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Spiderman (make believe)19855Spiderman was my favorite cartoon as a little kid, so I would climb up the slides on playgrounds and at preschool so I could pretend I was climbing up walls and buildings. Even though what I was doing was climbing up not even a 45 degree angle, yet alone the 90 of a vertical wall, it was close enough for me to pretend I was Spiderman.
Duck Duck Goose (playground)19855I vaguely remember playing this at preschool and not having any idea what it had to do with ducks or geese. If you theme a game, it should probably at least make a little sense?
Musical Chairs (playground)19855Another one from preschool, at least the name and theme matches the game. Nobody wants to be the guy who gets eliminated first, that's never fun.
Dot Gobbler (Commodore 64)19866This was a Pac Man clone for the C64, which came on a cartridge instead of a floppy disc. I remember my younger cousins coming to visit at one point and they all wanted to play it, so we plugged in both joysticks and let them have at it. Even though it was a single player game, they were too little to understand that only one of them was actually having any effect on the game.
Joust (Atari 2600)19866One of my first console gaming experiences was at my cousins' house on their Atari 2600. I didn't get the whole business with the ostritch things and the eggs, but I liked all the running and jumping!
Lemonade Stand (Commodore 64)19866This was some sort of homebrew text based resource management game about running a lemonade stand over the summer. I remember playing it made me want to have an actual lemonade stand, but my house growing up was near the end of a dead end street, so foot traffic was almost nonexistant. However, I got my chance to sell Kool Aid when my family had a garage sale and I was so thrilled about getting to run my own stand just like in the game.
Pirates! (Commodore 64)19877One of my first big-kid games for my C64, and also one of my first RPGs. It had a lot of game modes and did them well for it's time! (Swordfighting, exploration, trading, naval warfare, ground warfare) I remember this game fondly because it was one of the few my dad would play it with me.
Super Mario Bros. (NES)19877I remember the first time I went to my neighbor's house to see the new "Intendo" they got for Christmas. I got to try playing Super Mario Bros, which I was really bad at, but I was perfectly content to just sit and watch let my friends and their dad play this single player marvel. I've actually done a whole lot of single player spectating over the years since then, and this is where it all began.
The Legend of Zelda (NES)19877In a similar vein to the above entry for SMB, I did a little playing and a lot of spectating of Zelda at the same neighbor's house. I have no idea how we ever beat this game, it was really hard! Everything was very well hidden, stuff didn't make sense, you had to try a lot of random things and bomb everything, light everything on fire with the candle, it was crazy. But by the same token, you bombed everything and burned everything because there really were that many secrets to find under every rock and bush and there was something magical about that, you never knew what you might find.
Ghostbusters (make believe)19888My friends and I would play this while waiting for the bus at the end of the school day in second grade. We would wear our backpacks and use our umbrellas as the guns, and twirl the end a bit to make the cord spin to be the particle beam, and pretend to shoot ghosts like in the movie. Simple props like that made the imaginative leap super easy.
Mars Saga (Commodore 64)19888Probably my first 1st person dungeon crawling game, with top-down turn based strategy battles in a futuristic cyberpunk setting on Mars. This was another favorite that my dad played with me. Was not very balanced and had extreme difficulty spikes at certain points in the game, I tried many times but never managed to beat it. You could encounter not just enemies, but police and civilians, too. If you chose to fight them, you'd become wanted and cops would attack you on sight, but if you had a hacker in your party you could hack into the police systems and delete your criminal records and they'd leave you alone again.
Skate or Die (NES)19888I didn't really like skateboarding, but the neighbors did, and it was their Nintendo, so we played Skate or Die a lot. I'm not sure if it was a mental block about skateboarding or just legitimately hard, but I was pretty awful at this game.
Monopoly (boardgame)19899I remember playing this with my cousins from Arizona when they would visit during the summer. I remember that when we would pay taxes we had a house rule that we'd keep the money in the center of the board, and if you hit Free Parking you'd "win the lotto" and get the money in the middle.
Starflight (Commodore 64)19899A lot like Pirates, but set in space and buggy as hell. I really loved the idea, I think I spent as much time reading the strategy guide as I did playing the game, fantasizing about what the game should have been like if it didn't crash so much. I find that I am still very willing to forgive games a lot for their problems if they do something else well that captures my imagination.
