Tuesday conversation: retro games!

In honor of the forthcoming retro gamers for goodness fundraiser, let’s talk retro games!

We talk about retro RPGs all the time, but what other retro games do you remember?  Maybe we can steal some of your favorites for the retro gaming fundraiser.  :D

Back in the day I sunk so much money into NBA Jam.  I played it with Jason last night and even though the graphics are out of date, the nostalgia is there and it’s still so much fun.  I also happily recall playing Hydro Thunder (I’m not a Midway fanboy, really).

Oh!  And Cruisin’ USA!  Did anybody else play that game a ton?

As far as games that ate up a ton of my time on the consoles (RPGs aside), Shadowrun for Genesis (the SNES version sucked), Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers for NES (don’t hate), Ducktales for NES, and every Mega Man game ever.

Above: “I want you gone” from the end of Portal 2.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Laurence

    Super Metroid and Mario 3 are by far the best non-rpg retro games out there. The Sega Shadowrun game is really awesome. It’s a great entrance into the Shadowrun universe.

    • http://fengardice.wordpress.com Fabio García

      I thought I had something to contribute to this conversation, but the very first comment said exactly what I was thinking. I do come back to Super Metroid sometimes, but SMB3 is the one game I couldn’t live without. I replay it OFTEN. Unless my fingers fail me, I can finish it in under 90 minutes warpless (though clouds and hammers are okay).

  • steven olsen

    I have a huge soft spot for Star Control 2.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/ Jason Thibeault

      It’s open-source now. And with the option to automatically install the 3D0 music and voiceover files. http://sc2.sourceforge.net/

    • Besomyka

      I still think of that one as my favorite game ever, but it depends on how the question is phrased. It is the best for it’s time and place. Nothing beats the wonder of exploration and discovery that game provided. I don’t know that I’ve ever come across a more interesting set of aliens either.

      Another game that is damn near perfect is the original Portal.

      I don’t see NBA Jam pop up as top favorites too often. I wrote the AI and various game-play stuff in this NBA Jam title back in the early oughts: http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-2/nba-jam-2004. I must have played on the original Jam and the later Showtime machines we had in the office an hour a day for over a year. The arcade was a cheating MFer. One more quarter (for a quarter!).

      I guess my favorite games are the ones in which the world is explored and discovered at my own pace. The original Metroid was like that. Even Zelda was, more or less.

  • Jacob

    I grew up on Super Mario World, Metroid, and I put way too many hours into Killer Instinct for my own good.

    • John Horstman

      I’d forgotten about Killer Instinct! It was so much better than whatever version of Mortal Combat it was matched against when it came out.

      • John Horstman

        Crap, I’m misspelling “Mortal Kombat” all over the place – shows you how long it’s been. :-P

  • Nate Frein

    Ducktales was the shit! Spent hours playing that game.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      *high five*

    • Loqi

      Seconding. Also Rescue Rangers, though the only things I remember about it are throwing crates and the swinging axes on the last (I think it was the last…) level. Now I wish I knew where my old NES was.

  • John Horstman

    Definitely played some NBA Jam. I liked the fight-your-way-through-hoardes-of-guys games, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Alien vs. Predator (the original one), and I played plenty of Mortal Combat and Tekken at arcades. Oh! Donkey Kong Country was perhaps my favorite SNES game, despite the aggravation of the mine cart levels.

    I also mastered Area 51 when it came out and played a couple of the spin-offs (there was an anti-terrorist one that come out shortly after that was perhaps the easiest – I managed to play for three hours on a single life one time, since it just gets easier once you’ve run through a couple times and can anticipate where the enemies and hostages are going to appear).

    • John Horstman

      Oops, just realized it’s “Mortal Kombat”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Ooooooooooh, AvP is good. Might have to grab that one…

    • Nate Frein

      By “Original” AvP Do you mean the arcade version where you can play as marines as well?

      That game ate sooo many of my quarters at the Exchange arcade…

      • John Horstman

        That is the one I was thinking of (not any of the shooters from the past decade), though it turns out the SNES game of the same name was released 8 months earlier. I never played the SNES version – anyone know if it was any good, or how it stacks up against the Capcom arcade version?

        • Nate Frein

          When I first got into emulators I dl’d the SNES version. Was pretty unimpressed.

