Welcome to the fifth installment of Gayme Corner, a biweekly column in which I talk about games, all types of games, and the ways we play them. Remember in the 80s and 90s when it felt like every big movie had an attached video game adaptation that ran the spectrum of “why did they make this a game” to “this game is better than the movie”? That was around when I was getting into mainstream games and gained access to mainstream pop culture in general, so it was a big time in my life. Recently, I had a very specific nostalgia for those kinds of games, ones that feel familiar and engaging because of that familiarity. I wanted to put on my high school sweatpants and snuggle up in my childhood bedroom, basically, but instead of doing that, I went in search of pixelated games made for modern web browsers. Luckily, the internet, and developers, anticipated this demand, and I invite you to join me in playing through some formative media of our youths.
If you didn’t catch it when it first came out in 2011, find a few hours now to play through this detailed NES version of The Great Gatsby. You play as Nick Caraway, and you must complete stages full of butlers, bottle-throwing partiers, and wayward dancers in order to get to the next scene. It’s your standard platform-jumpin’, coin collection’, 20s fedora-throwin’ game, chock full of high school literary references, and it’s jolly good fun. Old sport.
Pippin Barr recreated some of the key scenes from The Shining with an Atari look, and the result is a quick, fun little game. It incorporates the physicality of the scenes seamlessly into the controls. You type to get Jack to type, you coordinate your keys to get Jack and Wendy up the stairs, you contemplate the abyss of feeling so kinetically connected to a few teal squares. You know, the usual things you seek in a video game adaptation.
Organ Trail is an homage to the original version of Oregon Trail, which was definitely the best part about fifth grade for me, but with zombies. When it was just available as a flash game I could spend a solid evening trying to get my entire station wagon to safety. Now, they’ve released a Director’s Cut on Steam with a save feature, so conceivably you could tear yourself away when it’s way past your bedtime, but who knows. It’s also available for iPhones.
How long could you last in a 70s horror flick? Now you can find out in full pixelated glory! Set in a classic cabin by a lake, surrounded by horror tropes, what can your little plaid-clad person get up to before being devoured by something? I’ve played this a few times already and there’s such a combination of things that I can survive in a movie, apparently, including riding a lawnmower, drinking out of a mysterious bottle, and bees. If you love horror films and also horror parody homages, the developers also came out with a sequel bundle, Lakeview Cabin Collection, that you can get on Steam.
BONUS: Arm Joe
If you happen to have a Windows 98 machine or a decent emulator, you should most definitely check out the Japanese Les Miserables game, also known as Arm Joe. It’s basically Les Mis Street Fighter. There is, for no reason, a RoboJean character, as well as Judgment. While people on the internet complain that the actually game balance is off, I counter with, you also get to watch Les Mis characters fight cartoonishly.