By Phil Bausk

What is it about video games? Why do people from our generation have such a strong relationship with video games? Was it because some of our parents worked a lot and video games kept us entertained as children? Was it just something to pass the time, or are we truly connected to the games and its characters? I know I always felt Luigi didn’t get enough credit and that Mario was a spotlight hog. Then I turned 10, and realized they weren’t real Italian plumbers.

These games transport us into a different reality for a bit. Whether it was taking control of Quincy Carter and leading the 2003 Dallas Cowboys to a Super bowl victory, or defeating Dr. Robotnik to save all of the furry animals Sonic the Hedgehog was such a staunch advocate for, video games helped us do things we couldn’t, and still can’t, do in our everyday lives.

Nowadays, video games are so complex, it takes some time to sit down and learn how to play them. Game controls are so advanced that I am sure in a few years we will be able to make Crash Bandicoot take a dump in the woods before his next wacky adventure. There are so many different genres of games, and so many games within the genre that it can boggle the mind if not properly prepared. That’s why I stick to the basics, and even try to go back to the classics as often as I can.

Here is a list in my view of the Top 5 Video Games (and series) of my generation (Remember my view, so it’s gonna be pretty narrow-minded):

5) Sonic the Hedgehog Series

This was one of the first non sports video games I played growing up. Taking control of that blue ball of speed (the good kind of blue ball), and gathering rings to strengthen yourself in case you fell on a random grouping of spikes in the middle of your path. Dr. Robotnik also gave us a great villain. He always looked like a terribly out of shape Albert Einstein, and I am shocked he didn’t suffer from knee problems as his legs were way to small for his massive body. The bonus rounds were really trippy and I am pretty sure my older brother-in-law played the game just for them. Later games included Sonics’ buddy Tails, and his nemesis Knuckles. As a kid I never appreciated how creepy both Tails and Knuckles were. Tails flew beside Sonic and was utterly dependent on him. No one wanted to be Tails because he was bland and just did everything Sonic wanted to do. He was the Milhouse Van Houten to Sonic. Knuckles was just purely evil. He would do whatever he wanted and didn’t care about those in his path. It makes me worry about how he got the nickname Knuckles.

4) Mega Man X2 (Super Nintendo)

In all of my years, I have never come across a video game that I couldn’t beat. At any age level, I was able to beat older siblings, friends, and relatives, no matter what the game. My cousin Jason would come over to try and beat me in NHL ’94. He was 15 at the time while I was just turning 11. For years his family would come over for holidays and such, or we would go to his house, and we would lock ourselves in our rooms, battling for hours to see who the best was. Me and my 1994 Chicago Blackhawks consistently took the title over my older cousin, and as time went on we tried different games, but with similar results. One day my cousin came over, and he saw me struggling with a video game, he couldn’t believe it. He ragged on me for the next few weeks as I shared my struggles with him, telling him how I would ignore homework and family responsibilities to play this game. This was my struggle with Mega Man X2. Perhaps one of the more underrated games of its time, Mega Man X2 was, in my opinion, the best of the Mega Man series. Not only were the bosses difficult, but the levels themselves posed a great challenge. I am still looking for a copy of this today to finally try and beat it so I can sleep easier at night.

3) Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo)

Ah, an instant classic. So many kids from my generation have played this game, and would probably be more than happy to play it today. Whether it was jumping on a floating ship to get the king back to his normal state, or entering one of “Bowzer’s” castles to avoid ghosts, zombie Koopa Troopas, and dancing mini Bowzers, the memories of playing this game will stick with me for a long time. You know you loved a game so much that when you play it now, you remember all of the shortcuts and tricks while playing, even though you haven’t seen the game in a decade. I had the joy of this experience last week, as I remembered where I could fly up as RatTail Mario and steal a few extra coins. I gets its just in my heritage.

2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Super Nintendo)

Another one of the more underrated games of our generation. They had this game in arcades, where it gained popularity, but it was more fun at home with friends. You could be any of the four turtles, though no one wanted to be Rafael cause he had the worst weapons (He used GIANT FORKS, how was he never killed?!?!?!) . The game sent you into different settings, from outer space to New York City, which personalized the game for me. It gave you a great villain in the infamous Shredder, and had cut scenes that made you wish you were watching one of their movies. The Klansmen (not those ones) weren’t the easiest to defeat, making the game more interesting than your run of the mill fighting games, and a bit more challenging. The dynamic of having someone there with you made this game what it was. We were all so connected to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as characters, that when we saw one of them suffering on screen, we NEEDED to go help them. It didn’t matter which friend you had invited over, even if you hated him, he was Donatello, and he needed your help. When you beat the game you had a feeling of accomplishment, like you had actually saved the world from the evil Shredder and it was time to order some pizza, put your feet up, and relax. Cowabunga dude!

1) The Madden Series (2001-2005)

This is number one for now, but at the rate EA is going, they are going to ruin this franchise forever. When the game first started, it was a bit before me time. I really didn’t get into it until Y2K. I played and I played and it was a game that I became really good at. My team was the New Orleans Saints and legendary Madden QB Aaron Brooks. Brooks was a pretty mediocre (at best) NFL quarterback, but his athleticism and his arm strength carried over to Madden quite well. I always preferred him over playing with Madden stud Michael Vick because Vick could lead you to forget about the rest of your team, while Brooks wasn’t good enough to do so, helping you lean on others such as Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister. Anyhow, the 2001 edition was the first of a string of 4 great madden years. The game play was flawless, as users controlled most of the actions being done by the players on the field. Players moved very much in line with what you commanded them to do, unlike in more recent Madden games, where the movement is a bit more choppy. I spent countless hours playing these games, with friends in tournaments, with strangers in tournaments, and playing with my older brother, reminding him that 10 years of experience meant nothing in Madden. This game shaped my childhood more than any other, as it taught me preparation, competitiveness, and I am sure it didn’t hurt my hand-eye coordination. I just have to thank my parents for knowing that school was a lost cause, and that Madden was a cause worth fighting for.

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