Every gamer knows that there are a few games that make an indelible impression on you.
And normally it’s something special about the game in question. It can be anything, but it stands out. Whether it’s groundbreaking graphics, an unforgettable story or even just a fond memory, gaming in itself holds lifetimes. Through gaming, I have lived countless lives, and I intend to live more.
But there are a few games that I will never forget. They’ve helped me, in their own ways, to become the person I am today. They’ve changed me from the quiet, shy girl I used to be to the confident, adventure-seeking woman writing this article.
Each one holds a special place in my heart and without them, well, where would I be now?
1. Adventure Island
Adventure Island was the very first game I ever played. Maybe that’s not even true, but it’s the first game I have a memory of.
Our family owned one of those third-party Nintendo Entertainment Systems, the ones that came with the cartridges of 1,000 games (most of which were just the same game copied 50 times). I would watch my older sisters play everything from Contra to Ice Climber and wish, with all my heart, that one day I would be able to play as good as them.
When that day finally came, I dug out the old plastic console from a box in my parent’s room and sat down for hours of Adventure Island. I never really understood the game and died multiple times throughout, but I had so much fun watching the cute animations and trying to advance through the levels.
Later, when I was in high school, about to transition to my first year in university, I found this game one last time and played it with my then-boyfriend now-fiancé.
This game means the world to me because it illustrates the very heart of my childhood.
2. God of War III
Okay, I’ll be honest: I fucking hate this game.
This game is a genuine piece of shit, not because of the gameplay but because it is really misogynistic. There are scenes in it that I can’t believe my teenage mind was put through, and I was definitely affected by them. One of them, and I’m not even sure if I should mention it, shows the main character, Kratos (pictured above) having sex with two women. As the player, you are expected to press buttons to make this happen, and yes, I did that.
Do I regret it? Of course.
The reason why I am adding it to this list, though, is because it was the first game I ever played on PlayStation 3: the first official console I ever owned. It came bundled with the console, along with Dirt 2, which, in retrospect, was pretty damn fun.
I remember the first time I ever put this game into the disk drive: my heart was racing, my hands were sweating, and I kept glancing down trying to familiarize myself with the buttons. In the first boss battle against Poseidon, I died way more than I care to admit. I kept looking down at the buttons, becoming frustrated and not understanding what the instructions were saying. But after I finally got it, and defeated the first boss, I told myself that I would finish this game, and yes, I did.
Again, it’s a pretty shitty game, but us gamers know that even the crap ones can make us feel amazing.
3. Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
If any game was to win an award for wit and humor, the Ratchet and Clank series would be it. It’s packed with hilarious anecdotes and pirate radio was honestly one of my favorite parts of this game.
But the reason why I consider this game special is because it was the game that made my relationship with my fiancé. Almost every Friday I would come home from school and he would already be at my house, waiting to play Ratchet and Clank.
We would sit for hours laughing, playing, (kissing, aww), and order pizza. I got to know Ratchet and Clank, while Captain Quark tried to convince us of his heroism in the background.
A Ratchet and Clank themed wedding, anyone?
Journey is the most visually stunning game I have ever played. The story is quiet and emotional and drives you forward with purpose rather than reward. I finished it in about three hours and cried for about two hours afterward.
The time in my life when I played Journey was peppered with a lot of emotional trauma. I was constantly fighting with my parents, had lost so many of my friends from high school and was just coming to terms with my bisexuality.
Playing this game, feeling the emotional and physical stress of the character I played as, but seeing them persevere through what can only ever be called a journey helped me realize that I was not as alone as I thought.
In retrospect, Journey said a lot more than just hardship and overcoming it. In many ways, it can be linked to a lot of the trauma that people of color are experiencing around the world right now. Journey is so much more than a game, it’s a story.
It’s our story.
5. Pokémon X and Y
Unpopular opinion: Pokémon X and Y was the best Pokemon game.
Yeah, I get it, the Nintendo 3DS made a huge departure from the original games with all the additional features it added to the game. But you know what? I like petting my Chestnaught and feeding it cute little treats.
Do I think Super Training was a bit ridiculous though? I concede, yes.
But Pokémon X and Y had that level of mystery that a lot of Pokémon games lack. For example, the girl you meet only once in the tower? That was super creepy and amazing and I am obsessed.
6. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is the last game I remember playing on the PlayStation 3, before migrating over to the PlayStation 4. Everyone who’s played this will understand why: Nothing better can come after it.
The game is beautiful and terrifying.
You’re thrust into a world of zombies unlike any we’ve ever seen before, and with a soundtrack by the incredible Gustavo Santaollala, it ravages your heart like no other. Journey destroyed me with its simple, yet emotional storytelling.
The Last of Us destroys on a different level altogether.
I have never in my life been more attached to characters like those in The Last of Us. It takes the identity of ‘misunderstood’ to a whole new level, where even you, the player with your preconceived notions, can’t fathom how the characters will grow and surprise you.
Joel’s character, which goes from “aw, shame!” to “fuck you!” is by far my favorite.
Oh yeah, and the end scene? Don’t even get me started.
7. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
And finally, Skyrim. I am still playing Skyrim.
There’s is no end to the pleasure that Skyrim brings. It has beautiful visuals, an amazing soundtrack and a great balance between serious gameplay and ridiculous Daedra side quests. It’s the game that keeps on giving – I restarted recently and am still finding quests I never encountered the first time around.
The same goes for the Fallout franchise. Bethesda’s ability to build open world games is truly astounding. Their ability in environmental storytelling is ridiculously brilliant, down to the tiniest of details. How many skeletons did we gaze at, wondering exactly how they ended up where they did? How many rooms did we lockpick our way into, only to find something more than a few gold coins?
Although, let’s be real – I would have put Skyrim on this list just for the Thomas the Tank Engine mod.