Welcome to the second portion of this look back at EGM #200. EGM may now be gone (until December at least), but that doesn’t mean that our memories of this wonderful issue should die.
If you missed out on my previous article, you should know that EGM editors collectively ranked 200 of the games that were most influential to them during the time in which they were released for Issue #200. I decided to cover the second half of that list over the course of two articles. If you’ve already viewed picks #100 through #50, it’s time to move on to the heavy hitters: #50 through #1.
Below, you’ll find EGM’s commentary along with my thoughts on each particular title (at least for the games I’ve played).
Title: NHLPA Hockey ’93
“I bet I’ve logged more hours playing head-to-head NHLPA ’93 than any other multiplayer game. This was before one-timers, before goalie control–the only quest was, could you knock me down before I deked your goalie? No, you could not. That’s why the score was 14-12.” –D.L.
“I recently stumbled on a four-player tabletop Warlords with some friends; we played until my eyeballs couldn’t take it anymore. The first great game for more than two players, this is still one of the best multiplayer titles ever. Plus, it’s perfect for gambling and drinking games.” —Executive Editor Mark MacDonald
“When ostriches fly, you know something’s up. Then they go and add floating eggs, bubbling lava, and the ‘unbeatable?’ pterodactyl. That’s when you realize that, clearly, magic is at work, and you are best off just accepting it and flapping like hell.” —Managing Editor Jennifer Tsao
Title: Resident Evil 4
“It’s just so new and fresh as a game. It’s fun no matter how many times you play it! Creating this game helped me realize that there is nothing we can’t achieve, and we should strive for the best without any compromise.” —Hiroyuki Kobayashi, producer of RE4
“As close to a perfect game as you’re going to get, RE4 doesn’t just succeed because of the roller-coaster plot, amazing graphics, or deep game mechanics. It ultimately succeeds because of its pacing. You never get bored of the action; any time any sequence borders on lengthy, you’re shuffled to a new variant on the experience, be it a puzzle, boss battle, or rail-shooter segment. RE4 is also the first game I’ve played with an escort element [that] was enjoyable and not frustrating. This game took me over 20 hours, and I enjoyed every single moment of it.” —Cliff Bleszinski Gears of War lead designer
My take: Resident Evil 4 was my first survival horror game, and boy, did it blow me away. It wasn’t as scary as I was expecting, but it boasted intense action, jaw dropping visuals, and a twisted storyline. Oh yeah, and you could peak under the president’s daughter’s skirt (not that I did that or anything). What’s not to like?
Title: John Madden Football
“My first big design meeting with John was on a train for two days going from Denver to Oakland, watching his two-foot-long unlit cigar slowly disintegrate in the dining car. When you meet with him privately, every sentence contains the F-word; one of his most amazing talents is his ability to switch that off when he goes on the air.
“Sega [actually] wanted me to cancel the release of Madden and repurpose it as Joe Montana Football because Sega’s development team had failed.
[Electronic Arts executive] Bing Gordon wanted to do it, but I knew Madden was ‘The Franchise,’ so instead I convinced Sega to give us a $2 million check and we made both games. Both ended up in the top five [best-selling games] that year. Of course, in redesigning the Montana version I took out all of our pet features to make sure Madden was the best game.” —Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts
My take: Now that I know that John Madden likes to drop F-bombs every sentence, I’d like to see an M-rated football game, with the man that can’t stop talking about turkey and Randy Moss.
Title: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
“Make it quick…I want to retire!” –Glass Joe
“I was a boxing teacher…at the military academy!” –Von Kaiser
“I’ll give you a TKO from Tokyo!” –Piston Honda
“I have my weakness. But I won’t tell you! Ha, ha, ha!” –King Hippo
“I have purred long enough. Now hear me roar!” –Great Tiger
“My barber didn’t know when to quit…do you?” –Bald Bull
“Would you like some punch to drink? Ha, ha, ha!” –Soda Popinski
“I don’t smoke…but tonight, I’m gonna smoke you!” –Super Macho Man
“They say I can’t lose. I say you can’t win!” –Mike Tyson
My take: It always surprised me how Resident Evil 5 got attacked for racism, yet Punch-Out!! with its blatant stereotypes didn’t. Ridiculous (and admittedly humorous) stereotypes aside, it’s a brilliant game that relies heavily on pattern memorization. It’s telling of a game’s quality when someone enjoys it for the first time over twenty years after its initial release.
“The futuristic neo-neon cabinet, digitized movie tunes, and challenging lightcycle stages made this my first stop at the arcade–even though I could never get past the third set of stages. Four great games in one. Well, OK, three–I always thought the grid bugs stage was kinda B.S.” —Shoe
My take: Something tells me that Shoe likes shrooms in addition to psychedelic games.
“Finally, a shooter that wasn’t just reflexes–you had to think about what power-ups to get and which to pass by, where to position your ship, and how to use the awesome Force pod. And that third level–a gigantic ship, multiple screens long, that doubles as the boss? Brilliant. Tough as nails and fun as hell.” —M.M.
