The Best Mario Party Games, Ranked from Best to Worst

Mario has always been a lovable, carefree character who never holds a grudge against even his greatest adversaries. He’s always willing to go for a round of golf, play some tennis, race around the track, and party with friends and foes alike. The Mario Party series is what kicked off this trend of the cast of Mario getting together to compete in a board game-style competition. While it seemed like a strange departure when the first game came out for a series so focused on running and jumping to spin off into a turn-based game with dice rolling, it turned out to be one of the most successful diversions the Italian plumber ever made.

Dating back to the debut on the N64, Mario Party games have appeared on just about every Nintendo console released since. Some sequels are more similar to the original formula of traversing a map via dice rolls, collecting coins and items, playing mini-games, and purchasing stars to determine the winner, while others only vaguely resemble that well-loved structure. In the over two decades since we were first invited to this crazy party with Mario and friends, there have been nearly 20 different Mario Party games released. While some are held in extremely high regard, there are more than a few that are seen as downright atrocious. Here’s how we broke down ranking all the best Mario Party games from best to worst.

Further reading

1. Mario Party Superstars

The only game that could top even the most nostalgia-blind Mario Party fans who adore the N64 classics above all others is the one that combines the best of all of them into one new and modern package. After Super Mario Party came close to recapturing the feel of the traditional board game style that made the older games the hits they were, and Mario Party: The Top 100 bringing back the best mini-games but without that element whatsoever, this title finally brings together the best ideas of those two games into one dream package.

This game should’ve happened years ago, but better late than never. Mario Party Superstars does what fans have been asking for for years and ditches all the weird board gimmicks, different dice types, and stinker mini-games and looks back at all the great ones they’ve done and brings them forward onto the Switch. Boards from the original trilogy and games from the entire series are all brought back here, from across the entire franchise, but now with the benefit of much-improved controls, online play, and a great roster of Mario characters to play as. Whether you’re an old-school fan or new to the series, there’s no better way to experience the best Mario Party has to offer.

Read our full Mario Party Superstars review

2. Mario Party 2

Mario Party 2 boxart.

Nintendo is a company that doesn’t like to do the same thing twice. This is a methodology that can result in some of the best games the company has produced, as well as some of the worst. In the case of Mario Party 2, they changed only the essentials from the rough draft that was the first game and created an all-time masterpiece. Despite less than a year of development time, this sequel somehow knew what problems the first game had, where it could expand, and what new features would be the most fun. Basically everything fans love about the series was introduced in this game.

Prior to Mario Party 2, there were no items, no duel or battle minigames, and less varied and dynamic boards. Plus, in a touch that is criminally locked to this one game, every character has a unique outfit to fit the theme of the board being played. Want to see cowboy Donkey Kong, or pirate Yoshi? This is the only game to do it. Items added a bit of skill and planning to the game otherwise mostly being dictated by the roll of the die, and the minigame selection was not only large, but extremely creative. This is where many of the most iconic games came from, and there’s hardly a bad one in the batch.

3. Mario Party 3

Mario, Yoshi, Wario, and DK playing bumper balls.

Some consider Mario Party 3 the actual peak of the classic games, and there’s an argument to be made there for sure. It is another iteration of the formula, but more in terms of refinement than actual innovation. Basically, it’s Mario Party 2, but more. Sure, there are new minigames, as there will be in every game, new boards, more items, and ever so slightly improved graphics. Oh, and it also is the debut of Waluigi in the cast, so that alone may make it the top game for you.

What new features it does add are mostly secondary to what we all want from a Mario Party game. A single-player story mode is a nice feature, but who really wants to play this game alone against A.I.? The Duel Mode is better, giving a more tailored experience for when you only have one other friend to play with. The standout items here are the Lucky Lamp, which randomly moves the star’s location on the board, and the Reverse Mushroom, allowing you to backtrack. These do increase the strategy without getting too complex or removing the chaos factor we all love (hate) about the series.

4. Mario Party 4

Mario and gang looking shocked.

Our last chronological entry is the first Mario Party released for the next generation of Nintendo consoles, the GameCube. The visuals in Mario Party 4 alone set the standard for what the series would look like, more or less, for years to come. However, looks are only a minor feature in most Nintendo games, especially Mario Party. This entry still doesn’t rock the boat too much, but for better and for worse. The new minigames are certainly fun, still finding new ways to compete that people look back fondly on, but nothing groundbreaking. This is the most smooth and refined one from a gameplay perspective for sure, arguably controlling the best of any game yet.

Where Mario Party 4 falters is in some of the new mechanics it introduces, as well as its board design and selection. The major new mechanics are the mini and mega mushrooms. One shrinks your character, as well as limits the dice numbers to only 1 to 5, and lets you go through very situational mini pathways on the map. Mega mushrooms do about the opposite, where you get big and roll two dice blocks. If you pass other players while big, you steal 10 coins, but you cannot interact with any board events, including stars. The board designs themselves are pretty bland and don’t have much uniqueness among them, and are actually pretty small.

5. Super Mario Party

Mario and friends racing tricycles.

Jumping (see what we did there?) way into the future, we hit Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch. This felt like the perfect opportunity for Mario Party to make a comeback after a string of absolutely abysmal entries leading up to it. The Switch felt like it was made for Mario Party, if only Nintendo would go back to what made the series so popular in the first place. In the end, we kind of got the game we were hoping for, but in reality, it felt like a half-measure. After 10 years since the series looked anything like the classic games, most were accepting of this attempt at a return to form.

Super Mario Party strips most of the gimmicks that fans hated over the past few entries and does a decent job of giving us what we wanted. At the same time, despite being the newest game in the franchise, it feels almost like the first in a lot of ways. There’s a criminally small number of boards, all of which are quite small, and only years later was online play added in an update. Most hoped more boards would be added later on, but that never came to pass. The balance is also not particularly good, with star prices slashed and each character having its own dice block, plus the ability to get companions that can really tilt the scale in one player’s favor. It’s a fun enough time, but doesn’t have the lasting power we want out of a game like this.

Read our full Super Mario Party review

6. Mario Party 8

Mario and friends walking on tightropes.

Perhaps even more than the Switch, the Nintendo Wii seemed like a slam dunk for a Mario Party title. The motion controls opened up an entirely new design space for creative and fun minigames. Unlike other games using the Wii’s motion controls, it actually served the minigame format perfectly since no game went on long enough for players to get bored or frustrated with the controls. Plus, they still had the option to use more traditional controls to add even more variety. Unfortunately, not all of these minigame ideas turned out to be as fun as they were intended to be.

The boards were also a mixed bag. On one hand, we got really fun and different board types like Koopa’s Tycoon Town, where you invest your coins into hotels to earn stars, but if another player invests more than you, the stars belong to them. This twist was probably the best idea Mario Party 8 had, giving way more control to players to actually plan and gamble when the best time to invest or not would be. On the other hand, you get Goomba’s Booty Boardwalk, which is a literal straight line of a board. It’s a decent entry, but with some pitfalls that hold it back from reaching the potential a Wii Mario Party game should’ve hit.

7. Mario Party 6

Mario and friends in a picturebook.

Somehow the GameCube got a total of four Mario Party games, with the second-to-last one being Mario Party 6. This is where gimmicks start to influence the core of the games going forward, but they aren’t overly intrusive just yet. The system this game introduces is a universal day and night cycle to all the boards. This was something seen before but was board-specific. Depending on the time of day, boards would have different events, paths, and spaces to keep players on their toes. Depending on how this gels with you, it could raise or lower it on your personal ranking, because the rest of the game is a solid entry.

While it does allow for use of the GameCube’s microphone, we never knew anyone who had one to use, and the minigames themselves don’t require it. The selection here is solid, too. Nothing that would go on to be fondly remembered, but nothing that people loathe. One interesting mechanical twist was related to items now being orbs that players could throw to lay traps on the board. That spiced things up in a way that perfectly fit the series and would be a welcome feature to have as a standard. Boards remained solid, and the day and night cycle did give them some extra room to make them more layered, but aren’t quite special enough to stick out in our memories.

8. Mario Party 7

Mario running on the globe followed by everyone else.

The final Mario Party for the GameCube is also the unfortunate weakest of the four titles. It again dabbled with the microphone, but again to no real consequence. If it does one thing well, it gives you a ton of content. Seriously, this game is absolutely packed with things to do, and if that’s all you’re looking for, then this game isn’t a bad choice. On the other hand, there really isn’t much to say about this game. It just doesn’t do anything particularly noteworthy. Sure, two of the boards were kind of cool in how they changed, but as a package, it’s kind of like a bag of chips. It’s fine, but not a satisfying meal you’d remember fondly.

Aside from a huge list of minigames, Mario Party 7 did try a small innovation with an eight-player mode, but in probably the worst way possible. Because Nintendo does things its own way, it decided to make this eight-player mode have two players share a single controller. The single-player offering is also insultingly slow and boring. There’s plenty of content to unlock playing it via a shop that allowed you to unlock figurines, but the act of doing it just isn’t fun. Speaking of not fun, the gimmick here during Party Cruise mode is Bowser Time, which triggers every five turns. When it does, Bowser appears and does some random act to screw over one or all the players. Bowser is a fun wrench when he’s a single space on the board, but way too frustrating when he appears every five turns.

9. Mario Party 5

Bowser watching the players trapped in cages.

We’re about at the halfway point in the list, which is a fitting spot for Mario Party 5. This game is just kind of there. It doesn’t do anything spectacularly bad, but it doesn’t do anything better than average either. It’s just more Mario Party, which is fine, but if you’ve played even the last entry then this one will feel very shallow. The only thing it experimented with was a side mode called Super Duel Mode. In this mode, two players battle against each other by building customizable vehicles called Machines by purchasing parts with points earned through minigames. It’s fun for a round or two but lacks any real depth.

The boards this time around are uninspired and unappealing to look at, the roster is almost identical to Mario Party 4, and most minigames are recycled from the previous game too. All this makes a game that just feels like a drag to play. When you get down to it, there’s no reason to play this game over the previous game, or the next installment. There’s no such thing as a lazy game, but this entry just feels like they were told to make a new Mario Party and didn’t have any spark or ideas that made them actually want to.

10. Mario Party

Toad asking who wants to be the superstar.

Finally, we come to the original. The first game in the series does have to be acknowledged for kicking off this ridiculous concept in such a way that it managed to thrive long enough to reach the heights we’ve already covered, but at the same time there’s no denying how hard it is to go back to this rickety old game. For a first outing, Mario Party set the standard for the basic formula the best games would improve upon. We got the board-based gameplay, dice rolling, some items, minigames, and many of the iconic spaces. However, playing it can sometimes be painful (literally). There’s hardly any sense of balance here, which is always a delicate tightrope the series has to walk, but the fact that you can lose coins during minigames alone was a terrible choice.

Then there are the minigames. Some went on to be some all-time favorites, such as Bumper Balls and Mushroom Mix-Up, but others ended up requiring Nintendo to ship out special gloves to keep players from tearing the skin on their palms. There was a single-player mode, but it boiled down to simply going through each minigame against A.I. on a set number of lives. There’s also no variety in minigames — they’re all four-player free-for-all style — and the eight boards, while creative, are uninteresting to actually move through. There’s just no reason to go back to this one.

11. Mario Party DS

Mario and crew locked up by Bowser.

This is where we really tip the scales into the bad side of the Mario Party games. The formula isn’t completely broken here, but this game clearly had its focus in the wrong areas. Mario Party DS was the only iteration for the console, and perhaps had even more potential than the Wii. For one, the DS had plenty of ways to interact that could make for completely unique minigames using the touch screen, dual screen, and built-in microphone. The real opportunity here, though, was for online play. The DS, as a handheld, obviously couldn’t support local multiplayer like the console games could, but the idea of going online to play a round of Mario Party seemed like a perfect fit.

Technically, Mario Party DS did do most of those things. It did create a bunch of new minigames, actually having a substantial 73 in total, that used the console’s unique features, and was playable wirelessly with up to four friends, even if only one owned the game itself. However, the game had a disappointing number of boards and was geared more toward the single-player offering, with achievements to go after for unlocks. Perhaps that was to make up for the fact that it was just way more difficult to get a game going when each player had to own their own console. For a handheld attempt, though, it at least got the core mostly right.

12. Mario Party 10

Luigi about to roll the dice in the car.

For all the problems there were with the WiiU, and boy were there a ton of problems, the one problem it shouldn’t have had was a bad Mario Party game. Just like the Wii and DS before it, the WiiU’s touchpad opened up nearly endless possibilities for minigames that never could’ve been done before, and yet Nintendo squandered even that. Before even getting into that, the main issue with Mario Party 10 is a holdover from the also maligned Mario Party 9, the car system. We’ll cover that more in the next entry, but just know it’s as frustrating and counterintuitive as ever.

The one thing Mario Party 10 has above is the Bowser Party Mode. This is the only mode that actually utilizes the gamepad to any real extent and is … just all right. It turns the game into a 1v4-style game, with the four normal players still all being stuck together in a stupid car, while the other player is Bowser chasing them. Instead of it being a game about collecting stars, the goal of the regular players is to simply survive until the end of the map, while Bowser tries to deplete their collective hearts before they do. Technically, this does fit the car system better than a normal party mode, and if it were the only place the car system was implemented, would actually be a fine side mode. Instead, they kept the car as the primary mode of play and drove this game off a cliff.

13. Mario Party 9

Mario pumping his fist.

This is it. This is the game to blame for the mind-bogglingly daft decision to take essentially half of what made Mario Party fun and interesting — moving around the boards — and gutted it. Perhaps this was due to Mario Party 9 being the first game developed by NDcube while every other game before was made by Hudson Soft, but either way, Nintendo never should have let this game go past the concept stage with a pitch like the car system. Obviously, such a drastic change in the formula would mean Mario Party 9 couldn’t function like the previous, actually good, games did.

With the car, no player moved independently on the board. Everyone moved together, removing all sense of strategy and positioning. That meant that the way stars were collected had to change too, and was replaced with things called mini stars and mini ztars. Basically, these were what coins were in past games, with ztars taking away mini stars from your total. Whoever had the most mini stars by the time the car reached the end of the board won. But, because other players moved you around the board, and vice versa, there was no way to plan or strategize anything. Things just happened to you in this game, and it never felt like winning or losing was earned.

14. Mario Party: The Top 100

Shyguy holding up a red flag on a boat.

As a concept, Mario Party: The Top 100 sounds like an easy slam dunk. Take the 3DS and pack in the all-time best 100 minigames from the series, making it have the highest number of minigames any game in the series ever had. How do you screw that up? Well, they certainly found a way. The game features three main modes: 100 Minigames, Minigame Island, and Minigame Match, and only one of them utilizes a board game structure. 100 Minigames is basically just a menu where you play the featured minigames one at a time. There’s no progression, no stars, just the game in isolation. Minigame Island sounds more promising but is only single player. Here you play with an A.I. against another pair of A.I. in 2v2 games.

That leaves Minigame Match, which is the only mode in which you’ll catch a glimpse of a traditional board. But these boards are small, and we mean small. Also, if you thought you would at least be playing in the traditional board game style, guess again. Instead of winning games, earning coins, and buying stars from a select point on the board, you need to pop Star Balloons to collect stars. These are placed around the map, and render the admittedly great minigames useless to the overall game itself. Minigames alone can’t make a great Mario Party, and Mario Party: The Top 100 is proof of that.

15. Mario Party: Island Tour

Bowser looking at a floating kingdom.

It took six years for Nintendo to give Mario Party another try on handheld after Mario Party DS, and the only lesson Mario Party: Island Tour took from that first attempt was only requiring one person to own the game for a group to play. Thankfully it does return to the board-based structure, but basically all the boards had some gimmick to them that made luck corrupt any sense of fun. One board made the last player to reach the end the winner, which isn’t exactly an element under your control. Likewise, most of the minigames also fell into the trap of just rewarding blind luck.

Also being a handheld game, Mario Party: Island Tour is designed to be a much shorter game. Winning minigames doesn’t really make much of a difference in most boards, and while they do try and use the 3DS’s unique control options, actually controlling a lot of the minigames just doesn’t feel good or responsive. Tack on the always persistent problem of needing four consoles to get a full group to play, and Mario Party: Island Tour is no day at the beach.

16. Mario Party Advance

Mario deciding to stop at Goomba House.

At this point, there’s not much point in spending a lot of time on these almost objectively poor games. Mario Party Advance was the first-ever handheld Mario Party experiment and probably should’ve been the last. The main mode here is called Shroom City, which has you move around a map to complete objectives and collect the minigames and things called Gaddgets in other modes. There is a mostly traditional party mode, with boards, dice, minigames, and everything, but with a major fault: Finding three other friends with GBAs, Mario Party Advance, and link cables. That meant the game was yet another to fall into the trap of being too focused on single-player content. With minigames needing to be so basic on this device, there’s not much to celebrate.

17. Mario Party: Star Rush

Four toads running around a board.

The final 3DS entry for the series on our list is Mario Party: Star Rush. If you guessed that this game would break the cardinal rule of ditching the board game setup, you deserve a star yourself. This main mode on offer here is called Toad Scramble, where there are no turns. Players all move at once, leading to a complete mess of an experience. To earn stars, you would need to win boss minigames by landing on the spaces in front of them on the board, with up to five being present at any one time. Again, if this were a side mode, that’d be fine, or a nice distraction even. Instead, we have that, plus half a dozen other bare-bones modes that all feel half-baked. Speaking of bare bones, this game has a paltry 53 minigames, which is only three more than the original Mario Party.

18. Mario Party-e

Yoshi beside a ring of shyguys and coins.

There’s an age-old question: Is a Mario Party game really bad if almost no one is around to play it? The answer is yes. Mario Party-e is probably a game most people never have, and never would without this list, hear about. We’re back on the GBA, so another handheld situation, but with the additional wrinkle of being exclusive to the e-reader attachment. This game — and it almost is more of a traditional game than a videogame — comes with a deck of 64 cards and a play mat. Your goal is to collect three superstar clothes accessories and then the superstar. Really, this boiled down to you playing a card game in real life, and occasionally picking up your GBA to play a minigame using a card. At this point, they might as well have just made an actual board game.

Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link


The Best Kirby Games, Ranked from Best to Worst

Is it possible for anyone to not love Kirby? This little ball of joy has been with us since the NES, charming us with his cute design, lighthearted stories, and stress-free gameplay. Over the years Kirby has become one of Nintendo’s most beloved characters, nearly as recognizable as Mario or Link. He’s quietly amassed a dedicated audience of fans through the decades and is one of the few franchises to go on for so long with such a strong track record of games. Sure, some modern gamers may look at his titles and think they’re just for kids, but the joy of a Kirby game is one that people of all ages can enjoy.

Whether he’s in his natural form or made of yarn, 2D or 3D, Kirby has established a formula and tone for his games that make them reliably great. There are some more experimental titles in his mainline games, for better and for worse, but on the whole, there’s hardly any Kirby game you can pick up and not smile your way through from beginning to end. Looking at Kirby’s entire catalog of games is a little overwhelming, even when you cut out his spinoff titles, and deciding which are the best is even more difficult. Here’s our best attempt to go through all the best Kirby games and rank them from best to worst.

No offense to games like Kirby Air Ride or Kirby’s Dream Course, which are two fantastic games, but we’ve already got over a dozen games in the mainline series to rank, and we’d be here all day if we included spinoffs, so we’ll leave those for another day. We’ll also only count one version for each game if it was updated with a remake.

Further reading

1. Kirby Super Star Ultra

It was way harder than we anticipated to pick a best Kirby game, but in the end, we had to land on Kirby Super Star Ultra. This game is just too packed with awesome content to ignore, plus it’s arguably the best Kirby has ever looked in sprite form. This SNES classic came packed with nine games, which might raise some red flags when you think of other “compilation” type games, but every single game in Kirby Super Star feels like a fully realized game. Then, years later on the DS, Kirby Super Star Ultra came out and nearly doubled the number of games to 16 and somehow maintained that same level of quality of the original nine.

Just putting this game on a handheld would’ve probably been enough to justify a second purchase, but all that extra content just pushes Kirby Super Star Ultra into a league of its own. This game has all the classics, like the Great Cave Offensive, Helper to Hero, and the more traditional adventure of Spring Breeze that acts as a kind of remake of Kirby’s Dreamland. This collection proves that Kirby’s ability to adapt goes beyond just his signature move of absorbing powers from enemies. There’s just nothing to complain about regarding this collection. It is everything we love about Kirby in one massive package.

2. Kirby: Planet Robobot

Kirby fighting a giant robot on a bridge.

While this may seem like an odd pick to have so high up on the ranking, the gimmick of Kirby piloting a mech turned out to be a fantastic idea. Kirby: Planet Robobot was a 3DS title that is a spiritual successor to Kirby: Tripple Deluxe (more on that game later), as well as to the 3D nature of the handheld incorporating movement between the foreground and background. What saves this game from straying too far from what makes Kirby, well, Kirby is the fact that his new robot armor doesn’t replace or remove his ability to copy abilities. Instead, it builds upon them by adding new functions to the robot.

Of all the Kirby games, few make you feel as unstoppable as you do in Kirby: Planet Robobot. The mech is borderline overpowered most of the time, which may be a negative to some, but that doesn’t diminish the creative and delightful levels you will explore or the surprisingly epic adventure Kirby is on. He’s on a mission to stop an evil corporation from draining a planet of its resources and transforming all native life into robots at once. This leads to some awesomely scaled and designed boss encounters that occasionally put a twist on some established formulas from the past. The game doesn’t overstay its welcome, and never lets up on giving you new things to do.

3. Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland

Kirby about to etner a star door.

Another updated re-release, this time of Kirby’s debut on home consoles in Kirby’s Adventure. This NES classic was the first time we saw the pink puff ball on home consoles and learned that he was, in fact, pink. Building off the basic platforming adventure he began with on the original GameBoy, Kirby’s Adventure was the first time Kirby was shown off with his iconic ability to inhale and copy the powers of his enemies. Prior to this, he was only able to inhale and spit out his foes as projectiles, which was unique enough at the time, but this game was where Kirby really became who he is today.

Years later, the team once again saw a chance to update Kirby’s console adventure, only now bringing it full circle and back to handheld on the GBA. Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland remains one of the tightest, most pure platforming games on the market. For Kirby fans, all the best ideas are here, from iconic stages, enemies, and bosses that would become staples for decades. Plus, this updated release did more than just port the original and give it a bit of a graphical boost. It also added a co-op mode and alternate color options for your happy little hero. If you want the most pure, unfiltered Kirby experience, Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland is it, full stop.

4. Kirby Star Allies

Kirby weilding a sword with his team following.

Kirby’s main console games had all taken some interesting twists in their design up until the Switch came out. Here, the team decided to go back to the winning formula and give us Kirby Star Allies. This game puts Kirby back in his classic art style, foregoes any gimmicks, and just tries to be a new version of Kirby’s most traditional adventures. And you know what? That turned out to be exactly what fans wanted. As it turned out, giving us a Kirby game with the best visuals we’d seen yet, a wide range of powers to copy and obliterate enemies, and even some parts of the environment with new co-op systems is all they needed to do.

Sure, some purists who play every Kirby game might find it a little too formulaic and easy, but Kirby Star Allies is undeniably a solid experience. There’s no way to argue that the majority of the game isn’t on the easy side, but there’s plenty of post-game content that does bump up the challenge and add a bunch of extra content to go through. The new ability to turn enemies into friends is a great way to keep more powers available to you as you play or bring in some real friends for multiplayer fun. All in all, Kirby Star Allies is a mostly relaxed game that, if you get into the groove with, is another joyful time with your smiling pink friend.

5. Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Kirby transformed into a yarn mech.

What if Kirby — but yarn? Whoever thought up that concept deserves some kind of award, because transforming Kirby, and the entire world around him, into yarn was a stroke of genius rivaling that of the steam engine. Now, let’s get one thing clear here. Kirby is cute. He’s, as we’ve called him many times already, just a puff ball of boy. Now, Kirby made of yarn is almost too adorable. Kirby’s Epic Yarn was the first of this hand-crafted art style that Nintendo would use a few more times, but they nailed it right from the start with this game. Never before has a game just oozed with such happiness and feelings of childlike wonder.

Kirby also uses this new yarn aesthetic in his gameplay. Instead of wearing new costumes to denote his new powers, Kirby’s body simply reshapes into new things like rocket ships and cars. He could also now manipulate the world just like a decorated set, scrunching up parts of the level for platforming and puzzle-solving. From the outside, Kirby always was a game for kids, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn was by no means going to change anyone’s mind about that — but that’s just not true. Yes, kids will love it, but anyone with a heart will be smitten by this game’s charm. Again, a challenge isn’t the draw here; it’s more about the adventure and the vibes.

6. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land

Kirby and his friends fighting the tree boss.

Also released on the Wii, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is intentionally meant to be reminiscent of, well, the Dream Land sub-series of Kirby games. This was kind of the equivalent of the New Super Mario Bros. titles for Mario, only for Kirby. By that, we mean it gave Kirby a decent graphical upgrade, at least as far as the Wii could push things, and added in up to four-player co-op, but was otherwise meant to be an iteration of Kirby’s original gameplay rather than a reinvention. Again, Kirby’s solid systems show that as long as the levels are appealing, the powers you can suck up are fun and different, and controls are polished, you’ll be in for a great time.

However, at this point in 2011, it was starting to become clear that Kirby wouldn’t be drawing in a ton of new fans just by sticking to his basics, as solid as those were. Fans would be glad to have another entry of Kirby doing what he does best, plus some co-op to extend the life of the game, but anyone on the outside probably just saw this as “another Kirby game” and brushed it off. But, just like Kirby himself, looks can be deceiving. There’s a lot of game here, plenty of creativity on display, and lots of throwbacks to the Dream Land games that fans will love discovering. Plus, being the first console Kirby game in over a decade, we were hungry for a big-scale adventure.

7. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror

Four kirbys looking at a falling star.

We all know Kirby is able to stretch his wings into new territory with his games and, so long as the core remains in tact, still hit the target for a great time. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is an early example of just that for the GBA. While his adventures up to this point had been strictly linear adventures, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror decided to take a chance on becoming a light Metroidvania-style game in which you explore a single, massive world that is completely connected. You will even find points where you will want to go back to explored areas later on. The main flaw, though, is that unlike the best Metroidvania games, the map system here isn’t quite up to the task of making navigating easy.

As you explore, find new abilities, and unlock new sections of the map in Kirby’s quest to collect the broken pieces of a magical mirror, you will also get new content like mini-games and bonuses for your trouble. This game also encouraged co-op play but didn’t require it by any means. Again taking a cue from another Nintendo property, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror is somewhat like the co-op Zelda titles where four different colored Links can play together. This time, you have four Kirbys you can either team up with, or if you’re playing alone, simply swap between. Each Kirby has their own ability you’ll need, feeding into the Metroidvania style of game it’s going for.

8. Kirby: Canvas Curse

Kirby ramping off a rainbow ramp.

The DS won’t be the last time we see a Kirby game held back by a controller gimmick, but it also isn’t the worst. Kirby: Canvas Curse is all about using the stylus to draw pathways for a legless Kirby to roll along to reach the end of each stage. This idea could’ve so easily turned out to be a disaster, or even just a disappointingly shallow experience, but thanks to an abundance of ways you can use the rainbow paths you draw, it still manages to be a fun game. While it is somewhat frustrating that you can’t actually control Kirby directly, you aren’t so limited, and the challenge is never too taxing that it actually gets annoying.

Your rainbow ramps could do more than just provide Kirby a slope to roll down, but also go up, loop, and even protect him from enemies. Unfortunately, while this game was novel when it came out since both the DS and touchscreen controls, in general, were relatively new, it doesn’t hold up so well in modern times. Even the art style isn’t all that special, going for something that is between Kirby’s traditional look and a water-colored aesthetic that, while by no means bad, just isn’t all that unique.

9. Kirby: Triple Deluxe

Kirby attacking a Waddle Dee with beatle horns.

Moving up to the 3DS, the new gimmick that needed showing off was the 3D aspect of the system. So, what did Nintendo do? They called in Kirby to show off this new layer of depth in Kirby: Triple Deluxe. The majority of the game was as you’d hope, with Kirby doing his usual platforming, collectible hunting, ability copying, and boss fighting, only with the inclusion of a new ability to jump between the foreground and background. The main issues with this game stem from that new power. It’s just too strong in a game that’s already easier than most Kirby games. Knowing how easy the franchise is in general, getting more ways to dispatch enemies without tuning the game for it is just too much.

That’s kind of Kirby: Triple Deluxe summed up. It’s too easy, to the point of being boring. Nothing pushes back on you, not even if you’re hunting down all the collectibles. Switching between layers just wipes out almost any enemy unlucky enough to be on screen, and the levels themselves aren’t anything new or even creative takes on things we’ve seen before. It just kind of happens and then it’s over. Unless it’s your first Kirby game, Kirby: Triple Deluxe just won’t draw you to play more Kirby. It isn’t bad, but compared to the rest of his games, an average Kirby game feels like a disappointment.

10. Kirby’s Dreamland

Kirby running through a field with something in his mouth.

Going all the way back to our little pink pal’s first adventure, we have this Game Boy classic to thank for bringing this ball of joy to the world. Kirby’s Dreamland set the tone for all Kirby games to follow, as well as many locals, characters, and mechanics that are still used today. This is where we first set foot in Green Greens and heard that amazing tune that has become synonymous with the series, and where we first fought a giant tree with a face called Whispy Woods. But, like every first iteration on a new character, this is Kirby at his most basic.

For an original Game Boy title, Kirby’s Dreamland had to be a pretty simple adventure. Perhaps that’s to thank for Kirby games adopting a more casual playstyle, but here he wasn’t even able to utilize his ability to copy enemy abilities just yet. Still, for a handheld game, the simple designs looked amazing for the time, though color is really the major component missing. You can blow through the game’s five stages in an afternoon if you know what you’re doing, though the hard mode is a welcome reason to play again. In the end, there’s not much reason to return to Dreamland (get it?) if you don’t have any nostalgia for it. Kirby has only evolved from this humble handheld origin game.

11. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

The box art for Kirby 64.

Can you guess which console Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards came out on? Yes, this was Kirby’s only entry on the N64 but was the first time we saw him in full 3D glory outside of Smash Bros. Still, the team didn’t try and completely reinvent Kirby just because they had the new hardware to do it, as Nintendo did with Mario 64. Instead, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards utilized full 3D models but kept the gameplay running on a 2D plane, though with far more dynamic paths and camera angles. The levels on display covered a full solar system of variety, with brand new music tracks and a story to create a fresh experience.

What Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards did to really incentivize gamers to play and replay this title was to double down, literally, on Kirby’s copy ability. In this game, you could not only copy any enemy’s power but also combine them with either the same or any other power for new effects. You could, for example, combine the Cutter and Burner abilities to make Sword of Fire, or combine Spark and Needle for Lighting Rod. The number of options felt endless and made experimentation so satisfying. It’s just a shame the levels themselves didn’t really require much thought, and there wasn’t really much more calling you back to play through the adventure more than once.

12. Kirby’s Dream Land 3

Rick jumping at a Waddle Dee.

This game is one of those odd cases of a new game coming out for a system after the next generation of consoles has already released. In this case, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 was put out on the SNES when the N64 was already out and showing off all those sharp (literally) 3D models. That probably led to many people never playing this third adventure through Dream Land, which is somewhat of a shame, but also not the biggest loss. On one hand, it is a beautiful game, and arguably the best Kirby has ever looked in a pixel art style. On the other, it is almost too faithful to the Kirby formula that was established.

The new features are very minimal here. There’s a two-player mode featuring Gooey back from Kirby’s Dream Land 2, as well as around twice as many animal companions as that last game. Of course, there are always going to be a few new abilities Kirby can copy, but in terms of mechanics, this is pure Kirby. And yeah, that’s about the harshest criticism anyone can give this game. It is by no means bad, in fact even this far down the list it’s still really good, and yet when pitted against his other, more ambitious entries, Kirby’s Dream Land 3 just doesn’t stick out for much more than being a beautiful, solid Kirby game.

13. Kirby’s Dream Land 2

Kirby fighting a dizzy tree.

Poor old Kirby’s Dream Land 2 deserved better. Similar to Kirby’s Dream Land 3, this game came out very late in the Game Boy’s life, which on one hand is a benefit since they were able to squeeze just about as much out of the machine as possible, but more detrimental considering how little power there is in the first place. Plus, we already saw Kirby on a full-scale home console game, so jumping back to an underpowered handheld title felt like a big downgrade for our pink pal. If it had come out right after Kirby’s Dream Land, or if you were just comparing the two in a vacuum, Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is a clear winner. In context, however, it just can’t shake off the limitations of the hardware.

Aside from incorporating everything the NES game gave him, Kirby’s Dream Land 2 also introduced the concept of animal friends who could also use Kirby’s powers in different ways as well. You got Rick the hamster to ride, Coo the owl to introduce new flying levels, and even Kine the fish for underwater stages. The level design is another high mark for this game. It was the first game to introduce multiple exits for more replay value. We just wish this had been given more power than the Game Boy, but considering it’s one of the bestselling games for the system, maybe we’re being too harsh.

14. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Kirby riding the rainbow path to a treasure.

Following up on Kirby: Canvas Curse, the WiiU was poised to improve upon that gameplay formula with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. It didn’t. Instead, this new gimmicky style Kirby game just doubled down on what was the least special about Kirby: Canvas Curse but added in the awkward utilization of playing on the touchpad and the TV simultaneously. What’s possibly worse, though, is that unlike in Canvas Curse, Kirby can’t even copy abilities in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. That extra step removed from actually having some type of control or mode of interaction aside from just drawing lines really hurt this title.

On the positive side, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse does look really nice. The game takes a different approach to the style Nintendo had been experimenting with ever since Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Woolie World, but this time trying out a more clay model art style. The result is, as expected, an instantly pleasing and inviting game to look at. Had this style been used for another game that played like a traditional Kirby, we’d be all for it. As it is, though, this console title feels way too much like a handheld experience. This game just doesn’t give us what we want from a Kirby game.

15. Kirby Mass Attack

A gang of Kirbys stampeeding.

On paper, more Kirbys would just equal more fun, right? Well, unfortunately, Kirby Mass Attack proved that idea wrong when it divided our lovable hero up into 10 pieces. You will be charged with somehow managing to control this near dozen pack of pink platformers with the DS’ stylus and controls all at once. The result is another game, somewhat like Kirby: Canvas Curse and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, where you’re not as much in control of Kirby as you are trying to herd this mass of chaos in the right direction. What’s worse, is that if you happen to lose track of too many Kirbys before the end of the stage, which is easier than you think, you will have to go back and collect them before you can actually move forward.

Combat here can be interesting but again feels more like a different game like one of the Pikmin titles. Using the stylus, you fling Kirbys towards enemies to attack rather than taking direct control. This sometimes works well, but is too easily imprecise and becomes a chore to corral your Kirbys where you want them and when. It also makes much of the platforming a drag and doesn’t lead to enough creative uses that make you think or strategize all that much. Another interesting, and on paper potentially charming, idea for Kirby, but one we’re glad wasn’t revisited.

16. Kirby Squeak Squad

Kirby running in the grass with a sword.

Finally, we come to our pick for the weakest of the mainline Kirby games. Kirby Squeak Squad is yet another outing on the DS for Kirby, and this time developed by Capcom, Natsume, and Flagship. Along with the primary series developer, HAL, this many cooks probably spoiled the broth on this adventure. Kirby Squeak Squad has probably the most disappointing amount of abilities to copy, which made the added feature of being able to store copied abilities for later, something that we’d love to see in more feature-rich titles, underwhelming. The levels were linear and posed almost no pushback on the player.

We’ve called plenty of Kirby games up to this point “more of the same” in terms of just being solid titles, but Kirby Squeak Squad is almost a step backward. It would fall into that camp of being a middling Kirby game, but the lack of powers, variety, or challenge in levels, and just general lack of imagination, makes it a disappointment. It might seem like we’re being hypocritical because of how low we ranked the Kirby games that used gimmicks, but this DS entry didn’t even take advantage of the second screen for anything interesting. Kirby Squeak Squad is probably the most forgettable entry in the series, and with nothing in it worth revisiting it for, we’re fine with it fading away.

Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link


Microsoft Azure cloud vulnerability is the ‘worst you can imagine’

Microsoft has warned thousands of its Azure cloud computing customers, including many Fortune 500 companies, about a vulnerability that left their data completely exposed for the last two years.

A flaw in Microsoft’s Azure Cosmos DB database product left more than 3,300 Azure customers open to complete unrestricted access by attackers. The vulnerability was introduced in 2019 when Microsoft added a data visualization feature called Jupyter Notebook to Cosmos DB. The feature was turned on by default for all Cosmos DBs in February 2021.

A listing of Azure Cosmos DB clients includes companies like Coca-Cola, Liberty Mutual Insurance, ExxonMobil, and Walgreens, to name just a few.

“This is the worst cloud vulnerability you can imagine,” said Ami Luttwak, Chief Technology Officer of Wiz, the security company that discovered the issue. “This is the central database of Azure, and we were able to get access to any customer database that we wanted.”

Despite the severity and risk presented, Microsoft hasn’t seen any evidence of the vulnerability leading to illicit data access. “There is no evidence of this technique being exploited by malicious actors,” Microsoft told Bloomberg in an emailed statement. “We are not aware of any customer data being accessed because of this vulnerability.” Microsoft paid Wiz $40,000 for the discovery, according to Reuters. In an update posted to the Microsoft Security Response Center, the company said its forensic investigation included looking through logs to find any current activity or similar events in the past. “Our investigation shows no unauthorized access other than the researcher activity,” said Microsoft.

In a detailed blog post, Wiz says that the vulnerability introduced by Jupyter Notebook allowed the company’s researchers to gain access to the primary keys that secured the Cosmos DB databases for Microsoft customers. With said keys, Wiz had full read / write / delete access to the data of several thousand Microsoft Azure customers.

Wiz says that it discovered the issue two weeks ago and Microsoft disabled the vulnerability within 48 hours of Wiz reporting it. However, Microsoft can’t change its customers’ primary access keys, which is why the company emailed Cosmos DB customers to manually change their keys in order to mitigate exposure.

Today’s issue is just the latest security nightmare for Microsoft. The company had some of its source code stolen by SolarWinds hackers at the end of December, its Exchange email servers were breached and implicated in ransomware attacks in March, and a recent printer flaw allowed attackers to take over computers with system-level privileges. But with the world’s data increasingly moving to centralized cloud services like Azure, today’s revelation could be the most troubling development yet for Microsoft.

Updated August 27th, 6:49PM ET: Added update from the MSRC.

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Tech News

Extreme weather: A drone’s worst enemy

Small aerial drone’s are touted as a disruptive technology, with massive investment and hype surrounding their use. They may deliver our morning coffee, pizzas, time-sensitive medical supplies, and Amazon orders.

These on-demand drone applications require a high proportion of uptime or flyability — the amount of time when drone’s can fly safely. But a key factor often overlooked in the hype about on-demand drone applications is the weather: drone’s cannot and should not fly in all types of weather.

The weather conditions most likely to prevent drone use are precipitation (which can damage electronics), strong winds (which can increase battery usage or even cause drones to lose control) and cold temperatures (which greatly reduce battery performance).

Ambitions to expand on-demand operations hinge on drone’s performing with sufficient up-time to supplement or supplant conventional practices. The viability of using drones for these applications is diminished if weather prevents them from flying.

In our new study published in Nature Scientific Reports, we examined the impact of precipitation, wind speed and temperature on drone flyability at a global scale.


The Best (And Worst) Time to Buy a MacBook in 2021

Apple’s MacBooks are superbly made machines, but all that quality comes at a price. Not only are its laptops some of the most expensive on the market, but they also rarely go on sale. That’s why scoring a cheap MacBook deal is one of the few ways to save money on an Apple laptop.

With that in mind, you might be wondering when the best time is to pull the trigger and buy a MacBook. Fortunately, there is no great mystery to it. As long as you are careful, you can save yourself some cash and avoid a nasty case of buyer’s remorse while you’re at it. Follow our guide and you will know exactly when the best time is to buy a MacBook in 2021.

The best time to buy a MacBook

Dmitry Chernyshov/Unsplash

Apple never discounts its own products because it wants to retain their “premium” feel and reputation. But that does not mean no one else indulges in a little price-cutting. In fact, MacBooks are very commonly discounted by third-party retailers at certain times of the year.

In particular, look out for big events like Black Friday or the holiday sales season. You stand a good chance of spotting a cheaper MacBook among all the Amazon Prime Day deals, too. It is not uncommon to see savings of $200 or even $300 during these events, making for a sizeable price cut on what is normally a costly purchase.

Just make sure to do your research and know which MacBook you should buy before snapping one up. A lot of retailers will heavily discount old MacBook models in order to shift stock. While that means you can save handfuls of cash, you might have to make some sacrifices in terms of performance and features, particularly since the new highly performant M1 MacBooks are unlikely to be discounted by much. But if you’re not after the latest and greatest, the sales season represents an excellent time to go MacBook shopping.

Keep an eye out for other sales

While flagship events like Amazon Prime Day represent the most dependable times to look for MacBook deals, that does not mean they are your only chance to score some money off. In fact, Apple’s laptops regularly get discounted throughout the year — you just have to keep your eyes peeled.

One thing that can help is to bookmark our MacBook deals page. We regularly scour the internet for the best MacBook deals out there, and you might be surprised by how much money off you can get at random times throughout the year.

Now it’s confession time — we might have told a little fib earlier. Apple does actually discount its own MacBooks, but only if they are refurbished, never new. This means Apple has taken a returned or secondhand MacBook, replaced any faulty parts, given it a cleaning, and spruced it up so it is like new. You get the reassurance of Apple’s stringent testing process, plus a chunk of money off. Check Apple’s refurbished MacBook section on its website and you could find some very decent savings.

The absolute worst time to buy a MacBook

Because MacBook sales are relatively rare, you might not want to wait for the right discount to come along. If you need a MacBook now, you need it now, after all.

But there are still some times you should try avoid splurging. If you can help it, do not buy a MacBook right before one of Apple’s fall events. Typically, one is held in September and another in October or November. These are the primary times when Apple unveils new hardware, including MacBooks.

The company also usually hosts an event in the spring where MacBooks sometimes appear. Again, avoid purchasing a MacBook right before a show if at all possible. You don’t want to buy a new Apple laptop, only to find out it has become outdated a week or two later.

This advice is particularly important this year because Apple is heavily rumored to be planning a huge update to the MacBook Pro 13, plus an important refresh for the MacBook Pro 16. The former will get a total redesign, with a new design, better display, additional ports, and more. The latter, meanwhile, is expected to transition to Apple Silicon chips, which will give it a major performance boost.

In other words, 2021 is the year to act with caution. Both laptops are expected to land around the middle of the year, or perhaps in the fall, so hold off for now until they launch. We have all the details on both laptops, including everything you can expect to see when they launch, so make sure you are in the know before making a decision.

Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Tech News

Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphones: The best and worst features

The new Samsung Galaxy S21 family has gotten a mostly positive reception, thanks to some notable hardware and software improvements. These phones are faster and more feature-rich compared to last year’s S20s.

However, it’s not all roses in Samsung-land. The S21 series has its fair share of disappointing features you’ll have to accept. Here are the best and worst features you need to know about before buying Samsung’s latest devices.

More stories: 

The best features

Galaxy S21 Ultra camera

samsung galaxy s21 ultra cam Ryan Whitwam/IDG

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera offers two optical zoom cameras, in addition to the 108MP primary and 12MP ultrawide.

Samsung’s top-of-the-line Galaxy S21 Ultra this year comes with a suitably high-end camera. The camera on last year’s S20 Ultra exhibited several flaws, like an inability to focus reliably.

The new setup on the S21 Ultra works better. There are also two optical zoom cameras in addition to the 108MP primary and 12MP ultrawide.

All these camera focal lengths mean you can snap photos of objects at various distances without losing any resolution to digital zoom.

Google Discover

Samsung finally had to admit that Bixby Home wasn’t working. People want Google Discover on the home screen, and the S21 family finally delivers that option.

samsung galaxy s21 discover Ryan Whitwam/IDG

Samsung gives you the choice between Samsung Free and Google Discover.

