As a kid growing up, playing video games took my imagination to a whole new level. I got to be a time-traveling hero fighting dinosaurs, a grizzled spy learning to question our social institutions, and I even got to be a woman raiding ruins to find rare treasures. As a grown-up, I realize how they kept my youthful imagination reaching new heights.
Here are 10 games I believe everyone should play to understand how video games can make you feel the energy of youth again before it’s too late.
1. Chrono Trigger
In this JRPG masterpiece, you play the role of Crono, a brave, young, katana-wielding warrior, who goes through an epic adventure through time to save the world from seemingly inevitable destruction.
With a memorable cast of characters including a noble frog knight and a mysterious powerful sorcerer, you fight dynamic battles in a charming 16-bit world in historical settings as far back as the age of the dinosaurs to a cybernetic post-apocalyptic future.
2. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The highly-anticipated sequel to the groundbreaking original, MGS2 delivered on all of its promises to take video games to the next level. It made great use of the power of the then-brand new PlayStation 2, churning out some of the most impressive visuals all laid out in a cinematic flair that drew in gamers.
Of course, it was also a blast to play as Solid Snake and Raiden, sneaking, snapping necks, destroying fighter jets and giant robots, and uncovering mind-blowing political conspiracies that decide the fate of our world.
3. Diablo II
Years after the fall of the Lord of Terror in the first game, a dark wanderer heralds the rise of evil once more in the highly touted sequel. It’s up to you to lead the battle against the forces of Hell, and you can choose among unique classes such as a vicious barbarian and a frightful necromancer.
No route is truly alike, giving you a bevy of experiences in fighting hordes of monsters, demons and the undead in the quest to save the world of Sanctuary from a fiery end.
Nothing like a good old rightful revenge story to keep anyone interested. Add in a fully-realized world where you’re given the freedom to explore and interact with interesting people and items, a fun battle system based on martial arts, and a rad soundtrack, you’ve got yourself a great video game in 1999.
5. Double Dragon
One of the many arcade classics, Double Dragon sets a new standard for the beat ‘em up genre. It was the first of its kind that let two people fight their way through hundreds of goons, and it also gave players access to an arsenal of awesome weapons to help them save the girl.
Grab a friend, take a trip to a retro arcade, and start cracking skulls on the streets. It’s the closest you’ll get to brotherly love in video games.
6. Left 4 Dead 2
If there’s one thing we learn from stories about zombie apocalypses, it’s usually for the best that we stick together. The first Left 4 Dead understood that, and made zombie-killing both fun and strategic, forcing four players to work together in a series of action-packed and incredibly tense campaigns to survive a never-ending onslaught of rabid flesh-eaters.
The sequel took everything good about the original, and introduced more; melee weapons for more effective crowd control, new Infected to increase difficulty, and a more advanced system for more unpredictable scenarios.
7. Tomb Raider
With all the modern video games that focus on the player having to commit all sorts of violence to win, it’s refreshing to have a game that revolves around solving puzzles and making breath-taking leaps of faith.
Tomb Raider applies all that in its expansive environments inspired by real exotic locations around the world, instilling a sense of wonder and discovery.
8. Final Fantasy VIII
Although Final Fantasy VII was the FF game that made the most waves, FF8 deserves some recognition as well for its one-of-a-kind Junction and Draw systems. These unconventional game design choices made building up characters’ strengths and utilizing magic an entirely new experience.
It also refined the then revolutionary 3D graphics of FF7 to something even more spectacular, giving its tale of two star-crossed lovers defying fate to be together even more dramatic weight.
9. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
As the eight installment of one of the pioneering JRPGs, developers Level-5 Inc. and Armor Project managed to make a grand transition from the 2D sprite-based graphics in a 3D world to a full-on three-dimensional realm.
Despite the aesthetic improvement, it maintains the core gameplay mechanics that old-school fans love. No frills; just straight-up fun in a sprawling 100+ hour adventure.
10. Viewtiful Joe
So if Double Dragon is the pinnacle of classic beat ‘em ups, Viewtiful Joe is the modern standard. It embraces the inherent silliness of such games, takes inspiration from the campy tropes of comic books and action movies, and combines it all into an over-the-top cell-shaded world of ultra-cool combos and insane humor.
So what games that you feel others need to try out to appreciate how the medium can bring out the simple joy of a child immersed in whole new worlds? Share it with us below!
By: Aj Aviado and Kyle Kam