A while back, a friend posed a question to a group of us, asking what 15 games had most influenced us. Bel posted about it a while back, and I came up with my list around the same time. It’s now the first post of Blaugust. These are in roughly the order in which I encountered them, which means that they’re roughly arranged by date, but not quite. Trimming the list to 15 games is hard, and each of these led to other similar games in almost all cases.
Sonic 2 (1992)
This is the game I would credit with getting me into video games in general. My earliest memories of gaming are of me playing as Tails in this game. Tails is essentially invincible, but can be a valuable co-op partner if the person controlling him is good. Even if they’re not (and when this came out I certainly wasn’t), it’s not a real drawback. This being one of my first experiences is probably why I value co-op games so highly now.
Honorable Mention: Super Mario World
I’ve talked about Overkill before, so I won’t expand here. This is the first game I “beat” on my own (Like a lot of games in the genre, Overkill starts again harder when you beat the last stage), and it established my love of scrolling shooters.
Honorable Mention: Touhou 7: Perfect Cherry Blossom
Street Fighter 2 (1992)
This is a bit of an odd case. I played Street Fighter 2 with friends before any of us knew what we were doing, or how to do a fireball motion or any of that, and found it fun. I learned what a Hadouken was too late to put any of it to practice in these matches or in the arcade, but memories of those experiences are why I found fighting games fun. I eventually enjoyed the more over-the-top games (BlazBlue, Marvel vs. Capcom) more than Street Fighter, but this one remains special.
Honorable Mention: Tekken 2
Illusion of Gaia (1994)
Illusion of Gaia (or Illusion of Time if you’re in Europe) was my first “Action-RPG” of sorts. This is the game that taught me that games could have actual stories beyond “rescue the princess” or “stop the bad guy”. This game in particular is somewhat difficult, so I didn’t actually beat it on a real SNES; I played it to completion on an emulator years later.
Mario Kart 64 (1997)
The joy of multiplayer, now with twice the players. Mario Kart 64 was my first 4-player game, and therefore the first game around which gatherings were specifically held. Prior to this, gaming was something my friends and I did while hanging out, this marked the start of hanging out specifically to play games.
Honorable Mention: Star Fox 64
Mega Man X4 / Mega Man 8 (1997)
These released in the same year, use almost the same sprite for the main character, and were played by me literally back to back, so they can share this slot. They also share terrible voice acting (but I didn’t know better back then) and relatively high difficulty (which is common to the series). This was the expansion of my earlier enjoyment of the Mario and Sonic games, but with an additional layer of complexity that wasn’t just “jump on enemies”. I went back and played a lot of the earlier games later, and they’re also great. The same can’t be said for what came after…
Pokemon Red/Blue (1998)
This might as well be My First JRPG, but it’s hiding some ridiculousness underneath. The simple nature of this game and ease of understanding the basics got me in, and trading with friends kept me in. As I got older, I grew to enjoy the complicated parts.
Legend of Dragoon (2000)
This game made me aware that JRPGs as a genre were a thing I was interested in. Legend of Dragoon grabbed me in a way Final Fantasy 7 did not*, and it became my life for a period of time in 2001. The story is a bit cliché, and the translation is terribad (they couldn’t keep things consistent). But the combat system requiring timed button presses is fun (others have described it as “tedious”) and it has beautiful backgrounds and animations for the PS1 era.
*I died to the guard scorpion because I didn’t know “Attack while the tail’s up” was a mistranslation and it’s the same ATB tutorial boss the series used since FF4. I was 10; I hadn’t played any of the SNES games yet.
Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
AKA the most fun I had with a multiplayer game since Mario Kart. Despite what some people say, this is a fighting game at its core, so a lot of the same principles of spacing and timing apply. At the same time, the simple nature of inputs and the chaotic nature of combat allow for people without much knowledge of the game to play and have fun. The skill ceiling is rather high, so it’s possible to see experienced players completely destroy beginners, but it can stay fun as long as the skill gap isn’t too wide.
Final Fantasy 5 (1992)
My favorite Final Fantasy, which is surprising when people learn I played this after 4 and 6, and it was the fan-translated version on an emulator. I’ve also talked about this one before. (As a reminder, you have exactly one month to finish/join the Fiesta.) My love of systems was established by this game, and it hasn’t worn off. Pieces of it still shine through in later Final Fantasy games, most notably in Tactics, X-2, and 14.
Shining Soul 2 (2004)
This is probably the game in the list that other people are least likely to have played. Shining Soul is a dungeon crawler of sorts for the Game Boy Advance, featuring a variety of characters and a very simple story. I picked this up because I liked the dragon, but I ended up playing more of the wolf. I’m fairly certain this was the start of my trend of playing non-humans in things that allow it, in addition to the start of me actually enjoying dungeon crawlers.
Honorable Mention: Diablo 2
World of Warcraft (2004)
I didn’t play WoW until 2007, right when Burning Crusade came out. By sheer virtue of the number of players it had at its peak, World of Warcraft was the first MMO for many people, and I count myself among that crowd. It’s thanks to WoW that I met a bunch of the people I now associate with, including Belghast and Kodra. It’s had ups, it’s had downs, but what I think of as an MMO is shaped almost entirely by World of Warcraft, from my preferred roles to what kinds of classes I like.
Mass Effect (2008)
Mostly what Mass Effect did was teach (or re-teach) that I didn’t dislike shooters. I played a bunch of Goldeneye when that was relevant, and a fair bit of Halo 2 in high school, but after that everything seemed to be Call of Duty and competitive multiplayer, and I wasn’t a big fan. Mass Effect brought me back in a number of ways, mostly thanks to RPG mechanics and abilities. Mass Effect 3 did even more, thanks to the greatly expanded abilities on show in the multiplayer.
Bastion is a marvel of sound design. It’s also pretty and plays well, but those are honestly secondary to the music and the narration. This opened me up to the difference sound can make in a game. Without the work of Darren Korb and Logan Cunningham, Bastion would be a good, but not terribly special top-down action game, and it would draw unfavorable comparisons to things like Diablo or Sacred 2. The music and voice are what distinguish it. (My personal favorite track is Spike in a Rail.)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
I played Oblivion when it came out and didn’t like it very much. I tried it again in 2008 and liked it more, but not enough to “finish” it. Skyrim engaged me in a way that Oblivion did not, and the streamlining of certain things (like attributes) made the experience much more enjoyable for me. Oblivion (and GTA) made me think I didn’t like Open World games, and Skyrim taught me otherwise.
Honorable Mention: Saint’s Row 3
Now that I’m here at the end, this is kind of a ridiculous post. Expect most of my Blaugust posts to be about a 5th of this. Thanks to MobyGames for the vast majority of the screenshots.
Forgot to mention this when it went up, but for more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative.