It’s starting to look like Dragon Age: Origins was something of a swan song. The last hurrah from a publisher whose bread and butter was the in-depth computer RPG. That is hyperbole…at least to a certain extent. Recent announcements from Bioware as to the changes in Dragon Age II, namely that you are playing a specific character, a stark departure from the “old school” vibe that Dragon Age: Origins embraced. This isn’t anything new on Bioware’s part, it is afterall what Mass Effect does, but the change does strip the series of Baldur’s Gate successor mantle that rested so aptly on Dragon Age’s shoulders.
UK based gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun has been doing an absolutely fantastic and fascinating series of articles called: Gaming Made Me. The basic premise being the exploration of those games of which most influenced who we are today as gamers and as individuals. The examination illuminates the emotional and educational experiences that gaming has provided and how that has shaped their growth as individuals. In some cases this looks at how those games defined the concept of a “video game” and in others, most, the short little examinations (or not-so-short) look at how these influence our interaction with the real world. It is a wonderful bit of games journalism that I’m surprised has gotten as little attention as it has and, it has certainly got me thinking about those games which have had a significant influence on me and shaped me as both a gamer and a person.
You can find the entire series by clicking here, and you can hit the jump to examine my pitiful attempts at emulation.
Recent news of the Vigilante 8 release on XBLA got me nostalgic for its bigger brother Interstate ’76. For those that don’t know Interstate ’76 or I76 as it was typically called was (is), hands down, my favorite computer game of all time. The game was set in, surprise, 1976 and envisioned an era when the fuel crisis of 1973 had never ended and roaming bands of auto-vigilantes brought their brand of villainy and justice to the deserts of the American West. The game employed the old Mechwarrior 2 engine to recreate classic muscle cars tricked out with everything from machine guns and flame throwers to rocket launchers and oil slicks.
Jeremiah’s earlier post got my thinkin’ on my favorite 10 video games. This list is entirely subject and while not every game on it will be the “best game ever” my experiences playing the games (and often the people I’m playing it with) make them stand out from the pack.
10) Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast)
The goal? Get the mice (chu chus) to the rockets by placing arrows on a grid while avoiding hungry cats. Silly? Yes. Japanese? Very yes. Insanely entertaining? Hell yeah. There are few games that can top the manic insanity of four player Chu Chu Rocket. Not much can top John Engel’s frantic “Stop catting me!” as cat after cat devoured his helpless Chu Chus. This game would a perfect addition to Virtual Console. Check out the crazy japanese commercial:
9) Mario Tennis (Nintendo 64): Late night Mario Tennis ring shot matches probably kept the ‘rents up a bit late. I remember frantic screaming during 50+ ring volleys that would make or break the match. The GC version got a little too much with “super shots” and lost some of the simple pong like fun that the original title catpured. Classic fun. No good videos.
8.) Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64): Sure it had its problems, slowdown even with the expansion memory, but for stat tracking and sheer customability few titles touched PD. From the homebrewed “Against all odds” to n-bomb matches PD kept us occupied for quite some time. Not to mentioned the continuation of “Tower.” Stat tracking rocked in this game and there wasn’t much it didn’t record. In pure variety this game never really got stale.
7.) Goldeneye (Nintendo 64): Well, how could I not mention Goldeneye? Even Perfect Dark didn’t completely replace it. The varied skill levels of my friends gave birth to “Tower.” Played in Complex the number of kills didn’t matter but the win went to whoever had the designated “tower” at the end of the match, kudos to anyone who could also get the “victory view” at the end of the match. Goldeneye and PD gave birth to ever iconic “ca-caw” which, also according to John Engel if I’m not mistaken, was the sound a vulture makes.
6.) Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64): From racing to battle mode we had a lot of fun with this game. Double Dash (on the GameCube) is close a close second to this version but, of course, lacks the nostalgia to put it over the top.
5.)WCW/WWF games by THQ/AKI (Nintendo 64): This includes WCW vs. NWO, WCW Revenge, WWF No Mercy, and WWF Wrestlemania 2000. On those occaisons when we would order pay-per-view wrestling the “boring” matches would be replaced by our own courtesy of these games. Controls were simple, fun, and easy to learn. Matches were long and could swing any way. Good times.
4.) Baldur’s Gate II + Throne of Bhaal (PC): I don’t think I’ve wasted as much time any other game as I did on Baldur’s Gate. I would sit in class and daydream about the game, there hasn’t been an RPG yet that has come close to being as involved. Sure I enjoyed the new Bioware titles, but this one sticks with me to this day. Minsc put it best: “Adventure, excitement, and steel on steel. The stuff of legends! Right, Boo!?
3.) Duke Nukem 3D (PC): I remember playing modem to modem deathmatch with this game. One on one duels in the streets of LA, and God help any strippers that got in the crossfire. I admonish 3dRealms almost daily for fumbling a next-gen sequel to this game. While I wouldn’t have wanted a rush job the horrible joke of WID (when it’s done, the release date for Duke Nukem Forever) was a bit too far in the opposite direction. Fast furious, no thought, FPS action with over the top violence and cheesy sexual innuendo was the hallmark of this game. Duke is a charicature of an action hero from the muscle shirt to the T2 stlye shades and there was absolutely no reason to take him seriously. Damn fun game.
2.) Mario Party (Nintendo 64): We wore holes…in our hands. Seriously. Ripped open our flesh playing this game. For some of us it was both hands. Sure they later offered a glove, but gloves were for sissies. Who knew fishing for treasure could be so damned painful.
1.) Interstate ’76 (PC): This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my favorite game of all time. The year is 1976. The place is Texas. And you? Your an auto-vigilante. You drive a muscle car tricked out with guns and armor, your goal is get gas, to survive, and to avenge your sister’s murder. This game oozed atmosphere, from the main character’s name (Groove Champion) to your poetry spouting mentor Taurus. It had a great soundtrack and had both an involved single player game and great multiplayer action. Activision blew it with the sequel, Interstate ’82, and seamingly gave up after that. But, given the sucess of Full Auto, I maintain some small hope that this franchise will be resurrected. Because I love this game you get 2 videos: