I present a list of video games (isted in no particular order) that have all been crucial to my early education. I spent hours on these, rather than wasting my time with homework or TV.
Many of these games are by a single video game company: Koei. Sadly, Koei doesn’t make the same types of games like they used to. These types of games used to be much more numerous, but it seems American gamers of the 21st century avoid these games on the whole.
This is an airline business simulator released by Koei that I played on the Super Nintendo. The game requires the player to handle the budget, investments, airline routes and plane purchases for an airline. The goal is to compete with and surpass other airlines around the world in safety, efficiency and profit. The player can choose their country of origin. I usually played as an American, Kenyan or Soviet airline. Historical events–most importantly the Cold War, Olympics and political upheaval–play an important roll in a player’s business decisions.
Uncharted Waters 1 & 2
Uncharted Waters is a sailing and trading simulator released by Koei that I played on the Super Nintendo and PC. Uncharted Waters 1 takes place during the time of Da Gama and Columbus, while Uncharted Waters 2 takes place a generation later. The game requires the player to buy and sell goods for a profit in order to increase the size and number of his or her fleet. Each city around the world possesses local goods that carry a higher value in other ports around the world. The market fluctuates with supply and demand. As European nations go to war, certain ports may be closed to the merchant. Additionally, the merchant-explorer may have to avoid warships and pirate ships. The merchant-explorer also hires crew members on a salary, generally based on that crew members abilities as a gunner, accountant, cartographer, fighter, etc.
Liberty or Death and L’Empereur
Both games are Turn-Based Strategy games by Koei. I played L’Empereur on PC and Liberty or Death on Super Nintendo. Both games are very similar, so I combine them.
In Liberty or Death, the player selected American Commander-in-Chief George Washington or British Commander-in-Chief Thomas Gage. Washington must hold together revolutionary support for his army, increase volunteers, feed, train, and pay officers and troops, and win battles. The US has the option of invading Canada. Thomas Gage must maintain parliamentary support for squashing the revolution, increase the navy to blockade the colonies, feed and pay officers and troops, and win battles. Both commanders must handle promotions delicately, as officers can leave the army or even switch sides if they are upset.
In L’Empereur, you play as Napolean, starting from the Italian Campaign. This game is much more difficult, since Napoleon starts off with a much smaller force and must go to war pretty much immediately without training, before the opposing army gets any larger. In all other aspects, the game is about the same has the previous one. I should not that the opposing Coalition is always rather weak since they operate independently. You can also build a token French Navy to send out deep into the ocean, just to keep Horatio Nelson out of European waters.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms 2, 6, & 11
This is another turn-based strategy game by Koei. However, it’s much more complex. The game includes about 500 to 700 generals. Generally, you control one warlord during a period fragmentation in Chinese history (184-265 AD). In addition to winning battles, you must maintain the loyalty of your generals, seal alliances, enact political and military strategies, build up your cities to produce soldiers, food and technologies, etc. In the later versions of this game, each of the 500 to 700 generals have unique and conflicting personalities. Therefore, knowing your officers helps in building teams. Each general also has unique abilities and gifts, such as excellent or terrible leadership, intelligence, generalship, political skill and charm. This game is based both on history and on literature. This game was seminal in my life for turning me on to literature around the 5th grade. I only read history books before then.
This is a US presidential election simulator by 270Soft. I play this game on PC. Currently, the game comes with the 1912, 1968, 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections. User-created scenarios exist for about all the other elections. I personally created, or helped create, every election from 1788/89 through 1956. The player selects any candidate and must win both the primary and general election through typical campaign strategies and tactics.
Various Sherlock Holmes Games
The difference between reading or watching Sherlock Holmes and playing a Sherlock Holmes game, is that you have to think like Sherlock in order to make progress in the game. Reading or watching Sherlock Holmes does not require thinking. Two of the best versions of Sherlock Holmes PC games that I have played are Sherlock Holmes: Case of the Serrated Scalpel and Sherlock vs. Jack the Ripper. Both have excellent graphics of Victorian London for their time. Both require not only general intelligence, but the ability to think both logically and creatively.
Sim City 2000, Pharaoh, Caesar I & II, and Tropico
These games are about the same. In all of these, the object is to build a working, living and desirable city. In all of these you must balance residential, commercial and manufacturing sectors, maintain a budget, keep people happy, and protect your people from invasions or natural disasters. Naturally, you need a good police force, fire department, medical facilities, roads, etc.
