Gaming Bucket List: the moments every gamer has to experience before they die

Gamers are a divided group. You've got your fighting game fanatics and your PC strategy game enthusiasts, your first person shooter lovers, and your platformer junkies. 

But there are some moments that are capable of bringing together even the most disparate of gamers. Moments that are so classic, so iconic, that every self-respecting gamer should go out of their way to experience them. 

Here are the TechRadar editor's top picks for what these moments should be.

This isn’t one we’ve actually done but for some reason we really want to. Animal Crossing isn’t a game that you have to settle into for hours to appreciate its charm – really you only have to play it for maybe 30 to 40 minutes a day to keep your town maintained and your virtual social life in order. It’s a low-but-frequent commitment game.

However, for some reason we’re inclined to binge-play it for a few weeks at a time and then abandon our sweet village to the ravages of time, weeds, and Tom Nook’s greed. When you eventually return you’re not exactly returning to a scene from Mad Max but things have usually deteriorated enough that the game feels like a slog rather than the delightful escape it should be. 

That’s why we want to set up one save where we actually log in and visit our town every day, enjoy the changing seasons and the various themed events that pop up the way we’re supposed to.

Emma Boyle – Staff Writer

Cold, Cold Mountain is one of the most enjoyable levels on Super Mario 64 and the Lil Lost Penguin quest is one of the most fun task star tasks in it. 

Tuxie is an adorable baby penguin and if you can manage to return him to his mother without having to deal with the emotionally-taxing scenario of dropping him off the mountain’s edge or dropping him you’ll get to enjoy one of the game’s most heart-warming moments in this otherwise chilly level. 

Emma Boyle – Staff Writer

Whether you’re doing it over a Wi-Fi connection today or with a physical trade cable back in the GameBoy Colour days, trading Pokemon with your real-life friends is a key part of the Pokemon experience and an oddly emotional one at that. You can of of course trade NPCs in the game and even trade with yourself over the different game generation but neither of these is quite the same as trading with someone in real-life. It borders on being a justifiably contractual affair. 

If it’s a Pokemon you’re particularly fond of, it’s akin to giving away a cherished pet and although you’re getting a new Pokemon in return it’s hard to see your friend taking over your position as trainer.

Just don’t be the easily-swayed 7 year old we may or may not have been and trade your level 85 Mew for your older friend’s much lower level Vulpix just because you love Vulpix so much. Those are the kind of mistakes that will stay with you.

Emma Boyle – Staff Writer

The goat puzzle in Broken Sword and the Shadow of the Templars is infamous for its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. That’s why we suggest that if you ever encounter it you should try and solve it without any help online or otherwise. Though you’re reaction to the solution will be ‘seriously? That’s it?’ you’ll still be extremely happy with yourself even if it was simply a matter of trial and error rather than actual logic.

Emma Boyle – Staff Writer

The training will be intense and you’ll have to work at it for hours, days, maybe even weeks depending on your levels of co-ordination but it’ll be worth it to perform the song you love most absolutely perfectly on expert level. There you’ll be, drenched in sweat like you’ve just done your first couch to 5K, hands shaking, allowing the hollow and empty cheers to fill your ears and you’ll think ‘right, never have to do that again.’

Emma Boyle – Staff Writer

The process of landing a person on the moon has been likened to trying to thread a needle from a mile away, and after having played Kerbal Space Program we’d be inclined to agree. When you first start the game, reaching the Mun (Kerbal’s version of our moon) seems like an impossible task. 

Slowly but surely however, after each failed mission you’ll end up closer and closer to your destination until eventually you manage to land a craft without burning up into a fireball. 

It’s a great moment…until you realise that there are nine whole other planets to reach. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

When games are frequently criticised for the amount of bloodshed and murder that goes on within them, it’s nice to see one series buck the trend. 

