(New items as of this update are in bold.)
Disappointed as I am at the loss of functionality on this site, I've decided to bow to the whims of our masters and use the favorites system as what it really is: story tracking. This leaves me no convenient method, however, to indicate stories that are actually my favorites. I can thumbs-up a story, and I do, but there doesn't seem to be a way to list stories that I've upvoted. So I've decided that the easiest way left to me to indicate the good ones is with a blog entry. In alphabetical order, here are my actual favorites, as well as my thoughts on them.
Accolade by Cereal Velocity is a short and sweet comedy of errors. I feel a little bad about not being able to say a lot about the story, but there's not a whole lot to it; Luna turns out to be unreformed, plots to hurt Celestia by using Twilight as a target and Trixie as a patsy, and watches in horror as it all comes crashing hilariously down around her. It's the execution that makes this puff pastry of a piece so delicious.
Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger by AdmiralTigerclaw is a human-in-Equestria story with a difference. The difference is that the human is approaching Equestria in a first-contact scenario, rather than the usual fantasy land wish fulfillment story. I enjoy sci-fi scenarios and stories that take things in a new direction, and this story manages both as Captain Edwards documents, catalogs, and investigates Equestria. Furthermore, he shows a true scientific approach to the magic of the world, neither denying anything that doesn't make sense in his worldview nor blindly accepting the differences as 'magic', but trying to figure out the new rules through research and investigation. As someone who found "Feeling Pinkie Keen's" moral of 'sometimes you just have to have faith' actively offensive, I appreciate this.
Beating the Heat by Andrew Joshua Talon is an extremely silly story about sex, which is just about the best kind of story about sex. (Very little sex actually happens over most of the story, and all of it happens off-camera; mostly, it's innuendo and lusting. A lot of lusting.) It's also, however, a Doctor Whooves story—not in its entirety, but the character as Time Lord is a major character in the plot, as is one of his nemeses. On the one hand, I'm not a great fan of the new Doctor Who, much less his ponification, but on the other, this story's having to pull every male pony in existence into the spotlight, and if you're going to give a male lust interest to Twilight, she's going to want someone who can handle her brains. Try the first chapter, and if you like that, you'll probably like the rest.
Binky Pie by Miyajima is a crossover with the Discworld universe, especially with the character of Death. The greatest compliment I can offer the author is that it feels much like a Terry Pratchett story. From the death cult that springs up around a Pinkie Pie working part-time as Death's steed to the attributes one Mrs. Cake shares with another, the warped humor of the Discworld latches on to the cheery world of Equestria and doesn't let go.
The Book of Lies by Standard Namespace is a story about stories, a topic that has a certain danger to it. It avoids getting pretentiously 'meta', however, while at the same time avoiding having Fictionland be simply another world of adventure. The titular book has an agenda, and the power of narrative to bring it about … but it is a story in the story, and that gives the characters the power to fight back.
The Broken Wing by Cyanide is a short, sweet sendup of the 'Rainbow Dash loses a wing' genre. It's so short, in fact, that I can't say anything else about it without spoiling the punchline.
The Business Trip by midnightshadow is a story I'm hesitant to recommend because (a) it's incomplete, (b) it hasn't been updated in months, and (c) it left off on an almost criminal cliffhanger. I'm recommending it here largely because I hope that, if enough people see it and like it, the author will come back to it and write more.
Cherry Trees and Romance Reports by SleeplessBrony. SleeplessBrony is one of the two best writers of clopfiction I've ever seen (the other is Friendly Uncle), and he takes the category of serious, dramatic clopfiction (as opposed to silly, comedic clopfiction) by storm. Romance Reports is an epic tale, and at one point it was the #1 rated completed story on FIMFiction full stop. Cherry Trees is a one-shot during the events of "The Last Roundup". Both are excellent stories, but definitely for adults only; Romance Reports, especially, contains not just sex but increasingly kinky sex.
The Contest by Cold in Gardez is a story that earns two shots on my My Little Pony Fanfic Drinking Game: one for incorporating a reference to a one-shot gag from a single episode (a practice I mentioned in a previous blog I don't care for), and another for making it the focus of the story. That said, Rule Zero of good writing is that any rule can be broken if you're talented enough, and the author takes the concept of a competition to be quiet so far over the top you're looking down at the moon. There's a touch of refuge in audacity—when a dead body shows up in the competition, you may think the author has gone either too far or not far enough—but all in all I thought this was an amazing bit of comedy.
