A Twitter trend caught on recently of people posting images of the 4 games that define them. This really got me thinking, what games define me as a person? After taking some time to dig deep, I realised there were numerous games throughout my life that were milestone moments. These defining moments would cause a ripple effect across everything that I would go on to enjoy. So I decided I would write about them.
Although there will be an inclusion of some of my very favourite titles, this is not a listing of my favourite games. Instead, these were important moments and experiences which would go on to define me. Instead of having to shrink this list down into a post of bullet point summaries, I will intermittently write a post about each game, in their order of release, which will allow me to dig a little below the surface as to why each game was so important to me.
These are the games that define me.
Super Mario Bros (NES, 1985)
I have always been a big fan of Nintendo’s handheld consoles since the original Game Boy. However, I never owned a Nintendo home console throughout my entire childhood until I picked up a Nintendo Gamecube in late 2003.
Yet my earliest memories of gaming started on Nintendo’s first white and grey box of wonders – the NES. Around the age of four or five, my closest friend at that time lived across the road from me although he practically lived at my house, and I at his. Along with playing with WWF toys, watching Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles on VHS and trading Merlin Football Stickers, we would play on his ‘Nintendo’.
Maybe I had experienced games before this moment. I know we had an Atari 2600 in the wardrobe we used to dust off from time to time, or a family member would bring their Commodore 64 round but the Nintendo memories are the ones that are really stuck in the forefront of my mind.
We played games such as Duck Hunt (with the Zapper of course), Turtles, and a bunch of other titles. However, there was one game which stood out from the rest – Super Mario Bros.
Without one single piece of text, World 1-1 acts as the perfect tutorial for not only Super Mario Bros, but for games themselves. This was my tutorial in gaming.
There was something about it, the way that it felt to play. While other games could feel sluggish to control and unfairly punishing, moving Mario around on screen – it just felt right. The pixel-perfect platform jumps, the wonderfully catchy music that continued to play in my mind, hours after putting down the controller.
It opened up to me the idea of exploring a virtual world and being rewarded for wandering off the beaten track or trying to ‘break’ the game by escaping from the levels boundaries. The concept of collecting coins and gaining more lives, building up a high score – all started right here for me.
It seems almost redundant to go in detail of what a legendary figure Shigeru Miyamoto is, what he has done through his iconic creations and how he has gone on to inspire endless generations of developers. Without one single piece of text, World 1-1 acts as the perfect tutorial for not only Super Mario Bros, but for games themselves. This was my tutorial in gaming.
I didn’t realise it at the time but it was literally laying the foundations that I would go on to build all future gaming experiences on. A standard from that moment onward, I would hold every game against.
A Nintendo seal of quality.
While for a long time, the Mario games that I went on to play were relegated to Game Boy experiences (Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins being one of my favourite Mario games), I will always appreciate my first true gaming experience being with the little Italian plumber’s first real outing (no we’re not counting you Mario Bros).
It is hard to overemphasise just how important Super Mario bros is, not just to me or my generation, but for video games becoming the incredible platform that they are today. Is it the most fundamental defining entry of my game history? Most likely. Is it the most important game ever created? Probably.