Over the years there have been countless games that have come and gone. We’ve played them, enjoyed them and then forgotten about them. Yet every once in a while a game arrives with a lasting impact. This series is dedicated to those games and their impact. It’s in no particular order, these are all gold.
4 – Street Fighter 2
This is one of two arcade era classics in this section of the list. Street Fighter 2 was the embodiment of the fighting game. It was an utter classic from the second it hit the arcades through its various multiple console iterations. This game defined the Capcom style, with crossovers, chaining, recovery and special moves invoked through either charging the stick or through plain dexterity.
It was also a wonderfully compelling arcade experience. You had a tremendous roster of fighters who – using the theme of the World Warrior – were from all around the world and represented a host of styles. Every bout you fought was an increase in difficulty and quite often arcades would tune their cabinets to be even tougher than the default, so once you won your first ‘gimme’ round, a short sharp lesson in pain was likely to follow.
Persevere, though, and you would be rewarded with an incredible feeling of satisfaction if you could make it through to the milestone of the bonus stage. There you were tasked with beating a new car into a metallic pulp before the next opponent was put in your way. Then you might hit the second bonus stage, the barrels, before – just maybe – making your way into the boss rounds.
Man, those boss fights. When you first saw Balrog and first suffered his charging running straight punch to the face you simply couldn’t credit how much of your health was gone in one punch Then Vega would dance around you and make you look like a clumsy idiot as you tried hard to knock his claw off and keep yourself in the fight. The final boss, Major Bison, was a wonderfully cheap yet versatile fighter who could just destroy you with a few tasty combos, but was never so cheap that he felt unbeatable.
I always played Ken, and remember how simply incredible it was to see the slow-motion effect that signaled the end of the fight and – even more incredibly – I was the victor! My health bar had been whittled down by Bison savagely and I somehow managed to pull out a rising kick to bird kick combo that saw me over the line. That feeling of supreme achievement was what every fighting game since has struggled to match. Utterly sublime and no surprise that we’re now on Street Fighter 5.
5 – Sim City
The complete opposite of Street Fighter’s moment-to-moment thrills, Sim City was the ultimate long-term slow burn experience. The game tasked you with taking a bare landscape and constructing a multi-faceted city there that would grow and become prosperous. That was it. There were no targets to hit, no victory was possible. If you felt your city had gotten as good as it could be, you would simply generate another landscape and build another city.
This is where I reveal my love of base-building games, because that simple mantra of: do the best job you can do was enough to challenge me to make an entirely excellent and amazing city that would be the very pinnacle of the Mayor’s art. Once I had done that, I would set myself other goals, like making a city that actually made good use of an underground system, or one that would excel at a certain thing like maritime trade. I would simply lose myself in the minutiae of it all, and would love every minute.
Sim City had me dreaming of water distribution networks, how I might raise property values and lower crime in my industrial riverfront properties and all manner of other bizarre calculations. It was a technically demanding title for my 486 but that old machine ran it like it was on rails made of butter. What a game.
6 – Daytona USA
Dayyyyytonnnnnnaa! Let’s go away! Dayyyyyytonnnnnnaaa! And so forth. If you are not humming along to that tune in your head then you have never played this game with sound up, and therefore you have missed out. Daytona USA defined what I love in racing games. First of all, it was simply breathtaking to look at. It ran on Sega’s Model 2 arcade hardware, and that was a 3D powerhouse in a time of 2D wimps. Daytona was – undoubtedly – the best looking game in the arcade.
But that was not even half the appeal. It was amazing to play. You could move smoothly between four preset camera angles (which was a big deal at the time) and the closer you got to the front of your car, the more you really felt like you had the incredible weight and muscle of a NASCAR at your command. And if you wanted to (and everyone did) you could use that weight to slam into your opponents. Daytona wanted you to drive dirty. If someone was coming up the inside you soon learnt to simply turn full lock into them, push them into the wall and then have the immeasurable satisfaction of seeing their car go careening up in the air and be basically obliterated.
Sadly, such tactics would also weaken your own vehicle but so what? Owning the other guy was 100% worth the decrease in speed and cornering ability that you would suffer. And – as Daytona was the very definition of an arcade racer – keeping your car in pristine condition was not necessarily that big of a deal. The game would use ‘rubber banding’ which is to say that it would artificially help the slow drivers catch up whilst slowing down the leaders in order to keep the race interesting. You spent 90% of every race with another car breathing down your neck. It was great.
How amazing it is, therefore, to read that a new Daytona is finally on the horizon and it’s only for the arcades. Well, for now it is. It will undoubtedly come out on the consoles and PC in short order and that, dear readers, is one of the best reasons yet to look forward to 2017. Rolllllllinnngggggg Staaaaaaarrrrrtttt!