When you swipe over to the left-most panel, you can choose between Samsung Free and Google Discover. Samsung Free is scarcely any better than Bixby, though. 

Discover offers personally tailored links to content around the web. Discover is also accessible in the Google app, but it’s much more convenient if it’s just waiting for you on the home screen.

Repost: Original Source and Author Link


The Resident Evil Games, Ranked From Best to Worst

Many people credit the Resident Evil games with the birth of the survival-horror genre in video games. From spinoffs to sequels, sifting through all the Resident Evil games can be a challenge. If you’ve never played one before, you want to make sure you start with the right game. 

Everyone might have their own ideas about the “best” or “worst” Resident Evil games, but we’ve done our best to rank the games in the series for you. Keep in mind that we’ll only consider games with “Resident Evil” in the title, so we won’t include spinoff titles like Operation Raccoon City or Umbrella Chronicles.

Further reading:

1. Resident Evil 4

Original release date: January 11, 2005

Platforms: GameCube, PS2, Windows, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

It’s tough to articulate how much of an impact Resident Evil 4 has had on gaming. Originally released on the GameCube in 2005, Resident Evil 4 has since been ported to countless other platforms. No matter what console or a tricked-out gaming PC you have, there’s a way to play Resident Evil 4.

And for good reason. Although Resident Evil 3 showed a massive leap forward in terms of graphics, it pushed the limits of the original PlayStation in 1999. With more powerful hardware in tow, Resident Evil 4 switched the fixed camera angle of the first three games to an over-the-shoulder perspective.

The tighter focus on action worked wonders back in 2005, though Capcom took it a little too far, as demonstrated by Resident Evil 5 and 6. Resident Evil 4 is a game teetering on the edge, perfecting the formula Capcom had been crafting for nearly a decade when the original game was released.

2. Resident Evil 2 Remake

Resident Evil 2 Remake

Original release date: January 25, 2019

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows

The Resident Evil 2 remake follows the same narrative as the 1998 release, but that’s about the only similarity between the two. Built from the ground up as a re-imagining of the original game, the Resident Evil 2 remake perfectly combines the cramped atmosphere of the 1998 release with modern sensibilities.

It’s an over-the-shoulder game in the vein of Resident Evil 4, though with less of a focus on action than that game and the titles that follow. The change in perspective brings with it an entirely new feel, restricting the player’s vision in ways the original title doesn’t.

That’s not to mention the graphical improvements. Of course, 20 years of graphics iterations will lead to a better-looking game. However, Resident Evil 2’s use of the RE engine brings with it advancements in smoke simulation and lighting, even furthering the creepiness of the original release. Tyrant’s character model is pure nightmare fuel, too.

Read our full Resident Evil 2 review

3. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7

Original release date: January 24, 2017

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch (cloud)

Resident Evil 7 isn’t really a Resident Evil game, switching the perspective to first-person and focusing on a much smaller story. Regardless, it’s a hell of a horror game. Returning to the horror roots of the original series after the sixth entry, Resident Evil 7 is dripping with terrifying ambiance.

Instead of controlling a STARS agent like in other titles, you play as Ethan Winters, who receives a letter from his wife who went missing prior to the events of the game. He follows her trail to an abandoned plantation in Louisiana, where he uncovers multiple horrifying revelations concerning his wife and himself.

Resident Evil 7 is a departure for the series in terms of narrative and design. Its focus on a story within the larger Resident Evil story is a welcome change, and the difference in gameplay fits that change perfectly.

Read our full Resident Evil 7 review

4. Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village

Original release date: May 7, 2021

Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Stadia

If Resident Evil 7 was what one of the original three Resident Evil games might look like if shifted into a first-person perspective, Resident Evil Village is that same concept applied to Resident Evil 4. That alone makes it either a perfect fit for RE fans or more of a miss depending on how much you value horror elements compared to action. Ethan Winters also makes a return and is markedly the blandest character in the game. Thankfully, Lady D, as well as the other lords you encounter, provide more than enough interesting personalities to carry you along.

This is a somewhat shorter experience, even by Resident Evil standards, but proves that the shift to first-person can work for even a more action-focused entry in the series. Depending on how much you value actual horror (and that nervousness that comes with entering a room with just a few bullets left and no healing items) versus satisfying gunplay, exploration, and upgrades, you might swap this game’s placement with 7. For our money, though, it is just a slightly weaker entry than what its predecessor offered.

Read our full Resident Evil Village review

5. Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2

Original release date: January 21, 1998

Platforms: PlayStation, Windows, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube

For many, ourselves included, Resident Evil 2 is the best of the first three games. Caught between the large-scale action of Nemesis and the claustrophobic corridors of the original game, Resident Evil 2 balances a larger story with the same isolation as the 1996 release.

It’s Resident Evil, just a little better. Rather than changing up the formula entirely, Capcom built upon the precedents Resident Evil established with a unique narrative and fleshed-out atmosphere. Furthermore, Resident Evil 2 introduces Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, with Kennedy following the series until the sixth entry.

6. Resident Evil

Resident Evil

Original release date: March 22, 1996

Platforms: PlayStation, Windows, Sega Saturn, Nintendo DS

The game that started it all, 1996’s Resident Evil, showed what it means to be a survival horror game. Now, however, more than 20 years later, it’s not as impressive as it was in days past. The atmosphere and story are solid, but the gameplay mechanics don’t feel as evolved as they do in the games that follow.

For fans of the series, Resident Evil is a great time, fit with the fixed camera, scarce resources, and isolated atmosphere seen in other titles. That said, it’s not the best Resident Evil game to start with. The second entry improves upon the first in almost every way, and the fourth comes with a complete overhaul to the gameplay.

7. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Resident Evil 3

Original release date: September 22, 1999

Platforms: PlayStation, Windows, Dreamcast, GameCube

Resident Evil 3 takes place at the same time as the second entry in the series, following Jill Valentine as she tries to escape Raccoon City. The story starts a day before the events of Resident Evil 2. On her way to the police department, which has its own horrors going on inside, Jill encounters a genetically modified beast created to hunt surviving STARS members: Nemesis.

As on-the-nose as the name is, even by 1999 standards, Nemesis is a terrifying force in the game, eventually pursuing the player until the end credits roll, much like Resident Evil 2’s Tyrant. Like Resident Evil 7, Nemesis features a unique spin on a familiar story, building out the already terrifying story surrounding Raccoon City.

8. Resident Evil — Code: Veronica

Resident Evil Code Veronica

Original release date: February 3, 2000

Platforms: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Resident Evil — Code: Veronica is the first “must play” in the series. Originally released on the Dreamcast in 2000, the game follows Claire Redfield after the events of Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis. It’s the first title in the series to feature real-time 3D environments, allowing the camera to move in ways it wasn’t able to before.

The Dreamcast’s poor sales fell back on Code: Veronica when it was released, however. Although the game was eventually ported to PS2 and GameCube, the Dreamcast graphics felt outdated by the time it arrived. Today, however, Code: Veronica is still an excellent Resident Evil game and an absolute must-own for Dreamcast fans.

9. Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Original release date: March 5, 2009

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Android, Nvidia Shield TV

Like Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil 5 is too heavily focused on action. Upon release, however, it didn’t feel as dated as its eventual sequel. Instead of returning to slow survival horror, Capcom laid into the formula that made Resident Evil 4 so successful, ditching the scares in favor of fast-paced action.

Although ammunition and item management are still an aspect of Resident Evil 5, combat is the clear focus. For that, Resident Evil 5 is a decent game. It has a few issues when it comes to the cover system and teammate artificial intelligence (A.I.), but overall, the shooting is fun, the graphics are gorgeous, and the story is compelling.

10. Resident Evil Zero

Resident Evil Zero

Original release date: November 12, 2002

Platforms: GameCube, Wii, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Resident Evil Zero isn’t a bad game, just not a particularly good one. Although released as the fifth mainline title, Resident Evil Zero is a prequel to the original game. The game’s narrative, visuals, and sound design are compelling, especially for Resident Evil fans. However, it makes several changes to the Resident Evil formula.

Zero features a dual character system, and even though multiple perspectives have long been a hallmark of the Resident Evil franchise, the execution leaves something to be desired. Zero also doesn’t feature Resident Evil’s classic item boxes, making gamers have to set aside unnecessary items and go back and find them again if needed. 

11. Resident Evil 6

Resident Evil 6

Original release date: October 2, 2012

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, Windows

Loyal fans ride hard for Resident Evil 6, but when it was first released, critics complained that it diverged too far from the classic survival horror genre and played more like an action game. It also doubles the number of campaigns from two to four, and some argue this spreads it too thin. 

The gaming company sold Resident Evil 6 on its diversity of play, but ultimately, the split campaigns didn’t deliver. The action leaves unresolved questions and lacks a common thread, which makes the playing experience feel cheaper. But while it has its issues, Resident Evil 6 still has incredible graphics and good plotting as an action game.

Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link


The Best Call of Duty Games, Ranked from Best to Worst

Few video game franchises are as influential and successful as Call of Duty. What began as a polished World War II shooter has morphed into something else entirely over the last 15-plus years, with games going everywhere from the Vietnam War to the far reaches of space.

No matter the location or story, Call of Duty games usually deliver heart-pounding single-player campaigns and an intense competitive multiplayer mode. Even when 2018’s entry, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, switched it up and ditched the campaign, it brought another thrilling experience into the fold with its new battle royale mode, called Blackout. But not all Call of Duty games are created equal. Some were simply better than others, and we’re going to rank them from the best to the worst.

For this list, we’ll stick to the main entries in the Call of Duty series. This means excluding spinoff titles, as well as simplified games released for previous-generation systems like World at War – Final Fronts. Seventeen games were eligible, and we had them battle it out.

1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare almost single-handedly redefined the modern first-person shooter with its thrilling campaign and endlessly customizable multiplayer component, so the bar was sky-high for Modern Warfare 2 when it released two years later. Somehow, Infinity Ward managed to outdo itself, delivering another campaign filled with twists, betrayals, and action-packed set pieces while also building on what made the first game’s multiplayer so successful.

The kill-streak concept was expanded to allow for even more ways to eliminate your enemies, and the progression system remained one of the most satisfying in all of gaming. Even a decade later, there’s just something about Modern Warfare 2’s pacing and map design that makes it a classic — it’s one of those games you could put in your Xbox 360 for months and never get tired of it. You can play a remastered version of its single-player campaign on modern consoles now.

2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered

Where were you when you first played Crew Expendable in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? In just minutes, Infinity Ward proved to players that the move from World War II to a contemporary conflict was worthwhile, as Captain Price and Soap MacTavish make their way through a hostile ship and eliminate targets with pinpoint precision. Not a second of time was wasted, and over the course of the legendary Call of Duty 4 campaign, that would still be true. All Ghillied Up is arguably the best mission in any first-person shooter, and it looks even better in the remastered version for modern consoles.

Modern Warfare’s competitive multiplayer put a renewed emphasis on personal performance rather than winning individual matches, with players now carefully eyeing their kill-to-death ratio as they modified their weapons with custom sights and grips. Call of Duty would no longer play second fiddle to any other series, and its reign would last for the next decade.

