Games are fantastic.
Since the mid 90s the microprocessor chips in my slowly widening collection of PCs and consoles have opened up my world. They taught me things and eventually became a part of me, as was the case for so many others of my generation. They were a comfort and a frustration, a distraction and a joy. So, when the weight of the world crawls into our soul and sits on our heart like a cold, wet duck, we sometimes think backward to games gone by.
And… just sometimes… try to remember if we have all the cables needed to still hook up that old Megadrive.
Here are just five of the games on which I look back most fondly.
So hold down your A and B buttons; it’s about to get retro.
Devil May Cry
One word describes this game best: beautiful. Given the concept, It could have been mediocre. It may have been less. It might have relied on the same old horror staples and tropes as a hundred other games. But it didn’t, it hadn’t, and it wasn’t. It was spectacular. How the artists crammed so much outstanding architecture onto a PS2 disk is a surprise in itself. The enemy design was also brilliantly creative. The Marionettes are just about as creepy as you can be, and encountering Phantom or the Shadows was a rush each and every single time. And oh, that gameplay! The fluidity made it feel almost like the controller wasn’t there and your mind just melted into the action. The combination of guns, swords, and demonic ass-kickery makes for some stunning tactical play. I was always massively engrossed in the urgency that DMC drove forward.
Super Smash Bros
The only game that could ever one-up Goldeneye was Super Smash Bros. I was living at boarding school when this came was out and spent hours in full four-player combat perfecting my art. The movement was so stylish and intuitive for such a prismatic array of characters.
You couldn’t help but love it. And you got to master those moves using the greatest game controller of all time; the glorious Nintendo 64 gamepad. Part super-jet joystick, part utility belt. Elegantly curvaceous, and lethally eye-catching. No gaming peripheral has ever impressed me more, be it in style or function. …But I digress.
Kirby was an absolute badass in Smash Bros, so was Link. And I still hold it, easily, to be Fox McCloud’s best outing. (Not a difficult choice.) No sequel or analog has yet proved capable of that same magic as the original Smash Bros game.
If this one passed you by, get to know! This is a game of skill, strategy, and planning. You take on the mantle of a demon underlord and invade picturesque medieval towns with a horde of hellish minions. (No, not those minions! Just no. Don’t ever ask again). More than just engaging and addictive, it was beautifully rendered in glorious 90s PC graphics, hilariously funny and… also kinda… kinky. The range of spells and monsters, each with their own abilities is pretty immense and you get to solve each level pretty much however you want.
This game tapped into my sick young imagination like almost no other. And the idea of tunneling through an underground landscape to expand outwards came over a decade before stuff like Minecraft started cropping up. Where else to you get to play the bad guy so charismatically? No-fucking-where, that’s where!
Both DK I & II were great games.
Though, as with most things, the original was more uncomplicated which I prefer, if only slightly. That said, the art departments on both games deserve a solid round of applause. I can only hope for a 3rd full-game sequel in the future… Or maybe a movie.
One thing I can say about my generation. We were the originals. We got to experience many of the firsts that became the rebooted-ad-infinitum franchises that currently populate the gaming world. So in the back of my crystal-plastic Gameboy Pocket rested ‘Blue’.
It saved my sanity from long car journeys and rainy afternoons, even though the fact that backlit screens had yet to grace the market was possibly the most annoying thing ever.
As an obsessively cautious tweaker and tinkerer, the mechanics of Pokemon filled those hours with gleeful analysis and adventure. Out of the choice of the two, I felt that Blue was the colour of the thinker, the reasoner, and the cautiously masterful. These have been guiding principles of mine in all things. I choose you Squirtle, I choose you!
Sonic the Hedgehog
Well guys, this is where it all started. Sonic the Hedgehog.
The game itself was one facet of my digital genesis sure, but mainly I’d like to pay homage to the fact that I just… grew up with Sonic. As a fleet of foot and energetic child, Sonic chimed with me. In fact, along with Rik Mayall and Jim Carrey, he forms one of my three original childhood heroes.
Blue, spiky, and faster than sound, Sonic is the embodiment of the part of the 90s that I went through.
Way too young for the rave scene, to my eternal heartbreak, I got instead the unstoppable force of belligerent joy that the decade was responsible for. This simple side-scroller carried all that energy with it, and in that way beats the pants off Mario hands down.
I mean yes, he’s had some hard times, some harsh criticism, and some really terrible games in later incarnations. But for the arrogantly determined children of Sega everywhere…