Starting with the second, it’s been possible to play through each of the Metal Gear Solid games without killing a single enemy. Instead you can either tranquilise them, knock them out, or, if you’re feeling especially bold, sneak past them entirely. 

You won’t get much for your efforts beyond a wink and a nod in the game’s post-credits stats, but the satisfaction will stay with you for months. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

When The Sims was first released in 2000 its titular characters were completely free from the curse of aging. Make a child Sim and it would remain a child forever, or make an adult and it would live eternally. 

This all changed in The Sims 2, where Sims would go through the entire aging process. 

But while it was always sad to see a Sim you created as an adult grow old and die, it felt far more special to see your first child progress through its terrible twos, into its awkward teenage phase, through a quarter-life and then mid-life crisis, and finally into its twilight years. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

Few games are as iconic as the original Super Mario Bros on the NES, and because the game laid the foundations of pretty much every modern platformer it’s hard not to feel like you’ve already played it. 

But there’s something to be said for going back to where it all started by playing through the seminal level for yourself to see where it all began. 

With Super Mario Bros having been re-released on pretty much every Nintendo system under the sun it’s not hard to find the hardware to play it on, but if you want the authentic experience it’s hard to fault the recently discontinued NES Mini for its authentic 80s gamepad. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

For a certain generation, Pokemon was an absolute cultural phenomenon.

But before the Pokemon cards, the anime, and the twenty movies, there were the original games, and the simple joy of building up a collection of pocket monsters. 

Everyone should experience the joy of catching a Pokemon at least once, the slight rock of the Poke-ball as the monster tries to escape, and the ensuing tense seconds where the game’s internal logic works out whether your catch has been successful or not. 

The whole process is over in moments, but it feels like minutes as you wait with your heart in your throat to see whether you’ve been successful. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

Every Legend of Zelda since A Link to the Past game contains a Master Sword, the mythical blade that is able to seal away evil within Hyrule. 

Almost all of the Zelda games qualify as classics which should be played in their entirety by any self-respecting gamer, but the act of retrieving the Master Sword is perhaps the most iconic moment in the games. 

As an aside, the famous quote “It’s dangerous to go alone! take this.” does not refer to the Master Sword since it is featured in the original Legend of Zelda, which did not include the specific sword. 

Fun times. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

‘Achievements’ were one of the more minor additions to the world of gaming introduced with the Xbox 360, but they’ve since become a staple of both the Xbox and PlayStation platforms (where they’re known as ‘Trophies’).

Achievements are awarded for the completion of a task in a game, from something as major as completing the main story, or as minor as using a certain weapon for the first time.

Something everyone should try at least once is to get all the achievements in a single game, a task which usually forces you to play it on its hardest difficulty, while also trying out all the features the game has to offer. 

At their most basic, achievements reward you for playing well, but when they get inventive, achievements can force you to play familiar games in new and inventive ways. 

Everyone should make the effort to get every achievement in at least one game to see what secrets they can find. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

In a world of generic space marines and bland everymen, BioShock’s steampunk adventure was a breath of fresh air when it first came out back in 2007. 

Part of its appeal was its impressive story, which blended engaging characters with one of the best twists in a game story since…well…ever. 

You know the scene. You fight your way through hordes of enemies to reach the inner sanctum of Rapture’s leader, Andrew Ryan. 

What happens next is special, and is something everyone should get to experience for themselves. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

Games can be full on. Rush forward, kill the enemies, solve the puzzle before a timer runs out, then stealthily make your way through an area while coming within an inch of being spotted. 

All of this makes Metal Gear Solid 3’s quietest moment, where you’re forced to spend several minutes climbing one massive ladder, all the more striking. 

There’s no way to skip the segment, and no way to speed it up. Instead you’re just left with the image of your protagonist, Snake, slowly climbing a ladder as the game’s Bond-inspired theme tune plays softly in the background. 

It’s probably one of the game’s more surreal moments (aside from that guy that shoots bees out of his mouth), but it’s definitely one not to miss.  

