Gabe Newell’s Favourite-Ever Game Is…

By Alec Meer on April 5th, 2011 at 10:09 am.

17 Klingons? I'm pretty sure they didn't even have that many Klingon costumes in the original show

Well, it’s a Mario game. 64, specifically. Nnng. That game is quite good, but every dev seems to say the same thing these days – or is that just me being a misery?

Fortunately, at least if you’re a PC gaming site, Valve boss Newell tells CVG of two other most immortally-beloved games, one of which is Doom (“made me rethink everything I thought about games – control systems, design, rendering”) and the other one of which is simply enormously charming. It’s a punchcard-based Star Trek game for the Burroughs mainframe, played via logic and long-winded printing.

I think he means this one, made by Don Daglow in 1971, but he might instead mean this one.

There’s a browser-based recreation of what I think is the latter here. Play it, and you will be Gabe Newell. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

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70 Comments »

  1. StingingVelvet says:

    I was a NES and SNES kid but I could never get into the 3D Nintendo games, even Ocarina of Time. They just don’t play well for me, and compared to the PC stuff I was playing post-SNES they weren’t very interesting.

    Maybe I’m broken.

    • Krimson says:

      You are broken, as is Mr. Meer. Ocarina of Time and Mario 64 are fantastic games.

      Anyway, the reason Mario 64 keeps popping up on so many ‘best games ever’ lists is probably due to its game-changing and revolutionary nature, but it helps that it’s a great game as well. Anyway, Gabe couldn’t have mentioned the OTHER best game in the world without looking like a massive tool.

    • mcwill says:

      Good point, that.

    • perestroika says:

      i’m with stinging velvet though. we only had a nes and that was it. snes looked more of the same except better graphics, but being a pc gamer back in the mid 90s and then seeing ps1 or n64 stuff didnt exactly blow my mind. specially when a friend showed me quake64 and it wasnt exactly the same… or doom on the psx. so many things they had to take out from the maps.
      i only liked consoles back then for racing & fighting games. but when the ps2/xbox/dreamcast appeared i played a lot of those games.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Yeah, I mean the stuff I was playing on the PC in 1996 was just blowing away Mario 64 (in my opinion). I felt like I had graduated or something, like I was in a new world of “adult games.” I don’t say that to mock people who enjoyed the N64 and console games in general, that is just how I felt at the time.

    • Arithon says:

      Totally agree – Mario was a retread of a retro remake, adding nothing more than prettier graphics to a game that has been floating around in various forms since 1983.

      I prefer games that set trends rather than follow or repeat them.

    • bill says:

      Mario 64 was a great game. And revolutionary in so many ways.

      Of course, the problem with being revolutionary is that everyone copies you, and so reolutionary games often seem “nothing special” if you encounter them a few years later. Basically every platfom-ish game after mario 64 copied mario 64 – so going back to it now it might be hard to see what the fuss was about.

      Then again, I only played a small part of it back then on a friend’s n64 – yet i played the DS version all the way through last year, and it still held up pretty well.

      Ocarina of time is of course better. But Mario 64 was the trendsetter.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I dunno. I feel that those games on the N64 didn’t hold up- their predecessors were insanely difficult, and therefore those games felt like an effortless walk in the park, and an exercise in monotony (water temple, anyone?). Plus, I’ve no nostalgia for those games as I wasn’t young enough then to do so. Super Metroid remains my favorite console game.

    • Mman says:

      “Totally agree – Mario was a retread of a retro remake, adding nothing more than prettier graphics to a game that has been floating around in various forms since 1983.

      I prefer games that set trends rather than follow or repeat them.”

      Mario 64 is unquestionably one of most revolutionary games of all time. Disliking the game is fine, but calling it “Mario Bros with prettier graphics” and saying it set no trends is literally delusional, or, at best, incredibly ignorant.

    • Jad says:

      The thing about about Mario 64 being revolutionary is that what it invented were effective controls for third-person games, particularly third-person platformers. Thing is, I, and many PC gamers, rarely play those types of games.

      Quake, which came out literally a day earlier, was far more influential in defining movement in a 3D space for a type of game that has been far more popular for PC gamers (and console gamers nowadays) — the FPS.

      The other impressive thing that Mario 64 did was the whole exploration-focused gameplay and hub-world structure, which had been done before — although Mario did it very, very well.

      (I don’t want to sound like I have a hate-on for Mario games — I actually named Mario Galaxy 2 my 2010 Game of the Year That Came Out in 2010 [Stalker: SoC being my true 2010 GOTY])

    • Nick says:

      I much prefered Super Mario World and Mario 3 to 64 and Link to the Past to Ocarina, but they are both great.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      I’m sorry guys, but nothing in the world can beat System Shock (1). Ever. Until the end of all time.

    • DrGonzo says:

      As far as I can tell, Mario 64 made 3rd person platformers a big thing. If that is the case then it should be nominated for some worst game of all time awards.

      But seriously, always really disliked Mario 64, I think the controls are pretty abysmal. The visuals also were, and are, ugly as fudge.

  2. choconutjoe says:

    I always preferred Banjo Kazooie.

    • AndrewC says:

      I never got on with Mario 64 kicking me out of the level as soon as I got a star.

    • Bhazor says:

      I really think the only reason Mario 64 is remembered so fondly is nostalgia. Played it recently and holy cow it has not aged well. Certainly comparing it to Banjo and Banjo 2 especially is a tiny bit embarrising. Heck, comparing it to Spyro and Gex 3D makes it look bad. It controls great but levels are almost empty and the whole thing is just too easy. Apart from that flying carpet level. That level can go to hell.
      Mario Galaxy however might very well be the best game ever made.

    • AndrewC says:

      Gex 3D. Spyro. Hey, why not throw in Croc and Busby too!

    • Monchberter says:

      Seconded! I have the soundtrack from that game imprinted in my brain. Fantastic.

      In terms of Rare’s games, better than Goldeneye.

      *hides*

    • JackShandy says:

      Put my piece down for Banjo Kazooie as well. it was explorable-ness that made me marvel at 3D games. Mario 64 had a lovely big castle filled with nooks and crannies, while the levels were purely linear – the way Banjo Kazooie made the levels themselves giant explorgasms seemed like the natural next step up.

      Mario’s just backtracked on that further and further ever since 64. Galaxy 2 wrung me dry, it did. I found myself reminiscing about how Super Mario let you take any kind of powerup into any level – manage to keep a fireflower in your drawers, and Bowser was a sinch. Fast-foward to Galaxy, and each powerup is precisely placed in a single spot for you to use to solve a single puzzle. Even poor luigi is designated to specific, creator-designed worlds! You’d never see Galaxy let you have 2 players at once. Too risky, too many ways they could break the game.

      In conclusion: Yah boo sucks to Mario Galaxy.

    • iainl says:

      You’re being wrong, then. The magic of Mario64 springs from many amazing things, but one is that the world’s first Proper 3D Platformer is, even now, one of the best to control. Banjo’s movement is painfully clunky by comparison. Although even that is a miracle compared to the likes of Tomb Raider.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Mario slides around like a bitch, he feels like controlling an obese shopping trolley. Always hated the controls in Mario 64.

  3. Navagon says:

    Wow. It’s amazing. Suddenly I don’t feel at all like reviving the canned Half-LIfe series and releasing Episode 3.

    It works!

  4. inertia says:

    *make Gabe Newell joke*

    I’m so sorry.

  5. drewski says:

    I tried the DS version of Mario 64 and couldn’t get my head around it at all. I mean, it was OK, but it just wasn’t what I wanted from Mario.

    New Super Mario Bros. is brill though.

  6. MattM says:

    I first played Mario 64 after playing some of the series it inspired (Jak, Ratchet, Sly) and its sequel Mario Sunshine. In comparison to those games it has some problems. Difficulty swings around a lot, repeating the steps to get different stars in a level can be a bit boring, graphics are pretty flat, overall design ascetic is scatter-shot and there is no real story to speak of. That said, it’s still a fun game and has huge variety. Its a landmark game, but the best of its successors have improved upon its formula.

    • Wulf says:

      I’d have to agree. Much love for all of the above, especially Sly, but trying Mario versus them just doesn’t compare, unless we’re bringing nostaigia into it. Though I’d love to see some games like that turn up on the PC.