My take: If you thought Mega Man was hard, try R-Type. That game would literally leave pampered gamers of this day and age in tears. I managed to get to the seventh level on the XBLA re-release without cheating, but the quarter-sucking level design ruined the end.
Title: Double Dragon
“Forget the (mostly) lackluster sequels, home versions of varying quality, crappy cartoon, and silly straight-to-video film–when it debuted in the arcade, Double Dragon was it. Accessible and fun from the start but with plenty of depth to explore, it spawned a legion of imitations that rarely surpassed it.” –M.M.
My take: I didn’t play the arcade original until 2008, but I remember the NES version that had you fighting an army of clones. It was fun back in the day, but now…not so much.
Title: Zelda II: the Adventure of Link
“Listen up, haters: Adventure of Link is one of Nintendo’s gutsiest sequels ever–an ambitious follow-up that abandons all of its predecessor’s conventions. Link simultaneously delivers an engrossing RPG (see: experience points, field map, magic system) and a sweet action game (tight control, big bosses).” –S.B.
My take: Anyone who doesn’t like this game should say the phrase: “I am error.” Okay, so it wasn’t much like the original Zelda, but its combination of RPG elements with side-scrolling gameplay made for an entertaining hybrid…until I hit Link’s doppelganger.
Platform: Atari 2600
“Ah, remember when consoles came with a killer app packed right in the box? For the four years we played our Atari, my family never got tired of Combat. And I don’t care what anyone says–invisible tanks with bouncy bullets still kick ass.” –M.M.
“With its simple gameplay concept (try not to die as you blow away an asteroid belt), nifty vector-graphics look, and surprisingly satisfying sense of inertia, Asteroids remained an arcade staple years after its debut. Not bad for a game without a joystick.” —S.B.
Title: Virtua Fighter 2
“For the entire summer of ’95, VF2 owned me. It left me penniless and a social outcast–I spent almost every night playing it at the Burger King castle (not exactly the town hot spot)–but it was worth it all just to master Akira’s tough-as-hell Stun Palm of Doom.” –B.I.
My take: I remember Virtua Fighter 2 being a stunner in the arcades. If I saw it now, I’d probably have a Shallow Hal type moment, but there was nothing like it back in ’95. Virtua Fighter 2 was one of the few early 3D fighting games that ate its Wheaties.
Title: Final Fantasy VI
Platform: Super SNES
“When FFVI finally arrived in stores, I learned it was going to set me back $80. $80! That was a lot of money for me back then. So I hesitated buying it…for about 0.5 seconds. Honestly, I would’ve spent five times that to get what turned out to be one of the best RPGs ever.” –Shoe
My take: I’d asked for Final Fantasy IV as a birthday present, so when I received FFVI instead, I wondered what the hell it was. What can I say, the detailed graphics and larger character sprites confused me. Once I got over my initial disappointment, I fell in love with one of the most groundbreaking titles of the 16-bit era.
Title: Tomb Raider
“[Lara Croft’s] a bit of everything. She’s like every kind of sexy Italian actress I’ve ever watched, and yet she’s also that guy from Crocodile Hunter in Australia–completely in love with danger. And then there’s this whole personality that’s emerged from me. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t do this; I’m a serious actor.’ And then suddenly I was in my little outfit on top of a mountain in Iceland with some dogs pulling me in a sled and some guns attached to me. And I thought, ‘Yeah! This is exactly who I am!’ I think I’m ridiculously brave, to a fault. I’d like to think that [Lara] fights for the right things and doesn’t like injustice. She’s a good friend, she cares, and she would stand up for somebody if they were in a spot. I like that.” —Angelina Jolie, star of the Tomb Raider flicks
My take: Okay, let’s be honest here: everyone bought Tomb Raider for the boobs. Lara controlled like a drunken Mario, so we couldn’t have liked her for anything but her chest, right? Actually, her Indiana Jones-style adventure was pretty cool, but there’s no doubt that most gamers raided tombs for that nude code.
Title: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
“Former Editor Shawn Smith and I named our H.O.R.S.E. game the nonsensically vulgar ‘T.U.R.D.E.A.T.’ We took frequent T.U.R.D.E.A.T. breaks throughout the day, and once found ourselves playing in front of a bewildered PR dude for the game’s publisher. As a goof, we asked him if the Dreamcast version included T.U.R.D.E.A.T. Thinking it was the mode’s actual name, he asked the developers, and of course they had no idea what he was talking about–and became concerned that they were missing some hidden feature. Reveling in the confusion, we finally let ’em know it was just our custom name for H.O.R.S.E. It’s a mode we jokingly inquire about for every Tony Hawk sequel since.” –Senior Editor Crispin Boyer
My take: The first time I saw Tony Hawk, I thought it’d be terrible since my buddy’s stoner friend who doesn’t normally play video games was playing it. It turns out that I made an egregious error: T Hawk was an incredibly addicting title that even got me to take up skateboarding.
