My friend Brad Heitmeyer recently challenged me to list the top 10 games that have stuck with me and had some effect on my life. I felt that this would make a decent blog post so here it is. Because the list was so long (over 30 titles) I have cut out some of the iconic games that just didn’t form a strong bond with me, if I can’t remember myself playing it, it didn’t stay; and I had to cut the games from the last 10 years because it’s too easy to list great games I’ve recently played. Listed in chronological order.
1: Joust (1982) – This was one of the first games I ever played on the Atari and changed my perception of what video games could be. It was fast, colourful, and had good replayability. In school I even tried to create a paper-based version of the game for a class project, which seemed perfectly fine until I had to explain it to the class, because I hadn’t thought through any design.
2: Centipede (~1984) – This is the first game I ever coded, on a Commodore 64, from some instructions in a magazine. I didn’t have any way of saving my work, so I had to code it all in an afternoon and play it right after.
3: Legend of Zelda (1987) – I remember this game taking an entire week up at my dad’s trailer to finish, it was the first game that had a battery built in to save games and seemed so vast. It has had an incredible influence on the types of games I like (Darksiders, God of War, Metroid, etc.).
4: Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition (1992) – This version in particular was my favourite of all the versions. It has all the cooler characters and tight controls. I’d spend hours a week in the arcade challenging scrubs. I still tell stories of how my buddy Shaun would defeat guys perfect one-handed, it was a sight to see. At one point I even entered a tournament in London and got 2nd place.
5: Mortal Kombat (1992) & Mortal Kombat 2 (1993) – These games got played even more than Street Fighter 2 after Shaun and I started working and spending nights at an all-night Doughnut shop/Deli/Laundromat/Arcade in London after delivering pizzas. This is also one of the first games I made money with, at the time the internet was still pretty new, but I had it, and I’d look up all the finishing moves, write up a sheet, print it up, and sell it at the arcade to people I defeated. This should also include Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2 for completeness, and exclude any Mortal Kombat after 2.
6: Syndicate (1993) – I don’t know what it is about this game. I liked it, it was gritty (with blood and violence) but it shouldn’t have had the impact on me it has. For years I’ve wanted to make an updated version of this game and even now that there have been plenty of similar style games I still do. It might have been the way it kept surprising me well into the game… The persuadatron!
7: Gran Tourismo (1998) – I spent a crazy amount of time on this game and the sequel on Playstation with Shaun. By the time I was done playing it, I had unlocked all the licenses, cars, whatever else. I owned one of every car and they all sat in my virtual garage waxed and washed. This is one of the first games where my minor OCD caused me to 100% it. I always claim that Gran Tourismo made me a better real life driver, because it explained the apex of the curve, and once you know how to race a car, driving one in the city is child’s play.
8: Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) – This is one of the first games I actually remember being “co-operative” playing. I played a little bit solo, but at some point I started playing co-op with Shaun and then we finished the game, we’ve played most of the Halo series co-op ever since. The split screen multiplayer was also great fun, I remember vividly one time where we had 3 TVs set up in the basement playing Halo with 10 people. This multiplayer experience is more memorable than GoldenEye memories.
9: Silent Hill 2 (2001) – While the first Silent Hill was creepy in its own right, Silent Hill 2 was by far the creepiest game I’d ever played. It’s possibly now replaced with Penumbra Overture or Dead Space (I haven’t yet played Amnesia), but the story of Silent Hill 2 gave just enough to keep you interested and spooked you out when a perfectly normal hospital would shift to the hell version with grated floors covered in blood and the implications of what was going on in there. I’m also fairly certain there is a part where you hide in a closet and see a pyramid head rape a mannequin nurse, which was pretty disturbing.
10: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) – KotOR was great in so many ways. It allowed you to customize your team and each person’s clothes, weapons, and powers. It had a great story with good voice acting and a great twist ending. It’s one of the first games I remember having optional mini-games (Pazaak). It had all the benefits of playing in the Star Wars universe without having to worry too much about cannon and dropping in known characters from the movies. The systems created in this game went on to create Mass Effect (another series I greatly enjoyed), Dragon Age (which I couldn’t get into), and Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO (which I played for a while until the MMO grind ruined the story bits).
Cut games: Tetris, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Castlevania, Bionic Commando, Terminator 2 (arcade shooter), Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 (2000), Unreal Tournament 2004 (2004), Portal (2007), Bioshock (2007), Dead Space (2008), Braid (2008), Mirror’s Edge (2009), Uncharted 2 (2009), Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009), Left 4 Dead 2 (2009), Batman: Arkham Asylum(2009)/Arkham City (2011), Mass Effect 2 (2010), Limbo (2010), Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), X-Com: Enemy Unknown (2012), Journey (2012), The Walking Dead (2012), Dishonored (2012), Remember Me (2013)