My path through gaming history is very haphazard and filled with missed turns. Somehow, I managed to skip several really amazing titles that I probably would have played for hours and hours, until they were imprinted in the deeper layers of my brain. I guess I just got really attached to the games that I played and loved, and as a kid with limited resources, I couldn't or wouldn't go hunting for new games. Even so, looking back at the avalanche of titles that shaped my early gaming "career," I can't help but think -- could anyone have played everything? Who were those people, and why wasn't I borrowing all their games?
But I didn't miss everything, and the games I played were games I loved. I swear, after I finally put it aside, I could have probably played the original Legend of Zelda using only my toes and a half-working controller. Well, through the Octoroks and Tektites near the beginning screens, at least. Even now, the sight of those guys makes me smile. And did anyone else have one of those awesome Zelda watches? During school hours, those things were a lifesaver. But we've already got the inaugural Zelda on the VC -- so let's look at a few of my loves that are as-yet unavailable.
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. It's going to come out in the U.S.; it's a Mario Bros. game, and it's already been released in other regions. Still, every Monday, I can't help but check to see if we've gotten it yet. There were a lot of reasons I loved this game, and one of them was the novelty of being able to play as a female character. And it was such a surreal game, from the opening to the random tossing of vegetables. Of course, at the time I didn't know the game didn't begin life as a Mario Bros. title; I thought maybe they just had an extra weird day over there at the Nintendo headquarters. This is one of the few games I've often gone back and played whenever the opportunity presented itself, and frankly, I can't wait for it to debut on the VC in the U.S.
The best thing about Nintendo games is that you can often (but not always) expect some sort of off-the-wall weirdness to go down at some point, and StarTropics is definitely no exception. With gameplay reminiscent of original Zelda and a storyline that was about as unpredictable as a game could be, StarTropics ended up spending more time in my NES than almost any other game. This one is probably another inevitability on the VC, but I wish they'd just hurry up and release it already. I need to relive the adventure of Mike Jones. Plus, y'know, dolphins and cross-dressing always make for good times.
Utopia - SNES
Oh, Utopia. This game is responsible for many lost hours of my life. Not because I played it forever (though I did), but because this game saw the birth of my love of both strategy games and anything that involves building. I have to be chaperoned around games like the Civilization franchise (I will disappear for weeks, muttering all the while about my units and the expansion of my empire), and it's all because of Utopia. Despite the frustrating interface (which I'm sure worked well with the SNES mouse that I didn't own), this sci fi strategy/sim title was terribly addicting. You were thrust out on an alien planet with limited resources and a hostile race just over the horizon, and despite everything, you were expected to build a thriving colony. And even if you did, you couldn't relax ... because there are always other planets to colonize. If this gets released on the VC, I just hope someone spends the time necessary to enable a point-and-click Wiimote interface. When that happens, I might have to just take a couple of days off to get my colonization on.
Obviously, this list is about desire, not about probability, as the question of whether or not we'll ever see Rare's GoldenEye 007 is probably the most-debated VC issue ever. If pressed to name an end-all, be-all favorite game of all time, this might well be the title I settled on. Not only did GoldenEye 007 feature a single-player mode that was more than adequate for passing the time, it had the single most fun (to me) multiplayer mode ever until Halo came along -- and I'd still say it's a close bet. The later title Perfect Dark added in the option for AI opponents in multiplayer, which was the only thing GoldenEye lacked, but it was never hard to get four people together for splitscreen play. Most Frantic, Most Deadly -- that was the goal to aim for, and no, you can't play as Oddjob, unless you want me to shoot you in your noggin, you tiny, crouching bastard.
GoldenEye may be my pick for one of the most fun games of all time, but there's really no competition when it comes to funniest. Shadowgate was one of my first introductions to the text adventure game (with pictures!), and I was immediately hooked. It wasn't so much the graphics (which were decent enough back then) and not really for the oft-frustrating puzzles (though I loved the game), but it was the writing. The little touches made Shadowgate great. You could try wacky combinations -- like 'use sword on self' -- and not only would you actually die, but the game made fun of you as well, with its crazy, melodramatic text. I've never purposely suicided as much as I did in Shadowgate, and few games have ever made me laugh as hard.
Pipe Dream: Monster Rancher (or Monster Rancher 2, if I had to be picky): While this slot should probably belong to Castlevania III, as that's one of my favorite games of all time, I have to daydream about another favorite, and one that is far less likely to turn up on the VC. The Monster Rancher titles for the Playstation were, hands-down, more addictive than any other games I've ever played, and the fact that the Wii uses CDs means we could easily access all those same old monsters. And yes, I absolutely bought CDs just to get special monsters. I'm so ashamed.
I would probably do it again, though, if the game were released on the Virtual Console. There are some lessons we just never learn.