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Games That Shaped My Life

I was born in 1980, so I've pretty much grown up with the gaming industry. There were a few games before me that I was too young to appreciate, but from the NES on I've had a front row seat to watching games go from text-only to 200 hour behemoths.
These are the games that had a profound impact on me. Some aren't even for good reasons. This certainly isn't a 'favourite games of all time' list, though I'm sure a lot of it will cross over.

List items

  • This is the first game that I can remember playing. As a 3 year old, my life was dedicated to finding some way to play Lode Runner. My family would tell me that I could play for a little while if I did some odd chore and I would run to do it. Nothing was more important than playing this game. I would have walked over hot coals for 30 minutes of playing this game.

  • Infocom games were all that there was for me from like 1984-1986. I didn't have a NES yet and no longer had an Apple 2e to play Lode Runner on. I started with Wishbringer, but never completely got into them until I played Zork 1. This game confused the hell out of me when I was five years old -- the puzzles were so obtuse and the solutions so rigid, but I would still play it constantly. I can remember going to my dad's work one day and just playing Zork all day. He hooked up a printer that printed everything I did and made it into a binder -- I can see it now -- LUKE'S GREAT ADVENTURES IN ZORK 4/19/86. I threw that book away when I was like 15 because, honestly, what purpose is this ever going to serve? I have been pissed off at my 15 year old self ever since.

  • I can remember seeing this game in the arcade in like 1985 and I was never the same afterward. You had stuff like Tron and Pac-Man with hideous pixel graphics, and then you had the full-motion video of Dragon's Lair. As a 5 year old, there was Dragon's Lair and there was everything else. I spent tons of money on its trial-and-error patterns until I memorized it and was able to get to the end flawlessly.

  • awww yeah. I loved the arcade version of this game. When my mother agreed to buy my brother and I a NES, she had to make a decision. My brother wanted Mario 2. I wanted Karate Champ. My brother won. Ultimately his game ended up being better because the NES version of Karate Champ is laughably bad, but I've still never forgiven him for this.

  • This, The Simpsons, X-Men, Gauntlet -- all these four player beat em ups were what I lived for back in the late 80s. I used to go to my local arcade where we could get unlimited tokens from 9am til noon on Saturdays for $5. I'd get up extra early, call my friend and we'd make the 2 mile walk each morning. It was more like a pilgrimage.

  • I was obsessed with this game. The Wizard was the greatest movie of all time because of the epic Mario 3 reveal. I studied Nintendo Power's strategy guide endlessly. I could identify every N-card house within a couple of moves and complete it without looking at a guide. I would get every treasure ship and P-wing in the game. Ironically, I don't really like this game all that much right now - I think I just played the life out of it in 1990 and 1991 and I haven't gotten over it yet.

  • When I first saw this game in Nintendo Power, I was like "who the hell would like this game?" I was actually upset that they were dedicating an entire issue to Final Fantasy. I can remember buying Mega Man 1 and renting Final Fantasy on the same day. I rented it because I wanted to have an informed opinion on why this game was stupid.

    I have never been the same since. I have probably poured a thousand hours into the original Final Fantasy. I don't think I even opened Mega Man 1 for weeks.

  • I had a Turbografx 16 and a Genesis before I had a SNES, but those never really had one single game that hooked me. Final Fantasy II was that game for me - the opening just floored me. I was like "holy crap, look at these awesome graphics!" as Cecil busted some floating eyes with lightning spells or something. I would rent this game from the store, set my alarm for 4:15am and play it before school. I tried like hell to finish it but I could never get far enough before I had to return it a couple days later. I would then rent it again, start over and get a little bit further before having to return it again. I finally made it to the moon on my last try and then a kid I know in school goes "HEY LUKE DID YOU PLAY FINAL FANTASY 2 YET? IT'S REALLY AWESOME WHEN" and then spoils the game for me. Screw Aeris, this is my moment. I have never forgiven this kid 15 years later.

  • I have so many stories about this game that I don't know where to start. I played it when it came out in the arcade, but I had no idea what I was doing so I felt like it was a waste of money. I rented the original SF2 when it came out for SNES and just fell in love. I went and rented a Game Genie along with it to try and unlock the four boss characters but it didn't work. I tried about a thousand codes that week. I never used a Game Genie again. I practiced with all the characters. I used to write the special moves out in my notebooks during study hall every day. It was all I thought about. We had two machines at my arcade, the old SF2 version and then Hyper Fighting on a huge-ass projection screen. All the really good players played there while the bad ones played on the crappy OG SF2 machine. After weeks of practice, I decided to brave the big screen. I had like a six game winning streak, but I could never figure out how to do a dragon punch. All the kids watching noticed this and were like "dude, do a dragon punch!" "I don't know how!" "just do a forward fireball!" It was a close match at the end of the third round and this Blanka jumps at me and I do it. Blanka makes his death sound, the whole arcade explodes and I win. No video game moment will ever top this. When Hyper Fighting came out for the SNES, it was literally all I did throughout the 90s. For years, my best friend and I would just have SF2 competitions. If FF1 isn't my most played game, SF2T is.

  • SF2 was my life until MK2 came out. I liked MK1 a lot and bought a Game Gear for MORTAL MONDAY, but it was MK2 that actually toppled SF2 as my favourite fighting game. I lived at my arcade in 1993 so I could play this game. I knew I was there too long when people started to recognize me. This one kid says to his friend, "dude, don't lose your money! This kid kicks everyone's ass." That was when I knew I needed to find something else to do.

