Table of Contents:
Best Action RPG

The Legend of Zelda

Any serious NES gamer remembers their first experience with Zelda. Everything about the game was special: the mysterious TV advertisement, the shimmering gold cartridge, even the ability to save your game to the battery back-up. Never before had a game transported the player to such a cohesive, believable fantasy world. Gamers took on the role of Link, a good-hearted elfin boy on a quest to unite the scattered pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom. Only by reassembling this powerful artifact could you gain entrance to Death Mountain, the labyrinthine lair of the princess-nabbing Ganon. Interconnected screens of tile-based graphics may seem horribly outdated now, but at the time these graphics were mind-blowing. Koji Kondo's haunting soundtrack is fully ingrained in most gamers' minds; the handful of unforgettable themes never grew tiresome during the game. Players, however, did not flock to this title purely for all its icing. Complex, rewarding gameplay was the main attraction, with a variety of items and weapons to collect and master. Strange and wonderful creatures make up the sizeable bestiary, and difficult bosses lurk in each of the dungeons. What many people remember most about Zelda is the treasure trove of secrets to be discovered. Endless hours would be spent trying to burn the right bush to uncover a philanthropic Molblin, or wandering aimlessly in an attempt to unravel the mystery of the Lost Woods. Perhaps the grandest secret of all is the realization that once you'd defeated Ganon, an entire second quest was available--harder than the first--with nine all-new dungeons. If Super Mario Bros. revived the world of gaming, Zelda made it immortal.

Runners up:

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

One of the most eagerly anticipated titles of all time, Zelda II had the unenviable task of being judged against its beloved predecessor. Miyamoto shocked the world by completely abandoning the gameplay concepts of the first Zelda, infusing its sequel with both platform and RPG elements. Link now traverses an expanded overworld, runs and jumps through side-scrolling dungeons, learns magic spells and gains experience points. Sure, it was radically different, but the game is unquestionably brilliant. Strangely, there is a vile contingent of the gaming community (some of them even infiltrated our ranks) who feel that the Zelda II is legitimately bad. During the voting these Philistines attempted to foil Link's chances of winning, but we quickly corrected their wicked ways. 

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Much like Miyamoto's Zelda sequel, Castlevania II took concepts from the first game and added RPG elements to create a compelling hybrid. Simon's Quest abandoned the traditional level/boss side-scroller structure in favor of an open-ended hunt for Dracula's scattered body parts. Simon now talked to Transylvanian townspeople, purchased items, explored spooky mansions and battled the occasional boss. Visually stunning, aurally impeccable, and oozing with spectacular control, there is only one downside to this great title: the utter lack of difficulty. The original Castlevania was a difficult ordeal, but Simon's Quest is laughably easy. However, everything else about the game is so spectacular, that fans are willing to overlook the complete absence of challenge.

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Did You Know?
Besides all the other firsts in video game history, the Famicom (Japanese NES) was also the first system to feature both a karaoke system and software that taught you how to knit sweaters.

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