15 Video Games I Used To Tell My Own Stories
I was born in 1983. I grew up with Comodore 64, Atari, NES & Sega Genesis. I used to bring Qbasic for Dummies to my older sister’s basketball games. Video games are still a big part of my life today but growing up, they had a tremendous impact me.
Creating text adventure games in DOS eventually led to my discovery of the screenwriting format. Playing games had an enormous influence on my filmmaking aspirations. I fell in love with the experiences, the storytelling, the artwork and the creativity. I love video games.
But video games went beyond the basic experience of turning on a console and controlling my character’s destiny. As I grew older, several games became creative tools. Engines that fueled my own storytelling dreams. The result was an entire childhood full of inspiring moments thanks to some of my favorite games.
This was a fun article to write.
15. Mortal Kombat 3
Down, Towards, Back, Back, 2.
That’s Liu Kang’s dragon fatality in Mortal Kombat 2 on Game Gear. That game was released 22 years ago and I still remember fatality codes. This is what the Mortal Kombat series meant to me.
When the third installment was released, I began adding to the mythology by writing short stories about my own fighters who existed in the MK universe. My main fighter, Lightning, (don’t judge… I was 10) was a descendent of Raiden who was killed at the hands of Sub Zero. I would use Raiden in the game and ‘pretend’ it was Lightning and epic battles ensued.
Eventually, Lightning was killed when Scorpion and Sub-Zero joined forces. Thanks to a deal with Shao Kahn, Lightning returned as Bolt (don’t judge… I was 10) and killed his enemies with his limitless power. His thirst for more power would lead him to a dark realm where he reunited with Raiden. It was there Raiden’s disgust at who Bolt had become disgraced the fighter and he gave up all his powers to live a mortal live forever.
Until!!!!! … You get the idea.
14. King’s Quest 6
King’s Quest 6 absolutely blew my mind when I got a copy on PC. I was obsessed with that game. I played a few others in the series but nothing compared to this. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube I found a 4 hour walk through of the full game!
King’s Quest 6 inspired me to write my own stories set in medieval times. It was called The King’s Deadly Race and it was absolutely horrible. Until then, the majority of my stories were set in modern times so writing tales about castles and battles was amazing. I still have my notebook and smile every time I see the awful logo I drew on the cover.
13. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The year I got The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Christmas was one I’ll never forget. I had just got my own television in my room! I played Ocarina every single day for months. I forgot I had other games. Nothing else mattered except the next heart piece or skultula.
I beat the game several times before I started creating my own stories. Characters in the game took on different personalities and I roamed Hyrule having adventures of my own.
What truly inspired me was the villain.
The epic boss battles and encounters throughout the game truly developed Ganon as a ruthless adversary. I became obsessed with creating my own heroes and villains with an equally rich history. Ocarina of Time was (and will always be) one of the greatest video games of all time.
That wonderful Blizzard logo will always be associated with fun in my mind. When I first got Starcraft, it wouldn’t work on our computer. My dad had a home office and we were only allowed to play for so long and only when he didn’t have work to do.
I broke that computer all the time but I always managed to fix it. (Most of the time before he found out.) I was already addicted to Warcraft & Warcraft 2 but I desperately wanted to try a new adventure.
Since I couldn’t play it, I decided to create my own maps on paper. I did my best to guess the unit’s on each of the three races. I didn’t have much information beyond booklets and artwork but I had fun.
A few weeks later, I tried installing it again and, inexplicably, it worked!
By that point, I had developed my own units and vehicles and decided to create my own race. The 4th in the Starcraft saga. Using skirmish mode (and my imagination) I created my own campaigns envisioning my new units fighting for survival against Terrans, Zerg & Protoss forces.
I wish I still had those notes. I can’t remember the name of my race or the heroes that protected it. I do remember my race dominating though. Until Brood War came out.
11. Halo: Combat Evolved
When Halo: Combat Evolved was released, I had a part time job working at a Pizza Hut and IMMEDIATELY bought an X-Box.
