The games that made me (Part 1)

The games that made me

So many games influenced me! I am a (hardcore) gamer and a game developer. Part of my job is to play games, to find inspiration and ideas in the work of others. And I think it’s important to acknowledge and understand where your own ideas are coming from.

It would be impossible for me to write about every game that influenced me. But here’s a list of games, in autobiographical order, that have had a special influence on me and in my career as a game developer. These games will also continue to have a huge impact on the future games that I make as an indie game developer.

Super Mario

Release Date: September 1985
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Estimated Gaming Time: 200+ hours

Super Mario for the NES (and the copy, The Great Giana Sisters for the C64) is one of the most classical games ever. My friends and I played it and Super Mario Bros 2 & 3 a lot when I was a kid in the 80’s. The first games I tried to make on the C64 were also heavily inspired by it.

When Super Mario World came out on the Super Nintendo, another world opened. The quality of the gameplay in Super Mario World is something that I remember to this day and I think of it when I design and implement features.


Release Date: February 1986
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Estimated Gaming Time: 200+ hours

The first Zelda game felt like a huge adventure with a massive open world when I was a kid. My imagination filled in the gaps in my knowledge of the game world, which made the game even more fantastic. Just the idea of what Zelda was back then, will always be with me.

When The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out for the SNES, it instantly became my favorite game, and it would be for the coming decade. However, once the Zelda series went 3D I lost interest. To me, something had been lost. Not because of the move to 3D, but something else had changed and it wasn’t recaptured until Breath of the Wild.

One day, I hope that I will have the opportunity to make a game that sparks my imagination of being an adventurer, a knight, a hero in such a way that Zelda did to when I was a kid.


Release Date: August 1986
Developer: Nintendo R&D, Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Estimated Gaming Time: 100+ hours

Metroid to the NES and Super Metroid to the SNES were some of my favorite games growing up. I still love a good metroidvania game, and I have even worked on a game that was supposed to have been a metroidvania. Unfortunately, that game was cancelled, but one day I hope that I can incorporate a bit of this subgenre in one of my own games.


Release Date: 1991 (for SNES)
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Maxis
Estimated Gaming Time: 300+ hours

In my opinion, Cities: Skylines is currently the king of city builder games. But I have also played SimCity for SNES and SimCity 2000 for PC a lot. I find these games nice and relaxing; they are all about being creative, optimizing and making your city a place that would be nice to live in. It’s the balancing act between beauty, comfort and efficiency that makes this type of game interesting even without a clear goal to strive for.

UFO: Enemy Unknown (a.k.a. X-COM: UFO Defense)

Release Date: March 1994
Developer: Mythos Games, MicroProse
Publisher: MicroProse
Estimated Gaming Time: 300+ hours

The original UFO: Enemy Unknown and X-COM: Terror from the Deep, are some of my favorite games. I played these way too much as a teenager. These games got me into turn-based tactics and strategy games. The two layered gameplay experiences, the pausable real-time world view meta strategy on one side and the up close turn-based tactical combat sessions on the other side, mixed extremely well. I personally always added some elements of role playing to the mix as well with how I set up my bases around the world, naming and developing the characters, etc. Games that allow and encourage that type of voluntary role playing, always feel richer than the sum of their parts.


Release Date: 1991
Developer: MicroProse, Activision, Firaxis Games
Publisher: MicroProse, Activision, Hasbro Interactive, Infogrames, 2K Games
Estimated Gaming Time: 1000+ hours

My first Civilization game was CivNet in 1995. Since then I have played every Civilization game and many other civ-like games. I get caught in the “just another turn” feeling, just like everyone else, as I am roleplaying my nation through time. While I nowadays rarely play Civilization, I have wanted to work on a turn-based 4X strategy game since I began making games professionally because of it.

Little Big Adventure

Release Date: October 1994
Developer: Adeline Software International
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Estimated Gaming Time: 30+ hours

The world, story, action gameplay and controls were not the best, but the game still managed to capture me. The fight against an oppressive regime in a free-roaming action adventure game with some elements of a metroidvania made it great. This game lent some of its best parts from Metroid and Zelda and wrapped it in a bright colored dystopia that stuck with me.

