Okay, firstly I have to confess that this top 10 may expand in to a top 20, or even 30!
In part 2 of my little retrospective look back at where our gaming lives began, I have finally entered the era where things really took off, and there are way too many great games to choose from.
No need for much of a history lesson here, I’ve already given that elsewhere. Let’s jump straight in with were it truly began, for me anyway. I missed out on the NES and Master System of the mid-80’s, I was too busy toying with the home computer scene to be enjoying Sonic and Mario’s early outings. So if you don’t mind I’d rather skip something, than talk about it third hand. Yes Yes! I will miss a chunk of great games that you may know and love, but I’m the one doing the writing here! If you feel passionate about anything I’ve missed then leave a comment, good or bad, and I might have to do a ‘part 3’
So, my first true ‘modern world’ gaming console came in the form of Nintendo’s SNES in 1990. This little purple breeze block (I had the US import version) really tore my world from being hunched over a keyboard, to relaxing back on my bed with just 6 buttons and a D-pad. As this is a feature on gaming, I’ll leave you to google for more info about this beautiful work of art, and you should – It’s a pretty fine piece of kit.
It is impossible to begin any review of the SNES without mentioning the birth of ‘Super Mario Kart’. Here it was, that mighty platforming King, including all of his friends and enemies, dropped in to the street racing genre. The game became one of the most exciting, and influential, games of our time. Many tried to copy the atmosphere of this awesome experience, but they all failed. If you were too young to be out on a Saturday night then there was no better experience than sharing a couple of sherbets with your mates and a 2 player game of Mario Kart. I remember when your friends actually had to visit you in real life, rather than just donning a headset.
The next pivotal moment in our history was the phoenix from the ashes: Sony’s beautiful, and legendary, Playstation 1 from 1995. It is very strange to think that this little grey box, and the phenomenal success that ensued, was originally a joint development between Nintendo and Sony as a SNES hybrid, with this marvelous new ‘CD-Rom’ technology. It ended in a punch up and Sony went it alone, after being given a black eye by Ninty. I wonder if Nintendo look back at that moment and think “Lads, I think we fucked up right about there…!”
Actually, it might not surprise you that it is all of the above, but it might surprise you to know that my overwhelming memory of the PS1 is neither of the above, but the rather more unique and special game called ‘Tunnel B1’. However, it looks like I am in the minority. IGN gave this game 6/10, Gamespot give it 4.6/10. In my mind, it deserves far greater respect.
Why do I like it? Above all it is a Racer, but it is also a 1st person shooter and a dark sci-fi blaster. Hurtling your way down a tunnel (the clue is in the name) you have to dodge and shoot various obstacles against the clock. I think I might have grown really attached to this game because It very much reminds me of the Death Star trench run in the original Star Wars arcade game.
Nintendo launched the ‘N64’ in 1997 and, despite it not doing very well, I think it still stands high as one of my favourite consoles ever. Mainly because it introduced me to Zelda and the Ocarina of Time. I skipped Zelda on the SNES because the screwy little graphics didn’t impress me. However, the N64 took our friend ‘Link’ in to a whole new dimension. The 3rd person aspect was an amazing growth for the game and despite the N64 ‘fuzzy’ graphic issues, it did look beautiful and took away many hours of my life.
But, stop right there. Neither of the two N64 Zelda games are at pole position on my N64 grid. My absolute favourite N64 game was “Blast Corps”. A Top down 3rd person race against time, and nuclear holocaust, with a shitload of devastation along the way. I really loved this game and demolished everything in it to the very end.
The N64 has to be my favourite console because of Blast Corps, Zelda and some other great original games. Mario also turned 3D, Star Fox 64 was an amazing space shooter with awesome bosses, and Mischief Makers reminded us that 2D platformers were not dead. Without a doubt, these were good times!
Moving on to the end of the 90’s. Sega bought us the Dreamcast in 1998. A nice little machine that didn’t exactly change the world, but occasionally it really ignited a spark of brilliance. It was a while before I became bothered by the Dreamcast, but then it bought the world to ‘MSR’ or ‘Metropolis Street Racer’ to the acronymaphobic amongst you, and I immediately bought a Dreamcast.
