We “millennials” (eugh) were raised in part by video games. Here, FR detail their personal childhood favorites.
Tyler: Monster Party
Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. The “plot” was that of a young boy named Max, I think–oh, okay, I just checked Wikipedia, it’s “Mark,” but, really, who gives a shit–whisked away somehow by, like, an alien, to some monsterrific (party!) world where ol’ Mark would beat away terribly-rendered enemies with his trusty baseball bat. Occasionally, the world would go crazy with some SHHHHSHSHSHRAAEK sound effect and become even uglier. Also, at times, Mark would take a pill and become the alien (?), as they’d been, like, fused together, or whatever the game-opening slideshow attempted to depict. I never made it past the first level. I suck at video games, though I love them. In retrospect, this one was clearly about drugs.
Nathan: Street Fighter 2
My older brother had this friend Eric. I have a vivid memory of going to the corner party store with Eric and my brother, and watching Eric just destroy helpless children in the arcade version of Street Fighter 2. It was a little like watching The Wizard, but, you know, for real. I could never even come close to Eric’s level of skill and ruthlessness, which is why the SNES version of this game was great for me; I could turn the difficulty down to beginner (or easy or whatever it was) and destroy everything in sight. Eventually I became good enough to beat the game on difficult with any character.
As an added bonus, Chun Li and Cammy were incredibly attractive video game characters when you’re a 13-year-old boy.
The Sega Genesis game based on Disney’s Aladdin was a typical side-scrolling adventure game, but for some reason, though I was never able to beat it, it was a game I could not stop playing. The graphics were above-average, the levels complicated but not too, and there weren’t any tricks you had to learn from the neighbor kid who was a video game savant in order to advance levels.
Tyler: Bases Loaded
The first baseball video game I ever owned (or, well, that was purchased for me by my parents), Bases Loaded was stupid and terrible, stocked with fake teams and fake players with absurd names concocted in some Japanese lab somewhere. Why was it worth playing, as I played it, for hours and hours on end? Because if you hit the most prominent power hitter on each team with a pitch, a brawl would ensue. Fucking awesome.
No video game that I played as a kid embraced zany cartoonishness quite the way that Battletoads did. They were ’90s cool in the worst ways (the Toads were named Rash, Zitz, and Pimple), but when they punched their enemies, their fists became enormous! Yes, their limbs became huge, knocking enemies out with a comic thwap! It sounds a little stupid now, but it turned the game into a total blast. I never beat Battletoads, because it became incredibly difficult in the later stages, but that never really mattered. I would get such a kick out of just playing the game – over and over – that beating it was an afterthought.
And neither did it matter that Battletoads was a total rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As much as I liked the Turtle games, I always preferred the Toads when I fired up my NES.
Travis: TMNT: The Arcade Game
The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for Nintendo was one of the worst games in history, and also impossible. The NES version of the popular arcade game (which I loved to play at the Northwest Plaza arcade known, like ESPN’s seminal terrible poker drama, as “Tilt”) was a million times better, and though it was easy to beat alone, it was better to play with friends. See, video games are social! Or not.
Tyler: NHLPA Hockey ’93
More nascent emotional aggression. NHLPA, as implied by its title, was not sanctioned by the NHL, but it did have all the players’ names available. Thus, the inclusion of a squad identified as “Long Island.”
Irrelevant. Why did this game matter? (As immortalized by dialogue from a scene in Swingers?) Because, sometimes, if you checked somebody just hard enough, they would fall to the ice and a puddle of blood would ensue. Also, if you got in a fight (POUND THOSE BUTTONS) and you won, both you and your opponent would head to the penalty box, and your opponent would be staggering, because you had just given him a concussion.
Also, breakaway, fake left, shoot right. Worked every time.
Nathan: Mega Man 3
For all the deserved love that the Mario games get, Mega Man was my boy when it came to side-scrolling platformers. Though I could easily choose any of the Mega Man iterations, I’m picking the third, because it was my first Mega Man game. When I signed up for Nintendo Power, Mega Man 3 was on the front cover, capturing my imagination forever.
The beauty was that the game was non-linear to a point. You didn’t have a stage 1 and then a stage 2 and so fourth. You could choose to play any of the initial eight boards and bosses in any order. The game is easier, of course, if you choose to play them in the right order. Trying to figure out that order, or to fight against it, was part of the fun, though.