A Dash of Inspiration by DirigibleQuixote is an exploration in Dash abuse—not torture, mind, but she definitely doesn't have it easy, and she only deserves a fraction of what she gets. What makes this story a favorite for me, though, is that it's never about the author enjoying what he's doing to her. He wants her to have a happy ending, and it's only going to be sweeter the harder she has to fight for it.
Daylight Burning by Guesswork is a story that's left me a bit confused with all the skullduggery going on, with multiple factions and agendas running around and no one being sure who they can trust. When evil has corrupted the Princess of the Sun, though, hiding in the shadows is the order of the day. It may be dark, but it's definitely not grim, so take a look if you don't mind a touch of blood and gore.
Directive: Grow by Dragon Dreaming is an AU fic done right. An AI Twilight Sparkle is sent into the virtual world to learn and grow, but that's the only similarity the plot has to the first two episodes of "Friendship is Magic". The main six characters are all there and all recognizably themselves, but this isn't a story you've read before given a coat of cyber-paint. The story isn't finished yet, but the author's been churning out chapters, so I'm confident it will be completed in good time.
Draconic Troubles by Davesknd is a story that strives to have the feel of the show, and by and large it succeeds. It bills itself as 'Comedy/Random', but I don't think that's a fair billing; it's funny, yes, but it's not monkey cheese 4chan humor. While there's too much material here already to fit into an episode (and the story is far from over), I think it's fair to say that if you like the show you'll probably like this.
The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds by RK_Striker_JK_5 is a crossover of My Little Pony with … well, with itself, as the human protagonists of the first generation return to the land of Equestria thousands of years later and discover what's happened in what's been merely a decade for them. The narrative lacks a certain urgency, which may or may not change in future chapters, but if you wondered what it'd be like for Spike to meet Spike or why Equestria has so much stuff built for humans, this story is a good place to look.
Eternal by device heretic is an epic story in multiple senses of the word, telling a tale of changes, cycles, endings, and beginnings almost too large to fit in its pages. It has a somewhat dreamlike, mythical quality that makes it difficult, at times, to understand what's happening, but the answers come in time. The author is taking the plunge into writing original fiction, and I think he's got what it takes.
Gilda's Sore Throat by Pineapple Skitter hasn't lived up to its title and description yet. What's there, though, is an amusing bit of fluff about Derpy's role behind the scenes of a few episodes of the show—not any sort of 'Derpy saves the day' role, mind, just a look at the trials and tribulations of a pony who doesn't get name billing. I'm looking forward to the author expanding on it.
The Herd by Lighthawk is a story about anthropomorphized ponies. It is also unabashed clopfiction. You won't find the dramatic plot twists you'd find in Romance Reports or the unabashed silliness that's in Beating the Heat. That's okay, though; sometimes you just want to see Pinkie Pie trying to organize the rest of her friends into a harem for Big Macintosh. Or at least I do.
Heretical Fictions and its sequel Beloved, both by Skywriter, are an odd pair of stories in which Eternal (mentioned above) is a book published in Equestria, along with many other books that are other pony fanfiction stories. Having read Eternal, Twilight resolves not to let the events in the book become reality and drags Celestia and Luna into a girls' night out; in the process, Celestia learns that even an immortal god-queen—especially an immortal god-queen—has her limits. While I feel the first story was a bit rushed, likely due to the choice of perspective character (the real story, to my mind, is in the process of Twilight coming to the realizations she shares with Princess Celestia), the second is paced nicely, with sadness and humor handled equally deftly.
Observatory Hill, also by Skywriter, is, if anything, a little better than those stories. Not only is it funnier, which is generally a plus in my mind, but it captures the characters of all involved in a pitch-perfect way. Moments like Twilight declaring her intent to develop a checklist for how to save Equestria or Princess Luna using the Royal Canterlot Voice to describe how happy she is that she can behave normally and non-threateningly are pure gold.
Kicked to the Cub by Passport-Clean is the first in a series of well-done stories that aim to fit the feel of the show while still having their own continuity. There's nothing about them that really stands out to me (except for the particular dementation that decides a story requiring the song of the sea ponies to appear in regular intervals is a good idea), but I've seen plenty of stories with high concepts that were ruined by their execution. These stories are examples of fine craftsmanship, and they get the job done.
Life In A Slower Lane by JuyUnseen will probably upset some folks, but I'm including it here anyway. Having Scootaloo switch role models from Rainbow Dash to Fluttershy is a strange choice, but the author sells me on it. It helps that Rainbow Dash isn't written in a mean-spirited way; she's a jerk to Scootaloo, but she's a thoughtless jerk, and she does what she can to make things right once she realizes what she's done.
