kitsunebi

The Best Games of 1988 (via Famitsu)

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I usually only post in my own thread (since almost no one ever replies, I figure I may as well talk to myself in one thread as opposed to starting dozens of new ones).  But this one calls for some reactions, so hopefully someone out there will deign to comment.

Way back on page 6 of my thread, I posted the results of Famitsu's 1987 game awards.  For the curious, those can be found here.

Now, it's time for THE BEST GAMES OF 1988!!!

First, the top 10, as chosen by the readers:

#10 Famicom Tantei Club (Nintendo) A Japanese-style menu-driven graphic adventure, and the only game from Nintendo on this list.

#9 Sangokushi Chuugen no Hasha (Namco) A Three Kingdoms turn-based strategy/war game (similar to Koei's bread-and-butter games)

#8 Kyuukyoku Harikiri Stadium (Taito) A baseball game

#7 Captain Tsubasa (Tecmo) A soccer game, released in the West with altered graphics as Tecmo Cup.

#6 Nobunaga no Yabou Zenkokuban (Koei) The second of Koei's Nobunaga strategy games, released in the West as Nobunaga's Ambition.

#5 Best Play Pro Yakyuu (ASCII) Another baseball game

#4 Wizardry (ASCII) One of the first commercially-sold RPGs ever (1981) and the biggest influence on early JRPGs, this port is (obviously) graphically superior to the original

#3 Final Fantasy (Square) I've searched everywhere, but can't seem to find any information about this game???  I think maybe it's a pinball game?

#2 Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium '87 (Namco) Yet another baseball game

#1 Dragon Quest III (Enix) Still, even in 2020, likely to make the top 5 of any Japanese "best of all time" rankings

 

OK, so, comparing the 1988 list to the 1987 list, there are some noticeable similarities between the two: 

  • For 2 years in a row, a Dragon Quest game sits at the #1 spot (I wouldn't be surprised if Dragon Quest took the best of '86 award as well, but I don't have that year's award issue). 
  • There are 3 baseball games in the top 10, and the #2 spot for both years is Namco's Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium (the '88 poll has the sequel, Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium '87 - which is essentially the same game but with updated rosters.) 
  • There are 3 RPGs
  • only 4 games from each list were released outside of Japan (well, 5  in '88 if you count the complete graphical reworking of Tecmo Cup)

 

So what do you guys think of the list?  Personally, Dragon Quest III bores me to tears - I just don't see the appeal, and think that the first Final Fantasy is a superior game.  Actually, Final Fantasy is the ONLY game on this list I'd put in a top 10. 

Here's my personal top 10 of games initially released in 1988 (regadless of region) These aren't necessarily objectively the best, but are the ones I enjoyed the most.

10. Bionic Commando - a classic, but one I didn't own, so it ranks lower than it might have if I had stronger memories of playing it as a kid

9. King's Quest IV - the first of Sierra's games to use their updated SCI engine, the first with sound card support, and the first with a female lead

8. Ninja Gaiden - hard as balls.  Never had a hope of beating this game until emulators with save states became a thing.  But I had a friend who could do it.  Legend.

7. Leisure Suit Larry 2 - I somehow conned my parents into getting me Larry 2 and 3 for Christmas one year.  Looking at them now, they're completely harmless, but at the time it seemed downright scandalous.

6. Super Mario Bros. 3 - This wasn't released in the USA till later, but it's still an '88 game (in Japan)

5. Super Mario Bros. 2 - The American version, which yes, I like better than Mario 3.

4. Mega Man 2 - Still my favorite Mega Man game

3. Final Fantasy - The best RPG with "Final Fantasy" in the title.  Later games would stop resembling RPGs at all and become strictly JRPGs more focused on linear storytelling.

2. Manhunter: New York - probably the most love-it-or-hate-it game on the list.  Incredible atmosphere - dark and quirky - this game is unlike anything else (except the sequel, Manhunter: San Fransisco 😋)

1. Pool of Radiance - The first of SSI's legendary gold box RPGs.  So good, and light years beyond what was happening on consoles.  Tactical combat where careful deployment of resources was necessary to avoid death...every...single...time.  None of this "attack attack attack heal" nonsense that could be played on autopilot.  This game had combat that demanded your full attention, and was rewarding and entertaining as a result.

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It's always fascinating to see what types of games other countries and cultures prefer. While I'm unfamiliar with most of the Japanese games, I can say that while I understand the love for Dragon Quest III, and can totally see it bagging the top spot on a 'games released in 1988' list, I think much of that love comes from it being more accessible than Dragon Quest II (which was hard as hell, and twice as unforgiving as the original). The twist at the end, where you discover you've been playing a prequel to the original Dragon Quest all this time, was nicely done as well. :)

I'd have a very difficult time ranking them in any specific order, but my own personal best list of games from '88 would include:

The Guardian Legend - What do you get when you mix a vertically-scrolling corridor shooter with a top-down action/adventure game? This title, right here, which still deserves a sequel but will never get one, because nobody has any idea who owns the rights to it thirty years later.

Mega Man 2 - Like Kitunebi, this is my favorite Mega Man game. It definitely has the best soundtrack of all the 8-bit titles.

