Playing through Shenmue again with the re-release has made me think of gaming back in my twenties. We often see threads for games that impacted us in childhood, so here’s one for early adulthood.
What games impacted you most in your twenties?
Here are some of mine in approximate order of when I played them, starting at age 20:
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)
I turned 20 in November of 1995 and this was my birthday present. Everything about the game was pure joy (except baby Mario’s crying). Nintendo finally got creative with the boss fights in a Mario game; that was an area I thought was previously lacking. I also won an invitation from Nintendo to a Yoshi’s Island unveiling event around this time. It was cool but it felt like I was the oldest non-parent there.
Lunar: Eternal Blue (Sega CD)
Even after recently playing through RPGs like Phantasy Star IV and Chrono Trigger, Lunar 2 impressed me with its use of CD technology. Unfortunately my Sega CD broke while in the middle of playing it in early 1996. At least I had already experienced games like Sonic CD and Snatcher.
Resident Evil (Playstation)
I loved my new Playstation system and the launch era titles but Resident Evil was the first game on it to really blow me away. It took the Alone in the Dark style to another level. Trying to play it without a memory card took the survival part of survival horror to an extreme, though.
Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
I had wanted a 3d Mario since the sprite scaling days of Galaxy Force in the late '80s. The day had finally come and I wasn’t disappointed. A friend of mine rented the console right after the Japanese N64 launch.
As a huge fan of Doom, I was impressed to see the concept expanded with full 3d and mouse look.
Tomb Raider (Playstation, PC)
Having played games like Prince of Persia, Out of this World, and Flashback in my teens, I was excietd to have a quality one in 3d. I totally disagree with people saying this hasn’t aged well or that the remake makes it obsolete. The lack of handholding and feeling of getting lost in the caves still does it for me in a way few exploration based games do.
Twisted Metal 2 (Playstation)
This was the “get drunk and play with casual gamer friends in my university days” game. Good times.
Waverace 64 (Nintendo 64)
While nervously trying to kill time before the first date with my future wife in late '96, I played this on display at EB. I was fascinated with the water physics and dream-like atmosphere.
NiGHTS into Dreams (Saturn)
It was pretty awesome playing Christmas NiGHTS on Christmas Day 1996 when I got my Saturn, not to mention the bundled games of Sega Rally, Virtua Fighter 2, Daytona USA, and Virtua Cop. I was glad to see Sonic Team take a break from Sonic to try something new and unique.
Shinobi Legions (Saturn)
The live action stuff was cheesy as hell, and the controls lacked the refinement of the Genesis games. But as a huge Shinobi fan, I still felt that this was a great game in the series. I liked how it had a greater focus on defense than previous Shinobi games.
Red Alarm (Virtual Boy)
I bought my VB on clearance in early 1997 for $30 CAD and bought most of the system’s games cheap soon afterwards. For some reason, EB had a bunch of Japanese copies of games, even ones that had North American releases. Headaches aside, I loved being absorbed in the VB’s red 3d world. Red Alarm was the greatest on it but it brought me back to the vector arcade era.
Arcade’s Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)
I spent a lot of time in the late '90s expanding my classic gaming exposure with emulation and compilations. This collection stood out not just to relive Atari games of my childhood but more importantly to finally play the arcade version of Battlezone I missed out on. I was amazed it originally came out in 1980.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Playstation)
There was some fear at the time that 2d games would die out but we ended up getting one of the best ones ever in 1997. I also finally acquired Rondo of Blood on PC Engine CD in that era and it was the best traditional Castlevania I had played.
Elemental Gearbolt (Playstation)
I thought its predecessor, Project: Horned Owl, was underrated, and Gearbolt was an overall improvement. The handdrawn sprites, orchestral soundtrack, and fantasy theme made this stand out in the light gun genre.
Vandal Hearts (Playstation)
I wasn’t big on SRPGs but this one really clicked with me.
Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)
I was a fan of the Panzer Dragoon shooters but Saga took the franchise to new heights. This still stands out for its art style, battle system, and replayability. It’s just a shame so few people got to play it.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64)
While I find its fanboys obnoxious, I don’t let them diminish the game for me. I loved the series since the first NES game and this was an excellent evolution in 3d action-adventures.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (Playstation)
Metal Gear Solid hogged most of the stealth game hype in 1998 but I felt Tenchu and Thief were superior games from a gameplay standpoint making a more full use of 3d space and having more freedom to tackle situations.
Thief: The Dark Project (PC)
System Shock (PC)
I had been meaning to play System Shock 1 for years and finally got to it like a week before the sequel came out. Despite the fact that it already looked ancient in the 3d accelerated world of 1999 and major advancements in FPS like Half-Life, it quickly became my favourite first-person game. I loved the mix of genres and SHODAN was the perfect villain. System Shock 2 was also incredible and felt different enough with the added RPG class elements and survival horror gameplay.
The Last Express (PC)
This felt so ambitious, a rotoscoped point and click adventure with a real time clock affecting events. It was like Shenmue before Shenmue in some ways.
Like with many people, that story drew me in.
Unreal Tournament (PC)
My most played online multiplayer game by a good margin. The map designs were amazing. Prior to release, I was way more anticipating Quake III but I didn’t end up as addicted to that.
D/Generation (Amiga CD32)
I had been intrigued by this cyberpunk action-adventure since its original 1991 release. When I finally did play it, it lived up to what I hoped with its mix of action, stealth, and puzzles.
Deus Ex (PC)
Still my favourite game of all time. Never had moment to moment choices in a game felt so important.
Lords of Thunder (TurboGrafx CD)
This was notable for me because it was a game I really wanted in the 16-bit era (I loved Gate of Thunder) but it disappeared from stores fairly quickly. It was the first game I bought off ebay, and that opened a door for buying classics online that were hard to find locally.
Jet Grind Radio (Dreamcast)
This was just so stylish, intense, and challenging. Newcomers seem to hate it because it has a learning curve and requires you to actually make jumps instead of the game automatically landing you safe.
A Mind Forever Voyaging (PC)
It had been ages since I played a pure text adventure so I decided to delve into one of the acclaimed Infocom classics I hadn’t played before. This one stood out in the genre with its atypical design of “recording” events instead of more traditional puzzles.
Shenmue came out in English the day before I turned 25. I will just stop there before the list gets even bigger. There were some games that came out in the time period above that I wasn’t really into but became a huge fan later (Planescape: Torment, Fallout 1 and 2).