Holy fuck, that's a big article header graphic. POSSIBLY BECAUSE THIS IS OUR BIGGEST ARTICLE EVER!!! Kinda. Okay, not really. The TMNT anime and Creepy Freaks pieces were way bigger. However, this is the first ever multi-site collaboration article in which Scary-Crayon's taken part, so it's special enough to warrant the giant header graphic. Nyah. It goes like this: Occasionally, the webmaster of a pop culture humor website will decide to gather a handful of other webmasters in the genre for the purpose of writing on a specific topic, kinda like a Justice League of misfits who have nothing better to do than spend their time writing about weird crap from their childhoods that most well-adjusted and successful people have already forgotten, because they have things like lives and friends and jobs that don't make them want to decapitate Barbie dolls, fill their disembodied heads with gunpowder, and fire them out of paintball guns at unsuspecting old ladies hauling grocery bags... but I digress. This time, Smokey of Huffin' & Puffin' played the role of Superman, calling together a team of webmasters consisting of Wes (that's me), RPD of Ice Anvil Online, and Justin of Dyslexic Penguin for the purposes of writing about... oh, fuck it. I'm not typing it again. If you didn't get the subject matter from that huge-ass title graphic, you're not going to get it. You're blind. Have the monkey read it to you. :P
Yeah, I'm still not finished with the introduction yet. Patience, grasshopper. So if you saw the topic of this article, you also saw a bunch of question marks following it. Perhaps you were tempted to ask a question of your own -- namely, "What is the meaning of all those freakin' question marks?" And I'm on it with an answer. See, this is a rather dubious topic to begin with, since what constitutes "fun" or "fun-ness" is definitely relative. Now don't get me wrong -- I'm not a relativist, and if you say something like, "Oprah is great!" and I say, "You fucking asshole, no she's not," and you respond, "Well, she's great to me!!!" or, "Well, I think she's great!" I'll respond, "Fuck that 'to you' cop-out shit, and no, you don't think -- you obviously don't think -- because Oprah is a self-centered egotistical bitch-fishwife and here's why..." and then I'll refer you to the SC Print archives, where you can read my detailed analyses of her me-me-me-me magazine (among a number of other fun pieces). "Great", you see, is more of an objective term -- no, it is, and screw you if you "think" otherwise -- whereas "fun" is less so. With terms like "fun", "to me" is usually implied -- if you tell me that, say, "Watching Catwoman was fun," I know you're not implying that I had fun watching it, because I really dislike Halle Berry and wouldn't watch that movie unless you treated me to it and bought me popcorn with extra butter. And a box of Reese's Pieces. Anyway, complex argument cut short very quickly, "fun" is a relative term, hence the question marks. You may remember some of these games. You may or may not have had fun playing them. Hell, you may have hated them. I thought they were a lot of fun, though, and that's why they're on the SC list. Mmmkay? Let's begin.
Tomba! 1 & 2(PlayStation)
First up, and the only one-player game to make SC's top five list, we have Tomba! 1 & 2 for the Sony Playstation. I've only got screencaps from the first game -- taken waaaaay back when Bleem was still the rage and found in a dusty corner of my hard drive -- but trust me, both games deserve to be on this list. I'm counting them as one entry, though, because I like to cheat when it comes to that sort of thing. So, who was Tomba? He was pretty much a mute homeless kid who lived all alone and spent his days playing and frolicking in the forest. I think he had an adoptive grandfather who raised him or something, but the old guy kicked the bucket and left him on his own (unlike the story of Son Goku, however, Grandpa's death did not involve Tomba turning into King Kong and stomping him flat). Tomba's prized possession, then, was a golden bracelet that had once belonged to his grandfather. And of course, one night some evil pigs stole it, thus prompting Tomba to go on a platforming quest to get it back. And then in the second game, Tomba had a girlfriend and the evil pigs kidnapped her. Oh, and they were trying to take over the world, too. Pretty basic stuff.
