The Five Games You Play In Heaven

Five true classics that should be known to all. And why they should never be forgotten.
May 22, 2006
The Five Games You Play In Heaven
By: Dan Scog

It’s often said of great literature that “classics” are the books that everyone knows and loves, but nobody plays. As a lifelong gamer leaving his teens, I worry that the same is true of video games. I wonder how many gamers today, if presented with Super Mario Bros. could perform the 1UP trick or enter the minus world with ease. Especially kids who are growing up now with the graphics of N64 and Game Cube.

Sure, I grew up with the graphics of the NES, which certainly could be considered “fancy” by those gamers who were the first to evolve beyond D&D and master gaming systems like the Atari 2600, but technology has improved so exponentially that it’s not really a comparable situation. What very young gamers take for granted today is something that we could only dream of. The difference between Atari and 8-bit is just not on the same level with the difference between 8-bit and fully 3-d, photo-realistic, wham bam, in your face power and capabilities available from today’s systems, not the least of which is the PC.

But when you get down to it, being a gamer shouldn’t be a generational thing. And yet, with video game systems now spanning three decades, I shudder to think that people are going to start drawing lines – defining when “true gaming” was for them. Unfortunately, they’ll be making these decisions only to glorify their own memories. They’ll take only their generation of games into consideration, ignorant of what came before or after, depending on the person. So, I submit to you five true classic games, that every self-respecting gamer should know inside and out (of the cartridge). Since these games are played by non-gamers and recognizable to the non-gaming public, a gamer should be able to beat the pants off of everyone else at these titles.

1. Super Mario Bros. – A veteran gamer should be able to pick up the controller and beat at least a handful of stages without ever taking his or her left thumb off of the forward-right button. Your brain should have a special lobe dedicated to the glitches and tricks you can do in this game.

2. Pac-Man - Did you realize that keys are edible? If you haven’t tasted them, then you’re missing a true gaming delicacy. Computer AI has become really sophisticated in recent years, but you’ll be surprised how little it takes from four ghosts moving in semi-random directions to give you a true challenge.

3. Tetris – My mother can play a mean game of Tetris. I’m talking about level 12 speeds and buildup, multiple-musician end screens on the Gameboy version and line scores in the thousands kind of mean. Its simplicity has universal appeal and its pounding influence can be felt throughout the entire puzzle genre, even to this day in terms of most new puzzle games. Long story short: be able to bust out some Tetris skills of your own at a moment’s notice.

3 & ½. Bible Adventures – Eat the fruits of this game’s Wisdom Tree.*

4. Space Invaders – A game that most old-school gamers remember themselves as being the best at, but also a title that many gamers haven’t played passed the first wave. Endurance, young grasshopper. It’s learned here, in Space Invaders, where even with four sandbag shields there’s no escaping the fact that you’re outnumbered 50 to 1. Even more so than in Pac-Man, the absence of music makes this one great for playing your own mp3s or CDs to.

5. PONG – Even with thousands of reincarnations of this game, it’s still looked back on as more of a punch-line or piece of trivia than a game. But the truth is it is the basic building block of gaming – pure reflexes. If you can’t deal with completely faithful emulations of the original, then it’s newer offspring like Curveball and Pong: The Next Level (Which is extremely fun, frustrating, and competitive during multiplayer as anything else you can buy today, I might add) will still qualify you in this department. If someone tries to make a joke about Pong, or casually challenges you to air hockey – make sure the joke is on them with the hours you’ve racked up playing the world’s first video game.

*Just kidding. Stay tuned though, maybe I’ll cover The Five Games You Play In Hell.
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