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My Personal Top 10

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cd-w

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Like most people on AtariAge, I have been playing computer games for a long time, since the late 1970s. However, I have always been more interested in how games work, rather than the games themselves. I tend to play each game for a short time, until I have figured out the mechanics and mastered the controls. Once I know that I can beat the game, I tend to lose interest and move on. Every now and again though, a game comes along that I really enjoy playing. These games hold my interest long after I have mastered them, and I tend to return to them again and again. I have created a list of these games below, together with a brief explanation of why I find them so fascinating. So, in no particular order, here is my top 10:

 

1 - Dungeon Master (Atari ST)

 

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I tried hard to get into role-playing for a while. I played D&D, AD&D, Warhammer, Cthulhu, etc. However, every game inevitably descended into arguments over distance measuring, rule interpretations, and personal skills (i.e. typical nerd arguments). Dungeon Master was the first game that captured the pure dungeon-crawling experience for me, without all of the petty squabbles. I was instantly hooked, and I packed away my dice forever.

 

2 - Super Mario Bros (NES)

 

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I wanted to hate Super Mario Bros. At the height of its popularity, I was playing games on the Atari ST and Amiga. The NES seemed primitive by comparison, and the cutesy Mario graphics seemed to be designed for kids. Eventually though, I reluctantly played the game and was quickly hooked. It is difficult to say why the Mario games are so appealing. I think it is because they give you so much freedom, both in terms of the movement of the player, and the ability to explore the environment. The controls are simple, the movements are fluid, and the collision detection is perfect. When you die, you know that it is entirely your own fault, and this keeps me going back for more.

 

3 - Frogger (Atari 2600)

 

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This isn't my favourite Atari 2600 game (it is probably Stargate), but it has a place here as it was one of the very first video games that I ever played. At the time. a friend had an older brother, who owned an Atari 2600. He reluctantly let us play a game of Frogger, in order to demonstrate his own game-playing superiority. We were never allowed another game after we both crushed his best score. At the time it seemed impossibly hard as my twitch reflexes hadn't yet been honed from years of game playing - there was always something about to kill you! I now find the game rather simple, but I still enjoy playing it regularly.

 

4 - Castle Quest (BBC Micro)

 

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I doubt many people here have played this game. It was only released for the BBC Micro, which was the computer used in all British schools in the 1980s. At the time, there were two main BBC Micro software houses (MicroPower and Superior Software) - neither of which still exist. The competition between them was fierce, and some great and original games were produced as a result. Castle Quest is my favourite of these games. It is a platform game, set inside a castle, with complete freedom to explore. The puzzles in the game are very complex, not just key collecting, and it also requires twitch reflexes. I played this game endlessly back in the day, until I had solved all of the puzzles, and I still find it enjoyable to play. Unfortunately the game was clearly rushed for release, and so there is no proper ending, but it is fun just to solve all the puzzles one more time.

 

[Edit: The screenshot above shows the depth of the puzzles in Catle Quest. At this point in the game you have been imprisoned in a cell. To escape, you need to throw the stool upwards to get the torch. You can then use the stool to jump on to the ledge over the door. You then throw the torch onto the bed to set it on fire. At this point the guard will rush into the room, and you can hop down from the ledge behind him to escape. By moderns standards, this isn't too advanced, but back in the day this level of detail was very rare.]

 

5 - Doom (PC)

 

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Doom wasn't the first fully-immersive 3D game (e.g. there were those dreadfully-slow FreeScape games), but it was the first that really sucked me in. There is no need to say much about this game, as I'm sure everyone has had a similar experience. However, the feeling of anticipation and terror, while playing Doom late at night in a darkened room, is one that few other games will ever capture.

 

6 - Prince of Persia (PC)

 

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Before Prince of Persia, most games seemed to have either great graphics, or great gameplay. Prince of Persia was one of the first to combine great gameplay, awesome graphics, and eye-popping animation. The ability to jump a gap, miss, but still manage to cling on to the edge with your fingertips, was something that had not been done before. These days, the graphics look primitive and the gameplay seems simplistic, but it is still an enjoyable game that I play regularly.

 

7 - Super Mario 64 (N64)

 

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I was very late to the 3D console revolution. For a long time, it seemed (to me) that all 3D games were just FPSs or dubious 3D translations (like 3D Tetris). Super Mario 64 was the first game that convinced me that 3D could be used to produce truly original games. The beauty of Mario 64 is that it captures all of the elements of the previous Mario games, but adapts them perfectly to 3D. The controls are still fluid, there is still freedom to explore, and the puzzles are still devious.

