Yes, here’s another installment of the 100 games you must play before you die series! This set sees arcade titles and RPGs take precedence – and fair enough, because for many of us, these are the titles we first played as kids and teenagers. Check out games 21-30 in our list of 100, and just a reminder: the games are in no particular order.
21. Double Dragon
Release date: 1987
Nominated by: Phil Federico
Developed by Technos Japan and distributed by TAITO Corp, Double Dragon is the spiritual and technological successor of Techno’s earlier beat ‘em up Renegade. When Double Dragon hit the arcades it took the world by storm by revolutionising the side scrolling beat ‘em up genre: it introducing a two-player cooperative option allowing you and a friend to battle all the way through the game, you also had the ability to pick up weapons such as steel baseball bats, whips, throwing knives, dynamite sticks, boxes, oil drums and rocks and also disarm enemies and use whatever they were carrying.
Double Dragon’s success set the benchmark to beat for any future beat ‘em’s that came after it. I still believe that to this day Double Dragon is able to hold its own against any other beat ‘em up on the market.
The story to Double Dragon is simple: the leader of the Black Warriors “Machine Gun Willy” has stolen your girlfriend Marian and you need to get her back at any cost. Playing as either Billy Lee or his twin brother Jimmy, you fight your way through the Black Warrior’s gang using a repertoire of martial art techniques performed using the joystick and three action buttons (kick, punch and jump) individually or in combination. Techniques comprised of simple kicking and punching to more elaborate moves such as my personal favourite, the elbow punch, which was absolutely devastating. If playing co-op with another player, you could also grab an enemy and hold them in a full-nelson technique while the other player unloads into them with kicks and punches or weapons such as steel baseball bats and whips.
Double Dragon is something you have to play before you die. Your life will not be complete unless you experience being thrown over Abobbo’s shoulder multiple times or getting shot by Machine Gun Willy point blank at least once – plus if you make it to the end with a mate, you get to duke it out one on one to see who takes the girl. Getting your hands on the Arcade version of Double Dragon is going to be pretty hard (unless you come to my house, as I have mine in the garage), but the second best option is to pick it up on XBOX LIVE ARCADE for only 400 MS points. Do it now before I elbow you in the gut, knee you in the head and then flip you into the spikes.
22. Grand Theft Auto III
Release date: 2001
Nominated by: Mike Irving
Consistently placing in gaming media’s lists of most influential, important or straight up best games of all time, GTA III was a landmark for the series and the games industry in general. The open-world environments and free-roaming gameplay (sandbox, as it was later termed) had been impressive from the series’ previous bird’s-eye-view perspective, but running around a fully rendered 3D city was an experience like no other in games, and it thrust the series into the mainstream spotlight. Not only did it spark a whole new genre of open-world games, like Saint’s Row, Just Cause, Far Cry, Prototype and inFAMOUS, it freed players from being led by the hand down corridors shooting bad guys; they could now choose their own path, or almost endlessly wreak havoc outside of missions.
It’s also a damn good example of emergent gameplay and narrative: everyone has an awesome car chase or escape story. Everyone decided at some point to see how many cops they could get chasing them, and how long they could outrun them. Everyone drove around finding ramps to jump off, trashing numerous cars in the process.
If you haven’t had any of these moments, you are definitely missing out. While GTA III started this trend, all the games that followed in the series built on its foundations, and at least one is worth a go.
Platform: XBLA/PSN/PC (via Steam)
Genre: Puzzle-Platformer, Trend-starter
Release date: 2010 (XBLA), 2011 (PSN/Steam)
Nominated by: Alexis Ayala
LIMBO had me at hello. Talk about first impressions, the first time I saw some gameplay footage I just about lost it. Sure silhouette games are now in vogue but LIMBO basically started that trend. It’s more than just the art direction, which is admittedly stunning. It’s also all about the storytelling. There is no dialog in the entire game, not even a tutorial. Everything you come across you discover. It’s an isolated world so when you see small glimpses of life you’re immediately jarred and intrigued. The sound design is appropriately devoid of anything aside of the textures around you to completely immerse you into this world. The premise is simple, sure. At it’s core it’s just a 2D puzzle-platformer but LIMBO is certainly something far more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s a complete story arc told through effective storytelling, beautifully animated characters and an extremely well realised world with considered gameplay design, not to mention one of the most impactful endings I’ve had in my carrier play games. Not too many games in my life have inspired me or given me chills. LIMBO has done both. It’s one of those very special titles that I’ll remember, and return to for years to come.
Release date: 1999
Nominated by: Phil Federico
Developed by Sega and produced by Yu Suzuki, Shenmue was one of the first games that introduced real life elements such as a day/night and sleep cycle along with real time weather. What blew me away with Shenmue was its opening scene where our main hero, Ryo Hazuki, is returning home to witness his father Iwao battling with a man dressed in a silk Kung-Fu suit by the name of Lan Di. Lan Di has come to retrieve something known as the Dragon Mirror, Iwao refuses to reveal its location, but then Ryo intervenes and Lan Di focuses his attention on Ryo, lifting him off the ground by his neck as he threatens to kill Iwao’s son if he doesn’t tell him where the mirror is. Iwao, knowing that Lan Di is not playing around, reveals the location of the mirror. Once Lan Di’s henchmen recover the mirror, Iwao and Lan Di battle once more, this time Lan Di delivering a deadly blow to Iwao leaving him to die slowly in Ryo’s arms. Before he dies Iwao mentions Ryo to always keep his and stay close with his friends. Ryo filled with revenge he embarks on an epic adventure to hunt down his father’s killer and retrieve the mirror.
I could go on all day and night talking about how good Shenmue is. For its time Shenmue was truly a revolutionary game. You had the freedom to roam around and speak to non-player characters that felt real as they had their own daily routines, and the environments and locations had a large amount of interactive elements such as vending machines, convenience stores and arcades (where you could play old SEGA classic arcade games – something you’ve probably already seen if you’ve played Yakuza 3 & 4). Along with that, Shenmue had a some really great quick time event feature which fit perfectly into the game and battles.
The battle system had you controlling Ryo against single and sometimes multiple enemies at the same time. You had a large list of martial arts techniques at your disposal with the ability to learn more, making Ryo even more powerful. On his journey Ryo would meet special key characters in the game that would offer to teach him new skills. Another way to learn new techniques was to purchase scrolls from various locations in the game, after learning them you would have to practice the move combinations to truly master them.
The soundtrack in Shenmue is amazing, to this day I still have the theme song “Sedge Tree” is on my iPhone as a ring tone. Shenmue is a masterpiece and a revolutionary title released on the SEGA Dreamcast that deserves more praise that it was given at the time. I urge you all to find yourself a copy of this game and sit down and play through it from start to finish.
25. Wii Sports
Release date: 2006
Nominated by: Jack Joly
As it came bundled with the Wii originally, Wii Sports‘ significance is often overlooked, but on top of acting as a tech demo and an introduction to the new hardware, it’s a surprisingly fun sports game offering tennis, golf, boxing, bowling and baseball. Its inclusion is essential as playing it for the first time was a standout gaming moment: Wii Sports will have probably been most people’s first experience with working motion control, a control scheme catered for on all consoles and a new direction for gaming.
Although we have now come to realise that some of the games aren’t as good as we first thought, nor the motion control as responsive now we’ve seen what else current technology is capable of, at the time playing by swinging the controller was revolutionary. In addition, it was true that anyone can play because not only did games like bowling allow for anyone to play with its simplicity, but it actually made non-gamers want to play as it was something that appealed to them. Wii Sports opened up a whole new market of casual gamers and attracted people who thought they would never be interested in playing games.
26. Mortal Kombat
Release date: 1992
Nominated by: Matt Vella
If it wasn’t for the 1992 Mortal Kombat‘s over-the-top violence and gory fatalities, we wouldn’t of had the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). In 2011, the latest edition of the franchise has paved the way for an 18+ rating in Australian gaming, but these are the obvious reasons…there are so many more reasons why this is a must play title!
In a period filled with Street Fighter II clones, Mortal Kombat dared to be different. It was the first game to use digitized actors, and the first game to properly define the juggling in the fighting genre – the foundation of many franchises such as Tekken. Also, unlike most fighters that involve a simple step backwards to block, Mortal Kombat allocates an entire button just to blocking, heavily changing the pacing of battle. This was also the game that introduced Scorpion and Sub-Zero. Need I say more?
27. Persona 4
Release date: 2008
Nominated by: Adam Tabor
Most J-RPGs have you slaying dragons or fighting some crazy space overlord where you’re not quite sure what gender it is. The Persona series changed all that with it’s modern-day/horror setting. Persona 3 added the social sim aspect which is even crazier in 4. Some will debate that 3 has the better plot and so on, but Persona 4 adds all that plus more.
