Publisher: Nintendo | System: NES | Date: 1987 | Contributor: Parish
Metroid was the first game to allowed me to escape the second dimension; not in the sense of 3D graphics, but rather in the sense that, unlike its predecessor Super Mario Bros.?, it offered the ability to move freely forward and backward and up and down. (It was as annoying as it was novel, because some of those vertical shafts just went on and on.) The magic of Metroid lay in its layered complexity -- the hidden elements, obscured in devious ways. I first plugged in the cartridge expecting it to be a typical level-based affair, and I was baffled when I never reached the end of the stage but rather simply kept going, with the freedom to backtrack at any moment. Soon I was bewildered by all the dead-ends.
One lazy Sunday morning, I started dropping bombs in random Norfair locations out of boredom and frustration, only to reveal a hidden passage. Suddenly the concept of "exploration" clicked, and from that moment I had become the master of planet Zebeth rather than a frustrated visitor. At the same time, my fundamental expectation of a video game was cemented: Give me an interesting world to explore, or don't bother. Games are supposed to be escapism, and Metroid was the first that gave me my own world to escape to.
Publisher: DevTeam | System: PC | Date: 1987 | Contributor: LumberBaron
Course, I've never played Nethack, but since I can't come up with a good answer and since this would be the best response for my gamer cred, I figure I can fake it.
I remember embellishing a lush, expansive world from, to my understanding, a simple screen of ASCII characters. I remember how careful manipulation of the game's rules produced an imaginative solution that would have been really clever. I remember all the countless forrays into the dungeon where I attempted to recover the Talisman of, wait, hold on...Amulet of Yendor. You have a dog too, right? It probably did something neat.
Publisher: Cashflow Tech., Inc. | System: Board | Date: 1996 | Contributor: Merus
Cashflow is a board game by Robert Kiyosaki, the Rich Dad Poor Dad guy. The idea is that it's a "fun" way to learn the mechanics of the economy (at least enough to quit your job), but its structured makes it super-easy to just go from paycheck to cool-but-pointless expense. It was inspired by Monopoly, a game that also could have used some playtesting and perhaps a warning to avoid the Free Parking kitty rule unless you want the game to go all night.
This kind of didactic design fascinated me, as did the experience of going around the board unable to keep up with the Joneses -- a cautionary tale, all the more effective because it's you in the driver's seat getting increasingly upset. But then my young mind proposed a question: I already knew that games could tell stories; I'd grown up on adventure games, after all. But could they put me into the game, so I felt the heroes' triumphs and heartbreaks and everything in between, like this silly pastel boardgame had made me feel middle-aged and poor?
I ended up finding games that showed me ways I could see that question answered, Super Metroid and Ico, but I would probably have glossed over them -- or given up gaming altogether -- if it wasn't for Kiyosaki's game.
I took my first step into the heady realm of online gaming in 1998 with StarCraft. Then I got my first look at the average online gamer, and I learned how to moonwalk in record time. I haven't looked back.
Men still comprise a majority of gamers, and as I've discovered in years of playing StarCraft and listening to the steady hum of ever more fluent cursing, most men like to win. It might be hard to believe, but I wasn't especially given to playing a highly competitive game while my "partner" berated every move I made in Korean. And people wonder why I don't want to drop $50 a year on an Xbox Live account.
These days, I'm content to leave the multiplayer ghetto to its own unique brand of fauna. I devote most of my gaming time to single-player games inhabited by mercifully silent AI opponents. I figure this arrangement will work out well until we hit the Singularity. Then it'll be right back to square one.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Publisher: Nintendo | System: SNES | Date: 1992 | Contributor: CalorieMate
I had never played LttP, or any Zelda for that matter, the moment I witnessed it. A friend brought it over because he was stuck, which I automatically equated to not being able to beat something (like, say, getting stuck in an NES game). During that session, another friend suggested, "Why donít you see if you can pull on that tongue there?" Cue the familiar Zelda tune, the wall bursting open, and my jaw hitting the floor.
