My roommate and I got into a discussion recently regarding what the greatest game ever is. It grew into us bringing up countless lists, calling and texting more than a few friends, and I don’t think we got any closer to the answer. But in our hours long debate we came up with a few instances where we discovered gaming wasn’t just a pastime, but something that stayed with us much longer.
I’m not going to create some grand list and breakdown each game, as I’m sure you’ve all see more than a few of those. I’d like to invite you to look back and remember those moments in gaming where you knew you we’re in this for the long haul.
For me, games changed when I played Final Fantasy VII. I had a Sega Genesis before that and really only played Nintendo at my friends’ houses. I had some experience with Mario, but never really got into the wealth of great games for that system. Before FFVII, my history with games consisted of Mortal Kombat, Shinobi, Streets of Rage and a few others. But I remember getting a Playstation for Christmas one year, in that awesome red box, along with Crash Bandicoot and FFVII. The first thing to strike me was the box art, this small man with a giant sword on his back, staring up at a gargantuan building that seemed almost alive. Over the next few weeks, I poured hours of my life into the game. I was blown away when I realized there was a world outside of Midgar. I was crushed when Aeris was killed. I had died thousands of times in games and always came back, but now, for the first time in a game, death had permanence. I was filled with an almost personal vendetta against Sephiroth. And then, when it ended, after I had been floored time and again from the games music and visuals, which were a quantum leap at the time, I was left with an ambiguous ending. I was left to wonder if I had saved the world, if I was the hero. This was a watershed moment for me; it changed the way I saw games. I’ve played countless games since then, and a few show me just how great games can be, and how far we’ve come, but none hit me the same way as Final Fantasy VII did.
I got some shit for bringing up FFVII as my greatest game ever, and deservedly so. It’s not the best FF out there (6 is), the gameplay is nothing special for the time or series, and the dialogue can be a bit jarring at times (it was a Japanese translation), and the Materia system makes your party pretty homogeneous. My friends brought up a slew of other games that they thought were better, mainly Ocarina of Time and Chrono Trigger.
I haven’t played Ocarina of Time (I never had an N64), but a few people have shared their experiences with me. Being able to walk around in a fully realized Zelda world, the outstanding music that rivals movie scores, the nonlinear story telling that allowed you to talk to your future self, then experience what you were talking about blew minds when this game came out. Most pivotal, from what some have told, was the world itself. For the first time, a 3D world was pretty much completely open. Unlike a hub world that had doors to other areas like Mario 64, Ocarina of Time tempted and encouraged you to openly explore every corner, to uncover ever secret, to become the hero you had played so many times before. People often say that Grand Theft Auto 3 is the daddy of open world non-platformer games, but I submit that Ocarina of Time laid the groundwork for that.
Chrono Trigger is a personal favorite of mine, and easily one of the best games on the SNES era. It’s as deep, if not deeper than most RPG’s out today. From a loveable cast of characters, to an insanely gripping and addictive story about time travel and saving the world culminating in one of thirteen different endings (take note Mass Effect), Chrono Trigger easily cements itself as one of the greatest games ever. From a technical aspect, Chrono Trigger was far ahead of its time. The game looks superb today, the world is vast and allowed you to travel throughout its 400 year timespan, and the game didn’t rely on random encounters, something Final Fantasy didn’t get rid of until FFXI.
I could continue to describe games and moments for as long as anyone would let me, from saving Princess Peach, to taking the Coriolis effect into account with Capt. Price, making a promise to Cortana, laughing my ass off with Cave Johnson, escorting the useless president’s daughter with Leon, to battling Psycho Mantis in controller port 2. I don’t think we’ll ever conclude what is the single greatest game ever, at best we’ll get into a pretty cool debate; share a few drinks, and walk away thinking the same thing we came in with. But the best games often come down to the best moments and feeling we all got as gamers. I invite you to respond with your greatest game or moments of gaming.
“Single best gaming moment. Playing Super Mario World… as a kid and having my mom and brother watch me and cheer me on as I do the final boss battle, which I would get so aggravate with, always on the verge of throwing my controller at the screen. But when I would win and see those credits come up, I was the most glorious family hero for a second in my life.”-M
I invite you to look back on your history of games. Whether you’ve been playing for decades or just picked up a controller/keyboard, share your greatest moment in gaming or your “Greatest Game Ever” and take a moment to admire just how far we’ve come.
Authors Alex Reyes and Jake Passot