It’s Friday night circa 1999 at Blockbuster. Your friend Joe asks, “Do you want to rent a video game or a movie?”
With a cocky smile you reply, “Joe I got a coupon, two for one, video game and a movie. We’re living the good life tonight.”
Earlier, Joe’s parents had given the green light for a sleepover (something you had been plotting all week). Now you have time to watch Austin Powers 2, slug some Surge, and do your most important work: stay up all night to beat the video game you just rented. Game on.
Aw video games, when I was a fat little kid, they were the best. From having all night GoldenEye sessions with my buddies to jumping for joy when my brother finally beat Zelda Ocarina of Time (a video game he tricked me into asking for my birthday, so he could play it); so many great memories revolve around having a controller in my hand.
With nostalgia in mind, I decided to rank the top ten video games of my youth (ages 0-14). This list is very subjective and revolves around the systems I owned growing up and the games that for a time, were my life.
10. ToeJam & Earl
ToeJam & Earl, what a weird/awesome game. This 1991 sega genesis game starred two alien rappers, ToeJam and Earl, who crashland on earth. You play as one of the two characters, or team up with a friend, to find the missing pieces of their starship to return to their home planet “Funkatron”.
The pieces of the ship are found on different levels you travel to on an elevator like in Bill & Ted. You encounter crazy foes along the way including a deranged dentist, a dog in a hamster wheel, a group of nerds, an ice cream man, and even a creepy sandman that hunts you down in the shadows.
In order to combat these foes, you are given temporary upgrades by collecting presents. The presents let you unlock rocket skates to travel over water and tomatoes to take out your foes. If you fall off the side of the cliff you have to return to the previous level.
You can even travel to the secret level zero and power up by hanging out with babes in a hot tub (pictured below).
The game is fun, as it is weird, and the added surprising difficulty made it a game we replayed hundreds of times. I can still recall trying to beat it on a Saturday morning with my siblings or falling asleep as they were reaching the higher levels with their friends.
9. Mortal Kombat (Series)
Duh Duh Duh duh Duh dun duh Fight….Finish Him!
If you grew up in the 90’s and Mortal Kombat was not a part of your childhood, you were either living under a rock or had those weird overprotective parents that thought sleepovers and Surge were bad for you. I still remember being a 7 year old at Colonial Bowl’s arcade, mesmerized as my brother’s friend Dennis wiped the floor with a challenger and performed Baraka’s Fatality.
Mortal Kombat was the king of fighting games and the first game to cause a national stir over violence (wait until they got ahold of GTA3). It was also one of the first video games that got a movie that kicked ass (never watch the sequel).
I loved the 1995 movie and idolized Johnny Cage (probably one of the reasons I became such a wiseass). I remember getting MK3 for my birthday and being devastated Johnny wasn’t a playable character, “Uh who the heck is Stryker?” Luckily, they added Johhny back and in subsequent sequels and I was back to shadow kicking and nut punching all my opponents.
Mortal Kombat had everything you want in a cool game as a child. It was extremely violent, competitive, and had an aura around it because you knew your parents might not want you to be playing it.
8. NFL Blitz
Blitz was the first football game you could powerbomb a receiver and dropkick a running back after the play. Unlike modern Madden, this was football far away from reality. A hail mary was a high percentage play and you could blitz (hence the name) and destroy the quarterback like there was no tomorrow.
The only annoying part of this game was playing the computer on hard. I remember 2 seconds left and the CPU getting a bullsh*t full field touchdown or pick six. I still believe the computer cheats.
Blitz was a great sleepover game in 5th grade, where many of my friends were evenly matched. Some of us went as far to create our own custom plays that we would load on memory sticks. However, the two GOAT plays were the X cross and Da Bomb.
Also, shout out to my college roommates Guilderson who would always challenge me to Blitz games like in Grandma’s Boy but would get screwed on the final play like I was the computer. In the words of Omar:
7. StarCraft 64
I may lose a few people on this one, but StarCraft 64 was a banger. I didn’t have a gaming PC in elementary school but would read articles in Electronic Gaming Monthly about what was hot. I heard tons of stories about StarCraft and was pumped when it was ported to the N64.
I fell in love with the harvesting, building, and strategy of the game. I played as the Terran (humans) and the Zerg (bugs) creeped me out. I loved building bases to defund and took a sick sweet joy with nuking as a Ghost. I can still here “Roger that” and “Fire it Up” as you created and moved different troops around.
A kid across the hall in college would stay in on Friday nights and play StarCraft online (I know sweet life, but he later evolved). When I had to stay in because of Saturday meets, I’d often find myself across the hall watching him play. I found it funny because he would use cheats (spy on his opponent’s bases) and they would accuse him of cheating, but he would vehemently deny it to them and then laugh and tell me he was cheating.
During the winter break of my junior year of college, I fired up my N64 determined to beat the game. A big part of many levels is just to collect enough resources to be able to build the weapons/troops you need. I would set up a sick base with defenses, have it locked down, and then have my harvesters go to town. I would then leave go to the gym run 10-14 miles on the treadmill (ripping farts, making people leave the area) and lift. After my workout, I’d come home have a ton of minerals, gas, and nukes ready and beat the level. I beat the game and got in the best shape of my life. I ran a 4:26 mile after only running all break on the treadmill and playing StarCraft. Thank you video games.
6. Grand Theft Auto 3 (GTA3)
I got Grand Theft Auto 3 for my 8th grade birthday, but some pussy at Gamestop did everything he could to stop me from having it. He told my Dad it wasn’t appropriate for kids under 18; you could kill people, have sex with prostitutes, and light people on fire and he wasn’t comfortable selling it to him if I was not at least 16. My Dad was close to not buying it. However, luckily for me, a weird older high school kid had bitten me in the forehead earlier that week, which made my Dad feel bad for me and he got the game.
