I have been a gamer for as long as I can remember. In fact, I recall the moment I became a gamer like it was yesterday.
It was Christmas of 1989. I was 5 1/2 years old. Of course I kept track of the half years. It was easy since my birthday is in June. Plus I think I began showing my small OCD quirks then also. Oh well.
I clearly remember desiring a NES like nothing I had ever desired before. This was the quintessential gift. It was my Red Ryder BB Gun (and yes I am reading that in Ralphie’s voice). My life was incomplete, imperfect, pointless without it. If I could somehow acquire the NES my life would be a never-ending, joyous cacophony of bleeps, bloops, and 8-bit music in all of its glory.
When my parents told me there was no way I would get one, I was understandably heartbroken. I was distraught.
Then to my surprise (which about killed me because of the sheer level of unabashed joy I felt) we woke up Christmas morning with the NES set up on the living room television.
Years later I found out that my father had stayed up playing it Christmas Eve while we were asleep.
Fast forward twenty-five years and eleven consoles later, I am still hooked. While I’ve never struggled with an addiction to video games like some do, they have still been a part of my life. They have been cathartic in ways.
So it was only natural that I’d eventually post my list of favorite video games of all time.
My list is just that, my list. I understand that some of you will disagree with some of my selections. Some of you may be upset over some games that I leave out. But once again, this is my list. I didn’t get to play some games that others played. I missed the RPGs that were big in the last 25 years. My choices reflect my experience as a gamer.
Since I did not want the post to be incredibly long, I have broken my list up into parts. Do keep in mind that the games are in no particular order.
Duck Hunt (NES)
Why did Duck Hunt make it onto my list? It was the very FIRST video game I ever played. If nothing else the game is here for pure nostalgia, and that is pretty much the only reason.
Sports Talk Baseball
I know. This is an obscure game. Many of you probably haven’t even heard of it. It was part of a series along with Sports Talk Football, and other sports. The reason for the game being on the list can be found in its name. The “Sports Talk” series was the first to introduce recorded play-by-play commentary in a sports game. My brother and I, who had played baseball games since the original Bases Loaded and RBI Baseball games, were used to playing nine innings in silence; except for the RBI baseball pop fly sound effect.
To now have commentary, albeit simple commentary, completely blew our minds. You mean that there is someone giving commentary on what we just did? Holy. Crap.
Commentary is obviously commonplace in modern games. Commentary has even become a point of contention with certain games. At the time of Sports Talk Baseball’s release, though, it was a new and amazing thing.
The Simpsons Arcade Game
I can’t tell you the countless amount of quarters I spent on this game. Not only was this cabinet at the local arcade, it was also at the local movie theater. Double the chances to play! In what I believe to be the golden era of side-scrolling, beat ’em up video games, this was one of the best. Simple yet great button smashing attacks combined with the Simpsons’ slapstick humor provides endless fun that sticks with a young child for years after.
Even at a young age I understood the concept of a hit box and ranged weapons, and I became very skilled with Marge. The Simpsons Arcade helped me learn how to use these aspects of video games to my advantage. In fact, the knowledge I gained playing the game still benefits me to this day.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (Arcade Version)
TMNT: The Arcade Game (not the NES version) is in the same vein as The Simpsons Arcade Game. In fact, this cabinet was right next to The Simpsons cabinet at the local theater. Whatever quarters did not go to The Simpsons went to TMNT. I was obsessed with TMNT. Add that to my growing obsession with video games and endless fun was had.
Beyond the pure enjoyment of the game, TMNT was paramount to the evolution of the arcade game in the early 1990s. For one, TMNT: The Arcade Game was a pioneer during which large, licensed machines began to improve in quality. Unlike harder side-scrolling beat ’em up games such as Double Dragon, TMNT: The Arcade Game was much more widely accessible. It was a fair game where enemies and bosses (especially the bosses) were not impossible to defeat. This, with the widespread popularity of the cartoon and action figures, made the game widely accessible.
The game’s aesthetics didn’t hurt either. Colors just popped off the screen. Characters looked great. The game just looked amazing.
TMNT: The Arcade Game will forever remain one of my favorites.
I would never have played WinBack had I not stumbled upon it at Blockbuster. I don’t remember the game(s) I wanted to rent. Either way, the games I desired were rented out (which was usually my luck) and I didn’t want to leave empty handed. Then this cover got my eye. I had just started to get into third-person shooters after recently playing Mission: Impossible, and this seemed similar. Nothing could have prepared for me for the gem I had found.
From beginning to end, WinBack was an action-packed, exciting game. It truly was my entry into third-person shooters and solidified my love for the genre. More importantly, my love for WinBack is directly connected to its pioneering role in the evolution of third-person shooters.
WinBack was the first game to introduce the modern cover system as we know it. Prior to the game’s release in 1999, there were types of cover systems, but they were simple cover systems. Other than 1998’s Metal Gear Solid for Playstation, most games utilizing a cover system were just run and gun shooters. Cover was just scattered debris to hide behind. Or like in Metal Gear Solid, the cover system was just a function to peek around walls to look for enemies. It served little to no combat function and was done by just shifting Solid snake from wall to wall.
For the first time in a third-person shooter, the player is forced out of the run and gun approach and into a more strategic approach. Now there was finally a single button devoted to cover. The player had to use this system intelligently by stopping and hiding behind a crate, etc, and then popping out to shoot. This forever changed my approach to third-person shooters and, I would argue, the genre as a whole. Although subsequent cover systems were more developed, WinBack’s undoubtedly served as the catalyst for the cover system we know today
Here’s a great example of the gameplay in WinBack:
WCW vs NWO Series (N64)
Yes. I was a fan of wrestling as a child, and I love wrestling video games just as much. From the earliest games for NES (WWF Wrestlemania and WCW Wrestling) to Sega Genesis and SNES versions (WWF Raw, WWF Royal Rumble, WCW SuperBrawl), the 90s saw a plethora of great wrestling games. Wrestling games changed drastically with THQ’s WCW video games in the late 90s.
The genre took its first large leap forward with the release of WCW vs NWO: World Tour in 1997. Great graphics (re: at the time), an extensive roster, and a terrific wrestling simulation made for a near perfect game. So how did this game change the genre?
A grappling system. WCW vs NWO: World Tour brought wrestling games back to the heart of wrestling itself: grappling. Combat in previous wrestling games was more like fighting games. Either you could smash buttons to perform strong and/or weak attacks, or punch in a string of buttons to perform a certain move. In World Tour all moves flowed out of the grapple, and the type of moves were by determined by the type of grapple (strong or weak). In the end, AKI’s grappling system served as the foundation for every subsequent wrestling game.
1998’s WCW/NWO: Revenge built on the foundation established by the first game. The already revolutionary grapple system from the previous year’s game was improved adding more moves to choose from when grappling and even a combo system.
In this sequel, THQ’s desire to make the experience even more like the real thing was explicit. Actual arenas such as Monday Night Nitro, Bash at the Beach, Starcade, etc. were added. WCW’s championship titles were added and players could compete for them with a wrestler of their choice. The roster grew much larger. They even added each wrestler’s ring entrances. For the first time a wrestling game felt like an actual event one could see on television.
In my opinion, these two games set the precedent for wrestling games. From the grappling system to create-a-wrestler, modern games have a lot to thank THQ for as every wrestling game since has built upon the WCW/NWO series’ foundation.