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.
10 – Chu-Chu Rocket
I wanted to end with three different social games, and it was very close between this and Bomberman for the ‘one screen fun’ category. Chu-Chu Rocket also gives a shout out to the Dreamcast; a favorite system of mine that was twice the machine the PS1 was, but just didn’t have the drive behind it to succeed in an evolving marketplace.
All of which is a historical sidenote to the main event of trying to guide mice to your rocketship whilst simultaneously thwarting the attempts of three other players to do likewise and – obviously – avoiding marauding cats at the same time. No doubt, Chu-Chu Rocket was first and foremost a serious sim game…
What made this a truly wonderful game to play was the pace and the stories. From the second the round begins, the screen in awash with mice and you had to use the four face buttons on the controller to set arrows facing up, down, left and right. You could only have three arrows in total, and using these three instruction gates was simple in concept and punishing in execution. Did you steer a safe path for your mice, or spend your time scuppering the paths of others? Did you make an effort to grab a power-up? How quick could you be to notice that some tricky little bugger had snuck in a gate just above your ship and was busy gorging his own ship with mice?
Chu-Chu Rocket was also an old-school arcade title. There was no involved plot. No frippery of any kind, really. Just relentless (albeit very alternatively expressed) cat and mouse action. The spinning power-up whirligig thingie that would appear when a question mark mouse was guided to your rocket was frequent but not overwhelming with the end result that every round was interesting and tense. It was this wonderful pacing that led to every round being a story.
11 – Mashed: Fully Loaded
If Chu-Chu Rocket was Sonic Team arcade perfection, Mashed was the diamond in the rough. It looked a bit ropey, the sound effects were thrown together and added little to the game, presentation was pretty basic and gameplay was… terrific.
This game took the Micro Machines formula of ‘drive to the top of the screen to win the point’ and made it sing. What’s more it showed off the graphical prowess of the Xbox or the PS2 by dynamically adjusting the camera angle depending on how many cars were still in the round. Normally there would be one or two early casualties and then a dogfight, often decided by who got the better power-ups.
It was racing in tiny chunks, with every round being decided – normally – in less than thirty seconds. Sometimes not, of course, but given that you had to race to the top of the screen and therefore you had little to no time to react to hazards or bends, it could sometimes be a gloriously self-correcting mechanic. In a nice touch, you could still influence the game if you had been out-driven that round by dropping a bomb on a live competitor; another neat way to try and keep the leading player from victory.
But it was the couch co-op that made the game what it was. In today’s era it’s endless trash talk from 11yr olds and I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that enhances a game. When it was you and your buddies playing in the same room, on the same screen, it was amazing. As to why I picked this game over Mario Kart, it’s because I think Mashed: Fully Loaded was more fun, plain and simple. I remember fondly the agonized cries of my friend Gary when – once again – I ran him off the road to take the point. You’d have a laugh, they’d swear revenge and then thirty seconds later you began again. Wonderful.
12 – World of Warcraft
I’m on record as being a Warcraft fan so it’s no surprise this makes my list. World of Warcraft has had millions of players on its servers, concurrently, for twelve years. The stats speak for themselves. In case you live under a gaming rock, World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online game – an MMO – and is without doubt the most successful of those there has ever been.
This is a game in which you pick your character and then develop them according to whatever it is about the game that you enjoy. For most, that will either be PvE (you versus the monsters) or PvP (you versus other players) but there are plenty of players out there who have their own niches like making stacks of in-game cash (not entirely useless as you can use it to buy gametime and exclusive items, thus making WoW free to play if you have the coin), collecting pets or mounts or even RP servers.
Warcraft’s greatest strength has been its capability to innovate with its own systems and so keep things fresh. Like many players, I hanker after the kind of depth we had in the earlier years with flexible talent trees and a tougher path to fortune and glory. That said, the accessibility of the modern game is hard to fault and the rose-tint is no doubt real.
World of Warcraft offered me some of the most epic gaming experiences I have ever had. Alterac Valley battles that lasted an entire day, the Tarren Mill-Southshore tussle, being part of a raid group of 40 players from multiple countries that worked together to down a boss. All these are things that are seared in my memory. Yes, WoW demands a lot from you before it starts giving back but if you are prepared to put a bit of effort in you will find a game that will repay you many times over. It will eat your time and consume your gaming efforts easily, and you will thank it for doing so. Wow, man. It’s the real deal.