Title: Tecmo Bowl
“Sorry, Kristen Bates. If it weren’t for this gridiron title–and my obsession one Sunday afternoon with beating every team in the game as the Chicago Bears–I might’ve gone into the other room at Steve Bowman’s house to kiss you.” –B.I.
Title: Robotron: 2084
“Robotron is the id of arcade gaming–all impulse and instinct and reflex. If you take the time to wait for conscious thought to move from your brain to your hands, you’re dead–simple as that. It’s just so pure…probably why it still holds up and will likely never feel dated.” –M.M.
Title: Star Wars
“It was like developer Atari invented a tractor beam for quarters with this mind-blowing vector-graphics shooter. ‘I have you now,’ threatens a digitized Darth Vader–way before he blathered on about sand–near the game’s finale. You got that right, Darth.” –C.B.
Title: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
“[When we started working on it], this game was part of Japan’s Dracula X Castlevania subseries, so I felt that I had more freedom to take it in a different direction. It was a one-off project, and we basically just did whatever we wanted! So, I asked questions like, ‘Is fighting with a whip even fun?’ and ‘Isn’t this macho-man Belmont guy kind of boring?’
“Ultimately, we incorporated a lot of new ideas and took the game in a more exploration-based direction. Since there hadn’t been a Metroid for quite some time, we thought, why not try to make a better version of Metroid, but in the world of Castlevania?” —Koji Igarashi, producer of Castlevania: SOTN
My take: My first Metroidvania-style Castlevania experience was Dawn of Sorrow. Even though I completed it, I didn’t see what the fuss was about. Fortunately, I still gave Symphony of the Night a shot when it became available as a downloadable title. Symphony of the Night may have unintentionally funny voice acting, but its incredible gameplay and memorable soundtrack more than make up for it.
Title: Final Fantasy IV
Platform: Super NES
“It wasn’t the first FF (it was actually, uh, the fourth–long story), but it defined the series: The active-time battle system made combat exciting, and while the story was badly translated, it was never dull. Redemption, heroics, space whales. Who could ask for more?” –1UP.com Features Editor Jeremy Parish
My take: I have so many fond memories with Final Fantasy IV: becoming a Paladin, gawking at the goofy dancers, and flying to the moon. Hell, I practically worshipped the game’s primary villain, Golbez, for years. You’ll even find his name in my 360 gamertag.
“It wasn’t Luke finding out his kissy friend is actually his sister. Or Spock sacrificing himself at the end of Star Trek II. No, the greatest space tragedy of the ’80s was when you let one of the big Galaga bugs capture your ship before realizing it was your last one.” –Shoe
My take: Never before was shooting aliens so addicting. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like this game.
Title: Final Fantasy VII
“The role-playing game that put the genre on the map, Square’s legendary FFVII infused the previously nerds-only series with slick CG cut-scenes, 3D graphics, and a dark ‘n’ edgy storyline. The underlying mechanics didn’t deviate too far from classic Final Fantasy form, but the new postindustrial flavor and narrative gravitas proved a perfect fit for the franchise. Looking back, FFVII feels a bit weird now–it straddles the line between goofy old-school RPGs and gritty modern fare–but its ambition and mammoth scope cannot be denied.
“Still, I have to wonder if some among the millions who purchased FFVII were merely swept up by the bitchin’ commercial (that showed only flashy CG clips), blissfully unaware of the wildly complex RPG awaiting them. I worked at a game shop at the time of FFVII’s release, and I distinctly recall one customer (of the many) returning the game because he ‘didn’t know there was going to be reading in it.’ Did I mention I grew up in Kentucky?” –S.B.
My take: Cloud’s massive Buster Sword and the amazing cinematics may have drawn me in, but my favorite part of FFVII was all the different locales you were able to explore after leaving Midgar. Some FFVI fans hate this game with a passion because of its increased focus on cinematic storytelling, but we all know that their “hatred” for this game is like saying Locke is a Treasure Hunter. It just isn’t true.
Title: Phantasy Star
Platform: Sega Master System
“This pioneering epic actually came out (in America, at least) more than a year before Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy, and it outclasses both in just about every category. Groundbreaking 3D dungeons, a grandiose scope (three planets to explore), and stunning visuals made Phantasy Star an instant classic.” –S.B.
My take: Awhile back, I tried to set foot in Phantasy Star’s world. I found it grind heavy and difficult to progress without a FAQ, but it was certainly revolutionary for its time. Hopefully, I’ll go back to Phantasy Star someday and give it the attention it deserves.
Title: Gran Turismo
“I was a road tester for a car magazine when Gran Turismo came out–it was my job to review cars. But GT did such a good job simulating what it’s like to drive at ridiculous speeds that I didn’t need to do it in real life anymore. Now I review games instead…I think I made the right choice.” –D.L.
My take: I was impressed with Gran Turismo’s absurd amount of detail, but the racing games I like can best be summarized by the Mazda-coined phrase: “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.”