All the Persona games up to that point have been in a big city, but Persona 4 takes place in a small town. Instead of just saving your town from some kind of demon attack, this is more of a murder mystery where all these random people get killed and you and your friends get caught up in it. A weather system was added to help you sort things out when it comes to the sim aspect.
I am a fan of turn based RPGs and not sim games, somehow Persona 4 tricked me into loving it. On top of all that it has a great anime style, story, cast, battle system, and a very addicting anime soundtrack. It’s an amazing game to end the life of the PS2 and one of the best it has to offer. Just don’t blame me if your real life relationship suffers because you give your in-game girlfriend more attention than you do your real one.
Platform: PS3/Xbox 360
Release date: 2007
Nominated by: Jed Bradshaw
Tony Hawk video games were breathing their last few breaths and prepping their coffins. The future of skateboarding videogames was uncertain.
In swooped EA, releasing SKATE to critical and fan acclaim. The realistic control set and hardcore nature of the game set it apart and far above any other franchise in the genre. The ability to use the analog sticks to feel like you were actually pulling tricks made the game difficult, but very satisfying and addictive. Video recording, editing and online functionality was also a huge factor in making this game great. With the addition of SKATE 2, Black Box outdid themselves with DLC, awesome skate parks and insane gameplay tweaks like the ability to get off the skateboard. Unfortunately, SKATE 3 was not quite the breath of fresh air that the previous iterations of the game were. Although it was possible to create huge skate parks and the graphics color palette was different, most of the game felt stale.
Currently, the series is in limbo and the last DLC to be released was a long time ago. Whatever its future may be though, you can be sure that you will have a blast playing SKATE, SKATE 2, and even SKATE 3.
29. Guardian’s Crusade
Release date: 1999
Nominated by: Luke Halliday
If there ever was a game that more than any other lacked the recognition it rightfully deserved, then without a doubt that game is Guardian’s Crusade.
Guardian’s Crusade was a simple RPG, with a simple story, simple controls, simple characters and simple goal. You play as a messenger boy who fancies himself as a Knight, who one day stumbles upon a mysterious baby animal. You are told by a mysterious heavenly light that you must return this baby to it’s mother. That is the entire game’s direction. Sounds too simple right? Well you are right! But there-in lies the reason why this game is a game you have to play before you die.
Most RPG’s go for complex stories, characters with even more complex histories, complex control systems, complex tedious stat building systems and just plain complexity in general. That is where those RPG’s fail, they tell you too much. Guardian’s Crusade instead aims for the alternate of that, it tells you very little. It leaves much of the characters feelings and motives unknown. All you know is what you the player feels. That is a true role playing experience. You become the role.
That is what RPG’s should be and Guardian’s Crusade succeeds because of that. It is one of the most emotional, heart-felt, consuming role-playing games I have ever played. The story says so little, yet simultaneously says so much. If you don’t play this game before you bite the dust, you missed out on one hell of an experience. You would have missed out on Guardian’s Crusade. Play it, then you can die happy.
30. Dance Dance Revolution
Release date: 1998
Nominated by: Matt Vella
Whenever I talk to a gamer that’s 5-10 years older than me, they always tell me stories about ‘the golden age of video gaming’ where crowds would surround arcade machines like Street Fighter II, Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat or Space Invaders. This may of been before my time, but I have still have experienced this in the fashion thanks to Dance Dance Revolution.
When I was in high school I had these two mates who were treated like rock stars whenever they walked into the local arcade. Crowds would gather around them whenever they approached the Dance Dance Revolution machine, and I was the cool rock star roadie who held their school bags while they played. Whenever you’re at an arcade, if you see someone on DDR and totally ripping it up, you can’t help but be impressed as it’s certainly more eye catching than just having a really good score on Time Crisis II, and certainly breaks that stereotype that all gamers are fat guys who have never left their basement (whose definition of socializing is yelling profanities through a headset and talking to a bottle of Mountain Dew). The glory of Dance Dance Revolution doesn’t stop there though, if it wasn’t for DDR we wouldn’t of seen such massively successful franchises such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero…and did I mention how epic the soundtrack is? Honestly the only thing that sucks about this game…is that I suck at it.