10 Games That Changed My Life

From coin-op classics to modern day masterpieces.

*This content is sponsored by Logitech and was created independently of the Den of Geek editorial team* 

Video games have come a very long way over the past 40 or so years, from the basic delights of Pong and Space Invaders to the very latest VR experiences and AAA blockbusters. And over the years, we’ve gradually all become gamers. These days virtually every house has, at the very least, a PC, and with so much choice there’s at least one favorite game for everyone.

With gaming now the mainstream, there’s a need for PC gaming gear for everyone, and that’s what Logitech G’s new Prodigy range is all about. The G403 Prodigy Gaming Mouse, G403 Prodigy Wireless Gaming Mouse, G213 Prodigy RGB Gaming Keyboard, and G231 Prodigy Gaming Headset all feature the technology you’d expect from pro hardware, delivering comfort and performance but without the pro price tag.

But what to play with this great kit? We asked Jim McCauley, Editor-in-Chief of Tech and Games at Dialect Inc., about the ten games that have made the biggest impact on him over the years. Jim’s been gaming since the 1970s and has been writing about games for over 20 years, for outlets such as Edge, PC Gamer, Gamesmaster, and Official Playstation Magazine. Here’s what he came up with:

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Galaxian (1979)

My introduction to video games came via one of those 1970s “TV games”: a pre-Atari console packed with about 10 variations on Pong. And while I knew of Space Invaders, it was Galaxian that I encountered first, in the corner of a bar in Spain when I was about 10 years old. It was the first arcade game that I spent any time with, pumping it full of my holiday money at every opportunity. I was never any good at it, but its bright colors and dive-bombing alien insects grabbed my attention and ensured that I’d never see Space Invaders – with its monochrome, regimented alien menace – as anything more than an also-ran.

Manic Miner (1983)

The first computer in our house was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum with a whopping 16KB of RAM, which seemed a lot when we got it, but limited its potential for games. That is until the day my dad came home with a memory upgrade to take it up to an almighty 48KB, plus the game of the moment: Manic Miner. One of the early platform games, it packed 20 inventive and increasingly challenging levels into its 48K, demanding pixel-perfect jumping to grab treasure and avoid its menagerie of weird and wonderful monsters, such as mutant telephones, killer kangaroos, and wacky amoebatrons. With a handful of lives and no opportunity to save your game, merely getting to the final level could score you serious playground bragging rights.

Thrust (1986)

I loved the ZX Spectrum, but in the end I loved the Commodore 64 even more. Built for gaming, it came with multicolored sprite graphics and amazing sound that boomed out from the TV, making the Spectrum’s tiny built-in beeper sound weedier than it already was. I have so many favorite C64 games but Thrust, released on a budget label at a very pocket money-friendly price, stands out because it was so perfectly executed. You pilot a little spaceship, attempting to retrieve a pod from underground caverns and fly it away into space, battling turrets as you go and fighting against gravity and inertia. Thrust‘s physics are a big part of the game. Learning to maneuver the ship takes time and once you pick up a heavy pod, which acts like a pendulum attached to your ship, things become a lot trickier. It demands skill, nerve, and a light touch, and I still love to pit myself against it today.

Super Mario Bros 3 (1988)

The first Mario game I spent any time with was Super Mario Land on the Game Boy, which I mastered to the point that I could run through it without losing a life, but for me Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES is my go-to Mario: crammed with ideas and endlessly surprising you with new tricks and fun secrets. There’s nothing to beat the moment that you discover you can go behind the scenery to pick up hidden stuff. And when you get your hands on the raccoon suit and gain the ability to fly, it opens up some of the game’s levels in a whole new way. Super Mario World on the SNES came along not much later, but I’ll always prefer its smaller brother.

Quake (1996)

Simply getting my first PC was a life-changer: it led to me getting my first staff writer job on a magazine, which in turn led to me sitting up until 3AM one night downloading the shareware episode of Quake the moment it came out, so that I could write it up the next day, just as we were about to go to press. I’ve probably played more Quake deathmatch than any other game. Its physics model is just glorious, allowing you to carry out ludicrous rocket jumps to easily get to out-of-reach power-ups, and its speed is incredible. It’s proper twitch gaming, demanding dead-eye aim, lightning reactions, and intimate knowledge of each level’s layout. If you can muster up all that then it’ll make for some truly intense gaming. The only downside is that it makes today’s first-person shooters feel just a little sluggish by comparison. Give me DM2, a rocket launcher, and a quad damage any day.