GTA 3 changed gaming forever. It cranked the violence to an eleven and the open world was revolutionary. Besides the missions, you could just go on fun rampages and see how quickly you could get to 5 stars and then switch turns with a friend when you died. I remember we used to rag on my friend Joe and say that he played so safely during his turn that he would obey traffic lights.
We went to an 8th-grade lock-in at St. Thomas Moore and I brought my PS2 and GTA3. I might be going to hell for mowing people down in a dump truck while playing the game at 1 in the morning in the St. Thomas Moore basement (anyone else at that was at that lockin, remember Bilotas and the pillow fight? Good times).
Before Halo, Call of Duty, and Fortnite, there was GoldenEye. The ultimate sleepover multiplayer game. Teaming up with 4 buddies to play all night was right of passage when I was in elementary school. Using Oddjob was for cheaters and I still think I could kill anyone with remote minds in the Facility (my favorite level).
I can hear the Golden Eye (well 007) theme music right now and wouldn’t mind putting on Paintball mode and getting ready to gun down some friends in the Temple.
4. WcW vs. NwO Revenge
WWF was a better wrestling company, but WcW had the far superior video games. WcW vs NwO Revenge had great intuitive controls, which made it easy and fun to play.
I don’t know how many sleepovers at Matt Walsh’s were spent playing Battle Royales on his N64 in the basement. We all knew about a cheat that would get you out of any pin/hold (swipe the joystick to left or right) and it was banned by my Hollis friends.
I remember we’d play as La Parka because he’d start with a chair and would often team up on one friend, probably Ryan Kelly, and beat them until they could no longer continue the match.
The multiplayer and replay value of this game made it a 10 out of 10 game in its era.
3. X-Men (Sega)
I grew up having my brother read me X-men comics before I could read. In the summer we’d do lemonade stands and all the money would go towards buying comic cards and hoping a for a hologram. We’d even pretend to be mutants with his friends and I would get pissed because they said I had to wear a helmet and be Weapon X. Needless to say, when Sega came out with an X-Men game, we were ecstatic.
The game stayed close to the comics and was very well built. I enjoyed playing as Nightcrawler and skipping through levels as fast possible. There was also little-hidden gems you’d pick up after multiple times of play like skipping fighting Sabertooth or Juggernaught by using the Iceman bridge.
My siblings and I teamed up hundreds of times to try and beat this game to no avail. We never lost hope but could never seem to make it past Mojo world (my brother and his friend said they did it after I fell asleep, but I saw no proof of this on later attempts). This is definitely the game I played the most without ever beating. I eventually beat it years later when I was much older and looked up how to do it on Google (life is so much easier now).
2. Tony Hawk
Tony Hawk was love at first sight. I slept over Mike Bowen’s house and his brother Jerry had just gotten the game when it came out. When he grinded to get the secret tape in the Mall level, my jaw dropped, and I was hooked instantly. I played it as much as possible and thought doing 900’s and backflip specials was the coolest thing in the world.
I didn’t have PlayStation and Tony Hawk made me into an opportunist. I would go over different friend’s houses I knew had the game with hopes to play it. If it was a sleepover I’d try to fire up the game after my friend passed out. I was addicted. I eventually got it when it came out for N64 and beat every level with every character multiple times.
I got Tony Hawk 2 for the computer and bought a PlayStation-like-joystick to play it. I eventually saved up my paper route money and got a PS2 and everything subsequent Tony Hawk sequel that came out. I would play endlessly into the night and remember playing when my brother and sister would have parties in the garage and I wasn’t allowed (made up for that later).
Tony Hawk brought out an obsession in me. I would try for hours to beat a certain score and this was before their was even online rankings.
Tony Hawk’s soundtrack also helped me get into punk rock and helped me discover the band the Vandals, who had my favorite song in the first game “Euro Barage”. I never stopped liking Tony Hawk and the original THUG story was awesome (Tony Hawk Underground Skater).
I can still whoop almost anyone’s ass you know in Tony Hawk. They came out with Tony Hawk HD for PS3 a few years ago with the classic levels updated. I still hold a top 100 world score on almost every level and did so without any cheats. Come at me bro. I’ll kickflip the shit out of you.
Before we get to number 1. Honorable mentions: Sonic, Mario 3, Maniac Mansion, Pokemon Red & Blue, The Warriors
1. Guardian Heroes
The next-gen systems coming out after Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were Playstation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Saturn. Most normal East Braintree kids only got one system. Making your choice was like deciding what college to go to. Chris McCusker down the street already had Sega Saturn when I was making my choice and I thought Virtua Fighter and Nights were badass games. I picked Sega Saturn and it was one of the worst decisions I ever made. It seemed like the Saturn immediately tanked and all my friends got N64s.
However, one big saving grace of the Saturn was Guardian Heroes. I doubt many people reading this had a Saturn but Guardian Heroes was the best side scroller beat em up adventure I’ve ever played. Each character had their own different strengths and different magic attacks. You teamed up with an undead Golden Warrior you could control by setting his anger levels. The real cool part of the game was it was a choose your own adventure (hello Vandersnatch) and there were tons of different paths and endings. There was even an ending where you kill their version of God, pretty hardcore.
Multiplayer made it wicked fun, the controls were great, and the story was top notch.
There was even a vs. mode that was years ahead of its time. You could do up to 6 a side and use any character from the game you had played as or fought against (including playing as a tiny bunny or a huge robot that shot lazers).
If you are looking for a game to fire up on an emulator and have a fun time, definitely check out Guardian Heroes. You won’t be disappointed.
Alright that was my top ten, what games hold a special place in your heart from growing up?
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