Loyalty by Arbarano is a story I like largely because I agree with the author's agenda: a repudiation of stories where a single failure sends Rainbow Dash spiraling into despair. Aside from that, though, it's a short, well-written story, with just a hint of Pinkie Dash if shipping is your thing.
A Million Things to Do by AbsoluteAnonymous is an interesting exploration of Pinkie Pie's character, showing a core of serious thought that informs her odd behavior instead of making her 'lolrandom' like a lot of stories resort to. It also explores a few interesting questions, the often-asked 'what would you do on your last day on earth' … and the somewhat-less-often-asked 'why haven't you done it yet?'
My Little Denarians by Chengar Qordath and The Dresden Fillies: Strange Friends by psychicscubadiver are both Dresden Files crossovers, but they treat the crossover process differently. In The Dresden Fillies, Equestria is connected to Harry's world via the Nevernever and is treated as just as 'real' as his world is; in My Little Denarians, on the other hand, Harry has seen "Friendship is Magic", and Equestria is a realm beyond the Outer Gates, controlled by rules of narrative and growing as the canon does. The two approaches allow for very different stories to be told, and both are good in their own right.
My Little Pony's Little Ponies by Baby Boo shows that you don't have to be an epic story to show up on this list. It's a silly little one-shot about Twilight and Pinkie playing with dolls, and it tickled my funny bone.
My(stara's) Little Ponies: Friendship is Adventuring by JohnBiles, on the other hand, is very much an epic story (over 350,000 words!) John Biles is something of an Internet fossil, having been around and writing fanfiction for twenty years, and excellent fanfiction at that. That he has turned his attention to "Friendship Is Magic" should be cause for celebration fandom-wide. He makes Equestria a part of Mystara (the original Dungeons and Dragons world setting) and really explores what that means instead of just making generic ponies-go-dungeon-delving jokes. There's also a big whack of human-on-pony shipping, but nobody's perfect. Old-school ASCII wink.
Night's Favoured Child by Municipal Engines is another AU fic that's doing it right by avoiding a retread of established stories. Indeed, it may be deviating from the original story too much; I'm beginning to worry that the tale will be told and done without any of Twilight's friends so much as showing up. Still, if you're looking for a story where Nightmare Moon won and is ruling Equestria, having that victory be a thousand years ago is a good place to start.
Old vs New by Fernin is another story I'm a little hesitant to recommend. It's not that it isn't good—it's the silly story of a Spike who finds himself, literally, the new Rainbow Dash—but it's unfinished, and it's been a month and a half since the last update. That said, the author has still been working on stories and hasn't dropped off the Internet or anything, so hopefully his muse will carry him back to this one sooner or later.
On a Cross and Arrow by Conner Cogwork is the Rule 63 pony story. If the concept of male equivalents of the main six interests you and you haven't read this story, go and read it right now. If it doesn't, well, all you need to know is that this story either invented or codified all of the cliches of the genre, and any rule 63 story since has either followed its lead or consciously defied it.
The P3 Project by Bookish Delight is a series of stories (the link will take you to the first one) that take two of the main six, pair them off in a story (not in a shippy sort of way), and see what comes of it. Though the series is unfinished and likely to remain so, what's been written is worth reading.
A Perfectly Ordinary Day in Ponyville by The Equestrian Gentlecolt is a funny story about certain fanfiction cliches (which is, in itself, becoming a cliche). Your enjoyment will probably depend on how much those cliches amuse and/or annoy you. I enjoyed it, and this is my list, so.
Pony Shorts by Miyajima wouldn't normally go on this list. It's not that it's bad—in fact, it's quite good—but I already listed Binky Pie by the same author, and I would like to feature only the best (in my opinion) story for a given author. So why have I added it to the list? Because it's one of the few instances I've seen where a story written in the immediate wake of an episode is worth reading. Take two shots (one for a story inspired by a specific episode and another for that story being written less than a week after it) and read "Derpyganger".
Romeo by Homfrog is … a thing. A mature-rated thing, though there's no 'on-screen' sex. It might also be helpful to listen to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" before you read the story; I hadn't heard the song, and I was a touch confused.
Rorschach in Equestria by Ex-Nihilos is a story that intrigues me enough to make this list even if I'm not entirely certain it will stay there. Having such a psychologically damaged character show up in a land of magical talking ponies and avoiding the twin pitfalls of having him drag the world into grimness with him or having him be magically 'cleansed' into conformity (whether explicitly or through force of narrative) is a difficult balancing act. So far, the author has pulled it off, so I'm extending my trust that he'll make it to the other end of the tightrope.
