This is my first article here at Gamester81.com and as such I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my gaming memories with you guys. This article (along with the other articles in the series) were originally created for my own gaming news site when things were getting a bit quiet and upon my arrival here I thought they’d be perfect to share with all of you retro gamers.
Part 1: Sega, Amstrad, The Duke and Max Damage
I’m a 90s lad and as such I got to experience the greatest decade in gaming as it happened, the early 90s defined the future of the industry and laid the groundwork for what was to come and it was one hell of a ride.
Above: The Sega Mega Drive (model 2), all 3 Mega Drive’s I own are model 2’s | Image courtesy of PicoDrive.
My earliest memories of gaming are with the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis depending on where you’re from), I remember when I first played Sonic the Hedgehog 2; the game blew me away, the sheer speed of the gameplay and the amount of action in the game was incredible, I remember that I used to play the game for as long as I was allowed to and I really did find it challenging. It was a few years before I ever completed Sonic 2 but when I did finally destroy Eggman I really felt satisfied.
We currently have 3 Mega Drives in the house, all 3 of them were bought upon release (no idea why 3 were bought) and they all still work and they’re still used! As you may have guessed by now I was hooked on the Mega Drive, many people think the Super Nintendo won the console wars of the early 90s but for me nothing beat the awesome speed of Sonic on the Mega Drive, Sega was all the rage for me.
Above: The Amstrad Mega PC, this is the same model that I owned. | Image courtesy of Play:Right
In 1993 Amstrad released the Mega PC, the Mega PC was a computer with a built in Mega Drive, you could switch between using the Mega Drive and the computer. The computer itself had Windows 3.1 shipped with it and this was my first introduction to a user orientated Operating System. The memories of when I received the Mega PC are vague and I don’t remember when exactly and under what circumstances I acquired my Mega PC, I know that it was my Dad who gave it to me but that’s about it.
I used to use this thing 24/7, as soon as I got home from school I’d fire up the Mega PC, open up some Coral Draw and start drawing on the car templates that were available for it and once I got bored of that it was time to switch to the Mega Drive and play some games! One of the games I used to play a lot on my Mega PC was Crüe Ball, it was a Pinball game based around the Mötley Crüe and it was one of the most difficult Pinball games in my collection at the time (the others being Psycho Pinball, Sonic Spinball, Dragon’s Fury and Dragon’s Revenge. I was big into Pinball games for some reason,) getting high scores on this game was incredibly difficult.
I’ll always remember the cutscene where you’d have to watch somebody drive up to a house, slowly get out of the car and wander to the door, enter the house, turn on every light in the house then blast out a Mötley Crüe song that woke up all of the neighbours. As a child, seeing something like that was so badass.
Now from this point on I’m really going to focus on my experience with PC gaming throughout the 90s, I’ll focus on my experiences with the consoles of the late 90s in Part 2
As time progressed the Amstrad quickly began to show it’s age and it wasn’t long before I got to witness my Father playing games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. Doom used to terrify me, running around gunning down grunts wasn’t so bad but the Cacodemon’s were the scariest thing I’d ever seen so I did not play much Doom but I witnessed plenty of it from afar.
Above: Duke Nukem 3D screenshot
1996 was when I really became addicted to gaming and the game that fuelled my (and many others’) addiction was Duke Nukem 3D, one of the greatest games of all time. There was nothing like Duke: he was cool, he kicked ass, he got all the babes and he did all of this with a huge arsenal of weapons at his disposal!
I never got to play Duke 3D on it’s release as I was still sporting the Amstrad but my Father used to play the game on his PC and it was incredible, this game had everything and I simply had to play it! I used to play levels when nobody was at the computer (which was very rare) and when I got my own PC capable of playing Duke 3D, we eventually got the Amstrad into the attic and I was ready for action. I’ll never forget Duke 3D, the layout of each level, every secret area and every one-liner are embedded into my memory.
I remember when my Father had finished playing Duke 3D (for about the 50th time) he began to create new maps for the game using the Build editor that was with Duke 3D, the level of detail he put into the maps he created was insane: He created small, corridoor levels with tons of secrets and monsters hidden around corners, he created maps based on real places and he even made a stunningly accurate map of where he worked; it was great fun to run around my Dad’s work blowing monsters up.
Above: Worms 2 screenshot (notably from a beta build, the mines give it away. heh.)
Worms 2 was the next big thing for us after Duke 3D, I remember playing my Father on that game all of the time and he was so good at it. In all of the time that we had played LAN games together I don’t remember ever beating him. When the later 2D Worms games were released (World Party and Armageddon) I used to play online games and I was pretty bloody good by the time those were released as I’d had my arse handed to me enough to improve to the point where I didn’t want to lose a single game.
Duke Nukem 3D and Worms 2 were not the only games that I remember from my childhood, 1996 and 1997 held so many memories for me, so many great games were released but it is Duke 3D and Worms 2 that stand out above the rest, Need For Speed II follows a close third behind these as one of the games that holds great memories for me in 1996 and Grand Theft Auto was a huge deal for me in 1997.
Above: Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now! screenshot (pre-release build)
Now my entire memory of 1998 is almost completely overshadowed by one game, one out of a small list of five games that I’ve played continually since release, if you haven’t already guessed it by now then you really don’t know me at all! This game got me into trouble both at home and at School, one of the most realistic games released in the 90s and still today it’s damage physics are greater than the majority of games released; it’s Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now!
My first memory of Carmageddon 2 is crystal clear, it’s as if it happened yesterday. I described this exact memory in my Top 10 Games of all time article:
“I remember to this day the first time that my father let me play it; I was racing on one of the Beaver City levels and I was trying to waste Jenny Taylia in her Jetcar and I shouted out “Die! Stupid Jenny Taylia!” and my mother was shocked to hear me say such a thing, I had to explain to her that it was a character in the game.”
Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now! would definitely be a fitting way to end the 90s and break into the new Millennium but before we could say “engaging storyline”, Half-Life appeared and completely changed the First-Person Shooter genre. Anybody who hasn’t experienced the first Half-Life (forget Half-Life: Source) has missed out on one of gamings greatest gems, Half-Life was powerful, it was scary and it kept your attention throughout; there was never a dull moment in Half-Life.
Above: Quake III Arena screenshot
Surely nothing could top Half-Life, surely Half-Life was the last great game of the 90s, right? No. Wrong because when 1999 reared it’s head it bought with it another innovation in the First-Person Shooter genre, another game on that small list of five games that I’ve played since it’s release; Quake III Arena.
Quake III Arena showed the entire world how big, how successful and how competitive multiplayer gaming could be, it redefined multiplayer gaming and is still today the single greatest piece of esports entertainment to ever grace the world of video games. Quake III Arena was brutal, it was chaotic and it was fast, ever so fast!
I’m lucky enough to have been around when Quake III Arena was the embodiment of online competitive gaming, Quake III Arena is still a popular game today but it’s playerbase is considerably less than it’s ever been which is such a shame, even Quake Live never managed to capture the magic that made Quake III Arena so great.
Part 2: A decade with a controller
I began with a small introduction of my first time with video games beginning with the Sega Mega Drive, I then went on to PC gaming throughout the 90s and in this second part of the article I will address my console gaming memories throughout the 90s, so lets get to it.
Like I mentioned in the first part, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was my first introduction into the world of video games and it definitely holds some of the fondest memories of the Mega Drive for me but I neglected to mention all of the other games I enjoyed on the Mega Drive the first time around, alongside the Sonic franchise was a another pair of games from a different franchise that I used to play for hours on end; Desert Strike and Jungle Strike.
I definitely remember Desert Strike being my second game on the Mega Drive and I hated it, it was so difficult. You’d start off on an Aircraft Carrier and you’d have to fly for about 2 minutes before you’d reach land and it was then that your real mission began, the mission to stay alive for longer than 10 minutes. Up to this day I have never been able to get very far on Desert Strike, the game used to frustrate me so much, having to replay the beginning of the game so often I eventually memorised the layout of the entire first section of the game. I was destined never to progress any further into Desert Strike.
After Desert Strike came Jungle Strike and this game was a welcomed change from the onslaught of the desert, I used to play Jungle Strike a lot. It was never as difficult of Desert Strike but it still provided a pretty hefty challenge, there was so much to do and so many places to explore. You had to rescue people, collect fuel, blow up terrorists, protect monuments and escort the presidential limousine across the map. I’ll always remember the opening with the chopper rising from the trees and then shooting off across the screen, classic.
Road Rash was another big one for me, the original Road Rash was the most badass racing game I had ever seen, being able to punch and kick people off their bikes whilst racing was incredible. Road Rash had a fantastic soundtrack too, I’ll always remember how my Dad used to taunt me about the Diablo when the bike shop screen would show up, only once did I ever get to own the Diablo and it was absolutely impossible to ride because it was so fast.
I also owned other games of various different genre for the Mega Drive but none of them really hold as many memories as the Sonic franchise, Road Rash, Desert Strike and Jungle Strike.
The original Game Boy. The big, fat bugger.
