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The Best Video Games… of the DECADE

Campiest Game… of the DECADE

First Prize: The Typing of the Dead · 2000 · Dreamcast · PlayStation 2 · PC

Jenn sez: The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say. Here, every letter or character or space on your keyboard becomes a single bullet.

Developed to make use of the Dreamcast’s ill-advised keyboard peripheral, it’s difficult, perhaps, to discern whether The Typing of the Dead is stupid or brilliant.

The game’s levels and designs shamelessly borrow—or are ported directly—from the House of the Dead arcade game. The voice acting is atrociously stilted. The game’s heroes themselves have Dreamcasts strapped to their spines like backpacks, with little keyboards protruding from their torsos. And in fact, PC World—the magazine!—actually put Typing of the Dead onto a Top Ten Worst Games list.

But hear me out: Mavis Beacon has nothing on Typing of the Dead, because in the latter, every single typing exercise is a seconds-long life-or-death situation. Only your furious, harried, no-tomorrow typing can kill those advancing, brainthirsty zombies: every letter is a rat-a-tat, every typed sentence fragment, a hail of bullets.

For writer Margaret Robinson, Typing of the Dead’s appeal has little to do with the game’s most salient quirks. Instead, for her, it’s the barrage of magnetic poetry -style haiku, the little almost-poignant snippets of thought you’re inexplicably supposed to type out, that render the software meaningful. “It’s absurd, it’s funny, it’s got words I actually had to look up in it,” Robinson writes in what is, for its perceptiveness, my favorite blog post of the year. “It has dirty jokes and knowing little winks to [the] camera.”

“Touching hardware matters,” she adds. “Having your hands on the keys matters.” She’s right. This game is tactile, concrete. Every button does something important, every button responds. Most games require only four buttons, or six, or two, or one. The Typing of the Dead, however, uses at least 26.

And it’s fun! It’s stressful, too. And as an on-rails first-person shooter, it works—that is, if you have a sense of humor and move your hands fast enough.

Runner-up: Earth Defense Force 2017 · 2007 · Xbox 360

Jenn sez: I’m not sure this game can even be completed, or that you ever kill anything besides giant bugs and flying Epcot Centers. It hardly matters: Earth Defense Force 2017 is the most amazing third-person B-movie video game devised this decade. And listen, you, I played Stubbs and Destroy All Humans!, so I know what I’m talking about here.

2D Fighter… of the DECADE

First Prize: Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Remix · 2008 · XBLA · PSN

Kevin sez: This was not an easy choice. Capcom has come out with some strong fighters bookending this decade, with SNK, Arc Systems, and a couple other companies filling in the middle with quality contenders. But one fighter stands above all the rest in my mind, and that is Street Fighter II: HD Remix (there is no way I’m typing out that entire title a second time).

For all intents and purposes, HDR is the seventh iteration of Street Fighter II, a statistic that is pretty mind-boggling in itself, given that the original dropped in 1991. It does break ground in a few major respects—it is the first one to completely redraw the graphics, it is the first one to not have an arcade release, and it is the first one whose changes were designed by a well-known U.S. Street Fighter player, David Sirlin. Initially proposed as a simple high-definition release of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Sirlin was able to convince Capcom to create an additional mode featuring gameplay tweaks and revisions, for while the original Super Turbo is looked upon as an excellent game in and of itself, Sirlin believed he could make this an opportunity to balance the game out.

He did so, essentially making awful characters from the original competitive, and making some of the more bizarre special move motions much simpler and easier to do with a control pad. The end result does what Street Fighter II always has done best: make a simple and basic fighting game anyone can enjoy, with enough depth to please anyone who really gets into the genre. Adding in some of the best netcode on any console game, the classic Super Turbo, and an awesome fan-made soundtrack from the people at OC Remix, for me, overcomes some of the bizarre but minor glitches the game suffers from. Now if only Capcom would give it a Japanese release…

Runner-up: Samurai Shodown V Special · 2004 · Arcade · NeoGeo

Kevin sez: “After all that (Tatsunoko vs. Capcom) talk, you’d really warp some minds if you went with Samurai Shodown,” Jenn told me.

[editor’s note: Kevin’s soliloquies about his other 2D selections never made it into my draft, evidently.]

And it’s true that Tatsunoko is an awesome game, and has been one of my favorite new releases. But it’s also true that this game, the final release and swan song for the NeoGeo system, is nothing short of a masterpiece. The absolutely gorgeous character art, coupled with beautiful levels and sprites—as well as arguably the finest gameplay and character balance the entire series has ever known—deserves every bit of praise that I could give. The only true travesty has been SNK’s refusal to rerelease the game to any other platform.

Jenn addz: I’m a Guilty Gear girl.

The finale of this monster feels unrealized because it is unrealized. It’s my fault. There’s no focus. The list doesn’t take 2010 into account, it never mentions a single nice DS or GBA or PSP game, and is, in the end, hooey.

Thanks for sticking around, though, and see you next year, huh?

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7 responses to “The Best Video Games… of the DECADE” »

  1. Chris A says:

    Great lists, but I’ve gotta contest the 2600 choice… have you guys played Medieval Mayhem? Good lord that game is fantastic.


    • Jenn Frank says:

      Ugh I hate Warlords. Hate hate hate. I’ll get a friend to try this with me, though.

    • Kevin says:

      Much as I enjoy Warlords, Thrust and Lead are both just fantastic games that otherwise did not appear on the 2600. It wasn’t the easiest choice, since other homebrews like Vault Assault, Gunfight, Star Fire, or Oystron were all fun games, but those two just set a bar that they don’t top in my view.

      Also, I really need to clean my paddle controllers, because they are all WAY too jittery to play much with them effectively.

  2. Dave D says:

    Is there a version or clone of Thrust on the DS or Wii?

  3. ctuck says:

    Great read, I love how it just ends, makes it feel like a real “piece” of writing, rather than a churned out year ender.

    Though I must say the exclusion of Ogre Battle 64 wounds me! Good day!! HMPH!

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