Throughout my gaming history, I have encountered the good and the bad, but there are some games that stay with you. Some games that you just wish you could go back and experience. Emulation is great but the one thing you can never capture is that moment of playing again for the first time.
And so I present a list of five such games. They are not necessarily the best games but they each had a moment that has stayed with me. A couple of rules first though:
1. Only one game per machine
2. This is a retro feature, so nothing later than PS2
3. This list only includes games I’ve actually played
With that in mind, let’s begin!
The quintessential multiplayer game and one of the games that set me on the path of a life long love of the medium.
From the character selection (everyone wants to be the warrior, right?), to the first few rooms as you and up to 3 chums work together, watching each others backs, sharing treasure, strategically allocating health according to greatest need.
But then something magical happens. You realise that you can shoot the food.
Cue a mad free-for-all as you gleefully fight to reach the next pot of treasure, hanging back so that your over eager colleague dives into the fighting first, desperately scrambling for keys to that room that you can never quite reach, cheering triumphantly as you reach the next stage. And then finally, that mad, blind panic as you boldly step into the transport tile, only to materialise in THAT room full of ghosts, watching on helplessly as your back-to-the-wall last gasp fight ends with the agonising, toe curling ‘urgh’.
There were hundreds of games released on the Spectrum, dozens of indisputable classics and this was…not one of them.
So why does it make the list? Because it taught my 8 year old self an important lesson.
Picture the scene. WWF wrestling is spreading across the world. Hulkamania is running wild (brother), you are browsing the game section in WH Smiths and this one title catches your eye. Cage Match!
You dig deep into your pockets but come up short. No! But wait, here comes your brother so you pool resources and hand over your £1.99. You dash home, taking turns on the bus to read the back cover of the cassette, excitement building as you storm through the front door, switch off whatever drivel Dad is watching, plug in the trusty Spectrum, somehow endure the agonising wait as the game loads as only a Spectrum game can until finally it is here and you take control of your avatar, ready to lock horns with your CPU controlled adversary in combat so bloodthirsty it can only be held in by a cage…which he promptly runs up the side of and wins.
Is that it? Surely there must be some mistake. Eagerly you read through the scant instructions again, looking for some nugget of information missed. Nope.
The controller is passed around, perhaps someone else will discover the secret of this undoubted moment of video gaming history? Nope.
Desperately, forlornly, you come back to it each day, hoping against fading hope that there is more. Nope.
You have learned an important lesson.
Some games are crap.
There had been football games before of course. Matchday 2, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, Kick Off. Even Microprose Soccer, coded by Sensible Software themselves.
Sensi wasn’t the best looking game on the Amiga. Technically it paled in comparison to the fare available on consoles. But it was more than that. The intuitive control, the speed, the multiplayer, the sense of character, the catchy music, the depth, the just-one-more-go-ness.
It was surpassed by it’s sequels, culminating in the mighty SWOS 96/97, the follow ups introducing cards, international teams, editors, after touch, goalies who actually saved shots. Yet it is the original to which we should pay homage.
As a series, this is the greatest game ever to grace the Amiga and one of the finest games in the history of videogames.
You can keep your FIFA and your PES. THIS is football.
The inspiration behind this piece and one of the seminal titles of a generation. MGS introduced the gaming world to stealth, tactical fighting and action. And cut scenes, lots of cut scenes.
This is a game that makes you want to stop and applaud, the type of game that is almost as much fun to watch as it is to play. A technical marvel at the time, matched by the quality of its gameplay.
The highlights of MGS will go down in gaming folklore. From your first stealth kill, to hiding in a box to avoid detection, the adrenalin rush when you are spotted by the guards, the awesome codec system, when you realise the code you are looking for is on the GAME case, to possibly the greatest boss battle in gaming history when Psycho Mantis takes control of your pad and reads your mind.
As with other games on this list, technically this has undoubtedly been surpassed by its sequels. But its enduring appeal, evidenced by a cameo in MGS4, is a testament to its genius.
If GTA3 established the mould, Vice City refined it.
The genius of GTA games is that each player will find their own highlight. The missions were only ever half the fun, there was a whole world to explore. Part of the fun was going off track, thinking you had ended up in a dead end, only to stumble across an off road race or hidden trophy. The characters were deep, the Scarface influence and 80’s setting adding a unique charm, as did the joy of the, ‘wait, is that who I think it is?’ voice acting.
But there is perhaps no gaming highlight that can surpass the sheer joy of tearing along the beachfront on your freshly stolen bike listening to Billie Jean.
The GTA series continues to get bigger and better but for that one moment of unbridled, ‘holy crap, look what I can do’ sensation that videogames bring, Vice City has no peer.