Ten games that changed my life; released in the last century. No, this list doesn’t include Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and Silent Hill as they came later and their influence changed not much.
I. Unreal Tournament (1999)
Genre: First Person Shooter
This is one of those few games which still exists in my laptop, and from the year 2000, it has been an integral part of my life during a time of improvng my netstats which involved playing so many games, and this is the only one game which we played online between friends. Our favourite was the Team Deathmatch, even as my personal favourite was the Domination mode. The other two modes, Last Man Standing and Capture the Flag were not ignored either, and the InstaGib mode had special love. Quake III Arena, its major competitor had lost the battle to Unreal Tournament, as it had an OpenGL-compliant graphics accelerator to run, and none of us had any. Abbreviated as UT, it is one of the first computer games which I completed and still continued to play it, ending my spree only in 2011 thus finishing an eleven year adventure with this game despite of having many other later games in my computer and also after no longer deciding to follow the gaming world with Mass Effect and Oblivion being my last two favourite games.
II. Age of Empires (1997)
Genre: Real Time Strategy
There was a time when history lessons were given to me by a computer game, and that was called Age of Empires. As the game made us the leaders of ancient civilizations to advance through the Stone, Tool, Bronze, and Iron Ages giving access to new and improved units as we collect resources, train an army, construct buildings, explore the world and go for battle. The expansion pack Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome which was released in 1998 also contributed to the same, and so did the later sequels, especially Age of Empires II: The Conquerers. This game is the one thing which more responsible than the rest of the things for my good score in History during the school times, as it was never my favourite in the beginning, not as a lone subject nor when teamed with Geography to form the Social Science. My favourite civilization was the Greek, and this game made sure that I had developed a bond with World History which would lead to further interest in English Literature leading to my double graduation, in both History and English Literature, thus proving as the hand of fate.
III. Age of Wonders (1999)
Genre: Turn Based Strategy
This is the first turn based strategy game I ever loved, if not the first of that kind I ever played. Age of Wonders was my ticket to the world of fantasy, and it was not some Harry Potter, Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, as most of the people of the age would think, and it has to share this glory with Disciples: Sacred Lands, about which there shall be talks too. Shortnamed AoW as Age of Empires was called AoE, this movie is lighter compared to the dark world of its major competitor in the form of Disciples: Sacred Lands. Its highly detailed description of the mythical creatures worked more as an encyclopedia of a world of fantasy. The available races included Elves, Undead, Orcs, Lizardmen, Humans, Goblins, Dark Elves, Dwarves and Halflings, among which my favourite ones used to be the Elves which later changed to the Undead. The presence of the alignment factor and neutral units was another revelation. The favourite thing to do was to capture cities and rename them, a practice which I continued throughout its sequels too. To add to it, we played the game through LAN, the second time I did that, after AoE, and I guess that was about the sequels of both games.
IV. Diablo (1996)
Genre: Role Playing Action
This was part of a 99 game demos disc which changed my gaming life with a good number of games which were to become my favourites later. Here the player take control of the last remaining heroic character fighting save the world of Diablo, the Lord of Terror whose minions have been unleashed in a city plagued by the walking dead, evi spirits, demonic creatures and witches. Its expansion pack, titled Diablo: Hellfire also had a role, and with the release of Diablo II, the addiction was complete, even as the need for Diablo III still existed, but with its late release at a time when the fire of gaming had been extinguished in my heart, there was no scope for more. Diablo has gone out of my life for sure, but not the influence of the same, as it introduced me to the world of heroes and monsters, of demons and the saviours, with ideas which would develop further into the love for horror movies and a never-ending passion for the works related to the dark world and unlimited terror. To add to it, I loved all three character classes, of the warrior, the rogue, and the sorcerer with the much expected love for the first.
V. Recoil (1999)
Genre: Second Person Shooter
I have been playing too many racing games and controlling too many gunmen until I hoped for a change, or rather prayed for one, which was answered in the form of Recoil. I have only my friend to thank for getting me this much less known game about which most of the people I knew were unaware. The game takes us into a Terminator type situation where the world has been over-run by a robotic world of machines and the player has to control an experimental tank with different modes which help it to run on ground, water and volcanic lava as well as go underwater. We are the resistance, and they are the terminators, the major difference being us not going back to the past to save a random person or two, and surely there is no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but just us. I still feel the need for a sequel to this one, and I am quite confident that a sequel to this classic might be just the right boost to bring this gamer out of his hibernation which seems to go on and on, with no hopes of being switched on again.
