Some of our most memorable times with video games have little to do with the game itself, and everything to do with who we were, who we were with and what we were doing at the time. Here are some Kotaku reader’s tales of triumph, despair, friendships lost, puking, battles with cancer, broken saves...
For reference, not that a few weeks ago I pulled up a chair and told some of my favourite video game stories. I also asked for readers to chime in with theirs, and what follows are the best of them.
After being diagnosed with cancer in late 2005, I needed radiation treatments for a month, every Mon-Fri at 12:30. I’d get home around 1:30, puke, smoke a bowl, and pop in MG3, which somehow had been sitting in my “to play” pile for way too long. I wouldn’t play on the weekends; I’d save it for my post-treatment reward and got absolutely lost in that world for a solid month. I always thought it was so perfect that I defeated The Boss after my final treatment, like the game was perfect tailored for that time in my life. Ten years later I’m still cancer-free and will love that game like I love no other. Sometimes I think it was easier to beat cancer than it was to beat The End...
The year was 1998. The game was Pokemon Red. I literally had no idea what to do and was clueless as to why I was trapped in a bedroom. Then by chance, my character walked over the magical thing called stairs. The *step step step* noise echoed through the bad speaker and freedom was mine. This took longer than you would expect.
My grandfather had come to visit at some point after Mario Kart 64 had come out, either a January or February. That would have made me 10. He was watching me play it, and thought it looked like some fun, so I hooked a controller up for him. We had a blast, and that summer when I flew to visit him in the state where he lived he had bought both a Nintendo 64 and Mario Kart. That’s all he bought.
Being a retired man with nothing better to do, he got good at the game. Very good. That jump in Wario Stadium at the beginning? He nailed it every time. He could make the jump across rainbow road. He could even do that crazy thing in Mario Raceway that let you beat the course in a matter of seconds. And he relished, every year, beating my ass at Mario Kart. The worst one was one summer when I was 16 or 17 maybe he purposefully gave me a head start in Wario Stadium just so he could save up a lightning bolt and bolt me during that jump during our last lap, beating me yet again. I don’t think it broke, but I did throw his controller.
After he died in 2012, I had my mom and grandma send me his copy of Mario Kart 64, and occasionally I’ll pop it in to race one of his ghosts. All these years later, and I still can’t beat him.
Myself and three friends were having a Dark Souls two-players-one-controller race. Myself and my partner had a massive lead, but as you might expect, that was whittled down slowly by Ornstein and Smough until both teams were fighting the duo at the same time.
Their team killed him first and stopped to watch the action as we attempted to finish them off. We had killed Ornstein and were fighting lightning Smough... one hit to go... My friend goes in for the hit being on the left side of the controller as Smough begins his lightning sit move... there’s no time to back away as I frantically mash Circle.
We died. With one hit remaining. We never finished the race.
Playing the original Diablo Co-Op. Me and a friend were on different parts of the map. I found myself all of sudden in a room surrounded by what felt like Woodstock for Skeletons. I hacked through hundreds of them while quaffing down healing potions and emerged victorious with a sliver of heath left. As I cheered to my buddy, he let loose an arrow of victory, far off screen.
Of course by a miracle, it hit me and I died.
Couldn’t stop laughing for days.
The game: Shinobi, on the PS2. This was an already particularly difficult game, but for whatever reason, maybe there was a personal drought in games available, it’s a game I played and replayed.
The game allowed you to string together kills if you were quick enough under the “tate” system, if you kill a sufficient number in a small enough area you’ll get a mini-cutscene of them exploding, so the key to the game was stringing together enough tate kills in a fast enough time. Time is another key factor because it’s constantly eating away at your health, and you can’t plan or move slowly without dying. Besides that, there’s a really weird platforming system in the game where for long stretches you’ll have to use walls and enemies in conjunction not to fall to your death. More than anything it was like a super fast paced puzzle game.
But not only was it a game that was intensely difficult, it was a game with a ranking system, so naturally I wanted an S-Rank on every stage. Which didn’t actually prove that time consuming, after all, even though it’s a game many people who’ve played have copped to never beating.
Anyway, you beat the game on Normal, which is difficult enough, then on Hard, which obviously requires more practice and patience, before attempting S-Ranks on Super (which was US-only, for some reason) which really taxed me. I was using the default character, Hotsuma to try this (other characters make it easier but I wasn’t using them for some reason I can’t remember now) and was playing level 6-B trying to ace it. I tried countless times, probably like 16 hours in total. I finally beat it and was ecstatic. It saved, I turned off the PS2. When I came back, it was saved before the fight. I was so defeated, I never played the game again.
I grew up with the NES, and always loved RPGs. But one I could never beat was the original final fantasy. Everything was just so agonizingly slow. I couldnt deal with it. I’d tried to so many times over the years.
About six years ago I decided to give it yet another try. While on the main screen I accidentally pressed Right. A little box at the bottom of the screen that said “Respond Rate 1" now said “Respond Rate 8"
I know I yelled something along the lines of “God damnit!” loud enough to startle my room mate as I realized I’d been trying to play the game with the slowest possible text speed for all these years. Turning it to 8 made text appear instantly.
I beat it two days later.
My friend and I in college were playing Resident Evil at 3am during a storm. We were doing pretty good, had the lights off, were laughing and joking. Then the dog happened. I had the controls, walking down this normal hallway when a giant zombie dog crashed through a window and attacked. I screamed. My friend screamed. Then the power went out. We were trying to be cool but we were freaked out. Then we heard a banging on the window and we both LOST IT. Turns out it was my friend’s idiot roommate. He had gotten locked out and would often just come in through the ground floor window but we had closed it and locked it because of the rain. God, I have never been so terrified. It was hilarious.
I remember once at a party, a bunch of people were playing SSX Tricky when they insisted I give it a shot, as I normally had a slight edge but this time I was hammered and high as a kite. They sat me down on the couch and placed the controller in my hand. I could barely focus and remember swaying a lot. I grabbed Mac and the Alaska map and went to town.
What started off as cheering as I hit the first few ×5 multipliers quieted down as I proceeded having the greatest run ever, hitting every big jump and ×5 multiplier as I went. When I crossed the finish line, the entire party had migrated to the TV room and a huge cheer erupted. My score was north of 1.3 million which annihilated my best ever performance.
I responded by running to the bathroom and throwing up.
That’s about as fitting a note to end this on as I can think of. If you’ve got any tales that didn’t make the cut, leave them below and I’ll see about adding them!