Making a Man: The 10 Most Personally Influential Games I’ve Played
This article began as a rather generic-feeling “Best Games of All Time” list. After some contemplation, I decided to go back to the drawing board with it in order to create something much more interesting.
Everyone who plays video games or tabletop games has their personal favorites, and that’s okay. Rather than attempt to narrow down a list of my absolute favorite video games, I will explore the games that have had the greatest influence on me at the time they’ve come into my life.
I’ll start at the present, and work back through my life to the video game that began my love of video games.
21 years of gaming- Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice allowed me to finally understand why the FromSoftware 3D action games are so well received. The challenge is almost perfectly delivered with a tough but fair set of trials that gradually demand more of the player. The narrative is delivered through excellent environmental storytelling and well-placed infusions of exposition.
Until I met Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I firmly believed that games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne were simply beyond my understanding. The process of playing and beating this game can only be described as humbling. The way I look critically at video games has been forever changed by this challenging yet fair work of art.
19 years of gaming- Persona 5
Persona 5 served as my introduction to a Japanese role-playing game series I knew of by reputation but had never played myself. It quickly became apparent that I had been sleeping on something special.
Persona 5 is equal parts style and substance, with design so overwhelmingly solid that it almost defies description. Combat is a turn-based affair, and time spent outside of combat is invested in an excellent narrative. The story explores the affairs of a few high school students that moonlight as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts. The Phantom Thieves adopt alternate personas to solve their problems, and this concept resonated with me on a very personal level. Feigning confidence allowed for me to break free of an awkward, insecure, and unsuccessful prior existence.
When I think of Persona, I think of the “fake it till you make it” mentality that has provided so much for me. If you only play one JRPG, make it this one.
19 Years of Gaming- Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata is Yoko Taro’s most recent masterpiece and sequel to 2010’s NieR. Automata provides one of the strongest cases for video games to be taken as a serious artistic medium I can think of.
It was in early 2017 that I first decided to write about video games, and that decision is due almost entirely to this game. Nier: Automata tells the story of a proxy war fought on earth between extraterrestrial machines and automatons. While far from the most visually impressive game of the 8th generation, the world on display provides a beautiful look at a fictional post-apocalyptic Earth. Gameplay spans multiple genres and spends most of its time somewhere between Action-JRPG and Shooter, all set within a semi-open world. Much of the narrative exists within the world and music of Nier, as the game is designed in a way that respects the intelligence of its players. Very little of the story is left to exposition, instead it is left to play out like a modern epic. I can not stress the value of this game any further. If you’ve yet to play Nier: Automata, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
This is the most important game to release in the 8th console generation so far, play it.
18 Years of Gaming- DOOM
If you would’ve asked me in 2006 if 2016 would mark the return of a 1994 FPS responsible for popularizing the genre, I would’ve sadly denied the possibility. Poo-brown military shooters replaced the once great FPS genre, and I genuinely believed we would never see a return to form. I’m glad that today, in 2019, there are a massive number of high-quality “90s style” FPS games to play.
The Shadow Warrior remake in 2013 proved that the 90s fps formula could translate to a modern game. Wolfenstein: The New Order succeeded in rebooting the long dead franchise that started it all, then DOOM ripped and tore its way back into the limelight. DOOM proved that a single-player focused FPS could work well, and the game also provided killer multiplayer and a complex but user-friendly Snap-map custom game creator. It is unfortunate that the game launched with a season pass approach to multiplayer DLC, as the multiplayer fanbase fragmented and suffered as a result. Regardless of this minor flaw, DOOM (2016) is one of the best FPS games I’ve ever played.
Fans of the classic FPS genre should check out Ion Maiden, Project Warlock, Dusk, and Amid Evil while waiting for DooM: Eternal.
15 Years of Gaming- Senran Kagura
Senran Kagura is a multimedia franchise published by Marvelous. It consists of multiple games spanning the beat-em-up, pinball, simulation, third-person shooter, rhythm, and mobile game genres. There are also two anime series and a short-running manga (Japanese comic).