Transport Tycoon

Release Date: June 1994
Developer: Chris Sawyer Productions
Publisher: MicroProse
Estimated Gaming Time: 300+ hours

There have been a number of transport tycoon games made through the years, but nothing has lived up to the original Transport Tycoon and Transport Tycoon Deluxe, except for OpenTTD. The business simulation part of the game leaves a lot to be desired, but the railroad network creation part is amazing. I really enjoy balancing creativity, building something beautiful and optimizing the flow of goods and profits.

The Elder Scrolls

Release Date: 1994
Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Estimated Gaming Time: 300+ hours

The first Elder Scrolls game that I played was The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall in 1996. At that time I was really into pen and paper roleplaying games (I still am) and this game blew me away! It was open world, and the size of it was bigger than anything I had seen before and the possibilities of what you could do felt endless. I haven’t played every game in the series and I have actually never finished any of them, but that’s not the purpose of them to me. I just “live” in these worlds for a while, doing heroic deeds and going on adventures, until I eventually grow tired of it and stop playing it.

Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares

Release Date: December 1996
Developer: Simtex
Publisher: MicroProse
Estimated Gaming Time: 150+ hours

This was the game that took my 4X and strategy gaming into space! It was the perfect match of setting and gameplay for me. To this day, Stellaris is the only 4X space strategy game that’s come close to Master of Orion II in my book. Maybe one day I will get a shot at this genre.


Release Date: October 1997
Developer: Interplay Productions
Publisher: Interplay Productions
Estimated Gaming Time: 400+ hours

During my late teens, Fallout 1 & 2 were some of my favorite games. The world, setting, replayability and the role playing that was possible was just incredible. I truly enjoy Fallout 3 and 4 as well, and I think Bethesda took the legacy of Fallout in a great direction with those games. Bethesda was a great developer to take over the Fallout mantle, as The Elder Scrolls games are very similar in a number of fundamental ways. To me, the most important similarity, perhaps not that obvious, is that the developers are never afraid of the players missing content in either one of the series. This makes the world feel alive, and you are part of it, instead of the world existing just for you.


Release Date: November 1997
Developer: Blizzard North
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Estimated Gaming Time: 800+ hours

Diablo had an atmosphere that few games came even close to back in the late 90’s. Combining that atmosphere with a looting system that hadn’t been seen before and an action RPG system that worked great in multiplayer, my friends and I were sold. We played the first Diablo a lot, but that was nothing compared to how much we played Diablo II. We played it together daily after work, for the first year after its release in June 2000. When Diablo III came out in 2012 some of the old friends and I got back together and played it for a while, it was good, but it was never the same as it was back in the late 90’s and early 2000s.

Football Manager

Release Date: Yearly (1992-)
Developer: Sports Interactive
Publisher: Sega
My Estimated Gaming Time: 2000+ hours

The first Football Manager game I played was Championship Manager 99, and ever since I spent a few weeks playing it every two to four years. My soccer (football) interest definitely plays a big part in my love for it, that’s what brought me in. However, the strategy, tactics and RPG is what made me stay.

This game makes you spend most of your time in spreadsheets in order for you to maximize your chances in the climactic match experiences. Using mostly UI and a simple 3D match engine, it creates an RPG experience and a plausible simulation that keeps hundreds of thousands of players interested for thousands of hours each.

World of Warcraft

Release Date: February 2005
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Estimated Gaming Time: 250+ hours

I only played World of Warcraft for 4 months, February to May in 2005, when it was brand new in the EU. I really liked it and played with two different sets of friends, on two different servers. One group was heavy into roleplaying on a roleplaying server, and the other group played it a bit more casually on a normal server. I grew tired of the game as it was harder and harder to get the groups together to play and eventually I stopped playing it entirely.

This is one of the two games that made me start playing games again and made me consider making them professionally. During my computer science studies I had mostly stopped playing games, other than an occasional Civ session, but this game made it fun again. It also made me consider that maybe I should pursue a career making games.

Grand Theft Auto

Release Date: 1997-
Developer: Rockstar
Publisher: Rockstar
Estimated Gaming Time: 300+ hours

GTA is one of those game series that’s always been great, and I played it since the first version back in 1997. However, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the other game that made me go back to playing and making games in 2005. I don’t know exactly what it was with it, but it ignited something in me. And that I am very thankful for!


Release Date: Bi-yearly (2002-)
Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Estimated Gaming Time: 1500+ hours

I love playing multiplayer Battlefield, and I play most Battlefield games when I find the time for it. In the past, when I worked on AAA multiplayer and co-op games I always looked at how DICE found design and technical solutions for their games. They were, and still are, at the top of the class.

