And so, at last, we reach our final Top 20. This has been interesting week at Nintendojo (read as: exhausting) but we’re glad to have celebrated our momentous 100th issue in a big way. We’re also glad that you’ve all contributed in the comments’ section and made your thoughts heard. Tomorrow we’ll have a round table of all the games we neglected to include in our Top 100 but until then, sit back, acquire a container of your snack of choice and enjoy our favourite games of the last six years.
20. Trauma Center: New Blood (2007)
As with the case of Wii U and its trademark tablet controller, a great deal of the ideas that were initially dreamt up for the DS gradually migrated onto the home console. Hardware aside, a great example of this cross-pollination of ideas can be found in the criminally unappreciated Trauma Centre franchise; born on DS before being ported to Wii and then branching out unique sequels on both. While cancerous lumps and deadly pathogens were a great fit for DS’s touch screen, the Swiss army knife that is the Wii remote turned this neat surgical concept into a fantastic home experience that merged frenetic gameplay with the kind of terrifying heart monitor pulse that begs for a home sound system.
Why Adam Sorice loves Trauma Center: New Blood…
Video games can often be a painfully solitary experience. Yes, the opportunities for multiplayer are plentiful but the vast majority of these opportunities involving killing, out-racing, out-punching, generally defeating your gaming companion or residing them to a role that is more insulting than encouraging in a co-operative context. (Just you collect the Star bits, that’s not remotely tedious!) Trauma Center: New Blood is a rare exception to these rules of multiplayer; offering the ability for two players to work together throughout the entire game on an equal footing. After playing Second Opinion, the Wii remake of the DS original title Under the Knife with my Dad in its entirety by taking turns to systemically kill patients for fun; New Blood allowed us to tackle operations together as I would maniacally shout at my surgical assistant to keep pumping the patient with health serum to stop them flatlining. Ah, memories.
19. The World Ends With You (2008)
Let’s think for a second about how beautiful your world is. Look out that window! Look at that tree! Isn’t it beautiful? Now imagine a whole bunch of monsters running willy-nilly. No, not Pokémon– serious monsters. At the same time, imagine playing some kind of twisted game wherein you’re in a race for your life, and every day is another day that could quite literally kill you. Hey, now you’re in The World Ends with You.
One of the only new IPs Square Enix has come out with in recent memory (other than a couple of iOS and PC games), The World Ends with You not only had considerable philosophical heft– how can you live a fulfilling life when your life is so short?– but incredible gameplay innovation. Playing with the face buttons to control the top screen while using your stylus to tap out action on the bottom screen, players had to perform the seemingly improbable feat of looking at two places at the same time. Before the end of the game (and the real end of the game), though, they learned how. Because it was necessary. And it was fun.
Why Katharine Byrne loves The World Ends With You…
One of the freshest JRPGs Square Enix has produced in years, The World Ends with You is one of the coolest games around. Even though I feared going cross-eyed on several occasions, I loved its schizophrenic battle system and its punishing difficulty level. Like a Neku who’d eaten too many burgers that day, the game was absolutely stuffed to the brim with gaming goodness. You could implant a meme inside someone’s head, read people’s thoughts and alter their attitudes by the clothes you wore or the pins you battled with. It also hit all the right notes when it came to teen culture too. Trends? Check. Accessories? Check. A hip soundtrack? Check. Teen slang? Double check. It was so tuned into what’s down with the kids (I’ve possibly just lost buckets of street cred for saying that), and it had a fantastic story to boot too. Now let’s just hope Tetsuya Nomura makes good on those sequel teases…
18. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure (2007)
When the Wii remote was first revealed all those years ago at E3, the imagination of the gaming industry ran wild with the device’s potential. Dentist drills; tennis racquets; musical instruments; gaming would never be the same again! And then came the tsunami of waggle-centric games that failed to realise this potential flooded the market and many players abandoned their dreams of seeing a wide range of games taking full advantage of this unique console. One game that lived up to the hype was Zack & Wiki: a puzzle-quest that saw the Wii remote function as an avalanche of in-game devices in a host of weird and wonderful ways.
As a treasure hunting human pirate (with a fetish for rabbit crewmen), you’re on a quest to gather each golden body part of the cursed pirate Barbaros, whose skull tells you at the outset that the first person (there’s a rival gang of pirates, of course) to assemble his body will be given his legendary pirate ship as well as the location of the fabled Treasure Island. That’s about all there is to the story, but the environmental puzzles, which span volcanic, haunted, jungle and frozen locales, are devilish fun. Wiki, the monkey-bell-thing, can transform local animals and enemies into tools that are then used in a first person perspective with pantomiming remote movements. There’s a chance for all this to be incredibly cheesy, but it ends up having a magical aspect that is fun and incredibly satisfying when a lengthy puzzle is bested.