What made the games so damned much fun, then? Well, despite being "platformers", the games had a number of RPG elements, chiefly consisting of a huge number of sub-quests, not all of which needed to be completed to finish the game. Among necessary tasks such as learning to swim and acquiring new tools to defeat certain enemies and surmount certain obstacles, Tomba encountered many characters in need of his assistance, ranging from a thief who misplaced his stash to a monkey desiring banana juice to a woman who needed yams in order to help her release a pent-up fart. I'm not kidding. And some of the quests involved minigames, such as Motocross racing and, in Tomba! 2, a highly addictive game that involved chasing dirty Kujara (think giant baby chicks) around a small two-level enclosure and tossing them into a washing machine on one side. I'm not ashamed to admit that I missed many a class my freshman year of college because I was scrambling after filthy Kujara birds and cursing their speed (they got faster every time), but eventually I washed every last one of their asses but good and went on to knock off the evil pig bosses and reclaim what they'd stolen from me. That is, mah gold and mah woman. Respectively.
If the games had a flaw at all, it was that they became exponentially easier the farther into them you got -- for instance, where before you might have had difficulty making certain jumps, after a certain point Tomba would acquire a parasol or a flying squirrel suit, which made it extremely easy to float across any chasm, not to mention the numerous health upgrades and energy-restoring foodstuffs strewn about the game. And the boss fights were ridiculously simple, especially after acquiring certain items. But honestly, that's one of the things that made the game fun for me -- all of the really frustrating stuff wasn't required to beat the game. With another game, for example, I might've given up in frustration and decided to play something else -- those Kujara were fucking bastards with the speed, and I don't know how many tries it took me to snag the gold on the Motocross course -- but any time I got really fed up with the minigames in Tomba! and its sequel, I could just go ahead and progress further into the game as if I'd never been impeded at all. I suppose it's a testament to the greatness of the games that I'd continuously go back to those minigames even after I'd declared defeat, to the point where I actually completed all 130 of the first game's "events". Admittedly, I didn't do that for the second, but I came damned close. I definitely liked the first game better, though. :P
Joe and Mac 1 & 2(Arcade, NES, GB, SNES, Genesis, PC, Amiga???)
As you see above, Joe and Mac pretty much appeared on every fucking system known to man. As far as I know, the sequel only appeared on the SNES (there was, apparently, a second arcade title called Joe and Mac Returns, but I know absolutely nothing about it), but I wasn't making a second listing for the second game. Again, we cheat, counting two games as one. Again, we also write about a platform-adventure game in which a shirtless dude runs around whacking shit with various weapons. Anyway, with the exception of the Amiga version, which I'm not even sure exists, I've played every incarnation of the first title, and, excluding the SNES version, I've got to admit that they are not fucking fun at all. They suck, partially because, for the most part, they're direct ports of the arcade game, Joe and Mac: Caveman Ninja (yes, it's really called that). And with very few exceptions, arcade games are not made to be beaten with one quarter. They're designed so that you die, and so that you die often, so that you'll have to keep payin' to keep playin' -- and therein lies the downfall of most versions of the game. You port a title like that to a home system, with a limited number of lives and continues, and it just becomes a recipe for frustration and bad feelings. The SNES version, however, actually had difficulty levels, even the hardest of which was significantly easier than the other versions. But more than that, what really made the SNES version work was the two-player simultaneous option.
The premise of all of the games was pretty much the same -- a bunch of rogue cavemen raid Joe and Mac's village and scare off all the girls, and of course, with women being such weak and helpless creatures, they require the Caveman Ninjas to venture forth and save their luscious, timid asses from the big bad dinosaurs and assorted cavemen roaming the land. Their reward? Kisses from scantily-clad cavebabes -- kisses which, in a two-player game, you must compete to win by scoring the most hits on that level's boss. Jeez, I never realized how sexist this game is. So. Along the way, you traverse various levels (ice, volcanic lava/fire stage, tree stage, water stage; i.e. the usual stereotypical platform fare) and bonus stages in which chicken drumsticks and other assorted meats rain down from the sky and meet up with various bosses including Audrey II and a woolly mammoth that you kill by chopping its trunk off and attacking the gaping hole in its face from which, mysteriously, no blood flows.
