13 developers share the video games that helped them fall in love with gaming

Listing image showing (left to right) Another World, Final Fantasy 10, Dragon Age Inquisition, and Golden Sun
(Image credit: Digital Lounge, Square Enix, EA, Nintendo)

Do you remember what the video game was that helped you fall in love with gaming? The question is more difficult to answer than it should be. I know that there are countless titles that I could point to and identify as having played a key role in my enduring love of interactive entertainment. Perhaps I'd cite SOCOM 2 U.S. Navy SEALs for making me believe in the promise of online play, or Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hands as making me realize that sometimes it's fun to take your console outside; maybe I'd be boring and say Tetris, even though I remember playing a hell of a lot of it as a kid. There's a lot of memories to sift through here, and it's just far too difficult – which is why I took the question to some of GamesRadar+'s favorite game developers. 

We have a tendency to always look forward when thinking about video games – what's new, and what's next? But it's all too easy to forget that the developers who are striving to break boundaries today are often driven by experiences from their past – video games that left an indelible mark. So keep on reading to learn what video games helped these 14 developers fall in love with gaming, and help inspire them to create the sort of experiences that they do to this day.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age Inquisition

(Image credit: EA)
Anna Hollinrake, Electric Saint headshot
Anna Hollinrake

Anna Hollinrake is the co-founder and creative director at Electric Saint, a new independent studio striving to make ambitious and heartfelt experiences. Anna previously served as art lead on Fall Guys, and worked as an artist and art director on Lola and the Giant and Arca's Path VR. 

"Graduating from my Game Art course in 2014 I wasn't exactly disillusioned, but I was distant from the medium I'd gone to university to study. I had lost a bit of joyful games enthusiasm, until deep into my post-university malaise a beacon appeared: Dragon Age: Inquisition. My first Bioware game (don't ask me how I missed the others, I don't know), I had no idea what the Chantry or Templars were, but a combination of stubbornness and hype pushed me forward."

"Two things made me fall back in love with games again. The first: community. Playing Dragon Age: Inquisition alongside others, and having that sense of parallel discovery, let me share my obsessions joyfully – and fall into a glorious pit of fandom on Tumblr. The tarot cards were a huge artistic inspiration for a generation of artists, and we shared our own versions featuring our player characters relentlessly." 

"The second: actual romance. Inquisition was my first experience with a game that had legitimate smooching in it, and I realized there was a hugely underexplored area of games that we'd barely scratched the surface of. The potential! The drama!! And yes, I was basic, but my emotional support Cullen kept me going until I got my first industry job."

Golden Sun

Golden Sun game

(Image credit: Camelot)
Abubakar Salim, Surgent Studios headshot
Abubakar Salim

Abubakar Salim is best known for his standout performance in Assassin's Creed Origins, voicing protagonist Bayek of Siwa. Abubakar has also contributed to a range of TV series, work which he balances alongside his first foray into video game development – EA is publishing Tales of Kenzera: Zau on April 23, 2024. 

"It's Golden Sun. I remember playing that game as a kid and being blown away. I loved the idea of going on a journey with friends. Maybe that says something about my childhood and not having many friends where I was like: 'This is my game!' But seriously, I'd say Golden Sun made me fall in love with the vastness, the beauty, and the magic of creating a world, getting lost in it, and going through these stories. There have been many milestones after that, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Kingdom Hearts, and World of Warcraft – these games have been monumental to me in different ways. But I'd say Golden Sun was definitely one of my earliest memories of falling in love with something, and realizing: 'Oh, wow, this is a powerful medium. This is really cool.'"

Metal Gear Solid 


(Image credit: Konami)
Caroline Marchal, INT/NIGHT headshot
Caroline Marchal

Caroline Marchal helped shape Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls as lead game designer at Quantic Dream. Caroline struck out on her own in 2016, founding Interior/Night with the ambition of building ambitious narrative adventures. The studio's debut, As Dusk Falls is set to launch for PS5 and PS4 on March 7.

"Metal Gear Solid is the first game I completed entirely by myself on the PS1. Progressing stealthily, constantly checking enemies cones of vision while juggling inventory items and planning my attacks was stressful, overwhelming, and exciting. But the true 'holy shit' moment happened when I encountered Psycho Mantis. I still remember clearly when I understood I needed to switch my controller to Slot Two in order to prevent Psycho Mantis from reading Snake's thoughts and anticipating my attacks. I was blown away by [creative director] Hideo Kojima's design genius and realized with glaring certainty video games are a unique and powerful art form I absolutely needed to be a part of."


Creatures game

(Image credit: Creature Labs)
Chantal Ryan, We Always Lived in the Forest
Chantal Ryan

Chantal Ryan is the game director of upcoming horror game darkwebSTREAMER, a tantalizingly bleak narrative-adventure where you take on the role of an occult streamer on an alternate '90s internet – striving to become the number one content creator on a platform that's trying to kill you.

