From Portal to Mario Kart, Space Invaders to Donkey Kong Racing - what is your favourite cult computer game?
06:24 11 April 2014
As thousands flock to the Norwich Gaming Festival, seven of our writers look back on the favourite cult games from their childhoods (and when they became adults).
Portal. With its simply designed, but devilishly difficult puzzles, to the genius casting of Ellen McLain as the iconic GLaDOS, Portal has everything a gamer needs. Excellent writing, brilliant characters and outstanding music, this is the complete package.
AKA The Daddy of them all. There was no need for fancy graphics, nor blood and gore, nor fancy hand-held consoles. All you needed was finger dexterity - and a massive machine in which to house all the gubbins. Then you pointed your ammo at the invaders and fired away. It was easy to do, easy to understand - just what it said on the tin. There was no need for flying dragons coming out of left screen. A complete joy.
Mario Kart circa 1996 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System - or SNES as it was known - was epic. My brother and I could easily spend the whole day playing on it. I would get pins and needles having sat cross legged for so long in front of the TV.
The races were brilliant but battle mode was even better when you went up against fellow players and tried to destroy their three ‘lives’ - three blobs that circled their cart. Victory was sweet if you won and entitled you to week-long gloating rights.
Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64 was fabulous with all those little animal characters in their cars. With skill you could get turbo boost to blast past rivals, create oil slicks and blow up fellow competitors. It was Dick Dastardly stuff but all totally harmless - unlike so many shoot ‘em up games.
With bright, colourful, cartoon-like graphics, it had an innocent charm and simplicity about it that appealed to old and young alike. I practised for hours so I could beat my seven and nine-year-old sons. Best thing was that, having finished it all, one of my sons managed to delete my file… so I had to do it all over again!
Never enjoyed a computer game so much since… or even mastered all the controls!
Thirty years ago, my brother and I used to sneak out of our beds in the early hours to feed an addiction. We weren’t secret lemonade drinkers, we were Jetpac addicts. This universe-bestriding giant of the computer game world was the best of a brilliant bunch of games we played on our ZX Spectrum 48k. It was even better than Jet Set Willy and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, which gave me RSI in two of my digits. Visiting a host of planets in our space suit, we assembled and fuelled our rocket while defying the probably non-existent gravity to duck and dive with the aid of our jet-pack, obliterating thousands of monsters along the way: many of which looked like luminous spiky balls. Sleep deprivation probably stopped us from reaching the end, but it was a blast.
In the early 90’s you were either a Street Fighter fan or a Mortal Kombat fan; in my eyes MK always won the bout, and finished off the competition with bloody flair.
At the time, the ‘photo-realistic’ style was pushing the 16-bit consoles to the limit. Finally gone were the cartoon-like graphics that similar games such as Mario, Sonic and Dizzy would use and that’s just one reason Mortal Kombat had the edge. The plethora of distinguishable characters, the special moves, the endless combos and what it was famous for, the over the top and somewhat violent finishing moves were, as a young teenager at the time, all welcome. Looking back at the negative media surrounding the violence, the red pixels that represented the blood in the game was laughable, especially compared to the graphically impressive games currently available on the market. All I knew was that it was like no other game I had played before. Mortal Kombat has never taken itself too seriously and most importantly, it has always just been good fun.
It felt instantly accessible and you could learn how to throw a fireball within seconds of picking up the game. However if you put in the hours, you could destroy all opposition effortlessly and there was nothing quite like humiliating your friends with a devastating finishing move. Fatality!
On the rare occasions I wasn’t playing football or winding up my younger sister during my childhood, I probably had a Nintendo 64 controller in my hand.
Even then, I was playing football games with my step-brother and our friends. International Superstar Soccer 98, featuring the brilliant commentary of the late Tony Gubba, and FIFA World Cup 98 were our favourites. Few football games since have been able to repeat the quality of gameplay, although the graphics have improved just a tad now.
Otherwise, it was Goldeneye. The number one James Bond game ever made on any console and still considered one of the greatest multiplayer games ever. It was the main source of our parents storming downstairs at sleepovers to angrily remind us they had work in the morning.
My N64 still works and I know me and my mates could still play and end up having a good laugh.
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