Playing 4 player Halo with my friends was an absolute blast but it was Master Chief that inspired the storyteller in me. I didn’t write a lot of ‘fan fiction’ growing up but the Halo series was an exception.
I don’t even think my friends knew at the time, I was writing my own stories for Master Chief that included Super Halo rings that spun around each other like an Atom. At the center of this structure was THE source of life in the universe.
I have to admit… Some seriously messed up species came out of that place and Master Chief was there to stop them all!
10. Donkey Kong Country
I read Nintendo Power magazines all the time as a kid. Then one day, I got a package in the mail containing a VHS tape with jungle leaves on it’s cover. Inside was a 10 minute behind the scenes video of an absolutely brilliant looking game. Donkey Kong Country.
I never had my own Super Nintendo growing up so I never actually played the game until I downloaded it on my Wii years ago. However, it was the video that inspired me. I watched that VHS non stop for a year, obsessing on the development process and the work it took to pull it off.
I may not have played Donkey Kong Country back then but I designed my own levels. Based on the artwork they show in that video, I drew very rough level designs using transparent paper. The background would be on a separate page to allow for ‘parallax scrolling’ and the foreground images contained collectibles, power ups and the main characters.
I should also mention, I can’t draw. They were awful examples of video game artwork but I felt inspired. To this day, I still know exactly where that VHS tape is. I don’t have a player anymore but it has sentimental value. (Thanks to YouTube user ‘DreamcastGuy‘ for uploading the video!)
9. Grand Theft Auto 3
I’ve never owned a Playstation. I’m not bias, I just couldn’t afford it. Normally, I got to have one system per generation growing up. So my experience with Grand Theft Auto 3 was gained at my friend’s houses.
If you’ve never played a Grand Theft Auto game you wouldn’t understand. Those games are BUILT for custom storytelling. Every time you drive around ignoring missions, you’re a storyteller.
Whether it’s a pedestrian on the street or a full blown car chase, GTA 3 was a majestic experience that let players create their own action packed stories in between missions.
8. NBA Live 2001
When I was growing up, I wanted to play in the NBA. I’m not saying I truly believed it was going to happen but I didn’t suck so it was nice to dream big.
Indeed, the closest I ever came to the place where amazing happens was through EA’s NBA Live franchise mode.
I wasn’t interested in playing the games. The idea of drafting my own team (which included my own player 1st overall of course) and simulating season after season was too exciting for me.
I can’t even begin to explain how many seasons I simulated while making blockbuster trades and winning titles. EA may not have intended NBA Live to be a text based sports management simulator but that’s what it was to me.
7. Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness
I played Warcraft 2 before I got to play the first game so the sequel was my first taste of real time strategy games. I was hooked the second I heard “Yes my Lord…”
I made my own Warcraft board game… There I said it. I’m not ashamed. This site is called Nerd Infinite for a reason. The game made absolutely no sense. You rolled dice to see how many resources your Peasants & Peons would collect if they landed on mines or forest spaces.
Resources were represented by ripped up pieces of construction paper with denominations of 50, 100, 500 & 1000.
On each end of the board was a blank base. (It only supported 1 on 1) As you gathered resources you could build your barracks etc and eventually armies etc… These were also represented by torn up pieces of construction paper of varying colors.
The game was not successful but it was fun to create!
6. SimCity 2000
SimCity is probably my favorite game series of all time. I’ve played every single version including the slightly disappointing 2014 release. I loved SimCity so much as a child, I used to draw the cities I wanted to build when my dad was using the computer for work.
When SimCity 2000 took over my life, I was just beginning to take an interest in screenwriting. The first few scripts I wrote were all action movies that involved high speed car chases and heists.
I used SimCity to try and recreate the cities so I could plan where the cars were in each scene. This worked for a while but eventually, I would have to attend to my disgruntled sims and build more parks and police stations.
