A Trip Down Memory Lane With The Top 200
Our list of the Top 200 Games of All Time is quite a trip through video game history, and here are a few of my own memories about some of the titles.
1. The Legend of Zelda – I never owned this game, but I did borrow it for a time from my friend. I remember playing it for weeks in chunks before I went to school in the morning, and after one session I mistakenly saved over the saved game of my friend's sister. When I gave the cart back I lied and pretended that I didn't do it.
6. Doom – Sometime in the mid-ninties I knew a guy at the University of Minnesota newspaper, and one late night after we'd had a few we opened up the offices and played a bunch of multiplayer. I got sick afterwards and thought it was because I had too much to drink, but now I realize that it was my first exposure to video gaming motion sickness.
7. Metroid – I stunk at this game when I was a kid, so a few years ago I popped it in again to see if I was any better at it. And I wasn't.
15. Final Fantasy VII – I got this game for Christmas the year it came out. My brother got it for me because he heard it was cool. He probably saw the same commercials for it that I had. It struck me at the time that I was seeing them that this was the seventh game, and I'd never even heard of the first six.
19. Metal Gear Solid – You don't know how relieved I was when this came out. I'd played the original back on the NES, and since I didn't read any video game magazines, I had no idea that the series was still going until I saw this in the store, literally out of the blue. What an overwhelming surprise. Man, it was like meeting a sibling you never knew you had!
39. Halo – Microsoft sent out then-Xbox executive Seamus Blackley to show this upcoming game to us. We felt so bad for him because at the time our offices were being built out, so we had all seven editors at the time crammed into a small room, and this was how we entertained guests like Blackley. I remember the title looking cool, but I certainly didn't expect the game to blow up like it did.
For a few months in 2001, we had to cram all seven editors into this one room. All our TVs and equipment was stacked up on fold-out tables. No Nick, though.
49. Guitar Hero – Peripheral maker Red Octane showed up out of the blue one afternoon with this game and its guitar in tow. I think they'd spent most of the morning showing it to the bigwigs over at Target, and they dropped by on a whim. Although we'd never heard of them and their "crazy" plastic guitar peripheral, once we got our hands on the game we loved it. After the appointment – during which nearly all of us played the game – we thought that the title could, you know, perhaps sell a couple copies. Maybe a few hundred thousand if it was lucky. We had no idea the whole thing would blow up as much as it has.
50. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – A Konami PR representative dropped by our cramped offices (see Halo above) to not only let Reiner and I play this game for review, but also write the strategy guide. As you can imagine, that takes some time. So, for a couple days straight, Reiner and I played the hell out of the game from beginning to end.
One late, late night I snapped during the sniper sequence where Solid Snake has to protect Emma as she makes her way between the struts on one of the shells. After trying it several times, the PR representative – trying to be helpful – made a few suggestions. I flipped out, telling him, "If you're so good at it, why don't you f------ do it!" and I chucked the controller at him. Needless to say I apologized immediately and felt deep shame.
BTW, I remember that we were thrown that Snake wasn't the focus in the game, but I've never had a problem with Raiden. While I was playing, the whole thing made sense.
57. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 – Before this game came out and the series was a hit, a bunch of friends and I played the demo for the first Tony Hawk title. I have no idea how we got the demo disc, but the warehouse level on that disc totally blew our minds.
59. Adventure – We all know now about the developer Easter Egg in this game, and when I was a kid we all knew about it and would spend playthrough after playthrough getting the Magic Dot. I have no idea how we found out about it, and this is especially noticeable in the day when nobody read any gaming mags and there certainly wasn't an Internet. It was all word of mouth, and somehow the process of how exactly to get the Easter Egg made its way to us still intact. It was like finding out an urban myth was actually true.
74. Tomb Raider – For me, this was one of those games that I have more memories of watching than playing. When it came out, a bunch of my friends would spend time at the apartment of the guy who owned it. He would play it, and the rest of us would sit there and think about how to solve the puzzles. Sounds stupid, but it was fun. Given the tank controls, we probably had more fun not playing it than he did.
79. Kingdom Hearts – One of my first work trips for Game Informer – back when I was working for the old online site – was to Japan for a PlayStation event. One of the side press conferences was a Square event where it announced a partnership with Disney. There were no details at the time – and Square didn't say they were making Kingdom Hearts – so we had no idea what the company was going to do with the license. Some of us in the audience just looked at each other as they showed slides of Donald Duck and we were like, "Square and Disney? Man, this is going to be stupid as hell!"
106. Resident Evil – I didn't get the PlayStation until it had already been out for a little while, and Resident Evil was the first game I got for my used, refurbished PlayStation. It scared the hell out of me.
173. Lode Runner – My next door neighbor when I was growing up was the only kid on the block with an Apple IIe, so I bugged this kid mercilessly all the time to go over to his house and play games on it. Poor ***. We spent hours and hours in the summer cooped up in his room playing Lode Runner, Karateka, The Bilestoad, Zork, and a bunch of other stuff. I have a feeling he doesn't look back at this time as fondly as I do.
184. Vagrant Story – Sometimes I put a game down and don't finish it immediately. I started this title when it came out and then took a long break from it. One day I picked up the controller again on a whim, and didn't put it down again until I had beat the whole thing. I didn't know what a dungeon crawler was or the finer points of Japanese RPGs, but I didn't care. Something about this game just struck a nerve.
I remember at the time the Russell Crowe film Gladiator had just come out, which I was a big fan of. Well, in Vagrant Story you can make your own weapons and rename them, so (and yes, I realize this is dorky) I named a few of my weapons after some elements from the film: "Maximus," "Argento," and "Scarto."