So here I am today, about to whittle down a time spanning three console generations (including PC) into 16 of what I consider to be the best of the best. There's a lot to choose from, and a lot of favorites are off this list right from jump street. I am basing this on my own gaming habits and knowledge; I can't in all fairness put a game on this list that I didn't play, and others just did nothing for me. This list might divide people, but I come to back up my thoughts over the next 4 weeks. So without further ado, here are my top 16 greatest games of the late 90s.
What is it about this cult gem, developed by HAL Labs and produced by Nintendo, that stands out to me over the likes of Chrono Trigger and the long-fabled Final Fantasy 7? What really stood out to me, besides being a pretty solid RPG in its own right, is the fact that it's so different. Your main protagonist is not some orphaned boy seeking revenge or some loner with a troubled past. He's a young boy with a loving family who is called upon by a mysterious young girl to save the world. The whole game has an offbeat sense of humor to it that sets it apart from the standard melodrama of RPGs of that time. Very rarely does the game get too heady in its themes, even toward the end (which if you know the back story, is pretty disturbing). Yet what really sets it apart are the in-jokes and references. There are countless nods to classic poetry, artists and their works, and even multiple references to the works of The Beatles. Heck, the game even breaks the fourth wall multiple times, most notably with having a talking dog who is actually inhabited by the spirit of the game's lead developer. It's this kind of offbeat mood that really sets Earthbound apart from the standard sword and sorcery RPGs like Chrono Trigger or cyberpunk outings such as Phantasy Star. The game is really hard to find, and expensive to boot, but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it.
With that, we end the first part of the countdown. Next time we will see which games break into the top 10. A hint: The dead will rise, and the only two heroes who can stop them are a muscle-bound ass-kicker in sunglasses and the Prince of Darkness.