Bamboo Cyberdream

a panda wanders the electronic landscape

Games of My Life

I’ve been trying to break down exactly what I value in games. What I find fun, what kinds of games I’m drawn to. It’s a hard thing to quantify exactly what makes a game good, especially trying to determine a trend across all the games I’ve liked. So I’m making this page as a kind of analysis and breakdown of the games that have been strong, memorable parts of my life.

As I find more interesting metrics, I plan to post them, as well as update this post. But hopefully the 10 games themselves will remain static, unless there’s some moment of “HOW ON EARTH COULD I FORGET TO INCLUDE CATWOMAN?!”

Unordered 10 Impactful Games

  • Rez
  • Sly 2: Band of Thieves
  • Portal
  • Braid
  • Marathon
  • Super Mario World
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Civilization
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Planetfall

These are the games that, over my life, I played the hell out of. Ones that I was obsessed with. Ones that impressed me to my core. That haunted my dreams when I wasn’t playing them. Ones that I will evangelize to people who haven’t played them.

There are many other games I loved, enjoyed immensely, and replay from time to time. But in the interests of keeping the list to 10, I just went with the ones that had a profound impact or rose to the level of obsession for me.

Note that I’ve limited this list to video and computer games, or else I would have to include Dungeons & Dragons, Diplomacy, and several others.

(Not meant to be a “top 10” of any sort or a declaration of industry impact or anything.)


  • 93: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • 93: Braid
  • 92: Super Mario World
  • 92: Final Fantasy VI
  • 91: Rez
  • 90: Portal
  • 88: Sly 2: Band of Thieves

In places where a game had more than one rating due to remakes or multiple platform releases, I went with the highest rating. Marathon, Civilization, and Planetfall have no Metacritic rankings. The Super Mario World and Final Fantasy VI rankings come from the GameBoy Advance re-releases.

This yields an average Metacritic ranking of 91.2, which would seem to indicate that the games which mattered most to me are also games that the industry as a whole (or at least the press) also consider to be paragons.

Chronologically Sorted

  • 1983: Planetfall
  • 1990: Super Mario World
  • 1991: Civilization
  • 1994: Final Fantasy VI
  • 1994: Marathon
  • 1997: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • 2001: Rez
  • 2004: Sly 2: Band of Thieves
  • 2007: Portal
  • 2008: Braid

At first I was troubled that there was too much clustering in recent years, but this has an average of 2.8 years between games. If you throw out the first 7-year gap, that drops to 2.25. I would be comfortable with either number.

Genres and Demographics

  • Rez: music-based rail shooter
  • Sly 2: Band of Thieves: adventure platformer
  • Portal: first-person puzzler
  • Braid: puzzle platformer
  • Marathon: first-person shooter
  • Super Mario World: action platformer
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: action exploration RPG
  • Civilization: strategy simulation
  • Final Fantasy VI: RPG
  • Planetfall: text adventure

So breaking that down:

  • 3 games that could be classified as platformers
  • 2 first-person games
  • 7 games with strong story elements
  • 4 games where the story is absolutely endemic to the game’s quality
  • 2 shooters (and one had very strong story)
  • 5 games with gameplay focused around puzzles
  • 3 games with majority gameplay focused around puzzles
  • 4 games made by Japanese developers
  • 6 games made by American developers
  • 0 games made by anyone else
  • 2 games that lose a substantial amount of (if not all) impact after first play-through
  • 1 game that is meant to be played through multiple times for most enjoyment
  • 3 games that expose fairly complex numerical models to the player
  • 4 games that are continuing titles in a series
  • 3 games that kicked off a series
  • 1 game that is rumored to be the start of a series
  • 2 games that stand alone
  • 4 PC/Mac games
  • 6 console games
    • 1 Dreamcast game (I played on PS2 originally)
    • 1 PlayStation 2 game
    • 1 Xbox 360 game
    • 2 Super Nintendo games
    • 1 PlayStation game