Since lockdown in 2020, I found myself juggling work at home and childcare, but also saw an increase in my reading during the day and gaming in the evening. Both became quite comforting and therapeutic to an extent, and in recent months I have been thinking about which offenders from my backlog I’ll be tackling in 2021; I am keen to bash through a chunk of my Steam library this year.
This last month however I have also been reminiscing about older games from past systems and the titles that kept me going during my childhood, or just flat-out annoyed me to the point of not being able to shake them from my memory.
In no particular order I present 5 nostalgic video games that I’m feeling nostalgic for:
Duke Nukem (MS-DOS, 1991)
Once saved to a flamboyant orange floppy disk marked ‘DUKE’, the original Duke Nukem was an early favourite of mine, and probably takes the title of being the first game I had ever completed by myself. Yes, I was playing this before I got my hands on Doom.
Duke 1 was a 2D side-scrolling shooter with a variety of robotic enemies and some of the most obnoxious sound effects you’ll hear in your life. I still hear the gun firing, or the hyperactive fanfare that played when you collected an item; if you’ve played this game before, you know!
The screen always tended to be stuffed with things to blast, be it a pouncing robot or a line of surveillance cameras. Even chicken drumsticks could be ‘cooked’ by firing your gun. I don’t think I’ll be able to forget the absolute flamboyant carnage on display in Duke Nukem, the barrage of bizarre sound effects that rattled the brain as you played. It remains as one of my earliest gaming memories.
Pharaoh’s Tomb (DOS, 1990)
Pharaoh’s Tomb always makes me think of visiting my Uncle and Aunt’s place down in England in the ’90s; me and my Dad would play through this platformer in the attic office/games room space, starting in the late afternoon and continuing long after the sun had disappeared for the day. Unlike Duke Nukem, I don’t remember Pharaoh’s Tomb having any sound (if it did, we couldn’t hear anything), but it felt like more of a visual treat.
The game had a distinct look about it: red-brick pyramids, tombs and labyrinthine levels against a black background, with your character standing out for his abnormally large hat and small head. The enemies were very unsettling, and the gameplay boiled down to basic platforming, key-collection, and throwing spear-like projectiles. I also remember one Arctic level where your character could plummet into the drink and re-emerge dead as a block of ice. Pharaoh’s Tomb felt like an epic adventure at the time, though I’ve not had much luck in tracking it down in the present day.
Virtua Cop 2 (Sega Saturn, 1995)
One of my relatives was pretty invested in the Saturn when it was released, buying into the lightgun phase along with a copy of Virtua Cop 2. I admit that I’ve never been a massive fan of these types of games; I suck playing lightgun games at arcades and I was equally garbage here, resorting to using the controller to shoot like the absolute killjoy I am.
Virtua Cop 2 had a trio of levels, including a subway, bank heist/chase, and yacht, of varying difficulties. No matter the level, it was just chaos; enemies would pop in and out of cover, fire from cars, and occasionally take hostages as shields, with the game becoming more like a memory challenge as me and my uncle would target where we knew the next perp would appear before they even had.
There were a lot of great times with Virtua Cop 2, whether it was flipping a car full of gunmen by blasting their tyres or even just blowing away a civilian to piss off my teammate.
Resident Evil (Sega Saturn, 1996)
Thinking about the 90s wouldn’t be complete without the original Resident Evil. This was a game that one of my buddies from school loved harping on about, and I was lucky enough to be able to get this on the Sega Saturn at the time. RE1 frightened the life out of me (I would have been 8), with its brutal opening cinematic, spooky soundtrack and, of course, the lumbering hordes of mutated bioweapons.
Again this was a title that felt like it really pushed the envelope at the time, a game that made the player feel relatively powerless, with their ever-dwindling resources and health being the only tools at their disposal. Resident Evil also seemed to mark this shift between games being quite arcade-like, to being more cinematic. It stood out from the other games in my collection for being terrifying and, I guess, “grown-up”, for lack of a better term. Let’s put it this way, RE1 was a huge departure from Virtua Fighter 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Streets of Rage (Sega Megadrive, 1991)
It definitely wouldn’t be a look back to 90s gaming without Streets of Rage. Moving through various levels filled with thugs and punks, your goal was to (literally) beat down an oppressive crime syndicate that had overrun the city. I played this game until my thumbs were sore, teaming up with friends and family alike to run through this massively addictive brawler. The soundtrack was also incredible.
But I remember how amazing this game felt, the way each character felt different with regards to movement speed and fighting style. You could even call in a special move that involved radioing a police officer to lay down supporting fire if things got tough (which they often did). And the fact that it could be a solo adventure or local coop, well that just made it even better.
These are just a handful of gaming memories I have swirling about in my head, so thanks for reading this far. Have any of you had experience with these titles? And which games remind you of your childhood or early gaming years?