Videogames have been a part of our lives and culture for many years now, but before console wars and HD graphics there were chiptunes and big, chunky pixels. The old 8-bit games can look quite primitive by today’s standards, but these retro classics were the foundation for the shiny modern games we enjoy today.
Without the luxuries of 3D and voiceovers, games had to be clever about the ways they engaged players. This spawned some incredibly creative and innovative games, which are still treasured by many today.
Many of the staff at iiNet grew up with games, including myself. I have many fond childhood memories of travelling through time on Chrono Trigger, breaking pots in the Legend of Zelda and stomping goombas in Super Mario. Our team also had their own memories of great retro games, so here are a few of their favourites.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Year – 1991
System: Sega Genesis
One of the most critically acclaimed titles on the Sega Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog’s success spearheaded a whole series of games with the titular blue hedgehog Sonic. Dashing across a bright, beautiful landscape, collecting golden rings, Sonic the Hedgehog was easy to become engrossed in while time just flew by. For our Video Content Designer, Mo, it was a firm childhood favourite:
“Sonic 2 was my after-school staple; one of the best platformers of the 16 bit era with music to match. Zipping through colourful levels at “Sonic” speed was exhilarating, but the biggest mind-blowing moment came when my sister picked up the second game pad and found out she was able to control Tails the Fox – he had infinite lives too!” – Mo
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Year – 1987
System: Sega Master System
Another Sega classic that made it to the list is Alex Kidd in Miracle World. The game achieved such great popularity after its initial release that later versions of the Sega Master System had the game built into the hardware, so gamers could play it without the cartridge. A quirky, colourful fare about a plucky young hero called Alex Kidd off on an adventure through Miracle World to rescue his kidnapped brother Prince Egle. With stunning graphics for its time and a great dose of wackiness, Alex Kidd wins the vote of Graphic Designer, Rich:
“For me I was always a Sega man, but no, it wasn’t Sonic that kept me glued to the master system, but Alex Kidd. Armed with nothing but a magic ring, giant fist and a motor bike, he aimed to save the world from an evil octopus with flaming tentacles.” – Rich
Year – 1992
System: Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis
An iconic game for Nintendo and Sega lovers alike, I remember playing Mortal Kombat as a kid and thinking Sonya was the coolest character ever. It was great to see a girl kicking some butt in this one-on-one fighting game. With the gruesome “fatalities”, it might not have been the most kid-friendly game on the market, but that didn’t stop a whole bunch of us spilling pixel blood in this brutal button masher. Campaign Manager, Paris, remembers it well:
“I liked Mortal Kombat because I could win, even though I sucked at video games and had no skill. I would beat my male relatives and they would hate it. SMASH ALL THE BUTTONS!” – Paris
Year – 1991
System – Nintendo Entertainment System
Just as the name suggests, this game was all about anthropomorphic battling toads, with some pretty questionable names: Rash, Zit and Pimple were the three main characters. Created to bring some competition to the famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Battletoads is not a game for the faint-hearted. Though it has been touted as one of the most difficult videogames, Web Designer, Jayden, accepted the challenge:
“Battletoads took me literally about 2 months to finally beat the Windtunnel level. Still the hardest videogame I’ve ever played.” – Jayden.
Wonderboy III: The Dragon’s Trap
System: Sega Master System
I was busy being born this year, so sadly I missed out on this award-winning adventure game. It’s a shame because this title from the Wonderboy series does sound like a lot of fun. After being cursed and turning into a Lizard Man, you must embark on a quest to find the one item in the world that can lift the curse: the Salamander Cross. Along the way you run into weird and wonderful enemies and change forms into all different animals. Though Senior Graphic Designer, Matt, has chosen this game as his favourite, he has some mixed memories about it:
“The first console I bought with my own money was a Sega Master System. 8 bits of raw video game power, played through a 15” TV in my bedroom.
My favourite title comes from 1988; Wonder Boy 3 – The Dragons Trap. It had awesome upgrades and levels with a difficulty that was often just out of reach, but also achievable.
As with many 8 bit consoles there was no save option, so I would have to play marathon sessions into the night to stand a chance of completing it. If I had to sleep I would pause the game and leave it running, which inevitably ruined my CRT TV, leaving a permanent imprint of the game’s pause screen burned into it.” – Matt
Our oldest game on the list was first available only on arcade machines. Anyone who knows games would know the format: You operate a spaceship at the bottom of the screen and shoot down the strange space creatures flying around. The formula was inspired by Space Invaders, except with a few added twists, like the enemies being able to capture your ship and break formation to drop down towards your ship at will. An absolute classic and one of the most successful arcade games ever made. It was a stand-out for Senior Customer Service Manager, Paul:
“So many happy memories in fish and chip shops and only having to spend 20 cents. I think I still have a thumb injury from repetitively thumping the big red button” – Paul
With too many amazing retro games to fit into one article, you’re going to have to help us out. Let us know in the comments below which retro game is your favourite.