8 - Tempest 2000 (Atari Jaguar)

 

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In case you think this list is entirely platformers and dungeon-crawlers, I do also enjoy a good shooter. In my opinion, the master creator of the shooter genre is the British programmer Jeff Minter. You can argue that he hasn't done anything that wasn't already done by Eugene Jarvis. However, he has consistently managed to capture the pure zen of the shooter, in a way that is totally immersive and engaging. My favourite of his games is Tempest 2000 for the Atari Jaguar, and until recently I owned a Jaguar purely for this title.

 

9 - Goldeneye (N64)

 

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Movie tie-ins are usually rubbish - designed for parents and grandmothers to purchase for their offspring around the holiday season. They frequently bear little resemblance to the movie, and are just any old game with some movie branding added. However, there are exceptions, and Goldeneye is definitely my favourite. It actually manages to capture the essence of the movie on an almost scene-by-scene basis, without feeling forced. It also requires puzzle solving, in addition to the gun-and-run FPS formula. Its sequel (Perfect Dark) is arguably a better game, but Goldeneye remains my favourite.

 

10 - Ikari Warriors (C64)

 

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I really enjoy this game, but I am not sure why. It is devilishly hard, but also rewarding. A long time ago, I spent nearly a whole summer playing the C64 version until I finally completed it. I have never completed it again, but at least I know it can be done! The C64 version remains my favourite, as it is a near perfect arcade port. The 2600 version is unfortunately rather poor, and I haven't played the 7800 version yet.

 

 

This list is nowhere near complete, but I think it gives a good idea of the kind of games that I enjoy, i.e. mostly games that give you lots of freedom to explore. Also, many of them are favourites because of the situation that I was in when I first played them (e.g. I doubt that I would enjoy Frogger so much if I only discovered it now). There are also many games that nearly made this list, but I wanted to include only those that I have actually played recently. Also, I certainly have not played all of the games on every platform. There are still many games even on the Atari 2600 that I have not played. I'm sure there are many games that I would enjoy, but have never played - feel free to make suggestions!

 

Chris

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Great write-up; thanks!

 

I've been playing GoldenEye and Perfect Dark a bunch lately, and they really have held up well.

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I've been playing GoldenEye and Perfect Dark a bunch lately, and they really have held up well.

 

I've been putting some effort into trying to get into the N64 lately, but so far it seems I just can't. Even games I remember liking back then I can stand anymore today, like e.g. Shadow of the Empire or Turok. I recently bought Shadow Man, a 95% title back in the day, and I just had to quit playing it after 30 minutes. The graphics and speech are horrible, the clunky controls, everything in the game sucks...

 

The small foggy 3D bubble all N64 games seem to be trapped in seems to kill the whole system for me :)

 

@Chris: Interesting read. I like a few of the games in your list, especially Dungeon Master. Like every other Amiga owner on the planet I bought a RAM expansion just to play it and it's been one of the most awesome experiences in my life - one of the reasons I am a gamer :)

 

Two suggestions based on your list:

 

- I loved "Eye of the Beholder", which successfully combined Dungeon Master with AD&D.

- As a fan of Ikari Warriors, you must try Jackal on the NES!

 

Totally not related to your list, but my personal all time favorite game:

 

UFO - Enemy Unknown (X-COM: UFO Defense in the states)

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The small foggy 3D bubble all N64 games seem to be trapped in

Yeah, no kidding. I tried to play Turok a few months ago and that's just painful.

 

But - there are exceptions. GoldenEye and Perfect Dark both seem to have successfully avoided it, and the Zelda games look pretty also. Also WaveRace looks beautiful and controls like a dream :). I've been playing that recently as well. And Rogue Squadron, which is pretty nice as well.

 

On the other hand, I just played through Cruis'N USA and, while it still had a little fun for me, looks awful. The popup is unbelievable. :)

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The small foggy 3D bubble all N64 games seem to be trapped in seems to kill the whole system for me :)

The N64 is one of my favourite consoles. A lot of games do use fog rather heavily, but IMO it is much less noticable than the PS1. My favourite N64 games are (again in no order):

  1. Goldeneye & Perfect Dark
  2. Mario 64
  3. Blast Corps
  4. Pilotwings 64
  5. Conkers Bad Fur Day
  6. Paper Mario
  7. Banjo Kazooie & Tooie
  8. Star Fox 64

I'm not much of a Zelda fan, so this is not on my list. F-Zero and Mario Kart are also not on there as I much prefer the SNES versions.