MSR bought us some great new innovations in the racing genre. One of the most impressive things in MSR is the ‘Real-Time’ racing, as in ‘Real’ & ‘Time’. If you were in the UK and racing the game at 9pm in the evening, on a London circuit, it would be a night race. Likewise, if you then switched to a Los Angeles race, it would be set at 1pm in the afternoon. I was very impressed with this function and to the best of my knowledge nobody has thought of it since. I would have been even more impressed if they had used the online ability to download local weather data and adjust the track conditions according to what was happening outside your window. Perhaps someone will think of that in the future 🙂
Bizarre Creations closed It’s doors on Friday 18th February 2011. Very sad to see them go.
At the turn of the 21st Century Sony followed up the Playstation 1 with the imaginatively entitled: Playstation 2, and their success just grew from strength to strength. Once again we have a plethora of classic games to choose from. More Final Fantasy games than you could shake a shitty stick at. My choice for the top slot has to be Ico.
Not only does Ico look staggeringly beyond the PS2’s capabilities, it plays beautifully and you actually connect with the feelings of the characters. You may occasionally wish to slap the crazy girl you are trying to save, but that merely increases your empathy with the game. The follow up to Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, pushed the boundaries a little further but I lacked the connection with the game because we had seen it before, as often happens with sequels.
A list of favourite PS2 games that came a close 2nd, see if you recognise the covers:-
When Microsoft entered the arena of gaming in 2002, some people thought it was a gimmick, a PC company encroaching on the console industry.
Personally I was actually quite worried.
With the massive weight and dollar value of Microsoft, they had the ability to buy their way straight to the top of the ladder, forcing all other manufacturers to slide down a snake.
Some manufacturers did fail and others are still sliding.
Following on from the MSR passion induced from the Dreamcast, I promptly rushed out and bought an Xbox once I realised that “Project Gotham Racing” was a re-incarnation of the afore mentioned MSR. Sadly the “Real Time” beauty of MSR was not taken over to “PGR”, but nonetheless it is an awesome racer. Graphically the game is stunning, and geographically it is damn accurate. Games really started to put as much realism in them as possible. You could actually race your Ford Fiesta around the exact race tracks used in PGR, but probably not at the same speeds in London traffic. PGR was followed up on the Xbox with PGR2 and, unlike some sequels, it was an improvement over the original. For this reason, I should really have this listed as the “Project Gotham Series” because both games deserve top slot.
One of the greatest achievements by Microsoft and the Xbox was to create the incredibly stable online platform for gamers: Xbox Live.
Online play really bought PGR to a whole new level. Racing against real humans, anywhere on the planet. Now, you only needed to buy your own beer and you could have the 2nd greatest possible amount of fun whilst just sitting around in your underpants.
Nintendo were still keeping their heads above water in 2002, fighting against the flood tide of newborn Microsoft fanboys. The Gamecube entered the fight already battered, bruised and limping badly after the rather poor global performance of the N64, they had some catching up to do. Our old friend “Link” very much changed with the birth of Zelda on the Cube, starting life firmly fixed in a new cartoon style. This seemed to sadly began Nintendo’s image as a kids console, something they are still drastically trying to recover from some 10 years later, if indeed they actually want to grow up again.
Some great original games still surfaced from the GC, most notably was my favourite: Pikmin.
This rather excellent little adventure game was a new take on an old favourite; Lemmings. Controlling, and sacrificing, these little fella’s so that you can gather some kit and take off home, somewhat selfish but hey life is all about the survival of the fittest 🙂
Other notable classics must include the old favourite, Mario. Newcomer in the fighting genre; Viewtiful Joe. Who can forget Samus in the Metroid Franchise and Eternal Darkness made Resident Evil developers scrambling to make their games scarier.
I should perhaps do some summing up here. As an out-and-out racing genre fan, I have to say my pick of the bunch from the above is the MSR/PGR series. The started the epic racing game with beautiful realism. I’ve no doubt that the Need for Speed lads will now carry the gauntlet until the Bizarre Creations team can resurface.
Obviously these choices are rather personal, so don’t bitch and whine like a 2 year old if they don’t fit in to your way of thinking. That, my friend, is life… so fucking deal with it 🙂
So, what is my favourite game ever?
It has to be the oldest, and very first game in my list from part 1 of this little ramble. 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81 blew me away. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it that wasn’t in a pub or arcade. It was in my bedroom, on my TV and I didn’t have to feed 10p’s in a slot to get it working. It helped give birth to home gaming and I salute the creator, Malcolm Evans. No matter what games have been released since, or will be released in the future, you cannot replicate the first time you have that great feeling of truly seeing something new. Bring on the future, but all hail the past…