(This list is outdated. For the revised list, click here.)
When I came out of my mother’s womb, it wasn’t exactly a clear cut choice for what I would do for the first thirteen years of my life. Growing up in a small trailer for the first five years, and then moving to my current location, I had a whole lot of options. I could have played sports. Basketball, football, soccer. I wasn’t always overweight (Y’know, when I was four). I could have been an artist. I loved to draw and my imagination served me well all throughout my childhood. I could have wasted my entire life away playing with action figures and toy cars. Despite all of these alternative possibilities, the one thing I did ever since my childhood, all the way up into my life as of now, was play video games.
I started young; very young. At one point, I was told that I picked up my first controller at the age of three. Of course, my mind isn’t strong enough to remember the exact age of my first time playing the Super Nintendo, but old video tapes show evidence that it was before the age of five. Thinking back to it, I remember always watching my father play games such as Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Megaman; waiting until I got the chance to take on the classics for myself. Whether I’m correct or not, I’ll never really know, but I recall Donkey Kong Country 3 as the first game I’ve ever played. I also recall defeating Bowser in Super Mario World, a shining moment from my childhood. All of these memories, all of these games; everything played a part in what made my childhood so enamoring. With that said, I would like to share my memories with the public, with my own personal list of games that made my childhood full of wonder. A quick disclaimer beforehand, this list is not exactly a display of the greatest games of all-time. Keep in mind that I did not play every video game ever. There are a lot of games that you would expect to be on this list, but aren’t, simply because I either didn’t find them very influential or I just never played them as a child. Here’s a quick run-down of such games:
All Legend of Zelda titles, Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo & Kazooie, Resident Evil 4, Super Metroid, F-Zero, etc.
Before I start, I would like to clarify a couple of requirements each game had to meet in order to make the list.
- I had to have played the game before August 20th, 2006 (My 13th birthday).
- The game had to have had an impact on me as a child, and continued to have an impact on me as an adult.
- I have to remember playing the game, even though this may directly tie into the second requirement.
With that said, I’ll begin with a popular pick.
10. Starfox 64 (Released July 1st, 1997) (Nintendo 64)
Starfox 64 is an interesting choice, apparently. One of my siblings questioned its place here on this list, stating, “It’s a good game, but it wasn’t that great.” Who’s to say it wasn’t great, though? Starfox 64 was my introduction into the Starfox series and each of its characters had a direct impact on me and my love for space shooters. If I remember correctly, I had first played this game at my cousin’s house and loved it instantly. The characters, the style, the upgrades, the enemies, the projectable map; everything about this game brought out the creativity in my puny, kiddie mind. This was also one of the few games of my childhood that genuinely scared me. Don’t tell me Andross’s brain wasn’t the strangest boss in the existence of games up to that point! You shoot his eye balls for goodness sake! That is some traumatic imagery, and I applaud them for it. It was certainly memorable.
While I didn’t really dabble much into the multiplayer mode, I still found ways to play the game outside the main story. That whole Training Mode was a blast for me as a child, since it didn’t involve any plot, so I could just make my own. The game was fun even outside the actual story, which is another plus this game has over those who didn’t quite make the list. I also enjoyed the missions that involved riding in a tank and completely loathed the submarine mission. But my feelings of disdain for certain aspects of the game only improved the impact the game had on my childhood; I can look back at the game and say “OH! I hated that part!” Every waking emotion was exuded from my chubby body as a strapping, young lad whenever I played Starfox 64, and it did it with a certain flawed perfection. Never give up, trust your instincts.
9. Mega Man X: Command Mission (Released September 21st, 2004) (Nintendo Gamecube)
Another classic, right? Mega Man X: Command Mission is one of those spin-off games that seemed to have more impact on me as a child than the original series did. I’m not sure if this is sad and wasted effort or just sad. Regardless, I can’t rewrite my past. I first got my hands on Command Mission around the time it was released at the end of 2004. I got it from Best Buy as somewhat of an impulse buy. Did I regret it? Not a single bit. I loved the RPG style the game presented and it made me consider the possibilities of more RPG-styled Mega Man X games in the future. Did I ever get it? No. Despite the generally low critic consensus of the game (~68% on GameRankings and Metacritic), I thought the game was an absolute goldmine of possibilities. The attack system, the upgrades, the transformations, the character designs; it was a spectacular game for those willing to immerse themselves within it. The only major complaint I have with the game is the voice acting. Good gracious, the voice acting (in English) is absolutely atrocious. Even as a stupid kid, I made fun of their tired voices. But even that made it more memorable for me.
I never beat this game as a child. I only got to chapter six(?). Playing this as an adult, I flew through it like butter, like it was nothing. Perhaps I didn’t really understand what I was doing as a child, because this game is fairly simple. Why am I bringing this up? Another aspect of the game that I remember: the hiatus. While this has nothing to do with the game within the disc, it involves the existence of the game itself. After failing to get past the sixth(?) chapter, I went on to not play the game… for a long time. When I finally got around to wanting to play it again, after so many months, it was gone. I had suddenly lost it. I wouldn’t find the game again until I was far past the age of thirteen. That’s part of the impact this game had on me as a child: the mystery of not knowing what comes next. I never looked up how to get past any part of the game or what happens after the part I initially stopped at. I never found out what happened… as a child. For a long while, I had to fill in the blanks myself, but I would never really know until years had gone by. As an already great game within my mind, Command Mission also became “the lost game,” if you will. And that was enough to put it at #9 on this list.
8. Mega Man 7 (Released September, 1995) (Super Nintendo)
Two Mega Man games in a row! Is it a coincidence? Mega Man 7 was, along with Donkey Kong Country 3 and Super Mario World, one of the first games I ever played as a child. I’ll be honest, most of my enjoyment of the game as a child came from the color changes that Mega Man had when he switched powers. I liked colors. Blue’s Clues had nice colors! But regardless, the game was an absolute delight to play as a child and still holds up even now. Figuring out which power affected what enemy was a delight. Collecting scraps of junk metal for upgrades was a delight. Discovering secrets within past levels with powers achieved from past bosses was an absolute delight. This game is simply a blast. All of the effort put into the little things in this game are what make it such a magical childhood memory for me. The amount of secrets in this game add a multitude of layers to the game that only add to its replayability.
Fun fact: with my puny, stupid mind as a young child of… five(?), I used to call Slash Man “Cheese Man.” Why did I call him this? I have no clue. Regardless, it only established the special connection I had with the game’s creative bosses. With gender roles steadily in place at my home, robots definitely sparked the interest of my creative mind, and Mega Man 7 only inspired a wide variety of fan-made robos of my own. If only I still had records of these things. That would certainly make me
cringe reminisce fondly. I never beat Mega Man 7, though I’m certain pretty much no child could. That final boss is a monster.
7. Super Mario Sunshine (Released August 26th, 2002) (Nintendo Gamecube)
Super Mario 64 didn’t make the list. Super Mario World didn’t make the list. Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t make the list. Super Mario Sunshine makes the list. My opinion must be invalid, right? Let me explain, I never played Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Bros. 3. I played Super Mario World as a young boy, but it never really left a giant impact on me due to my developing mind. Super Mario Sunshine came at the exact right time, at the time I was nine. A lot of complaints about the game seem to be based on direct comparisons to Super Mario 64, but I don’t think that’s ultimately fair. Sure, with another game in a long line of legendary games, comparisons should be expected, but to compare every aspect of one game to another and base your opinion solely on that seems illogical to me. As a child, I never compared anything. I simply played the game as it was and had no thoughts as to what came before. It was a beautiful time for gaming. Super Mario Sunshine had one of the most engaging and bizarre plots I had ever seen in a game up to that point. Cleaning up graffiti? Super Mario! It seems more like a plot for a game starring Mr. Clean. Regardless, the game had a certain quality of color and pizzazz that made it work for me. The bonus stages were difficult, but fun. F.L.U.D.D. was one of the most helpful tools in any game ever (Ohhh, controversial statement). Despite what is essentially a burden to children everywhere, cleaning up the mess of monsterous goop within the game was one of the most exhilarating times I’ve ever had playing a Mario game, or any game, in my entire lifetime.
Super Mario World probably should have made this list…
6. Star Wars Episode I: Racer (Released May 19th, 1999) (Nintendo 64)
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on. I put a game based on one scene from Phantom Menace above Super Mario Sunshine, Mega Man 7, and Starfox 64? Yes, yes, I did. This game is an interesting choice, since I’m fairly certain that this game is one of the most repetitive games in my collection. Why does this game get so much love? Simple: it was amazingly fun. How fun was it? I preferred to play this game as a child over Starfox 64, Mario Party, Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Stadium, and Lego Racer. That’s quite the line-up. What made it so fun? Now, that question is tricky, because it’s probably full of bias. But this is my own personal list of games that had an impact on me. I can be as bias as I want. One thing you must know about me is that I am a gigantic fan of Star Wars. This game came out shortly after Star Wars: Episode I. Guess who had just seen the movie before purchasing the game? So, to put it simply, why did I love this game so much? Because it expanded upon one of my all-time favorite movies (shut up) and my all-time favorite scene from that movie (shut up).
Star Wars Episode I: Racer is a game where you race in machines called pod racers. You can choose from a wide variety of made-up alien races that were made specifically for the game, including Sebulba (most need to be unlocked, however). The game also has a variety of courses to choose from (twenty-eight in all, if I remember correctly) that have a specific character who has an advantage on said course. By winning these courses (or beating the favorite), you unlock a specified amount of money to spend on upgrades to your vehicle and the chance to play as the character whom you had beaten from that course. Simply spending time choosing the right parts to upgrade my vehicles and gazing upon the strange creatures that I could choose from, my childhood mind could hardly contain itself. This game inspired a wide variety of fan-made drawings (that I still never kept) and all sorts of imaginative outside gameplay. Not to mention, anything with the name “Star Wars” pasted on it was sure to get my attention. But in this case, it was both a “Star Wars” game and a genuinely entertaining one at that. A gem of a game with hardly any recognition (except a Player’s Choice sticker).
5. Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense (Released February 2nd, 2000) (Nintendo 64)
This is a statement I will defend to the death if I must: Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense is the most underrated game for the Nintendo 64. What’s Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense? That’s a question I hear all the time whenever I discuss the game with fellow gamers. And why would they have heard of it? They were too busy playing Twisted Metal. However, I, as a good ol’ christian boy, played the much more appropriate Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense. This game is still regarded as one of my all-time favorite games and is a regular to play whenever I have the chance to play the Nintendo 64 at my grandmother’s house. While the game certainly has its flaws (sound effects, realistic motion control), the effort and care put into the game has been apparent to me ever since I was a child. The plot is interesting, the characters are creative to the point of parody, and their vehicles are reminiscent of decades past. The features included in this game are enough to make people want to play this game forever, and the fun only quadruples with the multiplayer mode.
The Quest Mode paints a picture for what the series is all about. Each character has their own individual style of play that ties into the giant story of Vigilante 8. They have their own motives and their own travels, depending on their alignment in the game. In each stage, there are little side quests that one must do in order to fully complete the quest at hand, which includes unlocking new characters. The amount of weapons and abilities and characters and vehicles and features and stages and plot twists prevalent within this game are simply perfect, if not minimalistic. Could there be more characters? More vehicles? More side quests? Absolutely. But it still makes itself a very solid game with a lot to offer, despite what little it has. Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense isn’t just the fifth most impactful game of my childhood, it’s one of my all-time favorite games on the Nintendo 64, and a top ten favorite game of all-time.
4. Soul Calibur II (Released August 27th, 2003) (Nintendo Gamecube)
Putting this game before the game at #3 was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make… in regards to the ordering of this list. Soul Calibur II is a game that I’ve been playing ever since I first got it. The characters. The story. The Weapon master mode. Everything about this game is so unbelievably memorable and interesting. This is one of the only games that has influenced me to actually go into the options setting just to see what else I could find. Even the special features are interesting. The artist renditions of these characters are interesting. Everything about this game is so interesting it just makes my head explode just thinking about it! The opening, the music, the characters’ movesets, the characters’ variety of weapons; everything. It’s all interesting, and vastly entertaining.
What made this game better? I had it for the Nintendo Gamecube. So, the guest character with the game is the only guest character from a Soul Calibur series I’ve ever approved of: Link. I had first encountered this game at Family Video, a hot-spot for video games during my childhood. I saw Link on the cover case and immediately wanted it, so we rented it for a couple days. I fell in love. Link is perfect for this game! The sword and shield, and the already wide variety of items he collects inside each Legand of Zelda game, this was a genius choice. It added a magical Nintendo touch to the game that has lasted up until this point, and probably will forever. The fighting aspect of the game takes a lot of strategizing and manipulation of the opponent’s mindset to completely master, and each character has their own weaknesses and strengths. All of the vivid little details put into this game make it a creative plethora of ideas and innovation. Even Necrid is a personal favorite of mine, and he doesn’t even make it past this game. The only real issue I have with this game is that once you complete Weapon Master mode, it just becomes like an arcade game, and arcade games are only fun in short, sporadic spans of time. Regardless, this game is a personal favorite and has continued to be a topic of interest whenever the issue of good fighting games arise.
3. Metroid Prime (Released November 17th, 2002) (Nintendo Gamecube)
Fun fact: Once upon a time, I witnessed a game being played in front of me called Super Smash Bros. It was at my cousin’s house. While playing that game, I would always be one character, who would continue to be my all-time favorite video game character up until Metroid: Other M (but that game never happened). Her name was Samus Aran. So, what do you think my mindset was like when I came over to my cousin’s house one day only to find that Samus Aran had a new independent game called Metroid Prime? If your answer consisted of anything similar to “orgasmic,” you would be correct. Another fun fact: I initially was hesitant to play the game after witnessing my cousin die multiple times during the game. Why? I was scared of death at one point. I would never want to play a game that involved the main character dying in first person, as it would give me the impression that I was the one who would face their ultimate demise. I was a funny kid, wasn’t I?
It didn’t stop there, however, as even when I owned the game myself, I was still scared of certain aspects of the game. Two prime (lawl) examples: the Armored Beetle and Chozo Ghosts. I don’t know what is was with Armored Beetles, but it was one of the things that killed my cousin in battle. I guess that had affected my sub-conscious. But Chozo Ghosts? Those are genuinely frightening. You can’t see them, they can appear wherever they want, they exude these sounds that could very well have originated from a horror flick, and the light in the area dims whenever they appear (I’m afraid of the dark). Those things were nightmare fuel for me as a child. While not as traumatizing to me as a child, the Metroid Research Center in Phendrana Drifts has one of the most genuinely creepy atmospheres in all of Nintendo’s classics.
But all of this, along with a genuinely engaging plot and gameplay, plays into the impact this game had on me as a child. This game solidified Samus as my all-time favorite video game character and gave me a game to base it off of. This game made me genuinely fear what Nintendo was capable of in storytelling. All of the features present in the game, all of the creatures, and the fact that you can scan and gain information on them is astounding! Your scan visor is one of the most ingenious decisions I’ve ever seen in gaming history. In Metroid Prime, there is no dialogue. None. So what can you make of the story? Based on the events that happen and whatever your scan visor can pick up from ancient relics. This gives the player all the more reason to get immersed into the story of the game, because it’s never explained. They have to put the pieces together themselves. Why is this game so influential to me? Because it improved my subtlety as a creative writer. It taught me that foreshadowing and symbolism is one of the most engaging types of writing in all of storytelling, whether it be in a novel or a video game. Metroid Prime isn’t just a fun game to play, it’s an innovative work of art in storytelling.
2. Custom Robo (Released March 4th, 2004) (Nintendo Gamecube)
This is another statement I will defend with my life if I must: Custom Robo is the most underrated game of all time. Look at the reviews for this game! They’re awful! Why are they so awful?! This game is bland, it’s uninspired, it’s typical, there’s nothing there. What?! How?! This game is one of my favorite games of all-time! I can’t see it, I really can’t. Even my adult, fully-developed mindset can’t see all of the flaws that critics normally see with this game. Is my bias with this game so strong that’s it’s literally blinding me from seeing the major flaws in this game? I simply don’t understand. Perhaps I never will. Custom Robo, in my eyes, is a fantastic game.