      In fact, I distinctly remember playing a piratey game not that long ago, I found it thanks to an RPS article, and it made me so bloody happy that I just couldn’t stop enthusing over it. I can’t help but wonder now if that’ll be finished, soon, because that was one of the better and more memorable things I’d played if I’m being honest. I can still even retrace my way through the levels and what I did in my head, and all the secrets I found. It left that strong of an impression upon me. The only thing that evades me is the name.

      I really want the final version of that game. So very much.

      Edit #1: Pirates of New Horizons!!! That was it. Gods, it was amazing. Absolutely amazing. If you haven’t played that then do yourself a favour and play that, and I’m saying tha tto everyone. Reading my own post back then I can remember even more of why I was so ecstatic about it.

      Grappling hook of the Gods.

  7. bascule42 says:

    I’ve hated every game that has ever had “Mario” in the title.

    There…

    • godgoo says:

      As a kid I could never understand why people wanted to play mario when there was Sonic, i mean, one’s a goofy plumber who chases a princess which seemed a big girly to me (aged 8), whilst the other is a blue hedgehog who fights a guy named robotnik in giant metal robot suits etc. There was just no contest to my 8 year old mind. (btw this is DEFINITELY not fanboyism, strictly based on child-me’s impulses).

      Then I got given a gameboy (1) for xmas with SML on it and that changed my perspective a little, still preferred sonic though, shame what happened to the old chap.

    • Monchberter says:

      Is RPS where former UK Resistance posters come when their former site died?

      http://www.ukresistance.co.uk/

      Sega vs Nintendo is ancient history!

      In terms us RPS denizens understand, name one decent Sega game released on the PC, Sonic or otherwise.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Sega are totally one of the most PC-centric publishers these days, though. Total War, Football Manager…

    • Monchberter says:

      My credibility duly slapped, I will retire and pontificate on this lesson.

    • terry says:

      Also: Golden Axe.

    • Veracity says:

      @Monchberter: Outrun 2006? That should work if you want “a Sega game” as opposed to “a game Sega published”. I thought Sega Rally (Revo) was good, too, if you could excuse the non-existent front end, but I don’t think most people agreed.

  8. Oozo says:

    By regular logic, Mario 64 must be the best game ever, because it had triple jumps. Granted, you had to land in between them, but still, triple jumps!
    (And the cascade of whoo-hoos that came with them.)

  9. Doug says:

    I’ve already played 2 of those games. Can I be two-thirds of Gabe now?

  10. Colthor says:

    I spent hours playing EGATrek (a graphical remake of the latter text Star Trek game) on my family’s 8088. No Klingons were safe from my mighty starship! Unless I got Supernovad or ran out of Dilithium.

    Much better than your silly blurry-textured plumber game.

    • Rii says:

      EGA Trek was a staple of my childhood. A few years later I saw Star Trek on the telly and like “OMG they made a television show out of the game!” xD

      Mario 64 is probably my favourite game of all time too, though.

    • terry says:

      I dimly recall that Trek game (and it looks a tad like an old air traffic control game I remember fondly), but then EGAtrek came along (Shareware Shopper? anyone remember that? I think they ran a two page review on it, unheard of back then) and obliterated it into tiny fragments. Over the years I must’ve played more EGAtrek than Elite, and I played a ridiculous amount of Elite. It’s super replayable!

    • Feste says:

      EGATrek was awesome, the randomness of the setup along with the perceived granularity of your controls just made it really easy to lose hours to. I loved the random encounters, and the scanning mechanic, but once you got starbases and the attacks on them it became really frantic.

  11. Wulf says:

    I kind of skipped over the N64. I was gaming on the Saturn and the Amiga/PC at the time, I think, and by the time that funds were available for another console, the Dreamcast was available, and that seemed to be the much better option. (Ecco, Skies of Arcadia, Powerstone II, Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, and so many other truly great games. That was a decision I’d never regret.)

