Remember, it doesn’t matter if you start with this list and go on to the next. The only reason I put numbers on them is to make sure I don’t put more than 100 up. Which I end up doing regardless, so fuck it let’s meet the leet:
- Day of the Tentacle – When it comes to the PC, I grew up a Sierra boy, but Day of the Tentacle made me recognize that there was a lot more potential for PC adventure games than what I’d cut my teeth on. DoTT is like playing the greatest cartoon ever, the time travel was done smartly, there were Star Wars references, the puzzles were hard as shit but you felt really awesome when you figured them out because they were just so damn clever and made sense unlike some of the comparatively random and idiotic solutions to the puzzles in some other games I won’t call out quite yet. Also, you couldn’t screw yourself in a way that you would have to start over or even restore a game – 100% deathproof play for a 10000% immortal adventure game.
- Sam & Max Hit the Road – You can kind of see how my mind is mapped out with this list because I can’t really mention Day of the Tentacle without bringing up the virtues of the first Sam and Max game. So colorful and smart. The dialogue was hilarious. It inspired a memorable road trip that my friend and I took to Stuckey’s which was like an hour away from our town. I bought a Stuckey’s T-shirt there.
- King’s Quest VI – This was the best King’s Quest game for absolute sure and all the ones that came after it sucked stupid balls. I played the version that came on twelve 3.5” floppy disks and had no voice acting, and that’s how I liked it. Navigating the Land of Green Isles with a magic map to unravel the great royal conspiracy was the focus of nearly all my mental energy one summer. Eventually I ended up buying the hint book and spoiling every damn puzzle in the game, but somehow it made me love it even more and inspired me to start doing speed runs and write my own hint book which talked down to the player like: Q: I’m on a beach, what do I do? A: What do you do? Look around, asshole – there’s shit on the ground, why don’t you try clicking on it instead of consulting a hint book like a little bitch.
- Bayonetta – I don’t know why I thought of Bayonetta at this point, but this game was off the fucking hook. Took me a while to warm up to it, but damn am I glad I did. I still think that she’s the first legitimately hot video game character ever. Full write-up here.
- Quest for Glory IV – Another golden Sierra series that reached its peak before finishing in disgrace, this was the most memorable QFG for me. In fact, it may have been the first one I actually played. Mordavia – the Transylvanian countryside with a past involving a Cthulhuian cult is once again gearing up for the dark times, and you get to be the one to dig everything up and set shit right. This game was fucking scary. Navigating through that castle at night freaked me the hell out, and I was genuinely relieved when I could finally get out and creep back to my room at the inn. I really need to finish my current game of III so I can import my supermagical thief character into this game and play it again.
- Super Mario World – The first game that came with the Super Nintendo, and holy shit was it awesome. The upgrade from 8-bit to 16-bit was just so real, and the potential for incredible games seemed endless. I had played a hell of a lot of the other Mario games, but they always kind of felt like required coursework and more of a challenge than actual pleasure – that would come later, but I fucking loved playing Super Mario World because it was just so goddamn enjoyable. Yoshi, cape flying, secret switch palaces, star road challenge stages – Nintendo upped their game and it was fucking on.
- Skyrim – That’s an easy one. What’s not easy is making a fully explorable map the size of Wyoming complete with interiors and interactive objects, thousands of characters with dialogue and books full of lore, a compelling story with gigantic flying dragons you fight, hundreds of different items weapons and spells, a craft system, an enchantment system, a dozen playable races and multiple character development paths and basically holy shit what the fuck. Go assist Bethesda in having an orgasm right now.
- Goonies II (NES) – The first stage’s music is an 8-bit version Cyndi Lauper’s Goonies song, and that’s all it took for this 8-year old fan of the movie to become an obsessed player of the game. In retrospect, it didn’t necessarily have to be about the Goonies to be a great adventure game, and hardly felt like the movie at all but for Anne Ramsay’s digital countenance coming up and challenging you to find all your friends. Crazy map, large assortment of items, great challenge, and new Goonies lore. What, you don’t remember Pipsqueak Fratelli and Annie the Mermaid?
- Faxanadu – I never beat this game, but I wanted to be able to so badly. The music really sets and sells the mysterious fantasy tone, and I sometimes wish I were a music journalist so I could describe the weird counterpointed melodies that lace up like Celtic patterns pissed into fresh snow. You know? Yeah I don’t really know about that one, either. But I do know that you have to put in some serious fucking time to make the coin necessary to buy the armor, weapons, and keys necessary to conquer this game, and I just couldn’t do it. The penalty for dying is literally the fact that you have squandered an hour of your life and have nothing to show for it. I might actually have to take this one off the list if I think of another game that deserves props.
- Shadowgate – Ah, now here’s a point and click game that came into its own when it reached the NES. Thanks, Kemco for rebooting it and adding that amazing, a-ma-zing soundtrack to it. Now if I said Day of the Tentacle is a game where you can’t screw or even kill yourself, the polar opposite would be King’s Quest V, but this would be a close second. The correct way of playing Shadowgate is trial and error, aka learning by dying hundreds and hundreds of times. Took forever to beat this game, and I managed to do it without a hint book, although Kemco did have a hint line, and get this: it was a 1-800 number, so it was FREE. Imagine that – getting free hints on how to solve puzzles? Get the fuck out of town. Now.
- River City Ransom – Renegade was too hard, and Double Dragon was too one-way but River City Ransom let you beat the shit out of hundreds of people and walk around a huge city with hardly any restriction of movement. Plus you saved up money to go eat at sushi places and buy books that taught you hyper punch and kick techniques. So fucking fun and brutal.
