Game Boy 004 – Faves (Part 1)

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

In early January there was a meme making the rounds on social networks asking you to answer the following question: “What are your favorite games for platforms you’ve owned?” I answered (on Twitter/Facebook) with a simple list, but this week I thought I’d explain why I selected each of these titles. Since there’s a lot, I’ll separate them in two parts, so here is part 1.

(And if you’re curious, here I list what I believe to be my 5 favorite games of all time.)

VIC-20: Gorf
Even though I played games on most of the original consoles — like the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Intellivision II, ColecoVision, Vectrex, etc. — I never actually owned any of them and so what I experienced of them was thanks to my friends who did own them. My first computer — and device that played “electronic games” –was the Commodore VIC-20 (precursor to the much more popular Commodore 64), and the game I remember playing the most on it was Gorf, a sort of suped-up Space Invaders.

MS-DOS: Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nicodemus
I was indeed a big PC gamer through the 80s and early 90s, and although there are tons of games I could point to as being special and essential — it was hard not to include an Infocom game here — I do have a special place in my heart for this computer RPG from SSI, which would I think influence the D&D games they later developed and published. In fact, to this day, when I play RPGs, I still use the same character names that I did when playing Phantasie III. I also remember playing it “co-op” with a friend, which was basically just us two sitting side-by-side in front of the PC, playing through it like you would solo.

NES: The Legend of Zelda
It’s hard not to name the Super Mario Bros. games here — for me, especially 2 and 3 — but my favorite franchise of all time is the Zelda series, and it all started here. I have so many fond memories of playing through this game, as well as its side-scrolling sequel. It’s a testament to the quality of the franchise that 30 years later, it’s still my favorite series.

Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog
Look, I’m not going to argue that Sonic was any better than the Mario games — it simply wasn’t — but that first game sure was a hell of a lot of fun to play, and I still remember how the colors popped on the Genesis. Mix in the speed of the character, and it felt like I was playing the cutting edge of video games.

Game Boy Color: Wario Land 3
The only proper Nintendo console I never owned (let’s not count the Virtual Boy) is the original Game Boy, but I did get a Game Boy Color, and for some reason the game that really stands out when thinking back on it is Wario Land 3. I can’t really talk about the quality of the game, but I still have vivid memories of playing it, and of the fun sound effects and soundtrack that my wife and I would constantly mimic (she from hearing me play all the time).

Super NES: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The two Zelda games on the NES were where I became enamoured with the franchise, but this was the game that I truly loved — and I’ll say that I also loved its direct sequel on 3DS, A Link Between Worlds. I also consider it to be one of my favorite games of all time.

PlayStation: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The PS1 was a fantastic console, and there are tons of games on it that I could pick — the first Tomb Raider game is a top contender as well — but it was hard for me to pick something other than Symphony of the Night. I was already a big fan of the Castlevania games on NES and Super NES, and this was a sequel that felt like an incredible follow-up, on all levels. I also have strong memories of it because I played it on a Japanese PS1 I picked up while I was a student in China, and played it in Japanese — the first words of Japanese I learned came from this and from Tomb Raider, which I also played in Japanese.

Nintendo 64: Super Mario 64
Sure, I love Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and when I listed my favorite games of all time, I included Wave Race 64, but if I’m going to narrow it to one title that represents the Nintendo 64 for me, it has to be this. Platformers are to this day one of my favorite genres, and suddenly being propelled into a 3D space was indeed mind blowing.

Dreamcast: Shenmue
When I get asked what my favorite console was, I like to mention the Dreamcast because it was a console that I adored so much, and that I remember really obsessing over. The games that were released on it had this amazing look to them, and it made me feel like I was playing something cool instead of just fun — think Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, etc. But if I was to narrow it down to my favorite game, it has to be Shenmue — and as you’ll see later in the list (and I was surprised myself when I was putting it together), it probably created my love of open-world adventure games.

PlayStation 2: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
I was actually late to the PS2 — it came out at the time in my life where I probably played the least amount of games, mostly sticking to Nintendo consoles (and so the GameCube). I did eventually get one, and tried to catch up as much as I could on the insanely great library of games that ended up coming out on it. San Andreas was actually the first GTA game I played (I never played III, and eventually only a bit of Vice City), and it blew me away. Taking what I loved from Shenmue (although none of the real-life interactions) and blowing them up in proper cities that I could freely navigate was ridiculously fun. Since I also really love driving in games, this made it that much more of an awesome game for me.

Next week, part 2, in which I go from the GBA to the Switch.

Author: Jean Snow

Production Coordinator at Ubisoft Montréal. Before that, half a life spent in Tokyo.