My best friend occasionally writes “Great Game” reviews, so I thought, “Hey, why don’t I try my hand at writing some video game-related content?” So, here we are. But, instead of a reviewing, I’m writing a reflection on the two video games that have had the most profound impact on my life.
Funnily enough, both these games entered my life within less than a year of each other and vastly contributed to my sense-of-self pre-middle school. Like, these games both had a very profound impact on my 9 and 10-year-old self in terms of how they affected my personality and sense of creativity. Well, that, and the first one did one other special thing. Anyway, without further adieu, here are the two games that changed my life:
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
This was the first game that I ever played on my first ever personally owned, handheld gaming system: my Game Boy Advance SP. (Prior to owning my Flame SP, my twin brother and I shared a Platinum Game Boy Advance.)
I remember receiving it on X-mas Day ’09. I was obsessed with the commercial and was ready to add a non-platforming Mario Bros. game to my collection. I’d never played Mario RGP: Legend of the Seven Stars, the original Paper Mario or anything like that, so this game blew my mind. Can you imagine this game being your first on a relatively brand new system? I mean, I had already gotten the system nearly a full-year late and this was the amazing game that I got to play it on! It was the greatest experience I ever had with a new gen console and a popular title released within the same year.
In terms of new and exciting features and gameplay, this game had it all. (I’ve never really been one for stories, but I really did find myself enjoying its story and was actually rather invested in it, as well.) I loved collecting beans and badges and delighted in the concept of leveling-up my Bros. (I’d never really played Pokémon either, so earning experience and building stats was also revolutionary for me.) I was also taken aback by the art style and voice acting. Sure, I played Super Mario Bros. Deluxe with the unlockable art and I played Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Melee, but for me, this became the definitive version of the Bros.!
Yet, despite how amazing this game was (and still is), it only holds the #2 stop in my heart for Greatest Video Games of All Time, but is still extremely sentimental for me because it was the catalyst for my best friendship. Yes, it actually helped me meet and connect with my best friend. You see, we were at camp and I saw him sitting alone with his SP and asked him what he was playing. He wasn’t the most trusting kid, but as soon I realized it was Superstar Saga, I knew that we’d bond over it and become best friends. And within five minutes, we were officially Mario & Luigi. (I, of course, was Luigi.) Every time I think of this game, I’m reminded about how fortunate I am to have a lifelong best friend.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Before I begin this reflection, I just want to make it clear that I’m wholeheartedly convinced that Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is the #1 Greatest Video Game Of All Time! (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time doesn’t even come close!) Also, Thousand-Year Door was one of the last video games my father bought me before his passing and its the first video game that my best friend and I ever went full-completionist on, so it’s extra sentimental to me.
Anyway, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door a.k.a. “Paper Mario 2” had everything that I loved about Superstar Saga, but cranked up to 11. (Remember, I’d never played the first Paper Mario game, so playing a home console game like this was mind-blowing for me.) The turn-based/partner combat system, the badges (man, I just love badges!), the Star Points and even the story were all so amazing to me. I mean, up until that point, I only ever really cared about “story” in Spider-Man games and was convinced that no other game could surpass, let alone match, the feel and structure of my beloved Mario & Luigi game, but boy was I wrong!
I could go on and on, but my advice is to simply buy the game and just play it, (assuming, of course, that you’ve never played it before). And if you’ve played it in the past, then please revisit it. Everything about this game is perfect: the animation, battle system, music, story and humor are just the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. It’s a real shame that the series lost momentum after it and that the Mario & Luigi series is also suffering a similar fate these days… But hey, at least we can always replay the Classics!