Think about it: every game before it (or, at least, that I had played) chiefly consisted of one core mechanic. Hell, even Mario games were simply running and jumping (albeit awesome). But here was LttP, a game where you not only had exploration and combat, but puzzles that really but your brain to work. The idea that you had to think, and not just use force, was a revelation. Imagine, a game that offered both like that! My expectations of the medium had expanded even further than that in-game wall had. With that sole yank of the tongue, games suddenly had depth.
Final Fantasy VI
Publisher: Squaresoft | System: SNES | Date: 1994 | Contributor: Kolbe
As much as I consider myself a gamer, I was born a musician. There isnít a single relative from my fatherís family that isnít bound to some extent to this discipline and I was no exception. I began my studies on piano when I was 6 years old, and from that day on, music has never, ever left my life.
I never had any gaming consoles until roughly 10 years ago, and for some time playing videogames was as much as serious business as watching TV was (meaning I was no expert). That changed one day I was visiting a flea market. Some stranger saw me buying videogames and began talking to me about some Final Fantasy VI stuff, before vanishing among the crowd. I didnít know what he was talking about, but I decided to check the internet.
The first fansite I found had a melody in midi format playing in the front page. That was Terraís Theme and it was everything I needed to fall in love with both Final Fantasy VI and videogames as a whole.
Sword of Vermilion
Publisher: Sega | System: Genesis | Date: 1989 | Contributor: Mightyblue
I have a confession to make: My first console was a Sega Genesis, and my first RPG wasn't Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest?, or Zelda?. I did eventually get a NES and played the "classics," but my first flirtation with the RPG genre as a whole was Sword of Vermilion?, a somewhat clunky and technically overambitious game that marked one of the few times I "played" a game with my father. It was ironic looking back, since my father barely plays games anymore and I write stuff about them now!
At any rate, making my way through the game and figuring out how the controls and stuff worked was what set the hook for me, and it took a marathon session with my father in our basement to sink it into me permanently. Fun fact: Playing a game till 1 A.M on a Friday evening/Saturday morning is a great father/son bonding exercise, but not so great from an irratated mother wondering what we're doing in the basement until the wee hours in the morning perspective.
Publisher: Square| System: SNES | Date: 1991 | Contributor: Kirin
I got my start as a gamer on the NES about half way through its lifetime, playing the kind of games that were the system's best sellers: Super Mario Bros. 2? and 3, Zelda 2, MegaMan 2, Metroid, and so on. I sometimes branched out into lesser-known fare with the likes of Clash at Demonhead? and Little Nemo, but it was still mostly platformer fare and the occasional shooter. Games were quick diversions where something like a "plot" served as little more than cursory window-dressing, if it existed at all. I had watched a friend play bits and pieces of Final Fantasy, but while the large game world intrigued me I never actually got around to picking up a copy.
Then I got a Super Nintendo, and in addition to the obvious choices of Super Mario World?, Gradius III, and ActRaiser?, I also picked up Final Fantasy II. It was a revelation. Not only was there an actual plot, there were characters I cared about, with actual personalities, histories, and aspirations. It's true that in hindsight, both the plot and characterizations are rather shallow and riddled with cliches, but at the time it was amazing. Games could tell a story more than two paragraphs long, and life was good. I was an RPG convert for years to come.
Publisher: Nintendo | System: SNES | Date: 1995 | Contributor: Ilchymis
Sometimes I feel like a bastard.
Not a bastard in the "wow, that guy's a total asshole" sort of way, but just a little dirty and dishonest about my gaming beginnings. I loved my Nintendo, but never had a chance to pick up a 16-bit console. You remember that kid that always backed up his ZSNES games on 3.5" floppies instead of actually begging his parents for a system? Yeah, that could have been me.
Ironically enough, my humble beginnings as a pirate actually helped me realize my love for videogames. I remember playing halfway through Earthbound countless times before some sort of unrecoverable tragedy would befall my party (thanks, buggy mid-90's emulation!). As the years wore on, I noticed that I had actually grown with the game. My favorite foods began to reflect my age, and little things like "new-age retro hippies" finally made comedic sense to me. It was an eye opening experience.
