What Are 5 Games That Made You The Gamer You Are Today?

What Are 5 Games That Made You The Gamer You Are Today?
Image: Electronic Arts

This is a fun thing flying around right now, so let’s give it a shot.

In a nice change of optimistic pace for the hell site, the idea’s pretty basic. You nominate five games that essentially formed the foundation of you as a gamer — not talking identity per se, but maybe more in terms of the gameplay you liked, stories you search out for, genres that really stuck with you.

In a way, this could just be your five favourite games — but I think it’s more interesting if you think about it in terms of what games left the greatest impact on you. I’ll start.

Counter-Strike (1.5-1.6)

Image: New World Computing/3DO Company

Heroes of Might and Magic 3

myst 3 exile
Image: Steam

Myst 3: Exile

Day of Defeat


All these games had different impacts in different ways. I remember Day of Defeat because my brother introduced me to it in a netcafe in central Sydney once. I can’t remember what we were going into the city for exactly, but we had a few free hours to spend because Mum and Dad needed to take care of something, so we got to basically hang out and get romped by oldschool Kar98K rifles.

That was the first real taste of the multiplayer experience, since it was the late ’90s and online play was not really something you could comfortably rely upon. (We didn’t have access to Optus Netstats cable internet; most Australians didn’t.)

Freelancer was one of those formative games that got you dreaming about possibilities, and wishing there was more than the 10-12 hour campaign. Counter-Strike is a series where I met people, friends, rivals, enemies, many of whom I all still know or occasionally bump into online today. Some of those are still a part of the gaming industry in some way, and it’s all through the community that coalesced around Valve’s shooters. (Much of the esports world owes its structure to what Counter-Strike built, too.)

I could go on and on. And there were plenty of choices that I could have gone the other way on — Heaven & Earth or Gabriel Knight/Zork Nemesis instead of Myst 3, for example. And I included an image of Mirror’s Edge as the feature because that game did so much. Really wish DICE would go back to it some day.

Anyway, you get the idea.

So now it’s your turn. What five games made you?


  • Whooo, tough one.

    Off the top of my head…

    Alex the Kid
    Shadows of the Empire
    Golden Eye
    Metal Gear (series)

    So many more, some sharing the spots above (like Super Mario, Wonderboy with Alex the kid etc)

  • Sonic The Hedgehog 2
    Persona 3
    Pokemon Platinum
    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

  • Puck Man (an LCD Japanese pacman tabletop toy by Tomy) – My first game.

    Ultima Underworld – First RPG

    Tenchu – First Stealth game

    City of Heroes – First MMO that actually played well after upgrading to ADSL.

    I abstain from picking a 5th, cause there are too many I am excluding.

  • Hmmm, I’ll give this a try! I’ll see if I can come up with five particular experiences that helped define me as a gamer.

    Ultima 5 – First truly epic RPG I played, with karma metres, detailed conversations, character deaths, puzzles, epic dungeons and the need to eat to survive. It also taught me how to play the piano. Naturally I played it completely the wrong way the first time through. Conan the Barbarian was absolutely the wrong person to become the Avatar.

    Fate/Stay Night – While I’d played Tsukihime previously and greatly enjoyed it, F/SN absolutely broke me. Fascinating RPG-style world building, wonderful characters, and epic fights. And the hilarity of Taiga Dojo when I failed horribly along the way. The UBW route remains one of the greatest pieces of fiction that I’ve read, with the imagery, sound and text all coming together in a way that I wouldn’t experience again until Steins;Gate.

    Darkstalkers / Vampire – I’d tried to get into fighting games in my teenage years with making attempts at them in the arcade. KoF ’96 had me hooked until the arcade that had it passed on the machine. Mortal Kombat 1 – 3 on PC were fun with friends, but it wasn’t until I picked up a PS1 and the first Darkstalkers that I finally had one that fully clicked for me. I’d say I mastered some characters more or less than others, but I became hooked on Morrigan simply because she was the one character I had trouble beating, and there was no mirror match in the original game. Over the years and sequels, Morrigan became the one character that my best friend was unable to beat me when I was using especially in Vampire Savior / Darkstalkers 3.

    Troll’s Tale – There were a few adventure games that could be said to have influenced my love for the genre, Zork and Transylvania being two of the key ones. But in the end, I would say that Troll’s Tale is the one that really instigated my love for adventure games. Very much a game for the child that I was, absolutely delightful and enthralling.

    Project Zero / Fatal Frame – Horror is a genre that has been around since the start, and while there were a number of earlier games that stood out for me, whether it was Stephen King and Clive Barker adaptations for PC, or Koudelka on PS1, as well as the PS1 Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles, the true pinacle of the genre for me is the Project Zero trilogy. The setting, atmosphere, story and mechanics all bled together into a rich mixture where the only thing that stood between you and a cursed fate worse than death was an antique camera.

    Honourable Mention:
    Phantasy Star Online – My first MMO. I primarily played it with my best friend at the time, but once or twice I dipped into the portions with other people… and my cute goth HUNewearl was promptly given lots of awesome items and asked ‘A/S/L’ by someone who admitted they were only 14 and ran off when I responded at being a guy in my early 20s. Yep. Online was always a creepy place.

