When I was a kid, we didn’t have any actual videogame consoles in my house, which meant that my early years were spent playing floppy-disk games on our aging Macintosh computer. Most of these games reeked of stealth education: the math-inducing Number Munchers, the undersea non-adventure Odell Lake, the surreal fairy-tale romp Mixed-Up Mother Goose. (The lone exception to all the edutainment was Sid Meier’s Pirates, a very proto proto-Grand Theft Auto which still has the coolest videogame cover art ever.) At some point, my parents broke down and got me a Game Boy, and I spent almost every car ride from ages 6-10 playing Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land II, and the overlooked masterpiece Wario Land: Super Mario Land III, where you got to play as the bad guy and thus learn a value lesson about moral relativism.
Oh sorry, you’ve caught me going on a trip down memory lane! The hashtag #VideogamesIGrewUpWith has been trending on Twitter, sending a nation of adults nostalgia-tripping through half-remembered adventures on the NES, the MS-DOS, the local arcade, and all the other consoles from the days of our youth. I asked my beloved EW colleagues which games they played in their younger days. Read on for their answers, and tell us your own favorite childhood videogames in the comments! (If you really want to play along, try to guess how old everyone is!)
Lanford Beard: Contra!!! And I totally played Wheel of Fortune on Sega. Is #I’mAMassiveNerd trending, too?
Stephan Lee: Street Fighter II! It was the only game I was ever good at, and Chun Li is my favorite videogame character of all time. Other kids always accused me of “cheating” because I used her rapid-kick move all the time, but I could also beat people using her slow/ineffective but awesome upside-down-helicopter-legs move too. I didn’t like her Super Street Fighter iteration as much because she finally learned how to shoot fireballs but they sputtered out of her wrists like weak little jellyfish — disappointing.
Jeff Labrecque: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out: Don Flamenco! King Hippo! Bald Bull! — mere pretenders to the heavyweight crown. Before EA’s Madden football revolutionized the genre, Techmo Bowl — which once featured an unstoppable Bo Jackson, was a perfectly acceptable excuse to justify why I wasn’t out on Friday night. Ninja Gaiden re-introduced me to Japanese anime… and carpal tunnel.
Jef Castro: Looping for ColecoVision may have been the very first game I had an addiction to. The only control you had was up and down, and anything you touched exploded you. I think this may have also been my earliest introduction to anxiety and the soothing powers of chiptunes.
Keith Staskiewicz: As a young boy with an NES, I would spend hours and hours on end playing Dr. Mario — wearing out my prescription pad and cramming pill after pill down my patients’ throats like I was Rush Limbaugh’s GP. I even started to hear the music in my sleep. It’s the game that made me want to be a doctor. Of course, I ended up working here so I guess it didn’t do that great a job.
Josh Stillman: Twisted Metal, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for PS1, Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart for N64, Pokemon Yellow for Gameboy Color.
Tara Fowler: Legend of Zelda and Pokemon (specifically Yellow version)
Hillary Busis: My house contained one TV and two older siblings, so I spent most of the early-to-mid ‘90s watching my brother and sister duke it out on Super Mario, Donkey Kong Country, and Street Fighter II. Although I was never allowed to pick up a controller myself, I did memorize how to get to bonus levels and the best way to defeat King K. Rool. (Wait for him to throw his crown before you jump on his head!)
Abby West: In the “yes, I am old” category: Qbert, Frogger, Tetris, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Centipede, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat. The last two were more my college years. I kicked ass with Sub-Zero back in the day, but in a recent round with my 14-year-old — Mortal Kombat vs. Something or the Other — had that same ass handed to me.
Aaron Morales: When I was in seventh grade, my best friend’s stepdad owned a local video store. They imported the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. three months before its U.S. release, making me feel like I was in the Fred Savage video-game classic The Wizard.
Laura Hertzfeld: Being old.com and not having a video game console in our house = Lemonade Stand, Oregon Trail, and Frogger on the Apple iiC, Mario Bros and Duck Hunt on my cousin’s Nintendo, and Asteroids on my friend’s Atari.
Chris Cosgrove: Zelda, Mega-Man, Metroid, San Francisco Rush, Earthworm Jim. Also, PS1 Throwbacks: Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy 7.
Martin Schwartz: Tempest! But really, we had a game called Ladybug, which — while seemingly all dainty-like — was a much more awesome version of Pac-Man. And there is a game called Circus where you have a teeter-totter that bounces clowns up to pop balloons. When they die because of your inept handling of said teeter-totter, the funeral dirge song plays. It’s sad.
Adam B. Vary: The first three Mario games were so central to my childhood, I suspect I still could play them by memory now if I picked up a controller. When Super Mario Bros. 3 first came out, I even tried to befriend the local jerky kid down the street because he was the first on the block to have it. His other jerky friend ended up calling my bluff — “You’re only here because he has Mario 3, huh?” — but, man, that hour playing the game was still bliss. My father ended up buying me the game as a surprise one day, causing me more joy than I knew my skinny frame could muster — and my mother much more consternation, as I completely blew off a book report to play it non-stop for a week. She took away the game for two weeks, if I recall correctly, but I ended up getting paid to write about videogames for my job, so things didn’t turn out too terribly.
Annie Barrett: I was really into the lamest, least-challenging games on NES — anything that involved shapes, colors, and pharmaceuticals (Dr. Mario), ’80s game show titles like Anticipation and Concentration (two concepts I never quite mastered in real life either), and Disneyland, which poorly approximated some of the rides and infuriatingly featured zero concession stands. Paperboy at a friend’s house introduced me to bullying, so I walked home and dumped the friend as well.
Now it’s your turn, readers: What games did you play when when you were kids? Any other big fans of Pokemon Yellow or Super Mario Bros. 3 out there?
Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich