From playing them as a kid, to selling them in a shop, to editing an entire section on them here; it’s fair to say video games have always been a firm fixture in my life. Whether it was spending weekends at my dad’s picking out which games to rent from Blockbuster, or enduring a global pandemic, there’s a story for each of them. While there is undoubtedly an entire backlog’s worth of games I could mention, these five are what I would consider major markers throughout my life.
Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (dev. Insomniac Games, 1999, PS1)
My older sister was the first to own a PlayStation. Until I had one of my own, I would have to covet hers and watch her play Tomb Raider, Oddworld and Crash Bandicoot. She’d hand me a second controller occasionally, but only because she knew she could beat me on Tekken. When I eventually got my own PlayStation, I couldn’t wait to dive into the game she had never touched and could call my own. While the original Spyro the Dragon may have been the one that started it all, it was the sequel, with its ambient Stewart Copeland soundtrack that defined my early years. When the Reignited Trilogy released back in 2018, I couldn’t wait to charge back in and it took all my strength to play them in order, and not skip to this one.
Metroid Prime (dev. Retro Studios, 2002, GCN)
Growing up, I would visit my dad every weekend and we would spend most of our bonding time playing games. Well… I would play, and he would chip in when he spotted a puzzle solution. When he bought the GameCube, we were utterly besotted with it. Every weekend we would run to Blockbuster and rent some games, and if we liked them enough, we would save up to buy them from the local Gamestation. Of all the games that came and went, it was Metroid Prime that became a permanent fixture in the house. It was my first introduction to what would quickly become my favourite Nintendo franchise. Its meticulous attention to detail blew me away The rain dripping on Samus’ visor still astounds me. I’ll never forget the day my dad and I jumped up screaming when we beat the second boss that had given us many a weekend of trouble. Fighting that boss now isn’t so hard, but at the time, it was a huge feat.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (dev. Cing, 2007, NDS)
Of all the games on this list, this is the one I would consider my favourite of all time. And of all the games in the vast library of the Nintendo DS, Hotel Dusk (and its equally beguiling sequel, Last Window) is the game I felt utilised the dual screens in the most creative way. Flipping the console on its side to replicate reading a novel, it had you guiding your former detective-turned-salesman protagonist, Kyle Hyde, using the touch screen, while the main screen acted as his perspective. The rotoscoped animation of the characters was like nothing I had ever seen in a game, and was the first time I realised just how versatile the medium of game development could be. The only reason I have kept my DSXL for so long is to play this series at least once a year.
Stardew Valley (dev. ConcernedApe, 2016, PS4)
If I were to sum up my uni experience in two games, it would be Stardew Valley and Bloodborne. But while I could talk endlessly about the eldritch horrors of Bloodborne, it was the former that brought all my friends together during our final days as students and made for a wonderful bookend. We became engrossed with our character’s story, particularly in our decision to romance the town’s resident sad boy, Sebastian. From learning a recipe he liked, to asking him to a dance, we invested all our time into winning Sebastian’s heart before we went our separate ways. Thankfully, we did. As our final farewell to Stardew, we made a night out of the in-game wedding. Invited people round. Got the drinks in and celebrated, not only the nuptials but also our own time spent at university.
Death Stranding (dev. Kojima Productions, 2019, PS4)
And so we come to lockdown. I felt it would have been remiss of me not to talk about one of the games that got me through such an awful time. Even though my island renovations on Animal Crossing may have clocked in the most hours, it was Death Stranding that became synonymous with lockdown. Kojima’s post-Konami foreshadowing could not have been more apt. From hunkering down in the house, to virtual catch-ups with my friends, to running food and other household supplies to family members, everything that was happening during lockdown was happening in-game as well. Thankfully there were no BT’s to wreck my weekly run to Lidl, and I seem to have made it through (mostly) unscathed.
Words by Jack Roberts