I still remember how wonderful it felt the first time I actually finished Earthbound almost three years ago. Seeing my inputted name roll past in the credits was a magical experience that made me realize that I had finally come full circle as a gamer. Even though I thought games were a simple childhood hobby, Earthbound kept its luster long enough for me to realize that I had grown into them as well.
Gameboy Advance SP
Publisher: Nintendo | System: GBA SP | Date: 2003 | Contributor: MCBanjoMike
There wasn't much to the little block of blue plastic that I held in my hand, but that was what was so impressive about it. When did they start making these things so small? It had been about 10 years since I last saw my old GameBoy, but it seemed like you could probably fit 2 or 3 of these GameBoy Advance SPs into one of those old bricks. I slotted in the only game that I had bought with it earlier -- something by the name of Advance Wars 2 that had been getting good reviews on the internet -- and fired it up. It was then that I began to understand: portable games had become a serious business.
This came as quite a shock to me back then, as obvious as it might seem now in an era dominated by the DS and PSP. Last time I had played portable games, they were clunky affairs with simple mechanics and pixellated graphics in four shades of grey. Now, I holding a system with more power than the SNES in the palm of my hand! Advance Wars 2? proved to me that portable games could be every bit as fun as the massive 3D undertakings that I was playing on my PS2. This, along with gems like Astro Boy: The Omega Factor and Metroid Zero Mission?, confirmed that portable systems had grown up to become homes for polished, original games.
VS. Super Mario Bros.
Publisher: Nintendo | System: Arcade | Date: 1986 | Contributor: wumpwoast
As a child I experienced Vs. Super Mario Bros.? at the local gas station, making it to world five on a single quarter. I fondly recall the tension of being little Mario and weaving around bullet bills and hammer brothers, excitedly delving further into the Mushroom Kingdom than ever before.
Up to this point, the most that videogame skill rewarded you with was a high score, a slowly incrementing level counter, and faster-moving enemies. Before Mario, the most excitement I could find in videogames came from Centipede? and Millipede?, where each wave offered some fantastic new pair of colors for the world to be painted in. Skill was still the vehicle in Super Mario Bros., but escalatingly-difficult and bizarre stages were a fascinating new reward.
This joy was un-made while studying computer science, when I finally came to understand Mario from my parents' perspective -- the banality of jumping on turtles, eating mushrooms, and wasting away to the insistent din of the Mario theme as it permanently etches over the portion of your brain reserved for self-respect.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Publisher: Nintendo | System: N64 | Date: 1998 | Contributor: LeGeek
It brought Zelda into the 3rd dimension, setting a new standard for fighting in 3D space, but above all--it was a truly epic adventure. If you saw something far away on the horizon, you could figure out how to get there. It was dark and creepy in parts, with cinematic moments to spare. And it was tough! The dungeons really required thought, and the boss fights were challenging and memorable.
Zelda had grown up and could hold its own with any action-adventure game of the time. I was already writing amateur reviews back then, and Ocarina of Time was so good it made me rethink and retcon my scores of other lesser games (Iím looking at you Knuckles Chaotix?!).
Zeldaís influence on adventure games has waned with time and there are other games that I remember just as fondly, but Ocarina of Time is the game that got me to think more critically about electronic entertainment.
For decades, gaming to me was one dimensional. I hit a button, an action resulted. Sometimes the action was jumping, sometimes it was talking, and sometimes it was the art of ultimate destruction. But between me and the action lay a chasm that I was never able to cross. Immersion in a gamespace seemed mythical, as I was never able to go beyond the idea that I was merely an outside actor on the other side of a mirror, unable to function save through proxy. The act of unification escaped me.
Until a demo saved my life.
A throwaway demo on a throwaway disc from a throwaway magazine, 'ś'Rez''' shattered my illusion of separation from the gamespace. In a fit of synesthesia, I was no longer forcing inputs through a third party for action--every move I thought created music. Every action I felt created light. And through the music and the light, I was led to a greater sense of being. Rez, with its five levels and seven evolutions, was the ultimate expression of mysticism in gaming, and that demo took me with it. The very fact that my actions weren't just one-to-one, but were linked to my senses blew my mind. Rez showed me what a game could be, if it aspired to go beyond.
