6 Classic Video Games To Revisit In This Season Of Nostalgia

There is something about autumn that kicks my sense of nostalgia into overdrive. Maybe it’s because this is the season of change and endings, so with each falling leaf I reflect on the fleeting nature of life… or it’s just my favorite time of year. Who’s to say, really? Whatever the reason, I spend a lot of time every autumn reminiscing about my childhood. I miss the satisfaction of organizing brand new school supplies and the bite of crisp air at my brothers’ football games. Every Halloween, I wish I could still go trick or treating and, without fail, I want to play a video game called Maniac Mansion.

If you’ve never heard of it, Maniac Mansion is a 1987 point and click adventure game developed by Lucasfilm Games. Originally released for Commodore 64 and Apple II, it was ported to NES in 1990 (which is how I first had the pleasure of playing it). It’s a really weird game, and I have fond memories of wandering around the mansion aimlessly for hours; partially because it is difficult and partially because I was a small child who was mediocre at video games. This autumn, I finally put a very small amount of effort into finding the game and, lo and behold! It is super easy to find and stream at archive.org. And, y’all, this game! What a time warp! It’s just as bizarre and frustrating as I remember.

To start the game, you get to choose two kids to go along with Dave, the main character, on a mission to rescue his girlfriend, Sandy. Dave is pretty useless, but most of the other characters have actual skillsets and, therefore, open up different ways to beat the game. Once you’ve selected your team, the game begins with a very short prologue:

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Twenty years ago today…

And that’s it. All you know is that a meteor crash-landed near this mansion twenty years ago, and now Dave thinks he saw someone called Dr. Fred take Sandy inside. I have to say it’s a lot different playing this game as an adult, because there are some problematic elements I didn’t notice as a kid, such as: having only one black guy and two girls available out of seven character options; Sandy being such a classic damsel in distress; and Dave, the most useless character in the game, getting to be the “hero” who saves her. Speaking of Sandy, what even is she wearing?

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This feels NSFW?

Was Sandy kidnapped at the beach? Did Dr. Fred take her shirt off? The game leaves you with these questions and more. Despite picking up on annoying patriarchal bullshit I didn’t catch as a kid, the game is still pretty fun. I brought the two ladies on my playthrough, because if there has to be a damsel in distress I’m definitely going to make a woman rescue her. Those are just the rules. You can toggle between your three characters and use the commands on screen to try just about anything. And you should try anything and everything; this is one of those games where illogical combinations and/or decisions are required to advance the plot.

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Ah yes, what an intuitive turn of events!

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So I bet you’re wondering if I fared better at Maniac Mansion now that I’m an adult who is slightly better than mediocre at video games, right? Well, not really, to be honest. Even after I watched part of a Let’s Play because I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do, I still struggled with getting the timing down. I think this particular streaming version may have something to do with that; the controls are a bit sluggish and can be quite frustrating.

Though I still have yet to beat it (and honestly I probably never will), finding and playing Maniac Mansion again after all these years has been a fun blast from the past. It’s actually got me thinking about what other games from my youth I’d like to play again. Here are my top five.


5. Mickey’s Castle of Illusion (Sega 1990)

mickey

This was probably the first game I actually sat down and played through start to finish. It’s pretty much perfect for a six year old: not too difficult (it’s basically a Super Mario Bros knockoff) and features Mickey and Minnie Mouse! What more could you want?

4. Civilization 3 (PC 2001)

civilization

I cheated at this game every single time I played it, so I still have no idea what the actual purpose was but I loved it anyway. I think there was supposed to be fighting involved? Whatever. I had a great time getting unlimited gold so I could build the wonders of the world.

3. NHLPA Hockey ’93 (Sega 1993)

hockey

We always had a lot of sports games growing up, but this one was my favorite (even though I’ve never been into hockey). You can get into fights and sometimes even make other players’ heads bleed. I realize that probably sounds violent and messed up, but I remember it being oddly satisfying. I don’t want to know what that says about me.

2. Sewer Shark (SegaCD 1992)

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SegaCD was kind of a weird system; not many people I know had it (or even heard of it), and I don’t remember owning many games for it. Sewer Shark was part of a bundle deal when we bought it, and it ended up being my favorite game for the platform. The action is occasionally cut with video clips, and the actors are hilarious. I’m pretty sure I had a crush on Falco, a no-nonsense fellow pilot.

1. Tony Hawk (N64 2000)

tonyhawk

This game always gives me flashbacks to the summer between middle school and high school. I think I spent the entire three months of vacation only playing Tony Hawk and not socializing with anyone except my parents. (I was pretty cool, obviously.) I can still sing all of “Superman” by Goldfinger without batting an eye, so it wasn’t a total waste.

Ah, what a lovely stroll down memory lane. If you played video games as a kid, which ones do you miss most? Have you played any of them recently and, if so, did they hold up?

Jenna is a designer and writer who lives in Boston with her wife, Stephanie, and their two cats, Flapjack and Ellie. She is very passionate about fictional queer women, interspecies friendships, and food. She's still hanging onto a semi-impressive DVD collection. Just in case, you know? You can find Jenna on twitter, instagram, or check out her design website.

Jenna has written 34 articles for us.

43 Comments

  1. I replay Chrono Trigger every couple years, it’s still one of my all time favorite games.

    When I was a kid I was obsessed with Shadowrun for SNES but I never beat it because we didn’t own it and every time I rented it from Blockbuster some dweeb would have written over my save. So I played that on an emulator a couple years ago and it’s STILL AWESOME but definitely not as hard as it was when I was a kid.

    A game that is still as impossible to figure out as it seemed when I was little is Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I tried it recently and I could not figure out how to do anything at all.

  2. I played the beta of Maniac Mansion recently and jeez it’s hard without a mouse! I noticed the weird tokenism too. It might be worth pulling the character sprites out and redoing them…

  3. “Paper Mario” and “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door” still rank as two of my favorite games of all time. I also have fond memories of the first “Zoo Tycoon” and it’s two expansions.

  4. “Paper Mario” and “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door” still rank as two of my favorite games of all time. I also have fond memories of the first “Zoo Tycoon” and it’s two expansions. I also recall playing a few Nancy Drew PC games in my youth.

  5. I would like to respectfully submit the original Doom trilogy (Doom, Doom II, and Ultimate Doom) as well as Red Alert: Command and Conquer. Someone finally modded RA:C&C for Windows 7 and it’s downloadable for free.

    In the darkest hours immediately following my layoff, I sought solace in the 64 bit world of bombing Russian Subs. And it made me feel just a little bit better.

  6. Banjo and Kazooie was my favourite game. It had a goofy soundtrack, it was puzzle based, the land changed with the seasons, it was easy enough to complete, and it was funny. I’d love to play it again or try Banjo Tooie though I’m not sure how well an n64 would hold up over time.

    • Banjo & Kazooie and Banjo Tooie were one of my favorite platforming/puzzle/collect all the crap (lol) games out for the N64. I think there was a re-release of them for X-Box not too long ago? I know Nintendo is not working with Rare anymore.

  7. I also played Maniac Mansion as a kid. I remember it being odd and gave me a weird excitment I think there were aliens in that game?. I played Blades of Steel as a hockey game and this NHLPA 93 too. But my favourite sports game I remember was Super spike V Ball, because the head to head competition was just thrilling

  8. Civ III! I used to play that on the easiest mode just so I could conquer everyone else. I’d randomly pick a civilization and march to worldwide domination. I wasn’t happy until the whole map was my color. I once annexed every city but still hadn’t conquered Rome… I spent three hundred years searching for a single settler unit hiding on a 1×1 square island. I’ve played other Civs since then but Civ III has a special place in my heart.

    My big nostalgia games are Pokemon Blue and the Golden Sun series. Blue is the first game I was ever obsessed with. I used to stay up late and play it with a flashlight under my covers when I was supposed to be asleep. I put my Blastoise in the first slot and refused to use another Pokemon, except the ones I needed for stupid HMs. Now they have Blue and Red for download on the 3DS so I want to play again! I mean, I still have my old Pokemon Blue and a compatible Gameboy, but I have a Mew on that cartridge and no way to trade it out so I really don’t want to erase the old file.

    The Golden Sun fandom was a legit formative part of my teenage years. I spent most of 2003-2006 immersed in the fanfiction scene. I ran a Golden Sun “guild” on Gaia Online (another embarrassing part of my youth). And I straight-up decided at fourteen that if I ever had a son, I’d name him after one of the male characters because I liked the name so much. My wife (who actually introduced me to the game, way back when) also likes the name, so… that’s a real thing that could happen. Man, talking about it makes me want to go back and replay them! It’s been years, it might be time!

  9. My favorite game was Wrath of the Gods, where you’re this generic amalgamation of Greek heroes, traveling across Greece and fulfilling quests. Fun and educational! I try to download it now and again, but I’m not super good with computers so I can never figure out how to make it work.

  10. I wasn’t lucky enough to have video games as a kid, but we had a lot of computer games. I remember having a party playing Jump Start 3rd Grade while the adults upstairs had a Super Bowl party. That, the Carmen Sandiego games (esp Where in Time), Backyard Soccer, Roller Coaster Tycoon, The Hobbit, and the first two Harry Potter computer games are my family’s version of nostalgia

  11. Secret of Mana was amazing! So was Shadowrun. It’s always kind of sad when they put out new games based on those series, and they do away with some of the craziest/best bits. Act Raiser is one I’d totally add to this list. I loved that mix of hack and slash and building little communities that you’d protect.