  • 1) Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

    This game was created only a few years after I was born, and when I first played it (in glorious CGA 4-colour graphics), it was a revelation.
    Mum got us this game, and played it with us on our then-state-of-the-art IBM 286. The possibilities seemed limitless, well beyond the mechanical boundaries of games like asteroid, river raid, or Super Mario Brothers. The clues and world-facts seemed (to a child at the time) like they could be limitless, and we found ourselves making regular use of the tools Mum gave us: an atlas, a giant poster with every flag in the world, and a set of encyclopedias. Between this game and Artic Wolf (a game whose depth would give Elite a run for its money), it seemed like PC gaming offered literal portals into living worlds beyond guiding a little man across a screen. And better yet, unlike Double Dragon, River Raid, or Mario, this game had my Mum’s blessing – she was happy for us to play it as much as we liked.

    2) The Secret of Monkey Island

    The only copy I had access to at first was over at a friend’s house. She would invite me and my middle brother around to play with her and her sister and together we would take turns controlling the game, with everyone yelling out their suggestions for how to solve puzzles or where we should go. We mimicked all the gags, and repeated them to each other at school and in our non-game-playing play times. The way we only played a couple hours every few days almost made it like a season of TV, dragging the whole experience out and enriching it for us. Games as comedy and single-player games as a social affair started here, for me. The Monkey Island franchise was a place we went to socially, something we mined for shared experiences and references.

    3) Counter-Strike (pre-Source)

    One of the first games I played competitively, winning actual money, and a great source of self-esteem for an older teen/young adult. People would gather in my tiny single-bed-fitting university dorm room to watch me play. I tested not only my reflexes but my wits against often entire opposing teams as the last man standing, and there’s nothing quite like having half a dozen guys roaring – deafeningly – over your shoulder at your insane Equilibrium-style ‘gun kata.’ Not just the moment to moment cat and mouse, prick-your-ears and shoot-through-vents-and-doors mental gameplay, though… in the early 00s, memeing was gripping the internet, and Counter-Strike had a crazy broad community of shitposters and creators. There were CS-based webcomics, flash animations, machinima, satire forums and more. Entire communities built around which version of CS their privately-hosted public/private servers were using, and which competitions they were hosting. This was gaming in the Internet Age, early esports, and it was FULL multimedia.

    4) World of Warcraft

    In a time that I was moving every 6-12 months, following work or relationships, WoW was a constant home-away-from-home. My character was always there, and there was always something to progress. But especially over time, it was about relationships with real people. From the vanilla experience of trying to stand out in a pack of 60+ raiders, each vying for a spot in the 40-mans, standing up to be a recruitment officer, managing disputes around DKP, through to taking a break from raids in BC to focus on 2-3-man arena teams with my brothers, strengthening our teamwork and skills. Then on to forming our own 10-man guild in Wrath, for family and friends only, taking an active role of guild and raid master. I learned a lot leading my people on the field and off through the process of managing their clashes of personalities, their schedules, their concerns around the performance of themselves and others, and eventually knowing when to call it quits, in the long drought before Cataclysm, done with Arthas. Not just managing our own guild, I managed our relationships with other, bigger 25-man raid guilds to ensure my guild mates could secure more powerful, 25-man loot to augment our 10-man runs. We did this by filling in vital main heal/tank roles in those guilds’ runs. They got us as high-skilled ringers, negotiated in exchange for high pay: very mercenary, no-DKP, straight-rolling chances at loot. Managing people and relationships was the real take-away, there, and it was educational and fulfilling.

    And I’m never fucking doing it again.

    5) Dragon Age 2

    Not only is this game an underrated gem in the franchise, telling a different story in a different way, something that not only the franchise but also fantasy in general sorely needed… it’s also probably the main reason I immediately hit it off with the woman who will be my wife two weeks from now, when I recognized her shirt that had a Kirkwall logo on it and we both agreed it was woefully underappreciated.

  • 1) Dune 2 – my first RTS
    2) Pokemon G/R/B/Y – didn’t even know I pirated gameboy games till I was way older but hey those pokemon versions was my first foray into handle held gaming
    3) FF7 – my first jrpg and also one of my first console game
    4) COD 4 Modern Warfare – yes the original one, me and my friends were never much of a CS group but we did play COD4 way too much
    5) World Of Warcraft – I played MMOs before but with WoW it went next level. Skipped classes? Yep Adjusted sleep to raid? Yep Stayed in a raid for 16hrs to push server first? happened way too often. also made a lot of (now) real life friends along the way

  • The Legend Of Zelda (NES)
    Street Fighter II (SNES)
    Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
    World Of Warcraft (PC/Mac)
    Slay The Spire (Switch/various)

    There’s two themes going on here:
    1. Adventures in massive virtual worlds
    2. Gameplay with various elements combining to make a strategy.

  • Mario 64
    Virtua Fighter 2
    Sega Rally
    Breath of the Wild, for making feel like I haven’t felt since the previous games on my list.