Title: Tetris Attack
Platform: Super NES
“Once, my combo count in a head-to-head match got so high that it crashed the game. Strangely enough, I wasn’t mad–I considered it a nerdy victory of sorts. I must be pretty badass to crash a puzzle game with my skills alone! We still play this game every few weeks–it’s that good.” –Shoe
My take: When I first rented Tetris Attack, I was more interested in the Yoshi’s Island-themed visuals and music than the actual gameplay. But when I purchased it several years later, I found one of the most addictive puzzle games in existence. If only I had someone to play with…like Shoe. Actually with his record, maybe that’s not such a good idea.
Title: Super Metroid
Platform: Super NES
“Graphics, gameplay, control, music (oh man, the music!)–Super Metroid lived up to its name in every single category. Its minimal storyline even climaxes in a surprising final boss encounter people still talk about today. If you missed it, track it down and play it today–you won’t be sorry.” –M.M.
My take: Sadly, I was one of those people who purchased Donkey Kong Country for its snazzy, pre-rendered visuals instead of Super Metroid. Don’t get me wrong, DKC was a fun game, but it had nothing on Super Metroid and its exploration-based gameplay. With numerous secrets to be found, chilling music, and surprising plot twists, Super Metroid is a game worth playing, even today.
Title: Soul Calibur
“Step 1: Boot up game. Step 2: Play game. Step 3: Wipe drool off of controllers.
“They say graphics don’t make a game, but they sure made this one. Perfectly animated warriors, gorgeous backdrops, and beautiful bursts of sparks when swords clash…plus a fighting-game system that rewards technique and clever play…it’s enough to make you go, ‘Tekken who?’
“It was pathetic how addicted we were to Soul Calibur when it first came out. We took time off of deadlines to organize interoffice tournaments, complete with seeds, brackets, and prizes. We even came up with a leaderboard of the top 10 players in the office at any given time for post-tourney bragging rights.
“But my most nerd-rific moment came one night at a bar. Out of the blue, I just looked at my coworker with a big smile and said–with plenty of emotion–‘Man Soul Calibur is so good. I love that game.’ And I know that wasn’t just the booze talking….” –Shoe
My take: I remember SoulCalibur looking downright gorgeous upon its release. Hell, it’s still a looker. I may have passed it over in favor of Final Fantasy VIII, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the best 3D fighting games in existence. What makes SoulCal so special is that it’s one of the most accessible fighting games that somehow manages to contain enough depth for hardcore players.
Title: Phantasy Star Online
“I was reviewing an early version of PSO we got right around the holidays and I was in love–I just couldn’t stop playing. I remember it was about 3 a.m. and I was just about to finally kill De Rol Le–that evil second boss fish–when suddenly everything went dark; it was a bitterly cold Chicago winter and my space heater and TV equipment all running at once blew a fuse. The fuse box was locked in the basement, and my landlord had already left for Christmas. The only working outlet was the one my refrigerator was plugged into. So I did what I had to: moved the TV, Dreamcast, and couch into the kitchen, unplugged the fridge, and kept playing.” –M.M.
My take: I’m envious of anyone who had the means to play this game. I found it hard to play Diablo II when people were playing a gorgeous online RPG on a console. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to play PSO now, so I may forever be without this game that I yearned to play during my childhood. The only way to rectify this problem is for Sega to make a new one (No, Phantasy Star Universe doesn’t count).
Title: Virtua Fighter
“The boxy characters and stark arenas look bizarre now, but back in the day this stuff looked like the future. Which it was. But VF’s quality wasn’t based on visuals–spectacular gameplay (a simple three-button setup masks oceanic depth) and real-world fighting styles (no fireballs or babalities here) truly advanced the genre.” –S.B.
My take: Virtua Fighter characters may have looked like giant Legos with their conspicuous polygons, but there was nothing like playing a 3D fighting game for the first time. I still remember knocking players out of the ring with Kage, several years later.
Title: Super Mario Kart
Platform: Super NES
“Trigger a speed-boosting ‘shroom right before you hit the jump bump in this game’s first Ghost Valley course and you’ll soar to the other side of the track, shaving seconds off your time. Try finding shortcuts that cool in Gran Turismo.” –C.B.
My take: Unfortunately, I don’t remember my first reaction to the original Mario Kart. But I do remember performing endless Time Trials on Rainbow Road. And I remember having a blast in splitscreen Battle Mode. Of course I never used the feather…
Platform: Atari 2600
“The working title was Jungle Runner, and it came dangerously close to going to market with that name. The second choice was Zulu Gold. Without Cheech and Chong as spokespeople, I don’t think that name would have worked.” –David Crane, creator of Pitfall!
Title: Halo: Combat Evolved
“Halo is awesome because it’s solid and familiar. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking–much of the fiction is derivative. But, it’s put together well and it knew exactly what to borrow and what to invent.” –Randy Pitchford, president of Gearbox Software (Halo for PC)
My take: Halo 2 had more of an impact on me than the first, but I can still remember my first LAN match in my friend’s apartment community center. I didn’t own an Xbox at the time, but there was nothing like loading up a Warthog and driving across Sidewinder. Our kamikaze attacks were rarely successful, but at least we got close to the flag.
