8. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64/3DS)
I needed a Zelda game on my list. After all, it’s freakin’ Zelda. Not only is it one of the longest running franchises in video game history and one of the most well known and influential, but it’s a game that captivated me as one of my first console games back on the N64.
Ocarina of Time specifically gets the Zelda spot on my list because of the unique time travel plot twist. I played the game for the first time when I was eight-years-old and dumped hundreds upon hundreds of hours into the story, into exploring, into slaying enemies and finding extra power-ups, while still having a bit of time left over for fishing.
Ocarina of Time impressed the child version of me because of the level of pure scale the game had. Not only was it technically my first open world game, but it was my first open world game that allowed me to do things other than what all the characters were telling me to do. Yeah I could go and smash Ganondorf’s face in, but I’d rather go race my horse for some extra cash. I could go bomb some dodongos (five internets to whoever gets that reference,) but I’d rather hunt for that last piece of heart.
The game even impressed the present, matured version of me for still being timeless after 13 years. I expected to be completely uninterested when Ocarina of Time was brought to the 3DS, but I found myself being sucked right into the game like I was when I was younger. The fact that a game so old could still hold my interest like a child so long after the original release is a testament to both of how much the game means to me as a gamer, and the quality of the game itself.
7. DOOM/Duke Nukem 3D/Dark Forces (PC)
Before I was given my first game console (the N64 I had mentioned,) I was a PC gamer from a very early age. Having the ability to boot up my computer and load in the old Treasure Mountain and original Monkey Island game at the incredibly impressive age of three, PC gaming sucked up a lot of my childhood. Once the age of floppy disks had ended and the influx of (then) impressive-looking shooters had risen, my time was even shorter.
I started with DOOM. My father, who wasn’t a gamer and wasn’t very well informed about what a game actually contained, brought it home one day in an attempt to bribe me into having some sort of goal to work towards and do well in school. It worked.
So I trudged through the depths of Hell at a very young age. While the game was very fun and made up a large amount of what I did in my free time, the levels got boring and repetitive once I had beaten the game on every difficulty.
This is where the original Duke Nukem 3D came in. That’s right, long before gamers were getting disappointed by a game being in development hell for 15 years, the source material had a dedicated following. A friend of my father’s accidentally left it at my house when showing off some of the more naughty parts of the game to my dad. The screenshots looked similar to DOOM, so I gave it a try.
I was trapped by the more modern setting and the infinitely more badass main character. It was that game of my childhood that I knew I shouldn’t be playing because of the language, ultra-violence and sexual references, but I kept playing anyway. I even invited friends over to show them, and distinctly remember panicking when I heard my mom coming down the hall and quickly putting the game into “child safe mode.”
But like DOOM before it, Duke Nukem got boring as well. I had found all the secrets, defeated all the bosses and kicked the Cycloid’s eyeball for a field goal enough times to win five Super Bowls. That was when I found the shooter that would define my childhood: Dark Forces.
Dark Forces took the gameplay I loved in DOOM and Duke Nukem and put a Star Wars skin over it. And if DOOM was the game that took over my younger years, Star Wars was the movie that took my younger years.
Dark Forces was the perfect mix of the game and movie I loved. Many years later when I have the ability to appreciate a game much more than as a child is when I can realize all the things that game did for me.
While these games are nothing groundbreaking at this point, it’s the pure fact all of these games defined my childhood and early gaming years that they’ve all earned a shared spot on my list.