  • Alright, let’s see.
    *Commander Keen – The first games I really loved. Plenty before, but this was what I drew fan art of and wrote stories about when I was a young’un
    *DOOM – I wasn’t allowed to play it when it first came out, but the modding scene was what made me realise that games development was a thing that people did, and that I wanted to do it too. And then I did, and still do.
    *Thief – The Dark Project. The first of many Immersive Sims, my favourite of genres. Also incidentally where the gaming handle I’ve used for the last couple of decades comes from.
    *Planescape: Torment – A dense, smartly written, emotional and above all, weird RPG that has only really been rivalled by Disco Elysium in terms of sheer verbosity. It’s still usually my got to when someone asks my favourite game.
    *PUBG: A game that I don’t have any particularly great fondness for, that has never the less paved the way for a lot of important friendships and relationships

  • Enduro, Adventure, Atari Defender, Pitfall, all under the same entry: The games a friend of mine had and which introduced me to the wonder of videogames.

    Golden Axe: The game that stands in my mind as a revelation of the world of arcade games for my young mind.

    Super Mario Bros.: The first videogame I owned (not counting a handful of Game&Watch copycats) and the first one I finished.

    The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: The game that expanded my notions of what videogames could do and could be.

    Final Fantasy VI: The full realisation of that glimpse of potential that I had gotten from ALttP. Probably the point of no return for me to become a gamer and not just abandoning the pastime when coming off age, like almost everybody else with whom I used to play games with.

  • Half-Life – My first FPS, and still second only (and barely) to Half-Life 2: Episode 2 in my eyes. Every time I visit Black Mesa again it feels like visiting an old friend.

    Metal Gear Solid – The first time a game really blew my mind. No, not with the Psycho Mantis fight, but with the moment one of the first guards in the whole game followed footprints I had left in snow. I had no conception of AI that did anything more than patrol and attack, and my first taste of what else could be done in a game was awesome.

    Mass Effect – Chosen for 2 reasons. The first, without wanting to spoil anything- Virmire is maybe the best collection of narrative moments in any game I’ve played and the second are those empty, optional planets that offered a sense of scale no other game I’ve played before or since has (yes, including No Man’s Sky)

    Team Fortress 2 – My *only* multiplayer game. I can’t even play others outside of parties with stuff like Super Smash Bros, TF2 is too good. Nothing else I’ve tried before or since even compares to the mechanics of TF2 for my personal taste, and the time I spent playing on GoldenAge Servers was some of the best I ever had playing any game, especially welcome in a pretty bad patch in my life. Shoutouts to Slime, Kitty, Methis, Fyre Rose, Jai, Space and all of the other admins, mods and regular players that made GaS amazing. I loved playing with you all.

    The last pick is hard for me. I’m leaving out a lot of favourites, and at least on some level better games. Life is Strange comes very close and on another day probably would take it, games like MGS3: Snake Eater, Hollow Knight, Super Mario World, The Music Machine, The Red Strings Club, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Gunpoint, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Fire Emblem: 3 Houses and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey all come to mind for varying reasons, and most of them are games I would probably put above my actual pick on any sort of objective list – but the first game I ever ‘finished’, the first I ever really loved and the first I ever really loved was –

    N. The flash game (N also saw a bunch of updates after the version I ‘finished’ – that version had 3 collumns of levels, others later had 9, so finished is a bit awkward here) that like Super Meat Boy was tough as nails and brutally punishing, but I loved that game and after what I think was a whole year I finally finished it in what probably remains the most difficult task I’ve completed in any game to date.
    I still can’t bring myself to uninstall flash after all the joy flash games brought me.

    • Ah, damn it, I keep forgetting about Outer Wilds. Representing the best experience I’ve ever had in a game and probably my favourite overall narrative. I think it’d probably take the place of Metal Gear Solid. While I love MGS, (though I do think MGS3 is much better) blowing my mind was an easier ask when I’d only played a few flash games, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (never finished it due to a broken memory card, but I loved the little of that game I saw) and some Crash Bandicoot, blowing my mind after so many other games is a much harder ask, and Outer Wilds is, for me, pretty much peerless in that respect.

  • Space Invaders on the Apple IIc, my first ever computer game that cemented my love of gaming from a young age.
    Final Fantasy VII – A number of reasons, but it was a very formative gaming experience.
    Tenchu – Got me into stealth games and taught me that not all games are about running in, guns blazing.
    OMF 2097 – My first introduction to fighting games which would then become one of my favourite genres
    Tyrian – My first introduction to Shmups which would then become one of my favourite genres.
    Runner Up: XCOM: TFTD – I have so many memories of this game and it got me into the tactical genre.

  • King’s Quest III
    Quest For Glory
    Ultima III
    It’s so hard to pick the last one. After this point I branched out into RPG, Space Sims, Platformers, etc
    I think I’ll pick Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (absolutely brilliant writing)

    As you can see my earliest games were all adventure games, back when that meant collect items, explore, solve puzzles. My sister and I spent ages cracking the multiple choice questions at the start of Leisure Suit Larry meant to keep kids from playing it 🙂

  • 1. Mass Effect 2
    2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
    4. Persona 4 Golden
    5. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

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