The Goonies II (NES)19899Another game that we played a lot of at my neighbor's house. A weird combination of platforming and first person hallway exploration modes. Very easy to get lost, I'm not sure it occurred to any of us to try making a map.
Tetris (NES)199010I had this on the NES long before I had a Game Boy. It shocked me that my mom actually liked this game and ended up playing it way more than I ever did. She's also a big fan of traditional puzzles, the kind you lay out on a table and physically assemble, so I guess putting pieces together kinda clicked with her.
Ninja Gaiden (NES)199010I think when people talk about Nintendo Hard they're talking about this game in particular. A platformer with lots of mean tricks and rude enemies with knockback and pits in all the wrong places, it relied on memorizing level layouts and practice making perfect. Also, the final boss was actually very easy if you had the spinning slash special weapon, which meant carrying the damn thing a very long way from the stage before and making sure not to hit any torches and accidentally losing it for something silly like fire shield.
Final Fantasy (NES)199010Got together with three friends from elementary school to play this for days at a time! Named each member of the party after one of us. We thought the last guy would be really hard, so we leveled up to max level before we fought him the first time, and were sorely disappointed when our Master Monk one-shot him for 99 hits, 999 damage on the first action of the first turn! Had a lot of replay value though with all the different party compositions you could make.
Mega Man 2 (NES)199111Lots of stages, which the player can choose to do in any order, with new weapons earned after each boss is defeated, which can then be used to defeat the other bosses more easily if you match the right weapon to the right boss. Has such a high level of polish compared to its predecessor.
Castlevania 2 - Simon's Quest (NES)199111What a horrible night to have a curse. Like there's such a thing as a good night to have one. Anyway, this is another game where I was willing to forgive a lot of flaws and embraced the better ideas. Kind of like an early attempt at Metroid meets Castlevania, but very bad at giving out the clues it needed to for the more obscure stuff like calling the tornado or the ferryman.
Super Mario World (SNES)199111I remember the first time I played this (and the first time I played a SNES) was at a demo kiosk at the toy store and was just wowed at what a leap the graphics were over the NES, but was kinda frustrated that I would have to hold the controller differently to use the shoulder buttons.
Super Mario Kart (SNES)199212The original entry in the classic kart racing series. Takes a strange approach to balance where the further ahead in the rankings you are, the worse the items you get are, and people in the back of the pack are more likely to get powerful items like the lightning and red shells. Makes it feel a lot like luck has more to do with winning than skill at times, which can be frustrating.
Final Fantasy II (SNES)199212Several of my friends and I were all playing this game in parallel and would talk about how far we had gotten and compare notes from the night before at lunch and recess. One thing that still sticks out for me is the wizard Tellah. When you first got him in the party, he knew a ton of high level spells, but lacked the maximum MP to cast them. It was kind of like dangling something juicy in front of the player just outside of reach to build anticipation for when you'd finally be able to drop your first meteor shower on your enemies.
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)199212I played through this game so many times, one of my all time favorites! Even though there was only one difficulty setting, I would adjust the difficulty up on later playthroughs by giving myself constraints: fewer bottles, fewer heart containers, etc. I think the hardest run I ever completed was no shield, un-upgraded Master Sword, green armor, and 8 hearts.
Pool of Radiance (PC)199212First person dungeon crawler with top down turn based strategy combat! I was still a little young to wrap my head around the full D&D ruleset this game used. The line "Thrender Grone is dead forever!" when my dwarven fighter got level drained by wights always struck me as odd and redundant because I didn't know clerics could eventually raise dead (unless they were level drained). I eventually tried having my wizard fix a dead party member with animate dead and was very disappointed to find out the difference there too when my dead halfling rogue became a mindless zombie!
Quest for Glory III (PC)199313A friend in junior high introduced me to this series of adventure game/RPG hybrids, his family had this ancient PC with a black and white monitor that could barely play the previous installment, QfG2, which he had played through many times. You could choose one of three different character classes and the solutions for the game's puzzles would be very different based on which class you picked and skills you had chosen. Was also unique for the fact you could export your character after beating the game and import him and his stats into all of the sequels!
