It’s time for some sentimentality and yearning for a return to past periods in my gaming history, with some particular titles that evoke the feeling of nostalgia for me.
This is a very subjective topic and I’d love the opportunity to share my own memories and see how they compare to yours. Most of the following games come from the late 1990s when I finally had my own income and could buy any release I wanted – or one every few months at least.
1997: Tomb Raider II
A friend and I had reached level 14 together, the ice palace, and had just pulled a lever before leaving Lara Croft standing still while we checked a game guide for what to do next. We had left our progress un-paused for quite some time with the character stood facing the wall, so our view was restricted. We had no idea there were giant Yetis in the game – and we definitely didn’t know that this was the level which introduced them – and I expect you can imagine our screams a giant creature barged it’s way on screen and began attacking Lara.
I found this title to be just as scary as Resident Evil 2 (see below), if not more in some places. I believe it was the ambient music and sound that provided the right atmosphere to immerse myself in the 3D world. The scariest thing would have to be the butler at Croft Manor who follows Lara around the lonely mansion while carrying a tray of crockery, and groaning from back pain no doubt. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t managed to lock him into the freezer just to get rid of him.
1998: Metal Gear Solid
This was a timed demo from the Official PlayStation magazine, and I remember the preview article made the game out to be something special.From the intro only is was obvious it was going to be a big hit and I’m not usually one for stealth games. The story, cinematic cutscenes and gritty aesthetic drew me in with its movie-like quality; and let’s not forget one of the best boss-fights ever in video games with Psycho Mantis. This sequence broke the fourth-wall by making your controller move using the rumble feature and causing you to believe the television channel had been changed by blanking the screen with ‘HIDEO’ in the top-right corner – a reference to Hideo Kojima.
Beating Psycho Mantis requires the PlayStation controller to be unplugged and placed into the second controller port, otherwise you’re unable to control Snake. He even reads your memory card making references to how many saves have been made and comments on particular entries such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night if one exists. The controller trick alone is both genius and risky because unless you have a friend or game guide to explain it, you could become stuck. One other trick worth mentioning is the point where a character tells Snake about a radio frequency that can be found ‘on the back of the CD case’, referring to the actual physical one. One of the screenshots included there was of a radio conversation with the frequency clearly visible. Imagine what an incredible problem this was if you rented the game as often the original sleeve wasn’t included.
1998: Resident Evil 2
Back when demo discs were stuck to the front of magazines, I had my first experience with the Capcom’s Resident Evil series on my original PlayStation. I’m sure it was my first time with zombies in video games and the quality of this one was astounding, but I hadn’t heard of the developer before. My brother and I played the time-limited ten-minute demo over and over to get as far into the opening section as possible. We thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t find it that scary until after the statue puzzle upstairs in the police station. Returning to the lobby takes you through a narrow corridor where we experienced our first jump-scare – zombie arms smashing through the window. We both up and left our room in horror.
The frights in Resident Evil 2 were unintentionally signposted by a pause in the gameplay while the CD drive spun up and you could hear the sound of the laser navigating the disc. It wasn’t obvious at the time as it’s not something you’re aware of as a kid, but today it would almost be comical. We were planning to buy the full game as soon as it was released until this fright and we headed straight to our parent’s room to let them know we’d had second thoughts. In the end we did get it, and the same thing happened again but with crows instead of zombies; except for this time we had the volume up high to make the most of a new set of speakers, and once more we left the room sharply.
Not many will know this unique massively-multiplayer first-person shooter for PC but it’s still going strong today with PlanetSide 2, a free-to-play title. The enormous scale of the game made every battle unique with hundreds of players from three factions sometimes converging on the same base and fighting for ownership. It was like Battlefield but set in the future with MMO mechanics and a persistent world where capturing territory wasn’t temporary like in round-based games, but an ongoing war that didn’t end until the servers were turned off in July 2016. I spent most of my online life playing just this game.
My fondest memories are of those times with my outfit, which was like a guild, and there was a strong sense of belonging to your faction which fuelled competition with players on other groups. I can still remember the in-game names of the top players on my server, called Werner, and one god-like player who was always at the top of the leaderboard. There still hasn’t been another online shooter with the same level of strategy and team-play as PlanetSide. Becoming a top-tier squad leader required experience points only earned through leading a successful squad. Once you reached the coveted command rank five, you received a powerful orbital strike and access to a channel where other leaders would agree where to strike next on behalf of hundreds of players.
I could probably continue down memory lane for much longer but I’ll leave it here. This list is only the tip of the iceberg for me, and I’ll probably remember some other significant games I wish I had included, but we can leave this for the comment section. Do any of these resonate with you? Are you from a generation in gaming before or after these games? Let me know below!
Often found in front of YouTube watching videos of cats if not playing video games. Loves sprawling open-world games with a soft spot for the Fallout series.