    I suppose I never really got into the SNES much, either, because Nintendo at the time always seemed to be where the incredibly polished stuff was, but not the really quirky, weird shit. People seemed to take chances with the Sega hardware that they didn’t elsewhere. And if you’re familiar with that era of gaming then you know exactly what I’m talking about, some of it was clever, like Ecco and Alicia Dragoon, and some of it was just… really out there. Like Dynamite Heady, Traysia, and Decap Attack. Traysia I still have the most bizrare memories about, my mind has categorised it as the RPG which was almost entirely about brainwashing. I need to go back to that game with a mature mind to figure WTF it was about and whether I categorised it correctly or not. I do recall a lot of forced amnesia. Anyway…

    So! That selfsame rule pretty much continued with Nintendo – amazingly polished, but nothing really all that memorable for me. Brilliant graphics, flawless presentation, beautiful audio, and yet somehow… strangely… so lacking in love.

    Of course, I’ll also happily admit that I’m biased due to Shining Force.

    I’ve written about my love for the Mega Drive before though, once, and I remember Vinraith being particularly amused and pleased by my vehement deence of that console. It was a grand thing, it had jewels and wonders that no console would offer, would dare to. It was sort of the home computer of consoles, because, yes, I’m more than well aware that there was plenty of weird shit on the home computers too, I remember and relish most of it.

    Speaking of, I’d still love to see a modern, indie take on Dizzy.

    Am I alone in that?

    Right, sorry, segued into a bunch of crap, there, but it might have been an interesting read, it might not have. I don’t know. Either way, that’s why I never really got into the Nintendo stuff, it was the Playstation of its day, really. The irony being that these days, the XBox of is the Playstation of today, and the PS3 has become sort of a side attraction – offering odd wonders like flOwer, Journey, and such.

    Wrappping this up, I find it interesting that Gabe Newell, the founder of a company that prides itself so much on polish, names his favourite game as Mario. I can definitely see the Nintendo influence there, and really, I wish they’d value polish a little less. But then they are doing stuff like Portal 2, so I’m happy with their output, still…. I’d love to see Valve take some kind of wild risk, even if they don’t put a large amount of money into it.

  12. itsallcrap says:

    I’d have to agree with Gabe’s Mario 64 verdict, but that could just be because of the age I was when it came out.

    I seem to remember being about 14 and therefore at the peak of my OhmyGodvideogamesaresoawesome stage, and I pre-ordered an N64 with said game.

    It just seemed better in every respect than anything I’d played before, and will therefore – in my head – remain that good forever.

  13. MadTinkerer says:

    My earliest recollection of the grid-based Star Trek sim game is EGA Trek. It’s basically a clone of the earlier mentioned text-based games but with little non-animated EGA palette sprites. It is pretty addicting.

    As cliche as they are, Doom and Mario 64 are pretty good choices. Both of them were far ahead of the competition when they came out, and pushed pseudo-3D gameplay and proper 3D gameplay, respectively, into the forefront. Neither of them could be said to have invented their genre, but they could be said to be the first great examples of their genres. They’re not my picks, but I’ll respect those who do include them in their Top Three.

  14. mcwill says:

    Any developer who does not say “UFO: Enemy Unknown” – ESPECIALLY a techie – should be viewed with suspicion. They’re probably hosts to Chryssalids.

    My business partner says “Rebelstar”, but I say “Chaos”. Tomato, Tomaaato, let’s call the whole thing orf…

  15. SnakeNuts says:

    Oh, wow. That image brought back old, old memories of playing Star Trek on the Apple ][+. It must have been one of the first games I ever played, thinking about it. But the canny semblance of ‘-E-’ to the Enterprise… Well, sort of. Kinda. Maybe.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I played that on the PC many, many years ago. With the DOS character set, the Enterprise could be represented as ═√ or something very close to that, in a noble attempt to draw it in profile with text characters.

  16. somnolentsurfer says:

    Hang on. That article says Portal 2 will be released on April 19th and then three days later in Europe. That can’t be right, surely? No Oceans!

    • deadsexy says:

      I believe that’s only true for the retail version. The digital copy should release on the 19th. At least it says so on the Steam store page.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Oh God. Are they going to do that thing again where you can pre-order on Steam and get it on the US release date, then it effectively disappears for three days, and if you’ve not pre-ordered you have to wait till the retail release? What game was it that did that before? Bloody stupid…

  17. arioch says:

    The reason Mario 64 often pops up on the lists of best games ever made is because… it is one of the best games ever made!