The Super NES
Publisher: Nintendo | System: SNES | Date: 1991 | Contributor: alexb
Back in 1991, Nintendo Power offered a quartet of soft cover guides as a subscription bonus, one of which was about the upcoming Super Nintendo?. I call it a guide, but in truth, it was my marching orders for the Console Wars?.
256 simultaneous colors out of a palette of 32768! Alpha Blending! Mode 7 for realistic 3D effects! An 8-voice wave table sound coprocessor with CD-quality stereo output! Yeah, I was a good soldier. I knew just what to say when those other kids started going on about the blue rat and Blast Processing?.
Even more importantly, the book also shilled the SNES's legendary launch line-up. Of course, the new Mario and Zelda were both teased, leading to months of longing and constantly wheedling my parents in the campaign for the holiday season. And beyond that, the guide profiled such greats as Final Fantasy II, Legend of the Mystical Ninja?, and Super Castlevania IV?.
And with that, my path was set. I became a hardcore gamer, an embarrassing Japanophile, and ultimately, a withered husk of a manchild yearning for a golden age of gaming that weíll not see again. Youth of today: I exist as a lesson for you all. The important thing is that you choose life... and then live, Snake!
Publisher: Nintendo | System: SNES | Date: 1995 | Contributor: bobservo
Fond memories of Earthbound on the Internet!? Stop the presses!
Yes, I may not be alone in my slavish dedication to a 13 year-old RPG, but my love of EarthBound is still special in that it taught me good games should be savored.
Rewind to the Summer of 1995. I'd been obsessed with the game since Nintendo Power started promoting it in their Epic Center, and even though it was roughly eighty dollars, Earthbound had to be mine. After handing over stacks of lawnmowing money to Software Etc., I immediately cloistered myself in my room, burning through the game's first few locales in a single night. When I reached Threed, Earthbound's third town, I thought to myself, "Damn! It would be a shame if I blew through this in a few days!"
So I forced myself to stop playing; and even though this resulted in sleepless nights, I was 13 and had no responsibilities. Over the week, I portioned out little bits of Earthbound to myself, relishing every moment of the game, and cutting myself off for the sake of future enjoyment. And now that I've shared this memory with the Internet, I can never go out in public again.
Publisher: 2K Games | System: Xbox 360 | Date: 2007 | Contributor: reibeatall
I used to care about the stories in video games. I used to become attached to the characters, to care about their strife. It wasn't until I played BioShock? that I discovered the error of my ways. You see, after being forced to do what I didn't want to do, after being told that I needed to go here and do this, after watching a man get beat to death by my (avatar's) hands, I realized that I've got no control over the story. And then it hit me, story's not important.
No, story's only purpose in a video game is (at least, it should be) a means to an end; that end being the only thing that separates video games from movies, or books, or comics. Gameplay. Gameplay is where games should be focused, and honestly, that's all I care about now. That doesn't mean I ignore story, for most of the time the hints on where to go next are laced in cutscene after cutscene. But I now see the story for what it truly is, a waste of precious game playing time.
Dynasty Warriors 3
Publisher: Koei | System: PlayStation 2 | Date: 2001 | Contributor: Torgo
When we were younger, my friends and I would discuss the kinds of games we'd like to see. One idea we kicked around pretty often was a game where the player was little more then a single soldier on a massive battlefield. Left to his own devices, it was up to the player not only to survive, but win the battle, deciding entirely on his own when and where to engage the enemy and help out his fellow soldiers. Even back in the heady PS1 days, this idea seemed just too big to actually become a reality.
Several years later on a very cold November afternoon in 2001, my brother showed me the new game he just picked up, Dynasty Warriors 3?. I wasn't too sure what to expect by his description, but I wasn't ready for what I saw. The huge environments, the freedom of movement, the hordes (and hordes) of enemies to take down and allies to assit, I had never seen anything of it's scope like it... but I had heard of it: In my and my friends' own words years ago. This was the game we talked about, the one we dreamed of. It was real, it was right in front of me, I was playing it, and it was (and still is) everything I had hoped for.