VI. Disciples: Sacred Lands (1999)
Genre: Turn Based Strategy
Set in a fantasy world of creatures belonging to darkness as well as light, this game lets us take control of one of the four races; The Empire (humans), the Mountain Clans (dwarves) the Legions of the Damned (demons), and the Undead Hordes (undead) as we move on with our army expanding our empire, defeating opponents and accomplishing quests as we explore a world of magic and fantasy. This was a partner game to Age of Wonders for me, and therefore most of the things which I said about that game applies to this one too. There is no shortage of similarities with Heroes of Might And Magic series either. The sequel Disciples II: Dark Prophecy kept me occupied for a long time too. This one is the darker version of the games of this genre though, and that makes this one more enjoyable in one way or the other. The world as well as the style happens to be very distinctive in the case of this game, unlike what is expected from such games and what existed during that time, giving more reasons to like this beautiful variation which adds to the world it created.
VII. Blood (1997)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Yes, before Clive Barker’s Undying came up with that frightening environment which was one of its kind, there was another game which had the scary elements in abundance, and that title was Blood. I played the demo version of Blood II: The Chosen before this one, but that didn’t really change anything, and the fact that I didn’t like that sequel didn’t reduced my need to find a third game in the sequel. It was a strange world for me indeed, and both the enemies as well as the environments were different, and so were the weapons, very much of a different level compared to the first person shooters I had played before that. There was a level in a train, which was my favourite, I can still remember a stage which involves terror in a circus which was highly impressive during that time. Wasn’t there a building which resembled a cathedral or an ancient temple? I can still recollect the reflection of our protagonist in a mirror which I had shot multiple times – a man in a black coat and a hat, an image which remained in my mind for years. You can’t just forget Blood that easily, even as this game predates all the other games in the list. Yes, the beginning was with blood, and the end knew none of it.
VIII. Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)
Genre: Arena Action
Welcome to what is shortnamed MK4, the fourth game of the great fighting game series based on one of the favourite movies of my childhood. I strived hard to get this game, and finally found it on of my relatives’ place rather than with me. It had seventeen playable characters and great arenas with the abilities to use weapons and objects along with their own powers. I had a great time playing this game with my cousins, and the fact remains that we struggled to find how to use these special abilities, objects and weapons, as there was a big combination of letters of the keyboard to be remembered to do the same, but it was totally worth it. As one of the first 3D fighting games we had ever encountered, it had a life of its own, and we had our own favourite characters. My favourite was Quan Chi, as I remember him producting a demonic skull from his hands and also dropping from the top to stomp on the opponent. The female side was quite weak though as Mileena, Kitana and Jade were not there, but Sub-Zero, Reptile and Scorpion were regulars in our list and kept the momentum as well as the love going.
IX. Duke Nukem 3D (1996)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Well, this movie was a difference maker, and a harbinger of all the variety that was to grace the gaming world later, first person shooters in particular. There was a certain amount of belief that the games were for children before this one came up with its nudity and gore which should be actually considered as belonging to a very low level considering the kind of games which followed. This game was a rare commodity for quite a long time and nobody really talked anything about liking it. They were all playing Road Rash and boasting about playing more of it and being first again and again. But the question would remain why would a real gamer protest against the same when there are so many other games without these elements and so many movies with these elements in abundance. There would have been the question, what after Wolfenstein 3D and Doom? How would the first person shooters survive after these two, with not much to be left explored even as Heretic and Hexen did contribute to it, and later Blood, only to be further popularized by the rise of deathmatches with Unreal Tournament and Quake III Arena.
X. Quake III Arena (1999)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Here is the last place, and I was doubtful about which one to place here as there were so many of the games going for this spot, the first runner-up being Claw, the game which I got for free with my first personal computer, a Pentium I processor thus riding on an emotional attachment, and not to forget our dear Road Rash. But I had to add this third game of the Quake series, which I first heard as “quack”, as this is another game which I played online, but much later, and I had a good number of unknown friends associated with the online gaming related to this one. I was very angry with this game in the beginning, as it didn’t run in my computer due to the absence of their so called requirement of a graphics accelerator card with their OpenGL support, a name which I came to hate more than anything else, and also increased my love towards Unreal Tournament a lot. There is not much to said about this game though, as most of the things I said about Unreal Tournament applies to this one too, except for the love and the gaming with friends. To add to it, I would say that I liked the first Quake more than the first Unreal, even as the love shifted to the side of the Unreal world after that.
Special Mention: Claw (1997), Heretic (1994), Hexen (1995), Road Rash (1991), Wolfenstein 3D (1992), Doom (1993), MDK (1997), Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995)