In honor of retro month, I decided to take a look back into my 90’s childhood as a gamer. Growing up in the 90’s was a great time as any other 90’s baby would tell you. We had so many consoles to choose from – from NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Gameboy, N64 to PS1. I was pretty fortunate to be able to get a taste of playing multiple consoles and I enjoyed mostly all of them with the N64 being my favorite. I am sharing my list with you in no particular order. Don’t get too caught up in the nostalgia!
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Banjo-Kazooie is one of my all time favorite video games. I loved everything about it from the quirky characters and their nonsense dialogue, the interesting levels, and most importantly, the music. Rare had a way of immersing you into this fun fantasy world. The duo, Banjo and Kazooie fought hard in the world in trying to defeat the evil and hilariously witty, Gruntilda. Banjo-Tooie, the sequel, was even better! I enjoyed playing the bear and bird individually and working together to use teamwork. This game always puts me up on cloud nine.
If you read the subtitle to the melody of the epic title screen, then you know what feelings I’m currently having. More serious racers such as Midnight Club, Need for Speed, and Forza have since taken the spotlight, but there was a time when racing games were just fun. I drove everywhere – Australia, on the Great Wall of China, the moon. I worked hard upgrading my cars to finally unlock that legendary blue car with the golden skull piece on the hood. Cruis’n World is a series I miss dearly.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy
At the age of 8, I probably shouldn’t have been playing Mortal Kombat, but I was. Being exposed to fatalities, blood, and flying limbs surprisingly phase. Mortal Kombat 1 jump started my button mashing journey and my love for fighters. Mortal Kombat: Trilogy was the ideal fighting game, including high action, a huge roster of fighters, lore, and iconic music. My favorite fighters were Jade, Baraka, Stryker, and Sindel. My brothers and I bonded over this game, hiding it from mom. While I’m not as good now as I was back then, Trilogy remains to be one of my favorite Mortal Kombat games.
This may have been a sleeper hit but, a favorite I played on PC. You played as Ed, this goofy-looking purple alien that spilled toxic waste on a planet below his spaceship – Earth! Being assigned to go clean up whatever damage he caused, his fate takes a turn when he discovers that an evil villain is attempting to make everything on earth harmful (including vegetables and inanimate objects) due to toxic waste giving him special abilities. The game’s unique play style had me playing for hours. Imagine evil popcorn kernels hurling themselves at you while trying to stealthily complete a mission. This game gave me a chuckle or two.
Super Mario World
Most of us grew up on Mario. My first game of the series was Super Mario Bros 2. While I got a good fix of playing Princess Peach, the game was still confusing from what my little 5 year old mind could try to comprehend. Though with Super Mario World, I felt like I really knew what I was doing. The world was so bright, colorful and counted for endless hours of fun. I was really bad at it. It took more than a few “game overs” for me to even make a dent in the game. All I really wanted to do was find Yoshi and keep him with me through the whole game – my only objective. Time was not a factor for me though it dwindled way too often with my lollygagging. Luckily, my cousin was nearby to help me get past the difficult parts (the Koopaling Fortresses and Bowser’s Castle) to help me win. I miss those days so much!
Crash Team Racing
WE WANT ANOTHER GOOD CRASH RACING GAME! I’m just getting that out to any developers that happen to be reading this (hopes). Crash Team Racing was one of the most fun racing experiences I’d had in a long time. Not only were the levels bright and fun, but the characters I genuinely loved, or hated. While this game competed with Diddy Kong Racing and a few others, it was still my favorite. Many of my hours were put into this game. I finished every single level as I learned the racing mechanics in terms of breaking and drifting. It was the first game I tried to be competitive in. I did not like to lose.
No, it’s not on my list because Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie. Ok…maybe it is. I spent so much time enjoying this game. Disney did a fantastic job bringing the magic to our hands. With characters I loved and a villain I genuinely hated, I must say that this game had a lot of things going for it. This was the first game that I ever raged on. The Cave of Wonders level was the worst for me. The only game to ever make me rage harder was Sonic. I remember tossing my controller on the ground as if that would help anything. After about 50 more tries on the level, I resorted to using a cheat. Remember the invincibility cheat? That’s what I went with to beat the game. I wish we had options like that in Dark Souls. Ha!
Donkey Kong Land
My first Gameboy was the ugly hunter green one that was given to me from an older female cousin (who was secretly a gamer). It was one of the greatest gifts ever. It came with only this one game so naturally I played the mess out of it. I remember jumping from trees trying to strategically land myself in positions where I’d catch all of the bananas. I spent tons of time trying to find hidden areas. Diddy Kong was my preferred pick. I learned early on that I truly hate snakes. The soundtrack was a fun and upbeat and Rare did an amazing job with the Gameboy technology. This game was hard as a kid and still remains difficult to beat.
