I’ve been reminiscing about all the video games I’ve played in my many years of gaming (going on 21 years of conscious gaming). When I think about my favorite video games, three or four immediately come to mind. But when I sit down to write about it and access my mental catalog of titles, I realize that they barely fit in a top 10 favorites list.
It’s not too often that I have 10 favorites of anything. The problem with 10 favorites is it’s like having 10 winners in a race. No one cares that there are 10 winners. We want to know who was absolutely FIRST. The others just make up the first 9 to lose.
I get annoyed when people refuse to have a favorite of something, like how American Idol is secretly your favorite reality prime time TV show but you’re too afraid to admit it. It’s a cop-out when you say you don’t have a true favorite in a category, like how Backstreet Boys is your favorite pop cross-over hip hop all male dancing group but you’re ashamed to say it for some reason.
Not proclaiming your favorite of something is usually due to one (or all) of four possible reasons:
- 1) you are too lazy to put any effort into it
- 2) your opinions are too easily swayed to hold fast to any one thing for too long
- 3) you’re embarassed
- 4) you have trouble committing
That list sounds like it applies to relationships or something. Well take all that nonsense somewhere else because this is The Gimcrack Miscellany and we don’t like talking about things that make us feel vulnerable and/or pathetic.
So why am I saying all this on a top 10 list? Because I’m not talking favorites here, I’m talking ‘most played’ – read the title again. Aha! Yyyyyyyep. I’m not breaking any of my rules because these aren’t necessarily my top 10 favorites just because I played them the most.
Upon further thought, it just so happens that this list corresponds exactly with my top 10 favorites list…
Anyway, the number of hours you log playing a game has nothing to do with whether or not it’s your favorite game. Well, I guess it has to have something to do with it, but how else do you explain the huge numbers behind Tetris, Pacman, and Freecell? Those aren’t anyone’s favorite games, trust me. 85% of wives will say at least one of them is their favorite, but we know they’re lying. Brain Ninjas wins, hands down.
Oh, and one more thing, I realize this is a top 10 list instead of a top 5 list. What’s your point? Ye Old Top Fiver™ is just a marketing tool. It’s not meant to be taken literally – it’s a brand that people trust. Just ask our LOLheads™ or Reference Burst Theory™ divisions.
I could have made this a top 101 list, but it would’ve taken me several days and multiple posts to make a list of that caliber. So, before we get to the top 10, here is a list of honorable mentions that I wish I had time to talk about:
25. Donkey Kong Country
24. Scorched Earth
23. Wii Tennis
22. Quake II
20. Return to Castle Wolfenstein
18. Roller Coaster Tycoon
17. Mario Kart 64
16. The Sims
15. Age of Empires II
13. GTA Vice City
11. The Dig
Awww, boo hoo – your game didn’t make it into the top 10. Write your own damn blog then. ON WITH THE TOP 10!
10. (tie) – Sim City 2000
This was my introduction to god games. No, not spiritual games. Strategy games. I had played the original Sim City quite a bit, but 2000 vastly improved over the original. There’s real satisfaction in being mayor of a sprawling city and growing it into a bustling metropolis. You have to make sure you carefully plan your placement of the three main zones: industrial, commercial, and residential. And if you want a real challenge, play with disasters enabled.
Reason I played it so much: Lets me be creative. Each time I played it I created a completely unique city, which allowed for a brand new experience every time I loaded it up.
10. (tie) – Descent
This was the first truly free-form FPS. You could go anywhere, on all three axes, in your one-man hovering spaceship of destroytion. Lots of weapons, shallow learning curve, difficult bosses, and a brand new twist on an up and coming video game genre helped me to fall in love with Descent. I remember in 1995 they had a demo of the first 7 levels at Best Buy on the first black-cased computer I had ever seen (it was an Acer). I played through that demo every time I visited a Best Buy and I couldn’t wait until it came out. Descent also provided a level editor, which was the first time I ever created my own maps in a game.
Reason I played it so much: First of its kind. I couldn’t get the same type of gameplay in any other game, so I played Descent. A lot.
