Well I tried to do it, I really did, but I really couldn’t narrow it down to just ten games, or even twenty, heck the list made it just past thirty before I was able to trim it down by a couple to make it an even number. Though in reality, this isn’t a top ten list of my favorite games, this is a list of games that impacted me in one way or another, games that helped to shape who I am as a gamer as well as well as my passions. With that in mind, this will probably be long, sorry in advance. I suppose I could break it up into several posts and it’s possible I will it just depends on how much I want to talk about each game. One final note before I start jabbering on about the games, they aren’t in any order, well maybe in order of console but that would be it because there is no way I could actually rank them as far as favorites go.
The Legend of Zelda
This wasn’t the first game I ever played, I’d have to go back to the Atari 2600 for that one, but I credit it with starting my life long love of gaming. From having free reign to go where I wanted, the action, the weapons and upgrades, everything about the Legend of Zelda just spoke to me. Tie all of that in with the cartoon that would pop up on Friday’s as part of the Super Mario Bros Super Show, as well as the books and comics, and it quickly became my favorite game for the longest time. LoZ was a game that got me thinking differently about a lot of things at that young age (roughly seven or eight if I remember) but most of all it ignited my curiosity, wondering what was around the corner, where was the next secret hiding? To top it all off, there was an entire second quest to experience where dungeons were in different locations as were items, it blew my little mind at the time and still does when I think back on it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
I was always a huge fan of the Turtles…the 80s/90s Turtles that is and the Arcade game was like playing an episode of the cartoon show and I loved it. While it is true that a lot of games were made from cartoon shows as well as the other way around, the Turtles Arcade game really felt like it was lifted from the show (there are probably others that did as well but this one really stands out to me). Personally, I was always Donatello, he was always my favorite and I won’t lie I wanted to be super smart like him. This one also holds the distinction of being one on a short list of games that I’ve beaten multiple times, usually once I beat again (if I ever beat a game) I’m done with it. I often try to play a game multiple times but since I’m familiar with the story I burn out fast but not with this one, I can’t count how many times I’ve finished it and I count that as a good thing.
Contra, Gauntlet II, and Guerilla War
I wrapped these three into one for two reasons, first off to try to cut this down a bit and secondly because they actually are connected in a way…I’ll explain. All three of these games are ones that my brother and I would spend hours on together, he was my go-to player 2 and even though he was just shy of twelve years older than me he always made time to play on the NES with me and these three were games of choice.
Contra was one we had the most fun with for sure and we both managed to get through it without ever knowing about the Konami code and to be honest I was always surprised that people needed the code to beat the game in the first place. Contra is another game on the list that I’ve beaten several times over.
Gauntlet II was just pure fun, level after level of a seemingly never ending *coughs* Gauntlet *coughs*. Bad jokes aside, my brother and I had managed to get up around level 95 before it was time for dinner and never managed to make it that far again but that was also the time when the SNES was coming out (at least when we had Gauntlet II) and we stopped playing games together as often.
Guerilla War was the last of the big three my brother and I would play endlessly and I think we played it so much because a) it reminded us of Contra in a sense only from a top down perspective and we loved it, and b) it was one where you could continue endlessly only resetting your score without having to start from the beginning when constantly unless you both died at the same time. Now while we played and beat it several times, we never truly beat it since we always had to continue constantly.
I can’t express how much I truly loved this game, seriously, I played it so much and burned through so many batteries on my Gameboy it’s not even funny it’s part of the reason my parents got me the Super Gameboy when it released so I wouldn’t waste so many batteries now that I think about it. From a gameplay perspective it was very similar to A Link to the Past and obviously it’s graphically different because of the difference in hardware but it felt very similar. Throughout the game there are several references to other Nintendo properties which adds a little comedy to game such as Bow Wow (better known as a Chain Chomp), Goombas and Pirahna Plants, Shy Guys, and even Wart from Super Mario Bros. 2 make an appearance.
Cameos aside it was such an addictive entry into the Zelda series and it’s one of the biggest reasons I started writing in the first place. I remember writing a small play for me and my friends to act out, I even tried writing short stories to add more to the lore of all the Zelda games.