I have played and will continue to play a lot of Battlefield. But as an inspiration for the games I make, this is most likely a thing of the past.


Release Date: May 2009
Developer: Mojang
Publisher: Mojang, Microsoft Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment
My Estimated Gaming Time: 2000+ hours

I bought a copy of Minecraft shortly after it had been released to the public. It was played in various ways in the Starbreeze office at the time. I got instantly hooked, and I stayed up way too late every day and built my castle. The building part reminds me of when I was a kid playing with Lego. Then there’s exploration, gathering and a bit of adventure in there as well, to keep me interested when I am not feeling creative.

We had several Minecraft servers running at Starbreeze and at Avalanche Studios, some of which I was in charge of. I do however usually play it by myself, occasionally having my wife drop in, look around and builds a small cottage somewhere in my world. While the creativity in it is my primary driver to play it, I do sometimes really enjoy the meditative feel I get from just digging a long tunnel.

Minecraft has sort of an ending, but I have never seen it. What’s the point of that? That’s not why I am playing and enjoying it. To me, Minecraft makes it possible to build that treehouse I could only imagine as a kid. Then run around in it, explore a world that no one else ever sat a foot in and gather more building materials to expand that gigantic treehouse even further.

Mount and Blade: Warband

Release Date: April 2010
Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Estimated Gaming Time: 300+ hours

This game allows me to play out my childhood dream of being a knight. It blends strategy, simulation, action and role playing in a unique way that allows the player to become anything from a merchant to an emperor. While the game leans heavily on the action parts of the game, there are many interesting simulations going on and some opportunity for role playing. This game is far from AAA, but that also allowed it to become what it is. I am looking forward to Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord, which is scheduled to be released in 2020. With better and bigger battles, improved simulations and more opportunity for role playing and world building, this game could be amazing.

Europa Universalis 4

Release Date: August 2013
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Estimated Gaming Time: 1300+ hours

I started playing Europa Universalis 3 around 2009-2010 and I liked it, but I never really got hooked. But when UE4 came out in 2013, I was sold on grand strategy games forever. And I have become a huge fan of Crusader Kings, Victoria, Hearts of Iron, Stellaris and Imperator: Rome. This is now my favorite genre of games and one day I will make my own grand strategy game!

The simulation of history (or the future) using geography and politics composes a perfect setting for me to roleplay in or just fantasise about the world that takes shape. The replay possibilities are practically endless and I especially like how Paradox uses steam achievements to set up goals for their players since the games mostly lack traditional endings.

Kerbal Space Program

Release Date: June 2011
Developer: Squad
Publisher: Private Division
Estimated Gaming Time: 290+ hours

Space and science, beautifully gamified, packaged to tickle your creativity, challenge your intelligence and push you to explore. There are constantly new challenges waiting, new rockets and spaceships to build and test. This is the game that’s done more than anything else to teach orbital mechanics and ruin space movies and tv shows for space amateurs like me.

I love space! And the more hardcore and scientifically accurate or plausible a game is, the better I tend to like it. Kerbal Space Program delivers on all of this. It strikes a great balance between scientific correctness and playability. One thing that I would love to see for the sequel is better and more defined goals that can challenge the players to keep going further. Currently KSP falls a bit flat in that area.

This War of Mine

Release Date: November 2014
Developer: 11 bit studios
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Estimated Gaming Time: 35 hours

The gameplay in this game, on its own, isn’t the best. It’s very simple, a basic resource system, waiting for timers and a platform part where resources can be gathered. But what’s there is enough to support the setting, theme and atmosphere. 11 bit studios design their games with the mood as the key (check out this GDC talk for more info) , and in that they are very successful. The choices you have to make in this game can feel very hard. A play session can make you feel exhausted and drained as if you have watched the deepest movie you could find. This is a serious game and it’s not for everyone. But it leaves an impression and shows that games can be so much more than what they are trying to be most of the time.


Release Date: July 2016
Developer: Ludeon Studios
Publisher: Ludeon Studios
Estimated Gaming Time: 340+ hours

I don’t know why I didn’t play this game until the official release of version 1.0 in 2019. Once I did play it, I could barely stop. The mix of strategy, RPG and simulation hits the perfect spot. And I am so impressed by the depth and width in lore and gameplay they managed to achieve with extremely limited resources at their disposal. This game is very inspiring to me and leads me to believe that I can create successful indie games that are a bit different.

Continue to Part 2