1. Chip Chan Kick! (PC-FX, 1996)--This particular clone is solely responsible for me wanting to add a PC-FX to my console collection. Why? Well, it's chock-full of the kind of charm and craziness that one expects from this genre, for starters. Surprisingly, I'm not all that enamored with the pig-tailed protagonists, but I do like the Puyo Puyo-esque blobs they chuck at baddies. (When one connects, the baddie in question becomes confused and can be finished off with a kick.) Everything else about this game is pretty par for the course (I mean that in a good way) except for its end-of-level bosses, many of which are huge and all of which take a lot of hits before raising a white flag.
2. Parasol Stars (PC Engine, 1991)--For the longest time, I thought this Taito-made title paled in comparison to its predecessors, Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. Today, I'm not so sure about that stance--thanks to the strategic element that's added to the game via the creation and collection of its "miracle icons." Regardless, this one is special, with adorably crafted enemy sprites, color-splashed backdrops and a can't-get-it-out-of-your-head soundtrack. The only criticisms I can level at Parasol Stars: A few of its bosses could put up a better fight (I'm lookin' at you, Loch Ness Monster-ish leader of world three) and it would be nice if there were a way to jump down from platforms.
3. Pop'n Magic (PC Engine CD, 1992)--As I mentioned in this recent post, Pop'n Magic hasn't always been my cup of tea. In fact, I used to find it downright boring. After giving it a second chance, though, I discovered there's a lot to like about this title, which seems to turn to both Bubble Bobble and Parasol Stars for inspiration. (Pop'n Magic's blue-haired protagonist encases foes in bubbles and then tosses them at each other in order to get rid of them.) One thing this game has that its fellow clones don't: Beautifully animated backdrops.
4. Rod Land (Arcade, 1990)--Don't worry, I didn't include this Jaleco-made game simply because of its "suggestive" title. Actually, that title is by far the worst thing about this quarter-muncher, if you ask me. The best things: The awww-inducing (get it?) enemies--including walking sharks and what appear to be bow-sporting leeches--and the main character's ability to bash them to kingdom come using her trusty rod-whip doohickey. Sure, Rod Land's backdrops are the stuff that yawns are made of and its soundtrack is a bit bromidic, but the rest of what's on display here is of the first order.
5. Zupapa! (Neo Geo, 2001)--Never heard of this one? No worries. It's a fairly obscure addition to the genre. It's also a very worthy addition to the genre, though, with flashy graphics and frenetic, toss-things-at-your-foes gameplay that calls to mind the first game mentioned in this post, Chip Chan Kick! Zupapa! sets itself apart from that title by giving its Zooks (the aforementioned, toss-able "things") a ton of personality. (Leave them alone and they'll start juggling or fall asleep; throw them around too much and they'll run away from you.) Also, touching an enemy that's been stunned by one or more Zooks creates an explosion that can take out other enemies--a tactic that's expertly employed during this delightful game's boss battles.
Honorable mentions: Don Doko Don (Arcade/PC Engine), The Fairyland Story (Arcade), Nightmare in the Dark (Neo Geo) and Wani Wani World (Mega Drive).