If you’ve ever enjoyed some lazy afternoons just sitting on the rug, passing greasy controllers around, and occasionally blowing into the business end of a Nintendo cartridge, then you know what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the best old-school video games of all time. Here goes nothing:
13. Super Mario Bros 2. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who loved Mario 2 and those who hated it. If you hated it, you just couldn’t get past all the turnip-digging and carrot-tossing. If you loved it, you picked Princess, flew through all the levels, defeated all the egg-spitting ostrich bosses, dusted your palms together, and you called it a day. Of course, there was always that massive sense of disappointment when the end credits revealed that the entire game was just a dream Mario had one night. What a bummer.
12. Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein really blew open the whole world of first-person shooters back in 1992. It was just you, a bunch of Nazis, and a maze of neverending hallways. Sounds scary, but you’d be fine as long as you ate enough turkey drumsticks before battling Robot Hitler. Mein leben!
11. Street Fighter 2. This game really evened the odds between the older brother, with the thick glasses and the calloused thumbs, and the kid sister, with the overalls and toothy aw-shucks grin. Because that kid sister, that Nintendo novice, that rookie who never played video games, well she could just go on a hot streak of straightup neverending E. Honda hundred-hand-slaps and there really wasn’t anything the older brother could do about it. Except possibly pull her hair until she started crying. Sorry, Nina.
10. Duck hunt. The great-great-grandfather of the Nintendo Wii would have to be Duck Hunt, where you used the plastic plugged-in gun to learn how to hunt. Now, who else walked right up the TV in frustration and killed every duck from two inches away? You practically had to when that invincible dog started laughing at you. There was no choice. Plus, how else could you train for clay shooting?
9. Bubble Bobble. An afternoon falling through the Bubble Bobble levels was like acid tripping for a six-year old. The music got wilder and wilder as you and a pal continuously slaughtered robots by suffocating them in your dangerous dinosaur-spewed bubbles and then eating their dead corpses which, after you popped them, magically turned into shiny pieces of fruit. Somehow this all made sense, too. We must’ve been high on Pixy Stix.
8. Pong. Distributed exclusively by Sears for $100 a pop during the 1975 Christmas season, Pong eventually burned its way into hearts and television screens across the world.
7. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. Before rape, prison, and facial tattoos, Mike Tyson starred in an animated game for children. You played as Little Mac and worked your way up the circuit by pummeling boxers like Glass Joe, Bald Bull, Mr. Sandman, and eventually Mike Tyson himself. The characters were great and Mario even moonlighted as the referee here, once again showing his tremendous versatility and athleticism.
6. Sonic The Hedgehog. Sonic was a great game to play when you went over to your friend’s house and they had Sega instead of Nintendo. Why did they have Sega instead of Nintendo? Well, it was either for the sports games or the blood in Mortal Kombat, one of the two.
5. Tetris. If you were lucky, you could get away with telling your parents that Tetris was educational. It certainly looked like it was too, with all that falling geometry and the Kremlin backdrops. Though no one could really prove it, there sure was something suspiciously mathy about it. Of course, the greatest thing about Tetris was that you could just blame the game when you died. Those random shapes turned us all into hollow-eyed fatalists, left staring blankly into the television, shaking our heads and saying “I was just waiting for a line” over and over again.
4. Solitaire in Windows 3.0. Solitaire was that classic boring card game that you played by yourself when the boss wasn’t looking. It’s funny because almost everyone who finds it strangely addictive admits that it is in fact a completely terrible game. But it sure was a good way to teach your grandpa how to use a mouse.
3. Contra. Everyone talks about the famous Contra code that you entered during the startup screen to begin with 30 men but few people talk about how impossible this game was without the code. You had people shooting at you from all directions, you died after one bullet, and you started the game with only three lives. Even with the spray gun you probably only ran for about twenty seconds before getting shot and calling it quits. So basically, Contra taught us that bullets are really dangerous and that’s why cheating is important.
2. Super Mario Bros. There are so many memories from this instant classic, like the creepy music in World 1-2, the warp zone, the hammer brothers, the flying fish, and the first time you ever heard the phrase: “Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!”
1. Super Mario Bros 3. Fred Savage helped Mario 3 launch to fame with the ninety-minute commercial known as The Wizard. Remember his catatonic little bro who just said ‘Cali-forn-yah’ the whole movie but eventually showed the world how to find the whistle? Yes, Mario 3 completely blew everything else away by introducing us to flying raccoons, angry suns, Tanooki and Frog suits, and that impossible Tube World. It was a larger than life video game that provided years of fun at birthday parties and sleepovers everywhere. For this last game, how about the original commercial instead of a clip? I believe it accurately captures how the world felt about this game.
Yes, playing old school video games was always a sure way to get sore thumbs, strained eyes, and a dry mouth. But would you trade anything for all those hours in front of the TV set exploring strange and exotic worlds with your friends? Yes, the sun would dip down, the lights would go off upstairs, the bowls of Doritos and cans of Pepsi would empty, but that bright, flickering light from the TV didn’t stop casting kaleidoscope shadows on the wide-eyed faces sitting three feet in front of them well into the night.
And those were some seriously good times, my friend.
Some seriously good times.