Current Game: Shadow of Mordor... yes I'm still working on it.
This blog series seemed like a good idea until I actually tried determining what my true "favorite" games are and then fit it into a realistically sized post. There's a reason I have such a passion for creating video games: I have loved so many, and if I tried to include them all, we would be here for weeks and Runelands would never get completed. As Fish pointed out, it depends on the criteria you use for the list, because that at least helps you narrow it down. Following in Fish's footsteps, this list is based on pure nostalgia. I apologize in advance to all the games I left out. I still love you, and I will come up with a different series to share your glory with our followers... all 20 of you...
Legend of Zelda (entire series) - This is number one on my list for a couple reasons. First, my wife and I constantly debate over who is the bigger Zelda fan (one of the main reasons I married her) and I'm trying to win an argument, something that rarely happens. Second, I'm basically just going chronologically, and the NES was my first system, which all 20 of you know since you've read this post. After we got the NES for Christmas, someone, who I'm pretty sure was my good friend Jonathan Cook, got me The Legend of Zelda (DISCLAIMER: basically years 4 - 8 of my life are a blur and it's hard to recall the specific details). Nintendo knew what they were doing back then. If you want a game to stand out, make it gold and shiny! Throw in a real physical map of the world, and let you actually save your game! It was many years before I really embraced RPG games like Final Fantasy, but Zelda planted the seed in this 5 year old's heart. As an indie game developer, I really appreciate the thought and level design that went into the temples in this series. It's very impressive how each one builds on top of the previous. Like everyone else my age, my love for Zelda was reignited with the N64 and Ocarina of Time. Nintendo kept the great, original formula of fun but simple combat, puzzle solving, and great storytelling, then they added in Epona! I don't know why, but riding a horse in a video games is just awesome.
Ninja Gaiden (NES) - Your typical bachelor party generally involves women, not a lot of clothing, and copious amounts of alcohol. Now, let me describe mine. We kept the alcohol, scooted around Kitty Hawk, NC for a few hours, then decided to head back to the hotel early, where a big surprise was waiting for me: Matt's NES hooked up to his hotel room TV with Ninja Gaiden's title screen already queued up. Next to that was a table full of Mountain Dew, Flamin Hot Cheetos, and more booze. It was absolutely perfect... Ninja Gaiden is one of the most difficult games I've ever played, but at a young age I decided that I would master it. I spent years playing Ninja Gaiden over and over to the point where, in my prime, I could beat it in about 12 minutes without dying or using any cheats. Most people I know can't even beat the game, so I was pretty proud of that accomplishment. (Unfortunately this was before YouTube was around and it was popular to record speed runs). This ritual even followed me to college, where I would play Ninja Gaiden during my 20 minute break between classes. My body just wanted to lay in bed, but I knew I would fall asleep and miss class if I did, so instead I would pop in Ninja Gaiden and try to beat it while still making it to class on time. It was a great way to decompress.
Final Fantasy II and III (U.S. NES numbering system) - In case you're still wondering which ones I'm referring to (because it's confusing as hell), I'm talking this one and this one. Final Fantasy II was heavily involved in one of my greatest summer's ever, which I plan on dedicating an entire post to later, so I'll spare you the details and just say this game showed me how much I could love an epic story and turned based fighting. It was also the first game that I spent hours and hours playing. 40 hours for a video games was a ridiculous concept for me back then. After beating FFII, Jonathan then let me borrow FFIII. Once again, I got lost in the story and sunk hours into that game and all it's glory. As Fish pointed out, this was back in a time when life was simpler and I could spend hours each day playing video games. I'm getting ready to have my first child, and part of that experience is considering names for said youngling... the vast majority of names I've considered have come from this series.
Warcraft and Privateer - These two I'm lumping together because they are both from that same epic summer. Warcraft and Warcraft 2 introduced me to RTS games and countless late nights were spent in Jonathan's basement (spoiler alert, he's going to come up a lot in any posts from my early days) with me playing Warcraft on his old 486 and him jamming out in the background on the keyboard. Privateer introduced me to two different concepts: Space Flight Sims and open sandbox games. Up to this point, the games I played had been fairly linear. There was a main story and it always guided me to the next point in the game. I could explore on my own, but I always knew where I needed to go. Privateer was totally different: you start the game on a random planet with a low-level ship. You can scoot around the current system, landing on a few planets and getting random missions that have nothing to do with one another. Eventually, you get enough money, upgrade your ship and get a jump drive. This opens up many more systems in a vast galaxy, but I was still just doing whatever the heck I wanted to do. Slowly, after months of playing the game, I noticed the missions kept telling me to go to New Detroit. I didn't have to go there, but there was definitely an increasing amount of cargo missions to that sector. I'm also from Michigan, so New Detroit sounded like an awesome place to go. Every planet potentially had a few things: Ship Dealer, Bar, Merchant Guild, Mercenary Guild, and a Commodities Dealer. The bars all had a stock bartender that would give you "helpful advice" so I usually ignored that area. On New Detroit though, I decided to check it out. There, I found a random character sitting in a chair, so I talked to them... BAM, I'm suddenly dropped in the middle of the over-arching story! At this point, the game becomes more linear (though still with plenty of sandbox exploring), but I played that game for months without even knowing a main storyline existed. Maybe I was just oblivious to all the signs the game was throwing at me, but I was really impressed with how much freedom I had.
X-wing, Tie Fighter, X-wing vs Tie Fighter, X-wing Alliance - These are space simulators done right. Period. Matt and I am became best friends for two reasons: we both love Sailor Moon, which we randomly found out one day while playing catch before baseball practice, and we both love Star Wars. (It was a few years later before we realized Fish shared those interests, and the idea for Moonlight Games started brewing). After becoming great friends, we naturally started hanging out a lot, and he introduced me to these games. To this day, they are the best space simulators I have ever played. If someone from Disney is reading this... please dig up the code for these games (hopefully you got that in the Lucas Arts deal) and create a Privateer-like open ended game using that simulator engine. You would basically be printing money. [Editor's Note: Seriously Disney, it's not that hard!]
Doom - Doom and Doom 2 were fantastic games. I think there was a underlying story going on, but you were basically just running around blowing off steam on various demons of hell. Another great thing about Doom, it came packaged with Windows 95, and most teachers didn't know it was there and/or didn't know how to remove it. So doing good in class and getting "computer time" turned into playing Doom in class. A few weeks before this past Christmas I saw that a new Doom game was coming out, and thought, why not add it to my list? This game was amazing, and I'm so glad I asked for it. It's been a long while since I've actually beaten a game. I don't have the time to dedicate myself to finishing games anymore, and after a few months of playing something I usually start really wanting to play something else. That all changed with Doom. It combined the more prominent story of Doom 3 with the arcade style ridiculous action of the originals and blended them perfectly. I think I beat that game in about two weeks, which is pretty much unheard of for me lately.
Mario Party... we'll go with 7 - For all the same reasons that Fish loves Monkey Target, Super Smash Bros. and Halo, I love Mario Party. That was another game in our rotation for multiplayer mayhem. All of these games are good, but 7 is probably the best. For those of you that have not played Mario Party, it's perfect for our ADHD/ADD youth. It's basically a board game, with each player taking a turn rolling a dice and moving around the board, collecting coins and stars and whatever the goal is for that map, but in between every round is a mini-game. Mini-games were randomized and the games consisted of multiple variations of games that were based around skills like button-mashing, reflexes, memorization, and sometimes just pure random luck (which were the worst games). The mini-game segment lasted at most 2 minutes so there was a lot of variety in a match of Mario Party. Add friends and booze and you have a pretty good night. This game also showed me that I have the uncanny ability to button-mash so fast, the controller won't even register it. [Editor's Note: Most ridiculous excuse for losing ever]
Well, that's my list, there are many more that I could talk about, but as I said, they will probably be featured at some point in the future. Until then, I'll be working on the next Alpha release and trying to beat Shadow of Mordor...