Pokemon Blue Version
I won’t lie, I can’t remember exactly why I had to have this game, but I know I had to have it and as I recall I was a Freshman in high school when it released. There was something about the concept that I really loved, creating a team to take on the world and show you were the best trainer ever, stopping an evil plot, evolving a fish into a dragon…all the good stuff. To be fair I wouldn’t be surprised if part of it was because of Blastoise on the cover too. I honestly never would have guessed that Pokémon would blow up like it did but I’m glad it did, there is something about the game, the style, the mechanics, that make it accessible to just about anyone who wants to play it.
The Age of the SNES
Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Now I am not a huge fighting game fan, there are some that I enjoy I’ll admit, but it’s not my genre of choice. This one though, was my first, or at least I’m pretty sure it was my first. It was actually given to me by a friend in middle school along with Sim City (that one will crop up later) and I can’t remember why, more than likely he was tired of it either way I got two free games. Honestly, I really loved how it played, it was smooth and fluid, frustratingly addicting, and it even got me to play a few more fighting games before I decided I wasn’t a huge fan of the genre. More importantly though I loved the stories of the characters and it broadened my horizons as a gamer. I may not love fighting games but I’m glad for this one introducing me to the genre because over time I’ve played some great games.
*Important note, the game was released on the SNES in ’91 and I wasn’t in middle school until ‘93/’94 which is when I got it from my friend*
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Now I’m gonna start with saying that all I remember as far as how I acquired this game is that it was packaged with something else and I’m pretty sure it was NFL Football (totally weird I know but it was like a makeshift bundle at Best Buy years ago). To this day I have always credited (and always will) this game for getting me into RPGs in general and Final Fantasy games in particular. Yes, I know the reasons as to why it was made, thinking that Western audiences couldn’t handle a true Final Fantasy game, so we got a stripped-down version. In reality though, if it wasn’t for that stripped-down version, I never would have known the joy that the entire Final Fantasy series could give a person.
Mystic Quest triggered a love of fantasy in a hardcore way, after playing and beating it (the first and one of few FF games I’ve beaten) I went full tilt on the fantasy scale. Reading books, watching movies, my gaming choices even started drifting into fantasy even more than before and I’m grateful for it too. It’s safe to say that Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is one of my top five favorite games of all time, from the graphics to the soundtrack, I loved every step I took, every battle, every victory chime and I’ll defend it’s awesomeness for as long as I’m a gamer.
Before I tried Mario Paint I always loved to doodle and sketch, from the time I was eight or so I loved drawing on anything I could get my hands on. Mario Paint took that passion and multiplied it ten-fold, the game (and I use the term somewhat loosely) was an oddity in its own right but it would still be a few years before I got my hands on Paintshop Pro and longer still before Photoshop and Mario Paint helped fuel that creative desire that I still have to this day.
Final Fantasy II (IV)
Where Mystic Quest introduced me to Final Fantasy, the second (or rather fourth depending on where you are) cemented a love for the series that even Final Fantasy XIII couldn’t destroy. This one showed me what a Final Fantasy game really was and was so deep. One of these days I really need to finish it too, every time I try I get to the point where *SPOILER* Cecil becomes a Paladin and for whatever reason I just can’t finish and I’ve tried…oh how I’ve tried and I don’t know why I can’t finish it.
Illusion of Gaia
The first true-blue Action/RPG I’ve ever played, at least one the best ones I played in my early years that’s for sure. When I first played it I couldn’t completely wrap my head around the story but I understood enough for it to click just how awesome the game was. On top of a great story you have a main character that can switch between an adventurous boy (Will) to one of two others, Freedan and Shadow (a dark knight and a humanoid energy construct respectively) with each form having its own strengths and weaknesses to help you get through the adventure. What really stands out to me though was as I was playing, I was seeing something I’d never seen before, at least not up to that point. There was so much depth not just to the story but to the characters as well, it was a game that really made you care about the characters and what they were going through and it made gaming more personal for me.
