[Edit: Eduardo's Pick added ~Ed.]
Thanksgiving is a time of turkey, cranberry sauce, family, in-laws, that cousin you never liked, siblings with plastered smiles, your grandpa getting drunk and telling everyone why he's disappointed with the whole lot… ahh, good times. But however your Thanksgiving celebration goes, it's a good time to sit down and appreciate the little things in life. But we've never really taken a moment to ponder the game that we're most grateful for – not the game we think is the best critically or the most popular, but one that is deeply embedded in our hearts (if we had them, of course). So ten of our staff members have gone back through our histories to find those special games and thank them for inspiring our love for video games. If we could hug them, we would… wait, we can… aaawwwww… shmuggy wuggies….
|Blake's Pick – Ms. Pac-Man – Back when I was a kid, there was a Ms. Pac-Man arcade machine at the local public pool that my summer daycare would go to. It was a rare occasion for me to have a quarter to play it, but I would always walk by and hope there would be a free game on it.|
I think a lot of games nowadays forget that the reason people play games in the first place is for the challenge. Ms. Pac-Man isn't the prettiest game out there by any means, but it offers up a plethora of nearly infinite challenges. You could call the game minimalist or simplistic for its lack of buttons and repetitious nature if you like, but all I know is I've played 15-minute games of Ms.Pac-Man that have left my heart beating faster than most "modern" titles could ever hope to.
It teaches me that a game can be clever and enjoyable without having a Michael Bay-like complex for big tits and explosions and that's why I'm grateful for it.
|Nick's Pick – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 – There once was a time when I was disillusioned. I discovered that all of the JRPGs I had been playing were just the same formula: a man with spiky hair and with amnesia and/or latent abilities, perhaps scouring the world for a purpose, gathering party members, fighting the military, and saving the fantastical world. I meandered about the sea of games without inspiration…|
Until I encountered Persona 3 and delved deep into the subconscious of modern-day high-school students and the collective psyche of gods and demons – the power emerging from the darkness of our minds. Twisted it was, unnerving and unforgettable. For rekindling and rewriting my love for JRPGs, Persona 3 has my gratitude.
|Anthony's Pick – Kaboom! – The game I’m most thankful for is essentially the reason why I’m a gamer today and why I've been one my entire life. My father, who isn’t a gamer at all, used to be a pro at Activision’s Kaboom! for the Atari 2600. He’d catch hundreds of bombs in a matter of seconds.|
Seeing that fun and intensity combined instantly appealed to me as a child. If it weren’t for my father’s love for Kaboom!, he might not have went out and bought my brother and I the NES, which forever solidified my love for video games.
|Josh's Pick – Final Fantasy – I'm not going to regale you all with the story of how Final Fantasy single-handedly saved Squaresoft's existence, as everyone and their mom already knows it by now. But just like Mario brought the industry back from the brink of collapse, so too did FF give RPGs the shot in arm to become the juggernaut genre it is today. And for a long, long time, the Final Fantasy series reigned supreme as the golden standard for fledgling RPGs to shoot for.|
Now, as I have recently been subjected to in recent months, the series' level of quality is definitely in question, but hey, even if the FF franchise dies tomorrow, we should still be thankful for the one that paved the way for all those great 16- and 32-bit adventures, not to mention every single other RPG we've known and loved.
|Daniel's Pick – Plants vs. Zombies – The game I'm most grateful for is Plants vs. Zombies. Not only is it awesome fending off the undead with your garden full of Cob Cannons, Frozen Watermelon Launchers, and Sunflowers, but PvZ is also a great way to get your girlfriend to sink 20 hours into a game with you. If you'd like to sit down and spend some quality time with your significant other, Plants vs. Zombies provides an entertaining, accessible, and fun time sink.|
(I'm also thankful for Chrono Trigger because I forgot how awesome that game is and I'll be playing that while I'm out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday!)
|Windy's Pick – Ivy the Kiwi? – The game I'm most thankful for this year is Ivy the Kiwi? A game title that ends in a question mark? About a lesser known bird from a remote corner of the planet? Writing the review and having it make sense was a challenge in itself.|
It feels like a picture book– a love worn one, complete with dog-eared corners, a broken spine, and hot chocolate rings on some of the pages – and I'm thankful for the childhood memories and the brief glimpse of Nirvana that Ivy brought back to me this year.
|Jesse's Pick – Hang-On – I owe Sega’s arcade classic Hang-On some hefty thanks. Because of my dad’s monomaniacal obsession with this bullet bike classic, I got more than a few extra trips to the local arcade. Back then, arcade cabinets didn’t have pansy little wands and remotes to wave around; no, in those days, “motion controls” meant having to sit on a full-sized crotch rocket and leaning that mother from side to side.|
Even as new cabinets rolled in over the years, that game with the big red fake bike defied the gods of obsolescence—in no small part thanks to my dad single-handedly subsidizing the machine for years on end. Thank you, Hang-On, for luring my dad like a moth to your coin-operated flame.
|Kuulei's Pick – Rainbow Six: Vegas – When I first joined the online realm of shooter heaven on the Xbox 360, I had no idea that my first match would consist of being called a noob for getting 2 kills and 20 deaths. Getting killed repeatedly was the norm of my online gaming existence in Call of Duty 2 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, but that all changed in 2006 with Rainbow Six: Vegas.|
Even though RSV wasn't the first shooter I played, it was the first that gave me a change to adjust to playing online. It allowed me to fit my character to my playstyle through their customization system, and with its addicting gameplay, I was playing several hours a day. I fell completely in love with the game and eventually fell for the entire genre itself, to the point where I got good enough never to be called a noob again.
|Jessica's Pick – Mass Effect 2 – Let's just face it: if you've played a game so long that every time your roommates see you play it they say "Why are you still playing this game?! Didn't you beat it like a year ago!? I want to watch Jersey Shore on the good TV!", it probably holds a warm fuzzy space in your heart. Crappy Reality TV be damned. DAMNED I SAY! |
The game has everything I want: custom gameplay, character creation, and incredibly cinematic and immersive cut-scenes. The fact that they were able to make the sequel to an already great game ten times more amazing is impressive. If I feel like being a space commander badass chick who likes to warp the crap out of synthetic robot goons while blasting them with my rocket launcher, I can do that.
[Jessica's our fantastic video editor, by the way. ~Ed.]
|Kevin Schaller's Pick – Tetris – The game I’m most thankful for is probably Tetris. It’s been a game I’ve spent copious amounts of time on over the years, trying to reach various high score marks and even gunning from the NES version’s world high score (which I was close to at one point, but then the record was broken… and I cried).|
One of the highlights of my life was recently meeting Alexey Pajitnov, shaking his hand, and just talking to him about the game he made on that old Siberian computer all those years ago. Plus, if you ever need to hypnotize somebody, what’s better than a bunch of falling blocks that disappear when they complete a line?
|Bonus: Eduardo's Pick – Spy Hunter – Forget about the aborted 'The Rock' Dwayne Johnson movie adaptation. I'm talking about the original NES game here. I freaking love the Spy Hunter series. The first one was probably one of my earliest gaming memories and I've played it to death.|
'Super' came in late, after I had the chance to improve my NES collection when a rental place next door was closing down. Even though it didn't technically start off as a Spy Hunter game, it's incredibly fun and challenging. Very few games these days make me try to break 'em like this game did back then – like taking out spiked wheeled cars without shooting them! Love it!