My introduction to the series began with Senran Kagura: Burst, the first game to release in the west. Burst consisted of the English release of the original game and an expansion that doubles the game’s content. Gameplay is simple and repetitive, but the mission-based game structure makes the game very consumable in short bursts. Each of the characters has a unique set of attacks, and there is a decent amount of character customization in the early games. If you’re looking for an absurd, yet heartfelt beat-em-up experience on the go, there is nothing better than Senran Kagura. …except for Streets of Rage 2 3D
13 Years of Gaming- To The Moon
To The Moon is admittedly a tough sell as a video game. It features very simple gameplay mechanics and focuses on the strength of its narrative to justify its price of entry. Players will be walking around, talking to NPCs, and solving tile sliding puzzles to progress through the game. If this sounds boring to you, and you absolutely hate excellent writing, music, and pixel graphics, then I suggest skipping this title. However, if you like the idea of experiencing one of the greatest stories ever presented in a video game, you need to play this game. It will last about 3-5 hours depending on the player, and it is easily one of the most emotional stories in the medium. I can’t tell you what it is about without spoiling it, so if you have $5-10 and a PC or cell phone you should just check it out.
8 Years of Gaming- Runescape
This game was practically a household name in the early to mid-2000s, almost like Pokémon was in the 90s. Runescape is most definitely the most open experience in the MMO genre.
The story is contained within quests that are designed to be optional experiences with worthwhile rewards and clever writing. The game has simple mouse-based controls, simple graphics, and a charming soundtrack that probably played in your head the moment you saw this entry if you’ve played Runescape. There are two versions of Runescape officially supported today, Runescape 3 and Oldschool Runescape. The version to play depends on personal preference. Runescape 3 is a much more modern experience, but Oldschool Runescape is closer to the game many remember playing in the early 2000s. Maybe someday I’ll complete my goal of leveling every skill to 99.
2 Years of Gaming- Sonic Adventure
Sonic Adventure may have been the very first game I played on a home game console, and I will still defend it to this day. This game is full of glitches and butt-rock; if you’ve not played it, just imagine what it would be like if Bethesda held a Nickelback concert.
Okay, it isn’t THAT bad, but it is full of jank. My love of this game is most definitely fueled by nostalgia, but I don’t care. The graphics were amazing for the time, and the very first level of this game will always be what I picture when I think about early 3D graphics. Fortunately, this game received a director’s cut that fixed many of the game’s glitches and added more content. Be warned if you decide to check this game out, as many early 3D games aged like milk, and this is one of them.
1 Year of Gaming- Pokémon Blue Version
Pokémon was quite the worldwide phenomena during the mid to late 1990s and it remains relevant over 20 years later as the highest grossing media franchise of all time. My Pokémon adventure began around 1999, and it proved a great resource for a kid just learning to read.
I remember being taken to Walmart by my grandparents, looking through the big glass cases at the games, and picking the box with the big blue turtle thing on the cover. I’m pretty sure I only wanted it because it was blue, as children have simple preferences. I had no idea how much this game would change my life. All these years later, I still have my original copy of Pokemon Blue Version. Maybe someday I’ll get around to changing the battery, but if not, I can always play the original Pokémon games on a Nintendo 3DS/2DS console. In fact, some iteration of every main series Pokémon game can be accessed on a 3DS!
The Beginning- Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
I can’t remember for certain what the first game I played was, but I’ve narrowed it down to a few GameBoy Color titles. Most likely among them all is Super Mario Bros. Deluxe, the definitive version of the original Super Mario Bros.
This game is easily one of the best Game Boy Color games, and it features a ton of bonus content in addition to the enhanced version of Super Mario Bros. Beating the game with a score of 300,000 unlocks Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. This is a modified port of The Lost Levels, but it is still a good experience. There is also a challenge mode, vs mode, and You vs Boo alternate mode (for players with no friends). Unfortunately, the battery leaked in my original copy of this game and I believe my parents threw it away. Thanks to Nintendo’s 3DS virtual console, this game remains accessible for a very reasonable price of $5.99.
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