5. WWF No Mercy
I watched WWE at the height of the Attitude Era. Stone Cold, The Rock, DX, The Undertaker dominated the wrestling landscape and the emergence of the wrestling video game.
Back then, THQ was publishing WCW games and I always dreamed they would acquire the WWE (WWF at the time) license someday. Games like Warzone featured button combos instead of the grappling system THQ devised. Those games were… Just okay.
Then we finally got the games we wanted. WWE Superstars, deep create-a-wrestler modes and so much more all with the control scheme that set the standard for the genre.
It’s not difficult to imagine the story lines, wrestlers and feuds my friends and I came up with given such a wide range of customization options.
4. Super Mario 64
When the Nintendo 64 was released, you could go to the local video store and rent a system for the weekend. You had to reserve one well in advance but when you got one it was glorious.
Of course, the ultimate dream was to own my own and that was a challenge. My parents always taught me to save money and buy whatever I want but that’s torture for kids. As an adult with a child of my own, I understand the lessons they taught me but back then? Come on!!!
It would have taken a year to get my own N64 at the rate I was saving my allowance. I came up with a plan.
I created a power point presentation complete with screenshots of the games I loved. I included pie charts, graphs and more. Included in my presentation were detailed cost breakdowns of the system and all the accessories I had to have. But I didn’t stop there. I also included a reasonable projection of my income. I proposed an increase in my allowance in exchange for new chores. This included one time jobs like weeding my mom’s gardens for extra cash.
The goal of this presentation was to convince my parents to essentially give me a year long advance in my allowance + birthday gifts. I was even smart enough to include a percentage of my allowance I would get to keep each week. Basically they garnished my weekly paycheck.
The result? A few days later we drove to the store and bought a Nintendo 64! I’ll never forget what happened next. After weeks of planning, flawless execution and successful acquisition of my dream system, it wouldn’t turn on. My system came with a faulty RF switch!
Thankfully, my dad understood my pain and drove my system and I back into town to exchange it. I paid back every cent I owed them and I didn’t regret a single chore I did that year. Somehow, I can’t help but think that period was my parent’s ultimate Jedi mind trick.
3. Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark was an EVENT. Touted as the successor to Goldeneye the game promised endless hours of multiplayer mayhem. The game required an expansion of the N64’s ram just to run the full game!
In the end, the game had a fantastic story mode and incredible multiplayer challenges but it was the BOT system that inspired it’s inclusion on this list.
You could set up AI bots to behave in certain ways and dial up the difficulty to create an infinite amount of challenges. My friends and I played for hours but the second they went home, I delved back into my own simulations and adored every second.
2. Dragon Warrior
The original NES has a special place in many hearts who were kids in the 80s and 90s. Dragon Warrior was among my favorite games for that system. Somewhere in my parents house is an old journal of mine from grade school.
Writing in a journal was always fun for me but it was never nerdier than this. Every. Single. Day. I would get to school and report on my characters level, experience and how far I progressed the night before.
I’ve read those notes a few times over the years and you can literally feel the excitement building as I got closer and closer to beating it. Then came the day I finally beat it. A sense of accomplishment embedded in each and every exclamation mark.
If I could log the amount of hours I spent with every game on this list, Goldeneye would eclipse them all combined. My friends and I played Goldeneye for DAYS. We used to take turns playing levels at higher difficulties until we opened all the best cheats for multiplayer. We didn’t just do this on one cartridge. We did it for ALL of them. It didn’t matter which house we converged on.
When regular modes got boring, we made up our own. We used to ‘imprison’ people with proximity mines and play team ‘prison escape’.
During high school, my group of friends were all athletes. Hockey players, basketball players, baseball players and more. We spent time outside but every so often… We had Nintendo Parties… That’s not a joke we literally planned Nintendo Parties. Epic all nighters were 5-10 of us would absolutely beat the crap out of each other in every video game possible.
Number 1 on that list? Goldeneye. Some of my favorite memories of high school revolve around those nights. I credit many of those epic adventures for my igniting my passion for any and all storytelling mediums today.