My 15

Via TAGN, my top 15 influential games.

1: Ultima Online

This is an MMO blog, and UO was the first major MMO as we know them today. It’s also had the Ultima IP, which was huge for me. And as time goes on, and the genre tries to figure itself out, we realize (or are proven ‘right’, depending on your starting point) UO got a lot of things correct compared to future titles. It wasn’t just the first MMO, it was a very well-designed sandbox MMO that had a brilliant virtual world. We need more UOs, but making them has proven to be very difficult.

2: Ultima V

Way back when I played games on a Commodore 64, and Ultima V was my favorite game by a mile. MMOs are a big deal to me today because prior to 1997 and UO, I was (and still am) huge into RPGs, and for me Ultima V remains not only the first, but one of the best games in that genre. Non-linear, party based, great lore, great stories, epic scope, ;living world’, difficult; Ultima V got a lot right IMO.

3: Myth 1 and Myth 2

Cheating a bit going with both of these, but allow me to explain. Myth 1 was an RTS game far ahead of its time (something Bungie has a habit of doing), and I played it relentlessly. Sadly at the time the computer I had couldn’t really run it, so at a certain point online I couldn’t win games playing at 5-10 FPS (no joke). Myth 2 improved most aspects from the first game, and I had a better machine when it came out. I ended up holding the world #1 spot in the game until the first rank reset, which totally should be on my resume if gaming was as cool as sports. Either way being able to say you were the undisputed best at something out of 50k+ people is fun. Me > you.

4: EVE

UO was the first and laid the groundwork, but EVE is that groundwork perfected, and is the shining example that an MMO doesn’t die ‘eventually’ if it’s built correctly. The list of things EVE does better than anyone else in the genre is almost endless, but for me personally it drove home the fact that if you set a goal and execute, EVE is your oyster. I wanted to start a corp, I wanted it to grow into something, and I wanted to take us out of high-sec and do ‘something’. All accomplished, and it was a very rewarding experience.

5: Shining in the Darkness

I got this game along with my Sega Genesis, and it was my first introduction to console gaming and that style of RPG games. I still have a notebook of the maps my father and I drew as we played it, and whenever I watch a Youtube video of the game the music takes me back. The game being the first entry in the pretty great Shining series is significant IMO, even if the games don’t share a central story or world.

6: Final Fantasy 7

I loved FF7, racking up a saved game of over 100hrs (this was back when 100hrs with a title was something. Now we call that a 3-monther MMO). The graphics were amazing, the story was solid, the videos looked straight out of the future; the game itself is a masterpiece. It holds a special place for me because this title alone is responsible for turning the RPG genre from a niche to a mainstream thing. Suddenly we had tons of options rather than a handful of titles per year, all thanks to FF7.

7: Final Fantasy Tactic

When it comes to turn-based strategy titles, FFT is still my top-rated title. It’s not without flaws, but the strength of this title so far outweigh the flaws that it’s silly. Incredible depth, a serious challenge, a twisting storyline even despite the hit/miss translation, FFT had it all. It’s re-release on the iPhone recently reconfirmed for me how great it is, it’s held up wonderfully.

8: Heroes of Might and Magic 3

Considered the best entry in the series, HoMM3 is a title my friend and I pour a silly amount of time into. A solid single-player experience with amazing multiplayer depth, whether it was co-op vs the AI or going 1v1, featuring great balance amongst the factions and maps. The series has been trying to recreate the HoMM3 experience since, and while HoMM6 was solid, it still wasn’t it.

9: Civilization V

I’ve played every entry in the Civ series since the first, but it wasn’t until Civ V that I become obsessed with mastering the game. A great combination of deep turn based gameplay, historical accuracy, and refined game systems place Civ V high on my list.

10: Streets of Rage

The beat-em-up genre is mostly (completely?) dead now, but back in the day it was huge, and Streets of Rage was my jam. A really fun game whether you played solo or with a buddy, and one of the first games I played to master every boss encounter long past the time when I had initially beat it. The birth of my min-maxing, you might say.

