As seasons turn, cultures age and develop, and civilizations rise and fall, we often reflect on our paramount achievements: writing, democracy, the printing press, relativity and space travel all come to mind. Something’s missing, though.
Video games. That’s right, video games.
Think of the historical possibilities. What if the British and French had simply appeased Hitler with Duck Hunt instead of the Sudetenland? Shooting those little two-dimensional ducks and ordering that big ol’ hound to retrieve them would’ve kept those wacky Nazis occupied for hours. Al Capone could’ve sated his gangster’s bloodlust with the citizens of Vice City in Grand Theft Auto rather than the real Chicagoans he massacred in the twenties.
And with that, I present a thoroughly biased and painstakingly researched list of 10 of the best video games of all time. Major world conflict may result from my pronouncements, but I’m willing to take that chance in the interest of starting real dialogue on this important issue.
10. Tony Hawk
This game commandeered the freshman year of certain of my friends. Class attendance was a distant second priority to beating every single aspect of the game. “I’ve spent most of my time here at Yale playing Tony Hawk in some fashion, as my grades unfortunately reflect,” Paul McLaughlin ’06 said. After all, what’s not to like about a game where you control a skateboarder who can bleed all over the half-pipe, seem to fracture his skull and three of his four limbs, and then execute a 540¡ goofy kick flip?
9. Golden Eye
Did anyone actually play the one-player mode? I tried, but was always forced to engage in the suicide that was the multiplayer mode. I stood a chance if I found the rocket launcher, but with proximity mines on any level, I just ran through, hoping to survive the blasts as I set them off.
8. Mortal Kombat
Probably the best head-to-head fighting game ever. So violent and graphic that my mother forbade me from playing it. I loved the secret fatalities, especially when the loser’s spinal column was viciously ripped from his body. Just disgusting. And everyone hated that loser who would win matches with the “friendship” secret move. Gore, not peace, satisfied my 10-year-old desires.
7. Grand Theft Auto III
This game seemed never to run out of missions, and when my roommate finally beat it, news of his victory flew throughout the college. Personally, I preferred to just cruise around the city beating pedestrians to death. If it had been a really bad day, I would steal a car, then drive to the one part of the city where the police couldn’t reach me and destroy as many people, cars and dogs as possible. This game also demonstrated that a bazooka is surprisingly easy to obtain.
Tetris single-handedly legitimized the Gameboy as a viable video game system. Numerous family vacations were saved from utter ruin by the miraculous calming power of Tetris. And the soundtrack rivals that of Super Mario Bros. Who can’t hum the Tetris theme, even today? “That goddamn fast music when you’re about to lose still freaks me out,” Greg Rodriguez ’04 said.
5. Madden NFL 2004
If a video game ever approached replicating reality, this is it. The pinnacle of human achievement, at least as far as sport simulation and graphics are concerned. Plus, Video Michael Vick may be the second-best video game athlete of all time (more on this later). Playing with him is almost unfair to the other team. And owner mode? Finally I can seek revenge against all those penny-pinching owners who charge me $5 for a hot dog by charging my own fake fans $5 for a hot dog.
I never understood the futuristic plot of this game. I just remember that the character wore this great space suit and that you shot things. Oh, to be six again.
3. Tecmo Bowl
Unquestionably the best sports game of all time. It made an entire generation of non-athletes football superstars. “Even though I watched not a single football game in the early ’90s, I have memorized every starter and backup and their stats for the two seasons covered by Tecmo Bowl,” said Kendrick Strauch ’04.
As I learned from Bill Simmons on ESPN.com, Video Bo Jackson is the best video game athlete of all time. Absolutely trounces Video Vick. Certain plays in the playbook were unstoppable. Final scores of 84-0. Video Bo could rush for 400 yards a quarter, if you set the quarters long enough. This single character has defined the video game experience for numerous individuals throughout our great land. Or so I’m told.
2. Duck Hunt
Yes, this game would’ve appeased Hitler. Whoever thought of the innovative gun should really have won some sort of medal of honor. Somehow those geniuses over at Nintendo managed to combine gratuitous violence with a wholesome good time. The NRA should’ve capitalized on this classic and enrolled six-year olds. “I would’ve shot anything to satisfy that dog,” said Matt Robinson ’07.
1. Super Mario Bros.
Owning the single Nintendo game cartridge that has both Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. is tantamount to owning the Holy Grail of video games. No amount of superlative usage can do this game justice: the best concept, the best soundtrack, the best villains, the best heroes. Super Mario Bros. started it all and continues to be the most entertaining game on the market, almost 20 years after it first appeared. “I put my head in the toilet because I wanted to be a part of their world,” said Gabe Olsen ’05.