I'm going to kick things off with my own personal Top 20 Virtual Console releases list. Now before the carnage begins, please keep in mind that this is my own personal list of favorites. I realize that there will inevitably be disagreement as to which games made the list and which games didn't make the list and that's what the comments section below is for. Let's try to keep it nice. Here's Part 1.
20. Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa (NES) - I was turned on to Bio Miracle a few years ago by a fellow Super Nintendo site owner that I've stayed in contact with over the years. Although he's never steered me wrong yet, I was still a bit hesitant to pick this game up after staring at screenshots of the game in action off and on for a few weeks. It just looked too silly and I couldn't see how it could possibly be any fun to play a platformer that revolved around a tiny crawling baby. Fortunately, I ignored my gut instinct and bought the game anyway and it's turned into one of my favorite NES platformers. I was thrilled to see the game finally released outside of Japan so everyone across the world could finally have the opportunity to see what a unique and charming platformer the game truly is. I guess if ever there were a solid example of the motto "Don't judge a book by its cover" then this game is it.
19. New Adventure Island (TG16) - The Wonderboy and Adventure Island games have seen quite a few releases on various consoles over the years, but none better than this outstanding TurboGrafx-16 rendition. Smooth and responsive play control and some of the best visuals the series has ever seen all work in unison to form what I consider to be the best release in either series on any system. The music is quite eccentric and the visuals are eye-gougingly colorful, but all of these unique elements seem to make the game all the more enjoyable. The game is a bit on the easy side for the first couple of levels, but the challenge does pick up later on in the game and will prove to be quite a handful in the last few stages. Not only can you enjoy this great original title on the Virtual Console, but Hudson is also currently working on a brand new Adventure Island title for the WiiWare service as well.
18. Air Zonk (TG-16) - The day I bought Air Zonk, during the TurboGrafx-16 console's short run here in the US, I honestly thought I was getting a more futuristic version of the Bonk's Adventure platformers. Little did I know that the game was actually a shooter and a very good one at that. Air Zonk takes the Bonk-like character Zonk and pits him in one of the most unusual shooters you're ever likely to see. The play control is absolutely fantastic and the game's unique presentation and psychedelic overtones make for one unbelievably original shooter experiences, complete with some of the most insane bosses ever seen in the genre. Super Air Zonk CD is also available on the Virtual Console service, but for some strange reason the developers messed with the winning formula found in the original a bit too much and the sequel lost some of the magic found in the original release. If you can appreciate a really unique shooting experience and don't mind a little off-the-wall humor thrown into the mix, Air Zonk will definitely provide you with a shooter package unlike anything else available on the Virtual Console service at the moment.
17. Metal Slug (Neo-Geo) - Here's another Neo Geo game that I had never played until I got the Neo Geo Candy arcade cabinet. I kept reading about how great the Metal Slug games were, so I finally gave in and tracked down a copy of the original Metal Slug. While I still prefer Gunstar Heroes for overall intensity, Metal Slug is still a very capable and enjoyable run-n-gun title. Much like other series, the games continued to get better and more refined with each new release. Since this original is the only game in the series currently available on the Virtual Console, you'll just have to settle for it until the amazing Metal Slug X and Metal Slug 3 hit the Virtual Console service. I'd still rank this title above the Contra games in terms of overall playability and style, but not by much.
16. Super Fantasy Zone (Mega Drive) - I imported quite a few games for my Super Nintendo and Turbo Duo consoles back in the day, but oddly enough I only imported one game for my Sega Genesis system and that game was Super Fantasy Zone. After seeing a handful of screens of the game in a gaming magazine, I decided to order it from this import retailer I had used quite a few times in the past. I ended up paying almost $90 for the game, but over the years I've gotten every penny out of it and more. I've long been a huge fan of the Fantasy Zone games, but Super Fantasy Zone goes way above and beyond anything seen in any of the previous releases. The visuals are outstanding and the music is easily some of the best heard on the Genesis console. If you're a Fantasy Zone fan, this is a game you absolutely must try out.
15. Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES) - Here's yet another game that tends to get equal amounts of both love and hate around the internet. The local hardware store in the small town I grew up in usually got in one or two Super Nintendo games every few months and if I got desperate and couldn't make it into the city I would generally pick up one of the few games they had in stock to tide me over. The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is one such game and despite not having much hope of it being a very good game judging from the cover art, it turned out to be one of my all-time Super NES favorites. The game features a very Japanese-styled theme and splits the game play up into two parts. One part has your character exploring the various villages and towns and the second part places you into a more traditional side-scroller atmosphere. The game's quirky humor and rock-solid game play are what give it such a charming personality and the game features a fairly lengthy and challenging overall quest to keep you busy for some time. It's certainly not a game that's going to appeal to just anyone, but if you're open to something a bit different, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja might be just what you're looking for.
14. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Mega Drive) - The funny thing about the Sonic series for me is that I didn't care for the 16-bit Sonic titles during the 16-bit era. I always thought the games were too fast-paced and I couldn't really follow what was going on much of the time. Maybe I had been playing too much Super Mario Bros., but in 1998 when I finally climbed out of the dark ages and got connected to the internet, I began buying game consoles and games that I had either sold or had broken over the years and the Sonic titles were among the first I bought in an effort to give them another chance. For whatever reason or another I loved these games the second time around and Sonic 3 became one of my favorites, eclipsed only by its sequel Sonic & Knuckles. Sonic 3 took all the good points of the Sonic series and added in some new game play twists and a brand new mini-game to give the game a fresh look and feel to it. While I love all of the 16-bit Sonic titles now, of the three available on the Virtual Console, Sonic 3 remains my personal favorite.
13. Samurai Shodown II (Neo-Geo) - I'll admit that I wasn't quite as big a fan of the Street Fighter II games as many gamers were back in the early 90's. I tended to like the more obscure fighting game series like the World Heroes and Samurai Shodown titles. Although I shoved my fair share of quarters in the original Samurai Shodown arcade cabinet, it wasn't until the sequel Samurai Shodown II showed up in the local arcade that I knew I was going to have to break down and buy a Neo Geo Console at some point. Sadly it wouldn't be until many years later that I would finally invest in my own Neo Geo Candy arcade cabinet and the first game I bought for it was Samurai Shodown II. The game takes everything great about the original and adds in four new characters and a host of game play improvements to form what I consider to be the pinnacle of the Samurai Shodown series and one of the best 2-D weapons-based fighters ever created. While I consider many of the Neo Geo Virtual Console releases to be overpriced, the same can certainly not be said about Samurai Shodown II, as I feel it would be a bargain at twice the price.
12. Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing (Mega Drive) - Having not been much of a strategy game fan during the 16-bit era, it's no surprise that I missed the Shining Force titles the first time around. It wasn't until I got into the Fire Emblem games on the Game Boy Advance that I began to enjoy these types of games. It was then that I went back and bought the three 16-bit Shining Force titles. While I still prefer Shining Force CD, it's hard to argue that Shining Force II is almost every bit as good from start to finish. The game features a very engaging story line and a well executed combat system that creates a very enjoyable strategy game experience that allows you to focus on the task at hand instead of rummaging through an excess of complicated game play selections. While I'm still a big fan of the Fire Emblem titles to this day, it's Shining Force II that I place at the top of my favorite strategy games list every time.
11. Gunstar Heroes (Mega Drive) - This is another game that was getting raves in many of the gaming publications of the time period. Being a huge fan of the Contra series, this game jumped to the top of my wish list quickly and turned out to be one of my favorite Sega Genesis game titles when it was all said and done. Treasure, made up of members who worked on the Super NES shooter Axelay, took the game play ideas behind the wildly popular Contra titles and somehow managed to crank up the intensity several notches. There's not a down moment in the entire game and some of the bosses in the game are absolutely insane. The game has everything a run-n-gun fan could want, from wildly powerful firepower to an endless barrage of enemy encounters from every direction imaginable. If you like your video games with a heaping helping of intensity, look no further than Gunstar Heroes. This game makes Contra look like a relaxing game of Chutes & Ladders.