Here’s a follow-up to my post from a couple of weeks ago. After listing five films that take me back to my childhood, it seems only fair that I list five video games that do the same.
I’ve been playing video games ever since I was old enough to pick up a controller. I remember playing hot seat with my brother on his Atari 2600, trying to beat each other’s scores on games like Crystal Castles and Dark Chambers. Looking back now, I realise that was the start of what would become a lifelong hobby.
We were a little behind the times in terms of gaming tech at our house. Although the Atari 2600 came out in the early ‘80s, it didn’t show up in our household until one Christmas a few years later. This is a trend that has followed me all my life; I’ve always been “late to the party” when it came to console and game releases. While it has never been a conscious decision, it’s certainly been a very frugal one.
Acquiring games long after their release date meant they were a fraction of the price. Waiting a year or three for a new console meant that not only was it less of a dent in the old pocket-money savings, but there were more games to choose from too.
See?! I’m not just a stingy old cheapskate!
Anyway, that’s quite enough twaddle from me. Here are five games that take me back to my childhood, starting with …
Despite being the first game I owned on the Super Nintendo, it’s the Amiga version that brings back the most memories.
One thing that always comes to mind whenever I think of Cannon Fodder is how stupidly hard it was. Granted, I’ve never been particularly skilled at gaming, but I guarantee I’m not the only person to have lost their shit over this game.
Despite all the angst and frustration it caused, I still rank Cannon Fodder as one of my all-time favourite games, and a large part of that is thanks to its unique, almost macabre sense of humour. It somehow managed to stay light-hearted without diminishing the horrors of war.
Having named soldiers at my disposal made me grow attached to them, and the game never once hid the fact that I was sending them to an early grave. Watching my cadets casually wait in line next to an enormous burial mound for their fallen comrades was, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite distressing.
I still mourn the untimely passing of Jools, Jops and Stoo. They were the first brave soldiers I sent into battle. Their young, promising lives were sadly cut short when I … erm … accidentally ran them over with a skidoo.
Godspeed boys. Godspeed.
Donald Duck: The Lucky Dime Caper
(Sega Master System)
Back in the day, our Leighton posse would regularly mosey on down to Nanna’s house on Sunday afternoons for family shenanigans. The highlights of these weekly jaunts were – besides larking about in the park en route – playing on my Uncle’s Master System, a console that my brother and I had not yet badgered our parents into convincing Santa to get us for Christmas.
I remember being completely in awe at the visuals of The Lucky Dime Caper. I realise how silly that sounds when you look at the crude cartoon graphics now, but this was a time when we were playing Jungle Hunt on the Atari back at home. The visual difference between the two was night and day.
I used to look forward to our Sunday afternoons huddled around a Master System, taking it in turns with anyone who happened to be in the room with us at the time. As much fun as it was though, we were always back home in time for the double bill of The Simpsons at 6pm on Sky One.
Those were the days.
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
(Sega Mega Drive)
There’s nothing I like more than a grim slice of Sci-Fi, and Speedball 2 wasn’t just a slice, it was the full cake. This cynical future sport actually rewarded you for committing violent acts. I’d never experienced anything so gleefully distasteful.
And I was hooked.
There’s just something so incredibly enjoyable about taking an awful sports team and turning their fortunes around. It didn’t hurt that the sport in which they were participating was a lightning-fast spectacle of organised brutality. The multiple ways in which you could score points made for a surprisingly tactical affair. A lot of the tactics were a little underhanded, admittedly, but it was a great way to settle a sibling rivalry.
This game instilled in me a deep affection for both arcade-style sports games and futuristic sports in general. Were it not for Speedball 2, I doubt I would have even looked at the likes of Rocket League or Frozen Cortex, two games that would easily get into my top ten of all time.
Now there’s an idea for a future post…
Streets of Rage 3
(Sega Mega Drive)
When my brother had scraped enough money together to afford a Sega Mega Drive, he bought a second-hand one that came with two games: Street Fighter II and Streets of Rage 3. The former had the fanfare, but it was the latter that we played the most.
Getting my arse routinely handed to me on Street Fighter got old really quick. So, mercifully, my brother suggested one day that we try Streets of Rage 3 cooperatively. I think he felt sorry for me. Either that or slaughtering me on Street Fighter had lost its appeal. Either way, this first foray into co-operative gaming was an absolute blast.
I eventually played all of the Streets of Rage games but it was this third installment that opened my eyes to the joys of co-op gaming. To this day, I much prefer to play alongside someone than against them, a preference that I have Streets of Rage 3 to thank for.
Donkey Kong Country
(Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
Despite spending countless hours playing Sonic on my brother’s Mega Drive, it wasn’t until I got my own console that I truly fell in love with the platform genre. That console was the Super Nintendo, and Donkey Kong Country was the object of my affections.
I’d never before seen a game quite as beautiful as Donkey Kong Country. The polished graphics (for that time at least) were something that I had never thought possible from that little grey box next to my telly.
I should probably admit to succumbing to the pre-release hype for Donkey Kong Country. Now, the hype-train back then was nowhere near as egregious as it is today. I was never pressured into throwing money at it or anything.
No, by succumbing to the hype on this occasion I mean that I bought a gaming magazine purely because it contained a VHS tape (honestly, a big VHS cassette sticky-taped to the magazine) with an in-depth look at the game on. Needless to say I was interested, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I finally got my hands on the full game.
So there you have it!
I’ve really enjoyed these little trips down Memory Lane, so much so that I can’t wait to go back there!
Why don’t you help me out? Are there any games that remind you of your childhood? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Oh, and while I have your attention (don’t kid yourself Greg, they left ages ago) I’ve finally been getting the hang of this social media malarkey. So if you’re feeling kind and/or bored, feel free to follow Flick and Mix on the Twitter and that there Facebook thingamajig.
Only if you fancy it, obviously.