  • Haha, Giant Bomb has LORD. BBS door games were what I did in the mid-90s: LORD, BRE, The Pit and a whole mess of other ones. They were the precursor to MMOs, but they only lasted a few minutes a day so they were much easier to swallow and not a massive timesink. LORD was just one of many of these games, but it was by far the most popular and I still play it today.

  • The Best Remake of All Time goes to this little gem. Take the purity of Lode Runner, add a save button (!) and a whole mess of new weapons to use against the bad guys. Throw in some cool atmospheric music and some nice graphics and you've got a game that had me at hello. I still play this game to this day.

  • Around the mid-90s, my big brother moved back home. We played all sorts of competitive SNES games during this time -- Rampart and Uniracers were really popular -- but nothing matched up to the pure war that was Mario Kart. We would play 150cc and just crush the computer while trying to literally kill each other. The winner would gloat about it until we sat down for a rematch. My brother's girlfriend at the time joined in with us too for some three-player war.

  • In the late 90s I kind of fell out of gaming for a while. I was in high school, so friends and girls were more important/interesting. 3d games were all the rage and I didn't really like those. All that I really did was play SF2 with my friend for an hour or so whenever he'd come over. I played FF7 for PC but it didn't really grab me. When I finished my first semester of college I decided I was going to reward myself one of two ways: either buy Lode Runner 2 for PC or buy a PS1 and Xenogears, a game I saw quickly at a friend's house. I picked Xenogears and it was the best decision I ever made. Xenogears got me back into gaming on a permanent basis. I fell in love with its cinematic approach and its deep, convoluted storyline. I couldn't believe what I was playing. I can remember being about four hours in and a friend I hadn't talked to in months called. I was really excited to hear from him but after five minutes I just couldn't listen to him anymore. I told him, "hey, I really want to talk to you but I just have to play this game. I'll call you later, okay?" I never called him back. I was too busy playing Xenogears. The next day, I played it for 20 hours straight. This game is magical to me in ways that no other game can approach. It's not even that good, really. But it touches me in all the right ways.

  • This game is special for reasons other than the actual game quality. I didn't have a PS2 at the time this came out, so I basically moved in with a friend. I would play this while my friend went to work and then, when he got home, I'd watch him play what I just did. It was all I did for like two weeks straight. I was there so much that his mom made a Christmas stocking for me with my name on it. Oh, and the game is pretty good, too.

  • I rented Super Metroid when it came out, but it wasn't until I randomly bought it on a whim in 2002 that I was able to really get to know it. My first playthrough of Super Metroid was me wandering around aimlessly and getting crushed by Ridley; my second started the very next day. By the fifth, I was skipping weapons entirely. By the tenth, I was speed running it. By the time a month had passed, I had probably beaten it twenty times. There is something special inside Super Metroid that is undefinable, and that something brought me away from RPGs and back to action games permanently.

  • In 2003, I discovered Shadow Hearts, a quirky RPG that struck me as being good but not great until about three months later, when I realized I really adored it. I spent a good chunk of 2003 doing nothing but replay Shadow Hearts, and when they announced a sequel to it I couldn't believe it was successful enough to warrant it. I was convinced it wouldn't come out in America, so I modded my PS2 to make sure I could play it. It did end up coming out here, fortunately. But from that day on, my favourite RPG series was no longer Final Fantasy -- it was Shadow Hearts.

  • I was in love with Super Metroid for its physics, but it was Zero Mission's superior control that hooked me. Everything was just much easier to do - bomb jumping, wall jumping, you name it, you could do it without a hassle. This led me to start officially speed running games, which led me to places like and I spent a huge chunk of time from 2004 and 2005 at those places. I ended up playing Zero Mission so much that I had the best time in the world from 2005 until 2008. You can apparently still see it here --

  • For a long time, I thought that only RPGs could have good stories (or at least, fun stories). It wasn't until Phoenix Wright that I realized that any game could pull this off successfully. It took me a year to actually give Phoenix Wright an honest shot because it looks like such a stupid, immature joke game at first, but it's actually really deep and extremely well-written. Phoenix Wright led me to other games like Hotel Dusk and made me interested in upcoming games like Heavy Rain or Again: Eye of Providence.

  • Geometry Wars is probably not in my top 10 XBLA games. What makes Geometry Wars so influential was showing me that downloadable games were not only good, but actually better than their 3d counterparts at a fraction of the price. If my friend hadn't sat me down in front of it, I probably never would have found N , Ikaruga, Braid, Castle Crashers or Shadow Complex. And I definitely would never have found Geometry Wars 2, the best shooter of all time.

  • What! This game was made in like 1988! I always liked Mega Man 2, but it wasn't until 2008's announcement of Mega Man 9 that I really fell in love with it. Hearing about a new MM made me revisit all the old MM games, and it was this one that I started playing endlessly. I speed ran it. I downloaded rom hacks of it. I started listening to the music out of game. I was just in love with a classic.

  • I only have one friend left that I can play competitive video games with - my other friends either play World of Warcraft endlessly, suck at games or don't game at all. That friend loves 3d fighters like Tekken; I love 2d ones like Street Fighter 2. Playing those games is pretty much a waste since we'll murder the other person. The middle ground is Smash, a weird 2d/3d hybrid that plays to neither of our strengths. We played a little Melee but never fully got into it, but when Brawl came out, it was all we did. My friend's wife has never forgiven me for introducing this to him. A huge chunk of 2008 ended up dedicated to this game, and led to my rediscovering the fighting game genre.