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. Here's Part 2.
10. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES) - There are very few games I've seen over the years that invoke the type of love/hate response that Simon's Quest does. I've talked to people that love the game and people that would rather run the cartridge over with a truck than play it. I've always been a huge Castlevania fan since the first time I picked up a controller and played the original on my NES system, so it was a no-brainer that I'd buy the sequel as soon as it was available. I know the game is a bit of a departure from the original, but there is just something about Simon's Quest that I still love to this very day. I know Rondo of Blood and Super Castlevania are considered the pinnacles of the series, but in my book Simon's Quest is still the best Castlevania title ever made. I think the RPG elements add a really unique and enjoyable twist to the game and I'd love to see Konami update this amazing game at some point. Until then, gamers can still enjoy the original on the Virtual Console service.
9. Ghouls & Ghosts (Mega Drive) - Seeing screenshots of Ghouls & Ghosts in EGM magazine was enough to make me want a Sega Genesis console in and of itself. It was also the first game I bought for my Genesis system and one that I can't even begin to count the number of hours I spent playing, not to mention the staggering number of lives I lost trying to beat the game. There are very few side-scrollers that are as insanely difficult as Ghouls & Ghosts, but few are as fun either. I was already a big fan of the original Ghosts & Goblins game, so there was never any doubt that this visually impressive sequel would be right up my alley. I recently dug this game out, fired up my JVC X'Eye console and realized that this game hasn't lost a single step in the years since its original release. It's still just as much fun, not to mention brutally difficult, as it ever was. If you want to see how your gaming skills stack up, give this amazing game a try. Just make sure you have a few extra controllers handy.
8. Axelay (SNES) - My first recollection of Axelay was seeing the game mentioned in one of the gaming magazines and reading raves about how, despite the game running on the Super Famicom's slow processor, there was very little slowdown present. Being a shooter fan that had already seen the rampant slowdown wreak havoc in the earlier Super Nintendo shooters, this was obviously welcome news to me. There isn't another Super NES shooter that can hold a candle to the brilliance that is Axelay. The unique combination of vertical and horizontal scrolling levels, not to mention some of the best special effects ever seen in a 16-bit era shooter, come together to form what has become one of the most revered shooters in history. If you're any type of shooter fan at all, I obviously don't have to tell you what an amazing game Axelay is. If that doesn't sell you on the game, I can also mention that several members of the Axelay development team went on to develop two more slightly impressive shooters in Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga.
7. Neutopia (TG16) - I remember spending countless hours with this game on my Turbo Express system while on business trips. The only problem was that the screen on the system was so small, it was nearly impossible to read the long passwords Neutopia made use of. Needless to say, I ended up starting the game over many times until the day I finally bought a Turbo Duo console that featured backup RAM. It's fairly obvious that Neutopia borrows heavily from the original Legend of Zelda title, but if you're going to borrow from a game, you might as well make it one of the best. Neutopia actually goes above and beyond what the original Zelda offered and is one of the best action-rpgs available. If you're a Zelda fan this is definitely a game you'll want to have in your Virtual Console library.
6. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) - I was completely blown away by the original Donkey Kong Country game for the Super Nintendo console. When I first saw screenshots of the game in Nintendo Power magazine, I honestly thought that they were from an arcade release instead of a Super Nintendo title. But as unbelievable as the visuals and music were in the original, Rare was somehow able to step it up another notch for this sequel. The rendered visuals remain some of the best the Super Nintendo console saw during its amazing run, but it's the level designs that make Donkey Kong Country II: Diddy's Kong Quest my favorite game of the series. The added difficulty didn't hurt either. If you're a platformer fan, there is absolutely no reason not to own this outstanding game. While I'd heartily recommend all three Donkey Kong Country releases, if you only buy one game from the series, make it this one.
5. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) - There was no way I could make a Top 20 and not include Super Mario Bros. 3. I stood in line outside of Toys R Us for 4 hours waiting to get this game the day of its release. I even went to see the movie The Wizard three times just to catch a glimpse of the game in action near the end. It ended up selling out all across the country and it didn't take more than a few minutes of playing the game to see why that was. Super Mario Bros. 3 took everything that was great about the first two Super Mario Bros. titles and added just enough exciting new elements to the mix to make it perfect. I love Super Mario World, but in my eyes there will never be a better Super Mario Bros. game than Super Mario Bros. 3. It's as close to a perfect video game as I've personally ever had the pleasure of playing. The update Nintendo created for the Super Mario All-Stars release was a nice surprise, but there's just something about the good old original NES release that brings back such fond memories for me.
4. Lords of Thunder (TG16) - It's worth noting that although I ranked Gate of Thunder ahead of this game, it was a very close call. Lords of Thunder took many of the game play ideas of Gate of Thunder and kicked them all up a few notches. I came home from college one afternoon to find a video tape in the mail. It was a promo video for Hudson's new shooter Lords of Thunder along with a demonstration of the Turbo Duo console. After watching this video, I immediately grabbed my latest issue of Diehard Gamefan magazine and ordered a Turbo Duo system and Lords of Thunder from a retailer in the back of the magazine. I ended up spending all of my food money for the month, but it was worth every slice of bologna I had to force down that month to be able to enjoy this amazing shooter. No shooter in existence features a soundtrack that can hold a candle to the hard rock masterpiece found in Lords of Thunder. And the game has all the intensity to go right along with it. The only gripe I have with the game is that it's a bit on the easy side. Of course that doesn't stop me from popping it in my PC Engine system several times a month to run through it again.
3. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES) - When I first read that Square and Nintendo had teamed up to develop a traditional rpg using the Mario characters, I was more than a little skeptical. But leave it to Square to somehow weave these two unlikely concepts together to form one of the greatest rpgs ever created. Not only does the game retain all of the charm and humor of the Super Mario titles, but it also injects the perfect blend of traditional rpg elements with just enough Super Mario platforming elements to form one of the most unique gaming experiences available on the Super NES console. It doesn't hurt that the game features some of the best music and visuals the console ever produced either. If you haven't downloaded this outstanding title yet, what are you waiting for?
2. DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki Adventure (SNES) - Although there was no shortage of amazing platformers available for the Super Nintendo console, DoReMi Fantasy is one many gamers outside of Japan aren't very familiar with. Hopefully the Virtual Console release will change all that as this is one of the best platformers out there and easily my favorite Super Famicom import. Colorful visuals, a soft and moody musical score, and some of the most spot-on play control ever seen in a platformer all come together to form one of the most charming and underrated platformers the Super Famicom/ Super Nintendo console has to offer. It's a shame that Hudson didn't put this one together sooner for release on their struggling TurboGrafx-16 console.
1. Gate of Thunder (TG16) - Of all the many shooters I own, this is the game I find myself coming back to more often than any other. While the hard rock soundtrack doesn't quite measure up to the amazing effort in its pseudo-sequel Lords of Thunder, the overall game play and level design is better and offers a solid challenge from start to finish. The bosses in the game are among some of the best the space shooter genre has ever seen. Couple all of this together and you have one of, if not the finest shooters ever made and a game no shooter fan should be without. Although I bought my Turbo Duo console for Lords of Thunder, it was Gate of Thunder that ended up monopolizing the majority of my time.