 

@Chris: Interesting read. I like a few of the games in your list, especially Dungeon Master. Like every other Amiga owner on the planet I bought a RAM expansion just to play it and it's been one of the most awesome experiences in my life - one of the reasons I am a gamer :)

Thanks - I'd be very interested to hear your top 10, as I know you have played many more obscure titles than me.

 

Two suggestions based on your list:

- I loved "Eye of the Beholder", which successfully combined Dungeon Master with AD&D.

- As a fan of Ikari Warriors, you must try Jackal on the NES!

I have played and enjoy EotB, although I still prefer DM. I have never played Jackal, so I will give this a go.

 

Totally not related to your list, but my personal all time favorite game:

UFO - Enemy Unknown (X-COM: UFO Defense in the states)

I was very close to including this game on my list, as it is also one of my favourites. The only for omitting it was that I haven't played it for a long time.

 

Chris

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GoldenEye and Perfect Dark both seem to have successfully avoided it.

 

Those two, Rogue Squadron and Naboo are still amongst the remaining ~20 titles on my N64 check-out list. Also Paper Mario, Star Fox, Sin & Punishment, Conkers BFD, Body Harvest, Blastcorps, Pilotwings, Rocket, Donkey Kong, the Banjo games and a few more I can't remember since the list is stored on my pc at work :)

 

Thank heavens one of my workmates has a good dozen of them, so I can borrow them one after another :)

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A lot of games do use fog rather heavily, but IMO it is much less noticable than the PS1. My favourite N64 games are (again in no order)

 

That's kinda a lost generation for me. Coming from an era of perfect 2D I never really made the transition to first gen 3D. Especially suffering from motion-sickness didn't help it...

Only later with the Cube/Wii and the PS2 I started to enjoy modern gaming again. I bridged the gap with classic and GBA gaming :)

 

(My must have list of N64 titles so far has '0' entries and the PSX has '1' ;))

 

Thanks - I'd be very interested to hear your top 10, as I know you have played many more obscure titles than me.

 

I couldn't do that though, a general Top 10 has much too wide a scope for me. I'm more tracking must-haves per console, albeit so far I'm only done with the 2600 and the GBA. The NES and the N64 are almost done, but other consoles still have hundreds of games I need to try ;)

 

The only Top 10 I accidently have ready to go is my Top 10 favorite Capcom games:

 

Super Ghouls'n'Ghosts (SNES)

Breath of Fire (GBA)

Breath of Fire II (GBA)

Demon's Crest (SNES)

Resident Evil (GC)

Resident Evil 2 (GC)

Breath of Fire IV (PSX)

Onimusha: Warlords (PS2)

Onimusha 3: Demon Siege (PS2)

Zack & Wiki (Wii)

 

All must haves in my book. BoFIV is the PSX title mentioned above ;)

 

I have played and enjoy EotB, although I still prefer DM.

 

Hm... going down memory lane... Did you play one of the Ultima Underworld titles? After Dungeon Master and EotB the next RPG generation that blew me away ;)

 

Totally not related to your list, but my personal all time favorite game:

UFO - Enemy Unknown (X-COM: UFO Defense in the states)

I was very close to including this game on my list, as it is also one of my favourites. The only for omitting it was that I haven't played it for a long time.

 

Sometime next year I'll be checking out some early works from the mastermind behind Ufo in my "Playing..." series. Absolutely looking forward to that ;)

 

I really loved PC gaming in the mid 90s. Besides Ufo and Underworld I also enjoyed Magic Carpet 2, Panzer General, Bioforge, System Shock, Tie Fighter, Wing Commander 2, Warcraft 2, Day of the Tentacle, Duke Nukem 3D, Ascendancy and many others :)

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I think the sucess of Mario Bros is the game phisics and colisions too. Even in DK.

4 - Castle Quest (BBC Micro)

 

Remind me these modern flash based "Escape" games, but using one character to play, instead click with mouse in the screen objects and furniture to find the damn key. :)

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GoldenEye and Perfect Dark both seem to have successfully avoided it.