3. Call of Duty 2

The first Call of Duty game for many current fans — and a launch title for the Xbox 360 — Call of Duty 2 was the ultimate World War II shooter for those interested in the fall of Nazi Germany. Split across missions focused on Russian, British, and American soldiers, Call of Duty 2 took players everywhere from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of North Africa, and its open-ended approach often gave you more than one way to approach a mission. Its scale was mind-blowing at the time, and the most cinematic moments still hold up today.

Call of Duty 2’s approach to multiplayer was more laid-back than some of the later games, and it wasn’t interested in throwing a million statistics at you upon completing a match. Despite this, the map design was unparalleled, and sniping an unsuspecting enemy from a window was incredibly satisfying.

4. Call of Duty: Black Ops

Treyarch was finally able to get out of Infinity Ward’s shadow and establish itself as a premier Call of Duty studio with 2010’s Black Ops. A thrilling mystery set during the Cold War and partially taking place in Vietnam, its ambitious story dealt with conspiracy theories and the role the United States could have played in the JFK assassination, along with the failed Bay of Pigs operation.

It even called back to characters and scenes from World at War, blending elements from the World War II shooter into the newer game. Top-notch voice performances from actors like Sam Worthington and Gary Oldman helped sell the whole thing, and we still yell about “the numbers” regularly.

Though it didn’t drastically reinvent the Call of Duty formula, Black Ops nonetheless delivered well-balanced combat across a variety of maps, ranging from the jungles of Vietnam to the famous Nuketown. The map was so beloved that it has been released in every Treyarch game to date, and they’d feel downright incomplete without it.

5. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

After assisting with the development of Modern Warfare 3, Sledgehammer Games was given the chance to lead its own project for 2014’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Taking the series further into the future than it had gone to date, its exo-suit gameplay and high-tech weapons promoted verticality and constant movement, making it difficult to master but incredibly rewarding. No longer were your enemies just coming from the left or the right, but possibly directly above your head.

Advanced Warfare’s techno-political thriller campaign addressed the public’s growing fear of private military contractors and the role they’ll play in society going forward. It was completely absurd, but Sledgehammer has a knack for blockbusters and the closing moment is quite satisfying. Despite its critical success, Advanced Warfare didn’t light the sales charts on fire, so a direct follow-up is unlikely.

Read our full Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare review

6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Confused by a game called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare appearing on our list alongside Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? It gets even more confusing when you discover that the games share characters but are not narratively connected aside from the mention of a few events. Regardless of the naming conventions, the rebooted 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare nails the atmosphere and tense first-person action of the older games’ campaigns, complete with several set-piece moments and a generous sprinkling of stealth.

Modern Warfare doesn’t disappoint as a multiplayer game, either, building on the foundation of its predecessors while adding new mechanics, such as reloading while aiming down the sights. Its straightforward progression system emphasizes continued play and doesn’t include microtransactions for unlocking any weapons. The new massive mode Ground War is a fantastic addition to its multiplayer offerings that should satisfy those left in the cold by DICE’s decision to skip a 2019 Battlefield release.

Read our full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review

7. Call of Duty: Warzone

CoD Warzone bullet trails

One of the world’s biggest video game series has become a free-to-play game, just months after releasing one of it’s strongest and more generous titles yet. Call of Duty: Warzone is, by and large, an extension of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that uses its assets to build the sprawling Verdansk map. Capable of holding 150 players at a time, it’s the home of Call of Duty‘s second attempt to capture the hearts of the Battle Royale crowd.

With an interesting approach to mid-match respawns and plenty of familiar map sections from across the years, Warzone builds upon the foundation of the Call of Duty franchise to spit out a PUBG/Apex Legends competitor that shouldn’t be ignored. And with Plunder, a hectic “Grab the Cash” mode thrown on top, you get two modes for the price of none. To help get you started, we’ve found all Warzone bunker locations, the best weapons, and the best loadouts. Don’t forget to check our best settings guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

8. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

call of duty black ops 4 shooting

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 could have been the game to kill the franchise. For the first time ever in the main series, Black Ops 4 opted to leave the campaign mode out completely, offering competitive multiplayer, Zombies, and the battle royale mode Blackout instead. Treyarch’s over-the-top approach to storytelling was missed, but the studio managed to deliver one of the best multiplayer modes in the series’ history, along with plenty of Zombies content for fans.

It was Blackout that sealed the deal, however. The series’s first crack at battle royale was a huge success, blending classic Call of Duty shooting mechanics with the slow and methodical gameplay from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The mode even mixed in classic settings from the earlier games, as well as a section filled with Zombies ready to tear you limb from limb.

Read our full Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 review

9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3

By 2011, Call of Duty had already cemented its legacy with several stellar first-person shooters, but franchise fatigue had also begun. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 wrapped up the groundbreaking trilogy with another action-packed campaign and tight multiplayer mode, but without much of the original Infinity Ward team on the project, it felt like the developers were tracing a drawing rather than creating something on their own.

This isn’t to say that Modern Warfare 3 isn’t worthy of the Call of Duty name. Its multiplayer was as addictive and fast-paced as ever, and there were plenty of set-piece moments, but without the passion behind it, the game never escaped the shadow of its older siblings.

10. Call of Duty: WWII

Call of Duty: WW2 Advanced Multiplayer Guide -- Mounted machine guns are essential in War

After nearly a decade in modern warfare and the future, Call of Duty returned to where it began in 2017 with Call of Duty: WWII. Set in the European theater and featuring the famous Normandy invasion, it felt like Call of Duty 2 has been remade for the next generation of players. This came with some feeling of déjà vu, but the better characterization and an emotional conclusion helped it from feeling like a basic nostalgia-grab.

The multiplayer also shifted away from the excess of its predecessors, focusing on pure boots on the ground combat without compromising the strides the series had made. Its convoluted progression system, however, didn’t work as well, and the Zombie mode felt out of place in an otherwise serious game.

Read our full Call of Duty: WWII review

11. Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War was Treyarch’s first game in the series since the underwhelming Call of Duty 3, and it managed to deliver the grimmest and goriest game the series had ever — or has ever — seen. Focused on Americans in the Pacific as well as the Russians closing in on Berlin, World at War doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war. Limbs and heads are severed, and mountains of bodies pile up, though it does lay the pathos on a little bit thick in the American section.

Treyarch took the killstreaks and general structure of the Modern Warfare games and used it for World at War, but it didn’t work all that well. It had an unmemorable and less engaging competitive mode — the last Treyarch game to fail in this department.

12. Call of Duty: Black Ops II

The follow-up to the excellent Black Ops had expectations soaring, possibly out of any developer’s reach. Call of Duty: Black Ops II felt like a game that had been designed by two entirely different studios. Its multiplayer emphasized customization with its Pick 10 system and a mix of futuristic weaponry, but its campaign was a scattershot series of missions that struggled to find an identity.

It isn’t for Treyarch’s lack of effort, though. Real-time strategy elements were even mixed into certain missions, and while they were only mildly successful, it showed the studio’s commitment to always trying new things.

Read our full Call of Duty: Black Ops II review

13. Call of Duty

The original Call of Duty was something we don’t associate with the series today: An underdog. Developer Infinity Ward had been formed from former Medal of Honor developers, with Electronic Arts’ series still the king of war-themed shooters. It didn’t take long for Infinity Ward to show what it was capable of, however, with a campaign split across three different nations’ militaries and a competitive multiplayer mode that planted the seeds for its future. Even Captain Price made an appearance!

14. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

Treyarch decided to double down on the futuristic elements of the Black Ops games with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and it was the first time it failed to excite. Mind-controlled drones and weapons were not enough to overcome the sense that we had played all this before, and the studio seemed to have so little faith in its writing that it gave players the chance to play campaign missions in any order. That is, of course, unless they played on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, which omitted the mode altogether.

Read our full Call of Duty: Black Ops III review

15. Call of Duty: Ghosts

The first Call of Duty game released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts had very little to differentiate itself from the series’s past games. Part of it was in space, part of it was in urban areas, and part of it was in the foliage, but it lacked a strong villain or the mystery we’ve come to expect from Call of Duty. Multiplayer also made no attempt to innovate, but it was, at the very least, well-designed. Getting a sniper headshot still felt amazing, even if you had done it all before.

Read our full Call of Duty: Ghosts review

16. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

It pains us to put Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare so low on our list because Infinity Ward had huge ambitions for its release (and so did we). The game’s campaign ditched the linear, mission-to-mission approach and instead let players pick and choose side objectives to complete. It even included some great spaceship combat segments. The bleak story was somehow understated despite featuring interplanetary travel. We loved that the characters felt like real people, and the freedom to select side objectives helped with development.

The problem was that the shooting just felt wrong. A substantial amount of flinching made combat a pain in single-player. Multiplayer wasn’t much better, thanks to the poor map design. The game’s potential only made the disappointment and frustration even harder to swallow in-game.

Read our full Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare review

17. Call of Duty 3

Xbox 360s saw exponential growth in sales during 2005 thanks to the Call of Duty 2, which remains popular to this day. Unfortunately, Call of Duty 3 did not fare as well as its predecessor. Treyarch released it after a very short development when they took control of the franchise. The game failed to impress, with a less-engaging multiplayer mode stuck between Call of Duty 2’s approach and the Call of Duty 4 formula. The campaign mode attempted to change things up by including a Canadian section and a struggling mechanic for melee combat. Still, it lacked the polish or characters to carry it forward. Call of Duty 3 is the rare Call of Duty game that you are better off avoiding.

Otherwise, the Call of Duty series has successfully produced a line of outstanding shooter games. One of the things that players love about the franchise is its consistency. Players know what to expect from the Call of Duty series and are rarely disappointed, so they go out and buy release after release. The Call of Duty series gains more avid players and repeat customers by the minute, reaping enormous profits, which they utilize to create the next best game in the series and perpetuating its legendary legacy as one of the best gaming franchises in history. 

No matter how much you love the Call of Duty franchise, you must admit that some iterations are just better than others. With our advice, you know which games to avoid, so you can start playing the cream of the crop immediately. By following our recommendations on the best games in the series, you’ll get to experience all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. 

Editors’ Choice

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4 of the worst ways to use AI

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As the pandemic further accelerates our digital transformation, companies are relying even more on automation and particularly on artificial intelligence. Two-thirds of CEOs surveyed last year by a major consulting firm said they will use AI even more than before for the creation of new workforce models. Even higher numbers plan to digitize operations, customer interactions, business models, and revenue streams. This huge acceleration and shift will surely bring massive failures, leaving companies — and in some cases even critical infrastructure — vulnerable to loss as critical decision-making is handed off to AI.

As a technologist who has built platforms and worked in the major industries that employ AI often (such as FinTech and health care), I have seen first-hand what goes wrong when some of the world’s biggest companies leave their intelligence to their AI. Based on the hype around AI, it would appear that everything can be improved by sophisticated algorithms sifting through masses of data. From streamlining customer care to inventing new perfumes, and even coaching soccer teams, AI looks like an unstoppable purveyor of competitive advantage, and practically all that company executives have to do is let it loose and go have lunch (cooked by an AI Robot Chef) while they watch their company’s profits climb.

