The Seven Most Important Games of my Life

I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember. Be it on my dad’s Atari 2600, my Super Nintendo, or any of the other consoles or computers I had growing up.

Boogie2988 made an excellent video a few days ago about the games that had the biggest influence on his life and it got me thinking. I wondered: what games have had the biggest impact on MY life?

So if you’ll indulge me for a moment while I respond to Boogie, here are seven of the most influential games from my entire life. And keep in mind, these aren’t all going to be Linux games. I’ve been a gamer longer than I’ve been a Linux user. And do note that these aren’t necessarily my favorite games (though they are up there), these are games that I feel had the biggest impact on me and my understanding of what games can be.

Super Mario Brothers 3

This is the first game I remember ever playing. I was two years old when this game was released and I played it around that time with one of my oldest friends, Caleb. The idea of controlling a character on screen was so awesome to me, and I can remember clear as day sitting on the floor of Caleb’s living room and staring at the overworld, then watching as he tackled the first level. It clearly laid a foundation upon which I would understand and interporate video game for years to come, and I can’t think of a more fitting game to kick off my life-long passion for games.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

A Link to the Past rocked my little world. My dad had an Atari, but the graphics were terrible and I never enjoyed playing with that crappy paddle. But then we rented a Super Nintendo with A Link to the Past and I loved it. The world was so bright and colorful, the animations (especially the beginning intro scene) was mesmerizing, and I felt powerful as Link moved from screen to screen and taking down baddie after baddie. A Link to the Past proved to me that video games could be art while also being fun.

Earthbound

I never actually played Earthbound legitimately until later in life. I can remember when I was a kid, staring at the big, beautiful Earthbound box sitting atop the Super Nintendo rental shelf at the Shop N’ Save in my town. And I remember BEGGING my mom to rent it for me. But my family was incredibly poor, so I never had a chance to play it…

That is until my friend Karl showed me emulators. He was playing Kirby on his dad’s Power Mac and I asked “How can I get this on my computer?” I had a very specific game in mind: Earthbound. The game I never got to play.

And when I finally sat down with this game for the first time, I learned several things; I learned that video game soundtracks can truly move you, that you can identify with video game characters on a profound and intimate level, and most importantly, I learned that video games themselves can be an emotional.

Earthbound, perhaps more than any other game on this list, has left an indelible impression upon my soul. How I understand the world, my sense of empathy, and my appreciation of friendship were all touched by this amazing RPG of a young boy and his friends on an adventure to save the world through teamwork and faith.

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 demonstrated to me that games didn’t have to follow a straight path to the goal. I realized while playing Mario 64 that I could go anywhere and approach levels from a variety of different ways. Mario 64 opened my eyes to the concept of 3D environments, and I often find myself lamenting the LACK of true follow-ups to this game. Mario 64 gave me, as a player, freedom. It empowered me to explore a fantastical world at my own pace, find stars out of order, and showed me that a character can move in a precise and skillful way through 3D space.

Unreal Tournament

If you’ve been following the channel for a while, you probably know I love the Unreal Tournament series. If that’s news to you, it may also seem weird. (It seems weird to me too). I think the tongue-in-cheek nature of the games, coupled with the fierce competition, extreme skill, and elegant strategy of UT99 and 2004 are what make the games masterworks. However, the reason the original game is on this list is two-fold: LAN parties and controls. This is the first game I ever played over LAN, and it was a transcendent experience. My brothers and I (there are four of us) would play this game for hours. One summer, the family garage was packed to the brim with our friends computers and we played Unreal Tournament (especially Assault mode) for days. It was chaos with people screaming while furiously headshotting opponents, and actually punching other players in real life.

But the other reason I included UT on this list is the control. Unreal Tournament was the first game I ever played using the standard WASD controls. It was super weird at first as WAS and D felt so... arbitrary, but I trusted my friend’s suggestion that I change them. And I’m glad I did. Playing UT felt even more freeing than Super Mario 64, I could go anywhere, do anything, and slay my opponents. It was awesome.

Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun

Now, I played every entry in the Command and Conquer franchise, up to C&C 3 but my favorite and the one that truly stood out to me as a strategy game was Tiberian Sun. Now, I know that many C&C fans find Tiberian Sun to be the black horse of the franchise, but I spent the entire summer of 1999 dialing in to Karl’s modem and playing Tiberian Sun over IPX.

I have many fond memories of listening to Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls and playing Tiberian Sun… but that’s not why it’s on this list. No. Tiberian Sun is the first game I ever modded. I download the rules.ini file and started hacking away at the NPCs, factions, buildings, and units. Giving JumpJet units 300% more damage, setting the cost of the Obelisk of Light to $1, and later on in Red Alert 2, making chimps a buildable unit able to throw lightning bolts.

SimCity 4

I debated with myself over which Sim game to put on this list. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that, in my life, Will Wright is the most storied and prolific game developer. Ever. Beyond Satoru Iwata, beyond Miyamoto, beyond Sid Meier. I spent the first two decades of my life playing his games. SimCity 2000 followed by SimCity 3000, The Sims, Sims 2, and SimCity 4 were all contenders for this list. I have anecdotes about each of these games. But SimCity 4 is easily the game that I spent the most time with. SimCity in general taught me that games can be a learning tool. A game can be an environment of experimentation. It can also be open ended and allow the player to set their own goals. But SimCity 4 specifically really shaped my understanding of civics, playing it well into young adulthood, SimCity 4 was a great example of the role of government, and the importance of planning and working to build something great.

I’ve had fun reflecting on the games of my youth that shaped who I am today and if this video got you thinking about it, too, you can let me know which games were most important to you down in the comments or on Twitter @TheLinuxGamer.

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