I might be only just getting around to writing it up now, but I completed the 10 days/10 videogames straight after the books challenge back in May. I’ve been meaning to get this post written since, but it’s taken a while to get around to for some reason. Anyway, here we are. I presented my games in chronological order of release cross referenced with when I played them. These are the most influential games in my life.
Day 1: Starwing/Starfox (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
Given my age, this is a fairly recent title to pick. Starwing (as it’s known in the UK) or Starfox (the rest of the world), was released in 1993 (the year I turned 11) & I remember we got a SNES that Christmas, Starwing was one of the games that we got with it. The others were Super Mario World (which I just replayed last week) & Super Mario Allstars. Previously I’d mainly played games on cassette (I had an Amstrad 6128 plus, which was kinda shit. My friends generally had ZX Spectrums) & maybe the odd NES game. The 3D graphics of Starwing absolutely blew me away as a child, but more importantly, it played like a dream. A linear 3rd person spaceship shooter with a story about anthropomorphised animals fighting against a supernaturally powerful evil emperor & a soundtrack that still holds up to this day. I still play it regularly on the Nintendo Switch’s virtual SNES.
Day 2: Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)
I bought Final Fantasy VII, with my own money, from a car boot sale. It became a pretty much permanent fixture in my life. I struggled through it the first time, not 100% getting the complex systems like I would later come to, but transfixed by the amazing story, the hand painted environments & the stirring, melancholy score. Later I would replay it again & again, even buying the official Brady Games Strategy Guide years after it had gone out of print, for far too much money. I just had a look now & found one going for $69.99 on Amazon. I remember the excitement that all of the various spinoffs generated too. The Crisis Core & Dirge Of Cerberus games, the Advent Children movie etc. I was initially excited about the remake, but the wait was so long that I lost enthusiasm for it & have yet to actually play it.
Day3: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)
Have you ever played so much Command & Conquer that you close your eyes & you can still see masses of Apocalypse Tanks & Kirov Airships slowly pouring across the screen on the backs of your eyelids? I have. In my mid twenties I played this game a hell of a lot. My friend & I loved the Arctic Circle map & would play it over & over again, trying to find new ways of winning the skirmish with maximum number of enemy factions. Towards the end of the games shelf life (killed for me when my last PC died, I’ve had Macs ever since), I remember every time I played it I used to just take over every enemy base, with engineers, until I controlled the entire map.
Day 4: The Elder ScrollsIII: Morrowind (PC)
Morrowind was my first proper open world, sandbox RPG & I absolutely loved it. Playing it for the first time felt like coming home. It was so engaging, like something that had been missing from my life up until that point. Admittedly, it hasn’t aged as well as it might. The combat is clunky, travelling is slow & keeping track of quests is notoriously difficult, but none of that mattered, really. The freedom you felt just walking around Vvardenfell, a unique & alien landscape completely different to any other fantasy world, was just amazing. You could just walk off in any direction & do what you felt like. & honourable mention for the soundtrack. Check out the main theme, it still gives me goosebumps today.
Day 5: TimeSplitters 2 (PlayStation)
I could have chosen either Timesplitters 2 or it’s sequel TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for this list, I spent vast amounts of enjoyable time with both. I decided, however, to choose the one with the best cover art & , in my opinion, that is TimeSplitters2. It’s a slick, smooth & sophisticated (for the time) First Person Shooter with a short but fun single player campaign, a plethora of other modes & levels to play (both single & multiplayer), shitloads of unlockable playable characters & an advanced, deep map maker for making your own maps (incl. logic programming to make your own story levels, challenges etc.). It was a veritable toybox of great content & is long overdue a remastered version for the current (or next) generation of consoles.
Day 6: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PlayStation)
I’ve just finished replaying this absolute behemoth of a game on the Xbox 360 rerelease. It has aged very well. The older graphics have taken on an almost cartoonish element over the years, which is humorous when you think how realistic we used to find it. San Andreas improved on its GTA 3D universe predecessors (Grand Theft Auto 3 & Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) in almost every way imaginable. Light, but welcome, RPG elements were added to make your character adapt & grow over time. Small changes like the ability to swim & dive (previously, entering the water would kill your character) helped to make the world seem so much more open & explorable. Speaking of the open & explorable world, San Andreas, distinct from previous games, was a whole fictional state in Rockstar games fictionalised America. Rather than being a single city, like III‘s Liberty City (based on New York) or Vice City (based on Miami), San Andreas featured three complete cities Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco) & Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas) as well as the stretches of countryside, desert, rivers, lakes, small towns, army bases & airstrips between them. It was huge. The story was absolutely top notch too, taking inspiration from a huge amount of popular culture & stocked to the gills with easter eggs & references to movies, TV, comics etc. The voice acting was also top notch & featured such high profile voice actors as Samuel L Jackson & James Woods. Still the top game in the Grand Theft Auto series, in my opinion.