Star Fox (SNES)199313As novel as this game was being a 3d space shooter on a SNES of all things, I think the most memorable thing was the wings on the ships, which would break off if you took too much damage or ran into stuff. It was a cool way to represent the ship's health visibly, and what kid doesn't love the idea of battle damage?
Syndicate (PC)199313A cyberpunk RTS set in a dystopian future where you control corporate cyborg agents and do battle with other corporations. Very challenging! Also was one of the first games I can remember playing where you played as the bad guys and fought the other bad guys. There were no good guys!
Dragon Warrior IV (NES)199313A traditional JRPG split up into several chapters. Each of the game's characters got their chance to shine in their respective chapters, and then they all united in the final chapter to form one big party and do the whole save-the-world bit. Chapter 3 was all about the Merchant character Taloon, you could run your own shop and buy and sell and haggle with customers, it was fun!
Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (PC)
199313One of the early examples of a well executed RTS. The sandworms were a great environmental hazard, and you couldn't just stick to the rocks and avoid them, you had to face them to gather spice and make money.
TIE Fighter (PC)199414A space flight sim about playing as an Imperial pilot fighting against the Rebel Alliance using a variety of TIE based ships. I really liked the three tiered mission objective structure and tended to be a completionist and went after them all, even though I'm not sure how much I would have missed out on, if anything, had I skipped them.
Magic: The Gathering (CCG)199414I first played Magic in the Revised edition and stayed with it for many years up through the Tempest expansion, then took a very long hiatus. I came back to it in 2009 to a much better game that still held the spirit of what they were trying to do when they created it so many years before. It's a testament to what over 16 years of playtesting and iteration can do for a game! Its also a wonder that they can still find new things to add to keep things fresh without terribly breaking things (too often, Jace the Mind Sculptor, cough cough)
Theme Park (PC)199414A simulation and resource management game about running an amusement park and hiring janitors to clean up barf. It was very hard to stay in the black, and it was part of the design of the game that you were supposed to finish a park and go back to the world map and start new parks in other locations around the globe, but I only ever wanted to stay in the first park and make it the best I could.
Final Fantasy III (SNES)199414A wonderful example of why RPGs need strong villains. Kefka always manages to outdo himself and always earns the player's anger and his crazy plans actually work, which is surprisingly rare for villains. He even succeeds at causing an apocalypse!
Super Metroid (SNES)199414Set on an alien planet full of challenges and secrets. The weapons and moves are all very satisfying, and the different gun upgrades can be mixed together rather than be mutually exclusive, which is a cool mechanic.
Middle Earth: The Wizards (CCG)199515This was a really unique CCG where it was almost a hybrid of pen and paper RPG and CCG. Each player had hero cards and hazard/enemy cards in their decks, and you would be the dungeon master for your opponent with your hazard cards against their hero cards and they would do the same for you.
Chrono Trigger (SNES)199515I suspect that this game might still be the reigning champion of multiple endings in an RPG. There's so much to see and do, the time travel mechanic is so well executed, and there are so many places in a New Game+ where you can go off the rails and turn what would normally be a scripted loss for story purposes into a win and get a bonus ending, there is so much replay value in this game its crazy.
X-Wing CD (PC)199515In my long standing tradition of multiplayer single player games, a friend and I would play this Star Wars themed space dogfighting sim by having one player use the mouse to steer the ship and fire the weapons while the other person got to be the astromech droid and used the keyboard to manage thrusters, power distribution, and shields, which was a pretty complex set of tasks. I've heard stories of other groups of kids playing this game the exact same way!
Shining Force 2 (Genesis)199616The summer between 10th and 11th grade I loaned my SNES to a friend in exchange for his Genesis. I got lots of games in the trade, but I only played Shining Force 1 and 2, both excellent fantasy themed turn based strategy RPGs. There is an elegance in simplicity to this game, especially its interface. Menus show up as a cross shape of little icons and choosing them maps 1:1 to directions on the DPad. The stats system is also very simple and straightforward.
Mechwarrior 2 (PC)199616A giant robot simulation game, Mechwarrior 2 let players do battle across the galaxy on a variety of planets piloting a huge variety of huge mechs that were heavily customizable. Strangely, the best place to mount weapons wasn't on the arms, as they were prone to taking damage and falling off (yeah battle damage!) but in the chest. Put luxury items in the arms like heat sinks that you can live without. Cheesy but effective. The robotic speech on startup or shutdown of a mech "Reactor online, sensors online, weapons online, all systems nominal." is also super memorable.