Splatterhouse - Yeah, the US arcade release happened in 1989, but if Kitsu can roll with Japanese release dates, then so can I. This gave me nightmares as a kid, but helped usher in my enjoyment of the horror genre. To this day, I can still remember images from dreams I had after playing this game.

Battle Chess - I didn't own a PC back when this came out, but several friends did, and it was always a blast to load up and play at their houses. As one of the only girls in my grade school chess club, just knowing this existed provided me with some essential street cred when dealing with other nerds. ;)

Super Mario Bros. 2 & 3 - Pretty much for the same reasons. Even if Mario 2 isn't a "real" Mario game, it's still fun as hell with tons of variety thanks to the four playable characters, and I loved not having a timer for once, which lets you play around and explore to your heart's content instead of concentrating solely on reaching the end of the stage.

Phantasy Star - Such a complete departure from the standard swords & sorcery fare of most RPGs. I loved that this one gave you multiple party members and was set in a high-tech, science-fantasy setting instead of the normal medieval-esque times you usually saw. Plus, the first RPG I ever played where the protagonist was canonically female instead of it just being an option you could pick, like in the various Gold Box games from SSI. Somewhere my brother probably still has the graph paper maps we made of all the dungeons.

Contra - More two-player run-and-gun action. We actually never owned this game ourselves, but a family friend had it and you could blast through it in about 20 minutes with the 30-life code, which we generally did at least once when we were over there.

Blaster Master - We picked this one up at a neighborhood rummage sale for a few bucks. While it's no Ninja Gaiden, it's still one of the most difficult games I think I've ever played on the NES. Of course, what's difficult to one gamer is a piece of cake to another, and I'll never forget watching as a family friend literally demolished this game while playing it blindfolded. That's a feat I'll never bother to attempt, and I'd never believe it if I hadn't been sitting there in the room watching it with my own eyes, but holy crap, was that ever humbling. Probably why I enjoy watching speedruns so much today. :)

Bionic Commando - At first, I hated this game because it was a platformer without a jumping mechanic. This made little sense to me, and the controls for the arm felt confusing and awkward. Add to that what felt like an enormous difficulty spike once you got past the first Neutral Zone, and I was mainly reduced to watching friends play this. Then, for whatever reason, one day I picked it up again, and suddenly everything just clicked. I tore through the game in one single, epic play session, feeling like I was one with the arm. I don't think killing Hitler has ever been so fun as it was that Summer afternoon. :)

*huggles*
Areala

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The above list was chosen by Famitsu's readers.  Next up are the genre awards, chosen by the Famitsu staff:

Best RPG - Dragon Quest III (Famicom) Choosing otherwise would have caused riots in the streets, I presume

Best Shooting Game - Gradius II (Famicom) - This one never made it stateside, but I've played it, and yep...it's a Gradius game, all right.

Best Sports Game - World Court - (PC Engine) - GREAT SCOTT!!!  It's not a baseball game!!! (This selection caused riots in the streets, I presume)

Best Strategy Game - Famicom Wars (Famicom) Advance Wars was great fun, but going back afterwards to try this one was a let-down.

Best Action Game - Super Mario Bros. 3 (Famicom)

 

And just like 1987, the editors decided that certain genres didn't have any games good enough to qualify for an award, so they only get "runner-up" status:

Runner-Up Action-RPG - Ys (Master System) Sigh.  I'm not sure that "bump into the bad guys over and over" qualifies as "action," but there you have it.

Runner-Up Adventure Game - (tie) Famicom Tantei Club, Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (Famicom) As a huge fan of the graphic adventure genre, I'd like to disqualify every Japanese adventure game ever made from attaining anything higher than "runner-up" status.  Even that might be too generous.  At least Princess Tomato isn't another murder mystery, I guess.

Runner-Up Puzzle Game - Tetris (Famicom - Bullet Proof Software version) BPS's stupid backwards control scheme (down on the D-pad to rotate, A button to drop) relegates one of the greastest puzzle games ever to "runner-up" status

 

And finally, the special category awards:

Best Story - Final Fantasy II (Famicom) It didn't take much for a console game in 1988 to win this award.  This game perhaps begins the devolution of the JRPG into the "visual novel with battles" railroad experience they would become by introducing distinct characters with predetermined dialog and plots.  You're no longer roleplaying a character - you're simply guiding a pre-scripted character along the path determined by the developers.

Best Character Design - Dragon Quest III (Famicom) Akira Toriyama is like a god in Japan

Best Graphics - Alien Crush (PC Engine) Well chosen

Best Music - Galaga '88 (PC Engine)  Err..... If you say so.

Best Topic (?) - No-Ri-Ko (PC Engine) The first ever CD-ROM for the PC Engine.  This was a pile of crap that almost doesn't even qualify as a game, but that didn't matter.  People could watch and listen to jpop idols prance around on their screens, and the landscape of Japanese gaming would never be the same. 

Best Port - R-Type (PC Engine) near arcade-perfect

Best Production - Ninja Gaiden (Famicom) The cinematic cut-scenes between levels were groundbreaking, even if the plot was ridiculous

Best TV Commercial - Famicom Wars (Famicom) Allllll righty then. 