Sadly, what we see in execution is a different world altogether — from mismanaged expectations to extremely expensive failures and mistakes. All too often AI is not the shining light to a bright company future but rather the blind leading the blind down the wrong path, until someone falls off a cliff. Many of those most responsible for hype in the world of artificial intelligence have never written a line of code, let alone deployed AI in production. Even few developers have the incentive to give you a dose of reality. I am happy to share some of the practical failures of AI, based on my own experience, and provide some insight into what decision makers need to be aware of.

Here are some of the worst ways to use AI, as demonstrated by hedge funds, Wall Street investment banks and companies from Fortune 100 enterprises down to startups:

1. Making decisions based on the wrong data

AI is great at finding patterns in huge datasets and is efficient at predicting outcomes based on those patterns and finding uncorrelated alpha (hidden patterns in the dataset). But big problems arise when the wrong data (or outlier information) gets pulled into the dataset. In one famous example in the late 2000s there was a military coup in Thailand, and the algorithm behind a major fund interpreted that military coup as a market event, shorting a lot of Asian equities, quickly losing nine figures in dollar value.

I worked with a small hedge fund focused on the TMT sector (technology, media, telecommunications). The founders came from a large financial firm and brought with them some programmers who had worked on trading systems for REITS and the energy sector. Their goal was to build an analytics engine that the traders in this new TMT-focused hedge fund could use for signaling certain key events. The problem was that their developers had copied and merged two engines that were built for REITS and energy trading and tried to fit technical indicators more relevant to the TMT sector into this hybrid. I was called in to do forensics after it was built because the engine was giving sporadic and inconsistent results, and it took us some time to realize that, although the founders thought their team had built a brand new engine designed specifically for TMT, it was really built from spare parts. Although all three sectors share similar technical indicators, like implied volatility, or 52-week moving average, AI is sensitive and detailed work and each engine should be customized.

Make sure your AI is making recommendations based on relevant data.

2. Failing to train your AI properly

You can feed your AI engine all the right data and have it spit back the right answers, but until it gets tested in the wild you don’t know what it will do. Rushing to give it more responsibility than it is ready for is like sending a small child out into the real world — neither one is going to bring good results.

A hedge fund client was interested in AI for quant trading. They had hired an external team to build a proof-of-concept model of an AI engine, and my team later provided consulting services on that POC. To build a good AI engine to generate alpha (meaning, to increase the measure of ROI on investment), you would need to have a large dataset of historical data that is homogeneous. In finance, datasets are structured in a time series format, offering data points with widely different levels of granularity. Generally, the more data points we have in a dataset, the better the engine will be at detecting future results; those data points will help a well-designed engine discover non-linear correlation of data to help in predictions. We advised the client to give the AI engine more time to process their dataset to make it more homogeneous and to not follow mainstream pricing signals. Sadly, they didn’t, and the POC was overfitting and so finely tuned to the specific dataset that it didn’t work with new, unseen data. In other words, it was useless with live market data.

Give your AI time to process and learn new information.

3. Ignoring the human responsibility for decisions

No matter what you program your AI to do, it will not share your human goals or bear their consequences. Thus we’ve seen early examples of AI leading early GPS users into a river, or deleting critical information to “minimize” differences in a dataset.

I’ve seen more than one startup built on the assumption that AI algorithms can learn credit approval models and replace the credit approval officer in granting/denying credit loans. However, when you are denied a credit loan, federal law requires a lender to tell you why they made that decision. Software doesn’t really make decisions (it just identifies patterns) and isn’t responsible for decisions; humans are. Since federal law agrees that humans are responsible for credit decisions, many of these startups burned through venture capital funds and then could not legally launch to customers because the AI they developed was inherently biased. When it denied loans, no human could adequately explain why the denial occurred.

Make sure to keep people responsible for human consequences.

4. Overvaluing data

Some data simply can’t be used to build anything useful. One of our clients that failed at using AI was a popular medical diagnosis platform with its own data lake and a broad array of datasets. The company that owned it had acquired another platform with its own array of siloed datasets. The executives wanted to glean some insight into the jumble of disconnected datasets and needed help with onboarding potential customers. The problem was that these datasets were describing different medical issues/profiles, and trying to find common denominators of any real value was not possible. Despite all the compiled information, working with this client’s data was like having lego pieces that didn’t actually connect. Just because they are alike in many respects does not mean that you can build a castle out of them. After consulting with the client, we recommended they not do the project.

A real estate developer wanted us to design AI for build-decision insights, the notion being that if we could ingest enough data from real estate listings, we could perform analytics that would inform their decisions about the layout of their new developments. The client hoped the AI insights would tell them what would be the most optimal layout, based on the location of the building. For example, should the building have one large apartment per floor, or divide the floor into three one-bedroom apartments? Should it be a mixed-use building with commercial stores at the bottom and residential rentals? After we ingested real-estate listings data from different states, worked on dataset analysis, and interacted with subject matter experts, it became obvious that because the real estate market is highly localized, a one-size-fits-all algorithm would not work. The real estate of Midtown Manhattan East is slightly different from Midtown West, and Brooklyn is different from Queens, let alone New York state as an entire dataset. The many datasets were too small independently to build a meaningful classification algorithm, and the project didn’t go through.

In these cases, the companies cut their losses, but many others just keep throwing money at AI, digging deeper into details that never connect to their goals.

Before building an AI engine, make sure you have the right parts.

Where do we go from here?

AI may be the future of this accelerated digital business world, but for now too much of it is still a world of hype. Enterprises should consider AI, but with a grounded view and proper understanding of what it really does. And they should develop a proper perspective for any related initiatives. Decision makers need to understand the reality of AI, the potential it brings, and challenges behind it. Have a clear strategy of any potential AI project, taking into account the data available, timelines, costs, and expectations. Usually, successful AI projects provide long-term results rather than immediate benefits.

AI, at its core, is simply inference; it can help analyze tremendous detail, but only humans can understand the big picture.  We understand that as humans our decisions have consequences (business, legal, ethical), and giving AI false human traits covers up the fact that it does not think like we do. Humans may make more “mistakes” than AI, but we also have more power to recognize them. So, consider “artificial intelligence,” but when you’re thinking about how to deploy it, make sure that your own intelligence is still leading the way.

Ahmad Alokush is the founder of technology boutique Ahmadeus, which advises C-level executives, managing directors, and fund managers on how new technology can impact their market position and overall profitability. He also has served as an expert witness in litigation concerning technology.


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The Best Final Fantasy Games, Ranked From Best to Worst

While the role-playing game (RPG) has become a catch-all genre, now encompassing an almost silly range of games that don’t share much in common, there was one video game franchise in the ’90s that was the quintessential RPG. Yes, we’re talking about Final Fantasy from Square Enix.

The fantasy Japanese RPGs debuted on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1987, but they became cultural touchstones in the ’90s as Super Nintendo games. From there, the series made an incredibly successful jump to 3D on the PlayStation 1 before the mainline series started to take more risks, including the elimination of turn-based battles and massively multiplayer online game (MMO) entries. Now, many of those same titles in the Final Fantasy series live on the Nintendo Switch and other consoles alongside newer RPGs like Bravely Default and Genshin Impact.

If you’re just getting into Final Fantasy, though, where do you start? Most Final Fantasy games are at the very least good, while many are great — and others are masterpieces. With the remake of the iconic Final Fantasy VII released a few months back, we decided to rank all of the best Final Fantasy games.

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1. Final Fantasy VI

Far and away the best mainline Final Fantasy game, 1994’s Final Fantasy VI is an absolute triumph in every sense. Originally released in North America as Final Fantasy 3 (yes, it’s confusing), Final Fantasy 6 was the last 16-bit mainline entry. It featured a stellar cast of more than a dozen characters and ushered in the steampunk-style world design that would carry over to the PlayStation games in the late ’90s. This is where high fantasy became the stuff of legend, and magic was replaced by scientific advances and the burgeoning technology from the Second Industrial Revolution.

Perfectly paced, Final Fantasy VI achieved such high levels of narrative impact because of its setup. The first half introduces the cast, from the compelling starting protagonist, Terra Branford to the rebel treasure hunter Locke Cole, all who want to take down the Empire.

The linearity of the first half allows these characters to grow, to let you build connections with each one — an impressive feat considering there are roughly a dozen major players on your side. But the back half of the game opened things up, allowing you to complete objectives and dungeons in a non-linear order. This level of freedom was astonishing at the time. Robust customization features, including unique magic spells, a modified summoning system, and a wealth of weapons, made the traditional active time battle system feel like a constant joy.

Everything in Final Fantasy VI, from the story to combat systems to the world made for a nearly flawless Final Fantasy experience. This was Square at their absolute best. While it may sound bad that Square hasn’t bested Final Fantasy VI in the 25 years since its launch, it’s really a testament to FFVI’s staggering greatness. It may very well be the best turn-based RPG ever made. You can play it now on PC, Android, and iOS.

2. Final Fantasy VIII

best ps1 games final fantasy viii

Final Fantasy VIII is probably the weirdest and boldest entry in the Final Fantasy franchise. That’s a big reason why we love it and why it’s slotted so high on this list. Because it’s so weird, VIII never lived up to the legacy set by VII and VI, despite being one of the most unique games in the series. Time brings perspective, though, and that’s true for Final Fantasy VIII. With a remastered version on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC, now’s a perfect time to give it a shot.

We’ll never forget Final Fantasy VIII, which reinvented the active time battle wheel without completely abandoning the series’ roots. The new junction system replaced armor and other accessories for customization, and each main character had a set weapon that drastically affected their combat style. The biggest change, however, was the increased emphasis on summoning. Throw in a neat collectible card game and a radically different scaled leveling system, and Final Fantasy VIII felt like the first really bold step in a new direction. All of these gameplay changes worked in incredibly interesting ways, allowing players to choose how they wanted to approach the experience.

The planet — a futuristic set of five landmasses based on Europe — had a level of detail we hadn’t seen in a Final Fantasy title thus far. While Final Fantasy VII introduced 3D models, Final Fantasy VIII significantly refined their designs so we could see Squall (one of the best leading protagonists) and friends in better detail. We’re happy that Square Enix is finally showing VIII some love, too. All of the mainline games above and below it have received ports or remasters for modern consoles. The same is now true for Final Fantasy VIII.

We wouldn’t recommend playing it as your first game, though. Final Fantasy VIII is dated, even with its spiffy new remaster. It’s an extremely complex game, and if you’re not prepared to handle its idiosyncrasies, it could turn you off to the entire franchise. Our picks directly above and below are far better starting points.

3. Final Fantasy X

Is it controversial to say that Final Fantasy X is a top-three Final Fantasy game? Probably. But here’s the thing: Final Fantasy X is as phenomenal today as it was in 2001. The PlayStation 2 allowed the visuals to move to the next level, making the Asian inspired lands of Spira and character models look more realistic than ever before. A mostly linear experience, Final Fantasy X has spacious and diverse environments along with dungeons featuring some excellent puzzles.

Final Fantasy X also has the greatest relationship in series history. Watching Tidus and Yuna’s bond grow as he accompanies her on a quest to destroy Sin is a constant delight. The cutscenes, which featured full voice acting for the first time, were mightily impressive and still look great today. Yes, we even love the infamous laughing scene, because Tidus and Yuna are adorable. The narrative, told exclusively through Tidus’ perspective is more focused than most Final Fantasy storylines. Sure, it’s corny at times, but the corniness winds up making it more affecting.