Title: GoldenEye 007
Platform: Nintendo 64
“[Back when] PC shooters [ruled the genre], a company called Rare proved that you could, in fact, make a great console FPS. GoldenEye wowed everyone with a stellar single-player campaign and an addictive splitscreen multiplayer mode. The world would never be the same.” –Cliff Bleszinski, designer of Unreal
My take: GoldenEye was the first FPS that I really got addicted to. I’d played Doom, Marathon, and Dark Forces, but I wanted a title with a little more depth. In came GoldenEye. Its stealthy single-player campaign amazed me at the time, but even more impressive was its incredible four-player multiplayer. I remember playing that game on a weekly basis for nearly a year. No previous release had that kind of multiplayer longevity.
Title: Donkey Kong
“If there had not been Donkey Kong, I might be living a different life today. I don’t know if it would be better or worse, but I like being surrounded by Donkey Kong and Mario and Pikmin and my other friends. [Maybe] it is about time to create new companions….” —DK creator Shigeru Miyamoto
My take: I’ve never actually touched a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet, but Steve Wiebe has inspired me to do so. If I ever find one lying around, I’m gonna get my Kong on.
Title: Super Mario Bros. 3
“I still remember the first time I ran, then launched into the air to follow a secret trail of coins hidden in the sky. Mario can now fly! From that very first level to the airship armadas at the end, SMB3 is unforgettable. Many (including me) still argue this is the best Mario game ever made.” –Shoe
My take: I remember when this game was all the rage–when whistles were the talk of the town. I’m disappointed to say this, but the other day I encountered someone who wanted “the original” Mario. She couldn’t tell me which one, so I helped her download three. After trying it for less than a minute, she didn’t like it. Blasphemy!
Platform: Atari 2600
“Before there was Zelda, there was Adventure. I played this game so much that I could actually navigate the entire game–including the catacombs–with my eyes shut. It was the first time a game felt like its own little self-contained world for you to explore. And they weren’t ducks, dammit, they’re dragons.” –M.M.
Title: Metal Gear Solid
“[Metal Gear creator Hideo] Kojima really knows how to create characters and surprise players. It shouldn’t surprise you that Metal Gear Solid was a huge inspiration for Splinter Cell. It was a pioneer for both the genre and the quality of directing, and I’m always flattered when people make comparisons between the two series.” –Mathieu Ferland, executive producer of Splinter Cell
“MGS brought story, script, characters, voice acting, and cinemas to amazing levels. It was not only a landmark–it’s a guiding light to the future of videogames.” –Denis Dyack, head of Silicon Knights (MGS: The Twin Snakes)
My take: Forget Marcus Fenix and Master Chief–Solid Snake is the true video game badass. His first excellent 3D stealth adventure with a politically charged narrative turned heads–so much so that fans were outraged when Snake wasn’t even the main character of the second chapter in the Metal Gear Solid saga.
“When we were working on the original Metroid, we didn’t have much development experience. We were trying to establish a brand-new type of game: the sci-fi adventure. Even though we [had to feel] our way to completion, we never lost our ambition.
Now, looking back at how we were at that time, our attitude was like that of Samus Aran, who had to rush headlong into the vast and dangerous planet Zebes without hesitation.
“We will keep on fighting and evolving with her in order to reach the goal that nobody has ever seen before.” –Yoshio Sakamoto, director of Metroid
My take: To be fair, I didn’t play Metroid upon its initial release, so I can’t tell you how influential it was, but sadly, it doesn’t hold up very well. I tried playing Metroid around the time of its Virtual Console release, but its high level of difficulty and bland environments lost me. Fortunately, this didn’t stop me from giving Metroid’s excellent GBA remake a shot.
“Great for its time? Pong was practically the only game of its time–every other title on this list owes this simple table-tennis simulator a massive debt. Unlike other prehistoric arcade fare (I’m looking at you, Space War), Pong was legitimately exciting, thanks to its nifty dial controllers. Twirling your knob to the increasing tension of a long volley until finally climaxing in a point…wait, what was I talking about? Hell, Pong is still fun today. Just a few months back, I lost huge sums of money to a fellow EGM staffer betting on a two-player Pong variant in Flipnic (PS2). The elder statesman of gaming’s still got it.” –S.B.
My take: I haven’t played the actual Pong, but I have played one of its many variants, and surprisingly, it’s still pretty fun. I can see why it was an influential title, even though it aped one of Ralph Baer’s Magnavox Odyssey games.
Title: Grand Theft Auto III
“Once I played it for 10 minutes and realized the range of possibility in it, I was blow away, just because I understood that, oh, I can go anywhere in this city and I can pick any car. I can go in there and be an ambulance driver and save all those people. I can go in and be a taxi driver. I can go in and be a badass. I feel like I’m controlling my own story. I can ignore the missions entirely. It’s a toy for me–a toy world. I was like wow, this is cool. And then I knew, OK, this is gonna be big.” —Will Wright, creator of The Sims and SimCity
My take: GTAIII had people who weren’t normally gamers flocking to consoles, and that’s saying something. It may have had prostitute protection advocates (and Jack Thompson) up in arms, but most reasonable people saw GTAIII as a title with endless possibilities. I never felt compelled to finish it, but I’d never had so much fun cruising around a city.