Publisher: Enix | System: SNES | Date: 1991 | Contributor: chud666
I hate the generational change. The new console comes out and often has shitty games like Summoner? or Smuggler's Run?. But even when the games are good they can be a dissappointment. The NES was the first console I'd owned, and it really set my expectations of what games were. My anticpation was astronomical for the release of the SNES. And the games were great, yet ever so slightly boring. Super Mario World? was fantastic, but really just a Capcom style upgrade over SMB3, Yoshi or no. Gradius III had phenominal graphics, but was just yet another Gradius, and was inferior to the previous domestic release Ė Life Force?. Super Castlevania IV? was and is one of my favourite games, but even that seemed to be moving backwards. No open world like Simon's Quest? and no multiple paths like Dracula's Curse?.
It wasn't a sequel, it and was wholly like any other game I had played up until that point. Oh sure the side scrolling sequences were not as slick as Super Castlevania IV? and the god-mode areas were terribly simplistic. But is was fresh, original, genre bending and far more than the sum of its parts. In 1991, admist a flurry of sequels and updates, ActRaiser was next-gen.
Publisher: Nintendo | System: NES | Date: 1989 | Contributor: Red Hedgehog
It wasn't until Dragon Warrior that I "got" RPGs.
I had always liked the concept of RPGs. I wanted to immerse myself in a fantasy world where reflexes gave way to turn-based strategy. The problem is that the western RPGs I had on my computer were a bit beyond my ten year old mind. I couldn't comprehend the proper ways to build characters and if I managed to muddle my way through some battles without dying, I couldn't figure out where I needed to go.
Dragon Warrior, in its adaptation of the computer RPG to console, simplified everything enough that I could finally grasp what was going on. Now I was the prophesied warrior who would bring peace to the land. Now I was exploring the countryside, fighting fierce foes, and gathering clues from townsfolk. I was solving puzzles and acquiring new equipment. For the first time, a video game made me forget that I was playing a video game and wrapped me up in its world. I remember the sense of awe I felt when I made a different turn in the cave south of Kol and encountered a new foe - a fierce green dragon! I wouldn't experience this sense of immersion again until I played Ico.
Nintendo Cereal System
Publisher: Ralston Purina | System: Cereal | Date: 1988 | Contributor: MNicolai
You couldn't spend enough money on all the great games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Literally; there were cart shortages and the most popular games could quickly become scarce. Those short-sighted third parties! And money not spent on games meant more leftover for the ensuing barrage of licensed merchandise. Thin plastic cups with decals that would peel off after three washings, cheap mesh hats and other poorly produced character goods. They all shared one common flaw, aside from a complete disregard for quality manufacturing -- none of them could be ingested.
Long before the advent of DS cartridges, Ralston Purina was cramming Nintendo down children's throats with their Nintendo Cereal System. Clearly inspired by the Super Mario Bros.?/Duck Hunt? cartridges that were included with many NES consoles, the cereal's box is dual formatted: the Super Mario Bros? cereal was fruit flavored and shaped like Goombas and Koopas, while Link and his items from The Legend of Zelda were berry flavored. The cereal's commercial features totally rad, neon clad children with televisions on their head that handily symbolize the type of brain-dead vidiots that couldn't wait to eat their favorite games -- i.e., myself. The product itself was so inedible it insured that Nintendo's crass commercialism wasn't the only bad taste in your mouth. It's no coincidence that Ralston Purina also makes dog food. The sickeningly sweet taste remains with me as a sense memory, a reminder of the harsh lesson I learned about brand loyalty.
Publisher: Origin | System: Amiga | Date: 1989 | Contributor: Sarcasmorator
Wing Commander? was the first game that made me feel something genuine about my accomplishments and failures. Before Mark Hamill gave protagonist "Bluehair" a new face and a name, he felt almost like an extension of me. If wingmen like Spirit or Hunter died on a mission, I felt terrible (and if Maniac died, so what?). If I let a cruiser I was escorting bite it in a fight against the predatory Kilrathi's bombers, I not only felt that failure keenly but had to deal with the consequences directly as I was shunted onto a tougher mission track.
