My Top 10 Games of “2021”

By Brian • 21 August 2022

No time for a fancy introduction! We have a lot of games to cover, and I apparently have a lot to say about all of them, so let’s get rolling!

The criteria: except for the Honorable Mention, this list includes the best games I played in 2021, but also beat for the first time in 2021. However, I’m old, and staying on the cutting edge of pop culture is hard, so none of these games were actually released in 2021. Now settle in and let Grandpa prattle on about his vidja games.

[Image Credit: Thomas Happ Games]

Honorable Mention: Axiom Verge (PC, 2015)

When Axiom Verge released in 2015, it was one of my most anticipated games ever. I saw the first trailer in 2012 and was out-of-my-mind excited. It looked like Metroid, but the gameplay and variety of weapons looked like something from Contra, and the environments seemed more akin to something from Ninja Gaiden III or Kabuki Quantum Fighter. The trailer and early press materials showcased tons of weapons; enormous, grotesque bosses; big techno-organic heads that were maybe friend or foe (assuming they were alive at all), and references to a “glitch gun” that would be vital to the player’s progression. Did the glitch gun imply a meta element to the game? What was with the big heads? The action and exploration looked amazing. Between the gameplay footage and the burning questions, I knew this game was for me. No question. Put it in a pill that I can take with my morning coffee.

However, by the time Axiom Verge finally came out, I had allowed my hype to grow to unrealistic proportions. While the game was excellent, it couldn’t possibly match what I’d built it up to be, and I learned a pretty good lesson in tempering expectations. Not only that, the story is a bit dense—I don’t think I completely got it my first time through. (I can be a little dense, myself.) Axiom Verge is a game with a lot of ethical gray area and ambiguity in the actions of its characters, so it’s something of a mindbender. It’s fair to say I was in over my head. Oh, and I totally underestimated and underappreciated the usefulness of the glitch gun, missing a ton of secrets and items as a result. All in all, I really just didn’t get Axiom Verge, even though I liked it.

Finally, in 2021, Axiom Verge got its much-deserved replay, and I’m so happy I took the time to revisit it. This second playthrough gave me a chance to appreciate Axiom Verge for what it is, rather than what I thought it would be. I made prolific use of the glitch gun (actually called the Address Disruptor, in-game) and finally understood how useful it can be. Best of all, the story made more sense the second time around. I’m still not entirely sure what happens at the end, but if it is what I think it is, it’s actually a pretty serious downer. Nevertheless, it can’t detract from what is a great success for creator Tom Happ. Oh, and a sequel recently came out, as well. I guess it’s probably about time to check that out.

10. Castlevania 2: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy via Nintendo Switch, 1991)

Just look at that screenshot. Those statues in the background? Crossing this ghoulish bridge for the first time, I can say with confidence that I wasn’t expecting this level of art direction on a Game Boy game. Even the NES Castlevanias don’t come near this level of the macabre. I don’t know whether to be complimentary or disturbed. This Dracula fellow means business, what with his commitment to death, in both action and architecture.

I tried the first Game Boy Castlevania outing, Castlevania: The Adventure, which is available on the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. By the end of the third level, both my skills and patience could endure no more. I almost never say this about a Castlevania game, but it’s bad. Not the good kind of bad that we champion here on the Bad Enough Dudes blog, either! It’s just regular bad. Klutzy controls, uninspired and cruel level design (room after room of spikes….), unavoidable hits—Konami wasn’t ready to bring this franchise to Nintendo’s monochrome handheld. The music is its only saving grace.

On the other hand, with Belmont’s Revenge, they got it right. When Castlevania: The Adventure failed me, I switched to Belmont’s Revenge (also on the Anniversary Collection), hoping for a better experience.

It delivered. The developers recognized the flaws of the first game and fixed just about everything. Guiding Christopher Belmont through four themed castles (Cloud, Crystal, Plant, and Rock) and finally Dracula’s castle, of course, in order to rescue Chris’s son, Soleil, from the Count’s possession, I immediately noticed the movement is smoother, the platforming is less demanding and better suited to the controls, and the levels are actually interesting and follow the themes of their respective castles. For instance, in one cave of the Rock Castle, whipping the candles will dim the room, causing light-sensitive monsters to start moving around. What a fun touch! It had been done in other games of the time (like how defeating the Hotheads in Mega Man 2 causes Quick Man’s stage to go dark), but it’s pretty unique for Castlevania, as far as I can remember.

