The Games That Made Me

In this line of work, I'm continually reminded of how big a part games like Castlevania, Mega Man and Contra played in raising a generation of gamers. Which is funny, because I never played any of them.

Being raised in Australia, where the NES never really played as dominant a role as it did in Japan and the US, my upbringing was a little... different. Looking back, the games I played as a kid certainly shaped the gamer I am today, a deficit of tough platformers perhaps explaining why I can't stand "hard" games as an adult, and an introduction to strategy and open worlds at an early age nurturing a love for titles that let me take my time and craft my own experiences.

Here, then, are the games that made me. The ones I not only played a ton of, but that have stuck with me all these years as examples of stuff I found interesting or innovative. And none of them are called Castlevania, or have any Mega Men in them.

Indulge me while I list them, but I do it for a good reason! Everyone is different, and the games that defined our tastes are all different too, so while you're browsing, ask yourself: did any of them make you, too? And as they likely didn't, which ones did?

Note: I've drawn a line around the early 1990s, because after 1993/94 - when I was 13/14 - I think I'd gone from being an impressionable child to someone who knew what they wanted from a game. And that generally involved Star Wars.

GI Joe, Commodore 64

This was not only a great use of a licence, but also a pioneering piece of game design, dropping you into a quasi-3D battlefield and leaving you to your own devices. To this day, only one other game - General Chaos, for the Genesis/Mega Drive - has given me the same sense of sandbox combat.

General Chaos, Mega Drive

It shocks me to this day why there aren't more games like this, though Fat Princess on the PS3 and PSP comes close. It's like Team Fortress, only with a battlefield on which you can't run and definitely can't hide. The co-op mode included was one of the greatest party games I've ever played, and were somebody to release a HD version of this on XBLA or the PSN, I'd snap it up in an instant.

Sid Meier's Pirates!, Commodore 64

I played the 1993 re-release Pirates! Gold more, and enjoyed the 2004 remake more than that, but since both are essentially this game with better graphics, I'll give the original the nod here. The reason Pirates! was released in 2004, and will be released on Wii in 2010, is its design was so far ahead of its time. Blending RPG elements with management, puzzles and arcade action, Pirates! was the sole reason I had a Commodore 64 well into the early 1990s.

X-Wing, PC

I still don't think to this day that another Star Wars game has nailed the "feel" of the original movies as well as X-Wing did. And aside from the fact it's an amazing space shooter, I don't think it gets enough credit for helping rekindle a lot of people's interest - mine included - in Star Wars, which in 1993 was at perhaps its lowest ebb in history. Also, fun fact: I broke three joysticks playing this game.

Skitchin', Mega Drive

Stupid name, stupid game, but that "DDOOOSSSHH, SKITCHIN" intro was the standard greeting for me and my friends for years after this game had faded into obscurity. If you haven't played it, it's Road Rage, only on Rollerblades as you hang onto the back of speeding cars. It's nowhere near as cool as it sounds.

Dune, PC

People always talk about Dune 2 as being a great, important game, but I actually spent more time playing its forgotten predecessor. Combining strategy with classic adventure game stylings (another hybrid game, there's a pattern here), it also does a better job than the movie its loosely based on of adhering to Frank Herbert's original vision for the Dune story.

Wing Commander 2, PC

You ever see Battlestar Galactica? The new one? Nearly every episode I couldn't help but think "man, I bet these guys played a lot of Wing Commander when they were younger".

Warlords II, PC

That intro music haunts me in my dreams. And aside from Advance Wars I don't think I've ever played a "simple" strategy game that's at the same time so engrossing.

Super Baseball 2020, Mega Drive

I don't normally like Baseball, but the crazy shit they included in this game was enough to convert me, making this one of my multiplayer staples as a child (though sadly I had the Mega Drive port, not the Neo Geo original). More games need to take a sport and add some Mario Kart elements. Plus, bonus points for it actually containing a team called the "Aussie Battlers".

The Last Ninja, C64

Isometric combat and gorgeous level designs made this a great game, but that music, oh, that music. Even decades on it's still amazing.

Quest For Glory II, PC

You like Oblivion? This did much of the same thing, from the levelling to the exploration to the real-time events, only it came out in 1990 and taught me the meaning of the word "apothecary" long before I'd have otherwise encountered it.

