My Top 10 Games


There’s a tweet going around about the games that are your personal top 10 video games of all time. It’s been fun to think about, especially as I’ve never really been a huge gamer. But looking back, there have been a bunch of games that have been a huge influence on how I’ve thought about stories and speculative fiction over the years. Here’s my personal top-10 list.

10. Titanfall 2

I really wanted to like the original Titanfall, but I really don’t like online games. It’s just not an experience I enjoy. But Titanfall 2 was fantastic. I love the story, love the gameplay mechanics, and I REALLY love the fantastic mechs. I’m bummed that there doesn’t appear to be a third game on the horizon. This feels like a world that could really challenge Halo, and I’d love to see more of this world.

9. Mario Kart / Super Mario Odyssey

When I bought my Nintendo Switch, I quickly bought Mario Kart on Megan’s advice. It quickly became a good game that we could all play as a family, and something that we could cart along on family trips for when we had downtime or something. I also picked up Super Mario Odyssey, which we’ve also played quite a bit. I haven’t beaten this game, but I’ve had a lot of fun watching Megan and Bram play it.

8. Diablo 2

When I worked at Camp Abnaki, there was one year where we had a shared computer in the equipment room. It was an easy assignment that left a lot of time for playing, (or playing after hours), and I spent a lot of hours at Camp, and later, when I got my own computer, playing through this. I’m not sure that I ever actually beat the game, but I did have a lot of fun leveling up my character.

7. Sim City 2000

Who doesn’t love Sim City? I love building epic cities in this, and all the fiddly bits that it requires, from raising / lowering taxes to playing with crime rates, roads, and zoning. I’ve played a bunch of mobile apps, but none of them really compare to this one.

6. Age of Empires

When I got my first computer, one of the games I got hooked on in high school / college was Age of Empires. That shouldn’t be a surprise — I studied history, and loved this take on it, building up civilizations and destroying my neighbors. I haven’t been able to play it for years, but I’ve been thinking of taking out my old computer to give it a spin.

5. King’s Quest VI

My friend Laura Hudson’s game list reminded me of this one, and it brought back a flood of memories. I’m pretty sure that this game came with our first Compaq computer in the mid-1990s, and I spent hours and hours exploring the Green Isles and reveling in its mashup of mythologies and fairy tales. I recently went and watched a play-through on YouTube, and was struck at how funny and clever it is. This was a hard one — it took me forever to finish it.

4. Pokémon Go

I missed the boat on Pokémon when I was a youth. Kids at summer camp played it, but I thought it was kind of dumb — I only played serious games like Dungeons & Dragons (where we accidentally exploded a moose). But when Bram got into the franchise via friends at daycare and school, I started playing the game with him, and it’s been a good motivation to get out and walk around quite a bit more.

3. Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

This was probably the first video game that I ever really played, aside from the occasional visit to friends’ houses. My parents bought me a Game Boy, and it came with Zelda. It took me an embarrassingly long time to beat it, but I loved the game, and cried when I finally finished it. I went and replayed it just before Breath of the Wild came out, and it holds up nicely. I’d wanted to see a BOTW-style remake, but I’ll certainly be playing the 3D remake that’s coming later this year.

2. Halo / Halo: Reach / Halo: ODST

Halo was the first time I really got into gaming. It came out when I was a summer camp counselor at Camp Abnaki, and every summer for years, I played with my friends while we had downtime. I love military science fiction, so the power armor and FPS thing works for me, but the controls and gameplay were intuitive, the design was great, and it’s a neat story in a much larger narrative. I’ve since really gone on to love Halo: ODST for its story, as well as Halo: Reach for enriching the backstory. I’m a bit more lukewarm on Halo 3, but I do really enjoy Halo 4, especially its guns. Halo 2 and 5 are a hot mess, though.

1. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I can’t begin to imagine just how many hours I’ve spent playing this game. Not just in beating the main story, but just wandering around and exploring. This is a game that rewards curiosity, and walking, running, and riding across this fantastic version of Hyrule never feels like wasted time. I played this a lot with Bram, who watched and helped me with the puzzles and shrines, an experience that I’ll treasure forever. On top of that, the design and artwork is stunning, the gameplay is incredibly good, and the shrines and quests are wonderful.

Geek Cred

Geeks like stuff. Lots of it, from books, to memorabilia to collectibles. We hang onto old comic books, with the hope that they'll one day be worth the millions that a good copy of Action Comics #1 fetches at auction, or out of nostalgic whimsy, looking back on the rosy days of our childhood, when out crushes and favorites weren't hampered by a modern, cynical viewpoint. Over this past winter, I bought an X-Box 360 Pro from a fellow 501st member. The price was good, and it's been something that I've had my eyes on for a while. Many of my friends are gamers, and there's a number of games that I've enjoyed playing over the years, but I've never gotten any good at almost all of them, simply because I never had a regular opportunity to play games.

This purchase, not counting my computer, marked the first gaming system that I acquired since my very early childhood. My first was a classic Game Boy. It was gray, green and darker green screen and only had a couple of buttons. I had just a handful of games for it: Tetris, Return of the Jedi and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. I loved all of those games, especially Zelda, and played it through high school, when the more advanced gaming systems began to hit the market.

I still have my old Game Boy; it's sitting on the bookshelf across the living room from me, unused, out of the way, out of batteries. Every now and then, I'll fire it up and walk around the Koholint Island. When thinking back to my childhood's geekier moments, this game inevitably played a larger part. I remember very clearly the day that I got it, and promptly, the disappointment at struggling to complete some of the earlier tasks. It would be years before I actually finished the game, not for the lack of trying. It was an exciting game, and for that reason, I still have the unit sitting here around my apartment.

While I've been in the loop with gaming in the years between first getting the Game Boy (probably 1991 or 1992, when I was 7 or 8, making this particular unit 18-19 years old - still in good working order, although the screen is blacked out on one side) gaming has exploded in so many ways. Graphics, story, gamplay, etc have changed so much during that time, as has technology. Comparing the Game Boy to my phone, it's simply amazing to see what has changed in the years since. And, considering the error rate in the X Box 360, my Game Boy is considerably more reliable.

However, I don't believe that improvements in graphics and computing power are necessarily better, and for this reason, I wouldn't trade this particular piece of my childhood for anything. It's a milestone item from my own childhood, something that lends itself a certain amount of geek street credit, as my friends have pulled it off the shelf to stare at it, not having seen one in years.

Thinking back to the things that I've accumulated over the years, there's other similarly geeky things that I've found and held onto that I would hold up as pinnacles of my own geekiness. A battered and tattered copy of The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, Vol 1, edited by Richard Silverberg remains one of my favorite books of all time, although at this point, I'm a little afraid to read it, considering that the book is quite old and somewhat falling apart. I've been tempted to buy a new version of it, but haven't, out of money, attention and the realization that there's something to the stories that just wouldn't live up to my memories of them outside of that copy. The same thing applies to my old copy of Ringworld, with its gorgeous cover. A toy Space Shuttle that sits on the window sill above my sink is quite a bit more durable, but equally seeped in memories from the past.

Someday, maybe I will be able to set aside space, time and energy to properly take care of these artifacts from my childhood and from the history of geek-things, putting them under glass to preserve them for others who will hopefully see them and appreciate their impact and meaning in the greater scheme of things. Certainly, other people around the world have put such things into museums, for their cultural impact has been far-ranging and great, inspiring generations of people to live out their fantasies of being able to create and recreate treasured stories from their childhoods.