For young people today bringing up old school games from Sega, Nintendo, Atari, or other platforms doesn’t mean much, if anything. Perhaps only if you mention some franchises that developed further over the decades and had later adaptations, like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, or similar classics.
But, back in the day, these games rocked everybody out of their socks, big time.
Imagine a gaming market where 8-bit technology is the pinnacle of development, then imagine the delight when the 16-bit game wave came along. But, to understand the excitement correctly, today’s generations would first have to imagine a world with no games at all, or very little. Nowadays, when a game with ultra cool graphics comes along, everybody is thrilled, but it is in truth only a small step above what is already seen. Back in the day, and I’m talkin’ about the 80s and the 90s, there weren’t many gaming opportunities around, and games were just starting to grow. Seeing a 16-bit video game with live action models, 6-button controls, and badass 16-bit music on top of it made it the best time ever for any gamer.
These few picks are a personal favorite, and while there would be many more which would make it on the list, I will only pick these because I played them the most. Other honorable mentions include all Disney and Looney Toon games, all Mortal Kombat editions, VectorMan, Megaman, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Shinobi, Castlevania, Aladdin, and many more.
Comix Zone represents the coolest gaming concept ever, as far as I’m concerned, and is a perfect representation of the gaming creativity of the 90s. It is a beat ‘em up platform, developed and published by Sega. If you haven’t played it, you’ve committed a sin against gaming. The concept was kinda seen before in Batman: The Caped Crusader from 1988, but with Comix Zone the idea stretched so far that it deservedly got Sega the ‘Video game system for creating a simulated comic book game’ patent.
You play as Sketch Turner, a broke comic book artist and a rock musician from in New York, who is working on his newest comic book “Comix Zone”. It is a story about an invasion of alien renegades, which Turner dreamt of. One stormy night, as he was drawing the comic book, a lightning strikes the panel and the main villain comes to life from the pages. It is a very powerful mutant Mortus, who in order to fully become flesh and blood, and part of our own reality, needs to kill his creator – Turner. But, he can only do so in the comic book, so he sends him into the “Comix Zone”.
This side-scrolling platform is the definition of awesomeness. There should be a picture of Earthworm Jim right next to the word ‘awesome’ in the dictionary. Personally, I prefer the original 1 & 2 editions, but there were later adaptations on other consoles which were also praised. This concept is so good, that it is impossible to not get a good feedback in any case.
You play as an earthworm called Jim, who drives around in a fully robotic, humanoid suit. He has a sidekick ‘Snott’, and is usually battling Psy-Cow, which is the series arch villain, and usually saving Princes What’s Her Name. Yes, that is really what she’s called. The funny thing about this game is that the suit has many weapons at its disposal, but also uses Jim himself as a whip and a grappling rope, which according to Jim is painful.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Back in the day, Sonic was the fastest gaming experience you could find and, frankly, I don’t think it’s been beaten a lot even to this day. The franchise had a couple of installations on the Sega consoles but continued to produce titles later on. The ones which are considered the most popular are probably the original Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as the two later editions which followed.
The original game featured Sonic, that fast blue hedgehog, blazing through all kinds of levels and jumping over platforms. The goal of the game was to collect rings, which were his lifeblood and also the source of scores and additional lives. Actually, the goal of the game was to battle the evil dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik, who has enslaved all the animals in the world and made them power his machines, and free them.
But, what many fans do not know is that actually Robotnik and Sonic were once friends. Before he turned evil, he was known as Dr. Kintobor who was loved by animals and helped Sonic achieve his super-sonic speed capability. He invented the machine called the Retro-Orbital Chaos Compressor. It was supposed to absorb all the evil from the universe, but in a malfunction, it turned him evil.
Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure is aptly named, as its main protagonist is picking his nose and flicking the contents at his enemies. But, that is only one in an arsenal or bio-weapons Boogerman has on his quest to retrieve a power source for the Professor Stinkbaum’s new machine, which was to rid the world of all the pollution, by transporting it to another dimension, called Dimension X-Crement.
Snotty Ragsdale is an eccentric millionaire, who took an undercover job or being a janitor in the lab, in order to investigate the machine’s safety. Cleaning the machine, he accidentally sneezes and causes the machine to open a portal, from which a gloved hand steals the power source. Snotty quickly changes into his alter ego, Boogerman, and rushes into the dimension X-Crement.
Mortal Kombat 2
Why MK2 in particular? Well, that was the one that marked my childhood, but Mortal Kombat was already famous after its first installation. The game was originally developed by Midway Games Chicago in 1992, using real motion captured footage of actors playing almost all of the characters and performing the awesome moves.
The original idea for the game was based on Jean-Claude Van Damme and was supposed to feature him in a horror fighting game, but MK was developed instead. The character Johny Cage is actually based on Jean-Claude, featuring even his signature groin punch from Blood Sport. The game featured never before seen action and combat, with the iconic fatality blood extravaganza. It was brutal, fast, and incredibly addictive, spawning sequels which are developed even to this day.