I’ve been gaming since I was about the age of five. My parents bought an original Nintendo for my brother and me when we could barely put a coherent sentence together, and we never looked back.
We continued our virtual obsession into our teens, spending any pocket-money or birthday cash on new cartridges, disks and consoles. Our Christmas lists were comprised mostly of Super Nintendo and Playstation titles our parents could barely comprehend. We subscribed to Playstation Magazine for seven years, which is still the longest relationship I’ve ever had.
Surprisingly to some, I’ve continued to game into my 20’s and, by extension, my adult life. So it’s safe to say gaming and I have a history. I’ve probably played more games than a non-gamer has even heard of. But sometimes I play a game that I absolutely love that even a fellow gamer hasn’t heard of or played.
This is a list of those games.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (Playstation 2)
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is Capcom’s 2002 spiritual successor to the NES Ghosts N’ Goblins series. Capcom kicked it old school with this update on the adventure/action platformer, which means they paid attention to the whole package: gameplay, story, difficulty and aesthetic. Ghosts N’ Goblins references such as crushing graves and old school gaming mechanisms such as paying to save also added a nice retro flair.
It was evident that Capcom took the time to put together a real experience. You can see that in the detailed and varied baddies, extensive combo and magic systems and atmospheric levels (graveyard, swamp, shipyard, the underworld and Maximo’s own castle).
However, it seemed like Maximo scared off some gamers for the same reasons that I loved it. A lot of gamers thought it was too difficult (IGN ranked it the # 6 most difficult PS2 game) after being softened up by modern gaming’s forgiving gameplay. The game was received well by critics, but, alas, no one else knows what the hell I’m talking about when I reference it.
Beyond Good and Evil (Playstation 2)
Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil is another action/adventure game that was received well critically, but went under the radar of most gamers. I have no idea why this game didn’t sell millions upon millions of copies.
It centers on Jade, a strong photo journalist, who is working with an underground movement to unravel an alien conspiracy. It’s set in the future and features interesting characters and diverse environments. The game combines elements of platforming, stealth, action and even racing. The stealth missions are fun and often involve snapping damning photos, and they don’t get trying or boring like other games’ stealth missions. It’s also nice to see a female lead not cut from Lara Croft’s cloth.
For the last several years there have been rumors of sequel, but I’m not holding my breath.
Animal Crossing (Gamecube)
Never have my friends been so divided on a single game.
Nintendo’s life-simulation game is kind of like The Sims, but with a spin that only the Japanese could put on it. You create your own town, which you share with several anthropomorphic animals. The game takes place in real-time and you socialize, as well as run errands for neighbors (including a crooked raccoon who owns the local market).
You can also fish, catch bugs and search for treasure. There are tons of Easter eggs and the music is so good my brother actually considered buying the soundtrack. I found fishing and listening to the instrumental soundtrack relaxing, but some (read: almost all) of my friends found the game boring. Ostensibly, there’s no end to the game, which bothers the type of person who needs closure.
TimeSplitter 2 (Playstation 2)
Everyone knows GoldenEye on Nintendo 64 is the best first person shooter ever made. Don’t you dare say Halo.
Anyway, Rare produced that game, but not everyone knows that some of Rare’s team split (ha) off and formed their own company called Free Radical. Guess who made the TimeSplitters series? That’s right, Free Radical.
In general, I don’t like first person shooters, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) put down TimeSplitters 2. The original TimeSplitters was okay, but Free Radical really outdid themselves with TimeSplitters 2. TS2 is great because it doesn’t take itself too seriously like many first person shooters. And, GASP, it doesn’t revolve around grizzled space marines. It features a variety of stylized characters and a plot that takes players throughout various eras in time. And unlike the aforementioned Halo, TS2 paid attention to both the story and multi-player modes.
Back to the characters. There are probably about 75 to 100 playable characters in the multi-player mode (if you take the time to unlock them) and they include: a monkey, an Elvis impersonator, a dinosaur and clown. Don’t even act like you’ve never thought about the King gunning down a T-Rex. Plus, TS2 offers the option to add numerous bots to multi-player modes (something many games don’t). It also offers a wide range of multi-player modes, as well as detailed custom weapons lists and multi-player rules.
Crash Bandicoot (Playstation)
Naughty Dog’s Playstation platformer was a commercial success (it sold more than 5 million copies) and a critical success (its average rating according to Game Rankings is 80 percent), but a lot of gamers like to dog on it.
As Sam at 11Points notes, Crash Bandicoot seemed like a blatant attempt to create a “cool” character/series that would rival Nintendo’s Mario. It probably was, but so what? If you’re going to emulate a franchise, it probably should be Super Mario Brothers. Not to mention, the drive to take down the king of the hill (Nintendo and Mario) lead to a hyper-competitive atmosphere for developers, which resulted in some great games like Crash and Sonic. In the long run, that attitude paid off for Naughty Dog, who ended up creating the Uncharted series.
Some said Crash’s gameplay was flat, but that’s bull. Crash brought classic 2D platforming into the 3D age (yeah, yeah Mario 64 did, but I only had a Playstation). It had levels with tricky timing and levels that involved some thoughtful strategy on the player’s part. But it also included classic 2D sides scrolling and innovative 3D levels like “Hog Wild” and “Boulders.”
Additionally, at the time, the visuals were fantastic. The vibrant levels and the whole South Pacific motif were things not seen in other games.
So there you have it. What games would you include?