Now after the Mega Drive most my memories were explained in part 1, it was very PC-orientated and as I wasn’t into all things Nintendo I never owned any of the Nintendo home consoles like the NES or the SNES but there was that handheld monster that Nintendo released called the Game Boy and I owned one of those. The first model Game Boy I owned was the original fat one, of course it wasn’t new but I can still say that I owned an original Game Boy and it was brilliant, gaming on the go was the next best thing. I don’t remember too much about the games that I played on the original model Game Boy except for one game that stood out among all of the others, that game was Metroid II: Return of Samus.
Metroid II: Return of Samus
I thought I had it tough with Desert Strike but that was nothing compared to Metroid 2. This game was brutal, it punished me for every little mistake, if I wasn’t perfect then this game wouldn’t give me a second chance and that’s what made it so good, I played Metroid 2 constantly until I finally beat it which I think I did do but the memories of how hard it was will never leave me.
My next model Game Boy was the incorrectly spelled Game Boy Color, I could now play the Game Boy IN COLOUR but again like the original Game Boy, I really don’t remember too many games that I had played with the Game Boy Color. I do remember in school whilst everybody else was going on and on about the Pokemon colour games, I was busy still trying to beat Metroid 2 but that’s about it. No more memories here, unfortunately.
The elusive Sega Saturn
In the mid-90s the Sega Saturn appeared, I never owned a Saturn but one of my Cousins did and I actually got to see him play it once. I read about the Saturn in magazines but I’d never seen one anywhere up until this point when I saw my Cousin playing his, he was playing Virtua Racing and I remember the graphics as the best thing I’d ever seen. It’s funny looking back that at the time how a few untextured polygons could be considered progress but back then everything was 2 dimensional, this was a new thing. I only spent a few minutes watching him play his Saturn before leaving, my meeting with the Sega Saturn was short but sweet.
Sega soon went quiet and the next thing to grab my attention was Sony’s PlayStation, every magazine I read talked about the PlayStation, sure they also mentioned the Nintendo 64 but that was Nintendo and this was the PlayStation, it used discs and the Saturn used discs and the Saturn blew me away but before we get to the PlayStation I must not neglect the aforementioned Nintendo 64.
The Nintendo 64
I never owned a Nintendo 64 but a bunch of my friends used to play one and I have to say up until my time with the N64 I didn’t think Nintendo could compete with anybody else but for me the N64 changed my views on Nintendo, the first game I played on the N64 was of course Super Mario 64 which was a fantastic game. After I’d delved into Mario for a bit we’d fire up Goldeneye and play 4-player deathmatches, a fantastic game that really needs no introduction.
My all time favourite game on the N64 was Super Smash Bros, it had absolutely everything and I was great at this game, Kirby was my preffered choice of character as I could just suck my friends characters up and then shoot them off the map. A brilliant game that is still as enjoyable now as it ever was back then.
The first model PlayStation, although the controller has analogue sticks
Time to move on to the biggie, Sony showed us what gaming should be like when they released the PlayStation. I own so many PlayStation games that it would be silly to go through each and every one, so instead I’m just going to focus on the ones that provided the most enjoyment and the greatest memories for me, there are a lot to choose from and it’s going to be difficult to narrow it down to just a handful of games but I’ve got to give it a shot.
Right now the first big memory of the PlayStation for me is with Alien Trilogy but only because the game used to scare me senseless, I still own it and to this day I’m unable to complete it because it’s so difficult. One of my biggest memorable moments with the PlayStation was Tomb Raider: the original, the best. I remember everyone used to talk about Tomb Raider when it first came out, people would talk about: the enemies, the platforming and most of all I remember everybody mentioning some unknown button combination that would make Lara nude so that you could experience her in all of her pixelated glory. Needless to say nobody ever knew the button combination and soon everyone just went back to talking about the actual game.
Tekken 2 screenshot
The next real big one for me on the PlayStation was Tekken 2, a fantastic fighting game that I’ll always love. I used to play my sister on this game all of the time and she would get so irritated when she didn’t win that the controller would end up flying across the room in anger, ultimately leading to a big falling out until the next time it happened. Yoshimitsu was always my favoured character and my sister used to frequently pick Nina Williams.
My second meeting with the Carmageddon franchise was also on the playstation, I always enjoyed the PlayStation version of Carmageddon but sadly my original copy of the game from Electronics Boutique was stolen and I only have the manual left from it, I did however recently re-acquire the game from eBay, which is nice.
I was obsessed with the PlayStation, my library of games was huge and I used to buy the PlayStation magazines as often as I could and I’ll always remember the speculation regarding the PlayStation 2, the concept designs that people used to come up with were fantastic, you’d have: black toasters, freezers, machines with top-loading disc drives that looked like coffee machines it was insane.
In the next Trip Down Memory Lane article here on Gamester81 I’ll be heading back to the early 2000s (2000-2005) to talk about my console gaming and PC gaming memories.
Thanks for reading and good gaming.
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