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a game whose appeal is the way its entire map slowly unlocks like a delightfully intricate puzzle box. What starts out as a linear series of corridors soon expands into a massive labyrinth maze as your character gets the skills and abilities needed to traverse it. 

Then, halfway through the game, the whole concept is quite literally flipped on its head as the castle you’ve been exploring for a dozen hours turns upside down. 

It’s one of the most surprising moments in gaming but the effect is brilliant, and immediately forces you to relearn an environment you’ve slowly learned as well as the back of your hand. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

Progress is overrated. Sure, that slow-but-steady improvement is tantalising, but there’s something to be said for taking stock and appreciating what you have in that moment. 

SimCity is a game that embraces these moments. You’ll spend hours zoning residental areas, building up transport infrastructures and maintaining public services, but reach a certain point and your city will hum away like a well-oiled machine. 

Sure, you could immediately start planning the next set of improvements and expansions, but at a certain point you’d be missing the point. The payoff in SimCity is making a city that just works, at which point it becomes almost like a virtual fishtank for you to zoom right into and explore ad infinitum. 

Jon Porter – Home Technology UK Writer

The year is 1996. Your Playstation sits glistening in its muted grey beneath your modestly sized CRT TV and Crash Bandicoot has just launched. It’s a level like none before it. You play through the first seven – including seeing off the portly Papu Papu – and out of nowhere the game throws a curveball at you. 

That ball is Hog Wild. The squeal of the hog and you jump on, its frisky jumps over pits, fallen columns and shield natives, the ever-so-catchy music and the sheer panic of what to do the first time the level greats you. It’s a perfect cocktail of confusion, excitement and down-right good, old fashioned gameplay.

John McCann – Phones, Wearables & Tablets UK Editor

Doctor required in inflator room” – the trill, grating voice rings out on the tannoy through the corridors of your slap-dashed medical facility. 

Meanwhile a man patiently sits outside the GP’s office, waiting his turn to see the physician whose biography describes him as a ‘foolish risk-taker who couldn’t care less’ – but you hired him anyway…

It’s not like this poor chap has a choice, his head is the size of a beach ball and there’s only one remedy – a quick trip to the Inflator room. Zoom into the room to watch the action close up, as a hose is unceremoniously shoved into the mouth of the ill fellow, swiftly inflating his head further, until it explodes. Only to then re-flate it to a ‘normal’ size. Healthcare is fascinating.

John McCann – Phones, Wearables & Tablets UK Editor

You either love or hate FIFA. It’s an iconic gaming franchise, which admittedly is now ruled more by churning out money than actually making a fully fledged football simulation – but for one sweet moment in FIFA 97 and 98 it seemed EA Sports was onto something.

Enter, the indoor arena. This wasn’t your standard 11-a-side match on astro under a huge dome – oh no. This was proper indoor football, five players on each team, 6ft x 8ft goals, an insanely close penalty spot and a wooden floor.

You could score direct from kick off with the right amount of shot power thanks to a goalkeeper glitch which would see the ball roll embarrassingly under the foot of the hapless man between the sticks – but that wasn’t the charm here.

There was no office, the walls around the outside ruled out throw-ins and corners, which left you with an intense game of football pinball. It was by far the greatest FIFA stadium ever created, and it’s an absolute crime that it has not featured in a game since FIFA 98 Road to World Cup.

John McCann – Phones, Wearables & Tablets UK Editor

Dubbed ‘the biggest dick move in gaming’ by one YouTuber – an opinion I very much happen to agree with – stealing a star from someone in Mario Party is the ultimate kick in the balls.

Considering Mario Party is supposed to be a child-friendly digitized board game, it manages to harbour a unnerving amount of hostility, backstabbing and general ‘dickishness’ among its players.

