1.) Final Fantasy VII (Squaresoft) – When it comes to this game, it largely depends on who you speak with to get very different opinions. Some find the game nonsensical and overhyped. Others claim it is the greatest RPG ever made. But it’s undeniable on how this game changed the face of console RPG gaming forever, making the genre mainstream for the first real time. Final Fantasy VII struck a resonant chord with me, from it’s impressive graphics, 3-disc story, interesting characters, and the genuinely emotional ending to Disc 1. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a video game, and in being asked to remember certain video game moments, this one always goes to the top of my list. This was also the game that separated Nintendo and Square for years, a pairing that had been together for almost a decade at the time. It was truly a benchmark title for the original Playstation, and despite its age, I’ve never been able to shake its impact as a gamer.

2.) Portal (Valve) – Portal is unique. I never found myself anticipating it, nor did I find the seeming lack of enemies all that exciting. When I finally sat down to try the game, I realized that I nearly let one of most original games in a long time slip through my fingers. Valve has a different way of telling a story. The stories are told by clues found throughout the environments. I didn’t understand that the instructional voice of GLADOS was a “How To” set to kill you, and how twisted it really was. I didn’t understand the creativity involved to solve the puzzles, or the fear of walking into a trap, or how many previous test subjects went mad once the realized the truth behind the cake. From what starts as a simple puzzle solving exercise, becomes a total battle for survival… all with sly humor and a catchy theme song at the end.

3.) Secret of Monkey Island (Lucasarts) – Back in the days before every title Lucasarts produced was near exclusively Star Wars, there was Guybrush Threepwood. You feel for Guybrush, as he muddles his way through one quest after another to become a pirate, and can’t help but wonder if Captain Jack Sparrow was more than a little influenced by him. The Secret of Monkey Island plays on every classic pirate cliche, mixed with silly situations, unexpected lot twists, and more than a few clever chuckles along the way. What’s funny is how well the game’s graphics have held up over the years, and how attentive to detail the artists were. The fact that there is also a way to make sense of the game’s insanity is a true test of well written absurdity in itself.

4.) Space Invaders Extreme (Square-Enix) – Space Invaders started an arcade revolution. Space Invaders Extreme refined the classic formula and made it relevant again 30 years later. A classic gaming update done right, Space Invaders Extreme retains the classic look and gameplay with trippy visuals and music beats, a ton of scoring combos, and wave after wave of little tromping aliens bent on landing on your world. So many games break what made the original so fun when they try to update it. This one hits every correct note, and pushes the addictive factor up one notch higher to make it an incredibly intensive shooter.

5.) Batman Returns (Konami) – The SNES version of Batman Returns hits all the right notes in bringing the movie experience to the game world. From the dark Tim Burton style graphics and cinematics, the full Danny Elfman score, waves upon waves of enemies to fight, and a few Batmobile chases thrown in for good measure. The game makes for a fun arcade style brawler that follows the film scene for scene, providing enough action and diversity to be one of the best Batman games around. Considering that there are only a few truly “good” Batman games out there, that’s nothing short of an accomplishment in itself.

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