And now for the stirring finale!
03. Age of Empires, Ensemble Studios, 1997, PC
Age of Empires was unequivocally my first true PC game I obsessed over and it is what started my love affair with the RTS genre. Windows 95 had been released just two years earlier and people were discovering this new fangled "world wide web" as they connected to it on their blazing 56k modems. I remember seeing pictures of Age of Empires in the magazine PC Gamer. I wasn't exactly sure what kind of game it was but I wanted it. Part of my fascination with the game was I was always interested in painting figurines and setting up dioramas of different things, and the pictures for Empires reminded me of a virtual diorama that I could create and interact with. I remember finally getting the game and on the ride home just staring at the back of the box visualizing how awesome this game was going to be. I had a slight crisis after getting home and trying to install it and being horrified to find out that my PC might not be able to play it! I don't remember how but I got it to work and I was in my glory. Through this game my love of RTS games blossomed becoming one of my all time favorite genres till this day. A lot of people credit Starcraft as their first RTS, but futuristic space marines and aliens didn't interest me (gaming-wise anyway), and I much preferred one of the twelve real-life civilizations you could control in Empires. I bought all the expansion packs and sequels and still own them today. It remains one omy favorite games of all time, and it is responsible for introducing me to the world of PC gaming.
*Honorable mention* Company of Heroes, Relic, 2006, PC
Nine years had passed since Age of Empires released, and in that time countless other RTS games were released; some great others not so much. And then Company of Heroes released. By this time the WWII setting was getting a bit long in the tooth for a lot of gamers, but despite that Company of Heroes was a damn good game. It took all the ingredients of what comprised RTS games and rendered it down to their core essence: Conflict. In Heroes you weren't burdened with collecting resources; there were no forests to chop down and no gold mines to strip and you didn't have to commit special units to laboriously collect them. Instead Heroes had you battling over precious control points which automatically generated the resources you needed to build more buildings, order new troops and vehicles to the frontline without the "tedious" collecting nature of RTS games past. The more control points you controlled the faster you accrued supplies to spend leaving the player free to focus and strategize on the larger battles at hand.
02. Doom, id Software, 1993, PC
Doom was, and is, my first ever FPS game and one that holds a special place in my gaming heart, and that is why it is number two on my list. I would play this game on PC--as well as the ill-fated Genesis 32X system--for hours and hours roaming corridor after corridor blasting possessed soldiers and all manner of demonic nether creatures back to hell. Doom may have been short on story but it was long on pure carnage. This is where the term "space marine" originated. If you remember what skimpy story there was stated that you were the lone survivor of some catastrophic event that happened on a base on Mars, and your goal was to survive and escape. Doom gave you a complete arsenal of weapons and let you run loose through level after infested level of demonic hordes. And if you could find the Holy Grail of weapons, the BFG 9000, it became much easier to dispatch said demons. And who could ever forget what BFG stood for? The game's music (particularly the first level) is forever ingrained in my memory and I can hear it even now as I type this. Sorry, Duke, but if anyone has a claim to being king then you need look no further than Doom.
*Honorable mention* Delta Force, NovaLogic, 2001, PC
Delta Force is a sterling example of the adage "Game-play over graphics." The game was absolutely hideous to look at even back in 2001 let alone ten years later. Seriously, you can tell just from the screenshot above that it's not the most refined gaming engine to ever grace a PC game. But back in the day despite its deficient graphics the game was oddly appealing and fun. This was one of the first games (along with Doom) that started my addiction with FPS games on PC. I played the hell out of the demo, and when the full game released I bought it. It had a single-player campaign that was all right but completely forgettable. But the game's multiplayer is where things really got interesting. I'm not much of a multiplayer gamer today, but back then I played a lot of MP sessions in Delta Force, and for the most part it was a lot of fun until the cheaters and hackers showed up and sucked all of the fun and purpose out of multiplayer. It's not a game I would recommend you check out today. It's really a case of "you had to be there" and at that exact time type of moments. The series went on to launch a few sequels but eventually fizzled out as better and more comprehensive FPS games were released.