Anyway, I’ve gone on far too long about the lowly number 10 entry. Belmont’s Revenge is can’t miss if you like Castlevania or original Game Boy games. It’s short, but packed with action, fun, and a killer soundtrack.

[Image Credit: 505 Games]

9. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Nintendo Switch, 2019)

Koji Igarashi’s foray into games resembling, but legally distinct from, Castlevania culminated in the release of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a Kickstarted spiritual successor to the likes of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow, and all of our favorite action RPG-ish, exploration-based Castlevania games from the latter years of the series. But, since this isn’t a Castlevania game and it doesn’t feature the Belmont clan or our favorite Transylvanian count, Bloodstained follows Miriam, a shardbinder, on her quest to defeat an infestation of demons, as well as their summoner, Gebel. Of course, there’s more to it, but I’ll leave that to you.

Like any good exploration-based Castlevania, Bloodstained features a giant castle to explore, abilities upon abilities upon abilities to help Miriam out of jams and investigate previously inaccessible areas of the castle, and tons of items to collect, weapons to use, and monsters to fight. If you like this style of game, Bloodstained has everything you want.

My highlights from Iga’s latest work include some amazing and giant bosses, such as Vepar, a giant half-woman, half-sea creature that attacks the boat bringing Miriam to Gebel’s castle, or Valac, a pair of giant dragons that chase Miriam around and around a tower during her descent. I found some of the puzzle-solving (which I won’t reveal) required to locate and battle the final boss quite creative and memory-testing. The pacing of the exploration kept me invested and eager to track down the castle’s many areas. The voice-acting is great (David Hayter of Metal Gear Solid fame is here), the soundtrack is roughly what I’ve come to expect from Igavania games, and Bloodstained even affords the player the ability to customize Miriam’s appearance by changing her dress color, hair style, and accessories like hats and scarves. I’ll sheepishly admit I spent too much time trying to get Miriam’s look right. Look, if I’m going to spend hours playing this game with this character, and I have the ability to customize her look, I might as well make her look cool.

Luckily, the only criticism I can level at Bloodstained is that there is too much to do, which some might consider a good problem! In addition to the adventure, there is the aforementioned cosmetic customization, a cooking system, a crafting system, a bunch of sidequests hunting down bounties for the residents of a demon-ravaged village, and more. Miriam can also collect shards from all the enemies, which imbue her with different abilities. However, the drop rates on some of the shards are quite low, so a lot of time can be spent farming enemies for drops. I occasionally found myself overwhelmed and unable to focus on any one thing. Not only that, the late-game cooking and crafting recipes require extremely rare ingredients that, again, require hunting and killing the same enemies over and over again until they drop the necessary items, which has never been my thing. It killed the fun of the cooking and crafting, so I was happy to resume the story and finish the game. Maybe at another time, in another place, I’ll return and hunt down those items.

Sorry, one more thing—I’m not completely on board with 2.5D for this style of game. It works, and it looks fine, but the controls never feel as fluid or precise as a pure 2D Metroidvania. A minor gripe, and certainly not exclusive to Bloodstained. Overall, a great experience!

8. Fire ‘n’ Ice (NES via Nintendo Switch, 1993)

A Nintendo Switch Online addition at the beginning of 2021, Fire ‘n’ Ice is a puzzle platformer and, I believe, a prequel to Solomon’s Key, also available via Switch Online. I remember seeing coverage for this game in Nintendo Power a long time ago and being enraptured by the screenshots. It looked colorful and fun, but I never played it until now—I want to say that it’s a pretty rare find on the used market.

Fire ‘n’ Ice is simple, but not so simple. The evil wizard, Druidle, has set a bunch of fires to Coolmint Island, and the Queen of Fairies enlists Dana, an apprentice wizard, to take care of the problem. Dana can create ice blocks with his wand, and then shove those into fires, or drop them onto fires from above, to put them out. The catch is that Dana can only create these ice blocks one space in front of and below him. He also can’t jump, but can climb up one block at a time. It all operates on a grid, and putting these mechanics together makes for a pretty challenging foray into extinguishing Druidle’s fires. Patience and creativity, as you might expect, are key.

