Thanksgiving, A Gamer’s Paradise

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and give thanks for all of the great things in your life. For me, that includes thanking all the major video game publishers for releasing great games during a time when I’m off work. The first major Thanksgiving gaming release I remember was Donkey Kong Country in 1994. I was 12 at the time and had saved up enough money to buy it on day one. I specifically remember wanting to leave the dinner table so I could scamper back upstairs to play DKC with my older cousin. At the time, that game blew me away: the environments, the gameplay, and the music were all top notch. It became customary for my cousin to ask every Thanksgiving what major holiday release I had recently purchased. Many of the titles don’t stick out as memorably as DKC, but I’m sure that I had something new and shiny almost every year. The wait for The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Timewas long and painful, but finally, on 11/23/1998, the wait was over. Thank goodness I didn’t have to go to school for those first couple of days because I would have had to fake a fever, stomachache, and whatever other symptoms I could think of so that I could stay home and play Link’s latest masterpiece. Everything amazed me about Zelda’s move to three dimensions, and the  joy I had playing that game is hard to replicate.

It was another few years until Metroid Prime launched right around Thanksgiving, on the 17th of November, 2002. I was now in college, and I came home for break and played a bunch with my younger brother. We were both huge fans of Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo and were pleasantly surprised to see Samus adapt to the move to the third dimension as well as Link did. Metroid Prime was one of the greatest games on the GameCube, and it was able to keep its unique sense of exploration and sporadic but intense action perfected on the SNES.

On the night of November 18, 2006, I participated in my first and only midnight system launch. I had preordered a Nintendo Wii at GameCrazy and was able to pick it up right at 12:01 on the morning of the 19th. By now I had graduated from college and was working. Having more disposable income than my 12-, 16-, or 20-year-old self, I was able to buy a bevy of games (Zelda, Excite Truck, Madden, and Super Monkey Ball) as well as four controllers. My family stayed up into the night playing Wii Sports, which was an absolute blast. I spent the majority of the next day playing Zelda, Wii Sports, and even some Monkey Ball. Excite Truck, however, will probably go down as the worst day one purchase I’ve ever made in my life.

Four years ago I made a last-minute decision to drop $200 and buy Rock Band at launch. As I had not preordered the game, I made a mad dash from GameStop (sold out) to Target (sold out) to, as a last resort, Walmart, where I picked up their last copy. After rushing home, all I wanted to do was rock out on the drums. Of course, anyone who has bought Rock Band knows that the game takes up to two hours to set up. After unwrapping all of the components, setting it up, and getting everything synced, I spent the rest of my afternoon melting faces.

The next two Thanksgivings were spent shotgunning Zombies in the face. Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 came out in successive years, and both games left a tremendous impression on me. In fact, Left 4 Dead is my favorite game of this generation and in my opinion is one of the greatest games ever made. The use of co-op in the game is far and above any other game I’ve ever played in that it forces players to play together. Night after night, I couldn’t wait to jump online and play the game with friends. In fact, Left 4 Dead was the game I played the most for an entire year until the sequel was released. Both games dominated their holiday seasons and beyond.

Thanksgiving, and late November in general, has always been a busy time for game releases, and this year is no different. I expect a heavy dose of my break to encompass playing both Elder Scrolls V:Skyrim as well as The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Looking back through the years, Link has been no stranger to the holiday season; however, my time this year will be split between the two epic RPGs.

What games do you remember playing around the holidays? I have included a list of the major releases over the last 15 years or so. Did I miss any?

Donkey Kong Country 11/21/94
Wave Race 64 11/5/96
Half Life 11/19/98
Zelda: Ocarina of Time 11/23/98
Medal of Honor 11/11/99
Final Fantasy IX 11/14/00
Halo 11/15/01
Metroid Prime 11/17/02
Metal Gear Solid 3 11/17/04
WoW 11/23/04
Half Life 2 11/15/05
Wii Sports/Zelda: Twilight Princess 11/19/06
Crysis 11/13/07
Uncharted 11/16/07
Mass Effect 11/20/07
Rock Band 11/20/07
Left 4 Dead 11/18/08
Left 4 Dead 2 11/17/09
Assassin’s Creed 2 11/17/09
Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood 11/16/10
Assassin’s Creed 2: Revelations 11/15/11
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 11/11/11
Zelda: Skyward Sword 11/20/11

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