And then, towards the end of the game, you climb into the open mouth of an unconscious ball-necked Tyrannosaur and battle your way past the cavemen it swallowed to eventually face Satan himself when you reach the heart. (By the way, this is pretty much the same thing that takes place at the end of Congo's Caper, another Data East game featuring a prehistoric hero -- a monkey from Heaven, actually -- who battles evil cavemen and dinosaurs to rescue teh wimmenz.) Once you've beaten the Devil and rescued the two green-haired damsels he was holding hostage in the dinosaur's torso, the game ends. Joe and Mac congratulate themselves on a job well done as the credits roll, after which a fat woman runs out and chases them offscreen. The End. But like I said, despite the lush graphics and, uh, "interesting" enemies to be found throughout the game, what really makes it fun is going through it with a pal, as opposed to starting out with a pal, dying together a lot, and then being forced to live out your remaining moments alone while your friend's corpse rots in the jungle heat. And some of the versions, such as the Gameboy and NES offerings, didn't even offer that -- naturally, the GB version was a solo affair, and the NES version lacked two-player simultaneous action, instead allowing Joe and Mac to take turns dying. Even in the one-player mode, however, the SNES Joe and Mac managed to be a relatively enjoyable experience. Sure, the NES game had a leg up on it in the grisly department, with stuff like Audrey devouring you and spitting out your bones... but grisly shit alone does not a fun game make.
The second game's story, however, was a lot more mundane. An evil caveman by the name of Gork stole a magic crown from the village elder -- and, naturally, it was up to Joe and Mac to retrieve it. The game played more/less like the first title, with lots of dinosaur clubbin' fun, but there were a few innovations, such as animal friends you could ride (see above, right) and new weapons, many of which took the form of food. In the previous game, Joe or Mac simply needed to maneuver over a piece of food to ingest it and receive its benefits, but the sequel required the heroes to crouch down and swallow it, thus restoring hitpoints and gaining a temporary weapon at the same time. After swallowing meat, Joe and Mac could attack by spitting bones; after swallowing a jalapeno, they could spit fire; after swallowing a berry, they could spit seeds, and after swallowing water, they could spit... water. Water didn't have any hitpoint advantages, but it still wounded enemies, and could be used to clever effect in the lava stage to put out fires on narrow platforms.
Moreover, the game upped the ante with a few RPG elements (I like platform-adventure games with RPG elements; can you tell?), like the inclusion of several shops in a merchant village. Here, in addition to purchasing food for the restoration of health, the cavemen could also pay to have their houses remodeled and even send flowers to one of three lucky ladies. Upon selecting this option, the game switched over to a gameshow-type screen where the player was required to choose which girl would receive his flowers -- but to make things difficult, the three girls were hidden behind curtains. Though the girls could be distinguished by their feet, doing so often proved risky, given that two of the girls could be rather difficult to tell apart... which wouldn't have been such a big deal if one of them hadn't been a fat chick. I'm not sure how to respond to that. On the one hand, I guess it's good that the game taught us even then that not every woman that we meet is going to look like a supermodel, but then again, the fat lady was only there for us to shun her at every turn and cringe when we accidentally picked her. Ah, kids and game developers can be so cruel. Anyway, the girls start off not liking the flowers and scrunching up their noses at our heroes' advances, but after a while they warm up to the guys... and the next thing you know, the Caveman Ninjas are married with children. It's really sweet. Especially when you consider that the game takes place over the course of a few days, that the women are (supposedly) not pregnant when the game begins, and that they can somehow conceive children without their husbands ever returning home. Either those babies belong to the milkman or the dewdrops on those flowers are not what they appear to be.
