Category: Features

Soundtrack Included: 12 of the Best CD Console Games with Playable Audio Tracks

After a trial launch in Japan in October of 1982, the compact disc was first released in the West in March, the following year. It was a digital stranger in an analog world. Yet it was able to completely revolutionize the record industry in less than a decade. The compact disc would subsequently go on to do the same for computer software, and shortly thereafter, video game consoles.

The first company to utilize this technology for a game console would be NEC, with their 1989 CD-ROM add-on to the TurboGrafx-16, the TurboGrafx-CD/PC Engine CD-ROM2 (and later Super CD/TurboDuo). They would soon be followed by Sega, who would release a CD add-on for their own Genesis (Mega Drive) console in 1992, known as the Sega (Mega) CD. Several others would also appear in the years that followed, including Sega's Genesis/Sega CD follow-up, the Saturn, as well as Sony's incredibly successful PlayStation console. Eventually, the industry would begin to experiment with other, similar formats, starting in 1999 with what would sadly be Sega's final home console, the GD-ROM equipped Dreamcast.

While the formats would continue to evolve over the years, first to DVD, then Blu-ray, and finally Ultra HD Blu-ray, digital disc media use in the video game industry has continued on, right up to the present day. Yet, despite having inferior storage capacity and being more prone to piracy, CDs were always able to offer one thing that none of the disc formats that have followed since could, the ability to double as an audio disc. That being said, not every CD game released came with audio tracks on the disc, and the number of TurboGrafx-CD and PlayStation releases that boasted them was somewhat limited. A pretty significant number of Sega CD and Saturn games all did, however.

That specific feature makes all of those consoles a particular boon to both those nostalgic for that era of gaming, and general audiophiles alike. As one who considers himself to be in both of those camps, and as a service to like-minded individuals, I thought I might take it upon myself to compile a list of some of the best CD games to include playable audio tracks on the disc. Continue on after the break to see 12 of the best of these games to appear on these consoles. I'm also including the composer, year of release, and number of audio tracks (not counting blank and/or unplayable data tracks).

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AJ’s Picks: The 12 Best Games of 2010 – A Twinstiq Retrospective

Well, it's another new year and time, once again, for another retrospective. This time around, we'll be taking a look back at the best games of 2010. As the start of a new decade, it was certainly an important year; and it also happened to be a pretty exceptional year for gaming as well, with some of the biggest releases, well ever. Please read on for a selection of the 12 most notable titles that 2010 had to offer.

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AJ’s Picks: The 12 Best Games of 2022 (In Just Under the Wire Edition)

Well, 2023 is drawing to a close and I haven't even released a best games of 2022 list yet. (And you thought last year's was late!) Well, consider that box now officially checked off. It took a long time to get it right. Way longer than it probably should have. It's pretty likely that many out there will still take issue with these choices but, whatever, I'm pretty proud of these picks. All I can do at this point is apologize for the extreme tardiness of this article and promise to do my best to at least release a 2023 list in the first half of next year. But in the meantime, please read on for my selections for the 12 best titles that 2022 had to offer:

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The Sega Dreamcast: A 2×12-Year Retrospective

Due to the abysmal performance of Sega's disastrous Saturn console, and not long before its premature cancellation, Sega set about development of their next generation of video game hardware. In an effort to cut costs, and to make sure that the Saturn's successor would be easy to create games for, Sega opted to use preexisting, off-the-shelf PC components and a custom Windows operating system, in favor of more complicated proprietary options. The new console would also share architecture with Sega's own NAOMI arcade hardware, which was developed around the same time, thus all but ensuring it would be the recipient of a steady stream of home-playable arcade hits, pretty much from day one. Finally, Sega decided to give the system a built-in modem for online play and internet access, the first console to include such a feature.

After finalizing the hardware specifications, a public contest was held by Sega to name their new system and "Dreamcast" was selected out of more than 5,000 entries. In order to avoid the same anemic launch that the Saturn had suffered, Sega took steps to have plenty of Dreamcast games available to choose from when the console made its North American debut on 09/09/1999. Sega also acquired American sports game developer Visual Concepts to ensure that the system's library would be adequately stocked with a variety of great sports titles, both at launch, and over the months and potentially years to follow. In addition (and as they did for all of the company's previous consoles), Sega's other internal studios all worked diligently to provide the Dreamcast with a multitude of high-quality first-party fare over the console's life.