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
“Coming six painfully long years after the previous console Zelda effort (Super NES classic A Link to the Past), Ocarina actually managed to exceed gamers’ lofty expectations. In much the same way that Super Mario 64 successfully brought that series’ gameplay into 3D, this new Zelda kept everything that we loved about the old games–labyrinthine dungeons, tricky bosses, and oodles of inventive equipment–while completely overhauling the control and combat to take advantage of the scope of 3D visuals. At the same time, Nintendo wisely chose to impart a darker, more narrative mood, thereby appealing to older gamers who grew up with the original Zelda.
“My most potent memory of Ocarina (apart from scoring one of the swanky limited-edition gold carts that Nintendo foisted upon an eager fanbase) seems positively innocuous now: I was in awe the first time Link reaches the vast, sprawling Hyrule Field. Never before had a game created such a concrete feeling of physical space. Truly epic.” –S.B.
My take: If I could travel through time, there’s a good chance I’d go to Link’s world. I’d never had so much fun solving puzzles, riding horses, and slaying massive monsters in a 3D world. Give me an Ocarina, and you won’t see me again.
Title: Space Invaders
“At the time, Atari’s block-breaking game Breakout was popular in Japan. I thought the game was fun, too, and so I began making a game using [Breakout] as inspiration. I decided to change the blocks to targets that had shapes and make a shooting game–a shoot-out between those targets and the player. For the targets, I tested out tanks, planes, and soldiers, but I was stuck because none of them seemed to fit the image of the game. But then a movie called Star Wars came out, so I took a note from that and made it a space game, and when I tried changing the targets to aliens, it looked very smooth–that settled it.
“I started making Space Invaders around the summer of 1977. I did all the design, graphics, and programming on my own. In June 1978, I finished the game and had an unveiling, but the [arcade] operators didn’t like it, and we received almost no orders. Many of the operators were older gentlemen; they said it was too hard. I don’t think they knew how to deal with the targets shooting back–shooting games up to that point had been about the player shooting one way at targets, and this game went against that logic. But when the game went out into the world, its fresh approach brought thrills and excitement mainly to young people, and I think that led to it being a big hit.
“The head of my company forced us to change the name of the game to Space Invaders, even though I had named it Space Monsters. I remember being really unhappy about that. This may come as a surprise to people–the game didn’t leave me with a very good impression. But now time has passed, and when I think about how much this game has contributed to advancements in Japanese gaming, I’m very proud that I was able to create it.” —Tomohiro Nishikado, Space Invaders creator
My take: Father, I have sinned, for I have not played Space Invaders. But I did play its colorful sequel with intense beats. Please forgive me.
Title: Super Mario 64
“Super Mario 64 had no guns, no vehicles, no additional playable characters–and it still managed to offer something fresh in every level [through] clever use of Mario’s moves and brilliant level design. I mean, I can distinctly remember almost every one of those levels and its stages–I can’t say that for any other game I’ve ever played, including games we’ve made here at Insomniac…and I’ve played our games far more times. Mario 64 not only set the standard for modern platformers at the time, but it demonstrated a level of excellence and innovation in design that I think few games today have achieved.” –Ted Price, designer of the Ratchet & Clank series (PS2)
“I’m not always proud of my actions, but back during the summer of ’96, I’ve never had so much fun being so damn bad. I was in high school then, and a few buddies and I simply couldn’t wait for the U.S. Nintendo 64 launch to play the first 3D Mario, so we convinced our Richie Rich friend to import the system and game from Japan–for about $600. That’s bad enough, but here’s where it gets worse: Each of us took the system home and finished Super Mario 64 before our wealthy (and ignorant) pal even found his first star. Was I in the wrong? Yeah. Should I have been punished? Probably. If I could go back in time, would I do it again? Oh, hell yes!” –B.I.
My take: Super Mario 64 may not be my favorite game now, but I can never remember being so excited for a game. This is one of the first games I learned about before its actual release–and it managed to surpass the hype–with a triple back flip and a butt stomp. My favorite plumber’s first 3D outing literally left me speechless the first time I played it. I’ll never forget this wonderful game that is still a joy to play to this day.
Title: The Legend of Zelda
“As a child, Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto famously explored the countryside near his home in Kyoto, Japan. This kid was a junior vagabond: He’d traverse dense forests, creepy graveyards, and secluded mountain paths on a quest to better understand his world. Young Shigeru was even an amateur spelunker–he once brought his own lantern from home to help navigate a cave he discovered deep in the woods. And while it’s unclear whether this insatiable curiosity ever led our future game designer to a buried treasure trove or a distressed princess, it certainly inspired The Legend of Zelda.
