Sam from Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside (PC; 1996) released by Humongous Entertainment of Woodinville, Washington.
When I was a small boy, there was this huge enormous store in the outlet store district called “Computer Warehouse,” or something to that effect. It was the kind of store you never see today, with row after row of computer games in their big cardboard boxes, all sitting on tall wire shelves. I remember browsing the children’s section with my sister, and seeing Pajama Sam among many others. That’s the extent of my knowledge of this game.
Abe from Oddword: Abe’s Oddysee (PC and PlayStation; October, 1997) created by Oddworld Inhabitants of San Luis Obispo, California.
I got this game for Christmas many years ago and was instantly captivated by its visuals and characters. But I found the challenge too intense, and ultimately gave up fairly quickly. Watching all the cutscenes yesterday, and then the cutscenes from the second game, I started to regret my impatience.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John-117 from Halo: Combat Evolved (PC and XBox; November, 2004) released by Bungie Inc., of Bellevue, Washington.
I remember thinking this game was quite beautiful at the time, but I increasingly don’t get the appeal. You’re a guy who runs around shooting stuff with ever-more fanciful guns. Who hasn’t done that before?
Larry from Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (PC; 1987) created by Sierra On-Line of Coarsegold, California.
Another famous series I never played, but I do remember the scandalized giggles of my elementary school friends who had. This was a time when seeing semi-obscured, pixelated cartoon breasts was considered ribald beyond belief. I’m sure by today’s standards the game is basically a Passion play.
Chell from Portal (PC; October, 2007) made by Valve Corporation of Bellevue, Washington.
I really loved this game when I played it for the first time, but I still think people fundamentally mischaracterize what it’s all about. To me, Portal is primarily a humour game, perhaps the finest humour game ever made. Jokes occasionally punctuated by puzzles.
Meat Boy from Super Meat Boy (PC and XBox 360; October, 2010) created by Team Meat (Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes) of Santa Cruz, California and Asheville, North Carolina.
One of those charmingly meta games I find are becoming quite iconic of second-decade American gaming. I know a lot of people are getting tired of these sorts of indie hipster affectations, where everything is full of puke or communism or is a fetus or whatever, but I think Meat Boy does it as well as it’s ever going to be done.
Francis from Left 4 Dead (PC and XBox 360; November, 2008) created by the Valve Corporation of Bellevue, Washington.
I hate zombies. So I love Francis.
Suggested by Vince.
Carmen Sandiego from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (PC; 1985) released by Brøderbund Software of Eugene, Oregon.
I was very much obsessed with this franchise as a child, though more the PBS children’s game show than the various games themselves — which I frankly found kind of obtuse and boring. Some of my early forays into compulsive list-making included compiling lists of all the various stupid pun-named villains. “Patty Larceny” was the best.
Suggested by Kjorteo.
Duke Nukem from Duke Nukem 3D (PC; January 1996), developed by Apogee Software of Dallas, Texas.
Like most people, I only knew the Duke from his original 3D adventure and its infamously long-delayed and heavily panned sequel. But apparently he also starred in a couple crude Commander Keen-style DOS side-scrollers too. Who knew?
Suggested by many people.
Gordon Freeman from Half-Life (PC; November 1998) created by Valve Corporation of Bellevue, Washington.
It may very well be the best American game of all time. Or if not it, certainly number two.
Suggested by tons of people.
Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC, Xbox, and PS2; October, 2002), created by Rockstar North, of
New York City Edinburgh, Scotland.
UPDATE! Contrary to what I posted earlier, I have since learned that the GTA series, perhaps the most quintessentially American video game franchise of all time, was somehow made in Britain. I’m sure you can forgive the mistake. Maybe I’ll make “British screw-up Sundays” a thing.
Suggested by @Rabite890.
Tassadar from StarCraft (PC; April, 1998), developed by Blizzard Entertainment of Irvine, California.
I have lots of teenage memories of watching my friends play StarCraft, but the game always seemed drearily dull to me. I was surprised to learn it even had characters or a plot. I always thought it was just some moon-mining simulator.
Suggested by @Jordan_Potter
A Number Muncher from Number Munchers (PC, 1986), produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Like most kids of my generation, much of my introduction to computers and gaming came through the “edutainment” software in my elementary school classroom. Number Munchers was everyone’s favourite. Kids would play it stone-faced and serious, racking up huge high scores by setting the challenge level to “kindergarden.”
Guybrush Threepwood from The Secret of Monkey Island (PC, October 1990), produced by LucasArts of San Francisco, California.
The Monkey Island series remain my favourite point-and-click adventure franchise of all time, though it’s not like there’s much competition in that genre these days. I always particularly admired the amount of in-jokes and subtle visual gags the artists managed to cram into every scene and background. Much harder to do in the 3D era.
Suggested by an anonymous commentator.
Commander Keen from Commander Keen: Marooned on Mars (PC; December, 1990), released by Id Software of Dallas, Texas.
My family didn’t have a computer ‘till I was in high school, so I could only ever play the Commander Keen games at friends’ houses. The games all struck me as fairly bland and bereft of personality, though I understand they got a bit more lively as the series progressed. I never knew if he was collecting balloons or lollypops.