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Psycho’s Gaming History: Top 10 Important Games from my Childhood 5-1

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Welcome to part 2 of my countdown of the most important games that shaped young Psycho!

5 Spyro The Dragon

A dragon voiced by the Taco Bell dog.

A purple dragon with a mean charge, fiery breath, and could glide through the air. This was my first 3D platformer, and my oldest sister and I would play it whenever she was over on weekends. It was because of our team effort with this game, and its two sequels, that helped us beat everything 100% or more. This game blew my mind when I first played it and the original trilogy is still enjoyed every summer for a quick playthrough on those scorching hot days.

4 Super Mario All-Stars

Ah, another good wholesome SNES classic. Sadly during my childhood my experience with SNES games didn’t reach much further than the Mario series. I wouldn’t really begin learning of non-Mario adventures on the Super until the years of the supreme Playstation overlord phase of my childhood. I also would not get the chance to explore many of them until my high school years and current collecting days. But, all that said, when compiling a list of very important SNES games I decided that I would not want to read one, think about my own life, and not have All-Stars be of the utmost significance. Everything, Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, AND 3? And go ahead and toss in the real Japanese SMB2 for good measure? And to think if I would have recieved my SNES much later then Super Mario All-Stars+World could have been the pack-in. Oh gracious me.

3 Gothic II

I bought this game randomly a few months before I bought the video card upgrade to my old PC. This RPG introduced me to the idea of open worlds in a deeper way than GTA2 and GTA3 did. Gothic II also got me interested in the larger world of PC RPGs in general, leading directly to Morrowind and KOTOR leading forward, and back in time to Fallout and even further backwards. Unfortunately, like Final Fantasy I can’t stand the newer releases of this series, but in my mind the first two games are prime examples of how to do open world exploration right and despite being 10 years old, still has more NPC behaviors than Skyrim.

2 Suikoden III

All 3 colored characters are the main protagonists, letting the player see the events of 2/3s of the game from multiple angles.

This game is one of the most important discoveries of my life, and it barely squeaks onto this list. I discovered my favorite console RPG series on a random rental, much like the same day that I randomly rented FF8 and for some reason discovered a lifelong love of the RPG genre period. I rented this game when I was 12, just a few months before becoming a teenager and marking my endpoint of thought for this list. The anime styled intro cinematic had my jaw on the floor and the Trinity Sight System had me hooked as soon as I understood it. Since then I’ve discovered an obsession, and have strong feelings as a fan of this series. This will not be the last time I mention this game or series.

1 Super Mario World & Super Mario Kart

What else should really go here? These two games were the first games that were mine. For a few months they were the only games outside of rentals that I could play. As the first two games for the first system that is mine (and I still own and use nearly daily) this one holds a lot of nostalgic value and just keeps trucking. That SNES has been through many years, and I only hope that it lives alongside me for many more. This well built, rugged Super Nintendo has outlived my first dog, these two carts always nearby for a quick play. Some random days I’ll just pop in Super Mario World and do a quick Star Road speedrun to kill some time. For a bit more of a touching story Super Mario Kart is still the only game I’ve really gotten my dad to play with me, it was never for very long, a race or two on that Christmas day and a couple other times. But, those memories and that bonding will stick with me forever, giving me a good idea of how to be a father to my own children when that chapter of my life unfolds.

PC RPG Renaissance Part 5: Rise of the Mods

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The year 2000 did not slow down this new machine, the Renaissance had barely begun and there would soon be a flood of games from newer studios, and overall quality across the board seemed to have the highest average in over a decade. What better way to begin the new millenium and raise the middle finger to the Y2K scare than go back to Baldur’s Gate in a sequel straight from Bioware.

Bioware continued its string of gold plated releases with Neverwinter Nights in 2002, developing the game for Atari. While the single player story was nothing to write home about, the new 3D Aurora engine was a huge step forward for video game technology. What kept this game selling for so long after its release could very easily be attributed to the Aurora toolset and Bioware’s support of fan made content. Anybody could essentially use the toolset to make an entire D&D campaign and could hook up with friends online to play through it with your own characters.

