Before I do a list of my favorite childhood games, a few things need to be stated. I am a Sony fan boy, therefore PS1 and PS2 titles dominate this list. I did not own an N64 growing up, and because of that some people may not like my selections. However, I did have a Gameboy and a computer, so a few non-Sony games made the list. Also, the order to which I have ranked the games does not necessarily mean one is technically better than the other. Creating this list took an incredible amount of thought, as it is amazingly difficult to rate nostalgia. This list will always be incomplete and full of impossible decisions, so let’s just get to it.
These lists/reviews will be broken into three parts, based on ranking:
Part I: 15 – 11
Part II: 10 – 6
Part III: 5 – 1
15. Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage
The Spyro franchise thrust Insomniac games directly into the limelight for the PS1. Spyro The Dragon is an amazing game, however I cannot talk of that game quite yet. Spyro 2 took elements from the first game and expanded them. There’s a bigger world, more obstacles, and even crazier challenges involving hockey and other “un-dragon-like” activities that give the game a whole new feel. Spyro can finally swim! Everyone remembers the days when Spyro could not swim and would die stupidly. Flight is improved as well as other aspects of the gameplay. The running while jumping glitch is fixed and other bugs taken care of. Insomniac has always been great at fixing errors in old games and improving upon their ideas. Spyro 2 also has a tremendous cast, from Ripto’s dumbass and blundering henchmen to silly guys like Hunter who have no right teaching Spyro how to do anything. Nobody can ever forget Moneybags, easily the most hated character of the entire franchise, but that says something about how memorable a character he was. The size and grandeur of this game is impressive in comparison to the first one, as well as the graphics and other in-game art. However, the feel of Spyro 1, the soundtrack to Spyro 1, hell even the issues of Spyro 1, make the original an instant classic that will show up later in this list. However, Spyro 2 was still an incredible game. Placing it 15th on this list is almost an insult, I just couldn’t put it anywhere else – there are simply too many games.
14. Ape Escape
Ape Escape. You knew you had to buy a new controller for this one – which honestly may have been its biggest selling point. The game boasted new developments in innovation for the gaming industry. Sony had decided to okay the analog stick, making the controller the best one to date (a fact that hasn’t really changed since the release of this game). The control scheme for Ape Escape was different from any other ever made before, and although many have criticized it for being counter-intuitive, I for one love the act of swinging the time net with the analog stick. I will say the underwater stuff was tough, and as a kid it took me long time to understand just what the heck the professor was talking about when you get trained for underwater activities. However, getting lost and turned around in Ape Escape’s all-consuming levels was an awesome part of the game.
The gadgets are brilliant and fun to use. Each one is unforgettable – from the club, to the slingshot, to the RC car, man, this game had it all. The levels take you all throughout time; from the prehistoric ages to the future, and every level is extremely challenging. Ape Escape may be one of the toughest games that I’ve ever played. Wow, Specter is one dang evil villain. The characters are great – also who can forget Spike? Or Jake? Remember your buddy who gets brainwashed and you have to duel against him several times? Ape Escape makes you feel hopeless as you witness Specter slowly take over the world. This game is classic. Now, let’s not forget the Apes themselves. These guys are awesome – some with incredible senses of humor. Chasing these guys all over is something every Ape Escape player knows all too well. Some of these dudes are seriously annoying and drive you crazy, but every great video game has to make you mad at some point. The innovation and genius of this game was world class, however I had to stick it somewhere and I am still not doing it justice by placing it here.
13. Pokémon Red/Blue
Like I said, I’m not strictly a Sony fan. Some games such as Super Smash Brothers and Super Mario 64 would surely be on this list if I had grown up with an N64. Nobody can deny the powerhouse that was Nintendo back when they made systems and games that made sense. However, I did have a Gameboy and there’s no freaking way Pokémon could not be on this list. The second this game starts up, you know it’s the shit. Professor Oak starts talking about Pokémon and the world, and you are instantly sold for hours upon hours. Nobody forgets their first Pokémon. I bought Red version so I was Charmander all day. Of course, I have beaten these games more times than I can count and have been every starter Pokémon over a dozen times, but there was always something special about good ‘ole Charmander. He had it the toughest. Brock and Misty are the first two gyms. If you picked Charmander right away, you got it rough for a long time in the Pokémon world.
Regardless, the gameplay in this game is awesome. Everybody loves leveling up, learning new moves, evolving your Pokémon, becoming the champ, and for those with the patience and a link cable, getting all 150 of those suckers. So many Pokémon are memorable, and few forgettable, unlike newer Pokémon, where all you want to do is see one of the original 150 and be like, “Hell yeah that Pokémon is one of the first yo.” Red or Ash, or whoever he is, has got to be the most badass dude ever. He never says a single thing as he rises to the top. Stoic, untouchable, brilliant and cunning. He is everything that Ash from the Pokémon show is not. He doesn’t complain, he conquers. Every battle makes his Pokémon, his only companions, even stronger. I still wait for the day that Pokémon becomes a massive open world game with hardened players and new brilliant ideas that the series has never decided to expand on. Most importantly let’s not forget one of the best, or perhaps the best rival of all freaking time, Gary.
Okay, just look at these guys. Red is the ultimate badass on the left, good ole’ Oak has his place in the middle, and then there’s Gary on the right. Such a great rival. From the second you see him until the second you beat him in the end, he talks the talk like nobody else. This guy’s ego is tremendous and he is always one step ahead of you. Also, he is the true champ, because no matter how many times you beat him, you can always fight him again. He always has your weakness as well, that clever bastard. Oak’s terrible decision to let you pick your Pokémon first is simply evil as this allows Gary to get your weakness. Damn him. Also, his Pokémon lineup is one of the best ever, and he will beat you at some point during your play through if you’re not too careful. He is truly one of the best trainers of all time, and there is no denying that. I have never hated losing to anybody in pretty much my entire life than losing to Gary. His theme music and attitude are so ingenious that you can’t help but hate this guy, he is an incredible character for sure.