Told ya I’d come back to this (see Super Street Fighter above), and I’ll admit when I first heard of it, I had no idea what it was. Once I played it however, I still had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what I was seeing. No question it was the first city builder I’d played, and it wasn’t the only one around by far, but it was another game that in a way catered to my creative side. I spent hours, days, even weeks playing and trying to design a functioning city. I always failed, but the process always held my interest and it translated into other areas, for instance as I would write I would want to design cities and worlds for my characters to inhabit and Sim City helped in that regard…well I mean I didn’t try doing it in the game but it did help me think about the world and environments in a different way.
Sim City also sparked a love for the genre which rolled over to all the Sim games of the time; Sim Tower, Sim Ant, eventually the Sims, as well as the tycoon style games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon.
Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars
Everyone knows this game, or should at least, developed by Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) for Nintendo and using many of Nintendo’s beloved characters (including cameos) it took Mario completely out of his element and shoved him into an entirely new genre. Not only did it take Mario and company and put them into an RPG (along with introducing new characters that have sadly just slipped into oblivion) it also introduced a unique element to the combat system, timing button presses to guard extra damage or do more damage it took the turn based aspect of RPG combat and added, essentially, quick time events.
By this time, I was a full fledged Squaresoft fanboy and when I first heard about this, I had to have it, no question about it, and I have zero regrets.
One of the craziest RPGs I’d ever played and one of my favorites for sure and to this day I still have no idea why I wanted it. I had never heard of it before I got it and quite frankly, I think I just wanted a new game and it was easy to talk my mom into buying it since it came with the strategy guide and it seemed like a good deal. Once I started playing it though, wow, I mean really wow! I think the biggest draw for me, besides the crazy, was the fact that it essentially starred just regular kids and as a kid it made me dream of having my own adventures, so I guess in a way it really hit home. I never did finish it, even wrote to Nintendo Power to get help with the final battle but by the time I got a reply I had moved on to other games.
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Of course this was going to be on here, this was the system seller for me especially after a friend had brought his system over to play and the second I saw the Triforce I was hooked. I had to have this system, and this game, like a primal need even, it simply had to be part of my life. LttP took everything I loved about the original game and blew it up in every possible way, the story, the visuals, the soundtrack, at no point did it ever disappoint and I spent hours trying to find every secret (way before the internet was as big as it is now) and if I could relive any game just once this one would be it. This is the game that keeps my head in the clouds and keeps me dreaming, of being more than I am, it’s the biggest reason why I write, why I draw, and why I try to create.
While the Legend of Zelda was always bright and cheery…well sort of, Super Metroid (and really the Metroid series in general) was the exact opposite. Where Link had friends to call on for help, Samus had her training and solitude and that alone is what truly pulled me in. Being alone on an alien planet with no one to talk to, to turn to for help, or even for comic relief, it actually made me think about the world itself (the real world that is). As dark as it may seem, Super Metroid made me think in terms of looking out for myself, that there wasn’t always going to be someone there with advice or a helping hand to get me through things and it’s probably one of the best lessons a game has ever taught me.
Enter the 64-bit
I personally never owned Goldeneye, I played it (not much), and I enjoyed it, but I never owned it however I did own what was essentially a very similar game in Perfect Dark. Between the two games I preferred Perfect Dark by far, maybe because I was never a huge James Bond fan, but the story was fun and the game itself was challenging and throw in an alien named Elvis and what more could you possibly need?
Perfect Dark may not have been as impactful to me as many of the other games on this list but it made its mark and lead me back towards Sci-Fi.
Dreaming on Dreamcast
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
I’m not a huge fan of skateboards, maybe because I know I’d fall and break my neck, but there was something about this particular one. Maybe it was the soundtrack, maybe it was the mechanics, maybe because it was simply just an incredibly fun and addictive game, but I loved it regardless. To be honest, playing it made me feel like I could do anything, it kind of put me into a groove thanks to the music as well as the flow of the game and I would just sit and zone for hours. This was also a game that introduced me to music I probably never would have hear otherwise (the Rock Band and Guitar Hero series did the same thing years later), it helped me to define my own taste not just in music but in a lot of things like my own fashion sense. Something about the culture that surrounded skateboarders then and now, one that was just about being who you were and this one spoke volumes to me.