9. Mario 3
If you remember The Wizard, you remember the scene at the end where they bust out brand new Super Mario 3 in order to level the playing field. We were all so excited about being able to fly with the tail. I remember it being a major current event in the world, but it was probably just my little world inside the bigger real world. Want to hear something funny? All the hours and hours I spent in front of this game, and I finally beat it 2 weeks ago. No joke.
Reason I played it so much: User Interface. Nintendo is the king of making a game feel fun to play, and this game is flawless.
8. Counter-Strike: Source
Man, that guy is really amazing with the AWP. I hate AWPers.
I really got into this game in college when I started to realize how fun online multi-player games were. Before CS:S, the only online game I had played was Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which whetted my appetite for pwnage (and taught me that word). But CS:S perfected the genre by pitting two teams against each other (terrorists and counter-terrorists) in amazingly detailed and realistic maps. If you’re a terrorist, you either try to plant a bomb in a certain area, or guard your hostages. Alternatively, if you’re a counter-terrorist, you try to prevent the terrorists from planting the bomb (or diffuse it before it goes off), or try to rescue the hostages that the terrorists are guarding. Simple. Brilliant. PWNalicious. That’s going to be my new handle.
Reason I played it so much: Multi-player bliss. I would not be the l337-speaking idiot that I am if it weren’t for CS:S.
7. Doom II
Oooooh snap, those fools got Rick Roll’d.
The game is amazing. Please don’t rent the movie. I will catch flak for saying that, but it’s what I believe and confess. Doom is terrifying and brilliant. I am still scared of the last level. Every year about this time, when the ground is thawing and the trees are budding, I break out the old Doom II CD-ROM and get my killin’ on. I don’t know why I associate that with spring.
This game was made back in the day when every pixel of game art and animation was hand-drawn. It’s sort of like watching an old Star Wars movie where all the models were made by hand and animated with stop-motion photography instead of CGI. I don’t know why, but it’s just more interesting to watch because it seems less manufactured. I’ll get down from my stop-motion soap box and just say that Doom II is largely responsible for the success of the entire computer gaming industry. Thank you, Doom.
Reason I played it so much: Level design. If level design was an art form (and it is), then Sandy Peterson and John Romero would be the Picasso and Van Gogh of… it.
I can’t resist bringing back a little nostalgia with these animated Doom II gifs. You just can’t beat hand-drawn. It’s like hand-made biscuits from scratch.
6. Lords of the Realm II
Sorry, would you believe there are no clips of actual gameplay from this game on youtube? Guess I’ll have to make one myself.
I played this game all through high school. It’s more obscure than a lot of the other entries on this list, and the sequel killed the franchise, so you’ve probably never heard of it. It was my first experience with turn-based strategy games and I grew to love the genre through this game. It is somewhat historical with a geographical setting of Medieval Europe.
Feed your peasants, manage your mines, build up your army, and take over neighboring counties. It is very addictive to see your color sweep across the map as your armies invade your adversaries. I used to sit and play this game for hours with my friends via hotseat. I need to get my hands on it again, I haven’t played it in forever.
Reason I played it so much: Setting. The locations, style, music, and overall feel was very medieval. It made me want to be there more than any other game I’ve played.
5. Dark Forces
Dark Forces really satisfied the gamer AND the Star Wars fan in me. This game was my boy in middle school and was, for a short period, the only thing I loved in the world. I would think about playing Dark Forces as soon as I woke up, while I was at school, and as I was falling asleep. This is one of my favorite games of all time and will always be near and dear to my heart.
It is centered around a very involving plot, and contains a lot of the elements from the original three Star Wars films. What set Dark Forces apart was it’s integration of puzzles and predicaments that you had to solve before you could progress in the level. Some of them were very hard, too. You would often have to look around your environment for clues, switches, and secret entrances. I loved the combination of firepower and brains, and it also made for many many hours of game play.
Reason I played it so much: Level of difficulty. Being angry at a game doesn’t stop me from playing it. It just makes me want to play it more. It’s like the episode of Seinfeld where George is attracted to the masseuse simply because of how much she hates him.
Speaking of Seinfeld, I’d like to pause for a moment and watch a brief, hilarious, completely off topic clip.
4. Wolfenstein 3D
The game that started it all. I played this game when I was a lad of only 8 years – that’s plenty old enough to gun down Hitler in a swastika-filled Nazi fortress. I remember playing this back when it was fun for me just to watch another person play it. My uncle played this game and my brother, cousins, and I would sit there and watch in awe. The first time I put my hands on the mouse and clicked “mouse button 1″ to shoot the gatling gun, I became a bona fide gamer.
Wolfenstein was all about finding secrets. There were no clues as to where they were, you just had to check every single wall and figure out the sequences in which to trigger them. The levels were more labyrinthine than any castle I’ve ever seen. The earliest days of my professional gaming career are filled with memories of long nights spent mapping out the crazy-complicated level structures. Phrases like “Have I been here yet?”, “Where is that one room I was in?”, “I’ll bet no one else has ever found this secret!”, “Why is Hitler in a battle-mech suit?”, “Wait, what genre is this?” are common utterances while making your way through the levels.
Reason I played it so much: It was the only game I possessed at the time. But to only own one game, and that game be this game, was heavenly.
3. World of Warcraft
WoW addiction is not a joke. WoW addiction is not a problem for me though. I do it all the time and I’m not addicted.
Reasons I play it so much: 1) Leveling up and 2) Always new content. The feeling of accomplishment in leveling and building up character skills, reputation, gold, treasures, items, etc. is what makes WoW very addictive. And to know that there is so much content in the game that i’ll never be able to experience it all drives me crazy.
2. Half Life 2
This was going to be number 1 but I thought about it and there is one game that I have put more hours into than this game. We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s talk about a game that won 35 game of the year awards, has the best plot hands-down of all the games I’ve played (beats most movies as well), introduced a revolutionary physics engine, and has a cliffhanger ending that is so cruel to the player that there’s a 92% chance a baby puppy dies each time someone finishes the game. Remember the end of Super Mario Bros the movie? Worse than that.
Reason I played it so much: Plot. The story has never gotten old to me. I have played all the way through the game and beaten it 15 times so far. I only stopped because the sequel came out.
A little breathing room for the big dog…
1. Heroes of Might and Magic III
Sorry, that video is crappy since it doesn’t show a lot of the gameplay and the sound effects are covered by stupid music, but it’s the only one I could find.
This is the best game ever created. How can you beat giants like WoW, Half Life, and Doom? You don’t need fancy graphics engines, a massive online community/player base, or blood and guts plastered all over everything. Heroes III did it with a simple and creative graphics engine, a dedicated and loyal community/player base, and very minimal blood and guts (hardly any). This game combines some of the best elements listed above. It has a really fun hotseat multi-player feature (or you can do a LAN party if you prefer), an amazingly elegant yet simple level designer program, hand-drawn graphics and animations, leveling up, hundreds of unique creatures, and excellent game balance. There are 7 different worlds to choose from, all with their own set of creatures, structures, schools of magic, spells, heroes, and specialties.
You level up your hero(s) by equipping artifacts and treasures and specializing in specific fields of study, while at the same time commanding your empire of castles, creatures, and mines, so it’s sort of a crossover between an RPG, turn-based strategy, and god game. I still play this game, and it is not only the game I’ve spent the most hours playing, but it’s the game I’ve played the most consistently – almost 10 years of solid Heroes III enjoyment for me. Some of this is thanks to the In The Wake Of Gods add on, which boosts the amount of creatures, items, and towns.
All I need to do now is find my Heroes of Might & Magic III Complete disc. I let someone borrow it a few months ago and I can’t find it. I really want to play it, so if you have it would you please give it back?
10 Games I Wish I Had Played
I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads and asking yourselves why some of the greatest games ever created were not on the list. By the same token, I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads and asking “what is a Doom?” In either case, here are some games that I confess to not having played very much (if at all), and as a gamer I feel it was my responsibility to play them. But I must remind you, I’m only one man. I can’t play every game ever. Or can I…
Warcraft / Warcraft II
Halo / Halo 2
Diablo / Diablo II
The Might & Magic series
The Legend of Zelda series
System Shock 2
The Metroid series
There you have it. In the process of writing this post, I went back and found my Lords of the Realm II, Doom Trilogy, and Mech Warrior II discs. I even found an old archived CD of some maps I created many years ago for Heroes of Might & Magic III. I really really feel like gaming nonstop for the next 2 weeks. It’s a good thing my wife’s in Houston or that wouldn’t go over so well