Best Design - (tie) Matsumoto Tooru no Kabushiki Hisshougaku, Kaettekita Mario Brothers (Famicom)  A stock trading game.  Yawn.  Also, a remake of the original Mario Bros. (not SMB) which is more accurate to the arcade version - only sold for the FDS Disk Writer, so no actual disks/packaging were ever produced.  An old-school "digital-only" release, if you will.

 

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I'm sorry, that Famicom Wars commercial actually made me laugh out loud. ^_^

I needed that today. :)

*huggles*
Areala

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Btw, I just want to thank @Areala for sharing her opinion.  I was unsure if it was the right thing to do, starting a new topic that wouldn't attract people looking for download links, since as I said, I'd rather not start new threads of me talking to myself.  But now I know that someone actually read this post!  And even replied!  Thank you!  I didn't know such things could even be hoped for in a forum.

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15 hours ago, kitsunebi said:

Btw, I just want to thank @Areala for sharing her opinion.  I was unsure if it was the right thing to do, starting a new topic that wouldn't attract people looking for download links, since as I said, I'd rather not start new threads of me talking to myself.  But now I know that someone actually read this post!  And even replied!  Thank you!  I didn't know such things could even be hoped for in a forum.

You can count on me! @kitsunebi-san, ganbatte! :angel:

*huggles*
Areala

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here's my list. i tried to only include games that were released in North America in 1988. Apologies if a date is off here or there. LOTS of good stuff came out this year!

#10- RC Pro-Am!
didn't really like this when i was a kid but i can appreciate it more now

#9- Bionic Commando
the inability to jump didn't bother me too much, because that robotic arm was awesome!

#8- Milon's Secret Castle
had this game as a kid. never really understood it, never got very far, but i always enjoyed it. some day, this game will get its due respect.

#7- Castlevania 2
played this a lot. actually had this but not CV1, so this was really my introduction to the series.

#6- Bubble Bobble
my wife's favorite game. good, clean fun.

#5- Contra
THE epitome of "run 'n' gun". plus it popularized the konami code, which i have tattoo'd on my leg.

#4- Adventure Island
another series that i love that never really gets the praise i feel it should. also likely led to my lifetime dislike of eggplants.

#3- Double Dragon
i have always loved this game. the sequel is apparently closer to the arcade and therefore more beloved, but give me this version any day of the week!

#2- Super Mario Bros 2
still love this game. the ability to pick Luigi was aces.

#1- Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link.
Zelda is one of my all-time favorite series, so this of course tops the list. I still have this giant overworld map i made back in the '90s. I know it gets a bad rep, but i always enjoyed it.

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Nice list.  Mine only allowed for games first released in 1988, regardless of region.  Thus, Mario 3 was allowed, since it was first released in Japan in 1988, despite not being available in the USA till 1990.

If I had allowed for games released in 1988 in any region, I might have included some of yours as well.

I absolutely would have had Bubble Bobble very high on my list, and I may have included Double Dragon, Simon's Quest, or Zelda II as well, except all of those games were released in Japan in 1987.  They all definitely would have made my list if it was NES-only, but I'd be hard-pressed to bump the PC games off my list in their favor (though as I said, I would have definitely made room for Bubble Bobble somehow).🙂

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36 minutes ago, kitsunebi said:

Nice list.  Mine only allowed for games first released in 1988, regardless of region.  Thus, Mario 3 was allowed, since it was first released in Japan in 1988, despite not being available in the USA till 1990.

If I had allowed for games released in 1988 in any region, I might have included some of yours as well.

I absolutely would have had Bubble Bobble very high on my list, and I may have included Double Dragon, Simon's Quest, or Zelda II as well, except all of those games were released in Japan in 1987.  They all definitely would have made my list if it was NES-only, but I'd be hard-pressed to bump the PC games off my list in their favor (though as I said, I would have definitely made room for Bubble Bobble somehow).🙂

i never got too into PC games, and the NES was/is my first love. if we're talking late '80s/early '90s, my list is going to be practically all NES.

definitely some fun lists here already. i like that we've all used slightly different criteria, but all are accurate. 

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I got a PC in early 1987, and didn't get an NES till Xmas '88, so I was playing games on a PC for almost 2 years before getting an NES.  That said, I enjoyed both as a kid, but it's mostly the PC games that I find myself still returning to as an adult (actually, just today I was playing Police Quest 2, coincidentally another 1988 game).  But anyone who didn't grow up playing DOS games might find them hard to enjoy now.  They aren't nearly as pick-up-and play as a console game, and usually required you to study a manual of some sort before you have any hope of knowing how to play, since it wasn't uncommon for every key on the keyboard to be used for something.  Genres were being created  and evolved left and right in those days, so almost every new game had a new and untested UI, some of which worked better than others.  When a game was designed and programmed by a single person, they sometimes didn't realize that not everyone would think the same way they did, so you might end up with overly complicated/obtuse controls or gameplay.  But figuring that stuff out was part of the fun back then.  Heck, even figuring out how to get a game working properly in DOS was sometimes an adventure in itself.😉

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