This puzzle adventure did prove to be colorful and fun, but also relaxing. There are only a few levels where time can become an issue. Overall, I was able to sit and think through the puzzles at my own pace. The game also affords Dana the ability to restart a level at any time, so getting stuck is not an issue. Much like The Adventures of Lolo captured my attention a few years back, Fire ‘n’ Ice excelled as a pick-up-and-play option, allowing me to solve just one puzzle here or there when time allowed. There are 100 in all, plus 50 more can be unlocked, if you are a glutton for punishment. There were a handful I had to consult my wife and/or the internet to solve, but I ultimately felt smarter and chiller (ha) having finished this one. Recommended for a low-stress, cathartic gaming experience when you need one.

[Image Credit: MobyGames]

7. Blaster Master Zero 2 (Nintendo Switch, 2019)

Get ready to get confused about the naming conventions of the Blaster Master series! Just remember:

  • Blaster Master is the original. It came out in 1988.
  • Blaster Master Zero is the 2017 remake of the 1988 Blaster Master.
  • Blaster Master Zero 2 is the 2019 sequel to 2017’s Blaster Master Zero.

Got it? Okay, let’s advance with caution.

The first Blaster Master Zero made my top 10 in 2018. I found it to be a fantastic remake of the tank-driving, labyrinth-crawling NES classic. Despite a slightly less interesting setting and not-as-rocking of a soundtrack, overall, it is mechanically superior and not unreasonably demanding of the player. At the time, I believed it was the better version of the game. Today? Well…I might have to replay it to know for sure.

Regardless, I had enough fun with Blaster Master Zero that I jumped out of my seat when developer Inti Creates announced Blaster Master Zero 2. There have been numerous underwhelming sequels and reimaginings of Blaster Master in the past, including a Game Boy Robowarrior game reskinned as a Blaster Master game, a forgettable sequel on Sega Genesis, a Wiiware remake of the original, and others. None of them really lived up to the original. Now, here comes Inti Creates with both a quality remake, followed by a sequel?! It has been nice to see this deserving, but underserved franchise successfully revived 30-ish years after the release of the first game.

At first, Zero 2 felt a little too similar to the first game, but what was I expecting? Didn’t I play Mega Man 3 because I wanted more of what I got in Mega Man 2? Am I not doing the same thing here? Luckily, I got over that feeling pretty quick, when it became obvious to me that the game was awesome. Rather than spanning the mutant underworld of Earth, Zero 2 takes Jason and his pals, Eve and Fred, on a galaxy-spanning, semi-open-world (open-galaxy?) adventure to rid Eve of the mutant cells that infected her android body in the first game. It follows the same Metroidvania formula of our heroes finding items on certain planets, which opens more of the galaxy for exploration. They also encounter other tank pilots and their android helpers along the way, and lending a hand (and a tank) to these folks proves vital to Eve’s fate. I should also mention that, with a hard pivot into anime influence, a rivalry develops with an angry and jaded tank pilot named Leibniz, whose complicated backstory has him convinced Eve must die, and Leibniz is ready to eliminate Jason to make sure that happens. Get a grip, Leibniz!

With new mechanics like counterattacks and recharging subweapon energy by taking long falls or hits from enemies, combined with a sweeping space adventure and some surprises at the end, one could argue that Blaster Master Zero 2 tops its predecessor. They’re both great, for sure, but again, I need to replay the first one to be certain.

[Image Credit: Apogee Entertainment]

6. Crystal Caves HD (PC, 2020)

Wow, Crystal Caves HD. Talk about a surprise hit. So, the original Crystal Caves (because, again, we’re discussing a remake) is a 1991 shareware game developed and published by Apogee. We had the first episode for our IBM compatible PC, and I have vague, but reasonably fun memories of Mylo Steamwitz puzzle-platforming his way through the mines of planet Altair, collecting crystals to buy a Twibble Farm. (This game isn’t afraid to make royalty-free Star Trek references, and neither should you.) Unfortunately, our 3.5-inch floppy of the first episode of Crystal Caves was lost to time, or possibly formatted and used as a boot disk for Print Shop or Wordperfect or some other program. It was a wild time in which unintentionally losing software forever wasn’t that uncommon.

Now, watch out. Here comes 2020. Apogee is back? With an HD remaster of Crystal Caves?! You mean I can get this game again and don’t have to feel like an idiot for losing it 30 years ago? And the remaster is really good?!