In Wing Commander III I once fouled up hard enough that my carrier was pushed back to Earth itself, where my last mission was a doomed battle against endless waves of Kilrathi ships. As death took me, I knew Earth was doomed and that it was my fault. But success was as sweet as failure was bitter. There was a true thrill in taking down a Kilrathi ace ó because then I was the ace, and the crew of the carrier Tiger's Claw treated me like it. Every medal brought a glow of pride, every mission briefing a renewed determination to do the job right. The games that stick with me the most now are still those where I sense I'm making a tangible difference in the game's world, whether for good or ill. I have Wing Commander to thank for that.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Publisher: Nintendo | System: SNES | Date: 2007 | Contributor: albucat
When I was little, if you turned on the NES or SNES and left a game running the cartridge cut to what was most important: a demo showing gameplay. Ultimately it was just a screensaver so that the developers didnít need to create new assets. This was the case for many years until I turned on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? and, as always, had to leave the room. When I returned, instead of a game demo popping up the cartridge was in the middle of a lengthy backstory. I realized that Iíd missed the first half and restarted the system to see the whole thing.
A Link to the Past was by no means the first game to have a story, not even close, but it was the first one I played. And by story Iím being particular. Despite Chris Kohlerís claims, Donkey Kong doesnít have a story; it has a premise, a reason for Mario to climb the building, but nothing more. But A Link to the Past, from the integration of the light world/dark world concept to providing a full backstory for the creation of the world, offered a cohesive reasoning for not just characters but also game mechanics. Iím not silly enough to argue that A Link to the Past tells a great story, but it showed me that great storytelling is a possibility games can offer.
Final Fantasy VII
Publisher: Sony | System: PlayStation | Date: 1997 | Contributor: Nicola Nomali
If Lumber Baron's going to pad out his gamer cred by gushing about NetHack, I'll go the other route and squander all that I've accumulated by admitting my love for Final Fantasy VII. Yes, that infamous tangle of wildly inconsistent graphics, inappropriately abundant mini-games, and combat where you don't sculpt a party of unique warriors so much as distribute a single pool of Materia to three blank slates at a time. But I overlooked those shortcomings, and in that youthful forgiveness, I learned something important about myself. For the first time, I found myself enthralled not by how a game played, but by the players it presented.
FFVII made me grasp just how much of my love for games stems from characters. Not that I thought the cast of any game had depth like the best figures in film or literature, but I realized then that they don't need it. As long as a kernel of some endearing quality exists -- humor, sincerity, or something more intangible -- I'll gladly indulge in their melodrama. Even in Zelda, where the story is just an elaborate excuse for the action, or Super Metroid, where dialogue doesn't even exist, the faintest hints of personality are a driving source of affection in every game I play.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America in August 1991. Kirby's Adventure for the regular old Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America in May 1993, nineteen months later. May 1993 also saw the release of Star Fox? for the SNES. Flying 3D space animals were the way of the future but my heart belonged to a little pink puff cavorting around on an obsolete system. I was a big fan of Kirby's Dream Land? for the Game Boy and it may be that Iím so enamored with Kirbyís Adventure simply out of series loyalty but I think thereís much more to it than that. Iíve often called Kirbyís Adventure a masterpiece. It takes the limitations of NES and pushes them further than they ever have before. The game features remarkable graphics, sound, and an attention to detail not often seen on the system. It will never be mistaken for a SNES game but it stands leagues over all other games for the NES.
Kirbyís Adventure is my pivotal moment because playing it was when I first realized that I appreciate unique and well crafted art over the flash and shine of ďnext generationĒ graphics. Kirbyís Adventure is impressive because it is beautiful within itís limitations. So much so that even itís 2002 Game Boy Advance remake Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land? lost much of the charm of the original. This is interesting because despite ďbetterĒ graphics the games are essentially the same. Is Kirbyís Adventure great just because of the limitations of the NES? Regardless, it is a masterpiece of NES programing and art design. I still prefer playing it to any of itís sequels and a fair amount of platformers that came after it. It is a shining example of how fine craft triumphs over state-of-line blandness and was pivotal in opening my eyes to this truth.