Last week I came across a tweet (sadly lost now) that tied to a thread of someone complaining about Tetris being listed as the #1 game on the Polygon 500 Games of All Time. As I read the thread I shook my head, I mean Tetris seems like a pretty good choice for #1 considering its place in games, and then I started to think about the games that influenced the gamer I’ve become. So here they are, the ten games (not necessarily in order but not necessarily out of order either) that influenced me and how.
10. Gran Turismo – I have a deep love for racing games, which is weird because I could care less about actual racing. The love for the genre stems from Gran Turismo. The series first entry, all the way back on the original Playstation, was a game I reluctantly tried and immediately became engrossed with. It was more involved than the simple arcade racers available but easier than some of the PC racing games I had been exposed to at the time, making it the perfect gateway for me to the genre. I’ve moved away from Gran Turismo, Sport was actually the first entry in the series that I didn’t get, but my continued appreciation of the genre (both arcade and sim) is totally owed to it.
9. Guitar Hero II – I love music. Years ago, we’re talking 20+ at this point, I could play the piano moderately well. Guitar though, that was the instrument I wanted to play but I couldn’t wrap my head (fingers) around it. Guitar Hero II introduced me to a reasonably simplified facsimile of what I envisioned being a guitar player in a band was like. And I was pretty good at it too. The game spawned a love for rhythm games of all kinds going forward, a genre I had never really even thought about prior.
8. Silent Hill – Up until I played Silent Hill, I had never been scared by a game. After playing it, I knew that games were capable of being something more. Silent Hill grabbed me emotionally. Granted it did so by scaring me to a violent visceral reaction but nonetheless, it elicited an emotional response. Ever since then, I chase that cheap emotional response. Being scared is fun and games can effectively do that successfully when well made.
7. TIE Fighter – From the moment Luke sits down in the cockpit of his X-Wing in Star Wars, I wanted that experience. I wanted to fly a starfighter and dogfight in the heavens. TIE Fighter’s predecessor X-Wing gave me that opportunity but something was missing, I didn’t really feel like the starfighter pilot I wanted to be. TIE Fighter gave me the experience I wanted. It felt right and spawned in me a desire to play games that allowed me more freedom amongt the stars. From games like Freelancer to Elite: Dangerous to the forever in development Star Citizen, my love of the genre and anticipation of its future lies with TIE Fighter.
6. Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II – Jedi Knight will always hold a special place in my heart. The first is that it was the first real live action Star Wars that was worth a damn since Return of the Jedi. The second, and reason it is on this list, is because it cultivated my love of online competitive shooters. Playing on Microsoft’s Game Zone, the precursor to Xbox Live, I’d match with players from around the globe and play Jedi Knight death match with them. It was laggy and near unplayable by today’s standards but at the time it was damn fun. And the fun I had there was why I eventually moved on to games like Halo and Battlefield.
5. Ninja Gaiden – When I got my original NES, I got two games (technically three) with it. Those games were Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and Ninja Gaiden. While both platformers in a sense, Ninja Gaiden was more of a 2D character action game. It’s fast pace, for both combat and platforming, was awesome fun and eventually translated in to my love of games like God of War and Devil May Cry. Weirdly, I don’t love the 3D Ninja Gaiden games though.
4. Super Mario Bros. – Yes, Super Mario Bros. 3 and World are better games but I played this one first and it captivated me and catapulted me to a love of platformers ever more. There really isn’t much to say about Super Mario because his legacy speaks for itself. But unlike some of these other games on here, Mario has almost always stayed at a high level of output and consistently puts game of the year contenders on the board.
3. Final Fantasy – I have this thought in my head that when I was a kid there was a schism among the dorkiest of us over if Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest) was better than Final Fantasy. I was a Final Fantasy kid and still am today. It introduced me to JRPGs and kept me there, unlike Dragon Warrior, which I liked but seemed far more limiting at the time. I’ve since gone on to play nearly every mainline Final Fantasy (I’ve never played XI) and more importantly a ton of JRPGs that owe my attempt at them to Square’s original.
2. Ms. Pac-Man – I’m old enough to remember real arcades. You know, like the ones you see in movies and televisions shows about the 80s. Ms. Pac-Man was a machine that was in nearly every arcade and I played it every time I got an opportunity. There was something about being able to set a high score on the machine, leaving your mark there forever (until they pulled the plug on the machine), and I was always good at doing so on Ms. Pac-Man. This was the game that introduced me to score chasing and refined my being competitive about my performances in a game. I love to get the high score in things and if I feel I can get it, I will try and try until I do.
1. Tetris – So where Ms. Pac-Man was the game that got my competitive blood boiling, Tetris, a game that can also be played as such, was one I turned to and still do, for relaxation. I loved falling in deep with the blocks and thinking about my next move as I was making the current one. It is the reason I love puzzle games, like Dr. Mario and Bejeweled, and one I still turn to for relaxation here and there.
So, those are the 10 games I feel are the most influential to me as a gamer. What are some of yours?