    I’m going to have to go back to the original NES for my nostalgia entry, though. Zelda, Zelda II, Super Mario III (which was featured in that one movie! I saved up all of my birthday and allowance money and walked down to K-Mart and bought that thing with cash…I felt so proud). Kid Icarus. Battle of Olympus. Crystalis. Scheherazade. Faxanadu (I still remember some of that music).

    For the most puzzling game that I spent tons of time never beating is hands down Goonies II. Like, you just wandered around, and I guess tried to save your friends? Who were trapped in endless caverns and swamps filled with annoying bats and things? And you had to kill these things with a yo-yo? And in order to get the candle to light up dark rooms you had to hit some poor old woman/man repeatedly? And randomly Konami Man would show up like some sort of super hero? I mean, we loved the original movie as kids, and every time we’d see the cover of the video game at the rental store, we’d get excited for a minute that there was a sequel. Maybe that’s why we stubbornly put so many (many, many) hours into what to this day is a game I’m quite confused by and never beat.

    • Classics from last century? those that left the most impact on me were:

      Star Control 2. The paraphrases ‘i wish an omnipotetent force of absolute good tore off all your limbs and threw your kids into a pool of molten metal’ and ‘you don’t actually see Serena, what you see is only my *fingers*’ are still something i end up saying to people now and then. Also i couldn’t figure where to go, went to bed and saw how to enter quasispace in a dream.

      Dune. Not the immensely popular Dune 2 but the first one, an adventure/strategy game. The sunsets in-game. Those days they were so ahead of the time and spectacular.

      Elite: Frontier. loved it so much and returned to its FFE incarnation every few years for ages

      • oops sorry, this post wasn’t intended here, reposted in the main thread. I was going to say that i don’t see how the modern incarnation of SNES Shadowrun loses anything – Dragonfall especially totally gets it. The fact about games losing the best bits with sequels does stand true mostly – just imo not the case with Shadowrun.

        • I have most of the new Shadowrun games in my steam library but I haven’t gotten around to any but Dragonfall yet. I like Dragonfall a lot but I got stuck at a decking sequence and got annoyed and quit? I’ll go back eventually. Probably.

          • Oh! Now I see the problem. I should have been more specific: the updated console games have been problematic (since I’m almost exclusively a console gamer). The Xbox 360 release of Shadowrun didn’t get very high marks.

    • Great NES choices! I never had a chance to play Scheherazade, but I have played the rest of them.

      Another great classic, this time on Sega, was the first Phantasy Star. Alis Landale was a great character, and it’s the first video game I ever played that let me talk to the “enemies” and potentially avoid combat.

    • I started with the original civilization game in my math teacher’s room. I would even convince the teacher in detention to let me go to her room and play the game. I got so addicted to the game my math grade went down from an A to a C minus. I never gave up the love of those kind of games. I have the newest one and love it. But not the galaxy one. Not so good.

  12. The original Spyro!!! Played that one PS1 as a kid with an accessory controller that was designed like an arcade button layout

    I arcades have a weird place in my heart for this PS2 game called ATV Off road Fury 2. You just drive around a fairly open world doing tricks until you inevitably run into a tree and die. brother and I found all kind of weird glitches like the ability to drive into a functioning water wheel, and if you went to the edge of the old you would be launched into the sky back to the spawn point

  13. I freaking loved Maniac Mansion. I’m so glad someone else remembers it. Sometimes I try to reminsince over it, and no one knows what I’m talking about so it’s almost feels like I imagined the whole crazy thing.

  14. Classics from last century? those that left the most impact on me were:

    Star Control 2. The paraphrases ‘i wish an omnipotetent force of absolute good tore off all your limbs and threw your kids into a pool of molten metal’ and ‘you don’t actually see Serena, what you see is only my *fingers*’ are still something i end up saying to people now and then. Also i couldn’t figure where to go, went to bed and saw how to enter quasispace in a dream.

    Dune. Not the immensely popular Dune 2 but the first one, an adventure/strategy game. The sunsets in-game. Those days they were so ahead of the time and spectacular.

    Elite: Frontier. loved it so much and returned to its FFE incarnation every few years for ages

  15. I’ve dusted off my Nintendo DS to play Pokemon:Heart Gold. Which is the DS version of Pokemon Gold. Updated graphics, sprites, and sounds. Believe it or not, it is my first handheld gaming system. Lol. You’re never too late to start. 🙂

    Console wise, I am almost done with The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I started playing my GameCube copy after hearing about the HD remake. It is one of the games I like the just take my time with.

  16. Holy crap I somehow forgot about the Tony Hawk games. But now I’m having incredibly vivid flashbacks of playing that for hours on end on my old SP.

    Also this is comparatively new (although still almost 15 years old wtf), but Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker was my first taste of the LOZ series. I LOVED that game. Still do, actually – hearing the opening theme makes me start smiling like nothing else. I sincerely hope they port it over to the Switch at some point.

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