11: World of Warcraft

After UO and EVE, WoW is the most significant MMO for me personally. A lot of this has to do with making friendships with people I still talk to today, raiding buddies who I spent hundreds if not thousands of hours with, carrying god knows how many derps through MC, BWL, AQ40, and beyond. Outside of raiding WoW in the early days had a lot going for it, whether it was leading the masses to victory in AV or raiding alliance towns with the guild and others.

12: Marathon

Another example of a Bungie title being way ahead of its time. As a FPS Marathon was excellent, and many of its mechanics went on to become genre standards. If the title wasn’t Mac-only, I wonder if it would have given Doom a run for its money. IMO it was the better game.

13: League of Legends

I played a lot of DoTA for Warcraft 3, so went into LoL knowing what to expect. But seeing how Riot handled the game, especially in the early years, and reading their forum posts about design hammered home that LoL is DoTA without all its flaws. Furthermore, a lot of the basic concept they explained still apply today, and not just to LoL but to gaming overall. I’m still actively playing the game after all these years, my wife is still addicted to it as well, and it’s the biggest game in the world overall. On top of all that, LoL is the best example of how well the F2P model can work outside of the MMO genre.

14: Syndicate

I played this game only when I was over a friend’s house, but we both loved it. Great atmosphere, great sandboxish design, solid graphics for the time, and the first game I played where you could do interesting stuff like convert a dozen civilians to become a small army, get them into cars, and have them run over other people by accident all until the cars exploded. The AI was good for the time, but because it gave you options, it created a lot of “oh wow that was cool” unscripted moment.

15: Skyrim

I played Morrowind a bit, played a lot of Oblivion, but it wasn’t until Skyrim that I was really looking forward to an ES game, and Skyrim delivered on all fronts. This is the model I want followed when it comes to future single-player sandbox RPGs. I’ve played almost all of its content now, and just the depth and consistence of it all is amazing.

14 Responses to My 15

  1. zaphod6502 says:

    I don’t really have 15 defining games but some notable ones which defined each genre I have played and which stood out at the time were:

    1. Ultima IV
    2. M1 Tank Platoon
    3. Falcon IV
    4. IL2 Sturmovik
    5. Doom
    6. The Elder Scrolls series
    7. The Wing Commander series
    8. World Of Warcraft

    I did not enter the MMO RPG genre until fairly late with the introduction of WoW (2004). I was for a large part of my online gaming career an online flight sim grognard (or rivet counter). Until WoW I would never have considered paying a monthly fee to play a game.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    In five years or so of reading MMO blogs I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone mention gaming with their father. Their mother, yes, often. Sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts, all of those, but fathers? Never.

    Also 100 hours is barely a month in regular MMO play. A good three-monther would be 150+ hours in the first month alone, tailing off from there.

    • Isey says:

      I bet our kids have a different experience about ‘gaming with their father’. =)

    • I could write reams about playing games with my father, but the video games section would be about a paragraph and would not be all that happy. The whole video game thing never appealed to him and showed up after I had already grown in manual dexterity to the point that I would beat him in everything. He never had a chance.

      My daughter will have considerably more tales about playing video games with her father.

  3. Cylor says:

    Shining in the Darkness – one of the best RPGs to grace the Sega Genesis. Was that your favorite over the other console RPGs of that era? My tops for back then would probably be Final Fantasy 2 > Final Fantasy 3 > Shining in the Darkness > Phantasy Star 2&3 > Shining Force

    I also fondly remember Herzog Zwie (action/RTS for Genesis).

    • SynCaine says:

      I didn’t have an SNES so the early FF games I never played until later. On the Genesis Shining ranks pretty high. I liked Phantasy Star 3 a lot, loved 4. Was also a big fan of Landstalker.

