The GameStruck4 hashtag has gained some considerable steam on Twitter since it reared its head yesterday. The hashtag has seen many gamers post their personal four picks on games that have had a lasting impact on their lives. Other gamers have divided their four picks into categories, such as the first game they played, their all-time favorite game, and even games they come back to as the years pass. So while #GameStruck4 continues to hold its momentum, here’s my four picks with a little detail.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Kicking off the GameStruck4 list is a game you’ve probably heard of. You know something funny? I don’t care for the bashing that comes with console wars. Over the gaming generations I’ve been fortunate enough to go multiplatform. Today it’s the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch (I guess Wii U, too). I’m young enough to remember what is perhaps the most heated rivalry in gaming: Nintendo vs. SEGA. The ads were memorable, but even then I got to go on adventures with Mario and Sonic alike.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was my first Sonic game, and it’s the one I keep coming back to over the years. Whether it’s in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 3D on my 3DS, or a Sonic bundle from Steam, I can’t help myself. I remember the speed, and there was no wrong way to get from one end of the level to the other. I knew to disable Tails from the start, so that getting the Chaos Emeralds in the half-pipe special stages would actually be possible. What I’ll never forget is the music. I always wondered why these current Sonic games don’t change things up a bit and include Emerald Hill Zone instead of Green Hill Zone for once. Heck, I love the music so much that I’m listening to the Sonic Mania soundtrack in my car, and I’m stuck on Oil Ocean Zone (from Sonic 2).
Oddly, when I was a kid, I got my hands on Sonic & Knuckles, but I never had Sonic 3. I didn’t get to experience the full impact of “Blast Processing” bliss that is Sonic 3 & Knuckles, at least until a few years later. Nevertheless, I can’t deny how amazed I was to see the Sonic & Knuckles’ cartridge had this “lock-on” technology where you can stack previous Sonic games on top to make Knuckles a playable character in that game. Knuckles in Sonic the Hedgehog 2? It was like a dream.
Next up on the GameStruck4 list is a memorable duo. Please don’t get me wrong. My mind was blown when I first took control of Mario in a three-dimensional space. Super Mario 64 will definitely be towards the top of an all-time favorite Mario games list. However, I believe Banjo-Kazooie raised the bar for what a 3D platformer could be.
The narrative is pretty simple. A mean, nasty witch wants to look beautiful. Her plan? Abduct the young sister of an anthropomorphic bear and his bird friend, stick her in a machine and suck the beauty out of her. Well, that’s the tip of the iceberg. The adventure along the way is what makes the game so memorable to this day. Rareware knew exactly how to inject the right amount of charm into this game.
In Super Mario 64, each time Mario collected a star, it was back to the main hub (Peach’s castle). In Banjo-Kazooie, every time a player collects a Jiggy, you can keep playing through that stage. That sense of momentum is never lost, and I loved that I could take my time and clean house at my own pace.
Each of the game’s worlds are so memorable. From the island paradise of Treasure Trove Cove, the winter tundra of Freezeezy Peak, the scorching heat of Gobi’s Valley, to the creepy locale of Mad Monster Mansion, Banjo-Kazooie had a lot of variety. I mean there’s even fine details that can escape you. For instance, the main hub (Gruntilda’s Lair) has music that changes its tone to match that of the next world you’re about to visit.
If I haven’t said it by now, I love video game music. Being a musician myself, I have a near genetic predisposition to hear what’s going on in the background. Grant Kirkhope’s incomparable soundtrack for Banjo-Kazooie is too catchy and memorable that a few mere words can describe. Better yet, it’s worth a listen.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Third on the GameStruck4 list is another favorite. Mario had made the leap into 3D quite a number of years before The Legend of Zelda did. How do you take an open world game, with elements of exploring and puzzle solving, and move that into brand new territory? Ocarina of Time managed to do it and in doing so, Nintendo weaved together one of the most thought-provoking experiences the franchise has seen.
In terms of gameplay, I can never forget the usefulness that is Z-Targeting. Link could concentrate his attention on, and strafe around a target during close combat. Try playing Ocarina of Time without the Z-button and see how far random swings of the sword will get you.
Ocarina of Time also made for an interesting story. At the time it was considered the first game in the series. Ganondorf, the King of Thieves, came to Hyrule to pledge fealty to the crown. Unbeknownst to the King of Hyrule, Ganondorf secretly longed to enter the Sacred Realm in an effort to claim the power of the Triforce. When he does, a young Link sleeps for seven years until he is old enough to wield the Master Sword and defeat Ganondorf.