Snowboard Kids 2
This little gem of a game was one that I couldn’t let go. I do wonder what happened to the series. Snowboard Kids 2 was everything you wanted and needed in a fun, competitive racing game. The game was rented from the local Blockbuster and picked up by my mother as a gift. This game had a killer soundtrack and some of the funnest features. The cast had pretty unique characters. You could do stuff around town like go shopping, upgrade your boards, and play side missions such as “paperboy” to earn some extra cash. This game had a cool story where your group of friends raced through crazy levels to beat the bad kid, Damien. Some of my favorite memories come from the tropical level trying to beat the high score and unlock new music or a sweet new board to ride.
It’s no joke that almost every kid who was around my age was into Poke’mon. I was absolutely no exception! Poke’mon was my life! From the card battles at recess, to waking up early in the morning before class to catch a new episode of Poke’mon, my life was so good back then. I had the Yellow version while most of my friends had Blue or Red. I felt pretty special. I spent days hooked to that mini screen catching them all, battling annoying trainers, and avoiding grass like the plague. It was a fun experience reliving my past Poke’mon days through Poke’mon X and Y.
I just want to say that I am just now finding out how deep the story of Double Dragon really was back then. The game features two brothers fighting to save the same girl that they are both in love with. As a kid, I just knew to grab the switch blades and take out the bad guys! Rapidly mashing the punch and kick buttons also did the trick. It was a fun beat-em-up with sweet music. I remember being able to beat up guys and take their weapons to use as my own. That was pretty awesome. Co-op in Double Dragon 2 was also a deal-sealer. Some of my fondest memories involved playing side by side with a friend trying to make it past the ending.
The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
My Gameboy Color had a barrage of interesting games ranging from Powerpuff Girls, to Ducktales, and Mario’s Game and Watch Gallery, but this one game was by far the most entertaining. The Simpsons was huge back in the 90’s and still remains to be the longest running TV show of all time. This game really brought that entertainment into playable form. Always being interested in scary things, the horror episodes were always my favorite on The Simpsons. You can play as the whole family in their own separate adventures. Bart tries to find out why his house has become a nightmare, Lisa delves into why her school teachers have all been zombified, Homer becomes a robot searching for golden doughnuts, Marge fights everybody in the street, and baby Maggie traverses the world being turned into a fly. What more could you really ask for?
Super Mario World 64
You probably had a feeling that this game would be on the list. In fact, who doesn’t love this game? Super Mario 64 was revolutionary for the series. It was the first time you could play in a world rendered in 3D. This game trail blazed modern gaming as we know it. Jumping through picture frames to enter a different world was ingenious and not knowing what would be inside that first time was golden. Remember that scary moment when the Boos had taken over the garden? Jolly Rodger Bay was the most annoying level and there was nothing jolly about it. The music was creepy and that stupid eel drove me nuts. There was something so satisfying about grabbing Bowser by the tail and swinging him off to his doom. I had always wondered how he’d come back after falling into the abyss only to meet me again in a similar situation later on. I tried not to think about it too hard. It would ruin the experience!
Sim Theme Park
Sim Theme Park was a staple in my childhood library. I spent most of my time on my grandpa’s computer playing this game. I loved rollercoasters and more than that I loved being able to create my own theme park! This game taught me a lot about money management, planning, and sales. The goal was to attract customers to your park and do everything in your power to make sure they had a good time and left with their pockets nearly empty. The theme parks ranged from an Alice in Wonderland fantasy, to outer space, and my favorite, Halloween Town. Many simulation games came after, but this still has been a clear winner for me.
One of my first introductions into the beat-em-up game, Spawn made me really feel like a super hero. It was the first game I’d played where I saw an African American character. In the movie, Spawn is trying to rescue his daughter. The game has the same plot. What really motivated me to continue was the sense of urgency. This dad would go through anything to save his daughter. It was heart warming. The game was difficult. I spent most of my time barely making it through a level with a couple centimeters of life left on health meter only to end up in the boss’ lair. I endured many “game overs” until I beat this game. Maybe I had a little help from Nintendo Power and cheat codes, but gosh darn it, it felt like a victory to me.
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
“Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!!” I’d sing this at the top of my lungs as the intro played every single time. This may be a game that you’ve never heard of, but it’s one of my favorite boxing games ever. I was not a fan of boxing, this was my older brother’s game at the time, but I still really enjoyed playing it every day after school. The cast of characters were very interesting. I won’t forget Afro Thunder, a scrawny guy with a big afro, who’s tagline was, “call the doctor!” as he jirated around the ring. I had fun playing as the girl character as well as the macho Russian guy. Not only to mention, the sequel features Michael Jackson as a special character! How often did you get to play as MJ in a game where you’re punching the daylight out of someone? Not often, but this game would give you that satisfaction!
This list sums up the greatest gaming memories I’ve ever had. We all have those games that lie very closely to our hearts. Even though those games may look older in graphics or seem dated, they still remain the trailblazers to some of the amazing games we have today. Though videogames have come a long way, I still enjoy plugging in my Retron 3, or the original consoles, and chilling out in a cloud of nostalgia. I miss those old gaming days where all I had to worry about was school, homework, and gaming. I now have less time to enjoy newer games, but I still have those good memories. Keep on gaming friends!
What were some of your most favorite games from your childhood? Are there any games you missed growing up, but are loving now?
Sound off in the comment section below!