So, that about does it! I could go on all day, adding more games like Frontier Elite II, Syndicate, TV Sports Football, Magic Carpet, Aztec Challenge, UFO: Enemy Unknown, Monkey Island, Police Quest, Commander Keen, Mean Streets, Civilization... but that's enough about me.

What about you? What games raised you, and turned you into the gamer you are today?


    Great collection Luke. As an Aussie in a strict no-consoles policy house, I too was raised on many of the classic PC game's you've listed. I'm a bit younger than you are, so while I very vaguely remember titles like Dune and Wing Commander, I vividly remember many point and click adventures, such as Monkey Island, Hugo's House of Horrors and Teen Agent.

    Other games I remember being raised on were PC staples such as Lemmings, Doom and Diablo.

    A lot of people tell me that I missed out on a lot, never owning a console, but I never saw the big deal. I guess this is why i'll always be first and foremost a PC gamer, even though I own a Wii, DS and Xbox 360 today!

    So many great games from the time line :) i played Xwing out of this list but started with the 2nd installment of Dune and never got around to playing Dune 1..

    I think i have it on DOS box though now that i think of it..

    Memories :D

    Ahhh Pirates... Got so good at reading the map in that game that as soon as I saw a treasure map I could locate it just by the pattern of the shoals in the water.

    I thought that Xwing was awesome but TIE Fighter was miles better again. The spiritual predecessor Their Finest Hour: The Battle Of Britain was the IL2 Sturmovik of its day

    Other awesome games were of course the Microprose ones, Gunship, M1 Tank Platoon, Red Storm Rising... amazing games. Hmm okay, installing DosBox & my copy of RSR on my netbook, that'll help shorten 7 hours of train travel tomorrow!

      Totally agree on TIE fighter.

      I still boot that up ocassionally.

    The only games that I can remember from when I was little are Shadow Warrior, Doom, Duke Nukem, Earthworm Jim, Diablo 1 and 2 (my god did I waste alot of time on D2), Dune and Warcraft. I remember thinking Pacman was the most boring POS ever, I kinda like it now.

    Good memories.

    Yes! Quest for Glory! I've probably sunk more hours into the first one than any other game to this day. Except maybe the first Civilization.

    'Quest for Glory' always bugs me. The original release in Aus was "Hero's Quest : So you want to be a hero?" A far cooler name. Even the box art rocked.

    I think a nod towards ancient shareware of the same era is also worthwhile.

    Amazingly I have never played Super Mario, Castlevania, Megaman, or Contra either.

    My formative gaming was in the arcades on the Atari 400, so it was Star Raiders, Defender, Necromancer, Applt panic, Miner 2049'er Wolfenstein (not 3D).
    Then later it was Starglider, Carrier Command, Tribes, Syndicate, Warcraft I and II, then Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Gran Turismo, Rez, Soul Calibur.

    I wanted to get into Xwing and Tie fighter but couldn't afford the PC to run them, I eventually got a 3DFX card and played a lot of carmageddon though...

    I missed the whole Nintendo thing completely.

    I'm right there with you dude. Quest for Glory 2 was probably the most significant game for me on my 286, back when I was in year 6 at primary school, closely followed by dune 2 and wing commander. 3 games that were absolutely pivitol in my development.

    Kudos to you for the QG2 love!

    I grew up on Microprose simulations for the c64, Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder on the Amiga, Mechwarrior and Wing Commander on the PC :)
    And Heros Quest / Quest for Glory on amiga and PC.

    First real game I remember being interested in was Return to Zork. I was to young to play it, but I remember watching my parents play it for hours.

    I have played through the entire Quest for glory series at least 4 times. The whole series was awesome, funnily enough I preferred the ega version of quest for glory 1 than the vga remake.

    I think i might go home and give it another whirl :)
    I even remember the phrase to get past the antwerp :D "hiden goseke"

    Was an Aussie with a NES! (I don't think I knew anyone with a C64, either).

    Mine would be Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Civilization, King's Quest, Sim City and X-Wing (also the first game I ever pirated, with discs from a friend and a photocopied manual. Ahem. I did buy both expansion packs, Tie Fighter and its expansion, and X-Wing Alliance, so it's not like Lucasarts didn't benefit from that...)

    C64 is still the greatest gaming system of all time. OF ALL TIME!

    I fricken' LOVED General Chaos, could play it over and over and never get tired of it.

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