Secret of the Pegasi by CTVulpin is a story that claims to be going dark places, but you can tell it's lying just from the 'Comedy' and 'Random' tags. What you can't know just by looking is just how random it will get; combined with its sequel (and hopefully a future story to round out the trilogy, as it were), it tells a story of hidden secrets that makes no sense whatsoever. Not that you'll care, because you'll be too busy laughing.
Seeking Beauty by Donny's Boy is that most rare of stories: a Pinkie-centric story with her in full ebullient mode that doesn't make me grit my teeth. It gets double bonus points for not having Rarity give up her life in the city just because she fell in love with a country girl, a motif which also makes me grit my teeth because it is never ever reversed in popular media. (Seriously, there are people out there who prefer to live in cities!) I realize that sounds a bit negative, but hey, sometimes stories are good because of what they don't do.
Sparkle's Law by AestheticB is another story that I'm hesitant about. I don't like episodes of "Friendship is Magic" that involve one or more characters having abuse heaped upon them until they learn a valuable lesson, and this story is entirely about snapping Twilight like a twig. I think the key distinction, though, is that she doesn't learn a valuable lesson, and not because of bullheadedness; almost nothing that happened to her was actually her fault, and in the end it's just one of those horrible days that seem to happen to us all. If the story were any less well-written, I couldn't stand it, but as it is, it makes the list.
Those Blue Wings by Tchernobog also earns two shots on my MLP Fanfic Drinking Game: one for Twilight messing up a spell, and another for that being the foundation of the story. That said, I'll give just about any story a pass on one gimmick it uses so the plot can happen, and the plot here (Applejack inadvertently steals Rainbow Dash's wings) is one worth telling.
Trixie's Magic Bit by Applejinx is vile, vile, filthy, filthy porn. It is, however, well-written vile and filthy porn, taking a look at how the flaws and virtues of everyone involved inform their descents into depravity. In fact, I found myself skimming over the actual sex acts in favor of learning more about Twilight's neurotic need to be in control while simultaneously denying the role of controller, Fluttershy's core of loathing of self and others buried deep beneath the surface, or Pinkie Pie's willingness to sacrifice nearly anything if she can make others happy by doing so. And that's not even getting into Applejack and Rainbow Dash, the two main characters of the story! If you're willing to read clopfiction, and (more importantly) if you're willing to read about ponies that aren't made of sunshine and rainbows (though still recognizably ponies), you should give this a look.
Twilight's List by kits is a story where you see the end coming from a mile away. Chapter by chapter, you get closer to that end, and you cringe in anticipation, because there's going to be heartbreak and tears. And then the end comes... and thanks to the thoughtfulness of Rainbow Dash, the heartbreak and tears are averted, and all that remains is love. I'm a big fan of subverting expectations, especially when what I'm expecting isn't something I care for, so this story was an unexpected treat.
U-Harmony by Ebon Mane is a shipping fic with a difference. The difference is not that it's very very funny (though this is true); it's that it's funny because the shipping fails so spectacularly. Twilight Sparkle signs up with a magical dating service, against her better judgement … and her better judgement is proven right time and time again, as the system pairs her up with everyone from creepy stalkers to cheating wives to eerily similar recolors. It hasn't been updated in some time, but what's there is funny, and the author's supposedly going to return his attention to it now that he's done with Merely a Mare, so I'm crossing my fingers we'll see even more gruesomely inappropriate dates!
Where All Roads Lead by RazedRainbow is a rarity for me: a sad story I'm recommending. Writing something sad is in some ways easier than writing something funny or dramatic, and I'm wary of any authorial attempt to yank tears out of my body. This story is well-written, though, and doesn't overstay its welcome. It's two moments in life, each one touched with sorrow and joy, and then it's gone.
Where Your Heart Is by Cloudy Skies is an unabashed shipfic, pairing up Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie; it's also the sequel to a story that paired up Applejack and Fluttershy. I don't know if the author plans to complete the set, as it were, but this one was a treat to read, with Pinkie Pie being both bubbly and random without being obnoxious (well, too obnoxious) and Rainbow Dash doing what she does best (behind flying): not thinking about things too hard.
Your Best Shot by PotatoJoe is a story I've been offering the author editing help with. I don't offer this service to just anyone, but there's good reason I offered it to him: this funny AU tale of Twilight stealing Discord's powers when she attempts to seal him away was being criminally tarnished by numerous but largely cosmetic errors. He gives me a chapter, I polish it up, and you get something amusing.
I'll be updating and reposting this from time to time, so look forward to that!