Despite making a number of savvy decisions with the design and launch of the Dreamcast, Sega was ultimately unable to sell enough systems to cover their past losses on the Saturn. Nor were they able to gain enough market share to turn the tables on Sony and Nintendo. Eventually, the Dreamcast also began to burden Sega with losses and so, just over a year and a half into its life, they reluctantly exited the console industry altogether. It is said that the candle that burns half as long burns twice as bright. That may have been true in the Dreamcast's case. It's difficult to name another console that was able to amass such an amazingly diverse library of incredible titles over such a short run. Please read on for a list of the very best of these games to ever have graced Sega's final console.

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The Nintendo 3DS: A 12-Year Retrospective

3D Stereoscopy has experienced something of a recurring fad since its discovery, beginning with stereoscopic photograph viewers, all the way back in the mid-1800s. 3D films first rose to prominence in the 1950s, before mostly dying out and then enjoying a somewhat brief resurgence in the 1980s, and then again from the late (20)00s to early '10s. That most recent period of renewed interest in 3D films also gave rise to some new 3D technologies and devices as well, including televisions and, perhaps most notably, the Nintendo 3DS

For decades, Nintendo had invested in and experimented with various types of 3D tech, including their infamously ill-conceived Virtual Boy system, which they released to the public in the mid-90s (before quickly cancelling it within a year's time) Despite their failures with that much-maligned gaming device, Nintendo eventually opted to try one more time, with the successor to their wildly successful DS portable. In order to avoid one of the most common complaints associated with the vast majority of stereoscopic displays (the need for glasses), as well as to try and avoid any more disastrous product failures, Nintendo wisely invested in a somewhat novel approach for what would become their 3DS system. By utilizing a parallax barrier inside the screen of the 3DS, Nintendo was successfully able to generate 3D images completely free of the usual glasses requirement.

Despite this groundbreaking approach to 3D gaming, the 3DS, not unlike its earlier 3D predecessor, got off to a pretty slow start sales-wise (though not nearly to the extent of the Virtual Boy). Luckily for Nintendo, they were able to mostly turn things around with an early price cut and the announcement of incoming downloadable NES and Game Boy Advance classics for the system, some of which were made available at no cost to early adopters. The 3DS eventually went on to become a moderate success for Nintendo, selling more consoles than the GameCube and the N64 combined (though still only managing to move about half as many the record-holding original DS system). As would be expected of just about any Nintendo device, particularly one with such unique stereoscopic 3D capabilities, the 3DS boasted some pretty uniquely excellent games to match. Here are 12 of the very best titles that the 3DS had to offer.

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The SEGA Master System: A 3×12-Year Retrospective

Right around the same time that Nintendo released their 8-bit Famicom game console in Japan, the original version of what would eventually be released in the rest of the world as the Nintendo Entertainment System, arcade developer Sega released a competing console that they called the "SG-1000". Then, a year later, they released a redesigned version called the "SG-1000 II". Neither system was particularly successful. So after another year, Sega decided to make a few upgrades, most notably to the graphics chip, which would be based off of their System 2 arcade board. They then released this newly overhauled version which they dubbed, the "Mark III".

Unfortunately for Sega, they still couldn't stand toe to toe with Nintendo, even after multiple hardware revisions. At least, not in Japan. So Sega then decided to try their luck in the Western markets. The Mark III was rebranded as the "Sega Master System" and given futuristic-looking facelift. Once again, Sega managed to sync their release to Nintendo's, launching the Master System right around the same time that the Nintendo Entertainment System came out. Never let it be said that Sega was one to shy away from a fight.

