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Formative Titles

Every game enthusiast has a core group of titles that aren't just great to play, but they define them as a 'gamer'. These touchstones have had such an influence on that person's playing habits that they can't even conceive of their life without having experienced them. The ironic thing is I'll probably remember more of them after posting.

List items

  • This little gem of playability is still a great reflex-pummeling blast today. The game adds new enemies at regular intervals and by the time you've reached the 20th sector things are moving faster, the enemies are switching up their attacks and there's nowhere to hide. Eventually, the whole game becomes an exercise in pure twitchtastic shooting. It may look old and basic, but it's a well-made challenge that transcends its years.

  • An amazing piece of software. Combines high speed action platforming with puzzle elements beautifully; even though the two styles are played disparately, they are implemented so well that they come together to form a wonderfully cohesive whole. Chuck in some (at the time) revolutionary speech, fluid animation and randomised placement of all environmental elements and you've got a long-lasting game. Indeed, I'm still smitten with it 25 years after its release and would probably call it my favourite game of all time. And it's all contained in a single load!

  • Surreal bi-directional shoot 'em up. The art direction is inventive, the gameplay is silky smooth and the soundtrack is one of Martin Galway's finest.

  • This title is another I've finished time and time again, and the cart still gets popped in every now and then. It does so much with the Sega hardware that you'd swear it wasn't on the Mega Drive (Genesis, whatever), and even if you are convinced of that you'd find the fact that it isn't a Treasure game nigh-inconceivable. I still marvel at the line-scrolls in this every time I play it. The art direction and music top off a great package. It's still pretty easy on the hardest mode and the pace can turn rather sedate in places, but that doesn't stop it from being a fun and imaginative run-and-gun.

  • 1995 was the year my mates and I surreptitiously got Doom II onto the university servers. The computer labs were open 24 hours, and we'd stay in there from sundown to sunup. Getting pizzas delivered was the final stroke of decadent genius.

  • My boss and I used to play this against each other through the magic of dial-up. I also got mad into making maps, and spent hours with my head in the Build Engine. I didn't have Quake, and so I'd utilise the inbuilt stone and wood textures to emulate its look. I'd then spend hours making sure my not-really-Quake levels had lighting that looked more dynamic than the engine would really allow. I think I still have a bound printout of the Build manual somewhere, too...

  • I've finished it 3 times and still its siren song occasionally lures me back for another playthrough.

  • My heart hammers in my chest and I get all wobbly just thinking about this pulse-quickening slice of synesthesia. I never notice how hard I'm gripping the controller until I'm relaxing in the silent, warm afterglow of post-play stats. Intense and involving, this is a game that stands the test of time through its incredible visuals, sounds and replayability.

  • I used to go out to clubs all weekend, then come home and unwind with some manic futuristic shooty racing in this gem. I actually got this disc with no instructions as a pre-release thingy via a street press gaming publication - it was only after I completed it 100% that I discovered you could use air brakes! It probably helped my game no end that I was unaware of them, instead discovering the perfect racing line through each course. Oh, and Sasha's soundtrack is the duck's nuts (with maybe only Wipeout Fusion's tune selection being its equal).

  • This one made more of a mark on me than its predecessor, Ico. It's not that I don't love Ico, but I'd already played Prince of Persia: Sands of Time beforehand and the climby-jumpy-clingy-clambery action wasn't as new as it could have been. Shadow of the Colossus, however, was and is unlike anything I've ever played. The world is wonderfully realised despite its lack of dialogue and overt storytelling, and you're sucked into the landscape as you explore it and conquer its denizens. Oh, and the soundtrack is sublime.

  • This makes it just because five of my mates and I have regular Thursday night multiplayer sessions. We fire up some projector screen action, system link a couple of 360s and drink beer as we kill each other in the face.

  • I wrote a whole blog dedicated to how much I got into this game (go check it out) but in a nutshell: I owned it, unplayed, for way too long before I got sick and needed something to play while suffering on the couch. Between sniffles and coughs, I cursed myself for not investing time in this stellar experience earlier. I've currently logged 60 hours with this game, and because I really need to finish it with my gnarly bitch character I'm sure I'll go back at some stage. Mesmerising stuff.

  • I've already raved about this game in other spaces, so I'll keep this short. I came to Fallout 3 wayyy after it was out, but boy am I glad I did. I lost hundreds of hours to it (most of them when I should have been sleeping) and eventually got every achievement for the main game and all the DLC, such was the grip this title had. The sense of place and atmosphere found in Fallout 3 is simply amazing - I've never been as fully immersed in anything else.

  • I heart this game so hard I want to elope with it.