By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
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Not the most surprising #1 in the world, or #2 for that matter, but the rest of the top 10 still shook (shook) out pretty interestingly.
#10 – Silhouette Mirage (PlayStation, Saturn)
Long before Ikaruga, Treasure created another action game that centered around a dual-color mechanic. Silhouette Mirage is best described as the color-swapping mechanic of Ikaruga meets the run-and-gun, boss-focused action of Gunstar Heroes. However, like most Treasure games, it doesn’t really make sense until you play it (and even then, sometime it still doesn’t). If you are able, play one of the Japanese versions, as Working Designs made the North American PS1 version way too difficult.
#9 – Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth (Nintendo 64)
Unless you just couldn’t wait the extra time for the English localizations of Mario and Zelda games, there wasn’t much reason to import from Japan for the Nintendo 64. One of the only exceptions to that was Sin and Punishment, which may be the best on-rails shooter series of all time that isn’t called Panzer Dragoon-something. Luckily, the ability to buy copies of the game with the region lock override built in–coupled with the fact that the game’s dialogue was already in English–made importing this gem a relatively barrier-free prospect.
#8 – Dynamite Headdy (Genesis/Mega Drive)
The 16-bit era–and the Genesis in particular–actually had multiple games starring a curious creature who could remove his head, use it as a weapon, and swap it out with other uniquely-powered heads. However, Chuck D. Head was no match for Dynamite Headdy, an odd little game even by Treasure standards that many people probably wrote off as another cookie-cutter character platformer. It was anything but. Like fellow late-era Genesis title Ristar, it was an unfairly overlooked action game that is arguably just as good as its better-known relatives.
#7 – Sin and Punishment: Star Successor (Wii)
One of the unlikeliest games not only to be made at all, but especially to be released in the U.S., the typically sequel-averse developer graced the Wii with one of its best arguments for why it wasn’t just a console for toddlers and grandmas. The Wii-mote had few reasons for existing that were more compelling than shooters, and being able to point and shoot rather than rely on moving a cursor around felt like the one thing that kept the original from true greatness. Though not a “light gun” game in the traditional sense, Star Successor is the best light gun-style game on a console with a lot of great ones.
#6 – Astro Boy: Omega Factor (Game Boy Advance)
There normally wouldn’t be much reason to get super-pumped about a licensed Game Boy Advance game, but when Treasure’s name is on a 2D game, you pay attention. Omega Factor ended up being the company’s second-best run-and-gun action game, with one intense and inventive boss fight after another. The only thing more difficult than the enemies themselves is trying to keep the GBA in your hands with how sweaty your palms will be from this relentless adventure.
#5 – Gradius V (PlayStation 2)
Though Treasure is best-known for its original properties, the company occasionally took over sequel duties for an already-established franchise. After proving its shmup chops with Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, the team worked on what would end up being the last new core installment in the iconic Gradius series. While not the company’s best shmup or the best Gradius game, Gradius V is still a more-than-worthy addition to both of those vaunted legacies.
#4 – Radiant Silvergun (Arcade, Saturn)
There was a time when copies of Radiant Silvergun were going for over $200 on eBay–and people were paying it! And this was in the days before collecting games as investments rather than collecting games to actually play them was an especially prevalent concept, meaning that most of the people who dropped three figures on this game genuinely just wanted to own it and play it that badly. If that isn’t proof enough as to Radiant Silvergun‘s greatness–a game that is probably only actually an hour long start-to-finish–than it’s hard to know what is. Even today, with $10 HD remakes available and Saturn emulation inching ever-closer to perfect, Radiant Silvergun is still the prize of many a collection–and one that people actually play.
#3 – Ikaruga (Arcade, Dreamcast, GameCube)
Here’s that game that’s been referred to several times throughout this list, Treasure’s shmup with a unique color-swapping conceit. As the voting week went on, several people commented that they found Ikaruga overrated and were surprised that it was pulling ahead of Radiant Silvergun. It’s hard to know for sure why the two games fell where they did, whether it was Ikaruga‘s unique gimmick, the fact that more people had the opportunity to play it, or if some other reason was behind it. Either way, in a world where Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun both exist, the only reaction should be elation.
#2 – Guardian Heroes (Saturn)
The Saturn isn’t exactly overflowing with essential, classic games, but quality definitely makes up for lack of quantity within its library. And when part of that small but special lineup are games like Guardian Heroes, it’s hard to be disappointed that the total number of great Saturn games isn’t higher. The game takes the hack-n-slash action of Golden Axe but doubles down on the light elements that franchise only dabbled in, making for a game that is just as much an RPG as a beat-em-up. Coupled with the intricate sprite work that Treasure is famous for and a six-player head-to-head mode that was way more fun than it should’ve been, GH isn’t just one of the Saturn’s best games but should be counted among the best games of its generation.
#1 – Gunstar Heroes (Genesis/Mega Drive)
This poll might as well have been called “What are you favorite Treasure games in addition to Gunstar Heroes?” Artists don’t always want their first work to be their best, but when you’ve created a work as special as Gunstar, you probably don’t sweat it too much that you’ve never been able to top it. Treasure was founded by some of the core creative forces behind Contra, so its no surprise that Gunstar is not only a spiritual successor to that franchise but better than any Contra game that came after (some might even say before). In addition to some of the tightest gun play ever seen in a game, Gunstar pulls off technical trickery that not only pushed the Genesis to its limits but also stands up next to most of what the SNES is capable of. By far one of the most satisfying action games ever made, Gunstar is one of those games that will be as fun to play 50 years after its release than it was when it was brand new.