T.J.’s Best Game of 1996:
Master of Orion II
There are a few times in my gaming career when I picked up something of such quality that I felt, in that moment, that video games would never get any better than this. Master of Orion II was one of those games. The depth of the simulation and the strategies it allowed were truly mind-blowing. I felt like I had the galaxy at my fingertips, and was almost overwhelmed with the breadth and depth of options that presented and the level of narrative flavor they brought with them. I could create my own, custom alien race, give it all the traits I wanted, and set out across the stars to build an empire, do battle, and discover untold secrets. I sat down to it for the first time knowing nothing about it other than it happened to be the CD-ROM that was sitting on my cousin’s desk when we were visiting out-of-state relatives, and it left such an impression that I still remember tiny details of that day – like what the air smelled like, what I had for lunch, and how the computer chair squeaked slightly when you rotated in it. It also carries the distinction of likely being the first game I played that could be described as “grand strategy”, which would go on to become my favorite genre in later years.
D.M.’s Best Game of 1996:
To use a me-ism… Crash is, to be blunt, the ideal platformer to my tastes. Variety, taut level design, gorgeous graphics (that just received an equally gorgeous contemporary update), and an interesting cast of characters mesh like a perfect recipe in this one. No one dimension overshadows the others, and the result is greater than the already brilliant sum of its parts. This game beat out my excellent #2 and #3 picks because of the fun factor: Crash Bandicoot is such a blast its remaster was a day one purchase for me, and I’ve had to occasionally hold myself back from playing because I know I’ll get lost in it and neglect other responsibilities.