I’ve loved many games in my time but none so much as the gems listed below; they are my true loves.
Dungeon Keeper 2 (PC)
I think this was the first game I played for basically 24+ hours straight with really only breaks for peeing and snacking. There was just something so addictive and hypnotising about Dungeon Keeper 2. It’s basically glorified resource management and hoarding at the end of the day, but boy is it the fun kind. And it’s just as enjoyable to go back in now and try to build the perfect dungeon as it ever was. There’s so much character and charm in all the little minions too, like the Dark Mistresses you can slap to make her happier (kinky), that you can’t help but fall in love with it.
GoldenEye 007 (N64)
This is the game that defines the N64 for me. It has everything, from the amazing single-player mode that truly encourages replay and experimentation (something that isn’t so common in modern fps games, even when they try to encourage it with achievements and medals) to the classic 4-player split-screen multi-player. The weapon selection is varied and almost all of them feel different and fun to use, the enemies have AI that at times is a hoot (try shooting them in the bum), the levels aren’t just corridors and actually have some scope for exploration and trying different tactics (from all-guns-blazing to proper stealth), the music is classic Bond, and so much more. I spent so many hours playing all parts of this game that it’s pretty mind boggling actually—and I loved them all. Absolutely one of the best movie tie-ins of all time.
Another brilliant console fps and the PlayStation game is best version of classic Doom anywhere as far as I’m concerned. It’s the amazingly creepy, atmospheric, and hellish soundtrack by Aubrey Hodges that really gives it the edge over all the other versions, along with the more atmospheric lighting too, which only adds to the whole “doom” of the experience. Doom, any version, is a game that simply does not age when it comes to sheer playability; I still play it once in a blue moon even now and find it near impossible to put down once I’ve started playing. Killing the minions of hell never gets old, and this is still as good as it gets.
Counter Strike 1.5/1.6/Source (PC)
I’d have to give this the award of best multi-player fps game ever made. It’s all kept pretty simple, certainly relative to modern online multi-player fps games, but everything that’s here is pretty much honed to perfection (other than the over-powered AWP), and it’s one of the most competitive, tense, satisfying-and-rage-inducing-at-the-same-time experiences you can have in multi-player gaming. Personally, I always like to go the Counter Terrorists and use the Maverick M4A1 Carbine as my weapon of choice (silencer on).
Super Mario World (SNES)
Basically, this is my favourite game of all time. Super Mario World is pretty much gaming perfection as far as I’m concerned; the overall platforming in this game is about as good as it gets. I love the look of the game, the upbeat music, the fun enemy designs, the brilliant level layouts, the inspired map with all the secret exits, Yoshi, the Ghost Houses, the Star Roads and Star World . . . just everything about it. This is the game that I attribute with getting into gaming proper and making me decide to pursue a career in the industry—I’ve worked for both Rare and Rockstar North, make my own games now, and run a gaming blog too (obviously)—and I’ve been in love with videogames ever since.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)
Actually, this is the greatest platformer of all time—or it is depending on the day. I jump back and forth between this and Super Mario World as my true favourite game of all time, and I guess only the side of the bed I got out on decides which sits at the top on any given day. The childish crayon-like artistry in this game is simply stunning; it holds up amazing well and still looks better than most modern AAA games as far as I’m concerned. Yoshi’s Island has more character and charm in its enemy designs than most games I see today too; some of the bosses are just hilarious and truly inspired, like Sluggy the Unshaven, who’s basically a semi-transparent blob with an exposed heart that you have to hit by slowly shooting at his body until his gelatinous form deforms enough to expose the heart floating inside. I still can’t figure out why he’s called “the Unshaven” though. 😮 And “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy”—Genius!
Mother 3 (GBA)
Now this game is art—take that, Roger Ebert! It’s one of the most powerful and relevant experiences I’ve ever had in any videogame, enough to make me cry. I don’t want to spoil the story but it touches on many ideas around our modern society and the world we are both creating and destroying in equal measure. It also has some of the best cartoon-styled sprite art seen on the GBA, brilliantly catchy tunes that are at times very emotive, excellent humour and gravitas in equal measure, and many hours of highly rewarding gameplay to sink your teeth into. I’d also say this improves on Earthbound in pretty much every single area too (and most people consider Earthbound one of the greats, so this is high praise indeed). This is another one of those games I totally binged on; I think I played it for about five days straight (that was sitting there for maybe ten hours a day). I simply could not put it down. It was worth it. Now, where’s the official English translation, Nintendo!
Talking of art—I give you Journey. The screenshots alone should convince anyone of this game’s artistic merit, but it’s the experience of playing through the game that really elevates it to the next level. There’s a moment that most people will have where they’re simply wandering through the world having fun . . . and then a single other player will join their game. That’s the moment this goes from being a great little indie game with some lovely art to being one of the most powerful and magical experiences you can have in any entertainment medium. I’ll just say that sliding down a sand dune and criss-crossing back and forth with that other player—a total stranger whom I could only communicate with in a single melodic tone—was one of the most joyous moments I’ve ever spent inside any game world.
Advance Wars (GBA)
What a brilliant RTS game for the GBA, and doubly so precisely because it’s on GBA rather than some suped-up PC or whatever. The level of depth and strategy in this game is genuinely impressive, and it controls and plays brilliantly on the GBA’s tiny screen and two button setup. I really love the simple and bold sprite work on display here too, particularly during the battle close-ups. Advance Wars is one of those games you can pick up and play for a few minutes or dive into for hours at a time, and you really feel like you’re accomplishing something with each mission you complete; it’s extremely satisfying working out the optimal strategy and being award as S ranking. It’s a shame Nintendo has let this series fall by the wayside in recent generations in favour of the Fire Emblem titles, because I honestly think this is the better game design.
Star Fox (SNES)
This was basically Nintendo’s take on Star Wars back in the day, and you can see, hear, and feel this from the very first moments of starting up the game. The opening is taken straight out of Star Wars, with a giant polygon spaceship flying overhead to the sound of an excellent sci-fi score that’s reminiscent of something John Williams might do if he ever composed for videogames (he probably has). The simple flat-shaded polygons that make up the game’s graphics might look dated by modern 3D standards but something about them still really appeals to me aesthetically, and the gameplay is absolutely as compelling as ever. Another game that once you start playing becomes hard to put down. It’s my favourite “on-rails” 3D shoot ’em up of all time.