Sparking Joy - Episode 1
March 27, 2019

I like to make lists. And I like Marie Kondo (not really). So I thought I'd go through my favourite systems and list all the games that sparked joy at one point or another. It doesn't matter if they were killer apps, if the appeal comes from nostalgia, because you made love for the first time on top of the cartridge in question -- it just doesn't matter. Joy is joy.

Then I went back and realized that of those games that spark joy, only a very small percentage represent games I would actually play and enjoy RIGHT NOW. Sometimes that's because the novelty is long gone, you could be bored of the game since you played it so many times, you could be tired of the genre as a whole; it could be a function of having lots of options now where before you had few -- this also doesn't matter. Fun is fun.

I'm going to start off with my 8-bit systems and see what I come up with. These lists are in no particular order, and I replayed all of this stuff recently, so I'm not just guessing.

NES Games That Spark Joy!

1. Super Mario Bros
2. Super Mario Bros 2
3. Super Mario Bros 3
4. Mickeys Mousecapades
5. MagMax
6. Kid Icarus
7. Contra
8. Castlevania
9. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
10.Ninja Gaiden
11.Ninja Gaiden 2
12.Double Dragon II
15.Mega Man
16.Mega Man 2
17.Mega Man 3
19.Adventure Island
21.Life Force
22.Kung Fu Master

NES Games I Love to Play Today:

1. Ninja Gaiden
2. Contra
3. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Master System Games That Spark Joy!

1. Wonder Boy
2. Wonder Boy in Monsterland
3. Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap
4. Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
5. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
6. Shinobi
7. Golden Axe
8. Altered Beast
9. Hang On
10.My Hero
11.Kung Fu Kid
13.Zillion 2: The Tri-Formation
15.Lord of the Sword
16.Cloud Master
17.Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
18.Power Strike
19.Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Master System Games I Love to Play Today:

1. R-Type
2. Wonder Boy in Monsterland

That's it.

What a precipitous fall off. I wonder if your lists might look the same? I'll get around to doing a three-system, 16-bit list entry later.

Most recent blog posts from Marc Golding...

honestgamer honestgamer - March 27, 2019 (10:36 AM)
I still enjoy playing most of the games that once sparked joy for me. For instance, I still enjoy the heck out of Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda, even though I have played those extensively. And Mega Man 2 never gets old for me. 3 is pretty decent, as well. Some of the other NES stuff on your list never really sparked joy for me, but I found it decent at the time and still can play it for some mild entertainment. As for the Master System stuff... I've never actually played a Master System game. I did get some of it on the Virtual Console (and the recently upgraded Phantasy Star release SEGA produced for Switch), so maybe that will change soon.
Masters Masters - March 27, 2019 (10:50 AM)
I think if you thought about all the games you liked for one reason or another back in the day, and actually replayed them all, many would drop off the list for you. A lot of times the memory keeps the joy alive.
honestgamer honestgamer - March 27, 2019 (11:26 AM)
Well, the games I mentioned above by title are all games I've played and enjoyed recently. The thing about NES games for me is that there's a general aesthetic I often enjoy, even now, so games of that era have a better shot at still entertaining me as much--or almost as much--as they always did. My interest in them was seldom based on things that fade with time, like visual mechanics. It usually came down to appreciating the simple efficiency of design, the often surprisingly tight play control, what they did for the imagination... That's stuff that for me hasn't really faded. I even go back sometimes and play a retro gem I missed and still enjoy it today, when nostalgia didn't build much of a foundation for me. So although I agree there are games I can go back to that don't really hold up as well, I think their biggest enemy is often just that I have so many more options now, decades later.
hastypixels hastypixels - March 27, 2019 (05:14 PM)
It may be a little obvious with my string of Bomberman reviews, but it was one of the titles I was weaned on as a young gamer. Asteroids was the icebreaker, and Ice Climber not long after... uh, anyway... I picked up Asteroids just a couple days ago and discovered my reflexes were woefully inadequate. With practice I'd have improved, but I had no reason to do so.

That's why I mentioned the Bomberman reviews. I needed a reason to pick up the NES Bomberman again, otherwise I wouldn't have done it, even though it was one of those Spark Joy games for me. I haven't exactly rushed back to Super Mario Bros or Megaman 3 lately, and those are two I played extensively.

What is most interesting to me now is how the series progressed after I parted ways with it. Not quite what I expected, and I understand now why I pursued certain games at that age and now not. Gimme a slow moving RPG to pick at... my hands will complain less. Anyway...
Masters Masters - March 29, 2019 (09:01 AM)
It's looking like my Sega Genesis list is the most depressing.


Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Golden Axe
Castle of Illusion
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic & Knuckles
Gunstar Heroes
Rocket Knight Adventures
Eliminate Down
Thunder Force III
Lightening Force
Castlevania: Bloodlines
Revenge of Shinobi
Shinobi III
Shadow Dancer

Revenge of Shinobi
Castlevania: Bloodlines

Yes, I never really played any Phantasy Star or Streets of Rage games, I know I'm a heathen.
overdrive overdrive - March 29, 2019 (10:39 AM)
With the NES, I know mine is a lot lighter now than it was. Super Mario 2, Legend of Zelda, The Guardian Legend, Castlevania III, maybe Dragon Warrior IV and Faxanadu. Mega Man in semi-small doses (ie: I played the NES ones on the PS2 collection for a few weeks and have no desire to go back to them for a good long while, even though I really enjoyed playing them again). Probably a couple more that I'm not thinking of off the top of my head, as I'm not at home where I can look through my box of old NES games to see what I'm forgetting.
overdrive overdrive - March 29, 2019 (10:40 AM)
And as soon as I send it, Rygar immediately popped into my head. Been a few years since I played it, but I'm guessing that pure happy nostalgia can ALWAYS take me back through that one.
Masters Masters - March 29, 2019 (02:18 PM)
Don't be so sure! Even with the power of nostalgia, Rygar might SUCK should you play it today.
overdrive overdrive - March 29, 2019 (02:41 PM)
I was going to say that was preposterous, as it hasn't been so long since I last played it that my opinion would change that much. And then I looked and saw it was 2004 when I reviewed the game here, so yeah, you might be right.

Kirby's Adventure is one I can add to the list without reservation, though! Only a couple years since I played it (well, it was the 3DS port, but that was the same game, but with a bit of 3D background effects added in).
Masters Masters - March 29, 2019 (06:57 PM)
I played Revenge of Shinobi last month and it was still awesome. But then I replayed Quackshot before that, and it was NOT awesome. I guess you never know.
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - March 30, 2019 (01:10 PM)
This blog is a downer. :-(

I would rather play old 8-bit and 16-bit games than practically anything released during this decade. I think the Mike Matei approach of trying new challenges in familiar games can help keep the flame burning. For example, I beat Cool Spot with all six UNCOLA letters for the first time recently, and I cleared Shadow Dancer on the highest difficulty a few years ago. Maybe someday I'll try Shadow Dancer with the projectiles turned off, or maybe I'll try the Cool Spot UNCOLA challenge on a higher setting. When there's things left to be done in a game, it makes the time you spend playing it more meaningful.
Masters Masters - April 01, 2019 (12:28 PM)
Super Nintendo


Super Metroid
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario World
Yoshi's Island
Zelda III: ALttP
Illusion of Gaia
ActRaiser 2
Super Castlevania IV
Contra III
Space Megaforce
R-Type III
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Darius Twin
Street Fighter II


Super Metroid

In this case, I think I just played everything TO DEATH, and only Super Metroid has managed to be death-proof.
Masters Masters - April 02, 2019 (09:48 AM)
I'm still plugging away at this, if for no other reason than to have these lists compiled in one place for me to look back at, probably, never.

Turbografx-16 time!


The Legendary Axe
Legendary Axe II
Bonk's Adventure
Bonk's Revenge
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
New Adventure Island
Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
Bloody Wolf
Ninja Spirit
Legend of Hero Tonma
Tiger Road
Blazing Lazers
World Class Baseball
JJ & Jeff
Night Creatures
Victory Run
Soldier Blade

The Legendary Axe
New Adventure Island
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu

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