The best games you've never played
Retro Game Challenge is retro gaming bliss.
The best retro game collection released in decades is made up entirely of fake games, many outright clones of titles you may have grown up with. Scandal? Hardly. The brilliance, and at times abject parody, not to mention the quality of the designs, art, music, even the dialog (dialog in a retro collection? yes, and it's great!), add up to what would have been my game of 2008 had it released mere months ago.
I find it hard to imagine anyone spurning such a joyful bundle of gaming goodness. Even those with no memories of the NES era will find plenty to enjoy. Each of the games feels complete and fulfilling on its own, and the addition of a framework of challenges and unlockables functions as a carrot to draw the gamer deeper. Where I found myself, in other collections, hopping from game to game aimlessly, here, I'm gently prodded into learning the intricacies of each selection, and it's immensely satisfying. The freeplay mode, with its more subtle incentives, became a surprising favorite, but beyond that, the shell of sitting down, virtually, with a childhood pal, searching through fake game magazines (with great shout-outs to real life editors you might remember), even getting yacked at by your friend's mom ("Are you two still playing? Control yourselves!") adds up to one of the most charming experiences I've had in gaming.
As for the games themselves, they're the best Famicom titles that never existed. The crown of the collection, at least for me, is the epic (10-15 hour!) RPG, Guadia Quest, but there is more than something for everyone, the focus being on action. In truth, I've never had so much fun with shooters before; I actually like Cosmic Gate more than, say, Galaga. To paraphrase Bono, "Even better than the real thing." And that's truly just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The designs borrow happily from the past (each game's influences can be dissected like the best of loving tributes) but never get bogged down in the tedium or problems of our actual retro libraries. In other words, they're coated with enough modern game philosophy (but not too much!) that they don't end up making you remember what you hated about the halcyon 8-bit days (hey, nostalgia covers over a multitude of sins).