Games of My Life

by Darius Kazemi on June 27, 2009

in alpha centauri,Amplitude,best game ever,Deus Ex,fallout,gta,Jagged Alliance 2,scorched earth,Spelunky

I’ve decided to copy Shane Liesegang and do a list of the 10 “most impactful” games, and try to find some trends in the games that I pick.

Unordered 10 Impactful Games

I chose the games for this list by thinking of games that are personally “impactful” to me. They either changed the way I think about games, or changed the way I think about the world. Like Shane, I’m interested in finding any trends between these games, so I’m subjecting them to a set of metrics that might possibly be completely meaningless.
Note that I’m limiting it to video games here, otherwise I’d have backgammon on the list. But comparing video games to board games or to folk games is in many ways an apples-to-oranges thing, especially considering the comparisons that I want to use to examine them.

Chronological Order

  • 1988: Super Mario Bros 3
  • 1991: Scorched Earth
  • 1993: Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
  • 1997: Fallout
  • 1998: Alpha Centauri
  • 1999: Jagged Alliance 2
  • 2000: Deus Ex
  • 2001: Grand Theft Auto 3
  • 2003: Amplitude
  • 2009: Spelunky
It’s not surprising that while the list spans 21 years, half of the games I chose were made between 1997 and 2001. For me, those are the golden years of gaming. I’m also not surprised that there’s a big gap between 2003 and 2009. While there haven’t been a whole lot of AAA titles that affect me the way titles from the late ’90s did, I even struggled to think of an indie game that really truly affected me in the way that Fallout or JA2 did. Spelunky is the obvious exception, but while there have been many fantastic indie titles that I think about all the time, I think they’re often just too small in scope to really affect me the same way that the other games did.
Of course, now that we’re talking about scope, let’s look at play time.

Play Time

  • Jagged Alliance 2: 200+ hours
  • Amplitude: 100-200 hours
  • Super Mario Bros 3: 100-200 hours
  • Scorched Earth: 100-200 hours
  • Deus Ex: 80 hours
  • Grand Theft Auto 3: 80 hours
  • Spelunky: 50 hours playing, 25 hours modding
  • Fallout: 40 hours
  • Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle: 30 hours
  • Alpha Centauri: 30 hours
In this list I’m attempting to remember how many hours I spent with each game. This ties back into the whole indie games thing: no matter how much I like a game, it’s probably not going to change my life if I don’t spend a lot of time with it. So Spelunky averages about 3 minutes per play session, but I have spent as much time with it as I have with GTA3. Whereas Passage and Execution are very important games to me that changed the way I think abotu games, but somehow they don’t seem so impactful because I played them once or twice and felt like I was done with the experience.
Fun fact: I played through the Jagged Alliance 2 demo about three nights a week for a year before the full game came out.


  • 97: Grand Theft Auto 3
  • 94: Super Mario Bros 3
  • 93: Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle
  • 92: Alpha Centauri
  • 90: Deus Ex
  • 89: Fallout
  • 86: Amplitude
Some of the games did not have metacritic scores, and are not included. Some of these games had multiple SKUs, in which case I picked the highest score. It looks like the games that matter to me are also games that the critics love.

Genres and Demographics

  • Jagged Alliance 2: tactical combat RPG
  • Amplitude: rhythm action game
  • Super Mario Bros 3: action platformer
  • Scorched Earth: turn-based artillery
  • Deus Ex: action shooter / RPG
  • Grand Theft Auto 3: sandbox action
  • Spelunky: procedural platformer
  • Fallout: RPG
  • Maniac Mansion 2: Day of the Tentacle: adventure
  • Alpha Centauri: strategy simulation
Various stats about the list:
  • 2 platformers
  • 3 RPGs
  • 4 turn-based games
  • 1 first-person game
  • 2 games where you navigate an avatar around a 3D space
  • 5 action games (relying on reflexes to any degree)
  • 9 American games, 1 Japanese game
  • 2 games with puzzle elements
  • 1 game where the puzzle elements are key to the experience
  • 4 “open world” games, including Deus Ex
  • 1 game that must be played multiple times through
  • 3 strategy games
  • 7 PC games (were primarily released for PC)
  • 3 console games: 2 PS2, 1 NES
  • 5 games that are continuing titles in a series
  • 2 games that kicked off a series
  • 3 games that stand alone
  • 1 game that loses a lot of value on replay
  • 6 games with strong story elements
  • 4 games where the story is absolutely central to the game
  • 3 games with multiplayer (Deus Ex had a patch but I don’t count it)


mik3cap June 27, 2009 at 11:30 pm

This is awesome data, very interesting. I wonder what an organized survey of game developer luminaries with similar questions would turn up?

mik3cap June 27, 2009 at 11:36 pm

My list:

Donkey Kong
X-Com: UFO Defense
Advance Wars
Shadow of the Colossus
Tomb Raider
Resident Evil: Code Veronica

Darius Kazemi June 27, 2009 at 11:58 pm

"I wonder what an organized survey of game developer luminaries with similar questions would turn up?"

M.U.L.E. Lots and lots of M.U.L.E.

Patrick June 28, 2009 at 1:27 am

You know I´ve actually played Passage pretty extensively and tried various strategies to get the high score, ultimately realizing the stochastic nature is unbeatable, and this helped me come to terms with getting married and having a kid (because the higher score you can get solo doesn´t really matter, you die anyway and its mostly random).

Shane Liesegang June 28, 2009 at 3:30 am

Very cool to see your list, Darius! We have very little overlap (closest being Mario 3 <-> Mario World). I'm trying to predict what metric might be the best predictor of someone's game aesthetic — my bet would be the first split in a binary tree would be the number of console games vs. computer games on the list, followed by years of distribution. (e.g. "Oh, you're mostly console games from the late 90's; you'll probably like this.")

Hopefully the reach of your blog can spread this meme — I'd love to see other people's lists and breakdowns.

Darius Kazemi June 28, 2009 at 3:50 am

Shane: I think we're close to some overlap on SM:AC and Civ, as well.

Shane Liesegang June 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Ahh, true. My bad. :-)

I find this exercise a lot more interesting than trying to pick a "top 10," which usually devolves into figuring out the rankings and defending choices. By making it based on personal impact, you learn more about your gaming tendencies.

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