10/2/97 (I turned 12!)
One of the best things a video game can do for you is have secrets for you to find out; for the game, which you've enjoyed, to be so much bigger than you first thought. Secrets in video games were such a big thing back when the internet was still young and not a utility like it is today. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night makes it on a lot of "Best of" games lists for sheer nostalgia of finding out about one of the best secrets in a game.
I was pretty young the first time I beat Symphony of the Night. I can still remember though thinking the game was really short and the ending was really dumb! It wasn't until after reading a mailbag post in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (my absolute favorite magazine back when we read magazines), that I came to find out there were items you needed to acquire and equip before fighting the "final" boss to see that there is more to this game than first thought. Actually there's a whole other, upside-down, god damn castle to explore with much more difficult enemies and bosses.
I had so much fun with SotN after this. The game already looked great, played great, and has an absolutely amazing soundtrack. But to find that I had only played about 30% of the game the first time I thought I had beat the game, I was in love. The icing on the already delicious cake is when I found the most overpowered weapon in the game by accident. One that lead to me defeating Dracula in less than ten seconds.
ME1: 11/20/07, ME2: 1/26/10, ME3: 3/6/12
5/15/12, Reaper of Souls: 3/25/14
Diablo 3 wouldn't be on this list if it wasn't for the changes that came to it alongside the Reaper of Souls expansion. I have been playing this game since the early beta days though so I've seen it through all its changes. (to be continued...)
A game that is on my list not because of how much of an incredible game it is, it does have many redeeming qualities, but rather because it was a first for me. Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean is my first JRPG.
I was completely new to games about reading dialogue, having characters with more depth than "white dude, black wife-beater, named Blade/Striker", turn-based combat, random battle encounters (which this games last dungeon is infamous for), a story, and the many other things found in JRPGs. And I ate it all up.
Arcade: 1988, NES: 1989
My first favorite video game ever, and yes I was a bad enough, I believe 6 year old, dude to save the president.
If you're unfamiliar with Bad Dudes, at the beginning of the game you get to choose between a white dude in a black wife-beater named Blade, or a white dude in a black wife-beater named Striker. After making your difficult choice, an unnamed man who looks like a retired fighter pilot asks you if you're a bad enough dude to rescue the president whom has been kidnapped by ninjas.
The rest of the game has you punching and kicking ninjas until you rescue the president.