It was very surreal to see, in a video game, how absolute evil could lay waste to a thriving world. When you see, as adult Link, how dark and sinister the world became in your absence. In fact, much of my appreciation for this game is now owed to my adult mind. I’m sure you must be familiar with the Legend of Zelda timeline, or some semblance of it. Ocarina of Time is the shatter point of this timeline. Goodness knows I love lore. Early on I kinda figured there were two timelines, one when Link is sent back to being a boy (setting up the events of Majora’s Mask) and a second when the adult Link ceases to exist. Imagine my surprise, and admiration, that a third timeline came out of this. One in which Link failed to defeat Ganon at the end of Ocarina of Time, setting up A Link to the Past.
Having played Ocarina of Time throughout the years, it continues to make me think when solving puzzles and fulfilling quests. Okay, I still need to look up a walkthrough of the Water Temple to this day, but we all know about that temple. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time also contains what I regard to be composer Koji Kondo’s best work. Because of his personal touch, every temple in the game, every corner of Hyrule, and every nook and cranny has a story, whether it’s as old as time itself, or a new story ready to unfold. Yup, if ever an orchestra does an Ocarina of Time movement, and opens with the overture, I will be moved to tears every time.
For my fourth, and last pick, in my GameStruck4 list, I’ll just get it out of the way: the music for Phendrana Drifts, Tallon Overworld, the Chozo Artifact Temple, the Incinerator Drone, the Meta Ridley boss fight, the whole soundtrack is too good. Nay, I’d say the music heard in the Metroid Prime Trilogy is fantastic. Sanctuary Fortress, Dark Samus, Emperor Ing, the theme of Rundas? Where are my Metroid Prime fans?
Metroid 64 never came to be. At the time, developers looked at the N64 controller but couldn’t figure out how to incorporate Samus Aran into an ideal control scheme. Someone you got to love is old Shigeru Miyamoto himself. When a young Retro Studios got the go-ahead to develop a new Metroid game, they got some rather “inventive” ideas for Miyamoto himself. In a meeting between Retro Studios and Miyamoto, the latter flat out asked, “What would it be like if Samus had a bug’s head?” Following the meeting, the developers discussed amongst themselves what Miyamoto could possibly have meant. Was he literally suggesting that Samus’ head be swapped out with something else? Does she have the vision of an insect? They were able to deduce that Miyamoto was hinting at Samus having “altered perception.”
When I mentioned I’m a fan of lore, I meant it. That ill fated meeting with Shigeru Miyamoto allowed for the creation of one of my favorite mechanics in the Metroid Prime Trilogy: the Scan Visor. The Scan Visor allowed Samus not only to unlock doors or locate enemy weak spots, but it also compiled collected works from the Space Pirates, the Luminoth, and the Chozo, the sentient birdlike species that raised and trained an orphan Samus to be a warrior. It still gives me chills when I explore the Chozo Ruins and come across another logbook entry. The Chozo, now deceased, their planet of Tallon IV slowly rotting away from a meteor strike, left behind journals; hoping, praying for the return of the “Hatchling” (Samus) to come save them. Reading this, coupled with the petrifying surroundings and unnerving music is an experience I’ll never forget. I get goosebumps at this part of the game even now.
I think, out of the games on this list, I gravitate toward Metroid Prime being my favorite game of all time. Yes, the music is brilliant, the gameplay and elements of exploration never grow old, the lore intrigues my mind, but I think the reason I am so enamored with this game is because I identify with Samus Aran. Samus has a lone-wolf nature. This is communicated to the player so well in the trilogy (save for a few moments in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, where there’s a bit of voice acting). When Samus sets out for a mission, she does so by her own accord. Not a word is spoken. It’s Samus versus her surroundings and she knows how to hold her own. You could argue that Super Metroid, one of the series’ best, already did this. However, the realism of Metroid Prime really made me believe that someone as inward, self-reflecting, determined, yet solitary can overcome. That must also be why I decided to get a big tattoo of her on my ribs a few years back!
You can imagine how elated I was to hear the announcement of Metroid Prime 4 last year and, yes, I did scream out loud in excitement at work.
So there’s my personal picks for GameStruck4. When it comes to picking out personal favorites, it’s terribly hard. I tend to subdivide whenever possible. If the thoughts of games clamoring over each other in my head had voices they’d be asking, “What? Why not me?” I’m sure I can go in length with more love and admiration for these games, and several others, but that is a story for another time. Thank you all for reading. As always, be sure to keep your eyes on Mammoth Gamers for more opinionated pieces.