Disclaimer: This post was heavily inspired by fellow blogger Kapodaco who wrote his own post on this subject which you can find here. Give it a read, check out his other stuff and give him a follow. He’s a fantastic blogger.
I love video games.
I’ve always loved video games.
They’re rarely the focus of this blog, but video games have always played a huge role in my life, possibly even more so than Anime.
And while I definitely don’t have anywhere near as much time to play them as I did when I was a young lad who actually had the energy to do things, I still try to indulge in the medium as much as I possibly can during my downtime.
That being said, I frequently find myself looking back on the games of my childhood and missing the feeling that came with them. While I still enjoy the video games of today, it seems as though hardly anything compares to what was around in my youth. Perhaps its nostalgia, the longing for a time where life was simpler and I could sink as many hours into gaming as I desired, but damn, I miss that feeling.
So today, we’re going to look back at some of those games. The 10 most important games to me growing up, and how I feel about them today. Enjoy!
10. Street Fighter II (Super Nintendo)
Street Fighter II was a very special game when I was a child. It still is today solely because it was the first video game I ever played. It’s the reason I got into video games in the first place and as a result I owe an awful lot to it.
I still remember the day I was introduced to this game. I was three years old and my Dad came into my room, with his Super Nintendo in his hands, and spent what I remember being an incredibly long time hooking it up to my TV, trying to get the channel set up or whatever it was you did with old timey TV’s.
Once it was set up, he started up the game and played a few rounds of the single player, and I was awestruck. I had no idea what this thing was, but it looked fun. It was cool!
I watched my Dad play through the entire single player, all the way to the end. This would become a weekly tradition of ours over the next year. Every Saturday my Dad would come to my room and play Street Fighter II and would play through the entire single player, and I’d watch him play through the whole thing. It was great fun!
Naturally, during all this, I asked if I could have a go, and I was obviously terrible because I was three years old and I had no idea what I was doing. But over time I began to improve and eventually became a better player than my Dad, managing to beat the game on harder difficulties and even managed to figure out the special attacks of each character.
Sadly we didn’t have a second controller though, so I could never play against my Dad via multiplayer. I would have killed for that.
I haven’t played the game in a long time, but I still own the same cartridge from all those years ago, with the original console I used to play it on still hooked up to my TV to this day. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to play it these days, it’s still a game I’ll never forget. It’s my first game, and it means a lot to me.
9. Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)
This game blew my mind as a kid. It was my very first platformer and it introduced me to Super Mario and Nintendo, both which would go on to become two of my favourite video game related things of all time. I was mesmerised by everything this game threw at me. The colourful and varied levels. The quirky enemies and challenging obstacles. Yoshi the dinosaur. Everything in this game was just so fantastic.
I also got stuck a lot. I remember getting to the Vanilla Dome and being stuck there for months, and I spent every single day trying to get by the level that gave me trouble. Getting by that level was the most satisfying thing ever at the time and this trend continued later on in the game with other levels and worlds like the Forest of Illusion and Chocolate Island.
When I finally beat Super Mario World, I was overcome with joy. It was the first game I ever completed to 100% and as a result it’s a game that I’ll always cherish.
I still own the game to this day. In fact, I have two copies. I actually don’t know why I have two copies, but there is a reason behind it… I think…
I dig out the game once a year and play through the entire thing over the course of a couple of days. It’s become a Summer tradition for me.
8. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Mega Drive)
While many kids were wrapped up in the Nintendo versus Sega war, I was too busy being the weird guy that liked both companies and systems. People were arguing over Mario and Sonic and I happily embraced both of them.
However, I didn’t own a Mega Drive (the Genesis for you American folks). Truth be told, I’ve never actually owned a Sega console. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was my first Sega game, and it’s memorable not just because it was one of my favourite games, but because of the circumstances surrounding my accessibility to it.
My Great Aunt, a woman who at the time was in her 70’s, was really into video games. I’m not sure how or why, but she had a Mega Drive and she had a massive collection of games for it, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 being one of those games. Whenever I’d go visit her, she’d let me into her spare room, with the Mega Drive set up and I’d play the game for hours. Sometimes she’d help me if I got stuck, which looking back on was pretty hilarious. That woman had skills!
