20. Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday
I suppose the easiest way to describe this game would be to call it a blend of classic XCOM concepts and table top d&d mechanics. Then again, it’s not exactly easy to briefly describe a game that was so complicated that it came with an 85 (!) page manual filled with hints, strategies, and explanations.
Even with that book, you’ll have a hard time figuring out this game’s blend of sci-fi strategy combat, RPG overworld navigation, and ship-to-ship combat sequences. Nearly every choice you make in this game has some kind of consequence, and you’re going to be forced to make a lot of choices as you navigate this massive adventure. While you could argue that this game ultimately tried to do a little too much, it’s hard to deny its ambition, creativity, depth, and desire to be different.
19. Wonder Boy in Monster World
If you can get past this game’s somewhat simple (though colorful) visuals, you’ll find that it’s actually one of the deepest and most mechanically creative action platformers of its era. Actually, I honestly consider this game to be the better version of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link in many respects.
wonder boy‘s ocarina-based puzzle/exploration sequences, merchants/inns, and item-based environmental abilities will certainly make some Zelda fans go “hmmm.” Ultimately, though, wonder boy distinguishes itself via its combat. It would be years before we saw more platform games successfully utilize this title’s RPG combat elements (like inventory slots, companions, and alternate weapons) quite as well as wonder boy used them way back in 1991.
You could make the argument that X-Ranger deserves to be on this list for the quality of its visuals alone. Seriously, some of the background effects and animations in this game push Genesis to its technological limits in surprising ways. Ultimately, though, it’s this game’s controls that made it so fascinating.
Genesis gamers with access to a six-button controller could actually use all of those buttons to independently control Ranger-X and his companion vehicle. While occasionally clunky, those controls really opened up some new strategic possibilities that made this side-scrolling action title so much more ambitious than the other great games in that genre at the time. This was an interesting sneak peek at the future of the action genre.