However, despite the heterosexual marriage element and the unbridled masculinity that is two half-naked guys running around together while clubbing soon-to-be extinct animals to death, I've no doubt that what I'm about to relate will convince many people that Joe and Mac 2 is, in fact, a very gay game. Granted, I could care less about the sexual identity of a fucking SNES cartridge -- it's a fun game; that's all that matters to me -- but that's how it's going to seem. See, Gork dwells on an island that can be reached by neither water nor air -- for no fucking reason except to prolong the game, apparently -- so in order to get to him Joe and Mac have to build a bridge. A rainbow bridge. Which involves the acquisition of rainbow stones. Retrieved from the mouths of dead dinosaurs. You see what I mean? Everything about it screams male homosexuality, provided that the dinosaurs are also male and that the particular person in question is into bestial necrophilic fellation. But that's not even the worst of it. Shortly after crossing the rainbow bridge and stepping onto the island, you encounter this guy hiding beneath the ground area of the level. It's the only place in the game you ever see a caveman underneath the walkway like that, which is even more curious. So eventually, you'll convince yourself that he's the result of a glitch or something, and you'll move forward as if he weren't even there... whereupon he'll spring from his position faster than you can say, "OUCH!!! MY ASS!!!" and proceed to sodomize your character behind a strategically placed tree -- as if we didn't know what was really going on back there. Taste the rainbow.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior(It's even been in bed with your mother.)
Oh, you had to know this one was going to make someone's list. It's freakin' Street Fighter II, for cryin' out loud! It's the fighting game that started it all. I mean, sure, there were fighting games in existence long before Capcom gifted us with SFII. There were fighting games before SFII that had SPECIAL MOVES -- hell, even the first Street Fighter had the classic Hadoken, Shoryuken, and Hurricane Kick techniques. But it was SFII that gave us a cast of interesting and diverse characters who actually played differently, not to mention the almighty COMBOS -- which, interestingly enough, were created accidentally, the result of a glitch that the good folks at Capcom thought was interesting enough to leave in the game. And things have never been the same. Yes, the original SFII... when that one hit, I tell ya, we had fun.
What the hell happened, then? I'll tell you -- shit got too damned competitive, that's what. You don't see people enjoying themselves playing SFII or one of its numerous rehashes anymore, because they treat it like it's a fucking Olympic sport, training day in and day out with sweat streaming down their brows and lard pooling in their asses because they never get off the fucking couch and only stop playing the game to rip open bags of Cheetos with their teeth and consume the contents in a single intake of breath from the mouth, because their hands are still on the blasted controller. So why's SFII on the list, then? Well, because we did have fun playing it, once upon a time... and because it inspired a neverending slew of copycats, spoofs, and wildly original contenders for the fighting game crown -- most of which, it's true, were bloody awful, but some of which actually managed to remain fun.
Some of you will remember the original Clay Fighter -- it wasn't a "championship" fighting game by any means, but the game's combatants included an evil snowman, an opera singer, and, as we see above, at left, a pumpkin-headed ghost by the name of "Ickybod Clay" and an Elvis impersonator calling himself "Blue Suede Goo". Because they were made of clay, you see. That game was fun. And at right, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters. One of my personal favorite fighters ever, this one had the best of both worlds -- it played, for the most part, like a serious fighting game and yet still managed to remain fun, most likely because it was a Turtles game. I mean, I used to play this with schoolmates back in middle school, and even during the most brutal, knock-down drag-out fights this side of the sewer, we were still laughing, because it's funny to watch a mutant turtle get piledriven by a robot and to hear Raphael shout, "CHEST BUSTER!" in the deepest voice he can muster. We got a kick out of ogling Aska's ass, too, though we lamented the fact that Konami U.S.A. saw fit to replace her thong with a pair of red panties. *shakes fist at Konami*
But rather than give the nod to one of those titles, or to World Heroes II, or to Battle Arena Toshinden, or to one of SNK's numerous contributions to the genre, or to Capcom's own Pocket Fighter -- which is, might I add, one of the cutest and most fun fighters out there -- we've gotta give due credit to the game that started it all and showed us that fighting games didn't have to be cheap and frustrating pieces of shit full of boring, generic characters who could only be beaten by finding some lame strategy and using it ad infinitum (though many of them still are, even today). At a time when many of us avoided fighting games like the plague, preferring to plunk our hard-earned Tooth Fairy quarters into... hell, you know what? I can't even remember what I played before SFII burst onto the scene. That's how amazing it was. And while the series may have crossed over into more serious territory -- not to mention intense multi-character 100+-hit combo INSANITYLAND that's way too taxing and hectic to constitute anything resembling fun -- it's nice to know that, thanks to the influence of the first truly excellent fighting game, we'll always be able to enjoy ourselves while kicking the crap out of a pal. Thank you, Street Fighter II. Thank you, Capcom. Thank you, Ryu, Ken, Blanka, Chun Li, E. Honda, Guile, Dhalsim, and Zangief. Thank you, Bison, Balrog, Vega, and Sagat. And players at home... thank YOU.