The aim of the game is to collect the most stars, which are hard-earned through highly competitive mini-games and the tallying of many, many coins – all while trying to avoid the numerous pitfalls around the board. However, the ease at which Mario Party lets your challengers rob you of your hard-earned stars is so brutal we’re surprised there are no recorded star-stealing related murders.

But boy, does it feel good when you’re doing the stealing.

John McCann – Phones, Wearables & Tablets UK Editor

Yes, it might requires no skill, but the first time you enter Mexico in Red Dead Redemption is one of the most beautiful experiences in any video game. 

Riding a horse through some beautiful countryside, underscored by Jose Gozalez’s stunning song Far Away. Bliss.

Andrew London – Staff Writer 

This probably required you being a young child, playing a game before the age of the smartphone. Your mate brings round a piece of paper with codes written on that apparently lets you actually “Finish him!” 

You get your favourite character up (Scorpion) and watch as he pulls the spine out of your still breathing combatant. 

Andrew London – Staff Writer 

Now that the film is out, the leap of faith feels slightly less special. It was in every trailer, on every poster. It was everywhere. Nothing quite compares to actually doing a leap in the game. You spend what feels like an eternity climbing a building, and as you reach the top, the camera swings over and you get the genuinely vertigo inducing moment as you plummet to the hay bale below.

Andrew London – Staff Writer 

Up until the library, there is a feeling that you can outrun most problems in the game. The Clickers are terrifying but you can strategically avoid them. 

The library is the first moment where you seriously have to plan and attack or you won’t survive. 

You try, you fail. You try, you fail. You fail so frequently that it feels you may never succeed. You get angry which makes your strategy worse. You fail worse. Then finally, finally, you make it through alive. Words cannot describe how satisfying it it.

Andrew London – Staff Writer 

Whether it’s taking hours to gently pick off your targets by gradually switching outfits 30 times or you just running in guns blazing, the Hitman games try to let you decide how to murder your targets however you want.

There’s nothing more satisfying then entering a level of Hitman (2016) and achieving a Silent Assassin rating. There are many challenges to complete in the latest Hitman game, but the Silent Assassin rating is a must-have and is perhaps the hardest ask. 

You’ll need to only kill targets, do it with no witnesses, no bodies found, make sure you don’t get caught on camera and not get spotted once. It’s a difficult one, but oh-so satisfying.

James Peckham – Phones, Tablets & Wearables UK Writer

You can spend hours upon hours creating yourself in The Sims. Choosing your haircut alone probably took you twenty minutes and that’s before you even get anywhere near building the dream house you’re going to live in.

But then a few hours into the game, you get that urge. Could I delete the door? Could I intentionally start a fire in the kitchen? Could I take away the ladder in the pool? There’s something strangely satisfying about killing yourself in The Sims, but it’s something you’ll have to do one day.

James Peckham – Phones, Tablets & Wearables UK Writer

This isn’t the most difficult item on the bucket list, but it might seem like it when you’re face-to-face with one of the many grotesque bosses in the Dark Souls games.

Reaching through the fog without a helping hand can sometimes feel like a fool’s errand, but if take the time to learn the boss’s movement pattern and believe in yourself, you can totally do it.

Handling a boss by yourself won’t make playing with a friend any less fun, but knowing that you can survive alone is a huge confidence boost that’s necessary to make it through the treacherous haul.

Cameron Faulkner – US Mobile Editor

Rocket League might seem easy, but it’s extremely difficult (and very fun) to master the basics. One of said basics is jumping. It’s handy to bop the ball when it comes toward you, but when used in tandem with boost and a little steering, you can soar through the air.

Many people use aerial abilities to show off or to blast the ball to the other side of the field, but if you get your timing down just right, an aerial jump lets you score a goal so quickly that your opponents won’t know what hit them.

Cameron Faulkner – US Mobile Editor

Dishonored’s physics-warping powers and steampunk-inspired weaponry lend themselves to all kinds of imaginative and gruesome kills. Freezing time, possessing a member of the City Watch and manoeuvring him in front of his own bullets is a classic trick, but there are many others.