          Later, I learned about MAME and got to relive those glory days of plunking down quarters.

    • Loqi

      Lots of NBA Jam for Genesis here as well, and Loony Tunes B-Ball for SNES. Imagine my surprise when I found out that basketball games are actually played with 5 players per team instead of just two. I felt more lied to than when I realized Santa Clause and Yahweh weren’t real.

  • Epinephrine

    Far too many games, but here are two:
    Populous – you and another “God” compete for land, using volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, etc., to beat your opponent.
    VGA Planets – A shareware battle for space, with many of your favourite sci-fi races competing (under slightly different names, but Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Gallactica are all present). It’s turn based and play-by-email (or via floppy disks/flash drives), and was very exciting getting your turn file to start planning your next moves.
    I always liked turn-based games, so other games like Worms, Master of Orion, Civilization (and related games, like Colonization), and Nobunaga’s Ambition (For the NES!) were also fun.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I loved Populus! I’m so going back and playing that again!

      • John Horstman

        Yes! Populous II was a huge step up, too; I think I spent many hours raising and lowering pixelated terrain.

    • Ken

      I forgot about VGA planets! That was cool.

  • http://www.ziztur.com Christopher Stephens

    I’ll second Mario Kart, Mario 3 and all Mega Mans, though Mega Man X on the Super was always my favorite.

    Fighting games were always my favorite, though I never liked Street Fighter that much. My first big hook was Killer Instinct, followed by the SNK 2D fighters.

  • Loqi

    I think Contra goes without saying.

  • Charlie

    Street Fighter II, Mario Kart. I am curious, how old does something have to be to be “retro”? Would Counter Strike be retro? Any love for Oregon Trail?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Yes to all of the above, in my eyes. :)

  • http://fengardice.wordpress.com Fabio García

    Here are a few old games I can’t do without.

    Super Mario Bros. 3 (as Laurence said above, “by far the best non-rpg retro game[] out there”)
    Battle City (one of the few games where you actually laugh louder when losing than when winning)
    If you’re interested in Metroid-like games and want a new take on an old classic, try the romhack Extra Mario Bros. Yes, it’s a Mario game with nonlinear exploration, new abilities to access new areas, and Metroid music. And just like the original SMB, the screen doesn’t scroll backwards. It’s that good.

    Super Mario World
    Super Metroid
    Mega Man X through X3
    Sid Meier’s Civilization (yay for turn-based strategy and refusing to research Religion)
    Kirby Super Star (if you’re with a friend, this game is a bit frustrating but still insanely fun. It builds character)
    Super Bomberman 2 (if you’re looking for great rage-inducing multiplayer fun)

    Tomba! (bizarre setting, surreal landscapes, catchy music and awesome sidequests make this one of my favorite games ever)
    Crash Bandicoot 3
    Mega Man Legends (apparently, my brother and me are the only people that liked this game)
    Wild Arms (as far as RPGs go, this is about the only non-Pokémon one that I have any patience for)

    Miscellaneous Nintendo handhelds:
    Every Pokémon version ever
    Metroid Fusion (not the most Metroid Metroid game ever, but it’s still pretty awesome)
    Any version of Advance Wars
    Any of the GBC Zelda games, especially Oracle of Seasons

    Heroes of Might and Magic II and III
    Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 (Red Alert 3 is also great fun, but I don’t think that counts as retro anymore)
    Age of Empires 2 (just for fun)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      BIG hell yes to Wild Arms!

    • Nate Frein

      I take your Megaman Legends and raise you Megaman Legends 2 :3

    • Nate Frein

      Oh, and for PC:

      System shock. And system shock 2.

  • Stogoe

    World Class Track Meet for the NES. My cousins and siblings played that for a decade.

    I also played a ton of Sim Life, until we got a new computer and it became unplayable due to the game speed being linked to the processor speed.
    I loved Castle of the Winds (a roguelike RPG for windows) so much I purchased the full game via mail and it arrived on a 3 1/2″ floppy.
    Also Jill of the Jungle, Duke Nukem 1 and 2, and Commander Keen.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/ Jason Thibeault

      Holy shit yes Castle of the Winds! It was like, “man, I love these roguelike games, but I just upgraded to Windows 3.1, so where the hell are the graphical versions of this?” Then BAM, it was a shareware game on Big Blue Disk. (If memory serves.)

