By Sarah Russel
There are few times in life when gaming can be as all encompassing an experience as college. People can lose themselves in games for weeks at a time, only coming up for air for class and food. With that in mind we’ve put together a list of the greatest dorm room video games of all time, some of which literally changed lives. You know, because kids failed out after getting a little too obsessed. On to the countdown:
16. RBI Baseball
The NES had a few great baseball series that could have made this list (Base Wars, Baseball Stars, Bases Loaded), but when push came to shove we had to make it RBI Baseball. Made by Tengen, it was first released in 1987, and would eventually have two sequels on the NES. RBI Baseball didn’t have an official MLB license, but it did have a player license which was groundbreaking for the time. The game might look like it’s straight out of the stone ages now, but for it’s time there wasn’t much better.
15. The Madden Series
Pick any year, for the past 21 years Madden NFL has been ubiquitous in college dorms across America. It has a little something for everyone, including quick games or dynasty mode, perfect for killing entire semesters. You’re sure to find this on every floor, especially since it doesn’t matter what platform you own, Madden is always out for everything. Save for the PC nowadays, but I don’t think anyone’s really sad about that; Madden was always a console game at heart.
14. Mario Kart Series
Just say the words Rainbow Road to anyone who’s played this series and see the quick flicker of recognition. Bonus points if they tense up. The Mario Kart series was perfect for dorm room gaming as (depending on the platform) up to eight characters could play simultaneously. And not only that, the games aren’t simply about racing, they’re also about screwing over your competitors. You’ll find that that’s a key component of what makes for a great dorm room game, and it’s why more conventional racing titles (Gran Turismo say) aren’t able to find their way onto a list like this.
13. NBA Jam
NBA Jam was one of the goofiest sports titles of all time, but that just added to the attraction. It distilled a sport with a lot of moving parts into something simpler, which was certainly part of the reason it was such a hit at the arcade. It also helped that the game features one of the most star studded periods in NBA history, and that’s even allowing for the game failing to secure the license for Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. Midway just made Scottie Pippen a god to make up for the lack of Jordan and rolled with the punches. The game was filled with silly easter eggs (like being able to play as Bill Clinton, or the Beastie Boys), and was a killer game to break out with friends due to the crazy over the top game play. Who doesn’t remember catching fire in this game (with the ball literally heating up) and laying waste to your opponent?
12. Rock Band Series
A whole host of games could actually stand in here for the Rock Band series, and not just rhythm games either. Virtually any game designed to be a "party" game fits in great with the dorm experience, but the Rock Band series combines gaming with music (and unlike Guitar Hero allows lots of people to play at once). While Rock Band doesn’t feature the same life ruining addictiveness as some of the other games on this list (to most people anyway) it’s still a standard for social gaming today.
11. Halo Series
Halo 2 was the number one Xbox Live game for over two years, proof that the series is one of the most addictive online experiences of all time. Any college gamer with an Xbox or Xbox 360 in recent years has definitely gone through stretches pulling Halo all nighters.
10. World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft (or Everquest, or Ultima Online or any MMORPG really) makes the list because college kids are the only adults able to play these games guilt free, the way they are meant to be played. Which is 40-60 hours a week, something most people can’t juggle on top of family and work. Sure you have some older adults logging that kind of time played, but they are either complete losers or normal people going to work every day on four hours of sleep. But not a dorm dweller, no they have nothing tying them down to keep them from from getting their WoW on. Free of any real responsibilities (save for class … of course), a college student can give their life over to WoW to an almost scary degree, and if an entire dorm floor plays, then look out. Things can get ugly.
9. Street Fighter II
We had to have a head to head fighter on the list, and we decided to go classic with Street Fighter II. SFII has everything you need for a dorm room, a quality roster of varied fighters, gorgeous 16 bit graphics, and a surprisingly gaming experience. Everyone in the dorm had their favorite character with a playstyle that fit their personality.
8. NHL 94
Immortalized in the movie Swingers (see the clip here), EA’s NHL 94 (and the NHL series in general) has been a staple in dorm rooms nation wide, even amongst people who couldn’t care less about the sport of hockey. The sport really translates surprisingly well to gaming, at least partially due to the violent nature of the game.
7. Call of Duty 4
One of the best FPS of recent years, it’s no surprise that CoD4 has been a dorm room success story. WW2 shooters are a dime a dozen, which made CoD4′s decision to go modern a much needed breath of fresh air, and a step towards making the series even more palatable to college aged kids.
It was tough to decide between the Warcraft series and Starcraft, but given Starcraft’s enduring popularity (and the earlier nod to the Warcraft series with WoW) we had to go with Starcraft. Like all good RTS games it was addictive as hell, and everyone knows it was so perfectly balanced that it’s still used today for professional gaming leagues in South Korea. Floor wide games were legion in the late 90′s, and many a missed class (missed quarter … missed semester, lost year, whatever) can be laid at the feet of Starcraft.
5. Super Smash Bros. Series
The Super Smash Bros. series makes the list because of it’s endless multi-player replay battles. You could go with a free for all match or team play, either making for hours of wasted time. There simply aren’t that many four player games that got it so right.
Goldeneye has aged tremendously, but at the time it was groundbreaking. Looking back on it, it’s tough to tell how people got so wrapped up in a four player game that subdivided your (likely) tiny television into four boxes, but they absolutely did. This game was like crack to people lucky enough to have a Nintendo 64 at college in the late 90′s.
3. Tecmo / Tecmo Super Bowl
Easily the greatest football games of all time, no disrespect to Madden intended. The Tecmo Bowl games were just that good. Tecmo Bowl and Super Tecmo Bowl were very advanced for the era, giving you full stats, real rosters, and real NFL teams at a time when most games were forced to make up player and team names. Sure, the playcalling was simplistic compared to the football games of today, but dumbing things down actually didn’t detract from the experience all that much as it enabled the less football savvy to play a competitive game without having to know the ends and outs of a Cover 2 defense or a West Coast offense. The series made such an imprint on society that Bo Jackson is just as well known to many for being a God in Tecmo Super Bowl as he is for anything he did on the field.
2. Age of Empires II
I knew people who literally failed classes because of this game. People couldn’t stop at just one game, gaming would commence in the early afternoon and stop at some point early the next morning, only to begin the cycle again the next day. Talk revolved around the game, and for weeks at a time the floor would be eerily silent as the battles raged on. It’s not the RTS achievement that Starcraft was, but for whatever reason the addictiveness just seemed higher for a college aged kid in the late 90′s.
And finally, the most addictive, greatest dorm room game of all time, a game that wasn’t even a full featured game, but rather a mod of another game: Counter Strike. A FPS mod of the game Half-Life, Counter-Strike was a pretty standard terrorist vs. counter terrorist experience, but what it did it did extremely well. The games were fast paced and allowed for lots of different play styles, and since the game was team based it was perfect for guys living together on a dorm floor. This was one of the rare games that could actually bring a dorm floor together, producing a sense of camaraderie akin to playing pick up basketball or flag football as a floor. Definitely worthy of our top spot as the greatest dorm room video game of all time.