The ten games that had the biggest impact on me as a gamer
They’re not the ten best games in history. They’re not even the ten best games I’ve ever played. They’re the ten games that had the greatest impact on me as a gamer. I’ve even provided videos for each. Spoiler alert, Chrono Trigger is not in this list.
Most of my earliest gaming was on the Commodore 64. One of the clearest memories I have of that time is how incredibly terrifying Paul Norman’s Forbidden Forest game was. While most of the games I played at home were pirated, I had a friend in elementary school who bought all his games, and he had a retail copy of this game. I remember it being as challenging as it was scary, but today I wonder if it would be nearly as hard if it weren’t so frightening. I’ll paste a video here, but I don’t think I have the stomach to watch it.
Final Fantasy IV
I think Square has remade and rereleased Final Fantasy IV more than any of their other games, but it might be a tie with the first Final Fantasy. I first played a borrowed copy of it on Super NES, but I’ve owned it on PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation Portable, and I still have the last two. While I prefer Final Fantasy VI, I think Final Fantasy IV actually means more to me because of the impact it had on me when I first played it. I had already played and beaten the first Final Fantasy on NES, but the leap from 1 to 4 (at the time I had no idea I’d missed 2 and 3 of course) was stunning. Main characters died in this game, and I was attached to them when it happened. That’s a big deal.
I still consider Metroid Prime my favorite video game of all time. I hadn’t been into a first person game with shooting since the original Quake, but I was excited to see the Metroid brand return with this high tech game anyway. I remember buying it at Target on or about launch day, my enthusiasm for it totally out of balance with my history at the time: I had never played a Metroid game, to my memory. Further, I spent $50 on it and it was down to $20 within a month or two. It took me the better part of a year, or perhaps more, to understand the game enough to progress anywhere, but once I got there, I was blown away. I have since played through a number of times, beating it on the hardest difficulty offered.
I’m a huge fan of the brand. The cool kids all pick Dracula’s Curse as their favorite Castlevania, and the young ones choose Symphony of the Night because they don’t know any better. I think mine is Order of Ecclesia, but Bloodlines is the one that had the biggest impact on me. When it came out, I was big into the Sega Genesis, and I played this game like crazy. The graphics and especially the sound were amazing for the era. This was the first Castlevania game where Michiru Yamane provided the music, and she did amazing work. To this day, it’s the songs from Bloodlines that I love the most in the series, especially Iron Blue Intention, which features in the stage below.
Toejam & Earl
Toejam & Earl was a Sega Genesis rogue like with randomly generated levels and treasure. It had a wicked sense of humor and some really amusing efforts to incorporate the developer’s understanding of what was popular with the kids those days: rap music. On the first point, the sound effects were funny and the enemies, who were often ugly and frightening caricatures of humans (particularly the Western kinds) were downright hilarious. On the second, the game even featured a mode where you could make the two protagonists rap and sing by pressing the buttons on the controller.
Tim Schaefer’s Grim Fandango is one of those games I’ve bought more than once. I got it the first time around launch, but sold it at some point on eBay for some reason. I recently picked up another boxed copy just like my original, and it set me back about $35, which I would consider a fine deal. It won’t run out of the box on modern computers, and it even had trouble on Windows XP. Fortunately there’s a modern project called Residual, which runs on modern platforms like Windows 7 and MacOS and replaces the executable and runs the game even better than the original (there were significant bugs in the final release that are fixed in this release) using the data files from the CD-ROMs. There’s even an offshoot of that project to remodel and reskin the game to make an HD version… and the original developers occasionally contribute on the forum.
It’s fashionable to dislike Diablo III, and guess what, I’m on that bandwagon too. I played Diablo II from launch until Diablo III came out, doing several playthroughs a year almost every year. I did two near complete plays in the months before III came out, going all the way up to Hell difficulty in one before becoming stuck, and all the way to the very end (completing Hell) in the other with my girlfriend. Diablo II had its share of bugs in the beginning too, but they didn’t make me angry the way they do in Diablo III, because the game wasn’t nearly as brutal. I don’t mind that III is online, I’m always online anyway. I hate that the game is so poorly balanced because they want people to use their Auction House, which I refuse to take part in. I know a woman who made $850 in the first week the RMAH was released, but I don’t care about that. I just want to be able to play Act II Nightmare using self found gear… and so far, I can’t. Diablo II, on the other hand, was balanced for regular play at launch (though of course it needed refinements). It wasn’t designed around something many people like myself don’t ever want to do.
Plants vs Zombies
Last night, I picked up PvZ on the Steam sale for $2.50. I already owned it through Big Fish Games on my Mac, and I got it free when it launched on Amazon’s Appstore for Android as well. But now I have it everywhere and I’m still hopelessly addicted to it. Somehow, even at its hardest, Plants vs Zombies is never frustrating. I’ve reached the point now where I play every game on easy if it can be completed on that difficulty, because I don’t want games to piss me off anymore. I mean, I gave up on Braid. So when something like PvZ comes along and gives me a challenge but doesn’t make me angry, I become hooked.
This is still my favorite Nintendo DS game. I imported it from Japan for $50 and I have never regretted it. I’ve beaten it on all three difficulties and had a blast the whole time. I picked up the sequels that came to the US and Japan as well, and they’re great, but they aren’t quite what the original was.
And while most of the songs were upbeat and rocking, each of the games had one that was very sad:
Mega Man 2
It wasn’t the original, and it wasn’t as refined as Mega Man 3. Still, it is my favorite Mega Man game. Unlike many of the early video games I played, I still have all the muscle memory needed to beat Mega Man 2 in less than 30 minutes. This comes from having played the game so many times start to finish that I think I have developed a lobe in my brain just for it. In fact, I haven’t dusted that off in a while. Time to go break out the NES and find myself a copy of this game.Tags: commodore 64, diablo ii, final fantasy iv, forbidden forest, grim fandango, mega man 2, metroid prime, ouendan, plants vs. zombies, toejam & earl