Although the Master System was technically more powerful than Nintendo's console, with the exception of Brazil and a few European markets, it never really managed to come close to the impressive sales numbers of the NES. One major reason for this was a lack of software, primarily thanks to Nintendo's shrewd licensing requirements, that forbade third-party developers from releasing their NES titles on competing platforms. To Sega's credit, they did still manage to snag a few high-profile third-party titles, here and there, even despite this rather gargantuan obstacle. Additionally, being a (then) up-and-coming development house themselves meant that their console would at least have a stellar selection of first-party titles to choose from. So, even though Sega's hardware couldn't compete on quantity, that doesn't mean it didn't still have plenty of quality. Read on for a list of 12 of the best games that the Sega Master System had to offer.

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The Nintendo Entertainment System: A 3×12-Year Retrospective

In 1984, the video games market was virtually non-existent in the West. While Atari and it's competitors had been making money hand over fist just a few short years earlier, a steady stream of poorly made and wildly unpopular titles, coupled with the rise of personal computing alternatives, led to the infamous video game crash of 1983. Many believed that the dedicated video game console was merely a fad that had already passed and would never turn a profit again. Meanwhile, in Japan, Nintendo had found great success with the release of their new 8-bit Famicom system, actually managing to reach the number one spot in game console sales in a still-thriving Japanese market. This newfound success, in addition to the complete non-existence of any would-be competition in the West, gave Nintendo the confidence to see if they could reignite game console sales in that market as well.

Nintendo first decided to test the waters with their newly-created Vs System, arcade cabinets housing slightly modified, localized versions of already existing Famicom titles. In addition to generating additional revenue via the arcades and giving Nintendo a way to gauge the popularity of various titles, this strategy also had the added bonus of creating buzz and fostering awareness of those titles ahead of the console's launch. Furthermore, when it came time to release the console, Nintendo opted to start out with a limited test market launch, first in New York, and then in Los Angeles, in order to make certain that the system would in fact sell. Nintendo's strategies paid off, and on September 27th, 1986, they finally released their rebranded Nintendo Entertainment System nationwide in America. The video game console was back and here to stay.

In order to help restore consumer confidence and avoid another flood of low quality titles on the market, Nintendo also enacted strict controls on product approval and game licensing for their console. This was made famous by their official seal of quality that could be found on virtually all game cartridges produced for the system; and the NES had quality titles in spades. In fact, it was mostly thanks to its strong stable of games that the system was such a spectacular success. Here are but 12 examples of the best titles that the Nintendo Entertainment System had to offer:

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AJ’s Picks: The 12 Best Games of 2021 (Late to the Party Edition)

Well, 2022 is already 2/3rds of the way done, and now that the "new" generation of consoles (that came out nearly two years ago) are finally starting to become easier to obtain at the suggested retail price, it seems that the time is finally right to discuss the best games from the prior year. Assuming you can still remember that far back, 2021 was actually another decent year for gaming. Even though the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 remained next to impossible to obtain at sane prices, they both saw the release of some great new titles and even the occasional exclusive (although in the case of the Series X, the term "exclusive" may be somewhat generous). There were also a number of big releases for the Switch and PC as well. Please read on for a list of the best games of 2021, according to myself:

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AJ’s Picks: The 12 Best Games of 2009 – A 12-Year Retrospective

Well, it's a new year and I'm back again with another best-of retrospective. This go round, we'll be taking another 12-year look-back, at the best games of 2009, and unlike with the last one, I'm happy to be able to deliver it in a more timely, and thus, sensible fashion. 2009 was another great year for games. But really though, aren't they all, just about? Let's just say, it wasn't any slouch. Please join me as I take a look back at some of the following reasons why.

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AJ’s Picks: The 12 Best Games of 2008 – A 12(+)Year Retrospective

As you might have noticed by now, I have kind of a thing for gaming retrospectives. I also love anything having to do with the number 12. For those reasons, I've decided to debut a new retrospective series where I take a look back at the best games from 12 years ago. In the case of this particular article, the year 2008. Now you may be thinking, "it's 2022, shouldn't this article be about 2009 or even 2010?" And the answer is, you got me. I meant to post this nearly a year ago. My bad. Maybe I'll do one for 2009 next month. Just go with it. 2008 was a special year for gaming that saw a number of truly exceptional titles grace the various consoles of the day. Please join me as I look back at what I feel pretty good about saying were 12 of the absolute best.

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