“After upending the world of action games with Super Mario Bros., Miyamoto once again reimagined the concept of game design with Zelda. Here, the player embarks on an open-ended adventure through a massive fantasy world. It’s tough to convey just how groundbreaking this game truly was when it hit stores in 1987. Sure, we’d already seen ambitious PC role-playing fare like Ultima and Might and Magic, but a console action title with this much depth was utterly unprecedented. As you guided elfin hero Link through the ancient land of Hyrule, every aspect of the game fell perfectly into place–clever puzzles, cool enemies, creative bosses, and a nearly endless torrent of spectacular secrets (including a full second quest after you finish the game).
“This is going to sound cheesy, but I still clearly remember what I felt when I solved that second quest some 18 years ago–that I’d never played a game like Zelda, that I really loved videogames, and that I might be too old to dress up as Link for Halloween.” –S.B.
My take: In retrospect, the original Zelda didn’t impress me as much as A Link to the Past, but I still remember exploring dungeons with my dad. I’d never had so much fun solving puzzles and recording locations on a map. And, this game is notable for having the first video game story that actually engaged me. Sure, most of it was in the instruction manual, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to turn Ganon into bacon.
“It’s the king of games. There’s nothing left to add or subtract from Tetris’ design; in a way, it’s nearly perfect. Logic and speed, the left brain and the right brain, intensity and relief–all done in only four blocks. This almost-miraculous game taught us the very important fact that a game’s fun is not bound by its screen resolution. It proved to us that games can be a universal tongue, crossing language, borders, ethnicity, age, and platform.” –Tetsuya Mizuguchi, designer of puzzle games Lumines (PSP) and Meteos (DS), and former head of United Game Artists
The First Blockaholic
We wish the rumors were true for the sake of a good story, but vodka binges played no part in creating this block-dropping blockbuster. “I don’t even like vodka,” says Alexey Pajitnov, who dreamed up Tetris in his Moscow apartment in 1985. After punching his program into the appropriately Russki-sounding Electronika-60 computer, he encountered a different addictive substance: his own game. “I had no score, no acceleration [of the pieces],” he says, “but I couldn’t’ finish these parts…because I just sat and played with my half-working program.” His reward for creating the most cloned puzzle game of all time? Zilch–at least at first. “I didn’t get any money for Tetris for the first 10 years,” says Pajitnov, now working at Microsoft.
My take: Puzzle games have never really been my thing (I’ve never been addicted to them anyway), but there’s no denying that Tetris is a fun game–for everyone. It’s the best thing to ever come out of Russia. Yes alcoholics, it’s even better than Vodka.
Title: Street Fighter II
“We were told that [the original] Street Fighter was popular overseas, but I wasn’t satisfied with many aspects of the [first] game. I wanted to play as a character that best suited me, and there weren’t too many games where you could choose your player at the time. That was my initial motivation [for creating Street Fighter II].” –Akira Nishitani, Street Fighter II creator
“One day, I stood up and walked out in the middle of my small, 16-student college math class because I couldn’t stand it any longer–I had to play Street Fighter II right then and there. The other students stared and my teacher looked at me funny, but I didn’t say a word or offer any explanation. I silently marched straight to the local arcade, cashed in a ten, and spent the rest of the afternoon shoryukening away. Spending money and time that I really couldn’t afford…such was the draw of this incredible game.” –Shoe
My take: In an era in which most character sprites were tiny, Street Fighter II’s goliath-like characters were a godsend. And that’s just the beginning. Each of the combatants had a unique appearance and repertoire that still makes them iconic characters even today. I don’t have any great memories of cutting class like Shoe, but that’s okay, because I can perform a mean Psycho Crusher.
“The whole thing actually started with me walking around arcades watching how many boys were playing and the fact that all the machines were about killing aliens, tanks, or people. Girls were simply not interested, and I suddenly had motivation for my work: I wanted game arcades to shed this dark, sinister image, and it seemed to me that the way to raise the atmosphere of a place is to entice girls to come in. [So] the whole purpose of Pac-Man was to target women and couples, and get a different type of player involved.
“So there I was, wondering what sort of things women would look for in a video game. I sat in cafés and listened to what they were talking about mostly it was fashion and boyfriends. Neither of those was really the stuff of a good videogame. Then they started talking about food–about cakes and sweets and fruit–and it hit me that food and eating would be the thing to concentrate on to get the girls interested.” —Toru Iwatani, Pac-Man creator, in an interview with Times Online
“If I may be so bold as to compare Pac-Man to the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ …in the same way that ‘Yesterday’ is the standard [for a good song] in the music industry, I also believe Pac-Man has become the standard in the game industry. For this reason, I believe Pac-Man will withstand the test of time and continue to be enjoyed by gamers in the years to come.” –Toru Iwatani in an interview with EGM
Over 10 Billion Served
Videogame record keepers Twin Galaxies believe Pac-Man has been played over 10 billion times in the 20th century, based on a study they did.
My take: I love everything about the yellow pellet muncher–from the gameplay to the sound effects. The original Pac-Man’s ghost-swallowing gameplay doesn’t get old no matter how many times you play it. Despite the never-ending hours of enjoyment it can provide, Pac-Man inspired an even better XBLA sequel. Plus, its memorable sound effects have been featured in numerous songs. Can you believe that all of this came from a partially eaten pizza?
