If you began your gaming in the mid to late 80’s you will have seen firsthand the enormous leaps and bounds that developers have made from Greenhouse on Nintendo’s Game & Watch through to the realistic FPS an sports simulators of today’s generation. Strangely and sadly (for today’s gamers) my most memorable games, the ones that kept me interested in the industry in general and ate up most of my time in between school are not from today’s list of popular titles. I say sadly for today’s gamers as I personally think that the playability and standard of games has dropped in quality. That’s not to say that today’s titles are not visually spectacular with integrated storylines more akin to a Hollywood blockbuster, they just seem to lack that ultimate feeling of fun over the duration of the game. I have tried to justify my choices by acknowledging the fact that games of an older era possessed the advantage of being truly groundbreaking and in many instances they changed the face of gaming forever. These were not just ports from another platform or a sequel to a popular series on a new generation console, they were new ideas presented on new technology never seen before. While this does have a bearing in the decisions ultimately these games were simply more fun to play and even 20 years down the track I have fond memories of being lost within their firm grasp.
Movies of today rely heavily on special effects and sound to enhance the entertainment value of the film, foregoing natural acting talent and engrossing storylines in the process. The same can be said for many of today’s games, which although possessing amazing visual scenes are empty of emotion, having no way to connect to the audience and encroaching too much on the movie genre. I can’t think of any game from today’s current choices that would have me up at the local milk bar 2 hours before school at 6am in the morning lining up to play the local champion. Ahh those were the days.
Anyway onto the list
Street Fighter 2
The undisputed King of games IMO. This game had me down at the local milkbar every day before and after school pumping 20c coins into the lone standing arcade machine (until Mortal Kombat came out and kept it company). Note I am referring to the original SF2 not the lame Hyper versions and such that came after it. Everything before this game paled in comparison to it and the same goes for much that came after. It was released 20 years ago this month and is responsible for the cavalcade of fighting games that have come since, with many of its characters still being used in new titles and off-spins. I actually remember as a child having a Super Nintendo and sourcing one of the first copies of this game from an ad in the Trading Post, having to buy some special adapter that required 2 games plugged in at once to allow foreign games to work. Cost me an arm and a leg to boot. SF2 is the highest selling Capcom game ever.
Super Mario Bros
Theoretically still the highest selling video game of all time with over 40 million copies sold worldwide. The game that has taken over from it is Wii Sports and since this game was given away with the Wii console I don’t think it gets the title. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played this game all the way through and it still doesn’t get old. Responsible for resurrecting the entire video game industry as well as putting Nintendo firmly on the map, this could be considered the most influential game ever made. Increased playability came from the multiple ways a player could get through a level often having to go back to discover new items. There’s not really much to say about this as there wouldn’t be any gamers not aware of its presence or who haven’t played it for that matter. It was released originally by Nintendo in 1985 for the NES system on a cartridge not much smaller than a Wii, and has been revamped in New Super Mario Bros which is the latest instalment on the Wii. It was first rendered in 3D on the Nintendo 64 and has since been improved upon in the multi award winning Super Mario Galaxy series on the Wii.
Resident Evil 0
Easily the most current game on the list, this title was developed by Capcom in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube as a prequel to the entire series. If they weren’t the first to use the concept of changing between players instantly within game play they were certainly the first to implement the feature successfully. It was also one of the last adventure games to have truly challenging puzzles that kept the player thinking long after the console had been turned off in frustration. I remember many times getting up at all hours of the night having just thought of a way to decipher a poem or get through a locked door. Everything after this I feel concentrated too much on enemies and shooting their way through the game rather than solving puzzles. This game really had everything, from a scare factor reminiscent of Dead Space to challenging enemies and cool weaponry (flame thrower).
Specifically I am referring to 3 games but they are as similar in terms of design and idea as to include them as 1 game. Also they are sold as a collection these days I think. In order of age they are as follows, Kings Quest I, Space Quest I and Leisure Suit Larry.