01. Super Mario Brothers, Nintendo, 1985, Nintendo Entertainment System
Are you surprised that Super Mario Brothers is my number one most influential game? If it weren't for that squat, fat Italian plumber odds are I wouldn't be here typing this right now, and if I were I sure as hell wouldn't have the perspective I do that makes me the gamer I am today. I can still remember that moment clearly back on that early Christmas morning as I eagerly tore away the wrapping paper and uncovered my very first console. Unbeknownst to my family--oops, I mean "Santa"--this console would set off a love affair that would last twenty-six years and still going strong. I sometimes think about what my life would be like if things had been different and I never got a Nintendo for Christmas that year: Would I have eventually gotten one? Maybe. Would I have skipped out entirely and my first console would be a Sega Genesis? Possibly but not likely. The NES was extremely popular and I doubt very much that my mom wouldn't have bought it for me eventually at some point. But do you know what the best part of this memory is? I wasn't even expecting it. I was four-years-old for cripe's sake. I had no idea what a video game was. The fact that it was sprung upon me so unexpectedly is the best part. It's not like it is today where for the most part I'm pretty jaded with new consoles, etc. But back then this was all new territory for me. This was my genesis, my beginning with a hobby that would end up lasting a lifetime. And for being the first game and console to hold that distinction is something that I'll always be grateful for Nintendo--and more importantly my mom--introducing me to.
*Honorable mention* Aladdin, Sega, Genesis, 1993
I threw Aladdin in here because it was another platfomer that I had a lot of fun with during my youth. By this time I had moved on from Nintendo to the Genesis. I remember first seeing this as a demo at Disney World in one of the stores. It was so colorful and cartoon-like that it instantly grabbed my attention as I was passing by the kiosk. Plus it was a lot of fun, and probably one of the few licensed games based on a movie that didn't suck which is ironic considering how simplistic the graphics and story were compared to what developers and Hollywood can muster up today.
That's it! I hope you enjoyed this trip down my memory lane as much as I did. Feedback is welcome and encouraged! Thank you for reading!
Eternal Champions - http://www.fightersgeneration.com/games/eternal-champions.html
Mortal Kombat - http://www.videogamelists.com/finish-him
Resident Evil - http://nerdiest-kids.com/the-top-10-greatest-games-ever-made/
Silent Hill - http://blog.reelloop.com/8122/news/games-ready-shutter-island/
Gran Turismo - http://www.gamepeople.co.uk/race_ps1_granturismo.htm
Twisted Metal - http://www.uvlist.net/groups/info/twistedmetal
God of War - http://www.gamepro.com/games/ps2/107880/god-of-war/
Uncharted - http://thirdpersonblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/game-design-talk-uncharteds-ending/
Caesar III - http://www.giantbomb.com/caesar-iii/61-6645/
SimCity - http://www.myabandonware.com/game/simcity-2000-1nf
Medal of Honor - http://www.mobygames.com/game/playstation/medal-of-honor/screenshots/gameShotId,193341/
Call of Duty - http://www.itreviews.co.uk/games/g140.htm
Knights of the Old Republic - http://www.gogaminggiant.com/2010/03/21/hooray-for-star-wars-games-part-1/
Fallout - http://forum.i3d.net/game-blog-news-announcements/34744-free-game-fallout.html
Diablo - http://jpetrelli.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html
Sacred - http://pc-games-maxi.webs.com/
Age of Empires - http://gamecolloseum.blogspot.com/2011/02/age-of-empires-ii-age-of-kings.html
Company of Heroes - http://pc.gamezone.com/reviews/item/company_of_heroes_pc_review
Doom - http://www.roumazeilles.net/news/en/wordpress/2009/06/23/doom-quake-shoot-them-all-for-free/
Delta Force - http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/deltaforce/index.html
Super Mario Brothers - http://games.ign.com/articles/833/833615p1.html
Aladdin - http://www.modojo.com/features/20061128/144/missed_opportunity_creating_our_own_sega_genesis_collection/