I played Crystal Caves HD as part of my Extra Life 2021 gaming marathon. I figured I’d tool around in the first episode for a little bit to add some variety to the marathon, then move on to the next game. I liked it so much that I played all three of the original episodes during the course of the marathon, and then came back to play the new fourth episode, exclusive to the HD version, a couple of months later. I had an absolute blast, just an unreasonable amount of fun. I simply wasn’t expecting it to capture my attention the way it did. The challenge, music, and the satisfaction of collecting crystals proved an irresistible combination. While it is a puzzle platformer in that there are, well, puzzles, and the occasional need to traverse the level in a certain way to not get stuck, there are also enemies to dodge or shoot, and plenty of bonuses to collect. It’s an extremely fun mix of simple action, risk-versus-reward platforming, and puzzles. The HD graphics and a new chiptune soundtrack give Crystal Caves a worthwhile sensory overhaul, the achievements add incentive and intrigue, and there’s even a hard mode for that all-important replayability. Apogee is giving the same treatment to some of its other classic PC games like Monster Bash and Secret Agent, and I appear to be here for them!

5. West of Loathing (Nintendo Switch, 2018)

I spent way too much time at my part-time college desk job playing a browser game called The Kingdom of Loathing. An addictive, mostly text-based roleplaying game, KoL featured some of the best and funniest writing I’d ever seen in a game. The player can take seal clubbers, pastamancers, and other comical character classes on adventures and get them as drunk as possible for the sake of combat buffs and other mischief.

Imagine my surprise and joy when I discovered West of Loathing, an old west-themed roleplaying game from the creators of the Kingdom of Loathing! It’s a more graphically oriented experience than KoL, with lots of interactive elements and secrets in every area. There are multiple character classes again, enough locations that I couldn’t find them all, and sidequests upon sidequests that kept me busy. The combat is a little clunky and not that enjoyable, but a good portion of it can be avoided, and I wasn’t playing for the combat, anyway. Instead, I was fully invested in the writing, and like its predecessor, West of Loathing’s writing is stellar—memorable characters (like the ghost of the old woman who can’t remember which of her granddaughters she liked best, and it was up to me to solve a logic puzzle to figure it out for her), bizarre locations like the Daveyard (a graveyard where a bunch of Daves are buried), and laugh-out-loud running gags (like the game insulting the player for searching for items in spittoons) further prove humor can be done and done well in video games.

4. Streets of Rage 4 (Nintendo Switch, 2020)

After a lengthy hiatus and a number of unofficial sequels from dedicated fans over the years, at last, Sega blessed beat ’em up lovers old and new with another official Streets of Rage game! Created by the same developers as the 2017 remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (number 5 on my Top 10 Games of “2018” list), Streets of Rage 4 occurs some years after the original trilogy. Our OG trio of heroes (Adam, Axel, and Blaze) are back, and this time, they’re up against longtime rival Mr. X’s criminally astute children, along with their new crime syndicate. Luckily, our veteran vigilantes pick up some new teammates, including Adam’s daughter, Cherry, and a big guy named Floyd, who has robotic arms. (There might be some DLC and unlockable characters, too.)

So how is it? Well, it’s a Streets of Rage game, all right. Beautiful hand-drawn art and a catchy new soundtrack bring the series to the 21st century. There are a few other modern enhancements, as well, such as the ability to save, a combo system, and a grading system for combat prowess. It also addresses something I can’t stand about some beat ’em ups: using special moves costing the player health. I understand the logic behind it—it’s risk-reward, prevents the player from spamming the move, etc., but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Generally, if that’s the system in play, I just won’t use the special moves. I want to preserve my health, but I’m so conservative that I’m probably doing myself more harm than good by not using the special moves when I’m utterly overwhelmed by bad guys. The specials in Streets of Rage 4 do cost health, but there’s an added mechanic—the player has a short window of time to regain the health lost in the use of the special move. All they have to do is dole out more punishment to the surrounding enemies without taking a hit, and the health bar will refill. Failure to do so will cost the player health, as normal. I like this! It’s an innovation I support and appreciate. It convinced me to use my special moves, believe it or not!