 

Those two, Rogue Squadron and Naboo are still amongst the remaining ~20 titles on my N64 check-out list. Also Paper Mario, Star Fox, Sin & Punishment, Conkers BFD, Body Harvest, Blastcorps, Pilotwings, Rocket, Donkey Kong, the Banjo games and a few more I can't remember since the list is stored on my pc at work ;)

 

Thank heavens one of my workmates has a good dozen of them, so I can borrow them one after another :)

I have fond memories of the N64, but mostly from one of my college roommates owning one when it was new and fancy - and playing lots of Wave Race, GoldenEye, and some baseball game (Ken Griffey Jr. I think). My wife and I later got one at the very tail end of its life, in fall 2001. In retrospect, would have been better to get an Xbox/GC/PS2, but we had fun. We never had a ton of games, but most of the ones we had I thought were very well done: Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk 2, both Zeldas, Mario Kart. I haven't played every MK, but of the ones I've played MK64 has by far the best battle modes - I'd say some of the most fun videogaming I've ever had has been playing 4-player battles on MK64. The maps in Double Dash are very weak (I was shocked at how lame they were), and the original SNES one only had 1-on-1 battles.

 

Later I got GoldenEye and relived some memories, and also Perfect Dark. I've played, and liked, Super Mario 64, but since I didn't pick it up until probably 2002, it wasn't as much of a revelation and, honestly, I wasn't real impressed. The camera is a pain and the flying parts were impossible for me. DK64 was OK, but it was just too many fetch quests - the whole thing is an endless series of "find the [X number] [objects] to open a new world where you can...find more objects!" ;) It got old pretty fast.

 

Other thoughts...I picked up Turok recently and found it almost unplayable, partly because I can't get used to the controls (very different from GoldenEye, which is what I'm used to) and the graphics are pretty bad. Perfect Dark is a lot of fun and looks very good, controls very smooth - the levels are pretty short :) but the objectives are often mystifying and I've had to resort to trial and error a bunch to get through some parts ;). Also, it seems to take place mostly inside various office buildings, which is...ok but not real spectacular. I played a bunch of Star Fox in college also and it's great. Me and my brothers rented Blast Corps once and it also is a lot of fun - it's on my list of games to buy. I've played PilotWings and thought it was pretty boring. My brother loved it, though, so maybe I'll give it a second chance.

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I have fond memories of the N64

 

That's probably my main problem. We had one back in the day with a handful of games (Mario 64, Zelda, Turok, Star Fox and Goldeneye), but I basically remember not playing them much. Of course those were the years I was hanging out in clubs and I spent most of the time drinking and flirting :)

 

...

 

I remember wondering why Mario and Zelda got so high ratings. In my book they were nowhere on par with their predecessors Link to the Past and Super Mario World. Basically I was just disappointed.

 

...

 

My Mario Kart Tour de Force was on the GBA. I totally beat it. Coming out on top in each circuit of each class, collecting 100 coins on each track - and doing the same on the unlocked SNES tracks. I played it so long until the heaven on the title screen turned red, which was the final achievement IIRC. So when I boot it up now everyone can see that I'm the MK super guru :)

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What I love about SM64 is how much freedom you have. After you get one star you immediately can get to several worlds. Which means you aren't forced to complete a star if it's too challenging. And in a world you aren't fixed to a single path and you can often complete stars out of order (sometimes accidentally). Finally, the the stars on the doors provide you with motivation to get those stars so you can open new worlds. Unfortunately, the sequals have lost some of these mechanics.

 

I also love the Occarina of Time for the story. (Note: I never played the NES/SNES Zeldas, so they may be even better.) Yes, the story is fairly linear, but there is still the ability to explore. The difficulty also ramps up nicely.

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I liked Ocarina of Time, but when I first played it I was a little disappointed - the world seemed so small - very different from what I was expecting. I think that's why I like Majora's Mask better, the world is larger, and why I liked Wind Waker even better than either of those.

 

However, I've never really played the SNES Zelda or Mario.

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I've been watching the first 30 minutes worth of youtube walkthroughs for these N64 games tonight: Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie, Body Harvest, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness and Conkers BFD.

 

I wasn't impressed by the Banjo games, since they look like the godfathers of all collect-a-thons, a game principle I don't like at all. Body Harvest is yet another horrible looking fog bubble, with questionable gameplay as well.

 

I did like the other two though. Conker does seem to focus more on story and adventuring than on collecting, and Castlevania seems to have an amazing score.

 

What do you N64 fans think, do you recommend Conker and Castlevania LoD? :)

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What do you N64 fans think, do you recommend Conker and Castlevania LoD? :)

 

I would go with Conkers Bad Fur Day - I enjoyed playing it much more than Castlevania.

 

Chris

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My workmate just delivered it to my desk! :)

 

Cool - it is quite hard to find in the wild - let me know if you enjoy it.

 

Chris

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