It’s interesting watching parents lose their collective sh*t over Fortnite, as if gaming addiction was somehow a new phenomenon. Don’t these parents remember? Remember sitting on the lounge-room floor, eyeballs glued to the analogue TV screen, claw-like hands death-gripping an Atari, SNES or Sega controller? Remember playing WoW till 4am on a school night?
Games in the 90s and 00s may look goofy by today’s standards. You may have had to transport them, piece by piece, on four floppy disks at a time. But damn they were addictive too. Here are our favourite childhood games, and where you can still play them today.
Mario Kart 64
We’ll always have a soft spot for the epilepsy-inducing original SNES Mario Kart, but Mario Kart 64 took that title and added depth, literally. A third dimension. It was released in 1996 and went on to become the second-best selling N64 game of all time (after Super Mario 64), backed by an incredibly addictive multiplayer experience. This game became the foundation for every sleepover birthday party in the late 90s. Fact.
World of Warcraft
Sheesh, talk about gaming addiction. I still remember the siren song of WoW when it launched back in 2004. I’d forego sleep, forego friends, strap in for 10-hour dungeon raids, fuelled by nothing but adrenaline, 2L Coke bottles and Mi Goreng. Dark days. World of Warcraft has made Blizzard over $9b in revenue (as of 2017), even though most of the servers these days have been consolidated. Its seventh expansion, Battle For Azeroth, dropped this year, and Blizzard has already announced a retro ‘vanilla’ release for 2019.
Where to play: There’s not much left except hardcore vets and gold farmers now, but you can download the latest expansion here.
The Sims 2
Hard to believe The Sims 2 came out back in 2004. Has it really been 14 years since we accidentally killed our entire Sims family? Had multiple affairs at work? Used cheat codes to make our mansion look like the set from Friends? Eight expansion packs and nine ‘stuff packs’ later, The Sims 2 still holds up. It sold 1 million copies in its first 10 days (a record at the time), and as of 2012, the total count was over 13 million. Not too shabby for a game that’s technically impossible to ‘win’.
Listen up, new-fangled game designers. Consider Icy Tower a lesson in how to do more with less. Spacebar and two arrow keys are all you need for literally hundreds of hours of pointless, level-jumping, icy-tower-climbing and freakily addictive gameplay. The object of the game? Keep going higher until you either die, lose interest, or your friends stage an intervention.
Where to play: Amazingly, Icy Tower is still available for free play online. You can check it out here.
Elasto Mani (Elma)
If you owned a Windows PC in the early 00s, we’re betting you played ‘Elma’ (full, technical name: Elasto Mania). It’s an ingenious motorbike platform game, created by Balázs Rózsa in 2000 as a sequel to the 1997 title, Action Supercross. The physics engine is legendary, even today, and the community level-building function was decades ahead of its time. Thank god this didn’t fade into the annals of cyberspace – Rózsa released a iOS app in 2014.
Quest For Glory
Before there was Red Dead Redemption, before there was Skyrim or Mass Effect 2, there was a little franchise known as Quest For Glory (QFG). If you want to know what text-based RPG games looked like in 1989, do yourself a favour and download Sierra’s Quest For Glory: So You Want To Be A Hero. This is still one of my favourite story-driven adventure titles of all time – intuitive, original, often hilariously funny, with role-playing character traits that went on to influence nearly every MMORPG in history.
Where to play: Praise Be. You can get all five QFG games on Steam right now.
Lemmings is the foundation for nearly every modern, level-based puzzle platform. It was released in 1991 by DMA Design and dominated the early 90s, eventually selling over 20 million copies. If you haven’t played it before, be prepared for a mild addiction – there’s something un-put-down-able about guiding your anthropomorphised lemmings through an increasingly complex series of levels, using simple commands like dig, climb and build stairs. Good news for gamers too, it’s been ported onto nearly every conceivable platform, including PSVita in 2014.
Maxis’ original SimCity paved the way, but SimCity 2000 is the game that made city-building cool. This is how most kids in the 90s learned about stuff like taxation, urban decay, and how to rebuild after a nuclear war or UFO invasion. And the options! You could finally build prisons, marinas, hospitals and libraries (fun tip: query your library and select ‘ruminate’), and the newspapers even ran opinion polls on how well you were governing. Sheer genius, and it’s been acknowledged as such – in 2012 the Museum Of Modern Art added SimCity 2000 to its permanent collection of video games.
Check out all the new games you should be playing now.
Image credit: EA