Beyond that, Streets of Rage 4 provides what you might expect: a glorious opportunity to punch, kick, and suplex a roiling mass of criminals into subhuman slurry, and I loved every minute of it. Yes, it’s more of the same gritty street combat found in its predecessors, but hey, there is a reason people have been clamoring for more Streets of Rage since the 1990s. This is finally your chance for more.

However. All of that being said, did you know that Streets of Rage 4 wasn’t even the best beat ’em up I beat in 2021?! To be fair, it was up against some pretty steep competition….

[Image Credit: MobyGames]

3. Streets of Rage 2 (Sega Genesis via Nintendo Switch, 1992)

Yeah, Streets of Rage 4 is great, but despite its beautiful graphics, modern amenities, and luscious violence, it can’t top the best game in the series, Streets of Rage 2. I really only got into the Streets of Rage games in the last five years or so. It’s just one of an endless number of acclaimed franchises that managed to escape me over the years. Still, in my relatively short time playing the series, I endured a lot of failed (but fun) playthroughs of Streets of Rage 2 before finally seeing the end in 2021.

But, if you want to get technical, I didn’t make it all the way to the end of Streets of Rage 2 this time, either, even though I’m still counting it as a win. My friend Tim and I played it together at our friend Jon’s house, while Jon went out to pick up pizza or something. I made it to the last level, possibly even to the final boss, Mr. X. (I can’t remember, for sure.) But, I ran out of lives before the end, and it was up to Tim to finish the job. Luckily, his years of Streets of Rage experience ensured Mr. X was stomped into an unrecognizable pile of blood and slime. Good work, Tim!

Anyway, Streets of Rage 2 is an improvement on the first game in just about every way. It gets a nice graphical upgrade, a bigger variety of enemies and weapons, more playable characters (but it loses Adam Hunter, who gets kidnapped and is therefore unplayable in this outing), and possibly an overall better musical score. Although, there are some individual tracks from the first game that are probably my favorites. (Seems like a fine time for you to just listen to both soundtracks and judge for yourself.) All in all, it’s one of the purest, most responsive and delightful beat ’em ups ever made, and if you like this genre, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot sometime. If I can’t convince you, just play the baseball stadium level, in which the pitcher’s mound is actually an elevator into a villainous underground lair. I can’t make this up. It’s one of the best setpieces in video game history. Play it.

[Image Credit: MobyGames]

2. Golf Story (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

The year is 1996. ’97? Somewhere in there. I’m in middle school, at a friend’s house for a sleepover, and I’m not having a great time. The other guys at the sleepover will not stop playing Golf on NES. Dudes. Golf—the video game and the sport—is stupid. I’m here to play the Star Wars Customizable Card Game and watch Spaceballs. Get off the TV, you nerds!

Then I bought Golf at a Funcoland several years later and figured out why they wouldn’t stop playing. I need a time machine to go back to that night and join the fun. Golf and its successor, NES Open Tournament Golf, are among my favorite sports games of all time. Other golf games have come along since then and expanded on the formula, some of them (Mario Golf games, in particular) even adding some RPG elements, but I haven’t tried any of them.

I had a passing interest in Golf Story on Nintendo Switch, but like a disingenuous savage, I kept putting it off. It wasn’t until my friend Jon (the same Jon whose house Tim and I were at when we beat Streets of Rage 2) brought it over one day, and we played a match, and I got hooked pretty quickly. We didn’t even touch on any of the story or RPG elements—the golf mechanics alone were a great first impression.

So I bought Golf Story, first and foremost, as a golf game, and got so much more than I could have imagined. It expands on the golf mechanics I love from the NES golf games, adding the ability to fine-tune shots and gauge distances really well. The golfing, itself, offers a variety of play, including matches against rival golfers, training sessions, and challenges testing accuracy and precision, driving ability, and more. There’s a fun story spanning golf courses of many themes, including a haunted course, a snow course, an island course, and more. Equipment upgrades can be bought or earned, which, combined with skill points gained from leveling up, provide opportunities to customize your golfer and style of play. Lastly, I have to mention the writing. I really lucked out to play West of Loathing and Golf Story in the same year. There’s a really dry sense of humor at play throughout the game, which had me laughing out loud on more than a few occasions. Not only that, the player will meet a bevy of genuine and evocative characters along the way. There are poignant moments with Coach, utterly frustrating moments with elderly golfers who play it safe and expect the same from you, and a bemusing rivalry with pro golfer, Max Yards. Also, it’s a roleplaying game, so there are secrets. There’s even a murder mystery! What can’t this game do?!