One of the most unpleasant devices in your arsenal is the spring razor – a kind of dirty mine packed with shrapnel and bits of bone that detonates when an enemy gets too close. But why wait? Lurk in the shadows and summon a swarm of rats, then stick a spring razor to one unfortunate rodent and watch it embark on a kamikaze course towards an unsuspecting group of guards. Squeak squeak boom.

Cat Ellis – Downloads Editor

Leonardo da Vinci is Q to Ezio Auditore’s James Bond. After providing Ezio with his first hidden blade, the brilliant and earnest inventor delivers a seemingly endless supply of tricked-out Renaissance vehicles and weapons, including a hidden gun, a fire-dropping hang glider, and even a tank (painstakingly developed and built, then destroyed in minutes).

In one of the pair’s many cutscenes, Leonardo raises his arm for a brotherly hug and you have a second to accept before the opportunity passes. It’s a heartwarming moment, but blink and you’ll miss it. There’s no in-game penalty, but Leo’s wounded expression if you fail to reciprocate is worse than desynchronizing. 

Cat Ellis – Downloads Editor

We can’t be the only ones that had short attention spans as kids – even with video games. Like this editor in particular, maybe you had a bad habit of failing to play games to their completion, even those that you today consider absolute favorites, pinnacles of the medium. For anyone that calls, say, The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past their favorite Zelda game despite having not even conquered it (this guy), then this may be the most daunting item on your bucket list yet.

Joe Osbourne – Senior Editor

It’s the ultimate dick move but oh-so satisfying. Just sitting there continuously tapping a button to make Blanka crouch and electrify his opponent. It’s even better if the person you are beating is in the same room as you as you can witness their anger first-hand as all you do his fry their tiny minds with Blanka’s superpower. 

Marc Chacksfield – Global Managing Editor

Journey is such a thoughtful, beautiful game that playing it should be on everyone’s bucket list. But, playing it with just one companion throughout makes it extra special. You don’t know the person controlling the other robed figure but you get to know them in a wonderfully delicate way. The way they help you when your power is down, will swirl around you when you aren’t quite fast enough to catch them up, how you can communicate with them through singing. Knowing there is another person interacting with you and just you somewhere else in the world, is pretty poignant.

Marc Chacksfield – Global Managing Editor

As decisions in games go, it’s one of the biggest: do you nuke a whole town or not. From a game point, it’s a simple choice between becoming evil or staying good. But from a moral standpoint, committing one of gaming’s biggest atrocities holds a lot of weight. I pressed the button and once I saw that mushroom cloud appear, I instantly wanted to turn back time. But it’s something that needs to be done to understand just how complex and emotive a game such as Fallout 3 can be.

Marc Chacksfield – Global Managing Editor

There’s no bigger gaming adrenaline rush than the first act of Sonic the Hedgehog. I was lucky enough to be born in the 80s so witnessed first hand Sonic on the MegaDrive. There wasn’t a game like it around. It wasn’t just the speed of Sonic and the bright color thrill of Green Hill Zone but the music, the ping you got when each ring was collected, the way the game made you feel both out of control and in control… it’s one of the purest, perfect gaming experiences ever made.

Marc Chacksfield – Global Managing Editor

When it first came out, Mortal Kombat was unfairly compared to Street Fighter 2. I say unfairly because no fighting game was ever going to match Street Fighter. Kombat was slower and sloppier but it had two great USPs. 

The first was the real-life look. It was one of the first games to digitize real people and put them into game form. They were still jagged and a little rough looking but they looked, well, real. 

The second was the genius and bloody idea of being able to finish an opponent with a fatality – a Finish Him move that saw spines punched out bodies, people frozen to death and, my favorite, having your heart ripped out and still pumping while your limp body falls to the floor. It was graphic, brutal but also brilliant to witness.

Marc Chacksfield – Global Managing Editor

Leave a Reply