Title: Super Mario Bros.
Brick-breaking Nintendo mascot Mario was huge even before he broke out in this seminal side-scroller. Too huge, in fact. “So we shrank him,” creator Shigeru Miyamoto said in a BusinessWeek interview about the creation of his game. “Then we thought, ‘What if he can grow and shrink? How would he do that? It would have to be a magic mushroom!'”
But power-upping mushrooms–long since lasered into gaming iconology–were far from the only contributions of Miyamoto’s masterpiece. Super Mario Bros. bred a generation of Nintendo fanboys-4-life with such gameplay innovations as screens that scrolled, twitchy dungeon traps, regiments of trooping turtles, secrets that players passed via word of mouth–all mortared brick by smashable brick into an experience so gripping that we were happy to learn the princess was in another castle.
Today, even Mario’s boinging jump is enough to trigger Pavlovian thumb twitching. “I don’t think there are many games that we can identify immediately by a simple sound effect,” says Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. And more than a few of gaming’s greatest designers might have been lost to us if not for Miyamoto’s best-seller. “I encountered Super Mario Bros. back when I was a student,” Metal Gear series maker Hideo Kojima tells us. “It really changed my life. If I had somehow missed playing this game, the Hideo Kojima I am now would not exist.”
Not bad for a game Miyamoto dreamed up two decades ago while wondering “what it would be like to have a character that bounces around,” he says. “Honestly speaking, 20 years ago, I could never dream that this game could lead up to such a beloved franchise all over the world.” Funny, because today we can’t imagine it any other way.
“Up until the game was released, gamers were really tied to the one-play-per-coin system at the arcades. Then along came Super Mario Bros., a game that wasn’t frustrating or tedious. Rather, I think it was one of the first to nail down the idea of permanence in games. Even simple actions like running and jumping have deep gameplay implications. And the more you play, the more you discover. It’s simply impossible to grow tired of Super Mario Bros.” –Metal Gear series creator Hideo Kojima
“Super Mario Bros. and pizza grease and rodents of unusual size will always be intertwined in my mind. I first played the game–in its coin-op form–at a Chuck E. Cheese arcade, where I was working my first job. One of my coworkers, who could spend his whole lunch break playing Super Mario Bros. on one quarter, showed me its many secrets my first day on the job. Two weeks later, I blew my first paycheck on an NES with a packed-in Super Mario Bros.” –Senior Editor Crispin Boyer
“Before I ever played Super Mario Bros., I remember my friend telling me all about the arcade game and it just didn’t seem possible. He talked about shooting fire-balls, secret tunnels, bullets you could bounce off of, hidden beanstalks leading into the clouds–all these amazing, crazy things that I just couldn’t imagine all fitting into one game. At a time when you could sum up most games in 30 seconds, he went on and on like this for 30 minutes; I could tell he was getting excited to play it again just talking about it. When I finally saw the game, I was…I’m not sure how to put it. Awestruck, I guess. Not only was everything my friend said true, he had barely scratched the surface.” –Executive Editor Mark MacDonald
“Whenever I tell people what I do for a living, the most common response is, ‘Games have gotten too complicated for me, but I really loved that Super Mario Bros.‘ Everyone–young, old, boy, girl, gamer, non-gamer–has played Miyamoto’s masterpiece and, more importantly, thoroughly enjoyed it. What kind of impact has the plumber’s NES debut had on the public? Well, my girlfriend can’t tell you what kind of game Halo 2 is, but she still knows exactly where to find Super Mario Bros.‘ first warp zone.” –News Editor Bryan Intihar
“I saw it at a cousin’s house. I played it. Within moments, I knew I had to own it. It is the most amazing game of its time, no question.” –Editor-in-Chief Dan Hsu
“I still clearly remember church Sunday school the day after I got my NES back in 1986. Our teacher made each kid announce aloud something in their life that they thanked God for. Of course, I thanked God for Super Mario Bros. with the utmost sincerity. It was the game that redefined the concept of gameplay: If you stop and really evaluate what’s going on with Super Mario Bros.‘ control–the precision jumping, the sense of inertia, the depth of mastery–it’s mind-blowing.” –Previews Editor Shane Bettenhausen
My take: Even though I may have been too young to truly appreciate what Super Mario Bros. did for video games, it nevertheless managed to impact me for life. Before Mario, never before had I been so thoroughly enmeshed in a video game world. This immersive experience even got me to eat my mushrooms, but thankfully it didn’t cause me to stomp on helpless animals. One of these days, I’ll have to return to Super Mario Bros. to see the legendary Minus World.
Well there you have it. This was EGM’s final list of their favorite titles, and what a list it was. Not only did this issue have four different covers (mine was Cover 2)–it also featured two hundred highly influential titles. You may not agree with all of EGM’s picks, but undoubtedly, many of these games are some of the finest titles in existence. I hope you enjoyed this feature, and will continue to support sites like Bitmob that carry on EGM’s legacy.
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