But while fighting games can be really great, even the "funnest" fighters necessarily pale when compared to a great multiplayer cooperative title. I mean, beating up on each other is well and good, but I'd much rather be fighting the good fight with a trusted ally at my side, y'know? And that's where Konami's X-Men comes in. The screens here are from the four-player version, but the X-Men machine with which I'm most familiar actually consisted of two cabinets COMBINED, allowing a whopping six players to battle the forces of evil across two screens of mutant mayhem. In a game like this, folks, more players equals more fun... and X-Men provided for freakin' SIX-player simultaneous play. Excelsior!
So here's the setup: Tired of idly standing by and watching his fellow mutants be oppressed by "normal" humans, Magneto decided to march on humanity with an army of Sentinels and KILL ALL HUMANS. And then, as if that plan wasn't evil enough, Mags had to go and nab the Professor and Kitty Pryde too. 'Cause he's an asshole. Clearly the X-Men couldn't allow these acts of aggression to go unchallenged, so they slipped into their form-fitting, fruity spandex costumes and set out to rescue their friends and stop the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants... waitasec. I mean yeah, Magneto's plan was undoubtedly wicked, but surely someone might've argued that he was merely trying to do what was best for his people, or that a lifetime of discrimination had made him intolerant... but that, in his own mind, he still thought he was doing some good. Why, then, is his organization called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants??? "Evil"'s right there in the freakin' name! There goes Plato's weakness of will argument. :( Anyway, to keep the Brotherhood from accomplishing its nefarious goals, the X-Men battle wave after wave of Sentinels, crocodile men, the horrifying results of teleporter experiments involving E.T.s and captured Digletts, and other assorted freaks to finally reach Magneto, whereupon they kick his ass and blow up his home in retaliation. Because that's what superheroes do, damnit.
But like I said, what really made this game fun was the fact that up to six mutants could brave Magneto's hordes together -- though, admittedly, the four-player version (which I've only seen a few places) wasn't so bad either. And unlike other multiplayer games in which it's not only possible to make the journey alone, but preferable, as you don't have to compete with another player for bonus items or worry about him/her fudging up your combos, you really fucking needed the help in X-Men, given that the game saw our mutant heroes beseiged by insane amounts of enemies at once. Before reaching Magneto, the end of the game sees the familiar gauntlet employed, in which you've got to face previous level bosses again before taking on the Master of Magnetism... but here, instead of fighting them one at a time, you can find yourself pitted against up to three bosses at once. That's unheard of! Yea, X-Men went to great lengths to devour our quarters, and we, powerless to resist, kept feeding the beast until it stopped screaming, "WENDIGO!!!!" and keeled over in defeat. And then, after the ending, the game fucking started over, inviting the X-Men to go at it once more, from the beginning... because they're the team that will not yield. The team that strikes like thunder. X-Men, this is the day.
T.M.N.T. IV: Turtles in Time(Arcade, SNES)
And last, but definitely not least, we've got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, another licensed beat-em-up from the good folks at Konami. Featuring four-player simultaneous play and our beloved Ninja Turtles, the arcade game was bound to be a winner, but the SNES game, despite only providing for a two-Turtle team to take on the Foot, was still a blast. Hell, I owned this game before I owned a SNES -- I liked the game enough to buy the cartridge and then take it to other people's houses to play. And nobody complained, because the game was damned fun.
The premise? Per Shredder's orders, Krang steals the Statue of Liberty. Uh, why??? And you'd think someone other than four mutant Turtles with ninja skills -- like, say, the fucking government -- would be better equipped to recover the national landmark, but alas, it falls to the Turtles to bring Lady Liberty back home. So the game progresses pretty routinely until the Turtles defeat Shredder inside the Technodrome. Then things switch gears, as Shredder declares, "I'm banishing you to a timewarp... from which you will never return!" The next thing they know, the Turtles are hurtling through time and running from pteranodons carrying bombs. You'd think that's a foolproof plan Shredder's got there -- I mean, how in the hell does someone come back from that, especially given the limited technological resources in fucking prehistoric times -- but the Turtles manage to battle their way past dinosaurs and somehow warp to other places in time, including a pirate ship in the 1500s, a cargo train in the late 19th century, and even the year 2100 A.D., to finally return to the present and take on Super Shredder with the Statue of Liberty looming in the background. Granted, even with a buddy things could get pretty repetitive at times -- though there were a few different enemy types, you were pretty much just slamming Foot Soldiers against the ground for nine levels straight. However, two handfuls of fun bosses managed to break up the monotony, and the differently themed time period levels helped give the game a fresh face.
The Genesis had a similar game, TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist -- in which Shredder uses the power of a mystical gem to shrink Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and then proceeds to steal the miniature buildings and landmark (what is up with Shredder and that damned statue, anyway?) -- but having played both this and the SNES one I've got to say that the Sega version just doesn't measure up. It's not a bad game, per se, and it does have a few advantages over the SNES version, such as the presence of Tatsu from the live-action movies... Well, I guess that's only one advantage, and it's far outweighed by other factors, such as the lack of a whole host of characters who did make it into the SNES version. See, rather than offering new bosses for you to battle, here Konami employed the time-honored trick of making you fight the differently-colored HULKED UP versions of the same damned bosses again. And of course the Genesis game's missing the main draw -- the whole time-travel deal. Sure, the games play about the same, but only one of them features Foot Soldiers riding stampeding velociraptors and Bebop and Rocksteady dressed in pirate gear. The Genesis version didn't even fucking have Bebop in it. Which makes no sense, because it had Rocksteady. So it loses.
Thus ends Scary-Crayon's Five Funnest Games Ever (?????????) list. As you've no doubt noticed, with the exception of Tomba!, our contribution to this multi-site gaming extravaganza consists of titles that allow for two or more players to have a go at the same time. That's because, unlike those other socially outcast webmasters who spend their spare time alone, cursing the outside world while pounding away at their sticky keyboards and laughing so maniacally at their own jokes that they spray Mountain Dew from their noses, I really do like interacting with people -- provided they're not making me want to strangle them at the time -- and video games totally allow for that. Unless the other players really suck and/or are a complete morons who keep doing irritating shit like intentionally committing suicide by jumping out of the ring in Toshinden or Virtua Fighter or throwing bombs at you ad nauseam in a two-player cooperative game, you can pretty much play a game with anyone and have a good time. And while (some) fighting games were and continue to be very cool, I've always had more fun with the cooperative titles. I'm the same way with discussion -- arguing and debating serious issues is great, but it's so much nicer when people agree on what's right and wrong and can talk about stuff that they enjoy -- and the various personal reasons that they find enjoyment in these things. But barring engaging discussions like that, the best we can hope for is to sit side-by-side with controllers in our hands and pummel our enemies in an attempt to save the world and/or protect weak, defenseless video game vixens everywhere.
Hey! The gaming fun doesn't stop here --read those other funnest game articles at these great sites!
(Okay, so it looks like Ice Anvil Online never got around to posting its entry, but the other twopieces are live and in living color! And you can still visit IAO for other stuff, I guess. Enjoy!)
Just click the image above! Simple, no? ;)