• April 23, 2024

They say that the holiday season is the “most wonderful time of the year.” I do think it’s also a wonderful time for nostalgia and reflection. As you scroll through your old junk on social media, you cringe at old photos and tagged posts that you thought were cool X years ago. And as you end the year and count down to the next one, it’s an odd feeling knowing that the year has gone both too quickly and not soon enough, and you are stuck in a limbo of hope and fear of what the next year will bring.

But for gamers, the holiday season presents a different kind of nostalgia. It’s the perfect opportunity to go back to that time when you had no real-world responsibilities—save for the life that you led inside the tiny screen of your handheld or TV. 

I remember my own classic video game favorites. I was one of the few people to own the very first PlayStation early on when I was a child—a prize that my sister won in a beauty pageant. That set me and my brother up for a life of gaming. 

I remember fighting over PC time so we can play online flash games on Y8. We saved up to buy our very first handheld, the PSP. We were ecstatic when we got our hands on a refurbished Xbox 360. But even now, as we finally got our hands on the latest gear and consoles, it’s hard not to go back to the very first games that got us started. And I’m proud to present some of these oldies but goodies—classic games that I believe have stood the test of time, and remain to be some of the most enjoyable games one can play today.

Pokémon Red and Blue (1996). Pokémon probably won’t be the global phenomenon that it is today without the brilliance of the very first Pokémon Red and Blue games. Even non-gamers would know Charizard and Blastoise, who were featured on the cover of these titles. These games also revolutionized gaming with its trading aspect, so you’ll only ever get the chance to obtain all of the original 151 Pokémon if you traded or battled between games.

Crash Bandicoot (1996). Crash Bandicoot probably cemented my trauma for platform games. All jokes aside, it was some of the most fun moments I shared with my siblings—and only because we had to take turns trying to beat levels that were probably too hard to beat for a couple of young grade schoolers. 

Final Fantasy VII (1997). It was one of my closest friends who introduced Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart to me—and more than 20 years later, I am still crushing hard on these two when Square Enix made them available in high-definition in the recent Final Fantasy VII remake. Final Fantasy VII told some of the most heart-wrenching stories of its time, and even now, it remains to be a storytelling masterpiece.

Resident Evil 2 (1998). Cinematic camera angles and brilliant level design set Resident Evil 2 apart from many video games in various genres. Although I have always been a scaredy cat, this game was too good to pass. There’s a reason it was remade in 2019—and thankfully it lived up to its original.

Harvest Moon: Back to Nature (1999). Harvest Moon on the very first PlayStation was probably the game that turned me into the gamer that I am today. Although I enjoy many genres, I am probably the biggest fan of chill, simulation games thanks to this title. I have since moved on to many other Story of Seasons titles and, of course, Stardew Valley, but nothing beats the peace and quiet that the OG Harvest Moon brings.

Halo: Combat Evolved (2001). My love for first-person shooters began with Halo,– a story shared by many a gamer who fell in love with Bungie’s epic series. Although the succeeding Halo games have risen to legendary status (read: Halo: Reach), it wouldn’t have all been possible without Combat Evolved.

Portal (2007). Portal might not be as big a name as the many titles in this list, but it is a clever and quirky puzzle-platform that you’d want to share with a friend. It features one of the best antagonists of the gaming world: the hilarious and creepy GLaDOS. I will play Portal just to hear GLaDOS mocking me over and over again.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011). While I was tempted to name Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in this list (as it was the older game that set Skyrim up for success), I have to say, if you’re going for a Bethesda classic, it has to be Skyrim. More than 300 hours of pure fun and grind. In Skyrim, you can be whatever you want to be—a vampire mage, a lizard-person who summons elementals, an elven warrior donned in dragon-bone armor, or a cultist archer that may have committed too many a crime to still deserve the title of Dragonborn. In Skyrim, you can turn the whole town against you for killing a chicken. You can also get them all back on your side if you rise to become the Arch-Mage and gain everyone’s respect. If there is only one game in my list worthy of legendary status, it’s this one. And I am confident this sentiment is shared by many gamers across age and race.

What about you? What classic are you bringing out of your dusty old box during the holidays?

Happy gaming!

Words Jovi Figueroa

This article first appeared in Speed’s December 2023 issue, which you can read here.

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