And don’t forget that you get to save the world from team rocket on several occasions. Beating up these weaklings is fun because they act like they are so tough and they’re not – except for Giovanni of course. This dude was an incredible character, and he ends up being the last gym boss. Holy crap what a plot twist that was, probably one of the best in video game history. In the end this game is just incredible and once again this list is just full of impossible decisions.
12. Jak 3
Naughty Dog. These guys are amazing. I could write a hundred page paper on these dudes alone, but for now we’ll just focus on one game. Some might say that this was the best Jak in the series, and rating the Jak’s has easily been one of the toughest things that I had to do for this article. But, I do have my reasons for placing this Jak where it is, so just bear with me here.
Now let’s get to it: this game is epic, huge, and a riot. There is a ton of fun to be had in this game. Jak has so many new abilities and guns, he is tough and awesome, aged and such a badass. Dark Jak has more abilities, and he even gets a sort of dark energy Kamehameha wave. Light Jak comes into the game with so many awesome and cool abilities it’s insane. On top of this he is not restricted to Haven City anymore and the wasteland is now your playground. There are tons of land vehicles, massive regions to explore, hundreds of challenges to accomplish, a story that is world class, as well as many epic battles to be had – Jak 3 was brilliant. Naughty Dog went all out with this one – there is so much to do and see and blow up that you end up getting lost in the insanity of it all. On top of that, there are many challenges and races. There is actually so many abilities in Jak 3 that you most certainly forget about some of them.
Guns are also blown out of proportion in Jak 3. Growing out of the four basic and amazing guns of Jak 2, there are now 12 guns, and some of them are just outrageous. The beam reflexor is stupidly powerful, and I often find myself just beating the entire game with that gun. Other guns just simply get forgotten, like the scatter gun. The iconic guns from Jak 2 get left in the dust and never used again – not to say that is always a bad thing. Some guns are super rad, like the arc wielder which slows time down for your enemies so you can smack them around and send those suckers flying for miles. The one thing that I did not like about this game was the soundtrack. Jaks 1 and 2 had awesome soundtracks, and this one tried too hard to be epic and I found the music to be the only real letdown in this game. Regardless, this game was incredible, but something about Jaks 1 and 2 still get me even more so than this one.
11. Pokémon Gold/Silver
Ok. So I know a lot of people are going to get mad at the fact that I put this one ahead of red and blue, but allow me to explain. First things first, this game is in color, and Pokémon needed color to be even more mind-blowing. Secondly, the main character is also a badass who doesn’t speak, just like Red, but more epic, his hat is on backwards. This small change made this character so much more awesome than Red, and even though he is almost identical, he is now just that much cooler. Aside from this dude’s greatness, you get to gain professor Elm, as well as seeing Oak also. This is awesome, you get two Pokémon professors, hell yeah! This game also had a little experience bar so you could tell how far along your Pokémon was before leveling up, which was a super nice feature.
Let me explain more reasons why this game was even better than red/blue. Not only do you get the new cast of gold/silver characters, but you get to have all the old red/blue ones. You also have both worlds, and which so awesome it’s crazy. 16 gyms to beat, two worlds to explore, hundreds of trainers to fight, even more Pokémon to catch, this game had it all. Sadly, some of the new Pokémon were forgettable, but there were also a few really cool new ones. Let’s just forget Chikorita and act like that one never happened – which is okay since Totodile and Cyndaquil were freaking incredible, and grew into amazing beasts. And how about the new legendary Pokémon like Ho-Oh and Lugia. There were some solid ones in this game, that’s for sure.
Your rival in this game is also a world class rival. Unlike Gary, this guy is actually evil. Gary was more so indifferent, this guy is evil. He steals his first Pokémon, it was no gift. He raises them into vicious beasts, which reminds you what can happen if trainers like this guy are allowed to roam freely. This guy was a mad man who talks down to you and truly hates you. Once again he has your weakness, and will always put up a good tough battle. Beating him is still not as good as beating Gary, but it’s close. Team Rocket is back with vengeance, and you get to stop them from taking over the world one more time, in an even more epic fashion as the whole world knows of your deeds since the radio tower was their primary target. Beating them this time feels even more satisfying than before.
The greatest part of this game is when you get to fight Red and Gary. You first get to fight Gary, which is awesome because you still hate this guy even though he seems older and wiser now than he did before. When you talk to him on Cinnabar Island he doesn’t feel like having a battle out of his respect for nature. You almost feel like he has matured – that is until you fight him at the Viridian gym where he goes back to being the ass that he was born to be. Regardless, taking him down again feels great as you will only get to do this one time, so enjoy. The real shocker is getting to fight Red. This battle is truly epic, and his lineup is the best ever assembled. Red’s Pokémon should never be beaten by yours, but somehow you manage to beat him. His Snorlax is maddening since rest makes that Pokémon almost unbeatable. The battle with Red can go on for a long time, and is the best Pokémon battle of all time. In the end Red leaves you feeling strange. His silence at his defeat leaves you with an odd feeling. I will never forget beating him, because it was the only game with no ending at all. You beat Red, he says nothing just like the stoic man that he is, and he uses an escape rope and disappears. That’s it, the game is over. This massive journey hits a climax with no falling actions or a resolution. It’s great though as it leaves you wondering, what next? In the end, this was my favorite Pokémon, and once again its place in the list does it no justice.
So there you have it, #15-11 of my favorite games of my youth. I’m open for any discussion or debate, so comment below with any thoughts on my choices or feedback on my first blog post.