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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The 100 canonical games: 90-81


There are thousands upon thousands of games that have been released over the years. Narrowing them down to a "top 100" was always going to be a challenge, but the whole DDNet team has come together to build a list of the 100 most canonical games that we feel all people should play in order to determine the depth and breadth of experiences that games offer.

Each day we'll count down ten of the games, all the way to the mighty #1. Be sure to let us know in the comments if any games on the list surprise you, or you would add to the list yourself!

90. WWF No Mercy


Pro-wrestling is an artform, and WWF No Mercy is, sixteen years later, still the pinnacle of simulating the artform. AKI Corp had previous experience developing the Japan-only Virtual Pro Wrestling and WCW based titles before going all out for No Mercy. Beginners could have fun with it, but the control scheme was amazingly deep for its time, allowing fans to recreate the tension and drama of an unforgettable wrestling match without entering the ring themselves. Couple that with a story-mode that smartly took storylines from the WWF itself rather than a randomised story found on the PlayStation counterparts and No Mercy is truly one of the only wrestling games to stand the test of time.

89. The Wolf Among Us


The Wolf Among Us is a wonderful example of how comics can successfully segue into video games. The Telltale game functions as a prologue to the Fables comic book series, allowing those both familiar and new to the world to be able to pick it up and play without feeling lost. The best part? There is muuuuuurder! The player takes on the role of Bigby, formerly the infamous Big Bad Wolf but now he's a detective in New York City investigating crimes against or by other fairy tale characters. The Wolf Among is no children's story though, as Bigby encounters some very rough and sketchy characters while trying to have those around him respect the authority of his current job.

88. The Walking Dead: Season 1


This is the game that really put Telltale Games on the map, and with good reason. It laid out the “Telltale formula”: a point-and-click adventure that’s less focused on puzzle solving and more on narrative and dialogue choices, an approach that allows for a much more cinematic and dramatic experience. The quality of the writing is what really set The Walking Dead: Season 1 apart, though; in terms of character drama and sheer emotional weight, it’s second to none.

87. Tales from the Borderlands


Telltale Games is best known for its dramatic works like The Walking Dead, but the studio has its roots in comedy, and Tales from the Borderlands was a delightful return to that genre. True to its source material, it spans slapstick humour, toilet jokes, and general irreverence, but the delivery is so good that even jokes that probably shouldn’t be funny end up being hilarious. At the same time, it manages to be just as compelling on a dramatic level, especially towards the end, taking this goofy dorks and making you really, really care for them.

86. Wizardry


One of the very first RPGs ever created, Wizardry persists as a franchise in its own right, and was so impactful that the dungeon crawler, which the Japanese especially still love, has been relatively unchanged from that original game. That experience of first person exploration through labyrinth after labyrinth, squaring off against difficult, randomly generated monsters, and looting chests as likely to blow up at you as reward you, found its foundation and shell in the first Wizardry, and all any game subsequent to that has done has been to decorate it.

85. Warcraft III


This game arguably marks the line between “old Blizzard”, makers of hardcore dark fantasy and sci-fi strategy games, and “new Blizzard”, lighthearted and colourful purveyors of heroism and pure fun. Warcraft III is a mix of RTS gameplay and RPG style character progression set in a fantasy world on the brink of total annihilation and yet still manages to be humorous and snarky. The plot, competitive balance and world design are all laudable, but Warcraft III is likely to be remembered best for the robustness of its engine which allowed for creative modders to produce some incredible standalone games.

84. The Last Of Us


Few games impacted us on such a deep level as The Last of Us. One can easily argue that this title was too hyped up, both before and after its release. However, for parents who love their kids more than words can describe, The Last of Us will resonated with you from start to finish as you become invested in the characters and like them, needing to see the dramatic tale through the end. Add in elements of puzzle solving, strategic combat and a sense of tension that rivals many horror games out there, and we will gladly argue with anyone who has not made time for this title why they need to at least give it a try.

83. Super Smash Bros. Melee


Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 captured the hearts of millions by leveraging Nintendo's unparalleled star power into fighting game form. It played like nothing else on the market, making the goal not merely to pound your opponent but to outright eject them from the arena by any means necessary. Diverse items and interactive stages presented new mechanics far beyond the scope of archetypal fighting games, making local multiplayer matches the ultimate party game. With the game's sequel, Melee, that formula was polished to a tee; future titles have increased the character roster and the insanity of stages and items tenfold, but in terms of scope, Melee feels the most well-rounded. Casual players won't be off-put by the sheer chaos that occurs in eight player matches with dozens of x factors at play and it speaks volumes that tournaments are reaching new heights over a decade after the game's initial release.

82. The Witcher 2


There was an almighty debate in the DDNet towers over whether it should be The Witcher 2 or 3 to make our list. In the end we settled on The Witcher 2, not because the third game was inferior in any way, but simply because it was the second that was the more influential of the two. CD Projeckt’s signature approach to dark, adult, pulp fantasy was set in motion with this game, and while the third perfected the team’s creative vision, it was really this game that announced to the world that this was a developer worth paying serious attention to.

81. Wild ARMs III


On the surface, Wild ARMs III may appear to be a fairly typical JRPG. It certainly is that (in the best possible way), but it’s also an unexpectedly deep and complex game that makes it one of the finest examples of the genre. With a main cast of just four people, it’s able to really drill deep for characterisation, and it does that remarkably well - especially in the case of Virginia Maxwell, the “main” character who is more or less the antithesis of the moody amnesiac hero. It also has a wonderful battle system, clever Zelda-like dungeon puzzles, and what we think might just be the best game soundtrack of all time.

The 100 canonical games: 90-81
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