Top 5 Friday: Konami’s Best Games

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the ongoing Konami hubbub, here’s a quick recap.  It first started in March when Hideo Kojima creator and director of Konami’s most popular series, Metal Gear Solid, left the company.  As huge as that news was, it was followed within weeks by the announcement that the much anticipated Silent Hills had been cancelled.  This week’s news that Konami plans on focusing its gaming energy on mobile development feels like the proverbial nail in the coffin.  The market may change some day, and Konami might start actively making non-mobile games again, but for now I suppose we’re waving farewell to one of the industry’s most storied developers / publishers.  What better time to reminisce over the many amazing games that Konami has given us over the years?  To be honest, this could be a top 10 list and I’d still have trouble narrowing down the field.  At any rate, here are my picks for the top 5 Konami games of all time.

  1. Dance Dance Revolution

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of rhythm games.  It’s not that I don’t like them in concept, I’m just not very good at them.  Regardless, there can be no doubt that Konami has been on the cutting edge of the rhythm genre since its inception.  Both Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Freaks were released in the arcades in 1998, years before Guitar Hero, Rock Band or Dance Central ever existed.  Not only was DDR first, it was also completely transcendent.  It was, without a doubt, the game that convinced the world that the genre could explode.  It was also one of those games that helped get non-gamers having fun with their TVs.

  1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game

The first TMNT game is widely ridiculed among folks my age; we were between 5-10 when it was released and despite the fact that the turtles were aimed at kids, the game was ridiculously hard.  Then came the TMNT arcade game, and it was totally tubular, dude.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game was an amazing game in its own right, but I remember playing it at my local Pizza Hut, thinking that there was no way it would ever be available on the NES.  Lo and behold, it happened!  One of the best arcade games ever made was available in my home!  Tears of joy were wept that day.  Good guy Konami had created a spectacular game, using its license in the most perfect way they could have, and then made it playable, not only in the arcades, but on my home console.  You really couldn’t have asked for much more as a boy growing up in the early 90’s.

  1. Silent Hill

Some say that Silent Hill 2 is the best game in the series and it very well may be, but I’ll never forget my very first visit to gaming’s creepiest town.  When Capcom released Resident Evil in 1996 it struck a chord with many a gamer.  I was not one of them.  Sure, I played Resident Evil, and I enjoyed the game, but I wasn’t one of the rabid fans that played the game over and over again.  Silent Hill hit the horror mark in a way that RE never did.  Where RE was full of jump scares and survival elements, Silent Hill was decidedly more mysterious and eerie than its competition.  The horror genre has come a long way since both Resident Evil and Silent Hill and both series’ have had their ups and downs but for my money Silent Hill was always my preferred horror franchise.

  1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Numbers 2 and 1 were extremely hard to rank.  Even as I post this, I’m not sure I’m right.  Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is simply one of the greatest video games ever created.  Everything about it is awesome.  There are a lot of good games in the Castlevania series, but for my money, SotN absolutely towers above the rest.  I absolutely love this game.  As a testament to its near perfection, I replayed the game recently to find that it stands the test of time in a way that very few titles do.  As an example, a game like Silent Hill feels very dated today, regardless of how great it was at launch.  Its controls and graphics are extremely low quality compared to today’s products.  On the other hand, SotN still looks beautiful.  In fact, over the years we’ve seen a resurgence in games that have the exact same style as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  Metroidvania, as the genre is (not so lovingly) called these days, owes much of its success to this very game.  If you have never had the pleasure of playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night you should…as soon as possible.

  1. Metal Gear Solid

Much has been written on the blog about my ever growing distaste for the MGS franchise, and even though I may not have as much reverence for it as I once did, Metal Gear Solid is probably the single most influential game I’ve ever played.  It’s possible that much of what made MGS so good was my age.  Metal Gear Soild was released in 1998; I was 16.  At that age I was mentally moving from childhood to adulthood, and my tastes were rapidly changing from Super Mario Bros. to Mortal KombatMGS struck a chord with me because it was fun to play, and didn’t make me feel like a kid.  The game’s graphics were top notch for their day, and the story was decidedly grown up.  Most importantly it set a precedent that no game before had; it was a game that was not themed towards little kids and it sold like gangbusters.  If you were forced to choose a single moment when games grew up I believe it would be this one.  Sure, MGS wasn’t the first game to tackle adult subject matter but it was the best and it was the most successful, and it almost single-handedly laid the groundwork for everything that came after it.  From Gears of War, to The Last of Us; Call of Duty to Diablo, MGS was the moment when developers looked around and realized that there was a market for games that were deeper than just collecting coins and rings.  Whatever else the MGS series is, its significance to games as a whole makes it impossible to place anywhere else on this list (or maybe any list).

Honorable Mentions:

As I said, Konami has made a lot of great games.  I’d feel remised if I didn’t at least mention them, especially if they do become nothing more than distant memories.  So here are, in no particular order, some of Konami’s other contributions to gaming:

Double Dribble
Zone of the Enders
Blades of Steel
Vandal Hearts

Suikoden (is it pronounced Soo-KO-den or SUEE-ko-den?)
Skate or Die! (aka Rage Inducing Devil Game)
Silent Scope (aka The Coolest Arcade Game Ever Conceived)
Pro Evolution Soccer