music to a 4/4 time, which was the normal amount of time for a beat to come around again in a song.

It wasn’t just the music. The battle system still had the same quirky attributes I loved from EarthBound: Awesomely named enemies with weirdly drawn but awesome animations, and every day weapons that became deadly. Cool PSI abilities that looked even cooler in this game than in the last. And the cast of characters was unique and each brought a lot to the table, including a couple familiar faces that get you all nostalgic and teary-eyed and such.

But it was the story that grabbed you and it was the story that never let you go until the very end. You have a vague idea of what was in store, but even then, the trip to get there was just so insanely awesome. It also stretched the range of human emotions better than any game I had ever played, INCLUDING it’s predecessor, which dealt with human emotions almost perfectly. I have no idea how the game improved on such an incredible ride like the first one, but it did.

The graphics were a lot like EarthBound’s, but still looked great, even on a system where graphics weren’t really expected to be truly outstanding. The animations were nice, and the characters showed emotions really well. Retaining the graphic feel from EarthBound I think was a very important thing with the game, as it allowed the game to retain a lot of the charm that it’s predecessor had. The preview shots for the 64DD version that never came didn’t really have the same look that EarthBound had, and I think that in an alternate universe, people are disappointed with how EarthBound 2 turned out.

But Mother 3 is a masterpiece for the simple fact that like EarthBound, it grabs the attention of the player and never lets go. It mixes humor, heartbreak, courage, action, excitement and originality to create a gaming experience like no other, and like “The Grey Album,” although it’s not technically “legal” to play it, it has to be experienced if you’re an RPG fan at all. While it has been explained at great detail before as to why it’s held in such high regard, the ultimate regard it can be given is that it can only truly be understood and appreciated upon playing it, so that you understand how those who have played it love it so much.

So if there’s a Mother 4 that comes out in 2014, I hope that it makes its way Stateside, but don’t be surprised if I have to wait until 2018 to play it if it doesn’t. Besides, when you wait for something so long and it turns out to be worth it, it just makes you want to experience it again.

An experience that you won’t soon forget.

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