When I got the opportunity to do this piece I jumped at it. Not because I think retro games need to be celebrated more, truth be told I think the likes of the SNES command a sense of nostalgia far greater than they deserve. Where gaming, for me anyway, really took off was with the fifth generations of consoles. The original Playstation, the seminal N64, and the ill-fated Dreamcast. These consoles brought a huge array of games to the market, spanning multiple genres and spawning countless memorable characters that are still fresh in our minds nearly 20 years on. Whittling the mental list of games I had down to a top five was hard, but I think that the games I have chosen are in there deservedly.
5. Streets of Rage (Sega Megadrive)
While Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat will always be fighting out at the top of the Beat ‘em Up genre, Streets of Rage did something different for a genre that was all special moves and not enough gritty realism (Blanka from Street Fighter, I’m looking at you). This side-scrolling platform game pitted you against fire juggling stilt walkers, evil clowns, gangsters and their henchmen to name just a few, all the while arming you with only a knife, a pipe, or your bare hands. Punching your way through several cell shaded levels with an end boss on each never felt as satisfying as it did in this violent (for it’s time) video game. Allowing it to fall in to fifth place on the list.
4. Pokemon Red/Blue (Nintendo Gameboy)
Pokemon was a cultural snow ball that played a pivotal role in almost of every childhood of our generation. Whether we like it or not we can still recall the names of original 151 Pokemon, how they evolve, and what they’re super effective against. The game doesn’t really need an introduction, but the premise is this: as surprising self-sufficient youngster, your care free mum suggests going to help the local professor and his grandson (soon to be your bitter rival). This opens up a gateway to the world of Pokemon. Creatures which can be stored inside small balls until the need for battle arises. Here, they level up and develop powers before eventually evolving into a stronger version of they’re original selves. Spawning countless sequels and an almost obsessive degree of collectible toys, trading cars and several movies. Pokemon was ,without a doubt, the most culturally successful game on our list and a franchise that still goes on today.
3. Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If Pokemon needed no introduction, neither does our number three. The first Zelda game to entire 3D territory, this action/adventure game has been heralded as the best game of all time. Spawned console-spanning sequels and a myriad of unforgettable songs. The premise was simple: Rescue the Princess from the clutches of evil. Rarely has such a generic concept encapsulated gamers, since a short plumber in a red cap bashed blocks and fell down pipe. The time travelling concept with Ocarina turned gaming on it’s head, and allowed you to see Link, grow from child to adult and furthered a continuous sense of pathos for the lead character. With a plethora of side-quests and mini-games to play while taking a break from the main game, Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a game you could sink hours in to every day. I still can’t forget the moment I spent a quiet afternoon fishing and catch the fabled Hylian Loach. A truly commendable feat and one of my proudest moments.
2. Metal Gear Solid (Sony Playstation)
While it may not be the first game in the series this stealthy 3rd person action game paved the way for the likes of Splinter Cell on later consoles. Playing as Solid Snake your mission was to infiltrate a terrorist base and disrupt their plans of nuclear armament. There was a whole host of bosses littered throughout the lengthy game, including the famous Physco Mantis, who could control Snakes actions with telekinesis (second controller anyone?). The video codec addition allowed some respite from the stealth action, and allowed for some occasional light-hearted interaction between characters such as Meryl. Not only did the game have a story you could really absorb, the virtual reality training missions included allowed for some practise before facing the challenges proffered by the main game. The sheer ingenuity of the developers really shone through for a game years ahead of it’s 1999 release date. There are so many factors at play here the secure it’s spot at number 2. And any game that encourages you to get wolf pups to pee on a cardboard box to avoid there mother gets my vote any day.
1. Final Fantasy IX (Sony Playstation)
This decision will be a definite source of contention between fans of the series here (not FF VII, shock horror) but this is my favourite game of all time. No questions asked. Taking a break for the dystopian steampunk setting of other games, Final Fantasy IX is set in Gaia, a fantasy land harking back to the earlier Final Fantasy games. The story follows the bungled kidnap of Princess Garnet (she wants to be kidnapped, what?) and unravels and unwinds like every good Final Fantasy does. The musical score is beautiful, soaring and dropping amid moments of panic and rest, and littered with familiar leitmotifs and fanfares. While the game play is nothing groundbreaking for those who know the series, it’s been polished to almost dizzying perfection, losing the realism of the graphics of it’s predecessor, IX takes on a cartoon look, but this just extenuates the beauty of the game, shown most of all during the cut scenes of which there are many, one scene in particular early on causing me to gawp even to this day. Perhaps I’m remembering the game all to fondly, but for those who want an a gentle ease in to the world of Final Fantasy, this game would be it. With hours and hours of side quests and mini games to keep you busy, this game will take up a lot of your time, so apologise to any significant others and stock up on Doritos. Final Fantasy IX is the best game of this generation. Kupo!