Netrunner (CCG)199616An interesting cyberpunk card game about hackers fighting corporations in cyberspace. There were two kinds of cards, one for each player type, which is unusual for CCGs. Corp players would build data forts and hacker players would make runs on these forts to try and steal their secrets. Unique for how the board would be laid out and grow as the corp expanded its holdings, but was not the most balanced game and slightly favored the corp side. Still a ton of fun to play, though.
Quake (PC)199616The PC I had at the time really struggled with this game, but I could see the potential of what they were trying to do with 3d and I wanted more! Unfortunately I was crap at it, and never got into the multiplayer, which was apparently the best part. Being on dialup did not help. Did my best to rectify that when Q2 and Q3 came along and I was on broadband at college. Funny how they had a shareware version of the game, and shareware had disappeared for a long time, but has come full circle and we're now seeing a "Free2Play" renaissance in a lot of genres.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Playstation)199717This game just piles on the hidden goodies and really rewards exploration so well, and it's so full of surprises. The percentage complete counter on save games is also notoriously just flat our wrong, going to something like 214% for actual full completion. And that's a good thing. Discovering that there is a second upside down castle to explore and conquer was such an awesome moment. And it's another fine example of using technology and looking backwards for inspiration (lavish 2D with 3D effects) instead of following the pack blindly forward (another generic 3D platformer)
Final Fantasy VII (Playstation)199717FF7 did the unthinkable and had permanent party member death when Sephiroth killed Aeris. This was supposed to make the player feel sad for the loss of the player character and hate the main villain, but a lot of people I know hated Aeris and liked Sephiroth and liked Sephiroth MORE for killing her off. Yet either way it played out, they still got a huge, memorable reaction out of the players.
Dungeon Keeper (PC)199717A resource management and base building game where you're the evil overlord and you control hellish minions and fight of heroes looking to invade your dungeon and steal your loot. A fun role reversal, and you could use your hand shaped mouse pointer to smack and abuse your minions to make them work harder!
Resident Evil 2 (Playstation)199818I really like the replay value this game had: it came with two discs, one for each of the two different protagonists. When you finished the game with one of them, you could export their save and use it to start the other character's game and get their perspective on the story, and things you did in one playthrough would have an effect on the other character's game and what items they'd have available. Take too much loot the first time around and there'd be nothing left for the second playthrough!
Final Fantasy Tactics (Playstation)199818A hybrid of the FF jobs system and a turn based strategy game. Tons of room for customization with the jobs system made for a huge array of options for building parties to take into battle, or players could just play it safe and use the overpowered story-based characters and steamroll everything. Lots of room to play the way you want!
Deadlands (CCG)199818An interesting Weird West/Steampunk CCG where combats are resolved by drawing poker hands from the player's deck. Cards function both as traditional CCG cards (characters, events, equipment, etc) but also have suits and values on them as well. When building your deck you can fill it with cards that make good poker hands, or you can stack your deck with powerful cards, but rarely can you maximize both at the same time, so deckbuilding is a matter of finding the best balance between the two.
Quake II (PC)199818This was my first experience playing semi-competetively online in a clan. My roommate in college was into it and I got sucked in and ended up being pretty decent at it, too. This was also before WASD had become THE standard for FPS games if I recall, and I had a really weird set of keybinds. Makes me wonder if anyone will ever innovate on that to the point WASD goes away?
Dream Quest 2000 (PC)199919This is the game that convinced me I wanted to become a game developer. A homebrew demo of an engine meant to be used to create an RPG like Final Fantasy II for the PC that I found while surfing the net as a freshman in college. I opened all the files in the demo and discovered the scripts controlling the characters and events were in plaintext. I contacted the author and shared with him my modified version of his demo and we quickly became friends. He invited me to join his team of college students who made games in their spare time. I call a lot of things on this list "magical", but this was the most magical of them all, my first step towards life on the other side of the curtain.
Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)199919For all the things MGS does great, I think some of the coolest things that stick out the best are still the really quirky stuff: looking up Meryl's codec frequency on the back of the CD case, switching the controller to Port 2 so that Psycho Mantis can't read your mind, and Psycho Mantis reading your memory card and commenting stuff like "Oh, I see you like Castlevania!" and other Konami titles during his boss fight. They thought way outside of the box on what kinds of cool stuff you can do with a game.
Shadowrun (Pen and Paper RPG)199919The setting of this game is so good: dystopian cyberpunk and guns glued to fantasy races and magic, it's like peanut butter and jelly! But the dice system just sucked. Our DM had a bunch of programs he wrote on his graphing calculator to save us all the trouble of trying to figure out if we succeeded or failed most of the complicated checks. Still, I'd love to play it again some day, had so much fun playing as my dwarven cyborg!
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)199919So many cool things to do in this game! Travel through time and be adult or kid Link! Ride a horse and do horseback combat! And so many not-cool things, too, like the constant "Hey, listen!" and the water temple.
Settlers of Catan (Board game)200020Resource trading, politics, and grudges! Randomized board and dice rolls adds some luck elements but there's still plenty of strategy and scheming involved in order to win. It's funny though, I played so often with one group of friends, somehow a lot of the slang that developed for the game doesn't translate well when playing with people outside that group. You'd think that "I toss five brick into the sea and build a road" would be more obvious that I am trading 4:1 brick for a wood and a brick for a road, but people seem to scratch their heads at that. Weird.
Diablo II (PC)200020The randomly generated maps and treasure of this game are what gave it the lasting appeal. You always had to find your way through the maze, you couldn't just memorize it, and anything you killed had the potential to drop something amazing. It had this slot machine power to it that would just drain away the hours, one more zone, one more boss run, one more skipped class and one more tenth of a point off of my QPA in undergrad. :/
Apples to Apples (party game)200020Apples is super easy to learn and always fun to introduce people to. One of the best examples I can think of where humor and gaming collide to great effect. I don't think a digital version could ever capture the magic of this game since it is all about the people you play with and knowing what cards will work best on them when they are the judge (Darth Vader, Hellen Keller, Hiroshima, the list goes on and on)
Final Fantasy VIII (PC)200020Kind of an oddball of the series, the main villain was absent for almost the entire game, which is inexcusable. The CCG minigame was pretty awesome, though, way better than the one in IX, since it tied back into the main game better. Also, enemies always scaled in level based on the player level, so leveling up or always running away never made any difference, it was possible to level up too much and make things harder instead of easier!
Half-Life (PC)200020This game was full of movie moments with big monsters and scripted sequences, and NPCs you would watch as something terrible would happen to them so you'd know if you weren't careful you'd be next. But the final stage with the jumping puzzles in the alien dimension just killed it for me, I didn't care anymore at that point and stopped playing! It stopped doing what it did well and I gave up on it.
Dark Age of Camelot (PC MMO)200121My first MMO! And it was probably the developers' first one, too, because it showed! This game had so many great ideas yet just as many poor implementations it was beyond frustrating. So many balance problems on so many levels with this game, I'm still disgusted that I played it as long as I did. I toughed it out because I enjoyed playing games online with my real life friends and the friends I made in the game, not because the game was any good.
The Sims (PC)200121My cousin loaned me her copy of this and I didn't think I'd get sucked in the way I did! It's more of a non-violent strategy game than core gamers would like to give it credit for. Has tons of room for players to define their own goals and how they want to play, either to just torment little virtual people or actually try and curate successful little sim-lives. A success as both a toy and a game!
Final Fantasy IX (Playstation)200121Somehow this one felt like Square just phoned it in. The retro spin didn't work for me, the characters weren't as appealing as they should have been, the music wasn't as catchy as in previous installments, and worst of all the main villain was just blah. No one thing was stands out as awful, but the whole thing was just somehow less than the sum of its parts.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC)200222A long time LAN party favorite in my circle of friends, I played way more of this game than I care to admit. The class based system encouraged teamwork and winning a map meant working together to conquer objectives, not just being the best lone wolf killwhore. The progression of goals on the maps also told a little story and kept things interesting as the matches went on.
The Yay/Boo game (spontaneous social game)200222No idea who came up with this one, we played at a picnic at a campsite with about 75 people at the event. About a dozen of us were in the kitchen cooking and hanging out, and as other people would wander into or out of the room, my group would cheer super loudly as they entered, but boo them really hard when they left, with someone giving them a "and STAY OUT!!!" after the booing died down. Everyone would get this really happy look when we cheered them, but got all confused and sad when they left. It was hilarious. Messing with people is fun!
