As games have moved away from arcade-style life bars and towards autosaves and regenerating health, it's easy to forget how hard video games used to be. Nowadays, with enough time and patience, most any game can be waded through. F-Zero didn't give half a damn about some namby-pamby, new-agey, all-inclusive philosophy, preferring instead to grind its players' egos down to nubs with impossibly fast racing, unpredictable obstacles, and uncannily skilled AI opponents. If you think you've gotten frustrated playing Demon's Souls, you haven't played F-Zero.



Final Fantasy was for shut-ins. Secret of Mana was for kicking ass with buddies. The game offered wider opportunities for tactics and wit during battles, as well as beautiful visuals and a sophisticated player growth system. Setting itself apart from its RPG contemporaries, Secret of Mana featured a real-time combat system, teamwork-oriented co-op play for up to three players, and it streamlined clunky menu pages into intuitive in-game rings. It single-handedly justified the existence of the Super Multi-tap. What else were you using it for? OK, besides Bomberman?


Besides having arguably the best name of any video game ever, Super Castlevania IV was a triumph in other respects, too. The new navigation and combat features helped not to make the game easier, but to enhance the entire experience. Graphical improvements over previous installments made exploring Dracula's castle that much more creepy, and the 16-bit score is one of the best on the console. While the Castlevania series is known for its non-linear level design, SCIV stuck to straight platforming. It had a heavy focus on weapons, especially Simon's signature whip, which he could now manipulate like a damn virtuoso. Whip it good, buddy.



It's your classic tale of earthworm finds ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit, earthworm puts on ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit, earthworm uses ultra-high-tech-indestructible-super-space-cyber-suit to defeat evil crow. At the time of its release, Earthworm Jim was regaled for its impressive animation, refined gameplay, heavy-handed comedic themes, and other things you don't have to be a Professor Monkey-For-A-Head to appreciate. It holds up shockingly well, its art and level design are still distinct and original. Despite occasionally clunky controls, Earthworm Jim is part of the grand tradition of off-the-wall games like Psychonauts and Monkey Island: You either love them or you haven't played them.