Custom Robo is a game that I had initially heard about after playing a demo at Toys ‘R Us. I was so immersed with that demo… it was one of the only times that a demo had such an adverse affect on my desire to purchase a game. The creative designs, the weapons, the colors, the gameplay; it was perfect. It was all perfect to me. My creative juices were flowing like the nile after playing that game, and I had to have it when it came out a few weeks later. After picking it up from Family Video (a childhood favorite of mine), I played it for about five straight hours. It was unlike anything I’ve ever played. The characters’ personalities, their designs, their names, the plot, the robos, the area, the map, the humor, Oh! The humor! Everything about this game was wild and colorful and it just fit. If Custom Robo were a puzzle piece, it would fit right into my brain as if it were its home. This game speaks to all of my individual interests as a human being and it only did so much to appease me. When I finally finished the game, I craved it. I craved more, so much more. It wasn’t enough. I literally got depressed after beating the game and saying goodbye to all of the characters in front of me. I waited, I waited so long for a viable sequel, but I never got one. Custom Robo is the only thing I got in terms of its world, its universe, its characters. Custom Robo has so much potential to be something more, something amazing, something legendary. If only they would give it a second chance. It’s times like these
you learn to live again that I want to be a game designer. To be able to gain the rights to work on the games that made my childhood beautiful, that made it worth living. Custom Robo is one of those games that have such an essential place in my heart that no amount of criticism, insults, or debauchery could ever have my view the game any less than spectacular. Custom Robo is truly a masterpiece in the making. It’s replayability and creativity are some of the strongest I’ve ever experienced playing any game in my entire life. All of this for a game that no one has ever heard of.
With all of these outbursts, all of these passionate, biased speeches, there’s still one more game to be revealed on this list. What could possibly top my affection for Custom Robo?
1. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Released October 11th, 2004) (Nintendo Gamecube)
Talking to the gamer in everyone, there’s always that one game that gets you hyped just thinking about it. There’s always that one game that gets your juices flowing. There’s that one, single, ultimate, game that will forever envelop your mind as the greatest thing ever. And if there’s one game like that for me, it’s Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.
Fun fact: Running around at Family Video as a child, I encountered a lot of games in my life. But I only chose certain games to take home to play. Some lasted a while, some didn’t. Some would last the rest of my life. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was a game that I spent the absolute most time with after renting from Family Video. I rented it for two days. I spent approximately half of that playing the game. Roughly twelve hours a day, from the moment I woke up to the minute I went to bed, with bathroom and food breaks in between. With all of that time poured into the game, I made it to chapter four, where I could not for the life of me figure out how to acquire Doopliss’s name. It was the first time I ever searched “Gamefaqs” in the search bar. It was the first time I ever used outside sources to find out how to advance farther in a game. By the time I had defeated Doopliss and made my way into chapter five, it was time to return the game. I would not play Thousand Year Door again for years.
Have I ever mentioned that RPG’s are my favorite type of genre in video games? That might be because of Thousand Year Door. Remember my argument for Mega Man X: Command Mission? It’s the same here, except multiplied by a thousand. I had every chance to play Command Mission after getting stuck on the sixth chapter, I just chose not to do it. After I returned Thousand Year Door, I didn’t play it again for years. I never owned it, and for some reason, I would never get it for my birthday or Christmas. I had no income to purchase it, and my mother wasn’t exactly one to frantically spend money. I was stuck with what I got during special occasions, and that lasted well into my teenage years. The mystery of what happened after chapter five in Thousand Year Door haunted me for a long time afterwards. The fact that such a long time had passed since I played the game made me more and more anxious to play the game, and that lasted even after I played the game. That growing anticipation was prevalent up until the point I finally got my hands on it again.
However, what Command Mission didn’t have in replayability and design, Thousand Year Door made up with ten fold. Not only did I have to bottle my emotions for years waiting to complete the game, it’s also one of the most beautifully presented games I’ve ever played. The types of things that you have to do in order to advance in the game are things I would have never conceived. They really take advantage of Mario’s paper abilities and craft them into the game like a work of art. The graphics are also so simplistic, yet so creatively vivid. It’s one of those “easy on the eyes” games that enhance the quality of artwork through minimalistic designs. It’s truly breath-taking. Every character is likable, no, lovable. Every chapter is brimmed with creativity and interesting plotlines. These chapters range from outstandingly immersing (Chapter 3) to irritatingly memorable (Chapter 2). All emotions can be exuded while playing this game. It’s really a complete package. Everything and anything can be achieved while playing this game, it’s all a matter of how you choose to see it. This is truly the epitome of influential games in my opinion, and stands as one of the most memorable games of my childhood, and of all-time. It’s titles like these that make me proud to be a supporter of Nintendo, and video games in general.