There has been something in my mind I call ‘the perfect game’. “There are no Perfect Games, Malstrom. All games are different.” Over the decades (!), I am convinced there are PERFECT games. They may not be the games you *think* right at first, but in hindsight, you realize they are.
The Perfect Game does three things simultaneously:
1) It is still extremely fun to play today.
This eliminates 95% of all other games. This makes it very hard for PC games to endure since the interface has changed so much for PC games from the 1980s to 1990s to today. You need to be able to pick this game up TODAY, and be able to have a blast. Nostalgia doesn’t count.
2) This game has amazing multiplayer experience.
All Zelda games… gone. All Meroid games… gone. Civilization games may have incredible single player experiences, but their multiplayer experiences are lackluster. It is very rare for Number 1 and Number 2 to both be true within a game.
3) This game has amazing single player experience.
Very, very rare for a video game to be very fun on both the single player and multiplayer fronts. Most games choose one or the other. And the fact that the game is still a blast today? Oh, reader, so few games can do these three things at once.
All the games listed below are not a comprehensive list. These are just some I have thought up about. I am not as familiar with all the games on every console.
Here is the list:
Super Mario Brothers 3
Super Mario Brothers 3 is the shining example of the Perfect Game. The game is incredible as a single player game. It also has an amazing multiplayer experience. The game is not just turn-based, the two players actually compete in the overworld. There is a battle mode too which is ridiculous amounts of fun. Anyone who hasn’t played Super Mario Brothers 3 all the way through in multiplayer need to play it again for the first time.
This game also refuses to age. It is still as amazing today as it was back then. A Perfect Game.
Why this one?
Mario Brothers hasn’t aged as well. Super Mario Brothers doesn’t have much of a multiplayer experience. Donkey Kong and Jr. are just turn based. Super Mario World is just turn based. NSMB DS has a crappy single player but amazing versus mode. NSMB Wii isn’t aging well at all. It’s too early to judge Generation 8 games.
Super Mario Brothers 3 hits all three of the criteria squarely. The game is perfection. I doubt you’ll find any who disagree.
Contra or Contra 3
This is for any of the classic Contra games. I’m focusing more on Contra or Contra 3.
The games are ridiculously fun today. I can place them in front of anyone, and they will be taken up. The single player experience is there. The multiplayer experience is also there (though in a more co-op form). There is a reason why any version of classic Contra game, for any system, can cost $50 today despite not being rare and 30 years old. The games are still that much fun!
Why other run and gun games aren’t on here…
Contra is simply better. Perfect games.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2/3/ Turtles in Time
It is still fun to play today. Great single player experience. Great multiplayer experience. There is a reason why these games sold so damn well during their eras and why the cartridges are so expensive today.
I do have some issues here with these games. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme dates it, and it isn’t as ‘awesome’ as it is today. Co-op experience isn’t really a brilliant multiplayer experience. Co-op isn’t really a multiplayer experience but just letting multiple people share in the single player experience. I also think this has aged better than Double Dragon 2 and other co-op beat em ups.
This is a great candidate for being a Perfect Game, but it does have issues. The game is still very fun to play today. However, is it a great single player experience? You cannot truly beat the game in single player. Still, let us add it to this list.
Why other 8-bit Era platformers don’t get on…
Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers for the NES hasn’t aged that well. Try playing it with people, and they die so fast and become frustrated.
This game was extremely popular when it came out, and it remains popular. It is a ‘shmup’, but it is an incredibly ‘slowed down’ shmup. It is a very adventerous shmup, especially on the NES, as the areas are incredibly varied. The game is just so much fun to play.
Single player is fun. Multiplayer is fun too. Multiplayer is interesting since, like Contra, the other player can use your lives. I think the other player can catch the other players’ options too when they die.
So why this game and not others? Shmups died out by not being accessible. This game is very accessible and consistently fun. As Mark says in the video, “I have fond memories of this game twenty years ago. After playing it now, it is as fun as I remember.”
Ikaruga (above) is another candidate for the Perfect Game. However, its multiplayer isn’t as interactive as even Life Force’s. You don’t steal lives in Ikaruga or take other players’ options (since there aren’t any).
I think the 16-bit versions of Bomberman probably satisfy the Perfect Game the best. Bomberman still is fun. Fantastic multiplayer experience. And the 16-bit versions had a solid single player experience in them as well.
I don’t think I have to explain this one, so let us move on.
Super Mario Kart
This game is delicious. Some say it has ‘aged’, but I don’t think so, and the retro prices do not think so either. Some Mario Kart games have aged such as Mario Kart DS (oh, those blue sparks). But the original has a solid, solid single player experience in the form of the races and Time Trials where the 150 CC on Special Cup gets very challenging at times. The multiplayer experience in this game is incredible. It is not just playing the same race together, it is the Battle Mode. You could spend hours and hours in Battle Mode.
Why not other Mario Karts?