Day 7: Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)
I’ll probably get people in the comments (or friends privately) telling me that I should have chosen Fallout: New Vegas here. Whenever I post about how much I love Fallout 3, that always happened. It happened on the original Facebook post which this blogpost is based upon. I’m not sure why people feel the need to police peoples opinions of the Fallout series, but it is endemic. I love Fallout 3. Partly because it was the first Fallout game I played & partly because it is of extremely high quality. I really enjoyed catching up on the earlier games in the series (Fallout, Fallout 2 & Fallout Tactics) & the following games (the aforementioned New Vegas, Fallout 4 & even the critically maligned Fallout 76) but none of them have succeeded in recapturing that spark which made me fall in love with the series in the first place. Fallout 3 is set in the post-nuclear ruins of Washington DC & surrounding countryside (The Capital Wasteland) 200 years after The Great War, which almost wiped out all life on earth. It is a grey & lifeless place, at first glance, but the more you explore the more it opens up to you. Towns & villages have sprung up from the rubble, some of them in ingenious & interesting places. Arefu, for example, is built on a half destroyed highway overpass. An excellent Open World RPG in a unique setting, Fallout 3 remains essential gaming even today, 12 years after it was released. I may do proper blogpost about it in the future.
Day 8: Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)
Following in the Post-Apocalyptic, post-nuclear theme, Metro 2033 takes a look at the survivors of a nuclear war who took shelter in the Moscow Metro system. Decades later, the Metro dwellers have developed a self contained society – or group of societies – in the darkness. Living off cultivated fungus & the few livestock animals they managed to get underground (pigs & chickens mainly), the various factions (or nations) of the Metro system are locked in an endless struggle for supremacy & survival. The game follows a young man named Artyom, form Exhibition Station, on his journey to the heart of the metro to warn the rangers of Polis station of a new mutant threat which is encroaching onto the Metro from the edges. Metro 2033 is a fairly linear, story driven First Person Shooter. There are elements of customisation (especially weapons) & survival (requiring gas mask filters to survive on the surface) but the game’s immaculate story (based on the excellent novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky) & atmosphere are the reasons I love it so much. I play it over & over.
Day 9: Dark Souls (Xbox 360)
Dark Souls is a Japanese Action-RPG with a difference. It’s challenging combat, interconnected world & demanding puzzles are as rewarding as they are difficult. The storyline in the game is never explicitly told to you by characters or narration (with the exception of the introductory sequence, which lays out the games creation myth/lore), but is almost hidden in plain sight for the player to put together themselves. Snippets of storyline & lore can be found in item descriptions, names of places, occasional NPC dialogue & can be pieced together by inquisitive players, almost like an extra puzzle in the game. The lore & story of the series is very interesting & piecing it together is very satisfying & rewarding. Alternatively, maybe you’re not that interested & just want to play the game. The option is there for that too. If you’re struggling, or uninterested, with the story, there’s a whole community of online commentators who catalogue & explain the lore. A favourite is YouTube “historian” VaatiVidya.
Day 10: The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt (Xbox One)
The final game on this list, The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is probably the biggest, most open & most rewarding game I’ve ever played. An expansive Open World RPG following the adventurous of Witcher (a kind of mercenary monster hunter) Geralt of Rivia as he murders his way through monsters of Polish folklore, navigates political intrigue & battles the otherworldly forces of the titular Wild Hunt. As impressive, & vast, as it is, the open world of The Wild Hunt plays second fiddle to the sheer brilliance of the storytelling. There’s a fine balance struck between the dark & cold, & the warmth & light. Choices are as morally ambiguous as they’ve ever been. The Bloody Baron quest-line alone is enough to fill a lesser game. Heartbreaking & sad, touches of humour, & real humanity in a way you rarely see in video games. Possibly the most three-dimensional characters in video games history.
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