But I didn’t visit my Great Aunt all that much, so I never got play Sonic the Hedgehog 2 often. I’d never beaten the game, and it became one of those games that I’d always had the desire to play through, but never got to because I didn’t own it.
Of course, many years later I got my hands on the Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was included on that, so I have my own copy of the game these days.
7. Dark Chronicle A.K.A Dark Cloud 2 (PlayStation 2)
This is another game that made the list, not just because it was, and has remained, one of my all time favourites, but because of my lack of accessibility to it.
Every Summer my family would go on vacation to America. We would always rent out the same villa in Florida, every single year and the room I slept in had a PlayStation 2 set up.
But of course, being from the UK none of my games would work on the system because of pesky region locking, but luckily there was a video game rental shop 5 minutes from where we were staying, so I used to go there to rent video games to play during the night when we would settle down after a long day of vacation-y things.
And one of those games, was Dark Chronicle, known as “Dark Cloud 2” in America.
I would constantly rent this game every time I visited the store. I rented the game so frequently that I became known as “the Scottish kid who always rents Dark Cloud 2”.
The gameplay blew my mind as a kid. The game focused on procedurally generated dungeon exploration and had a leveling system that focused on strengthening equipment as opposed to the characters themselves. You also had to rebuild the world using items found in the dungeons in an awesome map editor interface, which was used to advance the storyline and there was an invention system thrown in there as well that was pretty fun to mess around with. There was even a customisable robot that you could ride to take down tough enemies. This game had it all. It was, and still is, a unique take on dungeon crawling RPG’s and it was all tied together by an awesome storyline focusing on time travel. Man, this game was awesome. The amount of content this game had blew me away.
But because the game was a rental, and because I could only rent it when I went on our annual vacation to Florida, I never got the chance to play it all that much. It was inaccessible to me most of the time.
But the funny thing is, I now own that rental copy of Dark Chronicle. The last year we went on that specific vacation before we decided to change our annual tradition into something fresh, that rental shop was closing down, and were selling off their stock. When I went to rent the game as usual, they told me there were closing down. Recognising me as their annual customer who always rented the same game, they gave me their copy of Dark Chronicle for free. I still own it to this day, and I went as far as modding my PlayStation 2 to bypass its region locking so I could play it.
Why didn’t I just get the PAL version of the game? No idea. I was a stupid kid.
I’m currently playing through the HD Remaster of the game on PS4 and it’s still the incredible experience I remember it being. This game still has it all.
6. EarthBound (Super Nintendo)
Growing up, I was always fascinated by EarthBound. My first introduction to the series was through Super Smash Bros. where the protagonist Ness was a playable character. I’d never heard of or played EarthBound because the game was never released in Europe, something that still bothers me to this day because I’ll never be able to own an original cartridge of the game that I can play on my Super Nintendo.
But, I managed to experience the game through emulation. I’ve never liked emulators. In my eyes, emulation pales in comparison to playing on the original hardware, but with EarthBound I didn’t have a choice, and I wound up loving the game so much that I managed to complete the entire thing despite my silly issues.
The game just had this charm and atmosphere to it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Even today I can’t really explain it, but the game is just so… Captivating. It’s gameplay isn’t even particularly incredible or groundbreaking for a JRPG, but the storyline, characters and world all had this incredible depth to it that just made me feel so immersed during the entire journey.
I remember staying up til 4 am on school nights just to play more of this game. Damn those days were awesome.
Also the song “Because I Love You” is one of my favourite video game songs of all time. The feels are real whenever that plays. It reminds me why I love video games so damn much.
Oh and Giygas is the most terrifyingly awesome final boss of all time. Jesus Christ that thing was terrifying.
Of course I now own this on the Wii U Virtual Console. I play through the game once a year and I’m hoping I’ll be able to move my digital copy over to my Switch whenever Nintendo sort out its Virtual Console. A man can dream.
5. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (Nintendo 64)
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Kirby games, but Kirby 64 was always my favourite. I loved the cutscenes, they were so charming and cute, the game felt like a real adventure and the level design was fantastic. On top of that, it had this awesome mechanic where Kirby could combine two different powers at once to create a new hybrid power. I loved this mechanic and would spend so much time just messing about with it, trying to see what each combination would create. KIRBY COULD TURN INTO A FRIDGE.
The boss fights were incredible, the music was kickass, and for a Kirby game, getting 100% of the collectibles was actually pretty challenging and often required the levels to be played multiple times, which was nice.
The game also had a few small minigames, which could be played with three other players. They didn’t have a lot of depth to them, but my best friend who owned the copy of the game would always get his two brothers into the room with us and we’d play them for hours.
Said friend also added a weird challenge to the game. We’d pick certain enemies from the game and label them as “guards” and challenge ourselves to try to get through each of the levels without killing our “guards”. It was silly, but it provided an added challenge to the game and in my most recent playthrough, I found myself doing it for fun.
Speaking of my friend, part of why this game is so memorable to me is, once again, my lack of accessibility to it. I never owned this game, my best friend did, and I would always borrow the game from him for months at a time. And sadly unlike every other game on this list, I don’t own it today. I’ve never owned a copy of Kirby 64, and I’ve been relentlessly hunting high and low for a cartridge for the past 5 years, but it’s ridiculously overpriced these days because retro game sellers are money grabbers who overvalue their products to horrendous lengths. I ain’t paying £200. Nobody would ever pay that. It’s not even an uncommon game like Conkers Bad Fur Day.
As for that friend, I’ve barely spoken to him since we graduated high school. The game however, will always remain a symbol of our friendship, even if we don’t talk that much any more.
You know, I wonder if he still has it…
Damn, I need a copy of this game. Badly.
4. Kingdom Hearts II (PlayStation 2)
I was obsessed with Kingdom Hearts growing up. It was the reason I got a PlayStation 2 and for the longest time, it was my favourite gaming franchise of all time, especially when the second game came out.
I waited 3 years for this game to come out and I was obsessed with its release. It consumed my thoughts every day. I frequented Kingdom Hearts news forums every waking moment of the day to check for updates and engage in discussion with other fans about our wacky theories and predictions for the story and new gameplay additions.
When the trailer for this game hit, I was blown away. The game looked amazing. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
Kingdom Hearts II became the first game I ever pre-ordered. I got it the day it came out. I had school that day though, and I wasn’t sure if my copy would arrive that day so I was anxious. It was the longest Friday ever, I could hardly contain my excitement for the game.
I rushed home as soon as the bell rang, and the game was there in all its glory. I immediately took it to my room, slotted it in, and played it into the next day.
I was holed up in my room the entire weekend, and I beat the game in two days. Damn I was sad.
Afterwards, the game continued to play a large role in my life. I lived and breathed this game. I joined the then popular fansite KH-Vids.net and became a very frequent and well known poster on the forums there. I also got into video editing and made several Kingdom Hearts AMV’s. Me and a few internet friends from KH-Vids pretty much created that entire scene. We even had an MSN chat set up where we spent the whole day just talking about Kingdom Hearts II. It was insane.
Me and a good friend of mine also got involved in modding the game via Action Replay cheat codes. We had an online friend who created custom cheat codes for us that allowed us to do crazy things like play as Roxas for the entire game, or have Sephiroth as a party member. Damn, that was crazy stuff!
I even used my modded PlayStation 2 to play the Japanese exclusive Final Mix version of the game that had extra boss fights and new cutscenes. I played the game in Japanese because I had to experience this new content.
Nowadays, I’m nowhere near as much of a Kingdom Hearts nut as I used to be. I’ve definitely calmed down a lot about the series since then, but it’s still one of my favourite games of all time. I still own the original game, but nowadays I play the 2.5 REMIX version of the game because not only is it in HD, but it includes the Final Mix content in English! It’s a dream come true!
3. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Of course this game would be on the list. I’m a Nintendo nut, and Super Mario 64 was the first 3D game I ever played.
This game was such a revolution to me at the time. The levels felt so big and sprawling and seeing my childhood hero, Mario, in full 3D was just so cool. On top of that, the game was pretty challenging and still is today. Some of stars are really difficult!