"Creatures was an 'artificial life' game. You had eggs that hatched into a kind of Adam and Eve species programmed with primitive brains and chemicals. They could learn from the world and each other. They developed differently to each other, could learn to associate things with joy or trauma, and could pass ideas down to their children. They would breed and new generations would come into being. I loved to observe how generations changed through learning from those who came before them. Early traumas shaping cultures generations later. It taught me about life and people, and I realized how powerful simulations could be. That you could gain such rare knowledge. That you could love beings that weren't even real. That moved me."

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

(Image credit: Nintendo)
Clay Murphy, Remedy Entertainment headshot
Clay Murphy

Clay Murphy has spent six years at Remedy Entertainment, joining the studio as a writer on Control before serving as a senior writer on the AWE and Foundation expansions. Clay shipped Alan Wake 2 as its principal writer, scripting and shaping Alan Wake and Saga Anderson's descent into the Dark Place.

"I played games from an early age, but the first one I remember truly capturing my heart was Zelda: A Link to the Past. Something about the sheer number of characters and stories all occupying this enormous map (remember, this was 1991) made my little kid-brain hum with wonder. I was convinced some new character with some new quest waited behind every tree, bush, or suspicious wall. I spent days exploring every tiny corner of that game, trying to find everything there was to find. That's the magic of storytelling in games. The magic of being the one finding those stories. The magic of exploring the unknown."

Another World

Another World screenshot

(Image credit: Delphine Software)
Dinga Bakaba, Arkane Studios headshot
Dinga Bakaba

Dinga Bakaba is the studio director at Arkane Lyon, the outfit behind some of the greatest immersive sims of all-time. He has worked to engineer the systems in Dishonored, led design of Dishonored 2 and its DLC, served as game director of Deathloop, and is now working on Marvel's Blade as its co-creative director. 

"Another World (AKA Out of This World) was a revelation. Visually it was unique, from the very deliberate and exquisite color panel to how everything moved smoothly thanks to the rotoscoping technology, and all supported by a strong sense of style. The storytelling was deeper than anything I experienced in a game at that time, its mysterious story supported with the very first cinematic cutscenes and very few words, plunging you into this other word and letting you understand its rules in order to survive."

"I'd also add that the romantic painting that was the box art made it feel like you had the work of an artist in your hands. Thematically, it was hopeful and important for me that it was a story about friendship and empathy, using the sci-fi setting to show that you don't have to share a culture or a language to bond with another being. To me it was the first time a game felt like a piece of art, and the fact that it was made in France made the dream of making my own feel at least remotely possible."

The Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail

(Image credit: Broderbund Software)
Emily Gera, Larian Studios headshot
Emily Gera

Emily Gera has spent almost two decades covering, consulting on, and creating video games. You've probably read her work in the past, with bylines at publications such as Polygon, Variety, and The Verge. Emily's been with Larian since 2021, working on Baldur's Gate 3 as a writer and product manager. 

"My love of games began in the overheated IBM-stuffed computer rooms of my elementary school days, which is where I was first introduced to The Oregon Trail. A classic educational game from the prehistoric 1990s, Oregon Trail simulated the lives of pioneers as they trek across America, breaking limbs, getting bitten by snakes, and eventually probably dying of dysentery before they reach the safety of Willamette Valley. If you've played it, you'll know it's a real comedy of errors – challenging you to stay alive despite bad luck, freak snow storms, and every one of your terrible management decisions. It's dark, unintentionally funny, and remains one of my favorite examples of the power of emergent storytelling."

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down screenshot

(Image credit: NovaLogic)
Jordan Woodward, Rebellion headshot
Jordan Woodward

Jordan Woodward is the head of design at Rebellion. While he's currently hard at work on a trio of secret, unannounced titles from the award-winning studio, Woodward has previously helped bring shape to the battlegrounds explored through Sniper Elite 4 and its sequel as a lead level designer.

"I've been playing games for as long as I can remember, and it's hard to put my finger on a single game that made me fall in love with playing games. Growing up, I fondly remember playing the Sonic games on the Sega Master System to death and passing the controller back and forth with friends. I remember the challenge and reward of getting to the end of the level and mastering the game. What really made me fall in love with games and game development, and inspired my career as a level designer, were games where I could build, create, and share my own levels with friends."

"Before I even knew level and game design was a job, I was creating multiplayer maps for Delta Force: Black Hawk Down, Counter-strike, and TimeSplitters 2. I would probably spend more time using the map editors and testing them with friends than actually playing the game! Gamers are so lucky now to have access to so many games that allow them to create and share so easily."

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

(Image credit: BioWare)
Kyle Rowley, Remedy Entertainment headshot
Kyle Rowley

Kyle Rowley is a game director at Remedy Entertainment, having helped shape the original concept and pillars for Alan Wake 2 as co-director, and served as lead designer of Quantum Break. Between those two games, Rowley worked at CD Projekt Red as an associate design director of Cyberpunk 2077.  