Edit the zombies!

 

By now it was apparent that Bioware could be trusted with virtually any license and expertly craft a game in that universe based on d20 rules. So in 2003 Bioware did just that with one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises in existence. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) released on PC and Microsoft’s Xbox to immediate critical and commercial acclaim. Bioware’s use of the Star Wars license to create a completely unique story set thousands of years before the first trilogy let them have incredible creative freedom and it shows. The cinematic angles in dialogue scenes would lead to a revolution in storytelling that still resonates this day. This is many longtime Bioware fans’ favorite release from them, and it is incredibly easy to see why with my own personal experience and playing this game near release.

This type of cinematic view changed everything.

Black Isle finally joined Bioware in the Forgotten Realms in more than just a publishing role, bringing a more action oriented adventure to the fold much further to the north in Icewind Dale. The game however is not connected to R. A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale trilogy of novels. Quite sad, but that let Black Isle have the same creative freedom as Bioware for KOTOR.

A bit of turmoil had temporarily shaken up the blooming Black Isle while they were working on Fallout 2. A few key members left and founded Troika Games, which finally showed their first signs of their short life. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura came in 2001. Temple of Elemental Evil in 2003. Finally the studio released Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines in 2004 before finally folding in 2005. Every one of Troika’s games was critically praised for their stories, but criticized for the huge amoung of bugs present and spotty post release support.

Bleeding out like Troika’s bank account.

Bethesda had helped to continue the evolution of first person RPGs during the down years between the Golden Age and the Renaissance, but had been silent since then. Being a small developer they found it more difficult to secure funding and investors after a couple of failed games set in their own Elder Scrolls universe. 1997’s An Elder Scroll’s Legend: Battlespire was a very buggy action RPG that was not well received. A year later The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard was a slow paced action RPG that received similar treatment on release, and with graphics that were heavily lacking even on release it was no surprise that Redguard floundered.

A small, core team of developers stayed around and kept planning during the down years between 1999 and 2002 for Bethesda. The third true installment of the Elder Scrolls would make or break the company, in a story a bit different, yet still similar to console RPG favorite Squaresoft’s rise to the mainstream. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind released in 2002, and would show the first signs of a coming trend, consolization. Morrowind released for PC and Microsoft’s Xbox to critical praise and commercial success, and saved Bethesda from its financial turmoil and helped to allow them to become a force to be reckoned with.

Or will you believe M’aiq and his silly hat?

Not all companies would escape their financial woes, and beginning a trend does not always mean you will see it to the end, or perhaps it could be a sign of the end? The end of a book? The end of a chapter? Interplay, crushed under the weight of all the studios they financially supported, dwindling sales, and whoring out their successful franchises all were desperate efforts to stay afloat. Fallout received a horrific tactical strategy game Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel in 2001. And, just to confuse gamers even more, released Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel onto the PS2 and Xbox in 2004, leaving me to ask the question ‘Why would you essentially name a game the exact same as a game you released a few years ago that everybody said was terrible?’ That certainly didn’t help Interplay sell copies of the game, but it could be argued that the 2004 Brotherhood of Steel is not completely terrible.

Black Isle would naturally participate in this brand whoring as well, working on dungeon crawling spinoffs to the main Baldur’s Gate series. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance released in 2001 and its sequel in 2004, the last game bearing the Black Isle logo before Interplay ‘folded’.

So that covers the American and Canadian developers, but what of the Europeans? Well, a German developer did throw their hat into the ring by introducing the Gothic series in 2001. Gothic showed the gaming world how to build a persistent world right, each NPC had a daily schedule, sleep at night, work during the day, gossip from time to time, drink and smoke hookah at night. Every location has NPCs on different schedules, so traveling back and forth ends up giving the player an illusion of change. Despite control problems and a messy inventory, Gothic and its sequel Gothic 2 showed a different way to execute an open world experience.

What’s a Paladin?

While the days would brighten for Bethesda, the sun would set for Interplay, but rise new studios from those ashes. The day of Troika was short but memorable, and Piranha Bytes would keep creating deep worlds despite drama from the people above them.

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