Final Fantasy X (Playstation 2)200222The sphere grid this FF iteration used for character development was a lot of fun. A huge grid of skills and bonuses linked together on paths that each character can move across and unlock, with rare items letting you break off of one course and jump into someone else's track in order to multiclass. A fun interface to an interesting system for character leveling!
Warcraft III (PC)200222Tons of changes and refinements to this game compared to its predecessor, including Hero units with inventories and abilities to unlock as they leveled up, which would go on to spawn WoW and also DotA style games. Seems like "RPG" is becoming less of a genre and more of a check box for people to sprinkle elements of into other games. Cross pollination can be a good thing.
PlanetSide (PC MMO)200323I could probably write a hundred entries about this game alone. One of the first, and hopefully not last, MMOFPS games, where play scaled well from 1v1 to 10v10 to 100v100v100 in massive three sided conflicts of infantry (indoor and ourdoor), air forces, tanks, and even some limited warfare out on the water with hovertanks. I've never seen any other game do so many things and do so many well enough to really feel like you're in an honest to goodness sci fi war. In particular, the stealth system was brilliant and very well balanced: a cloaker would be perfectly invisible when still, but fairly visible when running. The slower you moved, the harder you were to see. So much of being a good stealth character relied on psychology, confidence, foresight, and skill, not just being Mr. Invisible because you pressed a button. (I'm looking at you, WoW! grumble, grumble)
Final Fantasy XI (PC MMO)200323Square did a lot of things right with this game. They launched with no PVP, but still had a great empire vs empire system with its territory control mechanic, which was like a PVE race to see which empire could gather the most XP in a region each week, with extra vendors in each empires capital as a reward. Going out to find a good spot to level actually meant preparing supplies before going out and actual traveling and exploring with your friends. It was so fun to be in a competent static party and fight monsters, their combat system required good teamwork to do combos and it was a ton of fun.
Parallel Universe (AD&D 2nd Ed Homebrew Campaign)200323Probably the best D&D campaign I have ever had the pleasure of playing in. Lasted well over a year of weekly sessions. Premise was that our gaming group got summoned into a parallel universe by a Summon Monster spell onto a version of Earth where technology never developed but magic flourished. We played characters based on ourselves and role played how we would act if such a thing were to actually happen. In order to determine our stats, each player wrote down what we thought everyone else at the table's stats would be if we were a D&D character and the DM averaged the scores together, which was a very unique way of rolling characters!
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC)200424Bioware proved here that they have more of a right to tell a Star Wars story than George Lucas ever will. Setting the game so far back in the Star Wars timeline gave them all the freedom they needed to tell their own story without having to be tied to ticking fan favorite check boxes for characters or locations, but still got the feel of the story right, complete with the twist in the middle about Revan's identity comparable to Vader's "No, I am your father" moment of Empire Strikes Back.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (PC)200424A stealth based spy game similar to Metal Gear Solid, but at the same time very different. Biggest thing that separated it would be the spy goggles that let you see in low light or infrared which was an extremely cool and useful mechanic.
Katamari Damashi (Playstation2)200424First played this at a New Year's Eve party in State College. Despite being single player, the dead simple controls made it easy for everyone to jump in and take a turn. The cute aesthetics and bizarre but easy to grasp concept were also a big hit with everyone. Extremely accessible!
God of War (Playstation2)200525I spent several nights working my way through this game at my friend Nik's house, the best thing about it had to be the controls. Kratos handles like a dream, he has such a deep and varied move set that expands at just the right pace to always be unlocking something new and fun just as you are mastering the last set of moves and are itching for new tools of death and destruction. Those damn tightrope walking style segments were so weak though, I'm glad they cut them in the sequel.