    I’ve been an avid PC gaming fanatic since 1991 and even I would pop it in my top 5 somewhere!

  18. McCool says:

    This Mario 64 obsession is predominantly an american thing, right? I’ve never understood the adoration Nintendo games seem to have on the internet.

    • Mman says:

      No? The reason for Nintendo adoration is that their central franchises are generally considered to be really good. Unless you have problems with people liking things you don’t there’s nothing to “understand”.

    • cjlr says:

      Because a), yes, they made a lot of very good games, and b), that’s what lots of Americans remember. From what I know S/NES were massively more popular here than Sega or any of the other erstwhile competitors, which sort of lasted into the N64/PSX/Saturn days. The exposure’s a lot wider. But the core games – not the endless knockoff shit Nintendo put out these days – were brilliant for their time and place.

      There is such a thing as taking it too far. I have seen too many god damn Mario references. Oh, look, we’re so retro and quirky and nostalgic for something we probably aren’t old enough to have been a part of… No. I just don’t give a fuck about the guy. Stop it.

      But: Galaxy is wonderful. Best Mario game ever, by a gigantic margin. Saint-Exupéry should get royalties, though.

  19. nemryn says:

    Man, I used to have the Commodore version of this. Memories!

  20. Gundrea says:

    Definitely a Sega man myself. Mega Drive was my first portal into Computer RPGs. It was all strategy games on the PC for me. Dune, C&C, Age of Empires, Z. Baldur’s Gate II came as quite a shock.

  21. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    That Star Trek game has broken an early – and formative- memory of playing this on a BBC Micro in the very early 80s. We were at a friend of my mum’s – a jovial, beardy maths teacher, hence the access to the wonder that was the BBC Micro. He was as into the game as I was.

  22. Daniel Klein says:

    That Star Trek game was one of the very first games I played in my life. Possibly very close to the first. I played a remake of it written in BASICA. This is what gaming looked to me when I was 6 and just getting started:

    Boot PC. It makes scary noises. The screen is the size of a fridge (or maybe I was smaller then).

    C:\> cd BASIC
    C:\BASIC\> BASICA

    BASICA interpreter loads. My father had brought home a 5 1/4″ floppy disk full of .BAS files. Most of them were just silly demonstrations of this and that (like the amazing BALLS.BAS, which was three balls bouncing around a rectangle, rendered in 320×200 four colour CGA). But two or three of them were honest to god games. CARDS.BAS was a version of blackjack, MOON.BAS was the infamous moon lander (where you had to type in values for the braking thrusters so that you landed without crashing but didn’t run out of thruster fuel either), and then there was STARTREK.BAS.

    Which, I swear, was PRECISELY this game. I played it a lot. I remember, vividly, dreaming one night that the game had graphics. I had by this time not seen a game rendered in anything other than ASCII. I got up, all excited, ran to the PC, but alas! STARTREK.BAS was still all ASCII. Poor little 6 year old me then accepted the cruel fate that he would never play a game with graphics.

    (A few weeks later, my dad brought home Prince of Persia. The rest is history.)

  23. Mman says:

    Wrong Reply

  24. Keith Nemitz says:

    I remember writing, in FORTRAN, a version of Star Trek in 1979. It was first-person 3D on the DEC-10 our district had, when I was in high school. By 3-D, the player could switch between six screens, one for each orthogonal direction. Enemies moved around the player’s ‘position’, and if you could guess where the enemy would move next, you could hit it with your weapons. If you failed to hit it, after a few enemy moves, it would hit you with its weapons.

  25. Wulf says:

    So here’s something interesting.

    http://valvearg.com/w/images/c/ce/Troll_bathysphere.jpg

    One of the ‘bathysphere’ images was a troll, and now that the real image has been discovered, it looks even less like a bathysphere because it lacks the symmetry that one would require in order to actually look like one. So it’s not a bathysphere after all, by the looks of it, and I and about a bunch of other people called it.

    Valve do this. They make something look like something, except it’s not, it’s something else entirely. Clever buggers.

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