A few weeks ago I started a list of the games that have found a special place in my memory. I didn’t want to create something that was just another top 10 list that would disappear into the noise of the Internet. I decided to make this a personal perspective of the games that moulded me as a gamer and in one case actually changed me as a person (Guitar Hero).
Although the list so far has been in no particular order, the first five entries proved very straightforward. The second half of the list has been slightly more problematic when it came to picking from my shortlist. There are a few that it physically pains me to leave out like Banjo Kazooie or Discworld 2, but this is a list of 10 and sacrifices must be made. I present the next four entries to my list.
The Sims 2
PC – 2004
I could make this easier on myself and simply say that I enjoyed The Sims series as a whole. The first Sims game established the series but was a bit limited, The Sims 3 tried too hard and too much, which leaves us with The Sims 2, the best.
The great thing about The Sims games is that there are so many variables; no one will ever play exactly the same game as you. Your game experience will always be unique. Do you want your Sim to take up a career in politics or crime? Maybe they have updated those job options to make them the same thing. Perhaps you want to spend all of your Sim’s time wooing people of the same sex, making the neighbourhood exclusively gay to annoy the Westborough Baptist Church. Or maybe if you are from the Westborough Baptist Church, you would put your Sim in a room, remove the doors and start a fire so they burn in the fiery depths of hell because they liked a different kind of pizza than the one bible apparently tells you to enjoy.
I must admit to putting my Sim in a swimming pool once and removing the ladder to see what would happen. Turns out the sides of the pool were higher than they seemed and he drowned. So in keeping with my God like power trip, I reloaded my save and brought him back to life.
Personally, my favourite aspect of the game was the building and designing modes. When I was a young whippersnapper, I dreamed of being an architect and The Sims games gave me the tools to let my creative mind run wild and build the fantastical houses of my dreams. I probably spent longer building than I did playing God with my Sims.
I even have fond memories installing the game as you went through the 3 or 4 installation discs getting bombarded by mini games.
The Sims 2 also had a plethora of expansion packs allowing you anything from a teleporter to replace your staircase to a robot butler. You could go to University or out on the town, maybe you wanted to get a pet or go on holiday. It was also the first Sims game where you could throw a party and make Woohoo (do it) in a hot tub. There was something for everyone!
PS2 – 2002
Very few games manage to capture an atmosphere so perfectly as Grand Theft Auto Vice City did. Vice City took inspiration from a wide range of 80’s movies, predominantly gangster movies (most importantly Scarface), to craft the perfect setting for GTA’s trip south to Florida.
In the GTA series there is arguably better gameplay (San Andreas) or better graphics (GTA IV) available, but Vice City was the complete package. The missions were insane and frequently hilarious, the voice acting fronted by Ray Liotta was superb was unheard of at the time and the setting was spot on. But nothing compares to the moment in the game you get into a car for the first time and Billie Jean is playing on the radio as you drive down the beach.
There has never been a better soundtrack in a game before or since Vice City. Couple the music to the perfect 80’s Miami-esque setting and you have a game you will keep with you forever. You have to remember this was the game following GTA III and if you can remember that far back, you probably wouldn’t have had the highest hopes for the music of Vice City.
There were times when I would turn on my PS2 and start up Vice City simply to hit pause and just listen to the radio stations. I even got hold of a CD copy of two of the stations Flash FM and Emotion (available in all good music stores that aren’t in administration).
Grand Theft Auto games have always been known for their madcap humour, although maybe to a lesser extent in GTA IV. I think Vice City was where the series’ humour peaked. Even with slightly dated graphics, it is still worth playing today and it will still make you laugh as you listen to the rock band Love Fist on the radio, while your partner in crime Lance Vance does his patented Lance Vance Dance as he strafes a car park with an assault rifle. Good times.
N64 – 2000
It pained me to leave out Ocarina of Time as it could quite easily be justified as one of the greatest games ever made, but Majora’s Mask made the cut for me. It is one of the strangest Zelda games in the series as there is no Ganon as your nemesis and Zelda only makes a fleeting appearance once in a flashback. But it is undoubtedly one of the most unique Zelda titles ever created.
The game revolves around a 3 day cycle in which the moon above the land of Termina gradually gets drawn closer by a character called the Skull Kid who is possessed by the evil within Majora’s Mask. At the end of the 3 day cycle, boom, you’re dead, everyone’s dead, the planet is dead. As a result this could be regarded as one of the darkest Zelda games to date. Luckily Link is able to find the Ocarina of Time and reset the cycle and start over as many times as he wants, causing the inhabitants of Termina to relive the terror of impending doom as many times as you need to complete the game.
Thanks to the 72 hour cycle the game plays out over, Majora’s Mask is swamped by countless side quests that occur at designated times and places. There are only 4 main dungeons, so it is likely a large part of the game will be taken up trying to complete these side quests. And most of these quests are conditional on certain events preceding them. So if you don’t stop a seemingly unrelated burglary on the first night, you won’t unlock the sequence of events that allow you to reunite two lovers on a matchmaking side quest that is actually the longest and most memorable quest in the game. So you have to reset the cycle to try again, but this then provides the dilemma that certain progress will be undone and items in your inventory lost. You must utilise the 72 hours wisely, but with the moon growing ever larger above you, you feel the sense of growing urgency as the clock relentlessly counts down.
There are many masks to collect throughout the game that allow you to perform abilities needed for certain missions or quests, a wealth of side quests and the outstanding storyline that we have come to expect from a Zelda game. It is a completionist’s dream and an outstanding title for a fan of adventure games.
PC – 2011, XBox 360 – 2012
Minecraft is undoubtedly the strangest entry to my list as there doesn’t seem to be a point to the game. There are no missions, no tasks, no real collectables of note. It is a “sandbox game” in the truest sense. You are an unnamed character put into a randomly generated world where everything is made of blocks, including the trees, the beaches, the mountains, everything. And all you do is survive and build.
As a premise, this may not sound appealing at first. The graphics are very basic and there is no defined gameplay. But essentially, if you can think of something, you can find a way to build it. Creativity is the key premise of the game once you really get into it. You cut down trees, you mine rocks and minerals as building supplies, and then you let your imagination go wild. There is even a resource that allows you to create circuits leading to the possibility of automated machines or switches.
And if you don’t fancy mining for building materials, there is always the Creative Mode to play with that gives you infinite building blocks to do with as you please.
The kind of things people have built and uploaded to the Internet will boggle the mind. You will wonder how there are enough hours in the day to achieve what they have created. The gallery below is a sample of the things I’ve made, but trust me when I say my creations pale in comparison to the scaled versions of cities or expansive lands that others have made.
It’s not just building though. Enemies spawn in the dark, so exploring caves or wandering at night can be extremely dangerous. If you are wandering around outside and you hear “sssssSSSSSsss” it is probably too late for you. The thing that just snuck up on you and exploded you into a mess of pixels is called a Creeper. They are one of the many things that will want to kill you if you go out wandering in the dark. So you can take the role of the adventurer survivalist if building isn’t your thing.
Minecraft was a game that I had heard about time and time again and I eventually caved to peer pressure to try it for myself and I haven’t looked back since. If you have a flair for creativity, this game can be your new addiction. And I thought peer pressure and addiction were meant to be bad things.