We are all kids of the ’80s and ’90s, which is a time a lot of people call the Golden Age of Gaming. Things were good if you wanted to spend your days with a controller (or mouse and keyboard) at your fingertips while stomping goombas and playing Goldeneye multiplayer with the single-shot golden gun setting.
There were a lot of games that people missed though–true classics that never really got any praise or hype in the long run. Sometimes the big name games on on other consoles were too competitive, or the games were PC games and most of us were too young to get into the PC game scene back then. Here are a few of them.
Goldeneye might have been the spy game to end all spy games of the N64 and Playstation generation, but Syphon Filter was its more mature, badass cousin that gave zero fucks and unlike Bond, it had 3D blood splatter. With a ton of gadgets and an emphasis on stealth, Syphon Filter was one of the first real games in the stealth action genre, coming before the popular Splinter Cell. Also, Syphon Filter didn’t beat you senseless with a story that would confuse you well into adulthood like the Metal Gear Solid games. If you can find it, it’s well worth the nostalgic frustration. You can set people on fire with a taser.
The Army Men Series
You remember those plastic army men your parents used to step on around the house? The ones that caused them to use words they told you to never, ever say? Well, they had a game series, and it was awesome: first person shooters, helicopter games, squad shooters. All of it. It was like war, but less horrifying because you were melting plastic with those flames instead of real people. Most of them involve killing off the tan army and their efforts to use some doomsday weapon against the greens. If you aren’t feeling green plastic patriotism by the end, you don’t have a heart.
Final Fantasy 8
Everyone loved Final Fantasy 7, because it had heart. You know you cried when Aeris died, and you celebrated when Sephiroth bit it like the bastard he is, because you felt connected to the characters. That, and you were probably between the ages of seven and 12, and a fictional pretty girl dying is still pretty traumatizing for a kid. Well, FF8 was the follow up, and it was a gem itself. It’s the same “save the universe” idea, but with some time travel and some interesting reincarnation plots going on. You’re a recruit at a hybrid high school/military academy filled with monsters that can fly, because of course. The main character has the most badass name a 10-year-old kid could ever want: Squall Leonheart. You also get to wield the gunblade, which is both wildly impractical and incredibly cool. It’s still worth a play, even today. The storyline is weird but interesting, and it has some decent replay value to it. God knows it’s better than the uninspired anime knock-offs the recent few have been.
Anything Naughty Dog Has Ever Made
If you want to have fun with a great group of old school games that got overlooked, check out any of the Naughty Dog games. A few of them are Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Crash Team Racing. They had the Midas touch back in the ’90s. Nothing says “Fun!” like racing a panda bear along the Great Wall while avoiding guys shooting fireworks at you. Ah, cultural sensitivity. If you need more convincing, they’re also the publishers of the critically acclaimed Uncharted series.
Fallout 1 & 2
Everyone not living under a rock with a modern console knows Fallout 3, but very few people know about the first two. If you want a piece of gaming history, go pick them up on GOG.com or Steam. I played these back in the ’90s, and they were the games that made M-rated games off-limits for me, probably because you could star in your own porno in New Reno. (Definitely not for kids, these games.) They keep the same dark feeling that most people love from Fallout 3 and take it up a few notches. One story deals with genocide, the other with wiping out the last of a futuristic United States government. Not exactly a lollipops and rainbows story, but you’ll be engaged the whole time. The games do have a hell of a learning curve because they’re still a top-down, turn-based affair, but I recommend them more than anything else on this list. They were art. Irradiated, mutated art, but art nonetheless.
Spyro the Dragon
Spyro was Insomniac Games’ first shot at doing something that could be a Mario-killer, but it never amounted to that because the war between Playstation and N64 wasn’t really a war – just a choice. Both platforms did incredibly well. Spyro was essentially the Mario of the Playstation 1. You played a young dragon who had to go around rescuing adult dragons that had been turned to crystal by a larger, evil bad guy named Gnorc. The game is challenging, especially for a game that was mostly marketed to kids at the time. If you’re just itching to set things on fire with some solid ’90s graphics, I highly recommend Spyro. It’s a gem a lot of people forgot about when the 2000s rolled around, and it feels like playing a Saturday morning cartoon. That’s a solid stroll down nostalgia lane, assuming you find cartoon orcs burning to death nostalgic. Don’t lie, I know you do.