      Try DosBox to get Sim Life slowed down to a reasonable pace to play on a modern system. It’s based on FreeDOS, built specifically for retro gaming.

      • Stogoe

        This was mid-90s when the new computer made Sim Life Lightning speed. If I could find Sim Life again, though, I’d try it.
        I also had this game which was a Text-Based Adventure Game Maker. It was awesome, but I forget what it was called.
        Back to the NES, Maniac Mansion also stands out as being played over and over and over.

  • Ken

    OK, you asked for it. Here’s a rambling reply from an old-time gamer. There’s just been too many great memories over my too many years…

    After getting hooked on board games like Diplomacy, Wooden Ships and Iron Men and a WWII game I can’t remember the name of, I first tried my hand at computer gaming on a Fairchild Channel F system. The Fairchild system had really awesome controllers which had more axis of control than even most current so-called 4D joyticks. There was this baseball game I really enjoyed specifically because it could be played with another person on the second controller which came with the unit.

    After that, one of my friends was lucky enough to get an Atari 2600 (while I was still using the Fairchild system). We spent far more hours playing Star Raiders than we should have. At least I think it was Star Raiders. The main thing I remember about it was spending a lot of time getting docking right. The space station was like the one from 2001 A Space Odyssey (which was in theaters only about 10 years before) and you had to match the rotation speed as you went in.

    Soon after that I remember playing Hammurabi on a mini computer via a teletype machine. There’s a PHP version of the game here: http://www.hammurabigame.com/hammurabi-game.php

    That was fun, but I was soon hooked on Star Trek on that same system. I can’t tell you how many rolls of teletype paper I burned through on that game, but I was controlling the Enterprise! How cool was that (in the 70′s)!

    Once I had access to an IBM PC (at a university since they were WAY too expensive for home) my love of that Star Trek game led to many hours spent avoiding the Grues in the darkest places of Zork. I mean wow. It actually had a story! If there was anything cooler than getting to control the Enterprise it was getting to interact with a story!

    Soon after I got hooked on Wizardry, which was my first RPG. Somewhere I think I may still have graph paper notebooks with some of those dungeon levels on them, painstakingly drawn one square at a time with each click of the arrow key on the keyboard. One of the reasons for getting my first PC was to have the luxury of playing the Wizardry series at home. Well, that and a PC port of the Apple-II Sublogic Flight Simulator, which was a wire-frame game. It reminded me of the Red Baron game from the arcade days, but I didn’t have to feed quarters into a machine. There’s a nice gif from that game here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Microsoft_Flight_Simulator

    Once Microsoft got into the flight sim business I really was hooked. I started the Microsoft series with the 2.0 version. Since I often spent many pleasant afternoons in RL watching the planes at Meigs Field (close to where I was taking classes at the time), I was more than pleased with being able to fly in and out of there on my PC. I actually spent the large amount of money (at the time) to get a four button joystick.

    I remember playing a PC port of Castle Wolfenstein, a top-down 2-D game which was actually able to use the PC speaker to make noises that sounded, sometimes, sort of, kind of like real words! Like “Haltenzee!” The next big event was Wolfenstein 3D. 3D!!!! UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE!!! An actual, real first-person shooter which I could control with a mouse.

    I (strangely) have fond memories of the hours I spent setting up ad-hoc network connections over serial cables on early PC’s so my friends and I could play Doom, Hexen, and other similar games in co-op mode. That was, of course, after lugging my PC, CRT, keyboard, etc over to their house so we would actually have two systems. The default mouse configuration in Doom led to bad habits which to this day are still supported in some games, like reverse mouse-look. It wasn’t until the Halo PC days that I was able to retrain my brain to use the new “modern” mouse-look direction. It took a few more years to retrain myself to use the “W” key to move forward. I was still hooked on the Doom default of the right mouse button to move forward.

    In those Doom/Hexen days my friend had a kid of his own and was teaching him how to design levels for those games. That kid has since graduated from high school.

    I feel old. I think I’ll fire up Borderlands 2 this evening with a friend who’s as old as I am…

  • Stogoe

    Who else had a Commodore 64?

    • fwtbc

      Me, and an Atari 2600 before that.

      For me, retro games are things like Q Bert, Burger Time, Arkanoid, Boulderdash, Cosmic Ark, Frogger, etc.