A little over three years ago, I made a list of the top ten most impactful games of my childhood. Looking back on it now, some of the game I originally chose are outdated, and upon further consideration aren’t as impactful to me as some others. This re-proposal aims to more accurately cement the games that made my childhood amazing, with an updated touch (because let’s face it, the old list looks bland). To save some time (and avoid reaffirming what’s already been established by the old list), a lot of recurring games will have the same notes attached as before, aside from perhaps some minor edits. That being said, I shall begin with the opening to the first list:
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. 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 7; waiting until I got the chance to take on the classics for myself. I recall Donkey Kong Country 3 being the first game I ever played (though my father claims it was the first). 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.
I would also 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 continues 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.
#10: Mega Man X: Command Mission
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.
Playing the game again within the last year, the game definitely hasn’t aged all that well. While the gameplay mechanics work and the exploration is a little more than basic, characters and level design are little more than archetypal. Not to mention, chapters, outside of a few cutscenes and surprise attacks, are amusingly short, and vary in overall creativity. The lackluster critic scores are a lot more understandable upon a clear playthrough, though I feel the game has more worth than others rated higher. I’m likely biased.
I never beat this game as a child, only getting to chapter six of ten. Playing this as an adult, I flew through it like butter. 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 help it make this list.
#9: Star Wars: Episode I Racer
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, Pokémon Snap, Pokémon 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. 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 as a child (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).
And much like Mega Man X: Command Mission, this game lost a lot of its luster upon recent playthroughs, as the game is, as mentioned above, fairly repetitive. You race, you win, you upgrade, you repeat. After about three or four hours, the game’s done, and you have nothing left to do.
#8: Donkey Kong Country 3
Ah, yes. The game that, from my limited memory, introduced me to video games. Thinking back on it, why didn’t this game make the original list? It made the runner-up list, but what kind of drugs was I on to put Starfox 64, a game that I really liked, but was outshined by a number of other games on the same console, make it over the “first”? Regardless, that error has been corrected, as Donkey Kong Country 3 was one of the most magical experiences of my younger life.
This game may have influenced my affinity for cartoon graphics, quite honestly. I remember being (and still am to a degree) amazed by the way the game looks. Its design still looks great today! The technique of converting 3D models into a 2D space worked wonderfully and helped craft the Country series’s distinction from other Nintendo classics. Outside of flashy visuals, the game has a wonderfully spastic atmosphere that accurately presents the weight of each level. Design is on-point, with levels being fun (and somewhat challenging later on) from beginning to end, despite some levels’ degree of one-dimensional gimmicks.
As a child, this game blew my mind. If not for perhaps Super Mario World, I’d probably dub this the greatest game I had ever played by the time I was eight. One question that may come to mind is, “If this game was so astounding to you, why is it not higher on the list?” Back then, I kind of naturally associated every Country game with one another, making them all blend together in a disjointed collection of one giant game. So while the third entry stuck out the most, the memory of the first and second games also filter the impact it had on me. I can’t help but think of every Donkey Kong Country game whenever Donkey Kong Country comes to mind. Except the new ones. Those may as well not exist.
When you’re published by Hasbro, you’d think you’d get a little more attention. From the company that brought you My Little Pony comes a 1998 one-off game franchise called Glover. Obviously inspired by Super Mario 64, the game is an open world platformer/puzzle hybrid, complete with hub world, distinct areas with stages leading up to a boss encounter, and collectible items scattered throughout. Everything about this game screams “Bargain bin rip-off,” yet somehow it managed to become one of the most quotable and charming games of my life, whether childhood or adulthood.
To some extent, the “bargain bin” moniker is appropriate, as nothing about this game really stands out to make it an amazing experience. At best, the game is passable entertainment with a penchant for shoehorning in one distinct shtick: ball-handling. Within Glover, the goal is to make it from one end of the stage to the other, and you cannot do that without carrying around a shiny ball capable of weak magical abilities. As is appropriate when playing a game whose main character is the (implied) disembodied hand of a wizard, the player’s maneuvers are predicated on the physical capabilities of a hand. You bounce the ball, slap the ball, point at the ball, shoot spells at the ball to change its shape, and jump on the ball. This game is pretty odd.
Its oddity might be what makes the game so memorably impactful. What it lacks in quality controls and graphics it makes up for with silly creativity. Just look at the game itself! You play as a glove carrying a ball around carnivals and flying pirate ships and different planets in pursuit of crystals used to power a wizard’s castle, which have all been turned into bouncy balls that wandered into alternate dimensions. Not to mention, the wizard’s other hand was dropped into a magical concoction and turned it evil, serving as the main antagonist of the game. What the fuck?! This is the kind of thing I miss about the olden days of video games. Things didn’t have to be serious, and the more colorful and bizarre a game was, the more appealing it became to me. Glover is not a game with objectively fantastic hardware or design. It is a game meant to embody the spirit of having fun, something I feel it does better than most. That’s what makes the game so wonderfully memorable to me, both now and when I first played it some seventeen years ago.
#6: Super Mario Sunshine
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.
Let me explain, I never played Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Bros. 3. I played Super Mario World as a young boy, and perhaps it should’ve made the list. However, I have more memories of the first world and the final fight with Bowser than anything else, which leaves a big chunk of the game void in my 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, and I very much appreciated that it didn’t talk as much as it could have. Despite what is essentially a burden to children everywhere, cleaning up the mess of monstrous 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.
#5: Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense
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 play. 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: Metroid Prime
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.
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 (heh) 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 was once 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. It’s one of the best parts of the game.
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.
#3: Soul Calibur II
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 game 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 Legend 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.
#2: Custom Robo
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 effect 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, 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 wonderfully imperfect. 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.
Funny how passionate I was for this game three years ago. It’s a decent game, but I more than acknowledge the flaws that this game has. Most of what I’ve said still holds up, though without all the passion I once had in my “youth.” I would gladly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun experience, and hope it can give the same impact it had (and has) on me.
#1: 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 statement for Mega Man X: Command Mission about it being the “lost game”? 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 for tenfold. 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. Every chapter is brimmed with creativity and interesting plotlines (with the addition of repetitive fetch quests). These chapters range from outstandingly immersive (Chapter 1) to irritatingly memorable (Chapter 2). All emotions are 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.
Honorable Mentions: Pokémon Silver, Mario Party/Mario Party 4, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2, Mega Man 7, Tony Hawk’s Underground, Super Mario Bros. Deluxe.