I loved Golf Story. Really loved it. It would have been my game of the year, if not for my complicated history with number one. A sequel, called Sports Story, is also on the way, which I’ve eagerly awaited since completing this masterpiece. If it’s even half as good, it will be time well spent.

[Image Credit: MobyGames]

1. Blaster Master (NES via Nintendo Switch, 1988)

Remember how I mentioned above how I wasn’t sure of the better game between Blaster Master and Blaster Master Zero? Let’s talk about the original. You have no idea how excited I am to finally include Blaster Master on this list! I think this is one of the finest NES games ever made, but certainly one of the most difficult, as well. Longtime readers may recall past poetic waxing about protagonist Jason’s adventures through a mutant-infested underworld, both on foot and behind the wheel of Sofia the 3rd—a powerful, jumping super tank of alien origin. It made my Honorable Mention in 2019, after I spent a fair amount of time trying to beat it upon its debut on Nintendo Switch Online, to no avail. It was great fun, but as has been the case for the last 32 years (ugh, we old), I did not defeat Blaster Master without the abuse of save states. The brutal bosses (Hard Shell, Frozen Crabullus, and Enhanced Fred, I’m looking squarely at you) and diminished controls in the late-game due to the touchy wall-climbing upgrades proved, as always, too much of a challenge for me.

I took a lengthy break from Blaster Master, all the way until the year 2021, when my interest was rekindled by what else? Blaster Master Zero 2! Fresh off my victory in that crazy sequel, I decided it was time to give the NES original another shot. And…I beat it! But, again, not without the help of save states. However, I felt pretty good this time. Better than I’d ever felt before. I was getting better.

So, I started it up again, in the corner chair of our Marion, Kansas, living room (when we still lived there). I didn’t play at my best. I struggled through Area 2, including getting lost in Crabullus’s lair, an area I memorized at one point in my life. I lost multiple lives against Photophage, the replicating cube boss from Area 3. I remember a lengthy grind for gun power-ups in water-themed Area 5, trying to give myself the slightest advantage against Hard Shell, a giant lobster. Without shame, I exploited the game’s infamous pause glitch—the one where you throw a grenade and pause the game, but the game keeps registering hits on the boss—to defeat Frozen Crabullus and Enhanced Fred in Areas 6 and 7.

Through fun and frustration both, I at last found myself at Area 8, the last level. I’ve never fared well here. There are spikes everywhere, and many opportunities to accidentally drive the tank directly into them. With deliberate movement and clever use of the wall and ceiling-driving upgrades, it’s possible to navigate around some of the spikes. Careful jumping (and management of the energy and hover bars) will do a lot to avoid the rest. It’s not easy. This area is designed to slowly whittle away Jason’s remaining resources, leaving him to face a final gauntlet of spike-laden corridors, full of bouncing worms, bomb-dropping flying brains, and other mutant terrors, all with minimal reserves. Fun!(?)

I took my time. I approached spikes and enemies strategically. I remembered to use my subweapons, like homing missiles and bolts of lightning that strike from under the tank to hit enemies below! It felt like it took forever, but with patience, I made it to the lair of the Plutonium Boss, a huge, powerfully-jawed monster bursting through a wall. Despite its intimidating appearance, all it did was spit rocks at me. They bounced all over the place, though, so it was still quite a challenge to score hits on the boss while constantly dodging. But, that wasn’t all. Behind the fallen corpse of the Plutonium Boss, the Underworld Lord awaited. Another intimidating foe, but with some clever positioning, I was able to avoid the Underworld Lord’s whip attacks and toss grenades unabated, resulting in a quick, but stressful victory.

That was it. The end cinematic and credits rolled. I did it. I finally did it! I beat Blaster Master without having to load a saved game!

But, in full disclosure, I did save the game. A lot. I saved before boss fights, after boss fights, at the beginning of each new area, and so on. I probably used all four save slots on the Switch. But, in the end, I didn’t load any of them. Finally, I was able to beat the game under the limitations of the original console and cartridge, a victory that eluded me since age six. (Again, I am very, very old.) It felt good. It has been a long time coming.

Now, if only I could beat it without using that pause glitch….