Moreover, FFX replaced the active time battle system with truly conventional turn-based combat system. The sphere grid added depth to the leveling system, giving you far more choices that essentially let you rework a character’s intended class. And, of course, who could forget Blitzball, the underwater sport that made Tidus famous. A standalone Blitzball game would be great, right? The direct sequel isn’t as impressive, but it’s still worth playing in the HD collection for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, or PC.

4. Final Fantasy XII

Revisiting Final Fantasy XII via the HD remaster for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch revealed an understated truth about the 2006 PS2 classic: It’s a modern masterpiece. The first mainline, non-MMO to drop random battles in favor of real-time combat, Final Fantasy XII was divisive amongst fans. Since it played so incredibly different, it was hard to compare Final Fantasy XII to any other Final Fantasy game. More than a decade later, Final Fantasy XII remains incomparable, and that’s why it’s so high on this list.

The wondrous world of Ivalice is filled with interesting characters and richly detailed environments. The combat, formally known as the Active Dimension Battle system, was incredibly deep thanks to the gambit system and modified Limit Break system called Quickenings. The License Board added further nuance to the leveling system, similar to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X.

Admittedly, Final Fantasy XII‘s opening handful of hours don’t excite as much as some other top-tier Final Fantasy games, but once the world opens up and you get used to the radical battle system, the world of Ivalice houses one of the deepest and most rewarding Final Fantasy experiences around.

5. Final Fantasy IX

best ps1 games final fantasy ix

Final Fantasy IX felt like a throwback experience despite the fact that it launched near the end of PS1’s lifecycle in 2000. The world of Gaia dropped science fiction in favor of a more medieval vibe seen in early entries. The return to high fantasy made Final Fantasy IX feel quite novel at the time, especially since the visuals pretty much topped out the power of the PS1’s 32-bit capabilities. In many ways, Final Fantasy IX is the most traditional of the 3D-era Final Fantasy games. The active time battle system is at its best here.

However, it stands out most because it combines the fantasy-infused medieval environments of the early games with the stellar writing of the science fiction-laced romps that would follow. The characters are interesting, the world is compelling, and the gameplay feels positively retro in the best way. Final Fantasy IX is as pure and joyous today as it was nearly 20 years ago. Final Fantasy IX is readily available on many platforms, including Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and PC. Be warned, though: It’s as traditional as it gets when it comes to JRPGs. Final Fantasy IX is grindy, and the vast majority of your time is spent fighting random encounters.

6. Final Fantasy IV

The first entry in the series for the Super Nintendo, Final Fantasy IV is basically the first Final Fantasy that truly mattered. No offense to the first three games in the series, but Final Fantasy IV turned the franchise into a juggernaut. Final Fantasy IV ushered in the active time battle era, a system that continued uninterrupted until Final Fantasy X.

The class system also received a nice new layer, as each class felt designed to tell a specific aspect of the story. The story primarily follows Cecil, his love interest Rosa, and his longtime friend Kain, but a sizable cast of supporting characters contribute to the wacky story that revolves around the Lunarians, a race who lives on a fake moon near Earth.

The introduction of the active time battle system and the new focus on character-driven narratives made Final Fantasy IV feel a huge cut above its predecessors. Final Fantasy IV is the most important entry in the series, and it remains one of the very best. The 3D remake on DS, PC, and mobile is the best way to play it today.

7. Final Fantasy VII

Inside Final Fantasy VII 7 developer interview retrospective documentary

Arguably the most iconic entry in the series, Final Fantasy VII‘s slotting on this list might disappoint its most loyal fans. Let us explain. Final Fantasy VII has a brilliant and transgressive story, featuring some of the most deservedly beloved characters, both good and villainous, in series history. We love Final Fantasy VII.

But the nostalgia-blinded memory of Final Fantasy VII, and the endless hype surrounding it ever since, often conceals its blemishes. The battle system was painstakingly slow, the jump to 3D was extraordinarily ugly (those hands!), and gameplay-wise, it didn’t do much to build off of Final Fantasy VI. In short, it wasn’t a graceful move to the 32-bit era.

It’s a great game, but it’s also the most unplayable of the post-NES entries today. Still, Final Fantasy VII is probably the most important entry in the series besides Final Fantasy IV, and the action-oriented PS4 remake allows a new generation of fans to experience the wonderful story. If you want to play the original game, you can grab it on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS, and Android. With some mods on PC, you can actually get the game looking pretty good.

8. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final fantasy XIV

Let’s be clear: Final Fantasy XIV would be on the very bottom of this list if it wasn’t for A Realm Reborn, the relaunch of the troubled 2010 MMORPG that was shut down and relaunched all in the span of three years. Final Fantasy XIV was bad. A Realm Reborn, which reappeared in 2013 on PC, PS3, and PS4 the following year, is wonderful. Featuring a wealth of quests, raids, and engaging PvP battles, A Realm Reborn is the type of MMO that you can easily sink hundreds of hours into.

The planet of Hydaelyn is one of the best Final Fantasy settings ever designed, and the story and lore are up there with the best of the best in terms of MMOs. Three great expansions have been released since launch, including the recent and excellent Shadowbringers.

Final Fantasy XIV is the ultimate communal experience for series fans. Even if you don’t fancy yourself as an MMO fan, Final Fantasy XIV could very well change your mind.

9. Final Fantasy VII Remake

After years and years of waiting, Final Fantasy VII Remake released with the consensus that it’s just “pretty good.” Although things could’ve been a lot worse, they could’ve been a lot better, too. Linear gameplay and overblown chapters weigh down what is otherwise a visually astounding and enjoyable game. That said, it’s still Final Fantasy VII, and the expanded take on Midgar is still one you should experience.

Essentially, Final Fantasy VII Remake feels like a more linear Final Fantasy XV with a more confusing battle system. When your Buster Sword is swinging at full speed, there are few games that feel as visceral and satisfying as Final Fantasy VII Remake. However, there are too many moments when things aren’t going the way they should be, leading to an ultimately disjointed experience.

Final Fantasy VII Remake didn’t live up to the hype that preceded it. Still, it features the beginnings of one of the best stories in video games told through a modern lens, and for that, it should be commended.

10. Final Fantasy V

Gameplay-wise, Final Fantasy V is exquisite. The last of the strict medieval-themed Final Fantasy games, this SNES classic remains as playable today as it was in 1992. The Job system received a staggering overhaul, which gave fans sheer endless possibilities for approaching the active time battles.

Final Fantasy V would probably be much higher on this list if it wasn’t for the story and characters. Square obviously spent a ton of time crafting an enthralling gameplay experience, and it showed. But while writing this entry, we honestly couldn’t remember a single character’s name or any of the plot.

After reading a synopsis, we remembered why we forgot it all. And we will surely play Final Fantasy V again only to forget the story all over again. The uninteresting and unmemorable story undercuts some of the best gameplay the series has ever seen. You can play the remastered version of Final Fantasy V on PC, iOS, and Android.

11. Final Fantasy XI

Like Final Fantasy XIV, it’s hard to compare Final Fantasy XI to other mainline numbered games in the series. The first of two Final Fantasy MMOs, Final Fantasy XI started off as an average MMO experience. While not particularly surprising, no one could have expected what it would grow to become over the course of the next decade and beyond. First released on PS2 and PC, it eventually landed on Xbox 360 as the first MMO on Microsoft’s console.

Set in the sprawling world of Vana’diel, Final Fantasy XI emphasized playing with friends to complete challenging dungeons and acquire better and better loot. Five expansions, numerous add-ons, and seasonal events would follow, with the final piece of content arriving in 2015. Console servers were turned off in 2016, but you can still play on PC today. Final Fantasy XI became a great, if fairly traditional, MMO over time, handsomely rewarding those who stuck with it for years.

12. Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III, the real Final Fantasy III, didn’t reach North America until the 2006 Nintendo DS remake. The 1990 Famicom game was actually the first in the series to really start leaning into some of Final Fantasy’s most well-known systems. Namely the Jobs and summon systems.

The DS remake is interesting to examine because it is rendered in full 3D but largely plays like the NES entries. The story plays out similarly to the first game in the series. Overall, Final Fantasy III is the best of the NES-era games, as it shows a franchise in the midst of welcome change. The easiest way to play Final Fantasy III today is on iOS, Android, and PC.

13. Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII certainly looked the part when it launched on PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2009. The animations were beautiful, the character models were realistic, and the environmental details were fine-tuned. Final Fantasy XIII also brought back the active time battle system, but it felt far more simplified than before. The result was a series of random battles that could almost quite literally be completed by pressing the same button over and over. You could even set it to auto-battle, which honestly mirrored the mindlessness of what you did most of the time anyway.

The main problem with XIII was how linear it was compared to previous games. That, added onto the rote science fiction story, made for a sort of genre movie-esque Final Fantasy experience. It was nice to return to Final Fantasy’s Japanese roots, but it felt like the safest Final Fantasy game Square Enix had ever made. It’s still a fun game, and to its credit, the story does get better if you move onto Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII when it’s over. Though Final Fantasy XIII hasn’t been ported to current generation consoles, you can play it on Xbox One via backwards compatibility or PC.

14. Final Fantasy

While some iconic franchises produce memorable classics out of the gate — Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, etc. — others, like Final Fantasy, take a few entries to hit their stride. While Final Fantasy was somewhat revolutionary at the time in 1987, featuring a relatively large overworld, strategic turn-based combat, and an epic story following four Light Warriors, it has languished in relative obscurity ever since.

It’s a grand RPG by NES standards, but there wasn’t enough customization or variety to keep it from devolving into tedium at times. If you’ve never played it before, you might want to check it out to see where the franchise started, but it doesn’t hold up super well and was quickly outshined in ’90s. The easiest way to play Final Fantasy without using an emulator is to buy it for iOS or Android.

15. Final Fantasy XV

This game goes to show that not all creative risks pay off. The truth is that the overall experience felt distinctly un-Final Fantasy-like, and there’s a heavy western RPG element here. Final Fantasy XV is an open-world action RPG that entirely drops random encounters in favor of a real-time battle system.

Superficial glitz aside, the battles lack the same nuance FF fans have come to expect over the years and don’t feel quite right. The main characters, a group of stylish and arguably insufferable adolescents, speak and act like they belong in a brooding emo band. The world itself is well-crafted and interesting to explore, but the story lacks punch, and the DLC expansions didn’t add up. While Final Fantasy XV isn’t the worst game of the franchise, it’s certainly not anything to write home about. It’s available on PS.

16. Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II was launched on Famicom almost a full twenty-five years before they localized it. Now you can play it on Android, iOS, and countless other platforms. Although it has its place in history, the game itself is mostly forgettable. Subbing a traditional leveling system for one that only develops what you use, Final Fantasy II‘s turn-based random battles are competent but lack weight because of the peculiar system. You won’t be too impressed by the generic plotline involving an evil empire that you have to defeat. SNES and PlayStation offered far more variety and authenticity to games from the same era. It’s not terrible, but it was clear that Square hadn’t quite found the right formula for Final Fantasy success yet. You can still download Final Fantasy II on iOS and Android if you want to try the game out for yourself.


Editors’ Choice

Repost: Original Source and Author Link