Everyone has points in their life that are so significant that they completely change the way they think and act. Events so monumental in nature that you can’t ever imagine not having experienced them. Well my top ten games run along those lines.
Ok, so they’re not life changing events but it’s a list of the games that have fueled my enthusiasm, stolen all my time and emptied my wallet over my gaming lifetime…. All 20 years of it.
So in chronological order…
Bomb Jack (arcade) – 1988ish
Bomb Jack was the very first game that I was truly addicted to. I hoarded ten pence pieces like they were gold dust just so I could keep playing this arcade game in my local newsagent. In fact I strongly believe my mum thought ten pence pieces had gone out of circulation, as she mustn’t have seen one for months.
In Bomb Jack you controlled a little caped super-hero called ‘Jack’ who had to diffuse a number of bombs placed around various famous landmarks. For every level all you had to do was jump around a stationary 2d screen, jumping to collect bombs and avoiding the enemy’s patrolling in set patterns. In later levels the enemies became more abundant and quicker, but there was little more to it than that.
By today’s standard it’s doubtful you would even play it as a mobile phone game but back then 24 colours on the screen at the same time was akin to magic.
Magicland Dizzy (Spectrum 128k) – 1990
In Magicland Dizzy, your 6 friends (Dylan, Dozy, Dora, Grand-Dizzy, Daisy, and Denzel) had been captured and magically trapped in various magical situations (e.g. in an ice block, or in thorns, or asleep Sleeping Beauty stylee etc.) By picking up and using objects strewn around the landscape, you rescued your friends and saved the day from the evil Wizard Zaks.
There was nothing more to it than that, except it did follow the common (back then) control method of ZX (left, right) KM (Up, down) space for jump, enter to pick up. Which today is just plain weird today.
It cost me £4, and I played it so many times I can’t even begin to remember.
Street Fighter II (Arcade) – 1992ish
In Street Fighter II you choose one of eight world warriors each with different fighting styles, and special moves (twelve including the bosses which were available in later editions of the game) and took on the other fighters to claim the Street Fighting trophy at the end of the game.
Back then the game required skill if you had it, if not there were always the moves that required little to no skill at all, just mindless and repetitive button bashing like E. Honda’s Hundred-Hand Slap, Blanka’s Electricity or Chun-Li’s Lightning Kick. Once you had those babies going most of the time, you could won….
This game has now been released on nearly every console since. I owned it myself on the Sega Megadrive and Xbox. Incidentally, Street Fighter II Championship Edition on the Sega Megadrive, is the only game responsible for infuriating me so much that I smashed two joypads against a wall in frustration after M Bison kicked my proverbial behind consistently for over an hour.
A classic game that is just if not more popular now than it was then. Not many franchises can say that.
Doom (PC) – 1993
You play a Marine isolated on a deserted Moon base, who discovers not only a whole range of monsters both demonic and undead who threaten to invade Earth… but also the entrance to the underworld and enough weapons and ammunition to arm a small military invasion of your own.. handy eh? As you make it through the game battling the forces of evil, you venture further and further through hellish dimensions stopping the invasion and saving humanity.
The game-play was simple and it didn’t worry about things like height. If an enemy happened to be much higher or lower than you it didn’t matter, just shoot away in their direction and it would hit them anyway.
One of the best bits about this for me was the ability to make WAD files which would change entire elements of the game from sprites, sounds and level elements through to actually creating your own level or chapter. A lot of games have level editors these days, but the simplicity of the game was mirrored in it’s editor.
SimCity 2000 (PC) – 1994
SimCity 2000 had improved graphics over SimCity, you could zone in any way you wanted, and the level of micro-management was increased to an almost annoyingly anal level. It was the sheer size of the scope of this game that glued me to the screen till 03:00 in the morning, knowing I couldn’t go to bed until my city was making money again, or I had built my new airport.
Final Fantasy VII (PS1) – 1997
Final Fantasy VII follows the ex-Shinra soldier Cloud (and a gathered collective of freedom fighters, ex-pilots, intelligent dogs and giant stuffed animals) as he fights for the planet, loves, loses, has a near-death experience, learns more about himself and then saves the world from the ultimate evil.
A game so addictive that I could hardly rest until I had not only completed the game, but found every secret and legendary weapon, and unlocked everyone’s limit break special attacks. I even-spent what seemed like days attempting to raise a golden Chocobo so I could get the ultimate materia ‘Knights of the Realm’. The only thing I was never able to do was defeat the Ruby and Emerald weapons, but seeing as I still play this game over 10 years on, I’m not ruling it out even now.
The graphics have dated a bit due to the relatively low polygon count, hands are simply pink blocks and the animation is rather ropey at best, there isn’t even any voice acting although the odd badly-translated text box still raises a smile. You can easily overlook all of those things due to the incredibly compelling and addictive storyline and game-play.
The Sims (PC) – 2000
Of course, the irony of spending way too much time in a life-sim wasn’t lost on me but never-the-less huge amounts of my time were again sacrificed to the great god of gaming, all under the guise of The Sims. I played relentlessly and bought every add-on that came out for it. Each one providing a further aspect to the game, whether it would be pets, nightlife or even the ability to become a superstar.
Like all the other PC Sims Games that have succeeded it, The Sims had an incredible wealth of extra content, created by both Maxis but more often than note by other players. Which I suspect was most of it’s appeal, for me. Quite often my households would have Darth Vader, Buffy, a storm trooper, and the cast of friends cavorting together in pixilated domesticity. Where-else can you possibly get to have that level of control?
Star Wars Galaxies (PC) – 2003
The first MMO I ever played, and I’ve written a whole nostalgic review on this. So, rather than repeat myself, here’s a link to it…
Ah, good times…!
Dragon Age: Origins (PC) – 2009
You choose your character from one of three races and one of three classes. This character will then have his or her own unique storyline introduction chapter which teaches you the basics of the game and will also explain how they came to be a Grey Warden. This is a nice touch and helps to make every new character choice different from the last one. Of course, with all the different quests, conversation options and choices to take through-out the game, you would have to try really heard to get a game exactly the same anyway
The graphics are gorgeous and the sound’s are rich and inviting. You can never hear yourself of course, but all the other people you speak to are fully voiced as well as background conversations.
This also ranks high as it is one of the very few games that I have completed multiple times. In most cases, due to my incredibly low attention span, games fall by the wayside within a few weeks (or in some cases days and hours). So far I have complete Dragon Age: Origins at least 5 or 6 times. Trying out various characters and options.
Plus, as soon as it even got remotely un-interesting Bioware would release some down-loadable content and ‘Whoosh’ my enthusiasm was sky-high again.
World of Warcraft (PC) – 2004-2010
This game was Fantasy RPG’ing embodied. Everything I could possibly want was there in one handy ever increasing package.
Of course my enthusiasm has waned in recent months, I find that the content has become very so-so and the only thing there is to do is increase your gear as much as you can before it all becomes pointless in the next add-on and you have to start all over again.
I am certainly looking around for my next big game at the moment, and to be honest I suspect it is going to be Dragon Age II… although only time will tell.