World of Warcraft (PC MMO)200525While I have very mixed feelings about my on again, off again time spent with WoW, the one thing I can definitely say Blizzard absolutely did right was the UI and Addons system. Giving the player community that much customization and control over how they wanted to play their game not only empowered players, but also crowdsourced development on a lot of things that Blizzard ended up making features of the game that the community wanted enough to implement on their own.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Playstation2)200525Like MGS1 before it, it's the little things about this game that stand out in my memory: the camouflage system, the healing system for treating wounds, and living off the land and literally eating snakes.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (NDS)200626A game about... being a lawyer? Well written and funny, it's a strange hybrid of a visual novel and an adventure game, alternating between the two modes of gathering evidence and defending clients in court. I guess the moral here is you can make a game out of anything!
Trauma Center (NDS)200626A weird game about being a surgeon with magical time-slowing Matrix like powers. Makes great use of the DS's stylus and touchscreen, it's easy to imagine it as a scalpel or other surgical tool. Another good example of being able to make a game out of anything!
Elite Beat Agents (NDS)200626A friend recommended this one and I was skeptical, but I totally got into it while working the tech support night shift at an ISP. I think all the tapping annoyed my coworkers a little, but whatever, I had a good time with it, cheesy songs and all. I played a lot of instruments in high school and always wanted to play the drums but never got the chance, so I think all the rhythm stuff scratched a primal itch to drum away on things.
Final Fantasy XII (Playstation2)200626Square was trying to ride the MMO wave with this one and had a system that felt very much like an MMO where you can only control one party member at a time if you want and let the other party members operate on heavily customizable AI scripts. However, if you wanted to you could give orders to each party member individually just like in previous FF games. I liked that they left both options open.
Etrian Odyssey (NDS)200727A pretty standard first person dungeon crawling RPG but with a cool blast from the past: you use the stylus to draw your own maps on the lower screen. We're always moving forward and streamlining away old stuff from games of the past that people thought were clunky, but there's a certain charm to things like having to make your own maps that got lost along the way. I've taken notes while playing games before that I can look back at now and get a rush of memories, this taps into that same feeling and makes it part of the game itself.
Puzzle Quest (NDS)200727An extremely compelling hybrid, they basically took an RPG, gutted it, and inserted Bejeweled into the empty chest cavity. And it totally works. Many different systems in the game all work off of slightly different spins on the core mechanic (crafting, battle, research, pet training) which helps keep it from getting too repetetive.
Dungeons and Dragons Online: Stormreach (PC MMO)200727A very good adaptation of the D&D 3.5 ruleset for MMO play. For instance, most games treat rogues as assassins, but DDO actually has traps in its dungeons that will wipe parties if they don't have a competent rogue in the party to disable them. The combat system is also very arcade-y, with a good system for blocking, dodging, and jumping.
Guitar Hero III (Wii)200727First time I ever picked up a plastic guitar was for this one. Strangely addictive. I was perfectly fine with playing bass and letting my friend stick to guitar since I have trouble with chords since my fingers point at an odd angle and my hands are small.
Desktop Tower Defense (Flash)200727I spent many a night shift playing this one. Lots of fun to be had trying out new tower layouts and configurations herding creeps to their doom. It's kind of like building little machines or factories to process incoming stuff.
Odin Sphere (Playstation2)200828Playing this game was like playing a gorgeous, living, breathing painting. Each of the different characters played extremely differently, to the point that it felt almost like different games. The Valkyrie character played like a regular platformer, but playing as the crossbow shooting flying Fairy was more like a side scrolling space shooter. The differing styles helped keep things fresh and was a neat way to reapproach old types of challenges in a new way.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Playstation2)200828If bigger is better, Disgaea is king. A min-maxer's endless playground, players are free to optimize to their heart's content, growing characters to ridiculously high levels and attacking for millions of damage at a time. Also featured grinding through randomly generated dungeons as a form of item enhancement. Takes one aspect of a game (grinding and leveling up) to the extreme, and totally works for its target audience.
The Witcher (PC)200828One of the best RPGs at dealing with choices and consequences, and not falling into the trap of blatant "Good/Evil/Snarky" replies in conversations, morality in this game is all a matter of perspective and alignments are always shades of gray, including that of the protagonist. The plot actually does have meaningful branches that will affect the story as the game progresses, which is very rewarding.
Assassin's Creed (PC)200828Middle eastern parkour simulation with a side of stabbing, I think the best part of this game wasn't the kills but the escapes. Later games in the series felt a little cheaper about this by making the assassinations happen so often, I kind of liked having to do the side quests as information gathering as build up to the big moment and then the big chase, it has more highs and lows to its interest curve that way. They have yet to fix the melee combat though despite all the sequels, its still pretty bad.