F-Zero X (1998)

I once dueled a colleague for the right to review F-Zero GX on the GameCube. Rather than pistols at dawn, we settled the matter over a game of F-Zero X on the N64. I got to write the F-Zero GX review, but I’ll always prefer its predecessor. Between it and Quake, that’s most of my late 1990s gaming time spoken for. F-Zero X‘s sense of speed is breathtaking, its graphics stripped right back in order to maintain a rock-solid 60fps, its racing ships able to boost to well over 600 mph, and its tracks twisting and looping all over the place, with the constant threat of tumbling off the track as you drive around impossibly tight corners while picking your way past 29 other ludicrously fast and aggressive rivals. Thoroughly pulse-quickening stuff, I played it to the point where I could compete in its X Cup with randomly-generated tracks on the hardest difficulty setting, and still win almost every time.

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Metropolis Street Racer (2000)

Less insanely fast but no less impressive was Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast. Developed by Bizarre Creations, who went on to make the Project Gotham Racing series on Xbox, it was an incredibly ambitious racing game whose big selling point was its meticulous recreation of the streets of London, San Francisco, and Tokyo, as well as the inclusion of a fleet of real cars. It meant that I could tear around in a virtual replica of my own MX-5, pulling off maneuvers that I’d never dare attempt in real life. The game’s introduction of the Kudos system – rewarding the player for cool moves and drifts, and which Bizarre carried forward and refined for Project Gotham Racing – made learning to really handle your cars a key point of the game. It also featured a realtime day/night cycle, a brilliant idea with the unfortunate side effect that I only ever really saw the Tokyo tracks at night and the San Francisco tracks in daylight.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (2005)

Speaking of Project Gotham Racing, its own sequel on the original Xbox had a splendid Easter egg tucked away in your virtual garage: a frantic old-school arcade shooter called Geometry Wars. It proved so popular that it was remade and revamped as a standalone title for Xbox 360, arguably becoming the first killer app on Xbox Live Arcade. It’s gloriously simple: a Robotron-style twin-stick shooter in which you fly your little vector ship around, blasting wave after wave of enemies, each with their own behavior patterns, and each wave getting bigger the further you progress. Black holes add to the excitement, but the real fun lies in surviving until the attack waves become impossibly huge. Eventually, you’re in a non-stop battle to shoot a tiny path through a multicolored sea of enemies, daring yourself to hold off using a smart bomb as the Xbox struggles to keep up. Getting to that point of beautiful chaos and surviving for any amount of time is an amazing feeling.

Portal (2007)

I was sold on Portal as soon as I learned about it. There’s something completely irresistible about the idea of having a gun that can create magical portals you can travel through, and the fact that it was being developed by Valve, the company behind Half-Life, made it an absolute day one purchase as far as I was concerned. What I wasn’t anticipating, however, was how they’d take an already excellent concept and then turn it into one of the best narratives in gaming history, thanks to the writing of Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw, who I already knew and loved through their work on gaming site Old Man Murray. Portal reels you in with its succession of test chambers and the constant needling of its AI overseer, GLaDOS. The feeling you get when the game pulls the rug from under you and you escape into the Aperture complex to find and get your revenge on your psychotic, passive-aggressive tormentor is one of the most thrilling experiences that games have to offer.

Dark Souls (2011)

Finally, Dark Souls. I took a very long time coming to it. Friends raved about it, and eventually their enthusiasm about its beautifully weighted gameplay and punishing difficulty level got the better of me. It’s one of those games that I went into knowing very little about, and as a result it took me a long time to get not very far. But with a better understanding of how to approach it (plus a handy walkthrough next to me on my iPad), I restarted and, over a period of many months, managed to beat it. Its difficulty is the real allure for me. It’s tough but fair, demanding you play thoughtfully and don’t get cocky, because it always has a way to smack you down. I can see how its deep lore captivates many players, but that’s all a bit too in-depth for me. I’m more about mastering its combat, discovering new weapons, and figuring out the best ways to fight each enemy, and that’s more than enough to keep me coming back not only to Dark Souls, but both of its sequels.

Learn more about the Logitech G Prodigy series, which inspired this story.