Why M. Noah Ward loves Zack & Wiki…
You might remember what I wrote in 2001-2005’s Top 20, about initially wanting to avoid Beyond Good & Evil because of its silly character designs. Poor Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure got this same reaction from me, even more strongly. Fortunately, as with BG&E, I still gave this one a chance because, hey, I love adventure games. And absolutely ridiculous, shape-changing-bell-monkey and rabbit pirates aside (Rayman does crazy rabbits much better; sorry Capcom), Zack & Wiki was an absolute charmer that I had to play through to the end. It’s not a stereotypical adventure game– there’s a story but that’s actually the game’s weakest point. Instead, like the Professor Layton games, Zack & Wiki is an environmental puzzle-centric game that starts out easy but starts presenting some tough challenges near the end.
The game’s still able to be found, remarkably, and should be in your Wii collection, if not to challenge your puzzle solving skills, then to have your family, friends or significant other around to help figure out how to solve them. A brain-teasing adventure game that even engages groups? Sign me up, Pirate Zack.
17. Guitar Hero 5 (2009)
While the obvious focus of our list (and to some extent, website) is upon Nintendo games, there remains an important necessity to understand the role of multiplatform games in the history of gaming. The Guitar Hero franchise is perhaps the most successful (and widespread) multiplatform success story of recent years, turning even the most fervent of Taylor Swift fans into quasi-rock stars.
Before the advent of Wii; Guitar Hero encouraged players to pick up plastic peripherals and jam out with the computer and, later, the whole band. Guitar Hero 5 saw the franchise’s highpoint, expertly blending graphical polish, refinement of gameplay and the introduction of the improved “pick up and play” nature of the game.
Why Adam Sorice loves Guitar Hero 5…
While the Guitar Hero franchise may have drawn a fair degree of side-eyeing in its heyday from the core gamer, few other series outwith the realm of Nintendo’s waggle empire have enjoyed similar mainstream success. When people who have little interest in classic rock anthems are diving on the plastic-instrument experience (i.e.– me) then you know you’re onto a good thing and Guitar Hero 5 was Activision’s greatest melody. The game’s party-centric atmosphere, allowing players to drop in and out of songs on any instrument, came to the fore in this game and after the graphical mediocrity of past ventures, 5 brought the rock star image right up to date. Sure, the tracklist was good (though please, let Bon Jovi die) but the gameplay experience of this game is what took it from a niche interest into a gaming masterpiece. After all, anyone can play Guitar Hero.
16. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (2010)
When Dragon Quest IX was first announced for Nintendo DS, it was some kind of crazy action RPG hybrid multiplayer thingymabob. And boy, were people terribly annoyed at that– so Square Enix backed up (“woah guys! we thought you wanted new stuff!”), and while that might have been a mistake in itself, it wasn’t. Turns out, having a game where you can customize your characters at will with everything from Santa suits to Metal Slime armor is a pretty great plan, on account of it becomes an MMORPG for the lone wolf.
Though it doesn’t have to be for the lone wolf– the multiplayer elements of Dragon Quest IX made it the coolest thing since The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age‘s multiplayer mode. Lighthearted in tone and yet incredibly deep in gameplay, Dragon Quest IX lit up more minds than ever, garnering the loyalty of old and new Dragon Quest fans alike. Surely there’s nothing left to do now, though, years after its release? Nope. People still play it, thanks to DLC and the endless grottoes that fill the world. That’s dedication. That’s Dragon Quest IX.
Why Andrew Hsieh loves Dragon Quest IX…
Until my game save somehow became corrupted a year and a half ago, Dragon Quest IX was the single most-played game on my Nintendo DS, surpassing all other games before it. My party of four– guardian Deirdre, unassuming warrior Elena, rather klutzy paladin Nene, and unblinking monk Orca– tore random grottoes apart like tissue paper, and never failed to defeat the weekly quests that would come like clockwork, along with characters that gave me more clothes than I knew what to do with. Far from being the disappointment gamers everywhere thought it might be, being the first numbered Dragon Quest game on a handheld console (not to mention the first multiplayer one), Dragon Quest IX excelled. Unprecedented customization, MMORPG-like quests and NPCs, and often hilarious writing caused Dragon Quest IX to succeed on more levels than any other Dragon Quest game before it had. And certainly with the advent of the online Dragon Quest X, it seems that the influences of Dragon Quest IX won’t stop anytime soon. That’s good, because Deirdre, Elena, Nene and Orca need a resurrection ASAP.