I was of the generation that still spent our summer holidays playing football and going to the local pond to hunt newts. I was also there for the coming of age of computer gaming. I remember going to a friend’s house and spending many hours playing Pong on his Atari. That noise of each hit, seeing it ping from side to side… it was amazing! I was hooked. Yes, I still joined up with friends for outdoor activities during the school holidays but there was also something new emerging and in all honesty, it caught us all off guard.
Remembering all this got me to thinking. What games influenced me and my friends over the years? What made us fall in love with the worlds of Zelda and the arcade ports of classics like Out Run & Space Harrier? This seemed like a perfect excuse to dig out my old systems (that still work… my Amiga, Master System, C64 and Megadrive), slip on my nostalgia suit and put down in a list, not necessarily in any particular order, the games that I really enjoyed in my gaming youth. Games that in some cases I kept going back to complete multiple times as they were such a blast to play.
The Hobbit – 1982 – Krome Studios Melbourne
The Hobbit was a fantastic illustrated text adventure on the many systems of the time, based of course on the book of the same name by J.R.R.Tolkien. Using carefully chosen sentences you could do simple things like ‘open door’ or ‘go east’. Seems overly simple, I know. But for Hobbit fans like myself, it was totally engrossing. Coming upon a grassy clearing at night with some trolls, then dashing east, waiting till morning, and returning to seem them transformed into stone… you were in the story!
Moving from location to location, it would take a short while for the images to render on screen, but when they did you were eager to see what could be done next. I’m not going to spoil it much more as I think this would be a perfect time to show you an online version of the complete game you can still play today. In fact, I spent an evening a few weeks ago doing just that. I wish I still had that full map my older brother and I made of every location, character and encounter we found during our playthrough of it.
If you don’t have time to play then check out Ready Uppers, Susan and Verity in their playthrough of the Hobbit over on our YouTube channel in You Can Never Go Back.
The Last Ninja – 1987 – System 3
This was an absolute favourite game of mine on the Commodore 64. I could not get enough of it. Played from a top-down 3D isometric viewpoint, The Last Ninja had you guiding the main character, Armakuni, through some great looking maps. Each map made you think very carefully about things like placement of the hero when jumping across stones in a river to reach the other side (I died so many times attempting that) while avoiding and solving puzzles that required you to overcome insidious traps as they attempted to halt your progress throughout the game.
The Last Ninja proved to be one of the most successful games ever released on the C64 and indeed it set a standard for both future sequels and other such games to come. But the thing that really caught me was the music.
In the first game, you had 6 different levels to play through, each with their own loading screen that would each play a different song. On top of that, each level had another different song – it was pretty incredible that System pulled this off so well. You really felt invested in Armakuni’s survival, finding that perfect route to finishing the game and if not, coming back again another time to try once more. I still fire this title up every now and then. I don’t think there has been or ever will be a game that gives me that same warm nostalgic feeling when I start playing it. Thank you, System 3!
Wonder Boy in Monster Land – 1987 – Sega
I’ll admit I was more of a Sega fan at the time than I was of Nintendo, but as my friend had received a Nintendo for Christmas we had the best of both worlds. Platformers were at their best around this time, and Wonderboy was no exception. If you had played other such titles as Alex Kidd in Miracle World or Super Mario on the Nintendo you sort of knew what you’d be in for. But something about this title intrigued me more than in any other title I had experienced before or since.
The game is a sequel to the previous and oh-so imaginatively titled Wonderboy. You would progress through 12 levels of beautifully created graphics defeating various enemies so you could in turn, buy better weapons, armour and magical items that helped you along your journey. This was yet another title that had me coming back to play it ‘just one more time’ – until the next time that is – and it never grew old on me. There have been many successful platformers through the gaming age but for me this was the best. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m mad for not being an uber fan of Mario such as many were, but Wonderboy in Monsterland had just the right ingredients that kept me returning. Maybe I’ll fire it up again soon?
Oh…did I also mention that in there is now a sequel available on both the PS4 and Nintendo Switch called Wonderboy: The Dragons Trap? I wish I still had my PS4!
The Secret of Monkey Island – 1990 – Lucasarts
By 1990 I had moved on from my old C64 and had entered a love affair with my Commodore Amiga (1gb version I might add, plus the second disc drive) which carried on for quite a while. My love of adventures was still there and when I discovered the fantastic Lucasarts games I was hooked. Lucasarts went on to have a great catalogue of titles such as Sam and Max Hit the Road, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Day of the Tentacle, another personal favourite of mine that only just missed being picked for this list…
Monkey Island had you playing a wanna-be pirate by the name of Guybrush Threepwood. From the initial starting point of Melee Island you had fun learning how to sword fight against the master known as Carla (where you learned that your tongue is the mightier weapon in a fight), acquiring a ship, finding yourself on an island populated by cannibals with catchy names such as Lemonhead, and trying desperately to save your love interest Elaine Marley. All the while you were trying to survive until you were strong enough to defeat the nemesis of the game, the Ghost Pirate LeChuck, a truly horrifying incarnation to deal with. Oh and a word of warning – if you ever play this game, beware of the Piranha Poodles!
Built around the SCUMM engine (Script Creation Utility for Manic Mansion – a game that can be considered a father to all those to come in the Lucasarts game library) Monkey Island was a very intuitive game to play. Simple logic can solve anything, albeit with a slight twist in your thinking process. Conversations with the various characters you met gave you multiple options of how to carry on, and finding that right way would often give you that hint you needed to solve something from a short while ago that was driving you nuts to figure out. Well, what drove you nuts was actually seeing how easy the problem was to solve once you found the answer, and that was a key point to the game’s success. It really made you think about what to do and how to do it. It was accompanied by some interesting graphics for the time that somehow worked for the story as you made your way through it, gathering a crew and eventually overcame the ghost pirate menace.
The beauty of this game now is that along with several other old Lucasarts titles (Grim Fandango and recently Full Throttle are a couple of examples) were updated for the modern market and you can now get them through things like Steam, iOS and on the main consoles. All with beautifully updated graphics and a fully voiced cast it even has a brilliant option for hitting a key or button and making it look like the original game – such a clever but simple thing to add in that I actually found myself playing it in the old mode as opposed to the newer one. Brilliant!
Super Mario Kart – 1992 – Nintendo
Apart from Street Fighter II, Super Mario Kart was the one game that drew me to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Being able to sit down with up to 3 friends and race against each other whilst trying to concentrate on the right portion of the screen that had YOUR player on it proved for some hilarious gaming sessions when we got it wrong.
The game drew characters from across a slew of Nintendo games such Donkey Kong Jr. and Princess Peach. You would race in karts of varying power, hitting points that gave you power-ups to add in your races against your opponents. Green and red shells could be fired at your fellow racers, or used as shields, bananas could be dropped behind you to make them spin out of control for a few seconds and make them lose ground on you. You raced over 3 laps and watching your friend’s confidence be dashed on the finish line as they spun out only to see you take 1st place… priceless.
My local gaming group even used to break out the SNES on New Year’s Eve after midnight and we would play Battle mode into the wee hours of the morning, continuing to drink as we did. By 3am we would be smashed out of our heads and the blame game of who was at fault for knocking off the final balloon protecting them proved to be without a doubt some of the most enjoyable gaming moments I’ve ever had.
I know there could be many other games here apart from the five I have chosen but these games really did prove to be the best in my personal opinion for my gaming history. They were the ones that kept drawing me back after they had been completed many times and still proved to be as much as fun as the first time I tried them out.
What are some of your personal favourites from your gaming history? We would love to hear about it! Send us a tweet over at @ReadyUp.