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Wherein I dissect old video games for no particular reason. This series is a blatant rip-off of Glass Knuckle’s “A Critical Look at Mega Man Stages” thread, which you should totally, totally read.

The premise of this series is to focus on how these games communicate to the player the rules of play through game design rather than overt instruction. If the list seems predominantly Nintendo-heavy, that’s because Nintendo used to be really good at it. If it seems predominantly retro in focus, that’s because hardly anyone bothers to design games this way anymore, leaning instead on mundane tutorials rather than effective stage construction and carefully considered game flow.

You can also buy an ever-growing number of these series as print books or PDFs:

Bionic Commando


Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Castlevania: The Game Boy Adventures

Castlevania: The 16-Bit Experience

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Chrono Trigger

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong 3

Donkey Kong ’94

Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest III

Dragon Quest IV

Dragon Quest V

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy V

Final Fantasy VI

  1. Slave 4 U
  2. The continuing adventures of ??????
  3. Terra battle
  4. Moogle rush
  5. The didact
  6. The meretrix of Figaro
  7. M-m-m-m-magic
  8. Anatomy of a town
  9. Martial law
  10. Down the dolce vita
  11. Triple triad (part the first)
  12. Triple triad (part the second)
  13. Triple triad (part the third)
  14. Dive alert
  15. Kefkaesque

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy XII

The Goonies & The Goonies II

Kid Icarus

The Legend of Zelda

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Mega Man

Mega Man 2

Metal Gear

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid (GB)

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker


Metroid II: Return of Samus

Super Metroid

Metroid Fusion

Metroid Zero Mission

Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels vs. Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA)

Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Land

Super Mario World

Super Mario Land 2

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Wario Land II

Super Mario 64

Wario Land III

Wario Land 4

New Super Mario Bros. (series)

Super Mario 3D World



Mother 3

Vagrant Story

Wrecking Crew