"I have so many amazing memories which involve me playing video games. Whether that be me sitting down and playing one of the only video games my dad actually enjoyed, Krusty's Super Fun House on the Sega Mega Drive, or staying at my best friend's house overnight and screaming ourselves to sleep while playing Resident Evil 1. That said, the game that really made me fall in love with video games and what ignited a passion to tell stories using them, was BioWare's original Knights of the Old Republic. I'm not a massive Star Wars fan, but it was my first foray into games that allowed me to 'choose my path'– allow me to have an impact on the world and its people. The world-building, atmosphere, and narrative engrossed me like no other and that twist has stuck with me ever since."

Final Fantasy 10

Final Fantasy 10 screenshot

(Image credit: Square Enix)
Nina Freeman headshot
Nina Freeman

Nina Freeman is an accomplished, award-winning independent game developer perhaps best known for introspective adventures like Cibele and Lost Memories Dot Net. Freeman also helped to shape Tacoma as a level designer, and is currently collaborating with Don't Nod as the narrative designer of the upcoming Lost Records: Bloom and Rage. 

"Final Fantasy 10 established my lifelong love for games when I was about 12 years old. I rented it from the local video store... simply because I thought the boy on the cover was cute! When I played, I was captivated by the mix of romance and action – something I hadn't found in many games before. It felt like the first time I played something made for me! My two best friends (Brit and Mel!) were also obsessed; I remember I got stuck on the boss, Evrae, and when I finally defeated it... I called them! They literally rushed to my place to watch the post-boss cutscenes together! It was such a memorable moment of gaming! I'll never forget it!"

Adventure Island 

BBC Micro

(Image credit: Future (Neil Godwin/Retro Gamer Magazine))
Sam Barlow, Half Mermaid headshot
Sam Barlow

These days, Sam Barlow is best known as the award-winning game director of a trio of sensational adventures: Her Story, Telling Lies, and Immortality. Barlow is currently hard at work on two brand new horror games, Project C and Project D, where he will surely draw on his past experience working on Silent Hill. 

"It's Adventure Island, by Ginn & Co, on my school's only computer, a classroom BBC Micro. Our primary school was one of the first to get a computer in the school and this was the game I remember intimately from that time. Probably the first computer game I spent any time with. The premise of the game – mostly rendered through text – was to escape after being capsized on an island. It was pretty open and there were randomized events that could occur. An open world survival game back in 1986!"

"I remember the horror of a snake bite interrupting an otherwise productive exploration, and the frenzied excitement at the arrival of a passing ship and our attempts to signal it. Because we only had one machine, there was a restriction that each student only got one session with the game each week. I would spend the rest of the week after a session thinking about the game, imagining solutions and scenarios in my head. So you can see, out of the gate my taste in video games was set – the ideas of openness, player exploration, and especially the emphasis of using the player's imagination outside the game!"

Editor's note: Sam told me that it was going to be difficult to find a relevant screenshot and I said that it would be fine. Well, he was right and I was wrong – it's impossible. Adventure Island has been lost to time. Instead, what you'll find above is a photo of the BBC Micro from our friends at Retro Gamer.

Mario Kart 64

Mario Kart 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)
Sitara Shefta, No Brake Games headshot
Sitara Shefta

Sitara Shefta is the head of studio at No Brakes Games, the team behind the delightfully silly Human: Fall Flat. Shefta previously worked as a producer at Sumo Digital, contributing to LittleBigPlanet 3 and Dead Island 2, and is currently focused on development of Human Fall Flat 2 ahead of its 2024 release.

"Mario Kart 64 is definitely one of the games that helped me to fall in love with gaming. I used to play Super Mario Kart on the NES and SNES, so seeing this come to life in 3D for the first time was mind-blowing. The distinctly themed tracks looked incredible for their time and were super fun, (apart from Rainbow Road, in which I'd just have to concentrate on not falling off too much!) I enjoyed humming along to some of the catchy music too, especially in Wario Stadium! I have so many memories of crowding around a TV with my siblings and racing for hours. I love it so much that I even play it to this day on the Switch N64 Collection."

The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle game

(Image credit: Question)
Xalavier Nelson Jr, Strange Scaffold headshot
Xalavier Nelson Jr.

Following a successful stint as a video game journalist, Xalavier Nelson Jr. transitioned into the game development space with great success. He's worked on everything from An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs to HypnoSpace Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, and most recently released the utterly sublime El Paso, Elsewhere.  

"I've been fascinated by the stories behind game development for a long time, but it wasn't until I played The Magic Circle that those stories became a tangible reality. I could explore, in visceral first person, a game trapped in development Hell – and the impact it had on the developers who were subject to it. The Magic Circle isn't a game about being a miracle worker and resurrecting a deeply flawed tragedy – it's about breaking it so you get what you deserve – and playing it made me realize what I want to do for the rest of my life. It's just part of why getting to later work with The Magic Circle developers Question Games on South Park: Snow Day was such an amazing experience!"

Do you remember what games helped you fall in love with gaming? While you think it over, why not check out the biggest new games of 2024

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.

With contributions from