Matt’s top 10 video games of his childhood

  • List in no particular order

Being poor and having very little free time are not conducive conditions for playing videogames in my adult life, but many an afternoon when I was a child, I would boot up the family PC, load up Windows 95 and play some fantastic games that mostly still hold up today despite hokey graphics or dodgy soundbanks.

Without further ado…

Crash Bandicoot (1996)

Crash Bandicoot
(C) Sony

Recently Activision remastered the original three Crash games and they were released on PC for the first time. This provided the inspiration for making this list as I relived these classics from my childhood. I didn’t have a PlayStation at the time the original was released, but an aunt and uncle of mine did and they had this game. Going to visit them would always end up in me playing this game.

Its design is really part of its charm, with Crash adventuring across three islands, through a number of different terrains and fighting bosses which get progressively harder. The game itself is madcap and is heavily inspired by Indiana Jones, with levels featuring Crash running towards the screen, away from boulders, exploring ancient ruins and a couple where he rides a wild hog.

Crash Bandicoot can be frustrating as your timing needs to be perfect to traverse some levels, and the following two games in the series added elements that made it more playable, such as a sliding jump that propels you further and better character movement, but the original will have a nostalgic place in my heart where the latter two don’t evoke the same emotions.

Abe’s Oddysey (1997)

Abe's Oddysey
(C) GT Interactive Software

 This story takes place on the fictional planet of Oddworld, hence the incorrect spelling of Oddysey, which has provided much confusion for me in my adult life. The game’s protagonist Abe, a Mudokan, discovers he and his friends are to be turned into food as the greedy Glukkons have driven other spieces they are harvesting for their meat factory to near extinction. The player must help Abe escape, rescue his fellows and shut down the factory.

The gritty level design and use of blended photography to make the levels seem real make the game come alive and a great variety in level design gives the game an intense mystical quality. Journeying from the dirty factory landscape to deserts and forests shows off the sheer variety of styles the developers had in mind.

The one downside to the game is that it’s incredibly difficult. Abe dies instantly upon any sort of impact with an enemy or obstacle and a lot of the puzzles are devilishly difficult. It’s a good payoff to finally get it done, however.

RollerCoaster Tycoon (1999)

RollerCoaster Tycoon
(C) Hasbro Interactive

Now for a game not nearly as violent. It’s any kid’s dream to go to a theme park, and with this game, you could create one! Making rollercoasters, log flumes, go kart tracks to your heart’s content and then watching as people have a lot of fun in your park. It’s very wholesome and very wonderful.

There’s a certain charm to the tiled graphics in this game as well, which was created by Chris Sawyer by himself, apparently, but it all works and makes this a game you can lose yourself for hours in.

The Neverhood (1996)

(C) DreamWorks

The Neverhood is one of the strangest games you’re likely to play. In the nineties, adventure games were all the rage, as they didn’t take much processing power but could really go to town on puzzles to keep the player entertained. The Neverhood is an evolution of that set in a stop-motion clay world suspended above an endless void.

The music and voice work is so perfect for this game you can’t hear either without immediately thinking of it. Some gameplay elements take a depressingly long time as your character moves slowly, the quirky, silly nature of the game makes this entirely forgiveable.

POD (1997)

(C) Ubisoft

 POD, standing for Planet of Death, was the first racing game I ever played. I’ve never been totally keen on racing games, as they can be a little dull, apart from silly ones like Mario Kart, but the level design for POD is quite enthralling.

On a dying planet, there is one space remaining on a rocket to leave the planet to succumb to a deadly virus, and the player must win a series of races to be the one to take that spot.

There are a number of weird locations in these races, including a highway across a volcano, a race track through a shopping centre and one incredibly trippy race through a giant insect’s cocoon. The very basic graphics make all these levels seem weird and uncanny past their initial oddness anyway but there are also a number of shortcuts and extra bits you can find lying about if you have the time. 

Beyond that, it’s a pretty standard racing game, but it’s unique enough for it not to feel to boring.

Fury 3 (1995)

(C) Microsoft

We’re going really retro now. Windows PC game, Fury3 is a fairly standard space age shoot em up, at least it would be, but it’s practically the first of its kind.

3D graphics, open explorable areas and a host of different weapons and lasers, combined with a number of precarious journeys through tunnels make this game, simple yet really fun to play.

The story is pretty simple, the player is some sort of resistance pilot, battling a machine race that’s gradually taking over planets. Eventually the player travels to the machines home planet, Fury, which is made entirely out of metal and circuitry and must destroy it. By that point of the game it is more or less impossible, with enemies raining down on you from every which way, but the fun level designs and mix of puzzles and shooters makes this game pretty enjoyable.

Half-Life (1998)

(C) Valve

 Half-life is lauded as being one of the best games ever made, and not without reason! The player is Gordon Freeman, a 27-year-old theoritcal physicist at a laboratory complex in New Mexico who inadvertently causes a rift in spacetime during an experiment, leading alien creatures to wreak havoc across the facility. First, you must help Gordon make his way to the surface to escape, but later, you’re tasked with trying to solve the disaster and close the rips.

Half-Life, when it came out, was revolutionary in 3D gaming and storytelling, the game was huge and had a coherent storyline at the same time as being reasonably easy to play. There are plenty of puzzle-solving moments as well as various battles, and some elements of the game are downright scary. Shame we’ll never see the story’s conclusion in Half-Life 3…

3D Movie Maker (1995)

3D Movie Maker
(C) Microsoft

I miss games like this that allowed you to be really creative, but also quite daft at the same time. 3D Movie Maker allows the user to create movies with a selection of objects, characters, scenes and sound effects. There are only so many permutations of everything, but you can make some quite fun and silly movies if you so desire.

You could also record your own speech as well, or put in subtitles for a silent film effect, so you could essentially create a story about whatever you want. There are various pointers and tutorials across the world, which is set in a movie theatre, guided by the frankly quite irritating McZee, but they all help to show you what to do. I spent many an afternoon as a child making my magnum opuses on this delightful game.

Dig It! (1996)

Dig It!
(C) Pixel Painters

 As pretty and fun as this game is, the best thing about it is the music. Epic and wonderfully written 8-bit arcade music permeates every level on this game.

The game play is upsettingly hard, though, and I think I only made it through the game as a kid with the use of cheats. There is a free remaster you can get now, but I can’t remember the cheats for it. 

The player plays as Dug, a miner whose girlfriend has been abducted and he jumps, swims and digs his way through levels. There are various bonus levels, which are a welcome respite and even some mini games. You can get some wonderful superpowers, such as spring boots, rapid fire and even become temporarily invincible as Super Dug.

Worms 2 (1997)

Worms 2
(C) Team 17

Finally, this sometimes multiplayer, sometimes single-player, always entertaining silly strategy game has been one of my favourites throughout life. I’ll forget about it for a few years, come across the CD and play it again.

Each player must defend their own team of worms, while defeating all others. To do this, you’re given a number of weapons and tools (you can set the paramters for these in multiplayer mode) and then chaos reigns.

As well as the game being intensely fun to play, especially with a group of friends, there are added elements, such as being able to draw your own levels and set the game options to extremes for different types of challenge, for instance you could make bazookas practically ineffective, but punches lethal.

Now I’ve written this list, I might just delve into my shelves and see if I can relocate some of these gems to play once more!