- Contra – Never beat this without the Konami code, but for me, there’s something fun about just smashing your way through a game from beginning to end, even if there’s no real challenge to it. Oh sure, I probably thought I was an actual bad-ass after beating the Red Falcon on my fifty-first goddamn life back then, but now I can appreciate what a true challenge it is in addition to its music, stages, and highly disturbing alien bosses.
- Life Force – Everything I said about Contra only with spaceships and body organs.
- Bad Dudes – The 1980’s were a time when I was easily impressed by leaps in technology such as putting a human voice that sounded like it was being ground up by a wood chipper into a video game. The true prize of beating a stage in Bad Dudes was getting to hear the Dude say, “I’m bad!” This game was in the arcade a pizzeria waaaaay across town, but I would beg my parents to take us there so so I could play Bad Dudes and hear that amazing quote after killing Karnov boss or the guy with the mask and longclaws. Don’t ask me how badly I shit my pants when this came out for the NES and they kept the sample in.
- Wizards and Warriors – I love how misleading the title and the box art are compared to the actual game of Wizards and Warriors. The real title should be Jump Around Like a Fuck in a Suit of Armor. Still, there was a lot to enjoy about this game such as the boomerang dagger, the levitation potion, and I don’t know. Just an all-around smooth arcade-y adventure game with a reasonable learning curve and finishing time and let’s not forget: tunes.
- Police Trainer – I had to kick Kid Icarus off this list when I remembered Police Trainer. If you were lucky enough to have this game in your town with perfectly calibrated guns, shooting your way to the head of the police force was a killer goodtime throwdown. I played so much goddamn Police Trainer when I was 17 that I could finish it on a single quarter, and it should have gotten me a lot more pussy.
- Metroid – The Kraid stage music alone could put this one up on the list, but there is a lot going on with Metroid that makes it one of those important games that we should never forget. I actually forgot what I was going to say, but the concept of a fully explorable and back-trackable map with a variety of weapons and suits that allow you access to new areas was certainly innovative. Good one, guys. Shit, I just remembered Castlevania II and now I’m going to have to kick something else off.
- MYST – Hell yeah. No instructions, a minimal intro, and a silent first-person perspective made a good case for thinking you were the actual character in the game. Although if it were actually me in there and I didn’t have a pen and a notebook, I probably would have just flung myself off that really tall gear on the first island. Spooky immersive atmosphere (great soundtrack, natch) – totally worth playing again once you’ve forgotten all the puzzles.
- Resident Evil
21 (GC remake) – The first one was way too fucking hard. I liked 2 better, even though the idea of crests and gems fitting into reliefs to open secret doors began to feel a little silly since we’re talking about a fucking police station here rather than a mansion of eccentrics where such contrivances are plausible. Still, Capcom pulled it off and was successful in extending the Biohazard franchise to almost inexhaustible proportions after this. Actually, when the remake of 1 came out for the Gamecube, that made it a lot more fun to play. Yeah, I think I’d like to take 2 off the list and replace it with the GC remake of 1. Fuck 2.
- Resident Evil: Code Veronica – Aw yeah, I bought this game for the Dreamcast before I even owned a Dreamcast. It was only like ¥500 and I had seen it played before and knew that this was going to be the badassedest Resident Evil ever. And it was. Maybe this was the best one. Puzzles were quasi-plausible again, the challenge was hard but not impossible, and since I was only in my fourth year of studying Japanese, I learned a lot of words just by playing this with the other people who lived in my dorm at the time. We had to combine our knowledge of the language to figure out the puzzles and it was one of the most rewarding experiences in gaming I’ve ever had.
- Crazy Taxi – Another practically “free” game for the Dreamcast, because the system had just begun to tank in Japan and a lot of these games were made in such surplus that the used video game stores couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one only cost like two dollars when I got it. How only two Offspring songs and one Bad Religion song were enough to sustain a game that we played for hundreds of hours, I’ll never know. I just know that when I first played this game in the shitty Wal-mart arcade back home that the chaos of driving was the same rush I got from GTA and if I could ever play this game forever without having to pump money into it each time, well, that would just be motherfucking marvelous.
- Dragon Quest VIII (sorry Space Channel 5 – had to boot your ass) – Okay, so I didn’t play a single Dragon Quest game after the first one, because I tried II, and managing multiple characters and enemies just wasn’t the same, and I hastily regarded it as horseshit, but I never forgot the fun of the first one, and was shocked to see just how much HADN’T changed since the first one when VIII came out. To make that great leap to the PS2 and still have all those old school sound effects and beeps and bloops and the same main jingles showed me that Enix (now Square-Enix) had a strong sense of loyalty and tradition. What a beauty. If you haven’t played a Dragon Quest in several years or even EVER, this would be a perfect one to start with. Apparently you can buy it on an iPhone now.
- Parappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy – Yeah, I combined them. Is there a problem here? I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re similar enough and short enough that they could fit on a single disc, and should, and this game is good. Hey! That rhymed. Rappity rap / jammity jam. My introduction to the rhythm game genre and my, what fresh, stylized game art you have! How in the fuck am I supposed to do either of these games justice in a shitty little blurb like this? I can’t. I think I have to stop again.
Come back for the other 43 greatest games like.. later or something. Oh wait, let’s do one more.
43. Pop’n Music Animelo 2号 – Wha…? Yep, this is number 43. It’s a game I saw a lot at arcades my first year in Japan that has nine big colored buttons which you push along to a song, and all the songs in this game are from old Japanese animes. They’re as catchy as fuck, you’ll get a really good grounding in basic anime titles if you play it to win, and learning these songs is a huge cultural in. I can say with 85% surety that I wouldn’t be married to the same woman I’m married to now if I never played this game. Games have that kind of sway, over my universe and yours.