Phantasy Star Online
The fact that I didn’t have a large Dreamcast library aside, this was unquestionably my favorite game for the system. I could never even get very far into it, in fact for all the hours I pumped into it I only barely got inside the Dome after the starting area. To be fair I had no way of getting online at the time to play with others and at the time I was so introverted I wouldn’t have tried if I could and I never had friends at the time that really wanted to play it either so I was largely on my own but none the less I loved it. Hour after hour, long after the sun went down, I was drawn to this game and I loved every second.
Enter the Playstation
Mega Man Legends
Such an amazing game on so many levels, and another one that would always set my imagination wild with adventure. I mean really, you have Mega Man in as much of a non-traditional Mega Man game as you can get, 3D and a mix of action and RPG, a new backstory as an adopted kid after the world is essentially flooded. All of this was a nice change of pace from the standard Robot Masters and Dr. Wiley method that, while worked, was starting to get stale (at least for me) and even the X series didn’t help much though they were great games, but it was more of the same. I was always sad that there would never be a third installment and more than likely never will be, I mean, at least we got Mega Man 11 but I think the spin-off series are going to be dead for a long while.
I don’t think I’ve said it yet, if I have…sorry, but I’m not a huge sports fan in general and while racing isn’t a traditional sport, I do lump it in with the rest because at least a few people would consider it a sport. Gran Turismo though, wow did I love this game and I think it was because it was so realistic (at least for the time) and while I enjoy the look of a nice car, this one made me really appreciate cars as a whole, how intricate they are, how even the smallest thing could turn a beautiful piece of machinery into a lump of metal. It by no means turned me into a car guy, I can change my oil and a tire, that’s about it but it did give me a new level of respect for cars in general and car racing in particular.
The first game I ever played under the Working Designs label before I ever got a hold of the Lunar series on the PS1, it also came before Final Fantasy Tactics so really it was the first tactic style game I really sunk my teeth into (though I did own Ogre Battle on the N64 I barely ever played it). It was a brilliant blend of both fantasy and sci-fi and being a tactics game mixed in RPG elements as well and while I may be terrible at tactics games I still love them and this one always stood out with very fond memories.
Blending Horror with RPG and a somewhat wild, yet oddly plausible story, Parasite Eve really pulled me into the horror genre (I was already eyeball deep into RPGs). I could never really get over how amazing this game was and really underrated (at least from my point of view). The most unique thing about it is the fact that it is heavy handed with horror elements and I think that’s where it really shines, I mean Squaresoft had dealt with heavy subject matter before but this one was darker in a way and maybe it’s because it was more realistic that made it seem darker. To be fair, early Final Fantasy games had their dark moments as did others like Chono Trigger but the pixel graphics somehow soften the blow in a way but seeing it rendered more realistically (given the power of the PS1) made it seem more macabre to me. As dark as it may seem, it made me think more about life and death though to be fair at the time my own grandfather had been declining in his health so this brought it all to the forefront as well but as humans it’s an important thing to take in and consider.
Final Fantasy VII
I know, everyone thinks it’s overrated and maybe they are right, then again maybe they aren’t. For me, this was an amazing game, the story, the graphics…yes even the blocky bodies, and most importantly, the music (one of my favorite soundtracks for the record), but most importantly to me was the Materia system. Of all the Final Fantasy games the Materia system was my favorite and as silly at it seems I liked the way the Materia looked (at least when it was slotted into gear), that smooth crystal look that reminded me of Mystic Quest and FF II (IV), and trying to balance it all.
Initially I spent about 50 hours in the game when my save file was corrupted and had to start from scratch and by the time I finally finished the game (counting the corrupted save) I had put close to 200 hours into it and regretted nothing. By the time FFVII came out I had drifted away from writing and this pulled me back in.