  4. Hoby says:

    Random order:
    1. Tecmo Super Bowl. There will never be a more fun football game.
    2. Perfect Dark. Endless fun with my friends.
    3. Half life. Best FPS of all time. I bought my first PC because my Dad’s PC couldn’t get past the plant in the rocket testing room.
    4. FF6. Just a unbelievably awesome game and just when you think you’ve won, Kafka destroys the world.
    5. Tie Fighter. Every flying game feels crappy when compared to Tie Fighter.
    6. C&C. Played the shit out of the game with friends. Kane was more bad ass villain to ever hit the screen beside Darth Vader.
    7. total annihilation. Best RTS ever made, best base building game, best graphical physics in any game I’ve played.
    8. Counter strike. Endless hours of fun.
    9. WOW. Vanilla was the best experience I’ve ever had with a game.
    10. HOI2. I still play it every once and a while 12 years after it came out.
    11. EU1-4. History and grand conquest doesn’t get much better.
    12. Civ2. Still the best of the Civ series.
    13. Warhammer 40k DoW. Game did everything right in a RTS. Interesting units, great combat tactics, battles were a joy to watch all without being all consuming about resources and CPS.
    14. Star Wars the arcade game. This game made me realized that games were going to be so much more than any other type of entertainment.
    15. Baldur’s Gate. First RPG that I really got into where I was story, instead of following the story.
    16. Fallout. Best RPG series. The amount of fun and amusing things you can do in fallout seems endless.

    • SynCaine says:

      I missed the early Fallout games until later, and for whatever reason (thinking back on it, most likely due to having poor hardware to run it) I never got into BG until much later with mods and now BG:EE.

  5. sid6.7 says:

    1. Sundog (1984, Apple II) – Not well known, but this was the first RPG game that I ever played that was very sandbox like. I played this for a year before I even knew what the objective of the game was…

    2. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (1985) – The first in the series that I played and arguably still my favorite in the series.

    3. Dungeon Master – This was the first RPG that I played which was first person. This game also had some innovative ideas like the only way to skill-up was to use your ability. Also the first game I ever macro’d by using a joystick with a ‘sticky button’ to repeat the same attack :)

    4. Pool of Radiance (1988) – An evolution of the Ultima series and Dungeon Master series with both 3rd and 1st person views. Based on the AD&D ruleset.

    5. Neverwinter Nights for AOL (1991) – NWN was my first real online game with more than 1 person. It used the same engine as Pool of Radiance. It also had PvP areas and I was in my first real online clan.

    6. Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992) – Back to the Ultima series. I believe this is the first game that ultimately used a similar engine to what UO would eventually use.

    7. Warcraft II (1995) – This one was influential for me because I discovered a wonderful application called Kali which allowed you to play LAN games over the internet. This is the second time I was ever hyper-competitive online (the first being NWN).

    8. Meridian 59 (1996) – M59 gets a mention from me because it’s actually the reason I didn’t play Everquest. I tried M59 and absolutely hated it. It was clunky, I had to type in commands, and it felt big and empty. This game was a huge disappointment for me and a big reason I moved towards FPS games like…

    9. Quake (1996) / Duke Nukem 3D (1997) – The games I was playing INSTEAD of Ultima Online. At this time in my life, I was single and old enough to drink in bars. If I followed games then the same way that I do now, I likely wouldn’t have overlooked UO, but ultimately UO was a game I didn’t even try because of other things going on at the time. Quake, by contrast, was well suited to LAN-parties and other things I could do with college friends.

    10. Starsiege: Tribes (1998) – This still ranks as perhaps my favorite game of all time. Quake action in a much more open world, with vehicles, more players, and team objectives.

    The next few years followed a pattern of games such as Half-Life, Warcraft 3, and others. The next major evolution for me was World of Warcraft and the rest is history.

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  8. tsuhelm says:

    Syndicate was awesome…

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