My daughter has a favourite toy. It's a Squishmallow called Serene. Serene is a round-ish turquoise squirrel. If you're not into soft toys, you may not know how popular Squishmallows are, but to give you an idea... the last time I was in the local toy shop, every one of the four people in the queue to pay had hold of a Squishmallow.
But the popularity of Squishmallows isn’t the point of this little story.
Serene goes everywhere with my daughter and is her best friend - as much as a wannabe toddler can have a best friend. Given how Serene can sometimes be thrown from the buggy with the complete lack of foresight and comprehension of possible events that only a baby has, and the extreme love she has for her, we thought it best to buy a second Serene. "Let's buy a clone of Serene, a new one, just in case," I said to my wife while browsing the toy store and walking past the sizable Squishmallow display.
And so it was. This new, untarnished, blemish-free squirrel sits wrapped in a plastic bag on top of the wardrobe in my bedroom. The hope, of course, is that clone Serene, imposter Serene, will never be needed. But if the worst was to happen and OG Serene went to *wink* "stay with Grandma for a while" *wink* or *wink* "went to keep Mummy company at work" *wink*, this currently lifeless squishy toy would be subbed in. She'd look the same ("Serene has had a bath, how lovely!"), but we'd know. Forever, we'd know what we’d done.
I'd miss Serene, but I'd never say anything. Occasionally I'd lay awake at night thinking about her, wondering what life she's leading, "living with Grandma." Maybe I'd glance over at a pile of toys, Serene 2.0 staring at me, eyes lifeless but piercing. “Noooooo!” I’d attempt to cry out, but it would be too late. She'd attempt to suck the soul from my body. I'd resist, but she'd be too strong. I'd become trapped inside the lovable squirrel’s impossibly soft body. New Serene, inhabiting my body, would glance at me now and again with a look of victory. She'd won. Then one night she’d walk downstairs into the dimly lit living room, calmly and without saying a word placing original Serene down next to me.
"You never should have called me a fucking clone," she'd whisper. I can't say a word.
Welcome to the VG247 Best Games Ever Podcast, Episode 13: Best game that was called a clone of another game.
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“What is VG247’s Best Games Ever Podcast?” you ask while trying to imagine life inside a soft toy. You can't imagine it. It's a concept ripped straight out of what would be the best episode of The Twilight Zone ever made, such is the quality of the idea. Anyway, this podcast, which is why you're on this page (not to read my pitches for horror fiction), is essentially a 30-minute panel show where people (me and some others on VG247) decide on the best game in a specific category. That's it. It's good.
We’ve got some details on the show’s content below (if you want to get a refresher before heading to the comments to make a wonderful, considered post or don’t want to listen but do want to know what games we picked), so if you want to avoid spoilers, don’t scroll past this fan-made creation of what Chris Bratt would look like if he was on the end of a Mortal Kombat fatality, but he was a Squishmallow and also Sub Zero. (Support friends of VG247, People Make Games, on Patreon).
The Best Game that was once called a clone of another game
This is the topic of Episode thirteen of VG247’s Best Games Ever Podcast. Here’s a rundown of who picked what.
Tom – Axiom Verge
Honestly, this game is so good I'm not sure why the others bothered to argue against it. Axiom Verge is an absolutely brilliant Metroid clone that mixes pin-sharp gameplay with a superb sense of adventure and discovery. Please, please, please give it a look if you've yet to. It's on all current platforms, so there's really no excuse. There's a sequel, too, although I'm yet to be sucked in by it in the same way.
Alex – Mortal Kombat
For my money, Mortal Kombat is the original video game clone. Everybody described this game as a Street Fighter clone back in the day, even though its core developers maintain to this day that it was primarily inspired by an even older fighting game, with Street Fighter holding little influence over the spine-ripping game that turned arcades upside down in the nineties. One thing was undeniable, however: Midway only greenlit MK due to the success of Street Fighter. The two are inexorably linked, forever.
Whatever the truth of inspiration was didn't matter to the press or the public anyway. MK was Street Fighter's brasher, louder, attention-grabbing cousin. Arguably, MK was resolutely American just as Street Fighter was unabashedly Japanese. The two engaged in a war that was as potent and as divisive as Mario vs Sonic. Street Fighter launched the fighting game genre as we know it today, and MK solidified its potential for mass-market success. But even so... people continued to call MK a Street Fighter clone. It's a moniker that will follow it forever - deserved or not.
James – Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade
When it comes to Diablo clones it's hard to go wrong. All you need is some made-up fantasy words, tons of loot and more spiders and rats than you could fit in the world's largest, spookiest terrarium. The loop of picking up green things, then blue things, then purple things, then orange things as the loot rarity goes up is so insatiably moreish that you're good for at least 80 hours of gameplay regardless of the wrapping.
A premium example of this comes in the form of 2005 PSP launch title, Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade - a rock solid Diablo clone with the added bonus of being on an awesome portable console with retro-futuristic discs that still spin inside their plastic cases as you eject them - still hot - from inside the handheld.
Come back in a week for another episode of VG247’s Best Games Ever Podcast.
If you want more podcasts, you could do worse than checking out our friends at Rock Paper Shotgun who have the Electronic Wireless Show. Eurogamer has two shows (greedy!), Digital Foundry has DF Direct, Dicebreaker covers the world of tabletop gaming, and the Outside Xbox lot has Oxventure - A Dungeons & Dragons Podcast.