We are now in the second half of my 100th review special! A 6/10 isn’t a terrible grade on my scale. It means that I have reservations recommending the game in question, but it ultimately does more right than wrong. Furthermore, as per my rules, a 6/10 is the highest grade a game with a weak ending can receive. A few of the following entries are indeed titles that would otherwise deserve to be on higher tiers. I feel not enough creators realize how important it is to stick the landing. After all, the ending is the last impression you have a work; if it’s bad, it almost doesn’t matter if the material leading up to it was good. Rest assured, from this point onward, we’ll be discussing games that are worth a try.
50. System Shock 2
System Shock 2 may be a cult classic, but I don’t think I’ve played another competently designed game that had a worse structure. As it is, System Shock 2 takes a lot of effort to get into and the ending amounts to a slap in the face for all of your hard work. One could argue the ending was meant to be a sequel hook, but considering how poorly the original System Shock sold, it was a very shortsighted decision. Either way, if you’re looking for a good horror title and are able to enjoy a game even when its story lacks follow-through, System Shock 2 is worth looking into, as it’s a genre-defying, if deeply flawed title from the PC gaming scene’s golden age.
49. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Crossover titles need synergy to work. As it stands, this particular crossover feels less like a blend of two different styles and more like two incomplete games glued together. It also depends almost entirely on the player being an equally big fan of both franchises. Even if they are, these two franchises have entirely different senses of pacing from each other, so switching between them can be jarring. However, the interactions between the leads is pretty fun to watch, and it does have a mystery that will keep those invested interested long enough to see how it pans out.
48. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
Once Dragon Quest III was finished, the series’ template was well and truly established. Considering the overwhelming success of each installment, Yuji Horii and company could easily have rested their laurels and given their audience more of the same, knowing whatever they made would sell millions of units. As Dragon Quest IV demonstrates, their first question after nailing down their formula was “What else can we do with it?” The result is one of the most unique storytelling experiences of its generation. The idea of naming your character only to assume the role of their comrades first was unfathomable in 1990, and the franchise’s popularity ensured that many would-be artists would be interested to travel the trail it blazed. It does have some execution issues in that level grinding is made even more tedious due to having every character begin at level one, but it’s still a very commendable effort for its day, and the remakes do a lot to make it more accessible for later generations.
47. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Uncharted 3 made a gigantic blunder of being shorter than its direct predecessor while also having noticeably more filler. Though most of the plot threads are resolved satisfactorily, it still has a noticeable lack of focus that makes it difficult to recommend as a standalone title. Because of this, I don’t believe the critics’ decision to give it such universal critical acclaim is one that has fared well in hindsight. Taking what they said at face value would lead one to believe it’s one of the greatest games ever made when it’s just not the case. It ranks higher than the previous three titles on this tier because it’s paced reasonably well, but it’s still a token sequel through and through.
46. Blast Corps
When thinking of it in terms of the numerous genres and subgenres that have existed throughout the medium’s history, Blast Corps defies description. It’s a bit of a shame this game gets passed up in favor of the rest of Rare’s output on the Nintendo 64 because it really is one of the most unique experiences the medium has to offer. Then again, it does falter somewhat when the third tier of levels is introduced, and I don’t like that the generally less interesting secondary stages outnumber the main missions, but I guarantee you’ve never played a game quite like this. I certainly couldn’t think of another game in which a carrier transporting defective nuclear missiles is heading for a safe detonation site, and it’s up to you to demolish every building in its path. The best part? You get paid for everything you destroy. True, money doesn’t do anything in this game, but it’s the thought that counts.
45. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
By 2015, the gaming community had witnessed developers such as Square Enix and Capcom openly disrespect their fanbase whether it was by failing to localize games, canceling high-profile projects, or through other ill-advised business decisions. While those two companies at least managed to make partial recoveries when they actually started listening to their fans, Konami proceeded to fall even harder than either of them ever did, turning the once-respected developer into a pariah in the gaming sphere. Though it wasn’t canceled outright like the highly anticipated Silent Hills, Metal Gear Solid V too was a victim of their epic mid-2010s meltdown. Despite being one of the most ambitious titles of its day, it’s fairly obvious once all is said and done that the game wasn’t completed. On that basis, I had no choice but to disqualify it from receiving a 7/10. It demonstrates the importance of finishing a game before judging it, and in retrospect, I’m disappointed that critics at the time could consider it one of the greatest games ever made. It really highlighted a problem that was endemic to gaming criticism; if a film critic took this approach, no one would take them seriously at all. I will say it’s impressive that it manages to outshine many completed efforts, but it’s bittersweet knowing that it could’ve been a true masterpiece.
44. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
I have to admit that a lot of the issues I raised in my Uncharted 4 review were addressed (surprisingly well, I might add) in The Lost Legacy, but I still feel its biggest weakness is that by this point, Naughty Dog had clearly played all of their best cards. A finale should ideally be grander in scale than the installments leading up to it, but with the high amount of action sequences that permeate throughout the rest of the series, it’s difficult to see what makes the ones from Uncharted 4 so special. Consequently, it feels par for the course. I do like that there were a few new ideas thrown in such as the ability to perform sneak attacks and having documents you can examine. This game did successfully give its central protagonist a sendoff, but I still question if Naughty Dog really did what they could to well and truly earn it.
43. Metroid: Zero Mission
Zero Mission fell victim to the trap Mr. Sakamoto avoided with Metroid Fusion. By updating the game that was already effectively remade in the form of Super Metroid, it comes across as a lesser version of that title. It’s also a game that showcases the weaknesses of the original’s level design, and it’s pretty obvious to the initiated where the old content stops and the new content begins. The lack of synergy is especially notable in a genre that emphasizes the exploration of one giant area that gradually opens up. Even so, if you intend to follow the series from the beginning, this is an overall better game to start with than the original Metroid, as it has all of the important innovations Super Metroid brought to the series. Also, you don’t have to grind health every time you start a new session, so there’s that.
42. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening is considered one of the greatest games ever made, and speaking as someone who really enjoys the Zelda series, I’m not entirely sure why that is. It was the first game in the series I completed on my own, but even at the time, I wouldn’t have been quick to consider it one of my absolute favorites; at best, I think it’s kind of neat. Whenever people praise this game, they commonly cite its wonderfully crafted story as a reason why it reigns supreme over the rest of the franchise. The story is ambitious, but it overreaches a little and ultimately doesn’t benefit from having a silent protagonist. In the latter respect, it reminds me of Mother 3 only the results weren’t as disastrous. The team did a great job importing the improvements from A Link to the Past to the Game Boy platform, though the two-button control scheme ensures you will have to open up the menu multiple times just to get from Point A to Point B. Despite my own mixed feelings, I do genuinely respect this game because it allowed the talented Yoshiaki Koizumi to play a bigger role in the development of future installments, allowing the series to evolve and explore new ideas.
Ico inspired countless artists, yet somehow still manages to be one of the better games of its kind. Like the original Uncharted, I think it gets a slightly disproportionate amount of retroactive praise courtesy of its spiritual successor, Shadow of the Colossus. Unlike Uncharted, I think the praise is still mostly well-deserved because this game provides an experience few others have attempted, and of the ones who tried, almost all of them fell short in some way. I feel it’s because, despite its name, minimalism is often more difficult to pull off than a more conventional approach, as the lack of a fallback plan makes it easier to inadvertently produce a deal-breaking flaw. Plus, escort missions don’t tend to be very popular in gaming spheres – and rightly so. Therefore, it stands to reason that Team Ico making one that spans the entire game tolerable was a one-time-only deal.
40. Breath of Fire II
Breath of Fire II manages to be an improvement over the original in pretty much every way that matters, but it’s still ultimately a standard JRPG with all of the annoyances commonly cited about the genre in full effect (multiple fetch quests, random encounters, level grinding, etc.). A majority of the experience is standard fare for its time, yet the last third is astonishingly good to the point where you will be questioning if you’re even playing the same game anymore. Though I would be hesitant to formally give it my seal of approval, I think JRPG fans should look into this game because there are quite a lot of forward-looking ideas thrown out there that can be appreciated even today.
39. The Legend of Zelda
The three most notable Nintendo franchises to debut on the NES were Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. Of those three, The Legend of Zelda stands out as the best one by far, possessing a level of ambition lacking in the other two while also not falling victim to the Metal Gear trapping of being too ahead of its time. One of the weaker aspects about it concerns its occasionally unintuitive nature, as a lot of the reason the game had longevity, much like the average contemporary adventure title, was because a lot of time is spent looking for the last few dungeons. In the second quest especially, are they’re hidden in places most people wouldn’t think to look. The controls also take some getting used to – especially if you’re familiar with the later 2D games wherein you could move diagonally and Link slashed the sword as opposed to stabbing the space directly in front of him. Indeed, Eiji Aonuma, one of the most important figures behind the Zelda franchise was unable to clear the game. Fortunately, there’s still enough to like about The Legend of Zelda, and its open-world design wouldn’t be attempted again until nearly three decades later with Breath of the Wild, meaning unlike Super Mario Bros. and Metroid, it is not simply a prototypical version of its sequels.