10 Games That Defined One Gamer's Childhood

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I've been a gamer almost as long as I can remember.

Today, I decided to put together this list and pay homage to the games that were a big part of my childhood, and likely many other kids' lives. Some are even still a big part of my life today. So let's hop on the nostalgia train and see what I (and we) loved about these classics.

10: Mario Paint

Likely the first game I played, so therefore, it's first on my list. My older cousin had a SNES that I would play when I was at his house. I was only around five, so Mario Paint was perfect for me. There was nothing about it that would be confusing or frustrating to a five-year-old, except maybe the fly swatting game... but I spent the majority of the time on the main coloring and drawing portions.

Twenty years later, I discovered that there's an online version of the game's music composer and people have made awesome things with it. I tried it, but alas, I'm about as musically inclined as a rock.

9: Super Mario World

Eventually I tried my cousin's other SNES games. He had a baseball game, Street Fighter, Zelda, a racing game... amusingly enough, I used to beat him at Street Fighter by button mashing! But when he gave me his SNES because he got a PlayStation, Super Mario World ended up being my favorite.

The experience was the perfect definition of retro -- the TV I had in my room had seen better days. It went black and clicked every once in a while, and sometimes when it came back up, Mario had died. But it was all I knew, so I didn't complain.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure I had no idea what I was doing, but man did I have fun. My cousin would come over and go straight to Bowser and beat him, while I sat there and marveled at his skill.

Recently, I downloaded a SNES emulator to revisit the game. It's not as great as it was back then. But regardless, it has earned a spot on my list.


8: Pokemon Yellow

The Gameboy Color was the first console I owned that wasn't a hand me down. But the game that earned spot eight on my list actually wasn't my first game for it. My parents bought me Pokemon Pinball instead. It was okay, I told myself. I would get a "real" Pokemon game soon.

But when Gold and Silver were announced, I panicked. Why were my parents making me miss out? Along came the tears, and luckily for me, my loving aunt was there. She took me straight to the store and I got what I desired. I was kind of a strange child, but who wasn't?

Nonetheless, I've come to realize that Yellow isn't really the best choice for a kid's first Pokemon game. It makes you start with an electric type pokemon, and the first gym leader has ground types that are immune to electric attacks. They also have good defenses... that battle with Brock is up there as one of the most suspenseful fights in my gaming history.

My Pikachu had run out of power points (PP) for all of its moves, forcing it to use struggle, but somehow I managed to win... and then, like an idiot, I went on to the next route without going to the pokemon center first. Live and learn, I guess...

With the virtual console release, I've found out just how used to FireRed I am. I knew it would be archaic, but not like this. A lot of moves are stupid or useless, and the old lady with the tea in Celadon doesn't exist. You have to buy a drink from a vending machine for the thirsty Saffron guards instead. There's no healing spot in the SS Anne. These things had me scratching my head for a little bit. But other than that, strong nostalgia.


7: Pokemon Crystal

While I also had Pokemon Gold as a kid, I chose Crystal for this list for the simple reason that it was the first in the series to give gender options instead of just having a male protagonist. I wasn't bothered in Yellow and Gold, but as a female, I ended up playing Crystal the most often. I would still play it in my Gameboy Advance sometimes before HeartGold and SoulSilver made it obsolete.

Crystal also earns the "first Pokemon game that I got a shiny in other than the red Gyarados" title. Shinies, as all Pokemon fans know, are Pokemon that are a different color than usual. They are super rare, and your chances of finding one are around 1 in 8000. The Johto region's red Gyarados doesn't count because it's story based and anybody can get it.

My first shiny was a male Koffing that I named Cross. He wasn't on my first playthrough, I don't know how many times I started the game before I got him, but I know it was in the Gameboy Advance days.


6: Crash Team Racing

This was my Mario Kart. I never owned an N64, you see... I got a hand me down PlayStation from my uncle and I didn't need or want both.

It was, and still is, the only Crash Bandicoot game I've played, although I'm somewhat interested in playing the classic ones I missed if I can find them.

Either way, this game is fun. I'd spend hours on it because it has a story mode, and I'd also mess around in the other single player modes like the cup races. Sometimes I'd play multiplayer with friends, but not often. We were all more interested in Pokemon. It wasn't until my brother got old enough to game that I played the multiplayer mode of Crash Team Racing regularly. 

What's funny, is this is the only game of mine that he likes. (He just turned thirteen, and apparently all the thirteen-year-old kids these days like things like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. *waves old lady cane*).

5: Pokemon Ruby

Don't worry, this is the last Pokemon game on the list, but it shouldn't be a surprise that the series was that big for me growing up. This was the game I had when I started to really play and compete with my friends. My best friend also had Ruby, but her little brother had Sapphire.

One scorching summer day, my friend's brother was at the swimming pool while her and I walked to the gas station for a slurpee. We made an amusing reference to the drought bringing Groudon in our game and the rain bringing Kyogre in her brother's.

We also traded, battled and once even helped each other have all three starter Pokemon in a single game cartridge. Something that would be much easier today with the Global Trade Station (GTS). Back then, we had to use cables and be right next to each other.

This was the generation of Pokemon that the GameCube games Pokemon Colosseum and Gale of Darkness belonged to. Both had story modes where you could get Pokemon not available in the Gameboy Advance games and transfer them. Not only that, but you could hook up the Gameboy Advance to the GameCube and battle in full 3D! It was the most epic and awesome thing ever.


4: Neopets

Just when the Pokemania in my small town was starting to die down, along came this virtual pet site. It was super addictive, and it was the first time I'd ever signed up for anything on the internet. Most everything I do online today can be traced back to Neopets. Roleplaying? Check. Foruming? Check. Web Design? Check!

I was a young middle schooler who thought I knew how the web worked, but looking back... I was, for lack of a better term, a n00b. I typed in chat speak and flat out asked people for rare and expensive paintbrushes -- the items that you had to use to change the color of your Neopet. *shudders* 

Neopets had super strict rules. You weren't supposed to use more than one account, even though just about everybody did. If you got caught, they would "freeze" you. Happened to me once... but it wasn't that bad. 

The word filter was outrageous. It didn't allow even innocent words like "itchy" and "grape" on your pet pages. And if you roleplayed, you couldn't have romance at all. Not even innocent fluffy stuff. 

I stayed on Neopets despite all that crap that would make me leave a site faster than I can say my own name nowadays. The straw that broke the camel's back is when the "No roleplaying about anything but Neopets" rule was made. "If you want to roleplay other things," it said, "there are other sites for it. Neopets is only for Neopets." And that was the end of an era. 

3: Spyro Ripto's Rage

The second in a trilogy, it was the second I owned of said trilogy. When I first played it, I think I was being taught old west history in school, which taught me that the game's story has more in common with real world history than you might think!

Ripto is an egocentric little magician who arrives in the land of Avalar and decides he wants to rule it. With his army of monsters, he causes trouble everywhere. But he has a strong hate for dragons, so the locals bring a dragon to Avalar to stop him. 

Ripto's Rage is my least favorite of the classic Spyro trilogy for reasons even I don't know. I guess I just prefer the other two? But still, it's a great game and was definitely one I spent hours upon hours on. I still play it on occasion today.


2: Spyro the Dragon

When I first got my PlayStation handed down from my uncle, all he had was a demo disk to get me started. This game was the one that caught my eye the most, so I selected it and fell in love immediately. It was so much fun that I forgot about my bowl of ice cream until my elbow landed in the melted slush.

Later when I got to own this masterpiece, I did countless playthroughs over the years. But it wasn't until I was about twenty one that I finally completed it 100%. I haven't been able to 100% the other two classic Spyro games, but I got close.

1: Spyro Year of the Dragon

This is no surprise, right? After I fell in love with Spyro the Dragon via the demo disk, I actually owned the third in the trilogy first. And then it was obvious that my uncle had a very important thing missing when he gave me the PlayStation: a memory card. No memory card and just a demo disk. Why did he even get the console if he wasn't going to use it to its fullest? It's a mystery.

I explained to my parents what a memory card was and why I needed one. Then I was ready to embark on the biggest and most enjoyable gaming adventure of my childhood. I went backward through the classic Spyro trilogy, which wasn't a big deal because they all had stories which were independent of each other. If you try to do that with Legend of Spyro, it won't work, you have to play those in order.

Spyro was the first game I considered myself a fan of, and it is the reason I love dragons. Lots of fond memories... lots of fun times, lots of good reasons for Spyro Year of the Dragon to be my number one!

In conclusion...

Here's a neat little photo I took that I call Shades of the Past, specifically for this article. Binder and box full of Pokemon cards, a Playstation 2 decorated with a Spyro drawing, and of course, those three sacred Spyro games.

Do you have any memorable experiences with the games I listed? Do you want to talk about your own nostalgic childhood games? List them in the comments below!

Published Dec. 15th 2016


Gamer (duh), and aspiring artist and writer. Mainly a nintendo fan, and enjoys the more creative side of gaming.


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