Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 1    December 1997

The OC&GS Panel Trades Top Tens
The Choices of Chris

By Chris Federico and Adam Trionfo

Every video veteran has played certain games at points in his life that contain, as far as that person's concerned, the strongest qualities found in those game types.

"Good" is such an abstract term that I guess a top-ten list, difficult as it would be for anyone to compile, really depends on what the lister's looking for. It also depends on how far back into game history he goes. You'll find my list, for instance, dating as far back as 1979.

So what about you? C'mon -- just for fun. Here are my and Adam's top picks from the annals of video-game history, going right up to the present; but we'd be very interested in seeing what you guys think. Send your lists to the address at left. Every one of them will be read. The top ten that are most found on your lists will be published in the next issue (or, if we get a lot of replies, we'll include more than one list, going by genre). Descriptions like ours aren't necessary, but it'll be neat if you at least include brief reasons why you love those games. Here I go. Rest assured that Adam's list will be almost completely different.

Oh, yeah -- these are NOT in order. There IS no order. Your lists needn't be in order. Can I overexplain a little more?! -- CF

1) ADVENTURE (Atari 2600)

The idea of the multi-screen, exploratory graphic adventure game might seem old-hat by now, but this, folks, was the first. And for some reason, simplistic graphics or not, it's still the best. Maybe the eerie quality it offered when I was 10 still lingers. This game really is huge for being inside one of the first 2600 carts. It's also quick-moving and offers a coordinational release that's hard to explain. This was the first game with an Easter egg. Boy, did that fascinate me. (Need help finding the "secret message," as an Easter egg was often referred to at the time? Write!)


I guess games on this list don't have to be orphaned. Purists, don't worry -- this is the only Nintendo game I'll mention. But this was the culmination of the first scrolling platform-game era.

It would have just been the best Mario game, and not necessarily in my top ten, if it hadn't been for the tons of secret places Mario can fly to, secret rooms he can stumble upon, hidden objects behind the scenery and such. Neato!

3) ARCHON (8-bit computers)

The idea of merging Chess, magic and shoot-'em-ups was brilliant, and it couldn't have been handled more magnificently. And the computer makes a decent opponent -- a rare quality!

4) MINER 2049'er (8-bit computers)

First of all, you don't just get to the top of each unique playfield, as in Donkey Kong and its scores of imitations. You fill in the ground. Every spot on every screen has to be visited by Bounty Bob. Second, this mechanic was incorporated in a lot of unique ways. So many elements stuffed into a single main idea!

5) DOOM (Atari Jaguar)

I know, I know. But it really is fun. In fact, it's one of the most fun games ever invented. I prefer the Jaguar version over the PC; it's more...well...GAMEY. Play both versions and you'll see what I mean.

This game takes both the shoot-'em-up ethic and the exploration idea to their ultimate extremes. And there are secret rooms (awriiiiight!). The game's not for everybody; maybe that's why blowing away possessed soldiers with a chain-gun is so much fun. The game also really communicates its atmosphere successfully. It pulls you in. It's dark and scary and beautiful. ID Software really knows how to pick the ultimate villains: Wolfenstein 3-D pits you against the Nazis, and even Hitler himself. Doom crosses into superstition and presents demons from hell.

6) RAID ON BUNGELING BAY (8-bit computers)

Broderbund hit upon the ultimate shoot-'em-up with this smooth-moving sensation. This thrilling game took the Asteroids ethic and inflated it to a fantastic degree. The huge, multi-screen island jigsaw wraps around to rejoin itself as your chopper scrolls over it, and factories repair themselves if you don't re-load and finish the job of bombing them to ashes in time. More and more automated enemies pop up across the islands as the game progresses.

And somehow, the game keeps offering a great deal of challenge no matter how many times you've beat it. A true winner for trigger-happies.

7) IRON SOLDIER (Atari Jaguar)

How many games have attacking planes that actually burst into realistic flames and pieces when shot, which fall to the ground dramatically? How many first-person shoot-'em-ups move quickly and smoothly without compromises in the graphic detail? Iron Soldier beats every other windshield simulator I've played. You're in the cockpit of a giant, armed robot. There are sixteen different missions located in sixteen different (and very huge) fields or cities. Your robot can blow the hell out of everything -- buildings, tanks, turrets, planes, choppers, enemy robots, doorways, armed carriers, factories, water towers, convoys of trucks, houses, trees...

8) WIZBALL (Commodore 64)

Am I the only one who's ever played this wonderful Ocean import? The Commodore 64 has never looked, played or felt better. All of its strengths are exploited in full as you control a rotating, armed sphere that sets out to capture liquid colors so its own world can have color again.

Every time a color is completed, you have access to an additional, horizontally scrolling, beautifully detailed surface. There are nine in all, and they're all very different from each other, with eerie alien sulptures, lava formations or protruding metallic tubes. Each has its own color scheme and it's fun to bonk the Wizball around each little obstacle course, zapping aliens and trying to collect liquids. This is the best 64 game I've ever played.

9) ZORK (8-bit computers)

Since all three started out as one big text adventure, I just specified their shared name. The trilogy was a watershed in adventure games. Up until Infocom's founders came up with this spooky, often humorous and always mesmerizing interactive tale, text adventures were limited to two-word parsers (GET APPLE) and cold, boring descriptions (THERE IS: APPLE TREES HERE).

This is a prime example of successful atmospheric communication. This is WAY more fun than any illustrated text adventure. A good story doesn't need graphics. Infocom knew this so-called secret for years, and at the end of the first home computer era, their position as the best group of adventure writers was secured without argument.

10) DEFENDER (Raster coin-op)

Eugene Jarvis, the creator of this incredible contest, summed it up perfectly: "It's a game for punks, for guys into games, for life-and-death gamers. It's not for people who aren't as dedicated, who just want to have a good time. It's for game nuts like myself. The explosions and the speed give you power, the feeling of omnipotence. That's what I'm after: The higher high, the spacier space, the rush." (From Video Invaders by Steve Bloom, @1982 Arco Publishing.)

Even more than Space Invaders, Asteroids or any of those early contests, Defender sums up excitement like few coin-ops from my past are able to. Tron, maybe, competes for that adrenaline-stimulating total recall.

By the way -- the best home version is Yak's Classic Defender, which is included on the Jaguar cartridge Defender 2000.

[UNNECESSARILY REVISIONIST COMMENT: Stargate is even better. In fact, in my current opinion, it completely blows away the first game. I'm not entirely sure why I listed only Defender. Perhaps I didn't sufficiently remember my few experiences with the sequel, as M.A.M.E. certainly wasn't around yet -- not to mention any decent home versions. 5/26/11]