The handheld Mario Karts don’t age as well. I don’t think the N64 one has aged well, but I especially dislike its single player experience. Mario Kart Wii is…. meh. Gamecube Mario Kart has a fantastic multiplayer experience but the single player experience is very lacking. I think Super Mario Kart hits the best balance between single player experience and multiplayer experience. The game is the best selling Super Nintendo game, and it consistently has a high retro price today despite its massive supply. This game is good. It’s perfect.
Has this game aged well? Incredibly, it has! The Gameboy Tetris just plays wonderfully today as it did back then. The music is great. Everything about it is great. The game has a fantastic single player experience. But when linked, Gameboy also has a fantastic multiplayer experience too.
This game is perfect, and I doubt anyone would disagree. Other candidates would be a version of Dr. Mario or Tengen Tetris, but I think Gameboy Tetris is the one we’re thinking about.
The Urquan Masters is the modern updated free release of Star Control 2. It is a Perfect Game. It is also available for free. Everyone should play it.
This game is quite amazing. The multiplayer experience is SO MUCH fun. It requires two people to be at the same computer though. The combat plays like Asteroids like spaceships but against one another. It is like Space War or Computer Space. There are different ships to choose that do different things. It may look simple from your standpoint, reader, but the gameplay is very rich. Playing Hyper-Melee alone or with friends is as fun as playing Bomberman. It’s that good.
Playing against computers in Hyper-Melee would not be enough to give this game much of a single player experience. There is a full fledged Zelda-like RPG game inside. I do not know how else to communicate the epic single player to the reader except to say it is Zelda-like. There is definitely an ‘overworld’ that you explore, interact with other aliens, and you build up your flagship and fleet. The writing is very fun, the aliens are interesting, and I cannot say anything bad about the single player at all. Excellent story, excellent gameplay, excellent ambiance.
The single player has the feeling of growth and the epic-ness of Zelda but with the ambiance and atmosphere of Super Metroid. In some ways, it plays like a Star Trek game where you explore the cosmos. The single player experience is top notch.
And due to the classic gameplay style with very, very rich sound effects and music, this game is still as wonderful today as it was back then. I consider it one of the top candidates for the Perfect Game.
Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Still a blast to play today. Great single player experience. Great multiplayer experience. Anything else to day?
The new HD version is a company looking to cash in on its popularity. We’ll see how that goes.
Unreal Tournament 2004
This game is over ten years old and still ridiculously fun. It is the best of one of the last of the arena shooters game. The fanbase has held up in this game incredibly well to the point they are making Unreal Tournament 4 themselves!
Unreal Tournament 99 and 2004 are what I would consider ‘chock full of content’. Yes, they are great multiplayer experiences. Due to the amazing bots in the game, they can also be great single player experiences. I enjoy both.
So why this game and not other shooters? Doom is fun, but does anyone want to play it in multiplayer? Quake 3 is great, but it doesn’t really have that much of a single player experience. I just find UT2K4 to line up the three requirements the best to become a perfect game.
Blizzard’s crisp art style has kept this early 3d game looking ageless. This game is still very much fun to play today. It still has a multiplayer base still playing it.
For single player, you have a two full campaigns of the main game and the expansion. While the single player is fun, the story is probably the best out of any RTS game ever made. There is a reason why World of Warcraft, which continues after Warcraft 3, hit the ground running. You can also play against and with computers to have a single player ‘multiplayer experience’ if you want as well.
The multiplayer experience is also fantastic. 1vs1 to 4vs4 creates different types of games. The maps also make different types of games. Due to the map editor, you can make your own or play other people’s single player and multipler experiences. Warcraft 3 gave us the Tower Defense genre and the DOTA genre. Warcraft 3 is a beast of a game and, by judging from the three standards, ought to be considered as a Perfect Game.
What about other Blizzard games?
No one plays Diablo. Diablo 2 has aged too much (do you really want to click on gold to pick it up?). Diablo 3 isn’t as fun as its predecessors. Starcraft 1 is a perfect game except that is now aging too much. It is difficult to go back to such primitive graphics and resolution. Warcraft 1 and 2 also have aged poorly.
Warcraft 3 may age more in the future, but so far it is still not there yet.
Starcraft 2’s multiplayer experience I believe is lackluster. The Starcraft 2 single player campaigns I find to be excellent, but the multiplayer is… eh? The game is still also too new.
World of Warcraft
This one may not completely fit. The game is excellent multiplayer and single player. It can be fun to go questing on your own or to even to make your own task. The early parts of WoW are still fun to explore. For a game over ten years old, WoW is still spectacularly popular.
But the game also gets new expansions. Does that mean it is cheating the ‘still fun to play today’ segment? Maybe.
Well, we don’t know how it will age. But since its graphics are so low, it is reasonable to assume that it is aging fine. The game has a great single player experience in that people do their own thing, while in multiplayer people play together on crazy maps. I don’t have to explain this one. It is crazy popular for a reason.
Are there any Perfect Games you think may exist that wasn’t on the list above? Let me know.