Games That Shaped My Life, Pt. 2
Video games have existed every day that I have existed on this planet. With almost 33 years in the bank, I have gone through a lot of hardware and even more software. Here’s my breakdown of the games that defined me on each individual console that I owned or played.
Also, note that there is an obvious absence of Sega and Sony consoles. During the heyday of the Genesis and the PlayStation I was busy playing other systems. Instead of the Genesis I was either playing on my computer or on my SNES. Instead of the PlayStation 1 or 2, I was either playing my Dreamcast, my PC, GameCube, or Xbox. I do not regret these decisions because had I stuck with the mainstream I might have missed out on some life-shaping experiences.
In Part 1, I left you with the first set of games that left an impression on my youth. From my first arcade experience, Gauntlet to my first Nintendo experience, there were a ton of great games that I enjoyed in the ‘80s. Now I’ll be picking up with a gaming experience a bit removed from a joystick.
Car Wars (Tabletop)
You’re reading that correctly, one of the most important experiences in my gaming life was playing a tabletop RPG. Not only was this an important gaming experience, it was eventually an essential video gaming experience. Car Wars was a Steve Jackson game and at its core was an interacting car-battling game. Players built up their cars, trucks, and motorcycles with weapons and then blasted the crap out of one another in a battle arena. If this sounds like Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8, then you’d completely understand this game because Twisted Metal is 100% derivative of Car Wars. Car Wars inspired one direct video game version known as Autoduel. I played that game to death on my PC. Unfortunately, the Car Wars brand has not survived the years but its impact can still be felt today.
Mario Kart (SNES)
Speaking of games with car battles, Mario Kart may be the most successful car battler of all time. Mario Kart for the SNES marked the debut of this series and I can’t imagine anyone believed this game would wind up this ridiculously successful. At the time, Mario Kart was one of those games that I could play a million times and it would never get old. Mario Kart was a great dorm game and still one of the best Mario genre games ever made. Even though the battle arenas were simplistic, they provided endless hours of ball-busting entertainment. Nothing else on the SNES even came close for me.
Goldeneye 007 (N64)
After latching on to my SNES a bit longer than I should have, I finally upgraded to the Nintendo 64 with the delayed release of Goldeneye 007. If you weren’t gaming at the time of Goldeneye 007, you really can’t understand the importance of this game. Goldeneye was the first really effective four-player split-screen shooter and one of the best party games of all time. Not only was it a great multiplayer game, it was a fantastic single-player game. With multiple difficulties and timed gameplay, Goldeneye provided months of challenge and entertainment. Plus, this game arrived at the dawn of the internet and was one of the first games to have the majority of its secrets spilled online (somewhere amidst all of its code, Goldeneye held playable skins for the other non-Brosnan 007s!). Goldeneye 007 was a fantastic game that showed me the potential of a console-made FPS title. Too bad it would have to wait until Halo before another FPS game on a console was worth its marbles.
Grandia II (Dreamcast)
I didn’t have my Dreamcast for very long because I was hard pressed to find many games that I really enjoyed. Sports games aren’t really my bread and butter. Seaman and Shenmue flew way below my radar. However, I did have the great fortune of discovering this little RPG known as Grandia II. I’d never played the first game nor was I too much an RPG fan. I’m not sure what inspired me to pick this game up but I’ve had fond memories of it ever since. I played hours and hours with game reveling in the little details and the astounding gameplay. More than likely, this game’s innovative approach to RPG combat led me to Fable almost a decade later. Grandia II was one of the deep cuts that will be forgotten in the annals of time but left a great impression on my youth.
I moved on from the Dreamcast quickly and found the world of PC gaming ready to accept me with open arms. My games of choice were Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. I had played a ton of the original Castle Wolfenstein and was shocked at how amazing these sequels turned out. iD Software relaunched this franchise with a great story, smart level design, and a flawless multiplayer. I played through the single-player several times but wound out addicted to the online component. I was joining clans, attending practice, and playing late into the night. Not only was multiplayer great, the community was fantastic.
Following a year or two of RTCW, I picked up the free multiplayer game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. This game was originally intended as a full single player and multiplayer experience, but the single player was cancelled. Instead of hiding the multiplayer in mothballs, Splash Damage and iD let this game out into the wild… for free. Enemy Territory took the cool settings and weapons of RTCW and encouraged teamwork to take down objectives. This was the perfect game for players like me who may not have had the best kill ratio but were will to lay down our lives for the team to win the objective. To this day, Enemy Territory is the best PC game I have ever played. If I still had the time to commit to this game, I would rejoin this still active community in a heartbeat.
Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube)
At the same time that I was playing Wolfenstein, I was playing some Gamecube. Most of the Gamecube games I played paled in comparison to my PC games. There were only two games that came close, one was Eternal Darkness and other was Super Mario Sunshine. I hadn’t really enjoyed Mario 64, so Super Mario Sunshine was a great return to form. This was a happy and fun Mario experience that veered away from the typical Mario formula but remained true to the attitude. While I still have nightmares from trying to clean beaches with limited time, Super Mario Sunshine remains one of my favorite Mario games of all time.