Answering Big Questions: My Favorite Game for Each Year I’ve Been Alive

Hello, adventurers, and welcome to me answering questions yet again! My blogging companion and a great source of inspiration, The Well-Red Mage, has posed to the community at large a fun question: can we name a favorite game for every year we have existed? Originally seeing this as a thread on Twitter, Red decided to share the activity with the rest of the game blogging world and there have been some excellent submissions already. So today I want to share my own answer to this question, starting with my birth year of 1991 and moving forward through 2017 (I feel like such a child!).

A Link to the Past

1991 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST
Obviously I didn’t play this game in 1991, because I was just born, but it’s easily my favorite from that year. While I would vote for Ocarina of Time in the epic and ongoing battle between the two, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this game. After all, think of all the amazing things about the series we wouldn’t have without A Link to the Past: the Master Sword, the Dark World, crazy fan theories that Link and Zelda are siblings…

Mario Paint
1992 – MARIO PAINT
I was just talking to someone the other day about how weirdly awesome this game is. I almost never utilized the actual painting portion of this game, instead swatting flies and composing poorly-constructed songs with the Star icon to my heart’s content. I played the heck out of Mario Paint as a kid, and I’d love to see this quirky masterpiece make an appearance on virtual console at some point.

Mega Man X Cover

1993 – MEGA MAN X
Goodness, I can hear the opening notes of the first level in my head just looking at that cover. Mega Man X was my first Mega Man game and I loved to play it. This game put the Blue Bomber on my hero list right alongside Link and Mario. I can remember playing it with my cousin all the time, the two of us taking turns going through each level and trying to make it all the way through the game. That Sigma battle still makes me nervous!

Final Fantasy VI Cover

1994 – FINAL FANTASY VI
Final Fantasy VI is celebrated as one of the best Final Fantasy games out there, and I certainly liked it well enough. It isn’t my favorite in the series, but Kefka is a pretty cool villain and I enjoyed some of the characters from the ensemble cast, particularly Locke, Edgar, and Terra. I technically played the GBA version and not this one but nothing else from this year jumped out at me.

Chrono Trigger

1995 – CHRONO TRIGGER
Oh golly, what a game. Chrono Trigger is an absolutely fantastic RPG with a perfectly-balanced cast of characters and great game mechanics. The storytelling is compelling, the music is beautiful, and the game is a blast to play. I didn’t play Chrono Trigger until I was much older but I instantly understood why so many people love this game. I’m glad that nothing significant to my childhood self came out this year so that I could give all favor to the game significant to my adult self.

Pokemon Blue

1996 – POKEMON BLUE
This year was a tough decision, as Pokemon Blue came out the same year as Super Mario 64, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and Mario Kart 64. Each game is significant to me for a different reason, but I chose Pokemon because this game would ultimately spawn my love for an entire series, whereas I already enjoyed Mario games – those other titles just enhanced my appreciation. I also received Pokemon Blue under very special circumstances – as a “be quiet and don’t get in the way” present for my mother’s wedding!

Star Fox 64

1997 – STAR FOX 64
When I was a young warthog lad, I loved to play Star Fox but I struggled a lot with certain levels, particular the planet Macbeth and its wicked train from Hell. Consequently, I frequently asked my mother to help me play and beat this game. She did so out of the kindness of her heart, despite the fact that she too hated that level and I probably asked her like once a week. I have special memories with Star Fox as a result, and that combined with the sheer quotability of this game’s one-liners will always give it a place on my list.

Ocarina of Time Cover

1998 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME
One of my favorite games of all time and the Zelda game that made me fall in love with Zelda games. I go back probably once a year to revisit this incredible game, which in my view still holds up and has something to offer even after 20 years (holy wow, 20 years!). This is the Link that will always come to mind first when I think of the brave hero.

Pokemon Silver Cover

1999 – POKEMON SILVER
My favorite game in the Pokemon series, I played this title over and over again. Johto is my favorite region and introduced multiple Pokemon that I have come to love including Lugia, Umbreon, and Heracross, one of my all-time favorites. The Johto region was impressive enough on its own, but then when you factor in the ability to revisit Kanto, face the mighty Dragon Master a second time for the championship, all before climbing Mt. Silver to defeat the player character from the first game – this Pokemon title still has one of the most satisfying story arcs in the series.

Majora's Mask

2000 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORA’S MASK
While Ocarina of Time will always occupy a special place in my heart for introducing me to the world of Zelda, Majora’s Mask is my favorite game in the series. I love the time mechanisms that drive the game, the dark themes pervading throughout, the focus on side quests and lore – Majora’s Mask has, in my mind, the most satisfying world in a Zelda game. I love exploring Clock Town and the surrounding environs and the characters here are some of my favorite Zelda NPCs.

Luigi's Mansion

2001 – LUIGI’S MANSION
Ghost Busters + Luigi? Heck yes. Luigi’s Mansion is an excellent game that I unfortunately did not experience right when it came out. But once I got my hands on it, I loved it. Capturing all of the ghosts and learning their backgrounds is lots of fun, and on top of that this title has really catchy sound design. I love that Luigi hums the theme song of the game as he wanders around scared in the dark. This terrified but heroic man is forever on the Protect List.

Star Wars Jedi Outcast

2002 – STAR WARS JEDI KNIGHT II: JEDI OUTCAST
One day while my cousin Jonathan and I were spending the night together at my grandpa’s, my grandfather took us to the video store and allowed us to rent one video game to play. Jonathan narrowed it down to Soul Calibur II or this game, and being more familiar with Star Wars, I choose the latter. It’s a good thing I did because this title became one of our favorite games to play together. We spent countless weekends playing Capture the Flag, experimenting with different firearms and force powers all while mastering our skills with the lightsaber. Plenty of other great games came out in 2002, but this one – this one’s for the memories.

KOTOR

2003 – STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC
Golly, the early 2000’s were great for Star Wars games, eh? KOTOR was a fantastic RPG, particularly for a little nerd like me who wanted desperately to get his hands on a tabletop RPG but didn’t have anyone to play with. Of course, the game mechanics came second to the excellent story, which contains one of the most impressive plot twists in gaming history.

Paper Mario TTYD

2004 – PAPER MARIO: THE THOUSAND-YEAR DOOR
Here it is, my favorite game of all time. Not because I literally think this is the best game ever made, but because this game perfectly captures what I love about video games. Engaging mechanics that are deceptively simple but incorporate plenty of strategy, excellent storytelling with a bit of a dark twist and the ability to explore the lore and form your own theories, and a snarky sense of humor that never takes itself too seriously. I could go on for ages about why TTYD is so special to me, but we’ve got to move on – we’re only halfway through this list!

Fire Emblem Path of Radiance

2005 – FIRE EMBLEM: PATH OF RADIANCE
The early 2000s would introduce me to a new series that would go on to become my one of my favorite game series ever, standing alongside The Legend of Zelda and Paper Mario as some of my favorite titles in gaming. That series is Fire Emblem, and I was introduced to the world of the tactical RPG by Path of Radiance. Ike is a true hero whose journey, rather than changing him, challenges him to give up on his principles but never succeeds. Ike’s character development is to stand strong in the face of adversity and he does so with flying colors. There are plenty of great characters in Path of Radiance, and thanks to this game I am a fan of the series to this day.

Mega Man Battle Network 6

2006 – MEGA MAN BATTLE NETWORK 6: CYBEAST FALZAR
The Battle Network series defined my Mega Man experience more than any of the main series games. I explored the Net as Megaman.exe as operated by Lan Hikari, and the sixth installment in the series became my favorite pretty quickly. It combined story elements from many of the prior games in order to bring everything together for a big finale, and the music in this game still gets stuck in my head from time to time now.

Super Paper Mario Cover

2007 – SUPER PAPER MARIO
Super Paper Mario is considered to be something of a black sheep by many series fans, but I personally enjoyed the game. While I certainly did not appreciate the transition to a 2D platformer from the original turn-based RPG style, I still felt like Super Paper Mario brought its A game in the areas of storytelling and humor. Count Bleck is one of my favorite video game characters of all time, and seeing his story unfold throughout the game was quite compelling.

Super Smash Bros Brawl

2008 – SUPER SMASH BROTHERS BRAWL
While Melee may have been the preferred title of competitive players, Super Smash Brothers Brawl was the game I spent the most time playing with friends and family. The roster featured a lot of great characters, and the story mode allowed me to get more enjoyment out of playing the game solo compared to other titles in the series. Brawl was also special to me because this game inspired the webcomic series Brawl in the Family – reading that comic on Tuesday and Friday each week was a defining feature of my teenage years.

inFamous 2

2009 – INFAMOUS
This list has been pretty G-rated for the most part, due largely to my status as a Nintendo fan. Most of the games I love can be digested by kids and adults alike, but just because I like Mario and Zelda doesn’t mean that I can’t play the occasional game that’s more serious. inFamous tells the story of Cole MacGrath, who gains electrical superpowers after a devastating explosion that levels multiple city blocks. His journey to overcome the sinister Kessler, choosing between good and evil all along his path, drew me in instantly, and as soon as I finished the first game I began anxiously awaiting a sequel.

999

2010 – 999: 9 HOURS, 9 PERSONS, 9 DOORS
The first entry into the Zero Escape series drew me into a genre I never thought would appeal to me: visual novels. Granted, I still don’t play many of them, but the pseudoscientific themes along with the horror/thriller storyline of the game drew me in. Nothing is ever what it seems in Zero Escape, and never knowing which characters you can trust keeps you on your toes. Although I was axe-murdered a little more often than I wanted to be, I greatly enjoyed my experience with this game.

Skyward Sword Cover

2011 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD
This may not be my favorite title in the Zelda series, but I still really enjoyed the game and felt like it had many redeeming qualities. Link’s personality is very well-developed in this game, we get perhaps the coolest version of Impa in the whole series, and Ghirahim is a wickedly fascinating villain. Side note: other games from this year include Skyrim, LA Noire, and Dark Souls, all of which got or are getting Switch ports nearly seven years later. Weird.

Dishonored Cover

2012 – DISHONORED
See, I play some grown-up games, honest! Dishonored grabbed my attention from the very first trailer, and while it took me awhile to pick it up, once I had the game I couldn’t stop playing it. The differences between playing in low chaos versus high chaos are pretty impressive – just seeing the changes in Emily’s personality was enough to send chills down my spine. Throw in a cool but creepy deity in the form of the Outsider and I was totally sold on this dark, lore-heavy game.

Pokemon Y Cover

2013 – POKEMON Y
Remember how way back in the late 90s I was talking about really enjoying Pokemon games? Whatever happened to those? I fell away from the series for a pretty long time but Pokemon Y drew me back in, in a big way. The game itself played on nostalgia while adding interesting new mechanics to the series to freshen it up a bit. A lot of the mechanical problems with things like level grinding were eliminated to make the game more accessible as well. Add that to my learning about the Nuzlocke challenge, and I would go on to play Pokemon Y all the way through roughly half a dozen times.

Pokemon ORAS
2014 – POKEMON OMEGA RUBY
Looking back at 2014, it doesn’t seem like that many interesting games came out that year, but I had a lot of other stuff going on. The Wii U, PS4, and X-Box One were all in full swing at that time, but I didn’t own any of those consoles. Additionally, this is the year I graduated college and got married, so while I certainly did some gaming during this time, it wasn’t my focus.

Destruction of Humanity

2015 – UNDERTALE
2015 was simultaneously a great year and a rough year. It is the year my son was born and the year that I started Adventure Rules. Unfortunately, it was also a year where I struggled a lot with employment and making ends meet. On top of all the financial concern and general dissatisfaction with my career path, my wife and I endured a loss at the end of the year that was very personal and quite difficult for both of us. I happened to be playing Undertale during that time, and while this game has a powerful message to share, what I needed in that moment was something fun and funny to help me cope. Undertale was that game for me, and now I can appreciate it not only for what it says about human beings and video games, but also what it meant to me when I needed something to help me through a tough situation.

Fire Emblem Fates Choice

2016 – FIRE EMBLEM FATES
Fire Emblem has been one of my favorite series for a long time (since 2005, if this post is to be believed) and Fates took the series a step further when it comes to compelling tactical mechanics and gameplay. The storytelling left something to be desired, but I spent 2016 creating guides for this game that to this day still draw a large percentage of my views for Adventure Rules. Regardless of my negative feelings about many aspects of the game by the end of it all, I still enjoyed Fates and writing about it kept me busy during the early parts of the year before I started my job working with kids in the legal system.

Breath of the Wild Cover

2017 – THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
Okay, maybe this is a boring answer, and honestly I would like to choose a different game just to be a little contrarian. But looking at playtime, looking at the impact the game had on me emotionally, looking at how often I wrote about it, there’s no game in 2017 that kept my attention quite like Breath of the Wild. Flaws and all, it is still an amazing game, and I look forward to where the series will go after this.

Whew, there you have it, adventurers, 26 games for my 26 years so far! If you want to participate in this event, just give a holler to The Well-Red Mage and be sure to give him credit for posing the question to us in the first place. Thanks for reading, adventurers!

26 thoughts on “Answering Big Questions: My Favorite Game for Each Year I’ve Been Alive

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      1. Yeah, those early 2000s were very much about the PS2 and *everyone* I knew (myself included) was super into Halo 1 and 2 on Xbox. Xbox and Gamecube were quite similar during that time, where neither did great but had a handful of incredible titles (Xbox gave console gamers their first taste of Elder Scrolls with Morrowind, Jade Empire, and Knights of the Old Republic, and Gamecube had Wind Waker, Smash Bros, Animal Crossing, and more). When Nintendo releases a good game, it’s *good*. It’s not just a game that people are like “okay, that was good, time to play something else,” it’s “consume my life!”

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    1. For sure, especially in the SNES era and even a bit in the N64 era – lots of really strong Nintendo titles during that time frame. It was interesting how the closer to the present I got, whenever I Googled which games were released each year the Nintendo titles were no longer the ones that were prominently displayed as search results. I guess for a lot of that time they weren’t considered as “mainstream.”

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      1. Yeah, without the 3DS there wasn’t a ton of instant-classics released on Wii U. I like my Wii U and enjoyed its library of games, but it was the one Nintendo console without its own Zelda and Metroid which left it up to Mario. I think with Skyward Sword being a polarizing Zelda entry, the Wii lacked a huge classic post-Mario Galaxy 2. So it definitely makes sense to see less Nintendo stuff from the early 2000s on, unless the DS and 3DS were your primary platforms.

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  1. Great picks! Undertale seems to be coming up a lot recently, I’d never heard of it until my 6 y/o nephew told me it is his favourite game! Chrono Trigger seems to be on all the lists, I guess I should play it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, I fully recommend Chrono Trigger. It has aged well and is still an excellent JRPG, outshining even modern games that have tried to recreate what made it special. Undertale is great too – killer sense of humor with a fantastic soundtrack, but it also makes a statement about how we play video games and about humanity in general.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of people do lists where they simply listed the games, but I couldn’t resist talking a little bit about why I loved them. My long-windedness got the better of me!

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    1. For sure! It surprised me how difficult this was. There were some years that had a ton of strong contenders and it was difficult to decide what to pick. ’96 was particularly tricky – Pokemon Red/Blue, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and Super Mario 64 all in one year? That was a tough call!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome list! Oh man.. I feel like I screwed up not putting Pokemon X for 2013! That game totally reignited something in me to play more Nintendo games, and brought me waay back. Haven’t felt that nostalgic playing a new game in ages, GameFreak did an incredible job appealing to the old-school fans who hadn’t played a mainline Pokemon game since Red/Blue.

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    1. For sure! X and Y are probably the closest I have felt to picking up Red/Blue for the first time, and that’s even compared to Black/White which had all new Pokemon in order to manufacture that feeling. Unfortunately Sun and Moon didn’t capture me in quite the same way.
      One of the most interesting parts of seeing these lists going around is exactly what you’ve pointed out here – I look at someone else’s and think “dang it, how is this game not on my list? What did I put for that year?” Just goes to show how many awesome games there are out there!

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  3. This is such a fun and creative idea I love it! I would consider putting together a list of my own except that I don’t think I’ve played enough games from each year for it to be successful. :/ Great list though, I love all of your selections!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I had that same concern myself when I started the list, and sure enough there were a couple of years where it felt like I was grasping to try to pick a “favorite game.” Which was frustrating when I moved on to the following year and had to choose between three or four of my all-time favorites, haha.

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    1. Ha, I was wondering if anyone was gonna say anything about that. The majority of these I have seen were done by folks born in the mid-to-late 80’s, which is interesting in that it allowed them to talk about more games.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s always nice to see some Skyward Sword love(as opposed to the absurd amount of hate it normally gets), but it’s even nicer to see Zelda’s greatest villain get a direct shout-out. I was also surprised, though not unpleasantly, to see Mega Man over Twilight Princess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t hate Twilight Princess but I don’t consider it a particularly strong entry into the series, and the Battle Network games were a huge part of my preteen years. I’d love to go back and play through them again sometime.
      I always liked Skyward Sword and definitely did not understand the hate for it. I get that the motion controls were not ideal (I’m a person who always prefers traditional controls) but I felt that Skyward Sword had strong storytelling, a cool world to explore, and as you said, an amazing villain.

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