But more to the point is that the Mega Man games, more than perhaps any other, capitalized on the idea of power ups. With each boss that you defeated, you would collect their power. If the boss you beat threw needles, then you too could throw some needles whenever you wanted from that point onward.
Travis: Ninja Gaiden
Who knows how many basement hours I wasted away trying to beat the final boss of this ninja game for NES. The first video game I remember having cut scenes and an actual storyline, it influenced a terrible story I wrote in fifth grade about a ninja falling in love with a hot, redhead CIA agent on route to saving the world (this actually exists).
Tyler: Super Baseball 2020
The logical SNES extension of NES’s pioneering Base Wars, Super Baseball 2020 posited a future in which riveted fans enjoy the diamond exploits of hyper-powered robots. Some pitchers had cannons for arms. Pitches could be manipulated to dance like Rudolf Nureyev. If you blasted batters with enough HBPs, they would fritz out and break down. Certain players were hovercrafts, and zipped around the bases in midair. It was basically the best game ever.
Postscript: I didn’t have a Super Nintendo, I had a Sega Genesissss. I was able to play this game thanks to my SNES-endowed friend Evan, into whom my buddy Mike and I would lean constantly to play 2020 (as well as NFL Quarterback Club, although that game sucked). As Mike and myself were sort of total dicks to Evan at the time, I would always explain off my inevitable head-to-head losses by faux-accusing Evan of using “cheat codes.” Man. Little kids are assholes.
Nathan: Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball
There was only one real-life player name in the whole game, but if you paid attention to baseball circa 1994, you could figure out who was who (Atlanta had a player named D. Neon). It was the first baseball game that I played where you could pick an actual team and play through an entire season, though. I tried a few times to do an entire season with the Tigers, but I didn’t have the stamina. It was in the two-player mode that I truly excelled. After playing the game obsessively by myself in junior high and early high school, I took a nearly seven year hiatus from Ken Griffey. When I returned in my senior year of college, I played against friends on my dorm floor. We set the competition up like boxing, with a championship belt that had to be defended on a regular basis. After defending my title belt 15 games in a row, I retired from play. I threw the game down the trash chute and told everybody that they weren’t good enough to play me anymore.
The game actually got way cooler in college when I understood all the references in the made up player names. For instance: all the Montreal Expos players were named after ’80s Manchester rock groups and the Minnesota Twins had a player named W. Herzog. Sweet!
Travis: Super Mario Bros. 3
When I got this game in, I believe, third grade, it made me the most popular I’ve ever been. I still play this one sometimes, when I’m back at my parents’ house, and get tempted to grab the Nintendo and take it with me before realizing if I did, I’d never get anything done.
Tyler: Super Mario Bros. 3
I mean, come on. After my sister and I received this game for Christmas (I think), I was a hot commodity. We took joint piano lessons–hers, productive; mine…not–and, when either of us were waiting to take our turn at the keys, we’d hang out with and play video games with Mark, the son of aforementioned piano teacher Mr. Ingram. He was a little older than me, I think a little younger than my sis, and a total stoner-in-the-making. One time, some friend of his was over while we dicked around on the NES. I revealed that I was in possession of the ballyhooed 3. Mark tried his damnedest to pry it out of my possession, “borrowing” it, though even then I knew I’d never get the shit back should I acquiesce. So I told him there’d be a fee. “Shipping and handling.”
His friend snorted. “Snort. More like ‘handling and handling.'”
Super Mario Bros. 3 remains, and will always remain, the shit.
Nathan: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
No game before or since has given me so many hours of fun. The action of the game, with the classic bird’s-eye view, is simple and yet challenging enough. The puzzles were complex and yet solvable. Hyrule was expansive enough to provide hours of exploration, but not so expansive that you’d get yourself lost (except in the Lost Woods). There were labyrinth dungeons, deserts, water creatures, fun side games, and then there was a dark version of Hyrule. All the classic elements of a Zelda game are here: The Master Sword, The Triforce, Ganon…
For me, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the height of all video games. It is so simple and yet so thoroughly involving. This is the one game I could probably play through every year and never get bored.
Travis: NHL 94
The best sports game of all time is this hockey game for SNES and Sega Genesis. For many hockey neophytes, memories of the players in this game makes up all hockey knowledge, and there could be a lot worse ways for a number of those players to be remembered (Al Iafrate?!). It differed from the 1993 version by adding one-timers, making for the most realistic hockey gameplay up to that point, and though it’s been surpassed in graphics and accuracy by subsequent efforts on more advanced systems, nothing will ever top it for me.