Castle Crashers (Xbox 360)200828A fun little multiplayer beat em up with a cute art style. My biggest complaint would be depth perception in the 2d plane, it's hard to tell sometimes when attacks will land or not or if you're too close to an enemy's swing or not, not sure how I would solve this, though.
Mage: The Ascension (Pen and Paper RPG)200929This game has the best magic system of any game I have ever played, period. It takes a strong imagination on the part of all the players, and an exceptionally good storyteller to run the show, but it's worth it. Players decide what kind of effect they'd like to happen, the storyteller figures out how many levels of up to 9 different disciplines it would take to cast, and then the player rolls to see if they can pull it off. Except failure inevitably always results in major consequences. Very free form, you feel like you can do almost anything! Very magical, literally!
Mirror's Edge (PC)200929I think the most important thing this game has to teach is Moving is Fun. Most of the time when I beat a game, that's it, it goes back on the shelf, but not this one. I went back and did all the challenge levels just because I had so much fun running and jumping. Kids know how much fun running and jumping is, don't forget that!
Crysis (PC)200929Aside from the truly awe-inspiring graphics, what this game really did well was give the player a diverse toolset of fun ways to cause havoc and leave it up to them on how to get things done. I was really drawn to the stealth abilities of the suit, but I'm still not sure if I was technically cheating or not: if you fired while stealthed you lost all your energy, but if you dropped stealth for a second, shot, then recloaked, you were fine. If that was the intended behavior, it could have been communicated more clearly.
Persona 3: FES (Playstation2)200929My first Shin Megami Tensei game, P3 is a natural hybrid of a visual novel/dating sim and JRPG. It boasts the longest, most intense final boss fight in an RPG I can remember. Something like 14 or 15 different phases, each requiring their own different tactics to get through, and the fact that the boss mirrors the protagonist's own ability to change their Persona and abilities mid fight is so appropriate on so many levels.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (Playstation2)201030The level of polish on the mechanics, level design, and the truely unique story make this one of my all time favorite games. Features seven different possible endings depending on player choices made throughout the game, but does not have a lot of branching to the plot, which minimized overhead on developing things players might never see, but still made choices meaningful.
Persona 4 (Playstation2)201030This applies equally well to P3 as to P4, but the social link system is just so well done. Multithreaded storytelling, as much or as little as the player wants, with tangible bonuses to the persona creation aspect of the game for seeing each of the side stories to completion. It's a great way to add to the nonviolent aspects of the game and makes it more like playing an anime or manga and an RPG at the same time.
Minecraft (PC)201030Minecraft achieved something I consider to be a holy grail of gaming: a fully destructible, fully constructable environment. A bottomless box of legos. We're at a point computationally where if we're willing to give some things up in some areas, like graphics, we can gain so much in other areas like gameplay, it's amazing. Totally worth the tradeoff!
Valkyria Chronicles (Playstation3)201030A strange mix of both turn based and real time strategy and third person shooter, this tanks and infantry game also has a great anime/sketchbook art style. Features character permadeath, but you don't level up individuals, you level up classes and all characters of that class share that level, which makes losing people in battle less of a crippling blow.
Bastion (PC)201131I have no idea why almost nobody has had narration like in Bastion prior to now, but that was the element that really took this game over the top for me. It was already beautiful on its own, had great music, and was fun in its own right, but it was such a simple thing to do and captured a primal element of storytelling so well!
Catherine (Playstation3)201131A block climbing puzzle game that is woven with anime story elements dealing with relationships and cheating that tastefully toes the line on sexuality in videogames. The puzzle segments of the main game occur during the protagonist's nightmares and his fears and worries during his waking life manifest themselves as huge monsters and hazards that add tension, urgency, and interest curve to the experience.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (NDS)201131Had a retro feel to it, like a SNES dungeon crawler on steroids, and was supposed to be the spiritual successor to Nocturne. Dungeons were too long and grueling, and the monster fusion system was not as good as Nocturne, either. The cramped screen resolution of the DS also meant that it could hold less text, which meant that monsters could have only 6 abilities instead of 8, which also sucked and made it harder to customize them.