Castlevania Symphony of the Night
Hands down my favorite of the series to this day and another game joining the ranks of the few that have been beaten more than once. As many times as I’ve played it I’ve never found anything I didn’t enjoy about it, yes that includes the “cheesy” acting though to be honest I prefer the dialog of this one more than almost any other Castlevania game I’ve played. The soundtrack really stands out for me but really, everything is epic in my eyes, the action, the graphics, the splash of RPG elements, there’s even a few puzzles sprinkled around and challenging boss fights (except for Legion, I always found that to be one of the easiest fights).
I do love the connections to other Castlevania games and even not having played many of the past ones (or getting far into the ones I did play) I still understood what was going on and made me come back for more again and again. At one point I had been renting the game, in fact I had rented it about three or four times and still hadn’t beaten it because I was exploring everything heck I even bought the strategy guide before actually getting the game because I knew I would own it eventually and I was right. As a matter of fact, I had finally convinced my mom to buy it for me since I had rented it so often and wouldn’t you know it, that night I finally beat it.
I will say this though, I completely stumbled upon the inverted castle by accident. I had never known about it and never found the Holy Glasses which you technically need to see the floating orb behind Richter. Yes, I know I bought the guide first but I never looked at it until after I beat the game and found the inverted castle and the second I saw that castle come down and realizing I wasn’t done yet I was in awe, completely blown away, it was like a game that was already awesome suddenly got even better.
PS2: The Return
Baulder’s Gate: Dark Alliance I & II
I know, not fair, it’s two games which brings the list to 31 but outside of story they are essentially the same game and the reason they are on here besides being two of my favorite dungeon crawlers of all time as well as having one of my favorite characters hidden away in them (Drizzt Do’Urden), but they also helped me come back to reading as well has helped through a rougher time in my life. These games would just let me completely forget about the world around me and immerse myself in a fantasy adventure unlike any other and whether you play D&D or not, one thing the game has inspired is a passion for excellent story telling.
PC: The Final Frontier
Alone in the Dark
My first true blue introduction to the survival horror genre, even as silly as it was it was just as equally terrifying. I was absolutely terrible at the game, no question about it, but I didn’t care I loved playing it. This was also still back in the time when my brother and I spent more time together and while Alone in the Dark wasn’t a two player game, we would often play it together and fail miserably and for me it was more about spending time together than actually getting anywhere in the game itself.
The 7th Guest
I don’t know how my brother and I stumbled onto this game but we loved it and much like Alone in the Dark we were terrible at it to the point of needing to by the massive strategy guide for it and still had trouble beating it. I remember being blown away by the very concepts I saw in the game if not the game itself. Aside from the creepy story you had fully acted sequences super imposed on top of the game area to help tell the terrifying fate of the house guests. Believe it or not it was as much the strategy guide as the game itself that contributed to me wanting to write. If you didn’t know, the strategy guide had the full script in the back of the book and it was such an amazing thing to see, to be able to read it (over and over in my case).
Age of Empires
It’s been a long journey (and according to Word, so far eight pages worth so congratulations on surviving this long), but we’ve come to the final game and one of the best RTS games in my personal opinion. Before this I had played Command and Conquer as well as Star Craft and Warcraft but Age of Empires really stood out to me and largely because of the historical aspects more than anything. I mean the sci-fi and fantasy of the others was great and all but being in charge of an ancient civilization as it rose to power and decimated its enemies was something completely different, though in my case I was the one being torn apart, I mean let’s be realistic, the AI was brutal in those early days and it’s part of what made it even better.
The end, or the beginning?
You stuck it out, we’ve reached the end, time for me to wrap this up. Looking back, I know I didn’t explain why each game impacted me and maybe it’s because they didn’t in an obvious way. All these games hold a very special place in my past and mean the world to me. Some of them were my first gaming experiences while others helped me through rough times. Many of them inspired me to be more than I am, always reaching for the stars in a way and I’ll admit that because of that I may not have reached my full potential yet but if there is anything that gaming has taught me it’s that it’s never too late to shoot for your dreams.
Thanks for sticking around and reading, see ya next time!
*Final note, I wanted to include pictures of the games from my actual collection but currently all my older stuff is all in storage for the time being so had to find box art images*