From what I can remember, the first video game I ever played was Dig Dug when my dad first took me to an arcade. I was awful at the game, but I had a blast playing. It was after this day that I started playing video games with my dad every so often. Space Invaders, Super Mario World, Super Mario 3—these are all games that I will forever reflect on fondly, as they technically were a part of opening the door to the world of video games for me. But it wasn’t until December of 1998 that my true love for video games started, when I was gifted Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64 on my sixth birthday.
I’m sure part of my initial excitement was due to this being the first game that truly felt like “mine,” as the rest were my dad’s games that I simply borrowed. However, as soon as I played the game for more than five minutes, I completely fell in love with it.
Considering most of my gaming experience up until this point was me screwing around with my dad, the feel of completely immersing myself in a fantastical adventure wasn’t something I was used to. It was overwhelming how sucked into the Banjo-Kazooie world I became. It’s almost impossible to describe the combination of how the music and the sounds affected me. What started off as weird, distracting babble (since the characters don’t actually say words, they just make sounds) turned into a quirky feature that I loved. Gruntilda’s absolutely terrible threatening rhymes that pop up throughout your exploration became a trademark of the game that I will never forget. The bickering between Kazooie and Bottles as the comic relief has remained amusing.
But more than all of that, I fell head over heels for the gameplay. While Banjo-Kazooie might not technically be considered an open-world game, it certainly felt like it to me. It was the first game I played in which I had the freedom to wander around wherever I wanted, in areas that were unlocked. It wasn’t one level after another—I could go into any map of my choosing (if I had enough puzzle pieces or notes), or I can just wander around in the overworld. The best part about it was that none of it felt empty. It felt like a large world packed full of content, something missing from many modern open-world games.
Similar to Super Mario 64, each new world in Banjo-Kazooie felt like a whole separate adventure to fall in love with. Treasure Trove Cove is what really sold me, as I loved finding the treasure, fighting the giant hermit crab, doing the little puzzle in the sandcastle, and flying around the map to find secret spots. The whole game is a beloved adventure I will never forget, though I cannot say I miss the underwater levels quite as much…
After completing Banjo-Kazooie, I was never the same. I started looking up new games, and I began saving up my birthday and Christmas money for games and consoles that were coming out. Banjo-Kazooie was the gateway to my love for Fire Emblem, The Legend of Dragoon, Super Mario 64, Perfect Dark, Diddy Kong Racing, and so much more. I’ve even landed a career in game writing because I fell so in love with this game back in the day. There probably won’t ever be a Banjo-Kazooie remake, and that’s okay with me—I don’t mind reflecting on this special game that will forever hold a vital spot in my history. That, and I love having an excuse to break out the Nintendo 64 every so often anyway.
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Stephanie is an Editor at TheGamer, solidly aligned chaotic neutral. Though her favorite game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, she vows to do everything in her power to one day see a Legend of Dragoon remake. Absolutely nothing can top her immense love for The Lord of the Rings.
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