Each game has its own unique setting. In Sim City, you create a generic American city. In Pharaoh you must build an Ancient Egyptian city that is situated between the Nile and the desert. In the two Caesar games, you can select a location anywhere within the Roman Empire, and establish trading routes throughout the Mediterranean. Lastly, in Tropico, you play the role of a dictator of a Caribbean island. In this game you must build a city, ally yourself with Americans or Soviets, and avoid any attempted coups.
Tetris and Dr. Mario
I need not explain Tetris, since about everyone is aware of this tile-matching puzzle game. Dr. Mario is a copy of this game, except the goal is to connect specifically colored capsules around virus-like monsters in order to eradicate them.
This game was once considered the most difficult game to beat. This is probably because it is one of the most difficult games to understand. It requires a level of micro-management, planning and patience that most humans don’t possess. The game takes place in 1920s gangster-era Chicago. You control your own mafia against competing mafias. Your goal is to control Chicago, and monopolize all crime therein. One of your primary goals is creating individual groups of gangs within your mafia organization. To do so, you have to recruit talented thugs, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Teams must be balanced in order to complete most of your criminal orders. Additionally, you have to supply each of your groups with appropriate weapons and transportation. Extortion, collecting protection money, smashing up businesses, fighting other gangs, donating to orphanages, assassinating local politicians, bribing police, running speakeasys are some of the options the player has to build up their mafia’s influence.
I eventually beat this game. I have yet to see a game with this much micromanagement.
This is a classic PC game. You play the role of a family of settlers moving from St. Louis to the Oregon Territory. You follow the traditional pathways to reach your destination. Historical dangers such as diseases, snake bites, starvation, and others, are all part of the game. You can start off as a banker or attempt to make the journey with a far-less lucrative profession.
Life and Death
This might be the most gruesome PC game I’ve ever seen on public school computers. It’s a very difficult surgery game. My ignorance of medical terminology didn’t help me here. I wasn’t sure what the word “referral” meant, so I killed a few patients referring them to another doctor when I should have operated immediately. Sometimes I operated when I shouldn’t have. When I operate, I wasn’t very successful. In fact, I was never successful. Once, while randomly flipping switches to find the switch I needed, I turned off the anesthesia while a patient was cut open. This is the only game on this list I wasn’t any good at.
Europa Universalis IV
This is the most complex worldwide strategy game I know. You control any country in the world between the years 1452 and 1820. Your goal isn’t world domination. Your goal is to be the strongest country by 1820, which can be accomplished through a combination of trade, alliances, expansion, technological innovations, etc. The player controls every facet of their country–economics, commerce, military, diplomacy, etc. Countries are historical, but events through game play may change how successful they become. Countries that were powerful in 1452 can dwindle into insignificance. While a small principality could be an empire 300 years later. Historical figures, such as Newton, Shakespeare, Richelieu, Jacob Fugger, Elizabeth I, Napoleon, and others, are in the game, and can greatly add to the strength and prestige of your nation.
This game is very difficult, but I’ve beaten it a few times. I once played as the Navajo, and decided to work towards evolving into a centralized tribe (as opposed to decentralized tribes), so that I could expand across North America, integrating all the native tribes into one tribal empire, before Europeans arrived. I was able to prevent Columbus and others from landing, but eventually several countries declared war me for my land. I couldn’t compete with 17th century European technology.
Ultima 7 part 1 & 2
These are the greatest role playing games (RPGs) ever create. Wonderful plot, history, philosophy, music, dialogue that I’ve ever seen in a game. The game makes this list of instructive mental games, primarily because this game allows the user to pick up about any object that he or she sees in the game. Players also require rest and food. Thus, it requires much more foresight than many other RPGs.
When I first played this game, I tried to keep everything I picked up, thinking it would be useful later, since most RPGs at the time only allowed you to pick up things that you will use later on to complete a quest. As such, my character and his cohorts were carrying a podium, horseshoes, a bucket of blood, a blank book, piles of hay, tongs, dried fish, a butter knife and a wooden cup, before I was told that my group couldn’t carry anymore item. About 90% of the items in the game are unnecessary, which for me was kind of interesting, since we had to decide what was important, rather than be shown what was important.
The first part of the game is set in a Medieval British type world (the monarch is named Lord British and he rules Britannia). The second part takes place on an alternate world that is also Medieval, but much more fanciful.
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If I ever apply to the State Department, I’m putting Tropico on my resume 🙂 –Paul