Originally released in 1984, Kings Quest – the quest for the crown involved players taking control of King Graham, in his adventures from being a knight to King of Daventry where he and his family live. The fun and at the same time annoying part about games from this era is that there was no mouse available yet to control characters. Players had to walk around using the cursor keys and type, yes I said type in the commands they wanted to perform. You had to be prepared to die many many times while typing in controls that 1980,s computers could not understand. Typos resulted in death in the majority of cases and save points were few and far between. Remember these games were being played off five and half inch floppy discs and didn’t have the capacity to save much data on them. The puzzles were incredibly complex and the game utilised EGA and VGA graphics which were ground breaking and visually superior to anything else.
Space Quest I- The Sarian encounter was along the same lines in terms of game play but added a character that was remarkably stupid in nature. Players took control of Roger Wilco, a janitor on various space crafts as he travelled through the galaxy saving the universe often by accident. It had a very Star Wars feel to it especially in relation to alien character design. Like Kings Quest it relied on typing in commands but allowed for saving at any stage in the game.
Leisure Suit Larry – The thing I remember most about this game is having to answer the questions at the beginning aimed at keeping minors from playing it. What they didn’t implement was a feature limiting the amount of times u could try. A fantastic game that introduced young gamers into the seedy world of Larry, a short ugly man that thought he was god’s gift to women. I have fond memories of playing this when I was 12 giggling madly but having no idea about what a condom was, let alone what it was used for. This game was more fun for its taboo nature but it also had a very engrossing storyline and ideas and concepts never seen in games previous to it.
I didn’t bother really playing any of the sequels to the original as Naughty Dog left after the second instalment and didn’t have much involvement in the others. I first had Sim City in the list but then remembered how much time I wasted playing this and why. In an age where Mario Bros reigned supreme as the King of platformers, Crash Bandicoot came along to eventually become one of the highest ever selling Playstation games. The addictive part of this game was collecting the various different coloured gems and solving the puzzles by having to perform near impossible tasks and precision jumps in the process. Every level had to be carefully analysed in order to collect every box and get the bonus gems.
Of course this list is subjective and I’m not arguing that you all will have a very different list of games that give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I could have listed a whole lot more but those are the 5 that most stick out in my mind without even having to think about it. They represent a time to me when games had a lot more thought put into them, and had the individual player in mind when designing it. A game most of you will say is missing from the list is Grand Theft Auto. I actually had the pleasure of meeting the guy randomly in a pub in Eastwood Sydney who designed and came up with the original concept for the game back when it was nothing more than stick figures and blocky cars seen from an aerial view. I won’t say anything to incriminate the guy but let’s just say he was incredibly eccentric, and very proud of his latest idea of offering players discounts on the game if they could bring in some kind of traffic offense statement when purchasing it (an idea which didn’t last long once the authorities found out). While this game did offer gratuitous violence on levels never seen before and finally gave gamers the opportunity to commit offenses which would otherwise see them behind bars, for me it became repetitive, not changing a whole great deal between instalments. Don’t get me wrong, today’s developers are producing phenomenal games, with intricate plots spanning across all eras. Character design is incredibly interactive and sport games are realistic with players gaining more lifelike characteristics with each instalment, but for me they have gone too far in many respects. I never design characters I play everything with the stock option. I’m not saying I don’t upgrade them but that’s different to spending more time chiselling out a high cheek bone and lip structure then actually playing the game. Game developers are getting away too much with empty shells of games that players are completing with ease. Yes you can argue that FPS are designed for multiplayer and online play, but that doesn’t help the gamer who wants to immerse themselves in a fantasy world and get lost in the pure pleasure of it.
Anyway that’s just my rant hope you enjoyed reading it all.
Some other games that deserve a mention include
Gran Turismo, Moto Roader, Escape from monkey Island, Alien Storm, Shamus, Sonic, State of Emergency, Dig Dug, Mortal Kombat, Streets of Rage, 10 Yard fight, Double Dragon, Alley Cat, Gauntlet, Golden Axe, Ghost and Goblins and Sim city. Most available as VC or Wiiware.