84. Spider-Man 2
Gamecube, 2004, Treyarch/Activision
I love this game far more than it deserves. The main quest is pretty dull (although the Black Cat chases are good), it doesn’t look or sound great, and there’s not a huge amount of things to do. But good Christ, it handles like an absolute dream. Pinging around Manhattan just feels right, and is astoundingly addictive. Certainly the best example I’ve ever played of imagining how it feels to be a superhero.
83. Pokémon Blue
Game Boy, 1999, Game Freak/Nintendo
I’m totally going to finish this game one day. I’ve only had it for eight years, I mean, that’s nothing. Anyway, I guess you fight with monsters or something. God, it’s addictive. More importantly, Farfetch’d is one of humanity’s defining achievements.
82. Mass Destruction
Saturn, 1997, NMS Software/ASC Games
I do like a good mindless shooter. And they don’t come much gooder or mindlesslesser than this little beauty. Kind of like Desert Strike in a tank, you’ve got to roam huge levels and take out certain buildings, rescue agents, and the like. But there’s really nothing to stop you blowing up everything else you see at the same time (unless it’s a nuclear reactor, you’d be advised to leave that one alone). It looks great for a Saturn game, and runs ultra-smooth regardless of excessive pyrotechnics onscreen – just about everything you can see can be blown up. There are desert, rural and tundra levels, but the city ones are the best. Teach those traffic lights a lesson!
81. Steep Slope Sliders
Saturn, 1998, Cave/Sega
I played this to death before I even got it – Sega Saturn Magazine put the first course, single-player only, on a demo disc, and I had epic time-trial contests with my sister’s then-boyfriend, passing the pad between us and noting the times on a bit of paper. Pure playability. The full game only improved, with a series of brilliant courses, an extremely nifty real-time time of day option (the courses worked off the Saturn’s clock, so if you played the Russia course at 7.23pm British time, it would take place at 10.23pm, and so on) and a ton of hidden characters including a UFO, a dog on a snowboard and a penguin. Great dance soundtrack, too.
80. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Gamecube, 2005, Nintendo
Who’d’ve thought it? Not only a platformer that uses the plastic bongo drums invented for a rhythm action game, but a platformer that uses the plastic bongo drums better than the game they were designed for. The great genius of this game and its control system (left bongo for left, right for right, both for jump, clap to stun enemies) is that the levels are set up to encourage rhythmic progression. If you get into a thump-thump-clap-thump-clap-thump-thump-thump groove, it’s a heck of a lot easier and more fun than taking it slow and steady. It could have been a lot better (too many of the levels involve insane dexterity that frustrates your mind and hurts your hands, repeating the same four bosses over and over is the height of laziness), but it’s a great, unique experience that wouldn’t really have worked any other way. Looks gorgeous, too.
79. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
DS, 2005, Konami
Castlevania, eh? There aren’t many series that can give you basically the same game over and over and be good enough to get away with it, but ’Vania’s one. And here we have its DS debut. It’s…well, it plays like the others. Jumpy stabby magicy fighty killy victory. The soul collection idea is a good one, but it’s pretty galling that a couple of areas are only accessible with a soul that you can’t be guaranteed to get. The Magic Seals (to finish off a boss you have to trace a pattern on the touch screen) are also cool in theory, but the last two are so fiddly as to create distinct problems. Oh, and the Clock Tower bit, always irritating throughout the series, is astonishingly awful here and someone needs to die for it. Otherwise, though, it’s great. Inventive levels, highly customisable fighting styles, nifty bosses, and the series’ usual addictive “just-a-bit-further” gameplay.
78. Theme Hospital
PC, 1997, Bullfrog/EA
You’ve got to admire Bullfrog. After selling approximately 27 zillion copies of Theme Park on every console in the world (and a few they made up just for kicks), they apparently sat round a table and said “What’s more fun than a theme park? A hospital!” And despite it all, hot dayum does fiddling with central heating, arranging desks and keeping plants watered prove both tricksy and addictive. The jet-black sense of humour (chucking those close to death out of the hospital to avoid a negative reputation) and bonkers diseases (Bloaty Head, Elvis Syndrome) doesn’t hurt either.
77. Shogun: Total War
PC, 2000, The Creative Assembly/EA
I know I keep saying I’m awful at loads of these games but like them anyway, but I’m really awful at this one and really do like it. The Risk-style planning stage is complicated and tricky enough, but when it comes to the battles…well, I don’t win many. Regardless, the game’s exquisite atmosphere, astonishing clashes and brain-massaging strategy keep me playing.
76. Sega Rally Championship
Saturn, 1996, AM3/Sega
I know I keep saying I’m awful…oh, wait. Okay, so I can do the Desert course satisfactorily and just about manage Forest, but as for Mountain and Lakeside I may as well not turn up. But a well-made game is a well-made game, and they don’t come much more finely tweaked than this. So yeah, I’ll have another go. To hear the “Game over YEEEEEEEAAAAAHHHH!” again if nothing else.