The game also introduced me to the collectathon genre of platformer, a genre which remains one of my all time favourites and one that I miss more and more with each year that passes.
I still have my copy of Super Mario 64, and while I’m nowhere near the fastest in the world, I occasionally dig out my copy and give the game a 100% speedrun for fun. It’s by far the game I’ve completed the most number of times and to this day it’s never gotten old.
I miss games like this.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
Predictable pick, right?
I’ve already spoken quite a bit about how much this game impacted me as a child. I wrote about it here in my post about Breath of the Wild.
Ocarina of Time is a game that made me feel this very specific feeling that no other game has ever been able to replicate. It was the first game I ever played where the world felt alive and open. It was the first game I played where I wanted to learn everything about the worlds inhabitants and took my time to explore every inch of said world and talk to every NPC a dozen times. It was the first game with a narrative I actually felt invested in with characters I grew emotionally attached to. And on top of all that, it was just so damn fun to play.
I also got stuck a lot. The Water Temple still haunts me as does the Shadow Temple. Those dungeons were so damn difficult for me as a kid, but of course now, they’re a breeze, since I know exactly what to do.
And the game also gave me nightmares. When I first entered Hyrule Castle Town as Adult Link and the place was crawling with Re-Deads and destroyed buildings I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep for days because of how freakish that was. Damn you Ganondorf!
Even by today’s standards, Ocarina of Time still holds up brilliantly. It’s still a joy to play, especially the updated 3DS version. I haven’t dug out my N64 copy in a long time, often choosing the 3DS remake over it, but I still have it and it remains a very special game to me.
1. Tales of Symphonia (GameCube)
Many will see this one as an odd pick and it is because my experience with this game and the impact it had is very specific to me.
Tales of Symphonia is my favourite video game of all time. No one will agree with me, but I honestly consider it to be the greatest video game ever made.
The graphics are incredible for their time. The combat system is both engaging and challenging. The music is freaking incredibly produced and is by far my favourite video game soundtrack of all time. But what really makes this game special, is its storyline and the way it affects the game itself.
I honestly consider Tales of Symphonia to have the greatest story to every come from a video game. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, or perhaps I just have a weird taste, but I’ve never been as impressed with a storyline from a game like I was with this one.
It starts out as a typical “save the world” JRPG pilgrimage plot, only to completely deconstruct the entire thing about a fifth through the game with a series of insane plot twists that, while hinted at, were completely mind blowing.
You’re essentially pitted against the god of the world, a man who is anything but a god but has manipulated the world into following his cause through careful planning and masterful deceit, and everyone is completely unaware of the true nature of the world, expect your party. And what makes this so incredible is while you’re travelling, trying to set things right, you can feel the villains presence and influence everywhere you go. From the civilian NPC’s who know no better, to the churches that are erected in their name, all the way to the traditions of the world itself, you just can’t shake the feeling that you’re against the entire universe and it’s awesome.
On top of that, the game has an unforgettable cast of characters who’ve gone on to inspire my own world views. No other video game has really done that. It also had a lot of positive messages relating to acceptance of those who are different, something that really resonated with me and taught me a lot growing up.
I’m not even a big appreciator of stories in games. I always consider gameplay to be far more important because they’re games. Yet, in a weird twist of fate, Tales of Symphonia was the most significant game of my childhood and is my favourite game of all time because of its storyline. Of course, its gameplay is still incredible.
I’ve sunk in over 2000 hours into this game through constant replays, and I still give it a bash every couple of years. I also got the HD Remaster for PS3 that included the sequel and it’s one of the only games I bought the overly expensive special edition version of that comes with figures and an artbook and all that stuff. It’s my pride and joy.
Also the Anime is not an accurate representation of anything this game is. Don’t watch it. Play the game. Be amazed.
And with that, we’re at the end of this insanely long list. I know video games isn’t the primary subject of this blog, but I hope this was interesting to some of you! If you made it this far, thanks for reading my overly personal ramble. You’re the best!
What were your most significant games growing up?