These are the games that all bring back fond memories of what gaming is all about. It isn't a list of most important or influential games, nor is it an impartial list of best games ever. These are some of the games that have had the biggest impression on me throughout my travels. So In no particular order, here we go..
Icewind Dale+Heart of Winter expansion PC, 2000+2001
A Hack and Slash dream come true. No politics, no party management, just pure RPG action done right with the Baldurs Gate engine. The first time I played Icewind Dale I made it about half way before my CD stopped reading properly, which needless to say; made me very unhappy. The next time I got to play Icewind dale was with my good friend Gaz. He bought the game again and we proceeded to spent the next few days Hacking and Slashing through the wonders of the North together; coming up with cunning strategies to defeat the hordes, precision traps and lures, discussions about which is the cooler class- Archers of Mages, bickering about why my Characters never got any good loot. Good, good times. I highly recommend that If you can get a friend that's moderately interested in PC RPGs you give Icewind Dale a shot because its far more suited to multiplayer than Baldurs Gate, while keeping that Baldurs Gate charm. Hack and Slash your LAN to greatness.
Descent: Freespace - PC, 1998
Sure, Ive played Wing Commander. Ive played X-wing vs Tie Fighter, Ive even played Starlancer, Iwar and Privateer. They're all great games, but none come even close to the sheer style and immersive value than Descent: Freespace has. The demo back in '98 blew me away: Afterburning towards a Shivan Carrier while doing barrel rolls to avoid the turrets and firing off countermeasures to avoid the missiles coming from the fighters on your six is truly one of the greatest moments you can have in gaming. In Descent: Freespace the Great War really does feel like a great war. Terrific atmosphere backed up with a great storyline and graphics that hold up okay today, 7 years later! I would know, it wasnt till 2004 that I stopped playing the demo and actually bought the game.
Some people accused Freespace of borrowing too heavily from other games (WC and X-wing in particular), but the way I see it, Freespace just took all the best bits and molded them into one hell of a space sim.
Incredible music, and a mass of multiplayer missions for co-op or deathmatch; the perfect space sim.
Enemy Territory - PC, 2003
My first love of online gaming. It must be fate that I got my ADSL connection in the same month that Enemy Territory was released; I was a newbie to the world of online gaming and ET was a harsh, harsh mistress. If you can look past the spam and the high learning curve, you'll find one of the deepest most intriguing first person shooters available. Fighting in the Enemy Territory world is all about teamwork- there is no thrill like that of breaking through a hardened axis defence, taking out a deployed mg42 machine gun, reviving a team mate, stealing the gold from the bank and making a mad dash for the getaway truck; desperately hoping the covering fire your teammates are putting down will hold the freshly spawned axis players off long enough.
At its best Enemy Territory is intense team based multiplayer gamingt. At its worst ET is a nightmare of artillery, mortar and SMG spam. ET is deep, complex and more satisfying than Counterstrike will ever be. Oh, and did I mention its FREE!
Rocket Knight Adventures - Mega Drive, 1993
In the early-to-mid 90s there was no shortage of platform games. Konami's effort is for me, one of, if not the best platform game on any console. Theres so much of this game to like about Rocket Knight- amazing graphics that really push the Mega Drive, flowing and varied level design, amazing music and Characters with more style than Mario ever had.
It also puts up a decent challenge, though the US version is harder (different difficulty levels). What else can I say? Its just a great game and a must in any Mega Drive collection.
Ace Combat 4 - Playstation 2, 2001
I don't know what I enjoy more; flying low and dropping cluster bombs or flying high and taking down fighters among the clouds. Such is the variety and sheer coolness that Ace Combat 4 has to offer. Previous games in the series were great fun, but it took the Playstation 2 to really show off what Namco are capable of; gorgeous graphics and sound, a decent storyline (a first for the series), music so good its worth listening to on its own and the most important part: oodles of planes to choose from. Personally, im partial to the Mig-29 and F/A-18 Hornet, but then again they're all so beautifully rendered it doesn't matter which one your flying.
Plenty of replayability here too, with a 2 player split screen mode and incentives to play through the single player more than once. In fact its hard to imagine how anyone can not like Ace Combat 4.
Max Payne - PC, 2001
It might not be the longest game ever released, or the deepest, but damnit its got so much style that anything else hardly seems to matter. The grit and characterisation put into the main character (Max Payne) is what really makes the game stand out from other 3rd person shooters. That isn't to say that there's not a fantastic game behind the story- the game is an action packed blast fest, made all the better by "Bullet Time". Essentially Bullet Time is slow motion diving and shooting, ala the Matrix. In game music is limited to the menu track and short clips that play when a special event occurs (e.g a boss), but what little music there is fits in the game great and has that "one man army" feel to it.
Summary: Kick ass character, good game and classy music. Set aside a couple of days and play through Max Payne- you wont regret it.
Gran Turismo (any one but Prologue) 1998-2005
So much to do, and so many ways to do it. Ever since the release of the first Gran Turismo in '98 the series has gone from strength to strength, continuously adding features and improvements to keep the well deserved title of "best racing game evar". Theres just something special about starting out with $10,000 and working your way to the top and a garage full of cars, each one with your own special mark on them. Many have tried, but there has yet to be a racing game that's come close to the scale and perfection of the series.
Oh, and the licensed music tracks in the game are always one of the highlights of the series; Garbage, Ash and feeder are among the bands featured. Love it!
Daytona USA - Arcade, 1994
Ah Daytona. Even though the Australian Arcade scene has been in decline since the mid '90s, you can always count on finding a Daytona or one of its variants (Turbo or 2). There is a sort of rivalry between myself and the co-editor of this site; Shaz. Over the years we've had some cracker races, and even though I'm usually on the losing end of those races, every now and then I manage to get a win (sweet sweet revenge!). Despite only 3 tracks and only slight differences in the cars, there aren't many Arcade games that come close to the variety of Daytona USA, because there's a certain skill to be learned, and techniques to be perfected. Each track has its tricky areas, and for me the long corner of the Advanced track always catches me out. Shaz on the other hand is often done over by the left-right-left corner before the hill and long corner that I always screw up, so there's usually a lot of bustling for position and door slamming. Putting your buddy into the wall but still loosing the race then becomes the talking point of the entire day.
Immersive force feedback combined with detailed graphics that run silky smooth make Daytona the quintessential multiplayer arcade game.
Ghost Squad - Arcade, 1994
Ok I'll admit it. Im a huge lightgun fan. You could Attach a lightgun to a urinal and I would still pay money to use it. The main lure of Ghost Squad is its large HK-UMP styled submachine gun which really looks the part, but unlike a lot of other arcade games with large weapons, Ghost Squad has the gameplay to back it up. Basic gameplay is similar to the Time Crisis series but with more variety and some superb graphics. Oh, and it even has force feedback with every shot. Fantastic game and above all others in the genre.
Mass Effect - Xbox 360, 2007
After finishing Jade Empire, I had considered including it on this list but decided against it. As good as Jade Empire is there were some design choices that didnt sit well with me.
I was very pleased to play Mass Effect and see that Bioware had built on the basics of Jade Empire in a very stylish sci-fi setting. There is a much better balance between combat and dialogue, plenty of freedom and an engaging storyline to boot.