A list of 10 of the most influential games that I’ve played throughout the years. Starting with my humble PS One, I’ve worked my way through a fair number of consoles and handhelds during my gaming ‘career’. The following are the ones that had the biggest impact on me as a child and that I can probably credit for being the reason I’ve ended up studying video games today.
10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (PS One)
My first EVER video game. Man, was the first flying lesson hard. I can still hear Madam Hooch’s dulcet tones shouting, “Concentrate, Potter, and try again”, after I failed to make the grade in the early stages of this game. While this title not only introduced me to the wonders of gaming, it certainly taught me resilience and to not give up when faced with a hard level.
9. Theme Hospital (PS One/PC)
What. A. Game. This one probably taught my 7-year-old self valuable financial skills when faced with the daunting task of running a hospital. Something which, unfortunately, I would not go on to pursue in later life. What this game taught me was that fiddly controls are not the making of a game. Perseverance is key when faced with a Splat-the-Rat event and only a pair of rudimentary analog sticks. Theme Hospital was iconic and will always remain a firm favourite, especially when I finally found it on PC and was able to play it as intended.
8. The Sims (PC)
Ah, The Sims. Another icon of early 2000s PC gaming. The expansion disks, codes and pocket-money spending was all worth it. I suppose this laid the foundation for future DLC and microtransaction culture so I probably shouldn’t commend it, but The Sims is one hell of a game. It still is, really, but the more recent games seem to lack the charm and ambition of the early versions.
7. The Simpsons: Hit & Run (PS2)
In retrospect, The Simpsons: Hit & Run represents an entry point for my next influential title, Grand Theft Auto III. Taking inspiration from the crime-fuelled series, Hit & Run became a classic for it’s family-friendly, accessible nature that was way ahead of its time. The inclusion of the actual voice actors from the TV show, recurring gags and easter eggs all contributed to this masterpiece of modern gaming. I long for a remaster.
6. Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
With that being said, the Grand Theft Auto series deserves a mention. Nothing compares to my awe when first introduced to a new GTA game. Every subsequent title seems to harness the very best that game technology has to offer at the time and creates a masterpiece. Looking back on III, it’s hard to believe I ever thought it looked good, but despite it’s polygonal appearance, it’s a well-written and well-crafted game.
Even today, if you follow the trajectory of GTA series-wide, the games have gotten bigger, more complex and more technical as the years have went on. If you want to see the very best from a generation of gaming, GTA is always a good place to start. For that reason, the series as a whole is on my list of greatest influences.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (PS2)
This game changed my life, I have to admit. I went from being a kid relatively unaware of the skateboarding scene to being close to obsessed with it simply because of THPS4. The soundtrack, the levels…. everything, in my mind, was perfect when I played this. I could forget about the real world for a bit and skate around Alcatraz (?!) for a few hours while listening to one of the best soundtracks curated for a game at the time.
I’m pretty sure I asked my mum for a skateboard after playing this, too… and roller-skates. While I’m definitely over that phase now, I do still appreciate a good skating game. (Hurry up, Skate 4.)
4. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (PS3)
This will probably appear on most people’s lists.
The sheer expanse and content of this game means that many of its players today are STILL finding new things to do. I remember the first time I ventured into Bleak Falls Barrow, I was terrified, excited and loving every minute of this new game I’d stumbled across. It’s crazy to think I probably won’t ever finish Skyrim because of how much there is to do, but it was still a great influence all the same. It brought together the very best of fantasy and created a world filled with authentic lore and great characters (albeit played by what sounds like the same five voice actors, and some surprising high-profile extras). With that said, I eagerly anticipate ES6.
3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PS3)
This one may be a surprise on this list. I’m giving Call of Duty a mention for the fact that this was my first taste of FPS online shooters. I was amazed by the intensity of it all, the competitiveness and the prestige (ha) that went alongside it all. The campaigns are always amazing, too, I don’t think people give them enough credit. It’s one of those popular titles that you love to hate but equally, enjoy it all the same. Personally, I do prefer Battlefield’s online multiplayer, CoD: MW3 gets a mention for being the first.
2. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3)
Now this game, for me, took everything I loved in film, television and stories and brought it all together in a game format. I’m a sucker for an Indiana Jones-type story: that includes Tomb Raider, too. For me, the characters, environments and one-liners in Uncharted are something else. I think Uncharted represents a time where games were starting to gain real momentum. No longer were they considered ‘just a game’, voice actors were starting to receive the necessary recognition for their amazing performances and writers, too, were finally being commended. Naughty Dog put their all into the Uncharted series and I’ll be forever grateful.
1. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (PS4)
I’ll admit, I came to The Witcher series a little late. Soon before The Wild Hunt‘s release, a good friend of mine literally told me I had to buy it. After about a minute’s explanation of The Witcher story and mechanics, I was sold. After a few hours getting used to the gameplay and world of The Witcher, I can safely say I’ve never been so invested in a game.
To this day, it’s the game I’ve put the most hours in, mainly due to the sheer number of side-quests, free DLC’s and extra-curricular activities you can partake in. It’s one of those games where you’re sat thinking about it long after you’ve played it. It’s a fantastic game, really, it’s reputation precedes it so I won’t bore you with my enthusiasm. Fundamentally, it’s the first game that made me stop thinking of video games as ‘just games’, and start appreciating the wider phenomenon of video gaming itself.