Metal Gear Solid
It’s been nearly two decades since Solid Snake first infiltrated the Shadow Moses facility, but the legendary super soldier’s mission to thwart Fox Hound’s nuclear ambitions was such a success that it turned the stealth espionage genre completely on its head. Metal Gear Solid delivered both refined (for its time) sneaking mechanics and a story that played out like the product of an LSD-fueled collaboration between Tom Clancy and Timothy Leary. Sneaking around the snowbound Alaskan base while snapping the necks of Genome Soldiers felt sublime. And the sensation of scurrying through the ventilation system to spy on the evil terrorists felt incredibly immersive for the time, making players feel like some sort of virtual Steven Seagal – complete with a bitchin’ ponytail and a mean hip toss.
Much like the aforementioned Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid made great use of the PlayStation’s CD-ROM capabilities by filling the game with volumes of spoken dialog and FMV sequences that pulled you into the faux Cold War narrative. This delightfully over-the-top story, combined with an unforgettable cast of characters, made it one of the era’s standout titles.
Metal Gear Solid was such a smashing success that it’s inspired countless other games. From Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell series to the way you sneak from cover to cover in games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Metal Gear Solid’s cloak & dagger antics have helped to make the stealth genre what it is today. However, none have managed to capture the magic of Hideo Kojima’s PlayStation epic.
Super Mario 64
If you were a fan of video games in 1996, then I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of elation that overcame me when I first took control of Nintendo’s mustachioed plumber in Super Mario 64. Clutching that funky looking controller by its middle prong and slowly tilting the analog stick to make Mario walk seemed strange at first, but within minutes I was completely blown away by just how intuitive this new method of controlling my portly protagonist felt. And before long, I was deftly pouncing off walls, stomping Goombas, and soaring through the air in the freedom of the third dimension.
While this sounds absurd to anyone born after the year 2000, it’s really hard to express just how much of a game changer this was for those of us who cut our teeth on standard digital pads and joysticks during the formative years of video games. And there was no better showpiece for the benefits of analog controls than Super Mario 64. It was a game game crafted with a watchmaker’s level of precision, demanding players master this new way of controlling their hero to uncover the many secrets tucked within its hefty cartridge.
The Nintendo 64 saw many more spectacular 3D platformers over the years, but none of them could capture the same sense of wonder that those first few hours with Super Mario 64 delivered. It was an example of Nintendo at the top of their A game. An irresistible dose of pure, unadulterated video gaming bliss.
The impact that Super Mario 64 left on the video games industry can still be felt today. Just look the upcoming Yooka-Laylee (above), which takes its inspiration directly from the platformers of the Nintendo 64 era.
So, did we leave out any games that you feel deserved a mention? If so, tell us some titles you think had a huge impact on the video games we know and love today. Additionally, do you think we gave any of these games too much credit? We love to hear from you, so be sure to sound off in the comments section below.