One of my favourite podcasts, Final Games, is to video games what BBC’s Desert Island Discs is to music. Each episode a different guest details their 8 video game choices they would take with them to a hypothetical deserted location for the rest of their days.
So, in Final Games tradition, I will include my choices with a sample of music from each, and my reasons for each choice. Enjoy.
Tetris (Gameboy, 1990):-
There are many iterations of Tetris, but for me all pale in comparison in quality, simplicity, and sheer importance to video games than the Gameboy version. The tile-matching puzzle titan was the original mobile gaming phenomenon that brought gaming to the masses. It helped launch video games into the mainstream and many of its derivatives appeal to those who even don’t consider themselves a gamer.
Back in 1989/90 when physical console multiplayer connections were a must, I often challenged a friend who lived around the corner, visiting each other’s homes to spend hours on linked battle mode.
Tetris is the perfect pickup and play game, whether it’s a bus journey, your lunch break at work, or simply the need to engage your brain for any amount of time.
Super Mario Bros 3 (NES, 1991):-
The Christmas of 1991 I received my very own Nintendo Entertainment System, along with the latest Super Mario game – Super Mario Bros 3.
Mario games were easily the benchmark for all platformers today, 2D/3D, and back then, this was the benchmark. The overworld map, suits (frog, hammer and Tanooki) and the super leaf were all introduced here, and have been mainstays ever since.
At 10-years-old I wasn’t great at video games but I herald beating Super Mario bros 3 as my earliest gaming triumph.
The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (SNES, 1992):-
Link to the Past was the first video game I’d ever bought 2nd hand back in 1993/4. LttP is a game I make a time-honoured tradition of playing through each year. Like Super Mario World, it was another masterpiece released around the launch of the Super Nintendo, and simply timeless.
From the dramatic opening, essentially a tutorial which serves as a perfect insight into the themes of discovery and survival the game brings, Link to the Past is simply one of the best adventure games ever to be coded, and a journey I implore everyone to take at least once in their lifetime.
Chrono Trigger (SNES 1995, 2008)
The supergroup collaboration of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Hori, Dragonball and Z creator Akira Toriyama plus script writer Masoto Kato simply created a masterpiece in role-playing and storytelling. Despite its standard JRPG appearance Chrono Trigger is bolstered by its time travel mechanic, resulting is a story that transcends thousands of years and consists of love, tragedy, and friendship, with 13 different endings on offer.
Neither the SNES or the PS1 versions were released in Europe, and it wasn’t until around 2001 that I managed to grab a decent boxed copy – but it set me back £92. Once it finally got it’s 2008 DS release, my dream was realised. 13 years of hype and it did not disappoint.
Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (PS2, 2006):-
If I’m going to live out my days alone in a deserted location, then I’m going to need my football fill.
Since its release in 2006 I have spent hour upon ungodly hour challenging the incredible Master League mode; easily the greatest single player football mode in any football game ever made.
The beauty of the PES series is that as you raised the bar, so did the game in its challenge and learning curve.
A joy to play, difficult to put down, PES 6 is the football game I would take to my grave.
Bayonetta 2 (Wii U, 2014):-
Bayonetta 2 is simply a masterpiece. Yusuke Hashimoto’s sequel to Hideki Kamiya’s incredible Bayonetta achieved what few sequels do: not only replicate what made the original a success, but also improve every element.
The combat is simply a masterclass, the art direction stunning, the pacing tighter, truly improving what was already a perfect original. Despite the main campaign taking around 10 hours, there is so much more to perfect resulting in a title that could possibly be played forever, with secrets to find, scores/grades to beat, combos to create and perfect; Bayonetta 2 is simply incredible.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 1998):-
OoT is simply the most incredible video game ever devised. Enjoy Oblivion/Skyrim? Dark Souls/Bloodborne? The Witcher? OoT is the blueprint for all of those and many more.
It was released 2 weeks before Christmas in 1998 and in truth I did little else in the advent lead up than sample its delightful open world, fall in love with the combat mechanics, savour the magnificent soundtrack, and surrender myself to the contentment that the game delivers.
Following its 3DS remake and release in 2011 I once again stepped into Link’s shoes and it is as much a joy to play now as it was almost 20 years ago, and I’m sure I could say the same in another 20 years.
Final Fantasy VII (PS1, 1997):-
Cloud’s journey to stop world-controlling corporation Shinra from draining the world’s life essence for fuel resource has everything: friends, enemies, love, tragedy, death, and one of the greatest antagonist’s in video game history, Sephiroth.
The beauty of Final Fantasy VII is its pacing, the turn-based combat, the incredible backdrops, levelling system, and so much more. The sprites may now look a little outdated, but the rendered backdrops really capture the mood and condition of the slums people must live in, and the open world is truly a feast for the eyes.
Final Fantasy VII is the only game in the series I’ve gone back to, having finished it twice, and still desire to go back to on a regular basis. When the time comes, it is a journey I would gladly take once again.